True Detective is a compelling show. People love the acting and are thrilled by the mystery. No arguments there. But two recent interviews with people who worked on it highlight another reason the show works: the petrochemical landscape of Louisiana.
The NSA is, on top of everything else, a workplace. Which means that NSA workers have to deal with things like: that supervisor who doesn’t respond to emails. And that guy down the hall who’s a disruptively loud phone-talker. And that unopened box of Ham & Cheese Hot Pockets that’s been taking up valuable freezer space for months now because no one wants to admit that it’s theirs.
In 2010, to help its staff deal with these everyday workplace annoyances, the NSA launched an advice column—available on the agency’s intranet, and accessible only to employees with the proper security clearance. (We know about it now via The Intercept: It was one of the documents leaked by Edward Snowden.) The column was called "Dear Zelda," and it was a mechanism through which NSA workers could (anonymously) seek advice about the tricky business of dealing with fellow NSA workers.
The first column involved a sartorial conundrum.
Read more. [Image: Shutterstock/baranq]
Wingsuits! They’re amazing! They’re like those jetpacks everyone wanted, but they work with physics!
And we’re fans of them here at The Atlantic. We’ve covered documentaries about them, stunt Chinese mountain jumps, and even wingsuiters doing non-wingsuit things (like, y’know, tightrope walking between hot air balloons). We just generally like watching people use the 21st-century devices, which are—essentially—parachutes that fill the gaps between the wearer’s limbs.
And now, you’ll see, we’ve added this particularly fine wingsuit video up above. Why is it so cool?
Because it’s one wingsuit jumper… filmed by another.
Yesterday, a NASA test vehicle lifted off from the ground in Florida, flew freely through the air, and landed about 650 feet away. It landed, crucially, in the same position it launched—upright—and that makes it look kind of like a science fiction film.
Read more. [Image: NASA]
Take a quiz about what to give up for Lent; find your relationship with God in 8 clicks or less.
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Terrifying weapon, or delightful plaything? You decide!
Read more. [Image: Europeana]
Not every neolithic site can claim its own ’70s pop classic, but, hey: That’s Stonehenge. Countless theories and tools have attempted to make sense of the set of raised stones and earthworks in the south of England, categorizing it as an astronomical calendar, a healing site, a burial ground, or all of them at once.
Now, a study from the Royal College of Art in London has suggested a new possibility: The monument might make music.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
Imagining what the ancient Greek philosopher Plato would think of Google, Fox News, Tiger Moms, and neuroscience might seem like the sort of activity that would appeal only to undergraduate philosophy majors after a few drinks. But the novelist and philosopher Rebecca Goldstein has just attempted the feat of imagining Plato in the modern world for the span of an entire book.
In Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away, out this week, Goldstein revives the ancient form of the philosophical dialogue. Plato’s dialogues often explore basic questions about the nature of art, knowledge, love, and education, and as a result, Goldstein’s book ranges from the amusing (Plato carries a Google Chromebook and struggles with small talk) to the serious and ruminative (the Internet’s potential excites him, but he’s disappointed by the way it’s often used).
Goldstein holds a doctorate in philosophy from Princeton, and she has written studies of Spinoza and Gödel. I chatted with Goldstein recently to get Plato’s take on Twitter, the Olympics, novels, and celebrity culture.
Read more. [Image: Wikimedia]
A search for a photo of a miniature submarine took me to a government website, and as I browsed the tiny thumbnails, I saw something better than a tiny sub in the water. I found a picture of a man standing on the bottom of the ocean. And I’ve been staring at it for a week.
Irene Greif always thought she’d be a teacher. “For one thing,” she told me, “I’d been told by my mother that it was good to be a teacher because you just worked the hours your kids were in school and you could come home.” It had just always been the profession in the back of her mind, the default.
So then it must have been a bit of a shock when, after becoming the first woman ever to receive a Ph.D. in computer science from MIT, Greif discovered that she didn’t really enjoy teaching—she much preferred research. And so eventually she left teaching as a professor and did what she did best: studying, thinking, and figuring systems out. She founded a research field, computer-supported cooperative work, and has spent her life figuring out how to build better systems for humans to work together.
Greif recently retired from IBM, where she’d been since the mid-’90s, and is hoping to devote some time to encouraging young women to go into STEM fields and coaching them to stick with them—a twist on teaching that she does genuinely like.
Read more. [Image courtesy of Irene Greif]