Findings, music, and occasional reflections by Paul Woodward

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MIT project claims nuclear fusion power will be on the grid within 15 years

The Guardian reports: The dream of nuclear fusion is on the brink of being realised, according to a major new US initiative that says it will put fusion power on the grid within 15 years. The project, a collaboration between scientists at MIT and a private company, will take a radically different approach to other efforts to transform fusion from an expensive science experiment into a viable commercial energy source.

Music: Nirali Kartik & Shankar Tucker — ‘Yaad’

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The depletion of the human microbiome and how it can be restored

Tobias Rees and Nils Gilman write: It is a crisis some scientists believe has similar proportions to climate change, but it gets much less coverage: Microbes are disappearing from our bodies. You may have heard that trillions of microbes — bacteria, fungi, viruses, protists — live on every surface of your body as well as inside your mouth, other orifices and your gut. You may have also heard that these

How to learn more about the news by spending less time following the news

Farhad Manjoo writes: I first got news of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., via an alert on my watch. Even though I had turned off news notifications months ago, the biggest news still somehow finds a way to slip through. But for much of the next 24 hours after that alert, I heard almost nothing about the shooting. There was a lot I was glad to miss. For instance,

Women in Iran are pulling off their headscarves — and hoping for a ‘turning point’

The Washington Post reports: Iranian women have been raising a new challenge to their Islamic government, breaking one of its most fundamental rules by pulling off their headscarves in some of the busiest public squares and brandishing them in protest. While these guerrilla protesters number only in the dozens, Iran’s government has taken notice of their audacity. On Thursday, planned demonstrations to coincide with International Women’s Day were preempted by

Putin: ‘Those who serve us with poison will eventually swallow it and poison themselves’

BBC News reports: When Sergei Skripal, a former Russian double agent, collapsed suddenly on Sunday in the sleepy cathedral city of Salisbury, there were unavoidable echoes of a messy, high-profile death in London a little over a decade before. In 2006, Alexander Litvinenko, another former Russian agent, was rushed to hospital after collapsing in London. As the world watched, a rare and highly radioactive isotope destroyed Litvinenko’s organs one by

Why Trump wouldn’t get a security clearance to work in the White House

Richard Painter and Norman Eisen write: Every day brings a new reason why President Trump cannot meet the standards expected of every single person who works for him (except for the vice president). Take recent reports about the payment Trump attorney Michael Cohen “facilitated” for porn actress Stormy Daniels to help Trump in the waning days of the 2016 campaign. Despite Cohen’s carefully worded denials that he was not reimbursed

Music: Snarky Puppy & The Metropole Orkest — ‘The Clearing’

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Welcome to the age of climate migration

Jeff Goodell writes: In 2017, a string of climate disasters – six big hurricanes in the Atlantic, wildfires in the West, horrific mudslides, high-temperature records breaking all over the country – caused $306 billion in damage, killing more than 300 people. After Hurricane Maria, 300,000 Puerto Ricans fled to Florida, and disaster experts estimate that climate and weather events displaced more than 1 million Americans from their homes last year.

Across human history, there’s little evidence large-scale social organization necessitates enduring inequality

David Graeber and David Wengrow write: Stonehenge, it turns out, was only the latest in a very long sequence of ritual structures, erected in timber as well as stone, as people converged on the plain from remote corners of the British Isles, at significant times of year. Careful excavation has shown that many of these structures – now plausibly interpreted as monuments to the progenitors of powerful Neolithic dynasties –

Why Seneca’s advice for living centered on dying

James S. Romm writes: Recent experiments have shown that psilocybin, a compound found in hallucinogenic mushrooms, can greatly reduce the fear of death in terminal cancer patients. The drug imparts “an understanding that in the largest frame, everything is fine,” said pharmacologist Richard Griffiths in a 2016 interview. Test subjects reported a sense of “the interconnectedness of all people and things, the awareness that we are all in this together.”

How populist uprisings could bring down liberal democracy

Yascha Mounk writes: There are long decades in which history seems to slow to a crawl. Elections are won and lost, laws adopted and repealed, new stars born and legends carried to their graves. But for all the ordinary business of time passing, the lodestars of culture, society and politics remain the same. Then there are those short years in which everything changes all at once. Political newcomers storm the

From Afrin to Ghouta

G. M. Tamás writes: Yes, of course, we are all indignant and horrified and incredulous and ashamed: the death and decomposition of the international state system causes mayhem and suffering that defies reason and imagination. Everybody has seen the wordless statement of UNICEF: they could not find words to express what they have seen and what they have felt. Various ethnic and political groups in Syria are killing each other

‘It was as if all criminal roads led to Trump Tower’

Jane Mayer writes: Republican claims to the contrary, Steele’s interest in Trump did not spring from his work for the Clinton campaign. He ran across Trump’s name almost as soon as he went into private business, many years before the 2016 election. Two of his earliest cases at Orbis involved investigating international crime rings whose leaders, coincidentally, were based in New York’s Trump Tower. Steele’s first client after leaving M.I.6

‘Corporations are people’ is built on an incredible 19th-century lie

Adam Winkler writes: Somewhat unintuitively, American corporations today enjoy many of the same rights as American citizens. Both, for instance, are entitled to the freedom of speech and the freedom of religion. How exactly did corporations come to be understood as “people” bestowed with the most fundamental constitutional rights? The answer can be found in a bizarre—even farcical—series of lawsuits over 130 years ago involving a lawyer who lied to

How solar, wind and hydro could power the world, at lower cost

RenewEconomy reports: Stanford University professor Mark Jacobson and colleagues at the University of California at Berkeley and Aalborg University in Denmark have updated and expanded their analysis on how the world – well, at lest 139 countries – could be powered entirely by solar, wind and hydro resources. The study, whose earlier version caused controversy and a strident critique by rival academics, now includes further modelling and a range of