“Conspiratorial ideation is the tendency of individuals to believe that events and power relations are secretly manipulated by certain clandestine groups and organisations. Many of these ostensibly explanatory conjectures are non-falsifiable, lacking in evidence or demonstrably false, yet public acceptance remains high. […] The theory presented here might be useful in counteracting the potentially deleterious consequences of bogus and anti-science narratives, and examining the hypothetical conditions under which sustainable conspiracy might be possible.”
Nigeria is beating the West at its own word game, using a strategy that sounds like Scrabble sacrilege. By relentlessly studying short words, this country of 500 languages has risen to dominate English’s top lexical contest. Last November, for the final of Scrabble’s 32-round World Championship in Australia, Nigeria’s winningest wordsmith, Wellington Jighere, defeated Britain’s Lewis Mackay, in a victory that led morning news broadcasts in his homeland half a world away. It was the crowning achievement for a nation that boasts more top-200 Scrabble players than any other country, including the U.K., Nigeria’s former colonizer and one of the board game’s legacy powers. “In other countries they see it as a game,” said Mr. Jighere, now a borderline celebrity and talent scout for one of the world’s few government-backed national programs. “Nigeria is one of the countries where Scrabble is seen as a sport.”
Last week, the Australian arts community reacted in horror as news was released of the defunding of around 65 arts companies and organisations. In what is already known as “Black Friday”, the Australia Council released its latest figures for multi-year funding, revealing the bleak result of years of cuts and bungled policy. So far discussion has focused on the crisis facing small-to-medium companies and organisations. But this has obscured where the real damage is happening. The number of Australia Council grants to individual artists and projects has decreased by a staggering 70% since the 2013/14 financial year. According to the Australia Council’s 2013/14 annual report, that year it funded 1,340 individual artists and 2,489 total projects. In contrast, the total for the two funding rounds for 2015/16 was 405 individual artists and 694 projects. This represents a fall of 70% for individual artists, and 72% for overall projects. The number of small-to-medium organisations receiving multi-year funding over the same period fell from 178 to 128, around 28%. The 70% reduction particularly hits artists such as writers and visual artists, who mostly work alone. This intensifies the impact that literature has taken in the cuts. As Writers Victoria said: “It’s impossible to know what Australia’s literary landscape may look like in six or 12 months’ time.” This damage doesn’t even have the bad excuse of “savings”. It is a direct result of the former arts minister George Brandis’s requisition of $105m over four years from the Australia Council budget to finance his unaccountable and secretive National Program for Excellence in the Arts (NPEA).
The Navajo Indian man in this photograph is wearing the costume of Tonenili, the God of Water, for a ceremony called the night chant or Yebichai. His costume is made of spruce tree branches and a mark. This photograph was taken about 1904.
Edward S. Curtis, photographer
Suzy Poling @siouxsiepod is a Los-Angeles based, multidisciplinary artist who explores throughout her oeuvre, the beauty of chaos in an enigmatic and sophisticated conduit | Topographical Painting #1 by sornmagazine (via https://www.instagram.com/p/BFgFC9ew1tC/)
In one of these studies, two of Kuhn’s colleagues at Goldsmiths, Krissy Wilson and Christopher C. French, investigated how encountering magic can influence beliefs about the nature of reality. They had an alleged psychic—really, a magician—bend a key in his hand by pretending to use telekinesis. His apparent power over the key was effected, of course, through sleight-of-hand. But for one group of spectating subjects, the psychic attempts something more daring: He places the key on a table and vocally claims that he’s still bending it from afar. Of course, the key did not continue to bend on the table. Still, 33 percent of the subjects who heard the psychic’s suggestion reported that the key did continue to bend, compared to none in the control group who did not hear the suggestion. This percentage of credulous spectators almost doubled when the psychic’s confederate, posing as a spectator, validated the psychic’s suggestion by falsely claiming to see the key bending.
Trailer for a new documentary entitled, “Sonic Sea,” produced by the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and which will premiere on the Discovery Channel on May 19. Description of the documentary from NRDC:
Beneath the surface of our oceans lies a finely balanced, living world of sound, most of which we never hear topside. But to whales, dolphins, and other marine life, sound is survival, the key to how they navigate, find mates, hunt for food, communicate over vast distances, and protect themselves against predators in waters dark and deep.
Our oceans, though, have become vast junkyards of industrial noise — often louder than a rock concert — from commercial shipping, military sonar, and seismic blasts that test for oil and gas. The seas have become so loud, in places, that these great animals are drowning in noise that threatens their health, their future, and their very lives.
On May 19, the Discovery Channel will premiere an important new NRDC film that documents this shattering underwater peril. Sonic Sea calls on us to turn down the volume before it’s too late.
To the future of marine life worldwide, deafening noise is hardly the only threat. It is compounding the stress ocean life faces a growing litany of environmental ills.
“Over the years, the European institutions have developed a vocabulary that differs from that of any recognised form of English. It includes words that do not exist or are relatively unknown to native English speakers outside the EU institutions and often even to standard spellcheckers/grammar checkers (‘planification’, ’to precise’ or ’telematics’ for example) and words that are used with a meaning, often derived from other languages, that is not usually found in English dictionaries (‘coherent ’ being a case in point). Some words are used with more or less the correct meaning, but in contexts where they would not be used by native speakers (‘homogenise’, for example). Finally, there is a group of words, many relating to modern technology, where users (including many native speakers) ‘prefer ’ a local term (often an English word or acronym) to the one normally used in English-speaking countries, which they may not actually know, even passively (’GPS’ or ’navigator’ for ‘satnav ’, ’SMS’ for ’text’, ’to send an SMS to’ for ’to text’, ’GSM’ or even ’Handy’ for ’mobile’ or ’cell phone’, internet ’key’, ’pen’ or ’stick’ for ’dongle’, ’recharge’ for ’top-up/top up’, ’beamer’ for video projector etc).”
The wildfires in Alberta, Canada are just the latest in a series of wildfires that have been wrecking the northern boreal forests. Remember all the heavy wildfires in Alaska last year? Or the first in Siberia over the past several years? This article is telling us that the global temperatures increase, the boreal forests are exposed to destructive wildfires. And guess what that does? Releases more carbon into the atmosphere, and removes the trees and plants that consume the CO2, putting us every more tightly into that feedback loop.
Scientists have been warning for decades that climate change is a threat to the immense tracts of forest that ring the Northern Hemisphere, with rising temperatures, drying trees and earlier melting of snow contributing to a growing number of wildfires.
The near-destruction of a Canadian city last week by a fire that sent almost 90,000 people fleeing for their lives is grim proof that the threat to these vast stands of spruce and other resinous trees, collectively known as the boreal forest, is real. And scientists say a large-scale loss of the forest could have profound consequences for efforts to limit the damage from climate change.
In retrospect, it is clear that Fort McMurray, in northern Alberta, was particularly vulnerable as one of the largest human outposts in the boreal forest. But the destruction of patches of this forest by fire, as well as invasions by insects surviving warmer winters, has occurred throughout the hemisphere.
In Russia, about 70 million acres burned in 2012, new statistics suggest, much of that in isolated areas of Siberia. Alaska, home to most of the boreal forest in the United States, had its second-largest fire season on record in 2015, with 768 fires burning more than five million acres.
Global warming is suspected as a prime culprit in the rise of these fires. The warming is hitting northern regions especially hard: Temperatures are climbing faster there than for the Earth as a whole, snow cover is melting prematurely, and forests are drying out earlier than in the past. The excess heat may even be causing an increase in lightning, which often sets off the most devastating wildfires.
Tuesday, NASA released a satellite image showing that smoke from Canada’s raging wildfires is “entwined" in clouds. That’s caused the smoke “to twist within the circular motions of the clouds and wind,“ according to the NASA website. JEFF SCHMALTZ LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS RAPID RESPONSE TEAM, GSFC
On Sunday, for a brief, shining moment, renewable power output in Germany reached 90 percent of the country’s total electricity demand.
That’s a big deal. On May 8th, at 11 a.m. local time, the total output of German solar, wind, hydropower, and biomass reached 55 gigawatts (GW), just short of the 58 GW consumed by every light bulb, washing machine, water heater and personal computer humming away on Sunday morning. See the graph below, courtesy Agora Energiewende, a German clean energy think tank.
Sunday’s spike in renewable output shows that wind and solar can keep pace with the demands of an economic powerhouse. What’s more, the growth of clean energy has tracked the growth of Germany’s economy.
We humans are changing. We have become so intertwined with what we have created that we are no longer separate from it. We have outgrown the distinction between the natural and the artificial. We are what we make. We are our thoughts, whether they are created by our neurons, by our electronically augmented minds, by our technologically mediated social interactions, or by our machines themselves. We are our bodies, whether they are born in womb or test tube, our genes inherited or designed, organs augmented, repaired, transplanted, or manufactured. Our prosthetic enhancements are as simple as contact lenses and tattoos and as complex as robotic limbs and search engines. They are both functional and aesthetic. We are our perceptions, whether they are through our eyes and ears or our sensory-fused hyper-spectral sensors, processed as much by computers as by our own cortex. We are our institutions, cooperating super-organisms, entangled amalgams of people and machines with super-human intelligence, processing, sensing, deciding, acting. Our home planet is inhabited by both engineered organisms and evolved machines. Our very atmosphere is the emergent creation of forests, farms and factories. Empowered by the tools of the Enlightenment, connected by networked flows of freight and fuel and finance, by information and ideas, we are becoming something new. We are at the dawn of the Age of Entanglement.