Wednesday Round Up #13

Octavia Butler on How (Not) to Choose Our Leaders

Again and again, Butler cautions against the blindness of choosing from a state of heightened emotion — the very blindness which political propaganda is aimed at blinkering over the eyes of the electorate with the constant stirring of our most reptilian fears:

When vision fails
Direction is lost.

When direction is lost
Purpose may be forgotten.

When purpose is forgotten
Emotion rules alone.

When emotion rules alone,
Destruction… destruction.

“Stress Hormone” Cortisol Linked to Early Toll on Thinking Ability

Working on the study “made me more stressed about not being less stressed,” Seshadri says, laughing. But, she adds, the bottom line is serious: “An important message to myself and others is that when challenges come our way, getting frustrated is very counterproductive—not just to achieving our aims but perhaps to our capacity to be productive.” …

Bruce McEwen, a neuroscientist and cortisol expert at The Rockefeller University who also was not part of the study, says he found it “frankly remarkable.” Cortisol, he notes, is necessary for life—so it is obviously not all bad. But stress can lead people to potentially problematic behaviors such as smoking, drinking and eating unhealthy food. “Cortisol is itself the tip of the iceberg of things that are going on in a person’s life and a person’s body,” he says.

The Cultural Formulation Interview: Progress to date and future directions

The Cultural Formulation Interview (CFI) developed for DSM-5 provides a way to collect information on patients’ illnessexperience, social and cultural context, help-seeking, and treatment expectations relevant to psychiatric diagnosis andassessment. This thematic issue of Transcultural Psychiatry brings together articles examining the implementation andimpact of the CFI in diverse settings.

These Scientists Just Completed a 3D ‘Google Earth’ for the Brain

Have you ever wondered: how well do those maps represent my brain? After all, no two brains are alike. And if we’re ever going to reverse-engineer the brain as a computer simulation—as Europe’s Human Brain Project is trying to do—shouldn’t we ask whose brain they’re hoping to simulate?

Enter a new kind of map: the Julich-Brain, a probabilistic map of human brains that accounts for individual differences using a computational framework. Rather than generating a static PDF of a brain map, the Julich-Brain atlas is also dynamic, in that it continuously changes to incorporate more recent brain mapping results. So far, the map has data from over 24,000 thinly sliced sections from 23 postmortem brains covering most years of adulthood at the cellular level. But the atlas can also continuously adapt to progress in mapping technologies to aid brain modeling and simulation, and link to other atlases and alternatives.

How Treating People With Brain Injuries Helped Me Forgive My Mother

“You might feel shocked the first few times you experience an inappropriate behavior,” she warned. “You’ll get used to it.”

But there wasn’t much “getting used to it” that I had to do. I had been raised by a woman who lacked inhibition, a woman who said what she felt and thought at all times, unaware of how it might make another person feel, including her children. I had survived her biggest impulsive act. I was more prepared for the job than I ever should have been.

This public US university has seen grades soar despite Covid. What’s it doing right?

A minority student from a mediocre high school and a poor family is now just as likely to cross the Georgia State graduation stage as a child of wealth and white privilege – a singular achievement. In the wake of the George Floyd killing in Minneapolis and the widespread calls for a national reckoning on race, it is also striking that Georgia State, once a segregated whites-only commuter school, boasts one of the country’s most diverse residential campuses and graduates more African Americans each year than any other university.

Wednesday Round Up #12

The Conscience of Silicon Valley

I said I was particularly interested in his most recent work, 2018’s Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now, which is as clear and definitive an account of the damage companies like Twitter and Facebook and Google do to society and to our individual psyches as you’ll ever read. The book felt relevant again right now, I said, in a way that made my bones actually vibrate. Lanier had been early to the idea that these platforms were addictive and even harmful—that their algorithms made people feel bad, divided them against one another, and actually changed who they were, in an insidious and threatening manner. That because of this, social media was in some ways “worse than cigarettes,” as Lanier put it at one point, “in that cigarettes don’t degrade you. They kill you, but you’re still you.”

A Radical New Model of the Brain Illuminates Its Wiring

“The overwhelming amount of evidence is saying that if you want to understand brain function, symptoms, brain disease, that the fundamental unit of how the brain operates is not a brain region but a brain circuit,” says Michael Fox, associate professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School.

Even at the level of single cells, brains show plentiful evidence of their networked character. “Neurons are not spherical—neurons have a cell body, and then they have this long tail that allows them to connect to many other cells,” Bassett says.

What If Consciousness Is Not What Drives the Human Mind?

We suggest that our personal awareness does not create, cause or choose our beliefs, feelings or perceptions. Instead, the contents of consciousness are generated “behind the scenes” by fast, efficient, non-conscious systems in our brains. All this happens without any interference from our personal awareness, which sits passively in the passenger seat while these processes occur.

Put simply, we don’t consciously choose our thoughts or our feelings – we become aware of them.

Wabi-Sabi: The Japanese Philosophy For a Perfectly Imperfect Life

Bringing wabi-sabi into your life doesn’t require money, training, or special skills. It takes a mind quiet enough to appreciate muted beauty, courage not to fear bareness, willingness to accept things as they are — without ornamentation. It depends on the ability to slow down, to shift the balance from doing to being, to appreciating rather than perfecting.

Sick But Not Sick

Excellent exploration of psychosomatic illness, diagnosis, and the art and skill of medicine

This Twist on Schrödinger’s Cat Paradox Has Major Implications for Quantum Theory

Now Tischler and her colleagues have carried out a version of the Wigner’s friend test. By combining the classic thought experiment with another quantum head-scratcher called entanglement—a phenomenon that links particles across vast distances—they have also derived a new theorem, which they claim puts the strongest constraints yet on the fundamental nature of reality. Their study, which appeared in Nature Physics on August 17, has implications for the role that consciousness might play in quantum physics—and even whether quantum theory must be replaced.

The new work is an “important step forward in the field of experimental metaphysics,” says quantum physicist Aephraim Steinberg of the University of Toronto, who was not involved in the study. “It’s the beginning of what I expect will be a huge program of research.”

Wednesday Round Up #11

What a Korean Teenage Fashion Trend Reveals About the Culture of Mask-Wearing

In 2009, you could immediately spot the cool kids at my middle school in Seoul based on a single item: face masks. The masks specifically had to be from Sakun, a Korean streetwear brand that became known for its black masks with teeth marks printed on the front. It was common all over Korea to see 15-year-olds with thick bangs and Sakun masks, only their eyes visible. The masks signaled that you were mysterious, trendy and a little intimidating—everything a middle-schooler wanted to be.

How to drive fossil fuels out of the US economy, quickly

Griffith takes a “yes, and” approach. If carbon capture sequestration works out, great. If next-gen nuclear reactors work out, great. If hydrogen-based fuels work out, great. But we shouldn’t rely on any of them until they are real. We need to figure out how to do the job with the technology available.

On that score, Griffith’s modeling reaches two key conclusions.

First, it is still possible to reduce US greenhouse gas emissions in line with a 1.5°C pathway. Specifically, it is possible to reduce US emissions 70 percent to 80 percent by 2035 (and to zero by 2050) through rapid electrification, relying on five already well-developed technologies: wind and solar power plants, rooftop solar, electric vehicles, heat pumps, and batteries.

Think of those technologies as the infrastructure of 21st century life. If everyone uses carbon-free energy to heat their homes and get around, the bulk of the problem will be solved.

Second, to decarbonize in time, substitution of clean-energy technologies for their fossil-fuel counterparts must ramp up to 100 percent as fast as possible, after a brief period of industrial mobilization. Every time a gas or diesel car is replaced, it must be replaced with an EV; every time an oil or gas furnace is replaced, it must be replaced with a heat pump; every time a coal or gas power plant goes offline, it must be replaced with renewable energy.

Rick Perlstein: ‘If you’re not writing about the berserk, you’re not writing about America’ – The historian has completed his epic on the rise of the US right – just in time for Donald Trump’s attempt to hold on to his throne

“By talking about how many electoral votes [Trump’s] trying to get in the suburbs with his law-and-order appeal, you’re kind of doing active harm to contemporary understanding. That sort of consensus frame, that things aren’t really as bad as they seem, is a story that gatekeeping media elites tell about the world, that makes them actors in the story, not merely commentators.”

A man of the left, Perlstein agrees his books are as much about the failures of liberalism and the media as the success of the right.

“The only reason we’re talking about 1968 is because Trump wants to talk about 1968. He sets the agenda by tweeting ‘law and order’ and ‘silent majority’. That’s his story.

“My shorthand is history is process, not parallels. There really can’t be a historical parallel. You can’t step in the same river twice or even once because the thing that happened in 1968 happened and we were responding to what happened. Even if there are similarities.

Researchers Doubt That Certain Mental Disorders Are Disorders At All

What if mental disorders like anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder aren’t mental disorders at all? In a compelling new paper, biological anthropologists call on the scientific community to rethink mental illness. With a thorough review of the evidence, they show good reasons to think of depression or PTSD as responses to adversity rather than chemical imbalances. And ADHD could be a way of functioning that evolved in an ancestral environment, but doesn’t match the way we live today.

People slept on comfy grass beds 200,000 years ago

Until now, the oldest bedding archaeologists had ever found came from another South African site called Sibudu, where people 77,000 years ago had piled up layers of grasslike wetland plants called sedge, mixed with assorted medicinal plants, and occasionally burned the old layers. Some modern people in parts of Africa also use plants as bedding in similar ways. The Border Cave find shows that people have been making comfy sleeping pallets out of grass for at least 200,000 years—nearly as long as there have been Homo sapiens in the world…

Wadley and her colleagues also found stone flakes and other debris from toolmaking, which means people probably also used the comfy piles of grass as a soft place to sit while working on a new stone tool. For the record, flint-knapping in bed is probably an even worse idea than eating crackers in bed, but it’s a delightfully human thing to find traces of. Grains of red and orange ocher also mingled with the bedding layers, and Wadley and her colleagues say the grains had probably rubbed off from someone’s body art.

The Cultural Distances Between Us

How do you measure cultural differences?

We apply a statistical technique used in genetics, called (FST), or the fixation index, not to a genome, but a culturome, or surveys of cultural beliefs and behaviors—in this case, the World Value Survey. So, in the genetics case, say you’re looking at the allele frequencies for eye color. If you have one population that’s entirely blue eyes and another population that’s entirely brown eyes, all of the variation between those populations is between groups. The between-group variation is equivalent to the total variation. When you divide the two, you’re going to get 1. That’s the maximum (FST), as different as any of the population can be. You could do this sort of analysis across all of the loci in a genome to figure out how genetically distant, for example, two fish populations are that live in two different ponds that, occasionally, becomes a single pond. We use the same math to look at a culturome. Instead of loci for eye color or hair type, we treat questions on the survey as loci.

What sort of traits are covered in the World Values Survey?

There’s politics, like attitudes toward democracy; social relationships, like how to raise children; religious norms and traditions; and attitudes toward sex, finances, law, environment, science and innovation, arts and creativity, sports and recreation, the media, and consumerism.

There Never Was a Real Tulip Fever

All the outlandish stories of economic ruin, of an innocent sailor thrown in prison for eating a tulip bulb, of chimney sweeps wading into the market in hopes of striking it rich—those come from propaganda pamphlets published by Dutch Calvinists worried that the tulip-propelled consumerism boom would lead to societal decay. Their insistence that such great wealth was ungodly has even stayed with us to this day.

How Cheese, Wheat and Alcohol Shaped Human Evolution

Ancient DNA shows how recent this adult lactose tolerance is, in evolutionary terms. Twenty-thousand years ago, it was non-existent. As of 2018, about one-third of all adults have tolerance.

That lightning-fast evolutionary change suggests that direct milk consumption must have provided a serious survival advantage over peoples who had to ferment dairy into yogurt or cheese. During fermentation, bacteria break down milk sugars including lactase, turning them into acids and easing digestion for those with lactose intolerance. Gone with those sugars, however, is a good chunk of the food’s caloric content.

Hawks explains why being able to digest milk would have been such a boon in the past: “You’re in a nutrition limited environment, except you have cattle, or sheep, or goats, or camels, and that gives you access to a high energy food that infants can digest but adults can’t,” he says. “What it does is allow people to get 30 percent more calories out of milk, and you don’t have the digestive issues that come from milk consumption.”

The DecanoniZine

Footnotes is very pleased to present The DecanoniZine, the final project of Theory of Culture, a core course in the Applied Anthropology graduate program at Oregon State University. The DecanoniZine follows in the steps of the Decanonizing Anthropology syllabus created by graduate students-teachers during the Theory of Culture seminar the previous year, which was adapted into a guest post on Footnotes in early 2019. The DecanoniZine syllabus reflects coursework carried out in-person, before COVID19, but the Zine form can be easily adapted for remote pedagogies. To learn more about Zines, their making, lesson plans, and access to an impressive archive, check out the “Zine Library” at Barnard College.

Wednesday Round Up #10

The Big Melt

As Serreze makes clear, the Arctic climate system is now entering uncharted territory, with the computer models no longer providing a reliable guide to the future. Will we see an ice-free North Pole in 2018? Or an ice-free Arctic just twelve years from now, in the summer of 2030? Since the US North Pole Environmental Observatory was shut down in 2015, it has been much harder to answer such questions. And the public seems apathetic. On the phone with Serreze, the veteran journalist Seth Borenstein lamented, “How many times can a journalist report on what is happening in the Arctic before it becomes so repetitive that people lose interest?”

The great Dutch writer and historian Geert Mak once told me that in 1933 the Dutch newspapers were full of stories of the threat of Nazism, yet by 1938 those same papers were all but silent on the subject. Sometimes, it seems, threats to our future become so great that we opt to ignore them. Yet if we fail to act with the utmost urgency to slow climate change, we will invite catastrophe on all humanity.

Why Are Plants Green?

Gabor and his team developed a model for the light-harvesting systems of plants and applied it to the solar spectrum measured below a canopy of leaves. Their work made it clear why what works for nanotube solar cells doesn’t work for plants: It might be highly efficient to specialize in collecting just the peak energy in green light, but that would be detrimental for plants because, when the sunlight flickered, the noise from the input signal would fluctuate too wildly for the complex to regulate the energy flow.

Instead, for a safe, steady energy output, the pigments of the photosystem had to be very finely tuned in a certain way. The pigments needed to absorb light at similar wavelengths to reduce the internal noise. But they also needed to absorb light at different rates to buffer against the external noise caused by swings in light intensity. The best light for the pigments to absorb, then, was in the steepest parts of the intensity curve for the solar spectrum — the red and blue parts of the spectrum.

How Cops Can Secretly Track Your Phone

Stingrays have been used on the ground and in the air by law enforcement for years but are highly controversial because they don’t just collect data from targeted phones; they collect data from any phone in the vicinity of a device. That data can be used to identify people — protesters, for example — and track their movements during and after demonstrations, as well as to identify others who associate with them. They also can inject spying software onto specific phones or direct the browser of a phone to a website where malware can be loaded onto it, though it’s not clear if any U.S. law enforcement agencies have used them for this purpose.

Bild, Merkel and the Culture Wars: The Inside Story of Germany’s Biggest Tabloid

There are a few non-populist positions Reichelt takes that have the appearance of principle. “He has staked out anti-Putin, pro-Nato, pro-Israel positions well beyond the standard German line,” says Niggemeier. But the majority of the paper’s content is an ever-shifting attempt to harness popular discontent rather than indoctrinate readers in any specific programme. Reichelt himself has, for instance, repeatedly come to Merkel’s defence on her decision not to close the border to Syrian refugees in 2015, describing it as an ethical “no-brainer”, but the paper goes to great lengths to associate migrants with crime, and to demand deportations.

On the environment, one day Bild might be lamenting Merkel’s call to shutter coal factories by 2038 (“The coal deadline is going to cost us!” ran a headline about the prospective job losses.) But another day you might read that “Our government officials are destroying the environment!” atop an article detailing the 200,000 yearly flights German officials take between ministries in Berlin and Bonn. Like Merkel herself, Reichelt is an arch-opportunist, congenitally averse to letting crises go to waste.

‘A failure of our system’: inside a damning take on the Great Recession

“Everybody knows the system’s rigged, everybody knows the system’s corrupt, but it’s the difference between common knowledge and specific knowledge,” said Lovell. It’s one thing to know the banks were too big to fail, that Wall Street was driven by greed, that the housing market collapse was avoidable. It’s another thing to see, over and over again, examples of false signatures on fraudulent loans drummed up to meet sales quotas, to hear testimonies of bonus policies predicated on ignoring clear red flags. To hear, time and again, how a bank perched on an air bubble of junk securities made someone hundreds of millions. To rewatch the sheen of respectability perpetuated in the Super Bowl commercials of the sub-prime pioneer AmeriQuest, which went belly up in 2007.

Lovell’s series is heavy on the detail, if low on hope for the greed-incentivized financial world’s capacity to change. “What we’ve created is a system that is an incubator and factory of deception,” said Lovell, in which it follows that you’d get a president “who’s made his entire career on deception”.

We train police to be warriors — and then send them out to be social workers

For decades, the warrior cop has been the popular image of police in America, reinforced by TV shows, movies, media, police recruitment videos, police leaders, and public officials.

This image is largely misleading. Police do fight crime, to be sure — but they are mainly called upon to be social workers, conflict mediators, traffic directors, mental health counselors, detailed report writers, neighborhood patrollers, and low-level law enforcers, sometimes all in the span of a single shift. In fact, the overwhelming majority of officers spend only a small fraction of their time responding to violent crime.

However, the institution of policing in America does not reflect that reality. We prepare police officers for a job we imagine them to have rather than the role they actually perform. Police are hired disproportionately from the military, trained in military-style academies that focus largely on the deployment of force and law, and equipped with lethal weapons at all times, and they operate within a culture that takes pride in warriorship, combat, and violence.

Wednesday Round Up #9

When the Culture Wars Hit Fort Wayne

In-depth reporting from Politico – the intersecting histories and politics in one midwestern city.
And as I visited Oklahoma, it became clear to me that the strength of the Miami reaction to Wayne Day was an expression of tribe’s recent renaissance.

“Indiana’s always going to be very important to us because that’s home—it’ll always be home, even though we live here now,” Lankford said. “What we’re trying to do is rebuild from the loss. And in that rebuilding, we need the truth to be told about us.”

Together, You Can Redeem the Soul of Our Nation

John Lewis delivers a powerful exhortation to all of us.
Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble. Voting and participating in the democratic process are key. The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it.

You must also study and learn the lessons of history because humanity has been involved in this soul-wrenching, existential struggle for a very long time.

Landmark study on 11,196 couples pinpoints what dating apps get so wrong

Samantha Joel, the study’s first author and the director of the Relationships Decision Lab at Western University, says that her study crystallizes one thing:

“Really, it suggests that the person we choose is not nearly as important as the relationship we build,” she tells Inverse.

What Thucydides Knew About the US Today

Historians argue among themselves whether Thucydides is a moralizing philosopher or, in a common phrase, “the first scientific historian.” What is radical about him, and gives him his unerring clear-sightedness, is that he is both. He understands morals, not as a set of arbitrary rules imposed or wished upon reality, but part of the fabric of reality itself, in the same way that Greek philosophy had begun to understand physical laws as inseparable from reality. Thucydides came to the same insight that Ludwig Wittgenstein recorded centuries later when he wrote that ethics “must be a condition of the world like logic.”

In Thucydides’s morally coherent universe, moral action is also, inevitably, practical action, and immoral action is inevitably impractical, no matter how insistently short-sighted strategists pretend that it isn’t.

Are breathing techniques good for your health?

Scientists don’t know precisely how slow, deep-breathing promotes relaxation. However, many believe its ability to increase HRV is key. HRV is controlled by the autonomous nervous system, which regulates subconscious bodily processes including breathing rate and blood pressure. It is subdivided into the sympathetic nervous system, which triggers “fight or flight” responses such as increased heart rate and blood pressure, and the parasympathetic nervous system, which triggers “rest and digest” responses.
Parasympathetic responses are controlled by the vagus nerve, a nervous system superhighway that sends signals back and forth between the brain and different parts of the body. The higher a person’s HRV, the greater the strength of their vagal response to stimuli and the quicker their bodies can activate parasympathetic responses to stress.

When psychologist Roderik Gerritsen, of Leiden University in the Netherlands, reviewed physical and mental health benefits associated with contemplative activities, he concluded that their common focus on breathing reduced stress by increasing parasympathetic nervous system activity. “By slowing the breathing down, your heart rate goes down, you stimulate your vagus nerve, and you’re telling your body it doesn’t have to respond to any immediate threats,” says Gerritsen.

How to (Actually) Change Someone’s Mind

-Develop an evidence-base argument, Build rapport, and Utilize an outside advocate: “It’s not easy to have detractors, and it’s even harder to change their minds. The key is to understand the source of their resistance and use a targeted strategy that best resonates with your particular detractor. You’ll have a much better chance of getting a “yes.””

Wednesday Round Up #8

The Flawed Reasoning Behind the Replication Crisis

This is why better theory and a wider range of evidence and samples matter (both of which anthropology can provide) – you need to think about whether your theory is good, and how much it might relate to the larger claims studies often make.
The mathematical lens that allows us to see the flaw in these arguments is Bayes’ theorem. The theorem dictates that the probability we assign to a theory (Sally Clark is guilty, a patient has cancer, college students become less theistic when they stare at Rodin), in light of some observation, is proportional both to the conditional probability of the observation assuming the theory is true, and to the prior probability we gave the theory before making the observation. When two theories compete, one may make the observation much more probable, that is, produce a higher conditional probability. But according to Bayes’ rule, we might still consider that explanation unlikely if we gave it a low probability of being true from the start.

‘Time for a new vision’: violence is a public health issue that requires community driven solutions

Today, the US is talking seriously about investing in alternative public safety strategies that decrease the impact of law enforcement in our communities. Many communities are questioning the outsized role of law enforcement: addressing social challenges, like mental health and homelessness; or the need for taking action against those involved in non-criminal or non-serious activities, like sleeping in a car; or using lethal force in nonviolent situations or like using a possibly counterfeit $20 bill.

This is essential. However, communities can go even further. Law enforcement’s role in addressing violence, or possible acts of violence, must also be reimagined. Violence is a public health issue that requires health-based, community driven solutions. Investments in careful, timely interventions by trained community members such as Joseph increase safety, decrease violence and therefore the need for incarceration, while also mitigating the need for police involvement.

Articulating Anthropology’s Value to Business

Ultimately, getting the word out that anthropologists are experts at the skills, concepts, and methods that are gaining momentum and value in the business world remains the responsibility of anthropologists. We can accomplish this through professional collaborations with psychology and sociology colleagues who already actively engage with business, by developing partner projects with industry groups, by promoting the value and relevance of anthropological perspectives, and by training students how to apply their skills in the business world. We should seize this opportunity to grow our discipline, find jobs for our students, and make significant changes to the world.

Nostalgia Reimagined

How can we make sense of the fact that people feel nostalgia not only for past experiences but also for generic time periods? My suggestion, inspired by recent evidence from cognitive psychology and neuroscience, is that the variety of nostalgia’s objects is explained by the fact that its cognitive component is not an autobiographical memory, but a mental simulation – an imagination, if you will – of which episodic recollections are a sub-class. To support this claim, I need first to discuss some developments in the science of memory and imagination.

How the geometry of ancient habitats may have influenced human brain evolution

Now MacIver is back with an even more provocative hypothesis: the geometry of certain habitats shapes evolutionary selection pressures in predator-prey contexts. “The basic idea is that open spaces—open grassland, flat plains—are just speed games, favoring the predator, since they are larger,” MacIver told Ars. “Closed spaces—dense forests or jungles—favor simple strategies of running for cover. Using a complexity measure, we show both of these habitats have low complexity.” That complexity measure is lacunarity, a geometric term for describing how patterns fill space.

The complexity “sweet spot,” according to MacIver, is a landscape like the one featured in The Hobbit chase scene, or like Botswana’a Okavango Delta, both of which feature an open grassland and moss zones dotted with clumps of trees and similar foliage. “In this zone, neither speed games nor running for cover maximizes survival rate,” said MacIver. “But planning—by which I mean imagining future paths and picking the best based on what you think your adversary will do—gives you a considerable advantage.” And that planning requires the kind of advanced neural circuitry typical of the human brain.

Why Hundreds of Mathematicians Are Boycotting Predictive Policing

“Given the structural racism and brutality in U.S. policing, we do not believe that mathematicians should be collaborating with police departments in this manner,” the authors write in the letter. “It is simply too easy to create a ‘scientific’ veneer for racism. Please join us in committing to not collaborating with police. It is, at this moment, the very least we can do as a community.”

Some of the mathematicians include Cathy O’Neil, author of the popular book Weapons of Math Destruction, which outlines the very algorithmic bias that the letter rallies against.

If you’re not terrified about Facebook, you haven’t been paying attention

We have already been through the equivalent of a social media pandemic – an unstoppable contagion that has sickened our information space, infected our public discourse, silently and invisibly subverted our electoral systems. It’s no longer about if this will happen all over again. Of course, it will. It hasn’t stopped. The question is whether our political systems, society, democracy, will survive – can survive – the age of Facebook.

Genetic impact of African slave trade revealed in DNA study

A major DNA study has shed new light on the fate of millions of Africans who were traded as slaves to the Americas between the 16th and 19th centuries.

More than 50,000 people took part in the study, which was able to identify more details of the “genetic impact” the trade has had on present-day populations in the Americas.

It lays bare the consequences of rape, maltreatment, disease and racism.

More than 12.5m Africans were traded between 1515 and the mid-19th Century.

Some two million of the enslaved men, women and children died en route to the Americas.

Who Gets to Study Whom?

“The instinct was not malicious,” says Ron Kassimir, of the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), referring to this effort. “But it developed into an unspoken idea that scholars from the developing world should study their own.”

It’s this idea that concerns Kalinga. “I have never met a white student … who was told to study their own,” she says.

This issue matters for young scholars of color like Kalinga, who feel like they are denied the freedom of scholarship enjoyed by their white counterparts. Until all researchers have that agency, some critics argue, the field will continue to suffer from a lopsided view of the world in which the dominant voices—particularly when discussing Western nations—remain those of white, Western scholars.