quantum physics
(Image: Unsplash/Brett Ritchie)

HIGH-SPEED TRAIN

The French and the Germans are both grumpy that the EU vetoed the merger of Alstom and Siemens, intended to create a new “European champion” in rail construction. The EU is now hitting back at Franco-German plans to go around the EU’s veto.

We’ve been looking for a while at politicians making dopey tax deals with giant corporations to attract investment — but widespread opposition to Amazon’s appalling deal with New York has forced the company to abandon it. The New York Times goes behind the scenes

A long but engrossing read about the US Seventh Fleet and the stunning story of ill-prepared warships and crews putting to sea. The Saudi- and US-made humanitarian disaster in Yemen is still getting worse, even if the world would like to forget about it.

At Le Monde Diplomatique there’s a great detailed assessment of the significant impact of US sanctions on the Iranian economy and the Iranian government’s struggle to respond.

FEELING GRAVITY’S PULL

Quanta has an interview with the fascinating astrophysicist, stellar cartographer (and poet) Priyamvada Natarajan, who uses maths to map dark matter. And I went down a rabbit hole on this when the idea began nagging at me as I was trying to go to sleep last week: have they worked out whether anti-matter falls up instead of down? Here’s the basic issue and it is unresolved; there are experiments underway at CERN but the collider is offline for two years for a major upgrade.

Priyamvada Natarajan, astrophysicist, Yale University. (Image: NASA/Carla Cioffi)

What particularly threw me was Richard Feynman’s passing comment that anti-matter particles might be akin to particles travelling backward in time. On more prosaic matters, LIGO’s also getting an upgrade, meaning detecting gravity waves — an astrophysics Holy Grail until just a couple of years ago — should become routine and frequent. And a brilliant piece by Paul Davies explores how physics became biology; it’s all to do with information.

LIFE AND HOW TO LIVE IT

Contrary to widespread belief, including within the US government, America’s opioid crisis is significantly worse in cities than in rural areas. But the overreaction to the epidemic is ruining the lives of thousands of chronic pain sufferers who previously responsibly used opioids to manage pain — and driving many to suicide.

John Coyne at ASPI recently suggested Australia faced a markedly deteriorating strategic environment in relation to illicit drugs — one that is oversupplied and resistant to both big busts and “decapitation” law enforcement strategies.

New evidence — in a thinly studied field — suggests in public health terms we’re probably better off leaving rats alone. Stop saying cockroaches will survive nuclear war — they’ll just take longer to die. And while we’re on the topic of hard-to-kill necrophages, irrational resistance to vaccination can be contagious, an alarming study finds.

HOW THE WEST WAS WON AND WHERE IT GOT US

Why did educated women oppose woman’s suffrage at the turn of the 20th century? Wollongong University’s Sharon Crozier-De Rosa explores the British, Irish and Australian perspectives in a recent book

A new history of reading — from a strongly theoretical perspective — offers insights into modernity, time and media, argues Gill Partington

At The Spectator (UK, of course) Anne Margaret Daniel lauds Hunter S Thompson.

And put away your Gore Vidal — a new examination of Julian the Apostate suggests he was neither the anti-Christian persecutor of church propaganda nor the intellectual that modern writers portray him as; instead, he was a radical, systematising pagan out of step with his times.

EXHUMING MCCARTHY

It’s wonderful how the word “socialist” still has the power to terrify. Traditional “kids these days” eye-rolling combined with old-fashioned Red Menace rhetoric has been a thing for many months, if not years, but it received a jolt recently with Trump attacking the Democrats as socialists and new polling from Pew! Pew! Research that shows younger voters are more progressive than older voters (next, they play more sport, go out more than older voters).

Millennial socialists are now scaring old capitalists like the editors of The Economist; Edward Luce weighs in at the Financial Times to warn America’s “socialist dawn” could hand Trump victory in 2020… or not. And investors are being told millennial socialism must be defeated by doorknocking (well, at least they don’t talk about the bloody internet). But as The Economist grudgingly admitted, “millennial socialism” has little to do with actual socialism. For that issue to be properly explored, we must turn — surprisingly — to Greg Ipp at The Wall Street Journal, who calls bullshit on the whole nonsense.

FINALLY

Big data, big waste of time? How big data is ushering in a new era of spurious correlations. And more zany spurious correlations here.

Peter Fray

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