In building your book I wanted to pursue my own process of decomposition. I began to think about the ways in which paper degrades. Rotting in the ground, exposure to rain, chemicals (I used Xylene, a paint thinner, for the image transfers on the cover), and fire. Although rain or burying paper in the ground would have created unique and unpredictable patterns of ruin in the paper, these seemed like passive processes, whereas burning paper could achieve some level of stochastic design but in a more involved, active, and risk-exposed situation. I followed the traditional recipe for Chinese blackpowder: 75% potassium nitrate, or saltpeter, 15% carbon, 10% sulphur. [...] On a hot plate, outside, the potassium nitrate is usually dissolved in a pot of water, however instead of water I poured into the potassium nitrate a jar of my stale, sunbaked urine since it accelerates the burn process. [Big Other]
An Amazon executive [...] “We had beaten publishers into submission. When Amazon asks for a nickel, publishers know to give a dime. We aren’t there yet with the Whirlpools and the Samsungs. We’ll get them under our thumb.” [...] Mr. Bezos’s disdain for taxes [...] Amazon’s yearlong pursuit of a second headquarters [...] got results — nearly $600 million in incentives from Virginia officials [NY Times]
Sam Altman Wants to Scan Your Eyeball in Exchange for Cryptocurrency -- iris-scanning is an essential part of the plan because it can prevent people from trying to register multiple times to defraud the system. He’s also aware of the privacy implications of handing over biometric information to a tiny startup and said Worldcoin will make the process as transparent as possible so users can see how the data is used. He said the iris scan will produce a unique numerical code for each person and that the image is then deleted and never stored.
Beer Mats make bad Frisbees, study [PDF]
Careers for some women in finance are being held back by “mediocre” male middle managers adept at playing internal politics, according to a report backed by some of the City of London’s largest financial institutions.
How governments and spies text each other -- Matrix has become the messaging app of choice for top-secret communications
We are celebrating the 90th anniversary of Kurt Gödel's groundbreaking 1931 paper which laid the foundations of theoretical computer science and the theory of artificial intelligence (AI). Gödel sent shock waves through the academic community when he identified the fundamental limits of theorem proving, computing, AI, logics, and mathematics itself.
In one particularly large chamber of the cow stomach, known as the rumen, bacteria digest plant cellulose from the grass [...]. As it turns out, cow rumen and its arsenal of bacteria are very good at breaking down plastic in a sustainable way. The researchers write that the “rumen samples were able to degrade all three tested polyesters” successfully.
Can two potentially dishonest players play a fair game of poker using any cards — for example, over the phone? [PDF]
Why Email Providers Scan Your Emails -- Even if your messages aren't scanned for ads, companies may scan, read, and even share them with third parties
Blood test finds 50 types of cancer, shows ‘impressive results’ in spotting tumors in early stages
There were curious characteristics about the H1N1 influenza pandemic of 1977-78, which emerged from northeastern Asia and killed an estimated 700,000 people around the world. For one, it almost exclusively affected people in their mid-20s or younger. Scientists discovered another oddity that could explain the first: It was virtually identical to a strain that circulated in the 1950s. People born before that had immunity that protected them, and younger people didn’t. But how on earth had it remained so steady genetically, since viruses continually mutate? Scientists guessed that it had been frozen in a lab. [...] It was only in 2004 that a prominent virologist, Peter Palese, wrote that Chi-Ming Chu, a respected virologist and a former member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told him that “the introduction of this 1977 H1N1 virus” was indeed thought to be due to vaccine trials involving “the challenge of several thousand military recruits with live H1N1 virus.” For the first time, science itself seemed to have caused a pandemic while trying to prepare for it. [NY Times]
21 reports of unknown phenomena possibly demonstrate technological capabilities that are unknown to the United States: objects moving without observable propulsion or with rapid acceleration that is believed to be beyond the capabilities of Russia, China or other terrestrial nations. [...] The report said the number of sightings was too limited for a detailed pattern analysis. While they clustered around military training or testing grounds, the report found that that could be the result of collection bias or the presence of cutting-edge sensors in those areas. [NY Times | CNN]
Canada, one of the most real estate-obsessed nations on earth — and one of the least affected by the 2008 crash — is up 42+% in the past year alone. Even in Ethiopia, where my wife grew up, a three-bedroom detached house in the capital can cost you $1+ million USD. Until recently, most people’s house price paradigm looked something like this: A house’s market price is the maximum amount that a buyer can expect to afford over the next 25–40 years. But because wages are flatlined and purchasing parity is the same as in 1978, the only rational explanation for this current price explosion is a giant debt bubble. But what if the paradigm — the baseline assumption of what dictates house prices — is changing? What if the newly-redefined value of shelter is the maximum amount of annual rent that can be extracted per unit of housing? [...] As reader Valerie Kittell put it: “Airbnb-type models altered the market irreversibly by proving on a large scale that short term rentals were more lucrative than stable long-term residents.” We’re in the middle of a paradigm shift to corporate serfdom. Stop enriching corrupt banks — pay off your mortgages and never look back. Parents and grandparents with means: Help your kids get a start in housing before it’s out of their reach forever. [Jared A. Brock]