Ten Stories From This Week

22nd August 2021

Did America just lose Afghanistan because of WhatsApp? ‘It appears the Taliban tried something different this time around. Open source reporting shows that rather than rocking up and going toe to toe with the Afghan national army, they appear to have simply called everyone in the entire country, instead, told them they were in control, and began assuming the functions of government as they went.’

Another instance in which Bitcoin is seen to be helping individuals achieve some form of economic independence in an authoritarian regime. As political demonstrations show the world that Cubans are tired of dictatorship, Bitcoin is providing an option to peacefully protest and opt out of a broken system.

Is anyone surprised? Harvard just discovered that PowerPoint is worse than useless.

Five truths about covid that defy our intuitions by Tim Harford. ‘It’s striking how much Covid confusion still reigns. Some of the informational miasma is deliberate — there’s profit for some in the bewilderment of others — but much of it stems from the fact that epidemics defy our intuition.’

Beauty filters are changing the way young girls see themselves. When augmented-reality face filters first appeared on social media, they were a gimmick. They allowed users to play a kind of virtual dress-up: change your face to look like an animal, or suddenly grow a moustache, for example. Today, though, more and more young people—and especially teenage girls—are using filters that “beautify” their appearance and promise to deliver model-esque looks by sharpening, shrinking, enhancing, and recolouring their faces and bodies.

Wonderful. Adam&eveDDB launches worlds biggest inclusivity movement for people with disabilities – ‘#WeThe15’. Supported by the International Paralympic Committee, the film supports the 15% of the global population who have a disability. (1’51”)

Perhaps the true value of an adventure is that it shrinks our ego. From Conde Nast Traveller – For the most intrepid travellers, exploration has more to do with mental resilience than trying to reach a destination.

Asteroid update. Scientists think they know where the asteroid which killed the dinosaurs 66 million years ago came from. Researchers simulated more than 100,000 asteroid trajectories, finding that an asteroid more than six miles wide hurtled towards Earth 250 million years ago. Frequency of occurrence is five times more common than previously thought. Nasa has increased the odds of an asteroid hitting Earth before the year 2300, from 1 in 2,700 to 1 in 1,750. The riskiest single date is 24 September 2182, so make sure to pop that in your diaries.

Pixel: a biography. ‘An exact mathematical concept, pixels are the elementary particles of pictures, based on a subtle unpacking of infinity’. This brief history of the pixel begins with Joseph Fourier in the French Revolution and ends in the year 2000.

Blip is a short 2D animation that explores the topic of digital addiction, an issue increasing year by year and especially during the pandemic lockdown. (1′ 12′)