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616 - All Quiet on the Illinois Front
It's the morning of Wednesday, 13 September 1939. In an America supremely at peace, newspapers hit front lawns with headlines screaming of war. The horrific conflict splashed across the front pages of thousands of dailies is happening an ocean away, in Europe.
Two weeks earlier, Nazi Germany had invaded Poland, thus ending all pretense that Hitler's goal was 'peace in our time' . Poland's main allies, Britain and France, have promptly declared war on Germany. Although the Nazis are focused for now on winning the Polish campaign, it's clear that this is the beginning of a 'Second World War' - a term first used widely in these terrifying days .
The front page of the Panama City News Herald, published in Florida, is representative of most other US newspapers during these weeks. Very little local news on the page, which is dominated by articles on the war - both from an American and a European perspective.
One headline wired in from London by the Associated Press reads: British-French Resolve To Fight Until Naziism (sic) Gone, Says Chamberlain. The caption for the page's main photo says: At German general staff headquarters "somewhere in Poland", Fuehrer Adolf Hitler, "first soldier of the Reich" looks over map of battle area. His ace military leader, Gen. Walther von Brauchitsch, stands at his shoulder. Picture was radioed to New York from the German capital.
A short message datelined London reads: Duke of Windsor is Ready for Service. Below, an article datelined Boston states, in similar wording: Negroes Ready For Military Service. From Washington DC, the news is: [General] Pershing Urges Bigger Defense Power for U.S., and Neutrality Act Change Sought by President [Roosevelt].
Somewhat prematurely, an article at the bottom of the page predicts the final outcome of the conflict: Poor Gasoline Said to Cause Reich Defeat, while from the North Atlantic come terrible tales of the incipient sea war: Athenia Survivors Tell Horrors of Days in Fear of U-Boats In Atlantic.
But the most remarkable item on the page - at least from the perspective of this blog - is a small graphic at the top of the page. Titled If Illinois Were Western Front, it is a map of the US Midwest, and it 'brings the war home' for the American readership. By grafting the theatre of hostilities in Europe onto the geography of the American heartland, the aim is to make the conflict that is raging on another continent relatable to Joe Q. Public.
The caption reads:
All this talk about history-making battles waged, armies on the march and territory taken sounds big in the day's war news, but how small it is in American terms may be seen from the map above. Shifted to the American scene, European armies might fight their battles on the Maginot-Siegfried  lines in the center of Illinois. This would put London about where Minneapolis is, Paris at Des Moines, Berlin at Toledo, Warsaw at Washington.
Curiously, it seems the way to translate the enormity of the European war to the American public is to scale it down to its 'true proportions': folks might have started calling it a World War, but in reality, it could be contained between Minneapolis and Washington...
Many thanks to Dan Anderson for sending in a scan of this map, taken from the Marinette Eagle (published in Marinette, Wisconsin), of 18 September 1939. He notes: "They should have put Paris further west - maybe in Colorado, so that Moscow could be represented". A slightly sharper image can be found here at the Newspaper Archive, on the aforementioned front page of the Panama City News Herald  .
 The actual phrase used by Neville Chamberlain on 30 September 1938 hailing the Munich Agreement was "peace for our time". Perhaps the misquote stems from the fact that the then British PM was paraphrasing one of his predecessors, in similar circumstances. Following the Congress of Berlin in 1878, Benjamin Disraeli said: "I have returned from Germany with peace in our time". Chamberlain's statement is remembered as the epitome of appeasement, the policy born of the misguided hope that agreeing to Hitler's territorial demands would avoid war. Less than a year after the German occupation of the Sudetenland (as agreed by France and the UK at Munich), Nazi Germany had occupied Bohemia and Moravia, and invaded Poland.↩
 The coming conflict had been dubbed the 'Second World War' as early as 1920, but mainly in speculative fiction, and hardly ever in the mainstream press. ↩
 The Maginot Line is the name for the French fortifications constructed in the 1930s along the German border. The so-called Siegfried Line was the mirror version on the German side of the border. The Germans called it the Westwall. The Siegfried Line was the name for a similar defensive wall built during the First World War; the name was retained by the Allies for the 1930s construction.↩
 The logo in the lower right hand corner, spelling NEA, reveals the common source of both: Newspaper Enterprise Association, a syndication service specialising in both images (comics and pictures) and features, supplying content to over 700 newspapers in the 1930s.↩
These alien-like creatures are virtually invisible in the deep sea.
- A team of marine biologists used nets to catch 16 species of deep-sea fish that have evolved the ability to be virtually invisible to prey and predators.
- "Ultra-black" skin seems to be an evolutionary adaptation that helps fish camouflage themselves in the deep sea, which is illuminated by bioluminescent organisms.
- There are likely more, and potentially much darker, ultra-black fish lurking deep in the ocean.
The Pacific blackdragon
Credit: Karen Osborn/Smithsonian<p>When researchers first saw the deep-sea species, it wasn't immediately obvious that their skin was ultra-black. Then, marine biologist Karen Osborn, a co-author on the new paper, noticed something strange about the photos she took of the fish.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"I had tried to take pictures of deep-sea fish before and got nothing but these really horrible pictures, where you can't see any detail," Osborn told <em><a href="https://www.wired.com/story/meet-the-ultra-black-vantafish/" target="_blank">Wired</a></em>. "How is it that I can shine two strobe lights at them and all that light just disappears?"</p><p>After examining samples of fish skin under the microscope, the researchers discovered that the fish skin contains a layer of organelles called melanosomes, which contain melanin, the same pigment that gives color to human skin and hair. This layer of melanosomes absorbs most of the light that hits them.</p>
A crested bigscale
Credit: Karen Osborn/Smithsonian<p style="margin-left: 20px;">"But what isn't absorbed side-scatters into the layer, and it's absorbed by the neighboring pigments that are all packed right up close to it," Osborn told <em>Wired</em>. "And so what they've done is create this super-efficient, very-little-material system where they can basically build a light trap with just the pigment particles and nothing else."</p><p>The result? Strange and terrifying deep-sea species, like the crested bigscale, fangtooth, and Pacific blackdragon, all of which appear in the deep sea as barely more than faint silhouettes.</p>
David Csepp, NMFS/AKFSC/ABL<p>But interestingly, this unique disappearing trick wasn't passed on to these species by a common ancestor. Rather, they each developed it independently. As such, the different species use their ultra-blackness for different purposes. For example, the threadfin dragonfish only has ultra-black skin during its adolescent years, when it's rather defenseless, as <em>Wired</em> <a href="https://www.wired.com/story/meet-the-ultra-black-vantafish/" target="_blank">notes</a>.</p><p>Other fish—like the <a href="http://onebugaday.blogspot.com/2016/06/a-new-anglerfish-oneirodes-amaokai.html" target="_blank">oneirodes species</a>, which use bioluminescent lures to bait prey—probably evolved ultra-black skin to avoid reflecting the light their own bodies produce. Meanwhile, species like <em>C. acclinidens</em> only have ultra-black skin around their gut, possibly to hide light of bioluminescent fish they've eaten.</p><p>Given that these newly described species are just ones that this team found off the coast of California, there are likely many more, and possibly much darker, ultra-black fish swimming in the deep ocean. </p>
Using machine-learning technology, the genealogy company My Heritage enables users to animate static images of their relatives.
- Deep Nostalgia uses machine learning to animate static images.
- The AI can animate images by "looking" at a single facial image, and the animations include movements such as blinking, smiling and head tilting.
- As deepfake technology becomes increasingly sophisticated, some are concerned about how bad actors might abuse the technology to manipulate the pubic.
My Heritage/Deep Nostalgia<p>But that's not to say the animations are perfect. As with most deep-fake technology, there's still an uncanny air to the images, with some of the facial movements appearing slightly unnatural. What's more, Deep Nostalgia is only able to create deepfakes of one person's face from the neck up, so you couldn't use it to animate group photos, or photos of people doing any sort of physical activity.</p>
My Heritage/Deep Nostalgia<p>But for a free deep-fake service, Deep Nostalgia is pretty impressive, especially considering you can use it to create deepfakes of <em>any </em>face, human or not. </p>
How long should one wait until an idea like string theory, seductive as it may be, is deemed unrealistic?
- How far should we defend an idea in the face of contrarian evidence?
- Who decides when it's time to abandon an idea and deem it wrong?
- Science carries within it its seeds from ancient Greece, including certain prejudices of how reality should or shouldn't be.
Plato used the allegory of the cave to explain that what humans see and experience is not the true reality.
Credit: Gothika via Wikimedia Commons CC 4.0<p>When scientists and mathematicians use the term <em>Platonic worldview</em>, that's what they mean in general: The unbound capacity of reason to unlock the secrets of creation, one by one. Einstein, for one, was a believer, preaching the fundamental reasonableness of nature; no weird unexplainable stuff, like a god that plays dice—his tongue-in-cheek critique of the belief that the unpredictability of the quantum world was truly fundamental to nature and not just a shortcoming of our current understanding. Despite his strong belief in such underlying order, Einstein recognized the imperfection of human knowledge: "What I see of Nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of humility." (Quoted by Dukas and Hoffmann in <em>Albert Einstein, The Human Side: Glimpses from His Archives</em> (1979), 39.)</p> <p>Einstein embodies the tension between these two clashing worldviews, a tension that is still very much with us today: On the one hand, the Platonic ideology that the fundamental stuff of reality is logical and understandable to the human mind, and, on the other, the acknowledgment that our reasoning has limitations, that our tools have limitations and thus that to reach some sort of final or complete understanding of the material world is nothing but an impossible, <a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01K2JTGIA?tag=bigthink00-20&linkCode=ogi&th=1&psc=1" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">semi-religious dream</a>.</p>