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In the News 02.02.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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In the News 02.02.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@deborabrosa
In the News 02.02.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@mivioleta
In the News 02.02.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@ironnsalt

Life on Mars, from Viking to Curiosity

After midnight in a sweltering room in Pasadena in July 1976, Viking Mars team members sat hunched around a bulky monotone computer monitor, tensely awaiting the first data from the world’s first successful Mars probe lander, the only Mars lander ever specifically designed to detect life. Over the next weeks each of Viking’s first life-detection experiments came back with a striking signature. As the data trickled back into the Space Operations Facility, it became clear that carbon dioxide was released when organic compounds were added to Martian soil, though not when the mixture was superheated. This was a life signature, and exactly what had happened with the experiment on Earth. When water was added to the soil, oxygen was released, just as on Earth. The remote probe, panning for life, had found its signature in its first two experiments. The third experiment heated the soil, like warming food in the oven, and those results were mixed.

Arguments intensified, however, as the fourth experiment’s conflicting data came in. To claim life on Mars would be unprecedented. If they were wrong, no team member would live it down. Anything was better than striking out with a pompous grin on your face. Unbeknownst to most in the world watching, however, three of the four experiments on the primitive Viking lander could have been interpreted as testing positive for microbes, giving the same results as when they had been checked thousands of times on Earth. The researcher Patricia Straat told another mission staffer, Gil Levin, “That’s life!”

Read the rest of this article at: Nautilus

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Quincy Jones Has a Story About That

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Frank Sinatra. Michael Jackson. Ray Charles. Malcolm X. Elon Musk. Truman Capote. Buzz Aldrin. Prince. Tupac. Even Leni Riefenstahl. Quincy Jones has run with them all. Chris Heath stays up late with the 84-year-old music legend who has a tale to go with every famous name.

“I feel like I’m just starting,” Quincy Jones explains as he slowly takes a seat in the grand living room of his hilltop Bel-Air mansion, a wide arc of nighttime Los Angeles visible through the windows in front of him. “It seems like at 84 all the things you used to wonder about come clear to you.”

So he begins. He begins talking about his life. It’s a life punctuated by so many disparate encounters and achievements and circumstances that it is hard to believe they are the experiences of a single man. There is a lot of talking to do.

There is the career, of course: the jazz musician, the arranger, the record executive, the soundtrack composer, the solo artist, the producer of the biggest pop album in history, the entrepreneur, the media magnate, the film and TV producer, the philanthropist…and on and on. Jones is one of just a handful of people who have accomplished the EGOT—winner of at least one Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony. (1) But these seem almost trivial and incidental alongside the actual life he’s lived.

For one thing, he seems to know, or have known, everybody. When Jones says that he “lost 66 friends last year” and begins to list recent departures—”David Bowie, George Martin…”—it’s more than an acknowledgment of some recent rough years. It’s also a testament to his unique gift for not just knowing people but also sharing unforgettable moments with them. Someone once compared his omnipresence to Forrest Gump’s; Jones has heard this one, but he prefers a further twist on it: “the Ghetto Gump.”

He worries often that he’ll say too much (“I always get in trouble, you know. My daughter Kidada calls me LL QJ—Loose Lips”), but it doesn’t really seem to stem the flow. And because each sentence from his mouth comes out sounding like a benediction, it takes a while to register that the word the 84-year-old Quincy Jones uses more than any other, as a term of both endearment and opprobrium, is motherfucker. In fact, he will say it in my presence 89 times.

Read the rest of this article at: GQ

Did Ancient Greeks Sail to Canada?

The story of the European settlement of North America usually features a few main characters: red-headed Norsemen who sailed across an icy sea to set up temporary outposts, Spanish conquistadors, white-collared English separatists, French trappers, and Dutch colonists. Now a team of Greek scholars proposes another—and much earlier—wave of European migration: the Hellenistic Greeks, in triremes powered by sail and oar in the first century CE, nearly a millennium before the Vikings.

These ancient Greeks regularly visited what is now Newfoundland, the study’s authors say. They set up colonies that lasted centuries, and they mined gold. They made recurrent trips every 30 years. Some travelers would return home after only a brief stay, but for others the voyages were one way—they came to know the North Atlantic, not the warm Aegean, as their home waters.

To be clear, there is no firm evidence of the ancient Greeks’ purported voyages. There are no known physical remains of these historic Greek settlements in North America, nor are there first-hand descriptions of such journeys in anything but one account from antiquity. The idea is based entirely on a new examination of a dialogue written by the influential Roman author Plutarch, who lived from 46 to 119 CE.

“Our intention is to prove, with modern science, that it was possible for this trip to be made,” Ioannis Liritzis, an archaeologist at the University of the Aegean who proposed that the ancient journeys took place, wrote in an email. Liritzis presents his argument in a new paper, co-authored with astronomer Panagiota Preka-Papadema, philosopher Konstantinos Kalachanis, meteorologist Chris G. Tzanis, and information technology consultant Panagiotis Antonopoulos.

Read the rest of this article at: Hakai Magazine

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Local Links Run The World

To say that Thomas Robert Malthus was unpopular would be putting it mildly. His 19th-century contemporary Percy Shelley, the revered poet, called him a eunuch and a tyrant. The philosopher William Godwin dubbed him “a dark and terrible genius that is ever at hand to blast all the hopes of all mankind.” As Malthus’ biographer later put it, he was the most abused man of his age. And that was the age of Napoleon Bonaparte.

The catalyst for this vilification was the 1798 book An Essay on the Principle of Population. In it, Malthus—a curly haired, 32-year-old curate of a small English chapel—attacked the claims of utopian thinkers like Godwin, who believed that reason and scientific progress would ultimately create a perfect society, free of inequality and suffering. Malthus took a more pessimistic view. Using United States census data compiled by Benjamin Franklin, he predicted that the “passion of the sexes” would soon cause human populations to outstrip their resources, leading to poverty and hardship. If unchecked, people would continue to multiply exponentially, doubling every 25 years. Agricultural yields, however, would at best increase linearly, by a similar amount each year. In 100 years, Great Britain would have 16 times as many mouths to feed (112 million), but less than half enough food.

Read the rest of this article at: aeon

Letter of Recommendation: Rodney Dangerfield

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Imagine having no talent. Imagine being no good at all at something and doing it anyway. Then, after nine years, failing at it and giving it up in disgust and moving to Englewood, N.J., and selling aluminum siding. And then, years later, trying the thing again, though it wrecks your marriage, and failing again. And eventually making a meticulous study of the thing and figuring out that, by eliminating every extraneous element, you could isolate what makes it work and just do that. And then, after becoming better at it than anyone who had ever done it, realizing that maybe you didn’t need the talent. That maybe its absence was a gift.

These were the stations on the via dolorosa of Jacob Cohen, a.k.a. Rodney Dangerfield, whose comedy I hold above all others’. At his peak — look on YouTube for any set he did between 1976 and 1990 — he was the funniest entertainer ever. That peak was long in coming; by the time he perfected his act, he was nearly 60. But everything about Dangerfield was weird. While other comedians of that era made their names in television and film, Dangerfield made his with stand-up. It was a stand-up as dated as he was: He stood on stage stock-still in a rumpled black suit and shiny red tie and told a succession of diamond-hard one-liners.

The one-liners were impeccable, unimprovable. Dangerfield spent years on them; he once told an interviewer that it took him three months to work up six minutes of material for a talk-show appearance. If there’s art about life and art about art, Dangerfield’s comedy was the latter — he was the supreme formalist. Lacking inborn ability, he studied the moving parts of a joke with an engineer’s rigor. And so Dangerfield, who told audiences that as a child he was so ugly that his mother fed him with a slingshot, became the leading semiotician of postwar American comedy. How someone can watch him with anything short of wonder is beyond me.

“To be a comedian,” he said, “you have to get onstage and find out if you’re funny.” He wasn’t. During his first career, performing as Jack Roy, he was a singing waiter, used props, tried impressions. Even after his second coming — using a stage name devised by a club owner as a gag — and becoming a regular on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” he could be miserable. In a YouTube clip of him performing on “Sullivan” in 1969, Dangerfield’s face is the unsettling bluish-pink of raw chicken. The jokes — about getting directions, his wife’s driving, their apartment — keep bombing. The setups are too long; the delivery is too slow; the punch lines are so lame that you can hear the scattered laughter of distinct individuals. Even worse, he panders. “I’ll tell you, it’s nice to hear you laugh,” he says at one point. It’s almost unseemly.

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

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M.

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