Malcolm Gladwell thinks American football is a “moral abomination,” and it’s hard to argue, though I wonder about his self-termed “intuition” telling him that European football (or soccer) “can’t possibly compare” in terms of brain injuries. Anyone repeatedly heading a soccer ball that’s been kicked from 50 yards away would seem to me to be at great risk, and that’s not even considering the repetitive heading that all pro soccer players practice from when their small children. Perhaps Jeff Astle was, in Gladwellian terms, an outlier, but probably not. Worthing thinking about, at any rate. From a new Gladwell interview conducted by Bloomberg’s Emily Chang:

“In a wide-ranging interview with Emily Chang, best-selling author and New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell continued his long-standing crusade against football with a harsh indictment. ‘Football is a moral abomination,’ he said and predicted that the sport — currently far and away the most popular and lucrative in America — would eventually ‘wither on the vine.’

The NFL recently revealed that nearly a third of retired players develop long-term cognitive issues much earlier than the general population. ‘We’re not just talking about people limping at the age of 50. We’re talking about brain injuries that are causing horrible, protracted, premature death,’ Gladwell told Chang, picking up a theme he first explored in a 2009 article for The New Yorker which likened football to dogfighting. ‘This…is appalling. Can you point to another industry in America which, in the course of doing business, maims a third of its employees?'”

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In a Reddit AMA conducted by new Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer (who describes the acquisition as “not awesome and not bad” financially) and Harvard computer science professor David Parkes, the duo discuss the intersection of basketball and technology. An excerpt

Question:

I was wondering what you feel the future is for technology in basketball?

Steve Ballmer:

There is a lot more tech than I knew changing basketball and the sports fan experience broadly. My favorite is the use of machine learning technology to process game videos from the celling to understand, categorize and analyze game play. One of the ML experts at second spectrum was a 6″9″ Hooper from MIT so so cool ML rocks! The tech can help understand almost anything. Harvard CS will use it and other technologies to transform so many fields and maybe even more for sports.

David Parkes:

Harvard researchers in the school of engineering and applied sciences and statistics are working on probabilistic models to predict the outcome of a particular matchup of two players on the court. Just this week in my class we discussed the use of Markov chains to predict the outcome of NCAA games. Harvard rocks!”

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Don Knuth, the “Electronic Coach,” in 1959:

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Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn gave Vladimir Putin his blessing for engagement in Ukraine twenty years in advance, and while Henry Kissinger doesn’t go that far, he is seriously sympathetic to the embattled Russian leader, who seems a twentieth-century figure unfortunately cast into the future, a man out of time. From a Q&A with the former Secretary of State conducted by Juliane von Mittelstaedt and Erich Follath of Spiegel:

Spiegel:

So let’s talk about a concrete example: How should the West react to the Russian annexation of Crimea? Do you fear this might mean that borders in the future are no longer incontrovertible?

Henry Kissinger: 

Crimea is a symptom, not a cause. Furthermore, Crimea is a special case. Ukraine was part of Russia for a long time. You can’t accept the principle that any country can just change the borders and take a province of another country. But if the West is honest with itself, it has to admit that there were mistakes on its side. The annexation of Crimea was not a move toward global conquest. It was not Hitler moving into Czechoslovakia.

Spiegel:

What was it then?

Henry Kissinger:

One has to ask one’s self this question: Putin spent tens of billions of dollars on the Winter Olympics in Sochi. The theme of the Olympics was that Russia is a progressive state tied to the West through its culture and, therefore, it presumably wants to be part of it. So it doesn’t make any sense that a week after the close of the Olympics, Putin would take Crimea and start a war over Ukraine. So one has to ask one’s self why did it happen?

Spiegel:

What you’re saying is that the West has at least a kind of responsibility for the escalation?

Henry Kissinger:

Yes, I am saying that. Europe and America did not understand the impact of these events, starting with the negotiations about Ukraine’s economic relations with the European Union and culminating in the demonstrations in Kiev. All these, and their impact, should have been the subject of a dialogue with Russia. This does not mean the Russian response was appropriate.

Spiegel:

It seems you have a lot of understanding for Putin. But isn’t he doing exactly what you are warning of — creating chaos in eastern Ukraine and threatening sovereignty?

Henry Kissinger:

Certainly. But Ukraine has always had a special significance for Russia. It was a mistake not to realize that.”

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At the 15:40 mark of this episode of The Baseball of World of Joe Garagiola, we see Kissinger, who could only seem competent when standing alongside that block of wood Bowie Kuhn, being honored at Fenway Park before the second game of the sensational 1975 World Series.

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Peter Thiel, wrong about the Wright brothers, believes we’re not living in a technological age because movies are mean to techies and people are concerned about losing their jobs to their silicon betters. Strange reasoning. I think Tony Stark of Iron Man, fleshed out with Thiel’s friend Elon Musk in mind, is portrayed as the hero of our time. If contemporary film is often unfriendly to technologists, that’s because it’s an easy conflict to sell and because Hollywood and Silicon Valley are currently vying for the title of the “Dream Factory” of California–and the world. At any rate, Thiel’s measures for our degree of our ensconcement in technology are anecdotal, whiny and inefficient. From Brian R. Fitzgerald at the Wall Street Journal:

“[Thiel] said Progress—that’s progress with a capital P—is at the core of any scientific or technological vision for the world. But that talk is counter-cultural right now, and so ‘in many ways we’re not actually living in a scientific or technological age.’

‘We live in a financial and capitalist age,’ Mr. Thiel said. ‘Most people don’t like science, they don’t like technology. You can see it in the movies that Hollywood makes. Tech kills people, it’s dysfunctional, it’s dystopian.’

Not that the PayPal co-founder claims to know how to change society. That used to be government’s role—the atom bomb was built in three and a half years, and Apollo got someone on the moon–but not so much anymore. Today, ‘a letter from Einstein would get lost in the White House mailroom,’ he said.”

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The opening of Terry Eagleton’s Guardian review of the two most-recent books (Absolute Recoil and Trouble in Paradise) from the always-unplugged fountain of Slavoj Žižek, that mixed blessing:

“It is said that Jean-Paul Sartre turned white-faced with excitement when a colleague arrived hotfoot from Germany with the news that one could make philosophy out of the ashtray. In these two new books, Slavoj Žižekphilosophises in much the same spirit about sex, swearing, decaffeinated coffee, vampires, Henry Kissinger, The Sound of Music, the Muslim Brotherhood, the South Korean suicide rate and a good deal more. If there seems no end to his intellectual promiscuity, it is because he suffers from a rare affliction known as being interested in everything. In Britain, philosophers tend to divide between academics who write for each other and meaning-of-life merchants who beam their reflections at the general public. Part of Žižek’s secret is that he is both at once: a formidably erudite scholar well-versed in Kant and Heidegger who also has a consuming passion for the everyday. He is equally at home with Hegel and Hitchcock, the Fall from Eden and the fall of Mubarak. If he knows about Wagner and Schoenberg, he is also an avid consumer of vampire movies and detective fiction. A lot of his readers have learned to understand Freud or Nietzsche by viewing them through the lens of Jaws or Mary Poppins.

Academic philosophers can be obscure, whereas popularisers aim to be clear. With his urge to dismantle oppositions, Žižek has it both ways here.”

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Last year, Mike Jay wrote a great essay for Aeon about people being driven to paranoia by the omnipresence of technology, but fear of “influence machines” stretches back much further than the information-sucking Internet. In a Public Domain Review piece, the same writer looks at the curious case of James Tilly Matthews, the first-recorded sufferer of paranoid schizophrenia, who believed in the 1790s that his mind–and the whole mad world–had fallen under the sway of a contraption called the “Air Loom.” It’s a subject Jay knows well. The opening:

“In 1810 John Haslam, a London apothecary, published the first ever book-length description of a mad person’s delusions. Until this point most medical case histories of what we now refer to as mental illness had amounted to a line or two at most, and more often just a single word such as ‘frenzied’ or ‘melancholy.’ But the opinions of James Tilly Matthews resisted any such summary. He described a previously unimagined world of futuristic machines, ‘magnetic spies’ and mass brainwashing, woven into a bizarre but undeniably well-informed narrative of the high politics behind the Napoleonic Wars.

Haslam titled his book Illustrations of Madness, and it was full of lessons for the nascent profession of ‘mad-doctoring,’ later to be known as psychiatry. But it was also written to settle a personal score. Haslam was the apothecary at the Royal Bethlem Hospital – in popular slang, Bedlam – where James Tilly Matthews had for the previous decade been confined as an incurable lunatic. Not everyone, however, believed that Matthews was mad. Haslam’s diagnosis had been contested by other doctors, and the governors of Bethlem had distanced themselves from it. He wrote his book in retaliation against his superiors; but as it turned out, his patient would have the last word.

Although Haslam has been relegated to a footnote in the history of psychiatry, his account of Matthews’ inner world is still cited as the first fully described case of what we now call paranoid schizophrenia, and in particular of an ‘influencing machine': the belief, or delusion, that a covertly operated device is acting at a distance to control the subject’s mind and body. For everyone who has since had messages beamed at them by the CIA, MI5, Masonic lodges or UFOs, via dental fillings, mysterious implants, TV sets or surveillance satellites, James Tilly Matthews is patient zero.”

 

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How to deal with needy co-workers – 53 (SoHo)

First, let’s define the needy co-worker. The needy co-worker wants you to do your job so they don’t have to, yet they get upset if you don’t spend your day babysitting them. You must listen to them while they sigh about their pathetic lives. You must listen to them talk about their kids. You must tell them if you’re going to dress up for Halloween all while doing your work or else you’re not part of the team. You must listen to them talk high, whisper and enter your space.

How to deal with taking care of babies at work:

  • First, stay really quiet because maybe they’ll forget you’re there.
  • Second, drink some wine at home but don’t become an alcoholic, then they win. Misery loves company.
  • Third, don’t let them know they affect your blood pressure.
  • Fourth, buy heating pads at a pharmacy and place next to heart just in case you stop caring about being there so you can still feel.
  • Five, have an oral fixation like gum, candy, chips, fruits, etc.- anything that will keep you busy and conformed like a good little boy or girl. Say ‘Okay’ a lot because nothing is better at ending a useless conversation than ‘Okay’ or ‘No.’ ‘Are you dressing up for Halloween?’ ‘No.’
  • Six, try not to get up too much or they’ll see you.
  • Seven, come in early so you can settle in before the shenanigans. You can have a moment to yourself if you come to work early.
  • Eight, find a friend at work. One is all you need.
  • Nine, listen to music, not loud because you must always maintain control.
  • Ten, look for another job.

Hope this helps someone. Good luck. 

There were quite a few fliers who claimed to have solved aviation sooner than the Wright brothers–Gustave Whitehead and Samuel Pierpont Langley and many more–but only one was a cousin to Buffalo Bill Cody and died while cooking naked, a recluse in Hawaii. His name was W.D. Custead. As the Texas Reader recalls, the end was bitter for the once-enterprising aviator:

“On March 17, 1933 a Hawaiian newspaper reported that the Hermit of Nankuli had been found dead in his shack. He was known for living in almost absolute seclusion and being hostile to visitors. Those who did chance to visit were shocked to find that he wore no clothing when at home.

What readers of the Hawaiian newspaper didn’t know was that this ignominious end was not William Custead’s only fifteen minutes of fame. Thirty-five years earlier newspapers across Texas were celebrating his prowess as an inventor.”

Custead presented his airship plans to the War Department in 1899 and then continued to tinker with his flying machine. In 1903, the Wrights won the race to the sky (though some wonder), and the foiled, despondent aviator responded by walking out on his family and becoming an itinerant, ultimately landing in Hawaii.

A brief article follows from the April 13, 1900 Brooklyn Daily Eagle about Custead before his dreams nosed down.

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Three entries follow from the permanent-exhibition catalog for the Japan World Exposition ’70:

  • The Wireless Telephone

The Telecommunications Pavilion exhibited the wireless telephone, which was called “Dream Telephone” at the time, with which one could make an immediate telephone call to anywhere in Japan. It is the origin of today’s cell phone.

  • The Ultrasonic Bath (Washing machine for human beings)

The ultrasonic bath at the Sanyo Pavilion was the full-automatic bath where people can sit in the capsule not only to clean the skin but to maintain both health and beauty, using massage balls and supersonic waves. Currently the same technology is applied to the baths for long-term nursing.

  • The Electric Car

The electronic cars run with storage battery and motor, without emitting exhaust fumes or noise. At the Expo these electric vehicles were introduced in Japan for the first time on a trial basis as taxis, transportation inside the Expo, and press cars.

Reducing and managing Ebola cases in Liberia is a doable mission, but bringing fresh instances down to zero a much tougher one. Swedish academic and doctor Hans Rosling, a supporter of washing machines, has temporarily made Liberia his home, hoping to make sense of the statistics and aid in the elimination of the virus, a complicated thing since the illness has a Whac-a-Mole propensity for popping up everywhere. From Ben Carter at the BBC:

“Last month Rosling moved to the Liberian capital, Monrovia to work with the Ministry of Health where his task is to analyse the statistics to see how the virus is spreading and find the best way to tackle it.

He says that the number of new daily cases has dropped dramatically over the past few months and has plateaued in recent weeks.

‘Ebola in Liberia started coming over the border into Lofa County, then it moved down during the summer and hit the capital, Monrovia, really badly in August and September. But now the numbers in the capital are down from 75 a day to 25 a day,’ says Rosling.

He argues that using a daily figure gives a more accurate representation of what’s going on right now. ‘Take Lofa county for instance where they’ve had 365 cases cumulatively but the last week it was zero, zero, zero, zero every day.’

Despite this drop, Rosling says one of the biggest challenges facing Liberia is that every single county has seen new cases of Ebola in recent weeks.

‘This means we are fighting a low intensity epidemic. It flares up in one of the counties, it’s controlled there and then it jumps up in another place. This will take time to get rid of.'”

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Someday the only complaint people will have about athletes using PEDs back in the day will be that the methods were shockingly crude. Limbs will eventually be aided by exoskeletons and tissue engineering. The former will likely be available on a fairly sophisticated level in our time, the latter in a future one. A segment from Susannah Locke’s Vox post about tomorrow’s bionic technology:

Steroids are nothing compared to what’s coming

The military could possibly use the tissue-engineering approach to someday develop strong supersoldiers. ‘It would be figuring out a way to get our normal ability to grow muscle cells and tissues to be even better. So you would introduce stem cells that would help the muscles grow.’

This may, however, be a ways off. ‘I won’t be around to see it,’ [University of Pennsylvania ethicist Jonathan] Moreno says. ‘But I think in 30, 40, 50 years there will be some of that. And the junk that our athletes take now to grow muscle mass and so forth, that’s going to be prehistoric. I really think that tissues will be the way to go.’

‘That’s going to start mostly with tissues for therapeutic purposes, not for enhancement. You’ve got the tissue engineers and the people working with these new induced pluripotent stem cells and things like that, are trying to find alternatives to organ transplants. And eventually I have no doubt that people will find that there are some ways of using programs like that to build muscle.'”

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Staying the same is surest prescription for falling behind. Nations that didn’t enter the Industrial Age largely did not turn out well and still are playing catch-up. (To be fair, they also didn’t contribute to environmental devastation like the rest of us.) The countries that master the Digital Age will ensure themselves of wealth in the aggregate, though disparity may continue, technological unemployment and wage suppression might accelerate. At the far end of the dream is a better world, but how do we get there?

In his 1964 “Automation Song,” Phil Ochs, a singing journalist of sorts, greeted the roboticized future with alarm. At first blush, he seems to be communicating nostalgia for the past, but he’s also subtly calling for political solutions for tomorrow.

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In a Spiegel interview conducted by Christoph Scheuermann, novelist Hilary Mantel discusses the state of contemporary Britain, which opted for austerity in the wake of the world economic crisis, a move which seems to have been penny wise and pound foolish, costing the country some political sanity. An excerpt:

Spiegel:

How is the Britain of today different from the country you grew up in?

Hilary Mantel:

I was born into a working class family in a village near Manchester. My grandmother worked as a weaver in a mill when she was 12, my mother at 14. That was what you did: As soon as you left school, you had to work in the mill. By the time I was a child, the mills were closing and I was lucky to get a government grant for university. In the years after the war, both big parties, Labour and the Conservatives, were becoming ever-more centrist, drawing together on a social democratic path — a period known as the postwar consensus. Maybe it couldn’t have lasted, but we perceive Ms. Thatcher as the person who knocked it down. Going to university is a seriously expensive business now.

Spiegel:

It seems as though Britain today wants to retreat from the world, as though it has become war-weary, disinterested in global affairs and obsessed with immigration. Where does this come from?

Hilary Mantel:

It’s a retreat into insularity, into a mood of harshness. When people feel they’re being mistreated, they lash out against people who are weaker than themselves, immigrants for example. What’s happening here at the moment is really ugly. The government portrays poor and unfortunate people as being morally defective. This is a return to the thinking of the Victorians. Even in the 16th century, Thomas Cromwell was trying to tell people that a thriving economy has casualties and that something must be done by the state for people out of work. Even back then, you saw the tide turning against this idea that poverty was a moral weakness. Who could have predicted that it would come back into style? It’s myth making on a grand scale, and it’s poisonous.

Spiegel:

Is there a new form of nationalism emerging?

Hilary Mantel:

I’m not sure it’s nationalism pure and simple. But there is certainly a big turn to the right in government. The populist party UKIP (eds. Note: UKIP is demanding that Britain secede from the European Union.) is on the rise; it’s the party at the moment for people who are angry. They may not know what they’re angry about, but they’re going around declaring their intention to vote for UKIP as if that’s going to make everyone terrified. It’s like, I’m holding a hand grenade, can you see it?

Spiegel:

Where does this anger come from?

Hilary Mantel:

Many people are poorer than they were five or six years ago. The last few years of austerity after the banking crisis have opened up a wider gap between rich and poor. It has taken quite a while for people to see that it wasn’t just a matter of a year or two. Transport, gas, electricity, housing: All those things that one must have are significantly more expensive. Wages remain low while the government is freezing and cutting benefits. Traditionally, working class voters would have turned to the Labour Party for remedy. But at the moment, they don’t feel that they can do that. There’s a mood of disaffection.”

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Longreads has republished Suzanne Snider’s 2006 Tokion article about John Z. DeLorean, who remade the automotive industry, remade himself and eventually made a mess. The conclusion has a pretty prescient forecast from then-MPH Magazine editor Eddie Alterman, which reminds just how much the sector has changed in the eight years since this piece was printed. The following is an excerpt about the automaker’s surprising departure from GM and his friendship with former Tonight Show host Johnny Carson, who seems to have done the monologue every evening with a loaded handgun and a bag of coke stashed in his underpants:

“By 1973, he had the fame. The title. The money. At which point he promptly resigned.

‘They were celebrities.’ That’s how Eddie Alterman, a childhood friend of mine who is now an editor for car-centric MPH Magazine, remembers the Detroit-area car executives of that era. ‘But they were also like the Roman army: they were tall, goyish and had to inspire confidence in their troops.’ With a bit of sympathy, Alterman notes that ‘they all had huge egos,’ and in the case of DeLorean, his vanity drove his taste in cars, clothing and women. That last item on DeLorean’s list included three wives, plus reported dalliances with Ursula Andress, Candice Bergen and Raquel Welch. But the same ego that was necessary to excel at General Motors and every other car corporation may have been the very source of his downfall once he pulled apart to form his own corporate entity.

DeLorean’s departure from GM was controversial, to say the least. Where could he go from GM? Gossips floated conspiracy theories about his resignation. It might have come down to style—not fashion, strictly, but a more general personal manner. My father notes that, ‘In those days, the execs at General Motors were all dressed in white shirts. But DeLorean was into more flamboyant clothing. He was tall, good-looking, wore his hair long…’ And as my father discovered, ‘He had his shirts hand-made, with the collars cut extra-long.’

DeLorean founded the De Lorean Motor Company in 1975, with the express goal of creating a relatively affordable $25,000 sports car. The first factory didn’t open until 1981, however, and it opened in an unlikely location: Dunmurry, a suburb of Belfast in Northern Ireland. The prototype for the DMC-12 was completed somewhere between 1976 and 1978. What was DeLorean doing in the seven years in between? Ostensibly, he was raising money, tapping into a social network that included Hollywood, where he convinced Johnny Carson and Sammy Davis Jr. to invest in the De Lorean Motor Company. In fact, Johnny Carson’s dedication to the De Lorean business was memorialized when Carson was arrested for a DUI while driving in—what else—a De Lorean.”

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“John Zachary DeLorean doesn’t smile very much”:

More DeLorean posts:

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From the March 31, 1889 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

“A girl who eats paper is the newest attraction in a dime museum in Boston.”

In defending modern-day billionaire technologists and the technology that enables their wealth and likely contributes to the wage stagnation of those with punier portfolios, Peter Thiel makes an argument to Ellen Huet in Forbes that doesn’t seem fair. He uses the Wright brothers as examples of inventors who didn’t profit from their innovation. Well, they didn’t become the 1903 equivalent of billionaires, that’s true, but there are reasons. While the brothers were (likely) the first to take air in a plane, they weren’t miles ahead of their competitors, so they weren’t able to grow one of Thiel’s beloved monopolies. They also weren’t very good businesspeople; Wilbur who was somewhat better at commerce passed away less then a decade after the historic flight. Orville wasn’t exactly left destitute, selling their company for enough money to build a giant estate and never need work again. They didn’t become billionaires despite being at the vanguard of aviation the way Gary Kildall didn’t become one even though he was at the forefront of computer software. It happens sometimes, but it’s an anecdote that doesn’t really speak to the macro. From Forbes:

“‘When you think about the history of innovation more broadly, the past 200 to 250 years, it’s a sobering fact how many inventors and creators of new things, how little they capture over time,’ Thiel said. ‘You have to create x dollars of value for the world and you have to capture y% of x. And in most cases y equals 0.’

The Wright brothers didn’t make money off of aviation, he pointed out, and even after the advent of the first factories and the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, much of the wealth was still held by the aristocratic classes in Europe. In Silicon Valley, a similar split can be seen between software and cleantech, Thiel said.”

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Following up on my argument that Kansans are what’s the matter with Kansas, and perhaps the awfulness of the state’s economy should be laid at their feet rather than those of Democratic or Republican politicians, here’s the opening of Luke Brinker’s Salon piece about state finances at the dawn of Brownback 2.0:

“Less than one week after Kansas voters narrowly reelected Gov. Sam Brownback despite the disastrous budgetary consequences of his massive tax cuts for the wealthy, state analysts announced Monday that the state’s fiscal outlook is even more dire than initially realized.

We’ve known for some time that Brownback’s supply-side experiment has been a big budget-buster. Thanks to the governor’s tax cuts, Kansas collected $330 million less revenue than expected for fiscal year 2014 — $700 million below revenue for fiscal 2013. Despite the Brownback administration’s assurances that the state’s fiscal picture would improve — any day now! — the state’s revenue from July to September came up an astonishing 10 percent short of expectations.

The numbers released yesterday are even worse.”

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The European Space Agency is attempting tomorrow to go where no human has gone before, landing a probe on a comet, a mission that has been in motion for nearly two decades. From a report on the effort by Olaf Stampf at Spiegel:

“[Achim] Zschaege is one of the veterans in the European Space Agency’s (ESA) control room and he has been accompanying Rosetta on its trip through the solar system for more than a decade. Now, finally, the mission is nearing its climax: On Wednesday, a landing vehicle released by Rosetta is set to actually touch down on a comet.

A maneuver like this has never before been attempted, partly because of the extreme difficulties associated with such a landing. Researchers are essentially trying to land a probe on an object with a surface area roughly equal to Manhattan as it speeds through space 20 times faster than a rifle bullet. If they’re unlucky, the comet’s surface could be as crumbly as a cracker.

Zschaege’s superior, Italian flight director Andrea Accomazzo, has been waiting for Wednesday’s landing for 17 long years. ‘For all of us, it feels like a second moon landing,’ he says.

Even measured against other voyages into space, Rosetta’s rendezvous with Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko took a long time. When Rosetta was first fired into space, Gerhard Schröder was still Germany’s chancellor and America’s invasion of Iraq was just a year old. Since its launch on March 2, 1994, the probe has traveled 6 billion kilometers, roughly 40 times the distance between Earth and the sun. Many of those who worked on the mission in its early years have long since retired.

As part of Rosetta’s marathon flight, it traveled to the outer edges of our solar system, so far away from the sun that its solar cells were unable to power the probe’s systems. Ground controllers plunged the spacecraft’s electronics into a kind of hibernation.

For two-and-a-half years, there wasn’t a peep from Rosetta and it was only reawakened at the beginning of this year. ‘We had to wait almost an hour before we received the signal’ indicating the maneuver had worked, Accomazzo says. ‘It was totally silent in the control room.'”

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President Lincoln was an early adopter of technology, but so unconnected were we in 1865, it took a dozen days for the news of his assassination to reach London. Reuters–then spelled “Reuter’s”–got the scoop, but there was no byline. What a byline that would have been to have.

From the Reuters site:

“After 12 days crossing the Atlantic, a Reuters report of the assassination of President Lincoln reaches London first, throwing European financial markets into turmoil. Reuter intercepted the mail boat off Ireland and telegraphed the news to London.”

 

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Stephen Glass, the infamous fabulist who was nearly the death of The New Republic in the late 1990s, no longer practices journalism nor should he ever. He works for a law firm in Los Angeles, leading a good-if-unglamorous life, a different man. But is he a changed one? And should he be trusted again in his new vocation? Chuck Lane, the editor who uncovered the fraud, has not forgiven or forgotten, and it’s hard to blame him. To those he lied to, it isn’t easy to restore faith. In a new TNR piece “Hello, My Name Is Stephen Glass, and I’m Sorry,” written by one of his former deceived deskmates, Hanna Rosin, the author tries her best to see things with fresh eyes, hoping they’re not blind ones. An excerpt:

“Once we knew what he’d done, I tried to call Steve, but he never called back. He just went missing, like the kids on the milk cartons. It was weird. People often ask me if I felt ‘betrayed,’ but really I was deeply unsettled, like I’d woken up in the wrong room. I wondered whether Steve had lied to me about personal things, too. I wondered how, even after he’d been caught, he could bring himself to recruit me to defend him, knowing I’d be risking my job to do so. I wondered how I could spend more time with a person during the week than I spent with my husband and not suspect a thing. (And I didn’t. It came as a total surprise). And I wondered what else I didn’t know about people. Could my brother be a drug addict? Did my best friend actually hate me? Jon Chait, now a political writer for New York and back then the smart young wonk in our trio, was in Paris when the scandal broke. Overnight, Steve went from ‘being one of my best friends to someone I read about in The International Herald Tribune,’ Chait recalled. The transition was so abrupt that, for months, Jon dreamed that he’d run into him or that Steve wanted to talk to him.

Then, after a while, the dreams stopped. The Monica Lewinsky scandal petered out, George W. Bush became president, we all got cell phones, laptops, spouses, children. Over the years, Steve Glass got mixed up in our minds with the fictionalized Stephen Glass from his own 2003 roman à clef,The Fabulist, or Steve Glass as played by Hayden Christiansen in the 2003 movie Shattered Glass. It was the book that finally provoked my anger. The plot follows a thinly fictionalized Steve in the aftermath of the affair. It portrays him as humble, contrite, and ‘a few shades hipper than the original,’ I wrote in a review for Slate. The rest of us came off as shallow jerks barely worth apologizing to. Steve sent about 100 handwritten letters of apology that year to people he’d injured, all several pages long and very abject: ‘I’m genuinely sorry that I lied to you and betrayed you.’ But he was also hawking his book, so we saw the letters as an effort to neutralize us. Reading the novel pretty much killed off my curiosity. For years afterward, if I thought about Steve at allusually when I got an e-mail from a journalism student who had seen the movie in an ethics classhe was the notorious Stephen Glass, still living in the Clinton era. …

Steve Glass now lives in Venice Beach with his longtime girlfriend, Julie Hilden, a dog, two cats, and a rotating cast of foster pets. (The couple are also vegans.) He works as director of special projects at Carpenter, Zuckerman, Rowley, a personal-injury law firm in Beverly Hills. For anyone who knew him back in the day, this is a comical juxtaposition. Steve is a Jewish boy from the posh Chicago suburb of Highland Park with pushy Jewish parents who insisted on the usual (doctor, lawyer). When they urged him to go to law school, they probably had Supreme Court appearances in mind, not, as the firm boasts, a $2.1 million settlement for a homeless man hit by a garbage truck. But Paul Zuckerman, the partner who hired Steve and has become his mentor, considers this development to be a sign of grace. ‘You were on track to be an asshole,’ he told Steve when I was there. ‘The best thing that ever happened to you in your life is that you fell flat on your face.'”

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Timothy Wu, the Columbia law professor who coined the term “net neutrality,” spoke on the topic with Nancy Scola of the Washington Post on the day President Obama strongly urged the FCC to treat the Internet as a public utility. An excerpt:

Question:

Even if you accept that Title II reclassification has the clearest legal runway, the politics of it have always seemed especially tricky for the FCC.

Timothy Wu:

Oh yeah. The law’s not hard. The politics are hard.

Question:

So what does Obama’s statement do to the politics?

Timothy Wu:

The FCC was leaning toward a slightly more compromised approach, and I suppose having the White House do this could leave them feeling like they have no allies and are unwilling to act for a while. I imagine they’re not very happy over there.

Question:

Chairman Wheeler’s statement on Obama’s move actually, seemed, well, pretty sassy. It emphasized how the FCC is an independent agency…

Timothy Wu:

I think the FCC had settled, and may still be settled, on a different way of using Title II. And without the White House on its side and with Congress against it, they’re kind of in that middle of the road area where you get run over. Politically, they’re stranded right now, and I’m not sure what that means from them. Wheeler seems to be indicating that they’re going to push the hold button on net neutrality, which could be a disappointing outcome if that hold button stays there for a very long time.

Question:

Their argument seems to be that they haven’t developed the record to be able to defend a Title II-based approach in court. But Title II has been around for 80 years.

Timothy Wu:

‘We don’t have the record yet’ is agency-speak for, ‘we gotta figure out what to do next.’ They can act without the White House and without Congress, but no one one in Washington likes to go it alone. It’s very precarious.”

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The full version of 1969’s Will the Real Peter Sellers Please Stand Up?, a bizarre behind-the scenes look at the comic chameleon during the making of The Magic Christian. Some discussion of Sellers’ serious heart problems.

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On the face of it, the Sharing Economy is a conservative wet dream, subverting regulations and damaging unions. But politics on the granular level is never quite that simple, and so far Blue States have been somewhat friendlier to Uber and others. The deciding factor seems to not be ideology but population density and consumer demand, so Los Angeles, blue as can be, has embraced such services while some red enclaves have not. From Josh Barro at the New York Times’ Upshot:

“The R.N.C. chairman, Reince Priebus, probably doesn’t get a lot of phone calls from taxi medallion owners, or car dealers, or other businesspeople who want to be insulated from competition.

But local politicians do; Republicans may be especially likely to hear from them because small business owners are a constituency that skews Republican.

As a result, in practice, it’s not clear Republicans are any more pro-market than Democrats when it comes to business regulation.

Andrew Moylan, a senior fellow at the R Street Institute think tank, has examined ride-sharing regulations around the country and doesn’t see a clear partisan divide. On Monday, R Street and Engine, a group advocating policies that support start-ups, will release a report card rating the 50 largest cities on their friendliness to ride sharing. The eight cities receiving failing grades include ones in blue areas (Philadelphia and Portland, Ore.) and red ones (Omaha, Phoenix and San Antonio).

‘There didn’t seem to be any obvious ideological trends,’ Mr. Moylan said. ‘It may have something more to do with population density and consumer demand.’

In the case of Uber, the cities with the most to gain from innovation tend to be large and dense, and often Democratic. So at the local level, the leaders in welcoming Uber are often Democrats. Conservatives like to mock California as anti-business, but the state is one of just two to have enacted a comprehensive, statewide regulatory framework that is friendly to ride sharing. The other is Colorado, also run by Democrats.”

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Robots can serve the drinks, sure, but they also can “stomp” the grapes, make the wine. 

Before departing for a trip to China, President Obama sent more troops to Iraq, and Russia reportedly dispatched additional soldiers to Crimea. Of these three regions, China is almost definitely the biggest challenge to U.S. in the long term, if more economically than militaristically presently. In a Financial Times column, Gideon Rachman argues that Russia, not the Middle East, is the greater short-term threat, which is not the conventional wisdom. An excerpt:

“The darkest scenarios, being discussed behind closed doors, include Russian escalation up to and including the use of tactical nuclear weapons. If that were to happen it would, of course, be the biggest international security crisis in decades – far more significant and dangerous than another round in the 25 years of fighting in Iraq.

Most experts still dismiss the nuclear scenarios as far-fetched. It is more common to worry that Mr Putin may launch an all-out conventional war in Ukraine – or encourage uprisings by Russian-speakers in the Baltic states, which are members of Nato. If Russia then intervened in the Baltic states and Nato did not respond, the Kremlin would have achieved the huge prize of demonstrating that the western military alliance is a paper tiger.

Some hope that the growing pressure on the Russian economy and the rouble might dissuade the Kremlin from escalation. But an economic crisis could also make Russian behaviour more unpredictable and reckless.

Amid all this angst, President Obama has set off for a summit in China. For believers in America’s ‘pivot to Asia’ it remains true that – over the longer term – the biggest challenge to US power is still a rising China, rather than a declining Russia or a disintegrating Middle East.”

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