Weekend Reads: DC Talk, Time Crystals, "Miami Vice," Pedestrianism, Cowboys, Lionel Messi
Recommended weekend reading material for August 7, 2021.
Every week, I compile a list of interesting and thought-provoking articles to offer you some enjoyable weekend reading material.
Just for a moment, the band had reached the audience they had always sought. It took a ton of money, three labels, and an overhaul of their sound, but they did it. Jesus Freak would go on to sell two million copies. CCM journalists had already taken to calling DC Talk the Christian Beatles. Now they called Jesus Freak the group’s Sgt. Pepper’s: a generational work that suggested new possibilities for the genre.
If you were a Church kid in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, then DC Talk was everywhere. Indeed, it’s kind of hard to fully explain it to folks who didn’t grow up in such circles (kind of like Carman). I was a college sophomore when Jesus Freak was released, and by that time, I had largely abandoned CCM. (That, and I’ve always been more of a Nu Thang guy.) But even in my church’s college group, Jesus Freak was a huge — and inescapable — phenomenon.
I’m a sucker for stories about obscure, even arcane-sounding scientific discoveries. For instance, scientists are having problems describing fractons, a theoretical state of matter that might be useful for quantum computing.
“When I first heard about fractons, I said there’s no way this could be true, because it completely defies my prejudice of how systems behave,” said Nathan Seiberg, a theoretical physicist at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. “But I was wrong. I realized I had been living in denial.”
The theoretical possibility of fractons surprised physicists in 2011. Recently, these strange states of matter have been leading physicists toward new theoretical frameworks that could help them tackle some of the grittiest problems in fundamental physics.
Speaking of arcane-sounding scientific discoveries, a group of scientists claim to have created a time crystal, a new state of matter that has massive ramifications for quantum computing — and apparently violates several key laws of physics.
A time crystal is a special phase of matter that changes constantly, but doesn't ever appear to use any energy. This, scientists say, means it violates Isaac Newton’s first law of motion, which deals with inertia — the resistance an object has to a change while in motion. A rolling marble doesn't stop unless other forces act upon it, for instance. But from experience, you know that it will eventually stop due to forces like friction. If your marble were a time crystal, though, it would literally never stop.
FYI, time crystals are not the same thing as time cubes.
My family’s first computer was a Commodore SX-64, a “portable” version of the Commodore 64 that weighed 23 lbs. What I really wanted, however, was an Amiga, Commodore’s flagship computer line that had groundbreaking graphics for the time. Thanks to hobbyists like Steve Lord, the Amiga is still going strong nearly 30 years after Commodore’s demise.
Although Commodore died in 1994 the Amiga itself became a zombie platform for a while. For the longest time the Amiga was going to come back with a vengeance any day now, until it didn’t. It kind of turned into a joke until one day the joke was forgotten. This is mostly down to long-running, pointless and unhelpful legal disputes.
But every day thousands of people still use Amigas to create, code and play. I’m just one of them. For a dead platform with a dead OS there’s a remarkable amount activity. New hardware, software, games and Operating Systems are coming out all the time.
As someone who grew up in the Commodore era, the Amiga has a nigh-magical allure for me that remains to this day. Despite being nearly 30 years old, the Amiga still feels futuristic to me in a way that modern computers don’t.
Earlier this year, several associates of former president Donald Trump launched GETTR, a new social network that prided itself on free speech and no censorship. Since then, GETTR has been flooded with terrorist propaganda by the Islamic State.
[T]he fact that such jihadi material was readily available on the social network, and GETTR’s failure to clamp down on such extremism, underlined the difficulties that the company faces in balancing its free speech ethos with growing demands to stop terrorist-related material from finding an audience online.
Via Daring Fireball. Presumably, GETTR took this stance to distance themselves from “big tech” companies like Facebook and Twitter, which have been accused of silencing right-wing conservative voices (though that’s not really the case). However, simple prudence — not to mention a basic understanding of human nature — suggests that a clearly defined content moderation policy is critical to ensuring a thriving online environment.
Apple recently announced plans to implement technology that will scan photos on iPhones for images of child abuse and alert human reviewers if any such images are detected. Not surprisingly, privacy advocates are roundly criticizing the announcement, especially in light of Apple’s outspoken support for user privacy.
For years, Apple has resisted pressure from the US government to install a “backdoor” in its encryption systems, saying that doing so would undermine security for all users. Apple has been lauded by security experts for this stance. But with its plan to deploy software that performs on-device scanning and share selected results with authorities, Apple is coming dangerously close to acting as a tool for government surveillance, Johns Hopkins University cryptography Professor Matthew Green suggested on Twitter.
For a time in the 19th century, the world’s biggest sport involved watching men walk around a circular track for days on end.
The rules were simple — essentially, contestants were required to walk in circles for six days in a row, until they had completed laps equivalent to at least 450 miles (724km). They could run, amble, stagger or crawl, but they must not leave the oval-shaped sawdust track until the race was over. Instead they ate, drank and napped (and presumably, performed other bodily functions) in little tents at the side, some of which were elaborately furnished.
And you thought Olympic events were impressive.
Related: How long will it be until American Freestyle canoeing becomes an Olympic event? (Think dressage, but in canoe form.)
I’m no soccer pundit, but this is big news: Lionel Messi, one of the greatest soccer players of all time, is leaving his long-time club Barcelona.
Barca have been unable to register Messi’s new contract with LaLiga while complying with the league’s financial fair play rules. President Joan Laporta will address the situation in a news conference on Friday morning.
Barcelona said in a statement: “Despite having reached an agreement with Messi and with both parties clearly wanting to sign a new contract, it cannot be finalised due to financial and structural problems [rules relating to the Spanish league].”
As for Messi’s next move, it’s possible that he’ll end up at Paris Saint-Germain and be reunited with his former Barcelona teammate Neymar.
The cowboy is one of the most iconic American figures, but the cowboys of reality are a far cry from the cowboys of myth and movies.
While reading about the American West, there’s one figure I keep encountering: the brave white cowboy, riding his majestic horse over seemingly uninhabited wilderness, dazzling everyone he meets with his charm and his grit. A knight in denim jeans and silver spurs. It’s interesting that I keep running into him because, dazzling though he may be, he’s not real. Or rather, this archetypal cowboy has only a tenuous connection to the cowboys of the 1800s.
Related: The final episode of Netflix’s High on the Hog — which I highly recommend — spends some time discussing the reality of the cowboy, specifically that many of them were formerly enslaved individuals.
When Karen Swallow Prior writes something, it’s always worth reading, especially when she’s writing about the challenges brought on by church scandals.
To be fair, I haven’t had the kind of crisis of faith I’ve watched so many others undergo. But I’ve certainly had to step back and examine honestly where I’ve been complacent — or even complicit — in enabling others who have abused their power in the name of the Lord. It’s a process in which I’m still engaged. And, day by day, exposé by exposé, it does not get any easier, because the truth is that our beliefs are tied up with the institutions — family, church, schools, communities — that gave them to us, institutions (and their people) that we love.
From the Blog
I love role-playing games and I love J. R. R. Tolkien. Needless to say, I’m very excited about the upcoming release of the Second Edition of The One Ring, which was funded by a very successful Kickstarter campaign that raised nearly $2 million. The game’s developers released an alpha version of the game’s rules, so I thought I’d blog my way through them and see how well they evoke the world and writings of Tolkien.
Even in these alpha materials, it’s readily apparent that The One Ring isn’t just Dungeons & Dragons wrapped up in a few Tolkien-isms. Rather, the game’s creators strike me as very serious about being faithful to the spirit, if not the letter, of Tolkien’s classic works.
Admittedly, this is one of the nerdier posts I’ve published in recently history, right up there with my assessment of religion in Star Trek and this list of my favorite mecha and vehicles from the Macross anime series. But I love looking at role-playing games, surveying their world-building, and figuring out what makes them tick — even if I have no idea when I’ll actually be able to play them. So many games, so little time.
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