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.

A Secret Plot in Syria
Andy Warner, Slate | A Secret Plot in Syria | April 6, 2012

An illustrated account of the 1949 coup -- possibly CIA-assisted -- that plunged the country into decades of political turmoil...

Are You Scientifically Literate? Take Our Quiz
Eoin O'Carroll, The Christian Science Monitor | Are You Scientifically Literate? Take Our Quiz | April 6, 2012

You may have an opinion on climate change, evolution education, stem-cell research, and science funding. But do you have the facts? This quiz will test your basic scientific literacy...

Today's Pictures: Baseball Season
Magnum Photos, Slate | Today's Pictures: Baseball Season | April 5, 2012

It's opening week of the American baseball season! We're taking a look at the international nature of the game...

Jim Marshall, Founder of Marshall Amps, Dies at 88
Associated Press | Jim Marshall, Founder of Marshall Amps, Dies at 88 | April 5, 2012

Jim Marshall was long associated with the heavy guitar sounds his amps helped popularize in the 1960s, when Pete Townshend of The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and others turned to stacks of Marshall amps to create a thunderous hard rock sound.

He was not looking for musical precision in his amplifiers, but wanted a sound that conveyed raw, fuzzy power. Aficionados credit him with developing the "amp stack" that allowed garage bands to make a powerful noise in small dance halls and gymnasiums...

World's Largest Suspension Bridge Opens
The Huffington Post | World's Largest Suspension Bridge Opens | April 5, 2012

The world's longest suspension bridge--Aizhai--opened in China on March 31.

The bridge connects two cities--Chongqing Municipality to Changsha city--and runs a whopping 3,858 feet, and uses 2 tunnels, according to The Daily News.

Travel time between the two cities, which used to be several days, has been cut to only eight hours. Construction on the bridge took 4 years...

The Memo Bush Tried To Destroy
Jordan Michael Smith, Salon | The Memo Bush Tried To Destroy | April 4, 2012

In February of 2006, Philip Zelikow, Counselor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, authored a memo opposing the Bush administration’s torture practices (though he employed the infamous obfuscation of “enhanced interrogation techniques”). The White House tried to collect and destroy all copies of the memo, but one survived in the State Department’s bowels and was declassified yesterday in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the National Security Archive...

States Shush Corporate Critics
David Sirota, Salon | States Shush Corporate Critics | April 4, 2012

You can’t be outraged by — or fight back against — what you don’t know. At least that seems to be the theory behind a spate of new government-backed efforts to help corporations prevent inconvenient information from ever reaching the public domain. In states across the country, as in Washington, D.C., lawmakers are helping companies keep secrets in everything from factory farming to fossil fuel exploration to home foreclosures...

U.S. Offers $10 Million Reward for Pakistani Militant
Declan Walsh, The New York times | U.S. Offers $10 Million Reward for Pakistani Militant | April 3, 2012

The United States has announced a $10 million reward for information leading to the capture of Hafiz Saeed, a Pakistani militant leader accused of orchestrating the 2008 Mumbai attacks, who in recent months has emerged at the vanguard of a prominent anti-American political movement...

A Death In Yellowstone: On the Trail of a Killer Grizzly Bear

A grizzly was ambling along the Yellowstone River on a clear day in late September 2011, when she lifted her nose up and smelled something familiar in the air. She couldn’t tell quite what it was, but it smelled like food. Maybe the shredded remains of a bison taken down by a wolf pack, its innards sloughing out of its stomach and onto the riverbank. The sow may have spent the day digging up pocket gophers, but a feast like this would really help her to pack on weight. Within eight weeks she'd be taking her two young cubs into a den in the side of a slope for the long Western winter. They needed fat, and soon...

A Universe of Self-Replicating Code
George Dyson, Edge | A Universe of Self-Replicating Code | April 2, 2012

What we're missing now, on another level, is not just biology, but cosmology. People treat the digital universe as some sort of metaphor, just a cute word for all these products. The universe of Apple, the universe of Google, the universe of Facebook, that these collectively constitute the digital universe, and we can only see it in human terms and what does this do for us?

We're missing a tremendous opportunity. We're asleep at the switch because it's not a metaphor. In 1945 we actuallydidcreate a new universe. This is a universe of numbers with a life of their own, that we only see in terms of what those numbers can do for us. Can they record this interview? Can they play our music? Can they order our books on Amazon? If you cross the mirror in the other direction, there really is a universe of self-reproducing digital code. When I last checked, it was growing by five trillion bits per second. And that's not just a metaphor for something else. It actually is. It's a physical reality...