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In the News 14.10.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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In the News 14.10.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 14.10.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 14.10.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Mathematicians Measure Infinities and Find They’re Equal

In a breakthrough that disproves decades of conventional wisdom, two mathematicians have shown that two different variants of infinity are actually the same size. The advance touches on one of the most famous and intractable problems in mathematics: whether there exist infinities between the infinite size of the natural numbers and the larger infinite size of the real numbers.

The problem was first identified over a century ago. At the time, mathematicians knew that “the real numbers are bigger than the natural numbers, but not how much bigger. Is it the next biggest size, or is there a size in between?” said Maryanthe Malliaris of the University of Chicago, co-author of the new work along with Saharon Shelah of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Rutgers University.

In their new work, Malliaris and Shelah resolve a related 70-year-old question about whether one infinity (call it p) is smaller than another infinity (call it t). They proved the two are in fact equal, much to the surprise of mathematicians.

Read the rest of this article at: Quanta Magazine

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Tech Giants, Once Seen as Saviors, Are Now Viewed as Threats

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SAN FRANCISCO — At the start of this decade, the Arab Spring blossomed with the help of social media. That is the sort of story the tech industry loves to tell about itself: It is bringing freedom, enlightenment and a better future for all mankind.

Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook founder, proclaimed that this was exactly why his social network existed. In a 2012 manifesto for investors, he said Facebook was a tool to create “a more honest and transparent dialogue around government.” The result, he said, would be “better solutions to some of the biggest problems of our time.”

Now tech companies are under fire for creating problems instead of solving them. At the top of the list is Russian interference in last year’s presidential election. Social media might have originally promised liberation, but it proved an even more useful tool for stoking anger. The manipulation was so efficient and so lacking in transparency that the companies themselves barely noticed it was happening.

The election is far from the only area of concern. Tech companies have accrued a tremendous amount of power and influence. Amazon determines how people shop, Google how they acquire knowledge, Facebook how they communicate. All of them are making decisions about who gets a digital megaphone and who should be unplugged from the web.

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

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The Scientists Persuading Terrorists to Spill Their Secrets

In 2013, a British man was arrested for planning to kidnap and brutally murder a soldier. The suspect, who had a criminal history, had posted messages on social media in support of violent jihad. In a search of his residence, the police had found a bag containing a hammer, a kitchen knife and a map with the location of a nearby army barracks.

Shortly after his arrest, the suspect was interviewed by a counter-terrorist police officer. The interviewer wanted him to provide an account of his plan, and to reveal with whom, if anyone, he has been conspiring. But the detainee – we will call him Diola – refused to divulge any information. Instead, he expounded grandiloquently on the evils of the British state for 42 minutes, with little interruption. When the interviewer attempted questions, Diola responded with scornful, finger-jabbing accusations of ignorance, naivety and moral weakness: “You don’t know how corrupt your own government is – and if you don’t care, then a curse upon you.”

Watching a video of this encounter, it is just possible to discern Diola’s desire, beneath his ranting, to tell what he knows. In front of him, a copy of the Qur’an lies open. He says he was acting for the good of the British people, and that he is willing to talk to the police because, as a man of God, he wants to prevent future atrocities. But he will not answer questions until he is sure that his questioner cares about Britain as much as he does: “The purpose of the interview is not to go through your little checklist so you can get a pat on the head. If I find you are a jobsworth, we are done talking, so be sincere.”

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

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What Facebook Did to American Democracy

In the media world, as in so many other realms, there is a sharp discontinuity in the timeline: before the 2016 election, and after.

Things we thought we understood—narratives, data, software, news events—have had to be reinterpreted in light of Donald Trump’s surprising win as well as the continuing questions about the role that misinformation and disinformation played in his election.

Tech journalists covering Facebook had a duty to cover what was happening before, during, and after the election. Reporters tried to see past their often liberal political orientations and the unprecedented actions of Donald Trump to see how 2016 was playing out on the internet. Every component of the chaotic digital campaign has been reported on, here at The Atlantic, and elsewhere: Facebook’s enormous distribution power for political information, rapacious partisanship reinforced by distinct media information spheres, the increasing scourge of “viral” hoaxes and other kinds of misinformation that could propagate through those networks, and the Russian information ops agency.

But no one delivered the synthesis that could have tied together all these disparate threads. It’s not that this hypothetical perfect story would have changed the outcome of the election. The real problem—for all political stripes—is understanding the set of conditions that led to Trump’s victory. The informational underpinnings of democracy have eroded, and no one has explained precisely how.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

How Jared Kushner Is Dismantling a Family Empire

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(1)

There’s a primal scene. It takes place in neither green Eden, where the snake spoke sweetly, nor the master bedroom of your first house, the one by the railroad tracks, where, spying from a closet, you watched your parents in flagrante delicto, but at the Fontainebleau, on Miami Beach, where Sam Giancana talked Castro with the C.I.A., Jerry Lewis got into all kinds of mischief in The Bellboy, and Tony Montana scoped bikinis on the pool deck. If you’re a Jew of a certain vintage, the Fontainebleau means swank. It’s the fantasy showroom of the American Dream.

(2)

Passover, 2000. Jared Kushner’s father, Charlie, a New Jersey real-estate tycoon, had gathered at the Fontainebleau with extended family to recall the story of the exodus—the flight of the ancient Hebrews from Egypt, hard labor and plagues, the Golden Calf, the tablets broken, the spirit of the Lord always before them, a column of smoke in the daytime, a column of fire at night.

Kushner, dapper with steel-gray hair, had turned up angry, mostly at his brother, Murray, the Ivy Leaguer, wise in everything but the street. Charlie had gone into business with his father in 1985. When the old man died, Charlie took over. He gave stakes in the business to his siblings, then built it into a behemoth. At the time of the Seder, the Kushner Companies were worth about a billion dollars. (Who’s pharaoh now?) He’d put up apartment buildings and commercial properties in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, engaging in all the behavior typical of big-time developers.

Charlie was gutsy and took chances; Murray was cautious—that was the problem. “In 1999,” according to Gabriel Sherman, in New York magazine, where much of the reporting on the family feud comes from, “Murray backed out of Charlie’s bid to acquire Berkshire Realty, a firm with 24,000 apartments, which would have vaulted the Kushners into the first rank of privately held real-estate firms.” At the Seder, Charlie told Murray they shouldn’t work together anymore. It was Murray’s response—“If we can’t be partners, we can’t be brothers” —that set off the mêlée. Murray’s wife, Lee, rose to her husband’s defense. Charlie fired back: Hey, Lee, do you think your son really got into Penn? I hate to break it to you, but it was me. I got him in.

We’re out of here, said Lee.

The most important observer of the feud was Charlie’s older son, Jared Kushner, who, at 19, was tall and handsome, though somewhat generic. You could imagine him slotted into any sort of life, but, as an heir of the tycoon, his future was planned. A main job for the son of a man like Charlie is being Charlie’s son.

The Kushners assembled for another Fontainebleau Seder in 2001, minus Murray, Lee, and their children—that’s how families fall apart. Charlie was in an even uglier mood, according to Sherman. He’d come to believe his sister Esther and her husband, Billy Schulder, were siding with Murray. The tension was high even before Charlie thought he spotted Billy and his son Jacob whispering, laughing. Are they laughing at me? Charlie shouted down the table, over the shank bone and salt water that is the bitter tears of our people: “You’re so pious? Go on, Billy, and tell your kids how pious you are.”

Read the rest of this article at: Vanity Fair

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M. // Top images: @brothervellies; @katie.one; @brightonkeller

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