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News 02.20.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 02.20.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 02.20.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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Karl Lagerfeld, Boy Prince of Fashion

Down Fifth Avenue they come, the fragrant and bejeweled hordes, having said their bons mots at Derek Lam’s cocktail party at Barneys and a Tom Ford perfume launch at Saks, and now clippity-clopping their way ever closer to the opening of the exquisite new Fendi boutique on 53rd Street. It is 8 p.m., still early enough for tourists to stroll about and city buses to zoom by, and also too early for the arrival of Karl Lagerfeld, designer of Chanel, Fendi, Lagerfeld Collection, a new Karl Lagerfeld line, and “the reason we are all here!” Half an hour before the event is supposed to end, Lagerfeld remains at his suite at the Mercer, and it’s whispered that he will not leave because he cannot find a thing to wear. Soon, Silvia Fendi, the handsome blonde daughter of the LVMH-owned house, is packed in a Town Car and sent downtown to work some magic, or at least appeal to Lagerfeld’s nobler side, because Lagerfeld is nothing if not noble.

Read the rest of this article at: New York Magazine

News 02.20.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

A Different Kind of Theory of Everything

News 02.20.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In 1964, during a lecture at Cornell University, the physicist Richard Feynman articulated a profound mystery about the physical world. He told his listeners to imagine two objects, each gravitationally attracted to the other. How, he asked, should we predict their movements? Feynman identified three approaches, each invoking a different belief about the world. The first approach used Newton’s law of gravity, according to which the objects exert a pull on each other. The second imagined a gravitational field extending through space, which the objects distort. The third applied the principle of least action, which holds that each object moves by following the path that takes the least energy in the least time. All three approaches produced the same, correct prediction. They were three equally useful descriptions of how gravity works.

“One of the amazing characteristics of nature is this variety of interpretational schemes,” Feynman said. What’s more, this multifariousness applies only to the true laws of nature—it doesn’t work if the laws are misstated. “If you modify the laws much, you find you can only write them in fewer ways,” Feynman said. “I always found that mysterious, and I do not know the reason why it is that the correct laws of physics are expressible in such a tremendous variety of ways. They seem to be able to get through several wickets at the same time.”

Even as physicists work to understand the material content of the universe—the properties of particles, the nature of the big bang, the origins of dark matter and dark energy—their work is shadowed by this Rashomon effect, which raises metaphysical questions about the meaning of physics and the nature of reality. Nima Arkani-Hamed, a physicist at the Institute for Advanced Study, is one of today’s leading theoreticians. “The miraculous shape-shifting property of the laws is the single most amazing thing I know about them,” he told me, this past fall. It “must be a huge clue to the nature of the ultimate truth.”

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

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Follow the Path of Least Resistance:
An Oral History of ‘Office Space’

The first time Mike Judge worked in an office, he lasted three weeks.

While taking time off from college, he landed a job alphabetizing purchase orders through a temp agency. The idea of sitting in an office intrigued him, until he learned the reality of his mind-numbing responsibility. “You’re just alphabetizing all day long,” Judge says. “I’d be home and I’d be alphabetizing in my sleep. This was like water torture.”

After graduating, Judge found more meaningful work as an engineer for a military contractor on Coronado Island, processing schematics for F-18 fighter jets. One day, he stopped by a colleague’s desk to say hello and stumbled into what would eventually become his first animated character. “He just went into this whole thing about how he was going to quit because they moved his desk again,” Judge remembers. “I said, ‘Well, why don’t you want the desk to move?’ It was something about his fish tank: ‘I told Bill, they move it one more time, I’m outta here.’ I remember thinking, they could move your desk 20 more times; you’re not going to quit. He just enjoyed complaining.”

Read the rest of this article at: The Ringer

News 02.20.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

YouTube Unleashed A Conspiracy Theory Boom.
Can It Be Contained?

News 02.20.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Last month, the YouTube star Shane Dawson uploaded his new project: a 104-minute documentary, “Conspiracy Theories With Shane Dawson.”

In the video, set to a spooky instrumental soundtrack, Mr. Dawson unspooled a series of far-fetched hypotheses. Among them: that iPhones secretly record their owners’ every utterance; that popular children’s TV shows contain subliminal messages urging children to commit suicide; that the recent string of deadly wildfires in California was set on purpose, either by homeowners looking to collect insurance money or by the military using a type of high-powered laser called a “directed energy weapon.”

None of this was fact-based, of course, and some of the theories seemed more like jokey urban legends than serious accusations. Still, his fans ate it up. The video has gotten more than 30 million views, a hit even by Mr. Dawson’s standards. A follow-up has drawn more than 20 million views and started a public feud with Chuck E. Cheese’s, the restaurant chain, which was forced to deny claims that it recycles customers’ uneaten pizza slices into new pizzas.

Mr. Dawson’s conspiracy series arrived at a particularly awkward moment for YouTube, which has been reckoning with the vast troves of misinformation and extreme content on its platform.

In late January, the company announced that it was changing its recommendations algorithm to reduce the spread of “borderline content and content that could misinform users in harmful ways.” It cited, as examples, “videos promoting a phony miracle cure for a serious illness, claiming the earth is flat or making blatantly false claims about historic events like 9/11.”

Mr. Dawson, whose real name is Shane Lee Yaw, has more than 20 million subscribers and a devoted teenage fan base. He has built his lucrative career by, among other talents, understanding what kinds of content plays well on YouTube.

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

How The World Got Hooked On Palm Oil

News 02.20.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Once upon a time in a land far, far away, there grew a magical fruit. This fruit could be squeezed to produce a very special kind of oil that made cookies more healthy, soap more bubbly and crisps more crispy. The oil could even make lipstick smoother and keep ice-cream from melting. Because of these wondrous qualities, people came from around the world to buy the fruit and its oil.

In the places where the fruit came from, people burned down the forest so they could plant more trees that grew the fruit – making lots of nasty smoke and sending all of the creatures of the forest scurrying away. When the trees were burned, they emitted a gas that heated up the air. Then everybody was upset, because they loved the forest’s creatures and thought the temperature was warm enough already. A few people decided they shouldn’t use the oil any more, but mostly things went on as before, and the forest kept burning.

This is a true story. Except that it is not magic. The fruit of the oil palm tree (Elaeis guineensis), which grows in tropical climates, contains the world’s most versatile vegetable oil. It can handle frying without spoiling, and blends well with other oils. Its combination of different types of fats and its consistency after refining make it a popular ingredient in packaged baked goods. Its low production costs make it cheaper than frying oils such as cottonseed or sunflower. It provides the foaming agent in virtually every shampoo, liquid soap or detergent. Cosmetics manufacturers prefer it to animal tallow for its ease of application and low price. It is increasingly used as a cheap raw material for biofuels, especially in the European Union. It functions as a natural preservative in processed foods, and actually does raise the melting point of ice-cream. Palm oil can be used as an adhesive that binds together the particles in fibreboard. Oil palm trunks and fronds can be made into everything from plywood to the composite body of Malaysia’s national automobile.

Worldwide production of palm oil has been climbing steadily for five decades. Between 1995 and 2015, annual production quadrupled, from 15.2m tonnes to 62.6m tonnes. By 2050, it is expected to quadruple again, reaching 240m tonnes. The footprint of palm oil production is astounding: plantations to produce it account for 10% of permanent global cropland. Today, 3 billion people in 150 countries use products containing palm oil. Globally, we each consume an average of 8kg of palm oil a year.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

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