Fair warning: Tyler Cowen is even more highly represented this week than usual, which for some reason I feel the need to apologise for.
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Death of the Calorie / The Economist (1843 Magazine)
The guidance that Camacho’s doctors gave him, along with a string of nutritionists and his own online research, was unanimous. It would be familiar to the millions of people who have ever tried to diet. “Everybody tells you that to lose weight you have to eat less and move more,” he says, “and the way to do that is to count your calories.” [...] “I filled in Excel spreadsheets every night, every week and every month listing everything I ate. It became a real obsession for me,” says Camacho. [...] “I was always tired and hungry and I would get really moody and distracted,” he says. “I was thinking about food all the time.” He was constantly told that if he got the maths right – consuming fewer calories than he burned each day – the results would soon show. “I really did everything you are supposed to do,” he insists with the tone of a schoolboy who completed his homework yet still failed a big test. He bought a battery of exercise monitoring devices to measure how many calories he was expending on his runs. “I was told to exercise for at least 45 minutes at least four or five times a week. I actually ran for more than an hour every day.” He kept to low-fat, low-calorie food for three years. It simply didn’t work. At one point he lost about 10kg but his weight rebounded, though he still restricted his calories. Dieters the world over will be familiar with Camacho’s frustrations. Most studies show that more than 80% of people regain any lost weight in the long term. And like him, when we fail, most of us assume that we are too lazy or greedy – that we are at fault. [...] The calorie as a scientific measurement is not in dispute. But calculating the exact calorific content of food is far harder than the confidently precise numbers displayed on food packets suggest. Two items of food with identical calorific values may be digested in very different ways. Each body processes calories differently. Even for a single individual, the time of day that you eat matters. The more we probe, the more we realise that tallying calories will do little to help us control our weight or even maintain a healthy diet: the beguiling simplicity of counting calories in and calories out is dangerously flawed. [...] He went back to items that he’d long banned himself from eating. He had his first rasher of bacon in three years and enjoyed cheese, whole-fat milk and steaks. He immediately felt less hungry and happier. More surprising, he quickly began to lose his extra fat. [...] Today Camacho could be described as a calorie dissident, one of a small but growing number of academics and scientists who say that the persistence of calorie-counting compounds the obesity epidemic, rather than remedying it. Counting calories has disrupted our ability to eat the right amount of food, he says, and has steered us towards poor choices. In 2017 he wrote an academic paper that was one of the most savage attacks on the calorie system published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The 10 Least Consequential Athletes of the Decade / SBNation
Most of my 3-star articles are serious. This one is very not serious, and it's wonderful:
In contrast to Darius Johnson-Odom’s storied career at Marquette and his years in China and Italy, his NBA life lasted 21 minutes. They were a very, very busy 21 minutes. His 11 shot attempts came from everywhere on the floor — a layup, a scattering of mid-range shots, and a couple of heaves from at least 26 feet out. All 11 of them missed. He was once sent to the stripe for a pair of free-throw attempts, and he missed both of those as well. Across NBA history, 14 players have attempted at least three field goals and ended their career with zero points. Johnson-Odom left them all in the dust. Darius Johnson-Odom leads with 11; no other player in this category has attempted more than seven. He did everything else, from rebounding to stealing to assisting to fouling. He was all over the floor. In the end, his career usage rate stood at 28.4 percent, higher than that of Patrick Ewing, Blake Griffin, and Damian Lillard. This is perhaps the greatest testament to the inconsequential nature of Johnson-Odom’s career: even if we decided to rewrite the record books and rule that every one of his 11 shots went in, it would not change the result of a single game. He never even attempted a shot that mattered.
What libertarianism has become and will become — State Capacity Libertarianism / Marginal Revolution
This sounds boring (and I wouldn't blame you for not being interested), but there's a ton of intelligent thinking here that I really liked:
Having tracked the libertarian “movement” for much of my life, I believe it is now pretty much hollowed out, at least in terms of flow. One branch split off into Ron Paul-ism and less savory alt right directions, and another, more establishment branch remains out there in force but not really commanding new adherents. For one thing, it doesn’t seem that old-style libertarianism can solve or even very well address a number of major problems, most significantly climate change. [...] Along the way, I believe the smart classical liberals and libertarians have, as if guided by an invisible hand, evolved into a view that I dub with the entirely non-sticky name of State Capacity Libertarianism. I define State Capacity Libertarianism in terms of a number of propositions: 1. Markets and capitalism are very powerful, give them their due. [...] 3. A strong state is distinct from a very large or tyrannical state. A good strong state should see the maintenance and extension of capitalism as one of its primary duties, in many cases its #1 duty. [...] 5. Many of the failures of today’s America are failures of excess regulation, but many others are failures of state capacity. Our governments cannot address climate change, much improve K-12 education, fix traffic congestion, or improve the quality of their discretionary spending. Much of our physical infrastructure is stagnant or declining in quality. I favor much more immigration, nonetheless I think our government needs clear standards for who cannot get in, who will be forced to leave, and a workable court system to back all that up and today we do not have that either. Those problems require state capacity — albeit to boost markets — in a way that classical libertarianism is poorly suited to deal with. [...] 7. The fundamental growth experience of recent decades has been the rise of capitalism, markets, and high living standards in East Asia, and State Capacity Libertarianism has no problem or embarrassment in endorsing those developments. It remains the case that such progress (or better) could have been made with more markets and less government. Still, state capacity had to grow in those countries and indeed it did. Public health improvements are another major success story of our time, and those have relied heavily on state capacity — let’s just admit it.
Quiz: Let Us Predict Whether You’re a Democrat or a Republican / New York Times
This is more than just a quiz; it's also a good review of research on political polarisation:
Tell us a few details about you and we’ll guess which political party you belong to. It shouldn’t be that simple, right? We’re all complex people with a multiplicity of identities and values. But the reality is that in America today, how you answer a handful of questions is very likely to determine how you vote. This quiz, based on recent surveys with more than 140,000 responses, presents a series of yes-or-no questions to predict whether someone is more likely to identify as a Democrat or a Republican. It captures divisions that should make you worried about the future of American democracy. [...] Sorting has occurred on both sides, but the Republican Party has tended more toward homogeneity: whiter, more Christian and more conservative. Democrats are a far more diverse party. So although the term “identity politics” is often wielded to criticize the Democrats for focusing on race and gender, Republicans are typically more susceptible to appeals based on their shared identity than Democrats, according to research by Julie Wronski and Lilliana Mason, political scientists at the University of Mississippi and the University of Maryland, College Park. [...] Among white people, religion is the most stable and important determinant of party choice. But the way religion shapes party attachment has changed. Today, the best way to sort the population of white voters is not by which religion they belong to, but by how religious they are. [...] Some political scientists have attributed the emergent “diploma divide” to less educated white voters’ racial resentment. Dr. Sides, Dr. Tesler and Dr. Vavreck argue that during Barack Obama’s presidency, less-educated white people who may not have followed politics began to link the Democrats to progressive attitudes toward race and fled the party as a result. Even education is, in a sense, a proxy for opinions about race, the brightest line in today’s partisan conflict. [...] The partisan gender gap developed in the 1980s as men drifted toward the Republican Party; it widened in the 2016 Trump versus Clinton election. Much like racial resentment explains support for Mr. Trump, researchers have found that “hostile sexism” — measured by asking questions like whether someone believes women seek to control men — is increasingly dividing the parties.
What to think about Modi these days / Marginal Revolution
More Tyler, in many ways related to his post about State Capacity Libertarianism (above):
Nonetheless I find most of the extant commentary on Modi fairly misleading and/or naive. As this outsider sees it, India’s secular democracy was never liberal. It had certain de facto liberal elements, but largely out of low levels of state capacity, necessitating a kind of tolerance but of course also leading to a very sub-par infrastructure. [...] In essence, that state capacity starts to be built, and part of it is turned to wrong ends, in an attempt to appeal to the roughly 80 percent Hindu majority. [...] In other words, the positive and negative sides of the story here may be more closely related than is comfortable to contemplate. The picture reminds me a bit of how parts of Renaissance Europe were often more anti-Semitic or racist than medieval Europe, in part because persecuting states had more resources and it was easier to mobilize intolerant sentiment, partly due to the printing press. I don’t however idolize medieval times as being so libertarian, rather the earlier ideology contained the seeds of the Renaissance oppressions, which in time turned into foreign imperialism as well. [...] All the more, the “establishment media” just isn’t interested in framing the story in terms of individual rights and constraints on democracy. [...] For one example, blame either Nilinjana Roy or the person who titled her FT column “Democracy in India is on the brink.” Last I checked, Modi was elected, then re-elected, and his party and its allies control almost 2/3 of the lower house. That is truly an Orwellian column title. It should not be so hard to write “The problem with Modi is the statism, and lack of respect for minority rights, sadly this is democratically certified and thus democracy requires real constitutional constraint of the powers of the government.” But so many people today are mentally and emotionally incapable of thinking and writing such thoughts, having spent so much time in their mood affiliation glorifying “democracy” (or what they take to be democracy) above all other values.
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A Nobel-Winning Economist Goes to Burning Man / New York Times
I didn't get around to reading this article last year, but it kept on getting recommended and ultimately made several "Best of 2019" lists, so I assumed it would be outstanding. Perhaps my expectations were too high, but I found it merely good -- still worth reading, but not a "best of" piece:
“It’s just like every other city,” Mr. Romer said. “Except in this other way, it’s like no city ever.” White-haired and 63, he was dressed in black gear he’d bought at R.E.I., figuring black was the thing to wear at Burning Man. It was the first time that Mr. Romer, the former chief economist of the World Bank, had attended the annual bacchanal. A week earlier, there was hardly anything here, in the remote desert of northwest Nevada. Then tens of thousands of people had just shown up, many in the middle of the night. They had formed an instant city, with a road network, and a raucous street life, and a weird make-do architecture. It was an alluring sight for an economist who has talked of building cities from nothing. And Burning Man has been more and more on Mr. Romer’s mind lately, as world politics have made him gloomier. He is ill at ease behaving like a traditional academic. He’s not particularly interested in publishing papers. He doesn’t want to give speeches cheerleading his field. But he believes winning the Nobel has expanded his possibilities. More people will listen to what he has to say, if he can just decide where he wants to direct our attention. Maybe it’s here. Mr. Romer came to the desert imagining himself as an objective outsider: de Tocqueville among the Burners. But Black Rock City started to rub off on him. One morning, a man who called himself Coyote, who was responsible for surveying the city’s streets, took Mr. Romer around. At the far edge of town, they found a roller coaster that looked likelier than most things at Burning Man to harm you. It was designed for one fool at a time, strapped into an oversized car seat that shot down one side of a 31-foot wooden U shape and up the other. Mr. Romer, surprising himself, walked up to it. “Should I do this?” he asked Coyote. “If you kill a Nobel Prize winner, it’s on you.”
What Donald Trump and Greta Thunberg Have in Common / Bloomberg
In all the “Best of the Decade” lists I’ve been seeing, one topic has been neglected: orators. I’d like to remedy that, noting that I am not necessarily endorsing anything anyone says. “Best” in this context means the most powerful and influential public speaker, not having the most salutary effect on the world. [...] My choice for second place is Greta Thunberg. In little more than a year, Thunberg has moved from being an unheard-of 16-year-old Swedish girl to Time’s Person of the Year. While she is now a social media phenomenon, her initial ascent was driven by her public speaking. Communication is quite simply what she does. As a public speaker, Thunberg is memorable. The unusual prosody of autistic voices is sometimes considered a disadvantage, but she has turned her voice and her extreme directness into an unforgettably bracing style. [...] As for memorable phrases, how about these: “I don’t want your hope.” “Did you hear what I just said?” “I want you to panic.” And of course: “How dare you? You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.” These days, you can simply say the name “Greta” in many parts of the world, and people will know who you are referring to. As a public speaker, however, there is someone even better: President Donald Trump. Commonly called inarticulate or even incoherent, Trump has an oratorical genius those descriptions miss. He was elected president, after all, not on the basis of his policy experience but because his message resonated with scores of millions of Americans. Trump is a highly repetitive public speaker. Yet it is a core principle of marketing that repetition captures the attention of the listener and makes a message stick. Due to his many years of experience on TV, Trump also has near-perfect timing and knows how to modulate the cadence of his voice to stress his takeaway messages. For better or worse, he is mesmerizing. Most of all, Trump is the master of coining the memorable (if often highly objectionable) phrase. It is Trump who made “fake news” a popular term. An ability to inject new words or phrases into the language is one of the hallmarks of a truly effective speaker. Trump is also devastating in coining short, easy-to-remember nicknames that capture the political weaknesses of his opponents. “Little Marco,” “Crooked Hillary,” “Pocahontas” and “Sleepy Joe” all have entered the political lexicon, no matter how false or offensive they might be. [...] In case you are wondering: Third on my list is former President Barack Obama. He is indeed the best speaker of the decade in terms of fancy rhetoric. But over time, Obama’s speeches became more predictable and bland. And just how much of his message or language has endured? The mood today is more disillusionment and exhaustion than “hope and change.” Third place is not bad. Still, it is striking — and yet another sign of the strangeness of these times — that the two most impactful speakers of the decade could not have been predicted 10 years ago.
Thailand's disappeared Karen activist Billy and the burned village / BBC
An oil barrel discovered at the bottom of a reservoir in a nature reserve in Thailand in April 2019 has cast a light on a story some would rather stayed hidden. It is a tale of powerful men and the lengths they will allegedly go to keep their crimes covered up. But it is also the story of one woman's determination to get justice for the man she loved and the community he was fighting for. [...] Pinnapa "Muenoor" Prueksapan remembers the words that her husband told her back in 2014 as if it happened yesterday. "He told me: 'The people involved in this aren't happy with me. They say that if they find me they'll kill me. If I do disappear, don't come looking for me. Don't wonder where I've gone. They'll probably have killed me'. "So I said to him: 'If you know you're in danger like this, why can't you stop helping your grandfather and the village?'. "And he said to me: 'When you're doing the right thing, you have to keep fighting, even if it means you may lose your life.'. "And after he said that, I couldn't ask him to stop," she recalls. When Porlajee "Billy" Rakchongcharoen left for work on 15 April that same year, Muenoor didn't ask any questions. He left just like any other day, grabbing the overnight bag his wife packed for him and walking out the door without saying goodbye.
Fax on the beach: The story of the audacious, visionary, totally calamitous iPad of the '90s / Input
Two out of three of the tech innovations foretold in this 30-second commercial were dead on: Electronic libraries are common, as is in-car GPS navigation. As for the third: Technically, you can now send a fax from the beach — but who’s doing that in the year 2020? But people are sending emails while enjoying the feel of sand between their toes, so we’ll give that one to AT&T, too. Of course, AT&T wasn’t the company that ended up bringing us most of the tech predicted in the “You Will” ads. But it did bring that tablet device to market. It’s called the EO Personal Communicator 440, and while not the first mass-manufactured tablet computer — that honor goes to the GRiDPad, a device sold by Radio Shack’s corporate parent Tandy — the EO is generally considered one of the first tablets with mobile connectivity. Released by AT&T in 1993, not long after the telecom giant bought a majority stake in its maker EO, it was a tantalizing glance into the future. [...] I already knew of the EO’s legendary status and the size of the bet AT&T had made on it. (The “You Will” ad campaign alone cost $40 million.) At one point, EO predicted that its product line could sell 100 million units in seven years. It only sold 10,000 before being discontinued in 1994. I wanted to know why it failed.
The Best — And Worst — Of Pro Sports In The 2010s / FiveThirtyEight
The end of a decade is always a good chance to look back and reflect on where we started, where we ended up and how far we’ve come. In sports, the decade of the 2010s supplied plenty of highs and lows, so we wanted to highlight the best (and worst) of the past 10 years in five major professional leagues: the NBA, WNBA, NFL, NHL and MLB. We’ll cover both the top teams (overall and in single seasons) and the best players (according to advanced metrics) from the decade that was — a decade that we had the privilege of covering more than half of here at FiveThirtyEight as it unfolded.
One Airline Flight is at the Heart of US Problems With Iran / View From the Wing
The title is a dramatic overstatement, but this is an interesting piece of historical context that I haven't seen mentioned in other recent discussions about the US-Iran conflict:
With a heightening of tensions between the U.S. and Iran it seems important to bring a little bit of history – aviation history between the two countries – back into focus. As we consider whether recent events might lead to further tit-for-tat escalation or misinterpretation by either side – neither one of which wants outright war – it’s impossible to overstate the significance of Iran Air 655 in shaping how Iran perceives the U.S. [...] The USS Vincennes pursued Iranian gunboats that had reportedly fired on one of its helicopters into Iranian waters in the Straits of Hormuz. They saw the Iran Air flight climbing on departure from Bandar Abbas. The airport was dual use — civilian flights but also F14 military aircraft (it’s a whole separate story how Iran came to operate US fighter jets). They feared they would come under attack from an F-14. The US ship reportedly made 10 attempts to contact the Iranian aircraft, 7 on a military channel and 3 on a civilian channel. They received no response, fired missiles at the plane, and killed all 274 passengers and 16 crew on board. [...] It’s reasonable to believe the Iran Air pilots assumed a different plane was being hailed. They were flying in Iranian airspace above the proscribed altitude in the US NOTAM. The plane was climbing, not descending as though to attack. While the US initially claimed its ship was in international waters, and that the ship’s captain acted reasonably given the information available and the short timeframe in which the situation developed, in 1996 the US agreed to pay Iran $132 million as a settlement though did not acknowledge wrongdoing. Iran continues to see the US as an enemy and an untrustworthy negotiating partner in part because of the 1988 downing of Iran Air flight 655. To them, the US is a country that would intentionally blow up a civilian flight to gain advantage against it.
Am I Wiser Than My Grandparents? / New York Times
Judging the past by the values of today can be its own kind of intolerance. [...] In Canada recently, I ran across one of the most anguished mea culpas I’ve encountered in a long time, in a piece prominently displayed in The Toronto Star. Its author, JP Larocque, confessed that in 2008, he foolishly dressed up for Halloween as someone from south of the American border, thus being guilty, all at once, unusually for his considerate homeland, of racial insensitivity, cultural appropriation and a joke in inexcusable taste. That a photo of himself wearing a sign that said, “MEXI-CAN’T” might surface at any moment meant, even more profoundly, that he had “lived with regret ever since.” [...] But a lesser part of me couldn’t help wondering if he hadn’t committed even more egregious sins over the past 11 years (or even 11 days). I certainly have. And whether he didn’t feel that cultural mores and assumptions are always shifting, rendering what was not so exceptional in one era abhorrent in the next. Aren’t all of us at least a little more mature and discerning now than we were a decade ago, partly because we’ve been schooled by our mistakes? Before long, I was beginning to wonder whether Larocque, a writer for the TV series “Slasher,” wasn’t simply replacing ethnocentricity, noxious and unacceptable as it is, with chronocentrism — a term coined in 1974 to suggest among other things, prejudice against other times, rather than against other races. [...] I’m less thrilled, though, when people fault Shakespeare, say, for daring, in his job as writer (and actor), to try to enter the souls of a woman, a Moor and a devil from Italy (which he does in “Othello” alone). I’m wary of assuming that, just because T.S. Eliot held some positions that we now find offensive, we are more “moral” or attuned to the complexities of human nature than he was. I’m glad that I live in a more diverse world than my grandparents could have imagined, but I’m not sure that means I’m wiser than they were.
*Capital and Ideology*, by Thomas Piketty / Marginal Revolution
More Tyler, and worth a caveat that I'm not endorsing his views...but they are interesting nonetheless:
This book is more than 1000 pp., here are my impressions: 1. About 600 pp. of this book is a carefully done history of the accumulation and sometimes dissipation of wealth and property. You can evaluate that material without reference to any particular set of political views. [...] 3. The sentence “Real wages are much higher in America than in Western Europe” does not come easily to his pen. Nor does “The United States is a remarkably successful innovator, let’s see what we can learn from that.” Or even “Raising wages is more important than merely limiting inequality.” Those seems to be banished thoughts in the Piketty intellectual universe. 4. The sections on Soviet and socialist experience can only be called “delusional.” In his account, if only a few political decisions had gone the other way, the USSR might have ended up on a path similar to that of Norway (p.603 and thereabouts).You know, maybe you think that the inequalities of the current day are much worse than people had been expecting. But that should not revise your view of socialism and the Soviet Union, two matters fairly well settled by historical research.
The $230,000,000 College Admission Scandal America Ignored / Fatherly
We all know Felicity Huffman did wrong, but in Dallas alone wealthy parents have extracted millions and millions in value from magnet schools not designed for their children. [...] On weekends, Rob would drive his daughter to sleepovers in wealthy suburbs like Frisco, Allen, and Plano — towns 30 to 45 minutes away from Booker T. campus (further away than even Richardson). Confounded, Stegall started keeping tabs. He now estimates that 50 percent of his daughters’ friends weren’t living in the district at a time when Booker T. claimed the vast majority of its enrolled students hailed from Dallas proper — maybe 10 exceptions per grade. He’d drop his daughter off in towns with more than twice the median household income of Dallas and wonder how other parents had gotten their children into Booker T. without moving.
Why Doctors Think They're the Best / Slate Star Codex
This type of thinking suitably explains lack of self-awareness in many settings:
But I am pretty sure ninety percent of doctors believe they’re above-average doctors. Here are some traps I’ve noticed myself falling into that might help explain why: 1. Your patients’ last doctor was worse than you. Think about it; if somebody has a good doctor, they’ll stay with them, and you will never see that patient. If somebody has a bad doctor, they’ll go see another doctor instead. That other doctor might be you. So your current patients’ last doctor will be worse than average. But this is where most of your chance to compare yourself with other doctors comes from: “my patient’s last doctor misdiagnosed them, but I got it right” or “my patient hated their last doctor but says I’m much better”. [...] 4. You’ve probably successfully treated most of your patients. Now pull all of the above together. Suppose a patient has a chronic disease like depression or diabetes. If you treat it successfully, they will love you and stay with you; if you fail, they will switch to another doctor (and you will never hear about it). Ten years later, you wake up and notice that most of your patients are success stories. But your patients usually describe their previous doctor as a miserable failure. Selection bias is a heck of a drug. [...] 6. Your victories belong to you, your failures belong to Nature. Sometimes I get a really difficult case, something nobody else has been able to figure out – and I absolutely nail it. I ride the high for days. I feel like a miracle-worker. Other times I get a difficult case nobody else has been able to figure out, and I can’t figure it out either. I don’t worry too much about it – some things are beyond the ken of modern medicine; obviously nobody can treat untreatable stuff.
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How Unpredictable Is Your Subway Commute? We’ll Show You / New York Times
I don't live in New York anymore, and (I assume) the vast majority of you don't either, but these visualisations are pretty cool. (And for the not-insignificant number of you who do live in New York, they're even pretty useful.) Plus, the article disparages New York by comparing it to London, which many of you will know is something I enjoy far more than I should. Just take solace that the MTA is still somehow offering better public transportation than nearly anywhere else in the country...
The notion of building in a buffer of 12 minutes may seem perfectly normal to a New Yorker accustomed to riding the subway to work every day. But other cities with large public transportation systems do not necessarily operate with that level of variance. The London system, known as the Tube, opened in 1863 and is the oldest underground passenger railway in the world. One big difference between the systems: New York’s subways run around the clock every day. On the other hand, London has improved its subway system in recent years, thanks in part to significant upgrades of its signaling system. In most cases, London’s subway riders experience less variability. Here’s the distribution of your commute [...] compared with a randomly selected commute in London with a similar median time, based on Tube trip data from June 2019.
Nuclear Energy Saves Lives / Marginal Revolution
As someone who's pro-nuclear but generally better-aligned with European mainstream public policy than American policy, I was surprised to learn that nuclear is so unpopular in Germany (and many other parts of Europe):
Germany’s closing of nuclear power stations after Fukishima cost billions of dollars and killed thousands of people due to more air pollution. [...] Moreover, we find that the phase-out resulted in substantial increases in the electricity prices paid by consumers. One might thus expect German citizens to strongly oppose the phase-out policy both because of the air pollution costs and increases in electricity prices imposed upon them as a result of the policy. On the contrary, the nuclear phase-out still has widespread support, with more than 81% in favor of it in a 2015 survey.
I Was Google’s Head of International Relations. Here’s Why I Left. / Medium
Many of you may have read recent media reports about growing unrest among Google employees (though it's unclear how pervasive this is); here's the piece from a reasonably senior Googler that's often cited in these reports:
When I walked out the door on my last day as Google’s Head of International Relations, I couldn’t help but think of my first day at the company. I had exchanged a wood-paneled office, a suit and tie, and the job of wrestling California’s bureaucracy as Governor Schwarzenegger’s deputy chief of staff for a laptop, jeans, and a promise that I’d be making the world better and more equal, under the simple but powerful guidance “Don’t be evil.” [...] But over the years, the list of items that the Chinese government demanded we censor grew significantly, and after the Chinese government attempted to hack into the Gmail accounts of human rights advocates in 2009, Larry and Sergey decided it was time to re-assess the 2006 decision. After a series of intense discussions with other executives, they decided that the only way to continue providing Search in China while adhering to the “Don’t be evil” mantra was to cease cooperation with the government’s censorship requirements. We knew this would cause a very public confrontation with the government, although we were never sure how bad it would get. In China, the government not only demands full access to a company’s user data and infrastructure, it also expects the full cooperation of companies to ensure that Chinese users see only content that is in line with government standards. For example, on a Maps product, the government requires that all geographic labels and information be approved by the government in advance, and that any user-generated content be strictly controlled by the company to avoid publication of anything the government deems “problematic,” which can be difficult to define. Our 2010 decision to stop cooperating with Chinese government censorship on Search results was the first time a non-Chinese corporation stood up to the Chinese government. In doing so, Google put everything on the line — its future in the world’s fastest-growing internet market, billions of dollars in profit, even the safety of our Chinese employees. At one point, I began planning for a possible mass evacuation of all our Google employees based in China, as well as their families. Although difficult, I was intensely proud of the principled approach the company took in making this decision.
Meet the artist who designed a hotel room that’s difficult to stay in / BBC
The bed is difficult to get onto and has barely enough space to squeeze around. The bathroom door doesn't shut, and gets in the way when you reach for the toilet roll dispenser. This may sound like a pretty typical TripAdvisor review. But if you stay in the hotel bedroom created by Christopher Samuel, don't rush to post a scathing review. He has actually designed it to be as annoying as possible (while remaining just about habitable). "You probably wouldn't spend more than a night in it in reality," says Michael Trainor, creative director of the Art B&B in Blackpool. "I think the novelty would soon wear off." Samuel is one of 19 artists who have kitted out a room in the seaside B&B. And it's hard not to chuckle at the fiendishness of Samuel's adaptations every time you spot another deliberately awkward feature (the upside-down shower gel dispenser is a particular triumph of user-unfriendliness). But for him, it's not a joke. By making life difficult for visitors, the artist wants to give them a taste of the access problems faced by many disabled people.
HyperZooming through Hallstatt / Vimeo
The beautiful historic town of Hallstatt is a Unesco World Heritage site in Upper Austria. It is visited by many thousands of tourists each year but perhaps none of them get to see it quite like this. As if on the back of an invisible insect we fly around the sites of this wonderful town in one continuous journey passing through buildings to emerge in different parts of the town, finally ending up on the new viewpoint from Rudolfsturm perched high above the ancient town square.
It's Hard To Imagine How Tiny An Atom Is, So This VFX Artist Put It Into Scale / Digg
An atom is so small that if you reimagined an atom to be the size of a tennis ball, the width of a penny would be the size of Earth.
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