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News 06.24.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 06.24.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@studiolowsheen
News 06.24.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@_hollyt
Playlist 06.23.19 : Five Songs for the Weekend
@alexandrine_ar

The Land Where the Internet Ends

GREEN BANK, W.Va. — A few weeks ago, I drove down a back road in West Virginia and into a parallel reality. Sometime after I passed Spruce Mountain, my phone lost service — and I knew it would remain comatose for the next few days. When I spun the dial on the car radio, static roared out of every channel. I had entered the National Radio Quiet Zone, 13,000 square miles of mountainous terrain with few cell towers or other transmitters.

I was headed toward Green Bank, a town that adheres to the strictest ban on technology in the United States. The residents do without not only cellphones but also Wi-Fi, microwave ovens and any other devices that generate electromagnetic signals.

The ban exists to protect the Green Bank Observatory, a cluster of radio telescopes in a mountain valley. Conventional telescopes are like superpowered eyes. The instruments at Green Bank are more like superhuman ears — they can tune into frequencies from the lowest to the highest ends of the spectrum. The telescopes are powerful enough to detect the death throes of a star, but also terribly vulnerable to our loud world. Even a short-circuiting electric toothbrush could blot out the whisper of the Big Bang.

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

News 06.24.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The Boomers Ruined Everything

News 06.24.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The Baby Boomers ruined America. That sounds like a hyperbolic claim, but it’s one way to state what I found as I tried to solve a riddle. American society is going through a strange set of shifts: Even as cultural values are in rapid flux, political institutions seem frozen in time. The average U.S. state constitution is more than 100 years old. We are in the third-longest period without a constitutional amendment in American history: The longest such period ended in the Civil War. So what’s to blame for this institutional aging?

One possibility is simply that Americans got older. The average American was 32 years old in 2000, and 37 in 2018. The retiree share of the population is booming, while birth rates are plummeting. When a society gets older, its politics change. Older voters have different interests than younger voters: Cuts to retiree-focused benefits are scarier, while long-term problems such as excessive student debt, climate change, and low birth rates are more easily ignored.

But it’s not just aging. In a variety of different areas, the Baby Boom generation created, advanced, or preserved policies that made American institutions less dynamic. In a recent report for the American Enterprise Institute, I looked at issues including housing, work rules, higher education, law enforcement, and public budgeting, and found a consistent pattern: The political ascendancy of the Boomers brought with it tightening control and stricter regulation, making it harder to succeed in America. This lack of dynamism largely hasn’t hurt Boomers, but the mistakes of the past are fast becoming a crisis for younger Americans.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

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Why Books Don’t Work

Books are easy to take for granted. Not any specific book, I mean: the form of a book. Paper or pixels—it hardly matters. Words in lines on pages in chapters. And at least for non-fiction books, one implied assumption at the foundation: people absorb knowledge by reading sentences. This last idea so invisibly defines the medium that it’s hard not to take for granted, which is a shame because, as we’ll see, it’s quite mistaken.

Picture some serious non-fiction tomes. The Selfish Gene; Thinking, Fast and Slow; Guns, Germs, and Steel; etc. Have you ever had a book like this—one you’d read—come up in conversation, only to discover that you’d absorbed what amounts to a few sentences? I’ll be honest: it happens to me regularly. Often things go well at first. I’ll feel I can sketch the basic claims, paint the surface; but when someone asks a basic probing question, the edifice instantly collapses. Sometimes it’s a memory issue: I simply can’t recall the relevant details. But just as often, as I grasp about, I’ll realize I had never really understood the idea in question, though I’d certainly thought I understood when I read the book. Indeed, I’ll realize that I had barely noticed how little I’d absorbed until that very moment.

I know I’m not alone here. When I share this observation with others—even others, like myself, who take learning seriously—it seems that everyone has had a similar experience. The conversation often feels confessional: there’s some bashfulness, almost as if these lapses reveal some unusual character flaw. I don’t think it’s a character flaw, but whatever it is, it’s certainly not unusual. In fact, I suspect this is the default experience for most readers. The situation only feels embarrassing because it’s hard to see how common it is.

Read the rest of this article at: Andy Matuschak

News 11.26.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

‘Nothing Kept Me Up At Night the Way the Gorgon Stare Did.’

News 06.24.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Drones have come to define the United States’ forever war, the so-called war on terror. The expansion of drone systems developed by the military into new territories — including the continental United States — embodies this era’s hyper-paranoid ethos: new threats are ever imminent, conflict is always without resolution. At the same time, non-militarized drones have entered civilian life in a number of ways, from breathtaking cinematography to flight control at Heathrow airport. There are many avid documenters of this new technology, but no one seems to understand its many facets quite like Arthur Holland Michel, founder and co-director of the Bard Center for the Study of the Drone, which catalogs the growing use of drones around the world. Now, Holland Michel has written Eyes in the Sky: The Secret Rise of Gorgon Stare and How It Will Watch Us All, a book of startling revelations about drone surveillance in the United States.

Holland Michel has lived and breathed drone technology for the last six years, but nothing quite shocked him like the technology of Wide Angle Motion Imagery (WAMI). WAMI greatly expands the power that a camera attached to a drone can have; it is able to watch and record a much greater area while also tracking multiple specific targets within that area. In his book Holland Michel lays out how scientists and engineers created this surveillance technology through a Manhattan-project like mission. The name — a little too on the nose — that the scientists decided to give their new invention was “Gorgon Stare,” after the terrifying mythological creature whose mere glance could turn you to stone. Even from the very beginning, Gorgon Stare’s creators knew that its power would extend beyond its original stated purpose — to help prevent IED attack and track insurgents across conflict zones. Now, proponents of WAMI are finding uses for it in civilian life, and Holland Michel argues that the public must be involved in any decision before it is deployed above us. I met up with Arthur on a beautiful Spring day (perfect for flying drones) to discuss this profoundly troubling technology, how to prevent its worst potential from being realized, and maybe — just maybe — how drones can be used for good.

Read the rest of this article at: Longreads

Took You By Surprise: John and Paul’s Lost Reunion

News 06.24.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The sun was beginning to set over a mostly deserted expanse of beach in Malibu, casting long shadows behind a pair of visitors as they strolled a few feet from the water’s edge. They had the innocuous, no-particular-place-to-go demeanor of average beachgoers, except for the fact that their every step was being recorded by a local news cameraman. One was a guy who was intimately familiar with being filmed, photographed, analyzed, idolized, ridiculed, and praised: John Lennon.

An ocean breeze pushed Lennon’s short brown hair away from his forehead, and his eyes were hidden behind small, oval sunglasses. There was a slight chill in the air of the early November afternoon in 1973, and Lennon kept his hands tucked inside the pockets of his bell-bottoms as he trudged across the sand. Trailing him was Elliot Mintz, a young television entertainment correspondent who had become friendly with Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono, after he’d interviewed them separately two years earlier. Now, Lennon was looking to promote his upcoming album, Mind Games, and agreed to a fresh interview with Mintz.

Lennon didn’t express any surprise, though, when Mintz steered the conversation to that other topic, the one that was an object of fascination for millions of people around the world. “When you think back during that period of time known as Beatlemania, are the thoughts happy ones, are they good ones, John?” Mintz asked.

It had been three years since the Beatles’ magical, kaleidoscopic romp through the 1960s — one that forever redefined popular music, culture, and countless other aspects of Western civilization — came to a bitter end. The band’s love, love, love ethos was replaced by subpoenas, lawsuits, and private resentments that became public fodder for their suddenly disillusioned fans. And in the early days following the Beatles’ split, no one seemed more willing to discard their legacy than Lennon, who was learning to purge his personal demons through primal scream therapy. “The Beatles was nothing,” he told Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner during an infamous 1970 interview.

Read the rest of this article at: Longreads

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