Mother plucker: Steel fingers guided by AI pluck weeds rapidly and autonomously (BENJ EDWARDS, 11/28/2023, Ars Technica)

[A] Swedish company named Ekobot AB has introduced a wheeled robot that can autonomously recognize and pluck weeds from the ground rapidly using metal fingers.

The four-wheeled Ekobot WEAI robot is battery-powered and can operate 10–12 hours a day on one charge. It weighs 600 kg (about 1322 pounds) and has a top speed of 5 km/h (2.5 mph). It’s tuned for weeding fields full of onions, beetroots, carrots, or similar vegetables, and it can cover about 10 hectares (about 24.7 acres) in a day. It navigates using GPS RTK and contains safety sensors and vision systems to prevent it from unintentionally bumping into objects or people.

To pinpoint plants it needs to pluck, the Ekobot uses an AI-powered machine vision system trained to identify weeds as it rolls above the farm field. Once the weeds are within its sights, the robot uses a series of metal fingers to quickly dig up and push weeds out of the dirt. Ekobot claims that in trials, its weed-plucking robot allowed farmers to grow onions with 70 percent fewer pesticides. The weed recognition system is key because it keeps the robot from accidentally digging up crops by mistake.


Google switches on first-of-its-kind advanced geothermal project (Loz Blain, November 28, 2023, New Atlas)

[T]he idea is to do for geothermal what fracking did for oil and gas, opening up resources that would otherwise be inaccessible. The company does this by drilling horizontally into deep rock, then injecting pressurized fluid to fracture the rock, creating the kind of fractured, permeable rock you need to harvest geothermal heat energy.

It’s a technique Fervo says can also help get a lot more out of an existing resource, and it radically reduces one of the biggest risks in geothermal energy: the risk of drilling way down into subterranean resources and finding they’re not usable.

The Nevada plant makes a constant 3.4 megawatts of energy, bringing water up from 3,250-ft-long (990-m) horizontal bores some 8,000 ft (2,440 m) below the surface, at temperatures up to 191 °C (376 °F).


People, stop being crybabies: Life is better now than ever (Quin Hillyer, November 27, 2023, Washington Examiner)

Far too many people have become spoiled, ungrateful, whiny wretches.

That’s the proper conclusion from a Wall Street Journal poll showing that barely more than a third of people believe “the American dream — that if you work hard, you’ll get ahead — still holds true.” Compared to the 36% who say it still holds true, 45% said it once was true but not anymore, and 18% said it never held true.

Only the 36% have it right. The rest are, to put it bluntly, pathetic defeatists. Likewise for the 50% who say life for ordinary Americans is worse than it was 50 years ago, against only 30% who say it is better.

We have a powerful urge to be the hero of our own stories, which we can’t be if we acknowledge how affluent we are and how easy modern life is



The White Priory Murders is an “impossible crime” novel by the master of the locked-room mystery, John Dickson Carr, masquerading as Carter Dickson, the name associated with his stories featuring Sir Henry Merrivale. Originally published in 1934, this was Merrivale’s second recorded case, written with youthful verve at a time when the author was still in his twenties.

This is a mystery set in the run-up to Christmas, and the presence of snow on the ground provides the scenario for the paradox at the heart of the book. How could someone be beaten to death in the Queen’s Mirror pavilion, when it is surrounded by snow, and there is just one set of footprints leading to the pavilion, and none leading away? […]

Sir Henry Merrivale, often called “H.M.” or “the old man,” had made his debut in a locked-room-mystery novel published earlier in 1934, The Plague Court Murders. When writing that book, Carr envisaged the official police detective Masters would take centre stage. Merrivale only enters the story half-way through. […]

Sir Henry Merrivale was a baronet and a man of varied accomplishments. A qualified physician, he was also a barrister, as we see to dramatic effect in The Judas Window (1938), widely acknowledged as one of the finest locked-room mysteries ever written. Initially characterized as “a fighting socialist,” he eventually shifts his political affiliations to fall in line with Carr’s conservative worldview. During the First World War he served as head of the British counter-espionage operations (earning the nickname “Mycroft”), and he continued to hold this post in the post-war era. Secret service work plays a part in three of his recorded adventures, The Unicorn Murders (1935), The Punch and Judy Murders (1936), and And So To Murder (1940), but his greatest gift is for detecting ingenious crimes and unravelling the puzzles which arise from what he calls “the blinkin’ awful cussedness of things in general.”

Carr took a great deal of care when constructing his intricate plots, but like most crime writers responsible for a long series, he proved fallible on matters of detail about his protagonist. He admitted in a letter to Smith that: “Errors or contradictions…abound in H.M.’s saga… During the nineteen-thirties, being young and full of beans, I was grinding out four novels a year.” As for bringing Merrivale back to life, he said: “Many readers seem fond of…the old gentleman… I also am fond of him. But that’s just the trouble. For many years certain critics…have been bewailing my ‘schoolboy’ sense of humour. H.M. usually enters the story with a rush and a crash, heels in the air. Once, in an unwise moment, I gave the date of his birth: February 6th, 1871. If he were alive today he would be ninety-six years old. His customary antics at so venerable an age would be as inadvisable for him to perform as for me to chronicle.”

The audio is available at Internet Archives.


Bans work, actually: On the myth of authoritarian ineffectiveness (Ellen Pasternack, 14 September, 2023, The Critic)

Opponents of a ban — which, perhaps surprisingly given the number of pet deaths attributable to American bullies in recent months, include the RSPCA and the Dogs Trust — make a number of arguments. Firstly, there’s denial that any one breed is more predisposed to violence than any other: either pointing out that “all dogs can bite”, or arguing that “it’s the owner, not the breed”. Next, there’s the suggestion that “breed-specific legislation” won’t work anyway, because people will ignore it, or because various technicalities will supposedly make it difficult to enforce.

This is nonsense: breed-specific legislation has been very effective at minimising risks to the public from dogs over the three decades it has been in place. Pit bulls are one of the prohibited breeds in the UK; in the USA, where they are generally not subject to restriction, fatal dog attacks per capita are twice as high, with attacks by pit bulls more than making up the difference.

Republican citizens are rather law-abiding.


Britain must end its illegal occupation of the Chagos Islands (Peter Harris, 11/28/23, Cap X)

The case for decolonization is strong. As described in a scathing advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice, Britain’s administration of the Chagos Islands is straightforwardly ‘unlawful’. An overwhelming majority of the world’s governments agree, with 116 of them backing a UN General Assembly resolution in 2019 that called upon London to end its illegal occupation of the archipelago.

Let the islanders determine.


Milei’s dollarisation plan isn’t as crazy as it sounds (Ben Ramanauskas, 11/28/23, Cap X)

As the great economist Simon Kuznets once said, ‘There are four types of countries in the world: developed, underdeveloped, Japan, and Argentina’. The economy of Argentina continues to confound economists. Despite once being one of the wealthiest nations on Earth, it is now an economic basket case which experiences endless cycles of borrowing, money printing, high inflation, and default due to the failed policies of its politicians – and it is the ordinary people who see their livelihoods destroyed. There is nothing normal about Argentina’s economy.

Moreover, an independent central bank only works if it is actually independent and run by competent officials. This is hardly the case with Banco Central de la República Argentina. It has enabled successive governments in their profligacy by excessive money printing which has led to inflation of over 142%.

Dollarisation is perhaps the only thing which can help to put an end to Argentina’s rampant inflation. Milton Friedman wasn’t quite right when he said that inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon. However, he was spot on with Argentina. The central bank has printed so much money that the peso has been completely debased. Replacing it with the much more valuable US dollar would help to put an end to this and get inflation back under control.

This is not just economic theory – the experience of other countries show that this can work. El Salvador, Ecuador, and Panama which have all dollarised and Peru which has semi-dollarised all have the lowest inflation in the region, and the fully dollarised nations have seen their GDP per capita surpass that of Argentina in recent years.


Prices are going down. Here’s where you can see the difference. (Becca Stanek, 11/23/23, The Week)

According to Nerdwallet, citing data released in November by the Department of Labor, the “consumer price index — a proxy for inflation — remained flat from September to October, at 3.2%.” Moreover, the consumer price index report “shows year-over-year price index drops in 92 goods and services categories (among 338 measured).”

In further evidence of this trend, “retailers such as Walmart say an era of price hikes is fading,” The Wall Street Journal reported. Meanwhile, “Adobe, which tracks online sales through its analytics arm, predicts holiday discounting will hit record highs.”


Attacking the System, Left & Right: Critical theories and conspiracy theories are two paths to the same place. (JUSTIN STAPLEY, NOV 27, 2023, Freemen News-Letter)

Most conservatives recognize why various leftist theories such as CRT, the 1619 project, or Equity Theory are concerning and damaging to the fabric of society. But far too many brush off or even feed the growing instincts on the right to question the legitimacy of the results of free and fair elections, to see conspiratorial forces behind the decisions of corporations, institutions, and media companies, and to believe there’s a false flag behind every major geopolitical event. This suggests a serious misunderstanding of why such leftist ideas should be opposed in the first place, and hints that far too many right-wingers are just reflexively trying to “own the left” to achieve power, influence, and wealth rather than engage politically in a way that actually secures the domestic tranquility we are actually charged with conserving and renewing.