More than 1,000 people were killed by a powerful earthquake that shook Morocco late yesterday, forcing residents to flee their homes in the middle of the night. The 6.8-magnitude quake caused widespread damage in both small villages and the city of Marrakesh. Rescue operations are under way, though they are slowed by damaged roads and communication networks, in a race to find those who remain trapped. Below, a collection of early images from several of the hard-hit neighborhoods and villages.
Scientific Reports, Published online: 09 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-42123-zPrognostic impacts of participation in prospective surgical clinical trials on surgical outcomes in
Scientific Reports, Published online: 09 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-42242-7Transparent wood composite prepared from two commercially important tropical timber species
Scientific Reports, Published online: 09 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-41526-2Rodents as vehicle for delivery of transgenic bacteria to make paratransgenic sand fly vectors of
Story of the Week
Lee adds to a growing trend of intense hurricanes powered by warmer oceans
Source: NOAA's National Hurricane Center
Hurricane Lee rapidly intensified at a historic pace into a Category 5 storm Thursday night, adding to a spate of extremely intense hurricanes this year and in recent decades which experts say is a symptom of the climate crisis.
Lee is now the eighth Category 5 storm in the North Atlantic since 2016, which means 20% of Category 5 hurricanes on record in the basin have occurred in the last seven years, a CNN analysis of NOAA’s hurricane database shows.
This year alone, Category 5 storms have already appeared in all seven ocean basins where tropical cyclones form, including Hurricane Jova, which also rapidly strengthened into a Category 5 storm earlier this week.
“The increase in Category 4 or 5 storms, especially that we’ve seen over the last couple years due to the increase in rapid intensification, is a telltale sign of climate change, which is exactly what we expect to see in a warmer world,” Kevin Reed, a hurricane expert and professor at Stony Brook University’s school of marine and atmospheric sciences, told CNN.
Click here to access the entire article as originally posted on the CNN website.
Lee adds to a growing trend of intense hurricanes powered by warmer oceans by Rachel Ramirez, Weather, CNN, Sep 9, 2023
Articles posted on Facebook
Sunday, Sep 3, 2023
- UNICEF: Children in Africa are among the most at risk to climate change by Rédaction Africanews/AFP, Sep 1, 2023
- Scientists Find Success With New Direct Ocean Carbon Capture Technology In a research paper, the scientists say capturing carbon dioxide directly from the oceans could have advantages over direct air capture. by Ananya Chetia, Science, Inside Climate News, Sep 2, 2023
- How sea level rise made Idalia’s storm surge worse by Chris Mooney & Kevin Crowe, Climate Washington Post, Sep 1, 2023
- Home insurers cut natural disasters from policies as climate risks grow Some of the largest U.S. insurance companies say extreme weather has led them to end certain coverages, exclude natural disaster protections and raise premiums by Jacob Bogage, Economy, Washington Post, Sept 3, 2023
Monday, Sep 4, 2023
- Climate disasters are fueling the rise of "doomsday" seed vaults by Ayurella Horn-Muller, Energy & Environment, Axios, Sept 1, 2023
- New Research Shows Direct Link Between Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Polar Bear Decline Scientists say their findings could help close a legal loophole that enables the federal government to avoid considering greenhouse gas emissions impacts on threatened and endangered species. by Bob Berwyn, Science, Inside Climate News, Sep 3, 2023
- John F. Clauser: the latest climate science-denying physicist by Dana Nuccitelli, Skeptical Science, Sep 4, 2023
- Skeptical Science New Research for Week #35 2023 by Doug Bostrom & Marc Kodack, Skeptical Science, Aug 31, 2023
Tuesday, Sep 5, 2023
- Anti-ULEZ Protest Group Promotes Conspiracy Theories and Climate Science Denial This week’s widely covered Westminster protest was led by a group that has claimed anti-pollution schemes will lead to the creation of “open prisons”. by Adam Barnett & Sam Bright, DeSmog, Sep 2, 2023
- Climate-Change Myths by Jay Katsir, Humor, The New Yorker Magazine, Sep 4, 2023
- At a glance – Is CO2 a pollutant? by John Mason & Baerbel Winkler, Sep 5, 2023
- Alabama’s John Christy may be the country’s best known and most criticized climate change skeptic by Richard Banks, Richard Banks, WBHM, Sep 01, 2023
- This Alaskan glacier holds back billions of gallons of water. Until it doesn’t. This summer’s flood on the Mendenhall Glacier destroyed houses and displaced residents in Juneau. It won’t be the last. by Joshua Partlow, Climate, Washington Post, Sep 4, 2023
Wednesday, Sep 6, 2023
- Clean Energy Projects Are Booming Everywhere. Except in Poor Nations. A big obstacle is the lack of loans, a subject of intense disagreement between richer and poorer countries. But in Congo, a hard-fought solar investment shows a possible path forward. by Max Bearat, Climate New York Times, Sep 4, 2023
- What Do Climate Scientists Tell Their Kids about the Future? Doom and gloom, or realism and hope? Here’s how six climate experts describe the future to their young children by Katie Weeman, Climate Shange, Scientific American, Sep 5, 2023
- The Teachers' Guide to Cranky Uncle: Downloads and Translations by Baerbel Winkler, Skeptical Science, Sep 6, 2023
- Texas fracking billionaire brothers fuel rightwing media with millions of dollars Farris and Dan Wilks’ deep pockets fund climate denialism education, conservative politicians and pro-fossil fuel projects by Peter Stone, US News, The Guardian, Sep 5, 2023
Thursday, Sep 7, 2023
- Earth had hottest three-month period on record, with unprecedented sea surface temperatures and much extreme weather, Press Release, World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Sep 6, 2023
- US ‘university’ spreads climate lies and receives millions from rightwing donors PragerU is not accredited but has become a key tool in pushing false claims to youngsters – and raked in $200m from 2018 to 2022 by Peter Stone, US News, The Guardian, Sep 6, 2023
- WMO Bulletin: heatwaves worsen air quality and pollution, Press Release, World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Sep 6, 2023
- Climate crisis could contribute to a global food shortage by 2050, US special envoy on food security warns Cary Fowler says world needs to produce 50-60% more food by middle of the century but global heating is expected to reduce yield rates by Gabrielle Chan, The Guardian Australia, Sep 4, 2023
Friday Sep 8, 2023
- Climate change is destroying reefs, but the effects are more than ecological – coral’s been woven into culture and spirituality for centuries Coral reefs are home to rich biodiversity, but that’s not their only value by Michele Currie Navakas, Ethics & Religion, The Conversation US, Sep 5, 2023
- America Could Be in for a Rough Fall The weather is about to get even weirder. by ois Parshley, Planet, The Atlantic Magazine, Sep 6, 2023
- Exploring the feasibility of a new feature: Bunk of the Week by Baerbel Winkler, Skeptical Science, Sep 7, 2023
- USA TODAY, Ipsos poll: 20% of
Americansfear climate change could force them to move by Elizabeth Weise, Nation USA Today, Sep 6, 2023
Saturday Sep 9, 2023
- Half of world’s population suffered under climate crisis-fuelled extreme heat this year, research says Researchers say ‘virtually no one’ escaped extreme heat this year as world’s poorest faced the worst brunt by Stuti Mishra, Climate News, The Independent (UK), Sep 8, 2023
- Factcheck: Scientists pour cold water on claims of ‘journal bias’by author of wildfires study by Robert McSweeny & Ayesha Tandon, CarbonBrief, Sep 8, 2023
- John Podesta on big oil, extreme weather and wind woes by Amy Harder, Cipher News, Sep 6, 2023
- Lee adds to a growing trend of intense hurricanes powered by warmer oceans by Rachel Ramirez, Weather, CNN, Sep 9, 2023
Nature Communications, Published online: 09 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-41358-8Brachiopod-bivalve switch in diversity dominance after the Palaeozoic era is a textbook example of clade replacement, and its mechanism has long been debated. Here, new Bayesian analyses suggest that diversification turnover between the two was not driven by biotic competition but the end-Permian extinction.
- Hearing aids may be about to find a new market – young people with no hearing loss. Starkey, A Minnesota hearing aid maker, says AI in its new hearing aids means they can make phone calls and translate languages.
Monkeys and dogs were usually used to test whether humans could survive outside Earth’s atmosphere – but 60 years ago the French tried something a little different
In a few weeks, space scientists will celebrate a remarkable event – the 60th anniversary of the launch of the first cat into space, an astronautical feat that has never been repeated.
A small black-and-white Parisian stray, Félicette, flew on a French rocket on a sub-orbital mission in October 1963 that reached an altitude of 154km, taking her to a place where no feline had gone before – or since.Continue reading…
Scientific Reports, Published online: 09 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-42073-6Detecting potential causal relationship between
What OpenAI Really Wants
Steven Levy | Wired
“For Altman and his company, ChatGPT and GPT-4 are merely stepping stones along the way to achieving a simple and seismic mission, one these technologists may as well have branded on their flesh. That mission is to build artificial general intelligence—a concept that’s so far been grounded more in science fiction than science—and to make it safe for humanity. The people who work at OpenAI are fanatical in their pursuit of that goal.”
The Secret to Nvidia’s AI Success
Samuel K. Moore | IEEE Spectrum
“[Nvidia] has managed to increase the performance of its chips on AI tasks a thousandfold over the past 10 years, it’s raking in money, and it’s reportedly very hard to get your hands on its newest AI-accelerating GPU, the H100. How did Nvidia get here? …Moore’s Law was a surprisingly small part of Nvidia’s magic and new number formats a very large part. Put it all together and you get what Dally called Huang’s Law (for Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang).”
Roblox’s New AI Chatbot Will Help You Build Virtual Worlds
Jay Peters | The Verge
“The new tool, the Roblox Assistant, builds on previously announced features that let creators build virtual assets and write code with the help of generative AI. …Down the line, Roblox has bigger visions for Roblox Assistant, and Sturman teased that it could generate sophisticated gameplay and even make 3D models from scratch. If that all works, it could bring Roblox in line with CEO David Baszucki’s vision of Westworld-like ease of design.”
Apple Is Reportedly Spending ‘Millions of Dollars a Day’ Training AI
Monica Chin | The Verge
“The company is reportedly working on multiple AI models across several teams. Apple’s unit that works on conversational AI is called ‘Foundational Models,’ per The Information’s reporting. It has ‘around 16’ members, including several former Google engineers. Additional teams at Apple are also working on artificial intelligence, per The Information. A Visual Intelligence unit is developing an image generation model, and another group is researching ‘multimodal AI, which can recognize and produce images or video as well as text.'”
SpaceX Broke Its Record for Number of Launches in a Year
Stephen Clark | Ars Technica
“SpaceX is leading the world not just in the number of launches, but also in the total payload mass the company has launched into orbit this year. In the first half of 2023, SpaceX delivered about 447 metric tons of cargo into orbit, roughly 80 percent of all the material launched into orbit worldwide, according to data from the space analytics firm BryceTech. Musk said SpaceX will launch about 90 percent of the world’s total payload mass into orbit next year, based on the company’s launch manifest for 2024.”
Refik Anadol Just Turned the Las Vegas Sphere Into the World’s Largest AI Artwork
Jesus Diaz | Fast Company
“With Sphere, the building is the canvas—a bland engineering marvel that transforms into something visually arresting once Anadol gets his hands on it. ‘I think this is one of the most Blade Runner moments ever,’ he says. ‘A science fiction moment that, finally, merges media arts and architecture, embedding technology into a physical environment that exists in the real world.'”
Redwire Space Prints Human Knee Cartilage in Space for the First Time
Aria Alamalhodaei | TechCrunch
“Redwire Space has successfully ‘bioprinted’ a human knee meniscus aboard the International Space Station, a landmark development that could help people recovering from meniscus injuries here on Earth. The meniscus cartilage was printed on Redwire’s BioFabrication Facility (BFF) on the ISS. …After the BFF printed the meniscus with living human cells, it was transferred to Redwire’s Advanced Space Experiment Processor for a 14-day enculturation process. After the culture process was complete, the meniscus was packaged up and sent back to Earth aboard SpaceX’s Crew-6 mission.”
FAA Clears UPS Delivery Drones for Longer-Range Flights
Sheena Vasani | The Verge
“UPS Flight Forward, a UPS subsidiary focused on drone delivery, can now deliver small packages beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS) without spotters on the ground monitoring the route and skies for other aircraft, using Matternet M2 drones. The FAA also announced authorizations for two other companies to fly beyond sight for commercial purposes.”
This article originally appeared in Hakai Magazine.
In several quiet rooms in a marine lab in southwest
, dozens of Pacific oysters sit in glass tanks, quietly living their oyster lives. Each morning, the lights come up slowly, carefully mimicking the rising sun, but at night the test groups’ rooms never fully darken. The dim glow simulates the light pollution that plagues many marine species—even in natural habitats.
The results of the experiment, which were recently published, found that artificial light at night can disrupt oyster behavior and alter the activity of important genes that keep the animals’ internal clocks ticking.
Damien Tran, a marine scientist at the Paris-based French National Centre for Scientific Research and one of the study’s authors, was surprised that even the lowest level of nighttime light that the team tested—“below the intensity of the full moon,” he says—was enough to throw off the oysters’ circadian rhythm.
It’s especially remarkable, Tran says, when you remember that oysters don’t have eyes—at least not in the conventional sense.
How oysters see is a bit of a mystery. While other bivalves, such as scallops, have eyelike organs, oysters may use specialized cells on their skin to detect light, though scientists have yet to definitively identify the cells or figure out exactly how they might work.
In the recent study, Tran and his colleagues put four tanks of oysters in different rooms and exposed each to a different intensity of artificial light at night. The researchers compared these oysters’ behavior with that of their counterparts in a control tank that experienced complete nighttime darkness.
Tran’s colleague and co-author, the marine scientist Laura Payton, explains that shell movement is really the only oyster behavior that can be observed. The team fitted half the oysters in each tank with electrodes to determine when the animals opened their shells—something oysters do to feed, breathe, and mate. In the control tank, oysters were most active in the middle of the day and started to close when the lights went out.
But exposure to artificial light at night caused the oysters in the other four tanks to stay open at inappropriate times, with activity peaking in the early evening. And while oysters have certain genes that typically turn “on” during the day and others that turn on at night, exposure to nighttime light virtually eliminated the difference. For example, the oyster equivalent of a mammal gene that helps make melatonin is usually expressed more at night, but the researchers observed that the gene stayed highly active during the day, disrupting the natural circadian rhythm.
In human terms, that’s called
. In oysters, as Payton explains, this response could negatively affect their health, possibly making the animals more vulnerable to disease over the long term. She concedes, though, that many of the specific consequences have yet to be studied.
If oyster populations do suffer, so would the ecology and economy of many regions worldwide, where oysters filter water, protect shorelines from storms, and, as a commercially grown species, provide food and jobs to communities.
Emily Fobert, a marine ecologist at the University of Melbourne, in Australia, who was not involved in the research, says the results are compelling. But she critiqued the researchers’ choice to expose just one tank of oysters to each level of artificial light. That means there’s a chance that the study results were caused by something else in the tank, rather than the light alone, she says. Fobert doesn’t question that the changes in oyster behavior and gene expression were due to the artificial light, but having multiple tanks per light level would have made the study more robust, she says.
Nevertheless, artificial light at night is a growing concern for many marine species. Oysters in particular need our help, Payton says, because they can’t quickly run away when their environment is disturbed.
Technologically, Fobert says, it’s completely in our power to improve conditions for the health and well-being of marine species that are affected by light pollution. “We have huge opportunities to get it right.”
This is an edition of The Atlantic Daily, a newsletter that guides you through the biggest stories of the day, helps you discover new ideas, and recommends the best in culture. Sign up for it here.
For many years, choosing to give up meat meant choosing to stop experiencing its taste. Vegan and vegetarian food had many merits, but tasting like meat was not one of them. In the past half decade, though, some new meat substitutes have come impressively close to the original. When plant-based meat companies and independent testers conducted blindfolded tastings in recent years, my colleague Annie Lowrey reported, they found that many tasters couldn’t tell the difference. Even some chefs have gotten confused.
But despite science’s breakthroughs in developing juicy, delicious meat substitutes, persuading
to go vegetarian or vegan still isn’t easy; even many people who claim to believe in the ethical value of vegetarianism persist in eating meat. Today’s newsletter explores the future of meat, the prospects of its competitors, and what giving it up would mean for Americans.
By Peter Singer
Vegetarianism is more popular than ever—but so is meat consumption. How can this be?
By Annie Lowrey
Entrepreneurs have invested billions in plant-based and lab-grown meats, and the possibilities are endless.
By James Hamblin
With one dietary change, the U.S. could almost meet greenhouse-gas emission goals. (From 2017)
- The joyful, punk world of plant-based eating: Alicia Kennedy’s new book is a paean to a life without meat. But she’s driven more by curiosity than a desire to convert her readers.
- Your diet is cooking the planet, but two simple changes can help, Annie Lowrey wrote in 2021.
- “Some have yoga. I have Montaigne.”
- A knockout technique for achieving more happiness
- Chores are the worst.
This past spring, the Australian lab-grown-meat company Vow unveiled a food stunt that my colleague Yasmin Tayag couldn’t stop thinking about: the woolly-mammoth meatball. “Meat from a long-extinct behemoth that lived during the Ice Age—how could I not want to try it?”
- Google also showed off the new Pixel Watch 2 in a separate post on X, the social network formerly known as Twitter.
- A Chinese law passed in 2022 demands that any network technology company operating in the country share details about vulnerabilities in its products with the Chinese government within two days of their discovery.
Two studies use artificial intelligence to analyse ‘old master’ painting and return opposite verdicts
Authenticating works of art is far from an exact science, but a madonna and child painting has sparked a furious row, being dubbed “the battle of the AIs”, after two separate scientific studies arrived at contradictory conclusions.
Both studies used state-of-the art AI technology. Months after one study proclaimed that the so-called de Brécy Tondo, currently on display at Bradford council’s Cartwright Hall Art Gallery, is “undoubtedly” by Raphael, another has found that it cannot be by the Renaissance master.Continue reading…
Laxatives are having a major cultural renaissance — so much so, in fact, that soaring demand for the drugs is reportedly causing a national shortage.
As The Wall Street Journal reports, the US is experiencing a scarcity of polyethylene glycol 3350, the pharmaceutical powering name-brand products like Miralax and Glycolax. As for why? It's complicated.
Per the report, there are several suspected culprits for the rising laxative demand. On the one hand, the American population is aging, and older adults are more likely to suffer from constipation than younger folks. The average American also doesn't consume nearly enough fiber, and elsewhere, the WSJ notes that "lingering physical and psychological effects of the pandemic" appear to be playing a role in the lax-revolution as well. While locked indoors, people exercised less, ate worse, and experienced high levels of stress — all of which can contribute to gastrointestinal issues, constipation included. And on the flip side, the end of the pandemic, which disrupted our newfound routines, sending many back into the office and reviving a flailing travel industry, may have caused its own wave of gastrointestinal problems as well.
"It's crazy to think that our collective bowel dysfunction problems have gotten so bad that we're literally running out of stool softeners," Dr. George Pavlou, head of the Gastroenterology Associates of New Jersey, told the WSJ.
The growing laxative demand might also be linked to more concerning psychological trends. Per the report, some laxative buyers appear to be using the medicine as a de facto Ozempic. Of course, the two drugs are very different, and Ozempic is much more expensive than over-the-counter stool softeners. But various laxatives have been a staple of diet culture for decades now, despite the fact that they don't actually promote weight loss, and mostly just result in dehydration, mineral imbalances, and in some severe cases, internal organ damage, according to the National Eating Disorders Association — although that's not stopping people with disordered eating from trying them nonetheless.
"When people have an excessive bowel movement and they feel completely empty inside, that gets wrapped up in thinness and health," Eating disorder specialist Dr. Jenna DiLossi told the WSJ.
DiLossi told the newspaper that before the pandemic, her clients rarely reported turning to laxatives as a weight loss measure; now, however, at least "three to five" of new teen clients every week admit to taking laxatives as an attempted weight loss measure, often telling the doctor that they got the idea from TikTok.
"I had periods in my early 20s where I really struggled with disordered eating," 30-year-old Sophie Spiers, a fashion copywriter in Los Angeles, told the WSJ, "and it became tied to a mental thing of having to take my Miralax or I'm going to feel fat today." And though Spiers told the newspaper that she's learned to manage her reliance in a healthier way, she says she still takes Miralax every morning.
Laxatives aren't the only shelf item seeing a sales spark in recent months. Relatedly, the WSJ report notes that a growing number of consumers — young folks included — are reaching for passage-inducing fiber supplements, which doesn't exactly feel like a coincidence.
"The demand has changed," Jissan Cherian, a director of marketing at Haleon, the company that manufactures Benefiber, told the WSJ.
To be clear, laxatives and other stool-related supplements do have their medical place. But an unhealthy or unnecessary reliance can wreak havoc on the gastrointestinal system, and if you find yourself reaching for them on the daily — especially if you're a younger person — the eternal advice remains: talk to your doctor first, and as one expert told the WSJ, maybe up your fruit, vegetable, and whole grain intake before reaching for drugs at all. And if you're just looking for the feeling of an empty stomach? You might want to just skip the laxatives altogether.
More on weight loss trends: Scientist Behind Ozempic Warns That There's a "Price"
Are Buying So Many Laxatives That It’s Creating a Shortage appeared first on Futurism.
In what may be a resurgence of an outdated and wasteful custom, people in fishing towns are launching dynamite into the water — to catch fish.
As The Guardian reports, this method known as "blast fishing" is illegal in most parts of the world, including the waters around the island country of Sri Lanka, where an uptick in this harmful practice is devastating local communities.
"Everything within a 100-meter radius of the blast is destroyed – coral reefs, marine plants and animals," Wilson Perera, a fisher and supplier from the Sri Lankan village of Salpayaru, told the newspaper. Waters that once were full of life have been decimated, the fisherman said, by this reckless exercise.
People throw small explosives like gelignite, which consists of nitroglycerine and nitrocellulose gel in a wood pulp stick, or water-gel sticks, into the water and wait for the dead fish to rise to the surface, where they can be captured with nets.
It's as brutish as it is simple, and as Perera explained, this method's appeal lies in its simplicity and ease given that it only requires two or three people as opposed to the 25 or so needed for a proper fishing crew.
While there are short-term benefits for blast fishers — including that the yield can be up to 2,200 pounds of fish in a single go, versus the 50 or 60 one gets from traditional methods — its long-term implications are numerous. Blast fishing not only destroys marine flora, as the report explains, it can also affect the generation of fish, leading to shortages that are affecting the livelihoods of fishers in Salpayaru and other areas that mainly rely on fishing.
"An entire generation [of fishers] will be destitute [because of blast fishing]," Perera said.
While governments like Sri Lankas have successfully seized explosives near beaches that were likely going to be used for blast fishing, many more slip through the cracks. As government officials told The Guardian, monitoring the seas surrounding Sri Lanka is a difficult task.
"The navy is stationed in limited areas and when we inform of an incident they are deployed to the relevant areas," Susantha Kahawatta, the head of the country's fisheries department, told the newspaper.
While it's by no means a new phenomenon — a 1903 short story by the
writer Frank Norris called "The Passing of Cock-Eye Blacklock" focuses on similar blast fishing enforcement difficulties off the coast of California — there has been an observed increase in the practice in recent years. As a 2021 meta-analysis notes, "blasting is widespread, misreported, and ongoing," and is both the cause and the effect of complex socioeconomic issues in the areas where it appears to be growing.
Overall, this pernicious practice is incredibly harmful to the environments and livelihoods of the regions where people undertake it. But like so many other destructive acts, people will keep doing it as long as they can get away with it.
More on messed-up water: Man Arrested for Dropping Chemical Into Swimming Pools Using Drone
The post People Are "Fishing" by Just Throwing Dynamite in the Water appeared first on Futurism.
Living Tissue Over Endoskeleton
A pair of researchers have created a living skin made of fungus, directly inspired by the 1984 film "The Terminator."
The goal is to develop a coating that could act as a biodegradable and multifunctional sensor for electronics, as New Scientist reports. Conventional electronic sensors made of silicone tend to be difficult to manufacture and often are limited in how many things they can detect at once.
"There’s this scene in 'The Terminator' in which they implant the skin on the robot," Antoni Gandia at the Polytechnic University of Valencia in
, co-author of a recent paper, which is currently under review, told New Scientist.
"The skin is external to him, yet it reports data to the robot and auto-repairs," he added. "We wanted to show that we can already do things like that."
I Am a Cybernetic Organism
Gandia and his colleague, Andrew Adamatzky at the University of the West of England, used a fungus species called Ganoderma sessile, which can grow in a variety of conditions. They then coated a seven-inch "Terminator" model — what else? — in agar to encourage the fungus to grow on its surface.
The fungus covered the figurine from top to bottom after just five days inside an incubator. The skin was also sensitive to light and touch.
In their paper, the researchers call it a "living, self-regenerating, and reactive Ganoderma sessile mycelium" that turned a "model cyborg figurine" into a "bio-cybernetic entity."
At best, the project is a proof of concept, and at worst, it's a silly toy. But the two scientists hope their research could lay the groundwork for living skins that could, for instance, coat buildings to regulate their temperature.
"As we continue to push the boundaries of what is achievable with mycelium, we step closer to a future where bio-cybernetic systems are a part of our everyday lives," they conclude in their paper.
More on mycelium: Scientists Build Computer Chips Out of Mushrooms
The post Scientists Have a Great Idea: Cover Killer Robot in Horrifying Fungus appeared first on Futurism.
What if NASA's groundbreaking James Webb Space Telescope was pointed straight at an exoplanet exactly like the Earth? Would it recognize a civilization like ours?
In a yet-to-be-peer-reviewed new paper, a team of researchers including NASA and Jet Propulsion Lab scientists examined high-resolution spectra taken by a
satellite called SCISAT. The data identified a variety of molecules, including water vapor, carbon dioxide, and CFCs, which are clear indicators of industrial activity.
They then obscured this data by adding simulated noise and sampling it at lower resolutions, with the goal of reproducing what the JWST would see if it were to spot an exoplanet light-years away.
As it turns out, despite their attempts to obscure the data, they could still identify these molecules, even up to a distance of 50 light-years — a fascinating finding that makes our failure to detect such a technosignature in the cosmos all the more striking.
The researchers found that if an exoplanet with similar spectra as the Earth's were to be present in the Trappist-1 system, a cool red dwarf star system some 40 light-years away, the JWST should still be able to make out a variety of molecules indicating the presence of an extraterrestrial humanity-like civilization.
In short, if there were advanced civilizations on an exoplanet in this neighboring star system, we would likely know by now.
But the data, as presented in this preprint, is only the beginning. For one, we still wouldn't be able to identify other kinds of possible alien civilizations that take a very different form than ours.
"In this work, we have only begun to scratch the surface of what is possible with this benchmark dataset, and we encourage community engagement with these data for continued model validations and upgrades as the field progresses towards the precise characterization of Earth-like exoplanets," the team writes.
The post If the James Webb Spotted a Planet Exactly Like Earth, Would Scientists Notice Our Civilization? appeared first on Futurism.
Reintroducing large herbivores into fire-prone areas can help combat the global rise in megafires
Democrats say deaths will follow false claim by Dr Joseph Ladapo that new boosters were not tested on humans
-19 deaths are inevitable in Florida, Democrats are warning, after rightwing Republican governor Ron DeSantis joined the state’s controversial surgeon general in urging residents to ignore public health advice and avoid new vaccines targeting a resurgence of the virus.
The extraordinary advice came at a feisty press conference in Jacksonville this week that was also marred by an unseemly shouting match between DeSantis, a candidate for his party’s presidential nomination, and a Black Air Force veteran.Continue reading…
Relief at rejoining flagship research scheme tempered by anger over loss of top academics since Brexit
may have rescued its scientific fortunes with a last-minute decision to rejoin the
’s Horizon research programme – but the move should not be treated as a cause for jubilation, scientists have warned.
The sluggish pace at which the agreement was reached has had too severe an impact on UK research for widespread elation, say many British researchers, who believe that science in this country suffered a major blow after being locked out of the £82bn programme for almost three years since Brexit. Putting it right has taken far too long, they argue.Continue reading…
New genetic research has reignited the controversy over which type of creature was the first to branch off the evolutionary tree from the common ancestor of all animals
While life on Earth has flourished for billions of years, much of it has been single-celled and microscopic. None of the first organisms had brains, or even neurons (nerve cells). None of them could “think”. The first animals to evolve were also brainless: harnessing hormones or other chemicals, rather than neurons, to coordinate their bodies. But some soon evolved central nervous systems – and the first “thoughts” were pulsed.
For decades, biologists have assumed that this only happened once and was a one-way process. Once animals had evolved brains, why would they lose them? But in the past 15 years, evidence has accumulated that this may be wrong; that sponges and other brainless animals that exist today may be descended from brainy ancestors that lost their minds.Continue reading…
Several distinguished individuals have recently expressed grave reservations about the prosecutions of former President Donald Trump. Notably, they appear to have no dispute about the seriousness of his wrongdoing. Rather, their main concern is that “terrible consequences” may result, because the prosecutions “may come to be seen as political trials … and play directly into the hands of Trump and his allies.” Although many Trump supporters will view the situation in just this way, any suggestion that prosecution is therefore unwise misconceives what is at stake here and, sadly, is evidence of
’s diminished national spirit.
For a free society wishing to preserve its governmental system, the prosecutions of Donald Trump for trying to overturn our democracy and willfully mishandling national secrets is not optional. They are the essential step that must be taken if America’s rule of law is going to survive, and be worthy of the trust that is essential to that survival. More hopefully, they offer the nation its single best chance of escaping from the appalling thrall of Trump’s lies and insults since he came down that escalator eight years ago.
One cannot imagine a more serious set of offenses by a sitting president against the nation than working deliberately to overturn the result of a democratic election—one that he clearly knew from his closest advisers he had lost—or illegally squirreling away and refusing to return some of the country’s most sensitive secrets. The seriousness is greatly magnified in the first instance by the extent and persistence of the conduct at issue, spanning many months and transcending multiple states and means used to change the electoral outcome. In the documents case, again, the amount of classified material and the persistence of evasive efforts to avoid returning the materials is breathtaking.
The extent and quality of the evidence of wrongdoing in both cases, including audio and video tapes, is also extraordinary, and reveals in countless ways that Trump was the primary driving force behind virtually all of the key misdeeds in both cases. In any situation where so much evidence exists, there will be complexities associated with prosecuting. And yes, a jury could nevertheless acquit or hang. But that risk is present in every criminal case, and is no reason to decline to prosecute.
To do so in these cases—featuring truly egregious wrongs personally committed by someone in a position of the highest trust—would be a failure of our vaunted system of equal justice at the most fundamental level. The planners and perpetrators of the January 6 events that Trump inspired and refused to stop are now receiving sentences of roughly 20 years; giving a pass to the person who unquestionably caused it all by violating his most sacred obligations to the nation would be unthinkable.
But it is not just an abstract commitment to justice—and to the idea that no person should be above the law—that urgently necessitates prosecution here. It is also the need to deter the worst forms of conduct that Trump has persisted in as we look forward to future elections, including those happening next fall. Although he failed to achieve his goal by illegal means in the election of 2020, he and many of his Republican allies are working hard not only to delegitimize the last election, but to see that the next election will go his way regardless of the votes actually cast. If very strong evidence of such wrongdoing does not merit criminal enforcement, what is to deter Trump or anyone from trying to steal elections in the future?
Doubters about the wisdom of prosecution argue that many Trump supporters are going to view the prosecutions as politically motivated because, as a former U.S. assistant attorney general wrote in The New York Times, they “come from the Biden administration when Mr. Trump holds a formidable lead in the polls to secure the Republican Party nomination and is running neck and neck with Mr. Biden, the Democratic Party’s probable nominee.” On this logic, no doubt many will give credence to the claims of “weaponizing the Department of Justice” that Republican politicians have been advancing.
But such allegations have no basis in fact. Attorney General Merrick Garland has conducted himself in an exemplary way. Indeed, the refusal to move faster or more openly in the investigation of Trump has long frustrated many Democrats, and many saw the appointment of a special counsel as unnecessarily cautious. But after Bill Barr’s radical politicization of the Department of Justice to advance Trump’s interests, Garland’s exceeding care to avoid any appearance of political motivations has been quite a reasonable approach in an effort to restore the department’s reputation for regularity and evenhandedness.
Attacks on the prosecutions as the politicization and weaponization of the Department of Justice are another part of the skein of lies that Trump and his allies have created to mislead his followers. It cannot be that meritorious prosecutions for the most serious offenses imaginable should be forsworn because the defendant has managed to delude a large number of people into believing something that is totally untrue.
The challenge that America faces calls for the country’s best and brightest prosecutors to do their utmost in formulating and pursuing these most important of cases. Hand-wringing that things might go awry is not productive in the least.
Instead, this is a time to celebrate the great corner that has been turned in the effort to once and for all repudiate Donald Trump. While the justice system alone cannot save democracy, the reckoning now finally under way may be of appreciable help in restoring some rationality to our public life. The reality framed by the pending charges is casting Trump in a new light. Perhaps his greatest allure to his followers has been his apparent ability to defy all forms of authority and remain unaccountable for his deeds. That is not possible now. For now, Trump can still raise money using his mug shot—itself a token of his subservience to a higher authority—but how will the Trump cult fare as his accountability to society for the heinous wrongs he has committed becomes progressively clearer in the months ahead?
The process of justice, hidden from view for so many months as investigations proceeded, has now engaged him in a series of proceedings that will move forward in ways beyond his control. Four different cases around the country are now on course to trials in which the truth or falsity of extremely serious allegations will be adjudicated in a manner that is fair to all. That is both something that many doubted would ever occur just a few months ago—and the most that a free society can hope for.
The world’s most powerful leaders gathered in New Delhi for the year’s premier diplomatic event—the G20 summit—but China’s Xi Jinping deemed it not worth his time. His absence sends a stark signal: China is done with the established world order.
Ditching the summit marks a dramatic turn in China’s foreign policy. For the past several years, Xi has apparently sought to make China an alternative to the West. Now Xi is positioning his country as a full-on opponent—ready to align its own bloc against the United States, its partners, and the international institutions they support.
Xi’s break with the establishment has been a long time coming. His predecessors integrated China into the U.S.-led global order by joining its foundational institutions, such as the World Bank and the World Trade Organization. For much of his tenure over the past decade, Xi has kept a foot in the door to that Western order—even as China’s relations with the U.S. have deteriorated. China even participated (though grudgingly) in G20 efforts to help alleviate the debt burden on struggling low-income countries.
But over the course of his rule, Xi has grown hostile to the existing order and intent on altering it. He has focused on developing alternative institutions that Beijing could lead and control. Xi formed the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to rival Washington’s World Bank, for instance, and promoted competing international forums, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, whose membership includes Russia and Iran.
Xi is willing to hang on to some established institutions, such as the United Nations, that he thinks he can repurpose to promote his global aims. But apparently, the G20 wasn’t one of those. The Communist regime is sending Premier Li Qiang to the summit in place of Xi—a significant snub for a meeting that is supposed to be composed of top leaders.
Not surprisingly, the
government has provided no explanation for Xi’s absence. But a simple rationale is easy to conjure: By skipping the G20, Xi is attempting to discredit it. The forum is filled with U.S. partners and therefore resistant to Chinese manipulation or control; moreover, it has mounted an effort to make the stewardship of global affairs more inclusive—it welcomed the African Union as a new member—and Xi likely sees it as competition for his own plans to win adherents in the global South.
In place of institutions like the G20, Xi has been pushing rivals that he thinks he can dominate or pack with friendly clients. One such forum is the BRICS group of developing countries, which includes Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. Xi has been lobbying for a rapid expansion of the BRICS membership, and at the group’s August summit, in Johannesburg, he got what he wanted. Six additional countries were invited to join, including at least three (Egypt, Ethiopia, and Iran) with close political and economic ties to China. Through such expansion, the economist Hung Q. Tran argued in a recent report, China aims to “turn the BRICS group into a support organization for China’s geopolitical agenda” and a “venue for anti-US political activism.”
Xi is also planning a third Belt and Road Forum for later this year. Participants in his global infrastructure-building scheme—mainly developing nations—will be expected to dispatch high-level delegations to Beijing, rather like the tribute missions foreign states sent to honor Chinese emperors in past centuries. While other world leaders gather at the G20 summit, Xi will be hosting state visits from the presidents of Venezuela and Zambia, two countries that are highly indebted to China.
The effort to build a rival bloc comes at a time when Xi appears to be distancing himself from the West. He and his top cadres welcomed four senior U.S. officials to Beijing in less than three months; the latest was Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, who dropped by in late August. But Beijing has not reciprocated by dispatching anyone to Washington during this period. The suggestion may well be that Xi is open to continued engagement with the United States only if the United States does the engaging. Now Xi won’t be at the G20 for even a handshake with President Joe Biden, let alone any more substantive discussion.
His absence will likely be counterproductive. By vacating the stage, the Chinese leader is turning it over to Biden, who can exercise his influence at the summit free of Chinese competition. Biden will have an unimpeded opportunity to schmooze Xi’s BRICS colleagues, including South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, along with other key players in the global South, such as Indonesian President Joko Widodo. The United States and India already issued a joint statement pledging to deepen their cooperation. Kurt Campbell, Biden’s top Asia policy aide, noted “substantial disappointment” among Indian officials that Xi was not attending, “and gratitude that we are.”
Blowing off the G20 is above all an insult to this year’s host, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose support Xi requires if he is to refashion BRICS. And to make matters worse, the gesture coincides with Beijing’s release of a new “official” map of China that has infuriated New Delhi—and a large part of the rest of Asia—by including contentious territorial claims in the South China Sea, the entire Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, other disputed lands on the Indian-Chinese border, and an island that the Chinese had previously agreed to share with Russia.
The map controversy suggests that Xi’s nationalist pursuit of global power could undermine his push to lead a new bloc against the West. Perhaps for that reason, a recent analysis from the research firm Capital Economics judged that BRICS was “unlikely” to become a counterweight to the United States and its major allies: “Not all countries are on board with the views of China and Russia on the West,” the report’s author argued, and “a lack of common agreement among member states will likely hold back progress in many areas and prove an impediment to the BRICS emerging as a unified bloc.”
Xi seems to perceive the future as a binary competition between his China and the United States. But he is mistaken. The global order that is now emerging has multiple centers of power, each with its own goals and interests. China will not automatically be the primary beneficiary of the coming world order, nor will the global South necessarily flock to its banner in a renewed anti-colonial struggle.
By snubbing the G20, Xi is showing not just his opposition to the West, but also an arrogance toward the emerging powers he expects to join him. If Xi wants to win the great geopolitical game, he has to be in it. Instead, he’s opted out.
Earlier this year, the Department of Justice blocked Penguin Random House, owned by the German media giant Bertelsmann, from acquiring Simon & Schuster. The big five publishers—HarperCollins, Penguin Random House, Hachette, Macmillan, and Simon & Schuster—already control about 80 percent of the book market. The literary class was relieved.
Less than a year later, the private-equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts announced that it would buy Simon & Schuster. Because the firm doesn’t already own a competing publisher, the deal is unlikely to trigger another antitrust probe. But KKR, infamous as Wall Street’s “barbarians at the gate” since the 1980s, may leave Simon & Schuster employees and authors yearning for a third choice beyond a multinational conglomerate or a powerful financial firm.
“It may be a stay of execution, but we should all be worried about how things will look at Simon & Schuster in five years,” says Ellen Adler, the publisher at the New Press, a nonprofit focused on public-interest books.
On its face, the Simon & Schuster acquisition appears to be a standard private-equity deal, which is precisely the problem. Private equity is the anodyne label adopted after “leveraged buyouts” got a bad name, in part thanks to KKR’s ravaging of RJR Nabisco after a $25 billion takeover in 1988. In a leveraged buyout, the buyer takes over a company with a small amount of its own money, a larger amount of investors’ money, and a whole lot of debt. KKR agreed to pay $1.62 billion for Simon & Schuster, of which $1 billion will reportedly be borrowed money.
From the perspective of the private-equity firm, leverage is a feature, not a bug. Purchase a company for $100 million in cash with no debt, make $5 million in profit annually, and it will deliver a return of 5 percent. Buy the same company using 60 percent debt, and that same profit in absolute terms yields a 12.5 percent return.
Crucially, Simon & Schuster, not KKR, is responsible for repaying the debt. KKR simply raises it, against the publisher’s franchise value, to fund the acquisition. Lenders have no recourse to KKR or its executives, who are legally shielded from liability. (Technically, KKR won’t own Simon & Schuster; the owner will be a fund that KKR “advises.”) Moody’s will likely assign the $1 billion debt a credit rating about five levels below investment-grade, according to Bloomberg—the corporate equivalent of subprime mortgages.
Based on terms granted to similarly rated borrowers, and on our analysis of Bloomberg data on recent transactions, Simon & Schuster would have to pay interest rates above 9 percent. That would cost the publisher nearly $100 million, about 40 percent of operating income in 2022, on interest alone. In raw financial terms, the transaction will weaken Simon & Schuster the moment it closes, never mind what KKR does as an owner. (Both KKR and Simon & Schuster declined to comment for this article.)
“Debt up at these levels is quite simply a stressor on the company,” says Eileen Appelbaum, a prominent critic of private equity and a co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. “It undermines its ability to invest in technology, marketing, workers, and everything else.”
Private-equity executives argue that the debt is worth it: They have the business savvy to make their new acquisition so much more profitable that they’ll be able to sell it in a few years for much more than they paid for it. (Richard Sarnoff, the chairman of media at KKR, was a longtime publishing CFO.) Where will that extra value come from? KKR is touting plans to expand into new genres of publishing domestically, and into overseas markets, among other tactics. But the standard private-equity playbook is a mixture of slashing costs and pumping up cash flow. Sometimes this pays off, at least for the private-equity firm, because there are workers to let go and assets to sell.
But the push toward pure short-term profit maximization can get ugly. Although private equity’s foray into book publishing is new, funds have been buying up news publications for the past decade. When they do, they tend to lay off reporters and editors, cut back on print editions, and invest less in the resources necessary for great journalism. Alden Global Capital, one of the most infamous, is known for acquiring newspapers and then selling off their buildings to its own real-estate-flipping subsidiary. (In at least one case, that resulted in a major newspaper paying rent to Alden for office space it used to own.) But those moves may not apply to book publishing. Simon & Schuster does not own the building at Rockefeller Center that bears its name. It has only about 1,500 employees, and KKR has said that no layoffs are planned.
So the new owners might seek other ways to juice short-term returns. Dan Sinykin, a professor at Emory University and the author of the forthcoming Big Fiction: How Conglomeration Changed the Publishing Industry and
Literature, predicts that KKR will double down even more than big publishers already have on proven authors or celebrity memoirs, at the expense of riskier unknown writers—an approach akin to Hollywood’s love of the sequel. To a cost-cutter, established brands substitute for expensive marketing.
Book publishers make money from sales of an original product, a portion of which goes to authors in the form of royalties—perhaps the true pot of gold for private equity in publishing. Although there’s nothing wrong with monetizing intellectual property, Simon & Schuster authors should expect intense pressure to give the publisher a bigger slice of that pie. A more speculative possibility involves the use of authors’ original work to train AI models that then generate new monetizable content. That scenario could provide KKR’s Simon & Schuster with a way to squeeze out money through co-ownership of copyrights, a prospect that alarms authors. “If you train an AI model on Danielle Steel’s nearly 200 books and write a new one, somebody has to own the rights,” Sinykin says.
Ultimately, KKR may not even need to solve the riddle of increased profitability. As is often the case with private equity, it can profit even if Simon & Schuster does not. The $620 million not covered by debt will come from a fund that KKR assembled from a collection of entities including a dozen state pension funds, a Chinese insurer, and a pilots’ union in Iceland. Appelbaum predicts that the sliver from KKR itself could be 2 to 10 percent, or $12.4 million to $62 million. (The actual amount isn’t public.) KKR put up only 0.06 percent of its own money in the RJR Nabisco takeover.
But the company can start harvesting cash immediately. Private-equity firms collect “management fees” from their own investors and “monitoring” or “advisory” fees from companies they purchase. KKR and its partners collected $185 million in advisory fees from Toys “R” Us before bankrupting it. With Simon & Schuster, fees alone could let KKR make its own money back in a few years.
Another technique for extracting money goes by the opaque name “dividend recapitalization.” A recent headline in The Wall Street Journal described it more transparently: “debt-fueled payouts.” The acquired company issues a bond to raise money that is then paid out to its new owners and used to refinance old debt. It’s a common tactic in private equity. Earlier this year, KKR pulled $750 million ($385 million for itself) out of Atlantic Aviation, which provides services to plane owners. The company now groans under a debt load seven times its annual earnings, according to Moody’s.
In their recent book about private equity, These Are the Plunderers, Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner recount maddening stories about KKR: how it bankrupted Toys “R” Us; gouged residents of Bayonne, New Jersey, for water and sewage; and, very recently, ran a vital provider of emergency services into the ground. If KKR’s latest deal follows a similar trajectory, Morgenson and Rosner might have a harder time documenting it. Their publisher is Simon & Schuster.
When you buy a book using a link on this page, we receive a commission. Thank you for supporting The Atlantic.
Nature Communications, Published online: 09 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-41268-9The Mannich reaction is a well-established method for the synthesis of β-amino carbonyl compounds while the analogous reactions of homo-enol or its equivalents with imines or iminium ions are much less explored. Here, the authors describe a homo-Mannich reaction of cyclopropanol with imines generated via a Bischler-Napieralski reaction.
Nature Communications, Published online: 09 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-41257-yThe introduction of metal sites into polyoxometalates is key for tuning their structure and reactivity but the complex mechanisms which govern metal functionalization of polyoxometalates are still poorly understood. Here, the authors report a coupled set of light-dependent and light-independent reaction equilibria controlling the mono- and di- metal-functionalization of a prototype molecular vanadium oxide cluster
Nature Communications, Published online: 09 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-41113-zSilicon-stereogenic optically active silylboranes could potentially allow the formation of
A new investigation by Vulture reveals the alarming lengths movie studios will go to manipulate scores on
, severely undermining the credibility of one of the world's foremost review aggregation sites.
Under the microscope is a PR company called Bunker 15, which Vulture reports targets small, often self-published critics to help boost "Tomatometer" scores, paying them upwards of $50 for each review.
In one case, Bunker 15 reportedly used these tactics to drown out the negative response to the 2018 feature "Ophelia," which eventually saw its score go from a firmly "rotten" 46 to a "fresh" 62 percent.
In an email to a critic it was trying to recruit, a Bunker 15 employee wrote that the "teams involved feel like it would benefit from more input from different critics."
Adding in no less slippery terms, the employee hinted that "super nice" reviewers would publish only the good reviews on their main website, to be picked up by Rotten Tomatoes. The bad reviews, meanwhile, would get relegated to "a smaller blog that RT never sees."
These kinds of lobbying tactics can pay off. "Ophelia's" climb from rotten to fresh? It was driven by seven positive reviews, most from critics that had already reviewed a Bunker 15 movie.
Rotten Tomatoes' pivotal role in the movie industry is an unlikely one. It started as a postgrad project. Now, many industry heads consider it a critical determinant of box office success — or, at least, of public perception.
"The studios didn't invent Rotten Tomatoes, and most of them don't like it," filmmaker Paul Schrader, who wrote or directed classics including "Taxi Driver" and "
Gigolo," told Vulture.
"But the system is broken. Audiences are dumber. Normal people don't go through reviews like they used to," he added. "Rotten Tomatoes is something the studios can game. So they do."
Beyond gaming Rotten Tomatoes, the movie industry has also outright bought it. It's now owned by the parent company of Universal Pictures, after changing hands from Warner Bros.
One of its biggest vulnerabilities, though, is arguably the over one thousand critics it added to its roster in 2019, many of them coming from small publications.
On its own, platforming the little guys is a good thing. But a significant portion of these sites are fan operations, like those explicitly geared towards comic book movies — practically ensuring that even the most slipshod blockbusters of the year can get a fresh rating, as long as they're tied to a certain franchise.
That's before you add studio meddling to the mix. Glitzy press screenings and proximity to movie stars can intoxicate any critic, big or small. Regardless, Rotten Tomatoes has supplanted the importance of any of these individual voices, distilling them all into one unhelpful percentage.
Bunker 15's response didn't seem to address the thrust of the investigation.
"We have thousands of writers in our distribution list," its founder told Vulture. "A small handful have set up a specific system where filmmakers can sponsor or pay to have them review a film."
Rotten Tomatoes' own response was to quietly delist several Bunker 15 movies, including "Ophelia."
"We take the integrity of our scores seriously and do not tolerate any attempts to manipulate them," it told Vulture. "We have a dedicated team who monitors our platforms regularly and thoroughly investigates and resolves any suspicious activity."
One PR firm may take the fall, but the damage is done. Who knows how many more scores have been tampered with?
The post Film Studios Are Using Dirty Tricks to Manipulate Rotten Tomatoes Scores appeared first on Futurism.
Scientific Reports, Published online: 09 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-42243-6Association between pre- and postoperative rotational mismatches of the femorotibial components and bones in bi-cruciate retaining and posterior stabilized total knee arthroplasty
Scientific Reports, Published online: 09 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-40649-wLearning and predicting the unknown class using evidential deep learning
Scientific Reports, Published online: 09 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-41896-7Genome-wide DNA methylation patterns in bumble bee (Bombus vosnesenskii) populations from spatial-environmental range extremes
- The US government should create a new body to regulate artificial intelligence—and restrict work on language models like OpenAI’s GPT-4 to companies granted licenses to do so.
- The statement, just two paragraphs long, explained that 67-year-old Martinet would move into a brand-new role as Mario ambassador.
- Apple is expected to unveil the new iPhones at its annual event on September 12 in Cupertino, California.
- Apple is expected to unveil the new iPhones at its annual event on September 12 in Cupertino, California.
At a recent medical gathering, researchers presented their latest hypotheses about what causes – and what could treat – the lingering disease.
(Image credit: Valerie Plesch/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Nature Communications, Published online: 09 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-40784-yMagnetization reversal in magnetic topological insulators drives quantum phase transitions between quantum anomalous Hall, axion insulator, and normal insulator states. Using novel analysis protocol, the authors investigate critical behaviours of these transitions and establish their electronic origin.
A paper published in the journal Physica Scripta last month became the subject of controversy after Guillaume Cabanac, a computer scientist and integrity investigator, noticed that the ChatGPT query to "Regenerate Response" had been copied into the text, seemingly by accident.
Now, the authors have fessed up to using the chatbot to help draft the article, becoming the latest testament to generative AI's worrying inroads into academia.
"This is a breach of our ethical policies," Kim Eggleton, head of peer review and research integrity at IOP Publishing, which publishes Physica Scripta, told Nature.
The paper has now been retracted for not declaring its use of the chatbot — which, depending on your point of view, is either a storm in a teacup or a sign of the future of academia.
Peer Review Paladin
Since 2015, Cabanac has undertaken a sort of crusade to uncover other published papers that aren't upfront about their use of AI tech, which back then was little more than a curiosity. As computers have gone from spitting out veritable gibberish to convincing, human-like compositions, the fight has gotten harder. But this has only steeled the resolve of Cabanac, who's helped uncover hundreds of AI-generated manuscripts.
"He gets frustrated about fake papers," Cyril Labbé, a fellow computer scientist and Cabanac's partner in crime-fighting, told Nature last year. "He's really willing to do whatever it takes to prevent these things from happening."
Those careful to cover their tracks won't leave behind obvious clues like, "as an AI language model," though thankfully for sleuths like Cabanac, many still do. He recently uncovered another paper, published in the journal Resources Policy, that contained several of those braindead giveaways. The publisher is "aware of the issue," it told Nature this week, and is investigating the incident.
Beyond that, AI models often can jumble the facts, and may simply be too dumb to accurately regurgitate the math and technical language involved in scientific papers — like in the Resources Policy study, which contained nonsensical equations, Cabanac found.
ChatGPT can also produce false claims out of thin air, in a phenomenon perhaps too generously described as "hallucinating." Case in point, a preprint paper last week was also outed as partially AI-generated after a
professor noticed that it cited papers under his name that didn't exist.
Given how rigorous the peer review process is — or at least should be — it's alarming that AI-made phonies are slipping through the cracks.
Maybe not everyone has caught on. The ubiquity of the technology is still recent, after all. Or, says researcher and fake paper sleuth David Bimler, peer reviewers simply don't have time to look for stuff like that.
"The whole science ecosystem is publish or perish," Bimler told Nature. "The number of gatekeepers can't keep up."
And that may be the bitter truth. It takes a lot of time and expertise to review papers, but it only takes a few minutes for an AI churn one out, however shoddy it may be.
The post Paper Retracted When Authors Caught Using ChatGPT to Write It appeared first on Futurism.
Nearly a year ago, NASA successfully smashed an asteroid for the first time, in a landmark test to see whether we could divert a killer space rock before disaster — but now, the asteroid in question is behaving strangely.
As New Scientist reports, a schoolteacher and his pupils seem to have discovered that the orbit of Dimorphos, the space rock socked by the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) last September, has apparently continued slowing down, unexpectedly, in the year since the refrigerator-sized craft smashed into it.
Jonathan Swift, a math and science teacher at the Thacher School in California, and his team of student astronomers have discovered that Dimorphos, which orbits around the larger near-Earth asteroid Didymos the way our Moon orbits the Earth, has been spinning consistently slower around Didymos than it did prior to the DART test.
To be clear, changing Dimorphos' trajectory was the point of the DART test.
As NASA announced a few weeks after the collision last fall, it succeeded at doing exactly that, bringing the asteroid's orbit down a full half hour, from 11 hours and 55 minutes to 11 hours and 23 minutes. Given that the space agency's "minimum successful orbit period change" was 73 seconds, this meant that the DART test, which showed whether or not Earth can smash near-Earth asteroids out of the way, was a resounding success.
But as Swift and his charges at the Thacher Observatory found when looking at Dimorphos' orbit more than a month after the initial collision, the asteroid's orbit seems to have continued to slow down — an unexplained turn of events, considering that most astronomers expected it to return to its original orbit speed pretty quickly.
"The number we got was slightly larger, a change of 34 minutes," Swift told New Scientist. "That was inconsistent at an uncomfortable level."
Though NASA did say in its original post-DART findings that the orbit slowing had a margin of error of plus or minus two minutes, the orbit's change is nevertheless a startling result — though some theories suggest that the impact may have "tumbled" Dimorphos' orbit, or unlocked it from Didymos' tidal forces.
"We tried our best to find the crack in what we had done," Swift expounded, "but we couldn’t find anything."
NASA will also be releasing a report soon on the DART mission's latest update, a spokesperson told New Scientist — but the agency will have to compete with Swift and his students, whose findings were shared this summer with the
Astronomical Society, which is publishing their paper soon.
More on asteroids: AI Is Now Identifying Killer Asteroids Before They Approach Earth
The post Something Weird Is Going on With the Asteroid NASA Smashed appeared first on Futurism.
Scientific Reports, Published online: 09 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-41589-1Experimental study of erodible bed scoured by the debris flow in the narrow-steep gully
Scientific Reports, Published online: 09 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-41969-7Consistency of spectral results in cardiac dual-source photon-counting CT
Scientific Reports, Published online: 09 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-42097-yEfficacy of hydroxyapatite-based skull base reconstruction for intraoperative high-flow
Scientific Reports, Published online: 09 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-41995-5ERG K+ channels mediate a major component of action potential repolarization in lymphatic muscle
Scientific Reports, Published online: 09 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-39409-7Impact of fractionated cisplatin and radiation treatment on cell growth and accumulation of DNA damage in two normal cell types differing in origin
Scientific Reports, Published online: 09 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-42071-8Association between
Scientific Reports, Published online: 09 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-42208-9Comprehensive prediction of
Scientific Reports, Published online: 09 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-41611-6Cellular shortening and calcium dynamics are improved by noisy stimulus in a model of
Billions were sunk into the Human Genome Project and the promise of precision treatments personalised to the individual. Now many believe the money might have been better spent on public health interventions
After spending 13 years and $2.7bn, the Human Genome Project announced in 2003 that it had successfully mapped our DNA, paving the way for a new era of medicine that would deliver “the right treatment, for the right patient, at the right time”.
’s then health secretary, John Reid, welcomed the news by echoing a popular belief at the time. “Genetics promises a more personalised approach to healthcare,” he said. “With interventions tailored to each person’s own genetic profile.”Continue reading…
Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner are the latest high-profile pair to announce their split in what some have deemed "the year of the celebrity breakup." Experts explain why people get so invested from afar.
(Image credit: Rich Fury/Kevin Winter/Amy Sussman/Getty Images)
- “Colombia considers ban on most research and education using live animals .”
The week at Retraction Watch featured:
- Eight papers retracted after author found to be fictional
- Former Stanford president retracts 1999 Cell paper
- Weill Cornell cancer researchers committed research misconduct, feds say
- Frontiers retracts nearly 40 papers linked to ‘authorship-for-sale’
Our list of retracted or withdrawn COVID-19 papers is up to well over 350. There are now well over 42,000 retractions in The Retraction Watch Database — which powers retraction alerts in Edifix, EndNote, LibKey, Papers, and Zotero. The Retraction Watch Hijacked Journal Checker now contains 200 titles. And have you seen our leaderboard of authors with the most retractions lately — or our list of top 10 most highly cited retracted papers?
Here’s what was happening elsewhere (some of these items may be paywalled, metered access, or require free registration to read):
- “Scientific sleuths spot dishonest ChatGPT use in papers.”
- “Publication and collaboration anomalies in academic papers originating from a paper mill: Evidence from a Russia-based paper mill.”
- “Princeton Gerrymandering Project did not manipulate data, says NJ commission.”
- “Colombia considers ban on most research and education using live animals.”
- “My Ph.D. research got scooped. It ended up being an unexpected opportunity.”
- “AI writing tools will not fix academia’s language discrimination problem.”
- “Leru seeks cultural change to stop bad authorship practices.”
- Japan’s National Cerebral and Cardiovascular Center announces they’ll invstigate the work of two researchers.
- “Reproducibility in neuroscience.”
- “Group behind ProMED fires three top moderators amid strike.”
- “What’s Up With These Alzheimer’s Researchers?”
- A publisher removes a chapter on sexual misconduct in academia after a legal threat.
- “Bullying is a feature of UK research universities, not a bug.”
- “Fifth of UK research staff ‘bullied in past two years.’”
- “Concern at Cochrane: evidence giant battles funding cuts and closures.”
- An institutions pays back a small portion of a U.S. NSF grants.
- An author “was rightly punished…for plagiarizing the dissertation:” Court.
- “The team behind the fall of Didier Raoult.”
- “Overall female researchers appear to contribute more to the public good of open science, while their male colleagues focus on private reputation.”
- “Is scientific fraud getting worse in chemistry papers?” And “Flawed chemistry papers can take more than a year to be retracted.”
- Peer reviewers should be more like mentors than gatekeepers, say two authors.
- Springer Nature removes “Mozart” from a press release.
- “Painter ordered to pay damages for plagiarism.”
- “The Big Purge: Another University Professor Sacked in Iran.”
- “Putin Daughter’s Publications in US Science Journal Draw Backlash.”
- “Rather than jumping to technological fixes, there needs to be a conversation across physics about what different fields want from peer review, and what the best way is to achieve it.”
- “The write algorithm: promoting responsible artificial intelligence usage and accountability in academic writing.”
- “In summary, the rate of inappropriate image duplication in this journal has been quantified at 16%…”
- “Fabrication and errors in the bibliographic citations generated by ChatGPT.” If that sounds familiar, read this.
Like Retraction Watch? You can make a tax-deductible contribution to support our work, follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, add us to your RSS reader, or subscribe to our daily digest. If you find a retraction that’s not in our database, you can let us know here. For comments or feedback, email us at email@example.com.
Nature Communications, Published online: 09 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-41344-0Carbon is a key support for metal-catalyzed acetylene hydrochlorination to vinyl chloride but its role remains elusive. Here, the authors, by means of operando spectroscopy, demonstrate the co-catalytic function of neighboring carbon and isolated metal atoms, constituting the active ensemble.
G/O Media's vision of the future continues to come into focus. Unfortunately, as it stands, that vision seems increasingly human-free.
To recap: last week, Gizmodo owner G/O Media fired the human employees at the blog's
-language site, Gizmodo Español, replacing those writers and their work — which included original reporting as well as translation work — with an AI tool that translates and republishes Gizmodo's English-language articles. Worse, upon closer inspection, the AI doesn't seem to be particularly good at its new job. The bot's translations, which appear to be free of any human editing process, are plagued with basic formatting errors, punctuation chaos, and even the occasional bit of HTML gore.
But apparently, according to new reporting from Insider, the publisher's AI-powered translation engine is only just getting started.
"We are using an advanced translation service that provides context and intent while running the translations," G/O Media editorial director Merrill Brown told the company's remaining employees in a Wednesday memo, which was shared with Insider by a G/O representative. "This is the first step in our efforts to create local language editions of our journalism. In the coming months we'll see more of our brands published in additional languages. We're confident we'll be bringing new and expanding audiences to our sites. "
"There is a disclaimer explaining our approach and a link to the original article published beneath each translated story," the note continued, adding that "the stories are running without bylines."
At first glance, the "no byline" note feels bizarre. After all, the AI isn't actually writing anything; it mostly seems to function like an automated Google Translate, copying the work of Gizmodo's English-language writers and auto-publishing the translated version to the blog's Spanish site. But in a Thursday thread on Twitter-formerly-X, the Gizmodo Media Group Union explained that the site's writers specifically "objected to having their bylines attached to machine translations" — which seems fair, considering that the translations are embarrassingly bad.
According to the union, however, G/O leaders took the pushback way too far.
"Instead of relying on the talented journalists at Gizmodo Español," reads the thread, "G/O Media has enacted an automation that takes English-language Gizmodo articles, translates them poorly into Spanish, and posts them on Gizmodo Español almost immediately, with no Spanish-language editing."
"Adding insult to injury, when the Gizmodo staff objected to having their bylines attached to machine translations, G/O management removed all bylines from Gizmodo Español," it continues, "even the bylines of the four journalists who were laid off by G/O Media this week."
Indeed, the grim claim appears to be true. If you scroll back through Gizmodo Español's vast archive, bylines are nowhere to be found. So not only were Gizmodo Español workers fired, but the public accreditation of years of work — according to another post in the union's Thursday X thread, the workers counted about 25 years of G/O employment between them — has been wiped from the web. It doesn't get much colder than that, and if it seemed like G/O didn't value the former Gizmodo Español employees' work before, it certainly does now.
The worst part, though? Per a report from The Daily Beast, a source at the company claims that Gizmodo Español's traffic has "doubled" since it started rolling out the automated translations — another unfortunate proof-of-concept hit for the publisher's execs, who according to the company's employees continue to break promises in favor of an automated future.
"Unfortunately this move to eliminate the Español team represents yet another broken promise from G/O Media CEO Jim Spanfeller and Editorial Director Merrill Brown," continues the union's X thread, "who have repeatedly said that the company's AI experiments were intended to supplement human writing, not replace it."
We reached out to G/O for comment, but have yet to receive a response.
More on G/O Media's AI efforts: G/O Tells Staff Not to Worry About Everyone Mocking Their Horrible AI Content
The post Gizmodo Is Stripping Journalists’ Bylines Off AI-Translated Articles appeared first on Futurism.
Dan Buettner has spent decades exploring the lifestyles and diets of people in remote places where living to 100 is more common. Here are life-enhancing habits from these "blue zones."
(Image credit: David McLain/Dan Buettner)
Nature Communications, Published online: 09 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-40982-8Co-inhibitory signaling controls immune mechanisms in health and disease. The authors here show that in autoimmune neuroinflammation, astrocytic PD-L1 mitigates autoimmune neuroinflammation through interaction with
Nature Communications, Published online: 09 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-41306-6Errors during pancreas development and specification of the endocrine lineage can result in severe neonatal diabetes. Here they show that loss of
Nature Communications, Published online: 09 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-41340-4The authors show that adriamycin induces global changes on chromatin conformation associated with phase transitions mediated through Histone H1.
Nature Communications, Published online: 09 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-41188-8The authors examine how mutations combine to alter phenotypes in biophysical models of proteins and conclude that non-additive interactions (epistasis and dominance) are frequent, context-dependent and so challenging to predict in even the simplest of biological systems.
Nature Communications, Published online: 09 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-41326-2The microvasculature is critical for delivery of oxygen and metabolites throughout tissues. Here they use human blood vessel organoids to show that CTGF is a critical paracrine regulator of microvascular integrity that can restore pericyte coverage and vessel structure.
Nature Communications, Published online: 09 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-41210-zRobust genome-wide association study (GWAS) methods that can utilise time-to-event information such as age-of-onset will help increase power in analyses for common health outcomes. Here, the authors propose a computationally efficient time-to-event model for GWAS.
Nature Communications, Published online: 09 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-41293-8Here, the authors theoretically predict the formation of synergistic correlated and topological states in Coulomb-coupled and gate-tunable graphene/insulator heterostructures, proposing a number of promising substrate candidates and a possible explanation for recent experimental observations in graphene/CrOCl heterostructures.
– De är väldigt smarta och nyfikna djur, säger Katalin Ozogány som ledde forskningen.
Josh Green, the state governor, approved $25m for business recovery and said Maui will reopen for tourism on 8 October
One month after the deadliest
wildfire in more than a century leveled the historic town of Lahaina, the governor of Hawaii, Josh Green, said Friday that the number of missing has dropped to 66, the confirmed death toll remains at 115 and authorities will soon escort residents on visits to their property.
Tens of millions of dollars in aid will make its way to families and businesses as they recover, Green said, and beginning 8 October, travel restrictions will end and West Maui will reopen to visitors.Continue reading…
Elon Musk says he refused to give Kyiv access to his Starlink communications network over Crimea to avoid complicity in a "major act of war".
Kyiv had sent an emergency request to activate Starlink to Sevastopol, home to a major Russian navy port, he said.
His comments came after a book alleged he had switched off Starlink to thwart a drone attack on Russian ships.
A senior Ukrainian official says this enabled Russian attacks and accused him of "committing evil".
Russian naval vessels had since taken part in deadly attacks on civilians, he said.
"By not allowing Ukrainian drones to destroy part of the Russian military (!) fleet via Starlink interference, Elon Musk allowed this fleet to fire Kalibr missiles at Ukrainian cities," he said.
"Why do some people so desperately want to defend war criminals and their desire to commit murder? And do they now realize that they are committing evil and encouraging evil?" he added.
The row follows the release of a biography of the billionaire by Walter Isaacson which alleges that Mr Musk switched off Ukraine's access to Starlink because he feared that an ambush of Russia's naval fleet in Crimea could provoke a nuclear response from the Kremlin.
Ukraine targeted Russian ships in Sevastopol with submarine drones carrying explosives but they lost connection to Starlink and "washed ashore harmlessly", Mr Isaacson wrote.
Starlink terminals connect to SpaceX satellites in orbit and have been crucial for maintaining internet connectivity and communication in Ukraine as the conflict has disrupted the country infrastructure.
SpaceX, in which Mr Musk is the largest shareholder, began providing thousands of Starlink satellite dishes to Ukraine shortly after Russia launched its full-scale assault on its neighbour in February last year.
Responding to the book's claim, Mr Musk said on X that SpaceX "did not deactivate anything" because it had not been activated in those regions in the first place.
"There was an emergency request from government authorities to activate Starlink all the way to Sevastopol. The obvious intent being to sink most of the Russian fleet at anchor," he said.
"If I had agreed to their request, then SpaceX would be explicitly complicit in a major act of war and conflict escalation."
Dmitry Medvedev, Russia's former prime minister, tweeted: "If what Isaacson has written in his book is true, then it looks like Musk is the last adequate mind in North America."
Russia illegally annexed Crimea in 2014, eight years before Moscow launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
In the past, Mr Musk has said that while the system had "become the connectivity backbone of Ukraine all the way up to the front lines", "we are not allowing Starlink to be used for long-range drone strikes".
Mr Musk reiterated the point to Mr Isaacson, asking: "How am I in this war? Starlink was not meant to be involved in wars. It was so people can watch Netflix and chill and get online for school and do good peaceful things, not drone strikes."
He also offered a personal opinion, calling for a truce and saying that
and Russians were dying "to gain and lose small pieces of land" and this was not worth their lives.
He provoked anger last year when he proposed a plan to end the war which suggested the world formally recognise Crimea as part of Russia and asking residents of regions seized by Russia last year to vote on which country they wanted to be part of.
Russian chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov said that plan displayed "moral idiocy".
•A man and a woman who perished at the World Trade Center in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks have been identified, New York City officials said.
•The names of the victims are being withheld at the request of their families, officials said.
•The remains of 1,104 victims, or 40% of those who died, still have not been found nearly 22 years after the al-Qaida attacks on the World Trade Center.
•The attacks on the World Trade Center killed more than 2,700 people.
Two victims who perished in the World Trade Center have been identified more than two decades after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, New York City’s chief medical examiner said Friday.
The names of the victims, a man and a woman, are being withheld at the request of their families, officials said. They are the 1,648th and 1,649th victims whose remains have been identified since 2001.
The remains of 1,104 victims, or 40% of those who died in the attacks, still have not been found nearly 22 years after al-Qaida terrorists hijacked commercial airlines and crashed them into the Twin Towers in lower Manhattan.
The towers were destroyed in the attacks, leaving more than 2,700 people dead.
Dr. Jason Graham, New York City’s chief medical examiner, described the painstaking effort to identify the victims’ remains as “the largest and most complex forensic investigation” in
Investigators have spent decades using DNA testing to identify tens of thousands of remains recovered from the Ground Zero disaster site. More than 30% of the remains recovered are still unidentified, according to the medical examiner’s office.
- GM has been developing its own built-in infotainment system in collaboration with Google since 2019.
Even though phone mirroring is one of the most popular tech features in today’s cars,
said it will eliminate
The 2024 Chevrolet Blazer EV will be the first to get this downgrade, but other EV models will follow. GM will not remove CarPlay from any of its gasoline-powered models, which it only plans to build until 2035. GM said the change is needed to keep future electric vehicles as integrated and connected as possible. The automaker will rely on a system co-developed with Google to operate its EVs.
The battle for the dashboard continues. GM will eliminate Apple CarPlay from its electric vehicles, starting with the 2024 Chevrolet Blazer EV that’s arriving in the fall. CarPlay, which operates like Android Auto to mirror iPhone content on the vehicle’s dashboard, has been a consumer favorite for years, and even holdouts such as Toyota have recently added the technology to their models.
It’s not as though EVs need CarPlay integration to succeed—just ask Tesla—but the reason for the reduction in vehicle capability is, in GM’s view, actually an expansion in vehicle capabilities. GM said it intends to remove CarPlay from new EVs because its vehicles need better integration between the navigation system and the rapidly growing network of chargers to help out EV drivers. GM has been developing its own built-in infotainment system in collaboration with Google since 2019.
“We have a lot of new driver assistance features coming that are more tightly coupled with navigation,” GM’s executive director of digital cockpit experience, Mike Hichme, told Reuters. “We don’t want to design these features in a way that are dependent on a person having a cellphone.”
Of course, Apple CarPlay never needed to know how much gas was in the tank, and it could still function as a map. Note that Hichme didn’t say anything about GM keeping CarPlay as an option for EV drivers, while also offering its own advanced in-house integrated EV-focused navigation. The best of both worlds, in other words, and one where we wouldn’t need to rely on an automaker’s built-in devices all the time. Remember when the 3G network went away last year?
Music and phone calls will still work over Bluetooth in GM’s CarPlay-free cars, GM said, and CarPlay tech will remain available in GM’s internal-combustion-engine vehicles. Of course, GM has announced it will stop building ICE vehicles after 2035. GM also said it won’t disable CarPlay in any vehicles that currently have it. (Around 50 percent of
with a cellphone have an iPhone.)
What do you think?
- Engineers have developed a new device that can warn consumers about early risks of tooth decay from diseases such as gingivitis and periodontitis.
Research suggests a sharper decrease in the number of women reporting recent sexual partners after 70 compared with men
A study has shed light on how the number of sexual partners
people have changes as they age, and new findings have surprised researchers.
While the frequency of sexual partners among heterosexual people declines steadily from age 40, the study found stark gender disparities within some age groups.Continue reading…
This is an edition of The Atlantic Daily, a newsletter that guides you through the biggest stories of the day, helps you discover new ideas, and recommends the best in culture. Sign up for it here.
Like millions of other
, I enjoy many of Sylvester Stallone’s movies. But in recent years, I’ve come to think that Sly might have also been teaching me something.
First, here are four new stories from The Atlantic.
- Streaming has reached its sad, predictable fate.
- Can Poland roll back authoritarian populism?
- Elon Musk’s latest target hits back.
- Why go with an evil-looking orb?
Self-Deprecating and Graceful
My best friend growing up was the Italian Stallion. No, not that one—not Sylvester Stallone’s fictional boxer from Philadelphia, but an actual Italian. My pal Silvio emigrated from Italy and lived around the corner from me. When Rocky delivered a haymaker to the theaters in 1976, there was no way we weren’t going to see it, and throughout high school, if I heard someone in the hallway yell, “Yo, Stallion,” I knew my buddy was around somewhere.
But while watching Stallone in his 2022 Paramount+ series, Tulsa King, I realized that for some years, I’ve been thinking of the original Italian Stallion as my pal too—especially as we both get older.
I have to confess that in my youth, I wasn’t a huge Stallone fan. I saw Rocky in the theater when I was a freshman in high school, and then Rocky II (which was just … okay) the summer I graduated. Rocky III, in my view, is a lightweight cartoon. The final 1990 cash-in, Rocky V, is practically unwatchable.
Ah, but before that series-ending clunker, we had 1985’s Rocky IV, a gloriously cheesy Cold War parable. It’s not a great film, but it was the highest-grossing title in the series. (As a recent look back in Polygon put it, “It’s no one’s favorite Rocky movie, but no one in the history of the world has ever started watching it and turned it off.”) I saw it alone in a small theater in downtown Silver Spring, Maryland, and, as a budding Soviet expert, I loved seeing the Stallion whomp the bejeebers out of that Soviet creep Ivan Drago, the steroid-filled Commie golem who killed Rocky’s enemy turned friend and mentor, Apollo Creed, in the ring.
But despite Rocky IV, I was more a fan of Stallone’s then-nemesis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, not least because I just couldn’t get into Stallone’s Rambo fantasies. In 1993, however, Stallone starred in Demolition Man, playing a cop named John Spartan who screws up and is put in cryogenic storage for his crimes. He is then thawed out in 2032 and thrust into an insufferably politically correct and insipid Southern California to fight Simon Phoenix, a criminal from his own time.
In Demolition Man, Stallone lampooned every stereotype about 20th-century tough guys—including himself. I was in my early 30s, and every time Stallone (who was at that point in his late 40s but looked 10 years younger) sighed and rolled his eyes and explained to his clueless sidekick how to swear (she didn’t get that it’s kick his ass, not lick his ass), or when he was flummoxed by the “Three Seashells” that 2032 Californians use instead of wasteful toilet paper, I felt like I was seeing myself in the near future.
Stallone later made some forgettable films, but I always thought the critics were too hard on him. (Fine, look, I liked Judge Dredd, okay?) And I felt like he was willing to contend with age, just like the rest of us, especially in 1997, when he gained almost 40 pounds at 50 years old to play a sad-sack New Jersey sheriff in the underappreciated crime drama Cop Land.
But I didn’t really admire Stallone until he returned in 2006 to his greatest character, in Rocky Balboa, a coda to his earlier Rocky movies. This time, Rocky is old, nearly broke, nostalgic, and even somewhat pathetic. He owns a joint in Philly, where he goes from table to table mugging for pictures; the rest of the time, he’s utterly absorbed by grief over the loss of his beloved wife, Adrian, who died years earlier. His sadness is so suffocating that even Adrian’s brother Paulie finally walks away. “Sorry, Rocko,” he finally says to his brother-in-law. “I can’t do this no more.”
I was in my 40s when Rocky Balboa came out; Stallone was 60, and for once, the usually buff actor looked it. His nostalgia became mine. Rocky Balboa is an almost elegiac movie that ends (as all Rocky movies must) with personal redemption. During the end credits, real people reenact Rocky’s original iconic training run up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and maybe it was just dusty in the theater, but I had something in my eyes that required dabbing at some tears.
I respected Stallone for giving Rocky a graceful exit. (When the character returned in Creed, it seemed natural and unforced.) The mournfulness of Rocky Balboa stayed with me for years, however, especially as I lost people I cared about and middle age became later middle age. Stallone returned to fighting form in the Expendables series, but by then, we were all in on the joke that he and Arnold and Bruce Willis were too hilariously old for this stuff.
And then I watched Tulsa King, in which Stallone plays Dwight Manfredi, a Mafia capo exiled from New York to Oklahoma after a 25-year stretch in prison (where he valiantly kept his mouth shut to protect his bosses). Tulsa King has been renewed for a second season, so I don’t want to say too much and ruin some of the twists, but Stallone, at the time 75, plays a 75-year-old gangster with grace, laugh-out-loud humor, and credible physical menace.
Manfredi survives prison in good shape, and when he has to make a new life—of crime, naturally—in Tulsa, he goes to work. But he’s no Superman or Terminator; he’s old, and he knows it. Soon, he assembles a ragtag crew, and that’s all I can say without spoiling the fun.
Okay, I’ll spoil one moment. Manfredi picks up a handsome 40-something woman in a bar and takes her to his hotel room. We are spared any graphic scenes, but afterwards, he apologizes for being a bit out of practice in the sack. The woman finally gets around to asking his age, and when he tells her, she freaks out, gathers her clothes, and flees. (She’d guessed him to be a “hard 55,” not 75. I wish someone would mistake me for a “hard 55.”) Manfredi takes the news with equanimity in a great scene that is both funny and wince-inducing.
Tulsa King has plenty of violence, but it’s only incidentally a crime story. It’s about a lot of other things, including aging, time, family, fatherhood, loyalty, and what it means to be a man. As in Rocky Balboa, Stallone treats his character—and the problem of aging—with self-deprecation and respect.
I was 18 when Rocky finally beat Creed, 24 when he floored Drago, 33 when Spartan demolished Phoenix, and 46 when Rocky finally retired once and for all. But watching Tulsa King at 62, I wished—for the first time—that I could be Stallone. Thanks, Sly. I miss Silvio, but I’m glad to be hanging out with the original Stallion as we both take a shot at aging gracefully.
- According to a report unsealed today, a special grand jury in Fulton County, Georgia, that helped investigate election interference allegations in the state recommended charges against more than three dozen people; Lindsey Graham, David Perdue, Kelly Loeffler, and Michael Flynn were among those not ultimately charged.
- Hurricane Lee, now a Category 4 storm, is expected to cause dangerous surf conditions in parts of the Caribbean and most of the U.S. East Coast, although it does not currently threaten any land.
- A major United Nations report assessing the world’s climate efforts warned that there is a “rapidly closing window” for securing a liveable future on Earth.
- The Books Briefing: 60 years after her death, Sylvia Plath’s life continues to fascinate, Gal Beckerman writes.
The Man Who Became Uncle Tom
By Clint Smith
“Among all the singular and interesting records to which the institution of American slavery has given rise,” Harriet Beecher Stowe once wrote, “we know of none more striking, more characteristic and instructive, than that of JOSIAH HENSON.”
Stowe first wrote about Henson’s 1849 autobiography in her 1853 book A Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin, an annotated bibliography of sorts in which she cited a number of nonfiction accounts she had used as source material for her best-selling novel. Stowe later said that Henson’s narrative had served as an inspiration for Uncle Tom.
Proslavery newspaper columnists and southern planters had responded to the huge success of Uncle Tom’s Cabin by accusing Stowe of hyperbole and outright falsehood. Benevolent masters, they said, took great care of the enslaved people who worked for them; in some cases, they treated them like family. The violent, inhumane conditions Stowe described, they contended, were fictitious. By naming her sources, and outlining how they had influenced her story, Stowe hoped to prove that her novel was rooted in fact.
More From The Atlantic
- A rom-com franchise that needs to end
- Our first ‘nonemergency’ COVID season
- We have no drugs to treat the deadliest eating disorder.
Listen. Olivia Rodrigo’s sophomore album, Guts (out today), is less an evolution of Rodrigo’s sound than a persuasive fortification.
Some news: I’ll be onstage at the end of September. The fight’s gonna be in Moscow, and …
No, wait, that’s still Rocky IV.
I’ll be at The Atlantic Festival, in Washington, D.C., and you can join us September 28–29. The festival brings together influential and provocative political, cultural, business, tech, and climate leaders for in-depth interviews, timely forums, intimate breakout sessions, book talks, screenings, and networking opportunities. This year’s participants include Secretary of State Antony Blinken, former U.S. Representative Will Hurd, the actor Kerry Washington, Utah Governor Spencer Cox, the filmmaker Spike Lee, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and many more.
They’ll be joined by Atlantic writers including Arthur C. Brooks, Shirley Li, Tim Alberta, Caitlin Dickerson (our newest Pulitzer Prize winner), and others, including me: I’ll be discussing the future of conservatism with Helen Lewis, David Frum, and Rebecca Rosen.
Nicole Blackwood contributed to this newsletter.
When you buy a book using a link in this newsletter, we receive a commission. Thank you for supporting The Atlantic.
After weeks at 100 degrees F, the drought and heat wave in Texas are taking their toll
This year's Burning Man in a remote part of the Nevada desert was marked by an extremely rare torrential rain, turning the drug-fuelled event into a mud-covered mess.
The mud — technically hydrated desert dust — proved to be a major hindrance for the around 80,000 attendees, forcing them to shelter in place and wait out the rain. Even trucks were helpless against the deep and sticky muck.
While the exodus on Monday allowed many to get back to civilization in one piece, countless tents, vehicles, and trash were left behind, as NBC News reports, marring an event that prides itself in its track record of returning the surrounding area to its natural state (something organizers are required to do with their special recreation permit anyway.)
Critics have long accused Burning Man organizers of greenwashing the event — and this year, that criticism has been laid bare.
Picking Up the Pieces
Organizers and attendees started returning to the site on Wednesday to start cleaning up, a process that can take weeks, per NBC.
"After exodus, the Burning Man team has three weeks where they grid out the entire event area and pick up all items and trash," Burning Man spokesperson Rita Henderson told NBC. "In addition, they clean along the side of the county highways leading to and from the event."
Despite those efforts, many environmental groups have long pointed out the event's considerable carbon footprint. According to estimates, Burning Man releases some 100,000 tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of the emissions created to power 19,000 homes for a year.
This year, climate change activists created a blockade on the one road in and out of the festival site, but tribal police eventually shut it down.
Then there's the local fauna and flora, with biologists warning of native brush being trampled. The eggs of small crustaceans, which hatch after rainfall, could also be destroyed, NBC reports.
At the end of the day, even if Burners pick up all their trash, the environmental damage caused by the massive festival is still palpable.
Looking ahead, Burning Man wants to become "carbon negative, sustainably manage waste, and be ecologically regenerative by 2030." But clearly, getting there will be anything but easy and require some drastic changes.
More on Burning Man: Burning Man Descends Into Chaos as Attendees Told to "Shelter in Place"
The post The Environmental Warriors at Burning Man Left a Disgusting Mess Behind appeared first on Futurism.
seems to have played itself by giving its employees a return-to-office ultimatum — and nearly half of those employees responded by quitting.
As Wired reports, management at the popular queer and trans hookup app issued a stark turnaround from its previous commitment to remote work when they gave workers an abrupt notice: pledge within two weeks to return to work in person at the company's offices in Chicago, Los Angeles, or San Francisco at least two days out of the week, or be laid off.
A bunch of those employees weren't having it, and as representatives from the Grindr union told Wired, 82 out of the company's 178 employees — or a staggering 46 percent of its total staff — decided to quit in response to the policy that would have required relocation for many. Many more who did not sign the pledge will face termination next year during the second phase of the policy's rollout, employees said.
In other words, the fracas is a perfect illustration of post-pandemic workplace dynamics in tech and beyond, as bosses are lobbing increasingly draconian return to office demands at workers who've been accustomed to a more flexible arrangement.
Strikingly, the announcement of the hard-lined policy came just two weeks after staff announced that they were unionizing with the Communication Workers of
. As one of the remaining employees pointed out, nine out of the 11 union organizing committee members were forced out by the policy announcement.
Unsurprisingly, the Grindr union is peeved. The CWA is filing multiple unfair labor practice charges against Grindr on their behalf, including one that alleges the return to office policy — which was a dramatic departure from the company ownership's previous commitment to remote work, which was reinforced as recently as June — was a union-busting tactic.
Grindr employees told Wired that in spite of relocation stipends, the company requiring employees not based in Chicago, LA or SF to move is hypocritical in the current anti-LGBTQ political climate.
Robin, a trans Grindr employee who asked Wired to use a pseudonym and for their location to be withheld for fear of retribution from the company for speaking out, said the in-person work mandate put them in an impossible position: to either leave a queer workplace that "felt like a breath of fresh air" or to leave their support network, which includes doctors who provide them with gender-affirming care.
Ultimately, they decided to walk — and their other trans coworkers who would have had to move chose not to stay with the company either, which "shows a disparate impact on a marginalized class of workers," Robin said.
"Demanding that LGBTQ+ people move for their jobs in this political environment conflicts so much with Grindr’s mission," they told Wired, "that it’s close to its users, that it’s a part of the community."
More on remote work: Forcing Workers Back to the Office Might Not Have Been a Good Idea After All
The post Almost Half of Grindr’s Employees Quit When They Were Forced Back to the Office appeared first on Futurism.
Are you working really hard to learn something? Remember this counterintuitive fact, and you might improve your learning curve.
Are you working really hard to learn something? Remember this counterintuitive fact, and you might improve your learning curve.
Marooned in Morca
A man ventured thousands of feet underground into the Morca cave system in southern Turkey. But along the way he became gravely ill, and now rescue teams are scrambling to get him out.
The spelunker, a 40 year-old American named Mark Dickey, is an experienced speleologist, or cave scientist, and is renowned in the caving community.
Dickey had entered Morca with 14 others. Nothing could prepare him, however, for his untimely diagnosis: gastrointestinal bleeding, stranding him at his camp around 3,400 feet into the cave.
Word arrived at the European Cave Rescue Association (ECRA) on Saturday, and with support from the
caving community and government, they've quickly made progress in ensuring Dickey's safety.
On Sunday, a doctor accompanying a Hungarian rescue team was able to reach Dickey and provide emergency medical care, according to a statement by ECRA.
The next day, two additional Bulgarian rescue parties also made it to the camp. Dickey is, for the time being, safe, and thanked rescuers in a video message shared by the Turkish government on Thursday.
"The caving world is a really tight-knit group and it's amazing to see how many people have responded on the surface," Dickey said, as quoted by the Los Angeles Times. "I do know that the quick response of the Turkish government to get the medical supplies that I need, in my opinion, saved my life. I was very close to the edge."
Still, Dickey and the rescuers' hardest challenge is still ahead of them, as it's unclear how exactly they'll be able to extract the stranded spelunker.
Initially, rescuers had hoped that after administering Dickey with the proper medicine, he would be able to exit on his own.
Yet after doctors assessed his condition, they realized that he was in no shape for that to happen.
At a depth of 4,186 feet, Morca is the third deepest cave in the country and one of the deepest in the world — not to mention being nearly 2.5 miles long. The cave's tunnels are as winding as they are treacherous, and certain stretches are too narrow to let a stretcher through.
"It would take 15 hours for a perfectly healthy, experienced caver to come out from that depth," Yaman Ozakin, a spokesman for one of the rescue teams, told The New York Times.
Ozakin added that rescuers are working on using a special harness to lift Dickey out of the cave. It may be days or even weeks, however, before he can be extracted.
The post Man Stranded In Cave 3,000 Feet Underground After Falling Sick appeared first on Futurism.
Nature, Published online: 08 September 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-02839-4Research centre launched by the
Scientific Reports, Published online: 08 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-42035-yAuthor Correction: Principles of open source bioinstrumentation applied to the
Scientific Reports, Published online: 08 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-42120-2Non-electrostatic interactions associated with aggregate formation between polyallylamine and Escherichia coli
Scientific Reports, Published online: 08 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-41776-0Evaluating of
Scientific Reports, Published online: 08 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-41905-9Non-thermal atmospheric pressure plasma treatment increases hydrophilicity and promotes cell growth on titanium alloys in vitro
Scientific Reports, Published online: 08 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-41889-6Clinical characteristics and cytokine profiles of adult obese
Scientific Reports, Published online: 08 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-40779-1Prediction of lung
Scientific Reports, Published online: 08 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-42038-9Local ocular factors associated with the development of diabetic
conglomerate Philips is paying out a gigantic settlement to unhappy customers whose breathing machines blew foam and gases into their mouths while they were trying to get a good night's sleep.
As the New York Times reports, Philips Respironics, a subsidiary of the multinational corporation, has agreed to pay out a whopping $479 million — nearly half a billion dollars — to customers affected by the recalled breathing assistance devices, known as continuous positive airway pressure or CPAP machines.
Most often used by those who suffer from sleep apnea, a condition in which people suddenly stop breathing while sleeping, CPAP machines fit over the user's mouth or nose and are connected via thick tubing to machines generally placed next to one's bed. The breathing machines are by no means discreet, and for both the wearer and whoever sleeps next to them, they can be quite loud and disruptive.
These machines were already unwieldy enough without the malfunction causing gases and foam to spew into unsuspecting users' mouths — a glitch that was apparently widespread enough for Philips to recall more than five million of its CPAP machines since 2021.
As the Fierce Biotech noted earlier this summer, there have been more than 105,000 complaints about the machines to the Food and Drug Administration to date, and they have been associated with 385 reported deaths, with 40 of those being reported this year alone.
In a statement provided to Fierce Biotech about this first wave of the settlements, lawyers for the plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit over the devices said that Philips will be providing affected users anywhere from $55 to $1,552 in damages, along with $100 per device returned and additional funds to replace them.
The settlement, as the biopharma site notes, is part of a $615 million fund Philips began setting aside earlier this year to handle complaints about the company's ongoing recall of its CPAP machines and other respiratory devices.
That amount is by no means chump change, but it is evidence of the slow-moving nature of class-action lawsuits that it's taken more than two years since Philips' initial recall.
It's undeniably good that those affected and their families are getting some much-deserved compensation for this harmful machine malfunction, but it'd be better if the devices didn't screw up so royally in the first place.
More on medical malfunctions: Doctors Discover Instrument Left in Patient's Body For 18 Months After Surgery
The post Company in Huge Trouble After Its CPAP Machines Blew Foam Into Users’ Lungs appeared first on Futurism.
During a recent mission mapping a previously unexplored habitat off the coast of Alaska, a submersible remotely operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) came across something unexpected.
A smooth "golden egg" appeared during the mission's livestream last month, mystifying scientists nearly two miles under the surface.
"It’s definitely got a big old hole in it," one researcher said during the live stream, as quoted by the Washington Post. "So something either tried to get in or tried to get out."
While viewers had a field day comparing the baffling object to the iconic — and fictional — eggs from the 1979 science-fiction horror movie "Alien," it likely has terrestrial origins.
But scientists are struggling to nail down specifics, even after recovering it from the depths. After all, more than 80 percent of the Earth's oceans have yet to be mapped or explored, let alone seen by humans.
"While somewhat humbling to be stumped by this finding, it serves as a reminder of how little we know about our own planet and how much is left to learn and appreciate about our ocean," Sam Candio, the NOAA Ocean Exploration coordinator for the expedition, told WaPo.
Golden Goose Egg
Some experts believe the object may have been left behind by an ocean dweller.
"At first glance, it’s possibly the remains of an egg case of an invertebrate animal, or perhaps a slightly mangled sponge," Jon Copley, a professor of ocean exploration and science communication at the University of Southampton, told WaPo.
The mysterious object appeared more like a puddle of brown-ish slime after the NOAA's Ocean Explorer fished it out of the ocean, pictures revealed. "Tickling" the egg revealed a thin, skin-like covering.
But for now, we'll have to wait until scientists get a chance to study it in detail in a laboratory setting before we get more answers.
"Without detailed examination and analysis of the specimens obtained, we don’t know what this strange object is," Daniel Jones, associate head of ocean biogeosciences at
’s National Oceanography Center, told the newspaper. "But it highlights the diversity of life in the world’s deep oceans that remains undiscovered and the importance of scientific exploration."
More on the object: Scientists Find Strange Golden Object at Bottom of Pacific Ocean
The post Scientists
- The most famous instance of this is when NBCUniversal decided to launch its own streaming platform, Peacock, and stopped licensing The Office to Netflix.
The first question plaguing omnivorous, content-hungry humans with a spare hour or two is this: What should I watch? In recent years, a second question has come to dominate our evening streaming rituals: How do I watch it? Drenching your eyeballs in sweet television can be surprisingly tricky, requiring some amount of research to determine which streaming platform has whatever you want to watch and, crucially, whether you pay for it already. Netflix and Amazon Prime Video and Hulu are still sometimes not enough to watch the most popular shows, especially if you want to see Idris Elba attempt to outfox plane hijackers (you’ll need Apple TV+ for that).
Most evenings, I find myself stuck in this phase, during which time I am likely to cycle through something resembling the five stages of grief. There’s Denial (I swear I had a Paramount+ account); Anger (I cannot believe I have to pay for Paramount+); Bargaining (I promise I will cancel my subscription after the one-week Paramount+ trial period ends); Depression (I cannot believe I didn’t remember to cancel Paramount+ after the trial period ended); and Acceptance (Let’s just head to Netflix and watch Suits).
You, me, all of us, we live in a time of abundance. Streaming is a modern marvel that allows us to watch obscure documentaries, reality shows, Con Air, and more videos than any old Blockbuster could hope to stock. Yet the act of consuming content has never felt more frustrating than it does today. Not only has the landscape fractured into endless streaming platforms; the user experience on each one has degraded. Ads are everywhere, and thirsty streaming services are looking to juice engagement metrics with questionable features. Last month, Variety reported that Warner Bros. Discovery has plans to integrate CNN alerts for breaking news into its popular streaming service, Max—disturbing your episode of Succession. Maybe worst of all, it’s getting more expensive. For the first time this fall, the monthly price for a bundle of the top streaming services ($87) is expected to exceed the price of an average cable package ($83).
We are living in a streaming paradox. As both an entertainment business model and a consumer experience, streaming has become a victim of its own success. It is a paradigm shift that is beloved for giving us more choice than ever before, while also making it harder than ever to actually enjoy that abundance.
At first, streaming felt revolutionary, even seductive. Netflix debuted its service in 2007, right in the middle of my time at college. This introduction to bingeing TV episodes is a moment in time forever commemorated by a not-so-gentle decline in my grade point average from freshman to sophomore year. The proposition was simple: pay a reasonable monthly fee for a single destination of inexhaustible entertainment. For a while, Netflix, like any good tech product, simply worked—on your laptop, your phone, even a stranger’s TV at an Airbnb rental.
Naturally, Netflix’s runaway success kicked off a streaming arms race. Studios poured billions into building tech products, and tech companies poured billions into becoming production studios. In 2014, Netflix became the first streaming platform to be nominated for an Academy Award. Soon after, platforms and studios entered expensive bidding wars over new titles and funded more shows and movies than ever before in attempts to acquire new sign-ups. Executives felt they had no choice but to adapt to the on-demand subscription model, all while confessing that the business of streaming seemed shaky.
Now we are living through the contraction. The simple truth is that it is incredibly expensive to produce and distribute content at Netflix scale and without a head start. According to The Wall Street Journal, the traditional entertainment companies, such as Disney and Warner Bros., that have spun up streaming businesses to compete with Netflix and its chief rivals have “reported losses of more than $20 billion combined since early 2020.” Streaming platforms are dealing with subscription fatigue: Only so many people are willing to pay for so many platforms.
In response, major streaming services across the board have raised prices, while Netflix has cracked down on password sharing. That’s to say nothing of the content itself, the production of which is slowing down and, according to dissatisfied viewers, appears less ambitious. Complex bundle tiers are beginning to emerge. Interested in Disney+? That’ll be $8 dollars a month. Unless you want it ad-free, then it’s $11 a month. How about Hulu? That’s $8 a month or $80 a year if you’re willing to put up with ads, or $15 a month without ads. But what if I told you that you could have Disney+ and Hulu together? That’ll cost you $10 a month with ads; an ad-free version will run you $20 a month. Want to add ESPN+ to the bundle? No problem; just add $3 a month. Or $10, if you don’t want those pesky commercials. Got it?
Although the streaming arms race has unlocked more studio back catalogs and resulted in more original content, actually accessing all the options means shelling out more money. The most famous instance of this is when NBCUniversal decided to launch its own streaming platform, Peacock, and stopped licensing The Office to Netflix. The decision cost NBCUniversal $500 million, and required Netflix subscribers to fork up another $12 a month to continue streaming the hit sitcom. Cutthroat studios may behave as if streaming is a zero-sum game, but for most consumers, it’s not. Multiple acquaintances of mine have been reduced to once-unthinkable practices, like keeping spreadsheets to track how much money they’re spending on all their different streaming subscriptions.
Not that cable was better and we should return to a time before Tubi (or Mubi, Crackle, Popcornflix, Vudu, and Crunchyroll). But for all its shortcomings, cable made sense in a way that the modern streaming environment does not. In a podcast with my colleague Derek Thompson, the media analyst Julia Alexander recently described cable as a “beautiful, socialistic almost, experiment.” Our current streaming landscape may offer consumers the à la carte experience that cord-cutters once clamored for, but there’s a Hobbesian quality to it all. For the studios, writers, and actors themselves, the streaming model is mostly untenable, taking away the money that Hollywood’s creative people used to make off reruns, among other things. It’s possible that the promise of streaming—and the precarity it introduced—may kneecap the entire film and TV industry for years to come.
If what has happened to streaming feels familiar, that’s because it is. Occasionally, as the writer Cory Doctorow has argued, tech platforms offer a service that’s genuinely helpful or unique, and subsidize the cost for users in order to hook them. Once users are dependent, the companies “abuse” them, squeezing out revenue by either jacking up prices or surveilling users and selling the data, which is part of a process he calls “enshittification.” Maybe you’ve noticed that Google Search isn’t as helpful as it once was. But there is another side of enshittification, too. Sometimes, a new service emerges, offering an idealized, likely heavily subsidized version of itself—so good, in fact, that it is adopted quickly and then relentlessly copied by competitors to the point that it becomes economically unsustainable. Think MoviePass.
Streaming appears to be a mix of the two. It is a genuine technological achievement that ushered in an embarrassment of riches. Like MoviePass, the earliest iterations felt almost too good to be true, combining great value with true utility. The model was beloved, but also copied to the point of absurdity. In the long run and in times of nonzero interest rates, it’s entirely possible that the model is unprofitable. It is also a story of scale-chasing that leads to irrational business decisions, lighting piles of cash on fire, and, ultimately, providing users with slowly degrading or bewildering products.
What is left is a cognitive dissonance that comes along with our streaming rituals—the feeling of being presented with infinite choice while also experiencing a vague sense of loss. Perhaps this is because people like myself are unable to understand how good we have it. But there is something about our current streaming paradox that also speaks to the feeling of living a life mediated by Silicon Valley. Perhaps the lesson is simply that infinite choice is glorious in theory, but in practice, it is undesirable and only able to exist undergirded by fractured, bureaucratic, and algorithmic systems. It’s a notion both timeless and distinctly modern: A fundamental experience of being alive on the internet in 2023 is getting everything you asked for and realizing that the end product is not what it seems.
Nature Communications, Published online: 08 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-41219-4A climate model identifies that periodic wet phases in the Sahara, termed North African Humid Periods, were driven by Earths orbital variations and were suppressed during glacial periods due to the influence of extensive ice sheets.
Renewable power was already rapidly replacing fossil fuels as the cheapest source of electricity. Thanks to rocketing fuel prices last year, it is now the clear winner when it comes to cost-effectiveness.
For decades, solar and wind power was substantially more expensive than fossil fuels and most projects were heavily reliant on government subsidies to survive. But rapidly falling costs mean renewables now match or even outperform traditional power sources in a wide range of markets.
That transition has now accelerated significantly, according to a new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). Thanks in large part to a major spike in fossil fuel prices, 86 percent of newly commissioned, grid-scale renewable electricity capacity in 2022 had lower costs than fossil-fuel-derived electricity. That’s despite all kinds of costs having gone up across the world due to rising inflation and disruption to supply chains caused by the Covid pandemic and war in Ukraine.
“IRENA sees 2022 as a veritable turning point in the deployment for renewables as its cost-competitiveness has never been greater despite the lingering commodity and equipment cost inflation around the world,” IRENA’s director-general Francesco La Camera said in a press release.
The findings are just the latest data point showing the dramatic fall in prices renewables have experienced in recent years. According to the report, in 2010 solar power was 710 percent more expensive than the cheapest fossil fuel option, while onshore wind was 95 percent more expensive.
Last year, the average cost of electricity from solar fell by 3 percent to almost one-third less than the cheapest fossil fuel globally, while onshore wind costs fell by 5 percent to slightly less than half that of the cheapest fossil fuel option.
Cost declines weren’t evenly distributed though, the report notes. The significant improvements in both solar and onshore wind were both driven by deployments in
. If the Asian giant had been excluded from the calculations, the average cost of onshore wind would have remained level. And countries like France, Germany, and Greece experienced significant increases in the cost of solar.
The costs of offshore wind projects and hydropower projects also both increased in 2022. The former saw a 2 percent rise due to a drop in China’s rate of deployment, while the latter saw costs jump 18 percent due to overruns in a number of large projects.
Nonetheless, the report found the combined renewable power capacity deployed around the world since the year 2000 saved roughly $521 billion in fuel costs in 2022. The authors suggest the rapid build-out of green energy in recent years probably prevented the spike in fossil fuel prices from developing into an all-out energy crisis last year, highlighting the energy security benefits of renewables.
“The most affected regions by the historic price shock were remarkably resilient, in large part thanks to the massive increase of solar and wind in the last decade,” said La Camera.
Even in places where renewable installation costs increased, the report says that fossil fuel prices typically rose by far more. With those prices expected to remain high for, the authors conclude that this will cement a structural change in the energy market with renewables becoming the cheapest source of power globally.
Whether this shift in cost dynamics will be enough to avert the climate crisis remains to be seen. La Camera notes that annual deployments of renewable power need to hit 1,000 gigawatts every year until 2030 if we want to keep alive the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. That’s an ambitious goal that will need all the help it can get from market forces.
Within days of each other, Hurricane Jova in the Pacific and Hurricane Lee in the Atlantic rapidly ballooned into Category 5 storms
I am not a specialist in the field but concretely the universal salary (i.e. a financial payment that would be automatically distributed to each citizen of X country), it is rather an unachievable fantasy, isn't it?
I find it hard to believe that this can be put in place but also that it can work.
But I may be wrong.