Malcolm Gladwell: Im just trying to get people to take psychology seriously

The Canadian writer made his name bringing intellectual sparkle to everyday subjects, and his new book – about how strangers interact with each other – is no exception In the flesh, Malcolm Gladwell is exactly as I imagined him to be: engaging, polite, dauntingly cerebral and supremely self-assured in that way that the exceptionally gifted often are. At 55, there is still something of the sporty, if slightly gawky, teenager about him; his jeans and a lightweight hoody accentuate his height and wiry thinness. The signature afro has been tamed somewhat and, if anything, makes him look even younger. He is not big on small talk, and one senses that every hour in his working day is geared towards maximum …

What Sci-Fi Can Teach Computer Science About Ethics

This story is part of a series on how we learn—from augmented reality to music-training devices. The protagonist of Rebecca Roanhorse’s short story “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian ExperienceTM” is a bit of a sad sack. A guide for a VR tourism company in Sedona, Arizona, he leads “vision quests” in a digital guise taken straight from Little Big Man. He’s Native American in our corporal realm as well, just not the sort tourists wish to commune with, he argues—until one does, stealing his job and his life story. Heartbreaking yet ambiguous, the story won a bunch of top sci-fi honors, including a Nebula and a Hugo. For the students in Emanuelle Burton’s ethics class, the story is tricky to …

From Baba Yaga to Hermione Granger: why we’re spellbound by ‘witcherature’

Vengeful, seductive, feminist, misogynist … witches have appeared in many forms in literature. Now a new generation of novelists are falling under their spell A witch is a woman who has too much power. Or, to quote the novelist #MeToo world, where Donald Trump a fan of the term witch-hunt is US president, it is really no surprise that female writers are examining the role of the witch in new ways. Since Trumps election, which inspired mass spell-casting by thousands of resistance witches (the selection of judge Circe, Millers reimagining of the story of the witch from the Odyssey. Shortlisted for the Womens prize and soon to become an HBO series, the novel sees Circe, a victim of rape, turn …

How White Nationalists Have Co-Opted Fan Fiction

During a recent summer stroll near an Ivy League campus, I happened on an SUV with a decal on its rear window that read “The University of Rhodesia.” The University of Rhodesia no longer exists, but it was located in Rhodesia, a self-declared state in southern Africa from 1965 to 1979 (the area now known as Zimbabwe). An independent state successor to the British colony of Southern Rhodesia, it was named after the British imperialist Cecil Rhodes. In recent years, Rhodesian iconography has gained popularity among young men with white nationalist leanings. Infatuation with Rhodesia first received media attention after it was discovered that Dylann Roof—the white supremacist who killed 9 black churchgoers in 2015—had a personal website called “Last …

Thor! Blade! Picard! The 10 biggest surprises from Comic-Con 2019

San Diegos annual pop culture gathering saw a big reveal of trailers, stars and release dates, including some major Marvel news 1. Thor Four is forward-thinking The inscription on Mjolnir, Marvels spin on the weapon of Norse legend, reads: Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor. Its time to update that pronoun. One can quibble about what was the biggest surprise at this years marketing bonanza held at the San Diego Convention Center, but Oscar-winner Natalie Portmans return as the Asgardian hero Thors former love interest, Dr Jane Foster, is a top contender. (The character got an exit, pursued by a lapsed contract off-screen dismissal earlier in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.) Portman isnt …

What Seinfeld can teach us about science

From micro pigs to the doping dangers of a poppy seed bagel, life may be imitating the US sitcom When Jerry Seinfeld UK 1981 HBO debut, he said of weather forecasts: And then my favourite part, the satellite photo. This is really helpful. A photograph of the Earth from 10,000 miles away. Can you tell if you should take a sweater or not from that shot? His eponymous 90s sitcom is also packed with nuanced references to science, with the storylines of some of the most famous episodes centred on it: George Costanza pretends to be a scientist in The Marine Biologist, while in The Abstinence he becomes a boffin after swearing off sex. In The Non-Fat Yogurt, Kramer has …

Ancient city of Babylon heads list of new Unesco world heritage sites

UN also names national park in Iceland among sites protected for their value to humanity The ancient city of Babylon and an Icelandic national park replete with glaciers, ice caves and volcanoes are among the sites that have been added to Unescos world heritage list. More than 1,000 sites around the world some cultural, some natural, some both are protected by listing. Landmarks or areas are chosen for their value to humanity. On Friday, the World Heritage Committee announced the addition of the first of this years batch. More sites will be named over the weekend. Perhaps the most famous site to be added to the list is the city of Babylon in Iraq. The city was first mentioned in …

Unbuilt Tokyo: ‘depthscrapers’ and a million-person pyramid

Had the creators of the underground skyscraper had their way, the Japanese capital might have looked very different indeed Protected by cylindrical walls of reinforced concrete, the steel and glass depthscrapers extend hundreds of metres underground. Only a single floor of each inverted 35-storey skyscraper is visible at ground level. Giant mirrors mounted directly above the central wells reflect sunlight to the apartments below. Prismatic glass ensures even light throughout the day, while fresh, conditioned air is pumped down from the surface. The whole structure, in case of an earthquake, will vibrate together, resisting any crushing strain, declared a 1931 edition of Everyday Science and Mechanics that called the design the product of the best engineering brains of Japan. The …

Dani Shapiro: Science will bring an end to these family secrets

As a young Jewish girl, Dani Shapiro always felt different. Years later she found out why She reveals what she learned about family, identity and the hard truths of DNA tests Take a look at your reflection. What do you see? Who do you think you are? When the writer Dani Shapiro was a little girl, she would sneak down the hall late at night once her parents were asleep, the better to stare at herself uninterrupted in the bathroom mirror. She felt, though she would not have been able to articulate this at the time, different a creature apart. Perhaps if she gazed at herself for long enough, a new face would emerge from behind her own: a truer …

‘It’s ghost slavery’: the troubling world of pop holograms

Dead stars from Whitney Houston to Maria Callas are going on tour again. As Miley Cyrus explores the issue in a new Black Mirror, we uncover the greatest identity crisis in music today In the star-making Disney Channel switcheroo Hannah Montana,Miley Cyrus played a teenage girl who is able to metamorphose from regular eighth grader to pop icon, simply by donning a streaked blonde wig. Most of the show seems quaintly dated now, but one moment taps into a very 2019 pop anxiety. On foam-finger humper to The episodes trailer ends with Ashley Too acquiring potty-mouthed sentience, screaming for her owner to get this [USB] cable out of my ass! Holy Shit! Specifics are under wraps, but the episode seems …

How much water do you really need?

Time to put that phone in a cool, dry place.Image: Tobias Schwartz / AFP / Getty Images Let’s be real. You’re going to take your phone to the beach. How could you not? So let’s make sure it doesn’t meet its untimely end there. There are three main issues to consider when beach-proofing your device: sun, sand, and moisture. You don’t want your phone to overheat, you don’t want it to get sand in its ports and crevices, and you definitely don’t want it to get wet.  Take these precautions and you’ll be able to enjoy your beach day in peace. Unless you get sand under your swimsuit, in which case … may god be with you. Keep it cool …

Italy’s new ruins: heritage sites being lost to neglect and looting

Overgrown and weathered, many historical monuments are disappearing as public funds for culture fail to match modern Italys inheritance Legend has it that the grotto hidden among the craggy cliffs on San Marco hill in Sutera in the heart of Sicily holds a treasure chest full of gold coins. In order to find it, three men must dream simultaneously about the precise place to dig. Treasure or no treasure, the grotto itself is an archaeological gem, its walls adorned with a multi-coloured Byzantine-esque 16th-century fresco depicting Jesus, the Virgin Mary and Saints Paulinus, Luke, Mark and Matthew. One of the first mountain oratories in the world, it was built by Basilian monks in the 9th century. But time has weathered …

Tesla hires the ‘absolute unit’ meme guy to run its social media

A USC study concludes that cold offices are actually really bad for women's productivity.Image: Getty Images Women are more productive when they’re warm, a study concludes, confirming the complaints of chilly female employees everywhere.  While women’s gripes about frigid workspaces have long been dismissed as a sign of oversensitivity, a study published in PLOS ONE argues differently. The University of Southern California and the WZB Berlin Social Science Center had 543 students in Berlin perform tasks and steadily raised the temperature of the environment. Temperatures in each session varied in increments from 61 degrees Fahrenheit to 91 degrees Fahrenheit.  As the temperature increased, women’s performance did as well. Although men performed better at lower temperatures and worse at higher temperatures, …

Mama duck parades her babies through hospital, delighting everyone

These ducks are not licensed medical professionals, but they're a welcome sight at Thompson Health.Image: Thompson health Each year, a duck visits the courtyard of Thompson Health in upstate New York to lay her eggs. Once the fuzzy little ducklings hatch, they have a little parade through the hospital’s nursing home, the M.M. Ewing Continuing Care Center. Is there a better way to ring in the spring season every year? No. The University of Rochester Medicine Thompson Health Facebook page shared a little story on Thursday that would thaw the winter out of anyone’s heart, sharing pictures of 2019’s family of ducks and their journey through the facility’s hallways and out a door. The mother of the ducklings will tap …

‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ director promises design changes after fan backlash

Sonic games, in the past few years, have been universally acknowledged as not good. They’re notorious for ridiculously confusing plotlines, poorly-rendered, buggy cutscenes, and dialogue so corny it would make an after-school special shudder. It’s a wonder how the legacy of a little blue dude who runs speedily has managed to stay intact this long.  But sometimes you gotta dig in to the cringe to pull out anything of quality. Like a chaos emerald in the rough, a project emerged that would breathe some much-needed life into a franchise dying from lack of self-awareness.   Penny Parker, a voice actress and video producer, is known for her gaming YouTube channel SnapCube, dedicated to Let’s Plays and general uplifting gaming content. …

Serial thrillers: the science behind our box set addiction

Hour after hour, were glued to the TV as the latest series unfolds. It feels like a thoroughly modern phenomenon. But, as Will Storr reveals, what keeps us gripped goes right to the heart of what it is to be human Not long ago, I was bingeing on the second series of Jill Soloways award-winning television series The Domesticated Brain, has left us with brains that are exquisitely engineered to interact with other brains. Wed become brilliantly expert at controlling an environment of other human minds. And thats who we are today. If dogs live principally in a world of smell, and moles in a world of touch, then the human realm is that of other minds. In order to …