What happened to US diplomats in Cuba?

play_circle_outline Science Weekly [Podcast; 27 mins]

Ian Sample delves into a preliminary study of US embassy staff said to have been targeted by an energy source in Cuba. With no unifying explanation, what do scientists think happened?


Background:

In a story seemingly straight out of the X-Files, US embassy staff based in Cuba started to get sick at the same time and nobody knew what was causing it.

In August 2017 reports of the incident started hitting the web, with 16 embassy staff described as suffering from a variety of symptoms including loss of hearing, headaches and nausea.

Almost immediately the possibility that is was a “sonic attack” was bandied about, with the AP even posting the alleged sound from a tape they received.

In October, The Times spoke to some experts in acoustics who suggested the sonic weapon theory was “more appropriate to a James Bond movie”.

Stranger still, in December, doctors who were treating the US Embassy staff discovered abnormalities in the white matter of the victim’s brains. From The Associated Press:

Loud, mysterious sounds followed by hearing loss and ear-ringing had led investigators to suspect “sonic attacks.” But officials are now carefully avoiding that term. The sounds may have been the byproduct of something else that caused damage, said three US officials briefed on the investigation. They weren’t authorized to discuss it publicly and demanded anonymity.

Physicians, FBI investigators and US intelligence agencies have spent months trying to piece together the puzzle in Havana, where the US says 24 US government officials and spouses fell ill starting last year in homes and later in some hotels.

Doctors still don’t know how victims ended up with the white matter changes, nor how exactly those changes might relate to their symptoms. US officials wouldn’t say whether the changes were found in all 24 patients.

But acoustic waves have never been shown to alter the brain’s white matter tracts, said Elisa Konofagou, a biomedical engineering professor at Columbia University who is not involved in the government’s investigation.


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A Researcher Just Found A 9,000-Video Network Of YouTube Conspiracy Videos

Buzzfeed:

Albright said the results suggest that the conspiracy genre is embedded so deeply into YouTube’s video culture that it could be nearly impossible to eradicate.

“It’s already tipped in favor of the conspiracists, I think,” Albright told BuzzFeed News. “There are a handful of debunking videos in the data. They can’t make up for the thousands of videos with false claims and rumors.”

Albright also suggested that the proliferation of these videos makes it more attractive for others to create this content.

To anyone who dabbles in occasional conspiracy-theory deep dives on YouTube, this rings true. There is an absolute avalanche of dipshit conspiracies on YouTube, and most people lack the mental dexterity to tell that a video is playing loose with the facts – especially if it meshes nicely with their existing worldview.

Less common is the conspiracy parody. The Outline absolutely nailed it with this gem:

I’ve often thought a conspiracy channel would be an easy way to make some quick beer money, but it seems I’m much too late to the game.

Or am I?

Yes, I am.

Where the ‘Crisis Actor’ Conspiracy Theory Comes From

Jason Koebler, Motherboard:

The term ‘crisis actor’ has been in the news a lot lately, because conspiracy theorists have accused survivors of the Douglas High School mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, of being actors—people paid to pretend they witnessed a horrible tragedy that actually never happened and was instead staged by the government in order to garner the political will necessary to ban guns.

To be clear, there is no evidence this is actually the case. Conspiracy theorists have questioned the legitimacy of people who lived through a horrific shooting—watched their friends and classmates slaughtered—in an attempt to harass and silence their political activism.

It wasn’t until relatively recently that conspiracy theorists were audacious enough to suggest that terrorist attacks and mass shootings actually didn’t happen at all.

A good backgrounder on the origins of the horseshit “Crisis Actor” conspiracies.

Semi-regular reminder that false-flaggers are scum.

Twitter: You can actually ban the Nazis

Paris Martineau writing for The Outline:

THE MARKETPLACE OF IDEAS WAS A LIE

Years of outbursts from hate group after hate group have forced these companies to realize that the laissez-faire attitude they’ve leaned on for so long doesn’t actually work, but rather, makes the entire thing rot from the inside. But the fact that platforms won’t fully commit to managing the content that people spew on these platforms leaves a vacuum of confusion and hypotheticals, which generally (like all things nowadays) lead to conspiracies and misinformation.

In all this time, no company has actually tried totally depriving bad ideas of oxygen. Trust me, this is a sentence I never thought I’d say, but in times like these, Twitter (and the tech world as a whole, really) could learn a thing or two from Medium.

One of the multitude of problems Twitter is currently facing is that they just can’t make up their mind about what they want their platform to be.

I recently copped a 7-day account suspension for calling Dinesh D’Souza a cunt and a piece of shit (more on that episode later). Plenty of people replied telling him to go fuck himself, Ron Perlman quoted him calling him a piece of shit multiple times and suggesting it would be best if D’Souza disappeared himself, CPAC (seriously) called D’Souza’s comments “indefensible”, and D’Souza eventually deleted his tweet and apologised.

For some reason though, I’m still in the time-out corner.

The truth is, Twitter has no real expected standard of behaviour. They’re happy to put me in time out for using the word “cunt” while simultaneously leaving this disgusting tweet up on their platform…

… in spite of the fact Coulter’s tweet blatantly violates Twitter’s Hateful conduct policy, and calling someone a “cunt” definitively doesn’t.

Twitter, you are pretty broken for a lot of reasons, but one thing you might want to focus on is the quality of the content of some of the biggest voices on your platform. And if Speech (capital “S”) really is your North Star, maybe don’t haphazardly hand out suspensions to passionate, long-time users for using “bad words”. You silly cunts.

Daily Links

In Edo Japan, Artists Captured Whales Like Never Before

In Edo Japan, Artists Captured Whales Like Never Before

The whaling industry was an important economic force in both the United States and Japan, but each society captured the subject matter very differently in art.

hyperallergic.com/427016/enlightened-encounters-manjiro-nakahama-east-unlocks-its-gates/

Erasing history

Erasing history

When an online news outlet goes out of business, its archives can disappear as well. The new battle over journalism’s digital legacy.

www.cjr.org/special_report/microfilm-newspapers-media-digital.php?utm_content=buffer77d4b/

Is It Possible to Game the Apple Podcast Charts?

Is It Possible to Game the Apple Podcast Charts? | Discover the Best Podcasts | Discover Pods

Is it possible to manipulate or hack the Apple Podcast charts to make a given podcast appear in the top 10? We look into the evidence where this may have happened.

discoverpods.com/game-hack-manipulate-apple-podcast-charts-itunes/

‘I’m More Afraid of Climate Change Than I Am of Prison’

‘I’m Just More Afraid of Climate Change Than I Am of Prison’

How a group of five activists called the Valve Turners decided to fight global warming by doing whatever it takes.

mobile.nytimes.com/2018/02/13/magazine/afraid-climate-change-prison-valve-turners-global-warming.html

“An Ass-Backward Tech Company”: How Twitter Lost the Internet War

“Just an Ass-Backward Tech Company”: How Twitter Lost the Internet War

Twitter faces more challenges than most technology companies: ISIS terrorists, trolls, bots, and Donald Trump. But its last line of defense, the company’s head of trust and safety, Del Harvey, isn’t making things easier.

www.vanityfair.com/news/2018/02/how-twitter-lost-the-internet-war/

ALL 50-Point Dunks In NBA Slam Dunk Contest History

Some thoughts:

  • Lavine vs Gordon is the gold standard in 1v1 dunk contests
  • Gordon’s two mascot dunks are both top ten all time dunk contest dunks
  • Jordan had an innate understanding of how his dunks would photograph (always watch his off-hand)
  • What is it about Dominique’s off the backboard one-hander that is so good?
  • Ceballos’ blindfold dunk is whack af
  • Des Mason is a underrated dunker
  • Josh Smith too
  • Nate had some hops boy
  • Lol at Spud Web getting any 50s at all
  • I forgot about the McGee double dunk
  • Also forgot about Oladipo’s 360 reverse goddamn
  • Controversial opinion: Jason Richardson might have better one-hand windmills than ‘Nique

Daily Links

I Watched All 629 Episodes of The Simpsons in a Month. Here’s What I Learned.

I Watched All 629 Episodes of The Simpsons in a Month. Here’s What I Learned.

The show hates Lisa. Before I explain what I mean, let’s back up for a second…

antihumansite.wordpress.com/2018/02/09/i-watched-all-629-episodes-of-the-simpsons-in-a-month-heres-what-i-learned/

Lost wreckage of ‘British Roswell’ flying saucer discovered in Science Museum

Lost wreckage of ‘British Roswell’ flying saucer discovered in Science Museum

“One of the museum staff tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I was aware that ‘bits of a flying saucer’ had been kept in a cigarette tin in the museum group store for decades.”

www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/02/11/lost-wreckage-british-roswell-flying-saucer-discovered-science/

The Best SpaceX Conspiracies About the Falcon Heavy Launch

The Best SpaceX Conspiracies About the Falcon Heavy Launch

Did Elon Musk pull off the perfect murder? And other things conspiracy theorists are wondering.

motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/gy8vqw/spacex-conspiracy-falcon-heavy-tesla/

 

Daily Links

The Life-Changing Magic of Shane Warne’s Instagram

The Life-Changing Magic of Shane Warne’s Instagram

Unfollow all those teen memelords and let the spin king take over your feed.

www.vice.com/en_au/article/d34ndx/the-life-changing-magic-of-shane-warnes-instagram/

The numbers don’t lie: Dogs are the internet’s favorite animal

The numbers don’t lie: Dogs are the internet’s favorite animal

As the internet has changed, so have its animal habits.

theoutline.com/post/3128/dogs-cats-internet-popularity

The Follower Factory

The Follower Factory

Everyone wants to be popular online. Some even pay for it. Inside social media’s black market.

www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/01/27/technology/social-media-bots.html

Daily Links

The Mapping of Massacres

The Mapping of Massacres

Place names can be damning evidence of colonial history. On a map of Australia, you’ll see Murderers Flat, Massacre Inlet, Haunted Creek, and Slaughterhouse Gully.

www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/mapping-massacres/

No evidence to support link between violent video games and behaviour

No evidence to support link between violent video games and behaviour – News and events, The University of York

Researchers at the University of York have found no evidence to support the theory that video games make players more violent.

www.york.ac.uk/news-and-events/news/2018/research/no-evidence-to-link-violence-and-video-games/

 

Daily Links

Are Aliens Plentiful, But We’re Just Missing Them?

Are Aliens Plentiful, But We’re Just Missing Them? – Starts With A Bang! – Medium

If the Fermi Paradox is the question of “where is everyone,” the answer is, “not within 40 light years of us,” which doesn’t tell us very much about intelligent life in the Universe at all.

medium.com/starts-with-a-bang/are-aliens-plentiful-but-were-just-missing-them-ca4c4b503b58/

‘Low Confidence’: there’s no DNA test for culture

‘Low Confidence’: there’s no DNA test for culture

You can’t understand the history of colonisation via DNA results, or even the history of your own family.

overland.org.au/2018/01/low-confidence-theres-no-dna-test-for-culture/

An Anthropologist Explains Why We Want to Eat Tide Pods

An Anthropologist Explains Why We Want to Eat Tide Pods

But it’s not uncommon to make candy colorful, even blue, in order to attract children. That association never really goes away, even for adults.

www.atlasobscura.com/articles/tide-pod-tasty-toxic-laundry

 

Daily Links

Do you work more than 39 hours a week? Your job could be killing you

Do you work more than 39 hours a week? Your job could be killing you

Long hours, stress and physical inactivity are bad for our wellbeing – yet we’re working harder than ever. Isn’t it time we fought back?

www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/jan/15/is-28-hours-ideal-working-week-for-healthy-life/

How to see a memory

How to see a memory

Every memory leaves its own imprint in the brain, and researchers are starting to work out what one looks like.

www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-00107-4/

American Democracy Is an Easy Target

American Democracy Is an Easy Target

The more likely threat that America faces is of a variety of smaller attacks on specific aspects of democratic knowledge, each aimed at particular ends, but accumulating to create massive overall damage.

foreignpolicy.com/2018/01/17/american-democracy-was-asking-for-it/

From CES: The sea is alive with cheap, powerful robots — and that will be dangerous

From CES: The sea is alive with cheap, powerful robots — and that will be dangerous

It remains to be seen how non-state actors will incorporate commercial robots into their operations. But the low cost means that if there is a nefarious purpose for underwater cameras, it won’t be that hard for someone to figure it out.

www.c4isrnet.com//unmanned/robotics/2018/01/18/from-ces-the-sea-is-alive-with-cheap-powerful-robots/

Facebook may not be the Right Market for Publishers, but it is for Facebook

Facebook may not be the Right Market for Publishers, but it is for Facebook

It has been almost a week since Facebook told publishers that they were no longer a key element of its future strategy, and the outburst of articles about this has been … eh… interesting to read.

www.baekdal.com/insights/facebook-may-not-be-the-right-market-for-publishers-but-it-is-for-facebook/

Daily Links

The Man Trying to Fix Mount Everest’s Towering Poop Problem

The Man Trying to Fix Mount Everest’s Towering Poop Problem

Volunteer engineers and architects want to solve Mount Everest’s most unsolvable problem: its landfills of human waste.

motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/a3namk/the-man-trying-to-fix-mount-everests-towering-poop-problem/

During Trump’s first year in office, the rate of far-right murders surged

During Trump’s first year in office, the rate of far-right murders surged

White supremacist murders doubled last year.

thinkprogress.org/far-right-extremists-deadliest-ec699554d8c7/

How Black Flag, Bad Brains, and More Reclaimed Punk from White Supremacists

How Black Flag, Bad Brains, and More Reclaimed Punk from White Supremacists

Nazi Punks Fuck Off: An oral history of fighting back against Nazis.

www.gq.com/story/punks-and-nazis-oral-history

Here’s why 60 percent of the world’s saiga antelopes were wiped out in 2015

Here’s why 60 percent of the world’s saiga antelopes were wiped out in 2015

In May 2015, researchers in central Kazakhstan witnessed something really strange: thousands of saiga antelopes began acting a bit weird, becoming unbalanced, and then just plopping on the ground within a few hours – dead.

www.theverge.com/2018/1/17/16900590/saiga-antelope-2015-die-offs-kazakhstan-humidity-heat-climate-change/

 

Daily Links

People Keep Seeing the Mothman in Chicago

People Keep Seeing the Mothman in Chicago

What Amitrano saw that night was one of 55 reported Chicago-area sightings of a flying humanoid in 2017.

www.vice.com/en_us/article/paqv9z/mothman-sightings-in-chicago/

How Will Air Traffic Control Work When We Have Drones and Flying Cars Everywhere?

How Will Air Traffic Control Work When We Have Drones and Flying Cars Everywhere?

We need to figure this out so we can have drones deliver burritos.

slate.com/technology/2018/01/how-air-traffic-control-could-work-when-we-have-drones-and-flying-cars.html

Why American medicine still runs on fax machines

Why American medicine still runs on fax machines

75% of US medical communication happens by fax machine. What year is it?

www.vox.com/health-care/2017/10/30/16228054/american-medical-system-fax-machines-why/

The Long, Strange History of Street Fighter and Hip-Hop

The Long, Strange History of Street Fighter and Hip-Hop

Capcom’s signature fighting game franchise has had a decades long relationship with rap music and culture – for surprising reasons.

waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/ypvx7k/the-long-strange-history-of-street-fighter-and-hip-hop/

Daily Links

A Radical New Scheme to Prevent Catastrophic Sea-Level Rise

A Radical New Scheme to Prevent Catastrophic Sea-Level Rise

Researchers speculate that planes could periodically spray a clear gas into the high atmosphere that would prevent some sunlight from reaching Earth’s surface, cooling the globe.

www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/01/a-new-geo-engineering-proposal-to-stop-sea-level-rise/550214/

My Joke Cryptocurrency Hit $2 Billion and Something Is Very Wrong

My Joke Cryptocurrency Hit $2 Billion and Something Is Very Wrong

I feel it is shortsighted to mistake this explosive growth as being sustainable — in fact, I feel 2017 was arguably the worst year for cryptocurrencies yet. To understand why, let’s revisit what I learned from the currency I created as a joke.

motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/9kng57/dogecoin-my-joke-cryptocurrency-hit-2-billion-jackson-palmer-opinion/

The 2017 Bird Photographer of the Year has been announced

The 2017 Bird Photographer of the Year has been announced | DesignFaves

So the 2017 Bird Photographer of the Year award is a thing and its winner was recently announced.

www.designfaves.com/2018/01/the-2017-bird-photographer-of-the-year-has-been-announced/