Oct 30, 2022


William Shatner experienced profound grief in space. It was the 'overview effect'

"I was crying," Shatner told NPR. "I didn't know what I was crying about. I had to go off some place and sit down and think, what's the matter with me? And I realized I was in grief."

While he wasn't sure what to expect, Shatner did not predict this. He had been excited to travel to space, and had thought about it for nearly 60 years, but didn't think he'd be overwhelmed with sadness, or that he'd go through "the strongest feelings of grief" that he's ever experienced.

There's a name for what Shatner felt: it's called the "overview effect." The term was coined by space philosopher Frank White in his 1987 book of the same name.

"The overview effect is a cognitive and emotional shift in a person's awareness, their consciousness and their identity when they see the Earth from space," White told NPR. "They're at a distance and they're seeing the Earth ... in the context of the universe."

A gamma ray burst — possibly the brightest of all time — sweeps over Earth

On Sunday a gamma-ray burst (GRB), the most powerful class of explosions in the universe, caused a wave of gamma rays and X-rays to sweep over Earth. It was also possibly the brightest explosion of its nature ever recorded. The event was reported in the Astronomers Telegram.

In a breathless press release, NASA emphasized that their detectors all over the planet picked up on this, including NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory, and the Wind spacecraft.

Gamma-ray bursts are some of the most powerful releases of energy in the universe. Their causes may vary slightly, but typically relate to black holes. Some may be caused when merging neutron stars create a black hole, or when a neutron star and a black hole merge. Because they are so energetic, even a gamma-ray burst that originates on the other side of the universe will often be detectable by astronomers on Earth.

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However, a sufficiently large gamma-ray burst could theoretically strip the planet of its atmosphere and cause a mass extinction event. Indeed, it is widely believes that a gamma-ray burst caused the Ordovician extinction roughly 443 million years ago. Fortunately for contemporary humans, no GRBs in recent memory have been close enough to Earth to have that effect. Approximately 30 percent of them are short bursts that span only a couple seconds, while the bulk of the rest usually only last for a few minutes.

The Universe Is Not Locally Real, and the Physics Nobel Prize Winners Proved It

One of the more unsettling discoveries in the past half century is that the universe is not locally real. “Real,” meaning that objects have definite properties independent of observation—an apple can be red even when no one is looking; “local” means objects can only be influenced by their surroundings, and that any influence cannot travel faster than light. Investigations at the frontiers of quantum physics have found that these things cannot both be true. Instead, the evidence shows objects are not influenced solely by their surroundings and they may also lack definite properties prior to measurement. As Albert Einstein famously bemoaned to a friend, “Do you really believe the moon is not there when you are not looking at it?”

This is, of course, deeply contrary to our everyday experiences. To paraphrase Douglas Adams, the demise of local realism has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.

Blame for this achievement has now been laid squarely on the shoulders of three physicists: John Clauser, Alain Aspect and Anton Zeilinger. They equally split the 2022 Nobel Prize in Physics “for experiments with entangled photons, establishing the violation of Bell inequalities and pioneering quantum information science.” (“Bell inequalities” refers to the pioneering work of the Northern Irish physicist John Stewart Bell, who laid the foundations for this year’s Physics Nobel in the early 1960s.) Colleagues agreed that the trio had it coming, deserving this reckoning for overthrowing reality as we know it. “It is fantastic news. It was long overdue,” says Sandu Popescu, a quantum physicist at the University of Bristol. “Without any doubt, the prize is well-deserved.”

“The experiments beginning with the earliest one of Clauser and continuing along, show that this stuff isn’t just philosophical, it’s real—and like other real things, potentially useful,” says Charles Bennett, an eminent quantum researcher at IBM.

The Mediterranean Sea Is So Hot, It’s Fizzing Carbon Dioxide

If you stand on the coast of Israel and gaze out across the Mediterranean Sea, you’ll spy deep-blue, calm waters that have sustained humans for millennia. Beneath the surface, though, something odd is unfolding: A process called stratification is messing with the way the sea processes carbon dioxide.

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In these hot, shallow, stable waters, the fluid on top doesn’t mix much with the underlying colder layers, in contrast to deeper parts of the ocean, where upwelling brings up cooler H2O. “The conditions are so extreme that we can definitely generate calcium carbonate chemically from these waters, which was kind of a shock for us,” says Bialik, who coauthored a recent paper describing the discovery in the journal Scientific Reports. (He did the research while at the University of Malta and University of Haifa.) “It’s basically like a beaker that sits there for a very long time, and it’s long enough to get these reactions going and start generating these crystals.”

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As the sea warms up and loses its CO2, both from the water belching it up and from the proliferating crystals, its acidity actually goes down. This is the opposite process from the one that’s causing widespread ocean acidification: As humans spew more CO2 into the atmosphere, the oceans absorb more of it, and the ensuing chemical reaction raises acidity. Acidification makes it harder for organisms like corals and snails (which are known collectively as calcifiers), to build shells or exoskeletons out of calcium carbonate. But as the Mediterranean warms and releases its absorbed carbon back into the atmosphere, it gets more basic, reversing that acidification.

Our Homo sapiens ancestors shared the world with Neanderthals, Denisovans and other types of humans whose DNA lives on in our genes

When the first modern humans arose in East Africa sometime between 200,000 and 300,000 years ago, the world was very different compared to today. Perhaps the biggest difference was that we – meaning people of our species, Homo sapiens – were only one of several types of humans (or hominins) that simultaneously existed on Earth.

From the well-known Neanderthals and more enigmatic Denisovans in Eurasia, to the diminutive “hobbit” Homo floresiensis on the island of Flores in Indonesia, to Homo naledi that lived in South Africa, multiple hominins abounded.

Then, between 30,000 and 40,000 years ago, all but one type of these hominins disappeared, and for the first time we were alone.

Until recently, one of the mysteries about human history was whether our ancestors interacted and mated with these other types of humans before they went extinct. This fascinating question was the subject of great and often contentious debates among scientists for decades, because the data needed to answer this question simply didn’t exist. In fact, it seemed to many that the data would never exist.

Competitors’ Bots Outshine Musk’s Own at Tesla A.I. Day

Elon Musk kicked off Tesla’s second annual AI Day by bringing out two humanoid robots, prototypes of its “Optimus” bot that the company will aim to mass manufacture in 3-5 years.

First, a barebones experimental test robot took a few steps; then, a model that Musk said would be “fairly close” to what will go into production slowly waved as several employees futzed with its base and body. On stage, Musk predicted that the company will make millions of Optimus bots and sell them at under $20,000 a pop.

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A worthy aspiration, except it already exists.

According to Reuters, Toyota and Honda have both developed humanoid robots that perform complicated actions like shooting a basketball, and Hyundai-owned Boston Dynamics makes a humanoid robot that can even do backflips and parkour. Musk argued that Optimus’ price point and reliance on the technology that powers Tesla vehicles’ driver’s assistance system will give it a boost over these existing models.

Danny Masterson's Defense Is Desperate to Keep Scientology Out of Rape Trial

Predictably, the defense team of accused rapist, That ‘70s Show star, and Scientologist Danny Masterson is actively fighting tooth and nail for the S-word (SCIENTOLOGY!) to be kept out of the rape trial—and their increasingly futile attempts at doing so are utterly absurd. Given that each of Masterson’s accusers have repeatedly alleged that the infamous institution kept them from coming forward, the Church of Scientology is inextricable from the trial.

This week, following emotional opening statements, Phillip Cohen, Masterson’s attorney, requested a mistrial, as he was dissatisfied with how many times Scientology had already been mentioned. Judge Charlaine Olmedo quickly denied that request, after Cohen argued that he possessed “no understanding of the nexus or purpose” of the institution’s policies being mentioned in court. Masterson has pleaded not guilty and vehemently denied all allegations.

You might remember that Cohen recently attempted to prolong the rape trial—after a series of delays—arguing that the anti-Scientology sentiments voiced in the Los Angeles mayoral race were “inflammatory” and would inevitably impact its outcome. Cohen then went so far as to discourage Olmedo from even mentioning Scientology at all during the proceedings.“The word ‘Scientology’ never needs to come up,” he said. “If something needs to come up, it can be called ‘the church,’ ‘the organization,’ ‘a club.’”

Mike Rinder Tells Court Paul Haggis Among Scientology’s 3 Biggest Enemies

Prominent Scientology whistleblower Mike Rinder told a New York jury Friday how the Million Dollar Baby writer emerged as one of the Church of Scientology’s top-three public enemies following his public defection in 2009.

Rinder testified Friday at the trial of director Paul Haggis, who’s on trial for allegedly sexually assaulting a publicist in 2013.

The Crash writer—and fellow former Scientologist—who’s accused of raping and forcing oral sex on ex-publicist Haleigh Breest at his New York SoHo loft following a movie premiere in 2013, has long-accused the church of fabricating the accusations in retaliation for publicly renouncing the controversial religion in 2009.

Rinder, 67, took the stand inside a New York State Supreme Court shortly before 4 p.m. Friday and fielded a variety of questions from Haggis’ legal team about his immersion into—and “escape”—from Scientology, as well as a range of controversial practices the church allegedly employs.

'Pool Boy' Giancarlo Granda Claims Jerry Falwell Jr. Filmed Him Having Sex with Wife in 'God Forbid' Trailer

It was in 2012 while visiting the Fontainebleau hotel in Miami, that the Falwells met then-20-year-old Granda, who began a sexual relationship with Becki. She opened up about the affair in a January 2022 interview with Vanity Fair.

Granda previously told Reuters that he had an affair with Becki while Falwell Jr. watched. Both Falwell Jr. and Becki have denied his involvement and accused Granda of trying to blackmail them, which he has denied.

In the trailer, Granda alleged that Falwell Jr. "liked to record his wife having sex with me."

"I know the truth about them, and the whole world is going to find out," he said.

When reached for comment by PEOPLE about the allegation made by Granda in the documentary, Becki said, "This is not correct." She went on to reference comments she made in a January interview with Vanity Fair, in which she admitted to making sex tapes with Granda. ("I had a big Canon camera. A couple of times I put it on the dresser and Giancarlo agreed to it," Becki told the outlet.)

Ex-Las Vegas school teacher accused of sexually assaulting student said ‘God made him that way’: police

A former Las Vegas private school teacher accused of sexually assaulting a student multiple times allegedly told her that he was doing it because he loved her and because “God made him that way,” documents said.

David Pendley is facing a total of 12 counts of sexual conduct between a school employee and pupil, documents showed.

In December 2021, the victim reported to police that she had been sexually assaulted by a teacher at Faith Lutheran, a private Christian school, while she was a senior.

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At one point, Pendley allegedly told the victim that “the reason he was often sexual with her because his heart is connected to his penis, and when he loves someone, his penis gets erect,” adding that “God made him that way,” documents said.

New legal challenges to Florida's abortion law could be groundbreaking

In April, Florida enacted a law that sharply restricted abortion access in the state and banned most abortions after 15 weeks. That law, known as HB 5, is now encountering some exciting and innovative legal opposition, not only from groups that fight for civil liberties and reproductive freedoms, but from religious groups as well. The challenges in Florida — and somewhat similar ones in Kentucky and Indiana — may signal subtle but significant shifts in how activists across the country are contesting a recent string of conservative Christian legislative triumphs.

Even if these cases don’t immediately succeed, the plaintiffs are helping to transform the debate on the meaning of secularism in America by exposing a false division between “religious” and “secular” citizens. Ideally, these interventions will foster a much more sophisticated political dialogue about the promise of secular governance. For at some point these cases are going to force a district or circuit court judge, or maybe even a gaggle of United States Supreme Court justices, to confront some of the neon-light-blinking religious inequalities that HB 5 and similar laws create.

The reality is that abortion restrictions don’t just infringe on the rights of secular people — they also suppress the rights of many religious people outside the Christian right.

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The Rev. Tom Capo of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Miami, whose motion now rests with Florida’s 11th Judicial Circuit, has skillfully pointed out that HB 5 fails “to account for the diverse religious views of many Floridians. . . whose faith leads them to take a very different view of when life begins and to counsel abortion.” Capo’s motion argues that the state’s legislation favors a particular Christian theology, and that this act of non-neutrality violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment, which prohibits Congress from establishing a religion. (As if to prove how little he cared about the optics of neutrality, Gov. Ron DeSantis owned the libs yet again by signing the bill into law at a conservative, Spanish-language church.) Second, it contends that HB 5 trespasses upon the religious free exercise of those citizens who don’t abide by conservative Christian worldviews.

Abstract painting has been hanging wrong way in museums for 75 years

A famous abstract painting by the Dutch artist Piet Mondrian has been hanging upside down in museums for more than 75 years — after it was first displayed the wrong way at the Big Apple’s MoMA, an art historian revealed this week.

The lattice-style 1941 piece, titled “New York City I,” features multicolored tape thickening at the bottom of the canvas — however the thicker tape should really be at the top, German museum curator Susanne Meyer-Büser said Thursday, according to The Guardian.

“I am 100% certain the picture is the wrong way around,” said Meyer-Büser of the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen museum in Düsseldorf. “The thickening of the grid should be at the top, like a dark sky.”

Meyer-Büser was researching the painting for the museum’s new exhibit “Mondrian Evolution,” when she found a photo of the painting correctly hung in the artist’s studio in 1944, she said.

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