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Weekend Reads (Jul 9): The Large Hadron Collider, James Caan (RIP), “Yu-Gi-Oh!,” Elon Musk vs. Twitter
Recommended weekend reading material for July 9, 2022.
After three-year-long shutdown for upgrades, the Large Hadron Collider — the world’s largest particle collider — is up and running, and already making new discoveries.
Physicists say they’ve found evidence in data from Europe’s Large Hadron Collider for three never-before-seen combinations of quarks, just as the world’s largest particle-smasher is beginning a new round of high-energy experiments.
The three exotic types of particles — which include two four-quark combinations, known as tetraquarks, plus a five-quark unit called a pentaquark — are totally consistent with the Standard Model, the decades-old theory that describes the structure of atoms.
Related: 10 years ago, the LHC discovered evidence for the existence of the Higgs Boson, a subatomic particle that helps explain the masses of other particles. This discovery resulted in a Nobel Prize for the scientists who had first predicted the particle’s existence back in 1964.
Also related: While the LHC does use mind-bogglingly massive amounts of energy for its experiments, it didn’t shift us into another dimension.
James Caan, one of Hollywood’s most iconic leading men, died earlier this week at the age of 82.
Caan will best be remembered for his explosive performance as Sonny in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather (1972). Mesmerizing as the volatile and confrontational eldest son and heir apparent to his family’s criminal empire, he earned an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor.
Caan showed great versatility during his six-decade career. He was the angst-ridden title character in the 1970 adaptation of John Updike’s Rabbit Run; a lonely, lovelorn sailor in Cinderella Liberty (1973); a self-destructive college professor whose betting addiction was ruining his life in The Gambler (1974); the aging star athlete of the ultra-violent, futuristic sports game Rollerball (1975); and a smooth-as-silk robber in Thief (1981).
Interestingly, Caan turned down the role of Han Solo as well as parts in Apocalypse Now and Superman. Those paying tribute to Caan include Cary Elwes, Piers Morgan, Matt Reeves, Adam Sandler, and Brent Spiner.
The Playlist’s Charles Bramesco and Rodrigo Perez have compiled a list of the essential James Caan films.
Kazuki Takahashi, who created the Yu-Gi-Oh! manga — which would grow into a media franchise replete with TV series, films, and games — died earlier this week. He was 60 years old.
Takahashi, a comic book artist, started his career in the 80s. But his big success came in 1996, when he first published the Yu-Gi-Oh! in the popular comic magazine Weekly Shonen Jump. The series focused on a spiky haired precocious boy named Yugi who, after solving an ancient puzzle, gets possessed by an ancient spirit that helps Yugi challenge various bullies and bad guys to mystic games.
Related: Blake Montgomery mourns the ways in which the Yu-Gi-Oh! game has changed over the years. “I mourned a relationship with something that had never been alive, but brought me solace like a living friend.”
Now that her popular TV talk show has ended, Wendy Williams’ entire online presence has essentially disappeared.
Last month, The Wendy Williams Show bid fans farewell after 14 years on the air, albeit without Williams in the host chair. For over a year, Williams was dealing with major health issues, causing her to step back from the series as a rotating set of hosts stepped in to keep it going, including Sherri Shepherd, Vivica Fox, and others.
While fans were devastated by the end of the series, much of the content — including her opening “Hot Topics” sessions and headline-making interviews — was still available to watch on the official YouTube channel for the series. As of this week, however, the content is nowhere to be found, leaving fans upset that they have no internet access to their favorite Wendy clips, Variety reports.
Williams is reportedly venturing into the world of podcasting, so this could simply be an effort to prevent her new media efforts from getting diluted. Or it could be something more nefarious. In any case, it raises interesting questions about what media personalities owe to their fans, i.e., those who made them popular in the first place.
The pandemic might be slowly subsiding (emphasis on “might”), but even so, there remains a growing divide between employees who’ve become used to working from home and the managers who want them to return to the office.
Pro-office executives cite the value of in-person collaboration and the need to maintain a vibrant company culture. Breaking with tradition is difficult, workplace analysts say, especially for bosses with an underlying belief, warranted or not, that people get more done in the office.
Ego could play a role, too. “There are people that feel a sense of importance and authority when they’ve got people working outside of their door,” said David Schonthal, a professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.
Handing down mandates, instead of being open to experimentation, will only increase people’s natural impulse to resist change, he said. And forget about using new perks. “For people who value autonomy, giving them soft-serve in the break room is not going to help,” Schonthal said.
I’m fortunate enough to work for a company that’s been very flexible when it comes to working from home vs. working in the office. But not everyone is so lucky, and I suspect that the aforementioned divide won’t be shrinking anytime soon. Put simply, I think the pandemic has all-but-forever challenged and upended a lot of previously accepted notions of work in America, from the 40-hour workweek to the necessity of the office — and on the whole, I think that’s a good thing.
That being said, free soft-serve ice cream in the break room would be a very difficult perk to resist — in my case, anyway.
Shopify prides itself on being a platform that allows independent creators and artists to have their own online business. However, this extensive Twitter thread by Matt Zoller Seitz (aka, one of my favorite movie critics) highlights the platform’s dark side.
This is a thread about the dark side of @shopify, which began destroying our family bookstore and stealing money from our customers one day after our first independently published work, The Deadwood Bible — a book 3 years in the making — arrived from the printer.
It’s official: Elon Musk doesn’t want to buy Twitter any more.
Musk has been setting the stage to abandon the deal since just weeks after he signed the agreement, claiming that Twitter released misleading stats about the prevalence of spam bots on its platform. It’s entirely unclear, however, that Musk can legally abandon his agreement simply because he isn’t happy about the presence of spam on Twitter — something he could have investigated prior to signing the deal.
However, Musk’s decision to walk away could cost him $1 billion. (Which, let’s be real, he could probably find just by searching in his couch cushions.)
It’s incumbent that Musk prove that Twitter has breached their agreement, as he can’t just pull out the signed agreement because he feels like it. And there’s good reason for Twitter to want to keep the agreement together: the deal was a potentially lucrative one for Twitter shareholders, offering $54.20 per share, up from the $36.81 it closed at today. There’s also $1 billion on the line as a breakup fee that will be paid by the party at fault.
Both Twitter and Musk will have to make their case to a judge about whether or not the agreement was breached, but Musk will have to meet a high bar to back out. “You’ve got to show that there was something pretty egregious on the other side that wouldn't allow the agreement to go forward, and I don’t know that he’s going to succeed in convincing judges that that was the case,” says Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law.
Show of hands: Who here actually thought that Musk was serious about buying (and improving) Twitter, and wasn’t just being a chaos agent?
It’s a pretty well-known fact that China employs a lot of surveillance over its citizens, but an alleged data leak containing info on one billion Chinese citizens could reveal the truth depth and extent of the nation’s surveillance.
The files appear to contain detailed police reports dating back to 1995 through to 2019, including names, addresses, phone numbers, identity numbers, sex, as well as the reason for why the police were called out. The records seen by TechCrunch include granular coordinates where incidents occurred or police reports were made — and the names of informants who made the reports — which match the precise addresses also listed in each record, as well as the individuals’ race and ethnicity. (The Chinese government has incarcerated more than a million of its own citizens, mostly from Muslim minority ethnic groups, including Uyghurs and Kazakhs, which the Biden administration has declared a “genocide.”)
From the Blog
My wife reminded me that this week marked the 25th(!) anniversary of my site’s earliest content: my coverage of the 1997 Cornerstone festival. To be honest, it doesn’t really feel like I’ve been blogging for 25 years — which is probably a good sign — but here we are, 6400+ articles later. Of all of those reviews, interviews, posts, etc., these are some of my favorites.
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