How Andrea Ghez Won the Nobel for an Experiment Nobody Thought Would Work


Standing in my office 25 years ago was an unknown, newly minted astronomer with a half-smile on her face. She had come with an outrageous request—really a demand—that my team modify our exhaustively tested software to make one of our most important and in-demand scientific instruments do something it had never been designed for, and risk breaking it. All to carry out an experiment that was basically a waste of time and couldn’t be done—to prove that a massive black hole lurked at the center of our Milky Way.

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Hilton Lewis — Scientific American

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‘Weakness Was the Greatest Sin of All’


Election time.

The boy who lost his father to the last worst pandemic in turn taught his sons to be “killers.” The underlying message, though: “Being a killer was really code for being invulnerable,” as Mary Trump put it in her recent book. “Going forward,” the niece of Donald Trump wrote of Fred Trump, “he refused to acknowledge or feel loss.” The family, in her recollection, never discussed Fred Trump’s father, or his death, or its cause. It was the lesson above all others that Fred Trump passed on to his children—foremost to his middle son, his preeminent heir, the boy who would become the 45th president of the United States.

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Michael Kruse — Politico

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There’s Never Been a Story Like Britney Spears’s


The ugliness of that particular incident—an allegedly traumatizing moment involving minor children—is a reminder of some of the deeper stakes underlying Free Britney. Spears’s first involuntary hospitalization in 2008 took place after she’d locked herself in a bathroom with one of her sons and refused to give him over to Federline, who by that point had been awarded full custody of their children. In the years since then, she regained a 50/50 custody split. But after his 2019 restraining order against Jamie, a new agreement gave Federline 70 percent custody—and Federline’s lawyer says that in reality, he is with the children “closer to 90” percent of the time. It’s not unreasonable to wonder whether Spears’s newly overt campaign against her father’s control is, in part, a bid to see her kids more.

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Spencer Kornhaber — The Atlantic

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‘THE ROMANCE OF BELIEVING IN JUSTICE’: ON ARUNDHATI ROY’S NEW BOOK OF ESSAYS


Roy shows that, while resistance is often dangerous and hopeless, it can also be joyful. There’s something gorgeous and seductive about Roy’s depiction of life among the “comrades,” the Maoist guerrillas in the Dandakaranya Forest who resist the Indian government’s violent attempts to convert their land into mines. These “strange, beautiful children with their curious arsenal” walk for days to reach a communal spot to dance together, right under the noses of the police and the murderous Salwa Judum. She doesn’t flinch from describing the diseases and violence she found among the Maoists, and certainly doesn’t advocate that everyone drop their lives to walk in the forest alongside these rebels. “It’s not an alternative yet,” she writes of the guerillas’ approach. “But it certainly has created the possibilities for an alternative.”

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Rebecca Stoner — Pacific Standard

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A Doctor’s Emergency


How do we take care of people who care for us?

Chang, one of Breen’s Central Park West mourners, had been working with her for several years when she brought up clinician burnout. An emergency physician with a doctorate in psychology, Chang regularly worked under Breen’s direction at the Allen Hospital. He also studies how stress plays out in hospital environments. Breen theorized that if groups of doctors, nurses, and technicians at the Allen worked together in consistent teams—instead of different permutations of coworkers for different cases—their well-being would improve. “Her personal belief was that we’re stronger together,” said Chang. When Breen implemented the team-based care plan in the ER, she worked with Chang and two other colleagues to study the outcome. Breen’s intuition was correct: Working together reduced burnout.

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Maureen O’Connor – Vanity Fair

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The true story of the 18th century’s greatest femme fatale


If Robert Perreau was telling the truth⁠⁠—if he had, indeed, been taken for a rube by his conniving sister-in-law⁠⁠—then he would hardly have been the first. From a young age, Margaret Caroline Rudd had an almost supernatural ability to manipulate those around her, especially when it came to men. Her opinion of the opposite sex was no doubt cemented in her formative years, after she was expelled from boarding school at the tender age of 13 for so-called “illicit relations” with a staff member. Social mores of the time placed blame firmly upon the victim, at least if the victim were female, and local gossip could barely keep up with the flirtations and affairs that supposedly followed. At 17, Caroline ran off with an English soldier whose regiment was stationed near her small Irish hometown, but his commanding officer promptly sent her home again. Undeterred, she continued courting military men⁠⁠—who offered both a secure income, and an escape from the drudgery of rural life⁠⁠—until she won the heart of another young soldier named Valentine Rudd. Ten days after meeting, the two were married.

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Jennifer Lee Noonan — Damn Interesting

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While my sitar gently weeps


Who else but Ravi Shankar.

Shankar practised throughout the day. “It was unusual for someone as old as Robu to be starting formal training,” writes Craske, “but he had the zeal of a convert.” An apt word, because the modern Indian arts—and the sitar is as much an emblem of modernity as the past—were often created by outsiders, rather than “natural” inheritors, with a quasi-religious fervour. I say “quasi” because it’s important to understand that the tradition—whatever its spiritual and philosophical moorings—is a secular one. It was called “classical” music to distinguish it from temple or scriptural music.

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Amit Chaudhuri — Prospect

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Ashoka’s moral empire


How an ancient Indian emperor, horrified by the cruelty of war, created an infrastructure of goodness.

In the Khyber valley of Northern Pakistan, three large boulders sit atop a hill commanding a beautiful prospect of the city of Mansehra. A low brick wall surrounds these boulders; a simple roof, mounted on four brick pillars, protects the rock faces from wind and rain. This structure preserves for posterity the words inscribed there: ‘Doing good is hard – Even beginning to do good is hard.’ The words are those of Ashoka Maurya, an Indian emperor who, from 268 to 234 BCE, ruled one of the largest and most cosmopolitan empires in South Asia. These words come from the opening lines of the fifth of 14 of Ashoka’s so-called ‘major rock edicts’, a remarkable anthology of texts, circa 257 BCE, in which Ashoka announced a visionary ethical project. Though the rock faces have eroded in Mansehra and the inscriptions there are now almost illegible, Ashoka’s message can be found on rock across the Indian subcontinent – all along the frontiers of his empire, from Pakistan to South India.

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Sonam Kachru — Aeon

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The Confessions of Marcus Hutchins, the Hacker Who Saved the Internet


The judge quickly made clear that he saw Hutchins as not just a convicted criminal but as a cybersecurity expert who had “turned the corner” long before he faced justice. Stadtmueller seemed to be weighing the deterrent value of imprisoning Hutchins against the young hacker’s genius at fending off malevolent code like WannaCry. “If we don’t take the appropriate steps to protect the security of these wonderful technologies that we rely upon each and every day, it has all the potential, as your parents know from your mom’s work, to raise incredible havoc,” Stadtmueller said, referring obliquely to Janet Hutchins’ job with the NHS. “It’s going to take individuals like yourself, who have the skill set, even at the tender age of 24 or 25, to come up with solutions.” The judge even argued that Hutchins might deserve a full pardon, though the court had no power to grant one.

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Andy Greenberg — Wired

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The president’s job is to manage risk. But Trump is the risk.


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But he has always played with other people’s money and other people’s lives. “The president was probably in a position to make riskier decisions in life because he was fabulously rich from birth,” says Murphy. “But it’s also true he has had a reputation for risk not backed up by reality. His name is on properties he doesn’t own. We think of him as taking risk in professional life, but a lot of what he does is lend his name to buildings with risks taken by others. He’s built an image as a risk taker, but it’s not clear how much risk he’s taken.”

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Ezra Klein — Vox

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