December 13, 2016

The Atlantic - Searching for Lost Knowledge in the Age of Intelligent Machines 21min

Yet the mystery of the mechanism is only partly solved. No one knows who made it, how many others like it were made, or where it was going when the ship carrying it sank. ... What if other objects like the Antikythera Mechanism have already been discovered and forgotten? There may well be documented evidence of such finds somewhere in the world, in the vast archives of human research, scholarly and otherwise, but simply no way to search for them. Until now. ... Scholars have long wrestled with “undiscovered public knowledge,” a problem that occurs when researchers arrive at conclusions independently from one another, creating fragments of understanding that are “logically related but never retrieved, brought together, [or] interpreted,” as Don Swanson wrote in an influential 1986 essay introducing the concept. ... In other words, on top of everything we don’t know, there’s everything we don’t know that we already know. ... Discovery in the online realm is powered by a mix of human curiosity and algorithmic inquiry, a dynamic that is reflected in the earliest language of the internet. The web was built to be explored not just by people, but by machines. As humans surf the web, they’re aided by algorithms doing the work beneath the surface, sequenced to monitor and rank an ever-swelling current of information for pluckable treasures. The search engine’s cultural status has evolved with the dramatic expansion of the web. ... Using machines to find meaning in vast sets of data has been one of the great promises of the computing age since long before the internet was built.

Foreign Policy - The Man Who Could Have Stopped the Islamic State 15min

Most importantly, after being confronted with the inconsistencies in his passport, the man conceded that his name was not actually Muhammet Reza Reanjbar Rezaei. It was Abdulrahman bin Yar Muhammad. Moreover, he admitted that he was not actually Iranian: He had been born in Takhar, Afghanistan, and lived in Kabul with his wife and four children. ... Most importantly, they knew that the man arrested in Gaziantep was neither Muhammet Reza Reanjbar Rezaei nor Abdulrahman bin Yar Muhammad. And he was certainly not a refugee en route to Europe. ... the man in Gaziantep police custody was best known as Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, and he was on a desperate mission to reassert al Qaeda’s authority over its rebellious affiliate in Iraq. ... The Islamic State’s so-called caliphate would not be declared until 2014, but that is not when the group established an Islamic state. Indeed, just one day before Abd al-Hadi’s arrest, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq announced the establishment of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI). Its mission was to govern territory and ultimately re-establish the caliphate. ... Al Qaeda’s leadership, hiding in the tribal lands of Pakistan far from Iraq, was not consulted. The announcement was therefore a deep challenge to al Qaeda’s authority and foreshadowed the violent, public divorce between the jihadi organization and what would become the Islamic State.

New York Magazine - Lego Is the Perfect Toy 13min

Lego is an idea as much as it is a toy; if you try hard enough, you can fit the entire story of the last century of child’s play and the hopes and desires of every parent into one of its 9.6-millimeter-tall rectangular plastic bricks. Molded in a thermoplastic polymer, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, Legos are known for their durability, which is why you can pull out the 30-year-old Legos stashed in your parents’ basement and, dated color schemes aside, they’ll be the same as they ever were. Not only will they look the same, but they will fit together with every other one Lego has ever made, even those going back to 1949, when a Danish toy-maker named Ole Kirk Kristiansen made his first plastic brick. Lego calls it the System of Play, and it is both a manufacturing principle, allowing the company to reuse the same molds to make infinite new sets, and a play proposition: The more bricks you own, the more you can build. ... Like all 6,500 Lego elements — cubes, rectangles, octagons, wheel beds, arches, even the tiny semi-circular hands of yellow mini-figures — the standard brick has a variation of just 0.004 millimeters, which means Legos are more precisely crafted than your coffee­maker, your television, even your iPhone. ... By 2003, the company was on the brink of financial collapse, just three years after Fortune had named it “Toy of the Century.” ... In Lego lore, the crisis provoked a company­wide soul search. And where the soul was located was in the brick. Henceforth, the brick would be the center of everything it did, toy trends be damned. ... play researchers argued that toys should foster more open-ended creativity and exploration — toys that forced the child to do the work, like Lego.

Nikkei - A look at the global eel trade reveals widespread fraud 4min

The glass eel trade is coming under international scrutiny. ... Already, cultured eels account for more than 99% of the world's supplies. But the farming of these eels is totally reliant on elvers born in the wild. ... Although techniques to create artificial breeders to allow for the full cultivation of eels have been established, commercial production, as in the case of tuna, remains impossible. ... A big problem is that much of the glass eel trade essentially takes place in the dark. ... In the fishing season of 2015, for example, 18.3 tons of baby eels were procured domestically, while 3 tons were imported. The volume of eel caught domestically thus came to 15.3 tons. But data from prefectural governments, once tabulated, puts the total amount of domestic catches at 5.7 tons.

Rolling Stone - Gridiron Gangster: How a Vigilante Gambler Took Down an Alleged Crime Boss 25min

If in his public life Hanson gave the impression of an ambitious young man who worshipped money and emulated pro athletes, his downfall as a kingpin, to judge from court records, stems from a need to develop a more sinister self-image, building his empire through ruthless intimidation, paid beat downs and baroque death threats. In his criminal shadow life, he even went so far as to adopt an alias befitting a mafia don. … The story of how Robert Cipriani became entangled with Owen Hanson – the story, that is, of how a vigilante gambler unwittingly helped bring down a USC athlete turned accused crime boss – can be appreciated from any number of angles: as a clash of misguided egos, a glimpse into the turbulent psyches of former athletes or as a cautionary tale, quintessentially American, about what can happen to a certain breed of individual bent on chasing the sort of dreams that burn especially bright in places like Las Vegas and Los Angeles. It begins, however, in Sydney, where back in 2011 Hanson, inhabiting his alter ego as DeLuca, showed up at Cipriani's room at the Four Seasons with $2.5 million in Australian dollars (worth $2.7 million in U.S. dollars at the time) stuffed into suitcases. ... Hanson was a member of Beta Theta Pi, a fraternity that was banned from pledging on campus. They briefly reformed as an underground society known for throwing wild parties called the Stumpos Raiders – so named, according to rumors, because they were raided by an LAPD officer with the last name Stumpos.