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  • Centauri Dreams considers the idea of uploading a digital "Golden Record" into the memory of New Horizons.

  • Crooked Timber takes a look at American legal writer (and judge) Richard Posner's embrace of pragmatism. What does it mean?

  • D-Brief notes the rapid melting of the glaciers that feed the major rivers of Asia.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper considering ways to detect planets in orbit of red giants.

  • The LRB Blog considers the potential for political tumult in Saudi Arabia, in the wake of arrests and rumours.

  • The Map Room Blog links to a new gravity map of Mars, revealing the crust of that world to be less dense and more variable than thought.

  • The NYR Daily looks at the South China Sea dispute in the wake of Indonesia's newly restated claims.

  • Roads and Kingdoms looks at Philadelphia's seasonal cookie--spiced wafer--wars.

  • Drew Rowsome is a big fan of the movie adaptation of It.

  • Window on Eurasia suggests that, for want of better options, the Donbas republics' people might return to Ukraine.

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  • The Dragon's Gaze looks at what, exactly, is going on at Boyajian's Star. Does KIC 8462852 have a large ringed exoplanet with Trojans?

  • The Frailest Thing considers modernity as something that has its own sort of enchantments.

  • Language Hat examines how Arkansaw was mutated into Arkansas.

  • Language Log looks at the etymology for "coral reef" in Chinese.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes Krugman's subtweet.

  • Neuroskeptic considers ketamine as an anti-depressant.

  • Torontoist describes two local startups, Partial and Wandervoic, that are trying to connect local artists with non-traditional art buyers.

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  • blogTO notes the continued rise in rental prices for apartments.

  • Centauri Dreams looks at a time in the Earth's history when there was a lot of atmospheric oxygen but not much life.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper suggesting there is an authentic lack of gas giant planets beyond 10 AU.

  • Itching for Eestimaa notes the British politicians who favoured the recognition of the Soviet annexation of the Baltics, and notes that those imperialist times of old are back.

  • The Map Room Blog notes that Trump voters tend to prefer Duck Dynasty and Clinton voters preferred Family Guy.

  • Marginal Revolution notes California's ban on funding travel to jurisdictions which discriminate against people on grounds of sexual orientation or gender.

  • Peter Watts describes a trip on hallucinogens.

  • The NYRB Daily shares Masha Gessen's concerns about the threat of moral authority.

  • Spacing links to some article about improving bike infrastructure.

  • Window on Eurasia warns of a new consolidation of Russian federal units.

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  • The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly calls on journalists to stand up to Trump.

  • Centauri Dreams looks at exocomets.

  • Language Log shares an ad from the 1920s using the most vintage language imaginable.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money talks about globalization as a mechanism for concentrating wealth at the top of the elite.

  • The LRB Blog talks about the ghosts of the Cold War in the contemporary world.

  • Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen argues that Germany has its own responsibility in transatlantic relations.

  • The New APPS Blog looks at the importance of administrative law.

  • The NYRB Daily celebrates John Berger.

  • Savage Minds proposes a read-in of Michel Foucault in protest of Trump's inauguration on the 20th.

  • Towleroad reports on the latest statistics on the proportions of LGBT people in the United States.

  • Window on Eurasia looks at the continuing depopulation of the Russian Far East and examines the shift to indigenous naming practices in Kyrgyzstan.

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  • Bad Astronomy's Phil Plait shares a video showing how tacos are made in space.

  • blogTO shares some classic photos of the TTC in the 1960s and 1970s.

  • The Crux goes into more detail about the mesentery.

  • D-Brief notes how the binary star KIC 9832227 is projected to experience a stellar merger in 2022.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to one paper suggesting that exoplanets and brown dwarfs are as common around A and F stars as around dimmer Sun-like stars, and links to another paper examining the potential of detecting transits of exoplanets orbiting brown dwarfs.

  • The Dragon's Tales links to an article wondering if China's seizure of a US navy drone could set a precedent for satellite seizures.

  • Language Log links to Yiyun Lee's article about abandoning Chinese for English.

  • The LRB Blog remembers philosopher Derek Parfit.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer looks at the recent riots in Mexico, caused by rising gas prices.

  • Strange Maps shares informative maps exploring the Netherlands' internal distinctions.

  • Window on Eurasia looks at how the Russian language has multiple standards despite Russian official claims, and shares complaints about Kaliningrad's vulnerability.

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Over at his blog The Frailest Thing, Michael Sacasas has reposted a thought-provoking essay. What will it mean for us if the things that we want require significant change on our part, indeed demand significant change?

It is perhaps a symptom of our disorder that we seem to believe that all can be made well merely by our making a few better choices along the way. Rarely do we imagine that what might be involved in the realization of our ideals is something more radical and more costly. It is easier for us to pretend that all that is necessary are a few simple tweaks and minor adjustments to how we already conduct our lives, nothing that will makes us too uncomfortable. If and when it becomes impossible to sustain that fiction, we take comfort in fatalism: nothing can ever change, really, and so it is not worth trying to change anything at all.

What is often the case, however, is that we have not been honest with ourselves about what it is that we truly value. Perhaps an example will help. My wife and I frequently discuss what, for lack of a better way of putting it, I’ll call the ethics of eating. I will not claim to have thought very deeply, yet, about all of the related issues, but I can say that we care about what has been involved in getting food to our table. We care about the labor involved, the treatment of animals, and the use of natural resources. We care, as well, about the quality of the food and about the cultural practices of cooking and eating. I realize, of course, that it is rather fashionable to care about such things, and I can only hope that our caring is not merely a matter of fashion. I do not think it is.

But it is another thing altogether for us to consider how much we really care about these things. Acting on principle in this arena is not without its costs. Do we care enough to bear those costs? Do we care enough to invest the time necessary to understand all the relevant complex considerations? Are we prepared to spend more money? Are we willing to sacrifice convenience? And then it hits me that what we are talking about is not simply making a different consumer choice here and there. If we really care about the things we say we care about, then we are talking about changing the way we live our lives.
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  • Beyond the Beyond notes an upcoming exhibition of photos of Vaclav Havel.

  • blogTO notes a local controversy over the demolition of a community-built skate park.

  • Centauri Dreams considers how advanced starfaring civilizations might deal with existential threats.

  • Crooked Timber looks at how presidential debates could be used to teach logic.

  • Language Hat examines the origins of the evocative Slavic phrase "they perished like Avars."

  • Language Log notes how "Molotov cocktail" was confused by a Trump manager with "Mazel tov cocktail".

  • The LRB Blog notes Brexit-related insecurity over the rule of law in the United Kingdom.

  • The Map Room Blog notes an exhibition in Maine of Acadian-related maps.

  • Marginal Revolution looks at how the Hong Kong press has been influenced by advertisers.

  • The NYRB Daily looks an exhibition of abstract expressionism.

  • The Planetary Society Blog looks at what we can learn from Rosetta.

  • Savage Minds considers the place of archeology in anthropology.

  • Window on Eurasia looks at Belarus' commemoration of the Bolshevik Revolution and considers the dispute in Kazakhstan as to whether the country should be known as Qazaqstan.

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  • blogTO notes that 1975 was a formative year for Toronto.

  • Centauri Dreams speculates about the oceans of Pluto and Saturn's Dione.

  • Crooked Timber talks about Hannah Arendt's arguments about the importance of bearing testament.

  • D-Brief looks at the cnyodont, an extinct reptile ancestral to mammals.

  • Dangerous Minds shares photos of Patti Smith.

  • The Dragon's Gaze suggests that K-class dwarf stars are best for life.

  • Language Log looks at a merging of Wu and Mandarin Chinese on signage.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money reports on how supply chains can hide corporations from responsibility.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes an American court ruling to the effect that barring Syrian refugees is unconstitutional discrimination.

  • Window on Eurasia reports on collapsing life expectancy in many Russian regions, looks at Russia's withdrawal from the plutonium agreement with the United States, and criticizes American policy towards Belarus and Lukashenka.

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Neuroskeptic provides an astonishing example of how some scholars were able to get away very lightly with apparently plagiarizing a blog post about Bitcoin, because it was a blog post.

Retraction Watch reports on a strange case of alleged plagiarism.

In February 2016, F1000Research published a paper called How blockchain-timestamped protocols could improve the trustworthiness of medical science. The authors, Greg Irving and John Holden, demonstrated the use of the bitcoin blockchain as a way of publicly verifying the existence of a certain document at a certain point in time. This approach, they say, could be used to make preregistered research protocols more secure. A problem with preregistration is that it requires a trusted central authority to securely store the protocols. To overcome this, Irving and Holden suggested using the distributed bitcoin network to timestamp documents.

The method involves hashing the document containing the protocol, and then using the hash value as a password (private key) to create a new bitcoin account. By transferring a nominal sum of bitcoins into the new account, a permanent data trail is created, all across the worldwide bitcoin network, which anyone can later use to verify that the hash value was used on the network at that particular time. Because the hash value is unique to a particular document (even a change of one character would totally change the hash), this serves as a tamper-proof way of verifying preregistration.

It’s a clever idea – repurposing the bitcoin network to help make science more rigorous. But it turns out that it wasn’t Irving and Holden’s idea. Back in August 2014, a blogger called Benjamin Gregory Carlisle wrote a post called Proof of prespecified endpoints in medical research with the bitcoin blockchain. In this piece, Carlisle proposed the hash document/create bitcoin account/transfer nominal sum system as a way of verifying preregistration in science. He provided a step by step guide to how to do it. Yet Irving and Holden didn’t cite or acknowledge Carlisle’s post at all. In fact, they implied that the idea was theirs e.g. they wrote that “we propose” the blockchain scheme.

Reading both documents makes it clear that intellectually speaking, the F1000Research paper is very closely based on Carlisle’s blog post. The main difference is that Carlisle simply proposed the idea, while Irving and Holden actually tried it out in practice – but what they tried was 100% Carlisle’s idea. Also, in terms of the text, the paper contained some passages which are strikingly similar to Carlisle’s post.

Much more is at Neuroskeptic.
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  • The Big Picture shares photos from Rio in advance of the Olympics.

  • James Bow remembers Mel Hurtig, the recently dead Canadian nationalist.

  • Centauri Dreams considers space-based collection of antimatter.

  • Crooked Timber examines the tyranny of the ideal.

  • Dangerous Minds looks at a charming early 1980s board game, Gay Monopoly.

  • The Dragon's Gaze predicts future transits of Beta Pictoris b.

  • The Dragon's Tales examines dwarf planet candidate 2015 RR245.

  • Far Outliers shares some odd placenames found in the western United States.

  • Language Hat reports on a new English/Yiddish dictionary.

  • Language Log looks at how speakers of Slavic and Turkic communicate with each other across Eurasia.

  • The Map Room Blog reports on an interesting-sounding exhibition on maps here in Toronto.

  • Marginal Revolution considers a link between slow population growth and slow economic growth, and suggests land use policy in Tokyo is ideal for a large city.

  • Steve Munro shares exchanges on GO Transit services in the Weston corridor.

  • North's Justin Petrone shares his progress towards
  • The NYRB Daily looks at how Russia and China in particular make extensive use of doping at the Olympics, and international sports generally.

  • Savage Minds considers how writing can help anthropologists who have witnessed violence heal.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy engages with the bloody legacy of Mao.

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  • Centauri Dreams examines circumbinary planet Kepler-1647b.

  • Crooked Timber takes issue with Peter Singer's identification of boat people as queue jumpers.

  • D-Brief notes the superior design of the brains of birds.

  • The Dragon's Gaze considers if the James Webb Space Telescope could detect signs of life on the planets of the TRAPPIST-1 system.

  • The Dragon's Tales points to more evidence for Planet Nine.

  • The LRB Blog considers gay pride after the Orlando shooting.

  • Marginal Revolution calls for a revival of supersonic air transport.

  • The NYRB Blog argues terrorism is the wrong framing for the Orlando shooting.

  • The Planetary Society Blog considers the future of the Arecibo radio telescope.

  • Peter Rukavina considers what it means to leave the Island.

  • The Russian Demographics Blog tracks births in Russia over the past century.

  • Savage Minds considers the decolonization of anthropology.

  • Strange Maps tracks political trends in the United States.

  • Towleroad shares Susie Bright's thoughts about the persecution of gay venues.

  • Window on Eurasia notes the commemoration of the deportations from the Baltics by the Soviet Union, reports on a Russian nationalist who thinks Ukraine's European trajectory was inevitable, and parses a distinction between "ethnic Russian" and "Russophone".

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  • Bad Astronomy notes the proposed names for new superheavy elements.

  • Dangerous Minds examines the lost music of the Human League, neglected unjustly on the charts.

  • The Dragon's Gaze notes a young hot Jupiter being eroded away after only two million years, and links to a paper suggesting high-metallicity stars preferentially form gas giants.

  • The Dragon's Tales looks at the plumes of Europa and Enceladus.

  • Far Outliers notes Czech defections to Russia in the early days of the First World War.

  • Joe. My. God. links to Politico's unflattering portrait of the Bernie Sanders campaign in its final days.

  • Steve Munro reports about different transit plans in Toronto.

  • The Planetary Society Blog notes the continued findings from Ceres.

  • Progressive Download's John Farrell notes a movement for teleology in understanding the universe.

  • Towleroad notes Bobby Brown's claims that Whitney Houston was bisexual.

  • Transit Toronto notes Ontario support for the Yonge Street extension of the subway.

  • Understanding Society notes LBJ's support for cities.

  • Window on Eurasia reports on the Kremlin's use of the last Romanovs, examines Russian fears about Kazakhstan, and notes Ukrainian perspectives on the Donbas war.

  • The World notes the problems Brexit would create in a divided United Kingdom.

  • The Yorkshire Ranter examines efficient, and less efficient, spending by political parties in elections.

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  • Centauri Dreams continues the debate over whether KIC 8462582 has been dimming.

  • Joe. My. God. notes the collection, organized by the Romanian Orthodox Church, of three million signatures against same-sex marriage.

  • The LRB Blog considers racism in old works of fiction.

  • The NYRB writes on the handles of Wittgenstein.

  • The Russian Demographics Blog notes a migration of Chinese prostitutes to Africa.

  • Towleroad notes the defense by an Arkansas television station of a gay reporter who works there.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy reports on a poll suggesting Native Americans do not care much about the name of the Washington Redskins.

  • Window on Eurasia warns that Mongolia's dams of rivers feeding into Lake Baikal might kill the lake, and notes the Russian economic crisis is making the military more attractive to job-seekers.

  • Arnold Zwicky shares photos of three native flowering plants of California.

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  • The Dragon's Gaze notes an observation of bright star HD 76582 that may have turned up indirect evidence of planets.

  • The Dragon's Tales notes a study claiming that climate change will trigger large-scale migrations.

  • Joe. My. God. notes controversy in North Carolina over the demand for a rapid repeal of HB2.

  • Language Log shares a paper taking an Aristotlean approach to trolling.

  • The Map Room Blog shares the first global topographic map of Mercury.

  • Marginal Revolution notes that Donald Trump voters are relatively well off.

  • Personal Reflections touches on the decline of Sydney's last Chinese market gardens.

  • Savage Minds makes the case for boycotting Israel academic institutions on the grounds of their collaboration with the denial of education to Palestinians.

  • Window on Eurasia notes that Russia's cults of victories are used to justify almost anything.

  • Arnold Zwicky looks at the interesting gay graphic novel Shirtlifter.

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  • blogTO profiles a couple who live on a houseboat near the foot of the Scarborough Bluffs.

  • Centauri Dreams hosts an argument making the case for eventual human emigration in interstellar directions.

  • Dangerous Minds celebates Brian Eno.

  • The Dragon's Gaze shares a paper considering what "habitability" means.

  • The Dragon's Tales notes a study suggesting Neanderthals were omnivores.

  • Joe. My. God. shares a collaboration between Jean-Michel Jarre and Peaches.

  • The NYR Daily considers the ethics of drone killings.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer (here) and Crooked Timber (here) appear to have opposite perspectives on the threat posed by Trump to liberal democracy.

  • Discover's Seriously Science notes the recent study suggesting that at least one bird species' calls have syntax.

  • The Search explores CUNY-TV's efforts to create durable archives.

  • Strange Maps notes that Tokelau is an Internet superpower, based in terms of the number of sites it hosts.

  • Transit Toronto maps the proposed route for the Downtown Relief Line, which would stretch from City Hall over to Pape.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy considers the context in which it could, or could not, be a crime for a speaker to encourage an audience to attack hecklers.

  • Arnold Zwicky looks at the social import of clothes.

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Daniel Little's self-help post at Understanding Society was a bit surprising to see at first glance, given the fundamentally sociological nature of that blog. On second thought, it made sense. Why not a sociological approach to self-improvement?

Several earlier posts have raised the question of rational life planning. What is involved in orchestrating one's goals and activities in such a way as to rationally create a good life in the fullness of time?

We have seen that there is something wildly unlikely about the idea of a developed, calculated life plan. Here is a different way of thinking about this question, framed about directionality and values rather than goals and outcomes. We might think of life planning in these terms:

* The actor frames a high-level life conception -- how he/she wants to live, what to achieve, what activities are most valued, what kind of person he/she wants to be. It is a work in progress.
* The actor confronts the normal developmental issues of life through limited moments in time: choice of education, choice of spouse, choice of career, strategies within the career space, involvement with family, level of involvement in civic and religious institutions, time and activities spent with friends, ... These are week-to-week and year-to-year choices, some more deliberate than others.
* The actor makes choices in the moment in a way that combines short-term and long-term considerations, reflecting the high-level conception but not dictated by it.
* The actor reviews, assesses, and updates the life conception. Some goals are reformulated; some are adjusted in terms of priority; others are abandoned.

This picture looks quite a bit different from more architectural schemes for creating and implementing a life plan considered in earlier posts, including the view that Rawls offers for conceiving of a rational plan of life. Instead of modeling life planning after a vacation trip assisted by an AAA TripTik (turn-by-turn instructions for how to reach your goal), this scheme looks more like the preparation and planning that might have guided a great voyage of exploration in the sixteenth century. There were no maps, the destination was unknown, the hazards along the way could only be imagined. But there were a few guiding principles of navigation -- "Keep making your way west," "Sail around the biggest storms," "Strive to keep reserves for unanticipated disasters," "Maintain humane relations with the crew." And, with a modicum of good fortune, these maxims might be enough to lead to discovery.

This scheme is organized around directionality and regular course correction, rather than a blueprint for arriving at a specific destination. And it appears to be all around a more genuine understanding of what is involved in making reflective life choices. Fundamentally this conception involves having in the present a vision of the dimensions of an extended life that is specifically one's own -- a philosophy, a scheme of values, a direction-setting self understanding, and the basics needed for making near-term decisions chosen for their compatibility with the guiding life philosophy. And it incorporates the idea of continual correction and emendation of the plan, as life experience brings new values and directions into prominence.</blockquot
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  • Centauri Dreams notes the study of the atmosphere of super-Earth 55 Cancri e.

  • The Dragon's Tales notes the discovery of a new extremophile living deep within the Earth.

  • Geocurrents notes the nationalist defacement of maps at Stanford University.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the alliances between indigenous peoples and environentalists.

  • The New APPS Blog notes a global preference for fairness.

  • The Planetary Society Blog has a lovely time-lapse photo of light playing against a Martian cliff.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer dislikes pop linguistics.

  • Spacing Toronto notes the night Neil Young was conceived.

  • Towleroad considers the sexual orientation of Deadpool.

  • Whatever's John Scalzi talks about what he would like from Twitter.

  • Window on Eurasia notes controversy around the resettlement of Ukrainian refugees in the Russian Far East.

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I have been sitting on Jenny Morber's Ars Technica article about the treatment of artificial intelligence since last February. Myself, I'm inclined to favour treating artificial intelligences well, and not only because I believe in their potential. What kind of a society is it where the abuse of apparently sentient beings is normalized? (This is one reason, incidentally, why Star Wars' universe is unpleasant for me: What of the droids?)

Long the domain of science fiction, researchers are now working to create software that perfectly models human and animal brains. With an approach known as whole brain emulation (WBE), the idea is that if we can perfectly copy the functional structure of the brain, we will create software perfectly analogous to one. The upshot here is simple yet mind-boggling. Scientists hope to create software that could theoretically experience everything we experience: emotion, addiction, ambition, consciousness, and suffering.

“Right now in computer science, we make computer simulations of neural networks to figure out how the brain works," Anders Sandberg, a computational neuroscientist and research fellow at the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University, told Ars. "It seems possible that in a few decades we will take entire brains, scan them, turn them into computer code, and make simulations of everything going on in our brain.”

Everything. Of course, a perfect copy does not necessarily mean equivalent. Software is so… different. It's a tool that performs because we tell it to perform. It's difficult to imagine that we could imbue it with those same abilities that we believe make us human. To imagine our computers loving, hungering, and suffering probably feels a bit ridiculous. And some scientists would agree.

But there are others—scientists, futurists, the director of engineering at Google—who are working very seriously to make this happen.

For now, let’s set aside all the questions of if or when. Pretend that our understanding of the brain has expanded so much and our technology has become so great that this is our new reality: we, humans, have created conscious software. The question then becomes how to deal with it.
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My left knee is continuing its recovery from the dislocation I mentioned Thursday. My leg can now comfortably bear my weight, but it's still weak, with a restricted range of motion and potential wobbliness. The knee brace is definitely still needed if I'm going to be on my feet for any length of time. I will look forward to my followup appointment on the 18th.

Knee braced #me #dislocatedknee #kneebrace #knees

It still has me thinking about my relationship with my body. It is easy, isn't it, to become alienated from one's physicality until you encounter something, usually a weakness, that makes you recognize how dependent you are on it?

Ours is arguably an era of pop transhumanism, of the belief that things corporeal can be transcended somehow, shifted to a higher plane. Even if this is true, don't we at least have to know and understand our starting points? What would sustained attention to our bodies feel like outside of times of crisis, I wonder?


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