Daily Briefing

Deep buzz for the content-deprived

Every weekday, while you get showered and dressed, we pluck these dewy- fresh, breaking stories from the info-clogged byways of the datasphere. Pour yourself a cup of coffee and stoke up on everything you need to know, or at least enough to fake it.

U.S. Is Intensifying a Secret Campaign of Yemen Airstrikes
Mark Mazzetti, The New York Times | U.S. Is Intensifying a Secret Campaign of Yemen Airstrikes | June 9, 2011

The Obama administration has intensified the American covert war in Yemen, exploiting a growing power vacuum in the country to strike at militant suspects with armed drones and fighter jets, according to American officials...

Price of Internet Freedom? Eternal Misquotes.
David A. Fahrenthold, The Washington Post | Price of Internet Freedom? Eternal misquotes. | June 9, 2011

On election night, a jubilant Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) laid out the modern-day tea party’s philosophy — in the words of a man who was alive for the Boston Tea Party. “Thomas Jefferson,” the newly elected Paul said, “wrote that government is best that governs least.” No, he didn’t...

The First Computer Musician
R. Luke Dubois, The New York Times | The First Computer Musician | June 9, 2011

In 1957 a 30 year-old engineer named Max Mathews got an IBM 704 mainframe computer at the Bell Telephone Laboratories in Murray Hill, N. J., to generate 17 seconds of music, then recorded the result for posterity.  While not the first person to make sound with a computer, Max was the first one to do so with a replicable combination of hardware and software that allowed the user to specify what tones he wanted to hear. This piece of music, called “The Silver Scale”  and composed by a colleague at Bell Labs named Newman Guttman, was never intended to be a masterpiece. It was a proof-of-concept, and it laid the groundwork for a revolutionary advancement in music, the reverberations of which are felt everywhere today...

Awesome Telescope Sheds New Light on Cosmos
Craig Johnson, CNN | Awesome Telescope Sheds New Light on Cosmos | June 8, 2011

From a mountaintop in northern Chile, the largest visible-light telescope in the world has captured stunning images of the cosmos in never-before-seen detail. The Paranal Observatory released initial images Wednesday from the powerful VLT Survey Telescope...

Coming Soon: The Palin Emails
David Corn, Mother Jones | Coming Soon: The Palin Emails | June 8, 2011

Ready for some real summer reading? Mother Jones, msnbc.com, and ProPublica will be unveiling a searchable database containing 24,000-plus pages of correspondence. During the 2008 presidential campaign, I filed a request under Alaska's open records law, for all—yes, all—of Palin's gubernatorial emails. Other journalists and citizen activists later did the same. And after many delays—see here and here—the state is finally preparing to release those emails, probably within the next week or so. But not all of the emails from Palin's half-term as governor will be made public...

When Cowboys Cry: In Today's Wild West, Energy Corporations Are the New Outlaws
Sandra Steingraber, Orion Magazine | When Cowboys Cry | June 8, 2011


LAST NOVEMBER, at the annual meeting of the Northern Plains Resource Council, which took place in the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Billings, Montana, I watched a cowboy cry.

As someone born east of the Mississippi, I’m aware that I may have my vocabulary words mixed up here. The crying man called himself a rancher, not a cowboy. But he had the hat. The legs in the blue jeans were bowed. And he said things like, Sometimes you have to ride with the brand, and sometimes you have to speak yer mind.

Which sounded like cowboy talk to me...

Live and Learn: Why We Have College
Louis Menand, The New Yorker | Live and Learn: Why We Have College | June 7, 2011

My first job as a professor was at an Ivy League university. The students were happy to be taught, and we, their teachers, were happy to be teaching them. Whatever portion of their time and energy was being eaten up by social commitments—which may have been huge, but about which I was ignorant—they seemed earnestly and unproblematically engaged with the academic experience. If I was naïve about this, they were gracious enough not to disabuse me. None of us ever questioned the importance of what we were doing...

Brain Calisthenics for Abstract Ideas
Benedict Carey, The New York Times | Brain Calisthenics for Abstract Ideas | June 7, 2011

Like any other high school junior, Wynn Haimer has a few holes in his academic game. Graphs and equations, for instance: He gets the idea, fine — one is a linear representation of the other — but making those conversions is often a headache. Or at least it was. For about a month now, Wynn, 17, has been practicing at home using an unusual online program that prompts him to match graphs to equations, dozens upon dozens of them, and fast, often before he has time to work out the correct answer...

World Science Festival
Casey Schwartz, The Daily Beast | World Science Festival | June 7, 2011

For the last four days, the World Science Festival—an eclectic and lustrous gathering of scientists, writers, artists, and celebrities—has descended on Manhattan, attracting thousands of participants to forums on science's newest, hottest findings...

Scientists 'Trap' and Study Elusive Anti-Matter

Scientists have trapped and stored antihydrogen atoms for a record 16 minutes, a stunning technical feat that promises deeper insights into the mysteries of anti-matter...