Author Archive | majestic

Charleston and the Age of Obama

There’s so much to say about the Charleston atrocity and no shortage of commentary throughout the media. One of the most perceptive analyses we’ve found is from David Remnick, editor of the New Yorker:

Between 1882 and 1968, the year Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated, three thousand four hundred and forty-six black men, women, and children were lynched in this country—a practice so vicious and frequent that Mark Twain was moved, in 1901, to write an essay called “The United States of Lyncherdom.” (Twain shelved the essay and plans for a full-length book on lynching because, he told his publisher, if he went forward, “I shouldn’t have even half a friend left down [South].”) These thousands of murders, as studied by the Tuskegee Institute and others, were a means of enforcing white supremacy in the political and economic marketplaces; they served to terrorize black men who might dare to sleep, or even talk, with white women, and to silence black children, like Emmett Till, who were deemed “insolent.”

Dylann Roof's Facebook photo with jacket showing  the flags of Rhodesia and apartheid South Africa

Dylann Roof’s Facebook photo with jacket showing the flags of Rhodesia and apartheid South Africa

 

But the words attributed to the shooter are both a throwback and thoroughly contemporary: one recognizes the rhetoric of extreme reaction and racism heard so often in the era of Barack Obama.

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Could Psychedelic Drugs Make Smokers Quit?

A team of scientists are giving hallucinogens to smoking addicts to help them cut the habit. BBC Future‘s Tim Maughan visited the lab where this surprising research is emerging:

Nicotine patches, chewing gum, cold turkey. Giving up cigarettes can be tough, but there are many strategies smokers can try. Matthew Johnson wants to add another: he says he can help smokers quit by giving them another drug – psilocybin – that has been illegal for years in much of Europe and North America. And yes, he realises that sounds unconventional.

Smoke VII

“The idea that this research sounds counterintuitive, it makes sense to me,” he tells me as we sit in his office at Johns Hopkins’ Behavioural Pharmacology Research Unit in Baltimore.

Johnson is a behavioural pharmacologist who has been researching the relationship between drugs, the brain, and human behaviour for more than 20 years. The last 10 of those have been spent here at Johns Hopkins, where he and his team have focused on psilocybin, a naturally occurring psychedelic and the active ingredient in ‘magic mushrooms’.

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‘Blue Energy’ Is So Plentiful That It Could Meet All Our Electricity Needs

Could blue be the new green, asks BBC Future, referring to the so-called blue energy generated when fresh water rivers flow into salt water estuaries:

It is perhaps one of the most under-exploited sources of green energy. When salt water and fresh water mix in estuaries, a chemical process occurs that can be harnessed for electricity generation.

Medway Estuary. Photo: Clem Rutter (CC)

Medway Estuary. Photo: Clem Rutter (CC)

 

According to one estimate, this “blue energy” is so plentiful that it could meet all our needs – if we can find an effective way to tap it. Could ‘blue’ be the new green?

Blue energy was first proposed in 1954 by a British engineer named R E Pattle. It is sometimes called “osmotic power”, because it exploits the phenomenon of osmosis. To understand how this works, picture two solutions of water with different concentrations of a dissolved substance like salt. If these two solutions are separated by a thin “semi-permeable” membrane that lets water through but not salt ions, then water will naturally pass from the less- to the more-salty side.

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Upload Your Mind And Live Forever

I’m not quite sure that I’d count it as “living” forever, but nonetheless the idea of uploading your mind to a computer so that it carries on indefinitely has an awful lot of people excited. Hopes and Fears interviews Professor Pete Mandik to get the scoop on this “trend”:

Science fiction has long been influenced by philosophy. Sadly, the inverse doesn’t seem to happen nearly enough.

Credit: Hiking Artist (CC)

Credit: Hiking Artist (CC)

 

Works as diverse as The Matrix (Descartes, Baudrillard), Neon Genesis Evangelion (Schopenhauer, Hegel, Kierkegaard), Frankenstein (Darwin, the Enlightenment) and Labyrinth (Berkeley, Leibniz, Pascal) have come to spread philosophical theory through mainstream culture like wildfire. They’ve all drawn narrative and artistic strength from treating philosophical subjects seriously. Not to mention sci-fi scribes like Stanislaw Lem and Philip K. Dick having their own influence on metaphysics and epistemology or Ursula K. Le Guin and Aldous Huxley, on politics and ethics.

But philosophy rarely takes its influence from science fiction, a fact that distinguishes Pete Mandik, a professor at William Paterson University, from many of his contemporaries.

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Camming Is Not Like Any Other Kind of Sex Work

Camming is changing sex on the Internet, according to the Stranger:

I‘m in Eevie’s bedroom watching her work. She’s wearing a little black dress and drinking merlot from a shatterproof wineglass one of her viewers sent her after she’d broken a real one on camera. She makes almost $400 in the 45 minutes I’m with her, and she doesn’t do much besides talk to me (offscreen) about camming.

@eevielain on Twitter

Eevie Lain – @eeviez on Twitter

Eevie—like many of the models I spoke to for this article—broadcasts herself through the site MyFreeCams, or MFC. (“EevieLain” is her screen name.) Generally speaking, models get tipped via tokens (which translate to real cash) to masturbate on camera, but they can also create “topics” that aren’t sexual at all. Right now, Eevie’s goal topic is taking off her dress, and most of the tips coming in are for her topic of drinking wine. Neither she nor her viewers seem in a hurry to reach the topic.

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How To Build A Comet

For fans of Neal Stephenson’s incredible new novel Seveneves, you may find it useful to know how to build a comet. Ars Technica obliges:

Comets have always been objects of fascination. Even in ancient times, these strange, otherworldly bodies and their ghostly tails have captured our imagination, often being viewed as omens. But with modern astronomy, their mystery has largely vanished. Except for one small detail: we don’t fully understand how they got here.

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, one of the main comets included in the study, taken by the Rosetta spacecraft’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera. A closeup look at the rubber duck's neck shows a strange landscape of smooth areas, ridges, and other features that hint at a complex past. Note that the comet has a "bi-lobed" shape. ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA (CC)

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, one of the main comets included in the study, taken by the Rosetta spacecraft’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera. A closeup look at the rubber duck’s neck shows a strange landscape of smooth areas, ridges, and other features that hint at a complex past. Note that the comet has a “bi-lobed” shape.
ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA (CC)

 

We know what they are now: icy bodies, often with prominent amounts of rock. When they pass near the Sun, they heat up and their ices melt.

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Satanists Delight in the Charlie Charlie Challenge

devilFor all you satanists out there, the erudite Paris Review has endorsed your Charlie Charlie Challenge:

I like to root for the underdog, so I’m always comforted to find Satanism in the news. There are, after all, some two billion Christians in the world, and only about a hundred thousand Satanists; if the eternal war between good and evil is a numbers game, then it would seem the good guys have this one in the bag. And yet Satanism persists—pure evil’s got moxie.

The latest coup from the dark arts is Charlie Charlie Challenge, a Ouija Board-ish pursuit in which players—who tend to be, let’s face it, kids and teens—cross two pencils over a piece of paper and attempt to summon a Mexican demon. According to no less reliable a source than the Daily Mailfour Colombian high school students were hospitalized for “hysteria” after playing the game, which set off an international pandemic of DIY voodoo:

Hundreds of teens have uploaded videos—from the UK to the United States, Sweden and Singapore—in which they ask, “Charlie, Charlie, are you there?” and then flee in terror when the pencil appears to move by itself …

“It’s a craze that has gone too far… It’s very dangerous for a young child to play with contacting the paranormal and diabolical,” Doctor Kelven Guerrero, who works at the Hato Mayor del Rey Hospital, told MailOnline.

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The Koch brothers and the Republican Party go to war — with each other

Now there’s a headline that should bring joy to the hearts of American liberals! Just what is it that’s got the Brothers Koch in a tizzy with the GOP? Yahoo Politics investigates:

The Republican National Committee’s data arm last year called it a “historic” occasion when it struck a deal to share voter information with the Koch brothers’ rapidly expanding political empire.

koch_bros

It was an uneasy détente between the party committee, which views itself as the rightful standard-bearer for the GOP, and the behemoth funded by Charles and David Koch, which is free of the campaign finance restrictions that bind the RNCand plans to spend almost $900 million in the 2016 election cycle to elect a Republican to the White House.

Party leaders, including the current chief digital officer for the RNC, hailed the deal as an important step forward in the GOP’s attempt to modernize itself.

But after the fall midterm elections, the deal was allowed to expire without being renewed.

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Inside The Secret World of NSA Art

Who knew that the NSA was a hotbed of artistic talent? The Intercept takes a peek at the Secret Power art exhibit at this year’s Venice Biennale featuring graphic art from the NSA files leaked by Edward Snowden:

VENICE, Italy — Over 17 years, David Darchicourt worked with the National Security Agency as a graphic designer and art director, illustrating top-secret documents about government surveillance programs. Now he is the unwitting central character in a new exhibition that puts the spotlight on the spy agency’s imagery.

Art: Simon Denny; Photo: Nick Ash

Art: Simon Denny; Photo: Nick Ash

Inside the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, a cavernous Renaissance library in Venice’s St. Mark’s Square, some of Darchicourt’s designs for the NSA have been placed on display among historic 16th-century pieces by famed Italian painters like Veronese and Titian.

The former NSA employee’s work is featured as part of a project called Secret Power, created by New Zealand artist Simon Denny for this year’s Biennale international art show.

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The Future According To Anime

It’s something of a truism that science fiction generally is a good predictor of our future (think of the inventions of Star Trek). Hopes and Fears suggests that we should also be looking to Japanese anime for hints of our future:

While Western audiences constantly look to science fiction to get a feel for what the future might look like, anime is often overlooked when they pull out their crystal balls. This is a shame because the talented forces behind one of the world’s most popular artforms have an extremely distinctive outlook on what is to come.

From robot pocket cat children’s shows to battling it out on Mars with the Judeo-Christian god, Japan’s authors and artists have looked to the future with awe, hope, nuclear world wars, horrible space aliens, and giant, highly destructive mecha (that also make for very marketable toys). It’s often bleak, terrifying or just strange, but it’s always awesome.

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