News 20.05.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 20.05.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 20.05.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 20.05.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

While living in an internment camp in Vichy France, Alexander Grothendieck was tutored in mathematics by another prisoner, a girl named Maria. Maria taught Grothendieck, who was twelve, the definition of a circle: all the points that are equidistant from a given point. The definition impressed him with “its simplicity and clarity,” he wrote years later. The property of perfect rotundity had until then appeared to him to be “mysterious beyond words.”

Grothendieck became a revered mathematician. His work involved finding the right vantage point—from there, solutions to problems would follow easily. He rewrote definitions, even of things as basic as a point; his reframings uncovered connections between seemingly unrelated realms of math. He spoke of his mathematical work as the building of houses, contrasting it with that of mathematicians who make improvements on an inherited house or construct a piece of furniture. Colin McLarty, a logician and philosopher of math at Case Western Reserve, told me, “Lots of people today live in Grothendieck’s house, unaware that it’s Grothendieck’s house.” The M.I.T. mathematician Michael Artin, who worked with Grothendieck in the early sixties, laughed when I asked him about Grothendieck’s contributions. “Well, everything changed in the field,” he said. “He came, and it was like night and day. It was a revolution.”

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

News 20.05.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 20.05.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The word ‘hope’ seems to hold an unambiguous quality in our vocabulary, imbued with a kind of purity that makes it unquestionably good. From old sayings to modern slogans, we are encouraged to develop and sustain a sense of hope. As a psychotherapist, I believe there is good reason for this. I have repeatedly witnessed the overwhelming burden of hopelessness and the centrality of hope in healing and growth. This is particularly true for people who experienced chronic childhood trauma, including emotional abuse or neglect, which undermines their ability to imagine that a different future is possible.

But I also believe that hope is a complex concept that deserves a more nuanced understanding. For example, hope may be considered both an antidote to helplessness and a source of helplessness. As the psychiatrist Harold Searles observed, we tend to consider hope our ‘last repository of … innate goodness as human beings’. It can be challenging, he suggests, to accept that our hopes can indeed be permeated with ambivalence and conflict.

Even though hope is seen as curative and a critical agent of change in a clinical setting, are there times when persistently holding on to hope – consciously or not – can get in the way? If hope is oriented towards the future and can make the present more bearable, what is the role of our past in the experience, function and meaning we give to hope? More specifically, when our emotional wounds were created by old relationships, how do they shape the conscious and unconscious hopes we hold for new ones? I would like to explore these issues through Alex, a composite fictional patient who represents some of the experiences people bring to therapy. The clinical process I describe is influenced by my own approach and illustrates how psychotherapy can help.

Alex entered the waiting room 15 minutes early for our first appointment. He started talking as soon as he sat down, without pause or hesitation, telling me about his background and why he came to see me. He was articulate and charming, yet something felt rehearsed and guarded. Were his words and his demeanour an attempt to prevent a silent crack through which pain could filter? A successful professional, Alex was worried about how unmotivated and stuck he felt lately, and how anxious and irritable he was in his close relationships. Before he left, he asked me, with a tremulous voice: ‘Am I depressed?’

Alex worked hard to be a good patient. He was eager to talk, astute in his observations, and open to hearing mine. Thanks to prior rounds of therapy, he could articulate some of the struggles he had endured as a child.

Read the rest of this article at: aeon

On a recent Tuesday morning, Parker Posey met me outside her Chelsea apartment building, wearing a billowy black Rachel Comey skirt, a vintage navy poplin blouse, and nothing on her feet. “Hello-o-o!” she cried, waving wildly at me from across the street. When I got closer, she coquettishly batted her eyes, which were painted with iridescent eyeshadow. “I put it on for you,” she said. She led me up a narrow set of stairs, past walls painted with psychedelic stripes that she told me were inspired by the work of the avant-garde color theorist William Tapley. Inside her apartment, the groovy vibe remained. In the living room, next to a built-in banquette and a huge arched window, sat a working fireplace made out of adobe-style bricks, lending the room the feel of a Laurel Canyon bungalow. Posey, who is fifty-three, moved into the place four years ago, after moving out of a West Village home that she’d shared with a friend’s elderly mother. But she hasn’t spent much time there because she’s been busy caring for her aging mother in Mississippi and performing in several projects, including “The Staircase,” a dramatic new HBO Max miniseries from the filmmaker Antonio Campos that revisits a grisly 2001 murder case.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

News 20.05.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 20.05.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In July 2003, the physicist and Pulitzer-prize-nominated author Dr Tony Rothman received an email from his editor bearing unwelcome news. Rothman’s new book was weeks from publication. An affable debunking of widely misunderstood stories from the history of science, the title, Everything’s Relative, was a playful nod to Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity. Rothman had asked his publisher, Wiley, to put a picture of history’s most famous scientist on the cover.

“An issue just came up,” the email read. Rothman’s editor had been warned that Einstein’s estate is “extremely aggressive and litigious”. Unless the publisher paid a hefty fee to use the image of Einstein, the editor explained, they could be sued. Rothman was dismayed. “I think this is ridiculous,” he replied via email. “If the estate went after everybody who used [Einstein’s image], they’d have no time on their hands for anything else. Are you sure they even own it?” Rothman’s editor was unwilling to investigate the legal technicalities. It was not the first time the publisher had encountered hostile heirs, he said, referring darkly to “the slavering jackals” who run the literary estate of one iconic 20th-century American writer.

Albert Einstein died in 1955. In article 13 of his last will and testament, he pledged that his “manuscripts, copyrights, publication rights, royalties … and all other literary property” would, upon the deaths of his secretary, Helen Dukas, and stepdaughter, Margot Einstein, pass to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, an institution that Einstein cofounded in 1918. Einstein made no mention in his will about the use of his name or likeness on books, products or advertisements. Today, these are known as publicity rights, but at the time Einstein was writing his will, no such legal concept existed. When the Hebrew University took control of Einstein’s estate in 1982, however, publicity rights had become a fierce legal battleground, worth millions of dollars each year.

In the mid-1980s, the university began to assert control over who could use Einstein’s name and likeness, and at what cost. Potential licensors were told to submit proposals, which would then be assessed by unnamed arbitrators behind closed doors. An Einstein-branded diaper? No. An Einstein-branded calculator? Yes. Anyone who did not follow this process, or defied the university’s decision, could be subject to legal action. Sellers of Einstein-themed T-shirts, Halloween costumes, coffee beans, SUV trucks and cosmetics found themselves in court. The university’s targets ranged from hawkers of market-stall novelties to multinationals such as Coca-Cola, Apple and the Walt Disney Company, which in 2005 paid $2.66m for a 50-year licence to use the name “Baby Einstein” on its line of infant toys.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

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News 20.05.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

One sunny Thursday morning in September 2021, three men gathered at the Multimedia University of Kenya, in Nairobi, for a small ceremony. The usually pristine grass of the campus was brown and dry. Jacaranda petals, fallen off the trees but still vibrantly purple, littered the ground, and a troop of baboons rummaged through garbage cans for leftover food. Inside the university’s ICT Museum, which showcases developments in communications technology, the men turned their attention to an object at the center of the room.

Above a table crowded with old oscilloscopes, printers, and telephones, hung a lone box, white apart from two black solar panels fanning out from its top. Gray antennae protruded beneath, trussed like the legs of an oil rig. This jerry-built device was among the last remaining specimens of Loon, what had been Google’s “moonshot” project to connect rural Africa and other locations to the internet, using balloons floating in the stratosphere.

In 2015, when asked which current project he was most excited about, then–Alphabet CEO Larry Page mentioned Loon. “There’s very many places you go in the world where you still don’t have a cell signal. And I think Loon actually could change that,” he said. Page dreamt of giant white balloons semi-autonomously navigating along atmospheric currents for thousands of miles, beaming connectivity down to remote areas or disaster zones. But by January 2021, after nearly a decade of work and hundreds of millions of dollars spent, the project’s lead announced that its “journey [was] coming to an end.” Loon was dead, owing to the costs being too high to “build a long-term, sustainable business.” Instead of connecting the unconnected, Loon would join the artifacts at the ICT museum. (Rest of World was founded by Sophie Schmidt. Ms. Schmidt is related to Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google.)

For more than a decade, U.S. tech giants have had designs on building Africa’s internet. Alphabet is now at work on Project Taara, another “moonshot,” which aims to repurpose the Loon balloons’ airborne lasers. Meta — previously Facebook — has also floated airborne internet delivery systems, including using a satellite that would beam data to Africa from space (which was abandoned when the rocket carrying it was engulfed in flames on the launchpad) and its Aquila solar-powered drones (which were grounded after disappointing performances, including a crash landing). Elon Musk’s SpaceX seems to have had better luck, having now launched over 1,700 small satellites as part of its Starlink constellation, although it won’t begin providing internet service in Africa to consumers until later in 2023.

But beneath these shiny objects in the sky — laid, in fact, on the ocean floor — are a series of more traditional and likely much more transformative efforts to bridge the connected and the unconnected. After years of anticipation, massive undersea fiber-optic cables, stretching thousands of miles, have begun arriving on African and European shores.

Read the rest of this article at: Rest of World 

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