Category Archives: Politics

Awesome Politics Science Technology


Via: Erik Wernquist and Carl Sagan

History Politics

Iran’s exceptional reaction to 9/11 attacks

“Iran’s sympathetic response to the American tragedy has been exceptional for a country under US economic siege for two decades. Only hours after the Sept. 11 attack, President Muhammad…

Source: Iran’s exceptional reaction to 9/11 attacks: candlelit vigils for the victims and 60k soccer fans respected a minute’s silence 


The Rat Tribe of Beijing

The Rat Tribe of Beijing

“I am doing well because I’m scared of being poor,” Wei says in his apartment, a roughly 300-square-foot room he shares with up to nine other men. “Many of my colleagues live above ground, but I think it’s too comfortable; this place forces me to work harder.” Still, Wei, who now makes up to 30,000 yuan (about $4,800; 1 yuan = $0.16) a month — a drastic improvement from his initial monthly salary of 800 yuan — says he plans to move out by the Chinese New Year, in February.

The Rat Tribe of Beijing

These below-ground rooms owe their existence to two historical events. One is the Cold War, when Mao’s China struggled with the Soviet Union for ideological supremacy in the East bloc. In 1969, the same year the two countries fought a bloody border war along the Amur River, Mao ordered people to “dig tunnels deep” as protection against Soviet air raids. In Beijing, 300,000 people took part in the campaign, digging an estimated 20,000 underground bomb shelters.

The Rat Tribe of Beijing

A few years later, however, Mao was dead and his hardline ideology overturned in favor of the economics-first pragmatism of Deng Xiaoping. The shelters were commercialized, and the government’s Office of Civil Defense instructed that they had to turn a profit. By the 1980s, according to a memoir of a senior official in charge of the project, Beijing had 800 underground hostels, as well as underground supermarkets, cinemas and roller-skating rinks. In 1996, the government formalized this shift, passing a law mandating that new buildings contain underground civil-defense shelters, but that they have an economic use as well. This led to the proliferation of for-profit underground housing. Over the years, government agencies contracted out the spaces to private managers, who run them for a profit.

The Rat Tribe of Beijing

The Rat Tribe of Beijing | Al Jazeera America.

Art Politics Rants Science

The Empathic Civilisation

Mirror neurons are just the beginning of a whole range of research going on in neuropsychology and brain research and in child development that suggests that we are actually soft-wired not for aggression and violence and self interest and utilitarianism that we are actually soft-wired for sociability ‘attachment’ as John Bowlby might have said affection, companionship, and that the first drive is the drive to actually ‘belong’. It’s an empathic drive.

Empathy is the invisible hand. Empathy is what allows us to stretch our sensibility with another so that we can cohere in larger social units. To empathize is to civilize, to civilize is to empathize.

Jeremy Rifkin

Art Politics Technology

NYC CitiBike Usage Time Lapse

I love the swarms around 8am and 5pm, though it’s fascinating that people prefer to take the bikes home from work, rather than to work. A fascinating intersection of urban life, technology and art.

Politics Rants Science

Perspective is Everything

One of the great mistakes, I think, of economics is it fails to understand that what something is, whether it’s retirement, unemployment, cost, is a function, not only of its amount, but also its meaning.

So where economists make the fundamental mistake is they think that money is money. Actually my pain experienced in paying five pounds is not just proportionate to the amount, but where I think that money is going. And I think understanding that could revolutionize tax policy. It could revolutionize the public services. It could really change things quite significantly.

Rory Sutherland, via TED

Politics Science

Embrace the Chaos


I am a staunch believer in leading with the bad news, so let me get straight to the point. Earth, our anchor and our solitary haven in a hostile universe, is in a precarious situation. The solar system around us is rife with instability.

The Madness of the Planets

The enlightenment idea of the divine clockwork of the cosmos is largely a lie. Our solar system was born out of chaos and despite our relatively predictable recent past, to chaos it will eventually return.

In addition, an excellent youtube video explaining the idea of orbits with marbles and spandex:

Politics Science

This Video is Going to Hurt

A fascinating video all about a deeply important field of study.

History Politics Science

Maps Showing the Origin of Common Words

Bear:Europe Etymology map v1.3 - Imgur


Beer:Europe Etymology map v1.3 - Imgur


Europe Etymology map v1.3 - Imgur


Maps showing the origin of common words: Beer, Apple, Church, Tea ETC.

Politics Science Technology

Billions of habitable planets in the galaxy

Astronomers reported that there could be as many as 40 billion habitable Earth-size planets in the galaxy, based on a new analysis of data from NASA’s Kepler spacecraft.

The odds that we are alone just got infinitesimally small. This discovery emphasizes how much we need a replacement for the Kepler space telescope.

History Politics Technology

NSA Decoded

Incredible article from The Guardian, information rich, compelling, beautiful, technologically advanced, and telling one of the most important stories of our age: NSA Decoded


The shutdown was rigged

On October 1st, the Republican members of congress voted to change the rules of the House so that only the speaker of the house could bring the budget to a vote, prior to this, any member of the house could put budget up to the vote. If put to a vote, the a clean CR budget would pass, the government would open, and these shenanigans would end. Republican Speaker of the House Boehner is singlehandedly keeping the government shut. Unprecedented and Unconscionable.


UPDATE: It was pretty much a party-line vote, held at 1am on October 1st.


Wealth Distribution: ideal, estimated, and actual.


When the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will we realize that one cannot eat money.

— Cree Prophecy


History Politics Rants

Bike Lanes Boost Local Business

NYC study finds that bikes lanes boost local retail sales by almost 50%, at a time when average retail sales increased by 8%. Additionally, dedicated bike lanes reduced all injuries for all street users by over 30%.


Download the pdf here.

Also relevant:

Politics Technology

The Thing: a Soviet analogue listening bug

In the American Embassy in the Soviet Union, installed in the Great Seal of the United States, was a secret, analogue bug that transmitted sound from inside the embassy without any electronics or batteries. Oh, and the it was invented by the same guy that made the Theremin instrument, Leon Theremin. Amazing.

The Thing, designed by Léon Theremin,[2] was very simple by today’s standards. It consisted of a tiny capacitive membrane connected to a small quarter-wavelength antenna; it had no power supply or active electronic components. The device, a passive cavity resonator, became active only when a radio signal of the correct frequency was sent to the device from an external transmitter. Sound waves caused the membrane to vibrate, which varied the capacitance “seen” by the antenna, which in turn modulated the radio waves that struck and were retransmitted by The Thing. A receiver demodulated the signal so that sound picked up by the microphone could be heard, just as an ordinary radio receiver demodulates radio signals and outputs sound.

Thing (listening device) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia