Tuesday, March 15, 2016
Glenn Geher in Psychology Today:
It’s about 1:00 p.m. on a weekday in December, 2015. I am working with a small team in a radio studio on campus We are about to interview world-renowned scientist, Dr. Robert Trivers, for a potential podcast that we are working on. We are using Skype and have both audio and video channels going. We call him via Skype at exactly the time we’d said we would. He answers. Dr. Trivers’ face and upper body show up on the screen. No shirt. Our team includes veteran media personality and radio host, John Tobin, who has conducted thousands of interviews in his time. John would later report that he’d never had an interview go quite this way before.
And so it begins:
Dr. Trivers: Oh wait - I have to put on a shirt and get a beer - can we wait just a minute? Oh and I have to put this towel away. I just got out of the shower - I wanted to be fresh for this ...
Of course we smiled and complied and said it was fine. In a few minutes he settles down into a chair that he describes as “near the fridge,” just in case there’s a need for more beer during this interview.
For about an hour, Dr. Trivers took us on a wild ride - emerging at times as kind of hard to pin down on a particular topic - and emerging at other times as having uniquely interesting personal anecdotes, such as one about the time that he drove a getaway car for renowned Black Panther leader Huey Newton after leaving a bar in Northern California under sketchy terms back in the 1970s.
Bruce Stokes in Foreign Policy:
No one ever said this would be easy. U.S.-Israeli relations are heating up as Vice President Joe Biden criticizes Israeli plans to build new housing units for Jews in East Jerusalem against a backdrop of reports that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declined to meet with President Barack Obama due to the U.S. election — even while Washington and Tel Aviv are negotiating new U.S. military aid to Israel. This latest flurry of activity comes in the wake of a new Pew Research Center surveyhighlighting the differences between American Jews and Israeli Jews and between Israeli Jews and Arabs within Israel on a range of contentious issues surrounding the Middle East peace process.
As might be expected, Israeli society is deeply divided on Jewish-Muslim relations. On a fundamental issue, nearly three-quarters of Israeli Jews say they do not see much discrimination against Muslims in their country. But roughly eight in 10 Israeli Arabs say there is a lot of discrimination in Israeli society against Muslims.
Such divisions between Jewish and Arab views are also reflected in their perspective on the peace process.
Ethan Siegel in Forbes:
One of the oldest predictions of Einstein’s general theory of relativity — the gravitational theory that spacetime is a fabric that gets bent and curved by the presence of matter and energy — is that masses that accelerate in the Universe produce ripples in the fabric of space itself: gravitational waves. But Einstein’s conception of gravity is still a classical picture, as:
- space and time are continuous entities, not discrete ones,
- the predictions of the theory break down (give nonsense answers) at very small distances and in the presence of very large fields,
- and there’s no way to calculate the gravitational field for inherently quantum systems, like an electron confronted with a double slit.
We fully expect that at some level, gravity will turn out to be quantum in nature, although we don’t yet have any experimental evidence of that. But with LIGO’s recent direct detection of gravitational waves, we have every reason to believe that the existence of these waves hold the key to showing — for the first time — that gravity truly is a force that’s quantum in nature.
The day before yesterday I was saddened to hear that Hilary Putnam had died. He is the one who convinced me to go to philosophy graduate school at a meeting with him in 1992, even saying, "Perhaps you will be the next Wittgenstein, another engineer who became a philosopher." I exchanged emails with him as recently as last year. He was a brilliant man and will be missed.
Putnam was well-known for changing his mind often over his career. Huw Price, one of our most distinguished philosophers himself, shared with me the following anecdote:
My best Putnam story came from Michael Dummett. When I was in Edinburgh around 2002, Dummett came to give a named lecture. I was acting as host and chair, and he said that he'd once done the same for Putnam, giving a lecture in Oxford. Putnam's advertised topic was 'Theory Change in Science' and Dummett said that when he introduced him, he said what an appropriate topic this was, for someone famous for changing his mind. Putnam then got up and said, "It's funny you should say that, because I've decided to give you a different paper."
And here is Martha Nussbaum in the Huffington Post:
Philosophy is pretty unpopular in America today. Marco Rubio says, with typical inelegance: "We need more welders and less philosophers." Governor Pat McCrory of North Carolina also singles out philosophy as a discipline offering "worthless courses" that offer "no chances of getting people jobs." Across the nation there's unbounded adulation for the STEM disciplines, which seem so profitable. Although all the humanities suffer disdain, philosophy keeps on attracting special negative attention -- perhaps because in addition to appearing worthless, it also appears vaguely subversive, a threat to sound traditional values.
Such was not always the case. Throughout its history in Europe, philosophy has repeatedly come in for abuse from the forces of tradition and authority. The American founding, however, was different: the founders were men of the Enlightenment, steeped in the ideas and works of Rousseau, Montesquieu, Adam Smith, and the ancient Greeks and Romans -- especially Cicero and the Roman Stoics. As men of the Enlightenment they took pride in steering their course by reason and argument rather than unexamined tradition. Their intellectual independence and theoretical thoughtfulness served them well when it came to setting up a new nation. We've traveled a long way from those roots, and not in a good direction.
On March 13, America lost one of the greatest philosophers this nation has ever produced. Hilary Putnam died of cancer at the age of 89.
In 1981, when he was nineteen years old, Jarvis Jay Masters given a long sentence for armed robbery, which he describes in his memoir That Bird Has My Wings.Back then, San Quentin was a violent and chaotic place, where prisoners joined gangs for protection; Masters joined one run by other black prisoners. In 1985, when Masters was twenty-three and on the fourth tier of his section of the prison, inmates two tiers below him stabbed to death a thirty-eight-year-old guard named Howell Burchfield. Despite there being no physical evidence linking Masters to the killing, despite the fact that guards found and proceeded to lose or throw away many possible murder weapons, the prosecution accused him of sharpening the weapon and participating in the plan organized by the gang to which he then belonged.
Though both the killer and prisoner who ordered the killing were sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, Masters was sentenced to the death penalty at the end of a long, problematic trial. He has lived on death row since 1990. As I explain in my column for the magazine’s March issue (“Bird in a Cage,” Easy Chair) Masters has become a respected writer, a warm and engaging conversationalist with whom I’ve now spoken many times and visited in person twice, and a devout Buddhist and friend to many in the Bay Area Buddhist community. They insist Masters is innocent and that the mountains of evidence amassed by his defense attorneys offer extensive and—to my eye also—convincing support of this position.
There’s a dirty secret tucked away in Thomas Pynchon’s novels, and it’s this: beyond all the postmodernism and paranoia, the anarchism and socialism, the investigations into global power, the forays into labor politics and feminism and critical race theory, the rocket science, the fourth-dimensional mathematics, the philatelic conspiracies, the ’60s radicalism and everything else that has spawned 70 or 80 monographs, probably twice as many dissertations, and hundreds if not thousands of scholarly essays, his novels are full of cheesy love stories.
Personally, I like the cheesy love stories. If reading a Pynchon novel is like running a marathon, then the love stories are the little gooey snacks that you pick up at aid stations. You could probably finish the run or the novel without the gooey parts, but having them raises your spirits and gives you the energy to cruise to the end. Still, I know the love stories are dirty secrets because I spend an inordinate amount of time in the world of Pynchon studies. I’ve read through mountains of work on his novels. I’ve written one of the aforementioned dissertations, a few of the essays, and one of the monographs. I’ve presented papers on Pynchon at academic conferences. I regularly teach a semester-long class on Pynchon. I hang out sometimes with other Pynchon scholars. And I notice that the love stories are never discussed openly. We get together after class, we gather in conference break rooms, we share a beer and confide in each other. We say things like, “I think Maxine and Horst make a better divorced couple than they do a married one” and “I’m so happy that Kit and Dahlia finally got together. I sure hope it works out.” We talk of characters as if they’re real people, and we talk about ourselves as if we’re characters. But we never write about the love stories.
On December 31, 1857—the last day of the last year before their world began to end—a group of Andamanese went down to catch fish off the beach at South Reef Island, a tiny islet in the northern part of the archipelago. They brought with them bows and arrows, nets woven of bark fiber, and seven outrigger canoes, delicate little craft that they had made by laboriously hollowing out the trunks of fallen trees. (Many of the possessions they were carrying that day are now in the British Museum.) Before the fishermen had a chance to push their boats out into the surf, however, they saw something strange in the distance: an immense black shape, half ship and half sea monster, coughing out great exhalations of dark smoke as it moved across the ocean. It was coming toward them.
The vessel was a small East India Company steamer, inauspiciously named the Pluto, that had left Calcutta several weeks earlier on a mission to investigate the Andaman Islands, particularly their suitability as the site of a new penal colony. (On the Indian mainland, the Great Mutiny was in full blaze, and British jails were overflowing.) Despite the gravity of their assignment, the explorers had had a pleasant journey. Like many ships of its era, the Pluto was a kind of floating experiment in multiculturalism—its crew and officers included not just Britons but Irishmen, Italians, Maltese, Scandinavians, Portuguese, Americans, Chinese, Africans, Bengalis, Burmese, Malaysians, a Frenchman, and an Arab—and in this case, the experiment turned out quite well. A Scottish sailor entertained his shipmates on the bagpipes; some Goan sailors formed an impromptu band; and the Arab boatswain strummed melancholy airs on his guitar. At Christmas, crewmen held sack races on the steamer’s deck and boat races around its hull. The government officials on board—members of a special “Andaman Committee” appointed by the East India Company’s directors—were also in a good mood, because they had already found a splendid site for a penal settlement (the future Port Blair) and were headed back to Calcutta with this happy news.
Ryan Avent in More Intelligent Life:
When I was young, there was nothing so bad as being asked to work. Now I find it hard to conjure up that feeling, but I see it in my five-year-old daughter. “Can I please have some water, daddy?” “You can get it yourself, you’re a big girl.” “WHY DOES EVERYONE ALWAYS TREAT ME LIKE A MAID?” That was me when I was young, rolling on the ground in agony on being asked to clean my room. As a child, I wonderingly observed the hours my father worked. The stoical way he went off to the job, chin held high, seemed a beautiful, heroic embrace of personal suffering. The poor man! How few hours he left himself to rest on the couch, read or watch American football. My father had his own accounting firm in Raleigh, North Carolina. His speciality was helping people manage their tax and financial affairs as they started, expanded, or in some cases shut down their businesses. He has taken his time retiring, and I now realise how much he liked his work. I can remember the glowing terms in which his clients would tell me about the help he’d given them, as if he’d performed life-saving surgery on them. I also remember the way his voice changed when he received a call from a client when at home. Suddenly he spoke with a command and facility that I never heard at any other time, like a captive penguin released into open water, swimming in his element with natural ease.
At 37, I see my father’s routine with different eyes. I live in a terraced house in Wandsworth, a moderately smart and wildly expensive part of south-west London, and a short train ride from the headquarters of The Economist, where I write about economics. I get up at 5.30am and spend an hour or two at my desk at home. Once the children are up I join them for breakfast, then go to work as they head off to school. I can usually leave the office in time to join the family for dinner and put the children to bed. Then I can get a bit more done at home: writing, if there is a deadline looming, or reading, which is also part of the job. I work hard, doggedly, almost relentlessly. The joke, which I only now get, is that work is fun. Not all work, of course. When my father was a boy on the family farm, the tasks he and his father did in the fields – the jobs many people still do – were gruelling and thankless. I once visited the textile mill where my grandmother worked for a time. The noise of the place was so overpowering that it was impossible to think. But my work – the work we lucky few well-paid professionals do every day, as we co-operate with talented people while solving complex, interesting problems – is fun. And I find that I can devote surprising quantities of time to it.
Aimee Lee Ball in The New York Times:
THE SHOPPERS AT Original Unverpackt, a food market in the gentrifying but still gritty Berlin neighborhood of Kreuzberg, arrive largely by bicycle, carrying mesh totes and burlap sacks. Along one impeccably organized wall, they lift the spouts of gravity bins to let grains, nuts or legumes tumble into the tins and jars they’ve brought along. At the bulbous stainless steel fusti, they dispense olive oil, balsamic vinegar or soy sauce into glass vessels. A customer samples a Medjool date, but looks confused about what to do with the pit — there are no napkins, no trash cans — and ends up stashing it in her pocket. She is, after all, shopping at a store committed to zero waste. Designed by the Los Angles-based architect Michael J. Brown, a disciple of Daniel Libeskind, the shop is a particularly sleek and modern manifestation of precycling, the concept of eliminating trash before it is created. If you don’t use new plastic, paper or metal to begin with, you won’t have to dispose of it.
It’s been 20 years since the Environmental Protection Agency began a media campaign to introduce precycling, but it’s yet to catch on in any substantial way with Americans. Now, a new breed of mostly European store owners, who are as aesthetically sophisticated as they are ethically minded, are trying to change how we shop by presenting the market as a curated space. In an age in which we simultaneously expect and are overwhelmed by the sheer amount of choice at the grocery — this brand of whole-grain pasta or that one? — these stores offer something defiantly old-fashioned: one or two alternatives, selected by a member of a righteous cognoscenti. ‘‘There’s one kind of rice in my store,’’ said Andrea Lunzer of her eponymous Viennese shop. ‘‘I don’t have rices fighting with each other. I’ve chosen for you — that’s why it’s called Lunzers.’’
Monday, March 14, 2016
Should collective action be protected by the law (as labor law would suggest), or prosecuted by it (as antitrust law would suggest)?
by Sanjukta Paul
As questions of economic justice and fairness have moved toward center stage in recent years, a seemingly technical legal issue that turns out to be a kind of microcosm of many of those questions has also emerged from obscurity. Economic activity that exists in the hazy space where labor regulation and market regulation intersect presents a stark question: when the people engaging in that activity act collectively to better their circumstances, should such collective action be protected by the law (as labor law would suggest), or prosecuted by it (as competition or antitrust law would suggest)? The problem of precarious or contingent work, which is generally on the rise the world over,[i] has brought renewed relevance to that question.
One of the most visible manifestations of precarious work is in the so-called on-demand or gig economy, exemplified by companies such as Uber. Companies in this sector generally argue that their growth is due to technological innovation, while many labor and community advocates argue that is largely due to the avoidance of socially beneficial regulation, which in turn enables them to undercut existing businesses. These companies also take the position that people providing the services in which they deal (such as cab rides) are not employees, but independent businesspeople, and thus that labor regulation does not apply to them. One response has been to argue, in the courts and the legislatures, that such workers are legally employees, and have been misclassified by the companies engaging their services. The City of Seattle recently took a different and more direct approach, enacting an ordinance granting collective bargaining rights to drivers for taxicab, limo, and "transportation network companies" (encompassing Uber, Lyft and other companies in the on-demand sector) who are classified as independent contractors rather than employees. The approach of the policy-makers and advocates who passed the Seattle ordinance is novel in that it guarantees these rights to workers directly, rather than endeavoring to first establish their employee status, whether by legislation or by litigation. As expected, an industry group (the United States Chamber of Commerce, no less) has now filed a lawsuit challenging the ordinance on grounds that it is barred by antitrust law and by the National Labor Relations Act.
Standing at the East End of a Patio
Seeing a Mountain and a Moon
I have no ears for moons
nor eyes for the snapping of limbs
against each other in the wind
these come to me piecemeal by different senses
to be assembled in a dark place
into a dream of moonlit-windy-night
where all up sides are glazed in silver
while underneath are shadows,
and shadows (forever)
have no tongues
by Jim Culleny
by Thomas R. Wells
Science is an essential part of modern civilisation. It has cast religious metaphysics out of the natural world. It has supported the development of technologies that allow more people to live better and longer lives than ever before. It provides the empirical foundation on which the ideal of democratic deliberation rests, a division of labour in which specialists pursue facts so that society as a whole can pursue values. Moreover, as an industry science is thriving, with around 7 million professional scientists working with hundreds of billions of dollars of funding from governments, corporations and other institutions.
And yet despite dominating the modern world, the authority of science has declined. The general public are losing faith in its relevance to our lives, and are increasingly distrustful of its specific claims. This attitude is regrettable but not entirely unreasonable. Scientists have long claimed the status of public servants but exhibit little interest in living up to that role, for example by investigating boring but deadly diseases. Furthermore, science as an industry – Big Science - is entwined with power and money. That undermines the credibility of scientific pronouncements on politically contentious issues such as GM crops or climate change.
by Carl Pierer
If we take an infinite collection of sets, all of which contain at least one element, is there a way to choose exactly one element from each of them? This seems to be just obviously true. After all, there is something in every set, so we can just take any of those things. Certainly, it holds for finite collection of sets. Even if this number is very large, we could just go to each set and pick an element. However, if the collection becomes infinite, this becomes more worrisome. We would need a principled way of choosing one element of each set. Consider, for instance, all non-empty subsets of the natural numbers (the natural numbers being those we use to count: 1, 2, 3, …). By the nature of the natural numbers, such a set will always have a least element. Hence, we could simply pick the least element of each set in our collection. Compare this with an infinite collection of sets of pairs of gloves. As a pair of gloves always consists of a right and a left glove, we can always pick the left glove, say. But this is not so straightforward with other sets. For example, considering all non-empty subsets of the real numbers (containing the natural numbers, but also ¼, e, √π,…) it is far from obvious how we could ensure that we can pick precisely one element from each of those sets. Contrast this with an infinite collection of sets of peas. You know that each set will contain at least 1 pea, but which one are you going to pick if there are more than 1?
The axiom of choice, then, claims that this is always possible. It is, what some may call, somewhat theological, as it asserts the existence of something (a choice function) – even though we might have no idea at all how to construct it, as for instance in the real number example. Yet, it just seems very obvious that this principle should hold. After all, there is something in every set to choose from. The axiom is probably one of the most contentious of the standard axioms of set-theory[i]. On the one hand, it is very powerful and many important proofs in mathematics – explicitly or implicitly – use it. On the other, it leads to some highly counter-intuitive consequences.
Pierre Huyghy. The Moment of Suspension, Aquarium. 2011.
by Hari Balasubramanian
Is probabilistic analysis of any use in analyzing text – sequences of letters or sequences of words? Can a computer generate meaningful sentences by learning statistical properties such as how often certain strings of words or sentences occur in succession? What other uses could there be of such analysis? These were some questions I had this year as I collected material to teach a course on a special class of probability models called Markov chains. The models owe their name to the Russian mathematician Andrey Markov, who first proposed them in a 1906 paper titled "Extension of the law of large numbers to dependent quantities".
The key phrase, as we shall see, is ‘dependent quantities'. Broadly speaking, Markov models are applications of that basic rule of conditional probability, P(A|B): the probability of Event A happening, given that B occurs. The uses of Markov chains are many and varied – from the transmission of genes through generations, to the analysis of queues in telecommunication networks, to the movements of particles in physics. In 2006 – the 100th anniversary of Markov's paper – Philipp Von Hilgers and Amy Langville summarized the five greatest applications of Markov chains. This includes the one that is unknowingly used by most of us on a daily basis: every time we search on the internet, the ranking of webpages is based on the solution to massive Markov chain.
The focus of this piece, however, is the analysis of letter and word sequences as they appear in text. In what follows, I'll look at four examples where Markov models play a role.
We all know people who are routinely late. We may even be one of them. These people aren't necessarily late for everything. They usually manage to catch their trains or planes, get to a concert before it begins, and make it to their job interviews on time. But if it's a matter of rendezvousing for coffee, not holding up dinner, or being packed for a trip by the prearranged departure time, they are systematically hopeless.
Surprisingly, English doesn't seem to have a noun for this kind of person akin to words like "slob" or "scruff" or "lazybones." The term "latecomer" won't do since it denotes one who is late for a specific event, not one who regularly keeps other waiting. So for the sake of convenience, let's label these people "unpunctuals."
On several occasions I have heard amusing little speeches given about such individuals, at birthday parties, anniversaries, and graduation celebrations. The spirit is always the same: the subject of the toast/roast is a lovely person in many, many ways but he/she has a unique (although, in truth, it obviously isn't unique) sense of time. A familiar consequence of this has been that the unpunctual's nearest and dearest have spent a goodly proportion of their earthly existence hanging around wondering when the unpunctual will show up/be ready/finish a task etc..
This charitableness toward the unpunctual is interesting. We are less ready to laugh at other little failings which inconvenience us. Imagine a similar speech about someone who regularly borrows money and doesn't pay it back. Or who routinely fails to pick up their share of the tab at a restaurant. Or who insists on inflicting loud music on us when we are trying to concentrate or are suffering from a migraine. In such cases, the humour would be more barbed, the implicit criticism more pointed.
by Brooks Riley
by Sue Hubbard
It is said that the camera never lies – but that was before things went digital. At the Victoria Miro Gallery, Stan Douglas has created a number of disturbingly hyperreal images with the use of digital technology that give the illusion of documentary accuracy. These theatrical black and white mise en scènes explore the seedy underbelly of post-war North America before what the artist describes "as the sudden call to order and morality" that was achieved by peacetime prosperity. Based on archival photographs a hotel used to house World War II veterans has been transformed into The Second Hotel Vancouver, 2014, an uncanny image where Piranesi seems to meet Edward Hopper.
Small areas of cold white light glow against the foreboding brick walls of this looming Victorian Gothic façade with its dark stairwells and fire escapes. In the empty street below beams from a wrought-iron lamp post flood the crepuscular corners. Like a Christmas advent calendar there's the sense that behind every window of this building is a secret. If we look hard we can catch a tantalising glimpse of a coat hanging on a rack – who does it belong to? – an empty brass bed or a woman at an office desk, who might well be awaiting the arrival of a character from a Raymond Carver novel. Like some 50s film noir these lit windows draw us into the possibilities of the building's many hidden and possible stories.
by Gail Pellett
Along with the jaw-dropping economic and technological transformation in China over the past two decades, has come an Orwellian load of forbidden history, subjects and ideas. Aided by a Party-censored and self-censored traditional and social media these forbiddens are maintained today—as in the past—by threats and fear.
Forbidden is a passionate word compared to censored. Forbidden commands and threatens while censored seems…well, bureaucratic. Forbidden is the term the Chinese government uses to sustain ideological control.
When I began writing a book about my time in Beijing thirty-five yeas ago, friends often asked. "China is so different now, how could a book about 1980 Beijing have any relevance?" Yet daily I marvel at how the speeches and policies of President Xi Jinping reflect the tough political and ideological policies of the Deng Xiaoping era. Deng was just consolidating his power in 1980.
I was the first professional broadcast journalist hired in the forty-year history of Radio Beijing—China's equivalent to Voice of America—invited to teach courses in Western journalism and edit scripts in the English Language Department. Despite my expertise, I couldn't be trusted with a private conversation with my colleagues about the news, the world, or their ideas or our journalistic mission. Associating with me was forbidden. As one brave comrade told me privately, "Although the Cultural Revolution is over, if people are seen getting close to you they risk losing their housing, a pay raise, access to university or school for their kids. "During the Cultural Revolution," she said, "People lost everything." So while that fear of relationships with foreigners—especially foreign journalists—harked back to the Cultural Revolution it was reinforced by a threatening speech made by Deng Xiaoping in December 1980 when he warned those who didn't resist foreign ideas or bourgeois individualism. Those who grew chummy with foreigners. After that speech icy winds blew through the hallways of Radio Beijing.
Sunday, March 13, 2016
Kenan Malik in Padaemonium:
How do you solve a crisis? By brushing it far enough away from your gaze so you can pretend that it is no longer there. That, at least, appears to be the European Union’s approach. For more than a year, the migration crisis has torn at the heart of the EU, creating deep tensions between members, and raising questions about the future of freedom of movement within the union, and indeed about the future of the union itself.
Europe’s leaders have been desperately trying to figure out a solution. This week, after months of negotiation, they stitched together a deal with Turkey. Its main aim is to allow the EU to push the problem far enough away to pretend that it is not there.
Under the deal, the details of which are still being hammered out, all irregular migrants crossing from Turkey to Greece will be sent back. A ‘one for one’ agreement will allow one Syrian from a Turkish refugee camp to be resettled in the EU, for every Syrian refugee returned to Turkey from Greece. For non-Syrians, the route to Europe is entirely cut off.
In return, the EU has promised to speed up plans for Turks to travel without visas inside the EU and to actually pay Ankara some of the €3 bn that was promised in October for Turkish help in closing its borders to migrants. Turkey has reportedly asked for an extra €3 bn, which is still being negotiated. Turkey has also demanded that concrete steps be taken to resume its accession negotiations with the EU.
Donald Tusk, the President of the EU Council, has described the deal as a ‘breakthrough’ and ‘historic’. It is, in fact, immoral and unworkable.
Sean Carroll in Preposterous Universe:
It has often been said, including by me, that one of the most intriguing aspects of dark matter is that provides us with the best current evidence for physics beyond the Core Theory (general relativity plus the Standard Model of particle physics). The basis of that claim is that we have good evidence from at least two fronts — Big Bang nucleosynthesis, and perturbations in the cosmic microwave background — that the total density of matter in the universe is much greater than the density of “ordinary” matter like we find in the Standard Model.
There is one important loophole to this idea. The Core Theory includes not only the Standard Model, but also gravity. Gravitons themselves can’t be the dark matter — they’re massless particles, moving at the speed of light, while we know from its effects on galaxies that dark matter is “cold” (moving slowly compared to light). But there are massive, slowly-moving objects that are made of “pure gravity,” namely black holes. Could black holes be the dark matter?
It depends. The constraints from nucleosynthesis, for example, imply that the dark matter was not made of ordinary particles by the time the universe was a minute old. So you can’t have a universe with just regular matter and then form black-hole-dark-matter in the conventional ways (like collapsing stars) at late times. What you can do is imagine that the black holes were there from almost the start — that they’re primordial. Having primordial black holes isn’t the most natural thing in the world, but there are ways to make it happen, such as having very strong density perturbations at relatively small length scales (as opposed to the very weak density perturbations we see at universe-sized scales).
Recently, of course, black holes were in the news, when LIGO detected gravitational waves from the inspiral of two black holes of approximately 30 solar masses each. This raises an interesting question, at least if you’re clever enough to put the pieces together: could the dark matter be made of primordial black holes of around 30 solar masses, and could two of them have come together to produce the LIGO signal?
Arjun Appadurai in Eurozine:
Forced exits can be created by traumas of environment, economy or national civil war. They produce refugees who are invariably traumatized. Their claims on the hospitality of the nations in which they land are always in a grey zone between hospitality, sanctuary and incarceration, because they are usually in a categorical grey zone that combines features of the stranger, the victim, the criminal and the undocumented visitor.
The trauma of the forced refugee provokes the deepest anxieties of the modern nation-state, which relies on boundaries, censuses, taxes and documentation. The heart of the new traumas that the forced refugee experiences in the new country is that he or she has a plot (a narrative, a story) but no character, identity or name. The challenge of evolving a new form of legal and ethical hospitality is to create a name to fit the plot, an identity to fit the narrative. The challenge of the modern nation-state is that, whereas its key narratives of identity rely on fixed starting points (blood, language, religion, territory), the forced exit is usually produced precisely by originary traumas of blood, language, religion or location. This raises the question of how to build a new relationship between plot and character in modern nation-states and a world of forced exits, where there is as yet no ethical foundation for seeing traumatic movement as the pivot of a serious identity for some citizens.
Anna Badkhen in Guernica:
Scientists say busy minds make us sad and less alert. This holds true for me. What causes my cognitive overload is probably what causes yours: deadlines, ambitions, chores, parenting worries, and how all of these often seem impossible to juggle. When my mind is crowded in this way I fail to notice the beauty that nurtures it. A cardinal’s enchanted scarlet flight on a monochrome winter run in Philadelphia. The hollow flutter of a moth wrestling out of a cage of agave. The unfathomable embrace of the universe that accommodates tigerfish teeth and the electromagnetic song of the comet 67P both. A friend’s kindness. I grow too hard-pressed to be astonished by the ineffable in the world, my well-being withers, and I become terribly blue, sometimes for days, for weeks.
Mental health scholars and practitioners in industrialized countries have come to identify overachieving work ethics, the 24-hour news cycle, our pandemic connectedness, our desire for instant gratification, and our growing practice of multitasking as the main sources of cognitive pressure. They say it is a side effect of modernity and link it to an array of emotional and somatic disorders: ulcers, migraines, hypertension, heart disease, anxiety, clinical depression. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise that “the nature of work is changing at whirlwind speed,” and that “now more than ever before, job stress poses a threat to the health of workers.” The extent to which fast-paced lives jeopardize our mental hygiene has become a kind of present-day platitude, a Gospel of Rushed Living. Carl Honoré’s book In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed is an international bestseller. We live, according to Honoré, in a world that is “time-sick.”
Muchas Gracias por Todo
This plane has landed thanks to God and his mercy.
That’s what they say in Jordan when the plane sets down.
What do they say in our country? Don’t stand up till we tell you.
Stay in your seats. Things may have shifted.
This river has not disappeared thanks to that one big storm
when the water was almost finished.
We used to say thanks to the springs
but the springs dried up so we changed it.
This rumor tells no truth thanks to people.
This river walk used to be better when no one came.
What about the grapes? Thanks to the grapes
we have more than one story to tell.
Thanks to a soft place in the middle of the evening.
Thanks to three secret hours before dawn.
These deer are seldom seen because of their shyness.
If you see one you count yourselves among the lucky on the earth.
Your eyes get quieter.
These deer have nothing to say to us.
Thanks to the fan, we are still breathing.
Thanks to the small toad that lives in cool mud at the base of the zinnias.
by Naomi Shihab Nye