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News 10.05.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 10.05.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@alexandrine_ar
News 10.05.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@sparrowinlondon
News 10.05.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@fannyb

On July 9, 1845, two months after departing from Greenhithe, England, Warrant Officer John Gregory wrote a letter to his wife from Greenland in which he described seeing whales and icebergs for the first time.

Gregory, who had never been to sea before, was aboard the H.M.S. Erebus, one of two ships to sail in Sir John Franklin’s 1845 expedition to find the fabled Northwest Passage, a sea route through the Canadian Arctic that would serve as a trade route to Asia.

Disaster struck. The Erebus and the H.M.S. Terror became stuck in ice in Victoria Strait, off Prince William Island in what is now the Canadian territory of Nunavut. In April 1848, the survivors — Franklin and nearly two dozen others had already died — set out on foot for a trading post on the Canadian mainland.

All 129 explorers ultimately perished, succumbing to brutal blizzard conditions and subzero temperatures. The doomed expedition endured in the public imagination — inspiring fiction by Mark Twain and Jules Verne, and, more recently, the 2018 AMC series “The Terror” — driven in part by rumors that the crew resorted to cannibalism. The wreckage lay quiet until 2014, when a remotely controlled underwater vehicle picked up the silhouette of the Erebus near King William Island. Two years later, a tip from a local Inuit hunter led to the discovery of the Terror in the ice-cold water of Terror Bay.

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

News 10.05.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 10.05.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

hen I think of him in my childhood, my father is an evening man: impatient, loud, sporadically gentle. His days were spent outside, in this period uncertainly so, at the disposal of mostly unscrupulous subcontractors, corrupt and flagrantly benevolent to a gang of favourites of which he was never a member. The little I knew about what he did was put together piecemeal, in private. It was rarely discussed, aside from the odd overheard complaint about poor treatment, docked pay, being cleaned out by this latest bunch of cowboys. On the rare evenings when he returned late, his hair plastered to his head with sweat, his face was a red light meaning “don’t ask”.

Nor did many of his colleagues make appearances at home. The only one I can recall now is Peter, site partner from a time spoken of in more glowing terms – a few years in the late 1970s spent working for a man named Gavin. This might have been a forename or surname, especially with my father’s Irish pronunciation, an accent I’d come to think of as unreliable, its vowels beyond transcription. Through the tangled cross-connections of the Irish in our patches of north London – Enfield, Edmonton, Tottenham – Peter was married to a friend of my mother’s, or at least a fellow traveller from the school gates. I gathered he was possessed of an extraordinary work rate, partly because he was often late on Saturday evenings to pick up his wife and son from our house in between cab fares, his weekend evenings spent on the meter after a six-day concreting job. There were mentions of occasional run-ins with customers – bad luck to them – and something that passed into family myth, and is surely exaggerated in my memory: his falling 30ft to the ground from a scaffolding and walking out of the hospital hours later, affronted by the lost time.

It was into this atmosphere of Saturday evening and its after-dinner sense of in-betweenness and mild rancour that boxing transplanted itself. My first memories of the sport are at the feet of my father, cross-legged, sitting a little too close to the television, on a carpet residually green and coming to the end of a distinguished service, with a painting of the Sacred Heart, himself a noted bleeder, catching the corner of my eye. My father’s chair was separate from the rest of the seating plan, a standalone unit, caving slowly in on itself; left unoccupied during the day, it was mostly slept in at night.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

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JERE WOKE UP on the morning of October 24, 2020, expecting what Finnish college students call normi päivä, an ordinary day. It was a Saturday, and he’d slept in. The night before, he had gone drinking by the beach with some friends. They’d sipped cheap apple liqueur, listened to Billie Eilish on his boom box. Now Jere (pronounced “yeh-reh”) needed to clear his head. He was supposed to spend this gray fall day on campus, finishing a group physics project about solar energy. The 22-year-old took a walk around the lake near his apartment outside Helsinki. Then, feeling somewhat refreshed, he jumped on the bus.

The day went quickly. Jere caught up with his friends, many of whom he hadn’t seen since the pandemic began. They chatted about their Christmas plans, ordered pizzas from a favorite local spot, and knuckled down to work in the cafeteria.

At around 4 pm, Jere checked Snapchat. An email notification popped up on his screen. His hands began to shake. The subject line included his full name, his social security number, and the name of a clinic where he’d gotten mental health treatment as a teenager: Vastaamo. He didn’t recognize the sender, but he knew what the email said before he opened it.

Read the rest of this article at: Wired

News 10.05.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 10.05.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The night Ron Porambo was shot in the head, he told his wife that he was going out to meet a friend. It was late, but that was when the 44-year-old newspaper reporter did his best work. As he had countless times before, Porambo slid into his Volkswagen hatchback and cruised through the dark into downtown Newark.

Outside the car windows, Newark’s row houses looked like gathering ghosts. Block after block, the battered wooden structures loomed three stories tall. Their facades caught the dull glow of the streetlights that flickered on when the sun set each day; the broken lights—and there were many—had been that way for as long as Porambo could remember. Below sagging front stoops, where cracked asphalt met stained sidewalks, garbage clogged the gutters.

Newark had been decaying for decades. Crime, corruption, and disenfranchisement had led Harper’s magazine to dub it “the worst American city.” Porambo, though, saw it as scrappy and resolute. He saw himself in much the same way: as a man with something to prove.

Porambo drove to 186 Ridgewood Ave., the address where he was supposed to meet his friend. After pulling to a stop at the curb, he cut the ignition and waited. He’d made a career out of consorting with hustlers, sex workers, and drug dealers to unearth gritty investigative stories about the city’s poorest residents. Most of his sources and subjects were black. Porambo, who was white, wrote about the people he believed had the most insight into suffering, inequality, and resilience in America. “They know,” he once told a fellow reporter.

A man approached his passenger-side window. It wasn’t the person Porambo had expected to see—or if it was, the greeting was a terrible shock. The man raised a .38-caliber handgun and pulled the trigger.

Three bullets penetrated Porambo’s skull. Another lodged in his left leg. He slumped over the steering wheel, filling the streets of Newark’s South Ward with the drone of a car horn. The sound must have scared off the attacker before he finished what he’d come to do. A rag was later found stuffed in the car’s gas tank; lighting it on fire would have blown the hatchback, and Porambo, to oblivion.

As blood poured from his head and thigh, Porambo struggled to open his door. A 16-year-old girl who lived down the street walked by just as what remained of the bullet-riddled window shattered onto the pavement. She ran home to call the cops. By the time they arrived, Porambo was unconscious. He would later recall feeling like he’d slipped into a dream. He was weightless, flying.

The crime, committed on May 19, 1983, made headlines in New Jersey. It wasn’t the first time Porambo had been in the news for finding himself at the wrong end of a gun. His meticulous reporting on Newark’s 1967 race riots had culminated in his opus, No Cause for Indictment, a book that implicated law enforcement in the unjustified killings of nearly two dozen black residents. The New Yorker heralded it as “probably the most moving and instructive book yet written on any of the bloody civil disturbances of the sixties.” After it was published, an unknown assailant caught Porambo in his car unawares and shot him in both legs. Porambo claimed that the attack was retribution for his reporting. His publisher took the opportunity to place a full-column ad in The New York Times promoting the book in block letters: “LAST WEEK THEY TRIED TO MURDER THE AUTHOR.”

Read the rest of this article at: the Atavist Magazine

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News 10.05.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Each year, researchers from around the world gather at Neural Information Processing Systems, an artificial-intelligence conference, to discuss automated translation software, self-driving cars, and abstract mathematical questions. It was odd, therefore, when Michael Levin, a developmental biologist at Tufts University, gave a presentation at the 2018 conference, which was held in Montreal. Fifty-one, with light-green eyes and a dark beard that lend him a mischievous air, Levin studies how bodies grow, heal, and, in some cases, regenerate. He waited onstage while one of Facebook’s A.I. researchers introduced him, to a packed exhibition hall, as a specialist in “computation in the medium of living systems.”

Levin began his talk, and a drawing of a worm appeared on the screen behind him. Some of the most important discoveries of his career hinge on the planarian—a type of flatworm about two centimetres long that, under a microscope, resembles a cartoon of a cross-eyed phallus. Levin is interested in the planarian because, if you cut off its head, it grows a new one; simultaneously, its severed head grows a new tail. Researchers have discovered that no matter how many pieces you cut a planarian into—the record is two hundred and seventy-nine—you will get as many new worms. Somehow, each part knows what’s missing and builds it anew. What Levin showed his audience was something even more striking: a video of a two-headed planarian. He had cut off the worm’s tail, then persuaded the organism to grow a second head in its place. No matter how many times the extra head was cut off, it grew back.

The most astonishing part was that Levin hadn’t touched the planarian’s genome. Instead, he’d changed the electrical signals among the worm’s cells. Levin explained that, by altering this electric patterning, he’d revised the organism’s “memory” of what it was supposed to look like. In essence, he’d reprogrammed the worm’s body—and, if he wanted to, he could switch it back.

Levin had been invited to present at an A.I. conference because his work is part of a broader convergence between biology and computer science. In the past half century, scientists have come to see the brain, with its trillions of neural interconnections, as a kind of computer. Levin extends this thinking to the body; he believes that mastering the code of electrical charges in its tissues will give scientists unprecedented control over how and where they grow. In his lab, he has coaxed frogs to regenerate severed legs, and tadpoles to grow new eyeballs on their stomach.

“Regeneration is not just for so-called lower animals,” Levin said, as an image of Prometheus appeared on the screen behind him. Deer can regenerate antlers; humans can regrow their liver. “You may or may not know that human children below the age of approximately seven to eleven are able to regenerate their fingertips,” he told the audience. Why couldn’t human-growth programs be activated for other body parts—severed limbs, failed organs, even brain tissue damaged by stroke?

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

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