Election Pre-mortems

In the days leading up to the election, pundits of all political stripes reached a rare consensus: Donald Trump would lose. They just couldn't agree about why he would lose.

Jonathan Chait, writing for the Daily Intelligencer, found a clip of Donald Trump in 2012 recommending the Republicans get on board with immigration reform. Chait relished the irony.

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Two Men and a Chimney

a retelling of a Jewish parable

A young man went to a Rabbi and said, "I wish to study Talmud."

The Rabbi asked, "Do you know Hebrew or Aramaic?"

"No," replied the young man, "But I wish to study anyway."

"Have you studied Torah?"

"No, but I graduated summa cum laude from Berkeley with a philosophy degree, and got my master's from Harvard. I'd just like to study Talmud to round out my education."

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Weekend Reads 11/12/16

Scientists discover a lake under the sea: Those who swim there never come back alive

The water in the "lake within the sea" is about five times as salty as the water surrounding it. It also contains highly toxic concentrations of methane and hydrogen sulfide and can thus not mix with the surrounding sea.

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Donald Trump Must Repudiate the Racism of His Campaign

I've only had a racist remark directed at me once, and it was very mild as far as racism goes. I was in college and my roommate wanted to show me what he had learned in his art class about skin tone. He held his arm next to mine and said, "Look, my arm has a healthy pink tone, but yours has an ugly brown tone."

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Weekend Reads 11/5/16

Google AI invents its own cryptographic algorithm; no one knows how it works

The AIs were not told how to encrypt stuff, or what crypto techniques to use: they were just given a loss function (a failure condition), and then they got on with it.

The Curious Have Won

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Weekend Reads 10/29/16

Monkey 'tools' raise questions over human archaeological record

The capuchins make the fragments unintentionally while bashing rocks into dust, the researchers find. Some scientists say that the results call into question whether some stone tools have been incorrectly attributed to hominins — including 3.3-million-year-old artefacts from Kenya that are the oldest on record.

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The Election-Rigging Conspiracy

Facing nearly certain defeat at the polls, and unwilling to acknowledge his own weaknesses as a candidate, Donald Trump has raised the spectre of a rigged election. Trump's mental surrogate Scott Adams is confident this will happen.

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Weekend Reads 10/22/16

The Great Republican Revolt

The angriest and most pessimistic people in America are the people we used to call Middle Americans. Middle-class and middle-aged; not rich and not poor; people who are irked when asked to press 1 for English, and who wonder how white male became an accusation rather than a description.

'Planet Nine' Can't Hide Much Longer, Scientists Say

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Eight Degrees of Giving

Some nine hundred years ago, Jewish scholar Moses Maimonides idenified eight levels of charity. Giving of ourselves is good, but only insofar as we try to respect and preserve the dignity of the recipient. Charity, according to Maimonides, could be money or other forms of assistance.

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