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In the News 04.12.15 : Today’s Articles of Interest from around the Internets

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In the News 04.12.15 : Today’s Articles of Interest from around the Internets
In the News 04.12.15 : Today’s Articles of Interest from around the Internets
In the News 04.12.15 : Today’s Articles of Interest from around the Internets

The 10 Best Books of 2015

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The Door

By Magda Szabo. Translated by Len Rix.

In Szabo’s haunting novel, a writer’s intense relationship with her servant — an older woman who veers from aloof indifference to inexplicable generosity to fervent, implacable rage — teaches her more about people and the world than her long days spent alone, in front of her typewriter. Szabo, who died in 2007, first published her novel in 1987, in the last years of Communist rule; this supple translation shows how a story about two women in 20th-century Hungary can resonate in a very different time and place. With a mix of dark humor and an almost uncanny sense of the absurd, she traces the treacherous course of a country’s history, and the tragic course of a life.

Read the rest of this article at The New York Times

Is Facebook Luring You Into Being Depressed?

In his free time, Sven Laumer serves as a referee for Bavaria’s highest amateur football league. A few years ago, he noticed several footballers had quit Facebook, making it hard to organize events on the platform. He was annoyed, but as a professor who studies information systems, he was also intrigued. Why would the young men want to give up Facebook? Social scientists had been saying the social network was a good thing.

“At the time, the main paradigm in social networking research was that Facebook is a positive place, it’s a place of happiness, it’s a place where you have fun, you get entertained, you talk to friends, you feel amused, accepted,” says Hanna Krasnova, an information systems researcher at the University of Bern in Switzerland. Influential studies had shown that the
 social capital we earn on social media can be 
key to our successes, big and small. Our virtual connections were known to help us access jobs, information, emotional support, and everyday favors. “Everyone was enthusiastic about social media,” Laumer says.

Laumer, an assistant professor at Otto-Friedrich University in Germany, suspected that quitting Facebook was a classic response to stress. He knew other researchers had looked at something called “technostress,” which crops up in workplaces due to buggy interfaces or complex processes. But that didn’t really fit with Facebook, which is easy to use. Something else seemed to be stressing people out. “We thought there was a new phenomenon on social media in particular,” Laumer says.

Read the rest of this article at Nautilus

‘If I burn out, I burn out’: meet Taylor Wilson, nuclear boy genius

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Taylor Wilson has a Geiger counter watch on his wrist, a sleek, sporty-looking thing that sounds an alert in response to radiation. As we enter his parents’ garage and approach his precious jumble of electrical equipment, it emits an ominous beep. Wilson is in full flow, explaining the old-fashioned control panel in the corner, and ignores it. “This is one of the original atom smashers,” he says with pride. “It would accelerate particles up to, um, 2.5m volts – so kind of up there, for early nuclear physics work.” He pats the knobs.

It was in this garage that, at the age of 14, Wilson built a working nuclear fusion reactor, bringing the temperature of its plasma core to 580mC – 40 times as hot as the core of the sun. This skinny kid from Arkansas, the son of a Coca-Cola bottler and a yoga instructor, experimented for years, painstakingly acquiring materials, instruments and expertise until he was able to join the elite club of scientists who have created a miniature sun on Earth.

Read the rest of this article at The Guardian

The Shadow

A hundred years of Orson Welles.

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The most popular Orson Welles video on YouTube, edging out the trailer for “Citizen Kane” and “The War of the Worlds” broadcast of 1938, is called “Orson Welles Drunk Outtake.” It shows him slurring his way through one of those ads in which he intoned, “Paul Masson will sell no wine before its time.” Whether he was drunk, experiencing the effects of medication (he suffered from diabetes and other ailments), or simply very tired is immaterial. What’s striking about the video is its popularity. This is largely how today’s culture has chosen to remember Welles: as a pompous wreck, a man who peaked early and then devolved into hackwork and bloated fiascos.

Read the rest of this article at The New Yorker

General relativity: 100 years of the most beautiful theory ever created

Who created Einstein’s theory of general relativity? And do most really know what it says?

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It stands among the most famous theories ever created, but the general theory of relativity did not spring into being with a single, astonishing paper like the special theory of relativity in 1905. Instead, general relativity’s birth was more chaotic, involving a handful of lectures, manuscripts, and more than one parent.

One hundred years ago this fall, that harrowing labor occupied almost an entire month in November 1915. When finished, Einstein finally delivered a theory perfectly formed, if not already mature, and trembling with potential. Today, the general theory retains its status as our modern theory of gravity, and its fundamental equations remain unchanged.

However, we’ve learned a great deal more about the back story and consequences of general relativity in the past century. In fact over time, this model of gravity, space, and time has come to be regarded by many who know it as perhaps the “most beautiful of all existing physical theories.” But to fully appreciate all the complexity of general relativity—in substance and creation—you need to start before the very beginning.

Certainly many people are familiar with the famous theory of general relativity in the sense they’re familiar with any celebrity. But what makes the theory tick isn’t always so well-known. Perhaps the best approach to the general theory of relativity is by way of Isaac Newton and his theory of gravity. Newton’s gravity (in concert with his laws of motion) accurately predicted the motions of the heavenly bodies for over 200 years. It was the first great unification in physics, connecting our terrestrial experience with falling apples directly to the force that binds the solar system together. Newton’s work is the beginning of modern science, and the best way to begin to understand relativity is to try to understand what Einstein found unacceptable in Newton’s model of the universe.

Newton explained that gravity is a force between any two objects, proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them: a simple algebraic formula. This force was an instantaneous action at a distance with no medium nor mechanism behind it.

Read the rest of this article at Ars Technica

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