Findings, music, and occasional reflections by Paul Woodward

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Why Twitter so big in Saudi Arabia

The New York Times reports: In Saudi Arabia, where a relatively closed culture leaves citizens few public forums to discuss news and politics, Twitter has become a kind of town square, the place where citizens meet to swap information and debate the latest issues. Saudi Arabia’s absolute monarchy has not banned the site, but it has taken extensive measures to shape the information that appears there and to silence or

We learn more by trusting than by not trusting

By Hugo Mercier We all know people who have suffered by trusting too much: scammed customers, jilted lovers, shunned friends. Indeed, most of us have been burned by misplaced trust. These personal and vicarious experiences lead us to believe that people are too trusting, often verging on gullibility. In fact, we don’t trust enough. Take data about trust in the United States (the same would be true in most wealthy

A judge said police can search the DNA of one million Americans without their consent. What’s next?

Science reports: For the first time, a state judge has forced a public genealogy site, GEDmatch, to allow police to search its entire database of DNA profiles. A detective wanted to find distant relatives of a serial rapist in hopes that their family trees could help him home in on a suspect—even though most of the 1.3 million people who have shared their DNA data with the site haven’t agreed

Birds that form surprisingly complex societies

Natalie Parletta writes: The gregarious, small-brained vulturine guineafowl (Acryllium vulturinum) forms complex, multi-level societies, according to new research. Published in the journal Current Biology, it challenges previous notions that only animals with large brains – such as humans, primates, elephants, giraffes and dolphins – are capable of such social structures. Lead investigator Damien Farine, from the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behaviour in Konstanz, Germany, says he was curious to

This wave of global protest is being led by the children of the financial crash

Jack Shenker writes: “I’m 22 years old, and this is my last letter,” the young man begins. Most of his face is masked with black fabric; only his eyes, tired and steely, are visible below a messy fringe. “I’m worried that I will die and won’t see you any more,” he continues, his hands trembling. “But I can’t not take to the streets.” The nameless demonstrator – one of many

‘OK boomer’ marks the end of friendly relations with Gen Z

The New York Times reports: In a viral audio clip on TikTok, a white-haired man in a baseball cap and polo shirt declares, “The millennials and Generation Z have the Peter Pan syndrome, they don’t ever want to grow up.” Thousands of teens have responded through remixed reaction videos and art projects with a simple phrase: “ok boomer.” “Ok boomer” has become Generation Z’s endlessly repeated retort to the problem

Online shopping brings gridlock to New York City streets

The New York Times reports: An Amazon order starts with a tap of a finger. Two days later — or even in a matter of hours — the package arrives. It seems simple enough. But to deliver Amazon orders and countless others from businesses that sell over the internet, the very fabric of major urban areas around the world is being transformed. And New York City, where more than 1.5

About 41% of the global population are under 24 — and they’re angry

Simon Tisdall writes: A spate of large-scale street protests around the world, from Chile and Hong Kong to Lebanon and Barcelona, is fuelling a search for common denominators and collective causes. Are we entering a new age of global revolution? Or is it foolish to try to link anger in India over the price of onions to pro-democracy demonstrations in Russia? Each country’s protests differ in detail. But recent upheavals

Most witches are women, because witch hunts were all about persecuting the powerless

Seventy-eight percent of the people executed for witchcraft in New England in the late 17th and early 18th centuries were women. Jef Thompson/Shutterstock.com By Bridget Marshall, University of Massachusetts Lowell “Witch hunt” – it’s a refrain used to deride everything from impeachment inquiries and sexual assault investigations to allegations of corruption. When powerful men cry witch, they’re generally not talking about green-faced women wearing pointy hats. They are, presumably, referring

In the U.S., workers are now paying a higher tax rate than investors and owners

Christopher Ingraham writes: Most Americans have to work to earn a living. But the rich are different: They get most of their income not from labor but from what they own — companies, stocks, real estate and the like. These income-generating assets are what economists call capital. And because capital is heavily concentrated among the rich, the U.S. government taxed earnings derived from capital at a higher rate than earnings

Partisan divide creates different Americas, separate lives

Even in the physical world, it’s hard to cross partisan lines. igorstevanovic/Shutterstock.com By Robert B. Talisse, Vanderbilt University When people try to explain why the United States is so politically polarized now, they frequently refer to the concept of “echo chambers.” That’s the idea that people on social media interact only with like-minded people, reinforcing each other’s beliefs. When people don’t encounter competing ideas, the argument goes, they become less

The failed personal, social, and economic promise of Silicon Valley

Kim Phillips-Fein writes: For many years, Silicon Valley and the machines that came out of it were presented as personally, economically, and socially transformative, agents of revolution at both the level of the individual and the whole social order. They were democratizing, uncontrolled, anarchic, and new. Most of all, they were supposed to be fun—to open up a space of play and freedom. How is it, then, that just a

Income inequality in America is the highest it’s been since census started tracking it, data shows

The Washington Post reports: Last year, income inequality in the United States reached its highest level since the Census Bureau started tracking it in 1967, according to federal data released Thursday. In the midst of the longest economic expansion the United States has ever seen, with poverty and unemployment rates at historic lows, the separation between rich and poor from 2017 and 2018 was greater than it has ever been,

‘We are on a genetic mission that is absolutely unacceptable’

Evolutionary biologist Bret Weinstein and Jamie Wheal, the bestselling author of ‘Stealing Fire’ and founder of the Flow Genome Project, discuss the evolutionary challenges we face and we can overcome them.  

Mass migration begins as Florida faces the biggest threat from climate-driven flooding

Bloomberg reports: Lori Rittel is stuck in her Florida Keys home, living in the wreckage left by Hurricane Irma two years ago, unable to rebuild or repair. Now her best hope for escape is to sell the little white bungalow to the government to knock down. Her bedroom is still a no-go zone so she sleeps in the living room with her cat and three dogs. She just installed a

Across generations, Americans suffer from, and die of, new levels of loneliness in an age of crumbling institutions

Derek Thompson writes: In 1998, The Wall Street Journal and NBC News asked several hundred young Americans to name their most important values. Work ethic led the way—naturally. After that, large majorities picked patriotism, religion, and having children. Twenty-one years later, the same pollsters asked the same questions of today’s 18-to-38-year-olds—members of the Millennial and Z generations. The results, published last week in The Wall Street Journal, showed a major