Other Miscellany

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Could Deer Evolve to Avoid Car Accidents?

…while deer might be evolving to reduce accident mortality, it would be hard to see and won’t help much anytime soon. So if it’s a problem, one’d better hurry up with safety measures like road fencing or self-driving cars

Daniel Kalder Reviews “God Save Texas” by Lawrence Wright

As Lawrence Wright observes in God Save Texas: A journey into the future of America, “One can’t be from Texas and fail to have encountered the liberal loathing for Texanness, even among people who have never visited the place.” This is true also of some residents. I know people who arrived in Austin years ago, but have never ventured outside the city limits, through fear of what lies beyond: here be deplorables.

Most strikingly, aside from a few brief mentions of Wright’s Methodist upbringing and an anecdote about a scandalous Dallas preacher, we learn nothing about Texan religiosity. Nor is there any detail on the large military presence in Texas, or the death penalty (although Texas has executed nearly five times as many inmates as its closest competitor, Virginia, since the Supreme Court lifted the prohibition on capital punishment in 1976), and scant information about the people who live outside the metropolises, in cities such as Waco or Lubbock or Midlothian or Garland. And we learn very little about the Texans living in conservative rural communities. He does, however, treat us to a few outrageous quotes from particularly berserk ultraconservatives such as Dr. Steven Hotze, (not only a sworn foe of “homofascists” but also the man behind the song “God Fearing Texans Stop Obamacare”) as well as several choice cuts from Rob Morrow, onetime chair of the Republican party in Travis County (“I am a proponent of boobyliciousness…I am for having bikini contests at the Alamo every 4th of July.”)

Sometimes deep roots are a disadvantage; they can blind you to things. God Save Texas is a fine, engaging account of the Texas inhabited by an urbane, well-connected gentleman journalist. But there are other, more alien Texases out there that are not revealed in this book.

Decentralization ≠ Disintermediation

The decision to decentralize does not necessarily lead to peer-to-peer networks — the reincarnation of decentralized intermediaries is a real threat to open, neutral, borderless, censorship-resistant networks.

Unfortunately, the trend seems to be reversing back towards old paradigms, as demonstrated by widespread reincarnation of intermediation on decentralized networks. Whether purposefully deceitful or simply misinformed, organizations ignore the paradigm shift introduced by Bitcoin and instead cling onto and propagate the false narrative that blockchain is the real innovation underpinning Bitcoin, stealing mindshare away from what seems to be the real innovation here: empowerment of participants through disintermediation.

From Reddit’s “Evil Buildings” SubReddit:

Milestone Experiment Proves Quantum Communication Really Is Faster

Quantum machines — which exploit quantum properties of matter to encode information — are widely expected to revolutionize computing. But progress has been slow. While engineers labor to build rudimentary quantum computers, theoretical computer scientists have confronted a more fundamental obstacle: They’ve been unable to prove that classical computers will never be able to perform the tasks quantum computers are designed for. This past summer, for example, a teenager from Texas proved that a problem long thought to be quickly solvable only on a quantum computer can be done rapidly on a classical computer as well.

However, in the realm of communication (rather than computation), the benefits of a quantum approach are certifiable. More than a decade ago computer scientists proved that, at least theoretically, quantum communication beats classical ways of sending messages for certain tasks.

Oregon Considering Legalizing Mushrooms

Oregon’s secretary of state approved language for a ballot initiative, and now organizers just need to get enough signatures before the 2020 election (they need 117,578 signatures to get on the ballot). The initiative would decriminalize possession of psilocybin and allow the mushrooms to be grown legally with a license.


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