News 13.07.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 13.07.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 13.07.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 13.07.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

If you want to learn more about what’s going on in your gut, the first step is to turn your poo blue. How long it takes for a muffin dyed with blue food colouring to pass through your system is a measure of your gut health: the median is 28.7 hours; longer transit times suggest your gut isn’t as healthy as it could be. We are only now beginning to understand the importance of the gut microbiome: could this be the start of a golden age for gut-health science?

“The gut microbiome is the most important scientific discovery for human healthcare in recent decades,” says James Kinross, a microbiome scientist and surgeon at Imperial College London. “We discovered it – or rediscovered it – in the age of genetic sequencing less than 15 years ago. The only organ which is bigger is the liver.” And, for all that the internet may be full of probiotic or wellness companies making big health claims about gut health, “We don’t really know how it works,” he says. At the risk of sounding like the late Donald Rumsfeld, there’s what we know, what we think we know, and an awful lot that we don’t yet have a clue about.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

News 13.07.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 13.07.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The duration of felt experience is between two and three seconds—about as long as it takes, the psychologist Marc Wittmann points out, for Paul McCartney to sing the words “Hey Jude.” Everything before belongs to memory; everything after is anticipation. It’s a strange, barely fathomable fact that our lives are lived through this small, moving window. Practitioners of mindfulness meditation often strive to rest their consciousness within it. The rest of us might encounter something similar during certain present-tense moments—perhaps while rock climbing, improvising music, making love. Being in the moment is said to be a perk of sadomasochism; as a devotee of B.D.S.M. once explained, “A whip is a great way to get someone to be here now. They can’t look away from it, and they can’t think about anything else!”

In 1971, the book “Be Here Now,” by the spiritual leader Ram Dass, helped introduce yoga to the West. Much of the time, we are elsewhere. In 2010, the psychologists Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert published a study in which they used an iPhone app to ask volunteers, at random points throughout the day, what they were doing, what they were thinking, and how happy they were. The researchers found that, in about half of their samples, people’s minds were wandering, often remembering the past or contemplating the future. These periods were, on average, less pleasant than ones spent being in the moment. Thoughts of the future are often associated with anxiety and dread, and thoughts of the past can be colored by regret, embarrassment, and shame.

Still, mental time travel is essential. In one of Aesop’s fables, ants chastise a grasshopper for not collecting food for the winter; the grasshopper, who lives in the moment, admits, “I was so busy singing that I hadn’t the time.” It’s important to find a proper balance between being in the moment and stepping out of it. We all know people who live too much in the past or worry too much about the future. At the end of their lives, people often regret most their failures to act, stemming from unrealistic worries about consequences. Others, indifferent to the future or disdainful of the past, become unwise risk-takers or jerks. Any functioning person has to live, to some extent, out of the moment. We might also think that it’s right for our consciousnesses to shift to other times—such inner mobility is part of a rich and meaningful life.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

The Balmoral in Chestnut

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KYIV, Ukraine — Sergei Karjakin had only one game of chess left, and he had to win it.

It should have been an easy task. The opponent was the lowest-ranked player in the tournament. Karjakin was one of the rising talents in chess, a poised and accomplished boy of 12 years 7 months who was, at that moment, one victory from becoming the game’s youngest grandmaster.

The title would change his life. In chess, only the top 30 players can expect to build a proper career from the game. Becoming the youngest grandmaster in history offered Karjakin a direct path to that world, a door to global acclaim and corporate sponsorships and invitations to the biggest tournaments — to the life that he and every prodigy, and, perhaps most of all, their parents dream about.

But first Karjakin had to win one last game.

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

News 13.07.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Captive cuttlefish require entertainment when they eat. Dinner and a show — if they can’t get live prey, then they need some dancing from a dead shrimp on a stick in their tank.

When the food looks alive, the little cephalopods, which look like iridescent footballs with eight short arms and two tentacles, are more likely to eat it. Because a person standing before them has to jiggle it, the animals start to recognize that mealtime and a looming human-shaped outline go together.

As soon as a person walks into the room, “they all swim to the front of the tank saying, give me food!” said Trevor Wardill, a biologist at the University of Minnesota who studies cuttlefish vision.

You may get a squirt of water from a cuttlefish’s siphon if you don’t feed them, though. Alexandra Schnell, a comparative psychologist at the University of Cambridge, recalled some who sprayed her if she was even a little slow with the treats. It’s the kind of behavior that researchers who’ve worked with cuttlefish sometimes remark on: The critters have character.

But they do not have the name recognition of their cousins — the octopus and the squid. Even Tessa Montague, a neuroscientist who today studies cuttlefish at Columbia University, hadn’t really heard of them until an aquarium visit during graduate school.

“Octopus are obviously part of lots of children’s story books,” she notes. Cuttlefish were not present.

During the last week of a course at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., though, she heard a talk by Bret Grasse, whom she called a “cephalopod guru.”

“He said they have three hearts, green blood and one of the largest brains among invertebrates,” she said. “And they can regenerate their limbs, they can camouflage. Within about 30 seconds, I had basically planned out my entire life. That lunchtime I went to the facility where he was culturing all these animals. My entire scientific career flashed in front of me. I was like, this is it, this is what I’ve been looking for.”

Dr. Montague joined the many scientists who have long studied the remarkable abilities of cuttlefish, from their camouflage to their speed when hunting. In recent years, a string of high-profile papers has reported that they are capable of surprising cognitive feats, including rejecting easy meals while holding out for better food in the future, a version of the famous marshmallow test.

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

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News 13.07.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Just before dawn on a warm night in early June, a line of city vehicles pulled into a four-block area in South Minneapolis that has come to be known as George Floyd Square. Groups of workers fanned out in the darkness and started removing barricades and other structures that, for nearly a year, had cut off the flow of traffic on two major thoroughfares: Chicago Avenue and East Thirty-eighth Street. The reaction to what looked like a cross between a covert op and a public-works project was immediate; residents of the mixed-income neighborhood began texting and posting a flurry of messages on social media as they streamed out of their homes. Across town, one of those texts reached Jay Webb, a gardener and a caretaker of the Square. He got dressed and hustled out the door. Another observer said in a video on Instagram, “Greetings from G.F.S. They’re coming! They’re coming!”

Since last summer, the barricades had told visitors that, as a hand-painted sign announced, “you are now entering the Free State of George Floyd.” At the center of the area was the intersection outside the Cup Foods grocery store, where Floyd died, on May 25, 2020, after the police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for nine minutes and twenty-nine seconds during an arrest, while three other officers stood by. In the chaotic fury that swept the nation in the days afterward, hundreds of businesses in Minneapolis were vandalized, and a hundred and fifty buildings, including the Third Precinct, where Chauvin worked, were set on fire. There were protests in the intersection, but mourners, activists, tourists, and community members soon turned the area into a sort of shrine, leaving messages, flowers, and candles. A painted silhouette marked the spot where Floyd had died.

One night, a week after his death, law-enforcement officials drove through the makeshift memorial. In response, residents dragged cinder blocks, furniture, and even an old refrigerator into the streets to block traffic. Mayor Jacob Frey, who at one point referred to the area as “sacred ground,” had concrete construction barriers placed at the intersection, ostensibly to protect pedestrians. But the barriers also deepened the sense that George Floyd Square was now a place unto itself. An ad-hoc committee of activists and residents erected and staffed guard shacks at entrances. An abandoned Speedway gas station was repurposed as the People’s Way, and an improvised fire pit, set up between empty pumps, became a gathering place. Webb collected the detritus of the protests—bricks and plywood that had covered windows—and used it to build a roundabout structure in the middle of the intersection. It included a platform where visitors could leave flowers and messages, and a nine-foot-tall steel sculpture of a fist that the artist Jordan Powell Karis had designed, as a replica of an earlier wooden sculpture, and that residents helped assemble. The Square was becoming more than a shrine to Floyd’s life; it was a monument to others who had died in encounters with police, and a headquarters for an emergent movement.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

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