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News 11.21.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 11.21.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 11.21.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 11.21.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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The Human Brain Is A Time Traveler

RANDY BUCKNER WAS a graduate student at Washington University in st. Louis in 1991 when he stumbled across one of the most important discoveries of modern brain science. For Buckner — as for many of his peers during the early ’90s — the discovery was so counterintuitive that it took years to recognize its significance.

Buckner’s lab, run by the neuroscientists Marcus Raichle and Steven Petersen, was exploring what the new technology of PET scanning could show about the connection between language and memory in the human brain. The promise of the PET machine lay in how it measured blood flow to different parts of the brain, allowing researchers for the first time to see detailed neural activity, not just anatomy. In Buckner’s study, the subjects were asked to recall words from a memorized list; by tracking where the brain was consuming the most energy during the task, Buckner and his colleagues hoped to understand which parts of the brain were engaged in that kind of memory.

But there was a catch. Different regions of the brain vary widely in how much energy they consume no matter what the brain is doing; if you ask someone to do mental math while scanning her brain in a PET machine, you won’t learn anything from that scan on its own, because the subtle changes that reflect the mental math task will be drowned out by the broader patterns of blood flow throughout the brain. To see the specific regions activated by a specific task, researchers needed a baseline comparison, a control.

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

News 11.21.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

High Score, Low Pay: Why The Gig
Economy Loves Gamification

News 11.21.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In May 2016, after months of failing to find a traditional job, I began driving for the ride-hailing company Lyft. I was enticed by an online advertisement that promised new drivers in the Los Angeles area a $500 “sign-up bonus” after completing their first 75 rides. The calculation was simple: I had a car and I needed the money. So, I clicked the link, filled out the application, and, when prompted, drove to the nearest Pep Boys for a vehicle inspection. I received my flamingo-pink Lyft emblems almost immediately and, within a few days, I was on the road.

Initially, I told myself that this sort of gig work was preferable to the nine-to-five grind. It would be temporary, I thought. Plus, I needed to enrol in a statistics class and finish my graduate school applications – tasks that felt impossible while working in a full-time desk job with an hour-long commute. But within months of taking on this readily available, yet strangely precarious form of work, I was weirdly drawn in.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

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The Making Of ‘Escape At Dannemora’

At 4 p.m. on Friday, June 5, 2015, Clinton Correctional inmate Richard Matt stood from his sewing machine, looked one last time at Joyce Mitchell, his supervisor, and exited Tailor Shop 1 with a raised fist.

The bigger, more charismatic, more psychotic of two soon-to-be-famous fugitives to break out of Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, N.Y., Matt, 49, was escorted from the shop most days by Officer Gene Palmer, bypassing a metal detector on the way back to his six-by-eight foot cell on the honor block. There lingered the smell of fried chicken. After the door clanged shut, Matt sat down on his bunk next to the metal wall. According to forged count slips, block logs, and contraband receipts later seized by the state of New York, his cell had been searched nine times in the months since he had cut a big hole in it.

Next door, in cell 23, cooking at his hot plate, was David Sweat, then 34, the plan’s mastermind. Today he is the escapee still alive, residing in Attica Correctional Facility’s Special Housing Unit (better known as solitary confinement).

Both men had been convicted of murder and deemed escape risks before entering Clinton, the largest maximum-security prison in New York, where Mitchell, 51, had been a civilian supervisor since 2008 and Palmer, 57, had worked since 1988.

Read the rest of this article at: The Outline

News 11.21.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Palm Oil Was Supposed To Help Save The Planet.
Instead It Unleashed A Catastrophe.

News 11.21.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The fields outside Kotawaringin village in Central Kalimantan, on the island of Borneo, looked as if they had just been cleared by armies. None of the old growth remained — only charred stumps poking up from murky, dark pools of water. In places, smoke still curled from land that days ago had been covered with lush jungle. Villagers had burned it all down, clearing the way for a lucrative crop whose cultivation now dominates the entire island: the oil-palm tree.

The dirt road was ruler straight, but deep holes and errant boulders tossed our tiny Toyota back and forth. Trucks coughed out black smoke, their beds brimming over with seven-ton loads of palm fruit rocking back and forth on tires as tall as people. Clear-cut expanses soon gave way to a uniform crop of oil-palm groves: orderly trees, a sign that we had crossed into an industrial palm plantation. Oil-palm trees look like the coconut-palm trees you see on postcards from Florida — they grow to more than 60 feet tall and flourish on the peaty wetland soil common in lowland tropics. But they are significantly more valuable. Every two weeks or so, each tree produces a 50-pound bunch of walnut-size fruit, bursting with a red, viscous oil that is more versatile than almost any other plant-based oil of its kind. Indonesia is rich in timber and coal, but palm oil is its biggest export. Around the world, the oil from its meat and seeds has long been an indispensable ingredient in everything from soap to ice cream. But it has now become a key ingredient of something else: biodiesel, fuel for diesel engines that has been wholly or partly made from vegetable oil.

Finally we emerged, and as we crested a hill, the plantations fell into an endless repetition of tidy bunches stretching for miles, looking almost like the rag of a Berber carpet. Occasionally, a shard of an old ironwood tree shot into the air, a remnant of the primordial canopy of dense rain forest that dominated the land until very recently.

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

The Irrationality Of Alcoholics Anonymous

News 11.21.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Its faith-based 12-step program dominates treatment in the United States. But researchers have debunked central tenets of AA doctrine and found dozens of other treatments more effective.

J.G. started drinking at 15, when he and a friend experimented in his parents’ liquor cabinet. He favored gin and whiskey but drank whatever he thought his parents would miss the least. He discovered beer, too, and loved the earthy, bitter taste on his tongue when he took his first cold sip.

His drinking increased through college and into law school. He could, and occasionally did, pull back, going cold turkey for weeks at a time. But nothing quieted his anxious mind like booze, and when he didn’t drink, he didn’t sleep. After four or six weeks dry, he’d be back at the liquor store.

By the time he was a practicing defense attorney, J.G. (who asked to be identified only by his initials) sometimes drank almost a liter of Jameson in a day. He often started drinking after his first morning court appearance, and he says he would have loved to drink even more, had his schedule allowed it. He defended clients who had been charged with driving while intoxicated, and he bought his own Breathalyzer to avoid landing in court on drunk-driving charges himself.

In the spring of 2012, J.G. decided to seek help. He lived in Minnesota—the Land of 10,000 Rehabs, people there like to say—and he knew what to do: check himself into a facility. He spent a month at a center where the treatment consisted of little more than attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. He tried to dedicate himself to the program even though, as an atheist, he was put off by the faith-based approach of the 12 steps, five of which mention God. Everyone there warned him that he had a chronic, progressive disease and that if he listened to the cunning internal whisper promising that he could have just one drink, he would be off on a bender.

J.G. says it was this message—that there were no small missteps, and one drink might as well be 100—that set him on a cycle of bingeing and abstinence. He went back to rehab once more and later sought help at an outpatient center. Each time he got sober, he’d spend months white-knuckling his days in court and his nights at home. Evening would fall and his heart would race as he thought ahead to another sleepless night. “So I’d have one drink,” he says, “and the first thing on my mind was: I feel better now, but I’m screwed. I’m going right back to where I was. I might as well drink as much as I possibly can for the next three days.”

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

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

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