THE INTERNET MONK SATURDAY BRUNCH
”It is talk-compelling. It puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, it sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week.”
• • •
• • •
ONLY A DELAY, AND THEN… THE TRUTH™
Flat-earther Mike Hughes got some bad news this past week, but thankfully it has only delayed his plans to prove the earth is flat.
[The] California man who planned to launch himself 1,800 feet high on Saturday in a homemade scrap-metal rocket – in an effort to “prove” that Earth is flat – said he is postponing the experiment after he couldn’t get permission from a federal agency to do so on public land.
Instead, Mike Hughes said the launch will take place sometime next week on private property, albeit still in Amboy, California, an unincorporated community in the Mojave Desert along historic Route 66.
Assuming the 500-mph, mile-long flight through the Mojave Desert does not kill him, Hughes told the Associated Press, his journey into the atmosflat will mark the first phase of his ambitious flat-Earth space program.
“It’ll shut the door on this ball earth,” Hughes said in a fundraising interview with a flat-Earth group for Saturday’s flight. Theories discussed during the interview included NASA being controlled by round-Earth Freemasons and Elon Musk making fake rockets from blimps.
Hughes promised the flat-Earth community that he would expose the conspiracy with his steam-powered rocket, which will launch from a heavily modified mobile home – though he acknowledged that he still had much to learn about rocket science.
“This whole tech thing,” he said in the June interview. “I’m really behind the eight ball.”
• • •
TOO MUCH LIGHT?
Artificial lighting at night is contributing to an alarming increase in light pollution, both in amount and in brightness, affecting places all over the world, a new study has found.
Some regions have showed a steady increase in light pollution aligned with economic development, but more developed nations that were thought to be “going dark” by switching to energy-saving LEDs showed no apparent decline in their rates of light pollution.
Globally, there has been a push toward more energy- and cost-efficient light sources, such as LEDs, but this has directly contributed to an alarming increase in light pollution, the researchers believe. Using the first calibrated satellite radiometer for night lights, which can detect radiance, a team of scientists found a 2.2% increase in the Earth’s outdoor artificial lighting each year between 2012 and 2016.
…The study concluded that a steady increase in the use of energy-efficient lights that are cheap and readily available will result in even more light pollution and a reduction of natural day-night light cycles in areas that still experience them.
Light pollution poses a threat to 30% of vertebrates and more than 60% of invertebrates that are nocturnal, including plants, microorganisms and, most alarmingly, human health, the researchers add.
• • •
SOME BEST INVENTIONS — 2017
Here are a few of the most interesting:
Anyone who’s ever sipped coffee knows how temperature can affect taste: if it’s too hot, it’ll scald your mouth; too cold and it’s barely worth drinking. By one estimate, you have only about 37 seconds to enjoy the brew at an ideal level of warmth. “That didn’t make any logical sense to me,” says Clay Alexander, CEO and founder of Los Angeles–based Ember Technologies. So he invented a solution: the stainless-steel Ember mug. Reinforced in white ceramic coating, it keeps coffee or tea at a precise temperature—anywhere from 120°F to 145°F, set through an app—for about an hour on its own and for an unlimited amount of time on its charging saucer. It’s the second in Ember’s series of smart drinking devices, following a temperature-control tumbler last year. And it may be poised to become a desktop staple: the mug launched on Nov. 9 and is already being sold in 4,600 U.S. Starbucks stores. —Melissa Chan
In the future, our cars will be smart, and our tires will be smarter. Or so suggests Michelin. Its Vision concept—unveiled this year to demonstrate the potential of tire technology—certainly makes a compelling case. For starters, it’s airless, eliminating the need to worry about pounds per square inch. It’s also made from recycled materials in an effort to reduce waste. But the most impressive feature may be its 3D-printed treads, which can be swapped in and out to accommodate various road conditions—without changing the tire itself. The challenge will be figuring out a way to do it quickly, says Terry Gettys, who helped lead the project, “because consumers are going to want their tires [ready to go] in just a few minutes.” Michelin estimates that a tire this advanced may still be as far as 20 years away. But some of its features, like airless designs and sensors that flag drivers when treads are wearing down, could become mainstream over the next several years. —Lisa Eadicicco
For decades, football players have worn the same kind of head protection: hard, plastic helmets. About four years ago, Sam Browd, a pediatric neurosurgeon, started thinking about how to approach them differently. What if, he wondered, the outer shell were made of a flexible polymer? That way, helmets could work like car bumpers, reducing the force (and the sound) of a collision immediately on impact. He sketched a prototype on a napkin and brought it to contacts at the University of Washington; together they founded a startup, VICIS, to make it a reality. “We wanted to build the safest helmet ever made,”says Dave Marver, the company’s CEO. The result, made possible by some $40 million in investments, is the Zero1, which earned top marks in the NFL’s annual helmet testing for its ability to reduce the forces that can cause brain injury. It’s now being used by players on 18 NFL teams, including Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith, and about 20 college teams. Next up: versions for younger athletes. —Jenny Vrentas
The future of farming is growing oysters, mussels, clams and seaweed on ropes anchored to the ocean floor. So says Bren Smith, a commercial fisherman turned director of GreenWave, a Connecticut nonprofit doing just that. The concept isn’t as wild as it may seem. As land farming becomes increasingly problematic—it accounts for a growing portion of the planet’s greenhouse-gas emissions—and oceans get overfished, humans will need to develop alternative food sources. GreenWave’s crops offer compelling advantages: they’re protein-rich, self-sufficient (no fertilizer needed) and they even help combat climate change (by sequestering carbon as they grow). Of course, getting Westerners to center their diet on mollusks and seaweed is a stretch. Still, GreenWave sees potential: the group has helped fishermen establish 14 farms along the coast of New England since 2013, and now has plans to expand in California, the Pacific Northwest and Europe. —Julia Zorthian
• • •
AND THE WINNER OF THE REFORMATION IS…
At RNS, Jim West argues that Huldrych Zwingli is the actual winner of the “reformer whose ideas stuck” competition.
Won what? Won the battle of the meaning of the Lord’s Supper. Won the central conflict of 16th-century theological warfare. How? By winning more people to his view than Luther or Calvin were able to win to theirs.
Baptists, the spiritual heirs of Zwingli in terms of their understanding of the Lord’s Supper, far outnumber both Lutherans and Presbyterians in the United States. Indeed, there are more Baptists than Lutherans and Presbyterians combined.
Zwingli, it turns out, is far more important to modern Christianity than Luther or Calvin. But you hardly ever hear his name anymore because Luther was more bombastic and Calvin more dictatorial.
…Zwingli won because his theology has proved itself victorious for centuries and will continue to be victorious — even over the bellicose old Luther — as long as there are Baptists in the land.
• • •
DIORAMAS OF DEATH
Check out the fascinating piece at NPR about Frances Glessner Lee, the “godmother of forensic science.” The video below will take you into her fascinating world.
At the turn of the century, miniature model making was a popular hobby among wealthy women. Lee adapted the the techniques she’d mastered building dollhouses to make tiny crime scenes that she used in the classroom at Department of Legal Medicine at Harvard, which she founded. She called her series, “Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death.”
“They do something that no other medium can do. You can’t do it with film, you really couldn’t do it with still images. Even today I don’t think there’s a computer simulation that does what the nutshells can do,” says Bruce Goldfarb. He oversees the collection at its permanent home at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore, Md. The models are so convincing that they’re still being used to train criminal investigators from around the country. “She knew that she was dealing with hard-boiled homicide detectives and so there couldn’t be anything remotely doll-like about them. They were not toys,” Goldfarb says.
• • •
BEFORE WE LEAVE THANKSGIVING…
Atlas Obscura tells the story of the effort to revive the Wampanoag language, spoken by the indigenous people that met with the Pilgrims for the first Thanksgiving.
English words like “pumpkin,” “skunk,” and “Massachusetts” are derived from Wampanoag words, but until recently the language itself was lost. In 1993, Jessie Little Doe Baird, then in her 20s, had a series of dreams about her ancestors. In the dreams, they were speaking to her but she couldn’t understand them. The tribe had a prophecy which said that their lost language would come back when they were ready for it, revived by the children of those who had broken the language cycle. Baird saw the dreams as a sign.
Baird worked with Kenneth Hale, her thesis advisor at MIT, an expert in indigenous languages, and a descendant of Rhode Island founder Roger Williams. She also collaborated with fellow tribe members and other Native Americans, making use of Algonquin languages, which are related and still spoken. In 2000, she published a grammar and has since put together a dictionary of the Wampanoag language. She then received a MacArthur Fellowship and helped launch an immersion school that teaches the language to Wampanoag children.
For the first time in over a century, Wampanoag people can celebrate Thanksgiving in the language of those who first observed the feast.
• • •
THIS WEEK IN MUSIC…
I’m always on the lookout for good singer-songwriters. A few weeks ago, I was introduced to Phoebe Bridgers, and I find that her songs fit the increasingly bare November landscape perfectly. In the linked NPR piece, Stephen Thompson writes about Bridgers’s haunting single, Smoke Signals:
Like fellow rising stars Julien Baker (with whom she’s toured) and Julia Jacklin, Bridgers immediately presents as a formidable talent: She’s got a voice powerful enough to command any stage, but with intimate phrasing that cries out for late-night drives and walks under headphones. In “Smoke Signals,” she crams a relationship’s worth of emotions, milestones and small details — a week in the wilderness, the deaths of Lemmy and Bowie, the scene surrounding a Holiday Inn — into five and a half slowly but powerfully unfurling minutes.