The Science of Superpowers
October 4, 2019
“One, remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Two, never give up work. Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it. Three, if you are lucky enough to find love, remember it is there and don’t throw it away.” – Stephen Hawking
“The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.” – Isaac Asimov
Science and A Tale of Two Superpowers
- Chinese innovations such as the compass, printing press, paper, and gunpowder have shaped the world massively, but that wasn’t always the case. Just a hundred years ago, the Chinese philosopher Feng Youlan wrote a provocative essay titled ‘Why China Has No Science,’ in which he explained the nation’s philosophical traditions and unique understanding of the human relationship to nature had prevented true scientific breakthroughs and developments.
- The Communist Party has overseen a complete restructuring of the country’s universities and research institutions to remove US and European influence and model them after those in the Soviet Union since they first took power seventy years ago, leading to a different methodology and approach to their research methods and discoveries.
- Fifty years ago, the outlook for science in China more generally was bleak, but with more widespread appeal and knowledge came a revolution like almost no other. One that brought China back from the stone ages of technological innovation – one that pushed China to become the global superpower it is regarded as today. Over the past century and a half, the belief that science and technology can improve the nation has become deeply embedded in Chinese culture, and will likely stay that way for decades to come.
- Trump administration’s war on science has hit ‘crisis point’, experts warn (Guardian)
- Trump’s plan would make government stupid: Cuts to science advisory panels for federal agencies will haunt the United States long after the current administration finishes (Nature)
- How The Trump Administration’s Attacks On Science Put Americans At Risk (NPR)
- Trump’s war on science is hobbling the U.S. in the global innovation race (EDF)
The Scientists Trying to Save Us From our Environmental Sins
- Scientists have been trying to develop tools and technologies to clean the ocean of the large plastic patches floating around, but have been largely unsuccessful until now. A recent test conducted by Dutch scientists showed that their newest innovation was able to collect and retain debris from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
- Collecting anything ranging from one-ton ghost nets to tiny microplastics, a 2,000 foot-long free-floating boom was designed by Boyan Slat, the creator of the Ocean Cleanup project.
- The device is fitted with satellites and sensors so it can communicate its position to a vessel that will collect the gathered rubbish every few months. The plastic gathered so far will be brought to shore in December for recycling. The project’s current endeavor is to scale up the device and hopefully completely collect the entirety of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is currently three times the size of France.
- Reports have shown that between six hundred and eight hundred thousand metric tons of fishing gear is abandoned or lost at sea every year, with another eight million tons of plastic waste flowing into open water from beaches around the globe. If the ability to scale up is reasonable and plausible, it could be just years from now that plastics will stop plaguing the world’s oceans. (Guardian)
The Iraq War Continues: The World War On Drugs
- Iraq has always been a country safe from the terrors of drug abuse, but recently an epidemic of meth addiction has broken out. Over 6,800 citizens have been incarcerated for nationwide, with the majority of incidents taking place in Basra and the capital city of Baghdad.
- A largely new problem for Iraq, government officials and community leaders alike are unsure of how to tackle the issue besides simply putting people in jail. The government’s approach has been to attempt and expunge all public signs of the problem, with SWAT teams rolling out across provinces, targeting users and dealers, who are hauled in as suspects. (NYT $)
- According to international cybersecurity monitor NetBlocks, the Iraqi government has shut down much of the country’s internet access in the face of protests amidst anti-government protests.
- Protests against the current government, unemployment, and corruption have turned violent, with police reporting a death toll of 19 so far. The protests, which were organized through social media but quickly turned violent when the government met protestors with teargas and live gunfire.
- While the blackout initially only targeted social media sites, it expanded on Wednesday to block other sites. By Thursday, roughly three-quarters of Iraq, including the capital, Baghdad, were blocked from accessing the internet, preventing protestors across the country from communicating or posting video of the protests online.
- NetBlocks has identified the blackout as “intentional”, meaning major internet providers have consciously restricted access to the internet. This follows a pattern established last year, when the Iraqi government also blocked access to social media in response to protests. (Guardian)
Additional World News
- The story of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder and how the world looked the other way (Insider)
- How the alt-right co-opted the OK hand sign to fool the media: The media has been manipulated by extremists but focusing on the victims offers journalists a way to redress the balance (Guardian)
- Why It’s So Hard for Startups to Create Wealth in Europe: Lawmakers across the Continent haven’t given startups the compensation tools they need to share profits with employees. That’s changing. (Bloomberg, $)
- The U.N. Can’t Ignore Kashmir Anymore: As India cracks down on a long-disputed region, two nuclear powers face off. (NYT, $)
Donald Trump Asks For More Help
- Already under threat of impeachment for asking Ukraine to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, President Donald Trump is continuing down the rabbit hole. Today, he publicly called for both China and Ukraine to investigate Biden, unequivocally asking foreign nations to interfere with the upcoming presidential election.
- Trump asked China to investigate Hunter Biden on a claim that he conducted private business while on an official diplomatic trip with his father. Biden’s lawyer stated that he was never an equity owner in the fund which conducted the business, though he later acquired secured a 10 percent interest in the body overseeing the fund after his father left office. According to his lawyer, he has not received any revenue for this stake from the arrangement.
- The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, which is in charge of the impeachment inquiry, stated that Trump’s comments from the White House lawn added to evidence that he was betraying his duties as president. (NYT)
- ‘A presidency of one’: Key federal agencies increasingly compelled to benefit Trump (WaPo, $)
- If Trump Goes Down, He’s Taking Everyone With Him: The impeachment inquiry is laying him bare. It’s not a pretty sight. (NYT, $)
- A Trump hotel mystery: Giant reservations followed by empty rooms: The House is investigating whether groups tried to curry favor with Trump by booking rooms at his hotels but never using them. (Politico)
Capital One Punishment
- Elena Botella, in New Republic, details her experience as a Capital One employee and how the company takes advantage of the impoverished.
- Botella supervised Capital One’s secured credit card, a card that was advertised to people with such inferior credit that they cannot even obtain a credit limit of $300 at a 27 percent interest rate until putting down a security deposit as insurance.
- Botella questions whether Capital One’s advertising campaigns force people into debt even if they could have prevented it and whether the customer’s best interest is kept in mind.
- Capital One is one of the biggest subprime credit card issuers in the United States. The company profits off of this by receiving $23 billion in interest per year. On average, this is $181 from each family in the country. Several families in America end up paying Capital One $800 in interest every year.
- A Federal Reserve survey illustrated that people who detail an unpaid credit card balance “most or all of the time” were five times more likely to make ends meet than people who pay their credit card bills completely every month.These individuals were 50 percent more likely to have an income beneath $50,000.
- Is eating beef healthy? The new fight raging in nutrition science, explained.: How researchers came to a controversial conclusion about the health effects of meat. (Vox)
- Google knoweth all even when we try to hide or delete our activity: Why big ISPs aren’t happy about Google’s plans for encrypted DNS: DNS over HTTPS will make it harder for ISPs to monitor or modify DNS queries. (Ars Technica) So while we can try to hide, Google of course can still monitor one’s activities: Google announces three new ways to hide your personal activity from Google: Incognito mode for Maps, auto-delete for YouTube history, and more (The Verge) The company is so powerful that it’s rivals build their products off of Google’s code: Microsoft’s future is built on Google’s code: Google underpins Microsoft’s browser and mobile OS now (The Verge) And even competitors from China genuflect to Google: The Internet’s horrifying new method for installing Google apps on Huawei phones: Just make a Chinese website your device’s remote administrator. It’ll be fine! (Ars Technica)
- The press seems to now be overly enamored with profiling young people using new tech products
- The not-so-secret life of a TikTok-famous teen: Haley downloaded the app for fun. Now millions of people watch her videos. (Vox)
- The Rise of the “Getting Real” Post on Instagram (The New Yorker, $)
- What Does Having a Boyfriend Have to Do With Sleep?: On YouTube, young men role-play as kindly romantic partners — all in service of a better night’s rest. (NYT, $)
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