Thursday, March 19th, 2015


Be Afraid

Yesterday, I got a large volume of negative feedback after linking to Nick Bilton's NYT article on the possible health risks associated with cell phones and wearables. The criticisms (quack science, poor research, fear mongering) of the piece spread across the tech community, where the opinons were near unanimous and mostly on the mark. But I never would have predicted that questioning the safety of cell phone use would have been the issue to drive enough negative replies to bulge my inbox. I have a feeling this is about something bigger. And it's an issue I've been thinking and writing about for several years. No, there's not any evidence that cell phones cause cancer. But you should still be afraid.

+ Matthew B. Crawford on the cost of paying attention: "We've sacrificed silence -- the condition of not being addressed. And just as clean air makes it possible to breathe, silence makes it possible to think."


Two States of Mind

With the election in the rearview mirror, Bibi Netanyahu says he's still in favor of "a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution." The change of mind and tone was likely related to the suggestion by the Obama adminstration that without Israel as a partner in this goal, "they would consider supporting a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for the establishment of a sovereign Palestine roughly along the pre-1967 lines that divided Israel from the West Bank and Gaza."


Power Play

Nine people have been arrested in connection with the terror attack on a museum in Tunisia that killed 23 people (mostly foreign tourists). The Islamic State has taken credit for the attack, but officials have yet to confirm any connection.

+ Yuval Noah Harari on the theater of terror. "Terrorists hope that even though they can barely dent the enemy's material, power, fear and confusion will cause the enemy to misuse its strength. Terrorists fight like tai-chi masters: they aim to beat the rival with the rival's own power.


Math Games

"I have a Bachelor's and Master's in mathematics, all with a 4.0, and numerous published papers in major mathematical journals. I am a mathematical researcher in my spare time, continuing to do research in the areas of numerical linear algebra, multigrid methods, spectral graph theory and machine learning." John Urschel obviously has a good head on his shoulders. He also plays in the NFL. Here, Urschel tries to explain why, knowing the risks, he continues to play the game. Hint: He loves hitting people. A math nerd who likes beating on people. Where the hell was this guy when I was in junior high?

+ Speaking of brains and sports, I don't know how anyone with a job or a life can track all 68 teams tipping off March Madness this week. I can barely keep track of that many mascots. Luckily, Mental Floss can help with those.


A Dog Bites Man Story

In The New Yorker, Jack Hitt takes another look at the Justice Department's report on Ferguson and wonders what we can learn from one particular stat: During the period covered in the report, police dogs in Ferguson never once attacked a white suspect. "There is one social ill that all detection dogs, even the poorly trained ones, reveal with searing accuracy: the hidden racial prejudices of the police officers who deploy them."


That Sinking Feeling

We are pumping so much water from deep under the ground that it's actually contributing to the global level sea rise. Oh, and it's also making the land sink.


You Only Get One Shot

"We're going to take the genetic code and put it into a format where you go to your drug store or doctor and get a shot in the arm." In Fusion, Alexis C. Madrigal explains why DARPA thinks it has a solution to Ebola (and all other infectious diseases). (If they succeed, we'll forgive them for the gratuitous use of all caps.)

+ Buzzfeed: Google filed a patent for a wearable to zap cancer.


To Live and Fry in LA

Seven years ago, Los Angeles officials banned all new fast food restaurants in South LA in an effort to cut obesity rates. What happened? Obesity rates went up. This doesn't seem that surprising for a couple reasons. First, the area was already saturated with fast food options. And second, older fast food brands tend to be less healthy than the new (and banned) ones.

+ Drinkers of Smirnoff vodka, Tanqueray gin and other alcoholic beverages will soon see nutritional labels on their bottles. (The font is pretty small, so they'll only have to see the information for the first shot or two.)


Fore Tops

I doubt our forefathers could have foreshadowed a situation in which a four year-old would be at the forefront of the country's most heated battle over the right to forego circumcision. From Vocativ: The Anti-Circumcision Movement Now Has A (Very Cute) Face.


The Bottom of the News

No trespassing signs and the spraying of cold water are the latest efforts to keep the homeless from gathering ... at San Francisco's Saint Mary's Cathedral.

+ "You get continual feedback. You can also baseline yourself with other people. For a lot of women, because it's such a taboo topic, they want to know where they fall within the spectrum." A tech team at U.C. Berkeley has created a smart vibrator. Go Bears.

+ There are more Uber cars than yellow taxis on the road in NYC. (Sadly, because everyone is now a driver for hire, there's no one left to pick up.)