Yes, I've read the "Comma Sutra," but I only bend one way, so please don't ask. Quotation Mark My last girlfriend "dumped" me because she said I didn't "know" myself well enough to "get" what to do with myself, let "alone" a "girlfriend." Plus, she said it was "annoying" how I kept "coming up" with "sayings" that I thought were "deep." Other things to know about me: I don't "believe" in love. Also, "Love is a sentence.
In the first season of Crazy/Genius, The Atlantic's podcast on tech and culture, I asked experts to help me answer some of the hardest questions I could imagine. Would the U.S. economy be better off if the government broke up Amazon? Is smartphone use a behavioral addiction? And, seriously, where are all the aliens? In our upcoming season, the focus shifts from hard questions to radical answers, featuring a ragtag cast of scientists, tinkerers, and artists: a Harvard professor who's convinced that aging is just another curable disease; the chief engineer behind the world's most advanced self-driving car technology; climate scientists who study volcanic eruptions and see a lesson for slowing global warming; a startup couple developing the future of "meat" (it chirps); a concert pianist who plays duets with an algorithm, and whose work might be the future of creativity.
Errol Morris feels that Thomas Kuhn saved him from a career he was not suited for--by having him thrown out of Princeton. In 1972, Kuhn was a professor of philosophy and the history of science at Princeton, and author of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, which gave the world the term "paradigm shift." As Morris tells the story in his recent book, The Ashtray, Kuhn was antagonized by Morris' suggestions that Kuhn was a megalomaniac and The Structure of Scientific Revolutions was an assault on truth and progress. To say the least, Morris, then 24, was already the iconoclast who would go on to make some of the most original documentary films of our time. After launching the career he was suited for with The Gates of Heaven in 1978, a droll affair about pet cemeteries, Morris earned international acclaim with The Thin Blue Line, which led to the reversal of a murder conviction of a prisoner who had been on death row. In 2004, Morris won an Academy Award for The Fog of War, a dissection of former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, a major architect of the Vietnam War. His 2017 film, Wormwood, a miniseries on Netflix, centers on the mystery surrounding a scientist who in 1975 worked on a biological warfare program for the Army, and suspiciously fell to his death from a hotel room. The Ashtray--Morris explains the title in our interview below--is as arresting and idiosyncratic as Morris' films.
Imaging technologies, which extend human vision capabilities, are such a natural part of our current everyday experience that we often take them for granted. However, the ability to capture images with new kinds of sensing devices that allow us to see more than what can be seen by the unaided eye has a relatively recent history. In the early 1800s, the first ever photograph was taken: an unassuming picture that required days of exposure to obtain a very grainy image. In the late 1800s, a photograph was used for the first time to see the movement of a running horse that the human eye alone could not see. In the following years, photography played a pivotal role in recording human history, ranging from influencing the creation of the first national parks in the United States all the way to documenting NASA's Apollo 11 mission to put a man on the Moon.
If you knocked on Heaven's door, and God greeted you, what question would you ask? What is the nature of human consciousness, and how can it be expanded? Where does the Universe begin and end? What is time, and why isn't it constant? The Most Unknown, a documentary film in the Simons Foundation Science Sandbox series, takes the viewer on a fantastical journey of nine scientists as they intrepidly knock on Heaven's door.
In a world where the most famous dorm-room-born internet company has developed a reputation as a matrix of fake users and misleading posts, Ash Bhat and Rohan Phadte are hoping that the answer to online disinformation could come out of their own college apartment. Bhat and Phadte, both 21, are the founders of Robhat Labs, which they launched while previously students at the UC Berkeley. Last year, they debuted two misinformation-fighting projects. The first is NewsBot, an app for Facebook Messenger that aims to identify the political leaning of a given news piece. The duo's third project, set to be released next month, is a free browser extension called SurfSafe.
To death and taxes, Benjamin Franklin's binary list of life's certainties, add the expectation that this six-note sequence: Although we ponder ways to avoid or evade Franklin's list of unavoidable events, we generally accept this more benign certainty as immutable. The penultimate note of the tune generates such strong and specific anticipation that you are likely finding it difficult to continue reading without resolving the sequence. That anxious pause is key to composition and music's power. It creates a sense of prophetic certainty that allows musicians to play against expectations by thwarting the expected. The controlled manipulation of certainty and likelihood lurks behind those magical moments in which music has caused a shiver or a tear to fall. By infusing uncertainty or surprise into the mix, musicians literally play on our emotions.
Open any newspaper, on-screen or off, and you'll find that scientific controversy underlies many of the day's most hotly debated issues. The arguments surrounding genetically modified organisms, the threat of artificial intelligence to human existence, and stem cell research are exemplary. Science, a domain that we might naively expect to provide objective knowledge and definitive answers, has always been and will remain forever contested. What is the non-expert--that is, most of us--to do? For most issues, interpreting research findings or parsing the academic debate is infeasible.
In a dank corner of the internet, it is possible to find actresses from Game of Thrones or Harry Potter engaged in all manner of sex acts. Or at least to the world the carnal figures look like those actresses, and the faces in the videos are indeed their own. Everything south of the neck, however, belongs to different women. An artificial intelligence has almost seamlessly stitched the familiar visages into pornographic scenes, one face swapped for another. The genre is one of the cruelest, most invasive forms of identity theft invented in the internet era.
A lot of people don't like the word "moist." Several Facebook groups are dedicated to it, one with over 3,000 likes, New Yorker readers overwhelmingly selected it as the word to eliminate from the dictionary, and Jimmy Fallon sarcastically thanked it for being the worst word in the English language. When you ask people why this might be, there is no shortage of armchair theory: that there's something about the sounds involved, that it puts your face in a position similar to the facial expression of disgust, or that it reminds people of mold or sex.