Sep 30, 2022


‘The Daily Show’ and William Shatner Join Forces to Expose Elon Musk

“What do you think of when you think of the future?” actor William Shatner asks at the top of this exclusive segment from Tuesday night’s episode as images of rockets, robots and “cybertrucks” appear on the screen.

Over the next several minutes, Shatner helps make the case that Musk might actually be the “supervillain” his biggest detractors fear him to be. The piece traces the Tesla “Technoking’s” origin story as a young kid who “overcame many hardships, although unlike other South African celebrities, he didn’t make his childhood into a whole thing,” referring to Trevor Noah’s backstory.

“Like so many tech entrepreneurs, he earned his unimaginable wealth by doing something invaluable for society,” Shatner says dryly. “Selling a start-up you’ve never heard of to a company that doesn’t exist anymore.”

The narrator goes on to mock Musk for having a “mid-life crisis” in his twenties by crashing his million-dollar “supercar” and starting a record label to release his own EDM track. “A banger all the more impressive considering Musk had clearly never heard music before,” he says. “Yes, Elon Musk refuses to stay in his lane, much like a Tesla on auto-pilot.”

Astronomers may have seen a star gulp down a black hole and explode

For the first time, astronomers have captured solid evidence of a rare double cosmic cannibalism — a star swallowing a compact object such as a black hole or neutron star. In turn, that object gobbled the star’s core, causing it to explode and leave behind only a black hole.

The first hints of the gruesome event, described in the Sept. 3 Science, came from the Very Large Array (VLA), a radio telescope consisting of 27 enormous dishes in the New Mexican desert near Socorro. During the observatory’s scans of the night sky in 2017, a burst of radio energy as bright as the brightest exploding star — or supernova — as seen from Earth appeared in a dwarf star–forming galaxy approximately 500 million light-years away.

. . .

Piecing the data together, [astronomer Dillon] Dong and his colleagues think this is what happened: Long ago, a binary pair of stars were born orbiting each other; one died in a spectacular supernova and became either a neutron star or a black hole. As gravity brought the two objects closer together, the dead star actually entered the outer layers of its larger stellar sibling.

The compact object spiraled inside the still-living star for hundreds of years, eventually making its way down to and then eating its partner’s core. During this time, the larger star shed huge amounts of gas and dust, forming a shell of material around the duo.

JWST’s First Glimpses of Early Galaxies Could Break Cosmology

Rohan Naidu was at home with his girlfriend when he found the galaxy that nearly broke cosmology. As his algorithm dug through early images from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) late one night this past July, Naidu shot to attention. It had sifted out an object that Naidu recognized was inexplicably massive and dated back to just 300 million years after the big bang, making it older than any galaxy ever seen before. “I called my girlfriend over right away,” Naidu says. “I told her, ‘This might be the most distant starlight we’ve ever seen.’” After exchanging excited messages with one of his collaborators “with lots of exclamation marks,” Naidu got to work. Days later they published a paper on the candidate galaxy, which they dubbed “GLASS-z13.” The Internet exploded. “It reverberated around the world,” Naidu says.

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Such observations were supposed to take time; initial projections estimated the first galaxies would be so small and faint that JWST would find at best a few intriguingly remote candidates in its pilot investigations. Things didn’t quite go as planned. Instead, as soon as the telescope’s scientists released its very first images of the distant universe, astronomers such as Naidu (at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) started finding numerous galaxies within them that, in apparent age, size and luminosity, surpassed all predictions. The competition for discovery was fierce: with each new day, it seemed, claims of yet another record-breaking “earliest-known galaxy” emerged from one research group or another. “Everyone was freaking out,” says Charlotte Mason, an astrophysicist at the University of Copenhagen. “We really weren’t expecting this.”

In the weeks and months following JWST’s findings of surprisingly mature “early” galaxies, theorists and observers have been scrambling to explain them. Could the bevy of anomalously big and bright early galaxies be illusory, perhaps because of flaws in analysis of the telescope’s initial observations? If genuine, could they somehow be explained by standard cosmological models? Or, just maybe, were they the first hints that the universe is more strange and complex than even our boldest theories had supposed?

Zoonotic diseases like COVID-19 and monkeypox will become more common, experts say

Cases of monkeypox are on the rise in the U.S., with about 67,600 global cases, including about 25,500 in the U.S. Simultaneously, the world is still facing a COVID-19 pandemic, despite the number of cases tapering off.

Researchers say these types of viruses, known as zoonotic diseases, or ones that spread between humans and animals, will become increasingly commonplace as factors such as the destruction of animal habitats and human expansion into previously uninhabited areas intensify.

. . .

Elements such as deforestation, population growth and animal breeding have removed the boundaries between where humans and wild animals live, bringing them into closer contact.

Since 1990, about 1 billion acres of forest have been cleared. Deforestation rates have been decreasing, with an average of 25 million acres being cleared each year from 2015 to 2020, down from about 16 million per year in the 1990s, according to a United Nations report.

Besides the impact on the climate, deforestation means a loss of habitat that often ends up driving wildlife nearer to people.

Chernobyl black frogs reveal evolution in action

The accident at reactor four of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in 1986 generated the largest release of radioactive material into the environment in human history. The impact of the acute exposure to high doses of radiation was severe for the environment and the human population. But more than three decades after the accident, Chernobyl has become one of the largest nature reserves in Europe. A diverse range of endangered species finds refuge there today, including bears, wolves, and lynxes.

Radiation can damage the genetic material of living organisms and generate undesirable mutations. However, one of the most interesting research topics in Chernobyl is trying to detect if some species are actually adapting to live with radiation. As with other pollutants, radiation could be a very strong selective factor, favoring organisms with mechanisms that increase their survival in areas contaminated with radioactive substances.

. . .

The results of our study suggest that Chernobyl frogs could have undergone a process of rapid evolution in response to radiation. In this scenario, those frogs with darker coloration at the time of the accident, which normally represent a minority in their populations, would have been favored by the protective action of melanin.

The dark frogs would have survived the radiation better and reproduced more successfully. More than ten generations of frogs have passed since the accident and a classic, although very fast, process of natural selection may explain why these dark frogs are now the dominant type for the species within the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.

The number of ants on Earth has a mass greater than all birds and mammals combined

For every human on Earth, there are estimated to be about 2.5 million ants — or 20 quadrillion in total.

A new study published by researchers at both the University of Hong Kong and University of Würzburg in Germany attempts to count the total number of ground-dwelling and tree-dwelling ants. The final figure is equal to 1 trillion times 20,000, and the insects' total mass exceeds that of all birds and mammals combined, and makes up about a fifth of humans' total biomass.

And that's just a conservative estimate.

"Knowledge on the distribution and abundance of organisms is fundamental to understanding their roles within ecosystems and their ecological importance for other taxa," the study says. "Such knowledge is currently lacking for insects, which have long been regarded as the "little things that run the world."

America's Christian majority is on track to end

Christianity remains the majority religion in the United States, as it has been since the country's founding, but it's on the decline.

A new study from the Pew Research Center shows that America's Christian majority has been shrinking for years, and if recent trends continue, Christians could make up less than half the U.S. population within a few decades.

The study found that Christians accounted for about 90% of the population 50 years ago, but as of 2020 that figure had slumped to about 64%.

"If recent trends in switching [changing one's religious affiliation] hold, we projected that Christians could make up between 35% and 46% of the U.S. population in 2070," said Stephanie Kramer, the senior researcher who led the study.

Understanding the Southern Baptist scandal: For evangelicals, women can't say no

The Southern Baptist Conference is under investigation by the Department of Justice due to numerous claims of egregious sexual abuse and sexual harassment within the denomination. Perhaps people wonder why there is such an overabundance of sexual misconduct of various kinds within evangelical circles. The truth is that many believers in Christ have struggled with what was right and wrong in regardsto their genitalia. Is the creator of the universe worried about our private areas? For most conservative evangelical Christians, it is apparently all God thinks about. As an ordained and evangelically trained minister, I tend to disagree.

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. — Ephesians 5

I can barely get through one week of evangelical radio where this scripture is not discussed. It is one of the evangelical community's favorites, and one believers often refer to when they discuss the downfall of American society. They contend that it all went to hell (almost literally) when women decided to be equal to men in the home. Then came Gloria Steinem, Geraldine Ferraro and eventually the ultimate devil herself, Hillary Clinton. These women represented the end of the American family and then the end of God's influence upon American society.

Satanic Temple suing Indiana over state’s near-total abortion ban

The Satanic Temple is challenging Indiana’s near-total abortion ban with a lawsuit that takes aim at Senate Enrolled Act 1 and claims the ban infringes on their followers’ religious rights and violates the U.S. Constitution.

GOP Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb and state Attorney General Todd Rokita are named as defendants in the lawsuit.

The Satanic Temple — based out of Salem, Mass. — boasts 1.5 million members worldwide, including 11,300 members in Indiana.

Despite often being confused with the Church of Satan or Satan worship, the Satanic Temple doesn’t believe in or worship the Biblical Satan. Instead, it venerates “the allegorical Satan described in the epic poem Paradise Lost — the defender of personal sovereignty against the dictates of religious authority.”

How Scientology Protected Tom Cruise and John Travolta—and Banished Nicole Kidman

Mike Rinder served as a senior executive within the Church of Scientology from 1982-2007, both on the board of directors and as head of their Office of Special Affairs, lording over the cult-like religion’s public image. He often acted as the public face of Scientology, speaking to the media and putting out PR fires.

. . .

With Tom as Miscavige’s most important asset, the actor’s concerns became Scientology’s concerns. When Cruise became aware of an unauthorized biography by British author Wensley Clarkson, Miscavige told Cruise, “I will take care of this for you.” I was dispatched to London with Scientology in-house lawyer Bill Drescher to deal with the publisher and make sure nothing negative appeared in the book. Yes, a church lawyer and the head of the Office of Special Affairs were acting on behalf of Tom Cruise, paid for by the Church of Scientology. With a lot of persistence and veiled threats, we persuaded the publisher to allow us to “review and correct” anything related to Scientology in the manuscript. We went to the Blake Publishing offices in West London and collected a copy of the manuscript from the editor. We took it back to our room at the Savoy hotel and spent two days cleansing it of anything negative in return for a promise not to sue. In truth, the book didn’t reveal anything new, but it did contain some of what we considered the usual “inaccuracies” about Scientology—calling the E-Meter a lie detector and saying that Scientologists believe in aliens and that it costs a lot of money. In the overall scheme of things, had we done nothing to the manuscript, it would have made no difference to Scientology or Cruise, but it was another “see what I can do for you” feather in Miscavige’s cap with Cruise.

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While Marty was dealing with Cruise, I was tasked with the job of helping John Travolta with some public relations issues. Since the beginning of the ’90s, Travolta had been hounded by stories from various alleged male lovers, including one of his former pilots as well as a porn star. I met with John and his attorney, Jay Lavely, to help navigate these land mines. The National Enquirer reached out to Travolta and the church for responses. Realizing the potential PR damage a story of gay sex would have on the perfect Scientology couple of John and Kelly, we dug up dirt on the sources of the stories and threatened the media with lawsuits. The stories were shut down, and I became a trusted person in John’s life. Similar claims have continued to pop up over the years and they have been denied by Travolta or shut down. Gay allegations are land mines for Scientology. Scientology publicly claims it is not anti-gay (despite Hubbard’s writings to the contrary), yet the threat of a story describing a Scientologist as gay would cause panic internally because for a Scientologist, not being “cured” of homosexuality would indicate that the tech doesn’t work.

Family, former followers, claim food truck finances a Minnetonka cult

The Bad Rooster food truck claims with a wink to be "bad to the bone."

Its co-owner, and self-proclaimed "Chief Mother Clucker," is Soulaire Allerai, 65, of Minnetonka.

Witty puns notwithstanding, Bad Rooster and Allerai filed a lawsuit against two sisters for defamation and civil conspiracy after the sisters claimed the food truck is financing a cult that has deprived them of their mother.

The sisters — Kelly Abedi and Angela Hummelgard — said they’ve rarely spoken to their mother, Mary Ring, 70, since 2007 when she joined a New Age-style group called Soulful Journey, which is led by Allerai.

"We’ve been dealing with this for 15 years, I don’t know why we’ve been quiet about this," said Abedi, who was also a follower of Soulful Journey for a year when she was a teenager.

Within a year of joining the group, Ring was divorcing her husband and leaving her old life behind, her daughters said.

Search for missing Native artifacts led to the discovery of bodies stored in ‘the most inhumane way possible’

Last winter, University of North Dakota English professor Crystal Alberts started searching for a missing pipe, a headdress and moccasins once on display at the school’s library, heading deep into the recesses of the nearly 140-year-old campus.

. . .

She called Laine Lyons, a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians who works for the UND Alumni Association and Foundation, and asked for help.

Lyons met with Alberts to offer advice on how to respectfully handle the items, watching as Alberts and her colleagues opened box after box. Lyons said she now feels naive thinking back on it, but she never expected what they found: more than 70 samples of human remains, many of them in boxes with no identifying information.

. . .

Since the passage of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) in 1990, federal law has required institutions that receive federal funding to catalog their collections with the National Parks Service and work toward returning them to the tribal nations they were taken from. But the University of North Dakota has no entries in the federal inventory, even though its administrators acknowledge it has possessed Indigenous artifacts since its inception in 1883.

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