News 10.21.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 10.21.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 10.21.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 10.21.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The temperature is rising toward 45C (113F) as young brothers Daniel and Dilan Rodríguez skip towards a bridge over the Colorado River in the Mexican border town of San Luis Río Colorado. But there is no water flowing through the channel of one of the world’s mightiest waterways. The pair run down the river bank and cheerfully splash through stagnant puddles dotted about the riverbed.

“We wish we had a river, so we could swim, and jump and sail my cousin’s boat,” said Daniel, 12. “At least we have puddles to make mud balls, that can be fun.”

The Colorado originates in the Rocky mountains and traverses seven US states, watering cities and farmland, before reaching Mexico, where it is supposed to flow onwards to the Sea of Cortez.

Instead, the river is dammed at the US-Mexico border, and on the other side the river channel is empty. Locals are now battling to bring it back to life.

There are few more striking examples of what has come to be known as “environmental injustice” – the inequitable access to clean land, air and water, and disproportionate exposure to hazards and climate disasters. Water in particular has emerged as a flash point as global heating renders vast swaths of the planet ever drier.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

News 10.21.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 10.21.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

For its 150th anniversary, the American Museum of Natural History is celebrating its many historic moments, from its 1869 founding, to the 1902 discovery of the first T-Rex skeleton, to the creation of the Teddy Roosevelt statue erected out front in 1940.

One milestone not on that list: the biggest jewel heist in New York history, when the Star of India, a 563-carat sapphire the size of a golf ball, was snatched from its display case, along with the rare Eagle Diamond, the DeLong Star Ruby and some 20 other precious gems from a collection donated to the museum by J.P. Morgan.

For several months beginning in October 1964, the city was transfixed by the brazen robbery that the tabloids immediately labeled the heist of the century.

The culprits were not ordinary thieves. They were sharply dressed surfer dudes on a spree that took them from their base in Miami Beach up to their lair in New York, a penthouse suite in a Manhattan hotel. They were caught within two days of the crime, but the jewels remained missing. After a wild escapade in Miami — an unorthodox excursion involving a rented convertible — many of the gems were recovered, including the Star of India, which was promptly put on solo display in the museum’s main floor rotunda — this time, with its own security guard and safe.

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

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Bird-eyed Aaron Burr was wanted for murder in two states when he presided over the impeachment trial of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase in the Senate, in 1805. The House had impeached Chase, a Marylander, on seven articles of misconduct and one article of rudeness. Burr had been indicted in New Jersey, where, according to the indictment, “not having the fear of God before his eyes but being moved and seduced by the instigation of the Devil,” he’d killed Alexander Hamilton, the former Secretary of the Treasury, in a duel. Because Hamilton, who was shot in the belly, died in New York, Burr had been indicted there, too. Still, the Senate met in Washington, and, until Burr’s term expired, he held the title of Vice-President of the United States.

The public loves an impeachment, until the public hates an impeachment. For the occasion of Chase’s impeachment trial, a special gallery for lady spectators had been built at the back of the Senate chamber. Burr, a Republican, presided over a Senate of twenty-five Republicans and nine Federalists, who sat, to either side of him, on two rows of crimson cloth-covered benches. They faced three rows of green cloth-covered benches occupied by members of the House of Representatives, Supreme Court Justices, and President Thomas Jefferson’s Cabinet. The House managers (the impeachment-trial equivalent of prosecutors), led by the Virginian John Randolph, sat at a table covered with blue cloth; at another blue table sat Chase and his lawyers, led by the red-faced Maryland attorney general, Luther Martin, a man so steady of heart and clear of mind that in 1787 he’d walked out of the Constitutional Convention, and refused to sign the Constitution, after objecting that its countenancing of slavery was “inconsistent with the principles of the Revolution and dishonorable to the American character.” Luther (Brandybottle) Martin had a weakness for liquor. This did not impair him. As a wise historian once remarked, Martin “knew more law drunk than the managers did sober.”

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

News 10.21.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 10.21.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

When white phosphorus touches skin, it can burn through to the bone. As the particles ignite, they emit a garlic-like odor and melt everything in their path. Adam Driver, Marine lance corporal, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, Weapons Company, 81st Platoon, was aware of these effects when he looked up at the California sky, during a drill exercise, one day in 2003, and saw a cloud of white phosphorus exploding above his head. The only thing to do was run.

Driver had joined the Marine Corps the previous year, when he was eighteen. After high school, he’d been renting a room in the back of his family’s house, in Mishawaka, Indiana, and mowing the grass at a 4-H fairgrounds. He had vague ambitions of being an actor and had auditioned for Juilliard, in Manhattan, because he knew that it didn’t check grades. When he was rejected, he decided to go to Los Angeles and try to make it in the movies. He packed up his 1990 Lincoln Town Car with his minifridge, his microwave, and everything else he owned, and said goodbye to his girlfriend. “It was a whole event,” he recalled recently. “Like, ‘I don’t know when we’ll see each other again. Our love will find a way.’ And then: ‘Bon voyage, small town! Hollywood, here I come!’ ”

His car broke down outside Amarillo, Texas, and he spent nearly all his money fixing it. When he got to L.A., he stayed at a hostel for two nights and paid a real-estate agent to help him find an apartment (“A total fucking scam”). He walked around the beach in Santa Monica, calculated that the two hundred dollars he had left was enough for gas money, and drove back to Mishawaka, where he got his job with the 4-H back. He’d been gone a week. “It was all just embarrassing,” he said. “I felt like a fucking loser.”

After 9/11, he found himself filled with a desire for retribution, although he wasn’t sure against what or whom. “It wasn’t against Muslims,” he said. “It was: We were attacked. I want to fight for my country against whoever that is.” His stepfather, a Baptist minister, had given him a brochure for the Marines, which he’d thrown in the trash. But now he reconsidered. He craved a physical challenge, and the marines were tough. “They kind of got me with their whole ‘We don’t give you signing bonuses. We’re the hardest branch of the armed forces. You’re not going to get all this cushy shit that the Navy or the Army gives you. It’s going to be hard.’ ” His decision to enlist was so abrupt that a military recruiter asked if he was running from the law.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

News 10.21.19 : 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”.

The conference at which Hassabis spoke was called the Singularity Summit. “The Singularity” refers to the most likely consequence of the advent of AGI, according to futurists. Because AGI will process information at high speed, it will become very smart very quickly. Rapid cycles of self-improvement will lead to an explosion of machine intelligence, leaving humans choking on silicon dust. Since this future is constructed entirely on a scaffolding of untested presumptions, it is a matter of almost religious belief whether one considers the Singularity to be Utopia or hell.

Read the rest of this article at: 1843

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