Missing CHRISTMAS LECTURES | The Royal Institution

We are asking people across the country and beyond to search the long-forgotten contents of dusty attics or little-used store cupboards, to help unearth past series of the CHRISTMAS LECTURES from the Royal Institution, described by Sir David Attenborough and other past Christmas Lecturers as ‘national treasures from a golden age of broadcasting’.

We are in the process of making the entire BBC archive of these broadcasts available on our website for the first time. However 31 episodes broadcast between 1966 and 1973 are missing. Included in the missing episodes is footage of Sir David Attenborough not seen since it was first broadcast live nearly 50 years ago.

via Missing CHRISTMAS LECTURES | The Royal Institution: Science Lives Here

Hopefully someone out there has them on tape somewhere. The list of missing lectures and who to contact are listed on the site.

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Stop biodiversity loss or we could face our own extinction, warns UN | The Guardian

The world must thrash out a new deal for nature in the next two years or humanity could be the first species to document our own extinction, warns the United Nation’s biodiversity chief.

via Stop biodiversity loss or we could face our own extinction, warns UN | Environment | The Guardian

Final call to save the world from ‘climate catastrophe’ – BBC News

The researchers have used these facts and numbers to paint a picture of the world with a dangerous fever, caused by humans. We used to think if we could keep warming below two degrees this century, then the changes we would experience would be manageable.
Not any more. This new study says that going past 1.5C is dicing with the planet’s liveability. And the 1.5C temperature “guard rail” could be exceeded in just 12 years, in 2030.
We can stay below it – but it will require urgent, large-scale changes from governments and individuals and we will have to invest a massive pile of cash every year, about 2.5% of global gross domestic product (GDP), the value of all goods and services produced, for two decades.
Even then, we will still need machines, trees and plants to capture carbon from the air that we can then store deep underground – forever.

via Final call to save the world from ‘climate catastrophe’ – BBC News

Brazil National Museum fire: Key treasures at risk – BBC News

The National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro is a treasure trove which contains more than 20 million scientific and historical items.
A massive fire spread through the 200-year-old institution on Sunday engulfing almost all of its rooms and gutting large parts of the building.
Most of its priceless collection is thought to have been burnt.

via Brazil National Museum fire: Key treasures at risk – BBC News

A huge (if not total) loss.

There is a movement to create a virtual museum with appeals for any previous visitors who have photos of exhibits to submit them and effectively digitise the museum. If you have any photos, consider sending them.

Where have all our insects gone? | Environment | The Guardian

The start of summer is the time of year when the nation’s insects should make their presence known by coating countryside windows with their fluttering presence, and splattering themselves on car windscreens. But they are spectacularly failing to do so. Instead they are making themselves newsworthy through their absence. Britain’s insects, it seems, are disappearing.

via Where have all our insects gone? | Environment | The Guardian

One in five UK mammals at risk of extinction – BBC News

The red squirrel, the wildcat, and the grey long-eared bat are all facing severe threats to their survival, according to new research.
They are among 12 species that have been put on the first “red list” for wild mammals in the UK.
The Mammal Society and Natural England study said almost one in five British mammals was at risk of extinction.

via One in five UK mammals at risk of extinction – BBC News

The internet’s problems haven’t changed in 22 years

A 1996 Wall Street Journal article that’s been quietly sitting on the web, waiting for its rediscovery and renewed relevance, has found its moment on Twitter this week. Though it discusses the contemporaneous issues and concerns of its time, if you extract the particular problems it identifies with the internet and apply them to our present day, you’ll find something disturbing: nothing’s changed. The core concerns that troubled us about our participation in online communities and services in 1996 are basically identical in 2018.

via The internet’s problems haven’t changed in 22 years – The Verge

Its Google On The Line

The crowd was shocked, but the most impressive thing about the call was that the person on the other end didn’t seem to suspect they were talking to AI at all. This is a huge technological achievement for Google, but it also opens up a Pandora’s box of ethical and social challenges.

For example, does Google have an obligation to tell people they’re talking to a machine? Does technology that mimics humans erode our trust in what we see and hear? And is this another example of tech privilege, where those in the know can offload the boring conversations they don’t want to have onto a machine, while those receiving the calls (most likely low-paid service workers) have to deal with some idiot robot?

via Google’s AI sounds like a human on the phone — should we be worried? – The Verge

It is pretty incredible to watch. Probably seals the fate of the telephone too, to humans anyway. Just going to be robots calling robots in future.

OLPC was going to give every child a laptop — then it all went wrong – The Verge

…instead of “the $100 laptop,” Bender wanted to call it “the Children’s Machine,” he says. “I think we got more mileage out of ‘The $100 Laptop’ at the time, because typical laptops cost over $1,000, so it was a very bold statement. But we got burned by that — because we set an expectation around price, rather than an expectation around what this machine was really for.”

via OLPC was going to give every child a laptop — then it all went wrong – The Verge

It’s not the fairytale ending the project was aiming for but it is helpful to get the OLPC story in full.

The death of the newsfeed

One basic problem here is that if the feed is focused on ‘what do I want to see?’, then it cannot be focused on ‘what do my friends want (or need) me to see?’ Sometimes this is the same thing – my friend and I both want me to see that they’re throwing a party tonight. But if every feed is a sample, then a user has no way to know who will see their post. Indeed, conceptually one might suggest that they have no way to know if anyone will see this post. Of course, Facebook’s engagement teams won’t let that happen – if I feel too much that I’m shouting into the wilderness I’ll leave (this is one of Twitter’s new user problems), and so I’ll be rationed out at least enough exposure to friends and engagement feedback to keep posting. Until you don’t. But if something was really important, why would you put it on Facebook?

I think one could suggest that this is some of what’s behind the suggestions of systemically lower engagement on Facebook newsfeeds, and behind the obvious growth of person-to person chat (most obviously WhatsApp, iMessage, FB Messenger and Instagram – three of which Facebook of course owns). The social dynamics of a 1:1 chat work much more strongly against overload, and even if one person does overshare they’re in a separate box, that you can mute if you like.

via The death of the newsfeed — Benedict Evans