The Librarian Who Guarded the Manhattan Project’s Secrets – Atlas Obscura

While dodging accusations of communism, Charlotte Serber made the nuclear bomb possible.

Source: The Librarian Who Guarded the Manhattan Project’s Secrets – Atlas Obscura

Charlotte Serber, a University of Pennsylvania graduate, statistician, and freelance journalist who at one point interviewed Frank Lloyd Wright for The Boston Globe.

In 1942, J. Robert Oppenheimer selected Serber to spearhead the project in part because of her lack of librarian experience. He wanted someone who would be willing to bend the rules of cataloguing.

As the head of the scientific library, she became the Manhattan Project’s de facto keeper of secrets, a position that soon saw her targeted for an FBI probe—and almost ended in her being fired from the project.

Serber’s greatest challenge proved to be importing thousands of esoteric textbooks, journals, and manuals to a town that isn’t supposed to exist—without raising suspicion.

The Internet as existential threat | Raph’s Website

As we rush towards putting more and more things “in the cloud,” as we rush towards an Internet of Things with no governance beyond profit motive and anarchy, what we’re effectively doing is creating a massive single point of failure for every system we put in it.

What we are building is basically a perfect scenario for collapse, where a commons is consumed by actors who either don’t care or don’t understand the collective damage that is possible in a connected system, and the tipping points that can ensue.

If software eats everything, then the ability to kill software is the ability to kill anything. Net connectivity becomes the single point of failure for every system connected to it.

A typical US city only has three days of food within the city limits, because the Internet has enabled just-in-time delivery of foodstuffs. Economic optimization within a network tends to imply specialization, which means that even those lovely rural communities that in theory grow their own food don’t grow balanced diets locally. And you’re laughing at an Internet connected juicer? Your juicer is already Internet-connected. If that goes down, you don’t get any more juice! It’s just connected in a way you can’t see.

We think of critical infrastructure in terms of government-owned or controlled utilities… but the food trucking fleet is “critical infrastructure.”

In a world where we take actual damage when something digital is attacked, any CPU is basically a weapon, and leaving Internet connected CPUs unattended is basically leaving armory doors open.

The issue is whether we are increasing the fragility of the system and thereby increasing the likelihood of cascade effects.

Source: The Internet as existential threat | Raph’s Website

How to Reawaken a Sense of Solidarity in America – The Atlantic

“If we are to sustain the solidarity that encourages acceptance of the strains of democratic cooperation, we must learn to more fully appreciate those contexts in which our common humanity is more important than our differences, by admitting that it is often possible to recognize and respect the moral integrity of others even when we disagree with them about matters of moral and political significance.”

“The sacrifices and compromises that matter are not just those associated with the demands of war or other national crises. We must learn, for instance, to relinquish resentments towards the ‘opposition’ when we lose out in a political contest and to refrain from smug self-righteousness when we win.

We must encourage our political leaders to be open to constructive compromise when political consensus is out of reach. We must also be more willing to tolerate the public expression of attitudes with which we disagree, and we must accept that even the best-designed legal institutions and practices may yield decisions which many believe to be mistaken. Democratic cooperation will always produce what John Rawls called the “strains of commitment,” and our continued flourishing as a democracy depends upon a readiness to acknowledge and accept these strains.”

— Michele Moody-Adams, a professor of political philosophy and legal theory at Columbia University

Source: How to Reawaken a Sense of Solidarity in America – The Atlantic

BBC – Future – The secret to a long and healthy life? Eat less

More positive/optimistic results surrounding the potential for calorie restriction (CR) diets to increase healthspan and lifespan.

Source: BBC – Future – The secret to a long and healthy life? Eat less

“this [the Calerie trial] is the first study of its kind, and I don’t think that any of us would feel confident in saying, ‘okay, we’re going to recommend this to everyone in the world,’” says Roberts. “But it’s a really exciting prospect. I think that delaying the progression of chronic diseases is something that everyone can get behind and get excited about, because nobody wants to live life with one of those.”