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How To Invent A Person Online

Fake Identity

On April 8, 2013, I received an envelope in the mail from a nonexistent return address in Toledo, Ohio. Inside was a blank thank-you note and an Ohio state driver’s license. The ID belonged to a 28-year-old man called Aaron Brown—6 feet tall and 160 pounds with a round face, scruffy brown hair, a thin beard, and green eyes. His most defining feature, however, was that he didn’t exist.

I know that because I created him.

More at The Atlantic

What Were Drugs?

Smoking Opium 1900

When the US President Richard Nixon announced his ‘war on drugs’ in 1971, there was no need to define the enemy. He meant, as everybody knew, the type of stuff you couldn’t buy in a drugstore. Drugs were trafficked exclusively on ‘the street’, within a subculture that was immediately identifiable (and never going to vote for Nixon anyway). His declaration of war was for the benefit of the majority of voters who saw these drugs, and the people who used them, as a threat to their way of life. If any further clarification was needed, the drugs Nixon had in his sights were the kind that were illegal. Today, such certainties seem quaint and distant.

More at aeon

Feet Are Getting Bigger

Feet

When was the last time you had your foot measured to check your shoe size?

If the answer is more than a year ago, there is a good chance your shoes are causing you some kind of pain, from pinched toes to unsightly calluses. Foot shape and size can change in small but meaningful ways throughout adulthood, yet time-starved shoppers increasingly order shoes online and forgo proper sizing by a trained salesperson.

The need for better-fitting shoes comes with the news that our feet, like the rest of us, are getting bigger. The average shoe size is up about two sizes since the 1970s, according to a study released last month from the College of Podiatry, a U.K. professional group. Emma Supple, a consulting podiatrist for the College of Podiatry, says she believes the findings apply outside the U.K. as well. “We’ve all gotten taller and we need big feet to hold us up,” she says.

More at The Wall Street Journal

How Secret Societies Stay Hidden On The Internet

Secret Society

It all started with a Facebook message from a dead guy.

His name was Ernest Howard Crosby and his profile picture showed an old-time portrait of a man in a dapper vest sporting a bushy Civil War beard. The message came on behalf of New York University’s Eucleian Society, a literary club formed in 1832 around the same time that secret societies began sprouting up at university campuses across the country.

“The Society is interested in your potential membership and would like to invite you to learn more… Time is of the essence.”

More at The Atlantic

The New York Times Calls For Marijuana Legalization

marijuana plants

It took 13 years for the United States to come to its senses and end Prohibition, 13 years in which people kept drinking, otherwise law-abiding citizens became criminals and crime syndicates arose and flourished. It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol.

The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana.

More at The New York Times

Taking Country Music Back From The Bros

Maddie and Tae

Since its release in August, 2012, the song “Cruise,” by the pop-country duo Florida Georgia Line, has become the best-selling digital country song of all time—with well over six million downloads—and has remained a dominant anthem of the male-fantasy endless summer. The song crossed over to the pop charts on its own, and a remixed version, featuring the hip-hop artist Nelly, went all the way to No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. For two years, it has been the biggest and most influential song in country music—a genre that itself remains big and influential, thanks in large part to the fact that its audience continues to do the seemingly unthinkable, which is to buy music.

More at The New Yorker

Being Powerful Distorts People’s Perception Of Time

Time Distortion

Maria Konnikova, writing in the New York Times, made the point recently that there’s much more to poverty than just a shortage of money. Being poor, she said, brings with it other abstract deficits, most notably a lack of time. She quoted Sendhil Mullainathan, an economist and the author the book Scarcity: “The biggest mistake we make about scarcity is we view it as a physical phenomenon. It’s not.”

Saying time is scarce seems imprecise, given that each day, no one has more than 24 hours. But what can change from person to person, and what shapes the way we map out our days, is our subjective perception of time—how quickly it passes and how much of it we think we have.

More at The Atlantic

How A Solar Storm Nearly Destroyed Life As We Know It Two Years Ago

Coronal Mass Ejection

On July 23, 2012, the sun unleashed two massive clouds of plasma that barely missed a catastrophic encounter with the Earth’s atmosphere. These plasma clouds, known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), comprised a solar storm thought to be the most powerful in at least 150 years.

“If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces,” physicist Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado tells NASA.

Fortunately, the blast site of the CMEs was not directed at Earth. Had this event occurred a week earlier when the point of eruption was Earth-facing, a potentially disastrous outcome would have unfolded.

More at The Washington Post

A Guaranteed Income For Every American Would Eliminate Poverty

US Currency is seen in this January 30,

Eliminating poverty seems like an impossibly utopian goal, but it’s actually pretty easy: we can just give people enough money that they’re above the poverty line. That idea, known as a basic income, has been around forever, but it’s made a comeback in recent years.

And it’s a sign of how far it’s come that opponents of the idea are beginning to feel the need to make arguments against it. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, in The Week, is the latest to present a case against, and grounds it almost entirely in the findings of a series of experiments on a variant of the basic income known as a “negative income tax” conducted in the 1970s, which he says show the idea is doomed to failure.

Not so fast — the experiments raise valid worries, but they hardly herald doom, and still suggest that a negative income tax could eliminate poverty at a manageable cost.

More at Vox

The Persistence Of Punk

Ramones

It will be 40 years in December, 2015, since the release of Patti Smith’s “Horses,” on Clive Davis’ Arista label, arguably the beginning of the punk movement, emanating from New York’s underground in the mid-’70s, ushered in by both the Velvets and the New York Dolls, not to mention the Stooges, MC5 and Lenny Kaye’s influential ’60s “Nuggets” collection.

Despite its initial boast that “anybody can do it,” dispelling the myth of musicianship and putting the tools of production into the hands of the (sometimes) ignorant, punk proved to be quite resilient, even with its back to basics approach. The universal mourning over the death of Tommy Ramone sharpens the observation that what his band did wasn’t quite as simple as it seemed.

Still, for a musical style that seemed monolithic and ephemeral, punk has outlasted any number of contemporary styles, absorbing influences along the way and mutating into something that has endured in many different forms.

More at Billboard