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News 09.25.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 09.25.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 09.25.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 09.25.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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The northwest corner of Newark Bay is the kind of place comedians have in mind when they mock New Jersey as a cesspool. The grim industrial coast the bay shares with the Passaic River is lined with the hulks of old chemical plants that treated their surroundings like a toilet. The most infamous of these facilities produced nearly a million gallons of Agent Orange, the toxic defoliant whose extensive use during the Vietnam War has caused generations of suffering. The Agent Orange plant discharged unholy amounts of carcinogenic dioxin—so much, in fact, that New Jersey’s governor declared a state of emergency in June 1983. Though the Environmental Protection Agency has announced a $1.4 billion cleanup effort, the waters closest to Newark’s Ironbound neighborhood remain highly contaminated; there are few worse spots in America to go for a swim.

And yet upper Newark Bay is not devoid of life. Beneath its dull green surface teems a population of Atlantic killifish, a silvery topminnow that’s common along the Eastern Seaboard. These fish are virtually indistinguishable from most other members of their species, save for their peculiar ability to thrive in conditions that are lethal to their kin. When killifish plucked from less polluted environments are exposed to dioxin levels like those in the bay, they either fail to reproduce or their offspring die before hatching; their cousins from Newark, by contrast, swim and breed happily in the noxious soup.

Read the rest of this article at: Wired

News 09.25.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 09.25.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Depending on whom you ask, 2012 represented the apex, the inflection point, or the beginning of the end for Silicon Valley’s startup scene—what cynics called a bubble, optimists called the future, and my future co-workers, high on the fumes of world-historical potential, breathlessly called the ecosystem. Everything was going digital. Everything was up in the cloud. A technology conglomerate that first made its reputation as a Web-page search engine, but quickly became the world’s largest and most valuable private repository of consumer data, developed a prototype for a pair of eyeglasses on which the wearer could check his or her e-mail; its primary rival, a multinational consumer-electronics company credited with introducing the personal computer to the masses, thirty years earlier, released a smartphone so lightweight that gadget reviewers compared it to fine jewelry.

Technologists were plucked from the Valley’s most prestigious technology corporations and universities and put to work on a campaign that reëlected the United States’ first black President. The word “disruption” proliferated, and everything was ripe for or vulnerable to it: sheet music, tuxedo rentals, home cooking, home buying, wedding planning, banking, shaving, credit lines, dry-cleaning, the rhythm method. It was the dawn of the unicorns: startups valued, by their investors, at more than a billion dollars. The previous summer, a prominent venture capitalist, in the op-ed pages of an international business newspaper, had proudly declared that software was “eating the world.”

Not that I was paying any attention. At twenty-five, I was working in publishing, as an assistant to a literary agent, sitting at a narrow desk outside my boss’s office, frantically e-mailing my friends. The year before, I’d received a raise, from twenty-nine thousand dollars to thirty. What was my value? One semester of an M.F.A. program; fifteen hundred chopped salads, after taxes. I had a year left on my parents’ health insurance.

I was staving off a thrumming sense of dread. An online superstore, which had got its start, in the nineties, by selling books on the World Wide Web, was threatening to destroy publishing with the tools of monopoly power: pricing and distribution. People were reeling from the news that the two largest publishing houses, whose combined value pushed past two billion dollars, had agreed to merge. In the evenings, at dive bars, I met with other editorial and agency assistants, all women, all of us in wrap dresses and cardigans, for whiskey-and-sodas and the house white. Publishing had failed to innovate, but surely we—the literary, the passionate, lovers and defenders of human expression—couldn’t lose?

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

Tuscany Tote in Midnight

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Nutrition researcher Kevin Hall strives to project a Zen-like state of equanimity. In his often contentious field, he says he is more bemused than frustrated by the tendency of other scientists to “cling to pet theories despite overwhelming evidence that they are mistaken.” Some of these experts, he tells me with a sly smile, “have a fascinating ability to rationalize away studies that don’t support their views.”

Among those views is the idea that particular nutrients such as fats, carbs or sugars are to blame for our alarming obesity pandemic. (Globally the prevalence of obesity nearly tripled between 1975 and 2016, according to the World Health Organization. The rise accompanies related health threats that include heart disease and diabetes.) But Hall, who works at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, where he runs the Integrative Physiology section, has run experiments that point fingers at a different culprit. His studies suggest that a dramatic shift in how we make the food we eat—pulling ingredients apart and then reconstituting them into things like frosted snack cakes and ready-to-eat meals from the supermarket freezer—bears the brunt of the blame. This “ultraprocessed” food, he and a growing number of other scientists think, disrupts gut-brain signals that normally tell us that we have had enough, and this failed signaling leads to overeating.

Read the rest of this article at: Scientific American

News 09.25.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 09.25.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

NEUGLOBSOW, GERMANY—Martina Bauchrowitz put her back into it, swinging the oars in a wide arc, and the small boat lurched away from the lakeshore. I gripped the hull, shivering in the early-spring air, and watched our progress toward the rose-shaped metal platform floating on the surface of Lake Stechlin, one of the deepest lakes in northern Germany.

After a few minutes of rowing, we bumped against the side of the rosette. Bauchrowitz and I secured the boat and climbed out. Beneath the blue sky and puffy clouds, beneath the shiny platform and the dark, choppy waves, is another world—invisible in daylight and, more important, in darkness.

We stood on a floating plastic pontoon anchored among 24 aluminum cylinders, each protruding a few inches above the surface so that they resembled connected rings, like the petals of a flower. Each is a miniature ecosystem. They are, essentially, giant test tubes, each the size of a grain silo, nestled in Lake Stechlin. In this system of artificial lakes, scientists at the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries can test their hypotheses in a natural environment.

“Watch your step,” Bauchrowitz said. I thought she was worried that I would fall, or worse, drop my notebook into one of the ringed enclosures, but that wasn’t what she meant. She gestured toward browning spots of caked-on guano.

“The birds are a problem. When they shit here, we have extra nutrients we would not have without the platform,” she said.

Most biologists conduct their laboratory experiments inside well-appointed rooms within nondescript buildings at research centers or on university campuses. But here, the lake is the lab. Every fish is counted, the density of microscopic plants and animals is carefully calibrated, and any excess bird crap must be cleaned up. The cylinders inside the lake are kept as pristine as possible until an experiment begins, and the scientists tinker with them the way their counterparts might meddle with the contents of a petri dish.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

News 09.25.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In the Alpine foothills in the far south of Germany is a vast lake called the Ammersee. Its shores are dotted with centuries-old villages where wealthy families from Munich buy large second homes and tourists drink beer at waterfront restaurants. At the north end of the lake is a pair of such villages, Eching am Ammersee and Schondorf, less than two miles apart. Separating them is a block of spruce forest that attracts hunters, joggers, mountain bikers and in the late summer 38 years ago, kidnappers preparing to commit what would become one of the country’s most notorious postwar crimes.

After class on Tuesday 15 September 1981, the first day of the new school year, a 10-year-old girl named Ursula Herrmann returned to her house in Eching. Ursula, the youngest of four siblings, practised piano with her oldest brother Michael, and then headed off to her late afternoon gymnastics lesson in Schondorf, cycling through the forest along the lakeside path. When the gym class was over, she went to her cousin’s house in Schondorf, where she ate dinner. At 7.20pm, Ursula’s mother phoned the aunt to say her daughter needed to come home. The shadows were lengthening but it was still light, and the cycle ride would only take 10 minutes.

Half an hour later, she was still not home. Her mother again called the aunt, who said Ursula had left 25 minutes before. Both of them immediately knew something was wrong. Ursula’s father rushed into the forest from Eching, and her uncle did the same from Schondorf. They met in the middle, along the path. Ursula’s name rang out through the darkening wood. But there was no reply.

Within an hour neighbours, police and firemen had joined the search, torch beams raking the water and struggling to penetrate the thick undergrowth. With midnight approaching, and rain falling, a sniffer dog led its handler away from the lake, into the brush. There, 20 metres from the path, was Ursula’s little red bike. But she was nowhere to be seen.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

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