News 02.05.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 02.05.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 02.05.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 02.05.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Alone, the female orca, also known as a killer whale, circles her small, shallow tank stopping only to surface and open her mouth as trainers drop in dead fish. She thinks of a time when she shared her tank with her children. But they are long gone – all five having died in captivity by the age of seven. And she remembers her mother, from whom she was taken at the age of three, in waters off Iceland, to be put on display at an amusement park.

When a trainer provides a hoop or a ball, she might listlessly move it around for a few times before giving up. Her worn, flattened teeth are a result of years of gnawing on concrete sections of her tank out of frustration. This has been her life in a marine park on the east coast of North America for the past 38 of her 41 years.

Across the continent, in the summer of 2011, I joined a group of scientists, conservationists, former whale trainers, journalists and a filmmaker on San Juan Island in Washington state. We spent our days watching whales, giving presentations during the evening and socialising at the Center for Whale Research, which has been studying the local orca population for almost 50 years. I gave a talk on whale brains and intelligence.

Read the rest of this article at: aeon

News 02.05.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 02.05.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The first thing I ever bought on Amazon was an edutainment DVD for babies. I don’t recall making the purchase, but the data is unequivocal on this point: on 14 November 2004, I bought Baby Einstein: Baby Noah – Animal Expedition for the sum of £7.85. My nearest guess is that I got it as a Christmas present for my nephew, who would at that point have been one year old, and at the very peak of his interest in finger-puppet animals who cavort to xylophone arrangements of Beethoven. This was swiftly followed by three more DVD purchases I have no memory of making. Strangely, I bought nothing at all from Amazon the following year, and then, in 2006, I embarked on a PhD and started ramping up my acquisition of the sort of books that were not easily to be found in brick-and-mortar establishments. Dry treatises on psychoanalysis. Obscure narrative theory texts. The occasional poetry collection. Everything ever published by the American novelist Nicholson Baker.

I know these things because I recently spent a desultory morning clicking through all 16 years of my Amazon purchase history. Seeing all those hundreds of items bought and delivered, many of them long since forgotten, was a vaguely melancholy experience. I experienced an estranged recognition, as if reading an avant-garde biography of myself, ghost-written by an algorithm. From the bare facts of the things I once bought, I began to reconstruct where I was in life, and what I was doing at the time, and what I was (or wanted to be) interested in. And yet an essential mystery endured. What kind of person purchases within the space of a few days, as I did in August of 2012, a Le Creuset non-stick crepe pan, three blue and white herringbone tea-towels, and a 700-odd page biography of the Marxist philosopher Theodor Adorno? (The tea-towels are still in use, and so is the crepe pan, while the 700-plus page Adorno biography remains, inevitably, unread.) Perhaps the answer is as simple as: a person with an Amazon account.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian


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From majestic landscapes, intimate animal portraits and intriguing night-time views beneath the ocean’s surface, to glimpses of cultures across the world, the winning images from Travel Photographer of the Year 2020 present a view of life on our planet at a time in which travel has been difficult or impossible

The winning images will go on display in Coal Drops Yard, King’s Cross, London, in May and in other TPOTY exhibitions, including Chester Cathedral, during 2021

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

News 02.05.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 02.05.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

We live on a wild planet, a wobbly, erupting, ocean-sloshed orb that careens around a giant thermonuclear explosion in the void. Big rocks whiz by overhead, and here on the Earth’s surface, whole continents crash together, rip apart, and occasionally turn inside out, killing nearly everything. Our planet is fickle. When the unseen tug of celestial bodies points Earth toward a new North Star, for instance, the shift in sunlight can dry up the Sahara, or fill it with hippopotamuses. Of more immediate interest today, a variation in the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere of as little as 0.1 percent has meant the difference between sweltering Arctic rainforests and a half mile of ice atop Boston. That negligible wisp of the air is carbon dioxide.

Since about the time of the American Civil War, CO2’s crucial role in warming the planet has been well understood. And not just based on mathematical models: The planet has run many experiments with different levels of atmospheric CO2. At some points in the Earth’s history, lots of CO2 has vented from the crust and leaped from the seas, and the planet has gotten warm. At others, lots of CO2 has been hidden away in the rocks and in the ocean’s depths, and the planet has gotten cold. The sea level, meanwhile, has tried to keep up—rising and falling over the ages, with coastlines racing out across the continental shelf, only to be drawn back in again. During the entire half-billion-year Phanerozoic eon of animal life, CO2 has been the primary driver of the Earth’s climate. And sometimes, when the planet has issued a truly titanic slug of CO2 into the atmosphere, things have gone horribly wrong.

Today, humans are injecting CO2 into the atmosphere at one of the fastest rates ever over this entire, near-eternal span. When hucksters tell you that the climate is always changing, they’re right, but that’s not the good news they think it is. “The climate system is an angry beast,” the late Columbia climate scientist Wally Broecker was fond of saying, “and we are poking it with sticks.”

The beast has only just begun to snarl. All of recorded human history—at only a few thousand years, a mere eyeblink in geologic time—has played out in perhaps the most stable climate window of the past 650,000 years. We have been shielded from the climate’s violence by our short civilizational memory, and our remarkably good fortune. But humanity’s ongoing chemistry experiment on our planet could push the climate well beyond those slim historical parameters, into a state it hasn’t seen in tens of millions of years, a world for which Homo sapiens did not evolve.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

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A small alleyway just a few blocks from the bustling Avenida Santa Fe, Pasaje Voltaire gives the impression that it’s keeping a secret. It carries the aura of the bygone era when bohemian artists and intellectuals dominated Palermo, long before it became one of the most fashionable barrios in Buenos Aires. A block over are bars where it’s rare to hear Spanish and common to overpay for drinks. This 100-meter long passageway, however, offers no such attractions. A tourist wouldn’t think twice about walking past it, nor would a local who lives in the area. With its cobblestones and squat houses, Pasaje Voltaire is a bastion of residential silence within the lively neighborhood. It’s completely inconspicuous, save for a two-story edifice dotted with clouded windows that offer no glimpses into what’s happening inside.

Until recently, the building was home to a rotating cast of recent engineering graduates. Here, in Jorge Luis Borges’s former neighborhood, they chased their own kind of dream, one they believed would change the world: cryptocurrency. When they weren’t founding companies, they hosted all-night hackathons, threw elaborate parties, and welcomed friends and allies for deep talks on the nature of the social contract and the inherent value of legal tender.

On the right-hand side of the façade is the only remaining trace of their presence. It’s a campy illustration of a samurai Darth Vader with an owl on his shoulder. The signature below it reads “Dilucious,” the nom de plume of an artist who used to live in the building. His real name is Agustín, and he’s one of the few people willing to speak to the media about his years in the building, which is known as Voltaire House.

In 2015, Agustín took a sabbatical from work with the aim of reinventing himself as an artist. He had studied engineering at the Buenos Aires Institute of Technology, or ITBA, and was making good money as a developer for an Argentine telecommunications company, but he felt trapped in corporate culture. As luck would have it, he heard about some ITBA alums who had transformed a building into a “crazy hacker haven” for cryptocurrency projects. The founders were on the same spiritual journey as Agustín. After a meeting and a short deliberation, the members of Voltaire House invited Agustín to be their artist-in-residence.

This was before “Bitcoin” became a familiar term and crypto bros began to be stereotyped as overnight millionaires. For the coder community of Argentina at that time, cryptocurrency meant something more serious — a way to create new forms of social interaction and to upend broken economic and political systems. Ever since a coder calling himself Satoshi introduced Bitcoin in a 2008 white paper, the prospect of a decentralized, peer-to-peer monetary system had become synonymous with a potential new world: one controlled not by banks or governmental institutions but by anyone with access to a computer.

This vision was particularly potent in Argentina. The hackers of Voltaire House had grown up amid the turbulence of the 1990s and 2000s — an era of the country’s history defined by corrupt political administration and economic collapse, precipitated by the central government. After the country defaulted on more than $100 billion of debt in 2001, the Argentine peso began a two-decade devaluation, going from 1:1 with the U.S. dollar to 85:1 today. Argentines grew accustomed to their paychecks being devalued the instant the money landed in their bank accounts. There was no access to a stable alternative, either, as U.S. dollars were either banned or severely restricted. Many resorted to buying black-market U.S. dollars, known as “blue dollars,” which often sold for more than twice the official exchange rate.

Read the rest of this article at: Rest of World

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