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In the News 20.01.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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In the News 20.01.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 20.01.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 20.01.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

How Statistics Lost Their Power – And Why We Should Fear What Comes Next

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In theory, statistics should help settle arguments. They ought to provide stable reference points that everyone – no matter what their politics – can agree on. Yet in recent years, divergent levels of trust in statistics has become one of the key schisms that have opened up in western liberal democracies. Shortly before the November presidential election, a study in the US discovered that 68% of Trump supporters distrusted the economic data published by the federal government. In the UK, a research project by Cambridge University and YouGov looking at conspiracy theories discovered that 55% of the population believes that the government “is hiding the truth about the number of immigrants living here”.

Rather than diffusing controversy and polarisation, it seems as if statistics are actually stoking them. Antipathy to statistics has become one of the hallmarks of the populist right, with statisticians and economists chief among the various “experts” that were ostensibly rejected by voters in 2016. Not only are statistics viewed by many as untrustworthy, there appears to be something almost insulting or arrogant about them. Reducing social and economic issues to numerical aggregates and averages seems to violate some people’s sense of political decency.

Read the rest of this article at The Guardian

The Real Story Of 2016

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On Friday at noon, a Category 5 political cyclone that few journalists saw coming will deposit Donald Trump atop the Capitol Building, where he’ll be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. It’s tempting to use the inauguration as an excuse to finally close the chapter on the 2016 election and instead turn the page to the four years ahead. But for journalists, given the exceptional challenges that Trump poses to the press and the extraordinary moment he represents in American history, it’s also imperative to learn from our experiences in covering Trump to date.

As editor-in-chief of FiveThirtyEight, which takes a different and more data-driven perspective than many news organizations, I don’t claim to speak to every question about how to cover Trump. And I don’t expect many of the answers to be obvious or easy. But in the part of the story that I know best, horse-race coverage,1 the results of the learning process have been discouraging so far.

While data geeks and traditional journalists each made their share of mistakes when assessing Trump’s chances during the campaign, their behavior since the election has been different. After Trump’s victory, the various academics and journalists who’d built models to estimate the election odds engaged in detailed self-assessments of how their forecasts had performed. Not all of these assessments were mea culpasours emphatically wasn’t (more about that in a moment) — but they at least grappled with the reality of what the models had said.2

Read the rest of this article at FiveThirtyEight

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Inside the Weird, Industry-Shaking World of Donald Glover

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DONALD GLOVER WISHES people would clap more. Not that they should applaud—he gets enough applause when he performs stand-up or when he gets recognized from Atlanta, the TV show he both writes and stars in. No, Glover’s talking about clapping to a beat. “I was listening to Donny Hathaway’s album Live at the Troubadour,” he says. “You hear the crowd harmonizing with every song and clapping to the beat on time. You don’t hear that at concerts anymore.”

It’s an odd thing to notice, maybe, but Glover has been listening to a lot of Hathaway lately, and to Bill Withers too—another soulful ballad singer. This may be part of the reason his onstage persona, Childish Gambino, has drifted from hip hop to something else. His latest album, Awaken, My Love!, sounds more like James Brown or Sly and the Family Stone. Possibly with a little Pink Floyd.

But more than that, Glover has been thinking a lot about performance and the different ways a performer can interact with an audience. Maybe it’s like church, he says, like gospel music. In many African American churches, clapping hands and tapping feet were requirements for attendance.“I don’t think black people go to church like that anymore,” Glover says.

Read the rest of this article at Wired

Can Trump Really Make America Great Again?

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Donald Trump’s face made it official. As his presidential victory was declared, the upper 32 stories of the Empire State Building, which for election night had been turned into a giant news screen, flickered, wept light, and revealed his portrait. “The 45th president,” it said.

The exterior of the building – the part that reflected Trump’s face – is mainly limestone. The skeleton is steel. Half of the metal was delivered in the early 1930s by a subsidiary of Bethlehem Steel, a company that not only shaped the Manhattan skyline but built some of America’s greatest bridges and its most formidable warships.

Eighty miles west of Manhattan, on the night of Trump’s election, the blast furnaces at Bethlehem Steel sat silent, as they have for 20 years. But on 8 November, the community whose generations tended Bethlehem’s fires helped to build something bigger than the mill ever had. They helped to put Donald Trump, and not Hillary Clinton, in the White House.

Northampton County, Pennsylvania, where the remains of the old Bethlehem Steel plant sits, had voted twice for Barack Obama for president, but local Democrats saw early on that 2016 might be tricky. The Clinton camp seemed confident though, and most forecasters believed that the long tradition of Democratic politics in the region, historically reinforced by labor unions in the mills, mines and manufacturing plants, would carry the day.

Read the rest of this article at The Guardian

Neanderthals
Were People, Too

New research shows they shared many behaviors that we long
believed to be uniquely human. Why did science get them so wrong?

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Joachim Neander was a 17th-century Calvinist theologian who often hiked through a valley outside Düsseldorf, Germany, writing hymns. Neander understood everything around him as a manifestation of the Lord’s will and work. There was no room in his worldview for randomness, only purpose and praise. “See how God this rolling globe/swathes with beauty as a robe,” one of his verses goes. “Forests, fields, and living things/each its Master’s glory sings.” He wrote dozens of hymns like this — awe-struck and simple-minded. Then he caught tuberculosis and died at 30.

Almost two centuries later, in the summer of 1856, workers quarrying limestone in that valley dug up an unusual skull. It was elongated and almost chinless, and the fossilized bones found alongside it were extra thick and fit together oddly. This was three years before Darwin published “The Origin of Species.” The science of human origins was not a science; the assumption was that our ancestors had always looked like us, all the way back to Adam. (Even distinguishing fossils from ordinary rock was beyond the grasp of many scientists. One popular method involved licking them; if the material had animal matter in it, it stuck to your tongue.) And so, as anomalous as these German bones seemed, most scholars had no trouble finding satisfying explanations. A leading theory held that this was the skeleton of a lost, bowlegged Cossack with rickets. The peculiar bony ridge over the man’s eyes was a result of the poor Cossack’s perpetually furrowing his brow in pain — because of the rickets.

One British geologist, William King, suspected something more radical. Instead of being the remains of an atypical human, they might have belonged to a typical member of an alternate humanity. In 1864, he published a paper introducing it as such — an extinct human species, the first ever discovered. King named this species after the valley where it was found, which itself had been named for the ecstatic poet who once wandered it. He called it Homo neanderthalensis: Neanderthal Man.

Read the rest of this article at The New York Times

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M. // Top images: @crazycatladyldn, @shhtephs, @joflowers