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News 09.30.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 09.30.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 09.30.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 09.30.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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A few years ago, Monica Gagliano, an associate professor in evolutionary ecology at the University of Western Australia, began dropping potted Mimosa pudicas. She used a sliding steel rail that guided them to six inches above a cushioned surface, then let them fall. The plant, which is leafy and green with pink-purple flower heads, is commonly known as a “shameplant” or a “touch-me-not” because its leaves fold inward when it’s disturbed. In theory, it would defend itself against any attack, indiscriminately perceiving any touch or drop as an offense and closing itself up.

The first time Gagliano dropped the plants—fifty-six of them—from the measured height, they responded as expected. But after several more drops, fewer of them closed. She dropped each of them sixty times, in five-second intervals. Eventually, all of them stopped closing. She continued like this for twenty-eight days, but none of them ever closed up again. It was only when she bothered them differently—such as by grabbing them—that they reverted to their usual defense mechanism.

Read the rest of this article at: The Paris Review

News 09.30.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 09.30.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

When Chairman Mao Zedong stepped forward in Tiananmen Square on Oct. 1, 1949, and proclaimed — in standard Chinese but in a thick Hunanese accent — the founding of the People’s Republic of China, many patriots rejoiced. A large number of Chinese who were not Communists were still happy that after years of humiliation by foreign powers, a vicious Japanese invasion and a bloody civil war, China was now finally united. For the first time in roughly a century the Chinese had regained their dignity. Mao was widely credited for this.

Many Chinese patriots would one day regret their enthusiasm. Mao not only turned against what he called “class enemies,” or indeed anyone who did not follow him slavishly, but he also unleashed greater violence on the Chinese people than even the Japanese had. The Cultural Revolution, during which it is believed that up to two million people were murdered, was just the last of his great purges.

And yet, Mao’s feat of unifying the country and restoring national pride is still a reason for many people in China to respect his legacy, and for the Chinese Communist Party (C.C.P.) to justify its continued monopoly on power. The fear of violent disorder runs deep and is consistently drummed into Chinese of all ages. Party propagandists insist that China without Communist rule would descend once more into chaos and fall prey to hostile foreign powers.

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

Tuscany Tote in Midnight

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When Margaret Atwood is discussed these days, numbers necessarily lead the way in, to underscore and give full accounting to the Atwood phenomenon: She’s written more than 50 books. These have been translated into more than 25 languages; The Handmaid’s Tale has sold over eight million copies and counting; the Hulu television series based on her 1985 novel has won fourteen Emmy’s and is in its third season. Her latest novel, The Testaments, the long-hoped-for sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, is already in its third printing in only weeks after its release. The first printing? 500,000 copies.

I can’t count the number of interviews she’s given—in print, online, on TV—as part of The Testaments tour. I’m not sure she can either, as they accrue, and if the media’s voracity overwhelms her, she’s not likely to admit it. In public, the author, who’s also my friend from some years of working together on various projects, is a model of self-restraint. That’s not to say she tempers her wit and infamous ink-black humor when she’s on any stage: not in the least, thank goodness, but the personal she saves for personal interactions, and, more vitally for her readers, she saves her real subversion, just how transgressive, deliciously dangerous, even outrageous, she can and needs to be, for the page. And the four hundred and fourteen pages of The Testaments gave Atwood plenty of room for just that.

Read the rest of this article at: Esquire

News 09.30.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 09.30.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

ABDALLA BARI WAS HUNGRY. It was the morning of March 26, 2019, and Bari and more than 100 other people were floating in a 30-foot-long rubber dinghy in the Mediterranean Sea, somewhere in the expanse of water between North Africa and Italy. Men straddled the boat’s edge, each with one foot dangling above the water and the other inside the dinghy. They formed a tightly packed ring around a huddled mass of women and children. At least one of the women was noticeably pregnant. Another, Souwa Nikavogui, was Bari’s wife.

Bari was on the starboard side, near the bow. He was skinny but muscular, with hair fashioned into short, spiky locks; he had a long scar down his right arm. Nikavogui, slightly shorter, with an intense, distant gaze, braced herself to stay upright as the dinghy rocked in the waves. They were teenagers in love—Bari was 19, Nikavogui 18—and they already had a child of their own. Her name was Fanta, and they’d left her with Bari’s mother, thousands of miles away in Guinea. Fanta was two years old. If help didn’t arrive soon, she would grow up with no memory of her parents.

The cheap inflatable dinghy wouldn’t make it to Europe. Bari and Nikavogui knew that before they climbed aboard in Libya. Their only hope was to be rescued before the boat sank. Bari watched as the bow bent upward, working its way up a wave. A small outboard motor strained to nudge the rest of the vessel over the crest of water.

Read the rest of this article at: the Atavist Magazine

News 09.30.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In the movie The Matrix (1999), Morpheus offers Neo a red pill. If he takes it, he will discover that reality as he knows it is an illusion created by machine overlords to keep humans enslaved. I am going to offer you a different pill, which – if it works – will convince you that your own consciousness is a sort of illusion, a fiction created by your brain to help you keep track of its activities. This view – which I call illusionism­ – is widely considered absurd (it’s been described by Galen Strawson as ‘the silliest claim ever made’), but it has able defenders (pre-eminently Daniel Dennett), and I want to persuade you that it isn’t absurd and might well be true. Are you ready to see how deep the rabbit hole goes?

The first task is to be clear what we’re talking about. The term ‘consciousness’ is used in different ways, and when I claim that consciousness is illusory, I mean it only in one specific sense. We can home in on our target with an example. I’ll take vision, but any other sense would do as well. Suppose you have good sight and are focusing on a red apple directly in front of you in good lighting. You are now in a certain mental state, which we can call having a conscious visual experience of the apple. You wouldn’t be in this state if you were unconscious or asleep (though if you were dreaming, you might be in a similar state), or if you had not noticed the apple, or had noticed it only in a fleeting, subliminal way. Our lives are filled with such experiences, and no one suggests that they are not real. The question is what is involved in having such experiences, and whether it involves consciousness in a more specific sense.

So, what is involved in consciously experiencing the apple? Well, lots of things. You are acquiring a mass of information about the apple – fine-grained details of its shape, colour, texture, location, distance and so on. You are recognising what kind of thing it is (a solid object, a piece of fruit, an apple, a Red Delicious) and forming corresponding beliefs (that there is a thing of this kind in front of you). You are recognising ways you might interact with the apple and the opportunities or threats it offers – what psychologists call its affordances. You recognise the apple as something you might pick up, juggle with, eat, cook and so on. You are also getting ready to react. You are forming expectations about the apple (that it won’t move or attack) and inclinations to respond to it (you might feel an urge to grab it and take a bite). Memories and associations are being evoked, perhaps affecting your mood or setting your thoughts on a different track. You don’t explicitly think about all these things, of course, but you would report many of them if questioned, and we know from experimental work that a vast array of sensitivities and associations are triggered during a conscious experience, priming us to react to future stimuli and collectively determining the experience’s significance for us.

Read the rest of this article at: aeon

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