The Overview - June 28, 2021

The Overview is a weekly roundup of eclectic content in-between essay newsletters & "Conversations" podcast episodes to scratch your brain's curiosity itch.

Hello Eclectic Spacewalkers,

I wish that you and your family are safe and healthy wherever you are in the world. :)

Check out the last The Overview - May 24, 2021: HERE

Read our latest essay - Technopoly: HERE

Watch/listen to our ‘Conversation with Claire Webb’: HERE

Get our E-Book for free by using ‘substack’: HERE

Below are some eclectic links for the week of June 28th, 2021.

Enjoy, share, and subscribe!


Table of Contents:

  • Articles/Essays - RibbonFarm; Cory Doctorow; Flaneuse Project; Teen Vogue; Indy Star; Marla Cruz; Dan Stern; The Guardian; NewsHook; ESPN

  • Book - Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Marukami

  • Documentary - The Mind-Bending Story Of Quantum Physics | Spark

  • Lectures - The Birth of #QuantumPhysics - @carlorovelli and Conrad Shawcross via @Ri_Science; The existence of antimatter | Lee Smolin of @Perimeter, @skdh, and @TaraShears via @IAI_TV 

  • Paper - Measuring the Thermodynamic Cost of Timekeeping

  • Podcasts - Building Acumen, How to (Actually) Change the World, Speaking Your Truth, and the Incredible Power of “Dumb” Questions (#512) via @jnovogratz on @tferriss; Our Eclectic Spacewalk ‘Conversations’ podcast with Claire Webb

  • TED Talk - Why should you read “Kafka on the Shore”? - Iseult Gillespie

  • Twittersphere - The total area of solar panels it would take to power the world, Europe, and Germany. This map is from Nadine May’s thesis

  • Video - Math Has a Fatal Flaw via @veritasium

  • Website - https://newscience.org/

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Articles/Essays

Good People and Wicked Problems via @VGR in @ribbonfarm

“We can distinguish three postures and outcomes in such complex worlds:

  1. Absolute moralists fail absolutely, the way flat earthers do trying to navigate a round world.

  2. Moral relativists fail the way people far inland do — they may not believe the world is flat, but they can see no large water bodies within their horizons, and begin to unconsciously operate with a totalizing mental model of “the world is mostly firm land” (moral dry ground).

  3. People who abandon moral frames as primary frames and look for alternative frames have a shot at being effective, but have no guarantees. These are people who realize 3/4 of the world is covered in water, and try to develop aquatic modes of being, giving up reliance on moral dry ground altogether.

One way to think about this is: complex worlds are unpredictably, locally, karmic.”

The Memex Method via @doctorow

“When your commonplace book is a public database...

And while I never set out to blog in the hopes of “building a platform” (or, worse still, a brand), the act of publishing my own interests helped people with similar interests to mine to find me — and vice versa. Some of those people buy my books (and vice versa), but far more importantly, they are a community.

This is the final inversion of blogging: not just publishing before selecting, nor researching before knowing your subject — but producing to attract, rather than serve, an audience. Traditional editors identify an audience who will pay for their publication (or whom an advertiser will pay to reach) and then find a writer who can speak to that audience. As a blogger, I’ve enjoyed the delirious freedom to write exactly the publication I’d want to read, which then attracts other people who feel the same way.

Two decades in, I can safely say that this community of peers, mentors, sounding boards, protégés, friends, combatants and interlocutors is more useful to me as a writer and a person than the even the prodigious instrumental benefits that blogging brings to my composition process.”

John Berger’s steps toward a small theory of the visible via @PHurducas

“‘We live within a spectacle of empty clothes and unworn masks’

I first came across John Berger’s work when I wrote an essay in which I included quotes from Susan Sontag’s Regarding the Pain of Others. Understanding a Photograph seemed like the perfect book that could shed some light on the topic of looking at photographs – and understanding them. Parts from my essay can be read here: On Voyeurism and Flinching.

In Steps Towards a Small Theory of the Visible Berger explores and dissects the close links between art and the individual. The essays are short and revelatory. Below I selected a few paragraphs and sentences that I want to remember.”

Campus Cancel Culture Freakouts Obscure the Power of University Boards via @TeenVogue

“The decline of faculty governance and the corresponding ascendancy of corporate dominance of higher ed undermines the long-repeated canard about radical dominance of the university. Additionally, there are the recent right-wing efforts to undermine or revoke tenure at public universities, as the Texas legislature is currently considering, and the budgetary challenges facing higher education that have been heightened by the pandemic. It’s clear this is a harrowing time for colleges and universities nationwide.

What is the left to do about the corporate capture of the modern university? First and foremost, it must support and spread labor organizing across the country, building on the momentum established this spring with the strike by graduate workers at Columbia University. Second, relentlessly push the Biden administration toward canceling all student debt and supporting free public college for all. Third, assert shared governance on campus and work toward building a democratic university that secures labor protections and fair wages for all faculty, especially contingent and graduate workers. If we don’t act, the corporatization of universities will destroy American higher education.”

Black homeowner had a white friend stand in for third appraisal. Her home value doubled. via @indystar

“During the early months of the coronavirus pandemic last year, the first two appraisers who visited her home in the historic Flanner House Homes neighborhood, just west of downtown, valued it at $125,000 and $110,000, respectively.

But that third appraisal went differently. 

To get that one, Duffy, who is African American, communicated with the appraiser strictly via email, stripped her home of all signs of her racial and cultural identity and had the white husband of a friend stand in for her during the appraiser's visit.

The home's new value: $259,000.

"I had to go through all of that just to say that I was right and that this is what's happening," she said. "This is real."”

A Stripper’s Case for the Full Decriminalization of Sex Work via @prolepeach

“How the policing of sex work affects strippers and what we gain from decriminalization…

Full decriminalization of sex work means repealing all criminal statutes regarding selling sex, buying sex, loitering to sell or solicit sex and brothel keeping. Why should strippers concern themselves with the law when strip clubs are already legal? The criminalization of sex work threatens the freedom and livelihoods of strippers everywhere. Prostitution raids in strip clubs make obvious what many sex workers already know: the primary function of police in sex workers’ lives is to entrap us in a web of criminalization with all the attendant stigma, fear and violence.

Our collective position to the police is one of subjugation. They are always looking for a reason to arrest us. All sex workers are in an antagonistic relationship with institutions carrying out the state’s interest in controlling our sexual and erotic labor. The terror and stigma of being swept up in a vice raid is key to maintaining this control. Decriminalizing sex work removes police as the arbiters of state-sanctioned violence against people selling sex, perceived to be selling sex, or simply too close in proximity to people who sell sex.

The policing of sex work extends beyond arresting people for exchanging sex for money and vice versa. In fact, policing necessarily collapses the distinctions between legal and illegal sex work. Stripping itself is legal entertainment but the enduring stigma of strip clubs as hubs of criminal activity and a threat to property values means strippers are codified as targets of law enforcement.”

The Dangers of "Having Fun" via @danstern_ (Cameo appearance from @SamoBurja)

“Fromm believes that we fall into this trap of chasing happiness through consumption; we subconsciously feel that we must maximize “benefit”, or our “personal profit” in every action we take.  Thus, the uneasiness we feel with no plans to consume.  Where’s the “profit” in wandering with only one’s self as company with no expectations?

Fromm recognized that our culture had become downstream of economics.  In other words, we behave in ways that mirror the mechanics of capitalism. He saw this happening 65 years ago, but we still see his prescient idea everywhere today: every new building looks the same (ugly) for the sake of efficiency, liberal arts education is thought of as a “bad deal”, and everything has become financialized, from GIFs to Pokemon cards.  

These cultural norms have slowly degraded our underlying social technologies.  You can think of social technologies as a society’s operating system of norms, values and expectations.  Samo Burja has written about how these social technologies began their decline post-Industrialization.”

Blind man has sight partly restored after pioneering treatment

“The breakthrough marks an important step towards the more widespread use of optogenetics as a clinical treatment. It involves modifying nerve cells (neurons) so that they fire electrical signals when they’re exposed to certain wavelengths of light, equipping neuroscientists with the power to precisely control neuronal signalling within the brain and elsewhere…

There are still major obstacles to overcome before optogenetic treatment can be used more widely, including identifying the relevant brain cells to be modified, and finding ways to safely introduce light sources into the brain.

Miesenböck said: “If optogenetic treatments for other neurological and psychiatric indications are to become a reality, we need to advance our fundamental understanding of the relevant brain structures. This, not technological issues, is the most serious obstacle to wider optogenetic applications.””

Library of smell for the blind and visually impaired people to open in Poland via @NewzHook

“When the centre launched an appeal for interesting smells, it received parcels from Poland and from all over the world. The library will be open to visitors, along with the Spatial Orientation Park and the typhloacoustic laboratory and museum already operating at the centre.

The Spatial Orientation Park is the first such facility in Poland and most likely the only one in Europe created to help blind and visually impaired people learn spatial orientation. The typhloacoustic museum is a collection of devices used by the blind over the last several centuries, to include maps, Braille tablets, and touch graphics.

By stimulating the other senses, the training gives people with visual disabilities the confidence to move around using hearing, sense of touch, and smell.”

Layering, gummy bears and 5G -- What we've learned in 100 years on Mount Everest via @alyroe in @ESPN

“ONE HUNDRED YEARS ago this spring, a group of British explorers and Sherpa guides took the first steps toward the summit of Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world. Clad in tweed and gabardine and armed with rudimentary climbing gear, the group set out to prove the possibility of reaching the top of a mountain Sherpas call Chomolungma, or "Goddess, Mother of the World."

Over the course of six months, members of the Mount Everest reconnaissance expedition, which included a 34-year-old English climber and schoolteacher named George Mallory, explored multiple approaches to the summit and photographed and sketched vast areas of the region around the mountain. Thirty-two years later, building upon the knowledge and experience gathered on those early treks, New Zealand climber Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay became the first humans to reach the Roof of the World.

In celebration of that initial exploratory expedition, we spoke with dozens of the world's top climbers, climate scientists, physicians, gear makers and high-altitude climbing experts to examine 20 questions we've answered in 100 years on Everest and how exploration of the world's highest peak looks different today.”


Book

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

“Every one of us is losing something precious to us,” he says after the phone stops ringing. “Lost opportunities, lost possibilities, feelings we can never get back again. That’s part of what it means to be alive. But inside our heads--at least that’s where I imagine it--there’s a little room where we store those memories. A room like the stacks in this library. And to understand the workings of our own heart we have to keep on making new reference cards. We have to dust things off every once in a while, let in the fresh air, change the water in the flower vases. In other words, you’ll live forever in your own private library.” - p.463-464

“Kafka on the Shore, a tour de force of metaphysical reality, is powered by two remarkable characters: a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who runs away from home either to escape a gruesome oedipal prophecy or to search for his long-missing mother and sister; and an aging simpleton called Nakata, who never recovered from a wartime affliction and now is drawn toward Kafka for reasons that, like the most basic activities of daily life, he cannot fathom. Their odyssey, as mysterious to them as it is to us, is enriched throughout by vivid accomplices and mesmerizing events. Cats and people carry on conversations, a ghostlike pimp employs a Hegel-quoting prostitute, a forest harbors soldiers apparently unaged since World War II, and rainstorms of fish (and worse) fall from the sky. There is a brutal murder, with the identity of both victim and perpetrator a riddle—yet this, along with everything else, is eventually answered, just as the entwined destinies of Kafka and Nakata are gradually revealed, with one escaping his fate entirely and the other given a fresh start on his own.”


Documentaries

The Mind Bending Story Of Quantum Physics (Part 1/2) | Spark

“Professor Jim Al-Khalili traces the story of arguably the most important, accurate and yet perplexing scientific theory ever: quantum physics.

The story of quantum physics starts at the beginning of the 20th century with scientists trying to better understand how light bulbs work. This simple question soon led scientists deep into the hidden workings of matter, into the sub-atomic building blocks of the world around us. Here they discovered phenomena unlike any encountered before - a realm where things can be in many places at once, where chance and probability call the shots and where reality appears to only truly exist when we observe it.

Albert Einstein hated the idea that nature, at its most fundamental level, is governed by chance. Jim reveals how in the 1930's, Einstein thought he'd found a fatal flaw in quantum physics. This was not taken seriously until it was tested in the 1960s. Professor Al-Khalili repeats this critical experiment, posing the question does reality really exist, or do we conjure it into existence by the act of observation?
Elsewhere, we explore how the most famous law of quantum physics – The Uncertainty Principle – is obeyed by plants and trees as they capture sunlight during the vital process of photosynthesis. Could quantum mechanics explain the greatest mystery in biology - evolution?”


Exploring The World Of Quantum Physics with Jim Al-Khalili (Part 2/2) | Spark


Lectures

The Birth of #QuantumPhysics - @carlorovelli and Conrad Shawcross via @Ri_Science

“Carlo Rovelli and Conrad Shawcross explore the idea of the quantum - the enigmatic and fiercely debated fundamental notion that a physical property can be quantised.

Carlo Rovelli’s new book Helgoland opens with the night the young Werner Heisenberg has an idea that will change physics in its entirety, together with the whole of science and our very conception of the world, forever causing a rip in our all-too-solid conceptions of reality. A world where nothing exists, except in its relation to something else. It is time, Rovelli asserts, for these deeply radical ideas to be absorbed into the whole of contemporary culture.”

The existence of antimatter | Lee Smolin of @Perimeter, @skdh and @TaraShears via @IAI_TV 

“From Star Trek to Dan Brown novels, Doctor Who to Marvel Comics, antimatter has fascinated since it was proposed by Dirac in the 1920s and confirmed with the discovery of the positron a few years later. Heisenberg - the father of modern physics - referred to its discovery as "the biggest jumps of all the big jumps in physics". But  there's a fundamental problem. The theory predicts the disappearance of the universe within moments of its inception as matter and antimatter destroy each other in a huge cataclysm. Yet 14 billion years later our universe exists, and scientists still uphold the  antimatter theory.

Is it time to give up the idea that for every particle there is an anti-particle or would this be a threat to quantum mechanics itself?  Is it right to overlook fundamental flaws in a theory in favour of neatness and buzzwords? Or nearly a century on from its inception, should we stand by the theory confident that a solution will be found?”


Paper

Measuring the Thermodynamic Cost of Timekeeping

“Abstract: All clocks, in some form or another, use the evolution of nature toward higher entropy states to quantify the passage of time. Because of the statistical nature of the second law and corresponding entropy flows, fluctuations fundamentally limit the performance of any clock. This suggests a deep relation between the increase in entropy and the quality of clock ticks. Indeed, minimal models for autonomous clocks in the quantum realm revealed that a linear relation can be derived, where for a limited regime every bit of entropy linearly increases the accuracy of quantum clocks. But can such a linear relation persist as we move toward a more classical system? We answer this in the affirmative by presenting the first experimental investigation of this thermodynamic relation in a nanoscale clock. We stochastically drive a nanometer-thick membrane and read out its displacement with a radio-frequency cavity, allowing us to identify the ticks of a clock. We show theoretically that the maximum possible accuracy for this classical clock is proportional to the entropy created per tick, similar to the known limit for a weakly coupled quantum clock but with a different proportionality constant. We measure both the accuracy and the entropy. Once nonthermal noise is accounted for, we find that there is a linear relation between accuracy and entropy and that the clock operates within an order of magnitude of the theoretical bound.”

(H/T: @pkedrosky - tl;dr: The greater a clock's accuracy, the more it increases entropy in the universe. Which is unsettling.)


Podcasts

Building Acumen, How to (Actually) Change the World, Speaking Your Truth, and the Incredible Power of “Dumb” Questions (#512) via @jnovogratz on @tferriss

“Jacqueline Novogratz (@jnovogratz) is the founder and CEO of Acumen. In 2001, Jacqueline started Acumen with the idea of investing philanthropic patient capital in entrepreneurs seeking to solve the toughest issues of poverty. As a pioneer of impact investing, Acumen and its investments have brought critical services like healthcare, education, and clean energy to hundreds of millions of low-income people.

After supporting hundreds of entrepreneurs, Jacqueline and her team recognized character as the crucial ingredient for success. In 2020, they launched Acumen Academy to instruct others in global social change. Under Jacqueline’s leadership, Acumen has also launched several for-profit impact funds designed to invest at the intersection of poverty and climate change and has spun off 60 Decibels, founded on the principle that serving all stakeholders is as important as enriching shareholders.

Jacqueline is the New York Times best-selling author ofThe Blue Sweater andManifesto for a Moral Revolution: Practices to Build a Better World, which is now available in paperback. She has been named one of the Top 100 Global Thinkers by Foreign Policy, one of the 25 Smartest People of the Decade by The Daily Beast, and one of the world’s 100 Greatest Living Business Minds by Forbes, which also honored her with the Forbes 400 Lifetime Achievement Award for Social Entrepreneurship.””

Our Eclectic Spacewalk ‘Conversations’ podcast with Claire Webb

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TED Talk

Why should you read “Kafka on the Shore”? - Iseult Gillespie

“Desperate to escape his tyrannical father and the family curse he feels doomed to repeat, Haruki Murakami’s teenage protagonist renames himself “Kafka” after his favorite author and runs away from home. So begins “Kafka on the Shore”— an epic literary puzzle filled with time travel, hidden histories and magical underworlds. Iseult Gillespie dives into Murakami’s mind-bending and whimsical novel.”


Twittersphere

The total area of solar panels it would take to power the world, Europe, and Germany. This map is from Nadine May’s thesis [source, read before commenting: http://ow.ly/ga7Z50xBrRU]


Video

Math Has a Fatal Flaw via @veritasium

“Not everything that is true can be proven. This discovery transformed infinity, changed the course of a world war and led to the modern computer.”


Website

New Science

https://newscience.org/

“New Science aims to build new institutions of basic science, starting with the life sciences. - @newscienceorg via @alexeyguzey, @MarkLutter, & @AdamMarblestone

New Science's 2021 plan is to:

  1. Prepare to run the summer in-person research fellowship for young life scientists to work on exploratory research projects they couldn’t work on otherwise in 2022

  2. Continue to dig into how exactly the structures of science work and publish the results of that research

  3. Get 501c3 status and raise funding for the first year of operation”


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