FILE UNDER ‘HMMMM’
How did humans survive skin cancer before sunscreen? Have we got it all wrong on skin cancer and sun exposure? Probably not, but this argues otherwise. The reaction criticising the piece, however, has been swift.
And how does language affect the way we think? Russian blues (no not the cats) may have the answer. The Russians may also have the answer on what appears to have been a blatant attempt to undermine the science of gerontology.
And, some distance away from Earth, how weird are black holes? Pretty weird: here’s a discussion from first principles, including how they provide a one-way trip to the end of time.
JANUARY 26 AND OTHER DISASTERS
The mini-industry of takes for and against, and also about the meaning of, Invasion Day, bugs me no end, but Celeste Liddle’s piece is excellent: it’s not about “change the date”, it’s about every day being a struggle against the legacy of colonialism.
And it’s 40 years since the Iranian Revolution. Among the millions of protesters who forced out the vile regime of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi were Iranian Jews. Tablet, as part of a series on the revolution, explores their stories in a country that has since become profoundly anti-Semitic.
Irony alert: Israel, along with the US, closely collaborated with the Shah’s monstrous SAVAK in its torture of dissidents, as reports from the time make clear.
Yet more anniversaries: it’s been a century of Bauhaus (“in the middle of our street”?). And while we’re in Germany, it’s a century since the murder of Rosa Luxemburg — here are five more women of revolutionary Germany who have disappeared from history. By the time of her murder, Luxemburg had grown critical of the brutality of the Bolsheviks in Russia — what was Lenin’s justification for it?
Plus, it’s half a century since the near-thing assassination attempt on Leonid Brezhnev (although, how they could have distinguished between a dead and the living Brezhnev?) that was kept secret for years.
GREAT HATCHET JOBS OF OUR TIME
The employees at the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) are the quiet achievers of hatchet jobs: restrained by Bureaucratese, rarely can the auditors really let fly. But when they do in their own quiet way, it’s a thing of beauty.
In the latest of a long line of savage audits of the Home Affairs portfolio, the ANAO has taken aim at a biometric data project run by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission. “Deficient in almost every significant respect… None of the project’s milestones or deliverables were met… unable to definitively advise how much they had spent on the project…” are just some of the choice phrases delivered by the ANAO for a $27 million project. To their credit, ACIC cops it sweet…
TRAPPED IN SILICONNED VALLEY
Shoshana Zuboff’s The Age of Surveillance Capitalism is attracting widespread interest for its forensic analysis of the rise of personal data-based business models, led by Google and Facebook. Then again, social media users are dumb enough to do companies’ surveillance work for them. (Some reviews: LA Review of Books, NYT and WSJ .)
And don’t forget Amazon: that house that Jeff built has been offering security agencies a dramatically improved facial-recognition system.
Plus in an era when responsibility is constantly being outsourced to someone further away, how do you hold algorithms to account when they ruin lives? Especially when they have taught themselves?
BUSINESS MEETS REALITY
Nuclear power, the preferred power source of innumerates and socialists, is in deep trouble in the UK, where Hitachi has bailed out of plans for the construction of new nuclear power plants despite the government offering billions in guarantees. The problem? Just the usual: massive cost blowouts and delays. And don’t forget Hitachi was trying to flog reactors with the backing of its own government, which is keen to export nuclear power plants because it’s too expensive to make existing Japanese plants safe.
Think chicken’s the healthy alternative? The Economist provides some scary statistics on what we’ve done to chooks in recent decades. Meanwhile in other areas of food idiocy: the most famous Swiss chocolate is halal and the bigots have gone beresk. Tobler-1? No, Tobler-owned.
LAST AND LEAST
Ice, ice, baby: a moon river in Maine. The time-lapse footage is mesmerising.