Horsepox, Paranoia, Nathan Myhrvold, Opiates, Deer

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Horsepox Synthesis: The Unilateralist Curse

Gregory Lewis | Bulletin Of The Atomic Scientists | 19th February 2018

Why might scientists recreate extinct viruses — most recently horsepox, a close cousin of smallpox? Yes, there may be some benefits to scientific knowledge. But there are clear dangers to human life. The trouble is, when the technology exists, it requires only one scientist to make use of it. Not to make use of it requires agreement among all scientists. “The unilateralist’s curse is that decisions about whether to pursue potentially harmful research are left to the most optimistic outlier” (1,900 words)

The Story Of A Weird World

Sarah McDermott | BBC | 22nd February 2018

Stunning real-life Twilight Zone story, impossible to summarise without spoiling. “Pauline was struggling to come to terms with what she’d been told and growing more and more fearful by the day. She was constantly looking over her shoulder for people or cars that might be following her, and became too scared to eat at restaurants in case somebody tried to slip something into her food. She planned escape routes from inside her own home and assumed that her telephone line was bugged” (3,300 words)

Nathan Myhrvold, Myth Buster

Alex Renton | 1843 | 24th February 2018

The author of the world’s best-selling modernist cookbook is an ex-Microsoft billionaire with a sideline in paleontology — he holds the all-time record for unearthing T Rexes. Nathan Myhrvold trained as a cosmologist under Stephen Hawking, invented Microsoft’s business model of perpetual upgrades, then left to start an R&D company called Intellectual Ventures which buys and sells patents. Foodie tip: add a pinch of salt to fine Bordeaux and aerate it in a food blender (6,700 words)

The Poison We Pick

Andrew Sullivan | New York | 20th February 2018

Opium and its derivatives have “conquered contemporary America”. Two million Americans are addicted; 50,000 are dying from overdoses each year, more than the death toll from the Vietnam war or from Aids. The easy availability of Fentanyl on the black market, and OxyContin on prescription, have fuelled the epidemic. “If Marx posited that religion is the opiate of the people, then we have reached a new, more clarifying moment in the history of the West: Opiates are now the religion of the people” (7,040 words)

The Deer Cull Dilemma

Cal Flyn | Guardian | 20th February 2018

Since Britain’s last wolves were hunted down in the 17C, the country’s deer population has multiplied to around 1.5 million, “more than at any time since the last Ice Age”. Most are in Scotland, where “they swarm over the fells like a plague, covering the land like a cloak, picking it clean”. Environmentalists and farmers defend the need for culls; animal-lovers scream blue murder. “At what point does a cull turn into a massacre? Big questions, these, to ponder as you stare down the barrel of a rifle” (4,200 words)

Video of the day When Dolly Said No To Elvis

What to expect:

Heather Colbert’s animation of Mark Nevins’s song about Dolly Parton and Elvis Presley (3’41”)

Thought for the day

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent
Eleanor Roosevelt

Podcast of the day Russian Trolls’ Favourite Weapon | The Daily

Mike Barbaro of NY Times on how Russia used Facebook to disrupt US politics
(21m 26s)

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