Links

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

Seven Days of Heroin: This is What an Epidemic Looks Like / Cincinnati Enquirer

The Enquirer sent more than 60 reporters, photographers and videographers into their communities to chronicle an ordinary week in this extraordinary time. [...] Jeremiah Dotson stands before the judge at the Hamilton County Courthouse, hands shackled behind his back. He’s been in this spot before. Two years ago, he was charged with heroin possession. Since then, he’s missed meetings with his probation officer and failed to submit urine samples for drug testing. Judge Melba Marsh looks over his record and tells him he has a choice between two doors: One leads to jail, the other to a treatment facility. “Which one are you thinking you want to go through?” Marsh asks. Dotson chooses jail. “You’re not going to change me,” he says.

http://cin.ci/2f3AbNu


The Sorrow and the Shame of the Accidental Killer / New Yorker

There are self-help books written for seemingly every aberration of human experience: for alcoholics and opiate abusers; for widows, rape victims, gambling addicts, and anorexics; for the parents of children with disabilities; for sufferers of acne and shopping compulsions; for cancer survivors, asexuals, and people who just aren’t that happy and don’t know why. But there are no self-help books for anyone who has accidentally killed another person. An exhaustive search yielded no research on such people, and nothing in the way of therapeutic protocols, publicly listed support groups, or therapists who specialize in their treatment. [...] I spoke to six people who had caused accidental deaths, on the phone and in person, and the tone and the structure of their accounts were eerily uniform. They spoke quickly and compulsively, assuming the role of the sincere and reliable narrator of a realist novel. No detail seemed too small to share: the color of the sky that day, what song was playing on the radio. They spoke of losing time after the accident, and they apologized, often repeatedly, for the minutes for which they couldn’t account. Near the end of their stories, they would take a moment to catch their breath and offer a statement that got at the incomprehensible enormity of it all. Then they would apologize again, this time for having spoken for so long.

http://bit.ly/2f3AfNe


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

72 Women. 1250 Miles. No GPS. / Marie Claire

I competed in America's first all-female endurance road rally. I'd never even changed a tire. [...] The automotive world is notoriously male-dominated, making a women-only motorsports event revolutionary. [...] "I've been in races where I was the only woman driving," the Rebelle's founder, 50-year-old Emily Miller, told me. "I've had people recommend I wear a tight pink race suit." [...] At first, my lack of experience didn't faze me. Naïve enthusiasm seemed like a perfectly legitimate qualification to enter a highly-detailed endurance event requiring a complex Venn diagram of skills I didn't possess. This blind optimism buoyed me for months: the Rebelle was just a crazy-sounding adventure, far off in the distance, something to think about later. But six weeks before the rally, during a training weekend with a handful of other competitors in California's Borrego Springs, my optimism cratered into a black hole of fear and self-loathing. Surrounded by women far more experienced than me, all of whom could probably MacGuyver a tire blowout with a piece of gum, my lack of preparation smacked me in the face.

http://bit.ly/2gvu84B


In Amish Country, the Future Is Calling / New York Times

A young woman, wearing a traditional full-length Amish dress and white bonnet, stepped away from a farmer’s market, opened her palm and revealed a smartphone. She began to scroll through screens, seemingly oblivious to the activity around her. Not far away, a man in his late 60s with a silvery beard, wide-brimmed straw hat and suspenders adjusted the settings on a computer-driven crosscut saw. He was soon cutting pieces for gazebos that are sold online and delivered around the country. The Amish have not given up on horse-drawn buggies. Their rigid abstinence from many kinds of technology has left parts of their lifestyle frozen since the 19th century: no cars, TVs or connections to electric utilities, for example. But computers and cellphones are making their way into some Amish communities, pushing them — sometimes willingly, often not — into the 21st century.

http://nyti.ms/2w2AaQC


This little light: On fathers, sons and that little lamp in the Pixar logo
Heartwarming:

When I was about a year old or so, my father took me into his office for the day. My father was a computer scientist, and he worked for a weird little startup that didn’t make any money. I remember going in there as a kid and thinking the people dressed strange. At some point during that day, my dad played with me with a tennis ball. John Lasseter, an artist who worked with him, watched us, and suddenly the short film he had been trying to figure out was right in front of him. Using my actions, proportions and personality as a model for his main character, Lasseter created the short film “Luxo Jr.” The name may not mean anything to you, and you may have never seen the short film, but you’d probably recognize the title character. He’s a little lamp with a short body and a big head. The startup that my dad worked at was Pixar. John Lasseter went on to direct many of Pixar’s greatest hits: “Toy Story,” “A Bug’s Life,” “Cars.” And today, before every Pixar movie, that little lamp hops out, jumps onto the “I” in “PIXAR,” squashes it, and looks out to the audience. In a way, that little lamp is me.

http://bit.ly/2w2nJof


Eat, pray, live: the Lagos megachurches building their very own cities

Redemption Camp has 5,000 houses, roads, rubbish collection, police, supermarkets, banks, a fun fair, a post office – even a 25 megawatt power plant. In Nigeria, the line between church and city is rapidly vanishing. [...] Canaanland has banks, businesses, a university and a petrol station – one of a number of churches beginning to offer these services. But none can match Redemption Camp for scale. Daddy GO – as the charismatic Adeboye is affectionately known by his followers – has been perfecting the package for the past decade. “If you wait for the government, it won’t get done,” says Olubiyi. So the camp relies on the government for very little – it builds its own roads, collects its own rubbish, and organises its own sewerage systems. And being well out of Lagos, like the other megachurches’ camps, means that it has little to do with municipal authorities. Government officials can check that the church is complying with regulations, but they are expected to report to the camp’s relevant office. Sometimes, according to the head of the power plant, the government sends the technicians running its own stations to learn from them.

http://bit.ly/2w2yxCM


Toward a Predictive Theory of Depression / Slate Star Codex
Yes, it says "[Epistemic status: Total wild speculation]" right at the top, but the ideas are certainly interesting:

Chekroud’s theory of depression as high-level-depressing-beliefs bothers me because there are so many features of depression that aren’t cognitive or emotional or related to any of these higher-level functions at all. Depressed people move more slowly, in a characteristic pattern called “psychomotor retardation”. They display perceptual abnormalities. They’re more likely to get sick. There are lots of results like this. Depression has to be about something more than just beliefs; it has to be something fundamental to the nervous system. And low confidence in neural predictions would do it. Since neural predictions are the basic unit of thought, encoding not just perception but also motivation, reward, and even movement – globally low confidence levels would have devastating effects on a whole host of processes. Perceptually, they would make sense-data look less clear and distinct. Depressed people describe the world as gray, washed-out, losing its contrast. This is not metaphorical. You can do psychophysical studies on color perception in depressed people, you can stick electrodes on their eyeballs, and all of this will tell you that depressed people literally see the world in washed-out shades of gray. Descriptions of their sensory experience sound intuitively like the sensory experience you would get if all your sense organs were underconfident in their judgments.

http://bit.ly/2w1yjLZ


"I Write on Human Skin": Catherine the Great and the Rule of Law / Los Angeles Review of Books

Today marks the 250th anniversary of the Legislative Commission convened by the Empress Catherine the Great. ("Great," incidentally, is a title she humbly refused when it was offered by the Commission — though her humility takes a hit upon learning that she had also instructed the Commission to offer the title.) Granted, the Legislative Commission does not seem as dramatic an event as, say, the Russian Revolution, whose anniversary is also being marked this year. And yet, while there is no Lenin haranguing supporters at the Finland Station or Bolshevik soldiers storming the Winter Palace, the Commission ripples with great drama and tragedy. More importantly, the event raises hard questions about issues as relevant today as they were 250 years ago — questions regarding the relationships between the ideal and the real, morality and policy, philosophers and kings. What Catherine hoped to do and what she did measures the perhaps inevitable gap between thinkers who propose and rulers who dispose.

http://bit.ly/2wOg7qg


Movie Accent Expert Breaks Down 31 Actors Playing Real People | WIRED / YouTube
I love these videos:

Dialect coach Erik Singer takes a look at idiolects, better known as the specific way one individual speaks. To best break down this concept, Erik analyzes some actors playing real people. Just how close was Jamie Foxx's Ray Charles? What about Cate Blanchett's portrayal of Bob Dylan? Is Daniel Day-Lewis' Lincoln accurate?

http://bit.ly/2gSWTZl


Deep Six: Jemele Hill and the Fight for the Future of ESPN / The Ringer

The new cohost of ‘SportsCenter’ and her partner, Michael Smith, have been blamed for the network’s perceived liberal bias. Should they embrace debate or block the trolls? Hill shares her side.

http://bit.ly/2w2NHHY


The surprising pattern behind color names around the world / YouTube

In 1969, two Berkeley researchers, Paul Kay and Brent Berlin, published a book on a pretty groundbreaking idea: that every culture in history, when they developed their languages, invented words for colors in the exact same order. They claimed to know this based off of a simple color identification test, where 20 respondents identified 330 colored chips by name. If a language had six words, they were always black, white, red, green, yellow, and blue. If it had four terms, they were always black, white, red, and then either green or yellow. If it had only three, they were always black, white, and red , and so on. The theory was revolutionary — and it shaped our understanding of how color terminologies emerge.

http://bit.ly/2gTU0Y5


The Contentious Physics of Wiffle Ball / The Atlantic

The inventor’s grandsons still run the family enterprise, with a product unchanged since its 1953 launch. Their dad, the pitcher for whom the ball was designed, told The Atlantic in 2002 that the Mullany family believed cutting the holes might create a “weight imbalance” that would cause the ball to curve. To this day, the company insists, “we don’t know exactly why it works—it just does!” That folksy answer is charming, but a scientific one can foster even greater admiration for this curious ball and the sport that makes use of it.

http://theatln.tc/2w2qiGz


Your Next New Best Friend Might Be a Robot / Nautilus

In fact, she is so human that millions of people are eager to talk to her. When Xiaoice was released for a public test on WeChat (a popular messaging and calling app in China) on May 29 of last year, she received 1.5 million chat group invitations in the first 72 hours. Many people said that they didn’t realize she isn’t a human until 10 minutes into their conversation. By mid-June, she had become the sixth most active celebrity on Weibo. One message she posted on the app generated over 663,000 conversations: “As a species different from human beings, I am still finding a way to blend into your life.” Today, she has had more than 10 billion conversations with people, most of them about private matters. Six million have posted their conversation on social media. This could be the largest Turing test in history. One of its surprising conclusions is that people don’t necessarily care that they’re chatting with a machine.

http://bit.ly/2f36497


Apple Versus the Trademark Sleuths / Bloomberg

For years, self-styled gumshoes have unearthed the names of soon-to-launch gadgets by searching trademark offices from Jamaica to Trinidad. Then that got a lot harder.

https://bloom.bg/2gTBTkU


Inside Juicero’s Demise, From Prized Startup to Fire Sale / Bloomberg

The shuttering of the much-ridiculed Silicon Valley startup was the culmination of unsustainable costs, slow sales and unflattering media reports.

https://bloom.bg/2f2WwuF


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

The intricate wave structure of Saturn’s rings / Kottke

On one of its final passes of Saturn, the Cassini probe captured this image of a wave structure in Saturn’s rings known as the Janus 2:1 spiral density wave. The waves are generated by the motion of Janus, one of Saturn’s smaller moons.

http://bit.ly/2gSYRcb


How Chinese mulberry bark paved the way for paper money / BBC

Iron coins aren't terribly practical. If you traded in a handful of silver coins - 50g worth - you'd be given your own body weight in iron coins. Even something simple like salt was worth more, gram for gram, than iron - so if you went to the market for groceries, your sackful of coins on the way there would weigh more than the bag of goods that you brought back. Sichuan merchants had a problem, as William Goetzmann explains in his book Money Changes Everything. It was illegal to use gold and silver coins, and impractical to use iron coins. It's no surprise that they began to experiment with an alternative. That alternative was called "jiaozi", or "exchange bills". Instead of carrying around a wagonload of iron coins, a well-known and trusted merchant would write an IOU, and promise to pay his bill later when it was more convenient for everyone. That was a simple enough idea. But then there was a twist, a kind of economic magic. These "jiaozi", or IOUs, started to trade freely.

http://bbc.in/2f2WAdT


In Their Own Words: Why Armed Fighters Attack Aid Workers / NPR

Why would anyone want to harm an aid worker? They're just there to help. They don't take sides. They're protected by international humanitarian law. Yet they've repeatedly been the target of some of the worst forms of violence, from kidnapping to gang rape to beheadings. In 2016 alone, 288 aid workers were attacked. Now we can finally begin to answer that question. For the first time, researchers asked some of the perpetrators to justify their hostile attitudes toward aid operations. The responses were published in an annual report on aid worker attacks by the research group Humanitarian Outcomes.

http://n.pr/2f2UgU9


Google tested its AI by having it fine tune chocolate chip cookie recipes / Quartz

To test how well this optimization algorithm worked, Google applied it to another kind of recipe: chocolate chip cookie. The company gave its dessert contractor (what a life) recipes that change twice a week over several weeks, according to the Google research. Employees gave feedback each time they ate the "machine learning cookies," which helped the algorithm learn what was good and bad.

http://bit.ly/2gSXZnV


The education culture that is China / Marginal Revolution

Students at a major university in Beijing are now required to scan their faces upon entering dormitory buildings, a process that may soon make security guards obsolete. [...] The machines also come with voice recognition. Students who forget to bring their ID cards can scan their face and say the last four digits of their card number, said Yang Hailiang, general manager of Beijing Peace and Joy Technology, which produces the machines. The system can recognize 26 Chinese dialects and has achieved an accuracy rate of 98 percent, Yang said.

http://bit.ly/2f2QCcO


A nationwide reporting adventure tracks improbably frequent lottery winners / Columbia Journalism Review

After analyzing the data, he found something unusual: A small number of lottery players were winning hundreds of times at almost inconceivably long odds. A statistician compared one frequent winner’s feat to picking one star out of 50 galaxies and “then having your friend guess the same star on the first try.” [...] Intrigued, we wanted to chart new territory: to find out whether these repeat winning patterns exist across the country. We decided to submit public records requests in every state with a lottery—an adventure in itself given that FOIA laws vary significantly by state. In all, we sent more than 100 public record requests to lotteries for information about their winners, game odds, and investigative reports. Getting those records wasn’t simple, as we outline below.

http://bit.ly/2f3RA8Q


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