The tsunami of vandalism, arson and riot by young people of color that began in the suburban ghettos of Paris – now in its twelfth night as I write – has rolled right across France, touching 274 cities and towns, and shows few signs of abating. It should have surprised no one, for it is the result of thirty years of government neglect – of the failure of the French political classes, both right and left, to make any serious effort to integrate its Muslim and black populations into the French economy and culture; and of the deep-seated, searing, soul-destroying racism that the unemployed and profoundly alienated young of the ghettos face every day of their lives, both from the police and when trying to find a job.The ghettos where festering resentment has now burst into flames were created as a matter of industrial policy by the French state. Why is France's population of immigrant origin – mostly Arab, some black – today so large (more than 10 percent of the total population)? Because during the post-World War II boom years of reconstruction and economic expansion, which the French call les trentes glorieuses, the thirty glorious years, it was policy to recruit from France's colonies laborers and factory and menial workers. These immigrant workers, primarily from North Africa, were desperately needed to allow the French economy to expand, despite the shortage of manpower caused by the two world wars that had killed many Frenchmen and slashed the native French birthrates. Moreover, these immigrant workers were favored by industrial employers as passive and unlikely to join unions and strike.This government-and-industry-sponsored influx of Arab workers was reinforced following Algerian independence by the arrival of the Harkis, native Algerians who fought for and worked with France during the anticolonial struggle for independence – and were horribly treated by France. Some 100,000 Harkis were killed by the Algerian National Liberation Front after the French shamelessly abandoned them to a lethal fate when the occupying army evacuated itself and French colonists from Algeria. Moreover, those Harki families who were saved (often at the initiative of individual military commanders who refused to obey orders not to evacuate them) were parked in filthy, crowded concentration camps in France for many long years and never benefited from any government aid – a nice reward for their sacrifices for France, of which they were, after all, legally citizens. Their ghettoized children and grandchildren, naturally, harbor certain resentments.France's other immigrant workers were warehoused in huge high-rise, low-income ghettos – known as cites – specially built for them and deliberately placed out of sight in the suburbs around most of France's major urban agglomerations, so that their darker-skinned inhabitants wouldn't pollute the center cities. Now forty and fifty years old, these high-rise human warehouses are run-down, dilapidated, sinister places with broken elevators, heating systems left dysfunctional in winter, dirt and dog shit in the hallways and few commercial amenities. Shopping for basic necessities is often quite limited and difficult, while entertainment and recreational facilities for youth are truncated and inadequate when they exist at all. Apartments and schools (frequently staffed by weary, cynical, indifferent teachers) are terribly overcrowded.December 3 marks the twenty-second anniversary of the Marche des Beurs (beur is French slang for "Arab"). I was present to see the cortege of 100,000 arrive in Paris – it was the Franco-Arab equivalent of Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The Marche des Beurs' central theme was the demand to be recognized as French comme les autres, like everyone else – a demand, in sum, for complete integration. But the dream of integration failed miserably.


Crazy Facts About Black Holes Much like a black body in thermodynamics, a black hole is a region of space that pulls everything in but prevents anything from escaping, even light. The reason it is called a “black” hole is because it sucks up all the light that hits its border and reflects nothing. Formed when an amply compact mass deforms space and time, a black hole has a defined surface known as the “event horizon” which marks the point of no return. Little is known about black holes, but several scientists in history have developed their own theories about their properties and structures. Here is a list of 25 Crazy Facts About Black Holes. Black holes affect time Just as a clock runs a bit slower closer to sea level than up on a space station, clocks run really slow near black holes. It all has to do with gravity. They can be infinitely big There are a few theories that state they can be infinitely big. While not all scientists agree, there are several who believe that they can be infinitely big. The nearest black hole to the Earth is 1,600 light years away Our galaxy is covered in black holes, but the one most likely to destroy our measly planet is still well beyond our solar system’s borders. Stay away from the event horizon The “Event Horizon” as it is called in physics, is the border of the black of hole. It’s the point of no return. Before that point, you can still escape. After that point…not a chance. There is a massive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy. It’s 30,000 light years away and is over 30 million times as massive as our sun. Black holes eventually evaporate While common knowledge states that nothing can escape a black hole, at least one thing does…radiation. According to some scientists, as the black holes emit radiation, they lose mass. This process has the potential to eventually kill the black hole. Black holes are not infinitely small At some point, the collapsing core of a black hole becomes even smaller than an atom or an electron. It eventually reaches its Planck Length, a quantum size limit that makes it barely measurable. Black holes are not funnel-shaped; they are spheres In most textbooks, you will probably see black holes that look like funnels. This is because they are being illustrated from the perspective of gravity wells. In reality, they are more like spheres. Black holes spin When the core of a star collapses, the star rotates faster and becomes smaller. When it reaches the point where it does not have enough mass to become a black hole, it gets squeezed together to form a neutron star and continues to spin rapidly. Same applies to black holes. Even when the black hole shrinks down to Planck length, it continues to spin rapidly.


Artificial Intelligence Is Learning to Keep Learning A new machine-learning technique mimics the brain’s ability to adapt to new circumstances What if you stopped learning after graduation? It sounds stultifying, but that is how most machine-learning systems are trained. They master a task once and then are deployed. But some computer scientists are now developing artificial intelligence that learns and adapts continuously, much like the human brain. Machine-learning algorithms often take the form of a neural network, a large set of simple computing elements, or neurons, that communicate via connections between them that vary in strength, or “weight.” Consider an algorithm designed to recognize images. If it mislabels a picture during training, the weights are adjusted. When mistakes are reduced below a certain threshold, the weights are frozen at set values. The new technique splits each weight into two values that combine to influence how much one neuron can activate another. The first value is trained and frozen as in traditional systems. But the second value continually adjusts in response to surrounding activity in the network. Critically, the algorithm also learns how adjustable to make these weights. So the neural network learns patterns of behavior, as well as how much to modify each part of that behavior in response to new circumstances. The researchers presented their technique in July at a conference in Stockholm, Sweden. Applying the technique, the team created a network that learned to reconstruct half-erased photographs after seeing the full images only a few times. In contrast, a traditional neural network would need to see many more images before it could reconstruct the original. The researchers also created a network that learned to identify handwritten alphabet letters—which are nonuniform, unlike typed ones—after seeing one example. In another task, neural networks controlled a character moving in a simple maze to find rewards. After one million trials, a network with the new semiadjustable weights could find each reward three times as often per trial as could a network with only fixed weights. The static parts of the semiadjustable weights apparently learned the structure of the maze, whereas the dynamic parts learned how to adapt to new reward locations. “This is really powerful,” says Nikhil Mishra, a computer scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, who was not involved in the research, “because the algorithms can adapt more quickly to new tasks and new situations, just like humans would.” Thomas Miconi, a computer scientist at the ride-sharing company Uber and the paper’s lead author, says his team now plans to tackle more complicated tasks, such as robotic control and speech recognition. In related work, Miconi wants to simulate “neuromodulation,” an instant networkwide adjustment of adaptability that allows humans to sop up information when something novel or important happens. This article was originally published with the title "Lifelong Learning"


Check the weather 3 hours before landing After six months of travel from Earth, the InSight spacecraft is on a precise trajectory to land on the red planet. About three hours before landing, mission navigators will have a final chance to adjust InSight’s timing or alignment to avoid any perilous Martian dust storms. Separate from the cruise stage 13 ¾; minutes before landing Before InSight enters the Martian atmosphere, the spacecraft will split away from its solar-paneled cruise stage and switch to battery power. Light and communications take 8 minutes and 7 seconds to reach Mars from Earth, so we won’t know whether InSight’s landing was a success or failure until it’s over. Enter the atmosphere 6 ¾; minutes before landing InSight will enter the thin Martian atmosphere at about 12,300 miles per hour. The spacecraft must hit at an angle of 12 degrees to survive. Too steep and InSight will burn up; too shallow and it will skip across the atmosphere and back into space. Deploy a parachute 3 minutes, 7 seconds before landing InSight will slow down quickly as it tears through the Martian atmosphere, then pop a supersonic parachute about seven miles above the surface. Drop the heat shield 2 minutes, 52 seconds before landing A burst of pyrotechnics will release InSight’s heat shield, newly scarred from the heat of entry. The shield is thicker than on previous missions, in case InSight is forced to descend through heavy dust. Extend the legs 2 minutes, 42 seconds before landing Ten seconds later, more pyrotechnics will extend the spacecraft’s three shock-absorbing legs. After that, InSight will turn on its ground-sensing radar. Fall out of the back shell 45 seconds before landing Less than a minute before landing, InSight will drop and gain some distance from its parachute and back shell by freefalling for a moment. Fire rockets 44 seconds before landing The lander will fire 12 small rockets to slow down and move farther away from the falling parachute. Descend slowly 15 seconds before landing After stopping its horizontal motion, InSight will begin a smooth descent of about eight feet per second. Land on Mars NASA expects to receive confirmation of landing on Monday at about 2:53 p.m. Eastern Time. If InSight touches down successfully, it will be the first Mars landing since the Curiosity rover’s complex landing in 2012. InSight is aiming for a broad equatorial plain called Elysium Planitia. The plain could make for boring pictures, but it is considered an ideal landing spot for a mission to study the planet’s interior. Unfurl solar panels 20 minutes after landing After waiting several minutes for dust kicked up by landing to disperse, InSight will unfurl its two solar panels. The lander will then spend a couple days checking its systems and taking images of the landing site. Get to work A few days after landing In the days and weeks after landing, InSight will take stock of its surroundings, precisely measure and photograph the area around the lander and then use its robotic arm to carefully place three instruments on the Martian surface. An exquisitely precise seismometer under a protective dome will listen for marsquakes and a burrowing heat probe will measure the inner temperatures of the planet. For more about what InSight hopes to learn on Mars, watch a mission preview below or explore InSight and Mars in augmented reality.


Mars has fascinated astronomers, science-fiction writers and would-be space adventurers alike for well over a century, but until now the love affair has been skin deep. That’s set to change on Monday when a small spacecraft dubbed InSight touches down on the Martian surface with the goal of illuminating the planet’s poorly understood interior. Scientists say the data it gathers over the course of a two-year mission will provide clues to how Mars formed and evolved and help reveal how Earth, in comparison, came to be so uniquely hospitable to life. Open this photo in gallery This illustration shows a simulated view of NASA’s InSight lander firing retrorockets to slow down as it descends toward the surface of Mars. If InSight survives its screaming, seven-minute descent through the Martian atmosphere – during which it will decelerate from a cruising speed of about 20,000 kilometres an hour to a full stop – it will become the eighth spacecraft to operate on the planet’s surface and the first since the much bulkier Curiosity rover set down in August, 2012. Flight engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, Calif., say that, so far, InSight is heading for a near bull’s eye in terms of its preferred landing site on the flat, and largely featureless, Elysium Planitia. The location, about 600 kilometres north of where Curiosity set down, offers little in the way of dramatic panoramas, but it is well-suited for a spacecraft that is designed to stay in one place and focus on what is going on under its metal feet. Open this photo in gallery InSight, short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, is designed to give the Red Planet its first thorough checkup since it formed 4.5 billion years ago. The spacecraft includes a seismometer sensitive enough to pick up the rattle of meteorites striking the planet’s surface thousands of kilometres away and potentially listen in on the faint murmuring of a planetary core that may not yet be entirely cold and dormant. InSight also carries a spring-loaded mechanical mole that will burrow its way four and a half metres below ground in order to measure heat and electrical conduction through the planet’s crust. Beyond a few shovel scrapings, no previous mission has explored below the planet’s surface. The measurements InSight gleans will serve to reveal the size and condition of the Martian core, as well as the layers above it – all key pieces of information that will help shed light on the very early Earth, most traces of which have long since been obliterated by our own planet’s more dynamic geological history. “It’s so exciting to be nearly there,” said Catherine Johnson, a planetary scientist at the University of British Columbia who is participating in the mission, which launched in May. Like her colleagues, Dr. Johnson had to wait an additional two years while the mission was delayed by a technical problem. As long as InSight finds itself alive and ready to begin its mission on Mars next week, she said, it will all have been worth it. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) said the InSight lander was on target to touch down on Mars on Nov. 26, 2018 to study – for the first time – the interior of the Red Planet.



















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