The daily dose of Reading Comprehension articles
The camera is a small, white, curvilinear monolith on a pedestal. Inside its smooth casing are a microphone, a speaker, and an eye-like lens. After I set it up on a shelf, it tells me to look straight at it and to be sure to smile! The light blinks and then the camera flashes. A head-to-toe picture appears on my phone of a view I’m only used to seeing in large mirrors: me, standing awkwardly in my apartment, wearing a very average weekday outfit. The background is blurred like evidence from a crime scene. It is not a flattering image.
You are an inmate in a luxury hotel. Locked in your soundproof suite, you hear nothing and see nothing. Liveried butlers bring you meals on silver carts. You have plenty of time to read, think, and listen to music. All the riches of culture can be called down at your whim. But you are trapped, too, and desperate to talk.
Donald Trump is a creature of the instant, responsive only and wholly to immediate stimulus – which is why Twitter is his exclusive medium of written communication, and why when he speaks he cannot stick to a script. In this respect he differs little from anyone who spends a lot of time on social media; the social media ecosystem is designed to generate constant, instantaneous responses to the provocations of Now.
They talked about where they were from (she hailed from Iowa, he from New Jersey), life in a small town, and the transition to college. An eavesdropper would have been hard-pressed to detect a romantic spark in this banal back-and-forth. Yet when researchers, who had recorded the exchange, ran it through a language-analysis program, it revealed what W and M confirmed to be true: They were hitting it off.
All this to say: The straw is officially part of the culture wars, and you might be thinking, “Gah, these contentious times we live in!” But the straw has always been dragged along by the currents 7of history, soaking up the era, shaping not its direction, but its texture.
I’ve never liked talking about the future. The Q&A sessions always end up more like parlor games, where I’m asked to opine on the latest technology buzzwords as if they were ticker symbols for potential investments: blockchain, 3D printing, CRISPR. The audiences are rarely interested in learning about these technologies or their potential impacts beyond the binary choice of whether or not to invest in them. But money talks, so I took the gig.
I was interested in questions that could be answered with very little money [and] very little technology,” she recalls. Even so, she had a bold idea. With some effort—and luck—she hoped to accomplish something with her kitchen-blender project that had bedeviled scientists for over a century: to count the number of cells in the brain—not just the human brain, but also the brains of marmosets, macaque monkeys, shrews, giraffes, elephants, and dozens of other mammals.
At first glance, all of these seem to be positive trends. Globalization connects scientists worldwide, enabling them to avoid duplication and facilitating the development of universal standards and best practices. The creation of digital databases allows for systematic mining of scientific output and offers a broader foundation for new investigations. And the rising number of scientists means that more science is being conducted, accelerating progress.
Pepper is a white, semi-humanoid robot, about the size of a 6-year-old, made by Tokyo-based SoftBank Robotics. You may have seen him working in a bank or a hotel, or being interviewed by Neil deGrasse Tyson. According to the company, Pepper was designed “to be a genuine day-to-day companion whose number one quality is his ability to perceive emotions.” Pepper uses cameras and sensors to detect a person’s facial expression, tone of voice, body movements, and gaze, and the robot reacts to those—it can talk, gesture, and even dance on wheels.
What if there were a company that knew what you wanted to buy before you did? What if it made shopping recommendations that tapped into your deepest desires? Better yet, what if it then made buying completely seamless? Would you ever stop shopping?
There are lots of reasons why colonizing space seems compelling. The popular astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson argues that it would stimulate the economy and inspire the next generation of scientists. Elon Musk, who founded SpaceX, argues that “there is a strong humanitarian argument for making life multiplanetary…to safeguard the existence of humanity in the event that something catastrophic were to happen.” The former administrator of NASA, Michael Griffin, frames it as a matter of the “survival of the species.” And the late astrophysicist Stephen Hawking has conjectured that if humanity fails to colonize space within 100 years, we could face extinction
For years, the sharing economy was pitched as an altruistic form of capitalism — an answer to consumption run amok. Why own your own car or power tools or copies of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up if each sat idle for most of its life? The sharing economy would let strangers around the world maximize the utility of every possession to the benefit of all.
YouTube has removed a lot of the worst videos that used to be rife on the platform, but they just keep coming, finding new ways to get around the algorithm. The most recent major scandal involves the discovery of a “soft paedophile ring” operating in YouTube comments, where users leave chilling comments on videos of children and exchange numbers to share further images, as reported by The Verge.
Mathematics is not just a sequence of computations to be carried out by rote until your patience or stamina runs out. Those integrals are to mathematics as weight training and calisthenics are to football. If you want to play football at a competitive level, you’ve got to do a lot of boring, repetitive, apparently pointless drills. Do professional players ever use those drills? Well, you won’t see anybody on the field curling a weight or zigzagging between traffic cones. But you do see players using the strength, speed, insight, and flexibility they built up by doing those drills, week after tedious week. Learning those drills is part of learning football.
I got involved with the company more than a decade ago and have taken great pride and joy in the company’s success … until the past few months. Now I am disappointed. I am embarrassed. I am ashamed. With more than 1.7 billion members, Facebook is among the most influential businesses in the world. Whether they like it or not–whether Facebook is a technology company or a media company–the company has a huge impact on politics and social welfare. Every decision that management makes can matter to the lives of real people. Management is responsible for every action. Just as they get credit for every success, they need to be held accountable for failures. Recently, Facebook has done some things that are truly horrible, and I can no longer excuse its behavior.
It is no longer necessary to speak to be served. You step into a hotel, press the button, and a succulent luncheon appears suddenly before your delighted vision. Ten seconds later you feel chilly; you press another button, and presto! your fireplace is lighted up as if by magic. Electric buttons have become the masters of the world, overcoming distance, doing away with the necessity for forethought and, for that matter, for thought at all.
The next day, as serendipity would have it, the authors of The Misinformation Age: How False Beliefs Spread—philosophers of science Cailin O’Connor and James Owen Weatherall—sat down with Nautilus. In their book, O’Connor and Weatherall, both professors at the University of California, Irvine, illustrate mathematical models of how information spreads—and how consensus on truth or falsity manages or fails to take hold—in society, but particularly in social networks of scientists. The coathors argue “we cannot understand changes in our political situation by focusing only on individuals. We also need to understand how our networks of social interaction have changed, and why those changes have affected our ability, as a group, to form reliable beliefs.”
In December 2003, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first flight of the Wright brothers, the New York Times ran a story entitled “Staying Aloft; What Does Keep Them Up There?” The point of the piece was a simple question: What keeps planes in the air? To answer it, the Times turned to John D. Anderson, Jr., curator of aerodynamics at the National Air and Space Museum and author of several textbooks in the field.
Leisure time, the Latin term “otium”, is what our every action revolves around. Whether you are a raging capitalist or a gym fiend. The capitalist seeking to accrue capital so he can have the option to do whatever he pleases, at whatever cost. The gym fiend seeking to maintain his health to live longer so he can enjoy his time in old age without being laid up in a hospital bed. Both valid & worthy ways to live.
This epistolary quandary wasn’t penned at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, nor during the 1918 Spanish flu. It precedes even the Black Death, when it is commonly reported that quarantines, or cordons sanitaires, and travel restrictions originated. When the bubonic plague overwhelmed Europe in the middle of the fourteenth century, it resulted in the deadliest pandemic in recorded history, killing off an estimated fifty million people, or between 30 and 60 percent of Europe’s population. As cities scrambled to find ways to isolate the sick from the healthy, they were said to have created many of the public health measures we still rely on today. Yet a message exchanged in 640 between two bishops in what is now southern France provides a glimpse of early medieval travel restrictions, evidence that humans had a more nuanced understanding of how to fight pandemics much earlier than is commonly assumed.
It is famously said that a language is a dialect with an army. If not an army, the Hindi language is armed with two strengths: the constitutional mandate to promote it as India’s lingua franca, and the fact that it is far more widely spoken and understood than any other language in the country.
Advocates of an “ownership society” argue that homeowners take better care of their properties than renters, with positive externalities for communities. But there is also an argument against public policies that encourage home ownership, not least that it leaves households with too much debt and too little savings.
The use of moderation by the Central Board of Secondary Education while finalizing Class 12 marks under a Delhi High Court directive poses the immediate question of how various State boards of education that have not adopted the practice will respond. It also points to the long-standing challenge of achieving comparability while assessing students for undergraduate studies from different systems. Some boards have already published the results without moderation, while others will resort to the practice, making it necessary for college authorities to make offsets while fixing admission criteria.