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Ben C. O. Grimm
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:: Earlier this year, as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, the Justice Department charged 13 Russian nationals with interfering in American electoral and political processes. The defendants worked for a well-funded “troll factory” called the Internet Research Agency, which had 400 employees, according to one Russian news report. From a bland office building in St. Petersburg, the agency ran a sophisticated and coordinated campaign to sow disinformation and discord into American politics via social media. This often involved Trump’s favorite medium: Twitter. Millions of the trolls’ tweets have since been removed from the service, and while other outlets, most prominently NBC News, have published samplings of them, it has been difficult to get a complete sense of the trolls’ strategy and the scale of their efforts. Until now. ::

#democracy #elections
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:: Facebook is set to reveal that it has identified multiple bogus user accounts that have been tied to what it says is a political influence campaign leading up to the 2018 midterm elections. The New York Times reports that Facebook has “discovered coordinated activity around issues like a sequel to last year’s deadly ‘Unite the Right’ white supremacist rally,” as well as “around #AbolishICE, a left-wing campaign on social media that seeks to end the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.” According to CNN, Facebook has already removed this network of accounts — one of which promoted a counter-demonstration to this summer’s planned “United the Right” white nationalist rally in Washington, D.C. ::

#democracy #technology #facebook
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:: Facebook announced on Tuesday that it has identified a coordinated political influence campaign, with dozens of inauthentic accounts and pages that are believed to be engaging in political activity ahead of November’s midterm elections, according to three people briefed on the matter. In a series of briefings on Capitol Hill this week, the company told lawmakers that it detected the influence campaign on Facebook and Instagram as part of its investigations into election interference. It has been unable to tie the accounts to Russia, whose Internet Research Agency was at the center of an indictment earlier this year for interfering in the 2016 election, but company officials told Capitol Hill that Russia was possibly involved, according to two of the officials. ::

#democracy #technology #facebook
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:: The problem with string theory, according to some physicists, is that it makes too many universes. It predicts not one but some 10^500 versions of spacetime, each with their own laws of physics. But with so many universes on the table, how can the theory explain why ours has the features it does? Now some theorists suggest most—if not all—of those universes are actually forbidden, at least if we want them to have stable dark energy, the supposed force accelerating the expansion of the cosmos. To some, eliminating so many possible universes is not a drawback but a major step forward for string theory, offering new hope of making testable predictions. ::

#physics #astrophysics #cosmology
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Oldest Evidence for Life on Land Unearthed in South Africa :: About 3.22 billion years ago, slimy layers of microbes coated pebbles in what was perhaps an ancient riverbed. Those ancient microbial mats, preserved for eons and only recently discovered in South Africa, may be the oldest fossil evidence of life on land, according to a new study. The ancient evidence of terrestrial life is about a half billion years older than the previous record holder — fossilized remains of microbes found decades ago in South Africa and Australia. ::

#geology #paleobiology
Live Science
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:: The unprecedented temperatures seen over Summer 2018 are a sign of things to come—and a direct result of climate change, according to new Oxford University research. In the newly published report, researchers from the Environmental Change Institute (ECI) at the School of Geography and Environment, Oxford University, who worked in collaboration with the World Weather Attribution network (WWA), reveal that climate change more than doubled the likelihood of the European heatwave, which could come to be known as regular summer temperatures. ::

#earth #climate
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:: Observations made with ESO's Very Large Telescope have for the first time clearly revealed the effects of Einstein's general relativity on the motion of a star passing through the extreme gravitational field very close to the supermassive black hole in the center of the Milky Way. This long-sought result represents the climax of a 26-year-long observation campaign using ESO's telescopes in Chile. ::

#space #astrophysics #cosmology
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:: “Global greening” sounds lovely, doesn’t it? Plants need carbon dioxide to grow, and we are now emitting 40 billion tons of it into the atmosphere each year. A number of small studies have suggested that humans actually are contributing to an increase in photosynthesis across the globe. Elliott Campbell, an environmental scientist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and his colleagues last year published a study that put a number to it. Their conclusion: plants are now converting 31 percent more carbon dioxide into organic matter than they were before the Industrial Revolution. Climate change denialists were quick to jump on Dr. Campbell’s research as proof that increased carbon dioxide is making the world a better place. Not so. ::

#climate #earth
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:: A new study led by scientists at the University of Bristol has warned that unless we mitigate current levels of carbon dioxide emissions, Western Europe and New Zealand could revert to the hot tropical climate of the early Paleogene period—56-48 million years ago. As seen from the ongoing heat wave, the knock-on effects of such extreme warmth include arid land and fires as well as impacts on health and infrastructure. The early Paleogene is a period of great interest to climate change scientists as carbon dioxide levels (around 1,000 ppmv) are similar to those predicted for the end of this century. ::

#climate #earth
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:: For years, researchers have known that growth and sinking of phytoplankton pumps carbon dioxide deep into the ocean, a process often referred to as the "biological pump." The biological pump is driven mostly by the low latitude ocean but is undone closer to the poles, where carbon dioxide is vented back to the atmosphere by the rapid exposure of deep waters to the surface. The worst offender is the Southern Ocean, which surrounds Antarctica ("a leak in the biological pump"). Researchers have found that an increase in the Southern Ocean's upwelling could be responsible for stabilizing the climate of the Holocene, the period reaching more than 10,000 years before the Industrial Revolution. ::

#climate #earth
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