Category : Science & Technology

(Wash Post) Philip Yancey–The death of reading is threatening the soul

I am going through a personal crisis. I used to love reading. I am writing this blog in my office, surrounded by 27 tall bookcases laden with 5,000 books. Over the years I have read them, marked them up, and recorded the annotations in a computer database for potential references in my writing. To a large degree, they have formed my professional and spiritual life.

Books help define who I am. They have ushered me on a journey of faith, have introduced me to the wonders of science and the natural world, have informed me about issues such as justice and race. More importantly, they have been a source of delight and adventure and beauty, opening windows to a reality I would not otherwise know.

My crisis consists in the fact that I am describing my past, not my present. I used to read three books a week. One year I devoted an evening each week to read all of Shakespeare’s plays (Okay, due to interruptions it actually took me two years). Another year I read the major works of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. But I am reading many fewer books these days, and even fewer of the kinds of books that require hard work.

The Internet and social media have trained my brain to read a paragraph or two, and then start looking around.

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Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Books, History, Science & Technology

(Deseret News) What the loss of a father in the home does to a child’s health

Children who grow up without a father in the home have shorter telomeres, the protective chromosome caps that are believed to affect health and longevity, a new study says.

The findings are particularly troublesome for boys, whose telomeres were 40 percent more affected than girls’ by the loss of their father.

The effect of father loss was most pronounced in children whose fathers died or were incarcerated before they turned 5, according to the study, published Tuesday in the medical journal Pediatrics. Nine-year-olds whose fathers are dead had a 16 percent reduction in telomere length, compared to children whose fathers are alive and living with their children.

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Posted in Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Men, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Science & Technology, Theology

(PRC) Unplugging is nearly impossible now; by 2026 it will be even tougher experts say

Several broad assertions and assumptions underpinned many respondents’ answers:

Connection is inevitable: Most of these experts argued that humans crave connectivity, and they will seek more of it due to its convenience and out of necessity because it will simply be embedded in more and more things. One thoughtful framing of this idea came from Dan McGarry, media director at the Vanuatu Daily Post. “Connection is inevitable,” he wrote. “It’s what [Terry] Pratchett, [Ian] Stewart and [Jack] Cohen call extelligence. So much of human experience is based outside of the human being these days, you can’t be a functioning adult and remain unconnected.” An anonymous respondent put it this way: “The stickiness and value of a connected life will be far too strong for a significant number of people to have the will or means to disconnect.”

Further, these experts note there is commercial incentive to add this feature to as many gadgets and aspects of life as possible. A sharp description of this dynamic came from Ian O’Byrne, assistant professor of literacy education at the College of Charleston, who said, “More people will become connected because device manufacturers will make it far easier and acceptable to purchase and use these devices. In the same fashion that we added electricity to every device possible with advances in technology, manufacturers will ‘add the internet’ to all devices in the attempt to make them better … but also possibly sell more product. In short, more people and devices will be connected.”

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Posted in --Social Networking, Science & Technology

(WSJ) The Gene Editors Are Only Getting Started

Rewriting the code of life has never been so easy. In 2012 scientists demonstrated a new DNA-editing technique called Crispr. Five years later it is being used to cure mice with HIV and hemophilia. Geneticists are engineering pigs to make them suitable as human organ donors. Bill Gates is spending $75 million to endow a few Anopheles mosquitoes, which spread malaria, with a sort of genetic time bomb that could wipe out the species. A team at Harvard plans to edit 1.5 million letters of elephant DNA to resurrect the woolly mammoth.

“I frankly have been flabbergasted at the pace of the field,” says Jennifer Doudna, a Crispr pioneer who runs a lab at the University of California, Berkeley. “We’re barely five years out, and it’s already in early clinical trials for cancer. It’s unbelievable.”

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Science & Technology, Theology

(G+M) Mark Kingwell–Artificial intelligence in 2017 means respect, not fear

…fear remains the dominant emotion when humans talk about technological change. Are self-driving cars better described as self-crashing? Is the Internet of Things, where we eagerly allow information-stealing algorithms into our rec rooms and kitchens, the end of privacy? Is the Singularity imminent?

But fright is closely seconded by wonder. Your smartphone makes Deep Blue look, as Mr. [Gary] Kasparov has said, like an alarm clock. In your pocket lies computing power exponentially greater than a Cray supercomputer from the 1970s that occupied an entire room and required an elaborate cooling system. Look at all the things I can do, not to mention dates I can make, while walking heedlessly down the sidewalk! This is familiar terrain. The debate about artificial intelligence is remarkable for not being a debate at all but rather, as with Trump-era politics or the cultural-appropriation issue, a series of conceptual standoffs. Can we get past the typical stalemates and break some new ground on artificial intelligence?

I think we can, and Mr. Kasparov himself makes the first part of the argument. We can program non-human systems, he notes, to do what we already know how to do. Deep Blue won against him using brute force surveys of possible future moves, something human players do less quickly. But when it comes to things we humans don’t understand about ourselves, and so can’t translate into code, the stakes are different. Intuition, creativity, empathy – these are qualities of the human mind that the mind itself cannot map. To use Julian Jaynes’s memorable image, we are like flashlights, illuminating the external world but not the mechanisms by which we perceive it.

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Posted in Canada, Philosophy, Science & Technology

(ABC) Digital addiction? Michigan teen who skipped school to play video games goes through treatment in the wilderness

By the time Al and Christine’s son Josh was 14 years old, he was so consumed with playing video games that he stopped going to school.

“He just said, ‘Hey, I’m dropping out,'” his father Al told ABC News “20/20.”

Josh would stay up late to play well into the night and sleep in late the next day. His mother said he would often play for as many as 12 hours straight, for as much as 60 hours in a week. They tried to talk to him, Al said, but made little progress.

“It’s like, ‘You’ve got to stop … you’ve got to close it down,'” Al said. But he said his son replied, “I can’t.”

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Posted in Anthropology, Children, Entertainment, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Psychology, Science & Technology

(Rabbi Jonathan Sacks) Never forget how we, so small, are blessed to be part of a universe so great

I was riveted by a television program this week called The Day the Dinosaurs Died. It was about a team of scientists who’ve been drilling deep into the rock beneath the shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico at the precise point where a 9 mile wide asteroid crashed into the Earth 66 million years ago with an impact equal to ten billion Hiroshima atomic bombs. The result was a dense cloud of sulphur that plunged the planet into a global winter, killing the dinosaurs and causing the greatest mass extinction in history. The result was space for small mammals to flourish, including eventually Homo sapiens, i.e. us.

What was fascinating was the scientists’ conclusion that what made the difference wasn’t that the asteroid struck but precisely where. Had it fallen thirty seconds earlier in deep waters, or thirty seconds later on dry land, the impact wouldn’t have been so great. The dinosaurs would have survived and we might never have emerged. Thirty seconds isn’t that long, even in a Thought for the Day, let alone when set against the four and a half billion years of the existence of planet Earth.

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Posted in Energy, Natural Resources, History, Judaism, Science & Technology, Theology

Wednesday Night Mental Health break–Adrien Mauduit Films: A time-lapse of deep-sky objects called GALAXIES Vol. 1 – 4K (UHD)

GALAXIES Vol. 1 – 4K (UHD) from Adrien Mauduit Films on Vimeo.

Posted in Photos/Photography, Science & Technology

(Economist 1843) The Law of Unintended consequences Dept–Social media is enabling a golden age of scamming

On the face of it these seem like tough times for financial scammers. The crash of 2008 burned investors, exposed fraudsters and has forced regulators to toughen up. Yet dodgy “pyramid” investment schemes that promise huge returns before inevitably collapsing are going strong, especially those targeting women. In late 2015 British regulators jailed the leaders of a plot that had duped over 10,000 women. In June 2016 authorities in Belize warned of a scam sweeping the country. America, India, Mexico and Indonesia have seen similar stories.

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Posted in Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Law & Legal Issues, Science & Technology

(FT) Hackers prime second classified US cyber weapon

Criminal hacking groups have repurposed a second classified cyber weapon stolen from US spies and have made it available on the so-called dark web after the success of the WannaCry attack that swept across the globe on Friday.

The hacking tool, developed by the US National Security Agency and codenamed EsteemAudit, has been adapted and is now available for criminal use, according to security analysts.

As with the NSA’s EternalBlue, the tool on which WannaCry was based, EsteemAudit exploits a vulnerability in older versions of Microsoft’s Windows software in the way in which networked machines communicate with each other.

Microsoft issued patches for vulnerable versions of its Windows software over the weekend — though experts warn many organisations have yet to apply them.

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Posted in Blogging & the Internet, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Law & Legal Issues, Science & Technology

(NYT) Dutch Fertility Doctor Swapped Donors’ Sperm With His, Lawsuit Claims

Twelve people who were conceived with sperm from a Dutch fertility center have filed a lawsuit asserting that its longtime director is their biological father, and that over several decades, he swapped donors’ sperm with his own.

The 12 people, and 10 mothers who suspect that their children were conceived using the clinic director’s sperm, filed a lawsuit on Friday asking a court in Rotterdam to give them access to the DNA of the clinic director, Dr. Jan Karbaat, who died last month at 89.

“I’m hoping that the judge will allow us to extract the DNA so we can use it to find out if we are his children,” one plaintiff, Moniek Wassenaar, 36, said in an interview. The 12 people are 8 to 36 years old. Some of the 10 mothers in the suit conceived children who are still minors.

From 1980 to 2009, Dr. Karbaat ran a sperm bank in the rear of his stately yellow brick house in the Bijdorp section of Schiedam, near Rotterdam. He became well known in the field of assisted reproduction. About 10,000 children are estimated to have been conceived at the clinic.

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Posted in Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Science & Technology, The Netherlands

(CT) Drone Dilemma: Should Christian Aid Groups Use a Military Symbol?

If someone gets ill in Contanama, Peru—a remote village in the Amazon rainforest—the nearest pharmacy is 50 miles away. The journey takes six hours by road. But medicines can be delivered by a small drone—or Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)—to the local doctor in 35 minutes.

This technological breakthrough, like many others in history, was originally designed for use in war. Developed by the United States and the United Kingdom during the Iraq conflict, drones are becoming a mainstay of organizations delivering humanitarian aid to remote developing world communities. For example, last month drones surveyed the damage from coastal flooding in Peru, sending video footage otherwise too difficult to obtain.

The same month, President Donald Trump rolled back rules in order to make drone strikes even easier, including lowering the threshold for civilian casualties and pushing against the theology behind just war theory. Punctuating this shift from Obama-era policies, a disputed drone strike in Syria killed 42 people in mid-March. (The US government says it killed al Qaeda militants, while activists and local residents maintain that it attacked civilians at a mosque.)

Christians have debated whether drones should be used in war at all. The wartime reputation of drones means they are not always welcomed in aid efforts either.

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Posted in Charities/Non-Profit Organizations, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(NYT) How Google Took Over the Classroom: Are Schools giving the company more than they are getting?

Schools may be giving Google more than they are getting: generations of future customers.

Google makes $30 per device by selling management services for the millions of Chromebooks that ship to schools. But by habituating students to its offerings at a young age, Google obtains something much more valuable.

Every year, several million American students graduate from high school. And not only does Google make it easy for those who have school Google accounts to upload their trove of school Gmail, Docs and other files to regular Google consumer accounts — but schools encourage them to do so. This month, for instance, Chatfield Senior High School in Littleton, Colo., sent out a notice urging seniors to “make sure” they convert their school account “to a personal Gmail account.”

That doesn’t sit well with some parents. They warn that Google could profit by using personal details from their children’s school email to build more powerful marketing profiles of them as young adults.

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Posted in Children, Corporations/Corporate Life, Education, Science & Technology

(Chic Tribune) Student who tried hacking into grading system sues school board for expelling him

The lawsuit argues that state law and legal precedence require that school districts consider other measures of punishment before expulsion, and that failed to happen in this case.

According to the hearing officer’s report, an administrator at the Northbrook school did not specify whether other measures were considered but said a disciplinary committee that investigated “felt it was important to send a message.”

“If (the student) is allowed to return to school after serving a suspension, then other students could certainly decide that attempting to access a teacher’s account to change grades is worth the risk,” the report said.

The lawsuit contends that the student has not had disciplinary problems at school and that his actions caused no disruption to school operations, factors that the suit contends should have resulted in lesser punishment.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Science & Technology, Teens / Youth

(CT) Jeff Haanen on Tony Reinke’s new Boook–Your Smartphone Is Neither a Cancer nor a Cure-All

We miss the point if we become either pro- or anti-technology. Instead, liberation from our smartphones (and all our technology) is best summed up by the psalmist: “I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts” (119:45). In contrast to the American view of freedom—essentially, lack of restraint on individual choice—the Bible sees true freedom as a matter of living within proper boundaries.

The redeeming gem of Reinke’s book is found in asking readers to define those boundaries. After reading a list of 12 questions under the heading “Should I Ditch My Smartphone?,” I asked myself, What do I really need my phone for?

As I began deleting apps and setting new boundaries, I found myself catching an appealing vision of a better—and slower—life. And my phone once again became just a tool, to be used like all good things given by God (James 1:17).

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Posted in Books, Evangelicals, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology