Episode 63 - Guest Ingrid Burrington comes on to share some of her recent work on the intersection of the occult and tech. Hint: there is more than you think.
Mindful Cyborgs - Episode 63 - Occulted and Embedded: Magick in the Internet and Security Agencies with Ingrid Burrington
Existential fears of “losing” what is seen as “Western Civilization” have animated many within what is considered the alt-right. However, the valorization of “western civilization” is often rooted in romanticized notions of ancient Greece and Rome, which alt-right groups have appropriated and promoted in recent propaganda. Why and how do nationalists in Europe and the U.S. draw contemporary connections to ancient Greece and Rome? What are the consequences of this for our understandings of the ancient era? And what should scholars in the Classics and History do about it? On this episode of History Talk, hosts Jessica Viñas-Nelson and Brenna Miller speak with three classists to discuss the alt-right’s appropriation of classical history: Denise Eileen McCoskey, Donna Zuckerberg, and Curtis Dozier.
19 April 2018 at 10:00
Spring is right around the corner. And if you’re going to be birding, you might as well be eBirding. You should definitely be eBirding on May 5th, eBird’s annual Global Big Day. Last year birders recorded more than 6600 species from 160 different countries on one day. eBird’s Project Coordinator Ian Davies joins host Nate Swick to talk about the Global Big Day initiative.
Also, radar ornithologist Kyle Horton talks about Cornell’s Birdcast project, which recently launched live migration maps, an amazing tool to help birders maximize their opportunities to see great birds this spring.
Nate is back in the driver’s seat to talk about warbler obsession, Florida birding, and birds at airports.
Bill talks with Noah Strycker, self-described birdman and adventurer, who was the first person ever to see more than 6,000 bird species in a single, worldwide birding Big Year. Noah is the author of Birding Without Borders, which recounts his 2015 World Big Year.
Who could resist running one’s hand along the skin-smooth bark of a beech tree or hugging a hornbeam? Can anyone doubt the primal pleasure of hearing the wind ruffling the leaves of a poplar or knowing of the reassuring longevity of a craggy old oak? Well the answer turns out to be the municipal muggers who are more concerned by possibly litigation than certain deforestation.
In a week where I received an invitation from the London Borough of Waltham Forest to the opening of their new nature reserve, I also read about the utter foolishness of another London borough. It seems Wandsworth council have plans to remove an avenue of 150-year-old chestnut trees on Tooting Common. Is the heartwood rotten or have our increasingly frequent storms damaging them? The answer is a resounding no! So why are 51 magnificently mature trees being replaced by 64 saplings? It’s not that they are dangerous, but that they might become so. One fell over and some others need pruning. The council culling is the worst sort of euthanasia, chopping down the hale and hearty because ‘THEY MIGHT ONE DAY GET SICK’, makes me shudder as I approach an age when Wandsworth might consider me ready for the scrap heap, just in case I go gaga and become a financial burden.
Are they alone in their municipal madness… not a bit of it. In Sheffield, the last batch of mature trees in the borough will probably have been under the axe by the time you read this. Why? Because of a ridiculous private contract that puts the maintenance cost of mature trees as far greater than that of saplings.
There is something desperately wrong with a society that puts a lower value on a massive and ancient oak than they do on a small, non-native sapling. Town trees are not just pigeon perches, they are a lifeline. Every survey ever undertaken shows how nature can go a long way to putting right what we get so wrong whether its urban pollutants or the destroying of souls by turning everything in our environment into concrete. We need trees for our physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing. Even the most arcane accountant must put a huge financial value on arboreal assets.
Us ordinary citizens are up in arms whenever trees are threatened. It doesn’t matter whether you are a woolley-minded liberal, a dyed in the blue wool tory or a red and ragged socialist, everywhere real people really care about trees in a way that is almost druidic. There is a little ‘green man’ in us all no matter how urban we have become. But this community upsurge alone will not save the day.
We need to legislate. We cannot afford as a society to be ludicrously litigious. The reasonableness of common-sense is being replaced by the t’ching of cash when we can cover up our own recklessness by suing ‘the authorities’. Individual judgements cannot dictate to society as a whole in this way so we need to enshrine in the statutes a greater degree of personal responsibility. Don’t go out in a storm then sue the tree owner when the gale brings its branches down on you, stay in doors! When a conker falls on your conk its an act of nature not the fault of an elected official who recklessly let the horse chestnut tree stand.
What is more important to defend, the health of the nation or the liability of those whom we elect?
To paraphrase the old ode… I think that I will never see, a poem lovely as a tree. If we let the council axes fall, we’ll never see a tree at all!
Steve and Bill start off 2018 with an episode about Eastern Screech-owls. The guys talk about its unique dichromatism, adaptations for hunting at night, and even call one in during the podcast. Make sure to wear headphones for this one- the birds calling in the distance aren’t always easy to hear. Steve also gets really nervous about being killed by a bobcat for some reason… Enjoy!
While they aren’t as unpopular as politicians or journalists, people who work with statistics come in for their share of abuse. “Figures lie and liars figure,” goes one maxim. And don’t forget, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”
But some people are the good guys, doing their best to combat the flawed or dishonest use of numbers. One of those good guys is David Spiegelhalter, professor of the public understanding of risk in the Statistical Laboratory in the Centre for Mathematical Sciences at the University of Cambridge and current president of the Royal Statistical Society. Spiegelhalter, the subject of this Social Science Bites podcast, even cops to being a bit of an “evidence policeman” because on occasion even he spends some of his time “going around telling people off for bad behavior.”
There is bad behavior to police. “There’s always been the use of statistics and numbers and facts as rhetorical devices to try and get people’s opinion across, and to in a sense manipulate our emotions and feelings on things,” he tells interviewer David Edmonds. “People might still think that statistics and numbers are cold, hard facts but they’re soft, fluffy things. They can be manipulated and changed, made to look big, made to look small, all depending on the story that someone wants to tell.”
Asked at one point if he even accepts that there are ‘facts,’ Spiegelhalter gives a nuanced yes. “I’m not going to get into the whole discussion about ‘what is truth,’ although it’s amazing how quick you do go down that line. No, there are facts, and I really value them.”
Despite that policing role, Spiegelhalter explain, his methods are less prescriptive and more educational, working to get others to ask key questions such as “What am I not being told?” and “Why I am hearing this?” The goal is less to track down every bit of fake news in the world, and more to inoculate others against its influence.
One part of that, for example, is determining what communicators and organizations to trust. Spiegelhalter, acknowledging his debt to Onora O’Neill, an emeritus professor of philosophy at the University of Cambridge, argues that organizations themselves shouldn’t strive to be trusted, but to show trustworthy attributes. This goes beyond things like “fishbowl transparency,” where you lard your website with every imaginable factoid, but actively making sure people can get to your information, understand it and they can assess how reliable it is.
That ‘understanding’ part of the process is what Spigelhalter pursues as part of chairing the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication, which is dedicated to improving the way that quantitative evidence is used in society. In that role he’s become a public face of honest use of numbers, as evidenced by his role as presenter of the BBC4 documentaries Tails you Win: the Science of Chance and Climate Change by Numbers. His own research focuses on health-related use of statistics and statistical methods, and while that might include Bayesian inference using Gibbs samplinig, it can also encompass the focus of his 2015 book, Sex by Numbers.
Roland Pease tells the story of how fifty years ago geologists finally became convinced that the earth’s crust is made up of shifting plates. The idea of mobile continents, continental drift, had been talked about, for example because it looked like Africa and South America had once been joined, and were now separated by the Atlantic. But given the solidity of rocks and the vastness of continents, that idea made no sense. Until plate tectonics, as it became known, gave it a scientific basis and rebuilt it into a mechanism that explained earthquakes, mountain belts, chains of volcanic islands and many other geological phenomena. Roland Pease talks to many of the key researchers in the story, now in their 70s and 80s, and finds out how their work transformed our understanding of the earth.
This week on Sawbones, we join you live from Seattle. Seeing as this town took place in the home of Starbucks, we took the opportunity to extoll the many medicinal virtues of coffee.
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Music: "Medicines" by The Taxpayers
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