World Shattered: Mavis Beacon isn’t real

I always suspected.

Earlier this month, VICE ran a story about the now-famous Berenstein/Berenstain Bears conspiracy theory, positing that we live in a Matrix-style reality simulation, not the reality of our childhoods, where “Berenstain” had a third “e” in it. Conspiracy theories, aside, however, it’s spelled “Berenstain” and it always was.

But maybe it’ll also blow your mind that there was never a living, breathing human being named Mavis Beacon, and that you learned to type from an emotionless robot with a human face slapped on it.

“She’s our Betty Crocker. She’s our symbol of excellence,” Joe Abrams, one of Mavis Beacon’s creators told VICE in an interview. Abrams was one of the founders of The Software Toolworks, the company that designed Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing!.

Link: What's Mavis Beacon Up To These Days? Nothing. She's Fake | VICE | United States.

English is the universal language of science

And this article makes an argument that it’s a problem.

Newton’s Principia Mathematica was written in Latin; Einstein’s first influential papers were written in German; Marie Curie’s work was published in French. Yet today, most scientific research around the world is published in a single language, English.

Since the middle of the last century, things have shifted in the global scientific community. English is now so prevalent that in some non-English speaking countries, like Germany, France, and Spain, English-language academic papers outnumber publications in the country’s own language several times over. In the Netherlands, one of the more extreme examples, this ratio is an astonishing 40 to 1.

A 2012 study from the scientific-research publication Research Trends examined articles collected by SCOPUS, the world’s largest database for peer-reviewed journals. To qualify for inclusion in SCOPUS, a journal published in a language other than English must at the very least include English abstracts; of the more than 21,000 articles from 239 countries currently in the database, the study found that 80 percent were written entirely in English. Zeroing in on eight countries that produce a high number of scientific journals, the study also found that the ratio of English to non-English articles in the past few years had increased or remained stable in all but one.

Link: Why English as the Universal Language of Science Is a Problem for Research – The Atlantic.

Social media stars are okay. It’s okay to like them.

The nice thing about hanging out with furries is that a lot of them are right at the edge of the demographic for these kinds of things. I can’t say I’m particularly interested in it, but I rarely say “Who?,” and I have no ill conceits about the kind of people who are interested in it. I know they’re smart, kind, and accepting, so I’d never think ill of them for liking some YouTube star.

For the past two days, E! Online has been at war with a million irate teens. And as the battle winds up, we must conclude: The teens are winning.

It all began in the wake of Sunday night’s Teen Choice Awards, when Seija Rankin — a 30-something editor for the celebrity network — published a tongue-in-cheek listicle that spent a lot of real estate hating on the social media stars at the show. Maybe Rankin was joking and her jokes were bad; maybe Rankin was serious. In either case, she appeared shocked to see awards for Vine, YouTube and Twitter celebs, and — of several top social media stars — wrote only, “who is this?”

Both the “unknown” luminaries and their fans were, suffice it to say, upset about the debacle: In the day after the post published, many of YouTube’s top stars tweeted their complaints — to thousands of RTs from a peeved teen audience.

Link: Why social media stars really, truly matter: An explainer for over-30s and E! Online – The Washington Post.

Cable-only Presidential debates are not the new poll tax

The “debates” have been a farce as long as I’ve paid attention. The real debate happens in blogs, news sites, and social media, and the spectacle is barely mentioned. It’s just not relevant as more than a source of punchlines.

All that aside, the article’s overview of the history of cable policy is interesting.

As a matter of American history and civics, this should be shocking. But when I told a friend of mine that this bothered me, he said, snarkily, “Oh, right, because you can’t pay for cable. Of course you can. What’s your problem?”

So it seems to me maybe a little re-education (or myth-busting) might be useful. There are all kinds of public values at stake here, and we shouldn’t glide past them. This is the place where the increasingly blurry public/private line should, for many people, stand out in sharp relief. There is no speech more central to civic life than a political debate. And yet we have allowed access to that speech by way of the common medium of our era — high-speed Internet access — to be controlled by a cabal of private actors.

The thing is that Fox News Channel owes its existence — completely — to a federal statutory regime aimed at supporting the “public trustee” role of traditional TV broadcasters. And yet all the “public-ness” of that deal has been washed away: Fox News felt no need to ensure that online viewers could watch the debate. That meant that cord-cutters and cord-nevers — basically, Millennials and an ever-increasing chunk of Americans — whose high-speed Internet access wasn’t sold to them by a cable company had to wait for re-runs.

Link: Cable-Only Presidential Debates are the New Poll Tax — Backchannel — Medium.

I guess someone had to be the one to archive it, but Yale?

Think this will affect their rankings?

Yale University Library has long been familiar with controversy, even several centuries before it decided to make thousands of VHS tapes with titles like Naughty Roommates, Sorority Babes in the Dance-a-Thon of Death, and What the Swedish Butler Saw part of its collection. The library’s origins date back to 1718, when, after much cantankerous debate over the school’s prospective location, New Haven beat out two rival towns in its bid to host the institution. During the transfer of the school’s books to their new home by wagon train, the residents of Saybrook, Yale’s former home, expressed their frustrations by attacking the train and stealing nearly 250 volumes.#

Almost 300 years later, another shipment of material arrived in New Haven: 2,700 VHS tapes from the 1970s and ’80s, making Yale the only U.S. institution that deliberately collects these horror and exploitation movies in magnetic tape format. While these movies obviously aren’t equivalent to the work of Francis Bacon or Isaac Newton, they do carry their own cultural weight, and will hopefully allow researchers to explore the home-video revolution of the time, as well as the cultural mores and politics of the Reagan era they emerged in.

Link: Saving the Scream Queens: Why Yale University Library Believes In the Value of VHS – The Atlantic.

Real American heroes

See, this is the kind of intervention people actually want. None of this cowboy stuff, just a few people taking down a bad person trying to do a bad thing.

The Americans were helped by Briton Chris Norman as they tied up the suspect. Video footage has emerged of the detained man on the ground in the immediate aftermath.

After the suspect was restrained, Mr Skarlatos – who only recently returned from a tour of Afghanistan – began disarming the gunman’s pile of weapons and realised the AK-47 had jammed.

“He didn’t know how to fix it, which is very lucky,” he said.

“If that guy’s weapon had been functioning properly I don’t even want to think about how it would have went. We were incredibly lucky.”

Link: US Soldier: How We Stopped Train Gunman.

Are investors, in general, as short-sighted as we think?

The answer might not be as simple as we like to believe.

Several studies in the nineties found that companies announcing major R. & D. investments were rewarded by the markets, not punished, and that companies with more institutional investors (who typically have shorter time horizons) spent more on R. & D., not less. A 2011 Deutsche Bank study of more than a thousand companies found that those which spent significantly more on R. & D. than their competitors were more highly valued by investors. And a 2014 study of companies that cut R. & D. spending in order to meet short-term earnings goals found that their stocks underperformed after earnings had been announced—hardly what you’d expect if the market cared only about the short term.

Of course, there’s no shortage of investors who are myopic. But the market, for the most part, isn’t. That’s why companies like Amazon and Tesla and Netflix, whose profits in the present have typically been a tiny fraction of their market caps, have been able to command colossal valuations. It’s why there’s a steady flow of I.P.O.s for companies with small revenues and nonexistent earnings. And it’s why the biotech industry is now valued at more than a trillion dollars, even though many of the firms have yet to bring a single drug to market. None of these things are what you’d expect from a market dominated by short-term considerations.

Link: The Short-Termism Myth – The New Yorker.