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The Troubled Teen Machine

from The New Yorker

The Shadow Penal System for Struggling Kids

By Rachel Aviv

In the spring of her freshman year of high school, in 2011, Emma Burris was woken at three in the morning. Someone had turned on the lights in her room. She was facing the wall and saw a man’s shadow. She reached for her cell phone, which she kept under her pillow at night, but it wasn’t there. The man, Shane Thompson, who is six and a half feet tall, wore a shirt with “Juvenile Transport Agent” printed on the back. He and a colleague instructed Emma to put on her clothes and follow them to their car. “She was very verbal, resisting,” Thompson told me. Her parents, who had adopted her when she was seven, stood by the doorway, watching silently.

Thompson drove Emma away from her house, in Royal Palm Beach, Florida, and merged onto the highway. Emma, who was fifteen, tried to remember every exit sign she passed, so that she could find her way home, but she was crying too hard to remember the names. In his notes, Thompson wrote, “Emma voiced that she was confused as to why her mom was sending her away.” She was on the track, volleyball, and soccer teams, and she didn’t want to miss any games.

Part Scottish and part Puerto Rican, Emma was slight, with long, wavy blond hair. Her parents, whose lives revolved around their church, admonished her for being aggressive toward them and for expressing her sexuality too freely. She watched lesbian pornography and had lost her virginity to an older boy. She often read romance novels late at night, when she was supposed to be asleep. To avoid attracting her parents’ attention, she used the light from the street to work on a novel that told a story similar to her own life: a young girl spends her early years in foster care, where she is abused, until a Christian family saves her. To keep the ending upbeat, she found herself straying from the facts of her life. Emma worried that her parents, who had three biological children, considered her a burden. “There was always a sense of exile,” Emma said. Her mother sometimes told her, “If I have to love you from a distance, I will.”

[ click to continue reading at TNY ]

Posted on October 18, 2021 by Editor

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The Dreamverse

from Nautilus

Weird Dreams Train Our Brains to Be Better Learners

BY JIM DAVIES

Photo Illustration by MDV Edwards / Shutterstock

For many of us over the last year and more, our waking experience has, you might say, lost a bit of its variety. We spend more time with the same people, in our homes, and go to fewer places. Our stimuli these days, in other words, aren’t very stimulating. Too much day-to-day routine, too much familiarity, too much predictability. At the same time, our dreams have gotten more bizarre. More transformations, more unrealistic narratives. As a cognitive scientist who studies dreaming and the imagination, this intrigued me. Why might this be? Could the strangeness serve some purpose?

Maybe our brains are serving up weird dreams to, in a way, fight the tide of monotony. To break up bland regimented experiences with novelty. This has an adaptive logic: Animals that model patterns in their environment in too stringent a manner sacrifice the ability to generalize, to make sense of new experiences, to learn. AI researchers call this “overfitting,” fitting too well to a given dataset. A face-recognition algorithm, for example, trained too long on a dataset of pictures might start identifying individuals based on trees and other objects in the background. This is overfitting the data. One way to look at it is that, rather than learning the general rules that it should be learning—the various contours of the face regardless of expression or background information—it simply memorizes its experiences in the training set. Could it be that our minds are working harder, churning out stranger dreams, to stave off overfitting that might otherwise result from the learning we do about the world every day?

[ click to continue reading at Nautilus ]

Posted on October 17, 2021 by Editor

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Metaverse Emerging

from The Wall Street Journal

THE AMAZING THINGS YOU’LL DO IN THE ‘METAVERSE’ AND WHAT IT WILL TAKE TO GET THERE

Tech visionaries foresee a vast, immersive world that mirrors and extends the real one, allowing people to do and be what previously could only be imagined

by SARAH E. NEEDLEMAN

Since the dawn of civilization, humans have had only one world in which to live: the real one. But tech visionaries say we’ll soon have an alternative: a virtual world where our digital avatars and those of people in our communities and around the globe come together to work, shop, attend classes, pursue hobbies, enjoy social gatherings and more.

Immersive videogames and virtual concerts have given us a taste of this world. But visionaries say the metaverse, as this world has been dubbed, will be far more engaging and robust, not only mirroring the real world in all its three-dimensional complexity but also extending it to allow us to be and do what previously could only be imagined. Walk on the moon in your pajamas? Watch a baseball game from the pitcher’s mound? Frolic in a field of unicorns—or be a unicorn yourself? In the metaverse, tech visionaries say, just about anything will be possible.

“The metaverse is going to be the biggest revolution in computing platforms the world has seen—bigger than the mobile revolution, bigger than the web revolution,” says Marc Whitten, whose title is “senior vice president and general manager of create” at San Francisco-based Unity Software Inc.

Unity is building tools and services to enable people to create metaverse content. Other big tech companies are developing​ hardware and software products for the metaverse​, or their own virtual worlds within it, including Nvidia Corp. , Roblox Corp. , Epic Games Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Facebook Inc..

[ click to continue reading at WSJ ]

Posted on October 16, 2021 by Editor

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Cultural Karens Killing Comedy

from the New York Post

‘Airplane!’ creator slams joy-killing threat: ‘Twitter 9 percent’

By David Zucker

Last year marked the 40th anniversary of the release of “Airplane!,” the comedy I wrote and directed with my brother Jerry and our friend Jim Abrahams. Just before the world shut down, Paramount held a screening at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, followed by a Q&A in which an audience member asked a question we never used to receive: “Could you make ‘Airplane!’ today?” 

My response: “Of course, we could. Just without the jokes.” 

Although people tell me that they love “Airplane!” and it seems to be included on just about every Top Five movie-comedy list, there was talk at Paramount of withholding the rerelease over feared backlash for scenes that today would be deemed “insensitive.” 

[ click to continue reading at NYP ]

Posted on October 15, 2021 by Editor

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Prince William Jealous He Didn’t Get To Go To Space

from Entertainment Tonight

William Shatner Reacts to Prince William’s Disapproval of Space Race

By Paige Gawley‍

William Shatner is responding to Prince William‘s criticism of space travel. ET’s Nischelle Turner spoke with the 90-year-old actor on Thursday, one day after he traveled to space, and Shatner was quick to defend his journey, and space travel as a whole.

“He’s a lovely Englishman. He’s going to be king of England one day,” Shatner told ET of the Duke of Cambridge. “He’s a lovely, gentle, educated man, but he’s got the wrong idea.”

Shatner, best known for playing Captain Kirk on Star Trek, went to space with Blue Origin, the company founded by Jeff Bezos, as one of four passengers on board the New Shepard NS-18 ship.

Though the duke didn’t mention Bezos by name, he told BBC, “We need some of the world’s greatest brains and minds fixed on trying to repair this planet, not trying to find the next place to go and live.” 

[ click to continue reading at ET ]

Posted on October 14, 2021 by Editor

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Chasing Caravaggio

from The Wall Street Journal

How the Chase for the Latest ‘Lost’ Caravaggio Has Captivated Europe’s Art World

If authenticated, a painting by the Baroque master—initially listed at auction this past spring for around $1,800 and potentially worth millions—could become one of the most valuable old master artworks in the world.

By Willem Marx

from Wikipedia

Late this March, Maria Cristina Terzaghi, an associate professor at Italian university Roma Tre, was writing about the acclaimed Baroque painter Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, when art dealer Fabrizio Moretti sent her a photograph of a painting via WhatsApp. It featured Pontius Pilate presenting a thorn-crowned Jesus, a recognizable tableau known as Ecce Homo. The exact image was new to Terzaghi, but its composition and light contrast felt familiar, mirroring other works by an artist she had studied for more than 17 years.

“Immediately, it was so clear. I said, ‘OK, I have to see it [in person],’ ” she recalls of her first glance. The starting bid for the artwork, which was slated to go on sale on April 8 at the Madrid auction house Ansorena, was just 1,500 euros, equivalent to about $1,800.Terzaghi asked the dealer and auctioneers for higher-resolution images, which further fueled her supposition that the work was an authentic Caravaggio. Based on interviews with almost a dozen of the world’s leading Caravaggio experts, it is a theory that the vast majority of them now support—and one which the dealer overseeing the work’s authentication aims to confirm in a report that he expects to release in early 2022. 

In the high-stakes world of old masters hunting, a “sleeper” refers to a lost masterpiece that’s stayed out of the public eye, sometimes for centuries, often due to an earlier misattribution. As in this case, its true identity is often unknown to an owner, but its existence has been surmised by academics. If authenticated, the painting—titled The Crowning of Thorns by the auction house and Ecce Homo by most scholars—may prompt scholars to rethink already disputed Caravaggio works elsewhere and a significant portion of his career. 

[ click to continue reading at WSJ ]

Posted on October 8, 2021 by Editor

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Don Brando

from Vanity Fair

“Marlon Was as Dead as Could Be”: How Brando Beat the Odds and Became the Godfather

He was the only actor Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola could imagine as Mafia patriarch Don Corleone in The Godfather. There were just two problems: The studio didn’t want Brando, and Brando didn’t want the role. An excerpt from a new book reveals how flattery, a fake seizure, and a stealth screen test changed the course of cinematic history.

BY MARK SEAL

Brando being transformed into Don Corleone.nbsp
Brando being transformed into Don Corleone. FROM MOVIESTORE/SHUTTERSTOCK.

​It was January 1971. Paramount had snagged the rights to Mario Puzo’s raging best seller, The Godfather, cheap. Now, the studio had to make the picture, which many bankable directors had turned down. A promising young filmmaker named Francis Ford Coppola had begrudgingly taken on the project. But the studio resisted most of his casting decisions, especially the seemingly washed-up actor he was determined to cast as the lead. The battle over The Godfather had begun …

From the start, Francis Ford Coppola knew exactly who he wanted for all the major roles. He wrote out his wish list on lined yellow paper, with asterisks next to his top choices: Al Pacino as Michael, James Caan as Sonny, and Robert Duvall as Tom Hagen. Thus began the major battle of The Godfather, one that would far eclipse the heated skirmishes over where the movie would be shot and its increasingly escalating budget. On one side was Coppola, a young director determined to cast the actors he saw so vividly in his imagination. On the other side was Robert Evans, a studio chief determined to avoid the miscasting that had plagued Mob films like The Brotherhood. “Bob Evans was very handsome, tall, and impressive,” Coppola remembered. “I wanted him to accept and have confidence in me but wasn’t at all convinced that he did.”

And if Evans continued to harbor doubts about the young, untested director, they were confirmed by Coppola’s choice to play Don Corleone.

[ click to continue reading at VF ]

Posted on October 7, 2021 by Editor

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Cosmic Fireball, cool

from Study Finds

Fire and brimstone: Sodom and Gomorrah perhaps destroyed by ‘cosmic fireball,’ evidence shows

Sodom and Gomorrah meteor
Artist’s impression of cloudburst from meteor at Sodom and Gomorrah site.

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — The biblical “sin cities” of Sodom and Gomorrah could have been destroyed by a meteor “cloudburst” that incinerated all 8,000 inhabitants, a fascinating new study suggests. The giant space rock exploded over the town 3,650 years ago, creating a fireball. Scientists say the same event might also have given rise to the tale of Jericho’s walls “tumbling down,” as that city was just 20 miles away.

In the Bible, God was said to have been enraged by the wickedness of the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, raining “fire and brimstone” upon them. Now there seems to be hard evidence that a “heavenly event” really did happen around that time. The cosmic calamity laid waste to the Jordan River Valley’s northern shore, razing a huge 100-acre city to the ground. It also exterminated other cities and multiple small villages. There would have been no survivors.

The epicenter of Jordan is located at what is today known as Tall el-Hammam. An ancient palace was flattened, along with the perimeter walls and other structures. Detonation occurred about 2.5 miles above the ground.  Even at that distance, the blast created a 740 mph shock wave. It would have leveled most of the buildings. None of the 8,000 residents would have survived the initial blast or the rock melting temperatures that followed. 

[ click to continue reading at Study Finds ]

Posted on October 6, 2021 by Editor

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DART to Didymoon

from The Daily Mail

‘Planetary defense!’ NASA will launch November mission to deflect ‘devastating’ asteroid from hitting Earth by NUDGING it with a spacecraft, agency says

By CHRIS CIACCIA

NASA said on Monday that its mission to deflect an asteroid in deep space using a spacecraft is targeting a late November launch
NASA said on Monday that its mission to deflect an asteroid in deep space using a spacecraft is targeting a late November launch

NASA said on Monday that its mission to deflect an asteroid in deep space using a spacecraft is targeting a late November launch.

Known as the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission, the U.S. space agency will send the DART spacecraft to a pair of asteroids – the Didymos binary – at 1:20 a.m. EST on November 24 aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

DART will smash in one of the two asteroids, known as Didymoon, at roughly 13,500mph on October 2, 2022.

[ click to continue reading at The Daily Mail ]

Posted on October 5, 2021 by Editor

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