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News 27.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 27.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 27.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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The fennec fox is the smallest fox on earth and cute as a button. It has mischievous dark eyes, a small black nose, and impish six-inch ears—each several times larger than its head. The fennec is native to the Sahara, where its comically oversized auricles play two key roles: they keep the fox cool in the baking sun (blood runs through the ears, releases heat, and circulates back through the body, now cooler), and they give the fox astoundingly good hearing, allowing it to pick up the comings and goings of the insects and reptiles it hunts for food.

The children’s section of the Bronx Zoo features a human-sized pair of fennec-fox ears that give an approximation of the fox’s hearing. Generations of New Yorkers have pictures of themselves with their chins resting on a bar between the two enormous, sculptural ears, taking in the sounds around them. I first encountered the ears as a kid, in the eighties. In my memory, inhabiting the fox’s hearing is disquieting. The exhibit is not in the middle of the Sahara on a moonlit night. The soundscape is not deathly quiet, dusted by the echoes of a lizard whooshing through the sand. The effect is instant sensory overload. You suddenly hear everything at once—snippets of conversation, shrieks, footsteps—all of it too much and too loud.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

News 27.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 27.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

When Kurt started spiralling down, I remembered a visit to his hotel room while he was on tour in New Orleans. We were lying on his bed, talking and watching a Pete Townshend concert on public television with the sound off, and Kurt marvelled at how Townshend was so passionate about making music—even after, in Kurt’s opinion, his music was no longer any good. I’d been a huge Who fan as a teen and noted his respect for his fellow guitar smasher Townshend. Months later, I was part of a team working with Townshend on a project about the history of the Who’s 1969 rock opera, “Tommy.” Townshend had helped his friend Eric Clapton recover from a heroin addiction years earlier and was all too familiar with substance abuse. I asked Townshend whether he might have a word with Kurt about beating heroin and dealing with the slings and arrows of fame. I gave him Kurt’s phone number, hoping that he would call and that Kurt would listen.

“When Cobain was in deep trouble with heroin addiction in 1993,” Townshend wrote in the Guardian, in 2002, “Azerrad asked if I would contact Cobain, who was in constant danger of overdosing. I had chosen this year to give booze another gentle try after 11 years. When Azerrad approached me, I was not drunk, nor unsympathetic, but I did not make the necessary judgment I would make today that an immediate ‘intervention’ was required to save his life.” To this day, Townshend probably wonders what might have happened had he gotten through to Kurt. That’s the kind of thing that haunts people who know people who have committed suicide: Is there something I could have done? Twenty-seven years later, I still ask myself that question. I tried, but perhaps I could have—and should have—tried harder. The thing is, although I was in my early thirties, I was still immature and naïve. Maybe I wasn’t so well suited to the task.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

Facebook Inc. knows, in acute detail, that its platforms are riddled with flaws that cause harm, often in ways only the company fully understands. That is the central finding of a Wall Street Journal series, based on a review of internal Facebook documents, including research reports, online employee discussions and drafts of presentations to senior management.

Time and again, the documents show, Facebook’s researchers have identified the platform’s ill effects. Time and again, despite congressional hearings, its own pledges and numerous media exposés, the company didn’t fix them. The documents offer perhaps the clearest picture thus far of how broadly Facebook’s problems are known inside the company, up to the chief executive himself.


Researchers inside Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, have been studying for years how its photo-sharing app affects millions of young users. Repeatedly, the company found that Instagram is harmful for a sizable percentage of them, most notably teenage girls, more so than other social-media platforms. In public, Facebook has consistently played down the app’s negative effects, including in comments to Congress, and hasn’t made its research public or available to academics or lawmakers who have asked for it. In response, Facebook says the negative effects aren’t widespread, that the mental-health research is valuable and that some of the harmful aspects aren’t easy to address.

Read the rest of this article at: The Wall Street Journal

News 30.08.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 27.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Late in August, at a precisely specified point in the low Arctic, a geologist named Dave Freedman stood in a raw wind and a limitless expanse of tundra and began to thwack with a sledgehammer at a rock outcrop jutting up from the soil. Freedman, 29, works for a company called KoBold Metals, and the process that had brought him to this pair of GPS coordinates in Quebec’s far north was complex. But the rock had had its own journey. Before it was rock, it had been magma in the Earth’s mantle, part of a molten tongue tens of meters wide that had welled up as two tectonic plates spread apart 1.85 billion years ago. At first the magma had melted and eaten the layers of crust it flowed through, but, cooling as it rose, it eventually ran into resistance. The liquid pooled, like smoke along a ceiling, and then as the last of its heat bled out, solidified into a shelf of an igneous rock geologists call peridotite. Over the eons, it was lifted by tectonic collisions, tilted, folded, and broken. Glaciers ground it down. And then one day a helicopter descended from the sky and out jumped a slim, bearded man in Gore-Tex, with a high-visibility vest, a backpack, and a hammer.

After two ringing blows, a scone-size chunk of the outcrop broke off. Freedman hefted it up and blew on it. He grabbed the hand lens dangling from his vest and peered at the rock’s freshly exposed face, holding it a few inches from his own. The coarse grain was a good sign. So were the seaweed-green crystals of olivine. Evidently the magma had cooled slowly here, giving it time to react with neighboring rocks and to dyspeptically exsolve out the metals it had carried up from the mantle. “When you change the composition of a melt,” Freedman explained, “everything just goes haywire. Everything’s boiling, and things are unhappy, and it’s just a really chaotic environment.”

In the middle of the face shone a cuprous M&M-size dot. Freedman, pointing to it, called it a “bleb.” Somewhere nearby, within the confines of KoBold’s 280-square-mile block of exploration claims, he was hoping there would be a much bigger one: an ore deposit the size of a car, maybe, or a house, rich with extractable nickel, copper, and, most valuable, cobalt. KoBold’s existence is predicated on the idea that it can find high-grade ore such as that in places where others can’t—and the idea that, once it does, the company will be feeding an exploding global demand.

Twenty-five hundred miles south of KoBold’s claims in Quebec, the other side of that bet was brewing up in a glass tank with the rough dimensions of an office water cooler, housed in a metal frame and fed by thin plastic tubes. Graduate students at the University of Texas at Austin, working under a materials chemist named Arumugam Manthiram, were flowing various dissolved metal sulfate salts into the solution in the tank to get them to combine into a solid with a specific microscopic structure. Processed further, the resulting material would power a rechargeable battery cell. But this one, unlike those currently used in both Teslas and iPhones, would need no cobalt at all.

Read the rest of this article at: Bloomberg

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News 27.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Sheila and I were best friends from age ten to thirteen. I lived four blocks from our grade school and she two. She’d wait for me to pass her house in the morning and then we’d fall in step as we entered the building. From then until five-thirty in the afternoon—when our mothers demanded our presence at home—we were inseparable. After the summer we turned thirteen, something unimaginable happened: Sheila was no longer in front of her house in the morning when I passed, she no longer saved a seat for me in class, and after school she simply disappeared. At last it registered that whenever I spotted her, in the hall or the schoolyard, she was in the company of a girl new to the school. One day, I approached the two of them in the yard.

“Sheila,” I said, my voice quivering, “aren’t we best friends anymore?”

“No,” Sheila said, her voice strong and flat. “I’m best friends now with Edna.”

I stood there, mute and immobilized. A terrible coldness came over me, as though the blood were draining from my body; then, just as swiftly, a rush of heat, and I was feeling bleak, shabby, forlorn, born to be told I wouldn’t do, not now, not ever.

It was my first taste of humiliation.

Fifty years later, I was walking up Broadway on a hot summer afternoon when a woman I did not recognize blocked my path. She spoke my name, and when I stared at her, puzzled, she laughed. “It’s Sheila,” she said. The scene in the schoolyard flashed before me, and I felt cold all over: cold, shabby, bleak. I wouldn’t do then, I wouldn’t do now. I would never do.

“Oh,” I said, and could hear the dullness in my voice. “Hello,” I said.

Read the rest of this article at: Harper’s

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