News 02.05.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 02.05.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 02.05.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 02.05.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

AmericansAmericans put over 13,000 miles on their vehicles every year. If car commercials are to be believed, this is all done off-roading into the woods and driving sports cars through empty, rain-slicked city streets.

In reality, much of this mileage is racked up commuting to work. And, according to Texas A&M’s Urban Mobility Report 2019, the average auto commuter spends an extra 54 hours in his or her car every year on top of the time it should actually take to get to the office.

If you live in a city like Los Angeles, San Francisco, or New York, that figure doubles. In Los Angeles, for example, commuters spend 119 hours each year delayed in their cars—that’s almost three full weeks spent idling. Sure, there are podcasts, and catching up on phone calls, and dozens of other tips and tricks for convincing yourself it isn’t a waste of time, but the truth is that if the 128 million Americans who drive to work only spent one extra week in their cars every year, that would mean, collectively, that we waste nearly 2.5 million years annually stuck in traffic.

Those same cars are belching out greenhouse gases, a key component of global warming. It’s estimated that “20 percent of emission reductions needed to limit temperature rise need to come from trips avoided or trips shifted—from cars to trains, buses and bikes.”

Read the rest of this article at: Curbed

News 02.05.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 02.05.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In November 1914, Bernard Bosanquet delivered the inaugural address to the Aristotelian Society’s 36th session. An ageing titan of British idealism, Bosanquet called his talk ‘Science and Philosophy’. It was a broadside on Bertrand Russell’s now-legendary book Our Knowledge of the External World (1914) in which Russell sought to model a new ‘scientific’ method for doing philosophy that made the logical analysis of propositions fundamental. This logic-centric style would come to define what we now know as analytic philosophy.

Bosanquet’s opening complaint about Russell’s methodology was, surprisingly, political. He argued that the ‘scientific’ methodology would inevitably make philosophy ‘cosmopolitan in character and free from special national qualities’. Since logic, and science more generally, respects no political or cultural boundaries, Russell’s philosophy could never function as a distinctive expression of a people. This was a problem for Bosanquet. He held ‘that philosophy, being, like language, art, and poetry, a product of the whole man, is a thing which would forfeit some of its essence if it were to lose its national quality’. British idealism for Britons, and German idealism for Germans.

The cosmopolitanism that Bosanquet thought implicit in Russell’s philosophical methodology was no illusion. Two weeks prior to Bosanquet’s attack at the Society, Russell had delivered a lecture at Oxford that would be published under the title ‘On Scientific Method in Philosophy’. Today it is remembered as a call to arms for logical analysis and it largely restated, in a more pointed way, the methodological outlook of Our Knowledge. Russell’s essay is not overtly political. And yet privately, Russell told one colleague that the talk ‘was partly inspired by disgust at the universal outburst of “righteousness” in all nations since the war began. It seems the essence of virtue is persecution, and it has given me a disgust of all ethical notions, which evidently are chiefly useful as an excuse for murder.’ To another colleague, he described the lecture as ‘inspired by the bloodthirstiness of professors here and in Germany. I gave it at Oxford, and it produced all the disgust I had hoped.’

It might seem peculiar to find Russell talking about war and murder in connection with a lecture on – of all things –philosophical methodology. But one can see these concerns emerging directly in at least one passage in the lecture itself. Russell had drawn a contrast between his own scientific methodology and the methodology of those who incorporate a strong ethical element in their philosophy, likening the latter to The Grand Augur, a character from a story he attributed to the Chinese philosopher Chuang Tzu. The Grand Augur makes an obviously self-serving argument for butchering some pigs: these animals should be grateful to be slaughtered because it is always an ‘honour’ to ‘die on a war-shield’. Russell’s suggestion is that ethical philosophy offers little more than self-serving argument to justify nationalistic violence. What is more, Russell had held up Bosanquet himself as an example of the kind of moralising metaphysics he meant to repudiate. In private, Russell referred to the essay as ‘Philosophers and Pigs’.

Read the rest of this article at: aeon

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One Day in early 2017, Mike Offit went to the Yale Club in Manhattan for a lunch hosted by a group called Business Executives for National Security. Offit, who has a craggy face and shoulder-­length hair, had spent much of his career in banking, but that had ended nearly two decades earlier. Since then, he had puttered around the outskirts of finance, dabbled in journalism and even published a novel about a pair of murders at a fictional German-­owned Wall Street bank that bore a striking resemblance to the one that he worked for until 1998: ­Deutsche Bank.

These days, Offit had time on his hands, which is how he found himself at the Yale Club that afternoon. Slanting winter sunlight illuminated the white-­columned walls of the club’s dining room. Offit was chatting with an American military officer about weaponry when his iPhone buzzed. He saw an email from the White House Executive Office of the President. How strange, Offit thought.

The message contained a PDF file: a scanned printout of an email he had sent Donald Trump several months earlier, in the waning days of the presidential campaign. Offit had known Trump for decades. At ­Deutsche Bank, he had lined up huge loans to finance Trump’s construction and renovation of landmark Manhattan skyscrapers, at a time when the default-­prone real estate developer and casino magnate was no longer able to get loans from most mainstream financial institutions. The two men stayed in touch afterward. Offit’s 2014 book, “Nothing Personal,” even featured a blurb from Trump: “Michael Offit offers a colorful insight into how the big money is made — and/or taken — on Wall Street.”

Read the rest of this article at: New York Times

News 02.05.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 02.05.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Dr. Lynn D’Andrea was standing in a small consultation room on one of the upper floors of the Children’s Wisconsin hospital this past Fourth of July weekend when a younger colleague on the pulmonary team, Dr. Brian J. Carroll, told her she needed to see a teenager who was having severe difficulty breathing. As Carroll later explained, young doctors are trained to deliver a quick, single-sentence synopsis — a “one-liner” — to the attending physicians in the hospital when preparing them for a new consultation. The one-liner in this case began, “Previously healthy teenager coming in with two to three weeks of fever, weight loss, bilateral chest X-ray findings.”

D’Andrea, who had been on call at the hospital that entire week and holiday weekend, at first believed Carroll had misspoken. “I thought we were mixed up,” she admitted, “and he was telling me the same consult for a second time.”

“No, Dr. D’Andrea,” Carroll replied. “There are three of them.”

Beginning the previous Monday, July 1, three adolescents had shown up at the hospital with eerily similar and baffling symptoms: extremely rapid and labored breathing (“Breathing like a gerbil,” in the words of Dr. Michael Meyer, head of the hospital’s pediatric intensive-care unit), weight loss, chest pain, and coughing. Chest X-rays and CT scans were puzzling, too. Instead of a typical picture of pneumonia, in which the signs of infection tend to cloud a particular area on one side of the lungs, these images showed a diffuse “ground glass” pattern on both sides. Even more curious, there was a clean margin — a “sparing” — at the edges of the lungs in the CT images. That wasn’t typical of pneumonia but more like some kind of environmental exposure.

“I think the one-liner was the exact same for three patients in a row,” Carroll said. “That starts to raise some eyebrows.” Whatever caused their illnesses wasn’t sudden. They had all been sick for a couple of weeks before something tipped them over into severe respiratory distress, breathing 40 or 50 times a minute. “That rate for a teenager is very close to impending respiratory failure,” said Meyer.

Epidemiologists call this a “cluster,” a burst of cases occurring together in time and place. It may have been a coincidence that most of the first patients came from the same suburban area west of Milwaukee, according to D’Andrea, but this led the doctors to seek a common factor. And that’s when the rest of Carroll’s one-liner began to seem more than incidental: “And they’re all reporting a history of significant vaping.”

In gathering case histories from adolescents, doctors deliberately ask them about drugs, sex, smoking, and other social habits when their parents are out of the room. In this case, D’Andrea and Meyer didn’t need to worry. “Those kids were telling me everything,” D’Andrea said. “They were scared.” Prior to feeling ill, they told the doctors, they had all been using e-cigarette devices and vaping products containing THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.

“We felt like we were being sucked into this detective role,” D’Andrea told me. “They had all come from sort of the same area, and they were trying to tell us where they got these products from, and we were trying to figure out if these were commercial or repackaged products. And it all got — it got too much.” By the end of the weekend, D’Andrea said, she felt “we need to let someone know. Someone is hurting our kids.”

Read the rest of this article at: New York Magazine

News 02.05.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Sometime last year, I came across the word hangxiety, a neologism for hangover-induced anxiety. I cringed when I read it; it felt so phony.

The most mental distress I’d ever experienced during a hangover was some light teasing in a group chat. And then, last fall, the morning after a night of drinking, I woke up with a racing heart and a constricted feeling across my chest, as if I’d been sleeping under a dozen weighted blankets. I thought about the things I’d said and done the night before, and the physical sensations intensified.

This happened again, and then again. I haven’t had a hangover in months, largely because I’m terrified of them now. Was this always the way my brain and body responded to hangovers? Or did learning about hangxiety somehow influence the way I experience a hangover? I’d like to think I’m not that suggestible, but some emerging, somewhat controversial research on how and why we feel our feelings argues that language doesn’t just describe a feeling. It can also change it.

It feels like I know what a feeling is. Across the centuries, both ancient philosophers and modern psychologists have arrived at the same basic understanding that there are a limited number of discrete human emotions, preset by the human psyche. The Confucian text Liji lists seven feelings thought to be innate: joy, anger, sadness, fear, love, hate, and desire. Fifteen-hundred years later, René Descartes echoed this idea when he named wonder, love, hatred, desire, joy, and sadness as the six “primitive passions.” In the 1970s, the renowned psychologist Paul Ekman identified six “basic emotions” — you may recognize some of them from the cast of Disney/Pixar’s Inside Out: happiness, sadness, anger, disgust, fear, and surprise. (Sometimes contempt gets thrown in there too.) More recently, Ekman and other researchers have bumped the number up to 27, adding emotions like aesthetic appreciation, empathetic pain, nostalgia, and awkwardness.

The point is, according to a few millennia of inquiry, there are finite ways to feel. Sometimes it may seem as if we’re experiencing a “new” emotion, but look more closely and you’ll find it’s the known emotions layered on top of one another. A newfangled emotion like FOMO, for instance, is probably something like envy layered on top of fear, maybe with a little sadness. Emotions are what they are, and they exist the same way in each one of us, whether we recognize them for what they are or not.

That’s one way of looking at feelings, anyway. The wildest thing about the study of human emotions is that researchers haven’t even agreed on a definition of what they’re studying. (This is not unique among the social sciences; researchers who study personality or intelligence fight similar semantic battles.) The Neuroscience of Emotion, a 2018 summary of the field’s current state, listed six leading theories of what emotions are. Five of those differ in detail, but they agree broadly that an emotion is an objective state that manifests in a variety of reliable, measurable ways, including behavior, facial expression, heart rate, blood pressure, and stress-hormone levels. And then there’s the sixth theory: constructed emotion.

This theory, introduced in 2006 by Lisa Feldman Barrett, a neuroscientist and psychologist at Northeastern University, argues that emotions are not just biological entities. It’s true, Barrett says, that a handful of physiological feelings are distinct and measurable. She separates these into two categories: calm versus jittery (what scientists call “arousal”) and pleasant versus unpleasant (what scientists call “valence”). But these biological signals aren’t emotions. An emotion, she says, is how our brains interpret those sensations using our culture, our expectations, and our words.

This is an irritating, borderline unscientific view to many of Barrett’s colleagues. Scientists like precision. They like taxonomies like kingdom-phylum-class-order-family-genus-species and sorting each new discovery into its proper taxon. “It will surely be the case that our current emotion categories will be revised, and likely will need to be subdivided,” the authors of The Neuroscience of Emotion write in a critique of constructed-emotion theory. “But we argue strongly that this is an empirical task of scientific discovery, not a process of social construction where we can just make up any emotion categories we like.” Barrett disagrees. It’s not that emotions aren’t real. They’re very real. It’s just that they’re also made up by your brain.

Read the rest of this article at: The Cut

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