Tag Archives | Science & Technology

Game of Thrones crowned as ‘most pirated’ show for third-year running

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Via Engadget:

Interactive apps, multiple theme-tune remixes, constant recommendations, memes or trans-Atlantic and server-collapsing debuts are but mild indicators of Game of Thrones‘ public success. What’s the real measure of a show’s popularity? It’s how many people pilfer it from the internet. In this regard, our friends in Westeros have no need for a drawbridge, an army or one single drop of wildfire — its crown as the “most pirated” program continues for the third year running. Torrentfreak estimates the show peaked at over 8 million downloads, nearly double that of the second place series: The Walking Dead.

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Topaz Turns On 9 Million Solar Panels at World’s Largest Photovoltaic Power Plant

Oregon Department of Transportation (CC BY 2.0)

Oregon Department of Transportation (CC BY 2.0)

Via IEEE Spectrum:

Silence generally reigns across California’s Carrizo Plain, about 160 kilometers northwest of Los Angeles. But for much of the past three years, this expanse of grassland and farms was anything but silent, as up to 880 people trucked out each day to the plain’s sparsely inhabited northern end to build a hefty power plant. On a bright October afternoon, only a handful of construction workers remain, and the nearly completed plant is generating at close to full tilt. And yet it makes nary a click, buzz, or whir, even as it pumps hundreds of megawatts of electricity into California’s power grid.

The utter quiet is a facet of the technology. This is the world’s largest solar power plant, Topaz Solar Farms, where First Solar, based in Tempe, Ariz., has erected nearly 9 million of its cadmium-telluride thin-film photovoltaic panels across 19 square kilometers of former ranchland.

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Follow the Money: Meet the US Senate’s most important anti-environmentalist

Global average temperature anomaly since 1880, compared to the average temperature from 1901 to 2000. (NOAA).

Global average temperature anomaly since 1880, compared to the average temperature from 1901 to 2000. (NOAA).

Via The Verge

In 2003, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) and then-chair of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, took to the Senate floor and asked, “With all of the hysteria, all of the fear, all of the phony science, could it be that man-made global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people?” More than 10 years of science has been completed since Inhofe first posed his question. Nearly all of it shows climate change is definitely not a hoax. That hasn’t stopped Sen. Inhofe and other conservative politicians from waging a crusade against climate policy and science.

The Senate changes hands

Republicans took back the Senate in the November elections. That means Inhofe is headed back to the EPW chairmanship after a seven-year absence. He’s promised to use his position to stop environmental legislation in its tracks and rein in the Environmental Protection Agency.

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Let’s leave behind the age of fossil fuel. Welcome to Year One of the climate revolution

Mohamed Malik (CC BY 2.0)

Mohamed Malik (CC BY 2.0)

Via The Guardian

It was the most thrilling bureaucratic document I’ve ever seen for just one reason: it was dated the 21st day of the month of Thermidor in the Year Six. Written in sepia ink on heavy paper, it recorded an ordinary land auction in France in what we would call the late summer of 1798. But the extraordinary date signaled that it was created when the French Revolution was still the overarching reality of everyday life and such fundamentals as the distribution of power and the nature of government had been reborn in astonishing ways. The new calendar that renamed 1792 as Year One had, after all, been created to start society all over again.

In that little junk shop on a quiet street in San Francisco, I held a relic from one of the great upheavals of the last millennium. It made me think of a remarkable statement the great feminist fantasy writer Ursula K Le Guin had made only a few weeks earlier.

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The World Is Not Falling Apart

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Via Slate

Never mind the headlines. We’ve never lived in such peaceful times.

It’s a good time to be a pessimist. ISIS, Crimea, Donetsk, Gaza, Burma, Ebola, school shootings, campus rapes, wife-beating athletes, lethal cops—who can avoid the feeling that things fall apart, the center cannot hold? Last year Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before a Senate committee that the world is “more dangerous than it has ever been.” This past fall,Michael Ignatieff wrote of “the tectonic plates of a world order that are being pushed apart by the volcanic upward pressure of violence and hatred.” Two months ago, the New York Times columnist Roger Cohen lamented, “Many people I talk to, and not only over dinner, have never previously felt so uneasy about the state of the world. … The search is on for someone to dispel foreboding and embody, again, the hope of the world.”

As troubling as the recent headlines have been, these lamentations need a second look.

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How to debunk false beliefs without having it backfire

Tambako The Jaguar (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Tambako The Jaguar (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Via VOX

There’s nothing worse than arguing with someone who simply refuses to listen to reason. You can throw all the facts at them you want, and they’ll simply dig in their heels deeper.

Over the past decade, psychologists have been studying why so many people do this. As it turns out, our brains have glitches that can make it difficult to remember that wrong facts are wrong. And trying to debunk misinformation can often backfire and entrench that misinformation stronger. The problem is even worse for emotionally charged political topics — like vaccines and global warming.

So how can you actually change someone’s mind? I spoke to Stephan Lewandowsky, a psychologist at the University of Bristol and co-author of The Debunking Handbook, to find out:

Susannah Locke: There’s evidence that when people stick with wrong facts, it isn’t just stubbornness — but actually some sort of brain glitch.

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This Is the Stupidest Anti-Science Bullshit of 2014

Via Mother Jones:

2014 had its fair share of landmark scientific accomplishments: dramatic cuts to the cost of sequencing a genome; sweeping investigations of climate change impacts in the US; advances in private-sector space travel, and plenty more. But there was also no shortage of high-profile figures eager to publicly and shamelessly denounce well-established science—sometimes with serious consequences for public policy. So without further ado, the most egregious science denial of 2014:

Basically everything said by Donald Trump:

You can always count on The Donald to pull no punches. He got started early this year, when he pointed to freezing temperatures in parts of the country as evidence that “this very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bullshit has got to stop” and then told Fox News that the global warming “hoax” was merely the result of scientists“having a lot of fun.”

In September, Trump went on a Twitter screed linking vaccines to autism.

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In the Beginning was the Code: Juergen Schmidhuber at TEDxUHasselt

The universe seems incredibly complex. But could its rules be dead simple? Juergen Schmidhuber’s fascinating story will convince you that this universe and your own life are just by-products of a very simple and fast program computing all logically possible universes.

Juergen Schmidhuber is Director of the Swiss Artificial Intelligence Lab IDSIA (since 1995), Professor of Artificial Intelligence at the University of Lugano, Switzerland (since 2009), and Professor SUPSI (since 2003).

He helped to transform IDSIA into one of the world’s top ten AI labs (the smallest!), according to the ranking of Business Week Magazine. His group pioneered the field of mathematically optimal universal AI and universal problem solvers. The algorithms developed in his lab won seven first prizes in international pattern recognition competitions, as well as several best paper awards.
Since 1990 he has developed a formal theory of fun and curiosity and creativity to build artificial scientists and artists.… Read the rest

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23 Things Terence McKenna Said Best, From DMT Sex To Telepathic Octopi

NOAA Ocean Explorer (CC BY-SA 2.0)

NOAA Ocean Explorer (CC BY-SA 2.0)

via Reset.me:

At 25, a friend introduced me to “Surfing Finnegans Wake,” in which a nasally man lectures for three hours, ostensibly off-the-cuff, on the psychedelic, boundary-dissolving experience of reading James Joyce. I remember thinking his voice sounded extra-terrestrial. It was Terence McKenna. Here’s a quote from the lecture, which will hopefully be blurbed on the next jacket cover of Finnegans Wake: “This [Finnegans Wake] comes about as close as anybody came to pushing the entire contents of the universe down into approximately 14 cubic inches.”

A year or so later, having forgotten about McKenna, I found the Psychedelic Salon, a podcast hosted by a friendly man named Lorenzo. It had hundreds of archived talks given by what seemed to be a community of people dedicated to psychedelics, and to a counter-culture movement of sorts. I wasn’t prepared to discover McKenna’s oeuvre.

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Is String Theory About to Unravel?

trailfan (CC BY 2.0)

trailfan (CC BY 2.0)

via Smithsonian:

In October 1984 I arrived at Oxford University, trailing a large steamer trunk containing a couple of changes of clothing and about five dozen textbooks. I had a freshly minted bachelor’s degree in physics from Harvard, and I was raring to launch into graduate study. But within a couple of weeks, the more advanced students had sucked the wind from my sails. Change fields now while you still can, many said. There’s nothing happening in fundamental physics.

Then, just a couple of months later, the prestigious (if tamely titled) journal Physics Letters B published an article that ignited the first superstring revolution, a sweeping movement that inspired thousands of physicists worldwide to drop their research in progress and chase Einstein’s long-sought dream of a unified theory. The field was young, the terrain fertile and the atmosphere electric. The only thing I needed to drop was a neophyte’s inhibition to run with the world’s leading physicists.

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