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This Explains Everything – John Brockman


This Explains Everything

150 Deep, Beautiful, and Elegant Theories of How the World Works

John Brockman

Genre: Science & Nature

Price: $2.99

Publish Date: January 22, 2013

Publisher: Harper Perennial


Drawn from the cutting-edge frontiers of science, This Explains Everything will revolutionize your understanding of the world. What is your favorite deep, elegant, or beautiful explanation? This is the question John Brockman, publisher of Edge.org ("The world's smartest website"—The Guardian), posed to the world's most influential minds. Flowing from the horizons of physics, economics, psychology, neuroscience, and more, This Explains Everything presents 150 of the most surprising and brilliant theories of the way of our minds, societies, and universe work. Jared Diamond on biological electricity • Nassim Nicholas Taleb on positive stress • Steven Pinker on the deep genetic roots of human conflict • Richard Dawkins on pattern recognition • Nobel Prize-winning physicist Frank Wilczek on simplicity • Lisa Randall on the Higgs mechanism • BRIAN Eno on the limits of intuition • Richard Thaler on the power of commitment • V. S. Ramachandran on the "neural code" of consciousness • Nobel Prize winner ERIC KANDEL on the power of psychotherapy • Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi on "Lord Acton's Dictum" • Lawrence M. Krauss on the unification of electricity and magnetism • plus contributions by Martin J. Rees • Kevin Kelly • Clay Shirky • Daniel C. Dennett • Sherry Turkle • Philip Zimbardo • Lee Smolin • Rebecca Newberger Goldstein • Seth Lloyd • Stewart Brand • George Dyson • Matt Ridley


This Explains Everything – John Brockman

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Whole Earth Discipline – Stewart Brand


Whole Earth Discipline

Why Dense Cities, Nuclear Power, Transgenic Crops, RestoredWildlands, and Geoengineering Are Necessary

Stewart Brand

Genre: Science & Nature

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: October 15, 2009

Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group

Seller: Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

An icon of the environmental movement outlines a provocative approach for reclaiming our planet According to Stewart Brand, a lifelong environmentalist who sees everything in terms of solvable design problems, three profound transformations are under way on Earth right now. Climate change is real and is pushing us toward managing the planet as a whole. Urbanization?half the world?s population now lives in cities, and eighty percent will by midcentury?is altering humanity?s land impact and wealth. And biotechnology is becoming the world?s dominant engineering tool. In light of these changes, Brand suggests that environmentalists are going to have to reverse some longheld opinions and embrace tools that they have traditionally distrusted. Only a radical rethinking of traditional green pieties will allow us to forestall the cataclysmic deterioration of the earth?s resources. Whole Earth Discipline shatters a number of myths and presents counterintuitive observations on why cities are actually greener than countryside, how nuclear power is the future of energy, and why genetic engineering is the key to crop and land management. With a combination of scientific rigor and passionate advocacy, Brand shows us exactly where the sources of our dilemmas lie and offers a bold and inventive set of policies and solutions for creating a more sustainable society. In the end, says Brand, the environmental movement must become newly responsive to fast-moving science and take up the tools and discipline of engineering. We have to learn how to manage the planet?s global-scale natural infrastructure with as light a touch as possible and as much intervention as necessary.

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Whole Earth Discipline – Stewart Brand

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Republicans Need to Abandon Angry White Guys

Mother Jones

What’s going to happen to the Republican Party after November 8? I’ve raised the possibility that if Trump loses massively, the party establishment might get serious about marginalizing the tea party caucus in Congress instead of being held endlessly hostage to them. Most of the responses to that suggestion have been skeptical. The more likely possibility is that tea partiers will increase their influence and the GOP will become even crazier and more obstructionist than ever.

That’s pretty much what apostate Republican Max Boot thinks:

Republican leaders like Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan may hope that after Trump’s inevitable defeat the party will return to their brand of conservatism — in favor of free trade and American leadership abroad, cutting government spending and taxes, a balanced approach to immigration, and making deals where possible with centrist Democrats. But that’s not a safe assumption anymore.

….Perhaps Trump will fade away after the election and the Republican Party will return to its Reaganite roots. But…survey findings suggest a strong possibility that instead the GOP, or at least a substantial portion of it, could continue veering toward the fringe, muttering darkly about how Trump was robbed of his rightful victory. If that is the case, then the Republican Party may not survive the Trump takeover.

I want to make this easy. There’s basically only one thing that matters for the GOP: whether they double down on being the white men’s party, or whether they take the painful but necessary steps necessary to broaden their appeal. That’s it. Everything else pales in comparison.

If they continue on their current course, the presidency is going to get further and further out of reach. Eventually they won’t be able to hold on to the Senate or the House either. They’ve simply run out of ways to increase the white vote and suppress the non-white vote, and the demographics of America just flatly don’t support a party that’s increasingly loathed by women and minorities.

Lindsey Graham’s critique of four years ago is famous: “We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term.” Republicans need to print this on a hat and start wearing it at all times. The Southern Strategy worked great for half a century, but nothing lasts forever. It’s time to abandon it.

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Republicans Need to Abandon Angry White Guys

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The US Could Have Its Very Own Brexit, Samantha Bee Warns

Mother Jones

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On Monday night’s episode of Full Frontal With Samantha Bee, our host outlined some pretty scary parallels between the UK’s Brexit vote and the United States’ presidential election in November.

“While the Brits were waking up in the ruins of their nation saying, ‘Oh God, what have we done?’ a lot of Americans were looking over and saying, ‘Oh God, what are we about to do?'” Bee said, as she showed British news clips highlighting racist outbursts, directed at Muslim and Eastern European immigrants in particular, in the aftermath of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union.

In the UK and in the US, “there’s the sad conservative leader who gambled the nation’s future on his ability to control the extremists in his own party and lost,” Bee says as the screen shows photos of Britain’s disgraced PM David Cameron and US Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.

And Boris Johnson, “Europhobe and former mayor of London,” as well as the likeliest choice to become the next prime minister, is “basically Trump with his hair on backwards.”

But America is not Britain. In fact, not being British is kind of central to our brand, Bee says. While the UK is 87% white, the US is significantly more multiracial. And this diverse population is the key to ensuring that Trump not only loses the general election in November, she says, but loses “in a fucking landslide.”


The US Could Have Its Very Own Brexit, Samantha Bee Warns

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UC Davis’s Effort to Scrub Its Pepper-Spraying Incident From the Internet Worked Pretty Well—Until Reporters Found Out About It

Mother Jones

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In an embarrassing revelation, the Sacramento Bee reports that UC Davis has spent $175,000 trying to scrub the internet of references to its infamous 2011 pepper spraying incident. So how did that go? Aja Romano says not so well—and there’s a lesson to be learned from this:

As Gawker has been quick to point out, the efforts of both consulting firms failed miserably. As of this morning, “pepper spray” was the second autofill search result I received when I typed “UC Davis” into Google.

In all fairness, while it may suck for UC Davis to be perpetually judged for the actions of one man at an event that took place five years ago, the failure of its efforts to eradicate an unflattering reputation from the web perfectly encapsulates a crucial point about the nature of the internet. More specifically, it speaks to the internet’s ability to dismantle privilege and serve as an essentially egalitarian space where having power doesn’t necessarily mean you can drown out the voices of the many.

….This is a real and significant question, particularly for victims of revenge porn — people who’ve had images of themselves distributed online without their consent….Notably, many of the methods that UC Davis’s consultants used to try to bury the university’s pepper spray incident are the same methods that women are told to use when they’re fighting back against revenge porn: creating positive content, “Google-bombing” positive search results, and strengthening one’s online “brand” are all go-to strategies for cleaning up a negative internet past.

There’s a problem here: “As of this morning,” the reason that pepper spraying showed up so widely was because of reports that UC Davis tried to scrub the internet of references to pepper spraying. That put it back in the news. But how about before the SacBee report? I did a Google search that excluded stories about the $175,000 scrubbing effort in an effort to recreate UC Davis’s internet presence as of a few days ago. Here it is:

Unless I missed something, the top 50 hits didn’t include a single reference to pepper spraying. Every reference you see in a normal search is there solely because of the SacBee report.

Now, there’s no telling how much of UCD’s success was due to the scrubbing effort, and how much was due to the simple passage of five years. Still, it’s likely that the scrubbing was responsible for at least some of it, and that’s good news for revenge porn victims: the advice they’ve been given really does seem to work. Granted, it’s probably less effective if you don’t have $175,000 to spend on it, so Romano’s point about money having power on the internet is still valid. Nonetheless, it’s still the right basic approach. After all, it sure seems to have worked for UC Davis.

1For the record, my search term was: “uc davis” -scrub -175 -175K -175,000 -google -image -consultant -online

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UC Davis’s Effort to Scrub Its Pepper-Spraying Incident From the Internet Worked Pretty Well—Until Reporters Found Out About It

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Email Newsletters Are a Blight on Mankind

Mother Jones

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Justin Wolfers is annoyed by the email newsletter bubble. Brad DeLong comments:

Authors seeking both eyeballs to sell to advertisers and a committed, engaged audience with which they can conduct a conversation are now trying to ride two horses—a clickbait audience served by self-contained pieces, and a newsletter audience with which they can interact and converse. I don’t think it is working very well.

Is that what’s happening? I’ve always thought there was something different going on: the professionalization of the blogosphere has, ironically, made blogs too stuffy and corporate. If you want to write a post complaining that the local supermarket doesn’t carry the brand of peanut butter you like, you can hardly do this at Vox.com or 538 or the Washington Monthly.1 Those sites are reserved for serious commentary. So if you still want to write that kind of stuff, you do it in a newsletter that’s all yours and nobody else controls.

But Brad is suggesting that the real motivator is a desire to—what? Avoid the trolls? (Who cares about trolls?) Write in a more interactive space? (How are newsletters more interactive than blogs?) Write in a more private space where you can toss out weird ideas with less potential for blowback? (Cowards.) Create “added value” for subscribers who will hopefully donate money to you/your employer? (You corporate shill, you.)

I think we should toss this question to the newsletter writers. What’s the deal? If you need a second writing space, why not a quick-and-dirty blogspot blog or Tumblr or Medium? Why the throwback to email?

1I typically solve this problem by writing this kind of stuff on weekends, which I consider a more personal space. So far, nobody has disabused me of this notion.

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Email Newsletters Are a Blight on Mankind

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Apple says you can “feel really good” about buying its products. Don’t believe them.

Apple says you can “feel really good” about buying its products. Don’t believe them.

By on 22 Mar 2016 3:24 pmcommentsShare

Lisa Jackson, Apple’s VP of environment, policy, and social initiatives, took to the stage at a press event Monday to discuss the company’s new environmental commitments. And from what Jackson, an ex-Environmental Protection Agency administrator, said, Apple’s doing pretty damn well. The details:

93 percent of Apple operations worldwide are powered by renewable energy
In 23 countries, including the United States and China, operations run on 100 percent renewables
99 percent of Apple packaging is recycled or sourced from sustainably managed forests
Apple is funding the preservation of a million acres of forest in China and 35,000 acres in the eastern U.S.

According to Jackson, this means that “every time you send an iMessage or make a FaceTime video call or ask Siri a question, you can feel really good about reducing your impact on the environment.” You can almost hear Steve Jobs patting himself on the back from the great Apple Store in the sky on the brand going green. But how much good is Apple really doing? Sure, 93 percent renewables is about 93 percent better than most giant corporations, but Apple puts a whole lot of crap into the world that we don’t really need. It’s called planned obsolescence, and it means that the constant release of new products makes your iPhone seem as unwieldy and slow-moving as a landline after a couple of years.

That’s the real problem here: It doesn’t matter how much Apple recycles or how many acres they save if they keep dumping new products into the market, as Andrew Freedman wrote for Mashable, “By constantly rolling out new products and encouraging consumers to trade in their not-so-old phones for new, upgraded ones, Apple is contributing to a consumerism that may be difficult to ever neutralize from a carbon standpoint.” Apple may construct their products in factories powered by the sun, as Freedman points out, what happens from there is hardly green: They ship these products from factories in China on planes and charged in places where coal powers the grid.

And the customer may use the phone for a shorter period of time than they might have used it otherwise. The company is promoting Apple Renew, a recycling program that lets you exchange your old device for an Apple gift card, but 70 percent of e-waste is likely to end up in landfills, anyway.

Apple events like the one on Monday convince many people that they have to be early adopters and get the latest and greatest gadget on the market. Clearly, the problem isn’t just Apple: It’s also us. We want the iPhone 10, we want the sharpest cameras and the newest apps and the phone that pets your head and holds your hand in the night. But we do need it? Hardly. In fact, research shows that consumerism actually makes us less happy, not more.

What you can feel good about is deciding to not upgrade your phone.



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Apple says you can “feel really good” about buying its products. Don’t believe them.

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Are There Toxic Chemicals Lurking in Your North Face Jacket?

It may come as a surpriseor perhaps not surprising at allthat a variety of toxic chemicals have been used to makeoutdoor gear like jackets, shoes, tents, backpacks, and even sleeping bags.

A new report by Greenpeace Germany has documented that “hazardous and persistent chemicals, dangerous to human health and the environment, have been found in the products of leading outdoor brands.”

Greenpeace tested 40 products purchased in 19 different countries and regions. Among the companies whose products were found to be tainted are The North Face, Patagonia, Mammut, Columbia and Haglofs.

The chemicals found embedded in the fabrics of the products these companies make are calledpoly- and per-fluoronated compounds, or PFCs. PFCs are synthetic chemical compounds that do not exist in nature. They are used by the outdoor gear industry to make products waterproof and dirt-repellent.

As effective as they may be, PFCs have serious human health and environmental impacts. These compounds can cause harm to reproduction, promote the growth of tumors, and affect the hormone system. The National Institute for Environmental Health Science reports that in animal studies PFCs also “reduce immune function; cause adverse effects on multiple organs, including the liver and pancreas; and cause developmental problems in rodent offspring exposed in the womb.”

The Minnesota Department of Health notes that PFCs “are extremely resistant to breakdown in the environment,” so once they are released, they persist for a very long time. They can get into the food chain of animals far from their source. PFCs have been found in animals like dolphins, in polar bear livers, and in human blood. They have also shown up in drinking water and in fish near textile factories in China where much of the clothing and gear is produced.

The gear is not believed to threaten you if you wear it. However, because we all live on one planet, and because once the chemicals are released they circulate all over the world, you could be exposed to themwhether you’ve bought the gear or are basically an innocent bystander. Certainly polar bears never wear Polar-tec, yet the chemicals have shown up in their bodies.

What Can You Do?

1) Ask the manufacturer of your gear whether they use PFC compounds for water proofing and repelling dirt. There’s not really much you can do if you already own the gear, other than return the gear to the manufacturer when you’re finished with it, but that’s better than tossing it in the trash.

2) Buy used gear. Since a big source of PFC pollution comesduring manufacturing, you can reduce the amount of new products manufactured – and new chemicals emitted – by buying gently used equipment and clothing.

3) Likewise, sell your used gear on EBay or Craig’s List, donate it, or take it to a thrift shop rather than throwing it away. Extend its life as long as possible.

4) Buy gear from companies that have pledged zero discharge of hazardous chemicals into the environment. There aren’t many of them, but one to look at is Paramo, which has issued a “Detox Commitment” that hopefully will inspire its competitors.


Big-Brand Clothing Found Laced with Toxic Chemicals
Why You Should Wash Your Clothes Before You Wear Them

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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Are There Toxic Chemicals Lurking in Your North Face Jacket?

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Sarah Palin: No Bible Verses for You!

Mother Jones

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Great news! Sarah Palin will be interviewing Donald Trump at 10 p.m. Eastern on her brand new show, On Point, which started Monday and airs on the One America News network. It will be the greatest, classiest, rogue-iest interview ever!

Wait. What’s that? You don’t get OAN on your cable system? Me neither. Bummer. Maybe it’ll be on Palin’s Facebook page eventually.

What makes this whole thing a little weirder than even the normal Palin weirdness is that she announced her upcoming interview with a standard-issue blast on the lamestream media for asking Trump a gotcha question about his favorite Bible verse. “By the way,” she writes, “even with my reading scripture everyday I wouldn’t want to answer the guy’s question either… it’s none of his business; it IS personal.” What makes this weird is that Palin has been happy to talk about this before. For example, in this interview:

In dealing with her daily challenges, Palin leans on the Bible verse that says, “God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power and might and a sound mind.”

That’s 2 Timothy 1:7 (close enough, anyway), and Palin has mentioned it on other occasions too. It really does seem to be one of her favorites. So why is this suddenly so personal that she doesn’t think anyone should have to talk about it? Are we now all keeping our favorite Bible verses a deeply held secret?

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Sarah Palin: No Bible Verses for You!

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Donald Trump Has Finally Catapulted Us Into an Alternate Universe

Mother Jones

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The Donald Trump saga continues its trip into Bizarroland today with the exit of Roger Stone from the Trump campaign. Trump claims he fired Stone, while Stone says he resigned—and he has the resignation letter to prove it. I never thought I’d say this, but I’m guessing Stone is the more believable party here. So why did Stone leave?

In the letter, which was obtained by The Post, Stone expressed regret for the end of a “close relationship — both personal and political/professional — since the 1980s.” But, he added, since “current controversies involving personalities and provocative media fights have reached such a high volume that it has distracted attention from your platform and overwhelmed your core message … I can no longer remain involved in your campaign.”

Not all of you are familiar with the Stone oeuvre, so how can I put this? Roger Stone complaining that Trump has become too vitriolic and combative is like the Kardashian family getting on your case for being too much of a publicity hound. It’s like Dick Cheney advising you that you’re banging the war drums too loudly. It’s like Louis XIV telling you to cool it with the mansion building.

Roger Stone is famous for calling himself a “GOP hit man.” He admires Richard Nixon so much he has Nixon’s face tattooed on his back. During the 2008 presidential campaign, he founded an anti-Hillary group called Citizens United Not Timid. He played a bit part in the Watergate scandal at the age of 19. He is famous for his many rules, one of which is “Attack, attack, attack—never defend.”

This is the guy who left the Trump campaign because Trump was too preoccupied with “provocative media fights.” The same guy who has proudly called his brand of politics “performance art” can no longer stomach the performance art that is the Trump campaign.

So this is where we are. On Friday, Erick Erickson criticized Trump for being sexist. Today, Roger Stone quit Trump’s campaign because he was being too combative. We are now officially living in an alternate universe. Mr. Spock finally has his beard.

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Donald Trump Has Finally Catapulted Us Into an Alternate Universe

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