The future of religion

Hunter-gatherers, for example, tend to believe that all objects – whether animal, vegetable or mineral – have supernatural aspects (animism) and that the world is imbued with supernatural forces (animatism). These must be understood and respected; human morality generally doesn’t figure significantly. This worldview makes sense for groups too small to need abstract codes of conduct, but who must know their environment intimately. (An exception: Shinto, an ancient animist religion, is still widely practised in hyper-modern Japan.)

At the other end of the spectrum, the teeming societies of the West are at least nominally faithful to religions in which a single watchful, all-powerful god lays down, and sometimes enforces, moral instructions: Yahweh, Christ and Allah. The psychologist Ara Norenzayan argues it was belief in these “Big Gods” that allowed the formation of societies made up of large numbers of strangers. Whether that belief constitutes cause or effect has recently been disputed, but the upshot is that sharing a faith allows people to co-exist (relatively) peacefully. The knowledge that Big God is watching makes sure we behave ourselves. Link

The benefits of spending time alone

Loneliness has been called an epidemic of the modern era, and social isolation has been linked to all sorts of health problems, including heart disease, stroke and premature death. But there’s a difference between being socially isolated and enjoying your own company.

From stronger friendships to helping improve your focus – there’s a lot to be said for being a so-called “loner”. Ever wonder why all your best ideas come to you in the bath or on a walk? Creativity has been linked to being more reclusive, and spending time by yourself can be relaxing. Link

Inside The Tiny Country Where Robots Grow The Food

It seems most of his fellow Dutch dairy farmers agree. The milking robot ― first invented by Dutch engineers in the early 1990s ― already outsells traditional milking parlors where cows are taken to be milked in the country. 

And they are just one of a wave of machines now taking over mundane farming tasks in the Netherlands, including harvesting, and fruit and vegetable picking, with almost $1 billion spent on innovation last year by the sector. 

This innovation drive, including increasing use of automation on farms like Dijkstra’s, has helped propel a country with a land mass smaller than the state of West Virginia to become the world’s second-biggest food exporter after the U.S., with agri-food exports worth more than $100 billion. Link

Zo was de maanlanding nog nooit te zien

Het meest tevreden is regisseur Todd Douglas Miller over het geluid van de opstijgende Saturnus V-raket in zijn documentaire Apollo 11. „Iedereen vertelde ons dat we het geluid van de draagraket tijdens de Apollo 11-missie nooit konden imiteren”, legt de Amerikaan uit tijdens een bezoek aan Amsterdam. Nadat hij en zijn team eindeloos aan het geluid hadden gesleuteld en overtuigd waren dat ze het perfect hadden nagebootst, lieten ze het vol spanning horen in een IMAX-bioscoop aan de families van de astronauten. Familieleden van Neil Armstrong reageerden droog dat „het erop begint te lijken”. Miller: „Dus bleven we verder experimenteren, met behulp van hun aanwijzingen.” Tot Armstrongs familie verzekerde dat wat je hoort in Apollo 11 echt in de buurt komt van wat zijzelf hoorden toen ze aanwezig waren bij de lancering van de missie. Link

Margaret Hamilton

Huge amounts of aeronautical and hardware engineering effort went into the Apollo program from its birth in 1961 to its completion in 1972, as NASA and its partners designed the Saturn V rocket to get astronauts out of Earth’s orbit, the command/service modules that orbited the moon, and the lunar modules that actually landed on the moon. But Apollo was also a major software project. Astronauts used the Apollo Guidance Computer, which was placed in both the command module and the lunar module, for navigation assistance and to control the spacecraft, and someone needed to program it. Link

AN EXCLUSIVE LOOK AT AN ORIGINAL IPHONE PROTOTYPE

Apple had developed the iPhone in secret over those two and a half years, and for many inside the company, the device had only been known by the codenames “M68” and “Purple 2.” Apple was focused on surprising everyone with the iPhone, and that meant that many of the engineers working on the original handset didn’t even know what it would eventually look like.

To achieve that level of secrecy, Apple created special prototype development boards that contained nearly all of the iPhone’s parts, spread out across a large circuit board. The Verge has obtained exclusive access to the original iPhone M68 prototype board from 2006 / 2007, thanks to Red M Sixty, a source that asked to remain anonymous. It’s the first time this board has been pictured publicly, and it provides a rare historical look at an important part of computing history, showing how Apple developed the original iPhone. Link

The Arab world in seven charts

Arabs are increasingly saying they are no longer religious, according to the largest and most in-depth survey undertaken of the Middle East and North Africa.

The finding is one of a number on how Arabs feel about a wide range of issues, from women’s rights and migration to security and sexuality.

More than 25,000 people were interviewed for the survey – for BBC News Arabic by the Arab Barometer research network – across 10 countries and the Palestinian territories between late 2018 and spring 2019.

Here are some of the results. Link

Jony Ive, Apple designer behind iPhone and iMac

Jony Ive, the chief architect of groundbreaking and distinctive designs from the iMac to the iPhone, announced on Thursday that he is leaving Apple after nearly 30 years.

Ive’s departure, which was announced in an exclusive interview with the Financial Times, is sure to set off shock waves in the tech and design worlds, but the 52-year-old Briton will remain involved with Apple. He plans to launch a new creative company called LoveFrom – and said Apple will be his first client.

“While I will not be an employee, I will still be very involved – I hope for many, many years to come,” Ive told the FT. “This just seems like a natural and gentle time to make this change.”

“Jony is a singular figure in the design world and his role in Apple’s revival cannot be overstated,” chief executive Tim Cook said in a statement. “Apple will continue to benefit from Jony’s talents by working directly with him on exclusive projects, and through the ongoing work of the brilliant and passionate design team he has built.”

Cook further paid tribute to Ive in an interview with the FT, highlighting his role in rescuing the company from its early-90s doldrums: “The work on the original iMac was sort of the point at which people began to pay attention to Apple again on something other than how badly economically the company was doing.

“We get to continue with the same team that we’ve had for a long time and have the pleasure of continuing to work with Jony,” he added. “I can’t imagine a better result.” Link

Weg met het laatste taboe

Juist jonge mensen die zich zorgen maken om be­vol­kings­groei moedig ik aan om twee kinderen te krijgen die ze proberen ver­ant­woor­de­lijk­heid aan te leren voor hun CO2-uitstoot en de planeet. Link

Wij sterven uit maar het laat ons koud

René ten Bos neemt binnenkort afscheid als Denker des Vaderlands. Dat doet hij met een klaroenstoot: mens en dier sterven uit, maar vreemd genoeg lijkt dat uitsterven ons nauwelijks te raken. In zijn boek ‘Extinctie’ noemt Ten Bos het uitsterven van diersoorten een van de urgentste problemen van onze tijd. Maar er is weinig filosofische reflectie over. Dat maakt Ten Bos nu goed: “Uiteindelijk is er geen enkele andere soort die zich afvraagt wat uitsterven is. Wij alleen zitten met die vraag opgescheept.”

De vraag komt voor Ten Bos niet uit de lucht vallen. Extinctie zou je een vervolg kunnen noemen op ‘Dwalen in het antropoceen’, waarin Ten Bos liet zien hoe catastrofaal de invloed van de mens op de aarde is. Wij zijn de oorzaak van het stijgen van de zeespiegel, van de klimaatopwarming en ook van het uitsterven van soorten. ‘Wat iedereen moet begrijpen’, schrijft Ten Bos in Extinctie, ‘is in feite dit: niet alleen de extinctie van soorten, iets wat altijd verbonden wordt met het idee van biodiversiteit, maar ook de extinctie van onze eigen soort dient op de agenda te worden gezet.’ Link

Het is hoog tijd om de straat terug te geven aan fietsers en voetgangers

In den beginne – vóórdat God de mens schiep die met een auto iemand kon scheppen – liepen en fietsten de mensen door elkaar op straat, tussen de paardenkoetsen en -trammetjes door. Zonder dat we het doorhadden, gaven we vorige eeuw het recht om te spelen op straat weg, ten faveure van de auto. Laten we de zaak weer rechtzetten: de automobilist moet voorzichtig zijn. Daar heeft ieder mens wat aan, in de stad of op het dorpsplein. Link

“Een fietsende vegetariër …

… die nooit vliegt, levert een flinke bijdrage. Peanuts echter vergeleken met mensen die kinderloos blijven”.

Heel wat mensen denken dat ze met een elektrische wagen een puike bijdrage leveren. Een Tesla zegt zeker iets over je inkomen en suggereert milieubewustzijn – een rijdende blauw-groene as als het ware – maar doet weinig voor het milieu. Is dat zo? Een Zweedse studie – zie Environmental Research Letter, 2017, 12 – berekende voor economisch hoog ontwikkelde landen als het onze wat verschillende persoonlijke gedragswijzigingen opleveren aan verminderde uitstoot.

Overschakelen op een elektrische auto spaart een halve ton CO2 per jaar, ongeveer evenveel als je kleren koud wassen en geen droogkast gebruiken. Doeltreffender is vegetariër worden. Dat reduceert de jaarlijkse CO2-uitstoot met 0,8 ton. Door niet heen en weer trans-Atlantisch te vliegen, spaar je telkens 1,6 ton uit. Nooit meer een auto gebruiken bespaart 2,4 ton per jaar. Een fietsende vegetariër die nooit vliegt, levert dus wel degelijk een flinke bijdrage.

Maar het is peanuts vergeleken met mensen die per jaar 58,6 ton uitstoot uitsparen, jaar na jaar, door kinderloos te blijven. Kinderen krijgen op hun beurt kinderen. Een geboorte veroorzaakt daardoor een exponentiële toename van CO2-uitstoot. Enkel kinderloze vrouwen kunnen met recht en rede scanderen “klimaat is mijn maat”. Link

Science has fallen apart about ‘the Mediterranean diet’

The million-dollar question in nutrition science is this: What should we eat to live a long and healthy life?

Researchers’ answers to this question have often been contradictory and confusing. But in recent decades, one diet has attracted the lion’s share of research dollars and public attention: the Mediterranean way of eating. And in 2013, its scientific cred was secured with PREDIMED, one of the most important recent diet studies published.

The study’s delicious conclusion was that eating as the Spanish, Italian, and Greeks do — dousing food in olive oil and loading up on fish, nuts, and fresh produce — cuts cardiovascular disease risk by a third. As Stanford University health researcher – and nutrition science critic – John Ioannidis put it: “It was the best. The best of the best.”

Not anymore. Last June, the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine pulled the original paper from the record, issuing a rare retraction. It also republished a new version of PREDIMED, based on a reanalysis of the data that accounted for the missteps.

PREDIMED was supposed to be an example of scientific excellence in a field filled with conflicted and flawed studies. Yet it now appears to be horribly flawed. Link

Humans didn’t start out being able to digest animal milk

Dairy milk has competition. Alternative “milks” made from plants like soya or almonds are increasingly popular. These alternatives are often vegan-friendly and can be suitable for people who are allergic to milk, or intolerant of it. The runner-up in the 2018 series of The Apprentice (UK) ran a flavoured nut milk business.

But the rise of alternative milks is just the latest twist in the saga of humanity’s relationship with animal milk. This relationship dates back thousands of years, and it has had a lot of ups and downs.

When you think about it, milk is a weird thing to drink. It’s a liquid made by a cow or other animal to feed its young; we have to squirt it out of the cow’s udders to obtain it. Link

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