3QD Is Looking For New Columnists: LAST WEEK!

Dear Reader,

Here’s your chance to say what you want to the large number of highly educated readers that make up 3QD’s international audience. Several of our regular columnists have had to cut back or even completely quit their columns for 3QD because of other personal and professional commitments and so we are looking for a few new voices. We do not pay, but it is a good chance to draw attention to subjects you are interested in, and to get feedback from us and from our readers.

We would certainly love for our pool of writers to reflect the diversity of our readers in every way, including gender, age, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, etc., and we encourage people of all kinds to apply. And we like unusual voices and varied viewpoints. So please send us something. What have you got to lose? Click on “Read more” below…


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Friday, June 14, 2024

Music Just Changed Forever

James O’Malley at Persuasion:

Imagine if after Oppenheimer successfully detonated the first atomic bomb, the rest of the world had just shrugged its shoulders and carried on as normal.

Because that’s what seems to have just happened in the entire field of human culture known as “music.”

A few weeks ago, a company called Suno released a new version of its AI-generated music app to the public. It works much like ChatGPT: You type in a prompt describing the song you’d like… and it creates it.

The results are, in my view, absolutely astounding. So much so that I think it will be viewed by history as the end of one musical era and the start of the next one. Just as The Bomb reshaped all of warfare, we’ve reached the point where AI is going to reshape all of music.

More here.

A common misunderstanding about wave-particle duality

Philip Ball in Chemistry World:

‘Particles caught morphing into waves’ was how a recent preprint from researchers in France was widely reported. The timing could not have been better, for this year is the centenary of Louis de Broglie’s remarkable and bold thesis – presented at the Sorbonne in Paris, where some of the team responsible for the new work are based – proposing that matter can behave like waves. De Broglie’s idea was dismissed at first by many of his contemporaries, but was verified three years later when Clinton Davisson and Lester Germer at Bell Laboratories in New York, US, observed diffraction of electrons – an unambiguously wave-like phenomenon – from crystalline nickel. Such waviness became enthroned as a central concept in the newly emergent quantum mechanics under the now famous rubric of ‘wave-particle duality’.

Except… None of this is so simple. The meaning and the significance of wave-particle duality is widely misunderstood, as some of the reporting of the latest work shows. The common perception is that quantum particles really are shape-changers: sometimes little balls of matter, other times smeared-out waves. But physicists have generally been dismissive of that idea.

More here.

The challenges to advanced nuclear reactors aren’t just technical and regulatory

Matthew L. Wald at The Breakthrough Institute:

For good and valid reasons, most of the United States has moved away from having electricity generated, transmitted and delivered by monopolies. The reasons for the change did not primarily have to do with nuclear energy. But a nuclear renaissance could turn out to be a casualty. The old model made construction of a new power plant a shared risk; the new one, in most of the country, turns building a generator into a speculative investment.

Nearly all of the power reactors now operating in the United States got started by monopolies. Utility executives made their best estimates of future demand, and planned to add generation and transmission to meet it. Regulators in each state, usually called public service commissions, reviewed and approved the plans. The utilities, with a mostly-guaranteed revenue stream, easily sold stocks or bonds or borrowed money to build new generation.

More here.

There Is a Planet B

Rand Simberg at The New Atlantis:

The Red Planet has long captured human imagination, going at least as far back as the ancient Greeks, who designated it the god of war. In the modern era, once it was understood that Mars was another planet in our system that could be seen through telescopes, it became romanticized by astronomers like Giovanni Schiaparelli and Percival Lowell, generating dreams of canals and life and civilizations — dreams later disappointed by instruments showing it to be apparently lifeless and desiccated.

Reviewed in this articleBut no one in history has more popularized the idea of Mars being a suitable place for the expansion of humanity than Robert Zubrin. A nuclear and aerospace engineer and founder and president of the Mars Society [and a contributing editor of this journal –Ed.], Zubrin first proposed his plans for getting to the planet and settling there at the 1990 International Space Development Conference, which I attended. He called the plan “Mars Direct,” to distinguish it from NASA’s more convoluted and less economical plan.
more here.

Journaling the Plague Years

Tom Wilhelmus at The Hudson Review:

Seven of the following ten books have something to do with the Covid pandemic 2019–22, and the remaining three address some of the other traumas that consume our politics, and planet, during these troubled times. “Aren’t you worried?” a character in Hari Kunzru’s novel Blue Ruin asks, “I mean, about the future?” It’s a question many of us are asking.
Therefore fiction, according to one recent PBS critic, has become “more like the ’30s,” say, more sociological, and political, more immediate and content-oriented, less aesthetic, more essay-like and rhetorical. And, as Sigrid Nunez suggests, it has occasionally become more obsessed with the way truth is distorted and compromised not only in public, but also in the individual artist’s practice. Perhaps what we should want, she suggests, “in our own dark anti-truth times, with all our blatant hypocrisy and the growing use of story as a means to distort and obscure reality, is a literature of personal history and reflection: direct, authentic, scrupulous about fact,” not “fictional” but “autofictional.” Thus, “journaling” seems also to be part of the process and shows up stylistically in the product as well.[1] The old verbal icon dies, and some new kind of literary expression struggles to be born.

more here.

What If Motherhood Isn’t Transformative at All?

Anastasia Berg in The Cut:

To have a child, it is often said, is to transform one’s identity. What this might have meant in the past is more or less obvious: With few exceptions, for the better part of history, to have a child meant it was time for a woman to say her final farewells to whatever public existence she managed to forge up to that point. But now there is another, more mysterious change that becoming a mother is understood to imply, more basic than the historical conditions of oppression. This change is supposed to reconfigure the deepest core of one’s being. When the contemporary analytic philosopher L. A. Paul wanted to introduce the idea of a fundamentally transformative experience, one of her central examples was having a child. For women, especially, becoming a parent is frequently described as a total revolution of the self. “Giving birth to a baby is, literally, splitting in two, and it is not always clear which one your ‘I’ goes with,” philosopher Agnes Callard wrote in a reflection on the relief she felt after losing an unplanned pregnancy.

More here.

We Must Find Ways to Detect Cancer Much Earlier

The Oncology Think Tank in Scientific American:

“Everyone here has the sense that right now is one of those moments when we are influencing the future.” —Steve Jobs

Every year, cancer kills approximately 10 million people worldwide. Of those who die, two thirds do so because they were diagnosed with advanced disease. A new paradigm in the approach to cancer is overdue. COVID-19 has already altered conversations and expectations within the medical community and is forcing a rethinking of many public health issues.

To contemplate a transformative approach for the postpandemic cancer landscape, The Oncology Think Tank (TOTT) was created in June 2020, bringing together a diverse group of thought leaders, researchers and oncologists from academia and industry. Meetings were held remotely, at least once a week and sometimes twice weekly for four months. The burden of TOTT was to formulate a fresh, compassionate, patient-centric, effective and radically different vision for health care’s approach to cancer. This opinion paper will focus on what TOTT believes is the best way forward with a goal of reducing the number of patients who are diagnosed with, or develop, advanced stage cancers and die.
More here.

Friday Poem

The Second Coming

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

W.B. Yeats
The Dial, 1920

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Why introductory economics courses continued to teach zombie ideas from before economics became an empirical discipline

Walter Frick in Aeon:

What happens to the job market when the government raises the minimum wage? For decades, higher education in the United States has taught economics students to answer this question by reasoning from first principles. When the price of something rises, people tend to buy less of it. Therefore, if the price of labour rises, businesses will choose to ‘buy’ less of it – meaning they’ll hire fewer people. Students learn that a higher minimum wage means fewer jobs.

But there’s another way to answer the question, and in the early 1990s the economists David Card and Alan Krueger tried it: they went out and looked. Card and Krueger collected data on fast-food jobs along the border between New Jersey and Pennsylvania, before and after New Jersey’s minimum wage increase. The fast-food restaurants on the New Jersey side of the border were similar to the ones on the Pennsylvania side in nearly every respect, except that they now had to pay higher wages. Would they hire fewer workers in response?

‘The prediction from conventional economic theory is unambiguous,’ Card and Krueger wrote. It was also wrong.

More here.

Why Sharks Matter

Leon Vlieger at The Inquisitive Biologist:

When it comes to protecting animal species, you would think that conservation biologists, environmental advocates, and animal-loving members of the public are all on the same page. However, in Why Sharks Matter, marine biologist David Shiffman shows that this is not always the case. Though there are plenty of books marvelling at sharks, this, to my knowledge, is the first one to provide an informed and informative look at shark conservation. Frank, frequently opinionated, and full of refreshingly counterintuitive ideas, Why Sharks Matter is an eye-opener that delivered far more than I expected based on the title.

More here.

Inside Mexico’s anti-avocado militias

Alexander Sammon in The Guardian:

Michoacán, where about four in five of all avocados consumed in the United States are grown, is the most important avocado-producing region in the world, accounting for nearly a third of the global supply. This cultivation requires a huge quantity of land – much of it found beneath native pine forests – and an even more startling quantity of water. It is often said that it takes about 12 times as much water to grow an avocado as it does a tomato. Recently, competition for control of the avocado, and of the resources needed to produce it, has grown increasingly violent, often at the hands of cartels. A few years ago, in nearby Uruapan, the second-largest city in the state, 19 people were found hanging from an overpass, piled beneath a pedestrian bridge, or dumped on the roadside in various states of undress and dismemberment – a particularly gory incident that some experts believe emerged from cartel clashes over the multibillion-dollar trade.

More here.

American cricket found a star. He’s a Silicon Valley tech worker

Pranshu Verma in The Washington Post:

Saurabh Netravalkar finds it hard to log off Slack. But a few weeks ago, the Oracle software engineer shipped his final code and set an out-of-office note on the messaging app to focus on a more personal goal: playing for the United States’ underdog cricket team at the T20 World Cup. “If there is anything urgent, my manager should be able to reach me,” he said in an interview with The Washington Post. “But I’m completely focused on the World Cup.”

A starter on Team USA, Netravalkar has been a breakout star of the tournament. When the United States faced the cricket titan Pakistan last week, Netravalkar led the team to a shocking win by bowling in overtime. The achievement catapulted him to sudden fame and has provided the sport a crucial marketing tool: a story to capture Americans’ attention. Fans have posted that Netravalkar introduced them to the sport and the scrappy American team “made up of dudes who play cricket as a hobby,” as one user posted on Threads. Screenshots of his LinkedIn profile spread across X, earning more than 21 million views and 60,000 likes. Others joke that the 32-year-old, who was born in Mumbai and is in the United States on a green card, has made it harder for immigrant children to get respect from demanding parents.

More here.

A Brief History of Sexism in Medicine

Danielle Friedman in The New York Times:

Six years ago, Dr. Elizabeth Comen, a breast cancer specialist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital in Manhattan, held the hand of a patient who was hours from death. As Dr. Comen leaned in for a final goodbye, she pressed her cheek to her patient’s damp face. “Then she said it,” Dr. Comen recalled. “‘I’m so sorry for sweating on you.’” In her two decades as a physician, Dr. Comen has found that women are constantly apologizing to her: for sweating, for asking follow-up questions, for failing to detect their own cancers sooner.

“Women apologize for being sick or seeking care or advocating for themselves,” she said during an interview in her office: “‘I’m so sorry, but I’m in pain. I’m so sorry, this looks disgusting.’” These experiences in the exam room are part of what drove Dr. Comen to write “All in Her Head: The Truth and Lies Early Medicine Taught Us About Women’s Bodies and Why It Matters Today.” In it, she traces the roots of women’s tendency to apologize for their ailing or unruly bodies to centuries of diminishment by the medical establishment. It’s a legacy that continues to shape the lives of women patients, she argues.

More here.

The Life And Death Of Hollywood

Daniel Bessner at Harper’s Magazine:

In 2012, at the age of thirty-two, the writer Alena Smith went West to Hollywood, like many before her. She arrived to a small apartment in Silver Lake, one block from the Vista Theatre—a single-screen Spanish Colonial Revival building that had opened in 1923, four years before the advent of sound in film.

Smith was looking for a job in television. She had an MFA from the Yale School of Drama, and had lived and worked as a playwright in New York City for years—two of her productions garnered positive reviews in the Times. But playwriting had begun to feel like a vanity project: to pay rent, she’d worked as a nanny, a transcriptionist, an administrative assistant, and more. There seemed to be no viable financial future in theater, nor in academia, the other world where she supposed she could make inroads.

For several years, her friends and colleagues had been absconding for Los Angeles, and were finding success. This was the second decade of prestige television: the era of Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Homeland, Girls.

more here.

Thursday Poem


What happened is, we grew lonely
living among the things,
so we gave the clock a face,
the chair a back,
the table four stout legs
which will never fatigue.

We fitted our shoes with tongues
as smooth as our own
and hung tongues inside bells
so we could listen
to their emotional language,

and because we loved graceful profiles
the pitcher received a lip
the bottle a long, slender neck.

Even what was beyond us
was recast in our image;
we gave the country a heart,
the storm an eye,
the cave a mouth
so we could pass into safety.

by Lisel Mueller
Literature and the Writing Process
Prentice Hall, 1999