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Saturday, July 2, 2016

The Arena - Lindsey Stirling


Religion & The Rich


The Education System


The world’s losers are revolting, and Brexit is only the beginning


Washington Post illustration, iStock

HE world has enjoyed an unprecedented run of peace, prosperity and cooperation the last 25 years, but now that might be over. At least when it comes to those last two.

That, more than anything else, is what Britain's vote to leave the European Union means. A British exit, or Brexit, will make the country poorer in the short run, perhaps in the long run too, and might drag the rest of Europe down with it. That's because Britain is essentially ripping up its free trade deal with the rest of Europe. But of far greater concern than just dollars and cents is that this is the most significant setback in Europe's 60-year quest for "ever closer union," and the most shocking success for the new nationalism sweeping the Western world.

Brexit, in other words, is the end of the end of history.

That, of course, was Francis Fukuyama's famous idea that, with the end of the Cold War, capitalist democracy had not only defeated communism, but also every other ideology. It was supposed to be, as he wrote, the "final form of human government." And insofar as democracies tended to work together, this implied the future would be one where competition wouldn't lead to conflict, but would rather replace it. Tariffs would come down, money would move across borders to where it was needed most, and workers would too. This meant, then, that governments weren't the only ones that would become more alike. People would as well. They'd stop being citizens and chauvinists, and become consumers and cosmopolitans. You'd have nation-states without the nationalism.

What happens next after Britain votes for a Brexit from the E.U.

In a stunning victory for the "Leave" campaign, Britain has voted to exit the European Union. Here's what happens next. In a stunning victory for the "Leave" campaign, Britain has voted to exit the European Union. Here's what happens next. (Jason Aldag, Adam Taylor/The Washington Post)
For a while, this seemed true enough. Democracy spread, war lessened and economies opened up. In turn, international groups like the European Union and World Trade Organization codified itall. As any Mumbai taxi driver could have told you, the world really was a Thomas Friedman book.
Or at least it looked that way, if you didn't stare too closely. If you did, though, you would have noticed the cracks in this liberal international order. For one, financial capitalism didn't always work so well for countries. Money moved in and out of them at the speed of a mouse click, inflating and then popping bubbles along the way. From Mexico to Argentina, Thailand to South Korea, Hong Kong to Indonesia, and, eventually, the United States to Southern Europe, these capital flows magnified the economy's boom-bust cycle, with an emphasis on the bust.

For another, global capitalism didn't always work so well for workers in the United States and Europe even as — or, in some cases, because — it pulled hundreds of millions of people out of poverty everywhere else. In fact, the working class in rich countries have seen their real, or inflation-adjusted, incomes flatline or even fall since the Berlin Wall came down and they were forced to compete with all the Chinese, Indian and Indonesian workers entering the global economy. You can see that in the chart below, put together from economist Branko Milanovic's data. It shows how much real incomes have increased — or not — for the whole world between 1988 and 2008. Now, the way to read this is to imagine that everyone, as in everyone in every country, was lined up from highest to lowest income. The richest people in the richest countries (and every other one for that matter) would be in the global top 1 percent, the working class in the richest countries would be around the 80th percentile, and the middle class in middle-class countries like China would be at the 50th percentile.
Globalization didn't create a lot of losers, but the ones it did were concentrated in the countries that were the driving force behind it.

This was a political powder keg. If rich-world workers were losing ground even when times were good, what would happen if we got hit by one of the financial crises the new global economy seemed to spawn every few years? Well, things would get ugly. Although, in truth, they had already started to. Right-wing populists like Pat Buchanan in the United States, Jean-Marie Le Pen in France and Jörg Haider in Austria had scored surprising near-victories, if not actual ones, in the late 1990s and early 2000s by focusing the working class's incipient ire on a "foreign" enemy besides outsourcing: immigrants. This antagonism reflected economic anxiety, cultural fear and even racial resentment. Displaced workers felt like immigrants were taking jobs and benefits that should have been theirs. They were worried about losing the one thing — their national identity — the market couldn't take. And, a lot of times, they just didn't want to be around people who didn't look, sound, or worship like they did.

It didn't take long, then, for the West's triumphal globalism to fuel a nationalist backlash. In the United States it's Trump, in France it's the National Front, in Germany it's the Alternative for Germany and, yes, in Britain it's the Brexiters.

O Britain's "leave" campaign was about what you'd expect, especially considering that immigration had doubled the previous 20 years as people from the E.U.'s poorest east had come looking for work. Brexiters called to "take back control" from Brussels's bureaucrats. They warned that Turkey is about to join the E.U. — it's not — and flood the country with immigrants. They said that Europe's refugee crisis has pushed them to a "breaking point" in a poster reminiscent of Nazi propaganda. And they promised to earmark the funds now being sent to the E.U. for what they claim is the overburdened-by-immigrants National Health Services instead. Never mind that they overstated how much money that'd be by a factor of two. Their basic argument was that Britain could only stop this influx of immigrants if it ditched the E.U. and its rules mandating the free movement of people, and that the elites had failed the people by forgetting there was a Britain outside of London. The only real surprise is that all this happened in Britain and not some other E.U. country, since they were smart enough not to adopt the euro and thus avoided the worst of Europe's double-dip recession.

If he were around today, Louis XV might amend what he said to this: Après Brexit, le déluge. That's not, though, because of what Brexit might do to Britain's economy, but rather to everyone else's politics. Now, of course, it is true that leaving the E.U. without getting a new trade deal almost as good as the one it has now will make Britain permanently poorer. And it is also true that the uncertainty over what any future agreement will look like will put the brakes on business investment and possibly push Britain into recession. But the economic fate of one little island isn't what has global markets on edge. It's whether the rest of Europe will follow Britain out of the E.U. and into their own portmanteaus. In other words, whether Brexit will beget Frexit, Itexit and Nexit.

It might. Right-wing populists, after all, in France, Italy and the Netherlands have already called for their own referendums on E.U. membership. And if they win, it wouldn't just tear the common market apart but the common currency as well. See, unlike Britain, all those countries use the euro. So if one of them were to leave, two things would happen: First, they'd have to change all the money in their economy, and, second, every other euro country would worry that they'd be next. That, in turn, would set off a slow-motion bank run across Southern Europe as people tried to get ahold of their euros before they could be turned into, say, liras that wouldn't be worth anywhere near as much. It'd be the mother-of-all financial crises. Which is why German, French, Spanish and Italian stock markets all fell much further than Britain's did after it voted to leave. Indeed, those markets dropped 6.8, 8.0, 12.4 and 12.5 percent, respectively, on Friday, while Britain's "only" declined 3.2 percent.
Brexit, it turns out, is more about Europe than it is about Britain.

HIS could be the beginning of the end of the euro, the European Union and the liberal international order itself. Like the French Revolution, though, it's too soon to say. Britain may yet back away from the brink. And Europe may yet fix the flaws in its currency and its bureaucracy to head off any more nationalist uprisings. Neither of those is likely, but we can't rule them out — just like we can't rule out the opposite. Brexit really might be the end of the E.U. if France and Italy follow Britain out the door; it might also be the end of the U.K. if Scotland and Northern Ireland decide they'd rather be part of the E.U. (or what's left of it); and it might even be the end of our era of economic integration if it helps propel populists to power who only care about putting their people "first."

The E.U. may certainly seem to deserve this fate. It has let an economic fire burn across Southern Europe for nearly eight years, its only response to that has been to pour some gasoline on it, and it seems to think it has done its job now that that is down to just a smolder. Now, its first mistake was ignoring the economists who warned that creating a currency union without a fiscal union to go with it would end, well, as badly as it has. Its second one was ignoring the evidence that things were indeed going bad just as predicted, and blaming irresponsible governments instead. And its last one was all but blackmailing governments into slashing their budgets out of the misguided belief that this would get their sputtering economies growing again. It didn't. It was the economic equivalent of tossing a drowning person an anchor instead of a lifeline, because you thought they needed to get stronger and not bailed out. Which made the E.U. Europe's bête noire.

The sad irony of all this is that the E.U. was built to prevent the very kind of nationalist fervor its economic mismanagement and political heavy-handedness are provoking now. So maybe its time has come. The dustbin of history exists for a reason.

And yet, and yet. It's easy for a generation that has only known peace and relative prosperity to forget that the arc of the political universe is long, and it bends toward wherever you point it. If that's toward chauvinism and isolationism, well, that's what you'll get. Europe's countries will end up with metaphorical walls around their economies, and eventually physical ones around their borders. Hungary's nationalist government is already well on its way with its razor-wire fences. This is a dangerous time for Europe. It has had walls before. It doesn't want them again. The only thing, then, that might be worse than the E.U. is the people who want to get rid of it. The same could be said of globalization. It might have made growth less inclusive and less sustainable than before — at least in rich countries — but it's hard to say the alternative would be better. We'd be a little poorer, and poorer countries would be a lot less able to grow.

The liberal international order isn't working for too many people, but, on balance, most economists would say it's still worth fighting for. After all, there are much worse alternatives. If we want to avoid learning that firsthand, though, we're going to need to build bigger safety nets for globalization's losers, and, in the case of the E.U., make it more responsive to voters. Otherwise, we might get the toughest lesson of all.

History doesn't always move forward.


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It's Official: New Yorkers In 2020 Won't See Sunlight


A flurry of skyscrapers is planned for NYC. Unless you have millions to drop on a high-rise penthouse, prepare for imminent darkness.




New York City is in a real estate frenzy. In Manhattan, the skyline is rising higher and higher thanks to forthcoming projects by some of architecture's biggest names: Rafael Viñoly, Bjarke Ingels, SHoP, and Herzog and de Meuron, among others. Across the river in Brooklyn, a similar fleet of towering buildings is taking shape. One thing's certain: the streets of NYC are sure to get a heck of a lot darker.
Explore the interactive site hereNational Geographic

National Geographic put together an illustration of the proposed and in-progress additions to the skyline superimposed with the existing cityscape. Before 2004, there were 28 skyscrapers 700 feet and taller. Thirteen have been built since then, 15 are under construction, and 19 more are proposed. Many are concentrated in Hudson Yards and near the World Trade Center, but as the infographic shows, the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building—two of the city's most iconic silhouettes—could potentially be engulfed by their taller brethren.
While the 34 in-progress and proposed skyscrapers seem staggering, London has a whopping 230 new towers over 20 stories planned.

The NYC buildings will hold some sorely-needed square footage for billionaires in search of their next pied-a-terre. But for the rest of us? Sayonara sunlight, it was nice knowing you. The city should consider building publicly accessible rooftop gardens to compensate.

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Friday, July 1, 2016

Paulette Leaphart walked topless from Biloxi to Washington to talk about the realities of cancer survivors


By Latria Graham | Jun 30, 2016
Special to espnW.com

Latria Graham

Paulette Leaphart and her daughter Madeline walk through Spotsylvania County, Virginia, on the shoulder of Jefferson Davis Highway, on June 23.
Paulette Leaphart left her hometown of Biloxi, Mississippi, on April 30, intent on walking to Washington, D.C. -- a journey of 1,034 miles -- and arriving by June 27, her 50th birthday, a milestone her doctors weren't always confident she would reach.
She strides with a sense of purpose, acknowledging that her body is forever changed. Leaphart was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer in January 2014. She underwent a double mastectomy and wears the scars as emblems of her struggle.
Accompanied by her youngest daughter, 8-year-old Madeline, Leaphart is traveling the entire route topless.
All she can talk about is what will happen when she gets to Washington. Leaphart wants to tell lawmakers about the battle everyday people like her face in trying to afford treatment.
She shares the stories of other people in trouble, folks in agony, at the mercy of their insurance, unable to focus on their survival because they lack the economic means to get the treatment they need.
"Yellow is the new pink. We're taking lemons and making lemonade," Leaphart tells Chrystie Logan, a woman who flags her down on the side of the highway near Fredericksburg, Virginia. Logan has been following Leaphart's journey online.

Latria Graham
Leaphart uses her phone to check her progress in Stafford County, Virginia, on June 25.
The lemonade quote is not an accident -- Leaphart made an appearance in Beyoncé's visual album "Lemonade" on April 23. The hourlong film is described as a visual representation of every woman's journey of self-knowledge and healing. Leaphart spent some time with the singer on set.
"She said I inspired her -- that she admired me. It was great to hear that. I asked her to join me for a block of the walk, and she offered to join me for a mile," Leaphart says, a smirk forming on her lips as if she's letting this slip.
Beyoncé has yet to make an appearance, but that doesn't bother Leaphart. She's concentrating on the end goal.
Leaphart endured a journey before this walk, and she wrestled with a number of the emotions represented in Beyoncé's film. Anger and emptiness attempted to take root in her, but she chooses to focus on hope and redemption.
She wants to make sure Congress understands her experience and recognizes that her plight isn't unusual. In the United States in 2015, 60,290 people received a new breast cancer diagnosis and 40,290 people died of the disease, according to the American Cancer Society.
So she walks. God gave her this mission almost a year ago. Those are her words.
"I trained for this. When I got sick, I had to sell my cars. That made me walk to the doctor," Leaphart says, the memory still vivid. "I'd walk the 5 miles there, recover for an hour or two, then walk the 5 miles back."
She has to get to D.C. After she shows Congress her chest, she wants to show them her teeth.
Cancer treatment had an effect on her mouth. Many of her teeth are now chipped or broken, her molars useless.
"I need to get my mouth fixed, but do you know how much they want? Ten thousand dollars," Leaphart says, the number spilling from her lips with acrimony.
She and her daughter are taking a break and eating peaches after a hot morning in the sun. The fruit serves a dual purpose -- it's a favorite of Madeline's, and the ripe peach is one of the few things Leaphart can eat comfortably.
She hopes to receive dental treatment one day, once a change is made. She believes delivering the message is her duty, so she goes back to walking in her black Nike Air Maxes and neon-green socks, kicking up rocks, creating a rough-sounding scrabble that reverberates as she heads down into a valley.
The journey hasn't been without its problems. First there was the dissolution of her relationship with a documentary crew, which resulted in the removal of the recreational vehicle that was meant to provide a respite at night. Leaphart and her young daughter were left by the side of the road, but the mother of eight was undaunted. She needed a new plan and decided to travel light -- a relative picked up their luggage, and they continued their journey with three changes of clothing each.
Leaphart has no support vehicle. Every day she must decide on the move what she and Madeline will eat and where they will sleep.
Once, near the border of North Carolina and Virginia, they were stranded 12 miles from the nearest hotel and had no access to a cab. Mother and daughter made their way to Lake Gaston, where someone knew of her trek and helped the pair find a place to sleep.
Latria Graham
Taraysha and Sarah Woodall stop Leaphart outside of Falmouth, Virginia, on June 25 to see if she needs a ride.
"People expected me to quit now that there wasn't any publicity," Leaphart says, her arms swinging. "I made a promise to make it to D.C., and that's what I'm going to do."
She does a lot of talking and walking at the same time. She has to, in order to hit her goal of 30 miles a day. When pressed, she can cover 5 miles in an hour, but by doing so she pushes her body to the point where it can endure no more.
People who know her story stop by the side of the road almost every day. Some bring Popsicles. Some bring Powerade, or anything with electrolytes. Some join the journey. They shower Leaphart with prayers and at times offer her and Madeline a place to stay.
Leaphart documents the kindness from strangers on her Facebook page. Videos of her story have spanned the globe, and now 20,000 people watch daily, tracking her progress. One of the videos she made has more than 10 million views. The online presence has helped her fight the inclination to hide her scars.
"I loved the color pink. I can't stand what they've done to it," she says, the frustration evident in her voice. She has adopted yellow to symbolize the need for hope and a cure, not awareness.
"We need to tell the truth about cancer. They're using the slogan, 'Save the ta-tas,' but the ta-tas aren't what's important. It's the people with the breasts. You can still be alive without your breasts."
Leaphart had a medical condition that made breast enhancements risky, so breast reconstruction was not an option.
"I'm still beautiful," Leaphart declares. "I still turn heads even though I don't have breasts. It doesn't make me less of a woman. I'm a girly girl. I like getting dressed up, putting on makeup and everything else, but I refuse to allow one standard definition of beauty to exist in my household. That sets us all up for disappointment when things change. Regardless of what we look like, we should be celebrated."
"Sit tight for a minute."
A deputy of the Spotsylvania County Sheriff's Office eases out of his vehicle, parked along Jefferson Davis Highway in Virginia. He and another officer have come to talk to Leaphart about her decision to walk bare-chested.
Leaphart taught Madeline how to use Facebook Live so that when they are stopped by the police, the girl can document the encounter. Just in case.
Latria Graham
Deputies Pearce and Ridings of the Spotsylvania County Sheriff's Office stop Leaphart on June 24 to speak with her about her decision to walk topless.
The officer's initial concern stems from social norms based on gender -- the idea that she should be wearing a shirt because she is a woman. The officers respectfully but firmly insist that she wear a shirt.
For Leaphart, hiding would mean giving up her confidence and giving in to shame. She tells this to the police when they stop her. Today it's the Spotsylvania County Sheriff's Office, but it has been a dozen other departments along the way.
"It's amazing that I've got to educate the police on the law," Leaphart says. "I took the time to do the research before I ever got started. I knew this was coming."
After her double mastectomy, her chest has long, horizontal scars and pouches of skin where fat, ligaments and connective tissue used to live. Leaphart no longer has nipples. That's why she is allowed to walk around shirtless.
In most states, indecent exposure is defined as exposing the genitals (breasts and nether regions). She explains this to almost every officer she meets. While respectfully challenging the police's reasoning, she also confronts society's definition of what it means to be a woman.
Later, the Spotsylvania County Sheriff's Office will share a Facebook post chronicling its time with Leaphart and the education the officers received about breast cancer and her story. In the final picture, everyone is all smiles. With their differences resolved, Leaphart loads Madeline into her stroller and sets off again, walking down the side of the highway.
This trip has been educational for the child, and her mother isn't the only one getting stronger with each mile. They stop to read historical markers. On rest breaks, they use Leaphart's phone to look up the types of plants and animals they encounter on the trail. Madeline sits in her stroller for the better part of the day, taking mental notes.
Latria Graham
Paulette waits patiently for Madeline, who stopped to smell and examine foliage in Thornburg, Virginia, on June 24.
Madeline's favorite scenery is the forest. They walk past the blooming primrose and dandelions, the scent of honeysuckle trailing after them as they seek shelter from the unrelenting sun. Overgrown grass threatens to overwhelm the pair at times, and they hold hands to get through the scary parts. They hardly take notice anymore of the clatter and clank of trucks carrying freight as they zoom past on the highway.
Still, even a day of relaxation has its perils. Late last week, after a day at a theme park, the door of a passing SUV is accidentally left open and it strikes Leaphart on the left side of her body. She says she is grateful -- if they door had hit her chest, she would still be in the hospital.
Vehicles aren't the only problem. Often the weather refuses to cooperate. Leaphart is occasionally thwarted by the rain; one morning the sky opened up and let loose a torrential downpour.
Mist clings to their ankles when they walk through patches of fog after an early-morning rainstorm. The mud on the shoulder of the road seems like quicksand sucking at her shoes. Leaphart has only one thought: forward.
Later on, the sun will deprive the dirt of its moisture and the ground will turn to dust, which swirls around their feet like smoke.
There are moments when the two must take shelter from the sun. Temperatures in the high 90s are common this time of year.
Sitting under a shade tree in Spotsylvania County, Leaphart begins to talk about the past. She had a different life before all of this -- she was a social worker. Cancer tried to take a lot of things from her. It took her home: One day, Leaphart returned from an appointment to find a notice on her door ordering her to vacate. Soon she and her children would be homeless, and because she had an eviction on her record, she has trouble finding safe, affordable housing for her family.
She tries not to dwell on this, grateful that she is alive to bring the issue to light. She takes another swig of her Powerade before resettling her and Madeline's things in the basket of the stroller.
They move beyond Aquia Harbor in Virginia, and then on past Quantico. The increased military presence means they don't have much farther to go.
A green-and-white sign in the distance announces their progress.
Dumfries 5
Alexandria 32
Washington 40
She is getting closer. She gets a call from a friend -- Leaphart has been granted a meeting with some lawmakers when she arrives. After the news, Leaphart redoubles her efforts, arms swinging, meeting on her mind, hope radiating from her with every footfall.
Latria Graham

At a motel in Stafford County on June 24, Leaphart is all smiles after receiving the news that she has an official appointment with lawmakers in Washington.
Paulette Leaphart is dreaming of her day in Washington.
When she arrives in Alexandria, the buildings go vertical, reaching for the sky in their 1980s industrial glory, the entire complex tinged with exhaust from the vehicles that wheeze and whiz by on the highway and nearby interstate. Pink clouds creep across the sky, replaced by white ones as the day goes on.
Closer.
Heels cracked, blisters deflated, she passes by the Pentagon before taking the 14th Street Bridge across the Potomac River, the Jefferson Memorial on her left. The Washington Channel is the last body of water standing between her and the moment of reckoning she has been walking for two months to achieve. In her mind, the journey -- the tests, the loss, the doubt, the despair -- has been worth it. Sweat trickles down her forehead as she looks up at the dome covered in construction netting, its whiteness a stark contrast to the color of the sky.
She has found the purpose for her pain, and as she stands on the steps of the Capitol building on her birthday, she utters three words: "Thank you, God."
Every footstep, every second of forward motion led up to this. She did it -- survived. Free of the stroller, her daughter walks beside her, followers, family and friends walk behind her, wearing yellow, bearing witness to her testimony of strength, faith and endurance.
She is 50. She is in Washington. The woman from Biloxi has accomplished the first portion of what she set out to do.
This was just the beginning.
Latria Graham is a writer based in Spartanburg, South Carolina. The majority of her work revolves around the dynamics of race, gender norms, class, nerd culture and sports. You can find more of her work at LatriaGraham.com, or engage with her on Twitter at @LGRaconteur.

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The Origin of the Coney Island Hot Dog Is a Uniquely American Story


They also have very little to do with the New York City amusement park...

A Coney dog (Diádoco via WIkicommons)

This July 4, as with every July 4 going back to the 1970s, an all-American display of gluttony will feature rubber-stomached competitive eaters once again gorging themselves in the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest on Brooklyn's Coney Island. This year's gastronomic battle, at the corner of Surf and Stillwell avenues, will honor the 100th anniversary of the founding of Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs at the same corner in 1916.

It's a patriotic event, and not just because it'll be echoed at holiday barbecues across the country. The hot dog, that quintessential American food, has been associated with Coney Island, America's most storied amusement resort, since frankfurter first met bun. But Nathan's century-old triumph of entrepreneurship is only part of the Ellis-Island-meets-Coney-Island story. Thanks to immigrants from Northern and Eastern Europe alike, the name "Coney Island hot dog" means one thing in New York, another in the Midwest and beyond.

Historians disagree on the hot dog's origin story, but many credit Charles Feltman, a Coney Island pie-wagon vendor, with inventing the fast food, serving hot dachshund sausages in milk rolls as early as 1867. The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council says Feltman opened a hot dog stand on Coney Island in 1871 and sold 3,684 sausages that year. Wieners took Feltman far. By the turn of the century, he'd gone upscale, with Feltman's German Gardens, a huge complex of restaurants and beer gardens on Surf Avenue that employed 1,200 waiters. Though seafood became Feltman's specialty, he still had seven grills dedicated to hot dogs, which he sold in the 1910s for ten cents apiece.
Nathan Handwerker, a Polish immigrant with a day job as a restaurant delivery boy, worked Sunday afternoons at Feltman's German Gardens, slicing rolls. According to Handwerker's 1974 New York Times obituary, Jimmy Durante and Eddie Cantor, who worked as singing waiters on Coney Island before they found fame, encouraged Handwerker to strike out from Feltman's and sell hot dogs for a nickel instead of a dime. In 1916, he did just that, opening a small hot-dog stand at Surf and Stillwell with his wife, Ida. The subway's extension to Coney Island in 1920 brought countless New Yorkers to his stand. "Society people, politicians, actors and sportsmen flocked to Nathan's," the obituary recalled, "brushing shoulders with truck drivers, laborers, and housewives." Franklin D. Roosevelt famously served Nathan's hot dogs at a 1936 lawn party for Britain's George VI and his wife, Queen Elizabeth (mother of the now-reigning Queen Elizabeth II).

Meanwhile, outside New York, the Coney Island name evokes an entirely different hot-dog tradition. In Michigan, "Coney Island" doesn't mean an amusement park, but one of an estimated 500 diners in the Metro Detroit area alone  that serve Greek food and "Coney dogs" -- hot dogs smothered in chili or ground beef, plus mustard and onions. There are plenty more elsewhere in Michigan, across the Midwest, and beyond.

The Coney dog was spread across the eastern U.S. by various Greek and Macedonian immigrants in the 1900s and 1910s. The restaurateurs were part of the great wave of Greek migration to the U.S. – 343,000 people between 1900 and 1919 – who fled the economic desolation caused by Greece's 1893 bankruptcy and a crash in the price of currants, then Greece's main export. "Many of them passed through New York's Ellis Island and heard about or visited Coney Island, later borrowing this name for their hot dogs, according to one legend," wrote Katherine Yung and Joe Grimm in their 2012 book Coney Detroit.

Lafayette and American Coney Islands both sell the chili-topped Coney dogs. (Benlmoyer via WIkicommons)

In that era, Americans associated New York's Coney Island with hot dog authenticity. Back then, the name "hot dog" was out of favor; amid the concern about meat-packing standards inspired by Upton Sinclair's book The Jungle, it still carried a hint of suggestion that the cheap sausages were made of dog meat. Handwerker called then "red hots," others "Coney Island hots."

Naming the inventor of the Coney dog – the first person to slather chili or sprinkle ground beef on a sausage – is a fool's errand. Various Coney Island restaurants in Michigan and Indiana vie for the title, claiming founding dates in the mid-1910s, but they don't appear in city directories from the era until the 1920s. Many Greeks and Macedonians likely hit upon the idea of dressing hot dogs in variations on saltsa kima, their homeland's spicy tomato-based meat sauce. "The Coney Island's formidable beef topping with a sweet-hot twang has a marked Greek accent," wrote Jane and Michael Stern in their 2009 book 500 Things to Eat Before It's Too Late.

It's easy, though, to locate the Coney dog's ground zero, the Midwest's version of Surf and Stillwell: the corner of West Lafayette Boulevard and Michigan Avenue in Detroit.

There, Lafayette Coney Island and American Coney Island have carried on a sibling rivalry for 80 years. For generations of Detroiters, their chili-topped weiners have been the ultimate urban-diner experience, the workingman's lunch and the late-night craving after last call. Brothers William "Bill" Keros and Constantine "Gust" Keros, former sheepherders from the Greek village of Dara, founded the two diners to serve hot dogs to autoworkers. Each restaurant boasts it opened first, with American Coney staking a claim to a 1917 founding, Lafayette Coney to 1914. But city directories tell a different story than family and business oral history: the Coney Detroit authors say the brothers opened Lafayette Coney together in 1923, and Gust Keros opened American Coney in 1936 after a falling-out with his brother.

Outside metropolitan Detroit, Coney dog variations abound. In Michigan cities such as Flint, Jackson and Kalamazoo, their topping isn't chili, but a sauce that's mostly ground beef, often including beef hearts. A few Coney Island restaurants still exist outside Michigan, from the Coney Island Grill in St. Petersburg, Florida, to George's Coney Island in Worcester, Massachusetts. Cincinnati's version of Coney sauce is a chili, invented in 1922 by Macedonian immigrants Tom and John Kiradjieff as their own spiced version of saltsa kima. That iteration doesn't just go on hot dogs-- it's also served with spaghetti or as a stand-alone chili.

Closer to New York City, the names change. Rhode Islanders call their Greek-immigrant chili-dog diners "New York System" restaurants, and they serve "hot wieners" – never hot dogs. "They are made in a systemic way," wrote the Sterns in 500 Things to Eat, "by lining up all the dogs in buns and dressing them assembly-line-style." But in far upstate New York, around Plattsburgh, they're called Michigans, probably thanks to 1920s Detroit expatriates Eula and Garth Otis. From there, they smuggled themselves across the Canadian border, where the Montreal-area hot-dog chain Resto Lafleur offers a steamed or grilled "hot-dog Michigan" and poutine with "la sauce Michigan."
Today, Nathan's is an international chain, with more than 300 restaurants and stands, mostly on the East Coast. It's added a chili dog to its menu. In another example of hazy hot-dog lore, Nathan's apocryphally claims it's about to host its 100th hot-dog-eating contest – actually a creation of carnival-barker-style bunkum that started in the 1970s. Meanwhile, Coney Island blogger and historian Michael Quinn is reviving the Feltman's red-hots brand, which went extinct with Feltman's restaurant in 1954. He's teamed up with a sausage-maker to make a red hot in homage to the original, which he's selling at pop-up events. In a history-minded revenge, Quinn sells hot dogs for half of Nathan's price.

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How social media can distort and misinform when communicating science - disinformation


Posted By: Disinformation

When news breaks – whether the story of a disease outbreak, a terrorist attack or a natural disaster – people increasingly turn to the internet and social media. Individuals use Twitter and Facebook as primary sources for news and information. Social media platforms – including Reddit, Wikipedia and other emerging outlets such as Snapchat – are distinct from traditional broadcast and print media. But they've become powerful tools for communicating rapidly and without intermediary gatekeepers, like editors.

The problem is that social media is also a great way to spread misinformation, too. Millions of Americans shape their ideas on complex and controversial scientific questions – things like personal genetic testing, genetically modified foods and their use of antibiotics – based on what they see on social media. Even many traditional news organizations and media outlets report incomplete aspects of scientific studies, or misinterpret the findings and highlight unusual claims. Once these items enter into the social media echo chamber, they're amplified. The facts become lost in the shuffle of competing information, limited attention or both.

A recent workshop about Social Media Effects on Scientific Controversies that we convened through the Center for Mobile Communication Studies at Boston University fielded a panel of interdisciplinary experts to discuss their own experiences and research in communicating science online. These public scholars examined the extent to which social media has disrupted scientific understanding. Most indicated it's more possible than ever for researchers to participate meaningfully in public debates and contribute to the creation and diffusion of scientific knowledge – but social media presents many pitfalls along the way.

Post a lot, know a lot?

Our team from the Emerging Media Studies division at Boston University presented new findings that indicate social media can perpetuate misinformation about antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and may contribute indirectly to the misuse of antibiotics.

Media, microbes and misinformation: Survey evidence of information channels and fatalism in augmenting a global health threat

In a nationwide survey, we found that the more frequently respondents reported posting and sharing any information online to social media, they were increasingly likely to be highly misinformed about AMR. This suggests that those individuals most active in contributing to social media were actually propagating inaccurate information. Our finding follows previous studies of online rumors: people are more likely to believe political rumors and share them with others when they're received via email from friends or family.

We also found traditional media use – watching television, listening to talk radio, reading newspapers – was also related to higher levels of AMR misinformation. When taken together, our findings suggest there may be a misinformation cycle taking shape. Traditional media exposure, it seems, can be a source of AMR misinformation. Increased posting of content to social media reinforces misinformation, and in our study those higher levels of AMR misinformation are shown to increase the likelihood that individuals will misuse antibiotics. Eventually, such misuse increases antimicrobial resistance, which makes it harder for us to treat illnesses and may give rise to superbugs.

"Scienceploitation" on social media

Another panelist was University of Alberta law and public health professor Tim Caulfield, who actively works to diminish the phenomenon he calls "scienceploitation." He defines the term as when media reporting takes a legitimate area of science and inaccurately simplifies it for the general public.
Scienceploitation is embodied in especially egregious "click-bait" headlines. Think the Huffington Post erroneously equating a glass of red wine to an hour at the gym, or the viral hoax study that linked eating chocolate with losing weight.

Caulfield himself studies how stem cell clinics market unproven therapies for serious diseases and the way widespread acceptance of these treatments often goes virtually unchallenged on social media. For example, he analyzed Twitter users' reactions to the (now deceased) former professional hockey player Gordie Howe receiving stem cell treatments in Mexico after a stroke.

A vast majority (78.8 percent) of tweets on the topic mentioned improvements to Howe's health. By contrast, only a single tweet explicitly mentioned that Howe's stem cell treatment was unproven. Just three tweets out of 2,783 warned that direct-to-consumer stem cell treatments lack the robust body of scientific evidence required for FDA approval.

Caulfield's work has illustrated how social media can be a vehicle for hype that creates insular bubbles of information and online echo chambers. In these spaces, ideas and misinformation can readily be reinforced because of the lack of diverse viewpoints and critiquing of ideas.

A tone issue

Beyond misinformation, hype, and other forms of scienceploitation on social media, there is at least one other serious threat to the effective communication of science online: the lack of civility in online and social media forums.

Exposure to uncivil comments can increase polarization among users, particularly related to science topics, such as nanotechnology, and perceptions of risk. In another study, we found that civility and politeness decrease when users post comments to social media from mobile devices – a growing issue as more and more people access social media this way.

Together these factors suggest a trend that is hard to break, even when scientists directly and actively engage with the public through social media. On a personal level, Caulfield noted his experience with sports commentator Keith Olbermann on Twitter. Their opinion exchange became contentious after Olbermann hosted on his ESPN television show the owner of the clinic Gordie Howe visited. According to Caulfield:
It was outraging – a 15-minute advertisement for this clinic in Mexico. There was no critical reflection at all…. I tried to engage Keith Olbermann and start talking [on Twitter], and what does he do? He blocks me.
Kevin Folta from the University of Florida, one of the more visible and prominent scientists in the field of genetically modified food, has had similar and even more extreme experiences. At our workshop, he reported receiving bomb threats at his home. He's often the subject of hostile personal memes, as are many users who actively participate in the debate of scientific facts on social media.
Getting to the root cause of why the discourse devolves so quickly online is difficult. Psychologist John Suler described ingredients that contribute to what he identifies as the online disinhibition effect. Posting to strangers, anonymously, semi-anonymously, or with pseudo accounts factors in. Commenters aren't face to face with each other and are able to dissociate from the fact they're dealing with other human beings. Altogether this forms a rationale for why users tend to become uncivil and aggressively defend content that may not even be accurate.

Further, the perceived nasty climate of public opinion in social media spaces may also lead the less outgoing to remain silent rather than enter into a debate where their views may not be treated with respect.

What does work for online communication

Kevin Folta places part of the blame for this communication breakdown on the scientists themselves. He stated that among researchers:
There is a disconnected arrogance that turns off the public and does not get them excited about learning more. Social media and the internet are a conduit of bad information. On social media it's easy to find information that scares you and scientists are not participating in trying to make it right.
Piper Below, an epidemiologist from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, is a proponent of scientists productively engaging online. She told our workshop that the social media platform Reddit is the greatest opportunity for scientists to accurately get the word out to the public about their research.

On the Reddit site, members share links and posts about a myriad of interests, making it essentially an online bulletin board system. Through Ask Me Anything (AMA) posts – basically a crowd-sourced interview – users submit questions directly to scientists who moderate the discussions and provide detailed answers. Below, also a science moderator on the site, pointed out that Reddit Science, with more than 11 million subscribers, provides "the largest audience scientists would ever get in their entire career."

Yet even Reddit can leave scientific findings opaque if information is presented in a dense way not easily accessible for a broad public audience.

Some scientists and agencies are pursuing new modes of communication, such as brief scientific animations to summarize and share research. The goal remains increasing understanding and minimizing potential distortion or oversimplification of scientific findings. But these short videos, such as the one we developed for our AMR study, as well as interactive online modules, offer ways to reshape information campaigns.

Social media has been transformative in how it has democratized communication. But it's a double-edged sword: social media allows scientists to correct misinformation by communicating their findings with public audiences to promote an understanding of complex issues. Equally dangerously, though, social-media activism has the potential not only to distort public understanding of these critical issues but also to disrupt governmental support and policy regulations.

Jacob Groshek, Assistant Professor of Emerging Media, Boston University and Serena Bronda, Master's Student in Emerging Media Studies, Boston University
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Disinformation

disinformation®­ curates the most shocking, unusual and quirkiest news articles, podcasts and videos on the web, most of which are submitted by the site's visitors.

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Shinto Monks Have Been Recording Climate Data for 600 Years




Hundreds of years before climate change was a topic of discussion, monks and merchants kept records when lakes and rivers froze-over in the winter. These records show how the Industrial Revolution was a major turning point in altering the Earth's climate. A new study examining these records has been published in Nature Scientific Reports.
"What is important about the two ice records analyzed in this paper is that they were recorded far into the past and included years before and after the start of the Industrial Revolution," John Magnuson, who works at the University of Wisconsin's Madison Center for Limnology, told Quartz.
The data dates back as far as 1443 when Shinto monks recorded the freezing of Lake Suwa, in the Japanese Alps. The records were not meant to document weather trends, but to witness a legendary tale and phenomenon. The freezing and heaving of the ice is known as the Omiwatari or Passage of the Gods. It's told this happens when the male god crosses the lake to visit his spouse, enshrined on the other shore. A crack forms in the ice across the lake, which is supposed to represent the male god's footsteps. Monks have been observing his crossing for the past six centuries, but researchers indicate the deities relationship may be in jeopardy.
"As Suwa no longer freezes every year, the male god, Takeminakata, is no longer able to walk across the lake to see the female god, Yasakatome, every year," the researchers write. "If atmospheric CO2 emissions and air temperatures continue to rise, the male god may soon never cross the lake again to visit the female god as he has in Shinto legend for centuries."
Merchants in Finland recorded when the Torne River would freeze or thaw since 1693. The data from this record tells a story familiar to the one of the Suwa Lake; later freezing times and earlier melts after the Industrial Revolution.
"Even though the two waters are half a world apart and differ greatly from one another," says Magnuson, "the general patterns of ice seasonality are similar for both systems."
The graph below created by the researchers, show the increase in extreme weather events. Occasions where Suwa Lake (black) did not freeze and when the Torne River (grey) saw ice breakup before the 124th day of the year.



These records are an invaluable source of data, which indicate the Industrial Revolution was a huge turning point for the Earth's climate. Providing further (unnecessary) evidence that humans are the cause of this climate shift we're witnessing.
Photo Credit: Kainoki Kaede/Flickr

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Over the counter comes a new way to mimic calorie restriction

Biomedicine

The Anti-Aging Pill


Facing a long wait for evidence, a longevity researcher takes an unusual path to market.
Everyone is getting older. Few are happy about it.
An anti-aging startup hopes to elude the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and death at the same time.
The company, Elysium Health, says it will be turning chemicals that lengthen the lives of mice and worms in the laboratory into over-the-counter vitamin pills that people can take to combat aging.
The startup is being founded by Leonard Guarente, an MIT biologist who is 62 ("unfortunately," he says) and who's convinced that the process of aging can be slowed by tweaking the body's metabolism (see "Is There a Fountain of Youth in Our DNA?").
The problem, Guarente says, is that it's nearly impossible to prove, in any reasonable time frame, that drugs that extend the lifespan of animals can do the same in people; such an experiment could take decades. That's why Guarente says he decided to take the unconventional route of packaging cutting-edge lab research as so-called nutraceuticals, which don't require clinical trials or approval by the FDA.
This means there's no guarantee that Elysium's first product, a blue pill called Basis that is going on sale this week, will actually keep you young. The product contains a chemical precursor to nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, or NAD, a compound that cells use to carry out metabolic reactions like releasing energy from glucose. The compound is believed cause some effects similar to a diet that is severely short on calories—a proven way to make a mouse live longer.
Elysium's approach to the anti-aging market represents a change of strategy for Guarente. He was previously involved with Sirtris Pharmaceuticals, a high-profile biotechnology startup that studied resveratrol, an anti-aging compound found in red wine that it hoped would help patients with diabetes. That company was bought by drug giant GlaxoSmithKline, but early trials failed to pan out.
This time, Guarente says, the idea is to market anti-aging molecules as a dietary supplement and follow up with clients over time with surveys and post-marketing studies. Guarente is founding the company along with Eric Marcotulli, a former venture capitalist and technology executive who will be CEO, and Dan Alminana, chief operating officer.
The company says it will follow strict pharmaceutical-quality production standards and make the supplements available solely through its website, for $60 for a 30-day supply or $50 per month with an ongoing subscription.
"You have high-end prescription drugs up here, which are expensive," says Guarente, gesturing upward. "And you have the nutraceuticals down there, which are a pig in a poke—you don't know what you're getting and you don't know a lot about the science behind them. There's this vast space in between that could be filled in a way that's useful for health maintenance."
An anti-aging pill with an ivory-tower pedigree could prove profitable. The $30 billion supplements market is growing at about 7 percent a year overall, Alminana says, and at twice that rate for online sales.
Elysium declined to name its investors, but it has some high-level endorsements. Its board includes Daniel Fabricant, former director of the FDA's division of dietary supplements and now CEO of the Natural Products Association, a trade association. The company also has five Nobel Prize winners advising it including neuroscientist Eric Kandel, biologist Thomas Südhof, origin-of-life theorist Jack Szostak, and the 2013 laureate in chemistry Martin Karplus.
Karplus, now an emeritus professor at Harvard, said in a telephone interview that he was turning 85 this year and had asked the company to send him a supply of Basis as soon as it's available. "I want to remind myself whether I really want to take it or not," says Karplus.
Scientists have shown they can reliably extend the life of laboratory mice by feeding them less, a process known as "caloric restriction." That process seems to be mediated by biological molecules called sirtuins. NAD is important because it's a chemical that sirtuins need to do their work and is also involved in other aspects of a cell's metabolism. In worms, mice, and people, NAD levels fall with age, says Guarente, so the idea is to increase levels of the molecule.
"NAD replacement is one of the most exciting things happening in the biology of aging," says Nir Barzilai, director of the Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, who has coauthored scientific papers with Guarente but is not involved in Elysium. "The frustration in our field is that we have shown we can target aging, but the FDA does not [recognize it] as an indication."
Other experts said while NAD may decline with age, there is limited evidence that aging can be affected by restoring or increasing NAD levels. "There is enough evidence to be excited, but not completely compelling evidence," said Brian K. Kennedy, CEO of the California-based Buck Institute for Research on Aging.
Guarente says Elysium's pill includes a precursor to NAD, called nicotinamide riboside, which the body can transform into NAD and put to use. In addition, the pill contains pterostilbene, an antioxidant that Guarente says stimulates sirtuins in a different way. Both ingredients can already be found in specialty vitamins.  "We expect a synergistic effect [from] combining them," he says.
Guarente says Elysium plans to gradually add to its product line with other compounds shown in academic labs to extend the healthy lifespan of worms, mice, or other animals. The company will do preliminary testing to make sure the products are not toxic but will not follow the arduous FDA approval process. Vitamins and supplements can be sold over the counter as long as they contain ingredients known to be safe and don't make overly specific health claims.
Marcotulli says the company has some anecdotal evidence that Elysium's pills make a difference. "For older demographics, we've heard really interesting feedback related to levels of energy. It's very, very useful and restorative," he says. And he takes the pills himself. "When I don't have a supply, I feel actually fuzzy," he said. "It's become a staple of my routine."
Guarente also says he takes Basis every day, along with 250 mg of resveratrol, the red-wine compound. Guarente also exercises—though not, he says, as often as he should.
He says it doesn't trouble him that he sees no obvious benefits yet from his supplement regimen. Too many studies in the anti-aging field, he says, are too short-term to show real benefits. Or else they study people who are already unhealthy. "I think that's the way it would be if something is really acting to slow your progression into decrepitude—you're not going to notice that," Guarente says.

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Understanding (and Refuting) the Arguments for God




Michael Shermer has made a career of skepticism — he is the founder of Skeptic, for one — but in his 2000 book, How We Believe: The Search for God in an Age of Science, he does not come across as the hardcore atheist you might expect. (He prefers "nontheist.") One can appreciate his honesty and integrity. In a media that both champions and lambasts the so-called "New Atheist" movement, Shermer says one thing: Show me the evidence.

Certain fundamentalists and atheists alike see the question of God as an either-or proposal, not content on the murky speculations presented by the other "side." As Shermer points out, what we consider "miraculous" simply means what we do not currently understand. In the books he investigates 10 arguments for the existence of God. It should be noted that he does not question whether religion is right or wrong; he merely looks at these arguments from a reasonable standpoint.

1. / 2. Prime Mover/First Cause: The first two arguments essentially state: Since everything is in constant motion, there must have been something that first moved everything. And that is God.
This argument results in an infinite regress. If God is the entirety of the universe, and everything in it must be moved, then something must have moved God. Rephrased, God either must be in the universe or is the universe. If God does not need to be caused, then not everything in the universe needs a cause. If everything does need a cause, then something caused God.

3. Possibility and Necessity Argument: Not everything is possible, for that admits the possibility that there could be nothing. If nothing once existed, the universe could not have come into existence. What exists of its own necessity is God.
Shermer borrows from Martin Gardner by stating that this is a "mysterian mystery" — the idea that nothing is unknowable is due to our minds being unable to process the thought of it. It is conceivable that nothing could exist; we just cannot imagine it.

4. The Perfectionist/Ontological Argument: This convoluted argument presented by an 11th century archbishop named St. Anselm boils down to: a) There must be a cause for our very being, goodness, and perfection, and b) Is it impossible to think of God as nonexistent.
As Shermer points out, if the first point were true, you would have to add the false, ignoble, and worst, all of which would also be God. This argument is not uncommon: God seems to be around when things go well, suddenly on leave when they do not. As for perfection, humans invented this concept. You can always think of something "better than," as in adding one to infinity. Finally, it is impossible to think of anything as nonexistent, since our thoughts are always on something that exists, has existed, or could potentially exist.  This argument proves nothing.

5. The Design/Teleological Argument: The heart of the modern creationist model: Since things act for a reason, there must be a designer. Otherwise how could we explain the perfect symbiotic relationship between insects and flowers?
Shermer points out that there are many design flaws in nature, such as the hind legs of a python and a whale's flipper. I'll add the human neck, which from a structural standpoint is not up to par with the 14-pound weight of our heads, especially with all the gazing down at our phones. If God perfectly designed us, he would have foreseen the ridiculous amount of time we stare at devices; thus, our necks would be much sturdier.

6. The Miracles Argument: The miracles of the Bible and any after can only be explained by an intervention from God.
As stated above, a miracle is simply something we cannot explain. To imagine all the great works of literature written thanks to the human imagination, then to somehow think the Bible is a special edition where everything is true, is foolish. It is, like other books of its time and since, a work of fiction.

7. Pascal's Wager Argument: The famous wager by French mathematician/philosopher Blaise Pascal: If we bet God does not exist and he does, we have everything to lose and gain nothing. If we believe, we have everything to win.
Obviously there is no proof in this argument. As Shermer points out, if believing implies going to church, attending services, and so forth, then there is much to lose: time. Also, what god are we talking about believing in? If not the Judeo-Christian God, you'd have a lot to lose as well.

8. The Mystical Experience Argument: Mystical experiences have existed throughout history in many cultures. They imply some sort of direct connection with the divine, usually in the form of "light" or a "feeling."
Shermer points out that the "visions" experienced in such encounters correlate with temporal lobe seizures or other neurochemical reactions. For myself, I have experienced a number of such "visions" on LSD, ayahuasca, and other substances. While emotionally and mentally profound, I see no reason to attribute chemistry to a creator.

9. Fideism, or the Credo Quia Consolans Argument: This is not an argument at all. Basically, it means you believe in God because it consoles you.
Many people believe in religion for exactly this reason. And yet, if beliefs are based on emotions rather than evidence, it negates the necessity of reason and science altogether. You can't argue against this one as it's not an argument, but it still does not hold up from a logical standpoint.

10. The Moral Argument: Alongside the creationist argument, this is the most popular: How can there be morals without God?
The notion that everyone would turn into robbers, rapists, and murderers if it were discovered there is no God is ludicrous. Morals are based on cultural upbringing and, to a degree, genetics. Likewise, if morals were the domain of God and He is omnipotent, then there is a flaw in His creation when humans do bad things. There is no sense in this argument; altruism and empathy are part of our evolution as social beings. Living in society helps us create morals for the betterment of the whole.
Image: St Salvator church, God. (Photo by: Godong/UIG via Getty Images)

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Scientists Accidentally Create a Battery That Can Outlast Your Device




Over the last decade or so it's become increasingly obvious that the limits of battery technology are a pothole on our road to the future. It's not even a new problem; scientists have been trying to invent better batteries since Edison. Whether we're talking about storing clean energy, more practical electric cars, or maybe even just our dozing-off phones, battery issues are slowing progress w-a-a-y down. They're not powerful enough unless they're uselessly big and seriously pricey. They take a long time to recharge. And for keeping the devices we depend on up and running, they just don't last long enough.

That is, at least, until researchers at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) stumbled across a way to make ridiculously long-lasting rechargeable batteries. They've made a battery that takes 200,000 charge cycles, says, "Is that all you got?" and keeps going. That's 400 times the charges that a lithium battery can handle.

They were as surprised as anyone. "We started to cycle the devices, and then realized that they weren't going to die," admitted chair of UCI's Chemistry department Reginald Penner in an interview with Popular Science. "We don't understand the mechanism of that yet."

Penner's lab had been experimenting with replacing lithium with gold nanowires—they're thousands of times thinner than a human hair and very conductive, with a large surface area for storing and transferring electrons. The goal was to make a solid-state battery, without the liquid lithium batteries contain that makes them overly sensitive to heat and combustible. Other researchers have experimented with using the nanowires before, but they're fragile.

At UCI, PhD candidate Mya Le Thai got the idea of suspending the brittle nanowire in a protective electrolyte gel after coating them with manganese oxide.

And boom: Super-Battery.
 "Mya was playing around, and she coated this whole thing with a very thin gel layer and started to cycle it," as Penner tells it. "She discovered that just by using this gel, she could cycle it hundreds of thousands of times without losing any capacity."

Rechargeables usually die after 6-7,000 charges, so this is amazing. UCI suspects the gel makes the nanowire more pliable, and thus prevent the cracking that ended previous experiments. This could be the kind of battery-life breakthrough we've been waiting for.
Here's the young scientist herself telling the story of this amazing leap forward.
  • Headline image: Steve Zylius / UCI

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Who Doesn’t Love Dwayne Johnson? — The Ringer

The Undeniables

How Rocky Maivia became one of the biggest stars in the world

Ringer illustration
In the Internet Age, monoculture is unachievable. But there remain a few things we can all agree on.​ The Ringer is looking at this rarefied group all week. These are our Undeniables.


the fans had gotten their way, Dwayne Johnson never would've had a chance to become the Rock. When the third-generation wrestler first popped up on WWF television in 1996, it was as "Rocky Maivia" — the first name from his dad, the last from his maternal grandfather, both of whom were pro wrestlers. The audience, though, wasn't having it.
"His first wrestling persona was the perception of what a third-generation wrestling star was supposed to be: a smiling babyface [wrestling good guy], slapping hands with everybody and claiming to be fighting for truth and justice," said Brian Gewirtz, an 11-year writer for WWE who's now the head of television development for Johnson's Seven Bucks productions. "And obviously the fans threw up all over it. It's pretty daunting if you're being told 'die Rocky die' by fans when you're just doing what you're told."
The voice saying, "Now there's gonna be the man right there," belongs to Jim Ross, the lead commentator of the WWF through the 1990s and then the company's vice president of talent relations. He offered Johnson his first WWF contract.

"I just thought that he was a can't-miss guy. I paid him the most we'd ever paid anybody in that respect. I think he got a low-six-figure deal, and [WWE chairman] Vince [McMahon] was astonished that I'd given him that. Rock got a bigger contract than a lot of guys because I felt he had an unlimited upside."
"Unlimited upside" now gets tossed around by coaches and draftniks with barely a passing consideration, but in this case — even judged by the intangible terms of sports entertainment — Ross was close to right.
"He had a kind of odorless and invisible aura," Ross said. "Obviously I could see a 6–4 or 6–5, 270-pound individual who was handsome, great look, all that stuff. I think anybody who had any objectivity could have said that this guy looks too good in an 8-by-10 not to investigate. But when we got him in the ring, he had a natural aptitude. He had it — early."
In 2016, it's easy to look at Johnson in all his rippling, sui generis glory and take him for granted. But he came to wrestling only after his football dreams petered out. And he almost didn't make it as a wrestler. When he left for Hollywood, he almost stalled out there, too. The road to becoming one of the biggest stars in the world had plenty of red lights.
"I thought we had done a really good job of creating a babyface with the vignettes we put together," Ross said. "Little did we know that he was gonna march out there in the [Madison Square] Garden and that we were going to get 'die Rocky die' chants."
Was Ross worried when his six-figure investment got booed out of the arena?
"No. I just knew it might take us a little longer than we might have wanted. He was ready to be the biggest star we had after a couple of days."
It took closer to three years. After a knee injury put him out of action for a few months, Johnson got the chance for a reboot. The idea was hatched to bring him back as a heel — a wrestling bad guy — to quash the boos. But Johnson didn't just want to silence the boos; he wanted to embrace them. Rocky Maivia became "the Rock," and the rest is history.
"As he infamously told Vince, 'Just give me a microphone and one chance, and I'll take this character and run away with it,'" Gewirtz said. "I think that's a pretty strong parallel to what he does in movies and television appearances — once you give him that ball and let him run with it, you're going to get something incredible."
In August 1997, he got the mic and took his chance:
The lesson was real: Johnson would make you love him, make you respect him, and he'd do whatever it took to make it happen.


ewirtz first met the Rock when the writer was hired by MTV to script some segments featuring wrestlers introducing music videos to promote SummerSlam 1999. By that time, Johnson had already headlined a WrestleMania, and thanks to his urging, Gewirtz was hired by the WWF several months later. Johnson was eager to collaborate, even as other wrestlers sneered at accepting help from writers.
"You knew that [Johnson's] talent was different than the others."
When wrestlers do their match-hyping interviews backstage, they can choose to record them ahead of time or do them live. According to Gewirtz, almost everybody chooses the former, for the safety net in case something goes wrong. But Johnson insisted on doing his promos live.
"When we did a promo, it actually became an event backstage. The wrestlers and staff would stop what they were doing and gather around the set to watch him. He's the only person I've ever seen that with to this day. It was, 'Pick up your popcorn box and watch the Rock cut a promo.'"
In 2000, Vince McMahon somehow conned Lorne Michaels into letting the Rock take his live magnetism to NBC. At the time, having a wrestler host Saturday Night Live seemed a little bit crazy, but Johnson pulled it off.
"That was a big turning point," says Gewirtz. "Not only did he break perceptions about himself, but he broke perceptions about wrestlers in general. Whenever you would see a wrestler on a sitcom or in a movie, it would be the typical grunting, musclebound caveman. His performance on SNL just completely obliterated that perception."
("Although the WWF is still my first love, it turns out that I'm also pretty good and a natural at comedy," Johnson said in his monologue. "People also tell me I look like a sexy Rob Schneider.")
Johnson's first big movie role was in the Mummy spinoff The Scorpion King,in 2002. Maybe it was a little schlocky, but nobody does schlock better than Johnson. Pro wrestling, the Fast and the Furious franchise, the Baywatch movie that's coming next year — Johnson elevates schlock into something, well, if not something great, than something entirely palatable and impossibly hip.
"When I heard he was off to do The Scorpion King," Gewirtz said, "even though it was kind of a little thing, [I thought], 'Yeah, I see where this is going. This is going to be huge.'"
The movie made $165 million worldwide on a $60 million budget.
"I went to the opening of Scorpion King and I sat next to Vince," Ross said. "We didn't have to say anything. We looked at each other and knew we'd better be thinking about what's next because that kid on the screen was probably not going to be with us much longer, not full time anyway. And he wasn't."


hen The Hollywood Reporter named him one of Hollywood's 100 most powerful people last week, Johnson Instagrammed his thanks, along with the credo of his Seven Bucks production company (which he cofounded with his then-wife, Dany Garcia): "Hungry, humble and always be the hardest and smartest workers in the room." Gewirtz has another phrase for it: "benevolent world domination."
Besides the Furious franchise and the San Andreases and Journeys and Central Intelligence — which is the biggest live-action original hit of the year — Johnson's HBO show, Ballers, is about to start its second season. He's also producing a talk show, a reality show about marching band battles, a music history show, a prison documentary, a Bob Hope–style USO troop spectacular, and even an app that mainlines Johnson's unyielding work ethic into your soul. The Rock Clock is a small thing, but it feels like an accidental statement: It's the shift from metaphorical media omnipresence to the real thing. The Rock isn't a nerd subculture or cottage industry. He's everything.
According to The New York Times, Johnson has a Q score as oversize as his lats: "Since the company began tracking him seven years ago, Mr. Johnson has maintained a Q score that's consistently way above average, topping Tom Cruise, Mark Wahlberg, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, the earlier paragon of musclebound crossovers. Mr. Johnson 'established a foothold and held on to it.'"
In 2013, he was Hollywood's highest-grossing actor, according to Forbes, and he had to earn it: "Iron Man 3 is the highest-grossing movie of 2013 so far with $1.2 billion. But that's not enough to put its star, Robert Downey Jr., on top of our list of the top-grossing actors. Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson beat him this year by working more."
The determination isn't a new phenomenon, according to Ross: "He never was willing to settle to be Stone Cold [Steve Austin's] understudy. He didn't come up the way Austin did, but the Rock never wanted to be no. 2. He always wanted to be no. 1, and that was with no ill will toward Steve."
"Dwayne could read the alphabet and it would be entertaining," Gewirtz said. "But the flip side of that is that every time, Dwayne would say, 'OK, how do we raise the bar? How do we do something that's never been done in the history of the business?' That was the expectation."
In the world of pro wrestling, characters flip back and forth from good guy to bad guy on a fairly regular basis. But nobody plays the clean-cut, all-American, everybody-loves-me character anymore. Except one, in Hollywood, and his name is Dwayne Johnson.
Johnson's Instagram account, which counts 57 million followers, is a hypnotizing churn of inspirational quotes, respect for country (along with the tease of a future presidential run), respect for elders, his pair of French bulldog puppies, him saving his puppies from drowning, his grief over the death of one of the puppies, and (of course) workout porn. Johnson hasn't just changed what the perception of a wrestler is; he's changed what the perception of an action star is, and he's done it by turning back to the babyface character that once nearly got him booed out of the ring.
It took a long time, but Johnson finally made Rocky Maivia cool.

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