It’s Good to Understand the First 5000 Years of Debt

How can we make sense of governments around the world taking on more debt during the COVID-19 pandemic when beforehand they were repulsed by the concept of going into debt? Step one is to look at our assumptions of debt.

About a decade ago David Graeber wrote a book called Debt: The First 5,000 Years which explores the history and cultural practices around debt. If you don’t have time to read the whole book you can watch a summation of the main points in the talk he gives (embedded above). Trust me, it’s worth your time to at least watch his presentation.

While the “national debt” has been the concern du jour of many economists, commentators and politicians, little attention is ever paid to the historical significance of debt.

For thousands of years, the struggle between rich and poor has largely taken the form of conflicts between creditors and debtors—of arguments about the rights and wrongs of interest payments, debt peonage, amnesty, repossession, restitution, the sequestering of sheep, the seizing of vineyards, and the selling of debtors’ children into slavery. By the same token, for the past five thousand years, popular insurrections have begun the same way: with the ritual destruction of debt records—tablets, papyri, ledgers; whatever form they might have taken in any particular time and place.

Enter anthropologist David Graeber’s Debt: The First 5,000 Years (July, ISBN 978-1-933633-86-2), which uses these struggles to show that the history of debt is also a history of morality and culture.

Watch it above or on YouTube.

Improve Your Skin by Showering Less

There are a million products out there which claim to be great for skin and will even improve it, what if there’s a simpler way? In a new book, Clean: The New Science of Skin, the easiest and best solution for improving you skin is to stop over cleaning it with too much soap. In North America it’s common to shower everyday, which leads to water wastage and to poor skin health; whereas, in other cultures it’s more common to shower every 2-3 days. Once you stop showering everyday your skin will thank you and so will the planet.

Of course, you should keep washing your hands!

But what soap hoarders and hawkers overlook is that wiping out our symbiotic microbes may make us more vulnerable to other, unexpected maladies. First-line eczema treatments, for instance, include topical antibiotics, cleansers, and drugs that dampen immune response, but some researchers say these approaches can make the condition worse in the long run. “Perturbing the skin barrier by washing or scratching can change the microbial population,” Hamblin notes. “That can rev up the immune system, which tells the skin cells to proliferate rapidly and fill with inflammatory proteins.”

Read more.

Graphene as a Limitless Power Generator

Graphene has long been heralded as an amazing new material that can change entire industries and revolutionize the economy. Notably this has yet to happen. Yet.

At the University of Arkansas a team of physicists found a way to use graphene to generate limitless power based on the movement of atoms. Since a graphene layer is only one atom thick the thermal changes from the Earth can move the atoms ever so slightly, so as long as the Earth generates heat this graphene sheet made the team can generate minuscule amounts of energy.

We’re finally getting to see some cool theories about graphene get turned into real applications.

The team used a relatively new field of physics to prove the diodes increased the circuit’s power. “In proving this power enhancement, we drew from the emergent field of stochastic thermodynamics and extended the nearly century-old, celebrated theory of Nyquist,” said coauthor Pradeep Kumar, associate professor of physics and coauthor.

According to Kumar, the graphene and circuit share a symbiotic relationship. Though the thermal environment is performing work on the load resistor, the graphene and circuit are at the same temperature and heat does not flow between the two.

Read more.

This Doc on Bellingcat Inspires You to Act

Since 2014 an innovate research team has been looking into major news events in a way never done before, that team is known as Bellingcat. Bellingcat is comprised of volunteers (and a small paid staff) which use social media and other publicly available information to investigate in an organized and world-influencing way. A documentary about them, Bellingcat: Truth in a Post-Truth World, explores the organization from its founding to its recent popularity.

I watched a screener (provided by Topic) of it and it was quite inspiring! Here on this site we look at good news, and over at Bellingcat they look at bad events to make the world a better place. Given that Bellingcat is online, needs a lot of researchers, and explores digitally public data, you can help make the world better while you’re at home!

Bellingcat: Truth in a Post-Truth World explores the promise of open source investigation, taking viewers inside the exclusive world of the “citizen investigative journalist” collective known as Bellingcat. In cases ranging from the MH17 disaster to the poisoning of a Russian spy in the United Kingdom, the Bellingcat team’s quest for truth will shed light on the fight for journalistic integrity in the era of fake news and alternative facts.

Watch it on Topic.com

Floating Trash Bins a Great Success, May Influence Policies

ocean shore

We’ve been following the installation and study of Seabins in Toronto for a while now. Good news just keeps happening from these floating garbage cans!

Floating trash collectors were put in the Toronto harbour a few years ago and the research team behind the project keeps finding interesting things. The University of Toronto’s Trash Team has realized that beyond keeping the water clean the bins can help identify sources of pollutants. With this increase in knowledge of how trash flows in water we can craft better policies to protect nature from human waste.

Since the Seabins were first installed, it’s been U of T Trash Team co-founder Chelsea Rochman’s job — along with team members like U of T student Cassandra Sherlock — to comb through what comes out of them.

Rochman is working on guidelines for classifying the waste that will eventually be put to use in communities around the province.

“Any type of trash trap does one thing really well… divert our plastic waste out of the Great Lakes,” she told CBC Toronto.

“But it also can involve policy because what we find tells us something about the source.”

Take those pre-production pellets that Fisher found all over an island beach in Lake Superior, which Rochman says also turn up regularly in the Toronto Seabins after blowing away from industrial sites.

Read more.

Scroll To Top
%d bloggers like this: