Roundup – Beer Chase

Line O’ the Day:

“For me, if I have a bar epiphany, it’s usually about four o’clock in the afternoon, before the evening crowd comes in. It’s usually the daytime guys sitting there, they know the bartender, maybe there’s a jukebox, maybe there isn’t. The sun’s sort of getting low in the sky and coming in through the window, you’ve got the dust motes floating over the bar. It’s what I call that sort of golden Tom Waits drinking hour.”

– Anthony Bourdain, Top 5 Bars [via Food & Wine]

Best of the Best:

Classic Armond White: Praising Resident Evil by bashing Scorsese, The Master [Vince Mancini on FilmDrunk]

[Armond White] references a completely relevant essay, the subject of which is basically that the best art is created by those who weren’t setting out to create their culture’s conception of “great art,” but he uses it to drive home a point about how a fivequel about future zombies is better than The Master. It’s like he’s trying to light a broken cigarette with a shotgun.

Iran Cleric Pummeled by ‘Badly Covered’ Woman After Warning [Ladane Nasseri on Bloomberg]

Hojatoleslam Ali Beheshti said he encountered the woman in the street while on his way to the mosque in the town of Shahmirzad, and asked her to cover herself up, to which she replied “you, cover your eyes,” according to Mehr. The cleric repeated his warning, which he said prompted her to insult and push him.

Unlike Afghan leaders, Obama fights for power of indefinite military detention [Glenn Greenwald on The Guardian]

[M]any Americans, particularly in the age of Obama, are content to assume that anyone whom the US government accuses of being a terrorist should, for that reason alone, be assumed to be guilty, and as a result, any punishment the president decides to dole out – indefinite imprisonment, summary execution – is warranted and just; no bothersome, obsolete procedures such as “trials” or “indictments” are necessary.

Warp Drive May Be More Feasible Than Thought, Scientists Say [Clara Moskowitz on SPACE.com via Yahoo! News]

With this concept, the spacecraft would be able to achieve an effective speed of about 10 times the speed of light, all without breaking the cosmic speed limit. The only problem is, previous studies estimated the warp drive would require a minimum amount of energy about equal to the mass-energy of the planet Jupiter. But recently White calculated what would happen if the shape of the ring encircling the spacecraft was adjusted into more of a rounded donut, as opposed to a flat ring. He found in that case, the warp drive could be powered by a mass about the size of a spacecraft like the Voyager 1 probe NASA launched in 1977. Furthermore, if the intensity of the space warps can be oscillated over time, the energy required is reduced even more, White found.

Jesus’ Wife Mentioned on Fourth-Century Papyrus Fragment [Elizabeth Lopatto on Bloomberg]

The fragment likely is authentic, based on the papyrus and handwriting, Roger Bagnall, director of the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World in New York said in a statement from Harvard. Early Christians didn’t agree about whether they should marry or remain celibate, and the earliest claim Jesus didn’t marry is from 200 A.D., King said…Only women were identified in terms of family relationships, as someone’s sister, mother, or wife, King said. The question of whether Jesus married came up later when people wanted to use him as a model for their lives, she said.

Video shows Libyans helping rescue U.S. ambassador after attack [Suleiman Al-Khalidi on Reuters]

The footage also sheds new light on the circumstances of the ambassador’s death, apparently showing for the first time that some of the people who forced their way into the U.S. compound later tried to rescue Stevens after they found him lying alone, with no security detail, in one of the rooms in the building.

Local Cops Ready for War With Homeland Security-Funded Military Weapons [Andrew Becker on The Daily Beast]

The buying spree has transformed local police departments into small, army-like forces, and put intimidating equipment into the hands of civilian officers. And that is raising questions about whether the strategy has gone too far, creating a culture and capability that jeopardizes public safety and civil rights while creating an expensive false sense of security.

The split brain: A tale of two halves [David Wolman on Nature]

In work that began in 2009, the researchers presented two split-brain patients with a series of stories, each of which involved either accidental or intentional harm. The aim was to find out whether the patients felt that someone who intends to poison his boss but fails because he mistakes sugar for rat poison, is on equal moral ground with someone who accidentally kills his boss by mistaking rat poison for sugar. (Most people conclude that the former is more morally reprehensible.) The researchers read the stories aloud, which meant that the input was directed to the left hemisphere, and asked for verbal responses, so that the left hemisphere, guided by the interpreter mechanism, would also create and deliver the response. So could the split-brain patients make a conventional moral judgement using just that side of the brain? No. The patients reasoned that both scenarios were morally equal. The results suggest that both sides of the cortex are necessary for this type of reasoning task. But this finding presents an additional puzzle, because relatives and friends of split-brain patients do not notice unusual reasoning or theory-of-mind deficits. Miller’s team speculates that, in everyday life, other reasoning mechanisms may compensate for disconnection effects that are exposed in the lab. It’s an idea that he plans to test in the future.

The Behavioral Sink [Will Wiles via Cabinet]

In 1972, John B. Calhoun detailed the specifications of his Mortality-Inhibiting Environment for Mice: a practical utopia built in the laboratory. Every aspect of Universe 25—as this particular model was called—was pitched to cater for the well-being of its rodent residents and increase their lifespan. The Universe took the form of a tank, 101 inches square, enclosed by walls 54 inches high. The first 37 inches of wall was structured so the mice could climb up, but they were prevented from escaping by 17 inches of bare wall above. Each wall had sixteen vertical mesh tunnels—call them stairwells—soldered to it. Four horizontal corridors opened off each stairwell, each leading to four nesting boxes. That means 256 boxes in total, each capable of housing fifteen mice. There was abundant clean food, water, and nesting material. The Universe was cleaned every four to eight weeks. There were no predators, the temperature was kept at a steady 68°F, and the mice were a disease-free elite selected from the National Institutes of Health’s breeding colony. Heaven…So what exactly happened in Universe 25? Past day 315, population growth slowed. More than six hundred mice now lived in Universe 25, constantly rubbing shoulders on their way up and down the stairwells to eat, drink, and sleep. Mice found themselves born into a world that was more crowded every day, and there were far more mice than meaningful social roles. With more and more peers to defend against, males found it difficult and stressful to defend their territory, so they abandoned the activity. Normal social discourse within the mouse community broke down, and with it the ability of mice to form social bonds. The failures and dropouts congregated in large groups in the middle of the enclosure, their listless withdrawal occasionally interrupted by spasms and waves of pointless violence. The victims of these random attacks became attackers. Left on their own in nests subject to invasion, nursing females attacked their own young. Procreation slumped, infant abandonment and mortality soared. Lone females retreated to isolated nesting boxes on penthouse levels. Other males, a group Calhoun termed “the beautiful ones,” never sought sex and never fought—they just ate, slept, and groomed, wrapped in narcissistic introspection. Elsewhere, cannibalism, pansexualism, and violence became endemic. Mouse society had collapsed.

We’re Underestimating the Risk of Human Extinction [Ross Anderson Interviews Nick Bostrom on The Atlantic]

The simulation argument addresses whether we are in fact living in a simulation as opposed to some basement level physical reality. It tries to show that at least one of three propositions is true, but it doesn’t tell us which one. Those three are: 1) Almost all civilizations like ours go extinct before reaching technological maturity. 2) Almost all technologically mature civilizations lose interest in creating ancestor simulations: computer simulations detailed enough that the simulated minds within them would be conscious.  3) We’re almost certainly living in a computer simulation.

The full argument requires sophisticated probabilistic reasoning, but the basic argument is fairly easy to grasp without resorting to mathematics. Suppose that the first proposition is false, which would mean that some significant portion of civilizations at our stage eventually reach technological maturity. Suppose that the second proposition is also false, which would mean that some significant fraction of those (technologically mature) civilizations retain an interest in using some non-negligible fraction of their resources for the purpose of creating these ancestor simulations. You can then show that it would be possible for a technologically mature civilization to create astronomical numbers of these simulations. So if this significant fraction of civilizations made it through to this stage where they decided to use their capabilities to create these ancestor simulations, then there would be many more simulations created than there are original histories, meaning that almost all observers with our types of experiences would be living in simulations. Going back to the observation selection effect, if almost all kinds of observers with our kinds of experiences are living in simulations, then we should think that we are living in a simulation, that we are one of the typical observers, rather than one of the rare, exceptional basic level reality observers. The connection to existential risk is twofold. First, the first of those three possibilities, that almost all civilizations like ours go extinct before reaching technological maturity obviously bears directly on how much existential risk we face. If proposition 1 is true then the obvious implication is that we will succumb to an existential catastrophe before reaching technological maturity. The other relationship with existential risk has to do with proposition 3: if we are living in a computer simulation then there are certain exotic ways in which we might experience an existential catastrophe which we wouldn’t fear if we are living in basement level physical reality. The simulation could be shut off, for instance. Or there might be other kinds of interventions in our simulated reality.

Why Some Cities Lose When Others Win [Richard Florida on The Atlantic Cities]

Simulations by Robert Axtell of George Mason University show that the biggest, dominant cities can survive and thrive for a very long time. New York has been America’s largest city since its first census in 1790.  London has been the United Kingdom’s largest city for a very long time. Athens and Rome have remained influential long past their prime.  But the competition and “churning” among smaller second- and third-tier cities is brutal. These cities rise and fall frequently. Early in the 20th century, rising industrial cities in the United States and Europe displaced once dominant mercantile centers. By the end of that century, many of those same industrial cities were being replaced by knowledge-based ones.   This reordering is now happening on a global scale. Rampant globalization exposes smaller, niche cities to an onslaught of ferocious global competition. America’s entire industrial belt is fending off the rise of Shanghai and adjacent areas as the “world’s factory.”…The upshot is that the world is heading toward a single globalized system of cities, with ever large cities at the top and much more volatility and turbulence for small and medium size ones.  This will likely reinforce the position of the New Yorks, Londons, Tokyos, Sao Paolos and Shanghais of the world, while smaller and medium size cities face far greater turbulence and volatility. This much is clear: The new phase of globalization entails a dramatic reordering of cities around the world.  Dealing with this increasingly spiky, concentrated and unequal economic landscape will serve as a major challenge for mayors, city leaders and global policy makers for some time to come.

Putin Wages War on Vodka as Lifestyle Death Toll Mounts [Henry Meyer and Stepan Kravechenko on Bloomberg]

The average Russian, including women and youths, drank 77 liters (20.3 gallons) of beer, 9 liters of spirit and 7 liters of wine in 2011, Euromonitor data shows. One in five Russian men die from harmful use of alcohol, the Geneva-based WHO says. “We are used to smoking, drinking, eating a poor diet and doing little sport and then falling ill, and expect to be operated on or take pills to get better,” Nikolai Gerasimenko, deputy head of the lower house of parliament’s health committee, said in an interview. “That’s got to stop.”

In This Town, Trick-or-Treaters Have One More Creature to Fear [Alistair MacDonald on The Wall Street Journal]

Most in this town of around 1,100 have tales of close calls and heroic escapes. At a recent school Halloween costume swap, girls traded clothes and bear stories. Khalee Palmer, 10 years old, said one got its nose stuck in a car window after her mother closed it on the bear. Then there are the bears themselves. At around 8 p.m. on Halloween, Churchill’s streets will clear, and the bear patrol heads home. But for those bears cooling their heels in the local tank, their stretch continues. They will be tranquilized and carried by helicopter north to where the ice has frozen. There, Messrs. Wlock and Windsor will release them and bid goodbye. “You hope not to have to see them again,” said Mr. Windsor. “You wish ’em well.”

Journalism in the Obama age shows the real media bias [Glenn Greenwald on The Guardian]

Ample ink is spilled over debating whether the US media is biased in favor of Republicans or Democrats. It is neither. The overwhelming, driving bias of the US media is subservience to power, whoever happens to be wielding it. That is what explains why the US media has been so obsequious first with George Bush and now with his Democratic successor (for those who doubt that “the liberal media” venerated Bush as much as Lewis and Brinkely do Obama, I’ll remind you of this still-remarkable, borderline pornographic display of giddy fawning on Mission Accomplished Day, or the fact that Bush’s own Press Secretary wrote a book mocking the US media for how “deferential” it was to the Bush White House). It’s why journalists joyously dance with top officials, swing on their tires, are creepily grateful when they’re sprayed in the face by their squirt guns, and play fun beach games with the very campaign officials they’re ostensibly covering. The central function, the religion, of the US establishment media is adulation of those who wield power, especially military power as personified by the inaptly referred to “commander-in-chief”. Brinkley conducted the interview in the Oval Office from his knees because – with some significant exceptions – that’s the posture which US media culture assumes in the presence of the royal court.

How Barack Obama Vindicated ‘The Cult of the Presidency’ [Connor Freidersdorf on The Atlantic]

The “cult of the presidency” thesis is one Democrats and Republicans would both do well to understand and grapple with. But it holds a lesson for everyone who is attracted to third-party candidates too. If flaws in modern attitudes toward the presidency really are a big part of the problem, it wouldn’t be enough to elect one civil libertarian president, even if he or she improbably resisted the temptations and pressures of the office. In the long run, only a strong Congress can rein in the executive branch. Expecting a Ron Paul or Jill Stein figure to do it from the White House falls prey to the same wrongheaded thinking that makes a cult of the presidency. It’s fine to vote third party, but changing Congress ought to be the more urgent priority. As Healy puts it, “Can the president launch a war without Congress? How far do executive surveillance powers extend? Can the president use U.S. armed forces to seize an American citizen on American soil and hold him in a military brig? Can he authorize the targeted killing of an American citizen via robot assassin? These are core questions of federal power over which the president enjoys far more discretion than he does over the budget. And yet when it comes to the role of the presidency and the scope of executive power, there isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between the two tickets.” He’s hardly the first to observe as much. But his explanation for why there isn’t any significant difference is as compelling and original as any I know.

How to eat a Triceratops [Matt Kaplan on Nature]

As Fowler and his colleagues examined the various types of bite mark on the skulls, they were intrigued by the extensive puncture and pull marks on the neck frills on some of the specimens. At first, this seemed to make no sense. “The frill would have been mostly bone and keratin,” says Fowler. “Not much to eat there.” The pulling action and the presence of deep parallel grooves led the team to realise that these marks were probably not indicative of actual eating, but repositioning of the prey. The scientists suggest that the frills were in the way of Tyrannosaurus as it was trying to get at the nutrient-rich neck muscles. “It’s gruesome, but the easiest way to do this was to pull the head off,” explains Fowler with a grin. The researchers found further evidence to support this idea when they examined the Triceratops occipital condyles — the ball-socket head–neck joint — and found tooth marks there too. Such marks could only have been made if the animal had been decapitated.

Curiously Strong Remains:


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