Photo of the day

I chose this photo from an Atlantic gallery of 1986 photos to tell a funny anecdote:

The independent filmmaker Spike Lee, right, with actress Tracy Camilla Johns at a release party for his film, “She’s Gotta Have It,” in August of 1986 in New York. Lee said he wants to make honest films about black people and didn’t believe there were any films by and for black people.

Mario Suriani / AP
I saw our local TV movie reviewer (remember those!) Arch Campbell give a great review to this movie.  Somehow, during the review I did not pick up  on the fact that the “it” was sex and the “she” was a nymphomaniac.  I just remember that he thought it was funny.  When the movie came out on video (I would have been 14 or 15), I picked it up from the video store to watch at home, with my mom, as I often did with movies back then (I probably said to her something like “Arch Campbell loved it!”).  My mom was pretty liberal on sexual matters, but damn, can we say awkward!

Quick hits (part I)

So, so much good stuff this week.  I could have spent all my time blogging and not got to all I wanted to.  Alas, I spent a lot of my time grading and got to write even less than I would have liked.  Anyway, on with the show.

1) Is Gwynneth Paltrow wrong about everything?  Yeah, you do know the answer to that.

2) Taylor Batten lets loose on the architects of HB2.

3) Our increasingly horrible efforts at providing actual justice (in the form of decent legal representation) for the poor, for example, really deserved it’s own post.

4) An open letter from your horrible Facebook friends.

5) Alexandra Petri on Trump, Clinton, and the Woman Card.

6) How the new bathroom laws effect kids with special needs and their parents.  A subject near and dear to my heart.

7) Great professor humor– I would rather do anything than grade your final papers.

8) The NYT guide to really short workouts (I still try and get in their mis-named 7 minute workout once or twice a week).

9) Discrimination against political conservatives at American universities.

10) Just in case you missed this big story this week about The Biggest Loser and weight loss.  Biggest lesson seems to be, don’t ever let yourself get obese.  Wonkblog makes a good case, though, that this is actually pretty misleading.

11) Vox with research-based diet tips.  You probably already know all these (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, sustainable for you, etc.).

12) So Comcast has a new modem that lets you get fiber optic speed with old-school cable.  If this is possible, why the hell is everybody re-wiring with fiber optics?  Seems like something is missing in this story.

 

13) And back to the woman card, I make no apologies for thinking that Democrats are better off with a known skilled, competent, liberal legislator like Chris Van Hollen who happens to be a white male, than a Black woman with a much lesser political resume.  That said, there’s a lot of really good reasons to elect more women.

14) A “simple” guide to quantum entanglement.

15) Bill Ayers says he’s not afraid of President Trump.  For once, we disagree.  I think he should be.

Despite our howls of protestation about the evils of our opponents (whoever they may be), there is a center of gravity in the American political system. That center can (and does) shift over time – since the 1980s it has shifted significantly to the right, which is why repeated Republican protestations about being victims in a country about to collapse into leftist socialism are bafflingly bizarre. The conservative movement has in fact been succeeding in slow, steady increments, yet to listen to them talk you’d think they were Davy Crockett at the Alamo.

And this is why I refuse to be afraid, even if Donald Trump is elected President. Whatever else he does, he will not push the country still farther to the right – he’s not a conservative and never has been, which is why he keeps violating conservative principles on the campaign trail. He will not make the country more racist or xenophobic than it already is – all he is doing is drawing out the existing racism, xenophobia, and misogyny in the population. In a way (as some in the NYT have argued) he may be doing us a favor by bringing this nastiness out into the light where it can be more effectively countered.

Trump as President would be confronted with a badly divided and electorally weakened Republican party in Congress, quite likely a Democratic Senate that can filibuster anything he tries to do, and a vast Federal bureaucracy with decades of experience in centrist governance. Washington, DC isn’t the Celebrity Apprentice – you can’t just fire everybody and start over. If he tries – really tries – to impose his desires simply by force of will, as he has tended to do in his business life, he will rapidly find himself unable to do much of anything, and he might be impeached. His penchant for litigation will get him nowhere – who do you sue when you’re the President?

16) This advice for wannabe cheerleaders seemed reasonable to me. It’s no secret that they are after a particular look and body style, do we really need to pretend otherwise.

17) How Ramsay Bolton represents a decline in the quality of Game of Thrones storytelling.

18) I’m sorry, call me transphobic and backwards, but I am just not down with the regular use of “cisgender.”

19) High School football player shows part of his penis (which nobody actually notices) in team photo.  Full weight of the criminal justice system comes down on him.  I’m glad there’s not more serious crimes going on for them to worry about.

 

There are other costs, too: The case will take resources from the prosecutor’s office to investigate and prosecute, time and money from a trial court as it hears the case, and up to thousands of dollars for food, housing, and medical care, among other expenses, if Osborn is put in jail or prison. (According to the Vera Institute of Justice, the average prison inmate costs Arizona $24,805 each year.)

To put it another way, there’s a serious risk here that the criminal justice system will inflict more pain on Osborn and costs on society than he inflicted on anyone else — all over a high school prank that parents and the school could have addressed by themselves.

20) And how’s this for overzealous law enforcement?  Detain a kid on counterfeiting suspicion for using a $2 bill.  Ugh.

 

21) I get the feeling there’s not a lot of people like me when it comes to Radiohead.  I really like some of their albums a lot, but I don’t really love them.  That said, I absolutely love this new song and video.  Watch!!

22) And your weekend long(ish) read: Lee Drutman on the fraying of the Republican-big business alliance and what it means.

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) Fascinating NYT profile of a car salesman who obsessively decided to take on ISIS on-line.  And was arrested by the FBI for his efforts.

2) Smoking gun presentation in the VW emissions cheating.  What I hadn’t known before is they could have just made the cars a few hundred dollars more expensive instead of cheating.  When you look at their liability now, one of the most epically bad, short-sighted financial decisions ever.

3) Frank Bruni’s take on the bathroom wars.

4) Surely I’ve mentioned this before, but this is one notion that always needs disabusing– no, marijuana is not a gateway drug:

And that brings up an important flaw of the gateway theory in general. Science writers and readers are fond of saying that correlation does not imply causation, and this is a perfect example. Let’s say 11 percent of pot smokers start using cocaine, as this graphic shows. That doesn’t mean one drug led to the other. As Miriam Boeri, an association professor of sociology at Bentley University points out, poverty, mental illness, and friend groups are all much stronger predictors of drug use. Marijuana isn’t a “gateway” to harder drugs in the same way that ordering an appetizer isn’t a “gateway” to an entree: One comes before the other, but you’re eating both because you’re already at the restaurant.

5) The case (in video form) for starting school later.  It’s simple, of course– science.

6) How a Cold war command center was built under a mountain in Colorado.

7) Most spree killers are not able to be diagnosed with a defined mental illness.  Rather, they are undefinably crazy.

8) NSF found a great way to shrink the number of grant proposals– stop having deadlines.  Heck, about the only thing I an manage to do without a deadline is a blog post.

9) The neuroscience take on the philosophical question of what is reality, anyway?  Reminds me of all the stuff I used to read for fun back in my college says when I went through my phase of interest in metaphysics.

As we go about our daily lives, we tend to assume that our perceptions—sights, sounds, textures, tastes—are an accurate portrayal of the real world. Sure, when we stop and think about it—or when we find ourselves fooled by a perceptual illusion—we realize with a jolt that what we perceive is never the world directly, but rather our brain’s best guess at what that world is like, a kind of internal simulation of an external reality. Still, we bank on the fact that our simulation is a reasonably decent one. If it wasn’t, wouldn’t evolution have weeded us out by now? The true reality might be forever beyond our reach, but surely our senses give us at least an inkling of what it’s really like.

Not so, says Donald D. Hoffman, a professor of cognitive science at the University of California, Irvine. Hoffman has spent the past three decades studying perception, artificial intelligence, evolutionary game theory and the brain, and his conclusion is a dramatic one: The world presented to us by our perceptions is nothing like reality. What’s more, he says, we have evolution itself to thank for this magnificent illusion, as it maximizes evolutionary fitness by driving truth to extinction.

10) Teen birth rates are way down.  Hooray!

11) Speaking of birth, more research on the relationship between sharing a uterus with older brothers and being gay.

12) Yes indeed, so many “supersized” television episodes are simply too long and need judicious cutting.  There’s often a lack of discipline in making a streaming episode as long as you want instead of fitting it into a 23 or 46 minute block (I’m quite sure this was part of the problem with the Netflix season of Arrested Development).

13) Nice report from 60 Minutes on one of the under-appreciated problems of our current campaign finance laws– it turns politicians into telemarketers.

14) Really interesting interview on the relationship between intelligence and happiness.

Pinsker: One of the premises of your book is that people may have a sense of what will make them happy, but they approach those things in ways that don’t maximize happiness. Could you provide an example of that disconnect?

Raghunathan: If you take the need for mastery—the need for competence—there are two broad approaches that one can take to becoming very good at something. One approach is to engage in what people call social comparisons. That is, wanting to be the best at doing something: “I want to be the best professor there is,” or something like that.

There are many problems with that, but one big problem with that is that it’s very difficult to assess. What are the yardsticks for judging somebody on a particular dimension? What are the yardsticks for being the best professor? Is it about research, teaching? Even if you take only teaching, is it the ratings you get from students, or is it the content that you deliver in class, or the number of students who pass an exam or take a test and do really well in it? So it gets very difficult to judge, because these yardsticks become increasingly ambiguous as a field becomes narrower or more technical…

Raghunathan: What I recommend is an alternative approach, which is to become a little more aware of what it is that you’re really good at, and what you enjoy doing. When you don’t need to compare yourself to other people, you gravitate towards things that you instinctively enjoy doing, and you’re good at, and if you just focus on that for a long enough time, then chances are very, very high that you’re going to progress towards mastery anyway, and the fame and the power and the money and everything will come as a byproduct, rather than something that you chase directly in trying to be superior to other people.

15) Damn do I love articles on how the potato changed civilization.

16) With Jim Vandehei in charge, it’s no wonder Politico used to be horrible more often than not.  Just two of many pieces I saw eviscerating him for a recent clueless Op-Ed.

17) The Aedes Aegypti mosquito is pretty much perfectly suited for spreading disease among humans.

18) Conor Friedersdorf on the small tent of the social justice movement activists.

19) Loved this response to those boycotting Target over their bathrooms.

In fact, if you oppose transgender rights, you shouldn’t even be spreading AFA’s petition using their recommended #BoycottTarget hashtag because Facebook, Twitter, and Google all aced the CEI. Every minute spent on those social media giants helps them promote LGBT equality, including the T.

If you don’t want your money to go to a company that openly supports transgender people, you can’t buy an iPhone, eat an Egg McMuffin, drink a Sprite, stock up Budweiser, or fill your prescriptions at either of the nation’s two largest pharmacy chains because Apple, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Anheuser-Busch, Walgreens, and CVS all scored a 100 on the HRC index.

20) Universities are much more interested in genetic diversity than diversity of viewpoints.

21) What it really means to be a political moderate (as opposed to what DC journalists think it means).

22) It really does seem like the NC Chamber of Commerce may have struck a corrupt bargain to support HB2.  They sure don’t seem to be all that interested in what actual businesses are saying.

23) Dahlia Lithwick on Bob McDonnell and the “everybody does it” defense of corruption before the Supreme Court.

 

Photo of the day

In Focus with a look back at 1986.  Hey, I remember that!  So much awesomeness here, but as I pity the fool that doesn’t love the A Team:

The singer Boy George poses with Mr. T. during the filming of an episode of the television show “The A-Team” on January 8, 1986.

Michael Tweed / AP

 

Quick hits (part II)

1) Drum on how easily Donald Trump is “disgusted.”  (And this sure makes me worry about the political future of my third boy):

This brings to mind Jonathan Haidt’s theory of moral foundations, which suggests that although liberals and conservatives share a set of five innate moral roots, they prioritize them quite differently. Conservatives, for example, are especially sensitive to moral foundation #5:

Sanctity/degradation: This foundation was shaped by the psychology ofdisgust and contamination….It underlies the widespread idea that the body is a temple which can be desecrated by immoral activities and contaminants.

I wonder how strongly Donald Trump scores on this particular moral foundation? Pretty strongly, I’d guess. I wonder how much it explains his approach to politics? And I wonder how much it explains his popularity with a certain subset of conservatives?

2) It costs $200,000/year to keep Lenin’s corpse looking good.

3) Enjoyed this Op-Ed on NC Republican Legislators.

4) Oregon Senator Jeff Merkely had a recent NYT Op-Ed endorsing Bernie.  This part really grabbed my attention.  I’m sorry, but Bernie or no Bernie, the world has changed dramatically and it is hard to see how Bernie returns us to a time when a single, non-college educated head-of-household could typically support a comfortable, middle-class American life.

I grew up in working-class Oregon. On a single income, my parents could buy a home, take a vacation and help pay for college. My father worked with his hands as a millwright and built a middle-class life for us.

My parents believed in education and they believed in the United States. When I was young, my father took me to the grade school and told me that if I went through those doors, and worked hard, I could do just about anything because we lived in America. My dad was right.

Years later, my family and I still live in the same working-class community I grew up in. But America has gone off track, and the outlook for the kids growing up there is a lot gloomier today than 40 years ago.

5) If your Alabama daycare is unregulated for religious reasons, you can get away with pretty much anything.

6) Cannot say I was the least bit surprised to learn that the social support that comes from marriage helps cancer survival rates.

7) The educational power of making our students uncomfortable.  Amen.

What we should not do is shelter our students. There is so much talk about “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces” in academe today. Many suggest that a classroom should be devoid of anything that could make students feel uncomfortable or unsettled. But history is unsettling. The present is unsettling. It unsettles with its crimes against humanity, its wars, its sex trafficking, even its presidential debates. There should be more being said about the power of discomfort.

Isn’t college by nature an uncomfortable experience? You leave your parents, your friends, your siblings, your neighborhood, even your dog. You live in a dorm where you may or may not know your roommate, you get a job, you lose a job, you date, you make love, you drink too much, you get sick, you fail a class — all of these experiences are discomforting but necessary for your development.

8) Just in case you missed the story of the student removed from a Southwest flight simply for speaking Arabic.  America at it’s worst.

9) The idea that felons cannot vote after they have paid their full debt to society strikes me as preposterous and thoroughly anti-democratic.  Good for Terry McAuliffe for remedying this in Virginia.

10) Conor Friedersdorf on how Americans have become so sensitive to harm.

11) Nice NPR piece on science and the loss of our shared reality.

Our ability to deal with climate change has clearly been adversely affected by this rejection of scientific endeavor. But facing into the winds of this strange primary season, we can see how this denial yielded other consequences, too.

If the point of science is to provide us with a method for establishing public knowledge, then its rejection is also the rejection that such public knowledge is possible. [emphasis in original] If we hold science in esteem because it represents a best practice for establishing shared facts that hold regardless of ethic, religious or political background, then denying science means denying the possibility of such facts. It implies there can be no means for establishing facts about the world and no reason to award authority to mechanisms that deliver those facts.

This wholesale rejection of a shared reality was always the great danger lying in organized, politicized climate science denial. After all, why stop with climate science? Once you get started down this road, who or what determines that it’s gone too far?

12) It’s pretty clear what HB2 is all about.

13) That phase where you are just falling asleep and in the bizarre liminal state between awake and asleep is so cool.  Should yield some interesting research.

14) How is it that B-52‘s are still in service after all these years?  Just the right engineering.

The bomber’s staying power can be attributed to many things, not least of which, according to officers in charge of maintaining the airplanes in the Command’s Directorate of Logistics, is its uniquely forward-thinking original design. “The build of the B-52 was one of both over- and, conversely, under-engineering,” said a directorate representative, who chose not to be identified, per directorate guidelines. “Its flexibility has led to its continued relevance and ability to adapt to current and emerging global threats.”

Under-engineering simply means the B-52 has plenty of physical room for growth and additional systems and components. Most aircraft are designed with tight tolerances, densely packed with hardware the airframe was designed to accommodate. You can’t just remove one thing and throw in something else, whereas the B-52 allows for that kind of swapping…

Even with the modernization, the currently flying B-52s are all about 55 years old, about the age humans start getting calls from the AARP. This is where the over-engineering comes in. “The airframe itself remains structurally sound and has many useful flying years ahead of it,” the directorate official says. “Most of the B-52 airframes are original and their longevity is a testimony to the original design engineers.” In other words, they did a killer job making a durable airplane.

15) Sadly, too many Senators seem to foolishly think the “tougher is better” approach will somehow work as effective drug policy.  Nope.  Tried that.

16) Liked this Vox post on the Harriet Tubman $20:

The $20 is a perfect incident to prompt this divide precisely because it has very little real content. There’s nothing in Tubman’s life or legacy that contradicts any points of modern-day conservative ideology or Republican Party policy ideas. But the very idea of going back through history and finding white male heroes to demote in favor of black female heroes rubs some people the wrong way.

Fox’s Greta Van Susteren’s negative reaction to the news, and conservative journalist Philip Klein’s negative reaction to Van Susteren, captures the dynamic very well.

Trump himself denounced the move as “pure political correctness,” a term that has little specific content but that allows Trump to affiliate himself with the view — shared by most Republicans but not by most Americans overall — that anti-white discrimination is as big of a problem in America as anti-black discrimination.

17) Just watched The Big Short.  Just like all the critics, thought it was really, really good (of course, also very much enjoyed Michael Lewis’ book).  Also, wanted to mention, that when the film ends and “When the Levee Breaks” comes up, that is just an awesome moment.  Enjoyed reading about how hard it was to secure the rights from Led Zeppelin.

18) A two-year old kills himself with a gun.  Just another day in America.

19) An experienced water quality expert in NC complains about the anti-science approach to cleaning water in NC and loses his job.  But don’t worry, it wasn’t political.

20) Donald Trump really does have New York values– as can be seen in his acceptance of gays.

21) Don’t really like Liberal’s undue skepticism of nuclear power equated with the flat-out anti-science of conservative global-warming skeptics, but this is an interesting column from Eduardo Porter.

22) Drum says we need to stop trying to cut middle-class income taxes.  He’s right.

23) Jamelle Bouie makes the case that there is no Bernie movement.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Richest zip code in Oklahoma cannot even afford an art class in public schools?  Pathetic.  This is what you get from a Republican war on taxes and public schools.

2) The adult skills every 18-year old should have.  Not a bad list.  Need to work on these with my 16-year old.

3) The absurd primary of the car in American life.

4) Interesting take on why the Republican Party won’t be able to wrest the nomination from Trump.

5) Yes, campus rape is a genuine problem.  But, boy do I hate when people lie and mislead with statistics.  Here’s a nice, succinct video on the matter.  Meanwhile, my university this week was encouraging people to believe that 1 in 5 women on campus will be raped.  (Reality check).

6) Aren’t you glad that people like Jeff Sessions are making important public policy decisions for this country?  Good people don’t smoke marijuana!!

 

Caucus member Jeff Sessions (R.-Al.) spoke of the need to foster “knowledge that this drug is dangerous, you cannot play with it, it is not funny, it’s not something to laugh about… and to send that message with clarity that good people don’t smoke marijuana.”

Oh, and the government spent $18 million eradicating marijuana plants last year.  Ugh.  Even worse, the money for those efforts came from civil asset forfeiture.  It’s like the trifecta of bad policy.  Meanwhile, the public increasingly knows better.

7) Hillary Clinton and Kevin Drum in defense of politics.

8) Well done billboard funders, well done.

9) Finding answer to disease in genetic superheroes:

“I had an a-ha moment,” says Friend. “If you want to find a way of preventing disease, you shouldn’t be looking at people with the disease. “You should look at people who should have been sick but aren’t.”

These people, unbeknownst to them, carry genes that all but guarantee that they’ll get fatal diseases. And yet, somehow, they’re completely healthy. They might carry other genes that mitigate their risk. Or perhaps, some aspect of their diet, lifestyle, or environment shields them from their harmful inheritance. Either way, Friend reasoned that if he could find these “genetic superheroes,” and work out the secrets of their powers, he could find ways of helping others to beat the odds.

10) Why teachers need to know the wrong answers.

11) Open tab too long– Yglesias on the anti-free trade backlash that doesn’t really exist.

12) You know would be awesome?  Basic scientific literacy among Republican members of Congress.  Presumably, that’s too much to ask for.

13) I loved David Kessler’s The End of Overeating.  Had as much of a lasting impact on my thinking (and that of my wife) as any book I’ve read in recent years.  I’m very much looking forward to his Capture.

14) Great Dahlia Lithwick on the insanity that is Charles Grassley on judges:

Wait, what? So the problem for Grassley isn’t “political” justices—it’s justices appointed by Republicans who don’t advance “conservative policy” 100 percent of the time. And with that, he revealed his real issue. His Senate floor attack isn’t about depoliticizing the court at all. It’s about calling out Roberts for being insufficiently loyal to the Tea Party agenda when he voted not to strike down Obamacare.

What is really being said here is that there is only one way to interpret the Constitution and that is in the way that “advances conservative policy.” According to Grassley’s thinking, a justice who fails to do that in every single case before him or her is “political” and damaging the court. By this insane logic, the only way to protect the court from politics is to seat nine Chuck Grassleys and go home. And to achieve this type of court he will stop at nothing, including trash talking the entire institution from the Senate floor

 15) One of my best friends from way back at Duke is in the photo of this story about surf gangs.  Fascinating story, though my friend’s only involvement was looking at the beach.
16) The Post on the difficulty of being McCrory in today’s Republican party.
17) The best 71-second animation you’ll watch today.  Indeed.
18) Innovation is overrated.
19) Post editorial in favor of Kasich:
IN A different election year, Ohio Gov. John Kasich would not be the moderate in the Republican presidential race. An instinctual tax-cutter who wears his religion on his sleeve and signed a bill defunding Planned Parenthood, Mr. Kasich is more Jack Kemp than Bob Dole. Yet it is a sign of how cracked the GOP has become that Mr. Kasich is the only Republican left in the race who acknowledges many of the principles essential to this country’s democracy.
 20) Time magazine ran a horrible cover story on the national debt.  Yglesias wonderfully deconstructs it’s awfulness (as do good pieces in Wonkblog).  Shame on Time.  Drum with the succinct take:
 Sigh. Matt Yglesias draws my attention to this week’s cover ofTime, a Trump-friendly warning that we’re all doomed thanks to the national debt. Matt takes apart this inane argument just fine, but I’ll do it more quickly: You will never have to pay down this debt. Nor will your children. Or your grandchildren. Just forget about it.

And if we ever do have to pay some of it down? We’ll get to pay it off over decades, just like any other debt. And the rich will pay a bigger share than you. But I guess “You might someday owe $145 per year” doesn’t make a very good magazine cover.

Quick hits (part I)

1) More evidence that anti-bacterial soaps do more harm than good (the point of soap is to actually wash the germs away, not kill them).  I’ve tried to use regular soap for years, but it can actually be hard to find the liquid soap that is not anti-bacterial.

2) Really enjoyed reading about Peggy Orenstein’s new book on girls and sex.  I think I’ll be giving this to Sarah in 8-10 years.

3) How to get your children to behave through positive behavioral reinforcement.  Maybe too late for my kids.  But I probably should try, because they sure won’t behave.

4) Just a video of a submarine surfacing through ice.  Nothing cool to see here.

5) Had this article about the lawyer who took on Dupont in an open tab for a long time.  Glad I finally read it.  Really good stuff.

Bilott doesn’t regret fighting DuPont for the last 16 years, nor for letting PFOA consume his career. But he is still angry. ‘‘The thought that DuPont could get away with this for this long,’’ Bilott says, his tone landing halfway between wonder and rage, ‘‘that they could keep making a profit off it, then get the agreement of the governmental agencies to slowly phase it out, only to replace it with an alternative with unknown human effects — we told the agencies about this in 2001, and they’ve essentially done nothing. That’s 14 years of this stuff continuing to be used, continuing to be in the drinking water all over the country. DuPont just quietly switches over to the next substance. And in the meantime, they fight everyone who has been injured by it.’’

Bilott is currently prosecuting Wolf v. DuPont, the second of the personal-injury cases filed by the members of his class. The plaintiff, John M. Wolf of Parkersburg, claims that PFOA in his drinking water caused him to develop ulcerative colitis. That trial begins in March. When it concludes, there will be 3,533 cases left to try

6) Apparently, it is quite exhausting when your full-time job is blurring out people’s exposed private parts for a television show.

7) Steve Benen on the amateurishness of Trump’s delegate operations.

8) Thanks to Pat McCrory, it’s not easy being Pat McCrory.

9) Time to re-think how we think about the “tree of life.”

Existing genetic studies have been heavily biased towards the branches of life that we’re most familiar with, especially those we can see and study. It’s no coincidence that animals made up half of the “comprehensive tree of life,” and fungi, plants, and algae took up another third, and microscopic bacteria filled just a small wedge.

That’s not what the real tree of life looks like.

We visible organisms should be the small wedge. We’re latecomers to Earth’s story, and represent the smallest sliver of life’s diversity. Bacteria are the true lords of the world. They’ve been on the planet for billions of years and have irrevocably changed it, while diversifying into endless forms most wonderful and most beautiful. Many of these forms have never been seen, but we know they exist because of their genes. Using techniques that can extract DNA from environmental samples—scoops of mud or swabs of saliva—scientists have been able to piece together the full genomes of organisms whose existence is otherwise a mystery.

Using 1,011 of these genomes, Laura Hug, now at the University of Waterloo, and Jillian Banfield at the University of California, Berkeley have sketched out a radically different tree of life. All the creatures we’re familiar with—the animals, plants, and fungi—are crowded on one thin branch. The rest are largely filled with bacteria. [emphasis mine]

10) The octopus who escaped back to the ocean.

11) NYT Editorial on the endemic racism in the Chicago PD.  Also, a good occassion to plug the old, but truly not at all dated, Courtroom 302.  

12) Evan Osnos on Trump’s convention strategy.

13) Apparently, Republicans only think Zika virus affects blue states.  Or maybe, they are just against doing something about it because Obama is for it.  Ugh.

14) Mike Munger on the beauty of the virtual classroom discussion.  It’s got it’s value, but I think Munger is over-selling it.

15) Should we have government-sponsored childcare?

In a new report published Wednesday, a group of economists argued the market alone can’t fix this problem. Researchers at the Economic Policy Institute, a think tank in the District, say daycare should become a national priority, a human right on par with public education, because it contributes to academic achievement gaps, among other unequal outcomes later in children’s lives.

In order to make high-quality child care — with well-trained staff and a cognitively enriching environment — available to all in the current system, many children would have to be crammed into the best day care centers and safety would have to be severely compromised, said co-author Josh Bivens, EPI’s research and policy director.“The easiest way,” he said, “would be to shove 70 kids in one class.”

Rather than encourage this dystopia, he said, America should invest more resources into building a national childcare system, one that rewards quality.

16) 538 on how a Penn State lab is predicting sunset quality.  Cool.

17) Speaking of the sun, the Sunlight Foundation on how lobbyists effectively prevent saner tax policy.

18) How about a space probe to the “nearby” star Alpha Centauri?  Mostly, this caught my eye because despite having almost no creative ability, the one good story I remember writing in elementary school was “journey to Alpha Centauri.”  The beginning and end of my career as a science fiction author.

19) This is pretty damn cool– click on the caterpillar and see the moth/butterfly it becomes.

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