English articles

China’s social credit

China’s social credit system, a big-data system for monitoring and shaping business and citizens’ behaviour, is reaching beyond China’s borders to impact foreign companies, according to new research.

The system, which has been compared to an Orwellian tool of mass surveillance, is an ambitious work in progress: a series of big data and AI-enabled processes that effectively grant subjects a social credit score based on their social, political and economic behaviour.

People with low scores can be banned or blacklisted from accessing services including flights and train travel; while those with high scores can access privileges. The Chinese government aims to have all 1.35 billion of its citizens subject to the system by 2020. Link

Is It Time To Leave Earth?

From kilobytes to petabytes from 1s and 0s to Qubits we now have a glimpse of a future so immense that it has set off alarm bells for famed futurists like Ray Kurzweil, Max Tegmark and now the co-founder of string theory and best selling author Michio Kaku. Kaku is one of the most popular scientists on earth and is one of the very few figures that are able to talk a scientific language that most of us can understand. Link

Amateur wine scores are every bit as good as professionals

Few consumer products offer as staggering a range of choice as wine. You can buy a bottle of Dark Horse Big Red Blend for $8. Or for around $500, you can get a 2012 bottle of Sloan Proprietary Red. Yet for each bottle, the same question applies: Is it any good?

For decades, Americans turned to professional critics like Robert Parker to help them make that determination. But the internet changed all that. Link

Things to Consider Before Choosing Sides

Ali A. Risvi

Are you “pro-Israel” or “pro-Palestine”? It isn’t even noon yet as I write this, and I’ve already been accused of being both.

These terms intrigue me because they directly speak to the doggedly tribal nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. You don’t hear of too many other countries being universally spoken of this way. Why these two? Both Israelis and Palestinians are complex, with diverse histories and cultures, and two incredibly similar (if divisive) religions. To come down completely on the side of one or the other doesn’t seem rational to me.

It is telling that most Muslims around the world support Palestinians, and most Jews support Israel. This, of course, is natural — but it’s also problematic. It means that this is not about who’s right or wrong as much as which tribe or nation you are loyal to. It means that Palestinian supporters would be just as ardently pro-Israel if they were born in Israeli or Jewish families, and vice versa. It means that the principles that guide most people’s view of this conflict are largely accidents of birth — that however we intellectualize and analyze the components of the Middle East mess, it remains, at its core, a tribal conflict.

By definition, tribal conflicts thrive and survive when people take sides. Choosing sides in these kinds of conflicts fuels them further and deepens the polarization. And worst of all, you get blood on your hands.

So before picking a side in this Israeli-Palestine conflict, consider these questions: Link

 

REDESIGNING RENEWABLE ENERGY

IBIS Power introduces the breakthrough solution that supplies the needed energy for high rises. PowerNEST is more efficient than other existing renewable systems as it makes use of both wind and sun, integrated in a single solution. This way, it generates as much energy as possible on the limited roof space of highrises, delivering an attractive payback time. In addition, PowerNEST can be customized to blend with the architectural design thus increasing the aesthetical value of the building. Link

 

Welcome to heaven

Architect Rob Derks designed Houten to prioritise pedestrians and cyclists over motorists. A ring road circles the suburb, and residential districts within are only accessible to cars through these roads on the edge of town. Instead, there is an extensive network of paths and cycle lanes connecting these areas. Link

Silicon as a new storage material

Longer life times, larger ranges and faster recharging—developments such as electric mobility or the miniaturisation of electronics require new storage materials for batteries. With its enormous storage capacity, silicon would potentially have decisive advantages over the materials used in commercial available lithium-ion batteries. But due to its mechanical instability, it has so far been almost impossible to use silicon for storage technology. A research team from the Institute for Materials Science at Kiel University, in cooperation with the company RENA Technologies GmbH, is developing anodes made of 100% silicon, as well as a concept for their industrial production. Through targeted structuring of its surface at the micrometer level, the team can fully exploit the storage potential of silicon. This opens up a completely new approach to rechargeable batteries, as well as the energy storage of tomorrow. Link

“Weathered but wiser”

Our decision to sell up, buy a boat and sail around the world had been slightly more challenging than anticipated.
We had begun the journey with much bravado on our 46-foot yacht “Boomerang” in the UK and ended our first stint weathered and wiser in Sardinia.
During that time, we’d clocked up a rescue from the coast guard thanks to a huge rope we collected around our propeller, two haul outs to get the sail drive fixed, a couple of leaks and countless days in marinas trying to get various gauges and gadgets repaired.
There had been near misses with unidentified vessels on night sails, close calls with erratic powerboat owners in Ibiza and way too much rowing in a fuel-hungry dinghy. Link

Super rich shown to have grown out of ancient farming

Scientists have traced the rise of the super-rich deep into our historical past to uncover the ancient source of social inequality. Their conclusion? Thousands of years ago, it was the use of large farm animals – horses and oxen that could pull ploughs – which created the equivalent of our multi-billionaire entrepreneurs today.

The research, published in Nature, is the first attempt to assess how significant wealth gaps arose among our ancestors. These began when farming first established the idea of land ownership – although only mild disparities resulted from the sowing and reaping of crops. Link

Cassini-missie

Dertien jaar heeft de Cassini-sonde rond de reuzenplaneet Saturnus gecirkeld. Na talloze ontdekkingen is het deze week voorgoed afgelopen. Eigenlijk zou de NASA-sonde maar vier jaar blijven werken. Maar de machine gaf niet op en iedere keer werd de missie verlengd. Nu is de raketbrandstof bijna op. Om te voorkomen dat de sonde neerstort op een van mogelijk levensvatbare manen van Saturnus en die besmet met aardse bacteriën en radioactief plutonium, laat NASA hem vrijdag 15 september in de gasreus Saturnus storten. Cassini’s meest zichtbare erfenis staat op de Cassini-site van NASA: vele duizenden adembenemende foto’s. Link

Tiny Country Feeds the World

From his perch 10 feet above the ground, he’s monitoring two drones—a driverless tractor roaming the fields and a quadcopter in the air—that provide detailed readings on soil chemistry, water content, nutrients, and growth, measuring the progress of every plant down to the individual potato. Van den Borne’s production numbers testify to the power of this “precision farming,” as it’s known. The global average yield of potatoes per acre is about nine tons. Van den Borne’s fields reliably produce more than 20. Link

Can reason make room for religion?

Contemporary Western liberals often assume that theological and political worldviews are competing discourses. Religion, when it enters the political arena, is cast as just another ideology vying for power. But treating the theological and the political as warring forces stops us from looking at the more surprising ways that they interact and inform each other.

Friedrich Schleiermacher was a churchman and civil servant in early 19th-century Germany who rejected a neat partition between the spiritual and the political. In his writing and his life, he grappled, not always successfully, with how to reconcile the two. But in doing so, he offers up some worthwhile lessons about how reason and feeling can coexist in the public sphere, and provides us with a rich picture of what makes life meaningful. Link

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