Technology

The Battle over Source Code

Aram Sinnreich— Professional prognosticators and commentators often treat the development of media technology as a one-way street, an inevitable series of magical innovations leading to an equally inevitable set of disruptions in business, culture, and society. In reality, of course, the process is far more complex. Technology developers and media

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The World of Fiber Optics

Susan Crawford— Here is the tech revolution America may miss: On a gray, cloudy weekday morning in August, I drove across the wide Han River that divides the northern and southern parts of Seoul. I turned east onto a furiously busy highway that runs alongside the river. I was noticing

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From House Telegraphs to Mobile Phones

Lee Jackson— In December 1858, Punch, the satirical magazine, imagined the next stage in the nineteenth century information revolution: the “house telegraph.” With such a device, one could be both at home and yet in constant telegraphic contact with the wider world. But was this really a good idea? A

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Thermodynamics in Our Daily Lives

R. Stephen Berry— Thermodynamics is a beautiful illustration of how needs of very practical applications can lead to very basic, general concepts and relations, very much in contrast to the view that the practical and applied facets of a science are consequences of prior basic studies.  Thermodynamics teaches us that

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Life Goes On

Shing-Tung Yau— My father’s death hit me hard, throwing me into an unfamiliar state in which I felt a weird mixture of things, all unpleasant, all at the same time. A powerful sadness welled up in me from a deep place I’d never accessed before. I felt a dull ache

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Six Tips for Avoiding Misinformation on Social Media

Cailin O’Connor and James Owen Weatherall— Is that article fake news?  Is this meme trustworthy?  Is that scientific claim reliable?  Over the last few years, it has become clear that most of us are not very good at answering such questions.  For this reason, social media has contributed to a

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Virtual Weapons and International Order

Lucas Kello— Every historical era begins with a revolution: it comes of age when revolution becomes the new normal. The Reformation began when a disaffected Augustinian friar asked, What authority has the Pope? It achieved its peak when the schism in Christianity became a source not of religious war but

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The Center of the Universe

Marcia Bartusiak- Walk into an open field on a clear, moonless night. Overhead, sparkling stars are sprinkled across the sky. All of them seem equidistant from you—and no one else—and you are lulled into imagining yourself at the center of the universe. For nearly five hundred years, astronomers have struggled to

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Political Tribalism: The Art of Divide and Rule

Michelle Baddeley— How did Donald Trump manage to become president? If we look to psychology for an explanation, we can understand Trump as the populist leader of a modern-day tribe of voters. These voters define themselves according to a specific set of attitudes. On social media, they have a level

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A History of Servers: From Lazy Suzan to Alexa

Markus Krajewski— When Amazon introduced the world to a black, cylindrical cartouche with built-in ears and a female voice that answers to the name of Alexa in 2015, more than a few people have been looking forward to its promising and, more importantly, affordable services as a so called virtual

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