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28 Mar 20:34

Real Cavemen Ate Gluten

Reconstructions of human evolution are prone to simple, overly-tidy scenarios. Our ancestors, for example, stood on two legs to look over tall grass, or began to speak because, well, they finally had something to say. Like much of our understanding of early hominid behavior, the imagined diet of our ancestors has also been over-simplified.

Take the trendy Paleo Diet, which draws inspiration from how people lived during the Paleolithic or Stone Age, which ran from roughly 2.6 million to 10,000 years ago. It encourages practitioners to give up the fruits of modern culinary progress—such as dairy, agricultural products, and processed foods—and start living a pseudo-hunter-gatherer lifestyle, something like Lon Chaney Jr. in the film One Million B.C. Adherents recommend a very specific “ancestral” menu, replete with certain percentages of energy from carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, and suggested levels of physical activity. These prescriptions are drawn mainly from observations of modern humans who live at least a partial hunter-gatherer existence.

But from a scientific standpoint, these kinds of simple characterizations of our ancestors' behavior generally don’t add up. Recently, fellow anthropologist C. Owen Lovejoy and I took a close look at this crucial question in human behavioral evolution: the origins of hominid diet. We focused on the earliest phase of hominid evolution from roughly six to 1.6 million years ago, both before and after the first use of modified stone tools. This time frame includes, in order of appearance, the hominids Ardipithecus and Australopithecus, and the earliest members of our own genus, the comparatively brainy Homo. None of these were modern humans, which appeared much later, but rather our distant forerunners.

We examined the fossil, chemical, and archaeological evidence, and also closely considered the foraging behavior of living animals. Why is this crucial? Observing animals in nature for even an hour will provide a ready answer: Almost all of what an organism does on a daily basis is simply related to staying alive; that includes activities such as feeding, avoiding predators, and setting itself up to reproduce. That’s the evolutionary way.

What did our ancestors actually eat? In some cases, researchers can enlist modern technology to examine the question. Researchers study the chemical makeup of fossil dental enamel to figure out relative amounts of foods the hominid ate derived from woody plants (or the animals that ate them) versus open country plants. Other scientists look in ancient tooth tartar for bits of silica from plants that can be identified to type—for example, fruit from a particular plant family. Others examine the small butchering marks made on animal bones by stone tools. Researchers have found, for example, that hominids even 2.6 million years ago were eating the meat and bone marrow of antelopes; whether they were hunted or scavenged is hotly debated.

Such techniques are informative, but ultimately give only a hazy picture of diet. They provide good evidence that plants' underground storage organs (such as tubers), sedges, fruits, invertebrate and vertebrate animals, leaves, and bark were all on the menu for at least some early hominids. But they don’t give us information about the relative importance of various foods. And since these foods are all eaten at least occasionally by living monkeys and apes, these techniques don’t explain what sets hominids apart from other primates.

So how should we proceed? As my colleague Lovejoy says, to reconstruct hominid evolution you need to take the rules that apply to beavers and use them to make a human. In other words, you must look at the “rules” for foraging. We aren’t the first researchers to have dabbled in this. As long ago as 1953, anthropologists George Bartholomew and Joseph Birdsell attempted to characterize the ecology of early hominids by applying general biological principles.

Happily, ecologists have long been compiling these rules in an area of research dubbed optimal foraging theory (OFT). OFT uses simple mathematical models to predict how certain animals would forage in a given circumstance. For instance, given a set of potential foods of estimated energetic value, abundance, and handling time (how long it takes to acquire and consume), one classic OFT model calculates which resources should be eaten and which ones should be passed over. One prediction—sort of a “golden rule” of foraging—is that when profitable foods (those high in energy and low in handling time) are abundant, an animal should specialize on them, but when they are scarce, an animal should broaden its diet.

Data from living organisms as disparate as insects and modern humans generally fall in line with such predictions. In the Nepal Himalaya, for example, high-altitude gray langur monkeys eschew leathery mature evergreen leaves and certain types of roots and bark—all calorie-deficient and high in fibers and handling time—during most of the year. But in the barren winter, when better foodstuffs are rare or unavailable, they’ll greedily devour them.

In another more controlled study, when differing quantities of almonds in or out of the shell are buried in view of chimpanzees, they later recover larger quantities (more energy), those physically closer (less pursuit time), and those without shells (less processing time) before smaller, more distant, or “with-shell” nuts. This suggests that at least some animals can remember optimal foraging variables and utilize them even in cases where foods are distant and outside the range of immediate perception. Both of these studies support key predictions from OFT.

If one could estimate the variables important to foraging, one could potentially predict the diet of particular hominids that lived in the distant past. It’s a daunting proposition, but this human evolution business was never meant to be easy. The OFT approach forces researchers to learn how and why animals exploit particular resources, which leads to more thoughtful considerations of early hominid ecology. A smattering of scientists have utilized OFT with success, most notably in archaeological treatments of comparatively recent hominids, such as Neandertals and anatomically modern humans.

But a few brave souls have delved into more remote human dietary history. One team, for example, utilized OFT, modern analogue habitats, and evidence from the fossil record to estimate the predicted optimal diet of Australopithecus boisei. That’s the famed “Nutcracker Man” that lived in East Africa close to 2 million years ago. The research suggests a wide range of potential foods, greatly varying movement patterns—based on characteristics such as habitat or use of digging sticks—and the seasonal importance of certain resources, such as roots and tubers, for meeting estimated caloric requirements.

Researchers Tom Hatley and John Kappelman noted in 1980 that hominids have bunodont—low, with rounded cusps—back teeth that show much in common with bears and pigs. If you’ve watched these animals forage, you know they’ll eat just about anything: tubers, fruits, leafy materials and twigs, invertebrates, honey, and vertebrate animals, whether scavenged or hunted. The percentage contribution of each food type to the diet will depend (you guessed it) on the energetic value of specific foods in specific habitats, at specific times of year. Evidence from the entirety of human evolution suggests that our ancestors, and even we as modern humans, are just as omnivorous.

And the idea that our more ancient ancestors were great hunters is likely off the mark, as bipedality—at least before the advance of sophisticated cognition and technology—is a mighty poor way to chase game. Even more so than bears and pigs, our mobility is limited. The anthropologist Bruce Latimer has pointed out that the fastest human being on the planet can’t catch up to your average rabbit. Another reason to be opportunistic about food.

Simple characterizations of hominid ecology are divorced from the actual, and wonderful, complexity of our shared history. The recent addition of pastoral and agricultural products to many modern human diets—for which we have rapidly evolved physiological adaptations—is but one extension of an ancient imperative. Hominids didn’t spread first across Africa, and then the entire globe, by utilizing just one foraging strategy or sticking to a precise mix of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. We did it by being ever so flexible, both socially and ecologically, and always searching for the greener grass (metaphorically), or riper fruit (literally).

The Conversation

26 Feb 16:43

Senhor, perdoai-os. Eles não sabem o que fazem

by Carlos Ruas

vai vcmeme2
27 Feb 12:37

1482 – Moda

by Carlos Ruas

2626

10 Mar 13:56

Oportunidades 3

by Carlos Ruas

43

 

17 Mar 15:32

Estereótipos

by Carlos Ruas

47

18 Mar 19:49

1488 – Tá quase…

by Carlos Ruas

2632

25 Mar 18:42

1490 – Nos bastidores do inferno

by Carlos Ruas

2636

26 Mar 19:40

1491 – Nos bastidores do inferno 2

by Carlos Ruas

2637

28 Mar 19:23

Scientists Discover Simple Technique That Cuts Calories In Rice By 60%

The escalating obesity epidemic is a serious global health concern, and while it is clear there are no simple solutions or quick fixes to this complex issue, scientists are endeavoring to discover effective ways that could help lessen the problem. We need to eat to survive, but we are eating too much, so could there be a viable and practical food-based solution to this growing threat? New evidence suggests that this could be a possibility, with the development of a cooking trick that slashes the calories we get from rice by as much as 60%. The intriguing discovery is being presented at the 249th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society.

Rice is an extremely popular food worldwide and a staple in many countries, particularly within Asia where some 90% of all rice is consumed. It’s cheap, easy to cook, and goes with lots of other foods, which is probably why it’s eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner in some places. Unfortunately, rice isn’t particularly nutritious, and as the Washington Post points out, white rice is even thought to be associated with a higher risk of diabetes. Furthermore, like other high-starch foods, it’s fairly high in calories.

Starch is the most common form of carbohydrate in our diet, but if we eat too much food loaded with it, our bodies are often left with an excess of sugar as a result of its metabolism. This sugar will then ultimately get turned into fat, which can make us gain weight. That being said, this only happens if we consume too much of one type of starch, known as digestible starch, which the body breaks down in the small intestine. The other type of starch, called resistant starch (RS), takes a lot longer for our bodies to process as we can’t digest it and thus cannot convert it into sugar.

Researchers therefore hypothesized that if it were possible to transform the digestible starch in foods into the other form, then this could reduce the number of calories that can be used by the body. Thus, they started experimenting with different varieties of rice to find an easy cooking technique that could help improve the resistant starch content. Impressively, they found that all that was required was two simple changes: adding coconut oil to boiling water before putting in the rice, and cooling the rice for 12 hours before consuming it. This technique led to an RS content around 10 times greater than what is found in traditional rice.

So how does this work? Coconut oil adds fat to the water, which then enters starch molecules during the cooking process, altering its architecture and converting it into a form that’s more resistant to being broken down. Cooling the rice in the refrigerator also facilitates this conversion process. The team chose to add coconut oil since this is widely used in Asian cooking, but it is likely that other oils would achieve the same effect.

Although the scientists have only tested the method on certain rice varieties, which were the least nutritious, they observed around a 10% reduction in calories. If better varieties are used, they think that the technique could reduce calories by as much as 60%. Given the fact that rice is a staple food in many countries experiencing a rise in obesity, this could be a helpful solution to the growing problem. 

Read this next: The Gulf Stream Is Weakening, Bad News For The North Atlantic

28 Mar 13:51

AEP : Hacker Mythologies and Mismanagement

We think of ourselves as introverted: we retreat to a cave when we need to do work.

We think of ourselves as socially awkward: we self-characterize as “hav[ing] poor person-to-person communication skills.” We “don’t realize that it takes work to be popular.” Sometimes, we attempt to justify rudeness by calling it “an annoyingly efficient relevancy engine.”

We think of ourselves as having elevated intellects and intellectual preoccupations: as uniquely picky about working on “interesting” problems. We self-aggrandize. We tell ourselves that we are intellectually superior to everyone else, and that raw intellect — directed to the right places — is the most important thing. We believe that “the most obvious common ‘personality’ characteristics of hackers are high intelligence, consuming curiosity, and facility with intellectual abstractions.

Within the hacker community, it’s an article of faith that hackers who line up with the Canonical Hacker Personality have developed those attributes in a vacuum. We believe that “the combination of personality traits that makes a hacker so conditions one’s outlook on life that one tends to end up being like other hackers whether one wants to or not.

But these beliefs about who we are are actually about what makes us feel special.

In other words, software engineers are humans.

As humans, we lie to ourselves. We lie to ourselves about who we are. (We’re smarter than you.) We lie to ourselves about what we do. (We are changing the world, one photo-sharing app at a time.) We lie to ourselves about how best to do it. (In caves.)

These lies pile atop each other and twine into intractable knots. At best, this hampers our ability to do work well. At worst, it creates destructive or abusive work environments.

The Hacker Mythos and Engineering Myths

Cave entrance.

Photo CC-BY Christine Warner Hawks, filtered.

The myth of the 10x engineer is derived from a game of telephone: a 1968 study by Sackman, Erikson, and Grant, briefly quoted in one chapter of Frederick Brooks’s The Mythical Man-Month. This study found order-of-magnitude differences in programmer productivity on some narrow measures, but was also methodologically flawed. Brooks handwaves past these flaws, and generalizes narrow results, to justify what Brooks terms a “surgical team.” He suggests that engineering management orient itself around supporting and enabling superstar programmers, once they’re recognized — a Great Man theory of programming. To be fair to my profession, the exact team structure Brooks advocates for is increasingly seen as a Waterfall relic. However, the belief underlying his recommendations — that software is best built through a servile anticipation of 10x engineers’ needs — has taken on its own life.

It’s done so, of course, because it plays to the hacker ego. Real True Hackers — the kind of Real True Hackers who think of themselves as some day inventing radically new tech — naturally identify themselves as 10x engineers amidst a sea of unimaginative clock-punching proles.

Another myth, one also sourced from Brooks, concerns engineer ramp-up time and communication overhead within projects, and is derived from his reasonable observation that adding engineers to a late software project makes it later. It can take time to get situated within a codebase and a problem, and it is difficult to do meaningful “new” work when one’s primary job becomes understanding others’ work or explaining one’s work to them. Brooks’ direct conclusions (prefer small teams; respond to schedule slippage with scope cuts and/or reestimation) remain valid. However, popular interpretation of these conclusions has led some to conclude that 1-3 developer silos are the most efficient unit of engineering.

This is done to reduce the need for communication between engineers, lest it unduly burden time better spent coding. Interestingly, Brooks does not devalue communication in this myth’s source material — he characterizes it as legitimate work, just inefficient. However, the hacker mythos simultaneously elevates “communication” to the status of “arcane mystery” and devalues it as a “soft skill” that is less important than technical talent. As such, work practices that require it are considered both impossibly difficult and woefully unnecessary.

“Communication” with “other people” also breaks the flow states that many believe are a prerequisite for writing meaningful code. Engineering flow states are held to be uniquely productive and uniquely fragile, because engineering is special. This myth — one usually deployed to avoid boring meetings — also has its roots in the belief that hackers’ introversion gives them superpowers. The belief, crudely put, is that the ur-Hacker will go into their cave with five gallons of Mountain Dew. Then, after three days’ ritual period of sleep deprivation and muttered curses, they will emerge having birthed memcached.

In some offices, this belief has merely led to an overflowing soda and beer fridge. In others, the perks grow more extravagant. Laundry services, on-site gourmet cafeterias, and other manifestations of Silicon Valley perk culture are all justified under the banner of “minimizing distraction” — in other words, preventing these eggshell-fragile and all-important flow states from ever being disrupted. Even though other departments’ work benefits from “flow” — it’s a universally recognized psychological phenomenon — it’s only the hackers’ “unique” flow that is deemed worthy of preserving at all costs.

Myths as Pressure Source

Super hero-like figure looking out over a cliff.

Photo CC-BY Zach Dischner, filtered.

These myths about engineering management harm projects. In itself, this makes them annoying and expensive. However, they also harm people. This makes them dangerous.

The myth of the 10x engineer creates an industry-wide expectation that competence is not enough — that real programmers are superhuman. It accelerates the industry-wide tendency — one present in all demographics, though it’s disproportionately concentrated in underrepresented groups — towards impostor syndrome, and the self-esteem problems that result are leading indicators for depression and anxiety. It creates an environment in which programmers are pressured to prove themselves through hyperproductivity, leading to burnout and other mental health issues. The myth of the passionate programmer — one related to the myth of the 10x engineer, and derived from the expectation that hackers are irrationally devoted to their intellectual preoccupations — creates similar pressures, accelerating the pressures of the 10x engineer myth.

A healthy industry should not be governed by false beliefs that harm employees and ultimately lower productivity. The net productivity of those who fake 10x performance until they burn out tends to be lower than the net productivity of those who believe that slow and steady wins the race. Also, code that’s written to prove its author’s cleverness is usually bad code.

These myths become truly toxic, though, when they’re used as a management bludgeon, employed to justify vague or impossible management expectations. This is usually silent, nonetheless clear: culture, after all, lies in the things no one needs to say. Myths about 10x engineers are used to make employees feel guilty or incompetent when they ask co-workers for help; truly qualified engineers don’t need help. They are also used to make employees set artificially gruelling paces for themselves — would DHH really need a week on this ticket, or could he do it in two days?

The worst part about the “passion” or “10x” hammer, when it’s wielded — whether it’s with a “do you need me to reassign this ticket?” or merely a disapproving look — is that the programmer it’s brought down upon usually believes they deserve it. A key part of any abusive dynamic is convincing the target that they deserve maltreatment. Usually, this is the hard part — people don’t like believing that they’re terrible, so abusers need to tell them so a lot. Setting impossible expectations is one classic way of “justifying” later abuse; the trick is that the target needs to believe that impossible expectations are reasonable. The 10x engineer myth is a great gift to abusive managers because it sets up an impossible expectation as the “scientifically justified” norm. And managers who wish to use the 10x myth to cow their employees get this tool for free.

Myth and Favoritism

Unicorn stencil on a wall.

Photo CC-BY Sarah-Rose.

The other side of the 10x hammer is what happens when a manager believes they’ve got one (and only one) of these magical unicorns on their hands. The myth of the 10x engineer provides a natural justification for managerial favoritism, whether this favoritism arises from actual performance, a collegial attitude during meetings, or some other factor that the manager “can’t quite place, but I know it when I see it.” Of course, these conclusions often arise from conscious or unconscious bias on the manager’s part.

Favoritism within teams, especially when it becomes overt, inevitably has a destructive effect on team dynamics and particularly on disfavored employees within a team. Many engineering managers believe that “10x engineering” requires a superhuman concentration that’s easily shattered to uselessness by crosschat, stray houseflies, or co-workers’ requests for a second pair of eyes on a weird stacktrace. When favoritism comes into play, differential enforcement of “quiet time” rules becomes near-inevitable. It quickly becomes clear who gets to talk, who doesn’t, and whether that correlates with any other indicators of preferential treatment.

Favored employees are typically given plum projects — say, those with architectural implications. Coding projects which focus on cross-cutting concerns should, in healthy environments, require accountability to the rest of the team so that other programmers’ work is not adversely affected. However, when these projects are preferentially assigned, that accountability is often discarded out of a belief that the favored “10x” engineer will naturally make superior architectural decisions. In these cases, other coders disproportionately bear the brunt of the ramp-up burden for working within a new architecture.

The flexible nature of many modern tech offices also offers many sites for differential treatment of employees. Whose requests for remote work days are treated as routine, and whose are greeted with suspicion and surveillance? Who has the biggest conference budget, and why? Who has a standing desk, and did they pay for it? Whose code reviews are listened to, and whose are dismissed as pointless nitpicks?

Most of these forms of differential treatment are public, and as such pointedly communicate who is in favor… and who is not.

Myth vs Support Structures

Central to the myth of the Hacker is the myth of the Hacker as a Lone Hero, coding away in a basement with an ascetic disregard for bodily needs. This aspect of hacker mythology combines with the small-teams recommendations Brooks makes in The Mythical Man-Month to produce an abiding belief that a very small number of developers — often just one, and rarely more than two or three — should produce a major feature, or own a given piece of code. When everything goes right, there’s nothing wrong with this belief.

No plan, however, survives contact with reality. When things inevitably go wrong within one of these developer silos, bad managers recall Brooks’ aphorism that “adding [people] to a late software project makes it later” and, instead of asking their employees if they need support, assume that adding other developers to the project would merely increase ramp-up and communication overhead to a point that will do nothing but slow the project down.

This assumption is dangerous. While there are some cases in which more developers would hinder progress, modern development methodologies such as pair programming can be used to make extra hands and eyes more useful. A second pair of eyes, unhampered by earlier assumptions, is often better at spotting potential scope cuts — and cutting scope is the only bulletproof way to erase a schedule slippage.

Most importantly, though, is the effect that help — or even the offer of it — can have on isolation and burnout. As a developer, there’s no worse feeling than being mired in a project whose complexity you underestimated, or staring at an error that stubbornly refuses to yield debug information. Managers who leave these employees to struggle on their own risk burning them out, which carries both business and moral costs. Unfortunately, engineers pervasively believe that communication is harder than it’s worth — that “adding [engineers] to a late project makes it later.” This belief leads managers — and other employees — to try to “help” struggling coders by leaving them alone and stranded when they most need active support.

Of course, if an abusive manager chooses to silo employees to deliberately burn them out, this choice is indistinguishable from that manager merely estimating poorly.

Just Another Day in the Office

Recently blown-out candle.

Photo CC-BY Lucy Hill.

There’s nothing wrong with recognizing that some software engineers conform to nerd and/or hacker stereotypes. There’s also nothing wrong with recognizing that engineering is a discipline that requires concentration, or a creative profession in which work may sometimes come in difficult fits and starts. But the idea that engineering culture should map one-to-one to the existing and coherent nerd subculture is dangerous. Our myths about engineering become excuses for why someone is struggling. They discourage teamwork as a drag on productivity, rather than seeing it as a multiplier. They encourage coders to Other disfavored employees as “not real engineers,” creating clearly defined in- and out-groups. They encourage everyone to view coding ability as an innate orientation rather than as a trained capacity, which corrupts both hiring and professional development practices.

They isolate everyone — if someone is struggling, they don’t “deserve” a hand up, or a hand in. If someone is excelling, they’re a brilliant uberhacker 10x engineer who should be left alone for their own good and the good of the profession.

Bad management and abusive management, while different, can look remarkably similar. Both bad management and abusive management create isolation, and isolation is the key ingredient that allows abuse on the job — either from a manager or between same-level employees — to flourish. Isolated employees blame themselves. They don’t know where to turn for help. They don’t know where to turn to understand what is happening to them, or why, or why it’s not okay. They just know that something is wrong. They’ll see a manager belittle them in team chat and think that no one cared, when in reality no one noticed. They’ll be undercut in a one-on-one, or put on a project they hate deliberately. From the outside, it may merely seem that those team members are a “poor culture fit” — another myth we can use to disguise and hide abuse.

We have cultural frameworks for recognizing domestic abuse. They’re limited, but they exist. We don’t have many for recognizing workplace abuse. Not when it happens to others, and not when it happens to us. We second-guess ourselves — “Occam’s razor says it’s probably just bad management, right?” It’s hard to assume evil when incompetence will do.

But the greatest gift you can give an abuser is the continued ability to operate unrecognized. The hacker mythologies of lone-heroism, of hypercompetence or irrelevance, of glamorized isolation — these can all make abuse look, to the casual observer, like just another day at the office.

28 Mar 12:35

AEP : Artistas e especialistas fazem homenagem a Leonard Nimoy

Albener Pessoa

Exceto por estes 3
NELSON HOINEFF, produtor e diretor de TV

“Não dou bola. Acho uma bobagem. Série estúpida”

FRANCISCO BOSCO, novo presidente da Funarte

“Passei batido por ‘Star Trek’, mas conheço Spock via Sheldon Cooper, do ‘Big Bang Theory’...”
MARIZA LEÃO, produtora de cinema e TV

“Spock? Eu estava brincando de amarelinha numa praça no Flamengo. Romântica, sempre fui boçal com qualquer sci-fi”

Spock - Mariana Morgado / Arte

RIO - Voltando de férias em Londres, o jornalista e escritor Arthur Dapieve, colunista do GLOBO, resumiu com uma frase o sentimento que tomou os terráqueos diante da morte de Leonard Nimoy,o Sr. Spock de “Star Trek” (“Jornada nas estrelas”), na última sexta-feira:

— Fiquei pasmo. Eu devo ter perdido algo da série, pois achava que vulcanos eram imortais. Leonard Nimoy chegou perto.

Se os vulcanos (a espécie de Spock), a rigor, não são imortais; e se o próprio Spock morreu para salvar a Enterprise e seus tripulantes — é fato, por outro lado, que ele ressuscitou graças às propriedades regenerativas de um estranho planeta. Outro fato: se morreu o ator (até prova em contrário), não morreu o personagem, hoje interpretado por Zachary Quinto. Mas é na pele de Nimoy que ele é celebrado, consumido avidamente em DVDs da série e dos longas, em convenções, bonecos, fóruns, jogos e literatura virtual.

O ícone Spock, inclusive, extrapola o universo de fãs: mesmo os mais desligados, aqueles que o chamam de doutor em vez de senhor, os que acham que se trata de um vilão e aqueles, piores que os detratores, que o confundem com personagens de “Guerra nas Estrelas” — enfim, em qualquer grupo humano, não há quem tenha passado batido pelo obituário do orelhudo esquisitão: seu rosto, suas mãos, suas sobrancelhas e as supracitadas orelhas se transformaram numa espécie de signo universal, alguma coisa que todo mundo já viu, mesmo quem não sabe o que é. Propriedade da qual poucos seres, reais ou fictícios, podem usufruir, casos de Pelé, Guevara ou Shakespeare, para não falar de ícones religiosos.

Se é impossível esquadrinhar a horda de órfãos de Spock num nível planetário, fazemos, abaixo, ainda na pressa e no impacto da perda, um apanhado do que sentiram alguns compatriotas notórios de ambos os sexos, e descobrimos, inclusive, uma faceta oculta: Spock era um símbolo sexual para muitas mulheres. O que é temerário: os vulcanos só transam de 7 em 7 anos. Mas quando chega a hora, ficam acasalados por um mês...

GERALDO CARNEIRO, poeta, compositor e roteirista

“Spock sempre foi o símbolo da alteridade. Não é à toa, foi concebido nos anos 1960, em paralelo com a luta pela emancipação das mulheres, das etnias discriminadas e até de nós, pobres machos, oprimidos pelos papéis determinados pelo ‘sistema’. Hoje, pelo menos na aparência, o sistema foi vitorioso. Mas nós, os Spocks da vida e da arte, nos infiltramos definitivamente na vida dos terráqueos caretas”

ANA CRISTINA REIS, jornalista, editora do Ela

“Foi minha primeira fantasia erótica. Por quê? Era viril e diferente (para não dizer feio). Homem não pode ser mais bonito que a mulher. Sabia usar as mãos. As mulheres sabem o valor de um par de mãos... Tinha voz grave. O timbre de voz é um afrodisíaco. Era correto, ético, mas sem ser frouxo. Um homem à moda medieval. Gostava de tocar em ombros. E a nuca é o meu ponto fraco”

MARCELO GLEISER, astrofísico e professor

“Mr. Spock representa a perene questão humana da razão vs. emoção; no seu caso vemos o embate sutil, a emoção tentando confundir o fluir da lógica pura. Spock representa a concepção popular do cientista e da ciência que, se acredita, é levada apenas pela razão. O fato de ele mesmo mostrar seus conflitos (aquela levantada de sobrancelha...) demonstra que ninguém é uma coisa ou outra apenas. No seu exagero caricatural, ele nos ensina a buscar por um balanço entre os polos”

ANDRÉ GORDIRRO, crítico e expert em sci-fi

“Poucos abordam os desafios narrativos inerentes a Spock: construir um personagem frio e analítico que conquistasse o público através do que renegava — a emoção — e tornar crível a amizade com seu oposto, Kirk. Parte da tarefa foi cumprida por Gene Rodenberry e equipe, mas a grande parcela coube ao intérprete, que ficou dividido entre renegar e abraçar o personagem ao longo da carreira. Ele fez as pazes com o alienígena e foi generoso e cavalheiro com Zachary Quinto, que teve a ingrata tarefa de substitui-lo na recente reinvenção de ‘Jornada nas Estrelas’. Nimoy eternizou um gesto e um bordão, mas deixou como legado mais significativo a verdadeira noção de amizade e tolerância. Fica a vontade de que todos nós fôssemos, então, menos humanos e mais vulcanos

ALEXEI BUENO, poeta

"Eu via mais ‘O túnel do tempo’ e ‘Viagem ao fundo do mar’, mas, em ‘Star Trek’, o personagem, de longe, era o Sr. Spock, pela cara séria e pela impressão de ética que passava. Como tenho índole europeia — não é esnobismo, é fato —, essa seriedade me era simpática em meio aos excessos dionisíacos do nosso país, aliás cada vez mais em pleno exercício da Hybris, mãe de todas as desgraças...”

LUIZ HENRIQUES NETO, escritor e funcionário público

“Nós nerds e fãs de ‘Star Trek’ sonhávamos ser o Capitão Kirk, pegando mulheres em todos os espaçoportos do universo e resolvendo os grandiosos problemas cósmicos com os punhos, mas sabíamos que na verdade éramos o Spock, sempre dando informações inúteis, conselhos que não eram seguidos, com medo de demonstrar emoções e achando legal que aquele cara maneiro fosse nosso amigo”

DODÔ AZEVEDO, DJ e colunista do g1

“Spock é um personagem fundamental para entendermos o século XX, onde a fricção entre razão e emoção foi a questão humana central. Nimoy nos ensinou a aceitar e admirar nossas imperfeições, que Spock qualificava sempre como ‘fascinantes’"

KAREN ACIOLY, atriz, autora e diretora

“Quem não curtia Spock era doente do pé. Lá em casa a TV era disputada no tapa. A pancadaria só não comia solta porque até as meninas gostavam dele. Esquisito, orelhudo e sábio... Exuberante e contido. E naqueles tempos menina só gostava de água com açúcar”

DÉLIA FISCHER, pianista, compositora e maestrina

“Eu me identifiquei com ele desde sempre, usando a lógica vulcana e o desmedido desejo humano de ir aonde nenhum homem jamais esteve. Sem limites, o leal Spock se oferecia em sacrifício, se necessário. Era perfeito para se jogar xadrez ou para uma serenata em instrumentos exóticos vulcanos. Eu sonhava ter e ser um pouco disso tudo. Na verdade, eu queria Spock só para mim”

DANIEL BRAGA, ator, neto de Rubem Braga

“Sinto que o Spock de Nimoy é uma voz. Uma fascinante voz digna de ser ouvida com atenção. Por ser um híbrido, ele ocupa um lugar diferente, vê o quadro geral, pondera e fala. Ele é a própria voz da dignidade”

NELSON HOINEFF, produtor e diretor de TV

“Não dou bola. Acho uma bobagem. Série estúpida”

FRANCISCO BOSCO, novo presidente da Funarte

“Passei batido por ‘Star Trek’, mas conheço Spock via Sheldon Cooper, do ‘Big Bang Theory’...”

SÉRGIO RODRIGUES, escritor e crítico literário

“Fiquei um pouco triste. Spock parecia imortal. Espero que tenha tido um teletransporte tranquilo lá para onde foi”

MARIZA LEÃO, produtora de cinema e TV

“Spock? Eu estava brincando de amarelinha numa praça no Flamengo. Romântica, sempre fui boçal com qualquer sci-fi”

27 Mar 19:41

AEP : Medicina policialesca

Drauzio Varella

Todos somos contrários ao aborto, especialmente as mulheres grávidas que a ele recorrem como última saída

Passei da idade de me surpreender com a estupidez humana. Ainda assim, fiquei revoltado com a atitude do médico que entregou à polícia a menina que tomou Cytotec para abortar.

Em nome de que princípios um profissional recebe uma menina de 19 anos, fragilizada pelas complicações de um abortamento provocado sem assistência médica, ouve sua história, calça as luvas, toca seu útero e os anexos, adota a conduta que lhe parece mais adequada, sai da sala e chama a polícia para prender em flagrante a paciente que lhe confiou a intimidade?

Existe covardia mais torpe?

A função primordial da medicina é aliviar o sofrimento humano. Independentemente das contradições jurídicas criadas por uma legislação medieval, machista e desumana como a brasileira, entregar a menina à polícia contribuiu para tornar-lhe o sofrimento mais suportável?

A questão do aborto ilustra como nenhuma outra a hipocrisia moralista imposta às mulheres pobres, pelos que se intitulam defensores da vida e atribuem a si próprios o papel de guardiões dos bons costumes e porta-vozes oficiais da vontade de Deus.

A realidade é cristalina: o aborto é livre no Brasil, basta ter dinheiro para pagar por ele.

Não faltam clínicas particulares e hospitais com médicos experientes que realizem abortamentos em boas condições técnicas, desde que bem remunerados.

Muitos ginecologistas que se negam a praticá-los em suas pacientes indicam esses colegas, não raro criticados pelos mesmos que fizeram o encaminhamento.

Dias atrás, Cláudia Colucci, colunista desta Folha, lembrou a pesquisa realizada pela Unicamp em conjunto com a Associação dos Magistrados Brasileiros mostrando que 20% dos 1.148 juízes entrevistados tiveram parceiras que ficaram grávidas sem desejá-lo: 79,2% abortaram.

Das 345 juízas que participaram, 15% já haviam tido gestações indesejadas: 74% fizeram aborto.

A colunista citou estudo semelhante conduzido pela Federação das Associações de Ginecologia e Obstetrícia (Febrasgo) entre ginecologistas e obstetras: diante de gestações indesejadas, cerca de 80% de suas mulheres recorreram à prática.

Entre as médicas ginecologistas a situação é semelhante: 77% interromperam sua gravidez indesejada.

Por outro lado, 60% dos profissionais ouvidos confessaram que não ajudariam uma paciente, encaminhando-a a outro médico ou indicando medicamento abortivo.

Na Penitenciária Feminina da Capital, são muitas as meninas que abortaram em espeluncas mantidas, na periferia, por mulheres que vendem Cytotec e realizam procedimentos cirúrgicos semelhantes às torturas dos tempos da Inquisição.

Mas, quando essas mulheres vão parar na cadeia, são encaminhadas para a ala do seguro.

As mesmas que a elas recorrem nos momentos de aflição recusam-se a cumprir pena ao seu lado. Dizem que "elas matam criancinhas".

Estudo da Universidade Estadual do Rio de Janeiro revelou que, em 2013, o SUS internou 154.391 mulheres com complicações de abortamentos. Como a estimativa é de que aconteça uma complicação para cada quatro ou cinco casos, o cálculo é de que tenham ocorrido de 685 mil a 856 mil abortos clandestinos no país.

Um estudo publicado por pesquisadores da Universidade de Brasília mostra que 20% das 37 milhões de brasileiras com mais de 40 anos já fizeram aborto. Esses números servem de referência para a Organização Mundial da Saúde.

Feitos nas piores condições, complicações em abortos são a quinta causa de morte materna, no país.

A questão não pode ser mais tratada da forma bizarra e irresponsável como tem sido.

Não se trata de ser a favor ou contra. Todos somos contrários, especialmente as mulheres grávidas que a ele recorrem como última saída.

O problema do aborto não é moral, é questão de saúde pública. Se 20% das brasileiras com mais de 40 anos já abortaram na clandestinidade, deveríamos puni-las com o rigor das leis atuais? Haveria cadeia para mais de 7 milhões?

Deixemos de hipocrisia. Nossa legislação só não muda porque as mulheres de melhor poder aquisitivo abortam em condições relativamente seguras. As mais pobres é que correm risco de morte e sentem na pele os rigores da lei.

26 Mar 01:26

Preocupado com a perda do prestígio entre os jovens, PT lança festival Lulapalooza

by Paulo Magalhães

Numa tentativa de melhorar a imagem desgastada do PT junto ao público jovem, a Executiva Nacional do partido anunciou um grande festival de rock para 2016: o Lulapalooza. Inicialmente pensou-se em chamar o evento de Luizinácioluladasilvapalooza, mas a ideia foi rejeitada. “Poderiam pensar, injustamente, que estávamos fazendo propaganda eleitoral antecipada para 2018″, declarou um dirigente da agremiação.

A line up do evento, ainda não totalmente confirmada, terá, entre outras atrações, os nacionais Os Paranóicos do Sucesso, NX-13, Inimigos do Aécio e Legião Sindical. Entre as bandas internacionais convidadas há nomes como Cold Marx Chili Peppers e Engels of Stone Age.

Os ingressos deverão ser vendidos a preços populares, com descontos especiais para metalúrgicos (10%), metalúrgicos de barba (30%) e metalúrgicos de barba e língua presa (95%). Militantes do PSDB pagam o dobro e sósias de Eduardo Cunha terão direito a camarote VIP.

O festival deverá ser realizado no ABC paulista, em data ainda a ser definida.

27 Mar 14:34

87% dos telefonemas de mães ocorrem em horas que o filho não pode atender, diz pesquisa

by @sensacionalista

O que quase todo mundo já tinha reparado agora está comprovado pela ciência. Uma pesquisa feita por um pool de universidades inglesas e americanas, monitorando os telefonemas feitos pelas mães de 7.820 pessoas de 12 a 45 anos, mostrou que bem mais da metade das ligações feitas por mães acontecem em horas em que a pessoa não pode atender.

Os principais exemplos:

– manobrando o carro numa vaga difícil;

– passando as compras no caixa do supermercado;

– no motel bem na hora H;

– na reunião em que você está apresentando o projeto que pode te dar aquela promoção;

– botando seu bebê pra dormir;

– no sábado 7h45 da manhã quando você dormiu às 5;

– quando você está no cinema e o filme vai começar;

– na hora em que você está de boca aberta no dentista.

22 Mar 05:54

Why is subtitling and closed captioning so bad?

by Tyler Cowen

Jan asks:

Why is the (global) state of subtitling and closed captioning so bad?

a/ Subtitling and closed captioning are extremely efficient ways of learning new languages, for example for immigrants wanting to learn the language of their new country.

b/ Furthermore video is now offered on phones, tablets, laptops, desktops, televisions… but very frequently these videos cannot be played with sound on (a phone on public transport, a laptop in public places, televisions in busy places like bars or shops,…).

c/ And most importantly of all, it is crucial for the deaf and hard of hearing.

So why is it so disappointingly bad? Is it just the price (lots of manual work still, despite assistive speech-to-text technologies)? Or don’t producers care?

UberAlex responded:

It’s interesting to look at the fan-sub community, where they can be a labour of love. They are often considered far superior translations to the official ones. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fansub
23 Mar 04:19

How nepotistic are we?

by Tyler Cowen

In just about every field I looked at, having a successful parent makes you way more likely to be a big success, but the advantage is much smaller than it is at the top of politics.

Using the same methodology, I estimate that the son of an N.B.A. player has about a one in 45 chance of becoming an N.B.A. player. Since there are far more N.B.A. slots than Senate slots, this is only about an 800-fold edge.

Think about the N.B.A. further. The skills necessary to be a basketball player, especially height, are highly hereditary. But the N.B.A. is a meritocracy, with your performance easy to evaluate. If you do not play well, you will be cut, even if the team is the New York Knicks and your name is Patrick Ewing Jr. Father-son correlation in the N.B.A. is only one-eleventh as high as it is in the Senate.

Emphasis added by me.  And this:

An American male is 4,582 times more likely to become an Army general if his father was one; 1,895 times more likely to become a famous C.E.O.; 1,639 times more likely to win a Pulitzer Prize; 1,497 times more likely to win a Grammy; and 1,361 times more likely to win an Academy Award. Those are pretty decent odds, but they do not come close to the 8,500 times more likely a senator’s son is to find himself chatting with John McCain or Dianne Feinstein in the Senate cloakroom.

That is all from Seth Stephens-Davidowitz.

27 Feb 08:01

Falling Asleep

by Doug
09 Mar 07:01

Doctors

by Doug
23 Mar 07:01

I’m Batman

by Doug
12 Mar 07:16

Desenho Livre # 65 (Kibeloco + Da Vinci + Will Leite)

16 Mar 06:37

Anésia # 210


- Inspirado numa antiga charge do mestre Angeli
23 Mar 12:46

AEP : Huxley to Orwell: My Hellish Vision of the Future is Better Than Yours (1949)

orwell huxley

In 1949, George Orwell received a curious letter from his former high school French teacher.

Orwell had just published his groundbreaking book Nineteen Eighty-Four, which received glowing reviews from just about every corner of the English-speaking world. His French teacher, as it happens, was none other than Aldous Huxley who taught at Eton for a spell before writing Brave New World (1931), the other great 20th century dystopian novel.

Huxley starts off the letter praising the book, describing it as “profoundly important.” He continues, “The philosophy of the ruling minority in Nineteen Eighty-Four is a sadism which has been carried to its logical conclusion by going beyond sex and denying it.”

Then Huxley switches gears and criticizes the book, writing, “Whether in actual fact the policy of the boot-on-the-face can go on indefinitely seems doubtful. My own belief is that the ruling oligarchy will find less arduous and wasteful ways of governing and of satisfying its lust for power, and these ways will resemble those which I described in Brave New World.” (Listen to him read a dramatized version of the book here.)

Basically while praising Nineteen Eighty-Four, Huxley argues that his version of the future was more likely to come to pass.

In Huxley’s seemingly dystopic World State, the elite amuse the masses into submission with a mind-numbing drug called Soma and an endless buffet of casual sex. Orwell’s Oceania, on the other hand, keeps the masses in check with fear thanks to an endless war and a hyper-competent surveillance state. At first blush, they might seem like they are diametrically opposed but, in fact, an Orwellian world and a Huxleyan one are simply two different modes of oppression.

Obviously we are nowhere near either dystopic vision but the power of both books is that they tap into our fears of the state. While Huxley might make you look askance at The Bachelor or Facebook, Orwell makes you recoil in horror at the government throwing around phrases like “enhanced interrogation” and “surgical drone strikes.”

You can read Huxley’s full letter below.

Wrightwood. Cal.

21 October, 1949

Dear Mr. Orwell,

It was very kind of you to tell your publishers to send me a copy of your book. It arrived as I was in the midst of a piece of work that required much reading and consulting of references; and since poor sight makes it necessary for me to ration my reading, I had to wait a long time before being able to embark on Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Agreeing with all that the critics have written of it, I need not tell you, yet once more, how fine and how profoundly important the book is. May I speak instead of the thing with which the book deals — the ultimate revolution? The first hints of a philosophy of the ultimate revolution — the revolution which lies beyond politics and economics, and which aims at total subversion of the individual’s psychology and physiology — are to be found in the Marquis de Sade, who regarded himself as the continuator, the consummator, of Robespierre and Babeuf. The philosophy of the ruling minority in Nineteen Eighty-Four is a sadism which has been carried to its logical conclusion by going beyond sex and denying it. Whether in actual fact the policy of the boot-on-the-face can go on indefinitely seems doubtful. My own belief is that the ruling oligarchy will find less arduous and wasteful ways of governing and of satisfying its lust for power, and these ways will resemble those which I described in Brave New World. I have had occasion recently to look into the history of animal magnetism and hypnotism, and have been greatly struck by the way in which, for a hundred and fifty years, the world has refused to take serious cognizance of the discoveries of Mesmer, Braid, Esdaile, and the rest.

Partly because of the prevailing materialism and partly because of prevailing respectability, nineteenth-century philosophers and men of science were not willing to investigate the odder facts of psychology for practical men, such as politicians, soldiers and policemen, to apply in the field of government. Thanks to the voluntary ignorance of our fathers, the advent of the ultimate revolution was delayed for five or six generations. Another lucky accident was Freud’s inability to hypnotize successfully and his consequent disparagement of hypnotism. This delayed the general application of hypnotism to psychiatry for at least forty years. But now psycho-analysis is being combined with hypnosis; and hypnosis has been made easy and indefinitely extensible through the use of barbiturates, which induce a hypnoid and suggestible state in even the most recalcitrant subjects.

Within the next generation I believe that the world’s rulers will discover that infant conditioning and narco-hypnosis are more efficient, as instruments of government, than clubs and prisons, and that the lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging and kicking them into obedience. In other words, I feel that the nightmare of Nineteen Eighty-Four is destined to modulate into the nightmare of a world having more resemblance to that which I imagined in Brave New World. The change will be brought about as a result of a felt need for increased efficiency. Meanwhile, of course, there may be a large scale biological and atomic war — in which case we shall have nightmares of other and scarcely imaginable kinds.

Thank you once again for the book.

Yours sincerely,

Aldous Huxley

via Letters of Note

Related Content:

George Orwell Explains in a Revealing 1944 Letter Why He’d Write 1984

George Orwell’s 1984: Free eBook, Audio Book & Study Resources

Hear Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and 84 Classic Radio Dramas from CBS Radio Workshop (1956-57)

Aldous Huxley’s Most Beautiful, LSD-Assisted Death: A Letter from His Widow

Jonathan Crow is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. You can follow him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veeptopus, featuring lots of pictures of badgers and even more pictures of vice presidents with octopuses on their heads.  The Veeptopus store is here.


23 Mar 11:24

AEP : Professor mineiro já vendeu empresa até para o Google

O empreendedorismo em universidades não é uma prática muito comum no Brasil. A criação de empresas que dependem da pesquisa intensiva tem pouco espaço. O professor mineiro Nivio Ziviani é uma exceção: com 68 anos, exibe no currículo três startups fundadas nos últimos 20 anos. Duas delas foram tão bem-sucedidas que acabaram vendidas, uma delas para os poderosos empresários do Google. A terceira e atual tem dez funcionários e faturamento anual na casa dos milhares.

O docente de Ciências da Computação: No momento em que a sociedade passa a enxergar a universidade como geradora de riqueza, os ganhos podem ser enormes Foto: Divulgação

Desde 1982, o docente do departamento de Ciência da Computação já sabia da importância de aproximar universidade e mercado da maneira mais eficiente possível: aplicando o conhecimento em empresas produtivas. Estudante de graduação de engenharia mecânica da Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (UFMG), na virada dos anos 70, ele foi monitor do primeiro computador da instituição, uma peça do tamanho de uma sala.

Sua vida mudou no começo dos anos 80, quando fez doutorado na Universidade de Waterloo, no Canadá, onde foi aluno de Gaston Gonnet, fundador de 11 empresas. “Ele me ensinou a importância de transformar resultados de pesquisa em riqueza para a sociedade, na forma de startups”, conta Nivio.

A expansão da internet, na década seguinte, facilitou o desenvolvimento de startups na UFMG. Em 1994, Nivio fundou o Laboratório para Tratamento da Informação, existente ainda hoje, com objetivo de gerar tecnologias com utilidade comercial. De dentro do campus mineiro surgiriam empresas como o Mercado Persa, um dos primeiros sites de comércio eletrônico do Brasil, e o projeto de computador popular que deu origem à empresa International Syst.

Foi nesta época que Nivio assumiu a frente de sua primeira empresa: a Miner surgiu em 1997, resultado de uma sociedade com um aluno de mestrado que pesquisava robôs eletrônicos capazes de realizar buscas na internet com maior eficiência. Nove meses depois do lançamento, a ferramenta tinha 30 mil consultas diárias. Foi vendida em 1999 por R$ 4 milhões.

Enquanto assinava a papelada de venda, o professor estava pronto para o próximo passo.

Profissionais de ponta
A Akwan, especializada em buscas muito específicas na internet, surgiu em 1999. Em 2005, chamou a atenção dos fundadores do Google, que no ano seguinte chegaram a visitar Nivio e sua equipe no Brasil. A compra da Akwan, por um valor nunca revelado, foi a segunda na história da empresa realizada fora dos Estados Unidos. Foi a partir da negociação que surgiu, em Belo Horizonte, o Centro de Pesquisa e Desenvolvimento do Google na América Latina. O Google não queria só a tecnologia desenvolvida pelo pesquisador: procurava também mão de obra extremamente qualificada que ele havia treinado.

Nivio Ziviani (à direita) em reunião na UFMG com os fundadores do Google, Sergey Brin e Larry Page (à esquerda) Foto: Divulgação

A parceria da universidade com as empresas criadas dentro de seu polo de tecnologia continua se mostrando positiva para os dois lados. Depois da venda da Miner, Nivio doou R$ 100 mil à UFMG, uma forma de retribuir a instituição e demonstrar, de maneira concreta, o tipo de retorno que pode surgir da parceria entre acadêmicos e empreendedores. E mais: a universidade é hoje detentora de 5% das ações da Zunnit, o terceiro e mais recente empreendimento do professor.

A Zunnit é especializada em recomendação: a sugestão personalizada de notícias e produtos culturais para o usuário e o uso de técnicas de deep learning e big data para fornecer análises do comportamento dos internautas..

Para Nivio Ziviani, a geração de empresas da parte de universitários é uma necessidade. “No momento em que a sociedade passa a enxergar a universidade como geradora de riqueza, os ganhos podem ser enormes”, afirma. “Gostaria de ir muito mais longe e poder contribuir para a criação de um paradigma que possa ser seguido por muitos outros grupos de pesquisa.”

19 Feb 01:10

AEP : What ISIS Really Wants

What is the Islamic State?

Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.

The group seized Mosul, Iraq, last June, and already rules an area larger than the United Kingdom. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been its leader since May 2010, but until last summer, his most recent known appearance on film was a grainy mug shot from a stay in U.S. captivity at Camp Bucca during the occupation of Iraq. Then, on July 5 of last year, he stepped into the pulpit of the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul, to deliver a Ramadan sermon as the first caliph in generations—upgrading his resolution from grainy to high-definition, and his position from hunted guerrilla to commander of all Muslims. The inflow of jihadists that followed, from around the world, was unprecedented in its pace and volume, and is continuing.

Our ignorance of the Islamic State is in some ways understandable: It is a hermit kingdom; few have gone there and returned. Baghdadi has spoken on camera only once. But his address, and the Islamic State’s countless other propaganda videos and encyclicals, are online, and the caliphate’s supporters have toiled mightily to make their project knowable. We can gather that their state rejects peace as a matter of principle; that it hungers for genocide; that its religious views make it constitutionally incapable of certain types of change, even if that change might ensure its survival; and that it considers itself a harbinger of—and headline player in—the imminent end of the world.

The Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), follows a distinctive variety of Islam whose beliefs about the path to the Day of Judgment matter to its strategy, and can help the West know its enemy and predict its behavior. Its rise to power is less like the triumph of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (a group whose leaders the Islamic State considers apostates) than like the realization of a dystopian alternate reality in which David Koresh or Jim Jones survived to wield absolute power over not just a few hundred people, but some 8 million.

We have misunderstood the nature of the Islamic State in at least two ways. First, we tend to see jihadism as monolithic, and to apply the logic of al‑Qaeda to an organization that has decisively eclipsed it. The Islamic State supporters I spoke with still refer to Osama bin Laden as “Sheikh Osama,” a title of honor. But jihadism has evolved since al-Qaeda’s heyday, from about 1998 to 2003, and many jihadists disdain the group’s priorities and current leadership.

Bin Laden viewed his terrorism as a prologue to a caliphate he did not expect to see in his lifetime. His organization was flexible, operating as a geographically diffuse network of autonomous cells. The Islamic State, by contrast, requires territory to remain legitimate, and a top-down structure to rule it. (Its bureaucracy is divided into civil and military arms, and its territory into provinces.)

We are misled in a second way, by a well-intentioned but dishonest campaign to deny the Islamic State’s medieval religious nature. Peter Bergen, who produced the first interview with bin Laden in 1997, titled his first book Holy War, Inc. in part to acknowledge bin Laden as a creature of the modern secular world. Bin Laden corporatized terror and franchised it out. He requested specific political concessions, such as the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Saudi Arabia. His foot soldiers navigated the modern world confidently. On Mohammad Atta’s last full day of life, he shopped at Walmart and ate dinner at Pizza Hut.

Nearly all the Islamic State’s decisions adhere to what it calls, on its billboards, license plates, and coins, “the Prophetic methodology.”

There is a temptation to rehearse this observation—that jihadists are modern secular people, with modern political concerns, wearing medieval religious disguise—and make it fit the Islamic State. In fact, much of what the group does looks nonsensical except in light of a sincere, carefully considered commitment to returning civilization to a seventh-century legal environment, and ultimately to bringing about the apocalypse.

The most-articulate spokesmen for that position are the Islamic State’s officials and supporters themselves. They refer derisively to “moderns.” In conversation, they insist that they will not—cannot—waver from governing precepts that were embedded in Islam by the Prophet Muhammad and his earliest followers. They often speak in codes and allusions that sound odd or old-fashioned to non-Muslims, but refer to specific traditions and texts of early Islam.

To take one example: In September, Sheikh Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, the Islamic State’s chief spokesman, called on Muslims in Western countries such as France and Canada to find an infidel and “smash his head with a rock,” poison him, run him over with a car, or “destroy his crops.” To Western ears, the biblical-sounding punishments—the stoning and crop destruction—juxtaposed strangely with his more modern-sounding call to vehicular homicide. (As if to show that he could terrorize by imagery alone, Adnani also referred to Secretary of State John Kerry as an “uncircumcised geezer.”)

But Adnani was not merely talking trash. His speech was laced with theological and legal discussion, and his exhortation to attack crops directly echoed orders from Muhammad to leave well water and crops alone—unless the armies of Islam were in a defensive position, in which case Muslims in the lands of kuffar, or infidels, should be unmerciful, and poison away.

The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.

Virtually every major decision and law promulgated by the Islamic State adheres to what it calls, in its press and pronouncements, and on its billboards, license plates, stationery, and coins, “the Prophetic methodology,” which means following the prophecy and example of Muhammad, in punctilious detail. Muslims can reject the Islamic State; nearly all do. But pretending that it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it. We’ll need to get acquainted with the Islamic State’s intellectual genealogy if we are to react in a way that will not strengthen it, but instead help it self-immolate in its own excessive zeal.

Control of territory is an essential precondition for the Islamic State’s authority in the eyes of its supporters. This map, adapted from the work of the Institute for the Study of War, shows the territory under the caliphate’s control as of January 15, along with areas it has attacked. Where it holds power, the state collects taxes, regulates prices, operates courts, and administers services ranging from health care and education to telecommunications.

I. Devotion

In November, the Islamic State released an infomercial-like video tracing its origins to bin Laden. It acknowledged Abu Musa’b al Zarqawi, the brutal head of al‑Qaeda in Iraq from roughly 2003 until his killing in 2006, as a more immediate progenitor, followed sequentially by two other guerrilla leaders before Baghdadi, the caliph. Notably unmentioned: bin Laden’s successor, Ayman al Zawahiri, the owlish Egyptian eye surgeon who currently heads al‑Qaeda. Zawahiri has not pledged allegiance to Baghdadi, and he is increasingly hated by his fellow jihadists. His isolation is not helped by his lack of charisma; in videos he comes across as squinty and annoyed. But the split between al-Qaeda and the Islamic State has been long in the making, and begins to explain, at least in part, the outsize bloodlust of the latter.

Zawahiri’s companion in isolation is a Jordanian cleric named Abu Muhammad al Maqdisi, 55, who has a fair claim to being al-Qaeda’s intellectual architect and the most important jihadist unknown to the average American newspaper reader. On most matters of doctrine, Maqdisi and the Islamic State agree. Both are closely identified with the jihadist wing of a branch of Sunnism called Salafism, after the Arabic al salaf al salih, the “pious forefathers.” These forefathers are the Prophet himself and his earliest adherents, whom Salafis honor and emulate as the models for all behavior, including warfare, couture, family life, even dentistry.

The Islamic State awaits the army of “Rome,” whose defeat at Dabiq, Syria, will initiate the countdown to the apocalypse.

Maqdisi taught Zarqawi, who went to war in Iraq with the older man’s advice in mind. In time, though, Zarqawi surpassed his mentor in fanaticism, and eventually earned his rebuke. At issue was Zarqawi’s penchant for bloody spectacle—and, as a matter of doctrine, his hatred of other Muslims, to the point of excommunicating and killing them. In Islam, the practice of takfir, or excommunication, is theologically perilous. “If a man says to his brother, ‘You are an infidel,’ ” the Prophet said, “then one of them is right.” If the accuser is wrong, he himself has committed apostasy by making a false accusation. The punishment for apostasy is death. And yet Zarqawi heedlessly expanded the range of behavior that could make Muslims infidels.

Maqdisi wrote to his former pupil that he needed to exercise caution and “not issue sweeping proclamations of takfir” or “proclaim people to be apostates because of their sins.” The distinction between apostate and sinner may appear subtle, but it is a key point of contention between al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.

Denying the holiness of the Koran or the prophecies of Muhammad is straightforward apostasy. But Zarqawi and the state he spawned take the position that many other acts can remove a Muslim from Islam. These include, in certain cases, selling alcohol or drugs, wearing Western clothes or shaving one’s beard, voting in an election—even for a Muslim candidate—and being lax about calling other people apostates. Being a Shiite, as most Iraqi Arabs are, meets the standard as well, because the Islamic State regards Shiism as innovation, and to innovate on the Koran is to deny its initial perfection. (The Islamic State claims that common Shiite practices, such as worship at the graves of imams and public self-flagellation, have no basis in the Koran or in the example of the Prophet.) That means roughly 200 million Shia are marked for death. So too are the heads of state of every Muslim country, who have elevated man-made law above Sharia by running for office or enforcing laws not made by God.

Following takfiri doctrine, the Islamic State is committed to purifying the world by killing vast numbers of people. The lack of objective reporting from its territory makes the true extent of the slaughter unknowable, but social-media posts from the region suggest that individual executions happen more or less continually, and mass executions every few weeks. Muslim “apostates” are the most common victims. Exempted from automatic execution, it appears, are Christians who do not resist their new government. Baghdadi permits them to live, as long as they pay a special tax, known as the jizya, and acknowledge their subjugation. The Koranic authority for this practice is not in dispute.

Musa Cerantonio, an Australian preacher reported to be one of the Islamic State’s most influential recruiters, believes it is foretold that the caliphate will sack Istanbul before it is beaten back by an army led by the anti-Messiah, whose eventual death— when just a few thousand jihadists remain—will usher in the apocalypse. (Paul Jeffers/Fairfax Media)

Centuries have passed since the wars of religion ceased in Europe, and since men stopped dying in large numbers because of arcane theological disputes. Hence, perhaps, the incredulity and denial with which Westerners have greeted news of the theology and practices of the Islamic State. Many refuse to believe that this group is as devout as it claims to be, or as backward-looking or apocalyptic as its actions and statements suggest.

Their skepticism is comprehensible. In the past, Westerners who accused Muslims of blindly following ancient scriptures came to deserved grief from academics—notably the late Edward Said—who pointed out that calling Muslims “ancient” was usually just another way to denigrate them. Look instead, these scholars urged, to the conditions in which these ideologies arose—the bad governance, the shifting social mores, the humiliation of living in lands valued only for their oil.

Without acknowledgment of these factors, no explanation of the rise of the Islamic State could be complete. But focusing on them to the exclusion of ideology reflects another kind of Western bias: that if religious ideology doesn’t matter much in Washington or Berlin, surely it must be equally irrelevant in Raqqa or Mosul. When a masked executioner says Allahu akbar while beheading an apostate, sometimes he’s doing so for religious reasons.

Many mainstream Muslim organizations have gone so far as to say the Islamic State is, in fact, un-Islamic. It is, of course, reassuring to know that the vast majority of Muslims have zero interest in replacing Hollywood movies with public executions as evening entertainment. But Muslims who call the Islamic State un-Islamic are typically, as the Princeton scholar Bernard Haykel, the leading expert on the group’s theology, told me, “embarrassed and politically correct, with a cotton-candy view of their own religion” that neglects “what their religion has historically and legally required.” Many denials of the Islamic State’s religious nature, he said, are rooted in an “interfaith-Christian-nonsense tradition.”

Every academic I asked about the Islamic State’s ideology sent me to Haykel. Of partial Lebanese descent, Haykel grew up in Lebanon and the United States, and when he talks through his Mephistophelian goatee, there is a hint of an unplaceable foreign accent.

According to Haykel, the ranks of the Islamic State are deeply infused with religious vigor. Koranic quotations are ubiquitous. “Even the foot soldiers spout this stuff constantly,” Haykel said. “They mug for their cameras and repeat their basic doctrines in formulaic fashion, and they do it all the time.” He regards the claim that the Islamic State has distorted the texts of Islam as preposterous, sustainable only through willful ignorance. “People want to absolve Islam,” he said. “It’s this ‘Islam is a religion of peace’ mantra. As if there is such a thing as ‘Islam’! It’s what Muslims do, and how they interpret their texts.” Those texts are shared by all Sunni Muslims, not just the Islamic State. “And these guys have just as much legitimacy as anyone else.”

All Muslims acknowledge that Muhammad’s earliest conquests were not tidy affairs, and that the laws of war passed down in the Koran and in the narrations of the Prophet’s rule were calibrated to fit a turbulent and violent time. In Haykel’s estimation, the fighters of the Islamic State are authentic throwbacks to early Islam and are faithfully reproducing its norms of war. This behavior includes a number of practices that modern Muslims tend to prefer not to acknowledge as integral to their sacred texts. “Slavery, crucifixion, and beheadings are not something that freakish [jihadists] are cherry-picking from the medieval tradition,” Haykel said. Islamic State fighters “are smack in the middle of the medieval tradition and are bringing it wholesale into the present day.”

Our failure to appreciate the essential differences between ISIS and al-Qaeda has led to dangerous decisions.

The Koran specifies crucifixion as one of the only punishments permitted for enemies of Islam. The tax on Christians finds clear endorsement in the Surah Al-Tawba, the Koran’s ninth chapter, which instructs Muslims to fight Christians and Jews “until they pay the jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” The Prophet, whom all Muslims consider exemplary, imposed these rules and owned slaves.

Leaders of the Islamic State have taken emulation of Muhammad as strict duty, and have revived traditions that have been dormant for hundreds of years. “What’s striking about them is not just the literalism, but also the seriousness with which they read these texts,” Haykel said. “There is an assiduous, obsessive seriousness that Muslims don’t normally have.”

Before the rise of the Islamic State, no group in the past few centuries had attempted more-radical fidelity to the Prophetic model than the Wahhabis of 18th‑century Arabia. They conquered most of what is now Saudi Arabia, and their strict practices survive in a diluted version of Sharia there. Haykel sees an important distinction between the groups, though: “The Wahhabis were not wanton in their violence.” They were surrounded by Muslims, and they conquered lands that were already Islamic; this stayed their hand. “ISIS, by contrast, is really reliving the early period.” Early Muslims were surrounded by non-Muslims, and the Islamic State, because of its takfiri tendencies, considers itself to be in the same situation.

If al-Qaeda wanted to revive slavery, it never said so. And why would it? Silence on slavery probably reflected strategic thinking, with public sympathies in mind: when the Islamic State began enslaving people, even some of its supporters balked. Nonetheless, the caliphate has continued to embrace slavery and crucifixion without apology. “We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women,” Adnani, the spokesman, promised in one of his periodic valentines to the West. “If we do not reach that time, then our children and grandchildren will reach it, and they will sell your sons as slaves at the slave market.”

In October, Dabiq, the magazine of the Islamic State, published “The Revival of Slavery Before the Hour,” an article that took up the question of whether Yazidis (the members of an ancient Kurdish sect that borrows elements of Islam, and had come under attack from Islamic State forces in northern Iraq) are lapsed Muslims, and therefore marked for death, or merely pagans and therefore fair game for enslavement. A study group of Islamic State scholars had convened, on government orders, to resolve this issue. If they are pagans, the article’s anonymous author wrote,

Yazidi women and children [are to be] divided according to the Shariah amongst the fighters of the Islamic State who participated in the Sinjar operations [in northern Iraq] … Enslaving the families of the kuffar [infidels] and taking their women as concubines is a firmly established aspect of the Shariah that if one were to deny or mock, he would be denying or mocking the verses of the Koran and the narrations of the Prophet … and thereby apostatizing from Islam.

II. Territory

Tens of thousands of foreign Muslims are thought to have immigrated to the Islamic State. Recruits hail from France, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany, Holland, Australia, Indonesia, the United States, and many other places. Many have come to fight, and many intend to die.

Peter R. Neumann, a professor at King’s College London, told me that online voices have been essential to spreading propaganda and ensuring that newcomers know what to believe. Online recruitment has also widened the demographics of the jihadist community, by allowing conservative Muslim women—physically isolated in their homes—to reach out to recruiters, radicalize, and arrange passage to Syria. Through its appeals to both genders, the Islamic State hopes to build a complete society.

In November, I traveled to Australia to meet Musa Cerantonio, a 30-year-old man whom Neumann and other researchers had identified as one of the two most important “new spiritual authorities” guiding foreigners to join the Islamic State. For three years he was a televangelist on Iqraa TV in Cairo, but he left after the station objected to his frequent calls to establish a caliphate. Now he preaches on Facebook and Twitter.

Cerantonio—a big, friendly man with a bookish demeanor—told me he blanches at beheading videos. He hates seeing the violence, even though supporters of the Islamic State are required to endorse it. (He speaks out, controversially among jihadists, against suicide bombing, on the grounds that God forbids suicide; he differs from the Islamic State on a few other points as well.) He has the kind of unkempt facial hair one sees on certain overgrown fans of The Lord of the Rings, and his obsession with Islamic apocalypticism felt familiar. He seemed to be living out a drama that looks, from an outsider’s perspective, like a medieval fantasy novel, only with real blood.

Last June, Cerantonio and his wife tried to emigrate—he wouldn’t say to where (“It’s illegal to go to Syria,” he said cagily)—but they were caught en route, in the Philippines, and he was deported back to Australia for overstaying his visa. Australia has criminalized attempts to join or travel to the Islamic State, and has confiscated Cerantonio’s passport. He is stuck in Melbourne, where he is well known to the local constabulary. If Cerantonio were caught facilitating the movement of individuals to the Islamic State, he would be imprisoned. So far, though, he is free—a technically unaffiliated ideologue who nonetheless speaks with what other jihadists have taken to be a reliable voice on matters of the Islamic State’s doctrine.

We met for lunch in Footscray, a dense, multicultural Melbourne suburb that’s home to Lonely Planet, the travel-guide publisher. Cerantonio grew up there in a half-Irish, half-Calabrian family. On a typical street one can find African restaurants, Vietnamese shops, and young Arabs walking around in the Salafi uniform of scraggly beard, long shirt, and trousers ending halfway down the calves.

Cerantonio explained the joy he felt when Baghdadi was declared the caliph on June 29—and the sudden, magnetic attraction that Mesopotamia began to exert on him and his friends. “I was in a hotel [in the Philippines], and I saw the declaration on television,” he told me. “And I was just amazed, and I’m like, Why am I stuck here in this bloody room?

The last caliphate was the Ottoman empire, which reached its peak in the 16th century and then experienced a long decline, until the founder of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, euthanized it in 1924. But Cerantonio, like many supporters of the Islamic State, doesn’t acknowledge that caliphate as legitimate, because it didn’t fully enforce Islamic law, which requires stonings and slavery and amputations, and because its caliphs were not descended from the tribe of the Prophet, the Quraysh.

Baghdadi spoke at length of the importance of the caliphate in his Mosul sermon. He said that to revive the institution of the caliphate—which had not functioned except in name for about 1,000 years—was a communal obligation. He and his loyalists had “hastened to declare the caliphate and place an imam” at its head, he said. “This is a duty upon the Muslims—a duty that has been lost for centuries … The Muslims sin by losing it, and they must always seek to establish it.” Like bin Laden before him, Baghdadi spoke floridly, with frequent scriptural allusion and command of classical rhetoric. Unlike bin Laden, and unlike those false caliphs of the Ottoman empire, he is Qurayshi.

The caliphate, Cerantonio told me, is not just a political entity but also a vehicle for salvation. Islamic State propaganda regularly reports the pledges of baya’a (allegiance) rolling in from jihadist groups across the Muslim world. Cerantonio quoted a Prophetic saying, that to die without pledging allegiance is to die jahil (ignorant) and therefore die a “death of disbelief.” Consider how Muslims (or, for that matter, Christians) imagine God deals with the souls of people who die without learning about the one true religion. They are neither obviously saved nor definitively condemned. Similarly, Cerantonio said, the Muslim who acknowledges one omnipotent god and prays, but who dies without pledging himself to a valid caliph and incurring the obligations of that oath, has failed to live a fully Islamic life. I pointed out that this means the vast majority of Muslims in history, and all who passed away between 1924 and 2014, died a death of disbelief. Cerantonio nodded gravely. “I would go so far as to say that Islam has been reestablished” by the caliphate.

I asked him about his own baya’a, and he quickly corrected me: “I didn’t say that I’d pledged allegiance.” Under Australian law, he reminded me, giving baya’a to the Islamic State was illegal. “But I agree that [Baghdadi] fulfills the requirements,” he continued. “I’m just going to wink at you, and you take that to mean whatever you want.”

To be the caliph, one must meet conditions outlined in Sunni law—being a Muslim adult man of Quraysh descent; exhibiting moral probity and physical and mental integrity; and having ’amr, or authority. This last criterion, Cerantonio said, is the hardest to fulfill, and requires that the caliph have territory in which he can enforce Islamic law. Baghdadi’s Islamic State achieved that long before June 29, Cerantonio said, and as soon as it did, a Western convert within the group’s ranks—Cerantonio described him as “something of a leader”—began murmuring about the religious obligation to declare a caliphate. He and others spoke quietly to those in power and told them that further delay would be sinful.

Social-media posts from the Islamic State suggest that executions happen more or less continually.

Cerantonio said a faction arose that was prepared to make war on Baghdadi’s group if it delayed any further. They prepared a letter to various powerful members of ISIS, airing their displeasure at the failure to appoint a caliph, but were pacified by Adnani, the spokesman, who let them in on a secret—that a caliphate had already been declared, long before the public announcement. They had their legitimate caliph, and at that point there was only one option. “If he’s legitimate,” Cerantonio said, “you must give him the baya’a.”

After Baghdadi’s July sermon, a stream of jihadists began flowing daily into Syria with renewed motivation. Jürgen Todenhöfer, a German author and former politician who visited the Islamic State in December, reported the arrival of 100 fighters at one Turkish-border recruitment station in just two days. His report, among others, suggests a still-steady inflow of foreigners, ready to give up everything at home for a shot at paradise in the worst place on Earth.

Bernard Haykel, the foremost secular authority on the Islamic State’s ideology, believes the group is trying to re-create the earliest days of Islam and is faithfully reproducing its norms of war. “There is an assiduous, obsessive seriousness” about the group’s dedication to the text of the Koran, he says. (Peter Murphy)

In London, aweek before my meal with Cerantonio, I met with three ex-members of a banned Islamist group called Al Muhajiroun (The Emigrants): Anjem Choudary, Abu Baraa, and Abdul Muhid. They all expressed desire to emigrate to the Islamic State, as many of their colleagues already had, but the authorities had confiscated their passports. Like Cerantonio, they regarded the caliphate as the only righteous government on Earth, though none would confess having pledged allegiance. Their principal goal in meeting me was to explain what the Islamic State stands for, and how its policies reflect God’s law.

Choudary, 48, is the group’s former leader. He frequently appears on cable news, as one of the few people producers can book who will defend the Islamic State vociferously, until his mike is cut. He has a reputation in the United Kingdom as a loathsome blowhard, but he and his disciples sincerely believe in the Islamic State and, on matters of doctrine, speak in its voice. Choudary and the others feature prominently in the Twitter feeds of Islamic State residents, and Abu Baraa maintains a YouTube channel to answer questions about Sharia.

Since September, authorities have been investigating the three men on suspicion of supporting terrorism. Because of this investigation, they had to meet me separately: communication among them would have violated the terms of their bail. But speaking with them felt like speaking with the same person wearing different masks. Choudary met me in a candy shop in the East London suburb of Ilford. He was dressed smartly, in a crisp blue tunic reaching nearly to his ankles, and sipped a Red Bull while we talked.

Before the caliphate, “maybe 85 percent of the Sharia was absent from our lives,” Choudary told me. “These laws are in abeyance until we have khilafa”—a caliphate—“and now we have one.” Without a caliphate, for example, individual vigilantes are not obliged to amputate the hands of thieves they catch in the act. But create a caliphate, and this law, along with a huge body of other jurisprudence, suddenly awakens. In theory, all Muslims are obliged to immigrate to the territory where the caliph is applying these laws. One of Choudary’s prize students, a convert from Hinduism named Abu Rumaysah, evaded police to bring his family of five from London to Syria in November. On the day I met Choudary, Abu Rumaysah tweeted out a picture of himself with a Kalashnikov in one arm and his newborn son in the other. Hashtag: #GenerationKhilafah.

The caliph is required to implement Sharia. Any deviation will compel those who have pledged allegiance to inform the caliph in private of his error and, in extreme cases, to excommunicate and replace him if he persists. (“I have been plagued with this great matter, plagued with this responsibility, and it is a heavy responsibility,” Baghdadi said in his sermon.) In return, the caliph commands obedience—and those who persist in supporting non-Muslim governments, after being duly warned and educated about their sin, are considered apostates.

Choudary said Sharia has been misunderstood because of its incomplete application by regimes such as Saudi Arabia, which does behead murderers and cut off thieves’ hands. “The problem,” he explained, “is that when places like Saudi Arabia just implement the penal code, and don’t provide the social and economic justice of the Sharia—the whole package—they simply engender hatred toward the Sharia.” That whole package, he said, would include free housing, food, and clothing for all, though of course anyone who wished to enrich himself with work could do so.

Abdul Muhid, 32, continued along these lines. He was dressed in mujahideen chic when I met him at a local restaurant: scruffy beard, Afghan cap, and a wallet outside of his clothes, attached with what looked like a shoulder holster. When we sat down, he was eager to discuss welfare. The Islamic State may have medieval-style punishments for moral crimes (lashes for boozing or fornication, stoning for adultery), but its social-welfare program is, at least in some aspects, progressive to a degree that would please an MSNBC pundit. Health care, he said, is free. (“Isn’t it free in Britain, too?,” I asked. “Not really,” he said. “Some procedures aren’t covered, such as vision.”) This provision of social welfare was not, he said, a policy choice of the Islamic State, but a policy obligation inherent in God’s law.

Anjem Choudary, London’s most notorious defender of the Islamic State, says crucifixion and beheading are sacred requirements. (Tal Cohen/Reuters)

III. The Apocalypse

All Muslims acknowledge that God is the only one who knows the future. But they also agree that he has offered us a peek at it, in the Koran and in narrations of the Prophet. The Islamic State differs from nearly every other current jihadist movement in believing that it is written into God’s script as a central character. It is in this casting that the Islamic State is most boldly distinctive from its predecessors, and clearest in the religious nature of its mission.

In broad strokes, al-Qaeda acts like an underground political movement, with worldly goals in sight at all times—the expulsion of non-Muslims from the Arabian peninsula, the abolishment of the state of Israel, the end of support for dictatorships in Muslim lands. The Islamic State has its share of worldly concerns (including, in the places it controls, collecting garbage and keeping the water running), but the End of Days is a leitmotif of its propaganda. Bin Laden rarely mentioned the apocalypse, and when he did, he seemed to presume that he would be long dead when the glorious moment of divine comeuppance finally arrived. “Bin Laden and Zawahiri are from elite Sunni families who look down on this kind of speculation and think it’s something the masses engage in,” says Will McCants of the Brookings Institution, who is writing a book about the Islamic State’s apocalyptic thought.

During the last years of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, the Islamic State’s immediate founding fathers, by contrast, saw signs of the end times everywhere. They were anticipating, within a year, the arrival of the Mahdi—a messianic figure destined to lead the Muslims to victory before the end of the world. McCants says a prominent Islamist in Iraq approached bin Laden in 2008 to warn him that the group was being led by millenarians who were “talking all the time about the Mahdi and making strategic decisions” based on when they thought the Mahdi was going to arrive. “Al-Qaeda had to write to [these leaders] to say ‘Cut it out.’ ”

For certain true believers—the kind who long for epic good-versus-evil battles—visions of apocalyptic bloodbaths fulfill a deep psychological need. Of the Islamic State supporters I met, Musa Cerantonio, the Australian, expressed the deepest interest in the apocalypse and how the remaining days of the Islamic State—and the world—might look. Parts of that prediction are original to him, and do not yet have the status of doctrine. But other parts are based on mainstream Sunni sources and appear all over the Islamic State’s propaganda. These include the belief that there will be only 12 legitimate caliphs, and Baghdadi is the eighth; that the armies of Rome will mass to meet the armies of Islam in northern Syria; and that Islam’s final showdown with an anti-Messiah will occur in Jerusalem after a period of renewed Islamic conquest.

The Islamic State has attached great importance to the Syrian city of Dabiq, near Aleppo. It named its propaganda magazine after the town, and celebrated madly when (at great cost) it conquered Dabiq’s strategically unimportant plains. It is here, the Prophet reportedly said, that the armies of Rome will set up their camp. The armies of Islam will meet them, and Dabiq will be Rome’s Waterloo or its Antietam.

“Dabiq is basically all farmland,” one Islamic State supporter recently tweeted. “You could imagine large battles taking place there.” The Islamic State’s propagandists drool with anticipation of this event, and constantly imply that it will come soon. The state’s magazine quotes Zarqawi as saying, “The spark has been lit here in Iraq, and its heat will continue to intensify … until it burns the crusader armies in Dabiq.” A recent propaganda video shows clips from Hollywood war movies set in medieval times—perhaps because many of the prophecies specify that the armies will be on horseback or carrying ancient weapons.

Now that it has taken Dabiq, the Islamic State awaits the arrival of an enemy army there, whose defeat will initiate the countdown to the apocalypse. Western media frequently miss references to Dabiq in the Islamic State’s videos, and focus instead on lurid scenes of beheading. “Here we are, burying the first American crusader in Dabiq, eagerly waiting for the remainder of your armies to arrive,” said a masked executioner in a November video, showing the severed head of Peter (Abdul Rahman) Kassig, the aid worker who’d been held captive for more than a year. During fighting in Iraq in December, after mujahideen (perhaps inaccurately) reported having seen American soldiers in battle, Islamic State Twitter accounts erupted in spasms of pleasure, like overenthusiastic hosts or hostesses upon the arrival of the first guests at a party.

The Prophetic narration that foretells the Dabiq battle refers to the enemy as Rome. Who “Rome” is, now that the pope has no army, remains a matter of debate. But Cerantonio makes a case that Rome meant the Eastern Roman empire, which had its capital in what is now Istanbul. We should think of Rome as the Republic of Turkey—the same republic that ended the last self-identified caliphate, 90 years ago. Other Islamic State sources suggest that Rome might mean any infidel army, and the Americans will do nicely.

After mujahideen reported having seen American soldiers in battle, Islamic State Twitter accounts erupted in spasms of pleasure, like overenthusiastic hosts upon the arrival of the first guests at a party.

After its battle in Dabiq, Cerantonio said, the caliphate will expand and sack Istanbul. Some believe it will then cover the entire Earth, but Cerantonio suggested its tide may never reach beyond the Bosporus. An anti-Messiah, known in Muslim apocalyptic literature as Dajjal, will come from the Khorasan region of eastern Iran and kill a vast number of the caliphate’s fighters, until just 5,000 remain, cornered in Jerusalem. Just as Dajjal prepares to finish them off, Jesus—the second-most-revered prophet in Islam—will return to Earth, spear Dajjal, and lead the Muslims to victory.

“Only God knows” whether the Islamic State’s armies are the ones foretold, Cerantonio said. But he is hopeful. “The Prophet said that one sign of the imminent arrival of the End of Days is that people will for a long while stop talking about the End of Days,” he said. “If you go to the mosques now, you’ll find the preachers are silent about this subject.” On this theory, even setbacks dealt to the Islamic State mean nothing, since God has preordained the near-destruction of his people anyway. The Islamic State has its best and worst days ahead of it.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was declared caliph by his followers last summer. The establishment of a caliphate awakened large sections of Koranic law that had lain dormant, and required those Muslims who recognized the caliphate to immigrate. (Associated Press)

IV. The Fight

The ideological purity of the Islamic State has one compensating virtue: it allows us to predict some of the group’s actions. Osama bin Laden was seldom predictable. He ended his first television interview cryptically. CNN’s Peter Arnett asked him, “What are your future plans?” Bin Laden replied, “You’ll see them and hear about them in the media, God willing.” By contrast, the Islamic State boasts openly about its plans—not all of them, but enough so that by listening carefully, we can deduce how it intends to govern and expand.

In London, Choudary and his students provided detailed descriptions of how the Islamic State must conduct its foreign policy, now that it is a caliphate. It has already taken up what Islamic law refers to as “offensive jihad,” the forcible expansion into countries that are ruled by non-Muslims. “Hitherto, we were just defending ourselves,” Choudary said; without a caliphate, offensive jihad is an inapplicable concept. But the waging of war to expand the caliphate is an essential duty of the caliph.

Choudary took pains to present the laws of war under which the Islamic State operates as policies of mercy rather than of brutality. He told me the state has an obligation to terrorize its enemies—a holy order to scare the shit out of them with beheadings and crucifixions and enslavement of women and children, because doing so hastens victory and avoids prolonged conflict.

Choudary’s colleague Abu Baraa explained that Islamic law permits only temporary peace treaties, lasting no longer than a decade. Similarly, accepting any border is anathema, as stated by the Prophet and echoed in the Islamic State’s propaganda videos. If the caliph consents to a longer-term peace or permanent border, he will be in error. Temporary peace treaties are renewable, but may not be applied to all enemies at once: the caliph must wage jihad at least once a year. He may not rest, or he will fall into a state of sin.

One comparison to the Islamic State is the Khmer Rouge, which killed about a third of the population of Cambodia. But the Khmer Rouge occupied Cambodia’s seat at the United Nations. “This is not permitted,” Abu Baraa said. “To send an ambassador to the UN is to recognize an authority other than God’s.” This form of diplomacy is shirk, or polytheism, he argued, and would be immediate cause to hereticize and replace Baghdadi. Even to hasten the arrival of a caliphate by democratic means—for example by voting for political candidates who favor a caliphate—is shirk.

It’s hard to overstate how hamstrung the Islamic State will be by its radicalism. The modern international system, born of the 1648 Peace of Westphalia, relies on each state’s willingness to recognize borders, however grudgingly. For the Islamic State, that recognition is ideological suicide. Other Islamist groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, have succumbed to the blandishments of democracy and the potential for an invitation to the community of nations, complete with a UN seat. Negotiation and accommodation have worked, at times, for the Taliban as well. (Under Taliban rule, Afghanistan exchanged ambassadors with Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and the United Arab Emirates, an act that invalidated the Taliban’s authority in the Islamic State’s eyes.) To the Islamic State these are not options, but acts of apostasy.

The United States and its allies have reacted to the Islamic State belatedly and in an apparent daze. The group’s ambitions and rough strategic blueprints were evident in its pronouncements and in social-media chatter as far back as 2011, when it was just one of many terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq and hadn’t yet committed mass atrocities. Adnani, the spokesman, told followers then that the group’s ambition was to “restore the Islamic caliphate,” and he evoked the apocalypse, saying, “There are but a few days left.” Baghdadi had already styled himself “commander of the faithful,” a title ordinarily reserved for caliphs, in 2011. In April 2013, Adnani declared the movement “ready to redraw the world upon the Prophetic methodology of the caliphate.” In August 2013, he said, “Our goal is to establish an Islamic state that doesn’t recognize borders, on the Prophetic methodology.” By then, the group had taken Raqqa, a Syrian provincial capital of perhaps 500,000 people, and was drawing in substantial numbers of foreign fighters who’d heard its message.

If we had identified the Islamic State’s intentions early, and realized that the vacuum in Syria and Iraq would give it ample space to carry them out, we might, at a minimum, have pushed Iraq to harden its border with Syria and preemptively make deals with its Sunnis. That would at least have avoided the electrifying propaganda effect created by the declaration of a caliphate just after the conquest of Iraq’s third-largest city. Yet, just over a year ago, Obama told The New Yorker that he considered ISIS to be al-Qaeda’s weaker partner. “If a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant,” the president said.

Our failure to appreciate the split between the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, and the essential differences between the two, has led to dangerous decisions. Last fall, to take one example, the U.S. government consented to a desperate plan to save Peter Kassig’s life. The plan facilitated—indeed, required—the interaction of some of the founding figures of the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, and could hardly have looked more hastily improvised.

Given everything we know about the Islamic State, continuing to slowly bleed it appears the best of bad military options.

It entailed the enlistment of Abu Muhammad al Maqdisi, the Zarqawi mentor and al-Qaeda grandee, to approach Turki al-Binali, the Islamic State’s chief ideologue and a former student of Maqdisi’s, even though the two men had fallen out due to Maqdisi’s criticism of the Islamic State. Maqdisi had already called for the state to extend mercy to Alan Henning, the British cabbie who had entered Syria to deliver aid to children. In December, The Guardian reported that the U.S. government, through an intermediary, had asked Maqdisi to intercede with the Islamic State on Kassig’s behalf.

Maqdisi was living freely in Jordan, but had been banned from communicating with terrorists abroad, and was being monitored closely. After Jordan granted the United States permission to reintroduce Maqdisi to Binali, Maqdisi bought a phone with American money and was allowed to correspond merrily with his former student for a few days, before the Jordanian government stopped the chats and used them as a pretext to jail Maqdisi. Kassig’s severed head appeared in the Dabiq video a few days later.

Maqdisi gets mocked roundly on Twitter by the Islamic State’s fans, and al‑Qaeda is held in great contempt for refusing to acknowledge the caliphate. Cole Bunzel, a scholar who studies Islamic State ideology, read Maqdisi’s opinion on Henning’s status and thought it would hasten his and other captives’ death. “If I were held captive by the Islamic State and Maqdisi said I shouldn’t be killed,” he told me, “I’d kiss my ass goodbye.”

Kassig’s death was a tragedy, but the plan’s success would have been a bigger one. A reconciliation between Maqdisi and Binali would have begun to heal the main rift between the world’s two largest jihadist organizations. It’s possible that the government wanted only to draw out Binali for intelligence purposes or assassination. (Multiple attempts to elicit comment from the FBI were unsuccessful.) Regardless, the decision to play matchmaker for America’s two main terrorist antagonists reveals astonishingly poor judgment.

Chastened by our earlier indifference, we are now meeting the Islamic State via Kurdish and Iraqi proxy on the battlefield, and with regular air assaults. Those strategies haven’t dislodged the Islamic State from any of its major territorial possessions, although they’ve kept it from directly assaulting Baghdad and Erbil and slaughtering Shia and Kurds there.

Some observers have called for escalation, including several predictable voices from the interventionist right (Max Boot, Frederick Kagan), who have urged the deployment of tens of thousands of American soldiers. These calls should not be dismissed too quickly: an avowedly genocidal organization is on its potential victims’ front lawn, and it is committing daily atrocities in the territory it already controls.

One way to un-cast the Islamic State’s spell over its adherents would be to overpower it militarily and occupy the parts of Syria and Iraq now under caliphate rule. Al‑Qaeda is ineradicable because it can survive, cockroach-like, by going underground. The Islamic State cannot. If it loses its grip on its territory in Syria and Iraq, it will cease to be a caliphate. Caliphates cannot exist as underground movements, because territorial authority is a requirement: take away its command of territory, and all those oaths of allegiance are no longer binding. Former pledges could of course continue to attack the West and behead their enemies, as freelancers. But the propaganda value of the caliphate would disappear, and with it the supposed religious duty to immigrate and serve it. If the United States were to invade, the Islamic State’s obsession with battle at Dabiq suggests that it might send vast resources there, as if in a conventional battle. If the state musters at Dabiq in full force, only to be routed, it might never recover.

Abu Baraa, who maintains a YouTube channel about Islamic law, says the caliph, Baghdadi, cannot negotiate or recognize borders, and must continually make war, or he will remove himself from Islam.

And yet the risks of escalation are enormous. The biggest proponent of an American invasion is the Islamic State itself. The provocative videos, in which a black-hooded executioner addresses President Obama by name, are clearly made to draw America into the fight. An invasion would be a huge propaganda victory for jihadists worldwide: irrespective of whether they have given baya’a to the caliph, they all believe that the United States wants to embark on a modern-day Crusade and kill Muslims. Yet another invasion and occupation would confirm that suspicion, and bolster recruitment. Add the incompetence of our previous efforts as occupiers, and we have reason for reluctance. The rise of ISIS, after all, happened only because our previous occupation created space for Zarqawi and his followers. Who knows the consequences of another botched job?

Given everything we know about the Islamic State, continuing to slowly bleed it, through air strikes and proxy warfare, appears the best of bad military options. Neither the Kurds nor the Shia will ever subdue and control the whole Sunni heartland of Syria and Iraq—they are hated there, and have no appetite for such an adventure anyway. But they can keep the Islamic State from fulfilling its duty to expand. And with every month that it fails to expand, it resembles less the conquering state of the Prophet Muhammad than yet another Middle Eastern government failing to bring prosperity to its people.

The humanitarian cost of the Islamic State’s existence is high. But its threat to the United States is smaller than its all too frequent conflation with al-Qaeda would suggest. Al-Qaeda’s core is rare among jihadist groups for its focus on the “far enemy” (the West); most jihadist groups’ main concerns lie closer to home. That’s especially true of the Islamic State, precisely because of its ideology. It sees enemies everywhere around it, and while its leadership wishes ill on the United States, the application of Sharia in the caliphate and the expansion to contiguous lands are paramount. Baghdadi has said as much directly: in November he told his Saudi agents to “deal with the rafida [Shia] first … then al-Sulul [Sunni supporters of the Saudi monarchy] … before the crusaders and their bases.”

Musa Cerantonio and Anjem Choudary could mentally shift from contemplating mass death to discussing the virtues of Vietnamese coffee, with apparent delight in each.

The foreign fighters (and their wives and children) have been traveling to the caliphate on one-way tickets: they want to live under true Sharia, and many want martyrdom. Doctrine, recall, requires believers to reside in the caliphate if it is at all possible for them to do so. One of the Islamic State’s less bloody videos shows a group of jihadists burning their French, British, and Australian passports. This would be an eccentric act for someone intending to return to blow himself up in line at the Louvre or to hold another chocolate shop hostage in Sydney.

A few “lone wolf” supporters of the Islamic State have attacked Western targets, and more attacks will come. But most of the attackers have been frustrated amateurs, unable to immigrate to the caliphate because of confiscated passports or other problems. Even if the Islamic State cheers these attacks—and it does in its propaganda—it hasn’t yet planned and financed one. (The Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris in January was principally an al‑Qaeda operation.) During his visit to Mosul in December, Jürgen Todenhöfer interviewed a portly German jihadist and asked whether any of his comrades had returned to Europe to carry out attacks. The jihadist seemed to regard returnees not as soldiers but as dropouts. “The fact is that the returnees from the Islamic State should repent from their return,” he said. “I hope they review their religion.”

Properly contained, the Islamic State is likely to be its own undoing. No country is its ally, and its ideology ensures that this will remain the case. The land it controls, while expansive, is mostly uninhabited and poor. As it stagnates or slowly shrinks, its claim that it is the engine of God’s will and the agent of apocalypse will weaken, and fewer believers will arrive. And as more reports of misery within it leak out, radical Islamist movements elsewhere will be discredited: No one has tried harder to implement strict Sharia by violence. This is what it looks like.

Even so, the death of the Islamic State is unlikely to be quick, and things could still go badly wrong: if the Islamic State obtained the allegiance of al‑Qaeda—increasing, in one swoop, the unity of its base—it could wax into a worse foe than we’ve yet seen. The rift between the Islamic State and al-Qaeda has, if anything, grown in the past few months; the December issue of Dabiq featured a long account of an al‑Qaeda defector who described his old group as corrupt and ineffectual, and Zawahiri as a distant and unfit leader. But we should watch carefully for a rapprochement.

Without a catastrophe such as this, however, or perhaps the threat of the Islamic State’s storming Erbil, a vast ground invasion would certainly make the situation worse.

V. Dissuasion

It would be facile, even exculpatory, to call the problem of the Islamic State “a problem with Islam.” The religion allows many interpretations, and Islamic State supporters are morally on the hook for the one they choose. And yet simply denouncing the Islamic State as un-Islamic can be counterproductive, especially if those who hear the message have read the holy texts and seen the endorsement of many of the caliphate’s practices written plainly within them.

Muslims can say that slavery is not legitimate now, and that crucifixion is wrong at this historical juncture. Many say precisely this. But they cannot condemn slavery or crucifixion outright without contradicting the Koran and the example of the Prophet. “The only principled ground that the Islamic State’s opponents could take is to say that certain core texts and traditional teachings of Islam are no longer valid,” Bernard Haykel says. That really would be an act of apostasy.

The Islamic State’s ideology exerts powerful sway over a certain subset of the population. Life’s hypocrisies and inconsistencies vanish in its face. Musa Cerantonio and the Salafis I met in London are unstumpable: no question I posed left them stuttering. They lectured me garrulously and, if one accepts their premises, convincingly. To call them un-Islamic appears, to me, to invite them into an argument that they would win. If they had been froth-spewing maniacs, I might be able to predict that their movement would burn out as the psychopaths detonated themselves or became drone-splats, one by one. But these men spoke with an academic precision that put me in mind of a good graduate seminar. I even enjoyed their company, and that frightened me as much as anything else.

Non-muslims cannot tell Muslims how to practice their religion properly. But Muslims have long since begun this debate within their own ranks. “You have to have standards,” Anjem Choudary told me. “Somebody could claim to be a Muslim, but if he believes in homosexuality or drinking alcohol, then he is not a Muslim. There is no such thing as a nonpracticing vegetarian.”

There is, however, another strand of Islam that offers a hard-line alternative to the Islamic State—just as uncompromising, but with opposite conclusions. This strand has proved appealing to many Muslims cursed or blessed with a psychological longing to see every jot and tittle of the holy texts implemented as they were in the earliest days of Islam. Islamic State supporters know how to react to Muslims who ignore parts of the Koran: with takfir and ridicule. But they also know that some other Muslims read the Koran as assiduously as they do, and pose a real ideological threat.

Baghdadi is Salafi. The term Salafi has been villainized, in part because authentic villains have ridden into battle waving the Salafi banner. But most Salafis are not jihadists, and most adhere to sects that reject the Islamic State. They are, as Haykel notes, committed to expanding Dar al-Islam, the land of Islam, even, perhaps, with the implementation of monstrous practices such as slavery and amputation—but at some future point. Their first priority is personal purification and religious observance, and they believe anything that thwarts those goals—such as causing war or unrest that would disrupt lives and prayer and scholarship—is forbidden.

They live among us. Last fall, I visited the Philadelphia mosque of Breton Pocius, 28, a Salafi imam who goes by the name Abdullah. His mosque is on the border between the crime-ridden Northern Liberties neighborhood and a gentrifying area that one might call Dar al-Hipster; his beard allows him to pass in the latter zone almost unnoticed.

A theological alternative to the Islamic State exists—just as uncompromising, but with opposite conclusions.

Pocius converted 15 years ago after a Polish Catholic upbringing in Chicago. Like Cerantonio, he talks like an old soul, exhibiting deep familiarity with ancient texts, and a commitment to them motivated by curiosity and scholarship, and by a conviction that they are the only way to escape hellfire. When I met him at a local coffee shop, he carried a work of Koranic scholarship in Arabic and a book for teaching himself Japanese. He was preparing a sermon on the obligations of fatherhood for the 150 or so worshipers in his Friday congregation.

Pocius said his main goal is to encourage a halal life for worshipers in his mosque. But the rise of the Islamic State has forced him to consider political questions that are usually very far from the minds of Salafis. “Most of what they’ll say about how to pray and how to dress is exactly what I’ll say in my masjid [mosque]. But when they get to questions about social upheaval, they sound like Che Guevara.”

When Baghdadi showed up, Pocius adopted the slogan “Not my khalifa.” “The times of the Prophet were a time of great bloodshed,” he told me, “and he knew that the worst possible condition for all people was chaos, especially within the umma [Muslim community].” Accordingly, Pocius said, the correct attitude for Salafis is not to sow discord by factionalizing and declaring fellow Muslims apostates.

Instead, Pocius—like a majority of Salafis—believes that Muslims should remove themselves from politics. These quietist Salafis, as they are known, agree with the Islamic State that God’s law is the only law, and they eschew practices like voting and the creation of political parties. But they interpret the Koran’s hatred of discord and chaos as requiring them to fall into line with just about any leader, including some manifestly sinful ones. “The Prophet said: as long as the ruler does not enter into clear kufr [disbelief], give him general obedience,” Pocius told me, and the classic “books of creed” all warn against causing social upheaval. Quietist Salafis are strictly forbidden from dividing Muslims from one another—for example, by mass excommunication. Living without baya’a, Pocius said, does indeed make one ignorant, or benighted. But baya’a need not mean direct allegiance to a caliph, and certainly not to Abu Bakr al‑Baghdadi. It can mean, more broadly, allegiance to a religious social contract and commitment to a society of Muslims, whether ruled by a caliph or not.

Quietist Salafis believe that Muslims should direct their energies toward perfecting their personal life, including prayer, ritual, and hygiene. Much in the same way ultra-Orthodox Jews debate whether it’s kosher to tear off squares of toilet paper on the Sabbath (does that count as “rending cloth”?), they spend an inordinate amount of time ensuring that their trousers are not too long, that their beards are trimmed in some areas and shaggy in others. Through this fastidious observance, they believe, God will favor them with strength and numbers, and perhaps a caliphate will arise. At that moment, Muslims will take vengeance and, yes, achieve glorious victory at Dabiq. But Pocius cites a slew of modern Salafi theologians who argue that a caliphate cannot come into being in a righteous way except through the unmistakable will of God.

The Islamic State, of course, would agree, and say that God has anointed Baghdadi. Pocius’s retort amounts to a call to humility. He cites Abdullah Ibn Abbas, one of the Prophet’s companions, who sat down with dissenters and asked them how they had the gall, as a minority, to tell the majority that it was wrong. Dissent itself, to the point of bloodshed or splitting the umma, was forbidden. Even the manner of the establishment of Baghdadi’s caliphate runs contrary to expectation, he said. “The khilafa is something that Allah is going to establish,” he told me, “and it will involve a consensus of scholars from Mecca and Medina. That is not what happened. ISIS came out of nowhere.”

The Islamic State loathes this talk, and its fanboys tweet derisively about quietist Salafis. They mock them as “Salafis of menstruation,” for their obscure judgments about when women are and aren’t clean, and other low-priority aspects of life. “What we need now is fatwa about how it’s haram [forbidden] to ride a bike on Jupiter,” one tweeted drily. “That’s what scholars should focus on. More pressing than state of Ummah.” Anjem Choudary, for his part, says that no sin merits more vigorous opposition than the usurpation of God’s law, and that extremism in defense of monotheism is no vice.

Pocius doesn’t court any kind of official support from the United States, as a counterweight to jihadism. Indeed, official support would tend to discredit him, and in any case he is bitter toward America for treating him, in his words, as “less than a citizen.” (He alleges that the government paid spies to infiltrate his mosque and harassed his mother at work with questions about his being a potential terrorist.)

Still, his quietist Salafism offers an Islamic antidote to Baghdadi-style jihadism. The people who arrive at the faith spoiling for a fight cannot all be stopped from jihadism, but those whose main motivation is to find an ultraconservative, uncompromising version of Islam have an alternative here. It is not moderate Islam; most Muslims would consider it extreme. It is, however, a form of Islam that the literal-minded would not instantly find hypocritical, or blasphemously purged of its inconveniences. Hypocrisy is not a sin that ideologically minded young men tolerate well.

Western officials would probably do best to refrain from weighing in on matters of Islamic theological debate altogether. Barack Obama himself drifted into takfiri waters when he claimed that the Islamic State was “not Islamic”—the irony being that he, as the non-Muslim son of a Muslim, may himself be classified as an apostate, and yet is now practicing takfir against Muslims. Non-Muslims’ practicing takfir elicits chuckles from jihadists (“Like a pig covered in feces giving hygiene advice to others,” one tweeted).

I suspect that most Muslims appreciated Obama’s sentiment: the president was standing with them against both Baghdadi and non-Muslim chauvinists trying to implicate them in crimes. But most Muslims aren’t susceptible to joining jihad. The ones who are susceptible will only have had their suspicions confirmed: the United States lies about religion to serve its purposes.

Within the narrow bounds of its theology, the Islamic State hums with energy, even creativity. Outside those bounds, it could hardly be more arid and silent: a vision of life as obedience, order, and destiny. Musa Cerantonio and Anjem Choudary could mentally shift from contemplating mass death and eternal torture to discussing the virtues of Vietnamese coffee or treacly pastry, with apparent delight in each, yet to me it seemed that to embrace their views would be to see all the flavors of this world grow insipid compared with the vivid grotesqueries of the hereafter.

I could enjoy their company, as a guilty intellectual exercise, up to a point. In reviewing Mein Kampf in March 1940, George Orwell confessed that he had “never been able to dislike Hitler”; something about the man projected an underdog quality, even when his goals were cowardly or loathsome. “If he were killing a mouse he would know how to make it seem like a dragon.” The Islamic State’s partisans have much the same allure. They believe that they are personally involved in struggles beyond their own lives, and that merely to be swept up in the drama, on the side of righteousness, is a privilege and a pleasure—especially when it is also a burden.

Fascism, Orwell continued, is

psychologically far sounder than any hedonistic conception of life … Whereas Socialism, and even capitalism in a more grudging way, have said to people “I offer you a good time,” Hitler has said to them, “I offer you struggle, danger, and death,” and as a result a whole nation flings itself at his feet … We ought not to underrate its emotional appeal.

Nor, in the case of the Islamic State, its religious or intellectual appeal. That the Islamic State holds the imminent fulfillment of prophecy as a matter of dogma at least tells us the mettle of our opponent. It is ready to cheer its own near-obliteration, and to remain confident, even when surrounded, that it will receive divine succor if it stays true to the Prophetic model. Ideological tools may convince some potential converts that the group’s message is false, and military tools can limit its horrors. But for an organization as impervious to persuasion as the Islamic State, few measures short of these will matter, and the war may be a long one, even if it doesn’t last until the end of time.

07 Mar 17:24

The endgame of Communist rule in China?

by Tyler Cowen
Albener Pessoa

Sharecation. Going to check the situation in loco

China expert David Shambaugh is claiming exactly that in a bold argument.  Here is a summary of his brief:

He points to “five telling indications of the regime’s vulnerability”: an apparent lack of confidence among the country’s wealthy; intensified political repression, betraying insecurity among the leadership itself; a sense that “even many regime loyalists are just going through the motions”; corruption too pervasive and deep-rooted for Xi’s ongoing crackdown to fully address; and an economy “stuck in a series of systemic traps from which there is no easy exit.”

Shambaugh also argues “Communist rule in China is unlikely to end quietly.”

That’s pretty heady stuff and I am happy to link to material I disagree with, but disagree I do.  My reasons are simple:

1. There are internal coups, which are more or less invisible to most of the world, and external coups, where a visible overthrow of a government makes the front page and is accompanied by violent conflict in public places and a change in the labeling of the regime.  China already has shown its system can accommodate internal coups, for better or worse.  You can argue they have such internal coups (on average) every ten to twelve years.

2. It is entirely reasonable (though very hard to call) to expect another internal coup in China.

3. Does any coup in China prefer to a) jettison the Communist brand?, or b) refurbish the Communist brand?  I say b), by a long mile.  The Communists drove the foreigners out of the country, built the modern nation, and delivered close to ten percent growth for almost thirty-five years running.  Most of the time the Communist Party has been pretty popular, in spite of all the (justified) cynicism about the corruption.

4. Once you accept #3, and work back to rethink #1, you expect at most an internal coup in China, with external continuity and a maintenance of the Communist party brand, albeit in refurbished form.

5. The strongest version of Shambaugh’s argument is that there is no “core” to the internal coups, a’ la Gordon Tullock’s book Autocracy.  You get too many internal coups, or too many incipient internal coups, and the public square is required to impose structural equilibrium on the problem.  Maybe so, but that requires lots of claims about the internal dynamics of Chinese politics, and the lack of internal coup stability mechanisms.  The cited evidence by Shambaugh does not seem to bear directly on this question, and so I am back to having no strong reason to expect an external coup, much less a chaotic and bloody one.

23 Feb 21:36

AEP : Anti-Science 'Skeptics' Are Not Skeptics. They Are Incredibly Willing to Believe BS.

Newton Blog

Being a "skeptic" is in. Doubtless, a great many "skeptics" of manmade climate change, vaccines, and 9/11 fancy themselves as brave, stalwart holdouts, standing tall against a tide of opposition, like Davy Crockett at the Battle of the Alamo.

But they aren't.

They are, however, incredibly willing to believe alternative, pie-in-the-sky explanations. Put it another way: They're not skeptical; they're extremely gullible.

Many climate skeptics contend that the massive scientific consensus on climate change is instead a conspiratorial hoax. Some vaccine refusers believe that health officials knowingly or unknowingly permit vaccine manufacturers to inoculate us with dangerous chemicals. 9/11 truthers argue that the attacks on the World Trade Center may have been orchestrated by our own government and covered up by the media. There is no convincing evidence to support any of these theories, but there is quite a lot that debunks them. In short, while these "skeptics" are incredulous to facts, they are incredibly credulous to fairy tales. This makes them some of the least skeptical people on Earth. Blinded by their ingrained, ideological worldviews, all they're doing is fooling themselves, and denying reality.

"They tell themselves that they’re the ones who see the lies, and the rest of us are sheep. But believing that everybody’s lying is just another kind of gullibility,” Slate's William Saletan eloquently stated.

For a great example of a "skeptic" who is blinded by his beliefs, look no further than comedian Bill Maher, who regularly (and rightly) lambasts Republicans for denying the overwhelming evidence on climate change, while at the same time ignoring even more overwhelming evidence on the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. Ideology, not evidence, governs his stances.

With the term "skeptic" being thrown around so haphazardly these days, it's worth mentioning what it really means to be a true skeptic. Few people know that better than the Fellows of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, an organization founded in part by Carl Sagan and Isaac Asimov to promote "objective and impartial inquiry." In December, they announced their concern that "skeptic" was being confused with "denier," making it clear that the two terms are not the same:

Proper skepticism promotes scientific inquiry, critical investigation, and the use of reason in examining controversial and extraordinary claims. It is foundational to the scientific method. Denial, on the other hand, is the a priori rejection of ideas without objective consideration.

A true skeptic never dismisses an idea out of hand. A true skeptic is willing to be wrong, and recognizes an echelon of evidence that will change their mindset. And most importantly, a true skeptic doesn't only question the beliefs of others, he also questions his own. Because skepticism isn't just about doubting things you disagree with, it's about keeping yourself honest, open, thoughtful, and true.

If "skeptics" of climate change, GMOs, and vaccines, can embrace those standards, then they may call themselves true skeptics. If not, then they are simply anti-science deniers.

(Image: Shutterstock)

03 Mar 18:51

Mount Everest, Toilet

by Adam Chandler
Albener Pessoa

Oh shit !

Image

Sir Edmund Hillary, Mount Everest's iconic conqueror, once said "It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves." Increasingly though, since Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay first reached the summit in 1953, the world's tallest mountain has become ourselves.

A new scourge facing Mount Everest, according to Ang Tshering, the head of Nepal’s mountaineering association, is human waste. “Climbers usually dig holes in the snow for their toilet use and leave the human waste there,” the AP reported on Tuesday. If there is too much waste in a single hole, the material cannot decompose properly.

Tshering also noted that hundreds of foreign climbers visit the site each year and that there is no plumbing above base camp. In addition to making the mountain less pristine, officials say the dumping, if you will, also poses a health hazard.

The association has a detailed guide for the handling of human waste, dedicating as many lines of instruction to the endeavor as the disposal of garbage. Nepal requires climbers to bring down everything they take up or lose a $4,000 deposit, but there is no such penalty for improperly disposing of organic material. Wildlife can be drawn to the unfamiliar scent and vegetation can be disturbed, according to the association. The group is drawing attention to the hazard because the climbing season begins this week and as more adventurers chase the peak, camps are being spoiled with human waste.

Writing in The Atlantic, Kaid Benfield detailed an annual voyage by locals called the Eco Everest Expedition, which in 2011, sought to "bring down 8,800 pounds (4,000 kilograms) of garbage from the lower part of the mountain and another 2,200 pounds (1,000 kilograms) from near the 29,035-foot (8,850-meter) summit. As he writes, that detritus includes "empty oxygen bottles, ropes, tents, and other garbage."

Then, there are the human deaths on the mountain which, as Svati Kirsten Narula pointed out last year, total nearly 900 from 1950 until today. Some 16 climbers died in one deadly ice release last year, which some blamed on another man-made phenomenon: global warming.








02 Mar 13:35

AEP : Dark Horse Comics

Dark Horse is proud to present this handsomely hilarious set of 4" PVC figures. Working directly with the meandering mendicant's creator Sergio Aragonés, we have come up with this awesome grouping of favorite characters from the series. Sergio has provided detailed reference for the sculptors, so each figure reflects the unique Aragonés art style to its best advantage. There are seven figures from the series: Groo & Rufferto, Chakaal, Minstrel, The Sage, Taranto, Arba, and Dakarba. They come packaged in a large rectangular full-color window box, each figure stands on its own base, and are pre-painted for immediate display.

Creators

Creators:
Sergio Aragones
15 Feb 23:36

AEP : Never trust a corporation to do a library’s job

Albener Pessoa

As Google abandons its past, Internet archivists step in to save our collective memory
Google wrote its mission statement in 1999, a year after launch, setting the course for the company’s next decade:

“Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
For years, Google’s mission included the preservation of the past.

In 2001, Google made their first acquisition, the Deja archives. The largest collection of Usenet archives, Google relaunched it as Google Groups, supplemented with archived messages going back to 1981.

In 2004, Google Books signaled the company’s intention to scan every known book, partnering with libraries and developing its own book scanner capable of digitizing 1,000 pages per hour.

In 2006, Google News Archive launched, with historical news articles dating back 200 years. In 2008, they expanded it to include their own digitization efforts, scanning newspapers that were never online.

In the last five years, starting around 2010, the shifting priorities of Google’s management left these archival projects in limbo, or abandoned entirely.

After a series of redesigns, Google Groups is effectively dead for research purposes. The archives, while still online, have no means of searching by date.

Google News Archives are dead, killed off in 2011, now directing searchers to just use Google.

Google Books is still online, but curtailed their scanning efforts in recent years, likely discouraged by a decade of legal wrangling still in appeal. The official blog stopped updating in 2012 and the Twitter account’s been dormant since February 2013.

Even Google Search, their flagship product, stopped focusing on the history of the web. In 2011, Google removed the Timeline view letting users filter search results by date, while a series of major changes to their search ranking algorithm increasingly favored freshness over older pages from established sources. (To the detriment of some.)



Two months ago, Larry Page said the company’s outgrown its 14-year-old mission statement. Its ambitions have grown, and its priorities have shifted.

Google in 2015 is focused on the present and future. Its social and mobile efforts, experiments with robotics and artificial intelligence, self-driving vehicles and fiberoptics.

As it turns out, organizing the world’s information isn’t always profitable. Projects that preserve the past for the public good aren’t really a big profit center. Old Google knew that, but didn’t seem to care.

The desire to preserve the past died along with 20% time, Google Labs, and the spirit of haphazard experimentation.

Google may have dropped the ball on the past, but fortunately, someone was there to pick it up.


The Internet Archive is mostly known for archiving the web, a task the San Francisco-based nonprofit has tirelessly done since 1996, two years before Google was founded.

The Wayback Machine now indexes over 435 billion webpages going back nearly 20 years, the largest archive of the web.

For most people, it ends there. But that’s barely scratching the surface.

Most don’t know that the Internet Archive also hosts:

Books. One of the world’s largest open collections of digitized books, over 6 million public domain books, and an open library catalog.
Videos. 1.9 million videos, including classic TV, 1,300 vintage home movies, and 4,000 public-domain feature films.
The Prelinger Archives. Over 6,000 ephemeral films, including vintage advertising, educational and industrial footage.
Audio. 2.3 million audio recordings, including over 74,000 radio broadcasts, 13,000 78rpm records, and 1.7 million Creative Commons-licensed audio recordings.
Live music. Over 137,000 concert recordings, nearly 10,000 from the Grateful Dead alone.
Audiobooks. Over 10,000 audiobooks from LibriVox and more.
TV News. 668,000 news broadcasts with full-text search.
Scanning services. Free and open access to scan complete print collections in 33 scanning centers, with 1,500 books scanned daily.
Software. The largest collection of historical software in the world.
That last item, the software collection, may start to change public perception and awareness of the Internet Archive.


Title screen from 1988's Neuromancer. Soundtrack by Devo. Yes, really.
Spearheaded by archivist/filmmaker Jason Scott, the software preservation effort began on his own site in 2004 with a massive collection of shareware CD-ROMs from the BBS age.

After he joined the Internet Archive as an employee, he started shoveling all that vintage software onto their servers, along with software gathered from historic FTP sites, shareware websites, tape archives, and anything else he could find.

But actually using old software can be rough even for experienced geeks, often requiring a maze of outdated archival utilities, obscure file formats, and emulators to run.

In October 2011, Jason Scott wrote a call-to-arms aimed at making computer history accessible and ubiquitous — by porting classic systems to the browser.

“Without sounding too superlative, I think this will change computer history forever. The ability to bring software up and running into any browser window will enable instant, clear recall and reference of the computing experience to millions.”
The project started attempting a Javascript port of MESS, the incredible open-source project to emulate over 900 different computers, consoles, and hardware platforms, everything from the Atari 2600 and Commodore 64 to your old Speak & Spell and Texas Instruments graphic calculator.

Two years later, it was all real.

In October 2013, the Internet Archive tested the waters with the Historical Software Collection, 64 historic games and applications from computing history playable in the browser. No installation required — just one click, and you were trying out Spacewar! for the PDP-1, VisiCalc for the Apple II, or Pitfall for the Atari 2600.

By Christmas, they launched The Console Living Room, nearly 3,000 games from a dozen different consoles. Popular systems like the ColecoVision and Sega Genesis were represented, but also obscure and hard-to-find consoles like the Fairchild Channel F and Watara SuperVision.

A year later, they launched the Internet Arcade — hundreds of classic arcade games emulated with JSMAME, part of the JSMESS package.

Earlier this month, the Archive made headlines with the latest addition to its collection: nearly 2,300 vintage MS-DOS games, playable in the browser.

A technical breakthrough, the games are played on the popular DOSBox emulator, ported to Javascript by one brilliant, talented engineer.

The experience of clicking a link and playing a game you haven’t seen in 25 years is magical, and many other people felt the same way.

News of the MS-DOS Game Collection got widespread media coverage, including The Washington Post, The Verge, and The Guardian, with thousands of people hitting the site every minute.

Millions of people are discovering software they’ve never seen before, or revisiting games from their past. People are making Let’s Play videos of 30-year-old games, played in a Chrome tab.




When this launched, there were dozens of confused comments from people wondering what old videogames has to do with Internet history.

In my mind, this stems from mistaken perception issues of the Internet Archive as solely an institution saving webpages.

But their mission and motto is much broader:

Universal access to all knowledge.
The Internet Archive is not Google.

The Internet Archive is a chaotic, beautiful mess. It’s not well-organized, and its tools for browsing and searching the wealth of material on there are still rudimentary, but getting better.

But this software emulation project feels, to me, like the kind of thing Google would have tried in 2003. Big, bold, technically challenging, and for the greater good.

This effort is the perfect articulation of what makes the Internet Archive great — with repercussions for the future we won’t fully appreciate for years.

But here’s a glimpse: last week, one of the JSMESS developers managed to get Netscape running on Windows 3.1 with functional networking. All of computing history is within our grasp, accessible from a single click, and this is the first step.


I played Solitaire while I waited for Trumpet Winsock to connect to the Internet. In a Chrome tab.
It’s not just about games — that’s just the hook.

It’s about preserving our digital history, which as we know now, is as easy to delete as 15 years of GeoCities.

We can’t expect for-profit corporations to care about the past, but we can support the independent, nonprofit organizations that do.


Title screen from Abandoned Places: A Time for Heroes, an RPG from 1993 I’ve never heard of, but started playing within ten seconds of seeing the title for the first time.
Recommend

When this launched, there were dozens of confused comments from people wondering what old videogames has to do with Internet history.

In my mind, this stems from mistaken perception issues of the Internet Archive as solely an institution saving webpages.

But their mission and motto is much broader:

Universal access to all knowledge.

The Internet Archive is not Google.

The Internet Archive is a chaotic, beautiful mess. It’s not well-organized, and its tools for browsing and searching the wealth of material on there are still rudimentary, but getting better.

But this software emulation project feels, to me, like the kind of thing Google would have tried in 2003. Big, bold, technically challenging, and for the greater good.

This effort is the perfect articulation of what makes the Internet Archive great — with repercussions for the future we won’t fully appreciate for years.

But here’s a glimpse: last week, one of the JSMESS developers managed to get Netscape running on Windows 3.1 with functional networking. All of computing history is within our grasp, accessible from a single click, and this is the first step.

I played Solitaire while I waited for Trumpet Winsock to connect to the Internet. In a Chrome tab.

It’s not just about games — that’s just the hook.

It’s about preserving our digital history, which as we know now, is as easy to delete as 15 years of GeoCities.

We can’t expect for-profit corporations to care about the past, but we can support the independent, nonprofit organizations that do.

Title screen from Abandoned Places: A Time for Heroes, an RPG from 1993 I’ve never heard of, but started playing within ten seconds of seeing the title for the first time.
25 Feb 18:36

AEP : Cientistas criaram um queijo feito com bactérias humanas das axilas e dos pés

Sex, 22 de Novembro de 2013 13:12
Tamara Lopez
Acessos: 115
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Que tal saborear um queijo feito à base de bactérias retiradas dos pés e axilas?

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