What Is the Alt-Left? For Starters, Not a Thing

Hours after a rally in Charlottesville organized by white nationalists turned deadly, President Donald Trump blamed “many sides” for the violence that transpired. Three days later, at an impromptu press conference at Trump Tower, the president doubled down on this message, condemning groups “on both sides” of the fighting. “What about the alt-left that came charging at, as you say, at the alt-right?” the president said.

Many people know the phrase “alt-right,” a term coined by white nationalist Richard Spencer to describe the white nationalist movement. But “alt-left” is a term that’s recently floated around in various corners of the internet. It gained some popularity earlier this year when violent riots erupted in Berkeley during protests over an appearance by former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos at UC-Berkeley.

White nationalist David Duke defined the term after President Trump referenced it Tuesday.

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My Instagram Hacker Changed My Life

Mohamad, my hacker, had an air of desperation about him. When he got emails in English announcing that he was a lottery winner, or promising him access to a fat bank account, he asked me to translate them word for word.

“!!!پول !!!پول” he’d write. “Money!!! Money!!!” He needed money to take care of his mom.

Negar Mottahedeh is a cultural critic and film theorist specializing in interdisciplinary and feminist contributions to the fields of Middle Eastern Studies and Film Studies.

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I insisted that the emails were a waste of time. He wanted the words anyway. The government of Iran knew he was a hacker, he complained, and had frozen his bank account. He’d gotten a tattoo and now couldn’t land a government job. Iran didn’t get startup culture. His father tormented him. He felt trapped. Now he had me, a contact in the United States, and he saw a path out of Iran and into a new life.

I met read more

Verizon Takes Fourth Amendment Stand in Carpenter V. United States

Fourteen of the biggest US tech companies filed a brief with the Supreme Court on Monday supporting more rigorous warrant requirements for law enforcement seeking certain cell phone data, such as location information. In the statement, the signatories—Google, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft among them—argue that the government leans on outdated laws from the 1970s to justify Fourth Amendment overreach. One perhaps surprising voice in the chorus of protesters? Verizon.

Verizon’s support means that the largest wireless service provider in the US, and a powerful force in Silicon Valley, has bucked a longtime trend of telecom acquiescence. While carriers have generally been willing to comply with a broad range of government requests—even building out extensive infrastructure to aid surveillance—Verizon has this time joined with academics, analysts, and the company’s more privacy-focused corporate peers.

Carpenter v. United States is “one of the most important read more

The Best Way to Test Students? Make Them Explain It On Video

As a physics professor, I have two jobs. The first, obviously, is to help students understand physics. That makes me something of a coach. But I want to talk about my second job: evaluating what students understand about physics. You might call this grading them.

Evaluating a student’s understanding of a topic is like taking a measurement. However, it requires measuring something that is difficult to see. It’s not like I can stick a ruler into a student’s brain to determine the size of their physics stuff. Now, most teachers use indirect means, usually a multiple-choice test or an exam in which students work through a problem. These are poor measures of student understanding. Someone could simply guess, or flub the answer through a silly mistake.

So how can I accurately assess a student’s understanding of physics? Until someone invents a way of reading a student’s mind, I must do something else. I use a combination of written tests and video assessments.

What read more

Nikola’s $35,000 Zero Electric UTV Offers More Torque Than a Tank

If you love kicking up mud and bombing around off-road but feel guilty spewing all that carbon dioxide, Nikola Powersports has you covered—assuming you’ve got $35,000 to spend on an electric off-roader with more torque than a tank.

I’ll pause while you let that settle in.

Settled? OK. The Utah startup just released the specs on the Nikola Zero, a four-seat UTV (utility task vehicle, or what you may know as a side-by-side) guaranteed to make you grin like a lunatic if you ever drive one. The less crazy version produces 415 horsepower and 3,675 foot-pounds of torque. But most people will probably take leave of their senses and go for the thoroughly crazy version, good for 555 horsepower and 4,900 foot-pounds of torque.

To put that in perspective, that’s more power than a Mustang GT and more torque than an M1 Abrams tank. It looks like a typo or straight-up read more

This Stress-Free Fish Tank Lets Plants Do the Cleaning

Owning a fish is an exercise in mental fortitude. You might think your little underwater friend will bring tranquility to your life, that you will experience the joy of pet ownership without the commitment or mess.

Wrong. To own a fish is to experience a near-constant anxiety crisis. You will find yourself checking approximately 100 times a day to see if your fish is dead, wondering if it might be happier with a castle or perhaps a plastic pineapple, and realizing that its life in that waterlogged box is both very depressing and a very good reminder of your own mortality. You will find yourself Googling things like, “Fish pacing back and forth in tank” or “Can fish love?” and not feeling at all good about the answers you find.

If you really must get a fish, though, here’s some advice: Get a low maintenance tank. Relieve yourself of the stress that comes with cleaning and filtering and fiddling with temperature, allowing yourself to move up read more

How Solar Eclipses Illuminate the Marvel of Science

On Monday, August 21, 2017, the world will go under, or so it might well feel like if you position yourself along a 70-mile-wide swath of the US from South Carolina to Oregon. From here you can witness the moon move in front of the sun in the middle of the day and darken the skies above you. A total solar eclipse is a spectacular event that has struck fear into people throughout history, and at the same time has enlightened us in our quest to understand the cosmos. Our ability to predict this year’s event with such specificity is thanks to scientific inquiries dating back thousands of years.

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Henrik Schoeneberg (@henriksch) is a published philosopher in Copenhagen. He is the founder of Thales Day, an annual event to celebrate the birth of the tradition of philosophy and science.

The ancient Greek historian Herodotus tells us that as the Medes and Lydians were fighting by the Halys River, day suddenly turned to night. They took it as a sign that the gods were angry, read more

Everybody Chill: Robots Won’t Take All Our Jobs

None of this is to say that automation and AI aren’t having an important impact on the economy. But that impact is far more nuanced and limited than the doomsday forecasts suggest. A rigorous study of the impact of robots in manufacturing, agriculture, and utilities across 17 countries, for instance, found that robots did reduce the hours of lower-skilled workers—but they didn’t decrease the total hours worked by humans, and they actually boosted wages. In other words, automation may affect the kind of work humans do, but at the moment, it’s hard to see that it’s leading to a world without work. McAfee, in fact, says of his earlier public statements, “If I had to do it over again, I would put more emphasis on the way technology leads to structural changes in the economy, and less on jobs, jobs, jobs. The central phenomenon is not net job loss. It’s the shift in the kinds of jobs that are available.”

McAfee points to both retail and transportation as areas where automation read more

New Media and the Messy Nature of Reporting on the Alt-Right

President Trump stunned the nation, members of his own party, the press, and, apparently, his staff on Tuesday with his candid remarks regarding last weekend’s deadly violence at a rally of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia. The day before, he had reluctantly condemned the neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members who comprised much of the rally, but just 24 hours later, standing in the lobby of Trump Tower, the president was back to to condemning groups “on both sides” of the fighting.

“You had a group on one side that was bad, and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent,” Trump told reporters during an impromptu press conference. “Not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch.”

The comment elicited immediate outrage, with some noting the “false equivalency” of comparing white supremacists and neo-Nazis to the people read more

Donald Trump’s Charlottesville Press Conference Has Roots in Fox News and Twitter

The schedule for Donald Trump’s first full day back in New York since the start of his presidency entailed walking into the Trump Tower lobby, talking about infrastructure for a few minutes, and immediately re-boarding his golden elevator without taking any questions. Much to Chief of Staff John Kelly’s apparent chagrin, that did not happen.

Instead, Trump opted to take a few questions after his prepared remarks. The assembled reporters naturally had more questions about last weekend’s white nationalist rally in Charlottesville than they did infrastructure bureaucracy. The result? A deluge of remarks suggesting that both sides (Nazis, and those who protested their assembly) shared the blame read more