from the world's big
The BAIDU Google Complex
"If something is omitted, you have no way of knowing it has been omitted." --Howard Zinn
More search engines for the world, please
BEIJING – Baidu (百度), the Chinese search engine, is still largely unknown in the West; and it is certainly less technologically advanced and thorough than its US rival and the global monopoly: Google (some of Baidu's search features are legal imitations of Google’s; others not so much).
However, from a frequent user's point of view (your author writes a lot about China-related topics and also under a Chinese pen name -裴德思), Google can be very limited, almost annoyingly so with far too many US 'junk-sites' floating on top of most search inquiries. Few people realize that Google is universally biased against Chinese (and other foreign) content.
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United States, Empire, Google
US pages, brands, names, and individuals are all privileged in Google's search results, and so are Google’s subsidies such as Wikipedia, Youtube, and Google+. In addition, Google is naturally favoring its US peers, mostly internet monopolies in their own categories. Your author is referring, of course, to US social networks and web-services such as Facebook, Amazon, Academia, Ebay, Wikihow, GoogleBooks, YahooAnswers, IMD, Linkedin, Flickr, BigThink, Huffington Post, Tumblr, Vimeo, Instagram, and the rest of the American hoi polloi. The result is that other cultures and foreign sites are marginalized, suppressed, or else delegated to the bottom of your search results anyway.
People (and governments) often don’t realize how biased and pro-USA Google truly is -until it is too late. Critics of the hegemon's iron grip on 'Search' and its obsession with collecting data from its users are often silenced. That Google is capable of changing the perspective of entire countries and even rig elections is no secret anymore, as the late Robert Epstein, psychologist and former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today, once warned:
"Google can determine the outcome of close elections by biasing search rankings to favor certain candidates."
Even Google Germany (processing 90% of all search inquiries in that country), no matter how culture-sensitive it pretends to be, in practice will always offer you links to US websites; even for German search terms –by default, because the US by definition feels it is the universal culture, and claims to know what will be good for its subjects to know. The Germans have a word for it: Gleichschaltung -"forced coordination."
When the Europeans finally woke up to their digital subjugation to US-corporations disguised as benign European 'public services', the outrage and braying was predictably loud but quite embarrassing -a confession of Europe's digital dependency and learned helplessness.
Access to China Knowledge
Therefore, it is refreshing to (at least) have this option of using an alternative Chinese search engine that may be limited and biased in its own rights (it is certainly censoring and thus largely free of porn and Bloomberg news), alright, but still it also spares us a good amount of US junk. In fact, your author would always recommend anyone working on China to regularly use Baidu –especially if searching for Chinese people, brands, information, and news.
That said, Baidu is successful mostly because a) the Chinese people are so many (600 million of them are online already), and b) the government banned or restricted Google and most of the above-mentioned US internet monopolies in the People's Republic. The Far Easterners have noble reasons for this: The authorities hope to limit US influence on world knowledge and how it is presented.
One search engine to fit all nations?
To be true, a quick search on Baidu thankfully omits (most of) the US-spam and reveals some amazingly helpful Chinese websites that are (sadly) mostly completely unheard of in the West -sites like Baike, Tieba, Wenku, Douban, Zhidao, 163, Wenwen, Docin, Sina, Aisixiang and many more. Frankly, it is fascinating to peep at a world not yet perverted by Imperial stars and stripes. [Example: 杜维明] [Example: 诺姆·乔姆斯基]
China's resistance to a US sovereignty over Sinitic knowledge is bold, relevant, and of global significance. It is also highly ideological and geopolitical -a textbook case for historians and social scientists. If successful, it may inspire India, Russia, Iran, Brazil, and even Europe to try and do something similar. After all, we all prefer diversity and the division of power -which is clearly not the case with Google and the internet.
So, while planning to expand into South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brazil, Argentina, and Egypt, in a typical Chinese understatement, the web giant keeps tactfully eluding any stand-off against mighty Google that it couldn't possibly win in the global 'Battle for Search', certainly not within the paradigms of the current international pecking order.
So far, it seems, Baidu is doing everything right.
Image credits: Twin Design/Shutterstock.com
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Richard Feynman once asked a silly question. Two MIT students just answered it.
Here's a fun experiment to try. Go to your pantry and see if you have a box of spaghetti. If you do, take out a noodle. Grab both ends of it and bend it until it breaks in half. How many pieces did it break into? If you got two large pieces and at least one small piece you're not alone.
But science loves a good challenge<p>The mystery remained unsolved until 2005, when French scientists <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/~audoly/" target="_blank">Basile Audoly</a> and <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/~neukirch/" target="_blank">Sebastien Neukirch </a>won an <a href="https://www.improbable.com/ig/" target="_blank">Ig Nobel Prize</a>, an award given to scientists for real work which is of a less serious nature than the discoveries that win Nobel prizes, for finally determining why this happens. <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/spaghetti/audoly_neukirch_fragmentation.pdf" target="_blank">Their paper describing the effect is wonderfully funny to read</a>, as it takes such a banal issue so seriously. </p><p>They demonstrated that when a rod is bent past a certain point, such as when spaghetti is snapped in half by bending it at the ends, a "snapback effect" is created. This causes energy to reverberate from the initial break to other parts of the rod, often leading to a second break elsewhere.</p><p>While this settled the issue of <em>why </em>spaghetti noodles break into three or more pieces, it didn't establish if they always had to break this way. The question of if the snapback could be regulated remained unsettled.</p>
Physicists, being themselves, immediately wanted to try and break pasta into two pieces using this info<p><a href="https://roheiss.wordpress.com/fun/" target="_blank">Ronald Heisser</a> and <a href="https://math.mit.edu/directory/profile.php?pid=1787" target="_blank">Vishal Patil</a>, two graduate students currently at Cornell and MIT respectively, read about Feynman's night of noodle snapping in class and were inspired to try and find what could be done to make sure the pasta always broke in two.</p><p><a href="http://news.mit.edu/2018/mit-mathematicians-solve-age-old-spaghetti-mystery-0813" target="_blank">By placing the noodles in a special machine</a> built for the task and recording the bending with a high-powered camera, the young scientists were able to observe in extreme detail exactly what each change in their snapping method did to the pasta. After breaking more than 500 noodles, they found the solution.</p>
The apparatus the MIT researchers built specifically for the task of snapping hundreds of spaghetti sticks.
(Courtesy of the researchers)
What possible application could this have?<p>The snapback effect is not limited to uncooked pasta noodles and can be applied to rods of all sorts. The discovery of how to cleanly break them in two could be applied to future engineering projects.</p><p>Likewise, knowing how things fragment and fail is always handy to know when you're trying to build things. Carbon Nanotubes, <a href="https://bigthink.com/ideafeed/carbon-nanotube-space-elevator" target="_self">super strong cylinders often hailed as the building material of the future</a>, are also rods which can be better understood thanks to this odd experiment.</p><p>Sometimes big discoveries can be inspired by silly questions. If it hadn't been for Richard Feynman bending noodles seventy years ago, we wouldn't know what we know now about how energy is dispersed through rods and how to control their fracturing. While not all silly questions will lead to such a significant discovery, they can all help us learn.</p>
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In a recent study, researchers examined how Christian nationalism is affecting the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- A new study used survey data to examine the interplay between Christian nationalism and incautious behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The researchers defined Christian nationalism as "an ideology that idealizes and advocates a fusion of American civic life with a particular type of Christian identity and culture."
- The results showed that Christian nationalism was the leading predictor that Americans engaged in incautious behavior.
A pastor at the chapel of the St. Josef Hospital on April 1, 2020 in Bochum, German
Sascha Schuermann/Getty Images<p>Christian nationalists, in general, believe the U.S. and God's will are tied together, and they want the government to embody conservative Christian values and symbols. As such, they also believe the nation's fate depends on how closely it adheres to Christianity.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unsurprisingly then, in the midst of the COVID‐19 pandemic, conservative pastors prophesied God's protection over the nation, citing America's righteous support for President Trump and the prolife agenda," the researchers write.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Correspondingly, the link between Christian nationalism and God's influence on how COVID‐19 impacts America can be seen in proclamations about God's divine judgment for its immorality―with the logic being that God is using the pandemic to draw wayward America <em>back </em>to himself, which assumes the two belong together."</p><p>The logical conclusion to this kind of thinking: America can save itself not through cautionary measures, like mask-wearing, but through devotion to God. What's more, it stands to reason that Christian nationalists are less likely to trust the media and scientists, given that these sources are generally not concerned with promoting a conservative, religious view of the world.</p><p>(The researchers note that they're unaware of any research directly linking Christian nationalism to distrust of media sources, but that they're almost certain the two are connected.)</p>
Predicted values of Americans' frequency of incautious behaviors during the COVID‐19 pandemic across values of Christian nationalism
Perry et al.<p>In the new study, the researchers examined three waves of results from the Public and Discourse Ethics Survey. One wave of the survey was issued in May, and it asked respondents to rate how often they engaged in both incautious and precautionary behaviors.</p><p>Incautious behaviors included things like "ate inside a restaurant" and "went shopping for nonessential items," while precautionary behaviors included "washed my hands more often than typical" and "wore a mask in public."</p><p>To measure Christian nationalism, the researchers asked respondents to rate how strongly they agree with statements like "the federal government should advocate Christian values" and "the success of the United States is part of God's plan."</p><p>The results suggest that, compared to other groups, Christian nationalists are far less likely to wear masks, socially distance and take other precautionary measures amid the COVID-19 pandemic.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Christian nationalism was the leading predictor that Americans engaged in incautious behavior during the pandemic, and the second leading predictor that Americans avoided taking precautionary measures."</p><p>But that's not to say that religious beliefs are causing Americans to reject mask-wearing or social distancing. In fact, when the study accounted for Christian nationalist beliefs, the results showed that Americans with high levels of religiosity were likely to take precautionary measures for COVID-19.</p>
Limitations<p>Still, the researchers note that they're theorizing about the connections between Christian nationalism and COVID-19 behaviors, not documenting them directly. What's more, they suggest that certain experiences — such as having a family member that contracts COVID-19 — might change a Christian nationalist's behaviors during the pandemic.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Limitations notwithstanding, the implications of this study are important for understanding Americans' curious inability to quickly implement informed and reasonable strategies to overcome the threat of COVID‐19, an inability that has likely cost thousands of lives," they write.</p>
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