July 6, 2016

The Atlantic - There’s No Such Thing as Free Will < 5min

The sciences have grown steadily bolder in their claim that all human behavior can be explained through the clockwork laws of cause and effect. This shift in perception is the continuation of an intellectual revolution that began about 150 years ago, when Charles Darwin first published On the Origin of Species. Shortly after Darwin put forth his theory of evolution, his cousin Sir Francis Galton began to draw out the implications: If we have evolved, then mental faculties like intelligence must be hereditary. But we use those faculties—which some people have to a greater degree than others—to make decisions. So our ability to choose our fate is not free, but depends on our biological inheritance. ... The 20th-century nature-nurture debate prepared us to think of ourselves as shaped by influences beyond our control. But it left some room, at least in the popular imagination, for the possibility that we could overcome our circumstances or our genes to become the author of our own destiny. The challenge posed by neuroscience is more radical: It describes the brain as a physical system like any other, and suggests that we no more will it to operate in a particular way than we will our heart to beat. ... If we could understand any individual’s brain architecture and chemistry well enough, we could, in theory, predict that individual’s response to any given stimulus with 100 percent accuracy. ... What is new, though, is the spread of free-will skepticism beyond the laboratories and into the mainstream. ... When people stop believing they are free agents, they stop seeing themselves as blameworthy for their actions.

The New York Times - How ‘Advantage Players’ Game the Casinos 5-15min

Grosjean specializes in finding vulnerable games like the one in Shawnee. He uses his programming skills to divine the odds in various situations and then develops strategies for exploiting them. Only two questions seemed to temper his confidence in taking on this particular game. How long would they be allowed to play before being asked to leave? How much money would they be able to win? ... Many casino executives despise gamblers like Grosjean. They accuse him of cheating. Yet what he does is entirely legal. ... because regulated casino gambling now takes place in at least 40 states, casinos compete for customers in part by introducing new games, some of which turn out to be vulnerable. ... Common advantage-play techniques include “hole carding,” in which sharp-eyed players profit from careless dealers who unwittingly reveal tiny portions of the cards; “shuffle tracking,” or memorizing strings of cards in order to predict when specific cards will be dealt after they are next shuffled; and counting systems that monitor already dealt cards in order to estimate the value of those that remain in the deck. ... Teams of advantage players — which usually require one person to bet and another to spot dealers’ hole cards (those turned down and not supposed to be seen), track shuffles or count cards — have become so prevalent that they often find themselves in the same casino, at the same time, targeting the same game.

The Los Angeles Times - It's brother and sister against brother and sister in bitter fight over control of Frank Zappa's legacy < 5min

The Zappa Family Trust owns the rights to a massive trove of music and other creative output by the songwriter, filmmaker and producer — more than 60 albums were released during Zappa’s lifetime and 40 posthumously. Like the intellectual property of many rock stars, the Zappa archives controlled by the trust are potentially worth at least tens of millions of dollars, according to one music insider. ... Since the October 2015 death of Zappa’s wife, Gail, however, their children have become embroiled in a feud over control of the trust, which is millions of dollars in debt, pitting one brother and sister against another brother and sister. At issue is not just a celebrated artistic legacy, but even which of the children can perform using the Zappa name and profit from it. ... Thanks to a decision by their mother, he and his younger sister, Diva, 36, share control of the trust — to the dismay and anger of their two older siblings, Dweezil, 46, and Moon, 48, who got smaller portions of the trust than their younger siblings.

ESPN - Michael Phelps' Final Turn 5-15min

Phelps' issues centered largely on his complicated relationships with two of the most influential men in his life -- the one who had been there for him and the one who pretty much hadn't. Phelps' parents divorced when he was 9, and he'd long felt abandoned by his father, Fred. The pool was his escape, and Bowman was a surrogate father of sorts. In the water, he pushed him to perform. Outside the water, he taught him how to drive and knot a tie. ... after his arrest, family and friends persuaded Phelps to get help. Here was his chance, they told him, to face the issues he had avoided for so long. That first day at The Meadows, he barely spoke to anyone. He ate alone and cried himself to sleep. But gradually, he opened up and began to understand his snake nightmares. ... The stories of their many fights are legendary. At the Meadowbrook Aquatic & Fitness Center, where Phelps trained, there's still a massive dent in a door frame, courtesy of Bowman's right foot after one of their arguments. A trainer has the cracked stopwatch Bowman once chucked at a wall in disgust. And no one will soon forget the time Bowman and Phelps both peeled out of the Meadowbrook parking lot in a testosterone-filled "Days of Thunder"-like rage, middle fingers fully extended. ... Bowman says training sessions often went one of three ways: Phelps would misbehave, undermine Bowman's instructions or be so focused and dominant that he would demoralize everyone else. And god forbid Bowman show excessive attention to any of his other swimmers.