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In the News 26.07.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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In the News 26.07.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 26.07.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 26.07.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The Strange Similarity of Neuron and Galaxy Networks

Christof Koch, a leading researcher on consciousness and the human brain, has famously called the brain “the most complex object in the known universe.” It’s not hard to see why this might be true. With a hundred billion neurons and a hundred trillion connections, the brain is a dizzyingly complex object.

But there are plenty of other complicated objects in the universe. For example, galaxies can group into enormous structures (called clusters, superclusters, and filaments) that stretch for hundreds of millions of light-years. The boundary between these structures and neighboring stretches of empty space called cosmic voids can be extremely complex.1 Gravity accelerates matter at these boundaries to speeds of thousands of kilometers per second, creating shock waves and turbulence in intergalactic gases. We have predicted that the void-filament boundary is one of the most complex volumes of the universe, as measured by the number of bits of information it takes to describe it.

This got us to thinking: Is it more complex than the brain?

Read the rest of this article at: Nautilus

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A Son’s Race to Give His Dying Father Artificial Immortality

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The first voice you hear on the recording is mine. “Here we are,” I say. My tone is cheerful, but a catch in my throat betrays how nervous I am.

Then, a little grandly, I pronounce my father’s name: “John James Vlahos.”

“Esquire,” a second voice on the recording chimes in, and this one word—delivered as a winking parody of lawyerly pomposity—immediately puts me more at ease. The speaker is my dad. We are sitting across from each other in my parents’ bedroom, him in a rose-colored armchair and me in a desk chair. It’s the same room where, decades ago, he calmly forgave me after I confessed that I’d driven the family station wagon through a garage door. Now it’s May 2016, he is 80 years old, and I am holding a digital audio recorder.

Sensing that I don’t quite know how to proceed, my dad hands me a piece of notepaper marked with a skeletal outline in his handwriting. It consists of just a few broad headings: “Family History.” “Family.” “Education.” “Career.” “Extracurricular.”

“So … do you want to take one of these cat­egories and dive into it?” I ask.

“I want to dive in,” he says confidently. “Well, in the first place, my mother was born in the village of Kehries—K-e-h-r-i-e-s—on the Greek island of Evia …” With that, the session is under way.

Read the rest of this article at: Wired

The Toxic Saga of the World’s Greatest Fish Market

Tsukiji is the most exalted fish market on earth, the sort of humbling place that causes the likes of globally worshipped god-chef René Redzepi to deem it one of the “seven culinary wonders of the world.” With nearly 671 licensed wholesale dealers selling more than 500 different kinds of seafood — $17 million worth a day, and more than 700,000 tons a year — the 23-hectare market is so vital to the global commercial flow of fish that it’s almost impossible to imagine how the international sea critter industry would fare without it.

But the occupants of this oceanic oasis have been dancing to a slow swan song. Last November, after more than 80 years in its current location, Tsukiji’s inner market, the fish-slinging heart of the operation, was supposed to move to Toyosu, a man-made island about 1.5 miles south, where a freshly constructed, state-of-the-art space had been built. Tuna wholesalers scheduled the shutdown of their refrigerators; new contracts were arranged with outside shippers; shrimp mongers tied up loose ends for delivery routes. A stunning film about the market, Tsukiji Wonderland, was released to commemorate the historical moment. Nostalgia was in the air.

The move never happened. Today, Toyosu sits empty, and Tsukiji teems with life, its fate still hanging in the air. This is the, er, fishy story of what happened.

With a layout that’s akin to a tipped-over Greek amphitheater, Tsukiji is a menagerie of things both living and recently alive. The outer market spills into the taxi-jammed streets with its offerings — oversized vegetables, patterned dishware, mom-and-pop noodle shops — and crawls with tourists in their sandals and DSLR cameras, ogling bowls of slurp-worthy udon, boxes of chestnuts, and shiitake mushrooms, phallic and forearm-thick.

Read the rest of this article at: Eater

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Mourning the Low-Rent, Weirdo-Filled East Village of Old

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I came to New York to transition. To become a New Yorker after a lifetime in one small town. Riding the train into Penn Station upon my arrival, I caught a glimpse of the red neon sign atop the New Yorker hotel and thought, That’s where the great magazine is published—and where my poems will appear. It wasn’t and they didn’t.

But what did I know at twenty-two years old? In my black Doc Martens, black jeans, black turtleneck, black leather biker jacket, I wanted to be taken for a real New Yorker. I wanted to pass—not as something I wasn’t, but as the person I’d always known myself to be. A city person.

The city has the power to rejigger you completely, body and mind, rearranging your neural pathways and setting your heart to a different beat. It speeds up your nervous system, making you sharper and more savvy—if you let it. I welcomed my own urbanization, loving the smells of my neighbors’ cooking and the crush of a subway crowd, savoring insider knowledge about important things, like how to order a bagel, how to hail a cab, and in which booth at Chumley’s did F. Scott Fitzgerald schtup Zelda on their wedding night. (If you take New York into your cells, you pick up Yiddish, too, sparking your sentences with schmuck and kvetch and plotz.)

Read the rest of this article at: Longreads

Review | Samuel Huntington, a prophet for the Trump era

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Sometimes a prophet can be right about what will come, yet torn about whether it should.

President Trump’s recent speech in Warsaw, in which he urged Europeans and Americans to defend Western civilization against violent extremists and barbarian hordes, inevitably evoked Samuel P. Huntington’s “clash of civilizations” — the notion that superpower rivalry would give way to battles among Western universalism, Islamic militance and Chinese assertiveness. In a book expanded from his famous 1993 essay, Huntington described civilizations as the broadest and most crucial level of identity, encompassing religion, values, culture and history. Rather than “which side are you on?” he wrote, the overriding question in the post-Cold War world would be “who are you?”

So when the president calls on the nations of the West to “summon the courage and the will to defend our civilization,” when he insists that we accept only migrants who “share our values and love our people,” and when he urges the transatlantic alliance to “never forget who we are” and cling to the “bonds of history, culture and memory,” I imagine Huntington, who passed away in late 2008 after a long career teaching at Harvard University, nodding from beyond.

It would be a nod of vindication, perhaps, but mainly one of grim recognition. Trump’s civilizational rhetoric is just one reason Huntington resonates today, and it’s not even the most interesting one. Huntington’s work, spanning the mid-20th century through the early 21st, reads as a long argument over America’s meaning and purpose, one that explains the tensions of the Trump era as well as anything can. Huntington both chronicles and anticipates America’s fights over its founding premises, fights that Trump’s ascent has aggravated. Huntington foresees — and, frankly, stokes — the rise of white nativism in response to Hispanic immigration. He captures the dissonance between working classes and elites, between nationalism and cosmopolitanism, that played out in the 2016 campaign. And he warns how populist demagogues appeal to alienated masses and then break faith with them.

This is Trump’s presidency, but even more so, it is Huntington’s America. Trump may believe himself a practical man, exempt from any intellectual influence, but he is the slave of a defunct political scientist.

Huntington’s books speak to one another across the decades; you find the origins of one in the unanswered questions of another. But they also reveal deep contradictions. More than a clash of civilizations, a clash of Huntingtons is evident. One Huntington regards Americans as an exceptional people united not by blood but by creed. Another disowns that idea in favor of an America that finds its essence in faith, language, culture and borders. One Huntington views new groups and identities entering the political arena as a revitalization of American democracy. Another considers such identities pernicious, anti-American.

These works embody the intellectual and political challenges for the United States in, and beyond, the Trump years. In Huntington’s writings, idealistic visions of America mingle with its basest impulses, and eloquent defenses of U.S. values betray a fear of the pluralism at the nation’s core. Which vision wins out will determine what country we become.

Read the rest of this article at: The Washington Post

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M. // Top images: @parkncube; @lostincheeseland; @alicecatherine