Banning Nazis, Powering Puerto Rico, And Watching An Alien Visitor Come And Go | Vol. 5 / No. 1

Holy crow, it’s been four years. Welp, no time like the present to talk about the things taking us into the future. We’ve got stories on banning Nazis from social media platforms, the fustercluck that is trying to fix Puerto Rico’s power infrastructure, and an asteroid from another star system: it’s the news roundup for Sunday, October 29, 2017!


Just Ban The Nazis

There doesn’t seem to be a week that goes by that I don’t tweet at least once to @Jack Dorsey on Twitter to just ban the Nazis. And while I’ve had some success with their reporting system—I think I’ve had a couple dozen accounts suspended or banned at this point—only the most explicit cases seem to get canned. Like, you literally have to use an ethnic slur repeatedly, or explicitly call for death camps for a certain race, or be outrageously personally abusive in a homophobic way, over and over for it to seemingly work. But apparently change is coming: Dorsey released new “safety” (i.e. moderation) standards that will be rolled out over the coming months, so we’ll see how that goes. Meanwhile Trumpists are screaming “FREE SPEECH!!” like it has some kind of bearing on a privately-owned website. Look, scumbags, if you want to be racist, sexist, homophobic/-misic trash, you can make your own disgusting little echo chamber somewhere else, like the “r/coontown” racists did when they were kicked off Reddit. Meanwhile, speaking of Reddit, their new standards have just come into effect, closing some of the more explicitly racist and nazi forums including r/Nazi, r/EuropeanNationalism, and the infamous r/pol. The fact of the matter is, if you don’t ban the tiny percentage of people using your site who are Nazis, TERFs, and abusers (not to mention the propaganda tweetfarms) then you’re going to lose the majority who aren’t. Only time will tell, I suppose.


The Hospital del Niño hospital solar project | Photo: Tesla

Puerto Rico Power Update

Puerto Rico’s Blackout is on day 39. On Day 36, according to Earther, it became the worst in US history. Roughly 2.5million of the United States territory’s 3.4million people are still without power. Meanwhile, a $300million contract to fix the power grid was awarded to a company called Whitefish that only had two employees at the time of its awarding, under exceedingly suspicious circumstances. And then there’s Tesla. The news came this week that (after cannibalizing a fairly large parking lot) the company had installed a full solar-plus-battery power system for a childrens’ hospital in the hurricane-ravaged territory. This is very good news indeed. It’s also very good PR for the battery company, because literally nothing on this planet says “we’re the good guys” like restoring power to a childrens’ hospital. This isn’t going to fix a heck of a lot, but it’s going to do a lot of good for some of the most vulnerable members of the popuation there, so good on them. There’s just so much more work to do. You can read more about the story at TechCrunch.


The trajectory of the visitor from another solar system | Image: Phil Plait’s YouTube Video

From Far Far Away

And finally a story that isn’t political (for once)! For the first time, astronomers believe they’ve discovered an asteroid from outside the solar system. Just to be clear that means an asteroid from another solar system. The odds, based on what we know, are astronomical: for a 400m-wide rock to find its way across literally light-years, shoot straight toward the inner solar system, and then fling itself back out (precisely what this little guy is doing) is frankly unbelievable, and if you’d suggested it two weeks ago nobody would have believed you. But here we are: it’s moving too fast and at the wrong angle to have come from our solar system. So it’s going to head in from the direction of Lyra on the galactic plane, steal a little momentum from the sun, and shoot out toward Pegasus which it’ll never reach because it’s 400 light years away and by the time it gets there (in roughly 2.9million years at its current speed of 44km/s) it’ll miss it. It’s here and then it’s not, like a sparrow flying through your lit camping tent, from darkness into darkness. But all’s not lost: before it leaves forever we’re hoping to get some compositional spectra of it, so maybe we can get an idea what things are made of wherever it’s from. Anyway I can’t express how exciting this is myself, so here’s Phil Plait to do just that (seriously, I’m not up to the task and he is: go read it there).


Best of the Rest

And of course, as always, there’s never enough time in the week to cover everything I want to, so here’s all the stuff I didn’t get to: your weekly linkspam.

That’s all for today. If you’re new here, welcome, if not, thanks for sticking around. Here’s to another year. Have a great week.


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Richard Ford Burley is a human, YA author, and doctoral candidate at Boston College, as well as Deputy Managing Editor at Ledger, the first academic journal devoted to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. In his spare time he writes about science, skepticism, feminism, and futurism here at This Week In Tomorrow.