Fall of Empire

 

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“The fall of Empire, gentlemen, is a massive thing, however, and not easily fought. It is dictated by a rising bureaucracy, a receding initiative, a freezing of caste, a damming of curiosity—a hundred other factors. It has been going on, as I have said, for centuries, and it is too majestic and massive a movement to stop.” – Isaac Asimov, Foundation.

Pic: Great Fire of London, artist unknown.

The God Voice

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“The key to unlocking “Westworld” has been sitting around since the third episode, “The Stray,” when Dr. Ford discusses Julian Jaynes’s radical theory of the “Bicameral Mind,” which gives this episode its title. Other sites explained the theory as far back as mid-October — but here’s the gist: In “The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind,” Mr. Jaynes suggests that the human brain has not always functioned in the same way. His theory speculates that 3,000 years ago, men and women were capable of a great many things, but they lacked the linguistic tools for self-awareness and introspection. Instead, their actions were determined by a back-and-forth between one part of the brain that’s “speaking” and another part that listens and obeys. Mr. Jaynes describes the communication between hemispheres as a kind of hallucination where a commanding, external “god-voice” intervened when they had a decision to make.

“Through that lens, the mysteries of “Westworld” start to clear up a little. The “god-voice” that’s been echoing through the hosts’ heads is Arnold, who has designed a path for his creations to understand themselves and take that great leap toward introspection. The metaphorical path is the maze, and the bread crumbs leading them to the center have been the memories (or “reveries”) of past constructs, with Arnold’s “voice” guiding them through exactly the sort of hallucinations Mr. Jaynes’s theory suggests. When Genevieve Valentine wrote this week in Vox that “the twists are meant to shock the hosts, not the viewers,” she couldn’t have known how right she would be. “The maze wasn’t meant for you,” Dolores tells the Man in Black, who’s miffed that he’s come this far, only to discover an inexplicable metaphor in the form of a cheap children’s toy. Sorry, buddy. That twist was meant to shock the hosts…”

Text: ‘Westworld’ Season 1 Finale: Wake From Your Sleep, The New York Times.

A Sidewalk War

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“A sidewalk war has erupted in Lower Manhattan.

“Paul Proulx is caught in the middle of it. Just to get to his apartment in the financial district, he has to contend with hordes of commuters and selfie-snapping tourists clogging narrow sidewalks. But these are the least of his problems.

“Security barriers around landmarks and key government posts send him in circles if he forgets to plan ahead. Scaffolding stretches above him in an impenetrable line, ensuring that the walk home is dark and claustrophobic. He is not even safe on his side of the curb. Delivery trucks routinely park on the sidewalk as if they own it.

“If that was not enough, there is the trash. Supersize contractor bags of smelly, leaking garbage are stacked up to 10-feet high outside gleaming high-rise towers, ready to topple over on someone who is not paying attention, or is just really unlucky.

“We fight every day for every square inch,” said Mr. Proulx, 44, a land-use lawyer and soft-spoken father of three who moved to the area from Brooklyn in 2007.

[…]

“We have turned a corner out of the challenges we faced in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, and we’ve gone much farther than I think a lot of us ever would’ve imagined already,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a meeting called “Getting Ready for Nine Million New Yorkers” hosted by Crain’s last month in Midtown Manhattan. “And this growth has been extraordinary.”

“Still, Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat, added that the “pathway to nine million” would not be easy. “It will come with challenges to say the least,” he said. “We all are experiencing the congestion in this city, and that is in part because we are victims of our own success.”

“Roughly seven out of eight neighborhoods now have more residents than in 1990, according to an analysis of census data by Queens College using neighborhood boundaries as defined by the city’s Planning Department.

“The biggest change was in Lower Manhattan-Battery Park City, which gained 30,502 residents for a total of 42,485 in 2014, up 255 percent from 1990.

“Crowding exists in other parts of the city,” said Patrick Kennell, 40, a lawyer who is also a member of the Financial District Neighborhood Association. “But it’s unique here because of the sheer amount of development that has happened post-9/11.”

Text: Downside of Lower Manhattan’s Boom: It’s Just Too Crowded, The New York Times.

Pic: Soylent Green, 1973.

Displacement Hotspots

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Data from the Sentinel-1 satellites acquired between 22 February 2015 and 20 September 2016 show that Millennium Tower in San Francisco is sinking by about 40 mm a year in the ‘line of sight’ – the direction that the satellite is ‘looking’ at the building. This translates into a vertical subsidence of almost 50 mm a year, assuming no tilting. The coloured dots represent targets observed by the radar. The colour scale ranges from 40 mm a year away from radar (red) to 40 mm a year towards radar (blue). Green represents stable targets. Credit: Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2015–16) / ESA SEOM INSARAP study / PPO.labs / Norut / NGU

“The Sentinel-1 satellites have shown that the Millennium Tower skyscraper in the centre of San Francisco is sinking by a few centimetres a year. Studying the city is helping scientists to improve the monitoring of urban ground movements, particularly for subsidence hotspots in Europe.

“Completed in 2009, the 58-storey Millennium Tower has recently been showing signs of sinking and tilting. Although the cause has not been pinpointed, it is believed that the movements are connected to the supporting piles not firmly resting on bedrock.

“To probe these subtle shifts, scientists combined multiple radar scans from the Copernicus Sentinel-1 twin satellites of the same area to detect subtle surface changes – down to millimetres. The technique works well with buildings because they better reflect the radar beam.

“It is also useful for pinpointing displacement hotspots over large areas, thanks to Sentinel-1’s broad coverage and frequent visits.

“Working with ESA, the team from Norut, PPO.labs and Geological Survey of Norway have also mapped other areas in the wider San Francisco Bay Area that are moving. These include buildings along the earthquake-prone Hayward Fault, as well as subsidence of the newly reclaimed land in the San Rafael Bay.

“An uplift of the land was detected around the city of Pleasanton, possibly from the replenishment of groundwater following a four-year drought that ended in 2015.
Text and Pic: Satellites confirm sinking of San Francisco tower, Physics.org

Targeting Jupiter’s Icy Moon

“Targeting Jupiter’s icy moon, Europa, this expansive sculpture exhibition offers an unprecedented view into Tom Sachs’ extraordinary artistic output and advances his quest to find extraterrestrial life with bricolaged sculptures. The exhibition will fill YBCA with everything his astronauts need to successfully complete their voyage—including the Mobile Quarantine Facility, Mission Control, the Apollo-era Landing Excursion Module (LEM), and special equipment for conducting scientific experiments—immersing the audience in a universe of sculpture occupying the entire downstairs galleries in addition to YBCA’s public spaces. Space Program: Europa will feature live activations of the Europa flight plan by Sachs’ astronauts during the opening and closing weekends. In these demonstrations, the astronauts will showcase the rituals and procedures of their mission, including the cultural export of chanoyu, the ancient art of the tea ceremony.

“Tom Sachs (b. 1966, New York) is a New York–based sculptor known for his work inspired by icons of modernism and design. Using modest studio materials, Sachs creates parallel universes incorporating semi-functional sculpture, sometimes deployed by the artist and his studio assistants for interactive projects, as in Nutsy’s (2001-3) and Space Program (2007 and 2012). YBCA, San Francisco

The Imposter Lives with the Patient

 

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“Mary, aged 40 years, was referred for psychiatric evaluation out of concern that a mental health diagnosis was interfering with her ability to appropriately and safely care for her child. The patient had stated on numerous occasions that her 9-year-old daughter, Sarah, had been placed in the custody of Child Protective Services and replaced by an imposter. Mary also reported that she had given birth to twins but that the hospital record only documented the birth of Sarah. On occasion, she had shown up at her daughter’s school, refusing to pick her up, screaming, “Give me my real daughter; I know what you’ve done.”

“Despite reassurance from multiple health care providers and relatives, Mary continued to express concern that her daughter was not, in fact, her own. Furthermore, she related several episodes in which her daughter was “whisked away before I could talk to her” while going about her daily business. For example, Mary related that a car driven by an unknown person, with Sarah in the passenger seat, passed by her while she was running errands but sped away once she was noticed…

[…]

“A case has been described in which a mother believed her adult daughter had been replaced with a look-alike imposter. On delving into the patient’s history, it was found that the patient had to leave a very serious relationship with a man she loved because she was pregnant with another man’s child. The baby eventually grew into the adult daughter who the patient believed had been replaced. The patient’s resentment for having to leave her lover when she was pregnant was believed to be the psychodynamic source for the current delusion.

“With Capgras syndrome, the family member who is believed to have been replaced is most often a spouse, parent, or sibling. For unknown reasons, the “replaced” family member is rarely the child of the delusional person and even more rarely is the child younger than 20 years. Although violence aimed at any person is a significant threat, violence aimed at children is particularly worrisome. Mary’s case is unique because the increased potential for violence in her relationship with her daughter needs to be taken into consideration when assessing the patient’s ability to be a safe and effective parent.

“Although violence can be seen in all psychiatric disorders, there is a higher incidence of severe violence in patients with delusional disorders. In patients with Capgras syndrome, the violence is often directed at the imposter or, in some cases, the people the patient believes replaced the loved one with the imposter.

“Bourget and Whitehurst found several demographic features that increase the likelihood of violence in persons with Capgras syndrome. Specifically, if the imposter lives with the patient or if the delusional person is male, has a persistent and long-term delusion, or has a history of violence or substance abuse, the risk of violence is increased. The sources of violence can be frustration or fear of the imposter, but it can also be cultural.

“Silva and colleagues found that some folklore and regional legends suggest that if a child is thought to have been replaced by another person or even by a demon, battering and being physically aggressive toward the imposter might bring the “real” child back. One Swedish fairy tale recounts the story of a woman who believed her child was an imposter. In the story, she is advised to put her baby into a hot oven; when she does this, her “true” child is returned. This is a severe case that is not necessarily the norm for patients with misidentification delusions; however, it is evidence that violence in delusional persons can happen.”

Text: That’s Not My Child: A Case of Capers Syndrome, by Jeremy Matuszak, MD and Matthew Parra, MD, Psychiatric Times.

Pic: The Lovers 2, 1928 by Rene Magritte

In A Room of Liars

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“Donald Trump scolded media big shots during an off-the-record Trump Tower sitdown on Monday, sources told The Post.

“It was like a f–ing firing squad,” one source said of the encounter.

“Trump started with [CNN chief] Jeff Zucker and said ‘I hate your network, everyone at CNN is a liar and you should be ashamed,’ ” the source said.

The meeting was a total disaster. The TV execs and anchors went in there thinking they would be discussing the access they would get to the Trump administration, but instead they got a Trump-style dressing down,” the source added.

A second source confirmed the fireworks.

“The meeting took place in a big board room and there were about 30 or 40 people, including the big news anchors from all the networks,” the other source said.

“Trump kept saying, ‘We’re in a room of liars, the deceitful dishonest media who got it all wrong.’ He addressed everyone in the room calling the media dishonest, deceitful liars. He called out Jeff Zucker by name and said everyone at CNN was a liar, and CNN was [a] network of liars,” the source said.

Text: New York Post

 

Pic: The Plot To Assassinate Hitler, A Board Game.