Public Timeline

It seemed inevitable that Elon Musk would eventually get into a Twitter war over whether Mars can be terraformed. When you’re on Twitter, he told Businessweek in July, 2018, you’re “in meme war land.” “And so essentially if you attack me,” he said, “it is therefore okay for me to attack back.”

Musk, the CEO and lead designer of SpaceX, wants to “make life multiplanetary,” starting with Mars. “Public support for life on Mars is critical to making it happen,” he tweeted last week. The red planet is relatively close to the Earth and once harbored surface seas and rivers, and it still has ice and a subsurface lake. Its weather is surprisingly workable, too. Mars’ surface temperature range (–285 to 88 degrees Fahrenheit) isn’t too far off from Earth’s (–126 to 138 degrees Fahrenheit). The problem is Mars’ atmosphere now has 0.006 bar of pressure, where one bar is the standard atmospheric pressure at sea level on Earth. Not only does this mean that dangerous levels of radiation reach the surface unchecked, but humans need at least 0.063 bar to keep our bodily liquids from boiling (this is called the Armstrong limit).

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We all laughed when the physicist Alan Sokal wrote a deliberately silly paper entitled Transgressing the boundaries: towards a transformative hermeneutics of quantum gravity, and managed to get it accepted by a journal of social and cultural studies, Social Text.

But in 2002, on the 22nd of October many of us began hearing rumors that two brothers managed to publish at least five meaningless papers in physics journals as a hoax - and even got Ph.D. degrees in physics from Bourgogne University on the basis of this work!

The rumor appears to have begun with an email from the physicist Max Niedermaier to the physicist Ted Newman, and it spread like wildfire. I received copies from many people, and soon there was a heated discussion of what this meant for the state of theoretical physics. Had the subject become so divorced from reality that not even the experts could recognize the difference between real work and a hoax?

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Switzerland’s spy chief will leave his post, the government said on Wednesday, after a newspaper reported he had fallen out with the defence minister over his handling of a scandal involving a cryptography firm linked to the CIA.

Jean-Philippe Gaudin, elevated in 2018 to head Switzerland’s NDB intelligence service under then-Defence Minister Guy Parmelin, will be replaced by Juerg Buehler on an interim basis, the government said in a statement.

The Tages-Anzeiger paper reported that tensions developed between Gaudin and current Defence Minister Viola Amherd in part because he waited too long to inform her about the affair involving Crypto AG.

For decades, the Swiss company sold encryption devices while being secretly owned by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and Germany’s intelligence service, which could freely read what it encrypted. (https://reut.rs/3eEZwNh)

The NDB gave no reason for Gaudin’s departure, saying only that he would take up a “new challenge” in the private sector.

A spokesman for the intelligence service did not immediately comment on the newspaper report. Gaudin could not be reached for comment.

Reports about CIA involvement in Crypto have circulated in Switzerland for years, in particular after the arrest in the 1990s of one of the company’s salesmen in Iran, which accused him of leaking encryption codes to its Western rivals.

But new details emerged in early 2020 when Swiss authorities said they were investigating reports that the CIA and the German BND spy service had used Crypto’s encryption technology to crack other nations’ top-secret messages, stirring an outcry in officially neutral Switzerland.

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Bronze Caryatid Mirror with Aphrodite, found in Greece, ca. 460 BC.

Building a programming language from scratch is no easy feat. In addition to creating the compiler, defining the standard library, and supporting tools like editors and build systems, you need to design the language — will it be imperative or functional? What systems will the language be used for? Will it have metaprogramming capabilities? 

Zig, a member of our Open Source and Nonprofit Program, is a general-purpose programming language and toolchain for maintaining optimal and reusable software. It’s simple yet robust, and has portable SIMD. For the team working on Zig, the decision to build a language that was intentionally designed for their needs wasn’t made lightly. To learn more about what inspired this journey, we sat down with Loris Cro, one of the team members working on the project.  

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Methadone Skies - Retrofuture Caveman (2021).

Mitch Murder - Then Again.

“Day 39”, Eric Pause

Determinables and determinates are in the first instance type-level properties that stand in a distinctive specification relation: the ‘determinable-determinate’ relation (for short, ‘determination’). For example, color is a determinable having redblue, and other specific shades of color as determinates; shape is a determinable having rectangularoval, and other specific (including many irregular) shapes as determinates; mass is a determinable having specific mass values as determinates. Reflecting that determinables admit of different degrees or levels of specification, characterization of a property as determinable or determinate is typically relative; for example, red is a determinate of color and a determinable of scarlet.

The determination relation appears to differ from other specification relations. In contrast with the genus-species and conjunct-conjunction relations, where the more specific property can be understood as a conjunction of the less specific property and some independent property or properties, a determinate is not naturally treated in conjunctive terms (red is not a conjunctive property having color and some other property or properties as conjuncts); and in contrast with the disjunction-disjunct relation, where disjuncts may be dissimilar and compatible (as with red or round), determinates of a determinable (at a given level of specificity) are both similar and incompatible (red and blue are similar in both being colors; nothing can be simultaneously and uniformly both red and blue). Supporting this latter contrast is that our thoughts about determinables do not appear to be about (potentially infinite) disjunctions of determinates, and our perceptions of properties such as color and shape do not appear to be of maximal determinates, as would be the case if determinables were disjunctions of determinates (since every instance of a disjunction is an instance of a disjunct).

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Renovated kitchen with checkerboard backsplash made of glazed terra-cotta tiles in a 1928 Tudor Revival house, Bronxville, Westchester County, New York.

The developers of Holodexxx are at a loss. After spending months attempting to get their VR sex game onto Steam, they’ve hit a wall that no amount of self-censorship or mechanical refinement has been able to drill through: Valve’s nebulous definition of “pornography.”

Holodexxx is a game in which simulated versions of real adult performers interact with the player in virtual reality, with AI guiding elements of the performance. Its creators bill it as an ethical, sex-positive game being made in conjunction with and featuring real sex workers. Steam, at this point, carries a plethora of games that include adult content—some of which venture into much dicier thematic territory than Holodexxx. But that didn’t stop Valve from chasing Holodexxx off its holodeck.

In a recent lengthy blog, the game’s developers outlined everything they’ve tried over the course of multiple months. To begin, they submitted a “PG-13 experience” to Steam starring a clothed version of adult film actress Riley Reid, along with a censored video of live adult stars. Valve, say Holodexxx’s developers, blocked the submission “with a boiler-plate explanation that video pornography was not allowed on Steam.” So then the developers spent additional time creating a new demo without video of adult stars, in which the player could instead look at a model of adult film actress Marley Brinx in a virtual environment. Again, Valve blocked it on the basis that it was “pornography.”

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Ultime Ballade (1893) Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Repairability has been a big sticking point for consumer electronics over the past several years. As devices have gotten thinner — and companies have pushed to maintain control over proprietary systems — many devices have become near impossible for an every-day person to repair.

It’s an issue for a number of reasons — not the least of which is an inability to upgrade a system instead of scrapping it altogether. In a world where human impact on the environment is increasingly top of mind, forced obsolescence is an understandably important issue for many.

Framework is one of an increasing number of companies working to address these issues. It’s a list that also includes products like Fairphone on the mobile side. It’s a niche versus the overall market, to be sure, but it’s one that could well be growing. Announced in January, the Framework Laptop is up for preorder today. The 13.5-inch notebook starts at $999 and will start shipping at the end of July.

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