younger for older men – 29 (Suffolk)
We are a younger couple (age: 29). i need an old man to fuck my girl. U must be over the age of 45 and can host in Suffolk or pay for room.
Humor, culture, observation and other good stuff from Brooklyn, New York–the real America!
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Well, this is rather macabre. A decade prior to his Presidency, in 1878, Benjamin Harrison investigated a number of Ohio medical colleges in search of the stolen corpse of a deceased family friend, and came face to face with his own freshly fallen father. It’s likely the jaw-dropping tale is true as that state was known in those years for the brisk business conducted by so-called resurrectionists, who were often in cahoots with academics in need of cadavers. The full story from the March 13, 1910 New York Times:
“One of the strangest, and at the same time the most gruesome stories that ever reached a newspaper office was told by H.E. Krehbiel, the musical critic, the other night. Though it reached a newspaper office and has been known to a few persons in the twenty years succeeding, it was not printed when the incidents happened, because those concerned took the precaution of narrating them in confidence. Here it is, however, as Mr. Krehbiel tells it, long after those most intimately concerned are dead:
‘Many years ago I was at work one afternoon in the offices of a Cincinnati newspaper when Benjamin Harrison, afterward President of the United States, and his brother came into the office and began a long conversation with the city editor. They spoke in low tones, which did not reach beyond the desk where they were sitting.
‘After nearly half an hour had elapsed the city editor called me over to him and introduced me to the two gentlemen, both of whom seemed to be laboring under strong emotion. Benjamin Harrison appeared to be especially affected. This did not surprise me very much, as I was aware that they had only buried their father, to whom they were both devotedly attached, a few days before. The city editor instructed me to take down their story, giving me also explicitly to understand that, whereas, I was to listen to all they had to say, I was to write no more, and the paper was to print no more than they should decide.
‘Now,’ continued Mr. Krehbiel, ‘this is what Benjamin Harrison told me. A few days before the death of his father, the husband of a dear old German woman who lived near their farm also died and was duly buried. When he came from the East to attend his own father’s obsequies this old woman went to him in great distress and told him that the grave of her husband had been opened and his body stolen. Those were the days of body snatchers or ‘resurrectionists,’ before the State had made provision for subjects for medical colleges.
‘Mr Harrison went on to say that his old German friend’s distress was so intense that he and his brother had themselves undertaken a search for the body in Cincinnati. This search had occupied them two days and had just ended.
“‘We swore out a search warrant and took a constable with us,’ said Mr. Harrison. ‘One by one we have been to every medical school in the City of Cincinnati. It was a terrible ordeal for us, especially as our own grief was fresh and poignant. We kept up the search without inkling, clue or result, until we had visited every medical school in Cincinnati except one.
“‘The last one was the Ohio State Medical College. We went over there more as a formality than anything else. With search warrant and constable we were enabled there, as elsewhere, to have everything opened to us. We found nothing.
“‘Just as we were about to leave the college the constable noted a shaft such as is used in apartment houses. Down this shaft hung the ropes of a hoist. The constable went up to the ropes of a hoist and took hold of the taut rope. He turned to me sharply, saying that there was a weight on the hoist. I told him to pull it up. He did so.
“‘Attached to the rope by a hook was the body of my own father. They had known at the colleges whose the body was. They had taken this fiendishly ingenious method of moving it from floor to floor as we in our search had moved from one floor to another.’
‘This,’ said Mr. Krehbiel, ‘is the story in Benjamin Harrison’s own words just as he gave it to me.’”
The guest on a very good episode of Russ Roberts’ EconTalk this week was Cornell economist Robert Frank. One highlight late in the show was a debate about smoking bans. The host, a non-smoker, argued against them, while the guest, who began smoking as a teenager, spoke for them. I go along with smoking bans not because it makes me deeply sad whenever I see someone with a cigarette (though it does), but because employees in, say, bars shouldn’t be prone to secondhand smoke. And while they have the freedom to not work in such an environment, that right is limited by opportunity. I’ll pay more to supplement health insurance for smokers, but I don’t want my health or anyone else’s to be compromised by a smoker’s behavior. That’s why I’m not in favor of a ban on large sodas. While people who down gigantic sugary drinks are harming themselves and costing us more in healthcare, you’re going to catch diabetes from them. Education is the best way to reverse that problem.
The other highlight, though that’s admittedly an odd word choice given the dire subject, was Frank’s chillingly straightforward description of climate models in response to a question about a carbon tax. The whole planet is essentially a chain smoker. An excerpt:
“If you read the climate science literature, though, I think there’s less ambiguity here than many believe. The science is inexact; that’s the first thing that the climate scientists themselves will stress. They have no idea really where this is going exactly. What we know, though, is that every estimate that’s come in has been dramatically more pessimistic than the one from a year ago. And the best simulation model that we have, the MIT Global Climate Simulation Model, in a recent set of simulations estimated that by the end of this century, by 2095, not even quite the end of the century, there is a 1 in 10 chance that we are going to see an increase of average global temperature by more than 12 degrees Fahrenheit. And if that happened, 1 in 10, the model is uncertain, so it could be 1 in 5, it could be 1 in 3, it could be 1 in 20–we don’t know–but let’s take their estimate at face value, 1 in 10, then we get 12 degrees increase. All the permafrost melts; all the methane, the billions of tons of methane are released into the atmosphere, each ton 50 times more powerful than CO2 as a greenhouse gas. That’s essentially the end of life as we know it on the planet.”
Elon Musk apparently grew a little flustered recently during a Tesla earnings call when he was asked almost to the exclusion of everything else about his plans to build Gigafactory, the world’s largest battery factory. But he’d better get used to it because the work’s implications go far beyond electric cars and could be repurposed into virtually every other industry. From Alan Ohnsman at Businessweek:
“Tesla has dubbed the project the ‘gigafactory,’ and it would make Musk a force in both U.S. manufacturing and electric power. The plant he envisions would have more capacity than any other to make lithium-ion batteries.
‘This has a huge impact beyond Tesla,’ said Harley Shaiken, a labor economist at the University of California, Berkeley. ‘It gives enormous legitimacy to battery production and the future of the electric car because that lies in the battery. It’s high stakes, high technology.’
Tesla plans an investment of $4 billion to $5 billion by 2020 and will fund about $2 billion of the total, the Palo Alto, California-based company said in a presentation on its website. The convertible bond offering could grow to $1.84 billion, according to a separate statement.”
A good portion of the clothes charitable Americans place in drop boxes provided by the Salvation Army and other non-profits winds up being resold in sub-Saharan Africa. That provides impoverished people in that region with ultra-cheap clothes, but it also might be stymieing garment industries in those nations. An unintended consequence, sure, though perhaps taking away this market would have unforeseen consequences as well. We should give, but give as intelligently as possible. Give now to help with immediate needs, while working to incentivize future markets. From Shannon Whitehead at Medium:
“People will argue that the second-hand clothing industry in Africa is booming. And, on the surface, it is — over one-third of Sub-Saharan Africans wear second-hand. The reality, though, is that for as long as the second-hand clothing industry thrives, Africa’s economy is unlikely to improve.
According to Professor Garth Frazer from the University of Toronto, no country has ever achieved a sustainable per capita national income (at a level associated with a developing economy) without also achieving a clothing-manufacturing workforce that employs at least 1 percent of the population.
Over the years, certain African nations have attempted to ban or restrict the influx of Western clothing imports. In an effort to give existing industries a chance and to maintain traditional culture, countries such as South Africa, Uganda and Nigeria have tried to implement regulation. While it’s done some good for those countries, it hasn’t provided a solution.
Simply put, as long as we, the consumer, continue to buy and discard at our current rate, there will be a market for our wasted fashion.”
Bacteria in your mouth has a direct path to your heart, but technology also wants a way to your beloved chest muscle. The opening of Samuel Gibbs’ new Guardian article about a bluetooth toothbrush:
“Oral B’s new app controlled Bluetooth 4.0 toothbrush makes sure you brush your teeth properly, lets your dentist peek at your brushing habits and personalises your brushing.
The toothbrush connects to the free Oral B app for the iPhone and Android, and will track your every brush stroke, collect data and chart your progress while giving you real-time guidance on how to get the job done faster and better.
‘It provides the highest degree of user interaction to track your oral care habits to help improve your oral health, and we believe it will have significant impact on the future of personal oral care, providing data-based solutions for oral health, and making the relationship between dental professionals and patients a more collaborative one,’ said Wayne Randall, global vice president of Oral Care at Procter and Gamble.
The smart bathroom
Oral B sees the connected toothbrush, launched as part of Mobile World Congress’s Connected City exhibition, as the next evolution of the smart bathroom.”
Tags: Samuel Gibbs
From the November 9, 1904 New York Times:
“EVANSTON, Wyo.–Mrs. Leon Demars, shot in a duel with her neighbor, Mrs. Nancy Richards, is dead. Several times the women had come to blows, and each had warned the other that the next time would be with guns.
Mrs. Demars went to Mrs. Richards’s ranch, near Fort Bridger, and upon being ordered away, displayed a big revolver.
Mrs. Richards drew a pistol, and at the second shot Mrs. Demars fell with a bullet in her breast, but kept on firing, emptying the revolver. Mrs. Richards also fired six shots.
Both are wives of ranchers. They are thirty years old.”
As a species, we’re a disaster for other living things on Earth, and, perhaps, ultimately, for ourselves as well.
Even those of us who are vegan are bad news for our non-human neighbors because you don’t need a gun or a slaughterhouse to do plenty of damage. Like the body, the planet is resilient, and species have always disappeared by the multitude, but how much is too much? The opening of “Killing Machines” an Economist review of New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert’s book, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History:
“BLEAK headlines abound about species on the brink. Monarch butterflies in Mexico are struggling. So are starfish in America, vultures in South Asia and coral reefs everywhere.
This is depressing stuff. It’s also a glimpse of the future. As the climate warms, catastrophe looms. Yet it is oddly pleasurable to read Elizabeth Kolbert’s new book, which offers a ramble through mass extinctions, present and past. Five such episodes in the past 450m years have wiped out plant and animal life on huge scales. A sixth appears to be upon us.
Ms Kolbert, who writes for the New Yorker, uses case studies to document the crisis. Setting out for Panama to investigate a vanishing species of frog, she learns that amphibians are the world’s most imperilled class of animal. Close to her home in New England, a fast-spreading fungus has left bat corpses strewn through caves. On a tiny island off Australia’s coast, she laments the degradation of the Great Barrier Reef by ocean acidification, sometimes known as global warming’s ‘evil twin.’
A new geological epoch may have arrived. Some scientists have dubbed it the ‘Anthropocene’ after its human perpetrators.”
“The sixth extinction is being caused by an invasive species”:
Young, healthy, non-smoker, athletic (jogger, tennis), educated (Bachelor of Science in Marketing), blood type A woman is looking to share my kidney with an individual/family who really needs it. I am not willing to travel outside of the continental US to have surgery. The job market has been unsympathetic to me and at this point its either sell a kidney or compromise my dignity. I would rather not compromise my dignity. Besides, I would be helping to save someone’s life.
Like Michel Siffre, who embedded himself in caverns and glaciers decades ago to test the human limits in isolation in advance of Apollo missions, journalist Kate Greene spent four months training in the exquisite malaise of a simulated NASA Mars mission in Hawaii, lying in wait–for what?–near the silent mouth of a volcano. It was so much like sleep that dreams–or something like them–began. The opening of “Planet Boredom,” Greene’s Aeon article about her experience:
“What follows is an account of an instance where I, a person of relatively sound mind and body, could not believe the evidence before my own eyes. It might not have been a hallucination that I experienced, but it was surely a great jolt of consciousness. The scene: I’m in my closet-sized cabin, inside a white dome built to house a crew of six for four months as part of an isolation experiment. As a crew, we are working and living as ‘explorers’ stationed on the surface of ‘Mars’. Our colony is lifelike and NASA-funded, but it is situated in a place quite a bit closer to home, on a remote slope of a Hawai’ian volcano.
It’s only a couple weeks before we are to be released, and I’m sitting on my bed with my laptop, sorting data from a sleep study I’ve been conducting on myself and my crewmates for the past three months. My cabin door is open. From the corner of my eye, I see a stranger walk into the washroom a few meters away. It’s odd, I think, for a stranger to be here. Our doors are not locked during the day, but our habitat is positioned in an isolated area, at a high elevation, far away from paved roads and pedestrians. The sight of an unfamiliar person nonchalantly using our facilities is enough to jack up my senses to high alert.
I watch as the stranger goes into the washroom and splashes water on his face. Do I know him? Why can’t I tell? If he is an intruder, why is he here? And what will he do when he’s done freshening up and sees me staring at him? I have three male crewmates and the man washing his face looks like none of them. Our crew commander shaves his head while this man has thick brown hair, slicked back. Another crewmate almost always wears buttoned-up long-sleeved shirts. The stranger is in a baggy black T-shirt. My third male crewmate is larger than the unfamiliar man and has curly red hair and a beard. This man is clean-shaven.
Finally, the stranger steps out of the bathroom and confronts me. ‘What,’ he says, less a question, more a bark. His voice kicks me to reality. It’s Simon, our red-headed engineer who has evidently shorn his beard and lost more weight over the mission than I had previously noticed.
Still, my heart is racing and a surge of blood warms me from earlobe to fingertip. ‘I didn’t know who you were,’ I say. He nods and gives a slight smile. We both laugh uneasily at the absurd thought of an intruder. It’s almost too impossible for us to imagine.
And it was shortly thereafter, as the tail end of my terror entwined with the emergent joy of relief, that I notice I hadn’t felt anything so strongly in months. I had been living in a kind of torpor.”
Tags: Kate Greene
Two new reports about drone development, which can aid in shipping goods–or things that aren’t so good.
From “Autonomous Drones Flock Like Birds,” by Ed Young at Nature:
“A Hungarian team has created the first drones that can fly as a coordinated flock. The researchers watched as the ten autonomous robots took to the air in a field outside Budapest, zipping through the open sky, flying in formation or even following a leader, all without any central control.
Experiment with distant quasar light could solve free-will loophole in quantum theory
More humane method needed for euthanizing lab fish
Microbial genes become useful forensic tool
The aircraft, called quadcopters because they have four rotors, navigate using signals from Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers, communicate their positions to one another via radio and compute their own flight plans. They were created by a team of scientists led by Tamás Vicsek, a physicist at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest.
‘This is remarkable work,’ says Iain Couzin, who studies collective animal behaviour at Princeton University in New Jersey. ‘It is the first outdoor demonstration of how biologically inspired rules can be used to create resilient yet dynamic flocks. [It suggests] we will be able to achieve large, coordinated robot flocks much sooner than many would have anticipated.’”
From “Rolls-Royce Drone Ships Challenge $375 Billion Industry: Freight,” by Isaac Arnsdorf at Bloomberg:
“In an age of aerial drones and driver-less cars, Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc is designing unmanned cargo ships.
Rolls-Royce’s Blue Ocean development team has set up a virtual-reality prototype at its office in Alesund, Norway, that simulates 360-degree views from a vessel’s bridge. Eventually, the London-based manufacturer of engines and turbines says, captains on dry land will use similar control centers to command hundreds of crewless ships.
Drone ships would be safer, cheaper and less polluting for the $375 billion shipping industry that carries 90 percent of world trade, Rolls-Royce says.”
An Illinois mind reader planned in 1893 to have himself buried alive where he would remain while a crop grew above him. He would then emerge unscathed. There are easier ways to kill yourself. From an article in the August 7th edition in that year’s Brooklyn Daily Eagle:
“Hillsboro, Ill.–The mind reader, A.J. Seymour, is generally known in Illinois and his proposed attempt to be buried and remain in the ground while a crop of barley is grown on his grave creates interest in this state. Dr. E.C. Dunn of Rockford has been selected by Seymour as manager. Dr. Dunn says: ‘There is no question that this feat can be performed. I have seen it performed successfully three times in India, at Allahabad, Delhi and Benares. For several days Seymour will be fed upon a diet of fat and heat producing food. He will then throw himself into a cataleptic state. Their lungs will be filled with pure air to their fullest capacity and the tongue placed back and partially down the throat in such a manner as to completely close the aperture to the lungs. The nose, eyes and ears will be hermetically sealed with wax. After parafine has been spread over the entire body, to close the pores, it will be ready for burial. The body will be put in an extra large casket. This will be placed inside another and both will be perforated, in order that if any poisonous gases exude from the body they may make their escape and be absorbed by the soil. The interment is to be made in a clay soil.’”
After Hurricane Sandy devastated so many people in Queens and on Staten Island in 2012, the federal government gave New York City millions to help rebuild the houses of the newly homeless (and those remaining in barely livable, damaged homes). Mayor Bloomberg set up a program called Build It Back, staffed offices with workers, and for the next 15 months not a single home was rebuilt by the program as people in need, people still struggling along in shelters, were stonewalled. NOT A SINGLE HOME. The Rapid Repair project which restored electrical and boiler service was a good use of money, but Build It Back has been a fiasco.
You read about this colossal failure in the local newspapers sometimes, but not much. It’s been treated as a minor subplot. What I have noticed is that a lot of newsprint has been devoted to nitpicking newly inaugurated Bill de Blasio over small matters since he got into office. Perhaps that’s just locals being wary of what’s unfamiliar or maybe some moneyed interests are worried about tax increases. Perhaps it’s a little of both.
No one knows yet if de Blasio will be a good mayor or not, but he did make a solid (if obvious) call in replacing the failed official in charge of the Build It Back program. Perhaps some people can still get help. From “De Blasio and the Motorcade Sideshow,” a Sally Goldenberg article in Capital:
“When a CNN reporter asked him Monday whether he believes the press is treating him unfairly, de Blasio began by saying he can ‘take the heat,’ then criticized reporters for focusing on ‘sideshows,’ instead of announcements about Hurricane Sandy rebuilding, and his court fight to keep open Long Island College Hospital. (The LICH story was covered widely, despite the detail flap.)
‘These are issues that fundamentally affect peoples’ lives and I think that’s where the public debate should reside,’ he said. ‘And I think too much of the time debate veers away into, you know, sideshows.’”
Sooner or later–and probably sooner–genetic engineering in humans is going to be a reality, despite fears of such things. Especially since a lot of those fears are dubious. Science and technology are imperfect, but so is nature. If we can avoid congenital disease or defect, we should. And, yes, there will be a temptation to abuse these advances as there always are, but you can’t hold back progress for that reason. For all the thousands of people who’ve been helped by science to become parents, isn’t it worth it to put up with the occasional Octomom? From a New York Times article by Sabrina Tavernise about the intersection of genetic therapy and human fertility:
“Such genetic methods have been controversial in the United States, where critics and some elected officials ask how far scientists plan to go in their efforts to engineer humans, and question whether such methods might create other problems later on.
‘Every time we get a little closer to genetic tinkering to promote health — that’s exciting and scary,’ said Dr. Alan Copperman, director of the division of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. ‘People are afraid it will turn into a dystopian brave new world.’
He added that the current meeting and discussion was an attempt at ‘putting together a framework for us to prepare for this genetic revolution.’
‘The most exciting part, scientifically,’ he said, ‘is to be able to prevent or fix an error in the genetic machinery.’”
As difficult as it is to comprehend the horror that slavery ever existed at all, it really stuns that it still exists now. The opening of a Priceonomics blog post by Zachary Crockett about the Mauritanian slave trade:
“Abdel Nasser Ould Ethmane received his first slave when he was seven years old. It was the afternoon of his circumcision — his right of passage into early manhood — and he had the liberty to pick any gift imaginable. ‘It was as if I were picking out a toy,’ he recalls. ‘It was as if he were a thing — a thing that pleased me.’
With the point of a finger, Abdel selected a small boy with almond eyes and skin the color of coal to be his slave until death.
Abdel is a resident of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania in western North Africa, where this is commonplace. In fact, Mauritania has the highest proportional population of slaves in the world: as many as 680,000 of the country’s 3.4 million people — 20% of the population — are considered ‘property.’”
Tags: Zachary Crockett
From the September 4, 1892 New York Times:
“St. Paul, Minn.–Miss Josie Letson of Minneapolis has been lying at the point of death at the Northwestern Hospital for the last six weeks, but because of a remarkable surgical operation, will recover. She had been taking nothing but liquid food for over a year and had become so weak she could not raise her head.
As a last resort, physicians, by the use of a stethoscope, located an obstruction in the aesophagus about two inches below the clavicle, or collar bone. Miss Nelson was given no anesthetic and an incision was made on the left side of the neck about 4 1/2 inches in length.
The doctors dissected down to the aesophoaus, opened it, ad there found two teeth pointed downward, firmly inserted in the interior walls of the aesophagus. They almost entirely obstructed the passage.
Miss Nelson said six years ago, while in a fit of laughter, she swallowed the two teeth, which were then attached to a triangular piece of rubber in her gums.”
Tags: Miss Josie Letson
It’s difficult to legislate widespread behavior. Prohibition didn’t work because people kept drinking. They voted with their actions. They same is true about spying, about invasions of what we formerly considered privacy. Perhaps laws can prohibit some government intrusions, but our technology makes it too tempting for it to stop completely. Of course, the power has passed into the hands of the people as well, which has forced a transparency on government that it did not want. At the moment when people are most worried about the government having too much control, the reverse is actually happening. It’s falling away. And it’s not really about Snowden or Manning but about humans and our nature. We want to know. We like to watch.
From Eli Lake’s Daily Beast article about James Clapper, the nation’s top intelligence officer who has come to realize the hard way that information now flows down a two-way street:
“Clapper also acknowledges that the very human nature of the bureaucracy he controls virtually insures that more mass disclosures are inevitable. ‘In the end,’ he says, ‘we will never ever be able to guarantee that there will not be an Edward Snowden or another Chelsea Manning because this is a large enterprise composed of human beings with all their idiosyncrasies.’
Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, concurs: ‘I do think he recognizes that we are in a new normal after Snowden where we can’t operate with the expectation where nothing will get out,” he said. ‘If you are going to be dealing with the world where there are these disclosures you have to be more transparent to make the case to the public what you are doing and not doing.’”
I’m glad Newsweek is a thing again. The opening of a really good Kyle Chayka article from that publication about the frontlines of carbon-silicon relations, in the U.S. military, where cooperation, not competition, is key:
“For a glimpse at the future of human-robot interactions, it might be better to look at what’s happening in the United States military than analyzing Her, in which Joaquin Phoenix’s character falls in love with an OS voiced by Scarlett Johansson. Throughout every department of our armed forces, autonomous robots are playing a larger role in every aspect of warfare than ever before, and soldiers are developing some unorthodox relationships with their machines. Just ask Danielle.
Danielle was a TALON, a remotely operated robot used for reconnaissance in combat, as well as in tough-to-reach terrain like rocky canyons and caves. Connor, an Army sergeant, recalled that while deployed in Afghanistan, soldiers had to hole up inside their trucks each night, packing several humans as well as piles of equipment including robots into a small space. ‘Everything had to be locked up, so our TALON was in the center aisle of our truck,’ he recalls. ‘Our junior guy named it Danielle so he’d have a woman to cuddle with at night.’ Sadly, the romance was not to last: ‘Danielle got blown up,’ Connor says.
Just as World War II pilots gave their planes names like Memphis Belle, and decorated them with nose art, today’s soldiers are naming their robots after movie stars, musicians and ex-girlfriends. Brady, another Army sergeant, called his TALON Elly. ‘I talked to her, when I was at the controls. I’d be coaxing her, ‘C’mon honey,” he says. ‘They’re kind of part of the family.’ Ben, an Air Force staff sergeant, says that when one robot was detonated by an IED, his team ‘recovered the components, the carcass, if you will, and brought it back to base. The next day there was a sign out in front that said, ‘Why did you kill me? Why?’
From holding elaborate funerals for robots, complete with 21-gun salutes, valor medals, and memorial markers, to identifying with them as ‘an extension of our own personality,’ as Simon, a Marine sergeant, says, soldiers are now working effectively with robots on a more intimate level than in perhaps any other field, saving human lives in the process. The anecdotes above are from a series of interviews by University of Washington PhD Julie Carpenter, who studies human-robot interaction (the subjects’ names were changed to preserve their anonymity). The explosive ordnance disposal personnel Carpenter interviewed were, she says, ‘treating robots in ways that don’t fit neatly into how we treat other tools.’”
hi my name is emy. im looking for a female that would like to carry a baby from my husband. i cant have no baby and i would like to make my life happy by letting my husband have one baby.
must live with us through the whole 9 months.
my husband is clean of all infection. he was tested. please help us have one baby. he deserves it. he’s a great man.
As Seth MacFarlane uses some of his Family Guy wealth to reboot Cosmos on Fox, Joel Achenbach of Smithsonian magazine looks back at the show’s original host, Carl Sagan, who was something of an ambassador to his own country in the 1970s, a populist professor coaxing Americans through the shock and awe of the post-Space Race with serious scholarship, talk-show schmoozing and provocation. An excerpt:
“The Sagan archive gives us a close-up of the celebrity scientist’s frenetic existence and, more important, a documentary record of how Americans thought about science in the second half of the 20th century. We hear the voices of ordinary people in the constant stream of mail coming to Sagan’s office at Cornell. They saw Sagan as the gatekeeper of scientific credibility. They shared their big ideas and fringe theories. They told him about their dreams. They begged him to listen. They needed truth; he was the oracle.
The Sagan files remind us how exploratory the 1960s and ’70s were, how defiant of official wisdom and mainstream authority, and Sagan was in the middle of the intellectual foment. He was a nuanced referee. He knew UFOs weren’t alien spaceships, for example, but he didn’t want to silence the people who believed they were, and so he helped organize a big UFO symposium in 1969, letting all sides have their say.
Space itself seemed different then. When Sagan came of age, all things concerning space had a tail wind: There was no boundary on our outer-space aspirations. Through telescopes, robotic probes and Apollo astronauts, the universe was revealing itself at an explosive, fireworks-finale pace.
Things haven’t quite worked out as expected. ‘Space Age’ is now an antiquated phrase. The United States can’t even launch astronauts at the moment. The universe continues to tantalize us, but the notion that we’re about to make contact with other civilizations seems increasingly like stoner talk.”
In 1988, Sagan, Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Hawking on God and other aliens:
I suppose you could say that Charles Hirsch was a consumer advocate of sorts, but he probably took things a little too far. Perhaps he was driven mad by diphtheria claiming most of his children. From an article in the May 20, 1882 New York Times:
“Batavia–The village of Oakfield, in this county, is thoroughly excited over the actions of a German named Charles Hirsch, who has dug open the grave of his son Charles for the purpose of ascertaining the material of which the coffin is composed. In December, 1889, malignant diphtheria appeared in the family of Hirsch, who was the father of several children. The disease was of the most destructive type, and, one after another, in quick succession, he was bereft of five of his children. A child would be attacked in the morning, and at night would be dead, and within 24 hours buried. One son drank a cup of coffee, and in 15 minutes was taken with choking and died almost instantly. At this time the burial of another child was taking place. A Batavia undertaker had charge of the funerals, five in one week, and a few weeks ago some difficulty arose between him and Hirsch in reference to quality of the coffins which were provided. The undertaker claimed they were of certain materials, while the father and purchaser believed he had been cheated.
The misunderstanding could not be made clear, so the German determined to open one of the graves and satisfy himself. He employed the sexton to assist to him, and proceeded to the burying ground. With spades and shovels they accomplished their work speedily, for, the grave was in a low portion of the cemetery, and the earth was filled with water and handled readily. They began operations about 10 o’clock in the morning, and in an hour and a half had the grave opened and the coffin-box was reached. With tools with which he had thoughtfully provided himself Hirsch unscrewed the top of the box and removed it. Then he crushed in the glass at the head of the coffin. The body had been buried nearly 17 months, and the odor which arose from it in its advanced state of decomposition was extremely nauseating. It was borne with coolness, however, and the work was prosecuted. The coffin was nearly filled with water, and it is said the body was actually floating in it. The head and upper part of the body were best preserved. With a stout stick Hirsch raised the head of his son’s corpse and propped it up so that he could get a piece of the bottom of the coffin. He succeeded, and then broke off splinters of the side and top. Having secured what he had worked so hard for, Hirsch, assisted by the sexton, filled the grave and left it. It is reported that at noon Hirsch left the grave and secured his dinner, entering the dining-room of the village hotel and being ordered out by the landlord on account of the unbearable stench with which his clothes seemed impregnated. When the news of his proceeding became noised about, much indignation prevailed and expressions of condemnation were heard on all sides. By some it was charitably considered that the man was insane, while others believed he did it without knowing better. The former theory prevails, however, for citizens of Batavia who know him, state for some time that they have noticed peculiarities in his conduct which would be inexplicable in a sane man. He is a prosperous farmer and evidently is well to do. There is a growing feeling over his strange actions, but it is not likely the authorities will make any move in the matter. Hirsch rendered himself amenable to the law, however, besides endangering the health of many persons, by opening the grave and permitting the foul, poisonous gases and odors to escape. The grave was open for nearly three hours.”
Tags: Charles Hirsch
As baseball season gets closer, I think back on puzzling display copy for a New Yorker article from three seasons ago about Tampa Bay’s then-spare outfielder Sam Fuld. There wasn’t anything wrong with the actual piece by Ben McGrath–Fuld is an interesting topic as a brainy last guy on the bench who’s overcome diabetes–but the headline was destined to be very wrong the second it was published. It read “Super Sam: Early Success for a Late Bloomer.” Except there was little chance that the veteran, who enjoyed a great April, would overcome a poor hit tool, no power and a history of offensive deficiency to become a “late bloomer.”
Fuld was just a subpar player who had a hot first month of the season, most likely because a lot of batted balls that were usually caught were finding holes. It was a statistical outlier, apt to happen from time to time, and just as likely to be corrected as more at-bats piled up. He ended that season with a .673 OPS (very substandard) and will have a tough time making the major-league squad in Oakland this spring. (Again: In all fairness to McGrath, he suggested that Fuld was just a shooting star. It’s more the hed and dek that were misleading.)
If this kind of statistical outlier happens during the middle of a season, it’s hardly noticed. But when it happens at the beginning of one, headline writers have a tendency to create a narrative that isn’t true. A player has magically improved! It will occur this season with some other player who, like Fuld, is fungible with guys in the minors.
But baseball and lesser sports don’t have ownership of such misreadings. It can also be the case with serious things like cancer clusters. We always want to investigate health crises that might have an unnatural origin, but we must remember that sometimes it’s just the numbers, merely an outlier.
You also write that geographical clusters of people with diseases might not necessarily be a result of environmental issues.
David J. Hand:
It could just be a coincidence. Well, they could be due to some sort of pollution or infectious disease or something like that, but you can expect clusters to occur just by chance as well. So it’s an interesting statistical problem to tease these things out. Is this a genuine cluster in the sense that there’s a cause behind it? Or is it a chance cluster?
So we shouldn’t dismiss those coincidences?
David J. Hand:
No, but if you do see such a cluster, then you should work out the chance that you would see such a cluster purely randomly, purely by chance, and if it’s very low odds, then you should investigate it carefully.”
A passage from Carole Cadwalladr’s new Guardian profile of futurist and Google employee Ray Kurzweil, who is often, though not always, right when making his bold predictions about technology:
“Bill Gates calls him ‘the best person I know at predicting the future of artificial intelligence.’ He’s received 19 honorary doctorates, and he’s been widely recognised as a genius. But he’s the sort of genius, it turns out, who’s not very good at boiling a kettle. He offers me a cup of coffee and when I accept he heads into the kitchen to make it, filling a kettle with water, putting a teaspoon of instant coffee into a cup, and then moments later, pouring the unboiled water on top of it. He stirs the undissolving lumps and I wonder whether to say anything but instead let him add almond milk – not eating diary is just one of his multiple dietary rules – and politely say thank you as he hands it to me. It is, by quite some way, the worst cup of coffee I have ever tasted.
But then, he has other things on his mind. The future, for starters. And what it will look like. He’s been making predictions about the future for years, ever since he realised that one of the key things about inventing successful new products was inventing them at the right moment, and ‘so, as an engineer, I collected a lot of data.’ In 1990, he predicted that a computer would defeat a world chess champion by 1998. In 1997, IBM’s Deep Blue defeated Garry Kasparov. He predicted the explosion of the world wide web at a time it was only being used by a few academics and he predicted dozens and dozens of other things that have largely come true, or that will soon, such as that by the year 2000, robotic leg prostheses would allow paraplegics to walk (the US military is currently trialling an ‘Iron Man’ suit) and ‘cybernetic chauffeurs’ would be able to drive cars (which Google has more or less cracked).
His critics point out that not all his predictions have exactly panned out (no US company has reached a market capitalisation of more than $1 trillion; ‘bioengineered treatments’ have yet to cure cancer). But in any case, the predictions aren’t the meat of his work, just a byproduct. They’re based on his belief that technology progresses exponentially (as is also the case in Moore’s law, which sees computers’ performance doubling every two years). But then you just have to dig out an old mobile phone to understand that. The problem, he says, is that humans don’t think about the future that way. ‘Our intuition is linear.’
When Kurzweil first started talking about the ‘singularity,’ a conceit he borrowed from the science-fiction writer Vernor Vinge, he was dismissed as a fantasist. He has been saying for years that he believes that the Turing test – the moment at which a computer will exhibit intelligent behaviour equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human – will be passed in 2029. The difference is that when he began saying it, the fax machine hadn’t been invented. But now, well… it’s another story.”
I don’t read Gawker much anymore even though the site has some very talented writers and editors. I don’t look down on it–just elsewhere. Gossip has value for a society; it just doesn’t interest me very much. Viral videos and stories aren’t what I find appealing. And posts that often seem to view the world as black or white, with no gray, aren’t convincing to me.
But that doesn’t mean I’m right. In all fairness, why would company founder Nick Denton want to attract my eyeballs? I’m not going to make him any money with my interests in obscure and offbeat stuff. Getting traffic makes money, so why trash someone who’s playing by the rules of engagement? Unless, of course, an organization is outright lying and manipulating like Fox News. But I don’t think Gawker does that. I think it’s looking for truth, even if it’s usually truth I don’t care about.
From Denton’s new Playboy interview conducted by Jeff Bercovici:
So Kinja is your bet that in 10 years we will all be part of a crowdsourced gossip press reporting on one another.
The Panopticon—the prison in which everybody is exposed to scrutiny all the time. Do you remember the website Fucked Company? It was big in about 2000, 2001. I was CEO of Moreover Technologies at the time. A saleswoman put in an anonymous report to the site about my having paid for the eye operation of a young male executive I had the hots for. The story, like many stories, was roughly half true. Yes, there was a young male executive. Yes, he did have an eye operation. No, it wasn’t paid for by me. It was paid for by the company’s health insurance according to normal procedure. And no, I didn’t fancy him; I detested him. It’s such a great example of Fucked Company and, by extension, most internet discussion systems. There’s some real truth that gets told that is never of a scale to warrant mainstream media attention, and there’s also no mechanism for fact-checking, no mechanism to actually converge on some real truth. It’s out there. Half of it’s right. Half of it’s wrong. You don’t know which half is which. What if we could develop a system for collaboratively reaching the truth? Sources and subjects and writers and editors and readers and casual armchair experts asking questions and answering them, with follow-ups and rebuttals. What if we could actually have a journalistic process that didn’t require paid journalists and tape recorders and the cost of a traditional journalistic operation? You could actually uncover everything—every abusive executive, every corrupt eye operation.
What are the implications for the broader society? What does America look like from inside the Panopticon?
When people take a look at the change in attitudes toward gay rights or gay marriage, they talk about the example of people who came out, celebrities who came out. That has a pretty powerful effect. But even more powerful are all the friends and relatives, people you know. When it’s no longer some weird group of faggots on Christopher Street but actually people you know, that’s when attitudes change, and my presumption is the internet is going to be a big part of that. You’re going to be bombarded with news you wouldn’t necessarily have consumed—information, humanity, texture. I think Facebook, more than anything else, and the internet have been responsible for a large part of the liberalization of the past five or 10 years when it comes to sex, when it comes to drinking. Five years ago it was embarrassing when somebody had photographs of somebody drunk as a student. There was actually a discussion about whether a whole generation of kids had damaged their career prospects because they put up too much information about themselves in social media. What actually happened was that institutions and organizations changed, and frankly any organization that didn’t change was going to handicap itself because everyone, every normal person, gets drunk in college. There are stupid pictures or sex pictures of pretty much everybody. And if those things are leaked or deliberately shared, I think the effect is to change the institutions rather than to damage the individuals. The internet is a secret-spilling machine, and the spilling of secrets has been very healthy for a lot of people’s lives.”
If you’ve never watched it, here’s the 1991 BBC program, Don DeLillo: The Word, The Image, and The Gun. If I had to pick my favorite of his novels, I would say that I probably got the most pleasure from White Noise. Although “pleasure” is an admittedly odd word choice given the book’s topic is an airborne toxic event. I think the majority of his readers would choose Underworld or Libra.
Mao II is such a strange thing: Published the same year as this show, that novel has wooden characters and plotting, but it’s so eerily correct about the coming escalation of terrorism, how guns would become bombs and airplanes would not just be redirected but repurposed. It’s like DeLillo tried to alert us to a targets drawn in chalk on all sides of the Twin Towers, but we never really fully noticed.
This program is a great portrait of DeLillo and his “dangerous secrets” about technology, surveillance, film, news, the novel, art and the apocalypse.
Tags: Don DeLillo