----- 4 stars -----

GPT-3 / Twitter (via Threadreader)
OpenAI's GPT-3 may be the biggest thing since bitcoin / Manuel Araoz
I'm a bit frustrated that I haven't yet come across an excellent article on GPT-3; the second link doesn't qualify but is worth reading anyway. If you haven't heard of GPT-3 (and there's a good chance you haven't, since journalists are strangely silent on it), it's OpenAI's most recent unsupervised transformer language model. It's (likely) not a superhuman AI that will take over the world, but it's absurdly impressive, and there's a meaningful chance that, in hindsight, its release ends up as the most significant event of 2020. If this sounds like hyperbole, read on...

I keep seeing all kinds of crazy reports about people's experiences with GPT-3, so I figured that I'd collect a thread of them. [...] First, @gwern 's crazy collection of all kinds of prompts, with GPT-3 generating poetry, summarizing stories, rewriting things in different styles, and much much more. [...] This is mind blowing. With GPT-3, I built a layout generator where you just describe any layout you want, and it generates the JSX code for you. W H A T [...] I am completely floored. Someone [ran] a thought of mine through GPT-3 to expand it into an explanation of what I had in mind, and it's like 95% meaningful and 90% correct. I don't think that I have seen a human explanation of my more complicated tweets approaching this accuracy. [...] GPT-3 performance on "write this like an attorney" is insane. It even includes relevant statutes if you mention a jurisdiction. This will put a lot of lawyers out of work. [...] Even after seeing all the other results, I honestly have difficulties believing that this one is real.

Summary: I share my early experiments with OpenAI's new language prediction model (GPT-3) beta. I explain why I think GPT-3 has disruptive potential comparable to that of blockchain technology.

Does Time Really Flow? New Clues Come From a Century-Old Approach to Math. / Quanta
I am going to sound full of hyperbole today, but this was superb and blew my mind. (That doesn't mean I necessarily understood much, but what I thought I understood seems brilliant and potentially game-changing.)

Physicists who think carefully about time point to troubles posed by quantum mechanics, the laws describing the probabilistic behavior of particles. At the quantum scale, irreversible changes occur that distinguish the past from the future: A particle maintains simultaneous quantum states until you measure it, at which point the particle adopts one of the states. Mysteriously, individual measurement outcomes are random and unpredictable, even as particle behavior collectively follows statistical patterns. This apparent inconsistency between the nature of time in quantum mechanics and the way it functions in relativity has created uncertainty and confusion. Over the past year, the Swiss physicist Nicolas Gisin has published four papers that attempt to dispel the fog surrounding time in physics. As Gisin sees it, the problem all along has been mathematical. Gisin argues that time in general and the time we call the present are easily expressed in a century-old mathematical language called intuitionist mathematics, which rejects the existence of numbers with infinitely many digits. When intuitionist math is used to describe the evolution of physical systems, it makes clear, according to Gisin, that “time really passes and new information is created.” Moreover, with this formalism, the strict determinism implied by Einstein’s equations gives way to a quantum-like unpredictability. If numbers are finite and limited in their precision, then nature itself is inherently imprecise, and thus unpredictable. Physicists are still digesting Gisin’s work — it’s not often that someone tries to reformulate the laws of physics in a new mathematical language — but many of those who have engaged with his arguments think they could potentially bridge the conceptual divide between the determinism of general relativity and the inherent randomness at the quantum scale. [...] The modern acceptance that there exists a continuum of real numbers, most with infinitely many digits after the decimal point, carries little trace of the vitriolic debate over the question in the first decades of the 20th century. David Hilbert, the great German mathematician, espoused the now-standard view that real numbers exist and can be manipulated as completed entities. Opposed to this notion were mathematical “intuitionists” led by the acclaimed Dutch topologist L.E.J. Brouwer, who saw mathematics as a construct. Brouwer insisted that numbers must be constructible, their digits calculated or chosen or randomly determined one at a time. [...] For physicists such as Dowker who are interested in the connections between gravity and quantum mechanics, one of the most important implications of this new view of time is how it begins to bridge what have long been thought of as two mutually incompatible views of the world. “One of the implications it has for me,” said Renner, “is that classical mechanics is in some ways closer to quantum mechanics than we thought.”

The TikTok War / Stratechery

I can’t emphasize this point enough: one of the gravest errors made by far too many people in the U.S. is taking an exceptionally self-centered view of U.S.-China relations, where everything is about what the U.S. says and does, while China is treated like an NPC. Indeed, it is quite insulting to China, a great nation with a history far longer than that of the United States. To that end, this long history looms large in how China thinks about its relationship to the U.S. specifically, and the West generally. China is driven to reverse its “century of humiliation”, and to retake what it sees as its rightful place as a dominant force in the world. What few in the West seem to realize, though, is that the Chinese Communist Party very much believes that Marxism is the means by which that must be accomplished, and that Western liberal values are actively hostile to that goal. Tanner Greer wrote in Tablet: [...] Westerners asked to think about competition with China — a minority until fairly recently, as many envisioned a China liberalized by economic integration — tend to see it through a geopolitical or military lens. But Chinese communists believe that the greatest threat to the security of their party, the stability of their country, and China’s return to its rightful place at the center of human civilization, is ideological. [...] Xi Jinping has endorsed this view, arguing that “since the end of the Cold War countries affected by Western values have been torn apart by war or afflicted with chaos. If we tailor our practices to Western values … The consequences will be devastating.” [...] The problem from a Western perspective is that the links Clinton was so sure would push in only one direction — towards political freedom — turned out to be two-way streets: China is not simply resisting Western ideals of freedom, but seeking to impose their own. [...] This understanding of China’s belief that it is fighting an ideological war explains why the severe curtailing of freedom that happened in Hong Kong this month was inevitable; if the Party’s ideology is ultimately opposed to liberalism anywhere, “one country-two systems” were always empty words in service of China’s rejuvenation, and Marxism’s triumph. To see that reality, though, means taking China seriously, and believing what they say. [...] This is, without question, a prescription I don’t come to lightly. Perhaps the most powerful argument against taking any sort of action is that we aren’t China, and isn’t blocking TikTok something that China would do? Well yes, we know that is what they would do, because the Chinese government has blocked U.S. social networks for years. Wars, though, are fought not because we lust for battle, but because we pray for peace. If China is on the offensive against liberalism not only within its borders but within ours, it is in liberalism’s interest to cut off a vector that has taken root precisely because it is so brilliantly engineered to give humans exactly what they want.

----- 3 stars -----

Homicide at Rough Point / Vanity Fair
Excellent reporting:

In the fall of 1966, billionaire Doris Duke killed a close confidant in tony Newport, Rhode Island. Local police ruled the incident “an unfortunate accident.” Half a century later, compelling evidence suggests that the mercurial, vindictive tobacco heiress got away with murder. [...] Mysteriously, the entire case file for Tirella’s wrongful-death lawsuit has vanished from the Rhode Island Judicial Archives. In 1990, the dossier on the police investigation of the case was reported missing from the Newport Police Department. Even the negative of the photograph of the crashed 1966 Dodge Polara station wagon, which made the front page of the Newport Daily News the next day, disappeared from the archives at the Newport Historical Society. [...] Eight months after Tirella’s death, I got my first job in journalism as a cub reporter for the Newport Daily News. I would go on to a career as an investigative reporter and network news correspondent, later writing books on counterterrorism and organized crime. But the truth of what happened at Rough Point gnawed at me. Then, in 2016, when candidate Donald Trump declared, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters,” it took me back to that incident. Somehow, the notion of a billionaire openly bragging that he could get away with murder sent me home to the story I should have covered in the summer of ’67. I had to know: Was Eduardo Tirella’s death really an accident? Or did the heir to one of America’s great fortunes turn a vehicle into a murder weapon—then conspire with the local authorities to cover it up? [...] Five days after the accident—with this second “interview” inserted into the record—the case was finally closed. On Wednesday, October 12, the New York Times reported that “the police termed today as ‘Definitely an accident’ the death of Eduardo Tirella…Chief Radice said.” That same day, the chief of detectives told the Providence Journal, “There was no evidence of foul play.” [...] The police report, however, was not the only account of the crash. Hunting through the National Archives, I managed to find a 173-page interrogatory prepared for a parallel case involving Avis Rent-a-Car Systems, the owner of the station wagon. Filed in federal court and presumably unseen for 50 years, it reveals additional admissions from Duke herself. [...] “Very little about the way the Newport police handled this had anything to do with responsible homicide investigation,” says retired NYPD detective James Moss, who has cleared hundreds of murder cases for Brooklyn South Homicide. In 2018, I asked him to visit Newport to examine the evidence I’d uncovered. “You’d absolutely want to question witnesses in-depth on the relationship between the killer and decedent to determine if the death involved ‘intent.’ But they wrapped this one up on the basis of a fabricated Q&A requested by the person-of-interest’s own lawyers. Astonishing.”

France, As Revealed by its Elite / European Straits
An excellent primer on the French ruling class by an insider:

France has a new Prime Minister, with Jean Castex taking over from Édouard Philippe. It’s a good opportunity to have an in-depth discussion on France, how it’s lagging behind in tech, and why that’s partly explained by how it selects and trains its elite. [...] All paths lead to Paris. If you manage to arrive there (‘monter à Paris’), you mingle with the rest of the elite and enjoy a lifetime of rents that come from being part of that small world. There is an internal paradox as well: the French elite is diverse from a background perspective, but the elite life is concentrated in some specific neighborhoods in Paris. Once you arrive there, there’s no real incentive to move elsewhere, either functionally (by, say, leaving that world to found a startup) or geographically (moving back to the province or emigrating, as I did). [...] In other words: In France, having money is almost always correlated with having attended the best schools, having grown the best personal network, and then getting the best positions in either the government or the business world (or one after the other, as is customary). And so why should French people take risks for the sake of making money when their future financial well-being is supposedly determined by the school they get into at age 21 or 22? This definitely doesn’t create the most supportive environment for the most talented people to consider building tech startups!

----- 2 stars -----

Meet the company that sells your lost airplane luggage / The Hustle

If you’ve ever permanently lost a checked bag, your stuff probably ended up for sale at a store in Scottsboro, Alabama. [...] Imagine this: An airline loses your checked bag. After an extensive search, customer support comes up empty-handed. They compensate you and life goes on. But life goes on for your suitcase, too. Written off as “unclaimed,” it sits in a musty collection depot for 3 months. Eventually, the airline sells it — along with hundreds of other lost suitcases and cargo shipments — to a private company, sight unseen. The new owner cracks the lock, sifts through your former possessions, and marks them for sale. A few days later, a retired mechanic named Charlie buys your grandfather’s watch for $150. A 19-year-old line cook acquires your Beats headphones. And a nurse from Florida becomes the proud new owner of the scarf your mom knitted you for Christmas. This is the bizarre secondary market for lost luggage.

Woke America Is a Russian Novel / Tablet
Resignation Letter / Bari Weiss
See You Next Friday: A Farewell Letter / New York Magazine

The metaphysical gap between mid-19th-century Russia and early-21st-century America is narrowing. The parallels between them then and us now, political and social but mostly characterological, are becoming sharper, more unavoidable. We can reassure ourselves by repeating obvious truths: The United States is not czarist Russia. The present is not the past. History does not repeat itself. But those facts are not immutable laws so much as observations, and even though they are built on solid foundations, those foundations are not impervious to shifting sands. We can go backward. We can descend into a primal state we thought we had escaped forever. That is the lesson of the 20th century. The similarities between past and present are legion: The coarsening of the culture, our economic woes, our political logjams, the opportunism and fecklessness of our so-called elites, the corruption of our institutions, the ease with which we talk about “revolution” (as in Bernie Sanders’ romanticization of “political revolution”), the anger, the polarization, the anti-Semitism. But the most important thing is the new characters, who are not that dissimilar to the old ones. [...] One wonders if Bazarov is that different from today’s protesters and statue-topplers, the 20-somethings sowing discord in our newsrooms, the cancellers, the uber-woke, the sociopaths who police our social media feeds, those who would massage or rewrite history in the service of a glorious future. Like Bazarov, they are incapable of empathizing with those who do not view the world the way they do. Like Bazarov, they assume that the place they come from (America) is cancerous to the core—regressive, hateful, an affront to right-thinking people everywhere. Like Bazarov, there is about them a crude sarcasm (or snark). Like Bazarov, there is a logic to their outrage: Today, we are witnessing Americans revolting against the vestiges of a barbaric, racial hierarchy that was constructed four centuries ago. That hierarchy continues to be felt. It is not unreasonable to wonder, When will we finally transcend the past? [...] Dostoevsky’s Raskolnikov knows he is a prisoner, but he misunderstands the nature of his imprisonment. [...] He also anticipates the angry young man of early 21st-century America—the alt-righter, the neo-Nazi, the consumer and trafficker of the mythologies coursing through the QAnon-Gab-r/The_Donald-subreddit fantasyland. The parallels between the fictional Russian and the nonfictional composite American are striking: Both imagine themselves living in a sick world. Both imagine themselves saving the world by committing acts of great violence. Both are conflicted about that violence—Raskolnikov spends six chapters arguing with himself about the murder before going through with it; the white nationalist takes to social media to advertise the crime he’s about to commit. Both, one imagines, would have been stopped had they found love before it was too late.

I joined the paper with gratitude and optimism three years ago. I was hired with the goal of bringing in voices that would not otherwise appear in your pages: first-time writers, centrists, conservatives and others who would not naturally think of The Times as their home. The reason for this effort was clear: The paper’s failure to anticipate the outcome of the 2016 election meant that it didn’t have a firm grasp of the country it covers. Dean Baquet and others have admitted as much on various occasions. The priority in Opinion was to help redress that critical shortcoming. [...] Twitter is not on the masthead of The New York Times. But Twitter has become its ultimate editor. As the ethics and mores of that platform have become those of the paper, the paper itself has increasingly become a kind of performance space. Stories are chosen and told in a way to satisfy the narrowest of audiences, rather than to allow a curious public to read about the world and then draw their own conclusions. I was always taught that journalists were charged with writing the first rough draft of history. Now, history itself is one more ephemeral thing molded to fit the needs of a predetermined narrative. My own forays into Wrongthink have made me the subject of constant bullying by colleagues who disagree with my views. They have called me a Nazi and a racist; I have learned to brush off comments about how I’m “writing about the Jews again.” Several colleagues perceived to be friendly with me were badgered by coworkers. My work and my character are openly demeaned on company-wide Slack channels where masthead editors regularly weigh in. There, some coworkers insist I need to be rooted out if this company is to be a truly “inclusive” one, while others post ax emojis next to my name. Still other New York Times employees publicly smear me as a liar and a bigot on Twitter with no fear that harassing me will be met with appropriate action. They never are. There are terms for all of this: unlawful discrimination, hostile work environment, and constructive discharge. I’m no legal expert. But I know that this is wrong.

The good news is that my last column in this space is not about “cancel culture.” Well, almost. I agree with some of the critics that it’s a little nuts to say I’ve just been “canceled,” sent into oblivion and exile for some alleged sin. I haven’t. I’m just no longer going to be writing for a magazine that has every right to hire and fire anyone it wants when it comes to the content of what it wants to publish. [...] Two years ago, I wrote that we all live on campus now. That is an understatement. In academia, a tiny fraction of professors and administrators have not yet bent the knee to the woke program — and those few left are being purged. The latest study of Harvard University faculty, for example, finds that only 1.46 percent call themselves conservative. But that’s probably higher than the proportion of journalists who call themselves conservative at the New York Times or CNN or New York Magazine. And maybe it’s worth pointing out that “conservative” in my case means that I have passionately opposed Donald J. Trump and pioneered marriage equality, that I support legalized drugs, criminal-justice reform, more redistribution of wealth, aggressive action against climate change, police reform, a realist foreign policy, and laws to protect transgender people from discrimination. I was one of the first journalists in established media to come out. I was a major and early supporter of Barack Obama. I intend to vote for Biden in November. It seems to me that if this conservatism is so foul that many of my peers are embarrassed to be working at the same magazine, then I have no idea what version of conservatism could ever be tolerated.

Why Banning All Party Members is Stupid / Scholar's Stage

The New York Times reports that the Trump administration is considering proposals to ban all members of the Communist Party of China, and their families, from obtaining a visa to visit the United States. If implemented, would this accomplish what the administration hopes it will? Does the administration even know what it hopes to accomplish with these measures? [...] I am pessimistic. I believe there is little the United States government can do that will change the broad strokes of Party policy in Xinjiang. At this point the Party has locked itself into a very dangerous position. They did not heed the old Machiavellian warning to would-be despots and tyrants: "A Prince should inspire fear in such a fashion that if he does not win love he may escape hate." The scale and ferocity of the terror that the Party has inflicted upon the Uighur of Xinjiang preclude "escaping hate." A population once indifferent to the Chinese state is now alienated from it. Intellectuals who once felt genuine love for their country now know they have no place inside it. A whole people have been treated as enemies to the Party-state, and view that state as the armed servant of a hostile race. There is no "return to normalcy" in these circumstances. The Party did away with calls for normalcy, appeals to good conduct, patriotic fanfare, the promise of shared wealth, and all other manner of carrots and positive incentives the month the Mosques started coming down. It is a sad truth. The Party's decision to rule Xinjiang through naked tyranny means that naked tyranny is the only tool of rule they have left. [...] I am not against using visa bans, even visa bans on family members, as a tool of policy. In fact I have argued vigorously (on Twitter) that this is one of the only effective sorts of leverage we have against the Party. When an American journalist is expelled from China, I argued, the right response is not to expel some nobody working at Xinhua, but to find a grandson of Zhao Leji (or Yang Jiechi, or Miao Hua, or whoever) that is studying at Harvard and send him packing. That is an argument for narrowly targeted, tit-for-tat measures. The ban being debated by Trump's officials is different. It is far too broad to accomplish anything useful. [...] From the perspective of policy, a better lens is leverage. A ban on this scale reduces, not increases, our leverage over the Communist Party. [...] If the goal is to divide the Chinese people from the Party (which recent administration rhetoric suggests is an important aim of the administration's policies) it will not work. I promise you, the average man on the Chinese street will not view this as an attack on the Party, but an attack on the Chinese people. How could they think otherwise, when one out of six Chinese is being targeted? Instead of dividing the people from the Party we would instead be rallying them around the Party flag. [...] In this kind of environment, no Party member in their right mind is going to leave the Party for the sake of their son at Wharton. Leaving now is simply too dangerous of a signal to send. If anything, this sort of ban drives the due-payers into the arms of the Party ideologues, confirming what they have been saying all along: uncommitted Party members can no longer live in the muddled middle. They have to pick a side, and the only safe side to pick is with Xi Jinping.

They Saved Hitler’s Skull. Or Did They? / Slate

Seventy-three years ago, on Monday, Adolf Hitler killed himself in his Berlin bunker alongside his wife of one day, Eva Braun. With the Red Army closing in, their bodies were hastily burned and buried in a shell crater in the nearby garden. That’s the official story anyway. Hitler was alone in his study with Braun when they died by suicide. Only a handful of Nazis saw the bodies before they were wrapped in gray blankets and moved to the Chancellery garden to be cremated. Two of the witnesses, the new Chancellor Joseph Goebbels and Hitler’s private secretary, Martin Bormann, killed themselves in the following days. The small number of surviving people who actually saw the bodies or material evidence is one reason for the range of various conspiracy theories that have persisted over the years: that Hitler did not die in Berlin but fled to the South Pole or Japan, that he died in 1962 in Argentina, in 1971 in Paraguay or in 1984 in Brazil. .In an effort to definitely put these theories to rest, two investigative journalists, the French Jean-Christophe Brisard and the Russian-American Lana Parshina recently carried out an investigation.

Why You Should Become a Sun Worshipper / Art of Manliness

While sun exposure does indeed carry some dangers, we have arguably taken its risk too far. In all the warnings about the sun, the fact that its rays boost both mental and physical health in some very significant ways — and our ancient instinct as to the truth of this — has gotten lost. A restoration of our relationship with the great fiery ball in the sky is in order. [...] If low levels of vitamin D are associated with poor health outcomes, increasing vitamin D levels through supplementation should improve health, right? Some researchers are starting to make the case that we’ve confused causation with correlation on this issue. Instead of vitamin D being directly linked to improved health outcomes, it may be that sunlight itself is the thing that’s providing all of those health benefits, while someone’s level of vitamin D is just a marker that they’re getting a sufficient amount of sunlight. [...] So yeah, melanoma is deadly. You don’t want to get melanoma. But it’s also rare. Melanoma only accounts for 1% of new skin cancers. White people are the most likely to get it with a still-low 2.6% lifetime risk. Darker skin contains more melanin, which acts as a natural protection to sun damage and lowers the risk of getting melanoma even further. Hispanics have a .6% lifetime risk of getting melanoma; for African-Americans, it’s .1%. When people feel freaked out about sunlight and skin cancer, it’s often because they’re conflating the commonness of benign skin cancers with the deadliness of melanoma. They think “skin cancer is common, and it’s frequently deadly, so I better become a Boo Radley and never see the light of day again without slathering on sunscreen.” The reality is that skin cancer is common, but rarely deadly. Not only is melanoma rare, it counterintuitively strikes more people who work indoors than people who work outdoors. One study found that men who work outdoors have about half the risk of melanoma as men who work indoors.

A plasma shot could prevent coronavirus. But feds and makers won’t act, scientists say / Los Angeles Times

It might be the next best thing to a coronavirus vaccine. Scientists have devised a way to use the antibody-rich blood plasma of COVID-19 survivors for an upper-arm injection that they say could inoculate people against the virus for months. Using technology that’s been proven effective in preventing other diseases such as hepatitis A, the injections would be administered to high-risk healthcare workers, nursing home patients, or even at public drive-through sites — potentially protecting millions of lives, the doctors and other experts say. The two scientists who spearheaded the proposal — an 83-year-old shingles researcher and his counterpart, an HIV gene therapy expert — have garnered widespread support from leading blood and immunology specialists, including those at the center of the nation’s COVID-19 plasma research. But the idea exists only on paper. Federal officials have twice rejected requests to discuss the proposal, and pharmaceutical companies — even acknowledging the likely efficacy of the plan — have declined to design or manufacture the shots, according to a Times investigation. The lack of interest in launching development of immunity shots comes amid heightened scrutiny of the federal government’s sluggish pandemic response.

My Bizarre Stint As an Amazon Reviewer for Hire / Medium

In exchange for positive Amazon reviews, the mysterious Facebook accounts who recruited me promised me free stuff. They delivered.

The Supreme Court’s Big Rulings Were Surprisingly Mainstream This Year / FiveThirtyEight

According to a recent survey by a group of researchers at Stanford, Harvard and the University of Texas, Austin, which asked Americans about central issues facing the court, the justices’ rulings were in line with public opinion in 8 out of 10 major cases.

Crowdfunding a transcontinental railroad in 1857 / Roots of Progress

I recently came across a fascinating historical document: an 1857 pamphlet outlining a plan to build the US transcontinental railroad. An aspect of the plan that struck me was its proposal for how to fund the railroad, which was simultaneously capitalist and democratic. It essentially advocated a broad-based, public-spirited, crowdfunding campaign.

Revealed: The true scale of London's economic meltdown as capital faces crisis not seen for generations / Evening Standard

Central London is facing the biggest economic crisis in generations with tens of thousands of jobs and hundreds of businesses at risk of being wiped out in Britain’s most vibrant economic powerhouse. Normally heaving streets from Mayfair in the west to Docklands in the east have been left virtually deserted by a devastating double whammy of “no shows” from commuters and high spending tourists. An Evening Standard investigation has unearthed the true scale of the crisis.

----- 1 star -----

The true story of the heartthrob prince of Qatar and his time at USC / Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles has long enjoyed a reputation as a playground for the rich, but the handsome teenage prince who arrived nine years ago operated on a different level. He came from the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar on a private jet with a squad of servants, a bottomless natural gas fortune and the stated goal of a college education. He installed himself in the Beverly Wilshire, the hotel that “Pretty Woman” made famous, and embarked on a lifestyle that few undergraduates could imagine — luxury suites for Lakers games, lunch at the Ivy and regular excursions to gamble in Las Vegas. He took the town with an entourage, a rotating collection of cousins and friends from back home, in a fleet of exotic sports cars, rubbing elbows with a flashy set that included Scott Disick of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” and announcing his exuberance in custom trucker hats emblazoned with his initials: KHK. Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the son and, later, brother of Qatar’s emir, eventually graduated from the University of Southern California and returned to the Middle East. He became an officer in the country’s internal security service and has cultivated an image as a jet-setting heartthrob. His Instagram account, with more than a million followers, has featured the dashing, goateed royal yachting, driving priceless autos, skydiving, and occasionally cuddling with baby tigers. His college years in L.A. were a closed chapter in a colorful life, and they probably would have stayed that way were it not for a series of indictments last year by federal prosecutors in Boston.

How to Make Popcorn Using a CANNON! / How to Make Everything (YouTube)

Who needs a microwave when you've got a popcorn cannon? Check out this wild (and relatively dangerous) method of cooking popcorn, originally invented in our hometown, Minneapolis! Bonus: Lauren shows us how to pop some homemade Cocoa Puffs. Queue up your favorite movie and let's get poppin!

'Just Deserts' or 'Just Desserts'? / Merriam-Webster

Despite its pronunciation, just deserts, with one s, is the proper spelling for the phrase meaning "the punishment that one deserves." The phrase is even older than dessert, using an older noun version of desert meaning "deserved reward or punishment," which is spelled like the arid land, but pronounced like the sweet treat.

This Weird Grammar Rule Is Why We Say “Flip Flop” Instead of “Flop Flip” / Reader's Digest

Can you find the error in the following sentence? “The bells chimed dong, dang, ding.” Don’t dally-dilly thinking about it—you probably felt the offending phrase zag-zig through your gut with the intensity of a pong ping ball. Who in their right mind says, “dong, dang, ding”? Everyone knows it should be, “ding, dang, dong.” Why? Well… ‘cause. It’s just one of those secret English rules you didn’t know you always knew. While there’s nothing grammatically wrong with calling your mom for a quick chat-chit or blasting your favorite jam on the hop-hip channel, you will be rightly mocked for uttering any of these flop-flipped phrases. And for that you can thank the rule of “ablaut reduplication”—a hidden formula all English speakers know implicitly despite having never heard of it before.

British Numbers confuse Americans - Numberphile / YouTube

Two Americans living in England discuss the numeric nuances which cause them problems.

Andean condor can fly for 100 miles without flapping wings / The Guardian

World’s largest soaring bird flaps wings only 1% of time in flight, study shows

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