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In the News 17.07.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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In the News 17.07.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 17.07.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 17.07.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Is the Study of Language a Science?

Science is a messy business, but just like everything with loose ends and ragged edges, we tend to understand it by resorting to ideal types. On the one hand, there’s the archetype of the scientific method: a means of accounting for observations, generating precise, testable predictions, and yielding new discoveries about the natural consequences of natural laws. On the other, there’s our ever-replenishing font of story archetypes: the accidental event that results in a sudden clarifying insight; the hero who pursues the truth in the face of resistance or even danger; the surprising fact that challenges the dominant theory and brings it toppling to the ground.

The interplay of these archetypes has produced a spirited, long-running controversy about the nature and origins of language. Recently, it’s been flung back into public awareness following the publication of Tom Wolfe’s book The Kingdom of Speech (2016).

Read the rest of this article at: aeon

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The Lawyer, the Addict

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In July 2015, something was very wrong with my ex-husband, Peter. His behavior over the preceding 18 months had been erratic and odd. He could be angry and threatening one minute, remorseful and generous the next. His voice mail messages and texts had become meandering soliloquies that didn’t make sense, veering from his work travails, to car repairs, to his pet mouse, Snowball.

I thought maybe the stress of his job as a lawyer had finally gotten to him, or that he was bipolar. He had been working more than 60 hours a week for 20 years, ever since he started law school and worked his way into a partnership in the intellectual property practice of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, a prominent law firm based in Silicon Valley.

Then, for two days, Peter couldn’t be reached. So I drove the 20 minutes or so to his house, to look in on him. Although we were divorced, we had known each other by then for nearly 30 years. We were family.

I parked in Peter’s driveway, used my key to open the front door and walked up to the living room, a loftlike space with bamboo floors bathed in sunlight.

“Peter?” I called out.

Silence. A few candy wrappers littered a counter. Peter worked so much that he rarely cooked anymore, sustaining himself largely on fast food, snacks, coffee, ibuprofen and antacids. I headed toward the bedroom, calling his name.

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times

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The Bots Beat Us. Now What?

In the summer of 1977, Bobby Fischer was in self-imposed exile in Pasadena, California. The greatest chess player on Earth at the time, Fischer had joined an apocalyptic cult and covered the windows of his grungy apartment with tinfoil. Russian secret police and Israeli intelligence, he insisted, could spy on him through his dental fillings and influence him with radioactive signals. He hadn’t played a recorded game of chess for five years, since defeating Boris Spassky and the Soviet machine in the match of the century in Reykjavik, Iceland, capturing the world championship and becoming an American Cold War hero.

Nevertheless, gripped by paranoia and hidden away from the rest of the world, Fischer wrote letters. He sent two, never before published, to a Carnegie Mellon professor and computer scientist named Hans Berliner. “Lately I’ve been getting a little interested in the computer chess scene,” Fischer wrote in a scrawled longhand that May. “Intellectually it’s a stimulating field, and financially I think it could have a good future.” He asked for Berliner’s help getting involved.

Read the rest of this article at: FiveThirtyEight

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On a Remote Greek Island, Learning to Take a ‘Real’ Vacation

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The first thing I ever heard about the Greek island of Sifnos was that it was not famous. My friend Sabina said this to me when she invited me to join her there in the summer of 2008. I was confused, thinking she had mistaken me for the sort of person who would only want to go someplace famous, but she quickly explained that most tourists were interested in the other islands, which meant Sifnos was affordable, and so she and her husband could afford to vacation for a month there with their two children, and over the years invite a mix of writers and academics and the people who had married or befriended them for a house party set among apartments, all of them renting near each other at the island’s center.

I didn’t think about whether Sifnos was famous or not again until I was on the ferry from Athens, when I met a friendly young Greek couple — a gardener and a social worker, working with refugees. They leaned over and asked if I was Belgian — their guess, as I’d been quietly drinking beer and reading comics. This was so far off the mark that it charmed me enough to keep chatting. As we bought rounds of beer, we passed the islands and they spoke familiarly of them. Serifos is where the giants mined for iron, they said. It looks big enough, I said. I asked where they were going, and they said Anafi, the island Apollo made for Jason and the Argonauts to rest during a storm, after capturing the Golden Fleece. The ancient gods seemed alive to them, but as if they were friends.

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times

Under Siege by Liberals: The Town Where Everyone Owns a Gun

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There’s an empty stretch of field off highway 141 in Colorado that used to be the perfect American town. Small houses with white picket fences boasted big flower gardens. Kids played kick the can in the streets, rode their bikes, splashed in swimming pools. On Sundays, they might have watched an Elvis movie on TV. The rent was cheap, the fathers all worked, the mothers stayed at home.

Uravan was placid, friendly and, in most of the ways people usually measure it, safe. For many years, a former resident recalled, there was no law enforcement in the mining company town. Nobody needed it. The kids were good kids, because if they weren’t, the company bosses would kick their whole families out.

The town, named after the minerals extracted and processed there, had secretly supplied uranium to the Manhattan Project during the war. Afterward, the cold war uranium boom made the town prosper.

Things changed in 1986 when Uravan was declared a Superfund site contaminated by hazardous waste. The mine closed, residents moved out. The entire town – the trees, the houses, the post office, the Coke glasses from the drug store – was shredded and buried in a concrete-lined hole. The only thing left behind was the town’s metal flagpole, which was moved to the abandoned baseball field.

“When they bury your whole town, they bury your history. There’s a little bit of shame to that,” said Jane Thompson, who grew up in Uravan. Her parents were the second to last family to move out.

Thompson drove me through Uravan early one Sunday morning, pointing to the dip in the ground where the gas station had been, the block of houses where she had grown up. There was nothing left except scrub, battered earth and fences with signs warning, “Caution ☢️ Radioactive Materials.”

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M. // Top images: @janicejoostemaa; @_justynaniko_; @alicecatherine