As Neil deGrasse Tyson explains in “Dark Universe,” the Hayden Planetarium’s new space show at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, humans understand only 5% of the known universe. The stars, the planets, the intergalactic gases and other oddities like quasars and black holes only account for an insignificant amount of the total mass and energy of the universe. The rest is comprised of mysterious dark matter and dark energy, both of which we have only the faintest notion of what they actually are.
Last week, the Syrian Electronic Army briefly hacked President Obama’s official Twitter account and claimed to have accessed some of his sensitive campaign emails. And this follows months of speculation that Chinese hackers have been doing everything from hacking into Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign to burrowing deep inside America’s most sensitive infrastructure. From an asymmetric warfare perspective, the Internet has tilted the military playing field once again. America has bombs, planes and tanks, the rest of the world has… free stuff on the Internet.
The brazen terrorist attack by Islamic militants on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi this week was tragic, devastating and emotionally wrenching. It was also, unfortunately, inevitable. No matter how good a job government does in protecting us from terrorists and uncovering nefarious plots, we were due for such an attack to take place. To understand why terrorists blow up shopping malls, however, you do not need to get inside the heads of the Somali Shabaab militants and learn their ideology. All you need to understand is statistics, probability and the inexorable mathematical logic of power law distributions.
We’re one step closer to making it socially acceptable to be a college dropout without a real job. At the beginning of September, Stanford announced a fundamentally new type of financial arrangement, in which it would become a VC investor in companies run by students and alumni through the StartX start-up accelerator. Even before that, Stanford appeared to encourage more than a dozen students to drop out and partner with Stanford faculty members to launch a new tech start-up. Is Stanford still a university? As Kevin Roose of New York magazine succinctly answers, “Stanford is now basically a VC fund with some dorms.”