The Roundup for December 1-23, 2018 Edition

(Choices by Christopher Parsons)

Welcome to this edition of The Roundup! Enjoy the collection of interesting, informative, and entertaining links. Brew a fresh cup of coffee or grab yourself a drink, find a comfortable place, and relax.


Inspiring Quotation

“The Heart that gives, gathers.”

  • Tao Te Ching

Great Photography Shots

I really appreciated the simplicity of the smartphone shots, below, which were initially curated by Mobiography. I think it’s so important that to focus on the images that are being produced, as opposed to what produced them, to realize that almost all cameras are amply sufficient to get aesthetically pleasing images these days.

(‘Imagine a lonesome Pink balloon in a Pink room with no one to cheer up‘ by @arashrimus)
(‘Untitled‘ by @lucdigital)
(‘City boii‘ by @pixels.for.life)

Music I’m Digging

  • Bush – Deconstructed // I’ve been listening to Bush since they were Bush X. While I’ve never been a fan of all of their songs, Deconstructed manages to collect most of my favourite ones and remix them in particularly enjoyable ways. The album maintains the grittiness of the original tracks while mixing them with a healthy dose of electronica, thus transforming the tracks into something entirely new and different.
  • Ta-Ku – 50 Days For Dilla, Vol. 1 and Ta-Ku – 25 Nights for Nujabes // Both albums have a kind of trip-hop vibe and are almost entirely instrumental. I’ve been finding them to be nice background music while cooking, reading, or doing light writing. They’re definitely pretty solid chill out albums.
  • Sean Paul – Mad Love: The Prequel // I’m not typically a fan of Sean Paul, but any number of tracks on this album are great to listen to while going on a long walk, long bike, or other activity where you just want a fun beat to your step.

Neat Podcast Episodes

  • Wolverine: The Long Night // This twelve episode drama takes us to Alaska, where the FBI has come looking into whether Logan is hiding out in the area while also trying to solve the mysteries of a secret cult, a well established drug trade, magical ley lines, and a ‘protective’ town father. It’s the one podcast I’ve listened to over the past few weeks that gripped me and had me listen to almost all of it in a single, long, listen.

Good Reads

  • Inside Chronicle, Alphabet’s cybersecurity moonshot // Engadget’s long-form article does a really good job in working through the origins, and intentions, behind Alphabet’s newest threat-intelligence organization. The decision to leverage Google’s core strengths — search and machine learning — and then use them to track or identify threats in smaller organizations’ systems and networks seems like it could work, especially when Virus Total data can be used as a basis for teaching machines. Like all Alphabet/former X projects, however, it remains debatable whether the new organization will truly bloom or wither on the vine like some of Alphabet’s other moonshot projects.
  • Coffee roasting acoustics // This is, quite simply, an awesome paper that immediately appealed to me as a coffee nerd. The crux of the paper: ”The sounds of first crack are qualitatively similar to the sound of popcorn popping while second crack sounds more like the breakfast cereal Rice Krispies® in milk. Additional qualitative audible differences between first and second crack are: first crack is louder, first crack is lower in frequency, and individual second cracks occur more frequently within the chorus than first cracks. The purpose of the present work is to quantify these effects as a preliminary step toward the development of an automated acoustical roast monitoring technique.”
  • The Hidden Struggle to Save the Coffee Industry From Disaster // Coffee is in danger: it lacks significant genetic diversity and, as such, is threatened by increasing prevalence of rust leaf. Gunn’s article examines how geneticists are trying to diversity coffee trees’ DNA so that the trees adopt more resilient properties in the face of a changing climate. Any of their results are going to have to wait until 2025, however, which raises the question of whether a solution will be found in time to save/maintain/expand existing coffee plantations.
  • The Humble Brilliance of Italy’s Moka Coffee Pot // I learned so much about the Moka Coffee Pot in this article! Both in terms of the history of espresso and using steam in the brewing of coffee, as well as that the Moka Pot has serious design chops behind its creation. It’s painful to read, however, that coffee pods are significantly responsible for the threats facing Bialetti, especially given how the relatively affordable Moka Pot means that anyone can potentially create a nice cup of coffee compared to the travesties that emerge from the pod-based coffee systems.
  • Illusion of control: Why the world is full of buttons that don’t work // A combination of lack of repairs and belief that automated systems are safer have combined to mean that the beg buttons — those we press to get the walk signal to appear more quickly — just don’t do anything. Worse, the properties of these buttons meant to provide assistance to those hard of hearing don’t really function well because they’re largely inaudible. But the sense of pressing a button, in and of itself, is comforting and makes us less likely to just walk across a line of traffic.
  • The Amazing Psychology of Japanese Train Stations // The efforts to both try to mitigate suicides, while also drive youth from stations and prevent loitering, is pretty impressive. As is the rationale for different 7-second jingles in each station that indicate the closing of a door. Japan’s obsession with building things to perfectly suit the challenges at hand remain incredibly impressive.
  • Flying in airplanes exposes people to more radiation than standing next to a nuclear reactor — here’s why // As someone who probably flies too often I’m always worried about things like radiation exposure. This article from Business Insider does a good job in explaining the actual radiological dangers linked with air travel, though the only way to really avoid the harms is to not fly in the first place…
  • Inside China’s audacious global propaganda campaign // This longform article by the Guardian details how the Chinese government has been actively attempting to shape the world’s perception of the country’s and government’s ambitions, rationales, and motivations by way of taking control of the providers of information. From training journalists around the world to acquiring the media themselves, China is actively involved in a global information campaign that is different from any other type of information campaign in the world.
  • excerpts from my Sent Folder: to someone who wants to be a writer // I really like a lot of the editing advice here. It’s blunt and to the point and, if followed, will help someone start writing for the ‘right’ reasons and with an appropriate level of humbleness.
  • The Physical and Spiritual Art of Capoeira // I’d never come across a popular article that speaks to the totality of a capoeira practice. Some of it is, in hindsight, unsurprising: I don’t know of any martial art format that isn’t beautiful, deadly, and philosophical. What was particularly noteworthy was how capoeira is seen as linked with resistance and politics; though perhaps true of certain martial arts, it’s certainly not generally case and, as such, seems to make capoeira relatively novel.

Cool Things

Link

Scientists Release Air that Has Been Trapped for 800 Million Years

Scientists Release Air that Has Been Trapped for 800 Million Years:

“There was a lot of debate as to what the oxygen content was 800 million or more years ago,” said Blamey in a statement. “We’ve come up with a direct method of analyzing the content of those trapped fossil gasses in the atmosphere and found that the oxygen level was approximately half of what it is today.”

To get a nice healthy wiff of that nearly billion-year-old atmosphere, the team placed halite crystals from southwest Australia in a vacuum chamber and crushed them, releasing the actual air that circulated during this bygone era in our planet’s history.

“It’s a direct measurement of the atmosphere of that time, not an interpretation,” emphasized study co-author Uwe Brand.

Modern science is amazing.

Link

Should childhood vaccines be mandatory?

The Current ran an excellent piece yesterday on the importance of child vaccinations. Guests included Margaret Somerville (founding director of the McGill Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law) and Paul Offit (head of Infectious Diseases and Director of the Vaccination Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia). One of his more memorable statements was:

Is it your inalienable right to catch and transmit a potentially fatal infection? I think the answer is no.

Towards the end of the interview the panelists were asked whether a distrust in authority promotes anti-vaccine attitudes. Both said yes. I tend to agree, but think that this response has to be put in a broader context: distrust in authority must be combined with a devastatingly poor science literacy amongst Americans and Canadians alike to appreciate the pushback against vaccination. In the US in particular there is rampant skepticism about basic truths about the development of the planet, of core scientific theories concerning biology, and a valourization of those who deliberately remain ignorant of these core scientific facts and theories. While the situation isn’t quite bad in Canada there remains pervasive failures in scientific education and distrust in medical doctors.

From a regulatory and public health standpoint the response to the ‘vaccine problem’ might be a more coercive public health agenda that actively works to improve ‘herd immunity’. But that would be correcting a symptom of a much broader problem: trust in authority and understanding of science. And there isn’t a clear political approach that’s likely to address this broader problem absent radical depolarization of the North American political climate and attempts to increase scientific literacy amongst children and their parents.