Hovertext: If you had a better graphics card, I'd appear at work sooner.
I am flying out for BAHFest. Wish me luck!
Hovertext: If you had a better graphics card, I'd appear at work sooner.
I am flying out for BAHFest. Wish me luck!
Bettie Page and her sister 1940’s
In August, Amnesty International voted to support the decriminalization of prostitution. Many sex workers’ unions and advocacy groups say making their work legal would help them stay safer. It would mean they wouldn’t have to reach clients through sketchy underground channels and could get help from authorities without fearing arrest.
In a paper for U.S.-Japan Women’s Journal, G.G. Rowley described a similar fight that played out in Japan in the 1950s with sex workers unsuccessfully fighting to keep their jobs legal.
At the time, Rowley writes, about half a million women worked full- or part-time as prostitutes in Japan. One source put their typical earnings at 30,000 yen per month in take-home pay, at least three times as much as the salary of a typist, phone operator, or factory worker. The economics of sex work rested partly on patronage from U.S. servicemen who were part of the occupation after World War II and those who visited on rest-and-recreation leaves from the Korean War.
Rowley writes that, prior to the 1950s, the government licensed prostitutes and allowed them to operate in red light districts. But a movement to abolish prostitution, driven largely by middle-class Christians, had begun in the 1880s. After World War II, the occupying Allied command Health and Welfare Section also pushed for an end to legal sex work.
Like today, many opponents of legal prostitution expressed particular concern about human trafficking. Aside from protecting “the way of life of 40 million respectable married women,” as one put it, advocates for the new law argued they were saving women from being forced into sex work by their family members. At the same time, they also sought to make Japan more respectable in the eyes of other nations.
The sex workers themselves disagreed, forming a union and publishing a newspaper to express opposition to the abolitionist movement. Many of the women writing in the newspaper explained that they were helping younger siblings pay for junior high school or they were supporting their parents. They pushed back against legislators who saw their behavior as immoral, asking how they were expected to live if their source of income was taken away.
The Prostitution Prevention Act did finally pass in 1956. But Rowley notes that it did not eliminate prostitution. A survey in 1957 found that 80 percent of prostitutes planned to continue operating. By the time enforcement of the act began in 1958, more than 60 percent of former proprietors of brothels had officially changed their businesses to inns, bars, cafes, or other legal establishments, with sex work continuing more quietly inside. However, Rowley writes, the illegal nature of the industry led it to be taken over by organized crime, which continues to play a big role in Japan’s widespread, but technically illegal, sex trade today.
Photo Credit: Women loiter in the doorways of nightclubs in Yoshiwara, the red light district of Tokyo, while prospective clients wander past or stop to look, circa 1955. (Photo by Orlando /Three Lions/Getty Images)
The post The Battle to Keep Prostitution Legal in 1950s Japan appeared first on JSTOR Daily.
"There's one thing that I have in common with every person in this room. We're all trying really hard to figure out how to save the world."
The speaker, Cat Lavigne, paused for a second, and then she repeated herself. "We're trying to change the world!"
Lavigne was addressing attendees of the Effective Altruism Global conference, which she helped organize at Google's Quad Campus in Mountain View the weekend of July 31 to August 2. Effective altruists think that past attempts to do good — by giving to charity, or working for nonprofits or government agencies — have been largely ineffective, in part because they've been driven too much by the desire to feel good and too little by the cold, hard data necessary to prove what actually does good.
It's a powerful idea, and one that has already saved lives. GiveWell, the charity evaluating organization to which effective altruism can trace its origins, has pushed philanthropy toward evidence and away from giving based on personal whims and sentiment. Effective altruists have also been remarkably forward-thinking on factory farming, taking the problem of animal suffering seriously without collapsing into PETA-style posturing and sanctimony.
Effective altruism (or EA, as proponents refer to it) is more than a belief, though. It's a movement, and like any movement, it has begun to develop a culture, and a set of powerful stakeholders, and a certain range of worrying pathologies. At the moment, EA is very white, very male, and dominated by tech industry workers. And it is increasingly obsessed with ideas and data that reflect the class position and interests of the movement's members rather than a desire to help actual people.
In the beginning, EA was mostly about fighting global poverty. Now it's becoming more and more about funding computer science research to forestall an artificial intelligence–provoked apocalypse. At the risk of overgeneralizing, the computer science majors have convinced each other that the best way to save the world is to do computer science research. Compared to that, multiple attendees said, global poverty is a "rounding error."
I identify as an effective altruist: I think it's important to do good with your life, and doing as much good as possible is a noble goal. I even think AI risk is a real challenge worth addressing. But speaking as a white male nerd on the autism spectrum, effective altruism can't just be for white male nerds on the autism spectrum. Declaring that global poverty is a "rounding error" and everyone really ought to be doing computer science research is a great way to ensure that the movement remains dangerously homogenous and, ultimately, irrelevant.
EA Global was dominated by talk of existential risks, or X-risks. The idea is that human extinction is far, far worse than anything that could happen to real, living humans today.
To hear effective altruists explain it, it comes down to simple math. About 108 billion people have lived to date, but if humanity lasts another 50 million years, and current trends hold, the total number of humans who will ever live is more like 3 quadrillion. Humans living during or before 2015 would thus make up only 0.0036 percent of all humans ever.
The numbers get even bigger when you consider — as X-risk advocates are wont to do — the possibility of interstellar travel. Nick Bostrom — the Oxford philosopher who popularized the concept of existential risk — estimates that about 10^54 human life-years (or 10^52 lives of 100 years each) could be in our future if we both master travel between solar systems and figure out how to emulate human brains in computers.
Even if we give this 10^54 estimate "a mere 1% chance of being correct," Bostrom writes, "we find that the expected value of reducing existential risk by a mere one billionth of one billionth of one percentage point is worth a hundred billion times as much as a billion human lives."
Put another way: The number of future humans who will never exist if humans go extinct is so great that reducing the risk of extinction by 0.00000000000000001 percent can be expected to save 100 billion more lives than, say, preventing the genocide of 1 billion people. That argues, in the judgment of Bostrom and others, for prioritizing efforts to prevent human extinction above other endeavors. This is what X-risk obsessives mean when they claim ending world poverty would be a "rounding error."
There are a number of potential candidates for most threatening X-risk. Personally I worry most about global pandemics, both because things like the Black Death and the Spanish flu have caused massive death before, and because globalization and the dawn of synthetic biology have made diseases both easier to spread and easier to tweak (intentionally or not) for maximum lethality. But I'm in the minority on that. The only X-risk basically anyone wanted to talk about at the conference was artificial intelligence.
The specific concern — expressed by representatives from groups like the Machine Intelligence Research Institute (MIRI) in Berkeley and Bostrom's Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford — is over the possibility of an "intelligence explosion." If humans are able to create an AI as smart as humans, the theory goes, then it stands to reason that that AI would be smart enough to create itself, and to make itself even smarter. That'd set up a process of exponential growth in intelligence until we get an AI so smart that it would almost certainly be able to control the world if it wanted to. And there's no guarantee that it'd allow humans to keep existing once it got that powerful. "It looks quite difficult to design a seed AI such that its preferences, if fully implemented, would be consistent with the survival of humans and the things we care about," Bostrom told me in an interview last year.
This is not a fringe viewpoint in Silicon Valley. MIRI's top donor is the Thiel Foundation, funded by PayPal and Palantir cofounder and billionaire angel investor Peter Thiel, which has given $1.627 million to date. Jaan Tallinn, the developer of Skype and Kazaa, is both a major MIRI donor and the co-founder of two groups — the Future of Life Institute and the Center for the Study of Existential Risk — working on related issues. And earlier this year, the Future of Life Institute got $10 million from Thiel's PayPal buddy, Tesla Motors/SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, who grew concerned about AI risk after reading Bostrom's book Superintelligence.
And indeed, the AI risk panel — featuring Musk, Bostrom, MIRI's executive director Nate Soares, and the legendary UC Berkeley AI researcher Stuart Russell — was the most hyped event at EA Global. Musk naturally hammed it up for the crowd. At one point, Russell set about rebutting AI researcher Andrew Ng's comment that worrying about AI risk is like "worrying about overpopulation on Mars," countering, "Imagine if the world's governments and universities and corporations were spending billions on a plan to populate Mars." Musk looked up bashfully, put his hand on his chin, and smirked, as if to ask, "Who says I'm not?"
Russell's contribution was the most useful, as it confirmed this really is a problem that serious people in the field worry about. The analogy he used was with nuclear research. Just as nuclear scientists developed norms of ethics and best practices that have so far helped ensure that no bombs have been used in attacks for 70 years, AI researchers, he urged, should embrace a similar ethic, and not just make cool things for the sake of making cool things.
What was most concerning was the vehemence with which AI worriers asserted the cause's priority over other cause areas. For one thing, we have such profound uncertainty about AI — whether general intelligence is even possible, whether intelligence is really all a computer needs to take over society, whether artificial intelligence will have an independent will and agency the way humans do or whether it'll just remain a tool, what it would mean to develop a "friendly" versus "malevolent" AI — that it's hard to think of ways to tackle this problem today other than doing more AI research, which itself might increase the likelihood of the very apocalypse this camp frets over.
The common response I got to this was, "Yes, sure, but even if there's a very, very, very small likelihood of us decreasing AI risk, that still trumps global poverty, because infinitesimally increasing the odds that 10^52 people in the future exist saves way more lives than poverty reduction ever could."
The problem is that you could use this logic to defend just about anything. Imagine that a wizard showed up and said, "Humans are about to go extinct unless you give me $10 to cast a magical spell." Even if you only think there's a, say, 0.00000000000000001 percent chance that he's right, you should still, under this reasoning, give him the $10, because the expected value is that you're saving 10^32 lives.
Bostrom calls this scenario "Pascal's Mugging," and it's a huge problem for anyone trying to defend efforts to reduce human risk of extinction to the exclusion of anything else. These arguments give a false sense of statistical precision by slapping probability values on beliefs. But those probability values are literally just made up. Maybe giving $1,000 to the Machine Intelligence Research Institute will reduce the probability of AI killing us all by 0.00000000000000001. Or maybe it'll make it only cut the odds by 0.00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000001. If the latter's true, it's not a smart donation; if you multiply the odds by 10^52, you've saved an expected 0.0000000000001 lives, which is pretty miserable. But if the former's true, it's a brilliant donation, and you've saved an expected 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 lives.
I don't have any faith that we understand these risks with enough precision to tell if an AI risk charity can cut our odds of doom by 0.00000000000000001 or by only 0.00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000001. And yet for the argument to work, you need to be able to make those kinds of distinctions.
The other problem is that the AI crowd seems to be assuming that people who might exist in the future should be counted equally to people who definitely exist today. That's by no means an obvious position, and tons of philosophers dispute it. Among other things, it implies what's known as the Repugnant Conclusion: the idea that the world should keep increasing its population until the absolutely maximum number of humans are alive, living lives that are just barely worth living. But if you say that people who only might exist count less than people who really do or really will exist, you avoid that conclusion, and the case for caring only about the far future becomes considerably weaker (though still reasonably compelling).
To be fair, the AI folks weren't the only game in town. Another group emphasized "meta-charity," or giving to and working for effective altruist groups. The idea is that more good can be done if effective altruists try to expand the movement and get more people on board than if they focus on first-order projects like fighting poverty.
This is obviously true to an extent. There's a reason that charities buy ads. But ultimately you have to stop being meta. As Jeff Kaufman — a developer in Cambridge who's famous among effective altruists for, along with his wife Julia Wise, donating half their household's income to effective charities — argued in a talk about why global poverty should be a major focus, if you take meta-charity too far, you get a movement that's really good at expanding itself but not necessarily good at actually helping people.
And you have to do meta-charity well — and the more EA grows obsessed with AI, the harder it is to do that. The movement has a very real demographic problem, which contributes to very real intellectual blinders of the kind that give rise to the AI obsession. And it's hard to imagine that yoking EA to one of the whitest and most male fields (tech) and academic subjects (computer science) will do much to bring more people from diverse backgrounds into the fold.
The self-congratulatory tone of the event didn't help matters either. I physically recoiled during the introductory session when Kerry Vaughan, one of the event's organizers, declared, "I really do believe that effective altruism could be the last social movement we ever need." In the annals of sentences that could only be said with a straight face by white men, that one might take the cake.
Effective altruism is a useful framework for thinking through how to do good through one's career, or through political advocacy, or through charitable giving. It is not a replacement for movements through which marginalized peoples seek their own liberation. If EA is to have any hope of getting more buy-in from women and people of color, it has to at least acknowledge that.
I don't mean to be unduly negative. EA Global was also full of people doing innovative projects that really do help people — and not just in global poverty either. Nick Cooney, the director of education for Mercy for Animals, argued convincingly that corporate campaigns for better treatment of farm animals could be an effective intervention. One conducted by the Humane League pushed food services companies — the firms that supply cafeterias, food courts, and the like — to commit to never using eggs from chickens confined to brutal battery cages. That resulted in corporate pledges sparing 5 million animals a year, and when the cost of the campaign was tallied up, it cost less than 2 cents per animal in the first year alone.
Another push got Walmart and Starbucks to not use pigs from farms that deploy "gestation crates" which make it impossible for pregnant pigs to turn around or take more than a couple of steps. That cost about 5 cents for each of the 18 million animals spared. The Humane Society of the United States' campaigns for state laws that restrict battery cages, gestation crates, and other inhumane practices spared 40 million animals at a cost of 40 cents each.
This is exactly the sort of thing effective altruists should be looking at. Cooney was speaking our language: heavy on quantitative measurement, with an emphasis on effectiveness and a minimum of emotional appeals. He even identified as "not an animal person." "I never had pets growing up, and I have no interest in getting them today," he emphasized. But he was also helping make the case that EA principles can work in areas outside of global poverty. He was growing the movement the way it ought to be grown, in a way that can attract activists with different core principles rather than alienating them.
If effective altruism does a lot more of that, it can transform philanthropy and provide a revolutionary model for rigorous, empirically minded advocacy. But if it gets too impressed with its own cleverness, the future is far bleaker.
Correction: This article originally stated that the Machine Intelligence Research Institute is in Oakland; it's in Berkeley.
The brave and brilliant youngster Ahmed Mohamed has been showered with support since his ludicrous and racist arrest this week, receiving invitations to MIT, Harvard, NASA, Facebook, Twittter, and the White House, to name a few. (It’s important to note that the police who arrested him and the school who saw fit to punish him for a science project have yet to see any ramification for their actions. Internship offers are nice, but justice was not served.)
Even better, the boy made a heartfelt speech encouraging young kids to be themselves and vowing to “try my best not just to help me but to help every other kid in the entire world that has a problem like this.” Skeptics, science advocates, and anyone who values justice should applaud him.
One would think that the big names of mainstream atheism would commend the triumph of a young child’s passion for science and invention over bigotry and racism. Somehow, though, we’ve seen a different response.
From Bill Maher on Real Time:
“What if it had been a bomb? The lack of perspective on this is astounding . . . It’s not the color of his skin. For the last 30 years, it’s been one culture that has been blowing shit up over and over again.”
He’s not talking about American culture, unfortunately.
Richard Dawkins was disappointed that the boy merely built a clock instead of inventing the clock itself (which he’s never claimed; apparently Dawkins is hung up on the “build” versus “make the parts and then build” distinction). What a fraud!
The leaders of movement atheism love to say they support young people who take a stand for what they believe at great personal risk. But when it comes to science—which, for many of us, is the antithesis of superstition and the approach to the world that can, given time and the right actors, actually solve its problems—they’re more than willing to throw young activists and pioneers under the bus when they’re not the right skin color or, Spaghetti Monster forbid, they’re Muslim.
This behavior indicates, to me, a greater problem in atheism: a refusal to admit that we, too, can demonstrate fundamentalist leanings when the evidence doesn’t support our personal bigotries. If a school expelled a young white kid for a science project, these same leaders would be up in arms, but when the kid happens to be Muslim, the reaction is justified because of—drum roll please—bias. Where is your critical thinking now?
Keep building, Ahmed. Sorry about atheists. We’re the worst sometimes.
This is Martin Shkreli. He’s a despicable piece of shit.
Why? You ask?
Specialists in infectious disease are protesting a gigantic overnight increase in the price of a 62-year-old drug that is the standard of care for treating a life-threatening parasitic infection.
The drug, called Daraprim, was acquired in August by Turing Pharmaceuticals, a start-up run by a former hedge fund manager. Turing immediately raised the price to $750 a tablet from $13.50, bringing the annual cost of treatment for some patients to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“This isn’t the greedy drug company trying to gouge patients, it is us trying to stay in business,” Mr. Shkreli said. He said that many patients use the drug for far less than a year and that the price was now more in line with those of other drugs for rare diseases.
“This is still one of the smallest pharmaceutical products in the world,” he said. “It really doesn’t make sense to get any criticism for this.”
Yeah, nobody really uses this drug, so he’s totally doing a great thing! Oh, except for:
Turing’s price increase could bring sales to tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars a year if use remains constant. Medicaid and certain hospitals will be able to get the drug inexpensively under federal rules for discounts and rebates. But private insurers, Medicare and hospitalized patients would have to pay an amount closer to the list price.
Well, this is probably just a one time thing. I mean, he’s only 32 and … oh.
In 2011, Mr. Shkreli started Retrophin, which also acquired old neglected drugs and sharply raised their prices. Retrophin’s board fired Mr. Shkreli a year ago. Last month, it filed a complaint in Federal District Court in Manhattan, accusing him of using Retrophin as a personal piggy bank to pay back angry investors in his hedge fund.
This is what happens when a country like America allows something as fundamental as the health of the human beings who live in this country to be a thing that shitbags like Martin Shkreli can use to get rich. This is disgusting, and wrong, and nothing will be done to stop this because PROFITS.
Hovertext: 'Your feelings are stupid' is actually my family motto.
Thanks for a wonderful BAHFest, everyone!
So, I got this reply to one of my craigslist ads a couple days ago.
Not only has this dude emailed me just to mansplain why I’m wrong in the way I express my own needs — which has nothing to do with offering me a place to live — he’s made sure I have no idea of his name. Usually if you’re replying to a craigslist ad, it still shows the name attached to your email address, even though it anonymises the address itself. This guy shows up as “craigslist reply 2abc” so I figure in this case the closest thing to a name for him is “Anonymous Bastard Coward.”
He’s referencing the part in my ad which says:
“I’m a night owl, a lesbian woman, a computer geek, and a music lover. I am ethically non-monogamous and shameless about sex (pro tip: “no overnight guests” is a polite way of saying “sex is shameful.” I don’t do shameful.)”
He tells me in his little rant:
“Well no overnight guests has another meaning, too. It’s about the landlord wanting and having the right to know who is using their property, and the additional parking, utility use, and noise problems. Landlord tenant is a two way street.”
Problem is, his justifications don’t hold up — because if any of those things are concerns, then they’d be concerns without the “overnight” part, too!
What happens if I invite a couple of friends over for brunch in the late morning, tea in the afternoon, or dinner and drinks and sportsball on TV in the evening? Making a meal for more than just myself, putting on the kettle, guests using the bathroom… do potentially increase “utility use” — by an incredibly small amount. If my friends drive cars when they come by, they’ll have to figure out parking (and I’d be sure to say “hey, actually that spot won’t work, maybe try down the block, etc.” if I needed to.) Watching the game might be noisy, too, especially after a few beers! And, what, would the landlord be expecting to interview and approve or deny each person I chose to invite for any of those events? Pretty sure that’s not legal, just like he couldn’t legally say “no guests or visitors ever.”
No, the only reason to single out overnight guests as forbidden is because you’re squicked by the thought of your tenant fucking.
Noise problems? You mean “the sound of your tenant fucking.”
Additional parking? You’re assuming that I drive, and that anyone I happened to pick up would be driving too, AND that if they were driving, there would be so little parking that it would cause problems. It’s a flimsy excuse.
Utility use? You mean “the shower in the morning after your tenant fucks” or “the gas to run the stove when your tenant makes breakfast for the person they fucked last night.” And why would that (likely shared!) shower matter to you? What difference does an occasional fancy breakfast make?
I mentioned all of this to The Rabbit just after I’d gotten the email. She herself is a landlord, and her first response was “what’s it to him, anyway?! It’s not like he’s ever even going to rent to you, so why should he care?” She pointed out that it’s ridiculous for him to worry about any of that, and agreed enthusiastically when I suggested that it was just a matter of having gotten under his skin with my grain of truth about his (and far too many other people’s) shame about sex — enough so that he felt compelled to tell me, a woman on the internet who he’s never met and likely never will, why I’m wrong.
So, yeah. I stand by my original statement: “no overnight guests” is a polite way of saying “sex is shameful.”
And I still don’t do shameful.
AKA "No Lesbians Allowed!"
What if the Earth were made entirely of protons, and the Moon were made entirely of electrons?
This is, by far, the most destructive What-If scenario to date.
You might imagine an electron Moon orbiting a proton Earth, sort of like a gigantic hydrogen atom. On one level, it makes a kind of sense; after all, electrons orbit protons, and moons orbit planets. In fact, a planetary model of the atom was briefly popular (although it turned out not to be very useful for understanding atoms.This model was (mostly) obsolete by the 1920s, but lived on in an elaborate foam-and-pipe-cleaner diorama I made in 6th grade science class.)
If you put two electrons together, they try to fly apart. Electrons are negatively charged, and the force of repulsion from this charge is about 20 orders of magnitude stronger than the force of gravity pulling them together.
If you put 1052 electrons together—to build a Moon—they push each other apart really hard. In fact, they push each other apart so hard, each electron would be shoved away with an unbelievable amount of energy.
It turns out that, for the proton Earth and electron Moon in Noah's scenario, the planetary model is even more wrong than usual. The Moon wouldn't orbit the Earth because they'd barely have a chance to influence each other;I interpreted the question to mean that the Moon was replaced with a sphere of electrons the size and mass of the Moon, and ditto for the Earth. There are other interpretations, but practically speaking the end result is the same. the forces trying to blow each one apart would be far more powerful than any attractive force between the two.
If we ignore general relativity for a moment—we'll come back to it—we can calculate that the energy from these electrons all pushing on each other would be enough to accelerate all of them outward at near the speed of light.But not past it; we're ignoring general relativity, but not special relativity. Accelerating particles to those speeds isn't unusual; a desktop particle accelerator can accelerate electrons to a reasonable fraction of the speed of light. But the electrons in Noah's Moon would each be carrying much, much more energy than those in a normal accelerator—orders of magnitude more than the Planck energy, which is itself many orders of magnitude larger than the energies we can reach in our largest accelerators. In other words, Noah's question takes us pretty far outside normal physics, into the highly theoretical realm of things like quantum gravity and string theory.
So I contacted Dr. Cindy Keeler, a string theorist with the Niels Bohr Institute. I explained Noah's scenario, and she was kind enough to offer some thoughts.
Dr. Keeler agreed that we shouldn't rely on any calculations that involve putting that much energy in each electron, since it's so far beyond what we're able to test in our accelerators. "I don't trust anything with energy per particle over the Planck scale. The most energy we've really observed is in cosmic rays; more than LHC by circa 106, I think, but still not close to the Planck energy. Being a string theorist, I'm tempted to say something stringy would happen—but the truth is we just don't know."
Luckily, that's not the end of the story. Remember how we're ignoring general relativity? Well, this is one of the very, very rare situations where bringing in general relativity makes a problem easier to solve.
There's a huge amount of potential energy in this scenario—the energy that we imagined would blast all these electrons apart. That energy warps space and time just like mass does.If we let the energy blast the electrons apart at near the speed of light, we'd see that energy actually take the form of mass, as the electrons gained mass relativistically. That is, until something stringy happened. The amount of energy in our electron Moon, it turns out, is about equal to the total mass and energy of the entire visible universe.
An entire universe worth of mass-energy—concentrated into the space of our (relatively small) Moon—would warp space-time so strongly that it would overpower even the repulsion of those 1052 electrons.
Dr. Keeler's diagnosis: "Yup, black hole." But this is no an ordinary black hole; it's a black hole with a lot of electric charge.The proton Earth, which would also be part of this black hole, would reduce the charge, but since an Earth-mass of protons has much less charge than a Moon-mass of electrons, it doesn't affect the result much. And for that, you need a different set of equations—rather than the standard Schwarzschild equations, you need the Reissner–Nordström ones.
In a sense, the Reissner-Nordström equations compare the outward force of the charge to the inward pull of gravity. If the outward push from the charge is large enough, it's possible the event horizon surrounding the black hole can disappear completely. That would leave behind an infinitely-dense object from which light can escape—a naked singularity.
Once you have a naked singularity, physics starts breaking down in very big ways. Quantum mechanics and general relativity give absurd answers, and they're not even the same absurd answers. Some people have argued that the laws of physics don't allow that kind of situation to arise. As Dr. Keeler put it, "Nobody likes a naked singularity."
In the case of an electron Moon, the energy from all those electrons pushing on each other is so large that the gravitational pull wins, and our singularity would form a normal black hole. At least, "normal" in some sense; it would be a black hole as massive as the observable universe.A black hole with the mass of the observable universe would have a radius of 13.8 billion light-years, and the universe is 13.8 billion years old, which has led some people to say "the Universe is a black hole!" (It's not.)
Would this black hole cause the universe to collapse? Hard to say. The answer depends on what the deal with dark energy is, and nobody knows what the deal with dark energy is.
But for now, at least, nearby galaxies would be safe. Since the gravitational influence of the black hole can only expand outward at the speed of light, much of the universe around us would remain blissfully unaware of our ridiculous electron experiment.
“Ok, so you thought the boy made a bomb.”
“And instead of evacuating the school, you pulled him out of class, arrested in front of everyone, then interrogated him, on the premises without getting the children to safety? So, we’re going to put you up for criminal endangerment of this entire school”
“Well, uh, maybe we didn’t really think it was a bomb”
“Oh, ok, so instead you lied to police and federal authorities in order to bring up false charges against a minor for… kicks? I mean, you’re basically picking between which charges you’d like to go up on here. Let me know, so we can get the paperwork right.”
OK, but I partially disagree with this headcanon, and here’s why:
1) Bruce is totally playing Gamora. You don’t think Bruce Banner has played Dungeons & Dragons before? Bruce Banner has absolutely played Dungeons & Dragons before. He played all through high school and college and when Bucky announces the campaign Bruce jumps at the opportunity because he just misses it so much (mostly rose-tinted nostalgia goggles but). So he sits Bucky down and asks him for every bit of info he can on the setting and spends a whole night with a pot of tea drafting up the five-page backstory for his space assassin and her family tree and her struggle with her relationship with the villain and comes to Bucky with a fully-ready character sheet and a list of things Bucky will need to OK before Gamora hops in.
Bucky quietly resolves to integrate as much as he can into the story, mainly because Bruce came up with some better ideas than he’d had.
2) Tony is definitely playing Quill, because Tony has never played D&D before. You don’t get to be where Tony Stark is in life and have much free time. He does what a lot of newbies do and bases a character on himself, or at least the parts he likes: clever, snarky, pre-’90s musical taste, beds space babes, heroic sometimes probably. He wants to be cool but has no idea how to be cool within this context (“My character’s name is Starlord.” “What? Tony, no.”). He hogs the spotlight all the time (all the time) but clearly has no idea what he’s doing and when someone who seems like they know what they’re talking about gives him advice he always takes (“I’m going to need that guy’s leg.” “Seriously? Alright” *Rolls to grapple*).
Quill’s backstory is primarily Bruce’s doing. Tony just handed it in with a “yeah whatever’s on there.”
3) Thor is playing Drax but didn’t join until a few sessions in when he tagged along and decided it looked like fun (“THIS PLEASES ME! ALLOW ME TO JOIN YOUR TALES OF ADVENTURE!”). He definitely needed help constructing his character sheet, but he had no problem coming up with a character. Bucky asked him what he wanted to play and got that glint in his eye and responded “I WILL FORGE A HERO WORTHY OF THE ANCIENT TALES OF ASGARD.” And he put a lot of thought into Drax, both in personal history and personality. He’s mostly modeled on Thor’s favorite Asgardian folk heroes, with some personal flaws and quirks thrown in that Thor thinks are interesting.
Of course Thor doesn’t really understand the game part of it, he’s in it for the story (“Thor what the hell man there’s no way we can take on Ronan at this level!” “AH BUT THINK OF THE THRILLING DRAMA OF THE MOMENT DRAX AND RONAN MEET AGAIN!” “We are all going to die.” “AND IT WILL BE A THRILLING TRAGEDY!”)
4) Steve is absolutely playing Rocket but what started as a complete joke ballooned into a fully fleshed-out character with a tragic backstory. Steve’s an artist, he’s a creative guy and little too creative for his own good sometimes and bouncing his ideas off of Natasha turned a simple joke into a more elaborate character dynamic than even Bruce’s. He trolls Bucky a lot and it’s even better for Steve when he really gets into Rocket’s character and plays up the drama, partly because Bucky can’t tell if he’s joking or not.
5) Somewhere in the brainstorming session, Steve and Natasha decided that Rocket has a partner who is a talking tree. Natasha pitches this idea completely straight-faced to Bucky and after the fiasco of Steve’s character idea Bucky’s just too tired to say no to the tree-man. Natasha gives him a bit of a backstory and how Rocket and Groot got together and it sounds pretty solid, so whatever, tree-man can stay.
Then when all the characters get introduced Natasha just hovers over Tony and puffs out her chest and says in her deepest voice: “I am Groot.”
And Steve snickers and nobody has any idea why.
A session later Natasha is responding to everything Tony says with that same deep “I am Groot.” and Steve goes blue in the face trying to hold in his laughter and Tony cracks and the game has to pause for 10 minutes while Nat and Steve recompose themselves.
Nat also has a better grasp of the rules than Bucky realized and completely tweaked her character into being able to do basically anything she can justify. And it’s all right there in the book, Bucky can’t even argue from a rules standpoint. They’re only level 5 Groot shouldn’t be essentially bulletproof but through some loophole in the rules, yep, there it is.
Natasha Romanoff is trained to exploit weaknesses. Of course she’s a total munchkin.
IT GOT SO MUCH FUCKING BETTER
Pirate chicken week continues!
You're a wise and experienced person of the world; you already know what to expect if you drive past a nondescript sandstone building named anything like "Living Water" or "Faith Accompli" or something in Greek when you're not in the Greek part of town. But sometimes you have to ask yourself: is the vaguely-named building at the end of this strip mall a church? If it's named anything like the following, it probably is:
Previously in this series: If Julian of Norwich Were Your Professor
If Stephen Colbert were your dad, you would have a lot of strange memories from your childhood. For instance, you’d remember taking fishing trips when you didn’t pack any fishing rods or tackle. Instead, you stood side by side at the water’s edge, as Stephen Colbert proclaimed to the fish that becoming someone’s dinner was just their job, and what were they, some kind of slackers? One by one, the fish leapt from the water, silvery scales flashing in the sun as they landed, flailing, at your feet. You’re pretty sure a passing bear gutted and cleaned the fish for you, and that you, your dad, and the bear ate together like kings over the grill at the picnic shelter. “Did that really happen?” you sometimes think of asking him. “Or was it like that time I had a fever and I told you there was a bald eagle perched at the end of my bed, and you just said he owed you a favor?” But you don’t ask him. It’s better that way.
If Stephen Colbert were your dad, he would have explained death to you so gently when you were four years old that you got impatient with all the crying adults at your grandfather’s funeral. 'Cause death is no big deal, didn’t they understand? Just the next great adventure.
If Stephen Colbert were your dad, you would have grown up calling Neil DeGrasse Tyson “Uncle Neil”, and on your 12th birthday, he would have named a star after you.
She parted her full lips and smiled. "My name is Shahliha." The mysterious, shapely maiden in the pearl-gray cloak who had shadowed his steps ever since he had alighted from Corsair's Breakwater had been his sister all along, then! The lass he had not seen in eighteen years, since the night of the red doors – kin to him, and his last link to a family he thought lost forever.
"Thank goodness none of our previous interactions were tinged with eroticism," Danveniel thought to himself as he helped her from her horse. They'd never touched one another, sexually.
Emailing back and forth initially to get the very most basic info from her was like pulling teeth! She replied to my ad initially,
“My name is [her first name]. How soon are you looking to move? I have a free room. I stay in Richmond.”
“Hi there! I don’t have an exact time frame, but I wouldn’t mind moving soon. Can you tell me more about the location (cross streets or address, etc) and perhaps we can arrange a time to meet, so I can take a look at the place?
My name is [my first name], by the way. Hope to hear back from you soon!”
She responded by telling me her name… again… and then giving me the street address. It took another email from me asking… again… about setting up a time for me to come by and meet her, to look at the place. It was already after 7pm at this point, and she offers “Tomorrow morning?”
The craigslist ad she responded to specifically mentions that I’m a night-owl, which I pointed out when replying and asked if evening night work for her instead. At some point I wrote and posted my previous entry here, and then at 6pm The Rabbit and I pulled up to the address she’d given to find…
…that it was a huge apartment complex, which she hadn’t bothered to mention. She also hadn’t said anything about where we would actually connect. Emailed her again asking where to meet, she says “at my house. are you outside?” Communication — at least in written form — is clearly not one of her strengths. In the time The Rabbit and I were sitting there in the car while I exchanged messages with this woman, at least half a dozen cars with windows down and “I’m compensating for my tiny dick with this super big stereo” bass blasting managed to drive through that intersection.
She finally shows up at the keypad-locked outside door of the apartments, carrying a toddler in one arm, who she tried to convince to say hello to me — she’s very clearly a “good with kids” person. Said she was watching him for a friend at the moment. In the walk to the elevator, we went through a big, grassy courtyard where there were more than a dozen kids of all ages playing, making noise, and then we went up to the top floor of the 3 levels. Into the apartment we went, and she apologized for the smell of the food she’d just been cooking (which seemed rather odd, honestly, and it smelled incredible, made me remember just how hungry I was!) Showed me the living room and kitchen, which were all part of the same room, then down the hall to the bathroom where, as she put it, you “do your unmentionables.” Across the hall was “the room,” which was decorated for kids — that little snowman from Frozen was plastered up as decals on one wall, the two twin beds were made with some other pop-culture kids bedding, I didn’t pay too much attention at that point, because I was confused about there being two beds. “I… hadn’t realized it was a shared room,” I said. She reassures me that it’s just that there happen to be two beds, it’s not a shared room! She tries to make a joke about the absurdity of it being a shared room, “I mean, no, totally, this is your bed here, and there’s some random guy sleeping in the other one! Nah, I wouldn’t do that.”
The apartment itself wasn’t…. tiny, exactly, but it certainly wasn’t a “stretch out with room” size, either, and the room she was offering was barely larger than the cramped room I’m currently staying in. Oh, and the window was street-facing, so all of the foot traffic and the car stereos booming would have been right there to deal with. I had to bite my tongue when she commented on how it would be “really quiet,” and even more so when she said that there’s a 6 and a 9 year old, “but they aren’t there in the evenings on weekdays, or on the weekends.”
I asked her about the price, which she hadn’t said anything about specifically, but since she answered an ad that says “$700 is my maximum, including utilities” I figured it was that much or less. She surprised me when she said “Well, the room is $750… but… I really need to get someone in here right away so… I’m willing to work with you.” Ick… Bad sign. If she’s that desperate, I have to wonder what the situation was that led to needing an immediate roommate. I mention I’m not great with kids, since she brought up that there would be at least two of them around most of the time, and she says (incredulously) “Well, you don’t have to be ‘good with kids’ just to have a room here!”
I asked if I could get back to her within the next day or two with an answer, and I could see how much she hesitated, how long she drew out the initial consonant of her “….yes” followed by a small sigh. I shouldn’t have, but I launched into a long justification to her of why I shouldn’t make an immediate decision, how I needed a place to stay for a few years, blah blah blah. (I sent her an email wishing her luck and saying essentially “thanks, but no” about 3:45am.) Anyway, She directed me back to the exit, and I went to get some food (hadn’t realized just exactly how starving I was, even with the reminder from the fresh-cooked food smell.) Needed some comfort food, so I went to the Indonesian place I love. Pigged out and got some extra to take with me. Headed to the bar afterwards, had a drink and then headed back here — I had just barely called The Rabbit for a ride, since I’m stuck with this stupid curfew, when a super hot lady came walking over to say hello, asked if I was by myself, waiting for someone, etc. and was going to invite me to join her group of friends. She stayed and chatted for a few minutes anyway, even though I told her that I was already about to leave. And this, folks, is a big part of why I never get laid. Because by the time that there’s any chance of someone who might be interested, I’m on the road towards, or all the way back into, my own bed all by myself.
No home, no sex, my other needs all generally going unmet or under-met. It’s hell.
Fashion tech project by Behnaz Farahi is wearable top which changes form based on gaze of others:
What if our outfit could recognize and respond to the gaze of the other? This is an interactive 3D printed wearable which can detect other people’s gaze and respond accordingly with life-like behavior.
The interior of the Wadsworth Atheneum’s renovated and rehung Morgan Great Hall (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)
HARTFORD, Conn. — The Wadsworth Atheneum‘s fixed-up and rehung Morgan Great Hall, a soaring gallery filled with paintings and sculptures spanning 300 BCE to 1891 CE, reopens to the public Saturday after being closed for six years. The dramatic, salon-style hall is the focal point of the Wadsworth’s two-story Morgan Memorial Building, which first opened in 1910 and houses the museum’s collection of European paintings, sculptures, and decorative objects.
“This was a museum that was essentially crumbling,” the Wadsworth’s director of seven years, Susan L. Talbott, said during a preview of the renovated space on September 11. “In the end we had to shut this entire Morgan Memorial Building space.” Moments later the sound of a drill filled the double-height hall. With another eight days before the public opening, the Wadsworth’s staff were still in the midst of installing works, adding information plaques, and touching up walls. A two-story tower of scaffolding stood in a far corner.
The entrance to the Wadsworth Atheneum’s Morgan Great Hall is adorned with the initials of J.P. Morgan. (click to enlarge)
The top-to-bottom, $33-million overhaul of the Morgan Memorial Building follows a similarly extensive refurbishing of the museum’s contemporary art galleries, which reopened in January. It has allowed the museum’s curators of European art and European decorative arts — Oliver Tostmann and Linda Roth, respectively — to completely reorganize its galleries and play to the strengths of the institution’s holdings. The small antiquities galleries adjacent to Morgan Great Hall, for instance, have been organized thematically rather than chronologically, with rooms devoted to artifacts used in everyday activities like coins, flasks and jugs; representations of nature in devotional objects from Egyptian cat deities to a gypsum relief of a winged guardian figure from Nimrud; and early Christian and Byzantine art including medieval panels and pilgrimage accessories. In the building’s Renaissance gallery and on its upper floor, Tostmann and Roth have juxtaposed paintings and sculptures with contemporaneous decorative objects to offer a more holistic portrait of each period.
“This project helped me to understand this collection in a new way,” Tostmann, who began working on the Morgan Memorial Building rehang shortly after joining the Wadsworth in 2013, said last week. “You will not find the Raphael, Reubens, or Botticelli you might expect to find, but you will find many unexpected paintings.”
A gallery in the Wadsworth Atheneum’s Morgan Memorial Building devoted to the French Revolution, with Mather Brown’s painting “Louis XVI Saying Farewell to his Family” (ca. 1793) on the left and Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun’s “The Duchesse de Polignac Wearing a Straw Hat” (1782) on the right (click to enlarge)
One particularly inspired use of such unexpected paintings is a second-floor gallery devoted exclusively to objects created in response to the French Revolution. A portrait of an influential French courtesan by Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun is paired with much larger British and American paintings emphasizing the savagery of the Revolution. Tostmann conceded: “This is a very biased view of the French Revolution, a rather critical view.”
For all its unexpected gems, the Wadsworth’s collection still boasts plenty of stars, and they are out in full force in the refurbished Morgan Memorial Building. On one of the blood-red walls of the early Baroque gallery, for instance, you’ll find works by Caravaggio, Jusepe de Ribera, Artemisia Gentileschi — the recently acquired “Self-Portrait as a Lute Player” (ca 1615–18), on view for the first time — and her father Orazio Gentileschi. In the gallery devoted to late 19th-century works, a startling Vincent van Gogh self-portrait from around 1887 hangs between a Paul Cézanne landscape painting and a small, strange portrait of the artist Meyer de Haan by Paul Gauguin, with works by Claude Monet, Édouard Manet, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec nearby. Just outside that gallery, quietly installed opposite William Holman Hunt’s hypnotic “The Lady of Shalott” (ca.1890–1905), hangs a surprising early Gustav Klimt, “Two Girls with Oleander” (ca. 1890–92). Such figuratively and actually enormous works abound in even the smallest rooms of the Morgan Memorial Building.
A nautilus snail from Nuremberg, Germany (ca. 1630) in the Wadsworth Atheneum’s Cabinet of Art and Curiosities gallery (click to enlarge)
For many, however, the renovation’s greatest treat may well turn out to be a big room on the second floor full of tiny objects. The Cabinet of Art and Curiosities gallery has been conceived by Roth and Tostmann as a Wunderkammer for showcasing the Wadsworth’s exceptional holdings of enigmatic artifacts, scientific relics, ornate decorative objects, and artworks about collecting such things — many of them originally from the collection of J. Pierpont Morgan.
Arranged on the walls, in glass display cabinets, atop pedestals, and in drawers, the objects range from a sea turtle shell and exotic coral to fragments of Roman and Egyptian statues and a 17th-century clock topped with a pacing mechanical lion. Four touchscreen displays at the center of the room let visitors amass virtual collections culled from the objects on view, arrange them in a Wunderkammer of their choosing, and then give them a period-appropriate character profile based on their collection.
Ultimately, the renovation’s overarching tone is one of reverence. The curators have played to their collections’ strengths, placing their star artworks and objects alongside unfamiliar — or, to use Tostmann’s word of choice, “quirky” — pieces by familiar artists. At the same time, they have taken risks with inventive decisions like mixing decorative objects with painting and sculpture, the French Revolution room, and the playful Wunderkammer installation. All their risks have paid off. New Yorkers, Bostonians, and art lovers from even further afield: it’s time to make a pilgrimage to the Wadsworth.
Installation view of the Wadsworth Atheneum’s renovated and rehung Morgan Great Hall, with Giovanni Paolo Panini’s “The Picture Gallery of Cardinal Silvio Valenti Gonzaga” (1749) at center (click to enlarge)
Installation view of the Wadsworth Atheneum’s renovated and rehung Morgan Great Hall (click to enlarge)
Henri Paul Motte, “The Trojan Horse” (1874) in the Wadsworth Atheneum’s Morgan Great Hall
Orazio Riminaldi, “Daedalus and Icarus” (ca. 1625) in the Wadsworth Atheneum’s Morgan Great Hall
A bronze statue of a cat from Egypt’s Ptolemaic period (3rd–1st century BCE) in one of Morgan Great Hall’s new antiquities galleries (click to enlarge)
The cat statue has been installed so as to face off with the upper part of the figure of Sakhmet dating from the New Kingdom, 18th dynasty, during the reign of Amenhotep II (ca. 1390–1352 BCE) in one of Morgan Great Hall’s new antiquities galleries
A limestone sculpture of the head of a woman from Palmyra, Syria (ca. 150 BCE) in one of Morgan Great Hall’s new antiquities galleries
Paintings and decorative arts objects in the Wadsworth Atheneum’s renovated Renaissance gallery (click to enlarge)
Hans Mielich’s “Outdoor Banquet” (1548) in the Wadsworth Atheneum’s renovated Renaissance gallery (click to enlarge)
The entrance to the Wadsworth Atheneum’s Morgan Great Hall with part of Sol LeWitt’s “Wall Drawing #1131, Whirls and Twirls (Wadsworth)” (2004)
The Cabinet of Art and Curiosities gallery, mid-installation, in the Wadsworth Atheneum’s renovated Morgan Memorial Building
An interactive, build-your-own-cabinet of curiosities touch-screen in the Wadsworth Atheneum’s Cabinet of Art and Curiosities gallery (click to enlarge)
Installation view of the Wadsworth Atheneum’s Cabinet of Art and Curiosities gallery (click to enlarge)
Installation view of the Wadsworth Atheneum’s renovated and rehung Renaissance painting gallery (click to enlarge)
Artemisia Gentileschi’s “Self-Portrait as a Lute Player” (ca. 1615–18), on view at the Wadsworth Atheneum for the first time since its acquisition last year
Porcelain figures representing the continents of America (left) and Africa (right) from the Meissen Porcelain Factory (ca. 1760) in the Wadsworth Atheneum’s renovated Late Baroque gallery
Gustav Klimt, “Two Girls with Oleander” (ca. 1890–92) on the second floor of the Wadsworth Atheneum’s Morgan Memorial Building (click to enlarge)
Installation view of the Wadsworth Atheneum’s renovated and rehung gallery of late 19th-century art with works (from left to right) by Paul Cézanne, Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, and Louis Anquetin (click to enlarge)
Paul Gauguin, “Nirvana: Portrait of Meyer de Haan” (ca. 1889–90) in the Wadsworth Atheneum’s renovated late 19th-century art gallery
The façade of the Wadsworth Atheneum with the recently commissioned sculpture “OMG” (2015) by Jack Pierson (click to enlarge)
Man Ray, “Seguidilla” (1919), airbrushed gouache, pen & ink, pencil, and colored pencil on paperboard (via Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden/Wikimedia)
Sum of the Arts is a periodic tabulation of numbers floating around the art world and beyond.