Sunday, June 12, 2016
‘The Big Picture,’ by Sean Carroll
"The physical world is “largely illusory,” an editorial in The New York Times announced on Nov. 25, 1944....Only the scientific objects were really there, according to Eddington. Hence the idea that our familiar world is a deception on a grand scale...But Carroll rejects the sort of reductionism that says all valid descriptions can be deduced from fundamental physics. That venerable idea seems to have been a mirage.Instead, Carroll defends what he calls “poetic naturalism.” “Naturalism,” because there is nothing above and beyond nature. In particular, there are no gods or spooks to transcend or interfere with natural laws. So Einstein’s dice are rolling themselves. “Poetic,” because “there is more than one way of talking about the world.” True enough, but “poetic” is a bit of a stretch. Carroll might just as well have called his position “romantic reductionism” or “fragrant physicalism,” since what he’s trying to convey is a stance that is hard-nosed yet soft to the touch — a kinder, gentler, more capacious science.
Is It a Crime to Be Poor? Nicholas Kristof
"IN the 1830s, the civilized world began to close debtors’ prisons, recognizing them as barbaric and also silly: The one way to ensure that citizens cannot repay debts is to lock them up.
In the 21st century, the United States has reinstated a broad system of debtors’ prisons, in effect making it a crime to be poor....I sat in the jail with Rosalind Hall, 53, a warm, mild-mannered woman with graying hair who has been imprisoned for a total of almost 18 months, in short stints, simply for failing to pay a blizzard of fines and fees relating to petty crimes (for which she separately served time). Hall has struggled for three decades with mental illness and drug addictions and has a long history of shoplifting to pay for drugs, but no violent record.Tears welled in her eyes as she told how she was trying to turn her life around, no longer stealing, and steering clear of drugs for the last two years — but her fines and fees keep increasing and now total $11,258. With depression and bipolar disorder, she has little hope of getting a regular job, so she is periodically arrested for failing to pay.... A new book, “A Pound of Flesh,” by Alexes Harris of the University of Washington, notes that these modern debtors’ prisons now exist across America. Harris writes that in Rhode Island in 2007, 18 people were incarcerated a day, on average, for failure to pay court debt, while in Ferguson, Mo., the average household paid $272 in fines in 2012, and the average adult had 1.6 arrest warrants issued that year."
The Child Migrants of Africa:The Italian government has largely kept reporters from entering shelters and interviewing refugees.
Libya is particularly brutal on migrants. Boys are set to work by local residents at backbreaking jobs in construction and in the fields for less than $5 a day until they earn enough to afford the $1,500 passage. Girls are often forced into sex work. “They used to rape us and beat us,” said Tsenga, an Eritrean woman who today lives at a sprawling refugee camp in Sicily. “The girls cried, they cried bitterly. They cried because they are just children.”
Yes, There Have Been Aliens. Gray Matter By ADAM FRANK
"LAST month astronomers from the Kepler spacecraft team announced the discovery of 1,284 new planets, all orbiting stars outside our solar system. The total number of such “exoplanets” confirmed via Kepler and other methods now stands at more than 3,000....In a paper published in the May issue of the journal Astrobiology, the astronomer Woodruff Sullivan and I show that while we do not know if any advanced extraterrestrial civilizations currently exist in our galaxy, we now have enough information to conclude that they almost certainly existed at some point in cosmic history....Since the odds of contact with alien life depended on how many advanced extraterrestrial civilizations existed in the galaxy, Drake identified seven factors on which that number would depend, and incorporated them into an equation....In other words, given what we now know about the number and orbital positions of the galaxy’s planets, the degree of pessimism required to doubt the existence, at some point in time, of an advanced extraterrestrial civilization borders on the irrational."
How Donald Trump Bankrupted His Atlantic City Casinos, but Still Earned MillionsBy RUSS BUETTNER and CHARLES V. BAGLI
[1.] "But even as his companies did poorly, Mr. Trump did well. He put up little of his own money, shifted personal debts to the casinos and collected millions of dollars in salary, bonuses and other payments. The burden of his failures fell on investors and others who had bet on his business acumen.... [2.] His casino companies made four trips to bankruptcy court, each time persuading bondholders to accept less money rather than be wiped out. But the companies repeatedly added more expensive debt and returned to the court for protection from lenders.... After narrowly escaping financial ruin in the early 1990s by delaying payments on his debts, Mr. Trump avoided a second potential crisis by taking his casinos public and shifting the risk to stockholders.... And he never was able to draw in enough gamblers to support all of the borrowing. During a decade when other casinos here thrived, Mr. Trump’s lagged, posting huge losses year after year. Stock and bondholders lost more than $1.5 billion.... All the while, Mr. Trump received copious amounts for himself, with the help of a compliant board. In one instance, The Times found, Mr. Trump pulled more than $1 million from his failing public company, describing the transaction in securities filings in ways that may have been illegal, according to legal experts."