Blix21

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Scientists Can Use CRISPR to Store Images and Movies in Bacteria

It’s a step toward turning microbes into living hard drives.<p>In 1872, Eadweard Muybridge captured a series of photos of a running horse. His images settled a debate about whether the animal ever lifted all four feet off the ground at once—it did. They also formed the basis of one of the first motion …

Confirmed: Night Lights Drive Pollinators Away From Plants

A first-of-its-kind study shows that artificial lights deter nocturnal insects that flowers rely on.<p>It’s hard enough to grab an insect during the day, so try doing it in the dark, while wearing night-vision goggles. These eyepieces offer little in the way of depth perception, and “catching insects …

The Parasite That Wires Plants Together

By draining the fluids from several hosts, dodder vines inadvertently allow plants to communicate with each other and share alarm signals.<p>It goes by witch’s hair, strangleweed, devil’s gut, wizard’s net, and hellbine. And anyone who sees dodder vines in action will quickly understand why they’ve …

When the Planet Looks Like a Climate-Change Ad

“We kept on trying to wrap our heads around [that forecast] as we made it.”<p>It takes a lot of unusual weather to surprise the director of the National Weather Service. But speaking on Sunday from a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration office in College Park, Maryland, Louis Uccellini …

When the Mind Wanders

An anatomy of daydreaming<p>In 2014, one in 16 Americans visited the ER for home injuries that resulted from, among other things, fumbling knives (the cause of at least 249,000 injuries), ladders (at least 105,000), and cookware (at least 22,000). One of the main causes of these accidents? A wandering …

Can Fear Alone Drive Animals to Extinction?

The mere sounds or smells of predators seem to hurt some prey’s chances for survival.<p>In the wild, a predator that eats too much of its prey can drive that species toward extinction. But there are other, less understood influences that predators can have on their prey’s survival. Take, for instance, …

You Think With the World, Not Just Your Brain

On the mystery and wonder of extended cognition<p>As always, a horror film managed to express the idea before the scientists ever could, and in better, more visceral terms. “The television screen,” the haunting image of Brian O’Blivion tells us in David Cronenberg’s 1983 classic <i>Videodrome</i>, “is the …

Imagining the Future Is Just Another Form of Memory

Humans’ ability to predict the future is all thanks to our ability to remember the past.<p>“Imagining the future is a kind of nostalgia.” This is a line from John Green’s young-adult book <i>Looking for Alaska</i>. It’s pretty, and melancholy, and very popular on Tumblr. It’s also scientifically …

Will the Supreme Court Legitimize Partisan Gerrymandering?

An upcoming case shows how American democracy is threatened by the creativity of those who would try to disenfranchise the other side’s voters.<p>On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will consider whether state legislatures violate the Constitution by deliberately drawing legislative districts for partisan …

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Why Young Americans Are Questioning Democracy

According to Yascha Mounk, an author and lecturer on Political Theory at Harvard University, millennials in America are six times more dissatisfied with the democratic system than they were in 1940. In this video, Mounk explains how in previous generations, many Americans supported liberal …

How 'Evil' Became a Conservative Buzzword

The left and right rely on different moral languages in the wake of tragedies like the Las Vegas shooting.<p>In the days following the Las Vegas shooting—as its horror has faded from news coverage behind revelations of wildfires and sexual assault and humanitarian disasters—two ideological scripts …

Who Is Competent to Decide What Offends?

New survey data casts doubt on a popular framework used by universities to identify microaggressions.<p>As the ranks of college administrators have swelled in higher education, one task they’ve undertaken is more aggressively training students—and at times, faculty members— in what is variously called …

Is AI a Threat to Christianity?

Are you there, God? It’s I, robot.<p>In his relatively short tenure, Pope Francis has been hard at work welcoming spiritual seekers into the Catholic Church. He’s refused to judge LGBT people, sought to integrate divorced couples, and extended priests’ ability to forgive abortion. But Francis’s wide …

Artificial Intelligence

The Rise of Progressive 'Fake News'

The disempowered left now faces its own kinds of hoaxes and fables.<p>There is an enormous amount of crazy-sounding news right now.<p>President Donald Trump really did set off a diplomatic crisis with Australia, possibly out of personal exhaustion. The White House really did fail to mention Jews in their …

Journalism

Your Browsing History Alone Can Give Away Your Identity

Researchers have found a way to connect the dots between people’s private online activity and their Twitter accounts—even for people who have never tweeted.<p>Advertisers would give just about anything to be able to lurk over your shoulder as you browse the internet. They want to know what sites you …

A Stand Against Invasive Phone Searches at the U.S. Border

A senator has joined human-rights groups in opposing warrantless scans of travelers' digital devices.<p>For years, travelers entering into the U.S.—whether they’re citizens or not—have been pulled aside at the border and pressured into giving up passwords to their phones and other electronic devices. …

Social Media

The Facebook Algorithm Is Watching You

Here’s one way to confuse it.<p>You can tell a lot about a person from how they react to something.<p>That’s why Facebook’s various “Like” buttons are so powerful. Clicking a reaction icon isn’t just a way to register an emotional response, it’s also a way for Facebook to refine its sense of who you are. …

When Algorithms Don’t Account for Civil Rights

Do lucrative deals with advertisers have to come at the expense of users’ civil rights?<p>As people live more of their lives online, the necessity of figuring out how to extend offline protections to virtual practices becomes even more important. One way in which this problem is evident is bullying. …

When Fingerprints Are as Easy to Steal as Passwords

As hackers learn to imitate the body's unique features, scientists might turn to brainwaves and genomics to verify people's identities.<p>How do you prove who you are to a computer?<p>You could just use a password, a shared secret between you and the machine. But passwords are easily compromised—through …

Who Owns Your Face?

Advertising companies, tech giants, data collectors, and the federal government, it turns out.<p>It takes a feast of facial imagery to teach a machine how to recognize an individual person.<p>This is why computer scientists so often use the faces of Hollywood celebrities in their research. Tom Hanks, for …

Amazon Is Making It Easier for Companies to Track You

In a letter to shareholders, Jeff Bezos wrote about how the company is making machine-learning tools widely available.<p>Like “big data” and “social media” before it, the term “artificial intelligence” has become so buzzworthy at this point that it’s largely lost meaning.<p>If everything seems to be …

You Cannot Encrypt Your Face

Democracy may be impossible in a world where no dissent is anonymous.<p>The night of December 16, 1773, dozens of Massachusetts colonists quietly boarded three ships and dumped what would now be close to $1 million worth of British tea into Boston Harbor.<p>The Sons of Liberty painted their faces and …

Apple's $1 Billion Advanced Manufacturing Fund

CEO Tim Cook said the company supports 2 million U.S. jobs and hoped to create more.<p>Apple CEO Tim Cook says his company has created 2 million jobs in the U.S., adding the tech giant was setting up a $1 billion fund to promote advanced manufacturing in the country.<p>The 2 million number counts not …

Who Are the Shadow Brokers?

What is—and isn’t—known about the mysterious hackers leaking National Security Agency secrets<p>In 2013, a mysterious group of hackers that calls itself the Shadow Brokers stole a few disks full of National Security Agency secrets. Since last summer, they’ve been dumping these secrets on the internet. …

What People Really Want From News Organizations

Pundits complain that people are satisfied with the echo chambers they’re in, but that’s not quite right.<p>When I told my mother my work focused on improving public trust in the news, she thought the idea was hilarious. “Trust? News?” I was a bit insulted. Her daughter—me, that is—has been a …

The Normalization of Conspiracy Culture

People who share dangerous ideas don’t necessarily believe them.<p><i>Updated on June 17, 2017 at 7:51 p.m. ET</i><p>The catastrophe wasn’t what it seemed. It was an inside job, people whispered. Rome didn’t have to burn to the ground.<p>Nearly 2,000 years ago, after the Great Fire of Rome leveled most of the …

Beyond the Five Senses

Telepathy, echolocation, and the future of perception<p>The world we experience is not the real world. It’s a mental construction, filtered through our physical senses. Which raises the question: How would our world change if we had new and different senses? Could they expand our universe?<p>Technology …

Is the Problem With Tech Companies That They're Companies?

A Stanford professor argues that a profit imperative is in tension with the needs of a democratic society.<p>What news do people see? What do they believe to be true about the world around them? What do they do with that information as citizens—as voters?<p>Facebook, Google, and other giant technology …

The Algorithm That Makes Preschoolers Obsessed With YouTube

Surprise eggs and slime are at the center of an online realm that’s changing the way the experts think about human development.<p>Toddlers crave power. Too bad for them, they have none. Hence the tantrums and absurd demands. <i>(No, I want</i> this <i>banana, not that one, which looks identical in every way but</i> …

The 'Socially Liberal, Fiscally Conservative' Internet

In the wake of Charlottesville and a resurgence of white supremacy, tech companies’ complex political positioning is getting harder to maintain.<p>Both as a service and a company, Google has always been a convenient stand-in for the greater internet. “Googling” became shorthand for searching for …