Technology

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Liber8 BB-8!

My on-the-fly take was that there was a conceptual problem: if we made machines smart enough to provide all our services, wouldn’t those machines effectively be people, deserving freedom from servitude?

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3D-printed guns aren’t new

Individuals have been fashioning homemade firearms for as long as guns have existed. Zip guns, crude but functional weapons often made from taped-together pieces of pipe and rubber bands, were particularly popular in the 1940s and 1950s. The AK-47, one of the most widely used assault rifles on the planet, has a reputation for being a cinch to make and practically impossible to break.

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Canadians Are Cutting $20 Bills In Half To Create A New, Locals-Only Currency

The demi began when a visitor from France told Zibeau and friends about two alternative currencies circulating in his hometown of Nantes, alongside the Euro. They got to talking about the ins and outs of alternative bank notes, particularly the security aspect. “We joked about [how] the Canadian dollar is pretty secure,” says Zibeau. That’s when they came up with the idea of cutting Canadian bills in half, combining the benefits of a local currency with the power of a national anti-counterfeiting plan.

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Metro Makeovers for the Abandoned Stations of Paris

The ghosts of the Parisian underground could soon be resurrected if city voters play their cards right in the upcoming mayoral elections. Promising candidate, Nathalie Koziuscot-Morizet, who would become the first female to ever hold the post in the capital, has released the first sketches of her plans to reclaim the city of light’s abandoned stations.

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Jan 1 – Public Domain Day

In Canada, the works of T.S. Eliot, Winston Churchill, and Malcolm X will emerge into the public domain. Canadians can stage their own dramatizations of T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (the basis for the Broadway show CATS), or add the full works of Churchill and Malcolm X to online archives, all without asking permission or violating the law. However, Canadians may have much less to celebrate next year. The recently released Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement (“TPP”), if ratified, would require Canada, along with 5 other countries, to add 20 years to its copyright term (expanding the term from 50 to 70 years after the author’s death). This is happening at a time when there is a consensus among academics, economists, and policymakers—including two heads of the United States Copyright Office—that this term is a “big mistake.” Why? Because its benefits are minuscule—economists (including five Nobel laureates) have shown that term extension does not spur additional creativity. At the same time, it causes enormous harm, locking away millions of older works that are no longer generating any revenue for the copyright holders. Films are literally disintegrating because preservationists can’t digitize them. The works of historians and journalists are incomplete. Artists find their cultural heritage off limits. Estimates are that the yearly cost to Canada from this term extension could exceed 100 million Canadian dollars. (You can read about the works that won’t enter Canada’s public domain here.) Yet, against this backdrop, the TPP would nevertheless mandate the term extension. If “the definition of insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results,” this would certainly qualify.

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How the speed of light was first measured

It wasn’t until Danish Astronomer, Ole Römer entered the fray that measurements of the speed of light got serious. In an experiment that made Galileo flashing lanterns on a hill look like a primary school science fair project, Römer determined that, lacking lasers and explosions, an experiment should always involve outer space. Thus, he based his observations on the movement of planets themselves, announcing his groundbreaking results on August 22, 1676.

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How the internet changed the way we read

The truth is that most of us read continuously in a perpetual stream of incestuous words, but instead of reading novels, book reviews, or newspapers like we used to in the ancien régime, we now read text messages, social media, and bite-sized entries about our protean cultural history on Wikipedia.

In the great epistemic galaxy of words, we have become both reading junkies and also professional text skimmers. Reading has become a clumsy science, which is why we keep fudging the lab results. But in diagnosing our own textual attention deficit disorder (ADD), who can blame us for skimming? We’re inundated by so much opinion posing as information, much of it the same material with permutating and exponential commentary. Skimming is practically a defense mechanism against the avalanche of info-opinion that has collectively hijacked narrative, reportage, and good analysis.

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