January 8, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 1:04 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:51 PM


Daimler's Mercedes-Benz triples its electric car sales as CEO predicts a 'transformative' decade (Anmar Frangoul, 1/08/21, CNBC)

The CEO of Daimler emphasized the importance of low-emission technologies and innovation on Friday, telling CNBC that the automotive industry was "in the middle of a transformation."

"Next to the things that we know well -- to build, frankly, the world's most desirable cars -- there are two technological trends that we're doubling down on: electrification and digitization," Ola Källenius told CNBC's Annette Weisbach.

The Stuttgart-headquartered firm was "pouring billions into these new technologies," he added, stating they would "drive our path towards CO2 free driving." 

Posted by orrinj at 12:49 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:37 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Science's Demons, from Descartes to Darwin and BeyondHow supernatural conceptions have advanced our understanding of the natural universe. (Casey Cep, January 8, 2021, The New Yorker)

"Bedeviled: A Shadow History of Demons in Science" (Princeton University Press) is not a survey of Baal, Stolas, Volac, and their kin. Instead, Canales has gathered together in one book demons with very different origins and responsibilities--among them the scientist James Clerk Maxwell's demon, the physicist David Bohm's demon, the philosopher John Searle's demon, and the naturalist Charles Darwin's demon. These demons came into being at some of the world's leading universities and were promulgated in the pages of Science and Nature. They are not supernatural creatures; rather, they are particular kinds of thought experiments, placeholders of sorts for laws or theories or concepts not yet understood. Like the demon Jesus met, though, these are legion; at the very same time that science was said to be demystifying the world, Canales shows us, scientists were populating it all over again with the demonic.

According to Canales, a faculty member at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, modern demonology began with René Descartes, who imagined a demon into being in his "Meditations on First Philosophy," from 1641. The French philosopher was positing a thought experiment most often described today as the brain in a vat: however, instead of wondering if he was just a disembodied brain experiencing a simulated reality, Descartes proposed that "some malicious demon of the utmost power and cunning has employed all his energies in order to deceive me." Said demon could alter our senses and convince us of falsehoods, so that what we see, hear, or feel might not be real. Because anything might be a deception, we must assume everything is, and only through extreme skepticism can we distinguish the real from the unreal.

Descartes's demon was not immediately followed by others, but, in 1773, the French mathematician Pierre-Simon Laplace proposed a thought experiment of his own. He imagined a mysterious entity "who, for a given instant, embraces all the relationships of the beings of this universe." With that single instant of complete knowledge, Laplace wrote in an article on calculus, this entity "could determine for any time taken in the past or in the future the respective position, the movements, and generally the attachments of all these beings." Because Laplace's demon knew the present location of every single thing in the universe and all the forces acting on them, it could infer everything that had already happened and everything that would happen in the future.

Several decades before, John Locke had posited that, other than God, only angels and spirits might have such total knowledge. But Laplace argued that the universe was stable and predictable--this was why Edmond Halley could determine the regular arrival of a comet--and that, as a result, mathematical analysis could help us understand the universe in its entirety. It was therefore perfectly reasonable, even for those of us who don't possess infinite information and limitless cognitive power, to use what information we do have and what cognition we can summon to make sense of the world. Laplace's faith in scientific determinism helped inspire the creation of machines that could do the kinds of computations he attributed to his demon. Charles Babbage read Laplace's work, and cited it in accounts of his "Difference Engine" and "Analytical Engine," machines designed to perform calculations; Babbage's friend Ada Lovelace, who was tutored by Laplace's English translator, grasped the implications of Babbage's engines, and encouraged him to find additional applications for what are now considered some of the earliest computers.

Darwin knew Babbage, too, and talk of demons and determinism might well have helped shape his account of evolution. Darwin's notes on the subject originally included "a being infinitely more sagacious than man," one "with penetration sufficient to perceive differences in the outer and innermost organization quite imperceptible to man, and with forethought extending over future centuries to watch with unerring care and select for any object the offspring of an organism produced under the foregoing circumstances." 

Empiricism is a hoax.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Baidu scares auto sector with new smart EVs initiative (PAUL WALLIS, 1/08/21, Digital Journal)

This is the death sentence for the obsolescence-obsessed auto sector. Geely is already well set up to make smart EVs. Baidu has been developing autonomous vehicle tech for some time now, and the two companies are an obviously good fit. The market already likes it.

Baidu stock jumped 4% on the NASDAQ. (NASDAQ:BIDU) As Reuters reports in murderous detail, Baidu isn't the only Chinese company moving in this direction. This is no longer about basic auto manufacturing and design trivia. This is a whole new class of vehicle with a lot to recommend it. It comes as a new generation of long-range, high power EVs hit the market.

The mainstream market will be as dead as the internal combustion engine (effectively extinct) if it doesn't pay attention. This is all existing newish tech, to a very large extent. There's nothing too hard in this approach.

Mainstream manufacturers have one option - Stay in the pre-Cambrian era of car technologies or join the new streams. The other option is to go broke.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Taiwan population fell for first time in 2020 (AFP, 1/08/21)

Taiwan's population shrank for the first time ever in 2020, government data showed Friday, as the island faces a burgeoning demographic crisis similar to those affecting South Korea and Japan.

Births last year plunged to 165,000, down seven percent from 2019. Deaths also overtook births for the first time, pushing the island's overall population down 0.2 percent to 23.56 million, the interior ministry said.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Alibaba Founder Jack Ma Has Fallen Off The Radar. Here Are Some Clues Why (STEVE INSKEEP, 1/08/21, Morning Edition)

Duncan Clark, an investor and adviser on China's tech sector who knows Ma's business empire, has some ideas.

Clark says that while Amazon and Alibaba have some similarities, Alibaba is in some ways more powerful because of its financial reach.

Alibaba created a service called Alipay, a system for making payments by phone, using QR codes. It's now used for billions of transactions and is making cash nearly obsolete in China.

"Imagine if half of the transactions you do in your day in the U.S. were also controlled by the same company," Clark says.

Alipay was spun off into a company called Ant Financial. Last fall, Ant Financial was on the verge of an initial public offering of stock -- potentially the largest in history.

And that's when things started to go wrong. Regulators abruptly suspended the IPO, the Chinese government opened an investigation into Alibaba, and Ma has been largely out of public view after he criticized regulators.

Clark, who wrote the book Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma Built, has known Ma for decades.

"Jack Ma is an unusual tech entrepreneur in that he's not a tech guy at all," Clark tells NPR's Morning Edition in an interview. A former English teacher who turned into a successful entrepreneur, Ma "doesn't come from wealth or connections," Clark says. "He's an amazing communicator, which is odd because the reason we're talking about him is that he gave a terrible speech ... much like a bit that didn't go well at all."

What did he say in October?

He was speaking at something called the Bund Finance Summit in Shanghai. He was not the most important person in the room, if you think in terms of the government regulators who were there. And he proceeded to basically tell them that they were, you know, anachronistic -- that you cannot, for example, run an airport like the way you run a train station.

And then he ... not only he initially launched into an attack on the global financial regulatory system of banking, but then he kind of moved his topic to China and said ... that he thought they were out of touch and that, you know, there was a new revolution coming. It was actually almost a call for revolution in terms of the finance sector.

The PRC is properly terrified of the future.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Iran in no rush to see US return to nuclear deal: Khamenei (New Arab, 8 January, 2021)

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said it was not a question of "whether the United States returns or not", it was a matter of it lifting its unilateral sanctions.

"We are in no rush and we are not insisting on their return. Our demand... is the lifting of sanctions," which outgoing US President Donald Trump reimposed after quitting the deal in 2018.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


A SHORT HISTORY OF CLASSIC TV'S MOST UNUSUAL INVESTIGATORSIn the late Sixties everyone wanted to create a TV detective. But how to make your fictional sleuth stand apart? (KEITH ROYSDON, 1/08/21, Crime Reads)

'The Immortal' was ... not

The premise of the 1970 TV series "The Immortal" sounds like a comic-book plot in some ways: A racecar test driver donates a pint of blood to his billionaire boss and the rich man discovers the blood is a miracle drug that, with repeated transfusions, can convey immortality on whoever receives it.

Star Christopher George's character--named Ben Richards, perhaps after two of the "Fantastic Four?"--won't age and won't die, unless he is killed. Richards must go on the run to stay out of the clutches of a series of billionaires, who hire bounty hunters to find him and bring him back for an endless series of blood transfusions.

In the meantime, Richards looks for his estranged brother, to warn him that his blood might make him a target as well.

The Fugitive/Lassie/Incredible Hulk trope is in full effect here, as Richards, sometimes hitchhiking and carrying a small duffle bag, walks around the southwest, interacting with strangers and affecting their lives.

Ben Richards might have been immortal but, no, his series was not. It was canceled in January 1971 after only the pilot and 15 episodes. [...]

'Barnaby Jones' and the Case of the You Kids Get Off My Lawn

When "Barnaby Jones" debuted on CBS in 1973, Buddy Ebsen was 64 years old. It  says something about TV's youth orientation that the selling point of the show was that Ebson was so old! He was the first elderly TV detective!

The Associated Press referred to the detective as--gulp--a foxy grandpa!

Newspaper coverage of the series' debut also noted that this was a chance for Ebsen, a Hollywood staple since the 1930s, to shake the image of Jed Clampett from "The Beverly Hillbillies." Ebsen must have done that, because "Barnaby Jones" ran until 1980.

The premise of the series: Jones came out of retirement and went back into the private investigation business after his son was killed. He teamed up with his daughter-in-law, former big-screen Catwoman Lee Meriwether, to take on bad guys. Mark Shera played a younger member of the family who joined up a few seasons in to perform more of the most physical stuff.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Sununu Urges Fellow Citizens To Look Out for One Another (GARRY RAYNO, 1/08/21,  InDepthNH.org)

"2021 will not be better simply because we want it to be. 2021 will not be better only because we wish it to be," Sununu said.  "2021 will only be better if we are willing to look in the mirror and first initiate that change within ourselves."

He said people often become entrenched in their own political beliefs and use those beliefs to divide instead of remembering they are elected to serve the citizens.

"I believe we sometimes become so preoccupied in winning an argument that we are driven to the false security of political validation via our political party or elected leaders," Sununu said. "And we use those entities as our line in the sand. There is a tendency to show too much deference and wrongly believe those individuals are infallible...Let's remember we are elected to serve those we represent, not the other way around."

He spoke of the pro-Trump mob that violently overran the nation's Capitol Building the day before and urged everyone to turn down the rhetoric to find common ground instead of differences.

He said the growing tensions throughout American culture now is nothing new, separating rich from poor, or different faiths or Democrats and Republicans.

He turned to the state's motto as if addressing the people in and out of state government who refuse to wear masks as the pandemic worsens - including about 90 members of the House who on Organization Day in December when Dick Hinch was elected House Speaker only to die a week later from COVID-19. At least three other House members, a state senator and legislative and Sununu staff members have recently had the disease.

"Some hide behind our Live Free or Die motto to justify actions and promote an agenda of discord. They use it to defend their unwillingness to make sacrifices for the good of our communities. That is not what General John Stark envisioned when he spoke those perpetual words...Live Free or Die might take on a subtly different meaning for all of us, but in general I believe many agree that it ties New Hampshire to the fundamentals of low taxes, limited government and local control," Sununu said. "Yes, we treasure our Live Free or Die culture, but not at the expense of being a good and responsible neighbor. Even though it is not written on a license plate, the New Hampshire I grew up in always put others first."

He said the pandemic has produced many heroes from doctors and nurses, to first responders and family members.

He cited two people who went above and beyond and said that is what is needed from everyone as the state continues to face very significant challenges from the pandemic.

"It is the New Hampshire way to join together within our communities and not let politics or prejudice divide us," Sununu said. "It is in that effort that we as citizens can become more reliant on one another for solutions and less on the often inefficient approach of government."

The state's motto comes with the obligation to put politics and prejudices aside to ensure family and neighbors are supported. "When our side doesn't win, it doesn't mean there's a conspiracy or the world is out to get us.... And we mustn't let COVID or politics rob us of our passion for neighborliness," he said. "The consistent cynical belief in an overwhelming public corruption at every turn results in a lasting damage to the public conscience as a whole. It tears at the fabric of the Live Free or Die spirit. 2020 has unfortunately shown that there are individuals that take a bit of pride out of such cynicism."

Sununu quoted from Abraham Lincoln's second inaugural address saying "With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."

"It is well within our ability to live to those standards.  They aren't lofty or unreasonable.  They're human," he said. "It only takes the will of our hearts to make it happen."