Recent quotes:

Why people talk with journalists

Lately I’ve been reflecting on how it’s a curious privilege being a journalist: part-investigator, part father-confessor, part channel to the wider world, never more than in a conflict or war zone, where everything is accelerated, more vivid, the colors painted bright by danger. Most people would not talk to a  random stranger asking all sorts of questions, sometimes quite personal, even intimate. Yet they talked to me because they wanted their stories to be told. And that is one of the oldest human instincts, something deep and primeval: that the world must know what is happening to us.

Narcissistic elites

Previous elites poured themselves into institutions and were pretty good at maintaining existing institutions, like the U.S. Congress, and building new ones, like the postwar global order. The current generation sees institutions as things they pass through on the way to individual success.

'No longer a nuclear threat' from North Korea, Trump says

“Just landed - a long trip, but everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office,” Trump tweeted early Wednesday. “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea. Meeting with Kim Jong Un was an interesting and very positive experience. North Korea has great potential for the future!”

People with depression have stronger emotional responses to negative memories: A study investigates the brain mechanisms underlying autobiographical memory disturbance in depression -- ScienceDaily

"This study provides new insights into the changes in brain function that are present in major depression. It shows differences in how memory systems are engaged during emotion processing in depression and how people with the disorder must regulate these systems in order to manage their emotions," said Cameron Carter, MD, Editor of Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging. The personal memories used to evoke emotion in the study help tap into complex emotional situations that people with MDD experience in their daily lives. The 29 men and women with MDD included in the study reported higher levels of negative emotions when bringing negative memories to mind than 23 healthy comparison people. Using brain imaging, senior author Kevin Ochsner, PhD, of Columbia University and colleagues traced the elevated emotional responses to increased activity in an emotional hub of the brain, called the amygdala, and to interactions between the amygdala and the hippocampus -- a brain region important for memory.

Russia’s only Gulag memorial is redesigned to celebrate the Gulag — Meduza

Viktor Shmyrov, the director of the nonprofit that until recently managed Perm-36, told the BBC that the museum is being maintained, but its public presentation is getting a complete overhaul. “Now it’s a museum about the camp system, but not about political prisoners. There’s nothing said about the repressions or about Stalin,” Shmyrov said.

Luck plays a role in how language evolves, team finds -- ScienceDaily

"If you have a phonetic neighborhood with lots of rhyming irregular verbs, it acts like a gravitational force and makes it more likely that the past tense of other rhyming verbs will irregularize," said Clark.

How Civilization Started | The New Yorker

there is a crucial, direct link between the cultivation of cereal crops and the birth of the first states. It’s not that cereal grains were humankind’s only staples; it’s just that they were the only ones that encouraged the formation of states. “History records no cassava states, no sago, yam, taro, plantain, breadfruit or sweet potato states,” he writes. What was so special about grains? The answer will make sense to anyone who has ever filled out a Form 1040: grain, unlike other crops, is easy to tax. Some crops (potatoes, sweet potatoes, cassava) are buried and so can be hidden from the tax collector, and, even if discovered, they must be dug up individually and laboriously. Other crops (notably, legumes) ripen at different intervals, or yield harvests throughout a growing season rather than along a fixed trajectory of unripe to ripe—in other words, the taxman can’t come once and get his proper due. Only grains are, in Scott’s words, “visible, divisible, assessable, storable, transportable, and ‘rationable.’ ”

The Cultural Axis | by Robert O. Paxton | The New York Review of Books

The word “international” acquired a special meaning in its usage by Nazi and Fascist cultural officials. The Allies’ international cultural associations had rested on a set of liberal democratic assumptions: that works of art and literature should be evaluated by universal standards of quality; that masterpieces were the product of individual creativity; and that no national culture deserved hegemony over another. The Nazi and Fascist dictators reversed all of these assumptions. They measured the merit of works of art and literature by their significance within unique national cultural traditions. Masterpieces, in their view, grew out of community roots. And national cultural traditions were ranked in a natural hierarchy, with the German and Italian ones at the top. Hitler concerned himself with cultural matters as soon as he became chancellor of Germany in January 1933. He purged the German section of PEN International of “leftist” and Jewish writers. When PEN International protested, Hitler dissolved the German section altogether at the end of 1933. During this dispute the president of the Italian PEN club, the provocateur Futurist intellectual Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, supported the German position. Thus from the earliest days, Nazi cultural projects proved capable of enlisting foreign support.

Human brain recalls visual features in reverse order than it detects them: Study challenges traditional hierarchy of brain decoding; offers insight into how the brain makes perceptual judgements -- ScienceDaily

The brain appeared to encode one line, then the other, and finally encode their relative orientation. But during decoding, when participants were asked to report the individual angle of each line, their brains used that the lines' relationship -- which angle is greater -- to estimate the two individual angles. "This was striking evidence of participants employing this reverse decoding method," said Dr. Qian. The authors argue that reverse decoding makes sense, because context is more important than details. Looking at a face, you want to assess quickly if someone is frowning, and only later, if need be, estimate the exact angles of the eyebrows. "Even your daily experience shows that perception seems to go from high to low levels," Dr. Qian added.

Freud's repressed negligence

Anna Freud provided Masson access to more than 75,000 documents to complete his task, but Masson quickly saw that something was awry in the history. “I began to notice what appeared to be a pattern in the omissions made by Anna Freud in the original, abridged edition,” he wrote in The Atlantic in 1984. “In the letters written after September of 1897 … all the case histories dealing with the sexual seduction of children had been excised. Moreover, every mention of Emma Eckstein … had been deleted.” When he asked Anna Freud why she had deleted certain sections, she said, according to Masson, that she “no longer knew why” and that “she could well understand” his interest, but that “the letter should nevertheless not be published.”

Notes to our future selves

In other words, the true purpose of note-taking is transporting states of mind (not just information) through time. This is why pictures, sketches, and diagrams often work better than text. We don’t usually think of them as notes, but songs, smells, and tastes work even better. As HBR puts it: “A visual model becomes one of the most effective tools for minimizing alignment-attrition; a visualization formalizes an emergent idea and solidifies it at a moment in time.” Or as Craig Mod more eloquently says, “To return to a book is to return not just to the text but also to a past self. We are embedded in our libraries. To reread is to remember who we once were, which can be equal parts scary and intoxicating.”

The DECK | The premier ad network for reaching web, design & creative professionals

In 2014, display advertisers started concentrating on large, walled, social networks. The indie “blogosphere” was disappearing. Mobile impressions, which produce significantly fewer clicks and engagements, began to really dominate the market. Invasive user tracking (which we refused to do) and all that came with that became pervasive, and once again The Deck was back to being a pretty good business. By 2015, it was an OK business and, by the second half of 2016, the network was beginning to struggle again.

What patients say and what doctors document: Comparison of medical record to self-report of eye symptoms shows wide variation -- ScienceDaily

Symptom reporting drove the inconsistencies between surveys and medical records, the study found. The top discordant issue: glare. Of patients reporting concern about glare on their surveys, 91 percent didn't have it on their medical record. Eye redness was second-most common (80 percent had no medical record mention), followed by eye pain (74.4 percent). Blurry vision was only the symptom to tilt the scales -- with more instances of inclusion in medical records than in questionnaires.

Half of people believe fake facts, 'remember' events that never happened -- ScienceDaily

Over 400 participants in 'memory implantation' studies had fictitious autobiographical events suggested to them -- and it was found that around 50% of the participants believed, to some degree, that they had experienced those events. Participants in these studies came to remember a range of false events, such as taking a childhood hot air balloon ride, playing a prank on a teacher, or creating havoc at a family wedding. 30% of participants appeared to 'remember' the event -- they accepted the suggested event, elaborated on how the event occurred, and even described images of what the event was like. Another 23% showed signs that they accepted the suggested event to some degree and believed it really happened.

Aleppo’s Last Doctors Plead for Help in Open Letter to Obama

We are 29 of the last doctors serving the remaining 300,000 citizens of eastern Aleppo.[…] For five years, we have faced death from above on a daily basis. But we now face death from all around. […]What pains us most, as doctors, is choosing who will live and who will die. […]Two weeks ago, four newborn babies gasping for air suffocated to death after a blast cut the oxygen supply to their incubators. Gasping for air, their lives ended before they had really begun. […]We have a duty to remain and help. Mr. President, we ask that you do your duty as well.

How Islam Created Europe

Islam did much more than geographically define Europe, however. Denys Hay, a British historian, explained in a brilliant though obscure book published in 1957, Europe: The Emergence of an Idea, that European unity began with the concept (exemplified by the Song of Roland) of a Christendom in “inevitable opposition” to Islam—a concept that culminated in the Crusades. The scholar Edward Said took this point further, writing in his book Orientalism in 1978 that Islam had defined Europe culturally, by showing Europe what it was against. Europe’s very identity, in other words, was built in significant measure on a sense of superiority to the Muslim Arab world on its periphery. Imperialism proved the ultimate expression of this evolution: Early modern Europe, starting with Napoleon, conquered the Middle East, then dispatched scholars and diplomats to study Islamic civilization, classifying it as something beautiful, fascinating, and—most crucial—inferior.

the history of gossip

Thirty-five hundred years ago, Mesopotamian scribes used cuneiform to record the impeachment hearings of a mayor who had been accused of corruption, kidnapping, adultery, and the theft of manure. In 1709, the first modern gossip magazine, The Tatler, started publication, in London. The medium arrived in America in the late nineteenth century, when a weekly named Town Topics began publishing blind items, in a section called “Saunterings.” (In 1905, the section’s editor attempted to blackmail Emily Post’s husband after learning of his infidelity.) Tycoons and politicians were the initial focus of the gossip trade; one British photographer bribed a gardener to gain entrance to Winston Churchill’s house, where he hid, waiting for the perfect shot, until Churchill spotted him and chased him away. With the rise of Hollywood, actors became gossip’s prime quarry; the magazine Confidential courted lawsuits by printing stories with titles like “Mae West’s Open Door Policy.”

The secret “anti-languages” you’re not supposed to know

All borrow the grammar of the mother language but replace words (“London”, “purse”, “money”, “alehouse”) with another, elliptical term (“Rome”, “bounge”, “lower”, “bowsing ken”). Often, the anti-language may employ dozens of terms that have blossomed from a single concept – a feature known as “over-lexicalisation”. Halliday points to at least 20 terms that Elizabethan criminals used to describe fellow thieves, for instance: “prigger of prancers”, “doxy”, “dell”, “counterfeit crank”, “jarkman” and “bawdy basket”, to name just a handful.

From Casio's smoking ring to the iWatch

Founded in 1946 by Tadao Kashio, Casio didn't start out as an electronics company, but as the manufacturer of a plastic ring for smokers. The yubiwa pipe slipped onto a smoker's finger and held a cigarette, helping a smoker extract every bit of tobacco. […] Looking for a follow-up success, Kashio and his brothers started working on an all-electronic calculator.[…] turned Casio into a company that focused not just on producing electronics, but on setting itself apart from the competition through innovative design, specifically by working to make things more compact. In 1974, Casio entered the watch market with the idea that watches shouldn't be just timepieces. Its initial creation was one of the first watches with a liquid crystal display, […]"We saw demand for digital watches settle down in the '80s and Casio went back to its original thinking when it first entered the watch market; that is, ‘a watch is not a mere tool to tell the time.' We started talking about a multifunction, ‘time display plus other things, such as telephone number, memory and music alarm' strategy."

Brain has internal ‘odometer’ and ‘stopwatch’

To prove the contrary, researchers put rats on treadmills and recorded the activity of grid cells, keeping either distance or duration of running unchanged, and only varying the speed. As a result, 92% of grid cells in rats emitted signals at specific moments: for instance, one cell would fire 8 seconds into the run, not taking into account speed or distance covered, and another cell would emit a signal every 400 cm, not depending on speed or duration of the run. 50 percent of the cells were affected by distance, another half by time, and around 40 percent by both factors. "Space and time are ever-present dimensions by which events can be organized in memory," senior study author Howard Eichenbaum, a psychologist and neuroscientist at Boston University, said in the official press release.

Obscure German Tweet Helped Spur Migrant March From Hungary - WSJ

On Tuesday, Aug. 25, at 1:30 p.m., a government agency in the southern German city of Nuremberg posted a sentence on Twitter that would change the lives of tens of thousands of desperate people. “We are at present largely no longer enforcing Dublin procedures for Syrian citizens,” said the note, posted on the account of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees.

Building for the future

Years ago, Seung officiated at his best friend’s wedding, and during the invocation he told the gathering, “My father says that success is never achieved in just one generation.” As he has grown older and had a child of his own, he has felt his perspective shift. When Seung was in his 20s, science for him was solving puzzles, an extension of the math problems he did for fun as a child alone in his room on Saturdays after soccer. Now he finds great satisfaction in encouraging younger scientists, in helping them avoid dead ends that he has already explored. He wants to do something that will allow the community to progress, to build “strong foundations, steppingstones that the next generation can be sure of.”

Before the metaphor became reality

In a glowing review for the Los Angeles Times, Larry Magid expressed amazement over many of the metaphor and skeuomorphic features that would come to define the personal computer, surrounded by quotation marks that are remarkably quaint today. "Once you've set up your machine, you insert the main system disk, turn on the power, and in a minute you are presented with the introductory screen. Apple calls it your 'desk top'. What you see on your screen looks a lot like what you might find on a desk," he wrote. His analysis of the user-friendly visual interface—which was quickly copied by Microsoft and soon spread to virtually every personal computer—sounds strikingly like the awe we expressed after first seeing the iPhone's intutitive touch screen-controlled operating system in 2007.  "It uses a hand-held 'mouse'—a small pointing device which enables the user to select programs, and move data from one part of the screen to another," Magrid wrote. "When this process was described to me, it sounded cumbersome, especially since I'm already comfortable with using a keyboard. But the mouse is so much more intuitive. As infants we learned to move objects around our play pens. Using a mouse is an extension of that skill."

A decade of media evolution in two paragraphs

Websites, Vox included, have been able to accumulate enormous audiences with incredible speed by harvesting referrals from social networks. These rapidly convened audiences felt contiguous because they ended up, eventually, on publishers’ websites; they felt […]real because advertising teams could sell web ads against them. Websites plausibly marketed these people as members of their audiences, rather than temporarily diverted members of a platform’s audience. […]The illusion of audience ownership is becoming harder to sustain, and the audiences are getting bigger and bigger. 2013 was the year every major site with a social strategy broke traffic records by a mile;[…]2015, when a single weird or clever native Facebook video can easily out-traffic a week of a site’s web content, is the year it’s becoming clear to everyone who these audiences really belong to, and what it means to borrow them. 2016 is the year we find out what the price of access will be.

Mobile phones in 2002

In 2002, technology made another huge change in the history of mobile phones, putting a great full colour display and integrating camera to mobile phones, producing the world’s first camera cell phone. The Nokia 7650 shown here is on sliding mode, features a great colour display and a 0.3MP camera allowing you to snap pictures on the move.

Roman rubbish dump reveals secrets of ancient trading networks - Telegraph

They are calculating the huge quantities of olive oil and wine that Rome imported in order to supply its civilian population as well as its vast legions as they pushed the boundaries of the Roman Empire ever further outwards in the first and second centuries AD. Some of the amphorae were used to transport “garum”, a smelly sauce made from fermented fish blood and intestines that the Romans relished as a condiment. The inscriptions even identify the makers of the amphorae and the names of the traders who imported them to Rome.