News 03.18.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 03.18.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 03.18.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 03.18.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Death of the Calorie

The first time that Salvador Camacho thought he was going to die he was sitting in his father’s Chrysler sedan with a friend listening to music. The 22-year-old engineering student was parked near his home in the central Mexican city of Toluca and in the fading evening light he didn’t notice two tattooed men approach. Tori Amos’s hit, “Bliss”, had just started playing when the gang members pointed guns at the young men.

So began a 24-hour ordeal. Strong willed and solidly built, Camacho was singled out as the more stubborn of the pair. He was blindfolded and beaten. One robber eventually threw him to the ground, put a gun to the back of his head and told him it was time to die. He passed out, waking in a field with his hands tied behind his back, almost naked.

Camacho survived but, traumatised, he sank into depression. Soon he was drinking heavily and binge eating. His weight ballooned from a trim 70kg to 103kg.

Read the rest of this article at: 1843

News 03.18.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

What Animals Can Teach Us About Politics

News 03.18.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In July 2017, when Sean Spicer, then the White House press secretary, was discovered hiding in the bushes to dodge questions from reporters, I knew Washington politics had become truly primatological. A few weeks earlier, James Comey had intentionally worn a blue suit while standing at the back of a room with blue curtains so as to blend in. The FBI director hoped to go unnoticed and avoid a presidential hug. (The tactic failed.)

Making creative use of the environment is primate politics at its best, as is the role of body language such as sitting on a throne high above the grovelling masses, descending into their midst with an escalator or raising one’s arm so underlings can kiss your armpit (a pheromonal ritual invented by Saddam Hussein). The link between high evaluations of debate performances and the candidates’ heights is well known – taller candidates have a leg up. This advantage explains why short leaders bring along boxes to stand on during group photos.

Donald Trump’s bullying skills against his male rivals during the Republican primary were legendary. He defeated all his fellow candidates by puffing himself up, lowering his voice and insulting them with demeaning nicknames such as “Low-Energy Jeb” and “Little Marco”. Strutting like a male chimp, the Donald turned the primary into a hypermasculine body language contest.

But even though Trump had intimidation down to a T, this didn’t necessarily help him against his female opponent in the general election. Between the sexes, all bets are off. Fighting behaviour is bound by rules.

This was Trump’s dilemma: he was up against an opponent he could not defeat the way he could defeat another male. I have never seen as odd a spectacle as the second televised debate between Trump and Hillary Clinton on 9 October 2016. Trump’s body language was that of a tormented soul ready to punch out his opponent, yet aware that if he laid one finger on her, his candidacy would be over. He drifted right behind Clinton, impatiently pacing back and forth or firmly gripping his chair. Concerned television viewers live-tweeted warnings to Clinton like “Look behind you!” Clinton herself later commented that her “skin crawled” when Trump was literally breathing down her neck.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

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How Podcasts Learned to Speak

When you first heard about podcasts, do you remember how excited you weren’t? Do you recall the first person who said, “Did you know you can now download audio files of people talking?” To which you might have replied, “Talking about … what?” To which they might have replied, “About … anything!” — at which point you realized that podcasts seemed like radio but more amateurish, which wasn’t the most compelling sales pitch.

Read the rest of this article at: Vulture

News 03.18.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

DeepMind and Google: The Battle To Control Artificial Intelligence

News 03.18.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

One afternoon in August 2010, in a conference hall perched on the edge of San Francisco Bay, a 34-year-old Londoner called Demis Hassabis took to the stage. Walking to the podium with the deliberate gait of a man trying to control his nerves, he pursed his lips into a brief smile and began to speak: “So today I’m going to be talking about different approaches to building…” He stalled, as though just realising that he was stating his momentous ambition out loud. And then he said it: “AGI”.

AGI stands for artificial general intelligence, a hypothetical computer program that can perform intellectual tasks as well as, or better than, a human. AGI will be able to complete discrete tasks, such as recognising photos or translating languages, which are the single-minded focus of the multitude of artificial intelligences (AIs) that inhabit our phones and computers. But it will also add, subtract, play chess and speak French. It will also understand physics papers, compose novels, devise investment strategies and make delightful conversation with strangers. It will monitor nuclear reactions, manage electricity grids and traffic flow, and effortlessly succeed at everything else. AGI will make today’s most advanced AIs look like pocket calculators.

The only intelligence that can currently attempt all these tasks is the kind that humans are endowed with. But human intelligence is limited by the size of the skull that houses the brain. Its power is restricted by the puny amount of energy that the body is able to provide. Because AGI will run on computers, it will suffer none of these constraints. Its intelligence will be limited only by the number of processors available. AGI may start by monitoring nuclear reactions. But soon enough it will discover new sources of energy by digesting more physics papers in a second than a human could in a thousand lifetimes. Human-level intelligence, coupled with the speed and scalability of computers, will make problems that currently appear insoluble disappear. Hassabis told the Observer, a British newspaper, that he expected AGI to master, among other disciplines, “cancer, climate change, energy, genomics, macro-economics [and] financial systems”.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

Good Enough To Eat? The Toxic Truth About Modern Food

News 03.18.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Pick a bunch of green grapes, wash it, and put one in your mouth. Feel the grape with your tongue, observe how cold and refreshing it is: the crisp flesh, and the jellylike interior with its mild, sweet flavour.

Eating grapes can feel like an old pleasure, untouched by change. The ancient Greeks and Romans loved to eat them, as well as to drink them in the form of wine. The Odyssey describes “a ripe and luscious vine, hung thick with grapes”. As you pull the next delicious piece of fruit from its stalk, you could easily be plucking it from a Dutch still life of the 17th century, where grapes are tumbled on a metal platter with oysters and half-peeled lemons.

But look closer at this bunch of green grapes, cold from the fridge, and you see that they are not unchanged after all. Like so many other foods, grapes have become a piece of engineering designed to please modern eaters. First of all, there are almost certainly no seeds for you to chew or spit out (unless you are in certain places such as Spain where seeded grapes are still part of the culture). Strains of seedless varieties have been cultivated for centuries, but it is only in the past two decades that seedless has become the norm, to spare us the dreadful inconvenience of pips.

Here is another strange new thing about grapes: the ones in the supermarket such as Thompson Seedless and Crimson Flame are always sweet. Not bitter, not acidic, not foxy like a Concord grape, not excitingly aromatic like one of the Muscat varieties, but just plain sweet, like sugar. On biting into a grape, the ancients did not know if it would be ripe or sour. The same was true, in my experience, as late as the 1990s. It was like grape roulette: a truly sweet one was rare and therefore special. These days, the sweetness of grapes is a sure bet, because in common with other modern fruits such as red grapefruit and Pink Lady apples, our grapes have been carefully bred and ripened to appeal to consumers reared on sugary foods. Fruit bred for sweetness does not have to be less nutritious, but modern de-bittered fruits tend to contain fewer of the phytonutrients that give fruits and vegetables many of their protective health benefits. Such fruit still gives us energy, but not necessarily the health benefits we would expect.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

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

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