The Overview - May 03, 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 - April 26, 2021: HERE

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

Below are some eclectic links for the week of April 26th, 2021.

Enjoy, share, and subscribe!

Table of Contents:

  • Articles/Essays - The Guardian; Security Policy Reform Institute; Wall Street Journal; Dissent Magazine; Policy Tensor, Real Life Mag; @vanyaland617; WIRED; Use Journal; Atlas Obscura

  • Book - Lurking by Joanne McNeil @jomc

  • Documentary - The Plan to Revive the Mammoth Steppe to Fight Climate Change via @theatlaspro

  • Lecture - Calling Out Bad Science and Junk Data with @CT_Bergstrom & @jevinwest via @intelligence2

  • Paper - Adding is favoured over subtracting in problem solving via @Nature

  • Podcast - EP103 James Ehrlich on Regen Villages via @jim_rutt

  • TED Talk - This tool will help improve your critical thinking - @EFW48

  • Twittersphere - One of the most heartbreaking wildlife data visualizations I’ve ever made - this video shows the catastrophic decline of western monarch butterflies since 1997. via @DipikaKadaba

  • Video - 7 Lesser Talked about Ancient Marvels (3-parts) via @SimonWhistler

  • Website - The definitive guide to the world’s hidden wonders via @atlasobscura



Just 3% of world’s ecosystems remain intact, study suggests via @dpcarrington

Pristine areas in the Amazon and Siberia may expand with animal reintroductions, scientists say

“Previous analyses have identified wilderness areas based largely on satellite images and estimated that 20-40% of the Earth’s surface is little affected by humans. However, the scientists behind the new study argue that forests, savannah and tundra can appear intact from above but that, on the ground, vital species are missing. Elephants, for example, spread seeds and create important clearings in forests, while wolves can control populations of deer and elk.

The new assessment combines maps of human damage to habitat with maps showing where animals have disappeared from their original ranges or are too few in number to maintain a healthy ecosystem. Some scientists said the new analysis underestimates the intact areas, because the ranges of animals centuries ago are poorly known and the new maps do not take account of the impacts of the climate crisis, which is changing the ranges of species.”

Congressional progressives must reject Biden's regressive budget via @security_reform

“Military spending exploded during the Trump administration. The last defense bill Obama signed into law authorized $610 billion for the Pentagon; the final bill under Trump authorized $740.5 billion. Polling suggests relatively few Americans would consider this $130.5 billion surge appropriate. Even fewer would argue that Trump’s military spending spree didn’t go far enough. The Biden-Harris White House has argued just that.

President Biden proposed a $753 billion military budget in a preview of his first discretionary funding request earlier this month. This amounts to an increase of well over $12 billion, meaning that Biden boosted Pentagon funding by an amount roughly equivalent to CDC’s entire annual budget.”

Elon Musk’s Satellite Internet Project Is Too Risky, Rivals Say via @WSJ

“In a rush to claim orbital real-estate, competitors ask regulators to clamp down on SpaceX’s Starlink project.

Orbital space is finite, and the current lack of universal regulation means companies can place satellites on a first-come, first-served basis. And Mr. Musk is on track to stake a claim for most of the free orbital real estate...In the region of space where Starlink operates, satellites orbit the earth at 18,000 miles an hour. Any collision could spread high-velocity debris that could make the orbit unusable for years.” Starlink satellites have low maneuverability.”

The Green New Deal’s Public Infrastructure Should Be Funded by the Public by @MarkVinPaul & @aldatweets in @DissentMag

“To start, we need to be clear about the big questions at hand. How should public projects be financed? Does this vary across scales of government? Why is there a clear lack of investment in building the green economy on both the public and private side? And why are we still extracting and burning fossil fuels? Is the sluggish pace of decarbonization due to a dearth of available funds? A lack of profitable investments? Technology? Or is it rather a problem of political mobilization?”

Is it feasible to publicly fund the global energy transition? Via @policytensor

“This is an efficient way to utilize scarce tax revenue. Something like this is absolutely necessary to accomplish decarbonization in the third world under conditions of combined and uneven development. Even in the rich nations of the advanced industrial world, it is a promising strategy to efficiently use politically-expensive tax dollars. The real alternative is not that of the progressive fantasy — publicly funded worldwide deep decarbonization underwritten by a reconstructed global financial system under democratic control — because progressives are not even in a position to impose their visions in their own countries as of writing, even within the social democratic parties they call home. The real alternative is the wholesale failure of the decarbonization agenda, not so much because of outright climate denial, but rather because we mistake verbal assent by the adults for seriousness.”

Paid in Full: The emerging dream of an internet where every interaction is a financial transaction via @kneelingbus in @_reallifemag

“If one of the problems with Web 2.0 was that it demanded constant overproduction, the speculative tendency of NFTs does little to correct that, instead encouraging creators and patrons alike to place more bets. As the GameStop short squeeze earlier this year demonstrated, speculation and exchange value can be their own form of entertainment. Watching numbers go up is fun — more so when one has a stake in them. Social media is already a scoreboard of likes and shares; speculation via tokenization ratchets this to the next level. This type of entertainment — spectacles of quantity — obviates the need for spectacles of quality, which lack the power of a direct personal appeal to one’s pocket. It’s not just that information wants to be expensive, then; it appears we want it to be expensive too.”

Evan Greer confronts a streaming giant with ‘Spotify Is Surveillance’ via @VickiWasylak in @vanyaland617

“The problem is not ‘the internet.’ The internet is fucking awesome. The problem is that a small handful of companies have chosen a business model — surveillance capitalism — that is fundamentally incompatible with basic human rights and democracy,” Greer concludes. “We need to be fighting to bring down those Goliaths and build decentralized, community-based alternatives, so that we can realize the full potential of this transformative technology… The internet has the potential to grant every kid on earth universal access to human knowledge and creativity, and ensure that artists and creators are fairly compensated for our labor. Let’s fight to make that vision a reality.” - @evan_greer

They Hacked McDonald’s Ice Cream Machines—and Started a Cold War via @WIRED

“Secret codes. Legal threats. Betrayal. How one couple built a device to fix McDonald’s notoriously broken soft-serve machines—and how the fast-food giant froze them out.

At times, he seemed to acknowledge the admittedly low stakes of Kytch's story, the cutthroat battles his tiny startup has fought and continues to fight over such a trivial thing as a fast-food ice cream cone. “We want the world to know this because it’s such a ... I mean, this is about ice cream!” O’Sullivan said at one point with exasperation.

But at other moments, he described Kytch’s story as a kind of David and Goliath right-to-repair struggle, or even in grander terms: a valiant effort to fix a very noncritical but ubiquitous piece of the world’s infrastructure. An effort that had been defeated not by the flaws of that machine but by the people controlling it—some of whom would rather it remain broken.

“There’s the ice cream machine,” O’Sullivan says darkly, “and then there’s the machine behind the machine.” They haven’t found the secret code to crack that one yet.”

My Son, the Organ Donor via Kim Moldofsky in @usejournal

“I also learned that the care team doesn’t just wheel the donor away. They send them off with an Honor Walk. The doctors and nurses who worked to keep my son’s organs functioning at optimal levels joined local family, friends, and colleagues, packed shoulder-to-shoulder (pre-COVID) to line the short corridor from the ICU to the surgical suite for the ceremonial transport of my son’s body…

My son’s final act of kindness is a gift that outlasts his life. I still feel profound grief as I slog through these pandemic days. But I take solace in the fact that I can find meaning in my son’s death as well as his life.

Most of us have the same power to leave a long-lasting gift. You can save lives and change lives (even while you are alive in some cases). Please talk with your loved ones of all ages about organ donation. Find out what their wishes are and make yours known.”

The Long Linguistic Journey to ‘Dagnabbit’ via @dannosowitz in @atlasobscura

“This piece of pseudo-profanity is what’s known as a taboo deformation—a word we say when we don’t want to say the word.

“Nabbit” as a switch for “dammit” is more fun, because we get to use both dissimilation and metathesis. “M” and “n,” remember, are paired together, very similar sounds. So swap out one for another. “D” and “b” are also pairs: they’re called stops, which means that you halt the movement of air from your mouth. (That’s as opposed to a sound like “s,” which could theoretically go on for as long as you have air in your lungs. But you can’t make the “d” or “b” sounds without stopping air from flowing.)

So using dissimilation, we get to “bannit.” Pretty good, but not great. What if we use metathesis to swap the position of our new consonants within that word? Ah ha! Nabbit. Put them together and we’ve figured out dagnabbit. This also gives us a key to making our own taboo deformations, if we want. For example! I am sick of winter. Winter should be a bad word. Please always refer to winter as “millder.” With any luck, by avoiding the Dark Season’s True Name, we can avoid summoning it back next year.”


Lurking by Joanne McNeil @jomc

“Calls for regulation or even brand-new ventures might be too little, too late, but it doesn’t hurt to dream. A public internet alone won’t save us, a decentralized internet itself won’t protect us; more than that, what users need are non-commercial localized systems of feedback, mutual aid, and accountability--commons guided with respect to user consent and privacy. Users need users, people need people.

To borrow a slogan often expressed by health and disability activists, there should be “nothing about us without us.”

Communities online have to be shaped and minded by their very very same communities. And the internet needs its librarians. Until then, the internet remains imperfect, a hell that is fun, ruled by idiots and thieves, providing users with slingshots for self expression but no shield from the bile that rebounds. It is our potential, our conscription, and our reality: platforms that trap us, platforms that cannot accommodate us, platforms that don’t deserve us.”


The Plan to Revive the Mammoth Steppe to Fight Climate Change via @theatlaspro

“Deep in the frozen north of Russia's Sakha Republic lies a place where time is being reversed and a once extinct environment is being brought back to life. How is something like this possible and what impact could it have on our world?”


Calling Out Bad Science and Junk Data with @CT_Bergstrom & @jevinwest via @intelligence2

“Politicians are unconstrained by facts. Science is conducted by press release. Start-up culture elevates hype to high art. The world is awash in bullshit, and we're drowning in it. Based on their popular course at the University of Washington, Carl Bergstrom and Jevin West give us the tools to see through the obfuscations, deliberate and careless, that dominate every realm of our lives.

Through six rules of thumb, they help us to recognize when numbers are being manipulated, to cut through the crap wherever we encounter it - even within ourselves - and learn how to give the real facts to a crystal-loving friend or climate change denier uncle.”


Adding is favoured over subtracting in problem solving 

“A series of problem-solving experiments reveal that people are more likely to consider solutions that add features than solutions that remove them, even when removing features is more efficient.”

“Consider the Lego structure depicted in Figure 1, in which a figurine is placed under a roof supported by a single pillar at one corner. How would you change this structure so that you could put a masonry brick on top of it without crushing the figurine, bearing in mind that each block added costs 10 cents? If you are like most participants in a study reported by Adams et al.1 in Nature, you would add pillars to better support the roof. But a simpler (and cheaper) solution would be to remove the existing pillar, and let the roof simply rest on the base. Across a series of similar experiments, the authors observe that people consistently consider changes that add components over those that subtract them — a tendency that has broad implications for everyday decision-making.”

Related thought:

“An obvious point that took me way too long to appreciate: in software engineering, you should probably optimize for speed even when you don't have to, because it's one of the easiest/best ways to prioritize subtraction and parsimony in the solution space” via @patrickc


EP103 James Ehrlich on Regen Villages via @jim_rutt

One of Eclectic Spacewalk Production’s goals in the next 2 years is to go to some of these Regen Villages around the world and make a documentary about them.

“James Ehrlich talks to Jim about what makes a regen village, potential community organization types, how regen villages could learn from each other, utilizing machine learning, working with existing government regulations, the importance & urgent need for regen villages, the COVID-19 impact on demand, city living & de-urbanization, misconceptions of rural living, climate change, healthy living with less, materialism, funding villages, the future of pre-fab construction, plans for regen village agriculture, and more.”

TED Talk

This tool will help improve your critical thinking - @EFW48

“Socrates, one of the founding fathers of Western philosophical thought, was on trial. Many believed he was an enemy of the state, accusing the philosopher of corrupting the youth and refusing to recognize their gods. But Socrates wasn’t feared for claiming to have all the answers, but rather, for asking too many questions. Erick Wilberding digs into the technique known as the Socratic Method.”


One of the most heartbreaking wildlife data visualizations I’ve ever made - this video shows the catastrophic decline of western monarch butterflies since 1997. via @DipikaKadaba


7 Lesser Talked about Ancient Marvels via @SimonWhistler

1 - Banaue rice terraces

2 - Gobekli tepe

3 - Newgrange

4 - Leshan giant buddha

5 - Monasteries of meteora

6 - Baalbek

7 - Mayan ruins of tikal

Five More Lesser Talked About Ancient Marvels

1 - Poverty point

2 - Ellora cave temples

3 - Stone kingdom great zimbabwe

4 - Sigiriya rock fortress

5 - Derinkuyu underground city

Lesser Talked About Ancient Marvels, Part 3

1 -Eredo

2 - Dwarka

3 - Ggantija Temples

4 - Great Pyramid of Cholula

5 - Deffufa of Ancient Kerma


The definitive guide to the world’s hidden wonders via @atlasobscura

That’s it for this week. Until next time - Ad Astra!


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