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5G promises a supercharged future. Data connectivity will be near instantaneous. But, as seen below, there'll be some bumps, bruises and tradeoffs along on the way.

5G promises a supercharged future. Data connectivity will be near instantaneous. But, as seen below, there’ll be some bumps, bruises and tradeoffs along on the way.

Via Eric Niiler, WIRED

IF YOU HAD a choice between a better, faster cell phone signal and an accurate weather forecast, which would you pick? That’s the question facing federal officials as they decide whether to auction off more of the wireless spectrum or heed meteorologists who say that such a move could throw US weather forecasting into chaos.

On Capitol Hill Thursday, NOAA’s acting chief, Neil Jacobs, said that interference from 5G wireless phones could reduce the accuracy of forecasts by 30 percent. That’s equivalent, he said, to the quality of weather predictions four decades ago. “If you look back in time to see when our forecast scale was roughly 30 percent less than today, it was 1980,” Jacobs told the House Subcommittee on the Environment.

That reduction would give coastal residents two or three fewer days to prepare for a hurricane, and it could lead to incorrect predictions of the storms’ final path to land, Jacobs said. 

More: 5G networks could throw weather forecasting into chaos
A German company showcases its new electric jet with hopes it will become the air taxi of the future.
The new Lilium Jet prototype

Maybe we’ll get flying cars after all.

A German-based startup unveiled a prototype electric jet it hopes will become the air taxi of the near future. The all electric aircraft is said to have a top speed of 300km per hour (186mph) and a 300km range.

The fixed-wing plane has 36 jet engines that lets it take off and land vertically. As in, no runway needed. A brief video posted by the company shows the prototype aircraft hovering briefly but does not show it transition to horizontal flight.

Still, the company is shooting for 2025 to launch itself as an accessible and affordable air taxi service in cities around the world. Think, airborne ride hailing service that lets you take a five seater in Manhattan for a quick 10 minute trip to the airport… or out to the Long Island beaches.

How that fares with the European Aviation Safety Agency or the US Federal Aviation Administration is to be seen.

More: Electric air taxi startup Lilium completes first test of its new five-seater aircraft
Airpods are made from materials from Earth's past. After their brief life, they'll litter long into the future.

Via Caroline Haskins, VICE

AirPods are a product of the past.

They’re plastic, made of some combination of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, chlorine, and sulfur. They’re tungsten, tin, tantalum, lithium, and cobalt.

The particles that make up these elements were created 13.8 billion years ago, during the Big Bang. Humans extract these elements from the earth, heat them, refine them. As they work, humans breathe in airborne particles, which deposit in their lungs. The materials are shipped from places like Vietnam, South Africa, Kazakhstan, Peru, Mexico, Indonesia, and India, to factories in China. A literal city of workers creates four tiny computing chips and assembles them into a logic board. Sensors, microphones, grilles, and an antenna are glued together and packaged into a white, strange-looking plastic exoskeleton.

These are AirPods. They’re a collection of atoms born at the dawn of the universe, churned beneath the surface of the earth, and condensed in an anthropogenic parallel to the Big Crunch—a proposed version of the death of the universe where all matter shrinks and condenses together. Workers are paid unlivable wages in more than a dozen countries to make this product possible. Then it’s sold by Apple, the world’s first trillion-dollar company, for $159 USD. 

For roughly 18 months, AirPods play music, or podcasts, or make phone calls. Then the lithium-ion batteries will stop holding much of a charge, and the AirPods will slowly become unusable. They can’t be repaired because they’re glued together. They can’t be thrown out, or else the lithium-ion battery may start a fire in the garbage compactor. They can’t be easily recycled, because there’s no safe way to separate the lithium-ion battery from the plastic shell. Instead, the AirPods sit in your drawer forever.

More: AirPods Are a Tragedy
When José Capriles arrived in 2008 at the Cueva del Chileno rock shelter, nestled on the western slopes of Bolivia’s Andes, he didn’t know what he would find within.

Via Michael Price, science

When José Capriles arrived in 2008 at the Cueva del Chileno rock shelter, nestled on the western slopes of Bolivia’s Andes, he didn’t know what he would find within.

Now, more than a decade later, Capriles—an anthropologist at Pennsylvania State University in State College—and colleagues have discovered that the 1000-year-old bag contains the most varied combination of psychoactive compounds found at a South American site, including cocaine and the primary ingredients in a hallucinogenic tea called ayahuasca. The contents suggest the users were well versed in the psychoactive properties of the substances, and also that they sourced their goods from well-established trade routes.

More: Archaeologists find richest cache of ancient mind-altering drugs in South America
As the birthrate plummets in South Korea, rural schools are emptying. To fill its classrooms, one school opened its doors to women who have for decades dreamed of learning to read.

Via CHOE SANG-HUN, The New York Times

As the birthrate plummets in South Korea, rural schools are emptying. To fill its classrooms, one school opened its doors to women who have for decades dreamed of learning to read.

Park Jong-sim, 75, is a champion octopus catcher in her village. But on a recent day, she was more worried about falling behind in her elementary-school class.

She blinked her eyes as she tried to keep them focused on the notebook, and occasionally took her reading glasses off to wipe tears caused by eye fatigue. Enunciating words was also difficult. To practice her penmanship, she woke up before dawn.

“My memory, hand and tongue don’t work like I wish,” Ms. Park said. “But I am going to learn to write before I die. You don’t know how I feel when I go to a government office, they ask me to fill out a form and the only thing I know how to write is my name.”

More: Running Out of Children, a South Korea School Enrolls Illiterate Grandmothers
Britain has gone more than four days without using coal-fired power to generate its electricity, smashing the previous record set during last month’s Easter weekend.

Via Tom Embury-Dennis, The Independent

Britain has gone more than four days without using coal-fired power to generate its electricity, smashing the previous record set during last month’s Easter weekend…

…It is the first time the nation has been powered for so long without the fossil fuel since the world’s first coal-fired power station for public use was opened in London in 1882.

More: UK goes more than 100 hours without using coal power for first time in a century
How does ignorance get strategically manufactured? Flooding the field with dubious content and spreading it with homespun networks.

“But what if ignorance is strategically manufactured?” Data & Society Founder and President danah boyd asks, somewhat rhetorically, during a recent talk at a Digital Public Library of America conference.

She talks, of course, about misinformation and gaslighting campaigns that course through digital networks.

Propaganda and misinformation campaigns aren’t new, as boyd points out. Instead, it’s the playing field. The promise and hope of online connectivity and communication has given way to the sinister. “Slowly, and systematically,” boyd says, “a virus has spread, using technology to systematically tear at the social fabric of public life.”

At work are content campaigns and digital networks exploiting “data voids”, or information ecosystems ripe for manipulation, in order to sow distrust what we think we know, be it science, history, politics or the latest mass shooting near our collective next door. At root is agnotology, or culturally induced ignorance and confusion.


One of the best ways to seed agnotology is to make sure that doubtful and conspiratorial content is easier to reach than scientific material. And then to make sure that what scientific information is available, is undermined. One tactic is to exploit “data voids.” These are areas within a search ecosystem where there’s no relevant data; those who want to manipulate media purposefully exploit these. Breaking news is one example of this. Another is to co-opt a term that was left behind, like social justice. But let me offer you another. Some terms are strategically created to achieve epistemological fragmentation. In the 1990s, Frank Luntz was the king of doing this with terms like partial-birth abortion, climate change, and death tax. Every week, he coordinated congressional staffers and told them to focus on the term of the week and push it through the news media. All to create a drumbeat.

Today’s drumbeat happens online. The goal is no longer just to go straight to the news media. It’s to first create a world of content and then to push the term through to the news media at the right time so that people search for that term and receive specific content.

The goal as we know is to manufacture confusion at scale. Read on for more on how it’s done.

More: dana boyd – Agnotology and Epistemological Fragmentation

Lead Image: Photo by Museums Victoria 

Landmark UN-backed report finds that agriculture is one of the biggest threats to Earth's ecosystems.

Via Jeff Tollefson, Nature

Up to one million plant and animal species face extinction, many within decades, because of human activities, says the most comprehensive report yet on the state of global ecosystems.

Without drastic action to conserve habitats, the rate of species extinction — already tens to hundreds of times higher than the average across the past ten million years — will only increase, says the analysis. The findings come from a United Nations-backed panel called the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).”

More: Humans are driving one million species to extinction

Each May, some 3,000 people descend on Kalamazoo, Mich., for the International Congress on Medieval Studies, which brings together academics and enthusiasts for four days of scholarly panels, performances and after-hours mead drinking.


Since the 2016 presidential election, [medieval] scholars have hotly debated the best way to counter the ‘weaponization’ of the Middle Ages by a rising tide of far-right extremists, whether it’s white nationalist marchers in Charlottesville, Va., displaying medieval symbols or the white terrorist who murdered 50 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, using weapons inscribed with references to the Crusades.

And hanging over it all is an even more fraught question: Does medieval studies have a white supremacy problem of its own?

More – Medieval Scholars Joust With White Nationalists. And One Another.
The fantasy version of apocalypse always begins with the longawaited event—a missile launch, escaped virus, zombie outbreak—and moves swiftly through collapse into a new, steady state.

Via Roy Scranton, MIT Technology Review

[Climate Change] will happen day by day, month by month, year by year. There will certainly be “events,” like the events we’ve seen in the past decade—heat waves, massively destructive hurricanes, the slowdown in vital Atlantic Ocean currents, and political events connected to climate change, such as the Syrian civil war, the Mediterranean refugee crisis, France’s gilets jaunesriots, and so on—but barring nuclear war, we are unlikely to see any one global “Event” that will mark the transition we’re waiting for, make climate change “real,” and force us to change our ways.

The next 30 years are likely, instead, to resemble the slow disaster of the present: we will get used to each new shock, each new brutality, each “new normal,” until one day we look up from our screens to find ourselves in a new dark age—unless, of course, we’re already there.

This was not the apocalypse I grew up with. It’s not an apocalypse you can prep for, hack your way out of, or hide from. It’s not an apocalypse with a beginning and an end, after which survivors can rebuild. Indeed, it’s not an “Event” at all, but a new world, a new geological era in Earth’s history, in which this planet will not necessarily be hospitable to the bipedal primate we call Homo sapiens. The planet is approaching, or already crossing, several key thresholds, beyond which the conditions that have fostered human life for the past 10,000 years no longer hold.
This is not our future, but our present: a time of transformation and strife beyond which it is difficult to see a clear path.

More – Lessons from a genocide can prepare humanity for climate apocalypse