Yet another fusion company backed by big money: TAE Technologies, which is supported by Google, the Rockefellers, Paul Allen, and Goldman Sachs. I would like to think that all those smart, rich people must know something I don't to be investing so much in fusion, but I still don't see this working any time soon.
The Dutch government buys a mediocre Rembrandt for 150 million Euros.
7-minute video from Boston Dynamics showing off the capabilities of their latest human-shaped robots.
IBM has been sued for age discrimination, and trial discovery has turned up corporate emails about hiring more millennials and making "dinobabies" (older workers) extinct. In their defense they say the average age of their employees is 48 and has not changed in decades, and they have hired 10,000 employees over 50 since 2010. Seems to me both could be true; certain corporate leaders could be trying hard to get rid of older employees and replace them with younger people, and this initiative might, like most corporate initiatives, be having no effect. (NY Times)
Back in 1890, three carved chalk cylinders were excavated from an old grave in England. They are known as the Folkton Drums, but nobody knew how old they were and they were filed away under "unexplained, undatable things.". Now a very similar object has been found in another burial, radiocarbon dated to around 3000 BC.
Croatian utility workers dig up a street, find intact Roman mosaic.
What did Ninjas actually do? According to our Japanese sources, one mission was to sneak out of castles under siege for stealthy raids on the besieging force. Now archaeologists excavating a castle that was taken by siege in 1590 have unearthed a cache of throwing weapons that look a lot like the Ninja weapons of modern movies.
Trying to unravel the mysteries of a blackboard doodled on by physicists at a 1980 conference, which Stephen Hawking insisted on leaving untouched until his death in 2018. It is now going on display in a museum exhibit. Is there any science in it, or just inside jokes?
William Saletan on 25 years at Slate: "In the old days, there was a lot of hope that the information age would make us smarter. It didn’t."
Some European scholars tried to estimate the death rate during the first Black Death (1348-1349) using pollen cores, on the theory that the amount of land taken out of cultivation would approximate the population decline. They found major variations across Europe. Populations fell dramatically in Scandinavia, France, SW Germany, central Italy, and Greece, but not in Iberia, Ireland, or eastern Europe. Interesting but understanding landscapes from pollen is an iffy business and some times ponds a few miles apart give quite different results.
Soil bio-acoustics. Fascinating.
The "Russian flu" of 1889-1890 caused a pandemic somewhat similar to he current one, then vanished after three years. Some virologists think it was a coronavirus, which would bode well for our fate. (NY Times, wikipedia)
Wildlife at Chernobyl: some studies say it is thriving in the absence of people, while other studies find increased mutation loads and declines in many species.
Frank Bruni on the hidden pains and struggles the people around us may be going through; one of the most cheerful-seeming and impressive men he ever met committed suicide. (NY Times)
San Francisco voters recalled three school board members who were seen as more focused on renaming schools and other "woke" issues than keeping schools open or educating anyone. One flash point was a shift to an admissions lottery at an elite high school. Asian voters seem to have turned out in unusually large numbers. If the Democrats don't moderate their message I foresee a mass shift of Asian Americans to the Republican party (NY Times, NPR)
Below the headline radar, a bunch of bipartisan bills are making their way through Congress.
Two big foundations have promised $41 million for research aimed at developing a new kind of economic thinking that would get us away from free markets and Neoliberalism. Their paradigm seems to be the way that Chicago School economists made free market thinking intellectually powerful and important in the 1960s, which helped lead to political change under Thatcher and Reagan. I wish them luck, but this is a 250-year-old debate and finding a new angle on political economics is not going to be easy. The money is also pretty small when you consider that another group of foundations just announced $328 million to reduce methane emissions. (NY Times. And here are the program and a longer manifesto of one of the foundations, and an announcement from the other.)
Spitalfields Life presents a collection of Victorian "Vinegar Valentines."
Landscape Photographer of the Year winners.
Educated French Muslims are leaving France for Britain and the US, saying they face less discrimination in those countries. One says, "It’s only abroad that I’m French. I’m French, I’m married to a Frenchwoman, I speak French, I live French, I love French food and culture. But in my own country, I’m not French." Some interviewees pointed to the terrorist attacks of 2015-2016 as the time when it became impossible to live as a Muslim in France, which I think is a good model of what terrorism usually accomplishes: anger, hate, and maimed lives. (NY Times)
There is bipartisan interest in Congress in fixing the Electoral Count Act to avoid another mess like we had in 2020. But Yuval Levin says it is proving hard to agree on an actual bill because somebody has to be responsible for the count. Reforms that limit the power of state officials to meddle tend to increase the power of Congress to meddle, and vice versa. Ultimately we have to trust somebody.
The last fluent speaker of another language passes away.
Kevin Drum calls on mainstream Democrats to stand up for what they believe in.