What I'm Reading (Nov. 15)

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Here's what's on the reading list this time 'round: Perhaps the rats were not the cause of the plague ... More on software that fails us, as the NTSB prepares its final report on Uber's fatal crash ... There is much to be grateful for in our world ... And cutting corners to get your child in college is not limited to ethically-challenged Americans.

“The bacteria Yersinia pestis, which causes the plague, is thought to be responsible for up to 200 million deaths across human history — more than twice the casualties of World War II.

The Y. pestis death toll comes from three widespread disease outbreaks, known as epidemics …

Scientists long assumed that the deadly disease began infecting humans just before the earliest epidemic, the Justinianic Plague. 

But recent paleogenetics research reveals that plague has been with us for millennia longer: 

Why didn’t these earlier infections lead to devastating outbreaks like the Black Death? It seems the answer is part biological — genetic mutations to the bacteria itself — and part cultural — changes to human lifestyles that encouraged the spread of the disease.”

From the Conversation, Plague was around for millennia before epidemics took hold – and the way people lived might be what protected them.

 

“When the car first detected her presence, 5.6 seconds before impact, it classified her as a vehicle. Then it changed its mind to “other,” then to vehicle again, back to “other,” then to bicycle, then to “other” again, and finally back to bicycle.

It never guessed Herzberg was on foot for a simple, galling reason: Uber didn’t tell its car to look for pedestrians outside of crosswalks.”

I have been following the accident investigation into the pedestrian death from an “autonomous” Uber car for several years, and the NTSB is preparing its final report. Wired Magazine has an update, Uber’s Self-Driving Car Didn’t Know Pedestrians Could Jaywalk. Perhaps I am a Luddite, but I will get in a self-driving car after I land in a Boeing 737Max. 

 

I’ve mentioned Information is Beautiful previously. They have embarked on a Hans Rosling mission of sharing one uplifting graphic a day from their sister website, Beautiful News. Take a moment to appreciate how far we have come before we return to looking at where we need to go. 

We are all familiar with the scandal of parents taking short-cuts to get their children into colleges. The reckoning before the courts continues, the latest sentence was for six months in prison. But this is not solely an American problem. Turns out, that in the highly competitive race for University positions in South Korea, a number of scientists have opted to put their children’s names on their research papers. From Nature, More South Korean academics caught naming kids as co-authors