That sums it up pretty well

Kevin Drum says that all the major religions have objectively been having a bad few decades in comparison with science’s achievements, but that despite that religious extremism is on the rise worldwide.

The last few decades sure have been bad ones for organized religion. Conservative Christians have decided that the sum total of the Bible is about reestablishing the sex and gender mores of the 19th century. Liberal Protestantism is so unassuming that hardly anyone even remembers it exists. The Catholic Church has been responsible for the deaths of millions in Africa thanks to its mindless belief that God hates condoms. Much of Islam has been taken over by the toxic Saudi strain. Israel has turned into an apartheid state. Hindus in India are apparently now dedicated to creating a religiously pure state. And even Buddhists have been acting badly lately.

Meanwhile, science keeps churning out new wonders. Cell phones. The internet. Cures for cancer. Robotic prosthetics. Solar panels on rooftops. Talking computers. Antidepressants. Google Maps. Cheap genome sequencing. Virtual reality. Machine learning. Meatless meat. Missions to Mars. Electric cars. Fiber optics.

None of the points he makes surprised me. But what did was his statement that Israel is now an apartheid state. Not only that, he did not get any pushback for that in the comments, either.

Drum is very much in the mainstream of Democratic establishment politics, someone who favors people like Hillary Clinton and Kamal Harris and does not care much for Elizabeth Warren and especially Bernie Sanders. So his casual throwing in of Israel as an apartheid state, a sentiment that the party establishment definitely does not endorse, and the lack of any defense of Israel by his blog’s readers, is another sign that Israel’s discriminatory policies can no longer be denied or ignored and that the Democratic political establishment is increasingly disconnected from its base.

Will the ‘two sleep’ mode catch on again?

It is generally recommended that people get 7-9 hours of sleep per day but it is not clear that the benefits that accrue from sleep are lost if those hours are not in one block. Like many people, I often wake up very early morning before it is light outside and try to go back to sleep immediately, usually with some success unless something is on my mind that prevents me from falling asleep for some time. I used to think that this pattern of two blocks of sleep per night with a brief break was an aberration and that ‘normal’ sleep should consist of roughly eight hours of uninterrupted sleep.
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Really good deep fake of Tom Cruise

Actor Bill Hader is known for his impressions of famous people, a skill he used to good effect when he used to be a cast member of Saturday Night Live. In a recent TV interview he recounted meetings with Tom Cruise and Seth Rogan and did impressions of them. Someone took that video and whenever Hader did an impression, did a deep fake to make him actually look like the person he was impersonating.

The transitions are so smooth as to be uncanny. It is really well done and also deeply disturbing at the potential to dupe people.

Long term flooding

When one thinks of floods, one thinks of a disaster that lasts for a short time. Heavy rains or hurricanes or snowmelt causes a rise in the levels of rivers that overwhelm their banks and levees or the sewer and other drainage systems. But although the damage caused can be great and long lasting, the water usually subsides fairly quickly.

But this year, there have been parts of the US where people have not seen the ground for six months because the floods have stuck around.

Compounding the problem was a high Mississippi River, which remained near or above flood stage for the longest span since 1927. The perfect storm of historic rainfall and a high river resulted in a backwater flood that has lingered beyond anything the region has ever seen.

Only within with the past couple weeks has the water receded, and for the first time in nearly half a year, farmers are finally beginning to see their land re-emerge.

Imagine seeing something like this for six months.

Farmland in the lower Mississippi delta remains submerged in floodwater. Photograph by Rory Doyle/The Guardian

It is surprising that this phenomenon is not getting wider coverage. I had heard about widespread flooding but assumed that it was in different regions at different times. I had not been aware that some places seem to be under permanent floods.

How English became the language of science

These days, pretty much everyone who works in science research is proficient in English. This is, of course, unfair to those scientists who grew up in places where it is not their native language because they are forced to learn a second language in order to read the literature and spread their own ideas. Fortunately, it is a little easier to read and write technical material because one does not have to deal with the pitfalls of metaphors and idioms and colloquialisms, as one might have in other areas. In science, one usually eschews flowery language in favor of directness and the crucial technical terms are usually unambiguous in meaning. In my own career, I have met many scientists from all over the world with whom it was difficult to have general conversations but with whom one could communicate on science quite easily.
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How much sleep do we need?

I like to sleep and can usually fall asleep pretty easily, unless there is something major that is bothering me. When I was still working, I had to get up early in the morning but now that I am retired, I luxuriate in waking up around that same time, but then rolling over for a couple more hours. The duration and quality of one’s sleep seems to be related to other health issues and so researchers have been looking at what we can learn about the role of sleep.
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Should this result about poker be a surprise?

I am a terrible poker player, losing every time even when the other players are also novices. (Bridge is my favorite card game.) I long felt that the reason I lose at poker is because I lack a ‘poker face’ (one that reveals nothing to the other players) and am also bad at reading other players’ faces, mannerisms, and body language that reveal something about the strength of their hands. In the language of the game, I think I have many ‘tells’ that other players pick up on while I fail miserably in detecting any tells that they may have. I was under the impression that these factors play an even more important role than knowledge of the odds, such as the likelihood of drawing an inside straight or filling a full house.
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