Friday 30 October, 2020

The fens in winter

Taken on a long walk in the fens today.

Quote of the Day

”Dear 338171 (May I call you 338?)”

  • Noel Coward, starting a letter to T.E. Lawrence, who had retired to public life to become Aircraftsman Brown, 338171

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Bob Dylan | If Not for You


Long read of the Day

An interesting  New Yorker profile of cryptographer Maxie Marlinspike, founder of Signal, the encrypted messaging service that many of us use when we need to make sure that nobody’s eavesdropping.


History repeats itself

Nick Guyatt teaches North American History at Cambridge and is a Fellow of Jesus College.

The reason Isaac Newton was at his home in Woolsthorpe when the apple fell on his head was that he had fled Cambridge to escape the plague! I bet his college (Trinity) still has its bell from that period too.

Inside the Bizarre Publishing Ring That Linked 5G to Coronavirus

A truly weird story in Vice.

An international group of scientists, some seemingly well-credentialed, have been publishing prolifically in obscure scientific journals, accruing hundreds of co-authorships over the past several years.

The only problem: most of the studies they publish don’t make any sense.

One paper, titled “5G Technology and induction of coronavirus in skin cells,” was retracted in late July after it received widespread criticism from scientists on social media for being shoddy pseudoscience. The diagrams featured clipart, and one showed two vertical arrows labeled “Tower” casting what the authors label as “Milimeter waves sic” and “Radio waves” onto a cell. An arrow exits from the cell and points at a drawing of a virus, which has been labeled “COVID-19.”

After that paper was retracted, the journal posted a notice on its original landing page saying that the article “showed evidence of substantial manipulation of the peer review.”

Having read the piece, the only conclusion I can draw is that there are more than a few hyper-qualified scientists who suffer from a variant of logorrhoea (“an excessive and often uncontrollable flow of words”) and are accommodated by a scientific publishing ecosystem which has perverse incentives and has grown too bloated to be reliable.

Thanks to Charles Arthur for the link.

Art tells a story

Dave Winer had this lovely image on his blog yesterday. It’s an artwork from a Burning Man festival. (Which I think was cancelled this year.)

He quotes a commentary on the work by a documentary film-maker, Sharon Anderson Morris:

“A sculpture of two adults after a disagreement, sitting with their backs to each other. Yet, the inner child in both of them simply wants to connect. Age has many beautiful gifts but one we could live without is the pride and resentment we hold onto when we have conflicts with others. The forgiving, free spirit of children is our true nature. Remember this when you feel stubborn.”

Dave doesn’t agree:

  • Sometimes the right thing to do is to set pride to the side and renew the friendship. The child always wants to, but the adult also has a valid and important, not foolish, contribution to make — safety.

  • The child can have the impulse to connect unconditionally, because there is an adult to put the brakes on if there is real danger. The child can’t exist without the adult. When we are children, the adult must be external. Later in life we will be both the child and the adult.#

  • The child, as the sculpture illustrates, wants to connect, but the adult isn’t ready. It’s possible that they’ve reconciled many times, and every time the same thing happens. That’s also a pattern of humanity. So the adult is constrained by memory. The adult might narrate: “I remember this person hurt me the last time I trusted them. Every time I trusted them. So as much as the child wants to reconcile, I can’t. At some point it’s wrong to trust.”

Other, possibly interesting, links

  •  New study links air pollution to 15 percent of COVID-19 deaths From Al Jazeera. Link
  • Are swordfish stabbing and killing sharks? New York Times story.
  • Nice experiment that shows how photographs shape the way we view history. Link

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