News 13.10.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 13.10.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 13.10.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 13.10.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Most Saturday nights from age 5 to 10, Ahmir Thompson would go to bed at 8 p.m., only to be woken up a few hours later. When he was 3, he had taken a fruit-drink commercial too literally — “Hey, how about a nice Hawaiian punch?” ended with a fist to his mother’s face — so his parents decided to limit his television consumption. But on the weekends, they bent the rules and, around 12:45 a.m., nudged him awake. He would grab his crocheted-by-Grandma blanket and head downstairs, where he would switch on the television, wait for it to warm up and then crank the dial to Channel 48 as quietly as he could. Right at 1 a.m., he was greeted by a magical locomotive — chugging along so rhythmically that it almost seemed to dance, flipping gray buildings it passed into psychedelic colors — for his regular dose of peace, love and “Soul Train.”

Because “Soul Train” was the only show, besides “Sesame Street,” that he was allowed to watch as a child, and because Thompson, who you might better know as Questlove, grew up into the sort of adult who relies on an extensive knowledge of music to make sense of the world, his childhood memories are impossible to separate from which episode of “Soul Train” was playing at the time. The two are knotted together so intricately that the archive of the show and the archive of his brain are the same. An afternoon episode of “Soul Train” was playing — Curtis Mayfield, the Main Ingredient — when a 2-year-old Thompson rushed from the bathtub and toddled, still wet, into the living room, where he slipped and fell, his skin making contact with the radiator about 90 seconds into Mayfield’s performing “Freddie’s Dead,” right when the horns start crying. For decades, he was branded with a burn in the shape of a train track. The song still sounds sinister to him.

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

News 13.10.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 13.10.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The author was a forty-two-year-old Yale Law School professor named Charles Reich, and the piece was an excerpt from his book “The Greening of America,” which, when it came out, later that year, went to No. 1 on the Times best-seller list.

Reich had been in San Francisco in 1967, during the so-called Summer of Love, and was amazed and excited by the flower-power wing of the counterculture—the bell-bottom pants (about which he waxes ecstatic in the book), the marijuana and the psychedelic drugs, the music, the peace-and-love life style, everything.

He became convinced that the only way to cure the ills of American life was to follow the young people. “The new generation has shown the way to the one method of change that will work in today’s post-industrial society: revolution by consciousness,” he wrote. “This means a new way of living, almost a new man. This is what the new generation has been searching for, and what it has started to achieve.”

So how did that work out? The trouble, of course, was that Reich was basing his observations and predictions on, to use Mannheim’s term, a generation unit—a tiny number of people who were hyperconscious of their choices and values and saw themselves as being in revolt against the bad thinking and failed practices of previous generations. The folks who showed up for the Summer of Love were not a representative sample of sixties youth.

Most young people in the sixties did not practice free love, take drugs, or protest the war in Vietnam. In a poll taken in 1967, when people were asked whether couples should wait to have sex until they were married, sixty-three per cent of those in their twenties said yes, virtually the same as in the general population. In 1969, when people aged twenty-one to twenty-nine were asked whether they had ever used marijuana, eighty-eight per cent said no. When the same group was asked whether the United States should withdraw immediately from Vietnam, three-quarters said no, about the same as in the general population.

Most young people in the sixties were not even notably liberal. When people who attended college from 1966 to 1968 were asked which candidate they preferred in the 1968 Presidential election, fifty-three per cent said Richard Nixon or George Wallace. Among those who attended college from 1962 to 1965, fifty-seven per cent preferred Nixon or Wallace, which matched the results in the general election.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

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In September, The Wall Street Journal published a report, based on leaked documents, describing Facebook’s awareness of the harmful effects one of its platforms was having on young people. “Thirty-two percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse,” the company’s internal research revealed. “Comparisons on Instagram can change how young women view and describe themselves.” Here, though, is another finding: Many of the same young people who spoke of Instagram’s degradations kept returning to the service anyway. It’s where their friends are. It’s where they’re expected to be seen. Instagram, in that way, is both a choice and not a choice at all—a trap saturated in the language of easy freedoms: Postcommentlike.

Such transactions are not limited to the digital environment. (“I’m sick of being perceived,” one woman said this summer, explaining why she would keep wearing her face mask outside despite relaxed CDC guidance on the matter.) But the internet has brought new acuity to the old experience of watching oneself being watched. People are negotiating new ways of being in each other’s proximity. That helps to explain the currency of a nearly 100-year-old piece of literature—a book, fundamentally, about a party.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

News 13.10.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 13.10.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

It would be unusual for a story that begins in the wrong place to arrive at the right conclusions. And so it is with the history of how the modern world was made. Traditional accounts have accorded a primacy to Europe’s 15th-century Age of Discovery, and to the maritime connection it established between west and east. Paired with this historic feat is the momentous, if accidental, discovery of what came to be known as the New World.

Other explanations for the emergence of the modern world reside in the ethics and temperament that some associate with Judeo-Christian beliefs, or with the development and spread of the scientific method, or, more chauvinistically still, with Europeans’ often-professed belief in their unique ingenuity and inventiveness. In the popular imagination, these ideas have become associated with the work ethic, individualism and entrepreneurial drive that supposedly flowed from the Protestant Reformation in places such as England and Holland.

Of course, there is no denying the significance of the voyages of mariners such as Vasco da Gama, who reached India via the Indian Ocean in 1498, Ferdinand Magellan, who travelled west to Asia, skirting the southern tip of South America, and Christopher Columbus. As the author Marie Arana has elegantly said of Columbus, when he sailed west, “he had been a medieval man from a medieval world, surrounded by medieval notions about Cyclops, pygmies, Amazons, dog-faced natives, antipodeans who walk on their heads and think with their feet – about dark-skinned, giant-eared races who inhabit the lands where gold and precious gems grow. When he stepped on to American soil, however, he did more than enter a new world: he stepped into a new age.”

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

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News 13.10.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

We know next to nothing about the other 6 billion or so Earth-like planets in the galaxy. With the imminent launch of the largest, most powerful space telescope ever built, Laura Kreidberg is optimistic this will soon change.

Kreidberg is the 32-year-old founding director of a new department at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany, devoted to studying what the weather is like on alien worlds. So far, she and her team have scrutinized the atmospheres around Jupiter-size exoplanets (planets orbiting other stars). When it comes to small, rocky exoplanets that could potentially harbor life, current telescopes lack the resolving power to do much more than tally the number that are out there. But NASA’s $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), set to launch in December after decades of planning and construction, will allow astronomers like Kreidberg to peer into rocky planets’ skies and, she said, “turn these planets into places.”

JWST’s distinguishing feature is a sunshield the size of a tennis court that will protect its instruments and gold-plated mirrors from the heat of the sun and Earth. Shaded in this way, the telescope will be able to detect faint infrared radiation, such as the light coming from exoplanets. Kreidberg is the lead investigator for two programs in JWST’s coveted first round of observations. Her projects seek evidence of atmospheres and volcanic activity around Earth-size worlds.

Kreidberg, who grew up in Reno, Nevada, has been a rising star among exoplanet scientists since completing her doctorate in astronomy at Yale University in 2016. The overarching question motivating her research on exoplanet atmospheres — work for which she won the Annie Jump Cannon Award earlier this year — is whether alien life exists in the cosmos. “The universe feels profoundly lonely,” she said. Discovering aliens “would be comforting, in a strange way.” Scientists suspect that life cannot survive on skyless planets, so investigating atmospheres around rocky planets is a key step toward answering the “Are we alone?” question.

During our conversation, Kreidberg laid out the ingenious methods she’ll use to observe far-off, pinpoint planets orbiting in the blinding glare of their parent stars. Despite her calm and meticulous manner, her excitement about the new telescope bubbled over: “We’ve been waiting for this for so long!” The interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Read the rest of this article at: Quanta magazine

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