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‘Chaos Is the Point’: Russian Hackers and Trolls Grow Stealthier in 2020 – The New York Times 3 (1)


While U.S. cyberdefenses have improved since 2016, many of the vulnerabilities exploited four years ago remain. And attacks are getting more sophisticated. — Read on

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Lying the Truth with Emmanuel Carrère 3 (2)


Randy Rosenthal unpacks “97,196 Words: Essays” by Emmanuel Carrère, translated from the French by John Lambert. WHY IS IT so difficult for people to tell the truth? I’m not just talking about pathological liars or bull-spouting politicians, pundits, and partisans who cynically spin stories to further their own opportunistic ambitions. On a subtler level, in

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The Case Against Reality


Challenging leading scientific theories that claim that our senses report back objective reality, cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman argues that while we should take our perceptions seriously, we should not take them literally. How can it be possible that the world we see is not objective reality? And how can our senses be useful if they

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Serious but not Literal Perceptions


“I take my perceptions seriously, but not literally.” — The Case Against Reality: Why Evolution Hid the Truth from Our Eyes by Donald Hoffman

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Pluralism: Beyond the One and Only Truth


One advocate of this view, called theoretical pluralism, was 19th-century physicist Ludwig Boltzmann. He argued that science doesn’t give us truth, it gives us representations, or models, each of which is necessarily limited. Hence we can never be sure that any given model is true. Boltzmann said in 1899 that the goal of a scientist

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How Misinformation Spreads


Social media has facilitated the proliferation of false belief at an unprecedented scale. By modeling the ways misinformation spreads via networks of people, researchers learn how social trust and conformity affect how communities reach consensus. Adding propagandists to the models shows how easily belief can be manipulated, even when scientists collect ample evidence.

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Deception in the Animal Kingdom


Humans are not alone in their deceitful ways. A wide variety of animals have been found to carry out disinformation campaigns. Animals may mislead members of their own species or other species via camouflage or mimicry. When the false signaling is done with intent, it is called tactical deception—a strategy deployed by creatures ranging from

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Is the Mathematical World Real?


Mathematicians tend to hold two simultaneous and incompatible views of the objects they study. Prime numbers, for example, have surprising relations with one another that mathematicians are still discovering. Such explorations, of what appears to be an alien landscape, encourage the idea that mathematical objects exist independently of humans. If mathematical objects are real, however, why can

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The Search for Truth in Physics


Physics may seem focused on the objective determination of facts. Yet the field has just as many—perhaps more—struggles with the notion of truth as any other discipline. Quantum mechanics, for instance, suggests that particles have no definite reality—by most interpretations, their properties are undecided until measured. Lately scientists are interested in how the uncertainties of

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Just a Story?


A new study finds that a good story can increase the persuasiveness of weak facts, but it may actually decrease the persuasiveness of strong facts. Previous psychological research on this subject has demonstrated that stories often result in more persuasion among listeners. But why this is so has been less clear. Is it because stories

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