Links

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

The untold story of NotPetya, the most devastating cyberattack in history / Wired
And it could've been a lot worse...

All across Maersk headquarters, the full scale of the crisis was starting to become clear. Within half an hour, Maersk employees were running down hallways, yelling to their colleagues to turn off computers or disconnect them from Maersk’s network before the malicious software could infect them, as it dawned on them that every minute could mean dozens or hundreds more corrupted PCs. Tech workers ran into conference rooms and unplugged machines in the middle of meetings. Soon staffers were hurdling over locked key-card gates, which had been paralyzed by the still-mysterious malware, to spread the warning to other sections of the building. [...] The release of NotPetya was an act of cyberwar by almost any definition—one that was likely more explosive than even its creators intended. Within hours of its first appearance, the worm raced beyond Ukraine and out to countless machines around the world, from hospitals in Pennsylvania to a chocolate factory in Tasmania. It ­crippled multinational companies including Maersk, pharmaceutical giant Merck, FedEx’s European subsidiary TNT Express, French construction company Saint-Gobain, food producer Mondelēz, and manufacturer Reckitt Benckiser. In each case, it inflicted nine-figure costs. It even spread back to Russia, striking the state oil company Rosneft. The result was more than $10 billion in total damages, according to a White House assessment confirmed to WIRED by former Homeland Security adviser Tom Bossert, who at the time of the attack was President Trump’s most senior cybersecurity-­focused official. Bossert and US intelligence agencies also confirmed in February that Russia’s military—the prime suspect in any cyberwar attack targeting Ukraine—was responsible for launching the malicious code.

http://bit.ly/2PtaB4E


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

Inside the delightfully quirky, absolutely fabulous, and utterly exhausting world of cruise performers / Esquire

Okay, so this isn’t the Oscars—but it’s as close as you get in international waters. And this competition matters to these performers, several of whom have complained to me privately of stress headaches and sleepless nights. They’ve hustled for years just to get here, playing kids’ birthday parties, amusement parks, piano lounges, bars, ice-skating rinks, college cafeterias, casinos, Chippendales lineups, Spanish bullfighting rings, and retirement villages. But when the balloons clear, only one act will leave as Entertainer of the Year, the cruise entertainment industry’s highest—and only—honor.

http://bit.ly/2Pwn4EJ


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

Mum’s a Neanderthal, Dad’s a Denisovan: First discovery of an ancient-human hybrid / Nature

A female who died around 90,000 years ago was half Neanderthal and half Denisovan, according to genome analysis of a bone discovered in a Siberian cave. This is the first time scientists have identified an ancient individual whose parents belonged to distinct human groups. The findings were published on 22 August in Nature. “To find a first-generation person of mixed ancestry from these groups is absolutely extraordinary,” says population geneticist Pontus Skoglund at the Francis Crick Institute in London. “It’s really great science coupled with a little bit of luck.”

https://go.nature.com/2PxuY0N


Watching an art conservator restore a damaged painting / Kottke

There’s something so relaxing about watching art conservator Julian Baumgartner restore this damaged painting, a self-portrait by Italian painter Emma Gaggiotti Richards. I love how he paints tiny cracks in the damaged areas to match those in the rest of the painting.

http://bit.ly/2Pvh92B


America Soured on My Multiracial Family / The Atlantic

In 2010, the year we adopted, The Washington Post’s Michael Gerson wrote an article that reflected the heartfelt views of countless adoptive families. It was the “noblest thing about America,” he said, that “we care for children of other lands who have been cast aside.” And what of multiracial families? His answer was our answer: “Instead of undermining any culture, international adoption instructs our own. Unlike the thin, quarrelsome multiculturalism of the campus, multiethnic families demonstrate the power of affection over difference.” There was a spirit of optimism, of hope that we could actually live the promise from Galatians, and in living that promise help change the nation we loved. But then came a backlash. Claims of cultural imperialism, wounded national pride, and rare, sad horror stories of exploitation or abuse soured foreign nations against American families. And at home, identity politics and even outright hostility against the Christian adoption movement triggered attacks from some on the left—attacks that were soon to be matched and exceeded by attacks from a racist right.

http://bit.ly/2Ppqb12


John McCain’s Final Letter to America / The Atlantic

We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe. We weaken it when we hide behind walls, rather than tear them down; when we doubt the power of our ideals, rather than trust them to be the great force for change they have always been.

http://bit.ly/2NCnZmu


Inside Stephen Miller’s hostile takeover of immigration policy / Politico

Miller’s hard-charging approach to the discussion offers a glimpse into just one of the many tactics — psychological and otherwise — he has used to secure an iron grip on Trump’s immigration policies, surviving blowups such as the initial blowback over the president’s travel ban and the more recent fracas over the migrant family separation policy. One major reason Miller remains a powerful player on immigration is that he’s so close to Trump, who agrees with many of his hard-line views. But according to nearly a dozen current and former U.S. officials and others who deal with migration, Miller also has managed to set the agenda on Trump’s signature campaign issue through another quality: sheer bureaucratic cunning.

https://politi.co/2PpqlWc


U.S. is denying passports to Americans along the border, throwing their citizenship into question / Washington Post

On paper, he’s a devoted U.S. citizen. His official American birth certificate shows he was delivered by a midwife in Brownsville, at the southern tip of Texas. He spent his life wearing American uniforms: three years as a private in the Army, then as a cadet in the Border Patrol and now as a state prison guard. But when Juan, 40, applied to renew his U.S. passport this year, the government’s response floored him. In a letter, the State Department said it didn’t believe he was an American citizen. As he would later learn, Juan is one of a growing number of people whose official birth records show they were born in the United States but who are now being denied passports — their citizenship suddenly thrown into question.

https://wapo.st/2PvGNEB


Here's The Story Behind That Trump Tweet On South Africa — And Why It Sparked Outrage / BBC

Trump's tweet was an unusual way for the president to use the word "Africa" on Twitter for the first time since taking office, as The Washington Post points out. But South African leaders failed to see any flattery in the name check. Hours later, the country's official government Twitter account hit back hard on the president's medium of choice. "South Africa totally rejects this narrow perception which only seeks to divide our nation and reminds us of our colonial past," the account tweeted. Even as this diplomatic dust-up flared — with a South African presidential spokesperson later calling the tweet "unfortunate and misinformed" — onlookers unacquainted with South African domestic policy may find themselves wrestling with a reasonable question: "Um, what?"

https://n.pr/2Py4ufB


98.6 degrees is a normal body temperature, right? Not quite / Wired

The facts about fever are a lot more complicated. First, there’s no single number for normal. It’s slightly higher for women than men. It’s higher for children than adults. And it is lowest in the morning. "A temperature of 99 at six o’clock in the morning is very abnormal, whereas that same temperature at four o’clock in the afternoon can be totally normal," says Jonathan Hausmann, a rheumatologist at Boston Children’s Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, who gathered 11,458 temperatures in crowdsourced research using an iPhone app called Feverprints. The study, published online this month in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, refutes the age-old benchmark of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Instead, Hausmann and his colleagues found an average normal temperature in adults of 97.7 degrees, as measured with an oral thermometer. (The published study uses results from 329 healthy adults.) As for fever, Hausmann found that it begins at 99.5 degrees, on average.

http://bit.ly/2PtQ3sC


Colorized Math Equations

I colorized a few of my favorite math topics below. Making the colorizations was surprisingly fun. Like writing a haiku, there's a game to trimming down a concept to its essence.

http://bit.ly/2Pt71Ys


Why were there so many serial killers in the 1980s? / BBC

Over three decades in the late 20th century, there was a rise in serial homicides in North America. One historian asks whether the ravages of World War Two were a factor.

https://bbc.in/2NDNkfN


Cleveland Has Taken The Fly-Ball Revolution To The Next Level / FiveThirtyEight

In their first couple of years in the majors, neither showed a hint of extreme power potential. Then, a year ago, something happened. Lindor smashed 33 homers in his third season, and Ramirez hit 29 in his fourth.1 This year, Ramirez trails only J.D. Martinez in home runs, and Lindor is 11th in the league. [...] These players represent the next generation of the Fly-Ball Revolution. While the first stage is to get the ball up in the air, the next and more important step for many hitters is to get to the pull side. Elite contact hitters are learning to raise their offensive profiles, learning that it’s OK to be pull-happy. Some of the game’s smallest players are becoming home run kings.

https://53eig.ht/2PzRczh


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

Lego Wants to Completely Remake Its Toy Bricks (Without Anyone Noticing) / New York Times

Lego is trying to refashion the product it is best known for: It wants to eliminate its dependence on petroleum-based plastics, and build its toys entirely from plant-based or recycled materials by 2030. The challenge is designing blocks that click together yet separate easily, retain bright colors, and survive the rigors of being put through a laundry load, or the weight of an unknowing parent’s foot. In essence, the company wants to switch the ingredients, but keep the product exactly the same.

https://nyti.ms/2NHxeBO


Gambling Can Save Science / Marginal Revolution

Nearly thirty years ago my GMU colleague Robin Hanson asked, Could Gambling Save Science? We now know that the answer is yes. Robin’s idea to gauge the quality of scientific theories using prediction markets, what he called idea futures, has been validated.

http://bit.ly/2NCrv0a


Sexy Selfies as Competition Strategy / Marginal Revolution

We then investigated the association between sexy-selfie prevalence and income inequality, positing that sexualization—a marker of high female competition—is greater in environments in which incomes are unequal and people are preoccupied with relative social standing. Among 5,567 US cities and 1,622 US counties, areas with relatively more sexy selfies were more economically unequal but not more gender oppressive.

http://bit.ly/2NELsn7


Coconut oil is 'pure poison', says Harvard professor / The Guardian

It is feted as a healthy choice but the oil, which is high in saturated fat, is ‘one of the worst things you can eat’ says expert

http://bit.ly/2NEplxe


For $450, This Japanese Company Will Quit Your Job For You / NPR

Stressed out, overworked, or just over it: Workers in Japan who want to leave their jobs — but don't want to face the stress of quitting in person — are paying a company called Exit to tell their bosses that they won't be back. People hoping to never set foot in their workplace again pay Exit $450 to help them quit their full-time jobs; those who have had it with part-time work can pay around $360. And as Alex Martin reports for Japan Times, "Repeat clients get a [$90] discount."

https://n.pr/2PxzPz3


Using a crane and concrete blocks to store energy for later retrieval / Kottke

A Swiss company has designed a system for storing energy in concrete blocks. The blocks are lifted by a crane when surplus energy is available (say, when the Sun is shining or the wind blowing) and then, when energy is needed later, allowed to fall, turning turbines to generate electricity.

http://bit.ly/2NJHnhl


Goats Might Prefer A Smile To A Frown, Study Says / NPR

As the editor of a blog called Goats and Soda (see this story for the explanation behind the name), I'm always interested in the latest goat research. So I was definitely hooked by a press release that declared, "Goats prefer happy people." Alan McElligott, an associate professor in animal behavior at the University of Roehampton in London, led the study. He wanted to see whether animals besides dogs and horses can respond to human facial expression.

https://n.pr/2NHFGkJ


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