Mumbai Maersk sets new world record [Phew!]

The Mumbai Maersk is a 2nd generation Triple-E class vessel with a nominal capacity of 20,568 TEU*. The vessel is the newest to enter the Triple-E fleet in May 2018 and is deployed on the Asia-to-Europe service (AE5). The world record load of 19,038 TEU has raised a new bar for Maersk by surpassing Madison Maersk, a 1st generation Triple-E class vessel, which reached 18,215 TEU in 2015. At the same time, Mumbai Maersk overtakes all other reported record loadings from other carriers.

* TEU = twenty-foot equivalent unit

To be citizens who affect our societies, we need a feel for science

Science isn’t just for scientists. It’s not just a training for careers. Today’s young people – all of them – will live in a world, ever more dependent on technology, and ever more vulnerable to its failures or misdirection. To be at ease in this fast-changing world, and to be effective citizens, they will all need at least some “feel” for science…

Society already confronts difficult questions like: Who should access the “readout” of our personal genetic code? How will lengthening life-spans affect society? Should we build nuclear power stations – or wind farms – to keep the lights on? Should we plant GM crops? Should the law allow “designer babies” or cognition enhancing drugs?

Such questions matter to us all: they involve science, but they involve economics, politics and ethics as well – areas where scientists speak as citizens without special expertise. But democratic debates won’t rise beyond Daily Mail slogans unless everyone has a feel for basic science, and for risk and uncertainty. As we know, many people don’t have this “feel”. Some can’t tell a bison from a boson. That’s a situation that we scientists routinely bemoan. But ignorance isn’t peculiar to science. It’s equally sad if citizens don’t know their nation’s history, can’t speak a second language, and can’t find North Korea or Syria on a map – and many can’t. This is an indictment of our education and culture in general – I don’t think scientists have a special reason to moan. Indeed, I’m gratified and surprised that so many people are interested in dinosaurs, the Hubble Telescope, the Higgs Boson – all blazingly irrelevant to our day-to-day lives.

And this leads to another reason why science education is important. Scientific insights should be valued for their own sake.

You can click the link immediately above to read where Martin Rees goes with the second half of the article. I have differences and agreements – and respect for all the processes he analyzes.

Science is the only global culture. The bits that work easily down to teenagers and working folks affect that global culture earliest and to a greater degree. The internet being the best recent example. It has not only disrupted access to and distribution of communications, creative or otherwise, the whole batch of societal containers continues to be reshaped by the addition of instant access to knowledge.

That knowledge can be edifying, freeing your mind and life – or it can be the same old crap designed generally to prop up ideology centuries past the sell-by date. Do with it what you will, you will be reacting at a pace undreamed of a few decades ago.

I think everyone comprehends that there are tons of answers scientists don’t have. There’s another word comes after that. The word is “YET”. The reality is that because of science and scientific methods essentially nothing is unknowable. Only the spooky sort of social pedant says “there are some things humans won’t ever know” – generally because examination of those questions threatens the ideology clutched to their breast and brain.

Scientists would rather keep asking those questions. I would rather ask those questions of myself – and others who studies are more dedicated than anything I have time to tie into my daily life’s structure. Asked honestly by individuals shed of sophistry – with no interest in selling you a better way to achieve immortality – I don’t care who asks the questions. And, perhaps, provokes some scientist into searching for an answer. Simple or complex, questions and answers can reorder the lives we lead.

Lord Martin Rees is Emeritus Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics at the University of Cambridge. He holds the honorary title of Astronomer Royal. Lord Rees is co-founder of the Centre for the Study of the Existential Risk, an early stage initiative which brings together a scientist, philosopher and software entrepreneur.

Here there be cables!

Click to enlarge

Undersea cable maps are for the deeply nerdy, but Telegeography has just produced one that’s beautiful and functional. Plus it shows we’re only using about 36 percent of the purchased capacity.

Telegeography, the research firm tracking underground cables and IP transit costs around the world has published the latest version of its submarine cable map, and it’s, well, beautiful. I have one of these (it’s next to my spectrum chart) but the old map is pretty functional, showing the cables, their capacity, owners and their landing spots. It’s a visual reminder that the internet is grounded in some very physical infrastructure.

From Telegeography: The design of our new map was inspired by antique maps and star charts, and alludes to the historic connection between submarine cables and cartography. We drew inspiration from a number of sources including Maury’s New Complete Geography (Revised Edition) published by American Book Company in 1921 and The Timechart History of the World, a collection of antique timelines published by Third Millennium Press.

This one might actually make it into a frame. The map shows the 232 lit cables as well as the 12 anticipated to come online before 2014. These cables connect countries to the internet, by providing connectivity so your emails from San Francisco can make it to Prague. After a huge boom in the 2000-2002 time frame construction on undersea cables pretty much halted, but in 2008 and 2009 new ones (financed in part by new players such as Google) were built.

Maps mostly contain more information than you ever expect. Cartographers must have cyberbrains.

How Bobby Fischer briefly changed America

This summer marks the anniversary of an extraordinary moment in U.S. history: the 1972 match in which the American genius Bobby Fischer defeated the Soviet wizard Boris Spassky for the chess championship of the world.

The battle probably should have been just one more headline in an eventful three months that saw the Watergate burglary, the expulsion of the Soviet military from Egypt and the humiliating dismissal of vice presidential nominee Thomas Eagleton from the Democratic ticket. Somehow the story of Fischer and Spassky and their epic match, which ended 40 years ago this month, captured our attention in a way that no struggle of intellect has since.

The two best players in the world were playing 24 games in Iceland, and everyone paid attention. Strangers who had never picked up a chess piece discussed the match on subway trains. Newspapers put out special editions announcing the results of the games, and vendors hawked them from the corners, shouting out the name of the winner. Book publishers were signing up chess writers by the dozens.

Chess is a very hard game, and what is most remarkable about that summer is that people wanted to play anyway. They wanted their minds stretched, and were willing to work for that reward. The brief period of Fischer’s ascendancy — he quit chess three years later — was perhaps the last era in our nation’s history when this could be said.

Nowadays, we like things easier. We seem more interested in the doings of the “Real Housewives” than in the great intellectual challenges (except of course those intellectual challenges that yield a great deal of money, such as those on Wall Street or in Silicon Valley). Those who deploy their extraordinary mental gifts to do a difficult thing extremely well for a modest reward somehow cannot hold our attention…

…The great Ray Bradbury, who died this year, used to say that simplicity was the great enemy against which we should be doing battle — that theme is the subtext of “Fahrenheit 451” — but we are a long way from heeding the call to arms…

When Fischer died in 2008, his passing went scarcely noticed. He was never an admirable man, but he performed an admirable service. By his brilliance and his antics he focused our attention, in that shining summer 40 years ago, on the life of the mind. He made an enormously difficult intellectual pursuit so alluring that, for a brief moment, everybody wanted to be a part of it.

We could use another moment like that. Bradbury was right: Simplicity is the enemy of democracy. Yet our images and arguments get simpler, and sillier, by the day. Unless we can become freshly excited about stretching our minds, the rest of the world — much of which still values complexity — may leave us in its dust.

Bobby Fischer’s personal politics were easily as contemptible as, say, Sheriff Joe Arpaio or Todd Akins – both of whom hold elective office in the United States. Less fashionable, though.

His erratic behavior and egregious self-concern never eclipsed his brilliance – most of the time – at the chessboard. I doubt Americans have the attention span anymore to grow that kind of focus.

The NSA Is building our nation’s biggest spy center

Today Bluffdale, Utah, is home to one of the nation’s largest sects of polygamists, the Apostolic United Brethren, with upwards of 9,000 members…But new pioneers have quietly begun moving into the area, secretive outsiders who say little and keep to themselves…They are focused on deciphering cryptic messages that only they have the power to understand…a massive complex so large that it necessitated expanding the town’s boundaries. Once built, it will be more than five times the size of the US Capitol.

Rather than Bibles, prophets, and worshippers, this temple will be filled with servers, computer intelligence experts, and armed guards. And instead of listening for words flowing down from heaven, these newcomers will be secretly capturing, storing, and analyzing vast quantities of words and images hurtling through the world’s telecommunications networks. In the little town of Bluffdale, Big Love and Big Brother have become uneasy neighbors.

Under construction by contractors with top-secret clearances, the blandly named Utah Data Center is being built for the National Security Agency. A project of immense secrecy, it is the final piece in a complex puzzle assembled over the past decade. Its purpose: to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks. The heavily fortified $2 billion center should be up and running in September 2013. Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter.” It is, in some measure, the realization of the “total information awareness” program created during the first term of the Bush administration—an effort that was killed by Congress in 2003 after it caused an outcry over its potential for invading Americans’ privacy.

But “this is more than just a data center,” says one senior intelligence official who until recently was involved with the program. The mammoth Bluffdale center will have another important and far more secret role that until now has gone unrevealed. It is also critical, he says, for breaking codes. And code-breaking is crucial, because much of the data that the center will handle—financial information, stock transactions, business deals, foreign military and diplomatic secrets, legal documents, confidential personal communications—will be heavily encrypted. According to another top official also involved with the program, the NSA made an enormous breakthrough several years ago in its ability to cryptanalyze, or break, unfathomably complex encryption systems employed by not only governments around the world but also many average computer users in the US. The upshot, according to this official: “Everybody’s a target; everybody with communication is a target…”

…The NSA has turned its surveillance apparatus on the US and its citizens. It has established listening posts throughout the nation to collect and sift through billions of email messages and phone calls, whether they originate within the country or overseas. It has created a supercomputer of almost unimaginable speed to look for patterns and unscramble codes. Finally, the agency has begun building a place to store all the trillions of words and thoughts and whispers captured in its electronic net. And, of course, it’s all being done in secret. To those on the inside, the old adage that NSA stands for Never Say Anything applies more than ever.

There’s a casual political shorthand among world-class spies. They say the CIA are liberals, the FBI are conservatives. And the NSA? They’re the real Nazis.

Just as Goebbels’ agitprop depended to a large extent on an eavesdropping, wiretapping operation seen on a national scale for the first time – the NSA began to be scaled up to provide information for ideology under Ronald Reagan and the scum who surrounded him. They were brought back into power by George W – and though you might be inclined to kid yourself that a Democrat in power makes life better in every possible way – understand that [1] foreign policy never changed; and [2] the willingness to spy on ordinary citizens is too big a temptation for politicians to pass up.