Many states prioritize using money from a federal energy assistance program for low-income people to defray energy costs for heating rather than cooling bills
- In 2021 bans on the sale of sunscreens containing oxybenzone or octinoxate went into effect in Hawaii and Key West, Fla., but not because of human health—the ruling followed years of laboratory studies that showed the compounds are harmful to corals and other marine life.
What dermatologists say about sun sensitivity, cancer risk and the products they use for sun protection
Researchers have fully sequenced the chromosome associated with male development, which is the last mysterious piece of the human genome.
The achievement completes the Y chromosome’s genetic code and unveils key details that could provide a crisper picture of the role the chromosome plays in male-specific development, fertility, and genetically triggered diseases like cancer.
The work appears in Nature.
“Now that we have this 100% complete sequence of the Y chromosome, we can identify and explore numerous genetic variations that could be impacting human traits and disease in a way that we weren’t able to do before,” says co-first author Dylan Taylor, a geneticist and doctoral candidate at Johns Hopkins University
The sequence of DNA that comprises chromosomes encodes the genes and genetic circuits that guide the development and function of all cells in living organisms. The Y chromosome has been particularly challenging to decode because of its repetitive molecular patterns, but new sequencing technology and bioinformatics algorithms allowed the team to resolve these DNA sequences.
The team revealed the structures of sperm-regulating gene families and discovered 41 additional genes in the Y chromosome. They also unveiled the structures of genes thought to play significant roles in growth and functioning of the male reproductive system.
“We completed the wiring diagram for all these genetic switches that get activated via the Y chromosome, many of which are critical to the genetic contributions to male development,” says author Michael Schatz, a professor in computer science, biology, and oncology.
“We are at a point where scientists can start using this map. We were previously blind to different parts of the genome and different mutations, but now that we can see the whole genome, we hope we can add new insights to the genetics of a lot of different diseases.”
The Y chromosome, along with the X chromosome, is often discussed for its role in sexual development. While these chromosomes play a central role, the factors involved in human sexual development are spread across the genome and very complex, giving rise to the array of human sex characteristics found among male, female, and intersex individuals. These categories are not equivalent to gender, which is a social category. Additionally, recent work demonstrates that genes on the Y chromosome contribute to other aspects of human biology, such as cancer risk and severity.
The research was led by the National Human Genome Research Institute, part of the Telomere-to-Telomere consortium that in 2022 unveiled the complete sequence of a human genome, a decades-in-the-making revelation expected to open new lines of molecular and genetic exploration. However that work was done with two X chromosomes. Now, using a donor with both an X and a Y chromosome, the consortium built a complete blueprint of the Y chromosome and every element of its DNA.
The new findings lay the foundation for high-quality genome assemblies that didn’t exist before, including for personalized genomes.
“The genome is a very personal thing—it has the basic instructions for the building blocks of our development and what makes us human,” says coauthor Rajiv McCoy, an assistant professor of biology. “We knew we had an incomplete picture up until now, but we can now see the entire genome from end to end for the first time.”
The researchers compared the new Y chromosome sequence against the genetic data from thousands of people worldwide. Their analysis spotted errors in the previous reference genome, and showed how the new Y chromosome sequence will improve future studies of human DNA.
They are integrating the new insights into studies of primates both to dig deeper into the evolution of the Y chromosome and to analyze clinically relevant genes that could influence personalized medicine for pancreatic cancer and other diseases.
Source: Roberto Molar Candanosa for Johns Hopkins University
Sunak screwed across the board | Animal behaviour | Spot the ball | Fresher ingredients | Raac in Ancient Rome
Another German word for Rishi Sunak’s situation (Letters, 3 September) is zugzwang, a term in chess for a poor position, where any move would make the current bad situation even worse.
• Zoe Williams’ father, who, she writes, hated Carl Jung (5 September) would have appreciated the cartoon in which one rat says to another: “I’ve really got this psychologist conditioned; every time I press this lever he gives me food.”
Nafferton, East Yorkshire
Nature, Published online: 06 September 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-02834-9Researchers say safety concerns over RAAC concrete in
Nature, Published online: 06 September 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-02823-yNature looks at the detective work that would be required to confirm a controversial ‘alien meteorite’ report.
After safely landing on the lunar surface last month, India's Vikram Moon lander just pulled off its next daring stunt.
The lander fired up its engines, causing it to float 15 inches above the lunar surface, then moved laterally. Moments later it landed again, roughly 11 to 15 inches away from where it was sitting previously.
A clip shared by the
Space Research Organization shows the view from the lander as the cratered lunar surface goes up in a cloud of dust. Seconds later, the lander's view clears up again, showing a slightly altered landing spot.
"Vikram soft-landed on the Moon again!" the ISRO's update reads.
It's an impressive feat that again demonstrates India's growing off-world prowess.
"All systems performed nominally and are healthy," the ISRO wrote.
Vikram soft-landed on , again!
Vikram Lander exceeded its mission objectives. It successfully underwent a hop experiment.
On command, it fired the engines, elevated itself by about 40 cm as expected and landed safely at a distance of 30 – 40 cm away.… pic.twitter.com/T63t3MVUvI
— ISRO (@isro) September 4, 2023
Vikram's successful flight was performed shortly before it and its rover cousin were scheduled to take a prolonged nap. Early Monday morning, the lander entered sleep mode.
"Vikram will fall asleep next to Pragyan once the solar power is depleted and the battery is drained," the ISRO tweeted on Monday. "Hoping for their awakening, around September 22, 2023."
The stakes are pretty high. If Vikram fails to get up from its slumber, it could be game over for the mission.
"Hoping for a successful awakening for another set of assignments!" the ISRO tweeted over the weekend. "Else, it will forever stay there as India's lunar ambassador."
More on the lander: India's Moon Rover Has Gone to Sleep
The post India's Moon Lander Just Took Off Again and Landed in a Different Place appeared first on Futurism.
- If the bill passes, it will be the first time England has ripped up an EU derived environment law.
Keir Starmer likens the Tories to ‘cowboy builders’ as the PM insists the government acted decisively in response to the problem
The DfE list shows pupils at 24 schools across England will receive some remote learning because of the concrete crisis, with four schools switching to fully remote learning, PA Media reports.
And the list shows 19 schools where the start of term has had to be delayed as a result of collapse-prone concrete.Continue reading…
One of the leading companies offering alternatives to lithium batteries for the grid just got a nearly $400 million loan from
Department of Energy.
Eos Energy makes zinc-halide batteries, which the firm hopes could one day be used to store renewable energy at a lower cost than is possible with existing lithium-ion batteries.
The loan is the first “conditional commitment” from the DOE’s Loan Program Office to a battery maker focused on alternatives to lithium-ion cells. The agency has previously funded lithium-ion manufacturing efforts, battery recycling projects, and other climate technologies like geothermal power.
Today, lithium-ion batteries are the default choice to store energy in devices from laptops to electric vehicles. The cost of these kinds of batteries has plummeted over the past decade, but there’s a growing need for even cheaper options. Solar panels and wind turbines only produce energy intermittently, and to keep an electrical grid powered by these renewable sources humming around the clock, grid operators need ways to store that energy until it is needed. The US grid alone may need between 225 and 460 gigawatts of long-duration energy storage capacity by 2050.
New batteries, like the zinc-based technology Eos hopes to commercialize, could store electricity for hours or even days at low cost. These and other alternative storage systems could be key to building a consistent supply of electricity for the grid and cutting the climate impacts of power generation around the world.
In Eos’s batteries, the cathode is not made from the familiar mixture of lithium and other metals. Instead, the primary ingredient is zinc, which ranks as the fourth most produced metal in the world.
Zinc-based batteries aren’t a new invention—researchers at Exxon patented zinc-bromine flow batteries in the 1970s—but Eos has developed and altered the technology over the last decade.
Zinc-halide batteries have a few potential benefits over lithium-ion options, says Francis Richey, vice president of research and development at Eos. “It’s a fundamentally different way to design a battery, really, from the ground up,” he says.
Eos’s batteries use a water-based electrolyte (the liquid that moves charge around in a battery) instead of organic solvent, which makes them more stable and means they won’t catch fire, Richey says. The company’s batteries are also designed to have a longer lifetime than lithium-ion cells—about 20 years as opposed to 10 to 15—and don’t require as many safety measures, like active temperature control.
There are some technical challenges that zinc-based and other alternative batteries will need to overcome to make it to the grid, says Kara Rodby, technical principal at Volta Energy Technologies, a venture capital firm focused on energy storage technology. Zinc batteries have a relatively low efficiency—meaning more energy will be lost during charging and discharging than happens in lithium-ion cells. Zinc-halide batteries can also fall victim to unwanted chemical reactions that may shorten the batteries’ lifetime if they’re not managed.
Those technical challenges are largely addressable, Rodby says. The bigger challenge for Eos and other makers of alternative batteries will be manufacturing at large scales and cutting costs down. “That’s what’s challenging here,” she says. “You have by definition a low-cost product and a low-cost market.”
Batteries for grid storage need to get cheap quickly, and one of the major pathways is to make a lot of them.
Eos currently operates a semi-automated factory in Pennsylvania with a maximum production of about 540 megawatt-hours annually (if those were lithium-ion batteries, it would be enough to power about 7,000 average US electric vehicles), though the facility doesn’t currently produce at its full capacity.
The loan from the DOE is “big news,” says Eos CFO Nathan Kroeker. The company has been working on securing the funding for two years, and it will give the company “much-needed capital” to build its manufacturing capacity.
Funding from the DOE will support up to four additional, fully automated lines in the existing factory. Altogether, the four lines could produce eight gigawatt-hours’ worth of batteries annually by 2026—enough to meet the daily needs of up to 130,000 homes.
The DOE loan is a conditional commitment, and Eos will need to tick a few boxes to receive the funding. That includes reaching technical, commercial, and financial milestones, Kroeker says.
Many alternative battery chemistries have struggled to transition from working samples in the lab and small manufacturing runs to large-scale commercial production. Not only that, but issues securing funding and problems lining up buyers have taken down startups with a wide range of alternative chemistries in just the past decade.
It can be difficult to bring alternatives to the market in energy storage, Kroeker says, though he sees this as the right time for new battery chemistries to make a dent. As renewables are rushing onto the grid, there’s a much higher need for large-scale energy storage than there was a decade ago. There’s also new support in place, like tax credits in the Inflation Reduction Act, that make the business case for new batteries more favorable.
“I think we’ve got a once-in-a-generation opportunity now to make a game-changing impact in our energy transition,” he says.
New research may shed light on how parasite strain diversity can affect
progression and severity.
Chagas, a lesser-known and studied tropical disease, is caused by Trypanosoma cruzi parasites, which are transmitted by kissing bugs. In the Americas, the disease affects 6 million people in 21 countries, with approximately 30,000 new cases each year.
While most infected patients remain asymptomatic, about 20-40% will develop chronic heart disease years or decades after
, and about 5% will develop digestive disease.
Treating people with Chagas is challenging because the disease progression is unpredictable, resulting in 14,000 deaths annually.
As reported in the journal Microbiology Spectrum, researchers have established a link between disease progression and parasite strain diversity.
They studied Rhesus macaques naturally infected with T. cruzi for two to three years, and found that those infected with mixtures of multiple strains were able to better control the parasite and stop the progression of the disease, while those with a progressive form of the disease had fewer strains.
“Since the 1980s, researchers have proposed that different strains could be associated with different disease outcomes due to the parasite’s genetic diversity, but decades of research failed to uncover clear associations,” says lead author Eric Dumonteil, associate professor of tropical medicine at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.
“In finding a clear association, these results provide a new framework for the development of more effective treatments and vaccines.”
Studies are ongoing to further understand the interactions of various parasite strains during infection, Dumonteil says.
The research was conducted at the Tulane National Primate Research Center. Additional researchers from the Autonomous University of Yucatan in
and Tulane collaborated on the study.
Source: Tulane University
The post Team clarifies mystery of Chagas disease progression appeared first on Futurity.
Nature, Published online: 06 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41586-023-06411-yAmniote metabolism and the evolution of endothermy
Nature, Published online: 06 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41586-023-06412-xReply to: Amniote metabolism and the evolution of endothermy
Nature, Published online: 06 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41586-023-06604-5Complete human day 14 post-implantation embryo models from naïve ES cells
Nature, Published online: 06 September 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-02763-7For over a decade immunologist Lionel Apetoh has been working on how to improve T cells'
Nature, Published online: 06 September 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-02757-5The fossil is as old as the ‘first bird’, Archaeopteryx, and might have specialized in running or wading instead of flying.
Nature, Published online: 06 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41586-023-06384-yAn adsorbate motor that moves unidirectionally on a copper surface is achieved by inducing intramolecular hydrogen transfer in a single molecule.
Nature, Published online: 06 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41586-023-06512-8Multiomic analyses of mouse thymic epithelial cells identify several unconventional subsets that are mimetics of various populations of terminally differentiated parenchymal cells and provide insights into their development, molecular features and function.
Nature, Published online: 06 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41586-023-06404-xStacks of van der Waals superconductor heterostructures comprising many layers and several blocks of two-dimensional materials have been grown in a highly controllable manner at a wafer scale using a high-to-low temperature strategy.
Nature, Published online: 06 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41586-023-06355-3A second update on mapping the human genetic architecture of COVID-19
Nature, Published online: 06 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41586-023-06310-2We report a small-organic-molecule oscillator that catalyses an independent chemical reaction in situ without impairing its oscillating properties, allowing the construction of complex systems enhancing applications in automated synthesis and systems and polymerization chemistry.
Nature, Published online: 06 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41586-023-06506-6In mitosis, genome integrity is maintained by DNA polymerase theta-dependent repair of DNA double-strand breaks, which is regulated by Polo-like kinase 1 activity.
Nature, Published online: 06 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41586-023-06525-3Phosphoantigen-mediated BTN2A1 association drives BTN3A1 intracellular fluctuations outwards in a thermodynamically favourable manner, thereby enabling BTN3A1 to push off from the BTN2A1 ectodomain to initiate T cell receptor–mediated γδ T cell activation.
Nature, Published online: 06 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41586-023-06346-4Linearly polarized thermal emission from dust grains in a strongly lensed, intrinsically luminous galaxy forming stars at a rate more than 1,000 times that of the Milky Way is detected.
Nature, Published online: 06 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41586-023-06513-7An avialan species from the Zhenghe Fauna—a collection of vertebrate fossils from the Late Jurassic of
Nature, Published online: 06 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41586-023-06485-8Ligands enable alcohol-directed arylation of δ-C(sp3)–H bonds by stabilizing hydroxyl coordination to palladium through charge balance and hydrogen bonding.
Nature, Published online: 06 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41586-023-06511-9A CRISPR–Cas9 screen in a tumour mouse model identifies
Nature, Published online: 06 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41586-023-06502-wA subpopulation of astrocytes selectively expresses synaptic-like glutamate-release machinery, actively secretes the transmitter and is localized to discrete sites in the hippocampus.
Nature, Published online: 06 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41586-023-06498-3Imaging mass cytometry is used to map the multicellular dynamics of immune checkpoint blockade-treated triple-negative breast cancer, finding that key proliferative fractions and cell–cell interactions drive response, and immunotherapy distinctively remodels tumour structure.
Nature, Published online: 06 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41586-023-06399-5Turbulence can be reduced by more than 25% in ordinary pipe flow by unsteady, pulsatile driving specifically mimicking the cardiac cycle and extending this method to large Reynolds numbers.
Nature, Published online: 06 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41586-023-06500-yDouble-stranded RNA structures downstream of start codons play a role in translation initiation by regulating start-codon selection in plant immune responses, and also contribute to translational reprogramming in mammalian systems.
Nature, Published online: 06 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41586-023-06326-8In situ liquid-cell electrochemical transmission electron microscopy allows the direct visualization of the transformation of lithium polysulfides over electrode surfaces at the atomic scale, leading to a new energy-storage mechanism in lithium–sulfur batteries.
Nature, Published online: 06 September 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-02730-2Record-high ocean temperatures, combined with a confluence of extreme climate and weather patterns, are pushing the world into uncharted waters. Researchers must help communities to plan how best to reduce the risks.
Nature, Published online: 06 September 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-02837-6A roundup of stories from the Nature Briefing, including how human ancestors came close to extinction, historic pollution in Antarctica, and the AI that predicts smell from a compound's structure.
Nature, Published online: 06 September 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-02729-9There is increasing evidence that ship strikes are a major cause of mortality for whales, sharks and other ocean giants. With the global fleet growing, some simple actions can turn things around.
Nature, Published online: 06 September 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-02390-2Electrochemical-reaction pathways in lithium–sulfur batteries have been studied in real time at the atomic scale using a high-resolution imaging technique. The observations revealed an unexpected collective charge-transfer process that could lead to improvements in the performance of these batteries.
Nature, Published online: 06 September 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-02739-7Pulsatile driving of pipe flow that imitates waveforms measured in the human aorta has been shown to suppress turbulence and increase the energy efficiency of the transport of fluids in pipes.
Nature, Published online: 06 September 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-02673-8During translation, messenger RNA guides protein production, and certain conditions can favour particular proteins. Helicase enzymes and mRNA structure control translation during defence responses in plants.
Nature, Published online: 06 September 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-02565-xThe interaction of a molecule with a specific surface has been shown to produce consistent unidirectional motion driven by voltage pulses. The mechanism can even facilitate the transport of molecular cargo.
The numbers were climbing on a radiation dosimeter as the minibus carried me deeper into the complex. Biohazard suits are no longer required in most parts of Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi power plant, but still, I’d been given a helmet, eyewear, an N95 mask, gloves, two pairs of socks, and rubber boots. At the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, you can never be too safe.
The road to the plant passes abandoned houses, convenience stores, and gas stations where forests of weeds sprout in the asphalt cracks. Inside, ironic signs, posted after the disaster, warning of tsunami risk. In March 2011, a 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck off Japan’s Pacific coast and flooded the plant, knocking out its emergency diesel generators and initiating the failure of cooling systems that led to a deadly triple-reactor meltdown.
Now, looking down from a high platform, I could see a crumpled roof where a hydrogen explosion had ripped through the Unit 1 reactor the day after the tsunami hit. The eerie stillness of the place was punctuated by the rattle of heavy machinery and the cries of gulls down by the water, where an immense metal containment tank has been mangled like a dog’s chew toy. Great waves dashing against the distant breakwater shook the metal decks by the shore. Gazing out across this scene, I felt like I was standing at the vestibule of hell.
A dozen years after the roughly 50-foot waves crashed over Fukushima Daiichi, water remains its biggest problem. The nuclear fuel left over from the meltdown has a tendency to overheat, so it must be continuously cooled with water. That water becomes radioactive in the process, and so does any groundwater and rain that happens to enter the reactor buildings; all of it must be kept away from people and the environment to prevent contamination. To that end, about 1,000 dirty-water storage vats of various sizes blanket the complex. In all, they currently store 343 million gallons, and another 26,000 gallons are added to the total every day. But the power plant, its operator claims, is running out of room.
On August 24, that operator—the Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO—began letting the water go. The radioactive wastewater is first being run through a system of chemical filters in an effort to strip it of dangerous constituents, and then flushed into the ocean and potentially local fisheries. Although this plan has official backing from the
government and the International Atomic Energy Agency, many in the region—including local fishermen and their potential customers—are frightened by its implications.
“The IAEA has said this will have a negligible impact on people and the environment,” Junichi Matsumoto, a TEPCO official in charge of water treatment, told reporters during a briefing at Daiichi during my visit in July. Only water that meets certain purity standards would be released into the ocean, he explained. The rest would be run through the filters and pumps again as needed. But no matter how many chances it gets, TEPCO’s Advanced Liquid Processing System cannot cleanse the water of tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen that is produced by nuclear-power plants even during normal operations, or of carbon-14. These lingering contaminants are a source of continuing anxiety.
Last month, China, the biggest importer of Japanese seafood, imposed a blanket ban on fisheries’ products from Japan, and Japanese news media have reported domestic seafood chains receiving numerous harassing phone calls originating in China. The issue has exacerbated tensions between the two countries. (The Japanese public broadcaster NHK responded by reporting that each of 13 nuclear-power plants in China released more tritium in 2021 than Daiichi will release in one year.) In South Korea, the government tried to allay fears after thousands of people protested in Seoul over the water release.
Opposition within Japan has coalesced around potential harms to local fishermen. In Fukushima, where the season for trawl fishing has just begun, workers are worried that seafood consumers in Japan and overseas will view their products as tainted and boycott them. “We have to appeal to people that they’re safe and secure, and do our best as we go forward despite falling prices and harmful rumors,” one elderly fisherman told Fukushima Broadcasting as he brought in his catch.
Government officials are doing what they can to protect that brand. Representatives from Japan’s environmental agency and Fukushima prefecture announced last week that separate tests showed no detectable levels of tritium in local seawater after the water release began. But even if its presence were observed, many experts say the environmental risks of the release are negligible. According to the IAEA, tritium is a radiation hazard to humans only if ingested in large quantities. Jukka Lehto, a professor emeritus of radiochemistry at the University of Helsinki, co-authored a detailed study of TEPCO’s purification system that found it works efficiently to remove certain radionuclides. (Lehto’s earlier research played a role in the development of the system.) Tritium is “not completely harmless,” he told me, but the threat is “very minor.” The release of purified wastewater into the sea will not, practically speaking, “cause any radiological problem to any living organism.” As for carbon-14, the Japanese government says its concentration in even the untreated wastewater is, at most, just one-tenth the country’s regulatory standards.
Opponents point to other potential problems. Greenpeace Japan says the biological impacts of releasing different radionuclides into the water, including strontium-90 and iodine-129, have been ignored. (When asked about these radionuclides, a spokesperson for the utility told me that the dirty water is “treated with cesium/strontium-filtering equipment to remove most of the contamination” and then subsequently processed to remove “most of the remaining nuclides except for tritium.”) Last December, the Virginia-based National Association of Marine Laboratories put out a position paper arguing that neither TEPCO nor the Japanese government has provided “adequate and accurate scientific data” to demonstrate the project’s safety, and alleged that there are “flaws in sampling protocols, statistical design, sample analyses, and assumptions.” (TEPCO did not respond to a request for comment on these claims.)
If, as these groups worry, the water from Fukushima does end up contaminating the ocean, scientific proof could be hard to find. In 2019, for example, scientists reported the results of a study that had begun eight years earlier, to monitor water near San Diego for iodine-129 released by the Fukushima meltdown. None was found, in spite of expectations based on ocean currents. When the scientists checked elsewhere on the West Coast, they found high levels of iodine-129 in the Columbia River in Washington—but Fukushima was not to blame. The source of that contamination was the nearby site where plutonium had been produced for the nuclear bomb that the U.S. dropped on Nagasaki.
Concerns about the safety of the water release persist in part because of TEPCO’s history of wavering transparency. In 2016, for instance, a commission tasked with investigating the utility’s actions during the 2011 disaster found that its leader at the time told staff not to use the term core meltdown. Even now, the company has put out analyses of the contents of only three-fifths of the dirty-water storage tanks on-site, Ken Buesseler, the director of the Center for Marine and Environmental Radioactivity at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, told me earlier this summer. Japan’s environmental ministry maintains that 62 radionuclides other than tritium can be sufficiently removed from the wastewater using TEPCO’s filtration system, but Buesseler believes that not enough is known about the levels of those contaminants in all of the tanks to make this claim. Instead of flushing the water now, he said, it should first be completely analyzed, and then alternatives to dumping, such as longer on-site storage or using the water to make concrete for tsunami barriers, should be considered.
It looks like that radioactive ship has sailed, however. The release that began in August is expected to continue for as long as the plant decommissioning lasts, which means that contaminated water will continue to flow out to the Pacific Ocean at least until the 2050s. In this case, the argument over relative risks—and whether Fukushima’s dirty water will ever be made clean enough for dumping to proceed—has already been decided. But parallel, and unresolved, debates attend to nuclear power on the whole. Leaving aside the wisdom of building nuclear reactors in an archipelago prone to earthquakes and tsunami, plants such as Daiichi provide cleaner energy than fossil-fuel facilities, and proponents say they’re vital to the process of decarbonizing the economy.
Some 60 nuclear reactors are under construction around the world and will join the hundreds of others that now deliver about 10 percent of global electricity, according to the World Nuclear Association. Meltdowns like the one that happened in Fukushima in 2011, or at Chernobyl in 1986, are very rare. The WNA says that these are the only major accidents to have occurred in 18,500 cumulative reactor-years of commercial operations, and that reactor design is always improving. But the possibility of disaster, remote as it may be in any given year, is ever-present. For instance, the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station,
’s largest, has been threatened by military strikes and loss of electricity during the war in Ukraine, increasing the chances of meltdown. It took just 25 years for an accident at the scale of Chernobyl’s to be repeated.
“We are faced with a difficult choice, either to continue using nuclear power while accepting that a major accident is likely to occur somewhere every 20 or 30 years, or to forgo its possible role in helping slow climate change that will make large swaths of the globe uninhabitable in coming decades,” says Azby Brown, the lead researcher at Safecast, a nonprofit environmental-monitoring group that began tracking radiation from Fukushima in 2011.
The Fukushima water release underscores the fact that the risks associated with nuclear energy are never zero and that dealing with nuclear waste is a dangerous, long-term undertaking where mistakes can be extremely costly. TEPCO and the Japanese government made a difficult, unpopular decision to flush the water. In the next few decades, they will have to show that it was the right thing to do.
When I first started surfing, as a teenager in Honolulu in 1966, my uncle would clear a way for me through the big, intimidating men on long, heavy surfboards—men who vastly outnumbered women in the fabled waves at Queen’s surf break in Waikiki.
Back then, I didn’t see the irony in men dominating a break named for a powerful woman—Queen Lydia Lili‘uokalani, whose cottage had once stood on that very beach. As far as I knew, surfing had always been a man’s sport, one that girls like me were just breaking into. Only later did I learn that women had been surfing since the very beginning, but had been driven out of the sport as it became popular.
In the 19th century, Lili‘uokalani’s own niece Princess Victoria Ka‘iulani famously loved to surf. Long before that, Kelea, a chief of Maui before Europeans first reached the islands, was famous for her surfing, which she had a reputation for loving more than any man. Queen Nāmāhānaʻi Kaleleokalani was “one of the most expert” surfers that the British explorer Peter Puget observed when he traveled to Maui in 1794. “The surf that brought her into the beach was immensely high,” Puget wrote. “On its top she came, floating on a broad board till the break[er] had nearly reached the rocks; she then suddenly turned.” Nāmāhāna’s daughter Ka‘ahumanu was also a surfer, and paddled out with her husband, King Kamehameha I, at the wild cliff breaks of the Big Island’s Kohala coast. “The surfing places were constantly filled with men and women,” the historian John Papa Ī‘ī wrote in 1870. As a boy, he had served in the royal court. Under the Hawaiian kingdom’s traditional kapu system, women could be put to death for eating at the same table as men. But in the surf, men and women had always ridden as equals, on the same waves.
Sometimes the wahine outsurfed the kane. In a contest held in Lahaina in 1887, the favorite, Poepoe, was challenged by his wife, Nakookoo, who shot “like a flying fish through the whitening foam, jostle[d] the champion on his wonted plank of victory, and came in foremost amid the outcries of a delighted multitude glad that the woman had won,” according to a local newspaper at the time.
But generations later, when I started paddling out to my neighborhood break off Diamond Head, I was often the only girl, and the boys blocked me and pushed me off waves, violating all the rules of etiquette that Uncle Shippy had taught me. Worse were the men in their 20s and older who tried to put the moves on me. They would usually back off when I gave them the stink eye and paddled away. But I remember one sunburned tourist who kept paddling after me until I yelled at him to get lost. “Wow,” he responded. “How’d you ever learn to speak such perfect English?” I am hapa, half Asian and half white, but in his eyes I was one of the brown-skinned, dark-haired Native girls who’d been objects of fantasy to outsiders since Europeans first arrived in Hawaii in 1778. Tourists still expected to find us speaking broken English, wearing grass skirts, living in grass huts. But not surfing. Go figure.
The backlash against women surfers took hold in the 1960s, after, ironically, popular books and Hollywood films about a California surfer girl named Gidget had launched the sport as a commercialized lifestyle trend, stoked by the music of the Beach Boys. Men muscled women aside, seizing control of surf contests, magazines, and sponsorship opportunities, and appropriating and revising surf history, stigmatizing women as weaker and less interesting to watch. A seminal 1966 documentary, The Endless Summer, glorified men from California on a round-the-world surf safari while relegating women to supporting positions in bikinis on the beach. California had claimed Hawaii’s endemic sport and narrowed it to exclude women, and was selling it back to us.
Men’s and women’s contests were held at different breaks. The most prestigious and mediagenic venues, such as the tubing waves at the surf break known as Banzai Pipeline and the giant Waimea Bay—both on Oahu’s North Shore—were deemed off-limits to women as too difficult and dangerous. This became a self-fulfilling prophecy, the women’s-surf-event organizer Betty Depolito points out, as women, lacking sponsorships and earning only a fraction of the prize money paid to men, and sometimes none at all, couldn’t afford to travel and invest the time to gain experience at these crowded, contentious breaks. “They say there aren’t enough women, but the reason why is women don’t get the opportunities,” Depolito told me.
More than 50 years since I first put up with sexist treatment in the water, widespread dismissal, intimidation, bullying, and sexual harassment persist. Male surfers outnumber female surfers four to one worldwide, according to the International Surfing Association. In a video that went viral in April, a man drops in on the pro surfer Sara Taylor in Bali; to avoid being hit, she deftly pushes him out of her way and coolly finishes her ride, whereupon a friend of his paddles up and punches her, hard, in the back of the head, driving her underwater.
Yet there is some cause for optimism. In 2017, the World Surf League held its first big-wave contest for women, alongside the men’s, at Maui’s Peahi, the famous break more popularly known as Jaws. In 2019, women’s-surfing advocates pressed the city and county of Honolulu to add gender equity as a criterion in permitting surf events at North Shore beach parks. That same year, the World Surf League began paying equal prize money to both genders. (Until then, men’s-event winners were awarded $100,000, while women were awarded $60,000.) However, Depolito notes, there are berths for only half as many women as men on the championship tour, so more money overall remains available to men.
Last year, the World Surf League established equal venues, holding a women’s-championship-tour contest at Pipeline for the first time ever; at nearby Sunset Beach for the first time in 20 years; and at Teahupo‘o, in Tahiti, for the first time in 16 years. (Still, the women are sent out in inferior conditions, while the best waves are reserved for men.) In January of this year, the sport’s biggest glass ceiling broke when six women surfed (with 34 men) in the Super Bowl of Surfing, the Eddie Aikau Big-Wave Invitational at Waimea Bay. But another event, Depolito’s Women of the Bay contest at Waimea, has still never been held, because the Eddie permit claims the three-month winter window for waves of sufficient size, coinciding with the time of year when monster surf rolls up to Oahu’s North Shore.
“Having some 100 percent women’s surfer events will get more women surfing, which is a good thing,” the city’s parks director, Laura Thielen, said in one public meeting. (After some men protested the notion of women-only competitions, Thielen quoted Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s reply, upon being asked when there would be enough women on the Supreme Court: “When there are nine.”)
This month, when the world-championship tour culminates with a final surf-off in San Clemente, California, I will be rooting for Honolulu’s hometown hero, Carissa Kainani Moore. Moore won the women’s gold medal in the first Olympic surfing event, in 2021. For more than a decade, she and her generation have led a resurgence in women’s surfing, riding in the wake of pioneers who have been fighting for equality for more than 60 years. But there’s still a long way to go. As many surfers have told me, our offshore-surf lineups are a microcosm of a society in which women still have to fight to be taken seriously far too often.
“Go on any wave,” a fellow surfer told me the other day, but when I paddled for a nice one, he couldn’t help himself—he cut me off.
This essay was adapted from Pennybacker’s book Surfing Sisterhood Hawai‘i: Wahine Reclaiming the Waves.
For most people, Labor Day weekend was a time for rest and relaxation with friends and family. But for Elon Musk and countless users on Twitter, it was an opportunity to denounce a Jewish organization as the source of their sorrows.
Over the past several days, hundreds of thousands of posts on X, the site formerly known as Twitter, have assailed the Anti-Defamation League, the premier Jewish civil-rights organization, under the hashtag #BanTheADL. Ostensibly, the campaign is a response to the ADL’s persistent public pressure on Twitter to remove bigotry from its platform, on the grounds that the organization’s activism is censorious and causing advertisers to abandon the site. But in practice, as even a cursory glance at #BanTheADL’s many bigoted boosters reveals, the viral vilification is not about anything the ADL has done; it’s about whom the group represents.
Like any organization, the ADL is not above reproach. I’ve written critically about some of its well-meaning but misguided social-media-moderation efforts, and am to the group’s left on questions of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. On the right, politically conservative Jews have long taken issue with the ADL’s more progressive stances. But none of this is what is driving the current consternation on Twitter.
This is readily apparent from Musk’s own tweets on the matter, which have amplified the anti-ADL attacks to millions of readers. Far from offering a considered critique of the organization, the bombastic billionaire has instead circulated cartoonish conspiracy theories about it. “The ADL, because they are so aggressive in their demands to ban social media accounts for even minor infractions, are ironically the biggest generators of anti-Semitism on this platform,” Musk wrote yesterday. Abuse of Jews on his site, he argued, is the consequence of Jews complaining about the abuse. (Chronology does not appear to be his strong suit.) Musk later insinuated that organizations like the ADL may be “complicit” in covertly creating the bigoted accounts they criticize. This is not a rational critique of the ADL’s advocacy; it is an irrational attempt to blame the Jewish group for Twitter’s failings. Musk is not shy about this motive behind his missives: The ADL “would potentially be on the hook for destroying half the value of the company, so roughly $22 billion.”
In reality, Twitter’s cratering valuation is the fault of a far more obvious offender: Musk himself. The social-media site was already in terrible shape when the entrepreneur acquired it, shedding power users and overrun by bad actors, and the new owner has done little to reverse its trajectory. Instead, he has accelerated the decline. By allowing users to pay to prioritize their replies, Musk enabled trolls and scammers to dominate the discourse with low-quality contributions that would previously have failed to gain traction. Musk has also abandoned the company’s iconic name and logo, fired much of the site’s content-moderation team, throttled its direct-messaging capability, replaced its free TweetDeck service with an inferior paid version, and repeatedly engaged conspiracy theorists and bigots on the site, most recently the self-described “raging anti-Semite” and unapologetic white nationalist who popularized #BanTheADL. It’s hard to keep brands and users on your platform when you keep making it worse. As Musk himself has said, “advertisers avoid controversy,” and he has been a one-man wrecking crew when it comes to Twitter’s—sorry, X’s—reputation.
But though the ADL is not the cause of Twitter’s continuing unprofitability, it is a convenient culprit on which to pin the platform’s many failures. Anti-Semites love to blame Jews for whatever problems they personally perceive in the world. What is being done to the ADL on Twitter right now has little to do with the group’s conduct and everything to do with the symbolic role Jews play in the conspiratorial imagination. Rather than face up to the hate that has enveloped his platform, and the errors that led to the site’s degradation, Musk is claiming that the victims have had it coming. But no matter how many Jewish scapegoats he slaughters, he will not be able to revive his platform’s flagging fortunes, which stem from his own inadequacies, not Jewish mendacity.
Sadly, the conceit that Jews cause themselves to be persecuted is not limited to Musk. Indeed, the fallacy transcends political allegiances and is as old as anti-Jewish bigotry itself. In 1938, on the eve of the Holocaust, the polling firm Gallup found that 54 percent of Americans believed that “the persecution of Jews in Europe has been partly their own fault,” while 11 percent said it was “entirely” their fault. Put another way, 65 percent of Americans blamed Europe’s Jews for their own denigration. In 2018, CNN found that nearly 20 percent of
believed that anti-Semitism was “a response to the everyday behavior of Jewish people.” Today, those on the right like Musk and his Twitter allies blame Jewish organizations such as the ADL for contemporary anti-Semitism. On the left, others such as the former head of Human Rights Watch Kenneth Roth, blame the state of Israel. (Some Jewish people even blame so-called self-hating Jews for propagating anti-Jewish prejudice.) The argument is that through their bad behavior, individuals or groups of Jews incite anti-Semitism toward all Jews.
This perspective is profoundly deranged. If you are flattened by a grand piano that falls from the sky, the cause of your death is the grand piano. But obviously, the actual cause of your death is the person who shoved it out the window and onto your head. This is the difference between a proximate cause and a root cause.
When synagogues in Europe are torched while Israel battles Hamas in Gaza, the strife overseas is the proximate cause of the anti-Semitism. Likewise, when bigots angry at the ADL’s advocacy attack Jewish people online, the organization is the proximate cause of the abuse. But the root cause is the hateful ideology of the bigot, who holds every Jew responsible for whatever any other Jew in the world might do, and uses this to justify violence against them.
This is how prejudiced people think about minorities. In their addled imagination, all Muslims are accountable for the perceived bad acts of any other Muslims, all Black people are responsible for the perceived bad acts of any other Black people, and so forth. This warped worldview, not the actions of members of the targeted community, is the root cause of bigotry. Take away this ideology, and the hatred goes away. By contrast, the ADL or Israel could disappear tomorrow, but the bigoted outlook would remain and continue to cause anti-Semitism, just as it did for centuries before either existed. Until people learn to treat Jews and other minorities as individuals, and not as stand-ins for their entire group, bigotry against them will persist.
That’s because whatever Musk might say, Jews don’t cause anti-Semitism. Anti-Semites do.
With four separate criminal cases moving forward against Donald Trump, the rule of law in America appears both commanding and startlingly fragile. Small scenes at courthouses from Florida to New York underline the ever-present threat of violence. In Fulton County, Georgia, officials set up bright-orange security barriers around the courthouse in advance of Trump’s indictment there. In Washington, D.C., fences and yellow tape surrounded
district court. Judge Tanya Chutkan, who will oversee the federal case against Trump for his efforts to overturn the election, has received increased protection from U.S. marshals—and perhaps not a moment too soon, as a Texas woman was recently arrested for calling in death threats against the judge. Trump, meanwhile, has been busy attacking Chutkan and other judges on social media, smearing the prosecutors bringing the cases against him as a “fraud squad” doing the bidding of President Joe Biden, and promising to turn the Justice Department against his foes should he win a second term.
It’s a grim picture. “The next 18 months could further undermine confidence in democracy and the rule of law,” The Washington Post warned in June. Some commentators, largely on the right, have cautioned that the investigations and prosecutions of Trump might widen cracks in the already-unstable foundations of the American public sphere. Last year, the National Review editor Rich Lowry cautioned in Politico that U.S. institutions “are ill-equipped to withstand the intense turbulence that would result from prosecuting the political champion of millions of people.” Writing more recently in National Review, John Yoo and John Shu argued that even a successful prosecution of Trump for his efforts to overturn the election “will leave many doubtful of the conviction and more distrustful of the Justice Department and the criminal-justice system, especially at a time when public trust in our institutions is already in decline.”
As the threats of violence and attacks on the justice system show, these concerns are not unfounded—far from it. But worrying about the dangers of prosecuting Trump is a bit like focusing on the risk that chemotherapy poses to a cancer patient’s health. The reasoning isn’t exactly wrong; it just begins the analysis in the wrong place. The chemotherapy might be ugly, but it isn’t the source of the problem. It’s the treatment for the underlying disease.
During Watergate, Richard Nixon’s White House Counsel, John Dean, famously told the president that the scandal had become a “cancer growing on the presidency.” Trump’s presence in American politics is similarly malignant. He has made the country meaner, uglier, and more violent. During his first term, he ate away at the protections guarding the U.S. system from authoritarianism, insisting on his own right to absolute power. For prosecutors to have ignored Trump’s provocations would have been to allow the cancer to progress—to acquiesce to his vision of a fundamentally corrupt politics in which the only constraint on power is the threat of vengeance.
Still, that doesn’t mean the prosecutions will be a pleasant experience. Even under the best of circumstances, the country’s first trial of a former president—especially a former president once again seeking office—would have been a high-stakes test of the ability of American political institutions to hold the powerful to account. Trump, though, seems dead set on making the experience as grueling as possible. Already, he may be headed for confrontations with the three separate judges who have cautioned him against using incendiary language and threatening witnesses—which hasn’t stopped him from attacking the prosecutors and complaining on Truth Social that Judge Chutkan is “VERY BIASED & UNFAIR.”
The analogy to chemotherapy has some obvious shortcomings. In 1978, Susan Sontag—who would herself later be diagnosed with cancer—argued in Illness as Metaphor against the temptation to dramatize disease, warning, “Only in the most limited sense is any historical event or problem like an illness.” Trump is not a sickness; he is a person who has the choice not to act as a destructive force.
Even so, the notion of the body politic has persisted for a reason. What would happen if the current disease were to go untreated? What might unfold if Trump continues to push the boundaries of what he can get away with—deciding, for example, to skip out on appearing at his trials? The judges and prosecutors would have to decide whether to hold Trump to the standards they would use for any other defendant and reprimand him for his insouciance—potentially, as incredible as it seems, by jailing him. A decision to hold Trump in custody before a conviction would be a bitter and contentious choice: Trump would be sure to complain about the terrible injustice and persecution he faces, eating away at public confidence in the legal system.
Likewise, there’s been a recent surge of interest in the notion that Trump may be barred from returning to the presidency under Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment, a post–Civil War provision that disqualifies onetime government officials who have “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” from returning to office. Any effort to block Trump’s candidacy on these grounds would surely involve a prolonged legal battle—and raise uncomfortable questions about the wisdom, in a democracy, of ruling out by judicial fiat a serious contender for the presidency. It would make for harsh medicine.
Yet this harsh medicine wouldn’t be necessary if Trump hadn’t brought this challenge to American democracy in the first place. And letting the challenge go unanswered would have far more destructive effects. The idea of the body politic, and the risks of its decay, is a very old one. Trump’s actions are the source of its current illness, and though the treatment may seem extreme—and have unpleasant side effects—it’s what’s needed to stop the disease from taking over.
The general manager of a Quality Inn in Absecon, New Jersey, noticed a bizarre trend at her hotel: a mysterious blue substance had seemingly been airdropped into the hotel's pool, causing it to turn a radioactive shade of green.
As The New York Times reports, it wasn't a sudden algae bloom or bacterial infection. It was a 45-year-old man, who thought it was hilarious to use a drone to contaminate nearby pools with packets of Sea Dye, a chemical that colors the water to aid during water rescues.
It's a bizarre instance of a prank gone wrong — but as it turns out, it was general manager Sandra Woolstion, who had the last laugh.
Woolstion informed Jason Kiamos, a detective at the Galloway Township Police Department, of the situation (the pool turned green for the first time in June). Woolstion and her team had to drain the pool, clean it, and refill it several times over this summer.
It didn't take long for the police department to track down a drone flying between the Quality Inn and a nearby business. Patrick Spina, the owner of said business, was arrested and charged with multiple counts of criminal mischief and harassment, Kiamos told the NYT.
"Sandra, we made the arrest," he wrote Woolstion after taking Spina into custody.
And the arrest couldn't have come at a better time. Over the last week alone, Woolstion had to deal with a green pool on two consecutive days.
"He was getting too happy with doing it," she told the NYT.
For now, Woolstion is happy she doesn't have to refill the pool every time, something that has incurred her almost $20,000 in additional costs over the summer.
"It was just more than we bargained for," she added.
The post Man Arrested for Dropping Chemical Into Swimming Pools Using Drone appeared first on Futurism.
Water could play a crucial role in reducing global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, according to new research.
A team led by A. Shoji Hall, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering and an associate researcher with the Ralph O’Connor Sustainable Energy Institute (ROSEI) at Johns Hopkins University, has developed a new strategy that optimizes water availability to improve the efficiency of the electrochemical conversion of CO2 into valuable chemical products such as ethylene and ethanol.
Their results appear in Nature Catalysis.
“This could spark the advent of more efficient methods for converting CO2 into valuable chemicals and fuels,” says Hall, who worked on the study with first author Nick Zhang, a PhD candidate in the materials science and engineering department.
“Our discovery not only bolsters efforts to combat climate change but also reveals fresh opportunities within the green chemistry and sustainable energy sectors. In essence, this research could play a key role in our transition towards a more sustainable and environmentally conscious future.”
The usual process for conversions like this involves copper metal and electricity to convert CO2, but that resulted in producing a lot of methane and carbon monoxide. Hall decided to look at how water could change the equation because it’s a universal solvent and is abundant and non-toxic.
The group’s approach focuses on manipulating the thermodynamic activity of water in highly concentrated salt solutions. The researchers ran electricity through CO2-saturated water, gradually reducing the concentration of the water, and found that lowering the amount of water activity—in other words, the availability of water molecules in an interaction—resulted in the production of more ethanol and ethylene with less methane and carbon monoxide emissions. This was the result of CO, a key intermediate in the reaction, sticking to the copper surface, sparking the chemical reactions that produced the chemicals that Hall and his group were after.
“This implies that water activity plays a pivotal role in enhancing CO surface coverage and promoting C-C coupling, leading to the creation of desirable C2 products,” Hall says.
While ethanol and propranol are potential products, Hall identifies ethylene as the primary form of carbon being generated. Ethylene is valued in the manufacturing sector with a variety of potential applications, including serving as the foundational ingredient for an array of materials including polyethylene, ethylene oxide, and ethylene glycol. Global demand for ethylene approached 180 million metric tons as recently as 2018.
Hall believes the findings have the potential to be particularly useful in reducing the amount of CO2 emitted by industrial activity, which comprises more than 30% of total global emissions of carbon dioxide.
“The significance of our findings is anchored in their potential applications within the realm of CO2 reduction,” Hall says. “Our study presents a substantial stride forward by unveiling a strategic approach to optimizing the electrochemical reduction of CO2 into coveted C2+ products. Given that water serves as a universal solvent, understanding its central role in regulating electrochemical reactivity has transformative implications.”
Additional coauthors are from Johns Hopkins and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
The National Science Foundation funded the study.
Source: Johns Hopkins University
Sphericalness is ‘likely to have been produced intentionally’ – but why it was done remains a mystery
Early ancestors of humans 1.4m years ago deliberately made stones into spheres, according to a study – though what the prehistoric people used the balls for remains a mystery.
Archaeologists have long debated exactly how the tennis ball-sized “spheroids” were created. Did early hominins intentionally chip away at them with the aim of crafting a perfect sphere, or were they merely the accidental byproduct of repeatedly smashing the stones like ancient hammers?Continue reading…
- Earlier this summer, Rubén Gallego, an Arizona state representative, introduced a bill to amend the Stafford Act to include extreme heat in its list of qualifying incidents for a major disaster declaration.
- The Biden administration last month rolled out a new, real-time information system to map emergency medical responses to heat-related illness across the country and some heat-related deaths.
States face challenges getting federal aid amid dwindling Fema funds and laws that don’t consider heat a climate disaster
The spiraling costs of extreme weather in the US are hitting hard as more than 60 million
are under heat alerts this week, experts say, even though federal law does not explicitly consider heatwaves to be climate disasters.
Temperatures on Tuesday climbed toward record highs across the north-east, upper midwest and mid-Atlantic, with the south also bracing for soaring temperatures later in the week.Continue reading…
Post-Brexit return to £85bn scheme discussed this week, say sources, and is set to be announced on Thursday
Britain is to rejoin the EU’s flagship £85bn science research programme, Horizon
, in a long-anticipated deal welcomed by scientists.
Britain’s membership of Horizon, which funds research projects tackling crucial issues from the climate crisis to terminal diseases and improving food and energy security, was agreed as part of the post-Brexit trade deal in 2020. But it was never ratified in a tit-for-tat row between the EU and
over Northern Ireland Brexit arrangements.Continue reading…
Tiny structures are not identical to human embryos, but could have various uses in medical research
Researchers have created “complete” models of human embryos from stem cells in the lab and grown them outside the womb, in work that paves the way for advances in fertility, pharmaceutical testing and transplants.
The tiny balls of tissue were made by combining stem cells that arranged themselves into structures that mimic the 3D organisation of all the known features found in human embryos from one to two weeks old.Continue reading…
- Britain Admits Defeat in Controversial Online Safety Bill
-based startup called SpaceBorn United is envisioning a distant future in which conceiving and raising a child in space is not only feasible but safe.
As such, the company has developed a miniaturized in-vitro fertilization (IVF) and embryo incubator that it hopes to launch into space soon.
"If we want to have human settlements, for example, on Mars, and if we want to make those settlements really independent, that requires solving the reproduction challenge," SpaceBorn United CEO Egbert Edelbroek told the BBC.
The idea is to skip the process of natural conception in space entirely as it's "ethically and medically not a good idea," as Edelbroek told the broadcaster.
He pointed to research suggesting that conceiving a child in space could be inherently risky. Pregnancy could suffer from everything from the harmful effects of space radiation to potential changes in the structural formation of human embryos in a weightless environment.
While initially interested in learning whether the partial gravity levels of Mars would allow a human embryo to develop, SpaceBorn has since turned its attention to improving IVF back on Earth.
"Doing IVF in space at different gravity levels will provide crucial insights that can increase the success of IVF treatments," Edelbroek told the broadcaster.
The company has built what Edelbroek described as a CD-ROM-sized prototype that takes advantage of microfluidic technologies to shrink the existing apparatus required for IVF. This disc spins to simulate the effects of an Earth-like gravity.
"Different chambers hold sperm fluids and female eggs, and you can program the complete conception process on that disc," Edelbroek told the BBC. "Our first prototype is finished, ready to go into space."
But the company is still many years away from conceiving humans in space — that is, if it ever gets regulatory approval for such an endeavor. Human embryo testing is a highly controversial area of research, and international guidelines limit the culturing of human embryos to just 14 days.
The company's series of planned ARTIS (assisted reproductive technology in space) missions, tentatively scheduled to launch into space over the next five years, will first involve mouse cells. Subsequent missions — that is, if the company gets the green light — will involve human cells.
It's a monumental challenge since having a living being survive inside of an artificial womb back on Earth has already proven incredibly difficult. Of course, a hostile, microgravity environment only heightens this challenge considerably.
So far, SpaceBorn has dropped a test capsule from a height of 12.4 miles to study the effects radiation can have on any future samples sent to space.
If everything goes according to plan, the company wants to eventually send human reproductive cells into space, fertilize them, and start developing them using artificial gravity, according to its website.
"If embryos are approved to place back in the natural womb(s) the pregnancy period and birth will occur on Earth," the website reads.
It's a moonshot of a plan that's as ambitious as it is ethically contentious.
But to Eldebroek, that shouldn't stop us from experimenting with new ways of reproducing in space, a topic that has been particularly relevant given the immense interest and investment in space tourism.
While billionaires have doubled down on developing new ways for humans, including paying customers, to spend time in space and on the surface of other planets, companies have failed to consider the need for the long-term survival of our species far away from home, Eldebroek argued.
"But it's pretty pointless to spend all those billions of dollars and effort on preparing settlements on Mars if you cannot fix the reproductive challenge," he told the BBC.
"There will be people living there — so there’s a life science part that has been in the margins," he added.
More on conception in space: Scientists Issue Warning About Sex in Space
The post Startup Planning to Launch IVF and Embryo Incubator Into Space appeared first on Futurism.
Researchers have developed a fully biodegradable, reusable, and recyclable material to replace the wasteful concrete formwork traditionally used across the construction industry.
The base of this material is upcycled sawdust. Millions of tons of sawdust waste are created each year from the 15 billion cut trees and often burned or dumped in landfills left to contribute to environmental pollution.
The BioMatters team at the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning and Digital Architecture Research & Technology (DART) Laboratory at the University of Michigan is making productive use of this readily available resource. Currently, they are using sawdust created at the Fabrication Laboratory at Taubman.
“We have made a recyclable, all natural biomaterial which is made out of sawdust. Other sawdust-based solutions are using other petroleum-based polymers—we use biopolymers which are completely decomposable,” says Muhammad Dayyem Khan, researcher at the DART laboratory. “And the biggest thing is it’s very easy to recycle and reuse.”
Led by DART director Mania Aghaei Meibodi, along with researchers Tharanesh Varadharajan, Zachary Keller, and Khan, the team proposes a novel method that couples robotic 3D printing of the wood-based material with incremental set-on-demand concrete casting to create zero-waste freeform concrete structures. The 3D-printed wood formwork shapes the concrete during casting, and the concrete stabilizes the wood to prevent deformation.
Once the concrete cures, the formwork is removed and fully recycled by grinding and rehydrating the material with water, resulting in a nearly zero-waste formwork solution.
“When the sawdust decomposes, it is producing fatty acids, lignin, which causes toxicity in water. And once it starts contaminating water, it has its effects on smaller wildlife, microbes, and a broad range of organisms. And with sawdust being extremely flammable, its potential contribution to wildfires is very high,” Khan says.
This solution directly addresses significant waste and pollution contributions of the concrete industry where formwork constitutes 40% of concrete construction expenses. Traditionally made from wood and discarded once deformed, formwork adds to the negative environmental impact of concrete construction.
“The amount of sawdust that is being produced out there—it is a huge chunk of material that is just being dumped or burned,” Khan says. “So rather than burning it up and generating more CO2 emissions, it is so much better that we make it into a material that is actually capable of being used again and again.”
This research is paving the way for sustainable construction practices that reduce waste, pollution, and resource consumption in the concrete industry. By upcycling this unused byproduct of the wood industry, the project represents a significant step toward environmentally friendly and efficient concrete construction methods.
Source: University of Michigan
The post Sawdust and 3D printing combine for reusable building material appeared first on Futurity.
Some people live and die with their favorite sports teams, but there are things you can do so a loss doesn’t ruin your whole week, says Craig Cypher.
Why do we feel so strongly about our teams? And is there a way to avoid the deep letdown of a loss?
Here, Cypher, a certified mental performance consultant and expert in performance psychology at the University of Rochester Medicine Orthopaedics and Physical Performance, shares insight into the emotions we feel as avid sports fans—and how to always enjoy the game, even when it ends badly:
The post Why are we so invested in our favorite sports teams? appeared first on Futurity.
In 1848, when Louis Pasteur was a young chemist still years away from discovering how to sterilize milk, he discovered something peculiar about crystals that accidentally formed when an industrial chemist boiled wine for too long. Half of the crystals were recognizably tartaric acid, an industrially useful salt that grew naturally on the walls of wine barrels. The other crystals had exactly the…
The latest contrarian crowd pleaser from Soon et al (2023) is just the latest repetition of the old “it was the sun wot done it” trope that Willie Soon and his colleagues have been pushing for decades. There is literally nothing new under the sun.
Before diving into the specific artifices in the latest paper, a little trip down history lane might be fun to set the context…
“It’s the Sun”
Solar variability as a potential cause for climate change has a long (and somewhat dubious) history in climate science – going back at least to the poor statistics and over-confident claims of William Herschel (Love,2013). However, the searching for (and finding!) of solar correlations in all manner of climate records (and non-climate records) has been a staple of the ABC (‘Anything-but-CO2‘) crowd since the 1980s.
A particular low-light was the publication in Science [!] by Friis-Christensen and Lassen (1991) of a seemingly impressive correlation between solar cycle length (SCL, the time between successive solar minima or maxima) and global temperatures. This predated the modern social media ecosystem and increasingly open science methodologies and so was perhaps not as scrutinized as a similar paper would be today, but the (still uncorrected!) correlation was marred by an unreported shift in the smoothing method towards the end of the series (Laut and Gundermann, 2000). Purported updates to these series were themselves plagued by arithmetic errors which negated their conclusions (Laut, 2003). More recent reassessments of this hypothesis – using updated sunspot cycle data, updated temperature data and analysis through to the present find no relationship between SCL and the modern rise in temperatures (Chatzistergos, 2023).
Why is this relevant? Well, back in 1993 (before the more comprehensive critiques had been published), Hoyt and Schatten put together a long-term estimate of solar activity that relied on the SCL, based on the idea from FCL91 and scaled to a finding about cycling and non-cycling stars that turned out to be wrong too (Wright, 2004). But logically, if the SCL is not relevant for temperature or solar activity, reconstructions based on SCL are not going to predictive of temperature either. Worse still, extensions of HS93 to the present using the same flawed predictors, are also not going to be useful.
Perhaps you can see where this is going, but first a quick dive into Arctic temperatures…
The Arctic Lifeboat
By the mid-1990s, it was clear that solar activity (normally defined) was not going to be able to explain the rapid rise in global temperatures since the 1970s (Thompson, 1997. And by the 2007 IPCC AR4 report, or in Lean and Rind (2008)), at best, scientists had concluded that solar activity wasn’t likely to be responsible for more than 10% or so of the long term rise in global temperature.
However, there was a lot more multi-decadal variability in the Arctic and North Atlantic than was present in the global temperature record. Indeed, it was still possible to claim in 2000 that Arctic temperatures had not yet exceeded levels in the late 1930s/early 1940s. Furthermore, if you squinted, you could perhaps convince yourself that there was a correlation to solar activity – well, at least Soon could (Soon, 2005)). And which solar reconstruction did he use? Hoyt and Schatten (1993, updated to 2000) of course! Minor inconveniences (like the Arctic temperatures leading solar activity in the 1930s, or the lack of correlation with other solar reconstructions that were available at that time, such as Lean (1995)) were not discussed.
But still, contrarians could point to Soon’s 2005 figure and claim that it was ‘the sun wot done it’ and elide over the fact that this covered just 5% of global area.
Eppure Si Riscalda
But time marches on, and what might have looked ok in 2005 (using data that only went to 2000) wasn’t looking so great in 2015:
So now there are at least two problems with Soon’s hypothesis: Updated solar reconstructions don’t show as much multi-decadal variability, and none of them match the ongoing increases in temperature, even in the Arctic. Both things would need to be fixed if they want to keep using this trope!
Scafetta to the rescue!
Fortunately, the HS93 reconstruction was extended by our old friend Nicola Scafetta who (partially) used the discredited connection of SCL to global temperature to justify it (Scafetta et al, 2022, even citing the paper with the erroneous arithmetic highlighted by Laut back in 2003. His contribution was to add on the ACRIM composite TSI instead of the PMOD composite TSI post 1980, but this is irrelevant to the longer term variability which Soon found so useful for matching the Arctic temperatures at least to 2000. There’s a bit of a digression in astrology in that paper too, but that’s an issue for another day.
But pay attention here, the solar reconstruction is begin justified on the basis of a non-existent correlation to global temperature and also being used to justify a mysterious solar connection to the very different looking Arctic temperatures. How can this circle be squared?
Erin go Bragh!
The Connolly’s do their own research. Based in
one might imagine that they have an particular interest in Irish climate history which is fair enough, but the supposed ‘rural’ NH land temperature record they put together with Soon is something beyond my imagining. Indeed, I have a very hard time understanding why anyone would put together an index consisting of Irish and US rural weather stations, together with Arctic weather stations and a smattering of Chinese stations (Soon et al., 2015;Connolly et al, 2021). It’s not a good areal sample of the northern hemisphere, it’s not a good sample of rural stations – many of which exist in the rest of Europe, Australia, Southern Africa, South America etc., it’s not a good sample of long stations (again many of which exist elsewhere). Rather it seems to simply be an index of opportunity – something that keeps the multidecadal aspects of the Arctic, greatly over emphasizes the rural Irish data (which would otherwise be too areally small to matter much), includes the US rural data because it happens to have an independent database just for CONUS (?), and includes a few (non-rural) stations from China, for no obvious reason at all (AFAICT).
The details of the time series construction are also quite amazing. An areal weighting of the four regional time series might be justifiable, but that isn’t what’s done. An equal weighting of all four regions (yes, seriously) does go into the mix. But so does a series where the regions are weighted by the cosine of the average latitude of the stations (this is mathematically equivalent to assuming each region represents an equal width latitude band centered on the middle of the region, but why?). To be crystal clear, none of this makes any physical sense. However, it does seem to produce less of a warming than the pure Arctic series (which no longer works on it’s own), and retains enough multi-decadal noise to help with the correlation. Mission accomplished!
And also, let’s be clear, this mysteriously justified temperature series has been created explicitly to demonstrate a connection to the HS93 solar reconstruction – that was the case in the Soon et al (2015) paper, the Connolloy et al (2021) paper and now in this new Soon et al paper.
The labeling of this temperature series as a ‘NH rural’ time series is pure marketing – on a par with Erik the Red choosing Greenland as the name of his new colony. If they had really wanted to demonstrate this they could have validated their time series against a suitable target derived from the ERA5 reanalysis, or against totally independent satellite data for the periods of overlap – but of course, they did not.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Soon and his various colleagues have been writing and recycling this same paper for almost two decades (how ecologically friendly!). Each time there is a cherry pick of a region, a series, a blend, that somehow always manages to look similar (and increasingly divorced from any sensibly constructed time series) and mysteriously it always correlates with the same solar activity estimate. And equally predictably the paper is touted as proof that not only are all other temperature series suspect but that the one true series is driven by the sun. How reassuring.
But we have mega-oodles (the SI unit) of additional data that tell us this conclusion cannot be correct. If the sun was driving the warming, we’d see it in the stratospheric temperatures (which are cooling in line with expectations from the impact of CO2, not warming due to the supposed increase in solar activity). If the land data was contaminated by urban heating effects, we wouldn’t see similar warming in the ocean. If the surface temperature data sets were corrupted, why do they line up with the satellite data from the independent AIRS and MSU instruments? Etc.
What we have here is what happens when people are too desperate to hold on to their narrative. A correlation that was bogus when it was proposed three decades ago keeps being reanimated by ever more desperate arithmetical gymnastics and sold as something else entirely. Not only is the actual construction of the Soon et al narrative literally incredible, it contradicts dozens of independent lines of evidence.
It is bunk, and that, it appears, is as Soon as it is possible to be.
 This references an infamous UK tabloid headline from 1992.
 In the summer Eirik went to live in the land which he had discovered, and which he called Greenland, “Because,” said he, “men will desire much the more to go there if the land has a good name.” The Saga of Erik the Red
- W. Soon, R. Connolly, M. Connolly, S. Akasofu, S. Baliunas, J. Berglund, A. Bianchini, W.M. Briggs, C.J. Butler, R.G. Cionco, M. Crok, A.G. Elias, V.M. Fedorov, F. Gervais, H. Harde, G.W. Henry, D.V. Hoyt, O. Humlum, D.R. Legates, A.R. Lupo, S. Maruyama, P. Moore, M. Ogurtsov, C. ÓhAiseadha, M.J. Oliveira, S. Park, S. Qiu, G. Quinn, N. Scafetta, J. Solheim, J. Steele, L. Szarka, H.L. Tanaka, M.K. Taylor, F. Vahrenholt, V.M. Velasco Herrera, and W. Zhang, "The Detection and Attribution of Northern Hemisphere Land Surface Warming (1850–2018) in Terms of Human and Natural Factors: Challenges of Inadequate Data", Climate, vol. 11, pp. 179, 2023. http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/cli11090179
- J.J. Love, "On the insignificance of Herschel's sunspot correlation", Geophysical Research Letters, vol. 40, pp. 4171-4176, 2013. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/grl.50846
- P. Laut, and J. Gundermann, "Solar cycle lengths and climate: A reference revisited", Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics, vol. 105, pp. 27489-27492, 2000. http://dx.doi.org/10.1029/2000JA900068
- P. Laut, "Solar activity and terrestrial climate: an analysis of some purported correlations", Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics, vol. 65, pp. 801-812, 2003. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S1364-6826(03)00041-5
- T. Chatzistergos, "Is there a link between the length of the solar cycle and Earth’s temperature?", Rendiconti Lincei. Scienze Fisiche e Naturali, vol. 34, pp. 11-21, 2022. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12210-022-01127-z
- D.V. Hoyt, and K.H. Schatten, "A discussion of plausible solar irradiance variations, 1700-1992", Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics, vol. 98, pp. 18895-18906, 1993. http://dx.doi.org/10.1029/93JA01944
- J.T. Wright, "Do We Know of Any Maunder Minimum Stars?", The Astronomical Journal, vol. 128, pp. 1273-1278, 2004. http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/423221
- D.J. Thomson, "Dependence of global temperatures on atmospheric CO 2 and solar irradiance", Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 94, pp. 8370-8377, 1997. http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.94.16.8370
- J.L. Lean, and D.H. Rind, "How natural and anthropogenic influences alter global and regional surface temperatures: 1889 to 2006", Geophysical Research Letters, vol. 35, 2008. http://dx.doi.org/10.1029/2008GL034864
- W.W. Soon, "Variable solar irradiance as a plausible agent for multidecadal variations in the Arctic-wide surface air temperature record of the past 130 years", Geophysical Research Letters, vol. 32, 2005. http://dx.doi.org/10.1029/2005GL023429
- N. Scafetta, R. Willson, J. Lee, and D. Wu, "Modeling Quiet Solar Luminosity Variability from TSI Satellite Measurements and Proxy Models during 1980–2018", Remote Sensing, vol. 11, pp. 2569, 2019. http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/rs11212569
- W. Soon, R. Connolly, and M. Connolly, "Re-evaluating the role of solar variability on Northern Hemisphere temperature trends since the 19th century", Earth-Science Reviews, vol. 150, pp. 409-452, 2015. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.earscirev.2015.08.010
- R. Connolly, W. Soon, M. Connolly, S. Baliunas, J. Berglund, C.J. Butler, R.G. Cionco, A.G. Elias, V.M. Fedorov, H. Harde, G.W. Henry, D.V. Hoyt, O. Humlum, D.R. Legates, S. Lüning, N. Scafetta, J. Solheim, L. Szarka, H.V. Loon, V.M. Velasco Herrera, R.C. Willson, H. Yan, and W. Zhang, "How much has the Sun influenced Northern Hemisphere temperature trends? An ongoing debate", Research in Astronomy and Astrophysics, vol. 21, pp. 131, 2021. http://dx.doi.org/10.1088/1674-4527/21/6/131
Nature, Published online: 06 September 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-02605-6Misdirected funds could be undermining efforts to improve patient outcomes in regions that need it most.
Nature, Published online: 06 September 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-02608-3A look at the key research institutions, funders and collaborations that are driving the field forward.
Nature, Published online: 06 September 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-02610-9Rising death rates are defying global trends but the continent’s researchers are keen to lead the fightback.
Nature, Published online: 06 September 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-02606-5The country was making a key contribution before Russia’s invasion.
Nature, Published online: 06 September 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-02609-2A zealous focus on discovery should not come at the expense of improving basic intervention.
Nature, Published online: 06 September 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-02611-8A description of the terminology and methodology used in this supplement, and a guide to the functionality that is available free online at natureindex.com.
Nature, Published online: 06 September 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-02607-4From AI-enabled drug discovery to therapeutic vaccines, science is opening up fresh angles of attack against the disease.
After pressing pause on its messy foray into AI-generated content, publishing giant Gannett seems to be making use of the AI effort's downtime.
Gannett, which owns
Today in addition to hundreds of local publications including The Arizona Republic, The Detroit Free Press, and The Tennessean, entered the internet's crosshairs last week when it was discovered that the publisher was quietly rolling out AI-generated high school sports stories in its regional newspapers.
Criticism abounded. The AI-spun sports blurbs, generated by a company dubbed Lede AI and designed to sum up the scores and basic events of any given high school match-up in varying Gannett-served regions, were terrible, repetitive, and sometimes borderline illegible, clearly written by something that didn't witness the event in question. In our reporting, we also found that some of the AI-generated nonsense was being published in USA Today proper, and not just on the websites of hyperlocal Gannett-owned newspapers.
In its attempt to save face, the publisher chose to "pause" its AI machine. But Gannett seems reluctant to completely pull the plug. Case in point: rather than simply scrubbing its many pages of Lede AI-generated content clean, the publisher appears to now be updating the automated sports blurbs to "correct errors in coding, programming or style."
This rewrite effort has included updating every AI-cheffed article that's appeared in USA Today. Take, for example, this article, which was first published by The Tennessean and later circulated in USA Today. As archived, the content originally read:
The Hardin County Tigers defeated the Memphis Business Execs 48-12 in a Tennessee high school football game on Friday. Hardin County scored early and often to roll over Memphis Business 48-12 in a Tennessee high school football matchup.
As it surely goes without saying, this silly AI-produced blurb was oddly repetitive. Now, however, the human-updated content reads simply:
The Hardin County Tigers defeated the Memphis Business Execs 48-12 in a Tennessee high school football game on Friday.
Still not terribly thrilling, though at least it's more coherent.
It's not just USA Today that's been making edits. Gannett appears to be rewriting automated content across the board, an effort that's included a rewrite to the original AI-generated article that launched the internet firestorm in the first place. The nail-biting AI write-up, titled "Westerville North escapes Westerville Central in thin win in Ohio high school football action" and published in the Ohio-based Columbus Dispatch on August 18, drew wide criticism for its poorly constructed, repetitive format and use of the hilariously empty description of the local football game as a "close encounter of the athletic kind."
That original article, which you can still see for yourself in this Twitter-formerly-X screenshot, read:
The Westerville North Warriors defeated the Westerville Central Warhawks 21-12 in an Ohio high school football game on Friday.
Westerville North edged Westerville Central 21-12 in a close encounter of the athletic kind at Westerville North High on Aug. 18 in Ohio football action. Westerville North opened with a 7-0 advantage over Westerville Central through the first quarter.
The Warhawks trimmed the margin to make it 7-6 at halftime.
Westerville North jumped to a 21-6 lead heading into the final quarter.
The Warriors chalked up this decision in spite of the Warhawks' spirited fourth-quarter performance.
Very bad! Now, though, the article is noticeably trimmed up around the edges, with the notorious "close encounter of the athletic kind" line nowhere to be found:
The Westerville North Warriors defeated the Westerville Central Warhawks 21-12 in an Ohio high school football game on Friday.
Westerville North opened with a 7-0 advantage over Westerville Central through the first quarter.
The Warhawks trimmed the margin to make it 7-6 at halftime.
Westerville North jumped to a 21-6 lead heading into the final quarter.
The Warriors chalked up this decision in spite of the Warhawks' spirited fourth-quarter performance.
Still bad, but not as bad. It's like sprinkling sugar on lemon — definitely not lemonade, and you'll still make a face when you taste it, but it's slightly more palatable nonetheless.
Similar updates have been made at other Gannett publications (although, for whatever reason, newspapers have chosen to hang onto this bizarre "Rip Van Winkle imitation" line that's appeared in many of its newspapers.)
To be clear, mistakes often happen in journalism, and when they do, they should always be corrected. But the rush to patch up these many dozens of AI-generated also seems to be a clear sign of a more concerning detail: that no human eyes seriously reviewed any of this content before it was published, a frustrating feature of the messy ordeal that appears to fly in the face of USA Today's own AI ethics guidelines.
"AI-generated content must be verified for accuracy and actuality," reads a small bullet point in the network's AI policy, "before being used in reporting."
And though it may well be true that none of the articles in question were expressly wrong about local sports scores, this footnote surely implies that human editors have reviewed all AI-generated material that winds up in the USA Today network's content before it's published.
Based on Gannett's many mistakes, and the subsequent effort to retroactively patch up the AI synopses, it's unlikely that any such human review was taking place.
Asked to comment on whether any of its AI-generated material had been vetted by a human before it was published, Gannett declined, instead offering the same statement it did when we interviewed one of its human sports writers, who called the AI content "embarrassing."
"In addition to adding hundreds of reporting jobs across the country, we have been experimenting with automation and AI to build tools for our journalists and add content for our readers," the company said. "We have paused the high school sports LedeAI experiment in all local markets where they were published and will continue to evaluate vendors as we refine processes to ensure all the news and information we provide meets the highest journalistic standards."
Sure, though we might suggest that the next time a major publisher is hoping to adhere to the "highest" of journalistic standards, they might avoid pressing auto-publish — and skipping any semblance of an editing process — on generative AI material in the first place. Just a thought.
More on AI and local sports journalism: USA Today and Many Other Newspapers Are Churning Out Terrible AI-Generated Sports Stories
The post USA Today Updates Every AI-Generated Sports Article to Correct “Errors” appeared first on Futurism.
- In 2014, a California law required statewide methane emissions to be cut by 40% by 2030 from 2013 levels.
There's another subset of technology that I feel no one talks about that is the technology of the future, at least for people like me. Technology that aids spiritual advancements or the power of the mind. Psychokinesis, teleportation, telepathy and other mind powers that we consider to be out of reach but can very possibly exist in future once advancements in physics have been made. I strongly believe that we just have not delved deep enough into electromagnetic vibrations, the impact of electricity and frequencies. We need a new Nicola Tesla. Does anyone share the same ideologies or has arguments for or against the development of spiritual tech in the future? I'm looking for like-minded people to challenge this or add their ideas to it.
Ownership is just a story that we tell each other, a social construct. If people don’t agree on these stories, the concept loses its inherent power. This is true of owning land, money, cars, houses, art, mines, oil-wells, factories, corporations, relationships, loyalties, copyrights, brands, patents or anything else that is owned by you, me or those ever-superior “others”.
In a society where change occurs gradually, we become accustomed to the narratives that bind us together and determine who possesses significant wealth, resources, attention, power, fame, and other ego-gratifying treasures, and who has access to only meager portions of these.
However, when societies change and new types of goods appear, there might be no agreement about who gets to own these. For example, while the concept of owning ideas and words might have ancient roots, it was only a few centuries ago, with the invention of the printing press, that we all agreed to respect copyrights. We took that change in our stride.
Now, everything is changing very fast and fights are starting to break out about who should own the new goods capable of consolidating power and defining who enjoys abundance and who is left with mere scraps. Many of us have been creating content these last few decades, but now, AI can suck it all up and create something very valuable. There are lots of jobs to be lost and lots of money to be made. But the fires driving this newfound wealth need to be stoked with vast quantities of previously public words, images, video, ideas and recognizable faces and icons.
We can’t rely on the stories about who owns what, because everything has changed. After ingestion by the AI, our content might look different and we don’t even know, for sure, who ate whose food.
Here’s one example of how this problem is playing out. The owners of Reddit and Twitter (X) are both really angry that the AI has been sucking up all the content on their sites. They want to own all these words and sell them for a lot of money or to train their own AIs. But wait, who created all these words? When we tweeted and posted, we thought that these were our words, spoken on a public platform. We flocked here for the convenience, avoiding the need to maintain our personal websites or navigate cumbersome message boards. We never agreed that we were giving away exclusive rights to our thoughts.
Perhaps the power of AI should be given back to all of us. Perhaps it should be distributed to every person on the planet with adequate safeguards to prevent those with malicious intent from wielding new powers. Yet no matter how crucial these safeguards are, they shouldn't justify the bickering among the affluent and influential over how to consolidate this newfound authority for themselves.
A final message to the lawmakers and judges who will adjudicate these disputes: Maybe you should retain all the wealth and resources for yourselves. After all, without your diligence, we wouldn't have achieved the necessary stability to build all this in the first place. Perhaps it should rightfully belong to you after all.
But, of course, I could be wrong.
- One such partner is the Beijing bureau of China's Ministry of State Security, the agency responsible for many of the country's most aggressive state-sponsored hacking operations in recent years, from spy campaigns to disruptive cyberattacks.
- And the preventable 1912 sinking of the Titanic resulted in new regulations on lifeboats, safety audits, and on-ship radios.
The robot revolution began long ago, and so did the killing. One day in 1979, a robot at a Ford Motor Company casting plant malfunctioned—human workers determined that it was not going fast enough. And so 25-year-old Robert Williams was asked to climb into a storage rack to help move things along. The one-ton robot continued to work silently, smashing into Williams’s head and instantly killing him. This was reportedly the first incident in which a robot killed a human; many more would follow.
At Kawasaki Heavy Industries in 1981, Kenji Urada died in similar circumstances. A malfunctioning robot he went to inspect killed him when he obstructed its path, according to Gabriel Hallevy in his 2013 book, When Robots Kill: Artificial Intelligence Under Criminal Law. As Hallevy puts it, the robot simply determined that “the most efficient way to eliminate the threat was to push the worker into an adjacent machine.” From 1992 to 2017, workplace robots were responsible for 41 recorded deaths in
—and that’s likely an underestimate, especially when you consider knock-on effects from automation, such as job loss. A robotic anti-aircraft cannon killed nine South African soldiers in 2007 when a possible software failure led the machine to swing itself wildly and fire dozens of lethal rounds in less than a second. In a 2018 trial, a medical robot was implicated in killing Stephen Pettitt during a routine operation that had occurred a few years earlier.
You get the picture. Robots—“intelligent” and not—have been killing people for decades. And the development of more advanced artificial intelligence has only increased the potential for machines to cause harm. Self-driving cars are already on American streets, and robotic “dogs” are being used by law enforcement. Computerized systems are being given the capabilities to use tools, allowing them to directly affect the physical world. Why worry about the theoretical emergence of an all-powerful, superintelligent program when more immediate problems are at our doorstep? Regulation must push companies toward safe innovation and innovation in safety. We are not there yet.
Historically, major disasters have needed to occur to spur regulation—the types of disasters we would ideally foresee and avoid in today’s AI paradigm. The 1905 Grover Shoe Factory disaster led to regulations governing the safe operation of steam boilers. At the time, companies claimed that large steam-automation machines were too complex to rush safety regulations. This, of course, led to overlooked safety flaws and escalating disasters. It wasn’t until the American Society of Mechanical Engineers demanded risk analysis and transparency that dangers from these huge tanks of boiling water, once considered mystifying, were made easily understandable. The 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire led to regulations on sprinkler systems and emergency exits. And the preventable 1912 sinking of the Titanic resulted in new regulations on lifeboats, safety audits, and on-ship radios.
Perhaps the best analogy is the evolution of the Federal Aviation Administration. Fatalities in the first decades of aviation forced regulation, which required new developments in both law and technology. Starting with the Air Commerce Act of 1926, Congress recognized that the integration of aerospace tech into people’s lives and our economy demanded the highest scrutiny. Today, every airline crash is closely examined, motivating new technologies and procedures.
Any regulation of industrial robots stems from existing industrial regulation, which has been evolving for many decades. The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 established safety standards for machinery, and the Robotic Industries Association, now merged into the Association for Advancing Automation, has been instrumental in developing and updating specific robot-safety standards since its founding in 1974. Those standards, with obscure names such as R15.06 and ISO 10218, emphasize inherent safe design, protective measures, and rigorous risk assessments for industrial robots.
But as technology continues to change, the government needs to more clearly regulate how and when robots can be used in society. Laws need to clarify who is responsible, and what the legal consequences are, when a robot’s actions result in harm. Yes, accidents happen. But the lessons of aviation and workplace safety demonstrate that accidents are preventable when they are openly discussed and subjected to proper expert scrutiny.
AI and robotics companies don’t want this to happen. OpenAI, for example, has reportedly fought to “water down” safety regulations and reduce AI-quality requirements. According to an article in Time, it lobbied European Union officials against classifying models like ChatGPT as “high risk,” which would have brought “stringent legal requirements including transparency, traceability, and human oversight.” The reasoning was supposedly that OpenAI did not intend to put its products to high-risk use—a logical twist akin to the Titanic owners lobbying that the ship should not be inspected for lifeboats on the principle that it was a “general purpose” vessel that also could sail in warm waters where there were no icebergs and people could float for days. (OpenAI did not comment when asked about its stance on regulation; previously, it has said that “achieving our mission requires that we work to mitigate both current and longer-term risks,” and that it is working toward that goal by “collaborating with policymakers, researchers and users.”)
Large corporations have a tendency to develop computer technologies to self-servingly shift the burdens of their own shortcomings onto society at large, or to claim that safety regulations protecting society impose an unjust cost on corporations themselves, or that security baselines stifle innovation. We’ve heard it all before, and we should be extremely skeptical of such claims. Today’s AI-related robot deaths are no different from the robot accidents of the past. Those industrial robots malfunctioned, and human operators trying to assist were killed in unexpected ways. Since the first-known death resulting from the feature in January 2016, Tesla’s Autopilot has been implicated in more than 40 deaths according to official report estimates. Malfunctioning Teslas on Autopilot have deviated from their advertised capabilities by misreading road markings, suddenly veering into other cars or trees, crashing into well-marked service vehicles, or ignoring red lights, stop signs, and crosswalks. We’re concerned that AI-controlled robots already are moving beyond accidental killing in the name of efficiency and “deciding” to kill someone in order to achieve opaque and remotely controlled objectives.
As we move into a future where robots are becoming integral to our lives, we can’t forget that safety is a crucial part of innovation. True technological progress comes from applying comprehensive safety standards across technologies, even in the realm of the most futuristic and captivating robotic visions. By learning lessons from past fatalities, we can enhance safety protocols, rectify design flaws, and prevent further unnecessary loss of life.
For example, the U.K. government already sets out statements that safety matters. Lawmakers must reach further back in history to become more future-focused on what we must demand right now: modeling threats, calculating potential scenarios, enabling technical blueprints, and ensuring responsible engineering for building within parameters that protect society at large. Decades of experience have given us the empirical evidence to guide our actions toward a safer future with robots. Now we need the political will to regulate.
One sunny day in 1995, the Notorious B.I.G. sat in the passenger seat of a black Mercedes-Benz, smoking joints and talking shit. Of course, Biggie did these things on many days during his short lifetime, but on this particular day, a neighborhood friend named dream hampton was in the back seat with a video camera. Wearing Versace sunglasses and a checked purple shirt, the 23-year-old rapper—whose breakout album, Ready to Die, had come out the year before—held a chunky cellphone to his ear. He was making plans and talking about girls, riffing in his lisped woof of a voice. He laughed and brought a square of rolling paper, full of pot leaves, to his lips.
From behind the camera, hampton asked whether he intended to consume their entire bag of weed. Annoyed at the interruption, Biggie mocked her question. Hampton’s voice turned sharp. “Why are you going at me today?” she asked. “What’s the problem? Do we need to do something before we go on the road? Take this outside?” The video cut to static.
I watched the footage this past June in the basement of hampton’s house on Martha’s Vineyard. Hampton herself was upstairs. She’d said it would be weird to view her younger self with me; I was surprised that she was willing to show me the footage at all. Hampton is arguably the most significant music journalist of her generation. She started out writing for the hip-hop magazine The Source in the 1990s before becoming a contributor to Vibe and The Village Voice. As hip-hop ascended to global dominance, hampton—whose lowercase byline is inspired by the Black feminist critic bell hooks—challenged it from the inside, treating rap music with the seriousness it deserved while calling out its materialism and misogyny. She co-wrote Jay-Z’s landmark 2010 memoir; she produced the 2019 documentary that is widely credited with landing R. Kelly, the R&B star who contributed many horny refrains to rap songs, in prison after decades of unpunished sexual predation.
Yet I’d arrived two days earlier thinking that the many artists who’d crossed her path would be mostly off-limits for discussion. She has publicly, repeatedly, broken up with hip-hop. She is now primarily a filmmaker and an activist. A profile of her focused on hip-hop, she’d texted me, would be her “nightmare”—a stance that had softened only slightly by the time we met.
Her reluctance is partly a reflection of the life she leads in her early 50s. Although she was born in Detroit, and made her name in New York City, she now spends much of the year on Martha’s Vineyard. When she first visited friends there, shortly after the birth of her daughter, in 1996, she experienced a new kind of calm: “I didn’t even know what it felt like for a place to bring you peace,” she told me. Now wild turkeys wander past the rhododendrons in her yard. Her home thrums with indie rock and NPR news, not Kendrick Lamar or Ice Spice. Though hip-hop celebrated its 50th birthday this year—commemorating a legendary August 1973 party in the Bronx—she realizes that the genre isn’t exactly courting middle-aged moms. “Even if I could get down on some kneepads and do ‘WAP,’ which I can’t, it’s not for me,” she said, referring to the raunchy choreography associated with Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s 2020 hit.
But her turn away from hip-hop is also rooted in pain and frustration. She and Biggie were so close that she asked him to be her daughter’s godfather; he gave his daughter the middle name Dream. She brought him to her film classes at NYU; he gave feedback on her writing. Hampton also hassled Biggie about the sexism of his lyrics while he, out of her view, abused his girlfriend and protégé Lil’ Kim. Maybe he would have evolved; maybe he wouldn’t have—hampton will never know. A drive-by shooter killed him when he was 24, likely because of a rap beef. “I watched someone get killed who would still be alive if it wasn’t for hip-hop,” hampton told me.
As she looks out on today’s hip-hop landscape, hampton still sees plenty of the violent machismo that shaped and endangered her friend—and that she has protested in various ways since she was 19. Hip-hop, in her view, has turned out to be a tool of the same unequal, exploitative system it once defied. In the beginning, she felt that the music had a certain joy and uplift, even as it was “grounded in the funk and the mire” of the country where it was born. Rap seemed to be “reaching for something,” hampton told me, but “maybe the sin was that it was reaching to be a part of America.”
Gradually, over decades, she has focused on other ways of trying to make change: advocacy and film work, which she has always believed were truer callings for her than writing. She’s been a liaison between political causes and popular culture, helping John Legend, for instance, launch a campaign against mass incarceration in 2015. She has also directed, written, or produced activist-minded entertainment, such as Finding Justice, a 2019 BET documentary series about Black grassroots organizing, and Freshwater, a 2022 visual memoir about flooding in Detroit. These efforts have shaped law, litigation, and the thinking of everyday people.
Lately, however, hip-hop has drawn her back in. The genre’s 50th-birthday celebrations—a 12-minute Grammys medley, commemorative sneaker lines, a press conference at which New York City Mayor Eric Adams, an ex-cop, quoted Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power”—have put a gauzy sheen on a difficult history, and hampton feels obligated to offer a more complicated view. To that end, she reluctantly helped produce and direct a new Netflix docuseries about female rappers. And she has been revisiting her archives, including the Biggie footage I saw, with thoughts of how to correct unduly rosy public narratives about the dominant musical form of our time. Once again, she can’t help but talk back.
Hampton’s first editorial was so controversial that she says Spike Lee offered to lend her some bodyguards. It ran in 1991 in The Source, where hampton had been hired as a photo editor, and called out the rapper Dr. Dre for assaulting the 22-year-old TV personality Dee Barnes. Hampton described an emerging pattern of misogyny in the lyrics and behavior of hip-hop’s young male stars. In our present era of morally charged cultural criticism, the essay seems—as the Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah (a former assistant of hampton’s) put it to me—like a “letter from the future.”
Hampton brought up the article on the first night we met, to mock it. We were standing in her kitchen. Hampton was searing salmon in a cast-iron skillet; a bag of superfood powder slumped on the countertop. The house is bright and airy, with white walls and sculptural furniture. Sitting on her mantel was a Kehinde Wiley bust of a Black boy posed like Louis XVI. One bookshelf featured an “ancestor altar” with black-and-white photos of lost loved ones, including Biggie. Though she lives alone, she has a 10-foot-long dining table both here and in the apartment she keeps in Detroit, for hosting.
Hampton called her Dr. Dre editorial “shrill” and “sanctimonious.” I recited its last line, an assertion that the abuse of Black women “has no place in revolutionary music.” Hampton laughed at her own naivete. “It’s so funny!”
Her youthful belief that hip-hop could upend society, she explained, was born from growing up on the east side of Detroit as the daughter of a mechanic father and a waitress mother. While the crack epidemic turned many of her neighbors into dealers or users, she stayed inside reading bell hooks—captivated by the way hooks fused politics and culture in her criticism, and the way she centered Black women, whose perspective had for so long been sidelined. Hampton’s teen years were spent taking a bus to a magnet high school full of rich kids who threw house parties straight out of a John Hughes movie. The classism of the Reagan era was in the air, but so was a stark counterpoint, the economic deprivation of Black and brown people in
cities. “I was ashamed of being poor,” hampton said. “And hip-hop made me not ashamed.”
Rap introduced rebellious ideas to hampton’s own life. KRS‑One’s “Beef,” an anti-animal-cruelty manifesto, turned hampton into a vegetarian. A Public Enemy lyric taught her about Assata Shakur, the Black Liberation Army activist living as a fugitive in Cuba after being convicted of killing a police officer. After hampton moved to New York to study film at NYU, she co-founded a chapter of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, an activist organization inspired by Black radical figures such as Shakur. Hampton began enlisting rappers to play benefit gigs.
Journalism gave hampton a broader platform. The Source sought to document rap with the energy and ambition that Rolling Stone had brought to rock. Informed by the cool wit of Joan Didion and the cadences of rap itself, hampton filled her articles with color and incident, slang and exegesis. In one 1993 feature, she wrote that the rapper Lil Malik, suspicious of what she was scribbling in her notes, threatened to shoot her: “Gimme the gat, I’ma smoke this bitch.” Hampton was unfazed. “I’m not sure if this is the beginning of some new rhyme or if this little boy is trying to get a spanking,” she wrote.
In the male-dominated realm of hip-hop, female rap journalists had to contend with this kind of treatment from their subjects. Hampton came up among a group of “hip-hop feminists,” to use the culture writer Joan Morgan’s term—women who championed the genre while still sharply criticizing it. Even in that fearless cohort, hampton’s voice stood out for its boldness, recalls Kierna Mayo, a former editor in chief of Ebony and a longtime friend of hampton’s who also worked with her at The Source. “Dream had a certain kind of self-possession that was not easy to miss,” Mayo told me. “I remember being like, Damn, this girl is not playing games.”
Then there was her inimitable style. “Every story she wrote left an impression,” Questlove, the drummer for the Roots, told me. As a young musician, he thrilled to hampton’s work for its cinematic portrayal of a world he hoped to join—“I’m talking ’70s-Scorsese levels of description.” When a hampton column in Spin described Treach from Naughty by Nature as “one of about three people on the whole planet who gives real hugs,” Questlove made a promise to himself: One day, he’d become important enough to hug dream hampton.
Hampton really did get that close to hip-hop’s major players. She rode Jet Skis at Puffy’s house; Queen Latifah briefly hired her to work at her record label. (Hampton’s daughter, Nina, who is now in her late 20s, told me, “The only person I’ve ever seen her be starstruck about was the Property Brothers.”) A few blocks away from where hampton smoked with Biggie, the members of Digable Planets were recording jazz-inflected anthems about Black pride; hampton dated a rapper in that band, Ishmael Butler. He told me he found her “glamorous in a way, and a little aloof,” yet he was mesmerized by her patter of literary observations, political theory, and wisecracks. “She would say things to you about yourself that nobody else would. But it was always true.” He could feel their conversations seeping into his work. “She was already understanding what hip-hop was in a way that even people participating in it weren’t, in terms of social, economic, and historical context,” Butler said.
Being so enmeshed in the culture might have sanded down another writer’s edge, but hampton’s intimacy with the scene she wrote about lent her a particular authority. She came off as concerned but not condescending, always alive to artists’ intentions and environment. When commentators began to pit so-called street rappers such as Biggie against so-called conscious ones such as Digable, hampton took to The Village Voice to point out that both acts hailed from the “same hood” and voiced the same struggles. The artists’ contrasting sounds, hard and smooth, were equally valid forms of Black self-expression; both artists were responding, in their way, to life in a racist society. As hampton put it in her review, “If they differ, it’s hardly on theory.”
By the mid-’90s, national politicians were regularly inveighing against rap’s indecency, but hampton was developing a more nuanced, and bleaker, complaint. A 1996 double review of now-classic Nas and Jay-Z albums (It Was Written and Reasonable Doubt, respectively) offered a sweeping sermon on the state of hip-hop. Aesthetically, the music was at its “absolute best and most sophisticated,” but philosophically, it was stuck on “hyper-capitalism, numbness, cartoonish misogyny.” These were, in her analysis, generational pathologies, instilled by the crack era. Drugs hadn’t just brought death and incarceration to poor urban areas—they had created new classes of haves and have-nots. “My fellow tenth graders left for summer break aspiring breakdancers and returned that fall as ballers—dripping in gold,” hampton wrote. She yearned for music “about land and liberation rather than suitcases full of Benjamins and ice,” but she saw hip-hop as merely repackaging American greed and individualism.
Jay-Z, then a 26-year-old who’d started dealing drugs at age 13, had rarely been written about with such rigor. He called up hampton to chat, sparking a friendship that continues today. In 1998, hampton wrote a masterful Vibe cover story probing Jay-Z’s “murderous, enterprising” persona. It culminated with her asking if he was haunted by “the little boys who just wanted to be him” and who ended up dead or imprisoned. Jay-Z acknowledged some guilt but said, “I shake it off, you know?” Hampton wrote, “Well no, I don’t.”
Rap’s body count was, by that point, a personal source of anguish. Hampton had spent six months profiling Tupac Shakur, the West Coast firebrand who’d been raised around the same Black radicals hampton admired, and they’d become good friends. He used to tease hampton for her unruly hair: “How you get pregnant?” he’d joke. When he was killed in a still-unsolved 1996 shooting, hampton felt a selfish anger: He’d never get to meet her newborn daughter. Six months later, Biggie was murdered in what many believe was a mistaken attempt at revenge for Tupac’s death—a sickening end to a relationship that began with hampton introducing the two men on a music-video set in the early ’90s.
Her Village Voice obituaries for both rappers seethed with frustration. The Biggie essay was an intimate account of grief: “I visit Big’s mother at his condo in Teaneck and she cries a lot. Her whole chest caves in and she can’t breathe.” Hampton’s Tupac obit was more of an elegy for an idea. She lamented that Tupac didn’t “get his shit together and articulate nationalism for our generation.” She also wrote a vow that she would break and renew for years to come: “I want to say that for me hiphop is dead.”
One morning, hampton took me on a driving tour of the curving, forested roads of the Vineyard, past shingled cottages and rocky bluffs, pointing out the island’s various neighborhoods. (Over there, she said, “people wear lobsters on their pants, and they’re serious about it.”) She told me that she’d had an epiphany after we’d talked the night before. She’d been up late, thinking about Tupac, and suddenly she was thinking about her own brother, and the cowardice of men.
Tupac was on trial for sexual assault when hampton profiled him in 1994. A female fan said that the rapper and his friends had raped her in a New York hotel room; Tupac said that he’d been sleeping in another room while other men attacked her. Eventually Tupac would be convicted of groping the woman but not of raping her. At the time, hampton’s speculation was that Tupac hadn’t assaulted the accuser, but that he had been awake while the other men did, and he hadn’t intervened. When hampton accused Tupac of this over lunch, she said, he went on a sexist tirade, causing the two of them to get kicked out of the restaurant.
What she’d realized the night before our Vineyard drive is that the story of Tupac in that hotel room echoes one of her most difficult memories of her own brother. Hampton’s brother, who is one year younger than she is, recurs in her writing as an example of men absorbing hip-hop’s messages. Hampton’s 1991 review of N.W.A.’s second album of brutal gangsta rap—“When will this caveboy shit end?” she asked—closed with the image of him, “right hand on his nuts,” cranking the volume. In 2012, he appeared in a personal essay she wrote about the time a group of neighborhood bullies tried to rape her when she was in eighth grade. He had let the boys into their house and, she wrote, stayed downstairs as she fought them off.
Hampton hasn’t spoken to her brother in decades. But I called him, and he picked up on the first ring. “I feel bad for what happened,” he said, of the night hampton was attacked. He disagreed with some details of her account, saying that he entered the room a few minutes after the violence began, at which point the boys stopped. On the whole, he expressed a mix of sadness and resentment about his relationship with his sister. He’s proud of her, he said, and has followed her career from afar. But he thinks she believes that “men are the villain.”
When I told hampton that I’d talked with her brother, she replied: “Oh good. He’s alive then.” She didn’t want to relitigate the night of the assault. “I remember doing my own fighting,” she said. But she had a strong response to the accusation that she vilifies men. “That’s a Twitter-troll comment” about feminists, she said. “It’s so reductive and it’s so old.”
She told me that she doesn’t see her brother, who was a young adolescent then, as a “villain” for not fighting for her that night. In fact, she said, she tries to have sympathy for him, and for Tupac. The male tendency to band together at the expense of women has been inculcated over generations, long before rap. “I always say, I didn’t learn about ‘bitches and hos’ from hip-hop, ” she said. “I learned it from the Bible.” But she believes, as bell hooks argued, that little political progress for Black people, much less a revolution, can be accomplished without addressing sexism. Misogyny, hampton told me, is a gateway to other forms of intolerance. “If it’s possible for you to hate people in your own community,” she said, “then it’s possible for you to be corrupted in all these other ways.”
Although she has never really stopped trying to get men to rethink their programming, the effort can feel maddening. In 2012, the rapper Too $hort made a video counseling young boys to put their hands down girls’ underwear. In a dialogue published by Ebony, hampton explained to him why this was a disgusting thing to do. Too $hort said he hadn’t known, until that controversy, what sexual assault really was. Coming from a then-45-year-old rap legend, this was a rather dispiriting sign of progress.
So when hampton was approached to direct a documentary about R. Kelly’s sex crimes in 2018, she had little reason to believe that the project would change anything. Kelly’s interest in underage girls had been infamous ever since he illegally married the 15-year-old singer Aaliyah in 1994. In 2008, he was acquitted in a trial over child-pornography charges involving a video that appeared to show him urinating on a 14-year-old girl. In 2017, the journalist Jim DeRogatis reported that Kelly had led a “cult” of women whom, through abuse and emotional manipulation, he kept in virtual captivity. DeRogatis’s article was widely circulated, and yet Kelly denied the allegations and remained a major-label ticket seller.
Hampton agreed to make Surviving R. Kelly as a kind of penance. She had profiled Kelly in 2000, but she’d failed to look behind the closed doors of his studio. As she later wrote in The Hollywood Reporter, “I’d been in Jeffrey Dahmer’s kitchen and not opened the fridge.” So she set about the grueling work of getting victims to tell their stories on camera, despite Kelly’s threats to blackmail those who spoke out. The singer’s manager called in a threat to the theatrical premiere, warning that someone there had a gun and would start shooting. The event was canceled. But an average of 2.1 million people still tuned in as the six-part series aired on Lifetime in early 2019. Kelly’s behavior had been widely treated as a punch line in the past, but now public sentiment turned toward horror and fury. One woman who watched the documentary was Kim Foxx, a Chicago-area prosector who issued a call for victims to contact her. Litigation around the country soon followed. In New York, charges were filed for sex trafficking and racketeering, and Kelly received a 30-year prison sentence in June 2022.
The documentary, which arrived amid the #MeToo movement, is now invoked as evidence of what a well-formed provocation, timed to its moment, can achieve. W. Kamau Bell, who was inspired by hampton to film his own docuseries about the crimes of Bill Cosby, noted that Surviving uses long takes and in-depth interviews to depict its subjects as “fully functioning human beings, and not people who were defined by their experience with R. Kelly.” Hampton’s filmmaking transcended voyeurism by conveying an urgent message: “There’s an active crime taking place right now, and I need your help to stop it,” as Bell put it. Her uncompromising sensibility had, it seemed, made a difference.
Hampton, however, is focused squarely on what the documentary has not accomplished. Her speech, normally fluid and lively, stiffened whenever Kelly’s name came up in our conversations. “Surviving gets held up as something that had impact, right?” she said. “What they mean is that there were consequences for R. Kelly. But I would argue this: If R. Kelly had apologized, if he had owned the harm that he caused, if he had made a real attempt at restitution, then … it would have impacted the culture.” Instead, he sobbed and screamed denials at Gayle King in a March 2019 TV interview.
Hampton thinks that America’s legal system, so focused on punishment, discourages honest reckonings in cases of abuse. Kelly’s victims have been left to process what happened to them while fending off harassment by the singer’s supporters, who hampton says remain active enough that she retains a security manager. And although Kelly is finally in prison, she doesn’t see much evidence that Black women are now any more likely to be believed when they speak out about abuse.
When talking about R. Kelly, hampton brought up a seemingly unrelated incident: the shooting of Megan Thee Stallion by another rapper, Tory Lanez, in 2020. An abundance of evidence indicated that Lanez had fired a gun at Megan’s feet during an argument, and he was convicted of assault in December. (He’s since been sentenced to 10 years for the shooting.) But up until that conviction, much of the hip-hop world had coalesced around a narrative that portrayed Megan as a jilted lover of Lanez’s who had fabricated his attack on her. She wept on TV about the pain she’d experienced; Drake made a song that seemed to call her a liar. To hampton, the way that men had circled up to discredit a Black woman felt like a repudiation of everything her work represented. “You do something like Surviving or you have a moment like #MeToo, and it’s incredibly Sisyphean,” she said. “The blowback is immediate and louder than any progress that was made. So it can have you retreat to your garden.”
Hampton’s dismay is not limited to hip-hop and the patriarchy. When we spoke, she also worried about climate change, Gen Z’s mental health, and the popularity of the TV series Yellowstone. But she has a certain exuberance too, and even her darkest riffs are interspersed with jokes and recommendations. Listening to her talk, you get the feeling that great catharsis and truth are always just around the bend, after one more digression about poverty or shark attacks.
A little gloom can be useful in the idealistic world of left-wing activism. Hampton’s longtime friend Monifa Bandele—formerly a head of Time’s Up, the organization that fights workplace sexual harassment—said that hampton’s pessimism has had an unusually constructive bent. She recalled that hampton would bemoan the futility of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement’s mission to free incarcerated Black activists, and then whip up a ferociously effective publicity campaign for the group. “She sees things for what they really are,” Bandele said. “So that includes the cracks, the deficits.”
But her candor can also alienate people who would otherwise be on her side. In both social and professional settings, “I have had to tell her to bring it down a thousand,” Bandele told me. Mayo, hampton’s friend and former colleague, told me that she’s long admired that hampton was “born free—just came here without the rules, without the propensity to even understand the rules.” Yet because of that wild honesty, people have at times “questioned whether she was kind—sometimes unfairly, sometimes fairly,” Mayo said. “She is not absolved of her accountability to friends and relationships any more than any of us are.”
A few clashes have been public. In 2012, she caused a media vortex by tweeting that an album of protest music by Nas, one of the most vaunted lyricists of all time, had been largely written by the rappers Stic.man and Jay Electronica. She told me she just wanted to deflate hype around songs that aren’t as deep, politically, as they pretend to be. But in a genre where the myth of the lone genius reigns supreme, accusations of ghostwriting are explosive. The songwriting credits for the album included the artists she had named, but all three men publicly denied hampton’s claims, and rap fans tweeted that she was a “bitch” and a disgruntled “groupie.” Even though the backlash was clearly laced with sexism, friends wondered why she’d needed to poke this particular bear. Stic.man had been a close friend, she’d been an early booster of Jay Electronica’s music, and she’d first met Nas in the ’90s. None of them has talked to her since.
Surviving R. Kelly also tested her friendships. After the film premiered, she spoke openly about the fact that a number of celebrities, including Questlove and Jay-Z, had declined to be interviewed (the latter recorded two full albums with Kelly in the early 2000s). Some on social media accused these artists of tacitly supporting abuse. Jay‑Z privately expressed bafflement that she’d thrown him into the controversy. Questlove tweeted that he’d decided against appearing in the documentary only because he’d been asked to attest to R. Kelly’s musical talent, a claim hampton denied. She told me she refused to apologize for truthfully responding to questions from reporters about the public figures who had turned down interviews. Even now, she believes that Jay‑Z could have used his position of power to hold Kelly accountable: “I feel like what I did in six hours, he could have done in a 15-second verse,” she told me. Questlove, who’d sought out her friendship so long ago, still feels shaken by the episode. “The cooling-down of a really great relationship—I mourn that,” he told me.
Hampton tends to invoke being a perfectionist Virgo when discussing her propensity for confrontation. She’s trying to change: Moving from writing to filmmaking—a medium that requires intense collaboration—has, she said, shown her the need to communicate more gently. Yet she also had a cutting take on people who can’t handle harsh feedback. “There is an ego in having everything filtered through the lens of you and your feelings,” she said.
Butler, the Digable Planets rapper, pushed back on the suggestion that she looks for conflict. “I would not say she challenges; I would say that she loves,” he told me. “Because if she don’t love you, she’ll watch you do whatever you do and just be like, ‘Oh well.’ ”
Hampton wanted to say “Oh well” when asked to help produce and direct the new Netflix docuseries Ladies First: A Story of Women in Hip-Hop. She’d prefer to spend time on her own creative ambitions—a TV comedy about white militias, an adaptation of writing by the South African author Bessie Head, a documentary dissecting the politics of police procedurals. But the production firm Culture House pitched her repeatedly, even after she declined. What finally pulled her in was her need to critique.
For decades, the list of household-name female rappers remained vanishingly small. But in the past few years, women have, by some measures, become the driving force in mainstream rap. This development, arriving around the 50th birthday of hip-hop, might seem like an occasion to celebrate. But hampton felt that the “Black-joy mafia” needed a reality check.
“They were telling a kind of triumphant story about representation,” she said of the team at Culture House. “And I’m saying, ‘In so many ways, the story of women in hip-hop is more Game of Thrones than it is Sex and the City.’ ” The horror stories are numerous: An unfair record deal left TLC penniless at the height of the group’s success; early innovators such as Sha-Rock feel they’ve been driven out of the industry. As for today’s boom in female rappers, “most of these women are putting the p in patriarchy.” Cardi B, who has channeled marriage and motherhood into famously racy lyrics, is “incredibly conventional,” hampton said. “She’s like, ‘I’m a ho for my husband.’ ”
Cardi B is an Afro-Latina ex-stripper and vocal Bernie Sanders supporter with a string of No. 1 hits—she has quite plainly broken a few boundaries. In her unapologetic vulgarity, she is also part of a wave of artists arguably doing for the female libido what decades of music—not just hip-hop—have done for male lust. But hampton is asking that we not overrate symbolic victories; that we not let flashy displays of female empowerment distract from the very real problems women face.
Carri Twigg, one of the executive producers of the series, gave a wry smile when I relayed that hampton had described herself as a “pain in the butt” on the project. Twigg had sought hampton’s expertise precisely to give Ladies First some bite. “It’s really easy to tell a glitzy, happy version of hip-hop: Hey, look at all these women; they made all this money,” she said. “Dream was always the first person to be like, ‘And at what cost?’ Every single pass, dream was the first person to be able to spot compromise, inauthenticity.”
The resulting series doesn’t shy away from showing tragedy and exploitation, and it smartly highlights a variety of sexist double standards. But it also flaunts the sounds and fashions of artists such as Nicki Minaj, Doja Cat, and, yes, Cardi B to show how hip-hop really has opened up to female performers. Hampton admitted that even she was moved by some of the more celebratory material. Over the years, she has adjusted to the idea that not all progress needs to be a full-on revolution. “The creativity that we fight with is, like, life itself,” she said. “For me, hip-hop was one of those creative tools with which we fought. We weren’t always fighting systemic oppression. Sometimes we were just fighting respectability politics. And we didn’t even call it that, but we just knew that we wanted to wear shorts that cut our ass.”
The series also devotes a few moments to hampton herself. The now-middle-aged Dee Barnes, the TV host whom Dr. Dre attacked 32 years ago (an incident for which he offered only a vague apology, to “the women I’ve hurt,” in 2015), expresses tearful gratitude that hampton defended her in The Source. Photos of hampton and snippets of her articles flash on the screen. Joan Morgan speaks of the importance of female rap journalists: “We love hip-hop enough to hold it accountable.”
In what were supposed to be my final hours on Martha’s Vineyard, wildfire smoke blanketed New York City, grounding my flight home, so I had time to sit on hampton’s back porch. Nina, her daughter, and a houseguest, the architect V. Mitch McEwen, were there for lunch. Nina shared a story about taking a nap at the house of some family friends: Jay-Z and Beyoncé. McEwen described hampton’s Detroit home as a kind of salon for the city’s promising minds. “You would hear about these young real-estate developers, or these amazing artists, or these queer activists, and then you’d go to dream’s dinner, and they’d all be sitting around the table,” she said.
Hampton came out with plates of shrimp and grits and explained why, after two days of telling me she was over hip-hop, she was now comfortable having me see the footage of Biggie that she hadn’t watched in years. She soon hopes to say a final farewell to the genre by editing her tape archives—including ’90s-era video of Snoop Dogg, Method Man, and Q-Tip—into a short feature. Tentatively titled I Used to Love You, the project will cut against 50th-anniversary hagiographies of rap greats. She says she has footage of Biggie lecturing Lil’ Kim that she needs to wear makeup in public. Hampton says she also has tape of herself chewing out Biggie in the studio for lyrics about robbing pregnant women.
But the clips I watched that day mostly captured what hampton had called “life itself.” On a Brooklyn street, she and Biggie sat amid a fleet of double-parked cars filled with members of the rap crew Junior M.A.F.I.A. At one point, the rapper Lil’ Cease jumped into the seat next to hampton and flashed a grin. “I met this cutie and her name was dream,” he rapped. “Shorty was top choice, had golden brown eyes / def lips and fly thighs.” Biggie called for the windows to be rolled down—to “feel a nice little breeze, man”—and hampton’s camera followed a plume of pot smoke escaping into the daylight.
I turned from the screen to look around hampton’s basement. It is her working space, bedecked with Post-it Notes about projects and plans. On one wall hung a poster of Jimmy Carter, who is hampton’s favorite president. Tacked to a pinboard was a commemorative subway card with Biggie’s face on it, W. E. B. Du Bois’s farewell letter to the world, and a photo of Apache warriors. There was also a sign expressing, in block letters, a sentiment that hampton had never said out loud to me: BETTER IS POSSIBLE.
This article appears in the October 2023 print edition with the headline “The Joy and the Funk and the Mire.”
Scientific Reports, Published online: 06 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-41533-3Effects of scaling direction on adults’ spatial scaling in different perceptual domains
Nature Communications, Published online: 06 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-41336-0Author Correction: Supply chains create global benefits from improved vaccine accessibility
Nature Communications, Published online: 06 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-41288-5Author Correction: Tumour mutations in long noncoding RNAs enhance cell fitness
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This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.
You need to talk to your kid about AI. Here are 6 things you should say.
In the past year, kids, teachers, and parents have had a crash course in artificial intelligence, thanks to the wildly popular AI chatbot ChatGPT.
In a knee-jerk reaction, some schools banned the technology—only to cancel the ban months later. Now that many adults have caught up with what ChatGPT is, schools have started exploring ways to use AI systems to teach kids important lessons on critical thinking.
At the start of the new school year, here are MIT Technology Review’s six essential tips for how to get started on giving your kid an AI education. Read the full story.
—Rhiannon Williams & Melissa Heikkilä
My colleague Will Douglas Heaven wrote about how AI can be used in schools for our recent Education issue. You can read that piece here.
AI chatbots want to be your emotional support
Last week, Baidu became the first Chinese company to roll out its large language model—called Ernie Bot—to the general public, following regulatory approval from the Chinese government.
Since then, four more Chinese companies have also made their LLM chatbot products broadly available, while more experienced players, like Alibaba and iFlytek, are still waiting for the clearance.
One thing that Zeyi Yang, our China reporter, noticed was how the Chinese AI bots are used to offer emotional support compared to their Western counterparts. Given that chatbots are a novelty right now, it raises questions about how the companies are hoping to keep users engaged once that initial excitement has worn off. Read the full story.
This story originally appeared in China Report, Zeyi’s weekly newsletter giving you the inside track on all things happening in tech in China. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Tuesday.
I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.
1 China’s chips are far more advanced than we realized
Huawei’s latest phone has US officials wondering how effective their sanctions have really been. (Bloomberg $)
+ It suggests China’s domestic chip tech is coming on in leaps and bounds. (Guardian)
+ Japan was once a chipmaking giant. What happened? (FT $)
+ The US-China chip war is still escalating. (MIT Technology Review)
3 Conspiracy theorists have rounded on digital cash
If authorities can’t counter those claims, digital currencies are dead in the water. (FT $)
+ Is the digital dollar dead? (MIT Technology Review)
+ What’s next for China’s digital yuan? (MIT Technology Review)
5 Renting an EV is a minefield
Collecting a hire car that’s only half charged is far from ideal. (WSJ $)
+ BYD, China’s biggest EV company, is eyeing an overseas expansion. (Rest of World)
+ How new batteries could help your EV charge faster. (MIT Technology Review)
6 US immigration used fake social media profiles to spy on targets
Even though aliases are against many platforms’ terms of service. (Guardian)
7 The internet has normalized laughing at death
The creepy groups are a digital symbol of human cruelty. (The Atlantic $)
9 Men are already rating AI-generated women’s hotness
In another bleak demonstration of how AI models can perpetuate harmful stereotypes. (Motherboard)
+ Ads for AI sex workers are rife across social media. (NBC News)
10 Meet the young activists fighting for kids’ rights online
They’re demanding a say in the rules that affect their lives. (WP $)
Quote of the day
“It wasn’t totally crazy. It was only moderately crazy.”
—Ilya Sutskever, co-founder of OpenAI, reflects on the company’s early desire to chase the theoretical goal of artificial general intelligence, according to Wired.
The big story
Marseille’s battle against the surveillance state
Across the world, video cameras have become an accepted feature of urban life. Many cities in China now have dense networks of them, and London and New Delhi aren’t far behind. Now France is playing catch-up.
Concerns have been raised throughout the country. But the surveillance rollout has met special resistance in Marseille, France’s second-biggest city.
It’s unsurprising, perhaps, that activists are fighting back against the cameras, highlighting the surveillance system’s overreach and underperformance. But are they succeeding? Read the full story.
We can still have nice things
+ How’d ya like dem apples? Quite a lot, actually.
+ Why keeping cocktails cold without ice isn’t as crazy as it sounds.
+ There’s no single explanation for why we get creeped out.
+ This fearless skater couldn’t be cuter.
+ Here’s how to get your steak perfectly tender.
- We’ve recently launched two new e-mails you might like.
Nature, Published online: 05 September 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-02831-yExhaustive IPBES report reveals that invasive species cost the economy hundreds of billions of dollars. Plus,