Sep 7, 2020


Jeffrey Epstein’s Harvard Connections Show How Money Can Distort Research

This past May, Harvard University (where I teach) issued a report on its relationship with the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. It was an admirably forthright mea culpa highlighting three areas of concern. The first was the contradiction of addressing sexual assault and harassment on campus while accepting money from a man who had promoted sexual abuse of minors. The second was the mockery made of academic standards when, after donating $200,000 to the psychology department, Epstein was appointed as a visiting fellow there despite a complete lack of appropriate academic qualifications. The third was his close connection to Harvard's Program for Evolutionary Dynamics (PED). Even after his release from prison, Epstein continued to be a frequent visitor: between 2010 and 2018 Epstein (at that point a registered sex offender) went to the PED offices more than 40 times. During that period he had an on-campus office and a key card and pass code with which he could enter buildings during off-hours.

It is not just that an awful person was able to buy a halo of respectability. The Epstein affair brings to light a much larger problem: it undermines the integrity of the research enterprise when individuals can pick and choose lines of inquiry that appeal to them simply because they can pay for them.

. . .

What made it even worse was that Epstein was a latter-day eugenicist whose interests were tied to a delusional notion of seeding the human race with his own DNA. Given this stance, it is particularly disturbing that he focused his largesse on research on the genetic basis of human behavior. Human genetics is an ethically sensitive and intellectually contested domain where it behooves us to ensure that the highest standards of scientific rigor are in place and that nongenetic explanations for behavior are given a fair chance to compete.

Sam Harris and Donald Trump: They're completely different ... yet very much alike

Sam Harris began his career, metaphorically speaking, by winning the lottery: He wrote a mediocre diatribe against Islam (without expertise on either Islam or Islamic terrorism) that was published at exactly the right time — three years after the 9/11 attacks and one year after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, now considered to be perhaps the single greatest foreign policy blunder in our country's history. After this, he participated in numerous public debates with religious clowns and published articles in outlets like the Washington Times, one of which, from 2004, made the following incendiary claim: "It is time we admitted that we are not at war with 'terrorism.' We are at war with Islam." He's also published a (very) small handful of scholarly articles in peer-reviewed papers.

But over time, Harris withdrew from expressing his opinions through platforms designed to ensure a minimum level of intellectual integrity. He began blogging and then started an enormously popular podcast, his principal medium for the past seven years. He stopped publishing peer-reviewed research papers. He opted not to submit articles to media outlets that imposed some editorial control over what they publish. Instead, he created a small media empire that enabled him to say whatever he wants, whether or not the message is misleading, the claims are factually erroneous, the reasoning is fallacious and so on. In other words, he figured out a way to bypass intellectual accountability — to opine as much as he wants about topics he doesn't understand without peer-review, editorial oversight or other quality-control measures.

Like Trump, Harris seems wholly uninterested in getting things right. He claims to care about intellectual honesty and good scholarship, yet he consistently spouts misinformation on his podcast that could easily be corrected if only he were to engage — sincerely, and in good faith — those who disagree with him (very often actual experts on the topics of racism, feminism, social justice and so on). Indeed, so far as I can tell, Harris has become one of the greatest sources of misinformation on social justice issues in the United States today. His contribution to scientific racism — his boosting the visibility of claims like Black people are almost certainly dumber than white people for genetic reasons — will no doubt be one of his greatest, and darkest, legacies.

Elon Musk unveils pig with computer chip in brain

Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk on Friday showcased pigs with computer chips in their brains during his unveiling of Neuralink, an upcoming technology aiming to bring symbiosis between artificial intelligence and the human brain.

The live showcase involved displaying real-time neural signals from one of the pigs, whom Musk named Gertrude, CNBC reported.

Musk said the process for installing a Neuralink in a human brain would be an hourlong operation that is no more invasive than LASIK eye surgery, inserting a coin-sized device into the skull that would leave a tiny scar after the electrodes are inserted in the brain.

He likened the technology to being essentially a "Fitbit in your skull."

Astronomers say they’ve detected the most massive merger of two black holes ever discovered

Astronomers may have detected the most massive collision of two black holes ever discovered, a chaotic merger that occurred some 7 billion years ago, the signs of which have only just reached us. The cataclysmic event offered researchers a front-row seat to the birth of one of the Universe’s most elusive objects.

The distant show included two major players: one black hole roughly 66 times the mass of our Sun, and another black hole roughly 85 times the mass of our Sun. The two came close together, rapidly spinning around one another several times per second before eventually crashing together in a violent burst of energy that sent shockwaves throughout the Universe. The result of their merger? One single black hole roughly 142 times the mass of our Sun.

Such a find could be a big one for astronomers. Up until now, scientists have been able to detect and indirectly observe black holes in two different size ranges. The smaller variety are between five and 100 times the mass of our Sun. On the other end of the spectrum, there are the supermassive black holes — the kinds at the centers of galaxies that are millions and billions of times our Sun’s mass. For ages, scientists have been trying to pinpoint the black holes in between, so-called “intermediate mass black holes” that range from 100 to 1,000 times the mass of the Sun. Astronomers were certain this kind must be out there but hadn’t been able to find any direct evidence of their existence. A few potential intermediate black holes have been spotted, but are still considered candidates.

NASA Is Tracking a Vast, Growing Anomaly in Earth's Magnetic Field

NASA is actively monitoring a strange anomaly in Earth's magnetic field: a giant region of lower magnetic intensity in the skies above the planet, stretching out between South America and southwest Africa.

This vast, developing phenomenon, called the South Atlantic Anomaly, has intrigued and concerned scientists for years, and perhaps none more so than NASA researchers. The space agency's satellites and spacecraft are particularly vulnerable to the weakened magnetic field strength within the anomaly, and the resulting exposure to charged particles from the Sun.

. . .

A study published last month suggested the phenomenon is not a freak event of recent times, but a recurrent magnetic event that may have affected Earth since as far back as 11 million years ago.

If so, that could signal that the South Atlantic Anomaly is not a trigger or precursor to the entire planet's magnetic field flipping, which is something that actually happens, if not for hundreds of thousands of years at a time.

Solar Energy Breakthrough Creates Electricity from Invisible Light

Two major breakthroughs in solar cell technology could vastly improve the way energy is harvested from the sun.

The two studies, published in Nature Energy and Nature Photonics, will transform the efficiency and significantly reduce the cost of producing solar cells, scientists say.

The first breakthrough involves “upconverting” low energy, non-visible light into high energy light in order to generate more electricity from the same amount of sunlight.

Researchers at RMIT University and UNSW University in Australia and the University of Kentucky in the US discovered that oxygen could be used to transfer low energy light into molecules that can be converted into electricity.

“The energy from the sun is not just visible light. The spectrum is broad, including infrared light which gives us heat and ultraviolet light which can burn our skin,” said Professor Tim Schmidt from UNSW Sydney.

‘Predator Priest’ Michael Zacharias Abused Boys in Ohio for Decades, Says FBI

A Catholic priest in Ohio was arrested Tuesday for child sex trafficking and is accused of grooming and abusing at least two victims since the '90s.

The FBI cuffed Michael Zacharias, 53, after morning Mass at St. Michael the Archangel in Findlay. The pastor is charged with coercion and enticement, sex trafficking of a minor, and sex trafficking of an adult by force, fraud, or coercion. According to the feds, Zacharias was taken into custody without incident at his residence.

Court filings describe how Zacharias preyed on two vulnerable boys and continued abusing them after they became adults by taking advantage of their struggles with addiction. One of the victim’s drug problems “stemmed from his confusion about his sexuality based on years of inappropriate touching by Zacharias,” an FBI agent noted in an affidavit.

Some evidence in the case even includes sickening videos Zacharias created with one of the victims, who kept the footage on a USB drive. “The great thing for you is that I actually paid you to make the videos and that you will one day ruin me with them and get rich,” Zacharias texted the victim in late July, according to an FBI affidavit.

Former Cardinal McCarrick accused of participating in beach house ‘sex ring,’ lawyers allege

He is known only as “Doe 14.”

Raised in a devout Catholic family, he attended St. Francis Xavier in Newark and Essex Catholic in East Orange in the Archdiocese of Newark, participating in church and youth activities.

And by the time he was a teenager, his lawyers say he was being groomed for a role in what they called a “sex ring” involving then-Bishop Theodore McCarrick, the 90-year-old now defrocked and disgraced former cardinal who was cast out of the ministry last year over decades-old sexual abuse allegations.

In a lawsuit, they charged other priests served as “procurers” to bring victims to McCarrick at his beach house on the Jersey Shore, where he “assigned sleeping arrangements, choosing his victims from the boys, seminarians and clerics present at the beach house,” and that they were paired with adult clerics.

Ancient city discovered deep in Amazonian rainforest linked to the legendary white-skinned Cloud People of Peru

A lost city discovered deep in the Amazon rainforest could unlock the secrets of a legendary tribe. Little is known about the Cloud People of Peru, an ancient, white-skinned civilization wiped out by disease and war in the 16th century.

But now archaeologists have uncovered a fortified citadel in a remote mountainous area of Peru known for its isolated natural beauty. It is thought this settlement may finally help historians unlock the secrets of the ‘white warriors of the clouds’.

The tribe had white skin and blonde hair – features that intrigue historians, as there is no known European ancestry in the region, where most inhabitants are darker-skinned.

The citadel is tucked away in one of the most far-flung areas of the Amazon. It sits at the edge of a chasm which the tribe may have used as a lookout to spy on enemies.

Archaeologists find 1,000-year-old Christian jewellery mould

An archaeological dig beside a former prison in the southeast Swiss canton of Graubünden has unearthed a 1,000-year-old mould that was used to forge Christian-themed jewellery.

The concrete mould, which measures 9 x 8.5 x 3 centimetres, would have been used to forge up to seven different types of objects including earrings and a crucifix.

Experts from Graubünden’s archaeological services said on Tuesday that they reckoned the object dated from sometime between the 9th and 11th centuries.

The find is a rare one not only in canton Graubünden, but across the whole of Switzerland; such objects had previously been found only in Bern, Basel, and Winterthur.

Mathematician predicted violent upheaval in 2020 all the way back in 2012

In 2012, University of Connecticut ecologist, evolutionary biologist and mathematician Peter Turchin made a bold prediction: The United States was on track for a chaotic, violent 2020.

Well, here we are.

The year so far has been full of "upheaval" events, from a pandemic that seems to be further polarizing Americans along party lines, to the police killing of George Floyd and other Black individuals, which have led to Black Lives Matter protests worldwide and riots in some cities.

Turchin wasn't just spitballing when he foresaw trouble in the 2020s. In his 2012 article, published in the Journal of Peace Research, he analyzed political violence, including riots, lynchings and terrorism, in the United States between 1780 and 2010. He found two patterns: First, a long trend of peace followed by rising violence that seems to span about 200 or 300 years, marked in this case by relative peace in the early 1800s, major upheaval in the mid- to late-1800s, and then peace again in the mid-1900s. Superimposed upon this long-term curve were oscillations that seemed to repeat approximately every 50 years. Violence peaked around 1870, 1920 and 1970. Extrapolate another 50 years and you land right smack on 2020.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Opinions and ideas expressed in the comments on this page
belong the people who stated them. Management takes no
editorial responsibility for the content of public comments.