Christopher Slayton spent two months exploring black holes, identifying the colors of Saturn’s rings, and looking at his home planet from outer space. And Slayton, who is 18, didn’t even have to leave his desk to do so. He set out to build the entire observable universe, block by block, in Minecraft, a video game where users can build and explore worlds. By the end, he felt as if he had traveled to every corner of the universe. “Everyone freaks out about the power and expansiveness of the universe, which I never really got that much,” he said. But after working for a month and 15 days to build it and additional two weeks to create a YouTube video unveiling it, “I realized even more how beautiful it is.”
The owner of this iPhone was either in a severe car crash or just on a roller coaster
On a sunny September Sunday, Sara White and her family headed to Kings Island amusement park outside Cincinnati. The 39-year-old dentist zipped her two-day-old iPhone 14 Pro securely in her fanny pack, buckled into the Mystic Timbers roller coaster and enjoyed getting hoisted 109 feet in the air and whipped around at over 50 mph. Afterward, she looked down at her phone. The lock screen was lined with missed calls and voice mails from an emergency dispatcher asking if she was OK. During the ride, Apple’s new car-crash detection was triggered, and it automatically dialed 911. The call to the Warren County Communications Center featured an automated voice message from Ms. White’s iPhone: “The owner of this iPhone was in a severe car crash and is not responding to their phone.”
How robotic honeybees and hives could help the species survive
Tim Landgraf, a professor of artificial and collective intelligence at Freie Universität Berlin in Germany, is working on a robotic dancing bee. When real honeybees return from foraging, they perform a distinctive “waggle dance” that communicates the location of the food. Other bees join in the foragers’ dances, and when enough bees are doing the same dance, they’ll fly out to find the food. “It’s a sort of opinion polling process,” Schmickl says. In earlier research, Landgraf built a robot that could perform a waggle dance so convincing that other bees followed it—and, at least sometimes, flew in the direction the robot suggested. Now he’s getting ready to test an improved version of the waggle robot and find out whether it can guide honeybees to a food source.
Rod McKuen was the bestselling poet in American history. What happened?
On April 29, 1969, Carnegie Hall was sold out. The artist who filled it wasn’t a symphony orchestra, or a Broadway belter, or a jazz star. It wasn’t a rock band or a folk singer or any hero of the counterculture taking the stage just a few months before Woodstock. On that night, more than 3,000 fans filled the Main Hall on 57th Street to see a placid blond man wearing a sweatshirt and sneakers. Rod McKuen sold millions of poetry books in the 1960s and 1970s. He was a regular on late-night TV. He released dozens of albums, wrote songs for Sinatra, and was nominated for two Oscars. Every year on his birthday, he sold out Carnegie Hall. But by the 1990s, he had completely vanished from the cultural landscape—present only in thrift stores and used bookshops. Why?
Hannah Arendt believed that loneliness can make people more susceptible to totalitarianism
Philosopher Hannah Arendt was no stranger to bouts of loneliness. From an early age, she had a sense that she was different, and often preferred to be on her own. Her father died of syphilis when she was seven; she faked all manner of illnesses to avoid going to school as a child so she could stay at home; her first husband left her in Berlin after the burning of the Reichstag; she was stateless for nearly 20 years. As Arendt knew, loneliness is a part of the human condition. But she also felt that it might make people more susceptible to totalitarianism, because loneliness cuts people off from human connection. She defined loneliness as a kind of wilderness where a person feels deserted by all worldliness and human companionship, even when surrounded by others. In loneliness, we are unable to realise our full capacity for action as human beings.
Why is the most American of fruits so hard to come by?
The pawpaw is having a moment, perhaps because it is a mass of contradictions: Its custardy flesh, ranging in color from butter yellow to sunset orange, tastes like a mix of banana, mango, and pineapple. But unlike those fruits, pawpaws are not native to the tropics; instead, the fruit grows across the Eastern United States and up into Canada. Pawpaw trees thrive along creeks and rivers, and there’s a good chance you’ve passed one without even knowing it. But even though the prized fruit grows quite literally in America’s backyard, it’s not easy to try a pawpaw for yourself. During the short window between August and early October when pawpaws are in season, foragers hunt down pawpaw patches and a few farmers’ markets put them up for sale. But because of the challenges in growing and shipping the fruit, they’re just about impossible to find in supermarkets.