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

The 100-year capitalist experiment that keeps Appalachia poor, sick, and stuck on coal / Quartz

But the idea that the region’s coal industry is dying is not quite true. For much of the hundred-plus years of its existence, the industry has been on a kind of artificial life support, as state and federal governments have, directly and indirectly, subsidized coal companies to keep the industry afloat. The costs of this subsidy aren’t tallied on corporate or government balance sheets. The destruction of central Appalachia’s economy, environment, social fabric and, ultimately, its people’s health is, in a sense, hidden. But they’re plain enough to see on a map. It could be lung cancer deaths you’re looking at, or diabetes mortality. Or try opioid overdoses. Poverty. Welfare dependency. Chart virtually any measure of human struggle, and there it will be, just right of center on a map of the US—a distinct blotch. This odd cluster is consistently one of America’s worst pockets of affliction. At the root of these problems lies the ironic insight that struck Nick Mullins as he mined coal deep in the earth his family once owned. The extreme imbalance of land ownership in central Appalachia shifted the power over where and how Appalachians lived to corporations. The political and economic impotence of Appalachian residents that resulted has permitted a deeply cynical capitalist experiment to take place, in which coal companies are kept profitable by passing on the costs they incur to the public. The many ways in which politicians and coal barons have kept coal artificially cheap has, over the course of generations, devoured the potential of the area’s residents, and that of their economy.

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

Donald Trump Didn’t Want to Be President / New York Magazine
By now, you've probably heard about the new Michael Wolff book, probably have read various excerpts (of which this is only one), and have heard Trump's denials and counter-accusations. Despite all that, suffice it to say I think this is worth a read:

As the campaign came to an end, Trump himself was sanguine. His ultimate goal, after all, had never been to win. “I can be the most famous man in the world,” he had told his aide Sam Nunberg at the outset of the race. His longtime friend Roger Ailes, the former head of Fox News, liked to say that if you want a career in television, first run for president. Now Trump, encouraged by Ailes, was floating rumors about a Trump network. It was a great future. He would come out of this campaign, Trump assured Ailes, with a far more powerful brand and untold opportunities. “This is bigger than I ever dreamed of,” he told Ailes a week before the election. “I don’t think about losing, because it isn’t losing. We’ve totally won.” [...] Shortly after 8 p.m. on Election Night, when the unexpected trend — Trump might actually win — seemed confirmed, Don Jr. told a friend that his father, or DJT, as he calls him, looked as if he had seen a ghost. Melania was in tears — and not of joy. There was, in the space of little more than an hour, in Steve Bannon’s not unamused observation, a befuddled Trump morphing into a disbelieving Trump and then into a horrified Trump. But still to come was the final transformation: Suddenly, Donald Trump became a man who believed that he deserved to be, and was wholly capable of being, the president of the United States.


You might have noticed there’s something wrong with this bike. Or you might have not. This bicycle is missing a very important part of its frame and it would immediately break if it actually existed and someone tried to ride it. Let me explain everything from the beginning: Back in 2009 I began pestering friends and random strangers. I would walk up to them with a pen and a sheet of paper asking that they immediately draw me a men’s bicycle, by heart. Soon I found out that when confronted with this odd request most people have a very hard time remembering exactly how a bike is made. Some did get close, some actually nailed it perfectly, but most ended up drawing something that was pretty far off from a regular men’s bicycle. [...] In early 2016 I eventually decided it was my turn to take part in this project. I decided my job was going to be presenting the potential and the beauty inside these sketches. I selected those that I found most interesting and genuine and diverse, then rendered them as if they were real.

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

How an A.I. ‘Cat-and-Mouse Game’ Generates Believable Fake Photos / New York Times
I was unimpressed initially; hadn't this sort of thing been done before a million times? But it's worth noting that previous computer-generated photos -- in one way or another -- involved a good deal of human intervention. This is pretty cool:

The project is part of a vast and varied effort to build technology that can automatically generate convincing images — or alter existing images in equally convincing ways. The hope is that this technology can significantly accelerate and improve the creation of computer interfaces, games, movies and other media, eventually allowing software to create realistic imagery in moments rather than the hours — if not days — it can now take human developers.

She Broke Japan’s Silence on Rape / New York Times

By the end of the night, she alleged, he had taken her back to his hotel room and raped her while she was unconscious. The journalist, Noriyuki Yamaguchi, the Washington bureau chief of the Tokyo Broadcasting System at the time and a biographer of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, denied the charge and, after a two-month investigation, prosecutors dropped the case. Then Ms. Ito decided to do something women in Japan almost never do: She spoke out. In a news conference in May and a book published in October, she said the police had obtained hotel security camera footage that appeared to show Mr. Yamaguchi propping her up, unconscious, as they walked through the hotel lobby. The police also located and interviewed their taxi driver, who confirmed that she had passed out. Investigators told her they were going to arrest Mr. Yamaguchi, she said — but then suddenly backed off.

Fiber Is Good for You. Now Scientists May Know Why. / New York Times

He and other scientists are running experiments that are yielding some important new clues about fiber’s role in human health. Their research indicates that fiber doesn’t deliver many of its benefits directly to our bodies. Instead, the fiber we eat feeds billions of bacteria in our guts. Keeping them happy means our intestines and immune systems remain in good working order.

Why Teens Aren't Partying Anymore / Wired

The decline in partying is not due to iGen’ers’ studying more; homework time is the same or lower. The trend is also not due to immigration or changes in ethnic composition; the decline is nearly identical among white teens.

Eye-Tracking Glasses Illustrate What A Professional Pianist Sees While Playing / Digg

A student then takes the bench and the pair analyzes how a beginner visually approaches a piece as opposed to someone more tenured.

Elephas Anthropogenus

After the fall of the Roman Empire, elephants virtually disappeared from Western Europe. Since there was no real knowledge of how this animal actually looked, illustrators had to rely on oral and written transmissions to morphologically reconstruct the elephant, thus reinventing an actual existing creature. This tree diagram traces the evolution of the elephant depiction throughout the middle ages up to the age of enlightenment.

How Do You Vote? 50 Million Google Images Give a Clue / New York Times

What vehicle is most strongly associated with Republican voting districts? Extended-cab pickup trucks. For Democratic districts? Sedans. Those conclusions may not be particularly surprising. After all, market researchers and political analysts have studied such things for decades. But what is surprising is how researchers working on an ambitious project based at Stanford University reached those conclusions: by analyzing 50 million images and location data from Google Street View, the street-scene feature of the online giant’s mapping service.

----- 1 star -----
Animojis Takeover TV / YouTube
As someone who is pop-culture-illiterate, I have to admit I missed most of the references, but I still thought this was executed very well:

We thought it would be fun to put animoji faces from the iPhone X onto our favorite TV shows.

Lost in Light: how light pollution obscures our view of the night sky / Kottke
I'd actually start with the second video first:

Because of light pollution from urban areas, many people around the world don’t know what the night sky actually looks like. Sriram Murali made a video to illustrate light pollution levels by shooting the familiar constellation of Orion in locations around the US with different amounts of light pollution, from bright San Francisco to a state park in Utah with barely any light at all.

Video: What It’s Like To Land A 777 At JFK / One Mile at a Time

There are a lot of aviation related videos on YouTube of varying quality. If you enjoy these kinds of videos, High Pressure Aviation Films has just uploaded a fantastic video showing the process of landing a Boeing 777 at New York’s JFK Airport. The video is of an Air France 777 crew performing the final descent and landing, and it’s fascinating to watch. What they do especially well with this video is that they provide explanations of each action that the pilots take, so you really know what’s going on. On top of that, it’s a high quality video, and the beautiful view of New York as the plane approaches is the cherry on top.

Russia Proposes “Luxury Hotel” for the International Space Station / Smithsonian

The NEM-2 module would have four cabins, two bathrooms, exercise equipment, WiFi and a lounge with a 16-inch window

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