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Evolution experiment has now followed 68,000 generations of bacteria

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Colorized scanning electron micrograph of

Escherichia coli (E. coli)

, grown in culture and adhered to a cover slip.


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On February 24, 1988, Richard Lenski seeded 12 flasks with E. coli and set them up to shake overnight at 37ºC. But he seeded them with only enough nutrients to grow until early the next morning. Every single afternoon since then, he (or someone in his lab) has taken 100 microliters of each bacterial solution, put them into a new flask with fresh growth media, and put the new flask in the shaker overnight. Every 75 days—about 500 bacterial generations—some of the culture goes into the freezer.

The starvation conditions are a strong pressure for evolution. And the experiment includes its own time machine to track that evolution.

The pivotal piece of technology enabling this experiment is the -80ºC freezer. It acts essentially, Lenski says, as a time machine. The freezer holds the bacterial cultures in a state of suspended animation; when they are thawed, they are completely viable and their fitness can be compared to that of their more highly evolved descendants shaking in their flasks. As an analogy, imagine if we could challenge a hominin from 50,000 years ago to a hackathon. (Which she would probably win, because the paleo diet.)

So cool, right? The MacArthur Foundation thought so, too—it gave Lenski a grant in 1996, all the way back at around generation 17,000 or so. The experiment is now at generation 68,113 (approximately).

The bacteria have been maintained in the same medium—the same environment—over the course of the experiment. Their food source is glucose, which is calibrated to wane over the 24 hours before the passage to the next flask. This diminishing food supply is the only selective pressure the bacteria experience.

The competitive fitness of all 12 cultures has improved over time; the cells are bigger than they were at the start of the experiment, they utilize glucose more efficiently, and they grow faster. The rate of improvement has declined over the course of the experiment, but the rate at which genetic mutations accrue does not.

The 12 populations tend to get mutations in the same set of genes, but they don’t get the same mutations within those genes; they are each finding their own path toward the same goal of optimal fitness, much like climbers each find their own paths to the same peak. And although the rate of mutation has slowed, it has not ceased. So Lenski concludes that—even in their simple, relatively static environment, and even after 68,113 generations—there are still molecular tweaks the bacteria can make to become fitter.

At about 20,000 generations, one of the 12 cultures evolved the ability to survive by eating citrate in addition to glucose. It has remained the only one of the 12 to have developed this ability and, over time, it became less able to deal with glucose as an energy source. Since the inability to metabolize citrate is kind of a hallmark of E.coli, are these guys even E. coli anymore? Or a new species?

It is not only the fitness of current bacteria that can be compared to their ancient unfrozen forbears. Lenski sequenced the genomes of each frozen culture so he can disentangle the dynamics of evolution at the molecular level.

Six of the 12 initial populations have become hypermutators. They picked up early mutations in genes controlling DNA repair, which then enabled them to accrue more mutations in the rest of their genomes. These bacteria undergo bouts of molecular evolution that yield jumps in their degree of genetic diversity. The other six populations are nonmutators; these guys accumulate mutations at a much more stately pace. The strain that eats citrate started as a nonmutator, but once it gained the ability to exploit a new food source, it began to mutate more rapidly to refine its new ability.

The length of time that each mutation sticks around sheds light on the selective forces at play. It does not seem to be the case that one beneficial mutation arises at a time and sweeps through a population. Rather, a few occur in rapid succession, and these compete for dominance. But one doesn’t always win; in most populations, the mutations segregate into groups, creating different subcultures within each flask. These subcultures have a tenuous coexistence, with their relative abundance shifting over time.

Random, stochastic mutations allow species to diversify. But selective pressures push them toward sameness, by forcing them to thrive under limiting conditions. The 60,000 generations of E. coli already in Richard Lenski’s freezer have started to show how these opposing forces shape evolution; who knows what the next 60,000 will reveal?

Nature, 2017. DOI: 10.1038/nature24287 (About DOIs).

via Ars Technica http://ift.tt/2yAzKps

Sound of mystery attacks in Cuba released. It’s as obnoxious as you’d expect

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Personnel gather at the US Embassy in Cuba after the US State Department announced it will cut the embassy’s staff by half in the wake of mysterious health problems.


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On Thursday, the Associated Press released the first audio recording of the sound that some diplomats say they heard during mystery attacks in Havana, Cuba. Those attacks have so far left 22 Americans with a puzzling range of symptoms, from brain injuries to hearing loss.

The sound is high-pitched and grating. You can listen to it here (but beware: it’s unpleasant).

The noise is comprised of 20 or more different frequencies, all around about 7,000 kHz and 8,000 kHz. It reportedly came in abrupt pulses of varying lengths.

Not all those attacked heard the noise. Some heard nothing, and others heard variations. But several individuals involved told the AP that the recorded noise was consistent with their experience.

The recording is being examined by US Intelligence services and the US Navy, which has the capabilities to perform advanced acoustical analysis. The version released by the AP was enhanced to increase volume and reduce background noise but is otherwise unaltered.

When and where the recordings were taken are unclear, but the AP reports that the recordings have “not significantly advanced US knowledge about what is harming diplomats.”

As the AP notes, the recording may not be a full picture of what attack victims experienced. Standard recording equipment may not pick up very low or very high frequencies. And investigators may be exploring whether ultrasound or infrasound is involved.

The recording is being used for training, however. To become aware of what to listen for in case of another attack, employees at the US embassy, where some of the attacks took place, have heard the recordings. If they hear it, officials advise them to move quickly to a new location as the targeted attacks are unlikely to be able to follow them. In the past attacks, victims said that the noise was confined to a room or part of a room.

The most recent attack occurred in late August.

Investigators are said to be exploring a range of possibilities from malfunctioning, surreptitious recording devices, to sonic weapons, electromagnetic pulses, or some other unknown, high-tech device.

Last month, the US State Department pulled more than half the staff from the embassy over safety concerns.

via Ars Technica http://ift.tt/2i7FK2a

39 science fiction, fantasy, and horror books to read this June

I have a confession to make: I like books. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who’s followed this monthly list, but I don’t mean just reading them. I’m fascinated by the form of a book, the book as a technology, and an object that’s changed how we transmit information from one person to another.

Recently, I came across a really interesting book put out by the Library of Congress: The Card Catalog: Books, Cards, and Literary Treasures. It’s a history of the card catalog, and it proves to be a really interesting look at not only the system itself, but also the history of public libraries in America. Plus, there are lots of really gorgeous pictures of catalog cards, which makes this book a delight to flip through if reading about the history isn’t your thing.

The card catalog system is one of those things that you don’t ever really think about, but while it seems like an obvious organizational method today, its creation was somewhat controversial at the time. More than that, it helped to cement the purpose of the Library of Congress as a resource for the nation’s libraries, not just a repository for the nation’s books.

The summer is the busy time for publishing, and accordingly, there are a ton of new books that will undoubtably end up in the Library of Congress — or at the very least, on your bookshelf.

June 1st

Valerian: The Complete Collection, Vol 1. by Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mezieres

Luc Besson is set to release his adaptation of Pierre Christian’s French comic Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets in July, but if you’ve been intrigued by the trailers and can’t wait to check it out, the entire comic series is being rereleased in a series of omnibus editions, the first of which comes out today. This volume contains the first two books: The City of Shifting Waters and The Empire of a Thousand Planets. The book also includes some bonus features: interviews with the author, artist, and Besson.

Beren and Luthien by J.R.R. Tolkien

Tolkien’s estate has been steadily releasing new material from his papers, and the latest is one of the earliest stories in his Middle-earth series: Beren and Luthien. It’s a romance between two characters, Beren and Lúthien, and it is based loosely on Tolkien’s own relationship with his wife Edith.

June 6th

A Peace Divided by Tanya Huff

In this second installment of Tanya Huff’s Peacekeeper series, Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr has walked away from the Confederation Marine Corps after learning what she was fighting for. But she’s not abandoning her mission: she’s assembled a group of loyal friends to take on missions that the Corps wouldn’t. When an archeological team is taken hostage, Torin’s team is sent in, only to find that their mission is far more complicated than previously thought. Publisher’s Weekly calls the book a “fast-paced thriller bristling with treachery and intrigue.”



Image: Resurrection House

Necessary Monsters by Richard A. Kirk

A convicted thief and bibliophile, Lumsden Moss, escaped from prison, and found an opportunity to steal a rare book from the man who put him away. Unfortunately, that’s painted a target on his back from some very bad people, and he’s now on the run. The book contains some secrets from a cursed and long-lost island, in a world where magic and technology are inseparable.

The Rebellion’s Last Traitor by Nik Korpon

Decades of war has shattered Eitan City, and to help restore order, the Tathadann Party rewrites history by outlawing the past. One man, Henraek, is a memory thief, stealing memories from civilians, until he harvests a memory of his own wife’s death. Now, he’s going to do whatever it takes to discover the truth about her killing, even if it means turning on the people he was most loyal to.

Supreme Villainy: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Most (In)Famous Supervillain Memoir Never Published by King Oblivion and Matt D. Wilson

King Oblivion, PhD is the most famous supervillains in the world, and as the CEO of the International Society of Supervillains, he’s responsible for Nixon’s election, the theft of Japan (the entire country), the Star Wars prequel trilogy, and quite a bit more. Author Matt D. Wilson discovered Oblivion’s moldering manifesto in one of his lairs, and with a bit of editing, has published them into a tell-all about the late author’s life.

The Sandcastle Empire by Kayla Olson

Eden’s life was easy before the war. But in 2049, the militant Wolfpack gang controls the Earth and its resources, and Eden knows the location of the last neutral place left, Sanctuary Island. She escapes a labor camp and travels to the island, where she meets others who resist the Wolves. But when her friend goes missing, she discovers that the Sanctuary is more dangerous than it appears. The film rights for the book have already been snapped up by Leonardo DiCaprio.

The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente

Catherynne Valente has written a number of really unique and interesting novels, and in this latest, she turns her attention to the women of superhero comics. This book is a series of linked stories from the wives and girlfriends of superheroes, as well as female heroes and sidekicks, who have been kicked out of the way to help their male counterpart’s story move forward.

June 13th

The Sacred Era by Yoshio Aramaki, translated by Baryon Tensor Posadas

In the 1970s, Yoshio Aramaki wrote one of the best-known works of Japanese science fiction, The Sacred Era. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, a student named K journeys to the capital of the Holy Empire to take The Sacred Examination, which will qualify him for metaphysical research service in the court. He’s assigned to a secret department, which sends him on the path of an executed heretic on an interplanetary journey.

The Black Elfstone by Terry Brooks

Terry Brooks is bringing his epic Shannara series to a close with a four-part mini-series, The Fall of Shannara. The Black Elfstone is the first installment, and sees an unknown enemy threatening the peace that has lasted for generations. A party is dispatched to investigate this threat and to figure out how to save the Four Lands.



Image: Pyr Books

Wilders by Brenda Cooper

The first installment of the new Project Earth series, Wilders follows Coryn Williams, who grew up in the megacity of Seacouver. While everything is provided in Seacouver, she’s unhappy. So when her parents commit suicide, she decides to search for her sister, who left the city to join a “rewilding” crew that works to restore the land. When she leaves the city, Coryn finds that life is far more dangerous than she expected, and discovers a plot that could threaten her home.

The Space Between the Stars by Anne Corlett

In this debut novel, Jamie Allenby just wants to go to space. She emigrates from Earth and finds work on a distant frontier planet, coping with the loneliness of space when a virus decimates the local population. A garbled message from home gives her some hope that someone from her past might still be alive, and along with a band of survivors, they return home to find that in their absence, they’ve changed just as much as Earth has.

Prey of the Gods by Nicky Drayden

South Africa has a promising future in Nicky Drayden’s debut novel, Prey of the Gods. People have personal robots, the poor are helped by renewable energy initiatives, and genetic engineering has opened up a huge industry in the region. There are some problems on the horizon, however, such as a new hallucinogenic drug and an AI uprising. It’s up to a powerful Zulu girl, a mind-reading teenager, a pop singer, and a politician to help save the country.

Soleri by Michael Johnston

Michael Johnston’s new epic fantasy draws from Egyptian history. In it, the ruling family of the Soleri Empire hasn’t been seen for centuries, but they rule the four kingdoms with a tight grip. When an expected eclipse doesn’t occur, political infighting begin to tear apart a dynasty that’s stood for millennia.

The Changeling by Victor LaValle

Victor LaValle made a splash recently with horror novella The Ballad of Black Tom. His latest novel begins with a new father, Apollo Kagwa, dreaming of his childhood. When his wife abruptly vanishes, he goes on a quest to find her, which leads him to fantastic places that connect back to his own missing father. Kirkus Reviews gave it a coveted star rating, saying that “LaValle has successfully delivered a tale of wonder and thoughtful exploration of what it means to be a parent.”



Image: Solaris Books

Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee

Yoon Ha Lee’s debut novel Ninefox Gambit earned a pair of Hugo and Nebula nominations, and its follow-up, Raven Stratagem, picks up right after its end. Captain Kel Cheris has summoned Shuos Jedao, a long-dead general, to put down a rebellion, only to be possessed by the ghost. At the same time, aliens known as the Hafn are invading, and Jedao might be the only person who can stop them. Lee’s take on space opera and military science fiction was intriguingly different, and this new book looks just as exciting. Publisher’s Weekly awarded the book a star rating, calling it “a stunning sequel,” saying that it “contains a satisfying mixture of interstellar battles, politics, intrigue, and arcane technology.”

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

McGuire recently earned a Nebula Award and a Hugo nomination for her novella Every Heart A Doorway, which is part of her Wayward Children series. This is the story of what happened to Jack and Jill before they arrived at Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. Jacqueline is quiet and police, while Jillian is a thrill-seeker. As children, they discover an impossible staircase and step into a fantastic world complete with vampires and mad scientists. The novella earned a star rating from Publisher’s Weekly, which described the novel as an “exquisitely written fairy tale … about the choices that can alter the course of a life forever.”

Want by Cindy Pon

Set in a near-future Taipei, Jason Zhou lives in a world where only the wealthy can afford to stay alive, protected by suits from pollution and disease. He’s resolved to change things after his mother dies. Along with a group of friends, he infiltrates the ranks of the wealthy in an attempt to destroy the Jin Corporation, which manufactures the suits that the rich rely on. Along the way, he falls for the daughter of the company’s CEO, Daiyu, and he’s forced to choose between his heart and his values.

Cormorant Run by Lilith Saintcrow

Years ago, there was an event — something that opened up a void, killing everyone inside of it. Those who enter are known as Rifters, who often come back with fantastic technologies. Svinga is one such Rifter, and she’s hauled out of prison to search for a legendary piece of technology, the Cormorant. It’s a dangerous mission, but she has plans of her own.

Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom by Bradley W. Schenck

This novel imagines the future as predicted in the 1939 World Fair, complete with mad scientists, robots, rocket engineers, and space pirates. It’s an homage to the era of pulp fiction, and when the Info-Slate switchboard operators are abruptly fired, Nola Gardner hires freelance adventurer Kelvin “Dash” Kent to find out why. When they dig deeper, they find that there’s a plot in play that threatens the entire city of Retropolis.

Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab

In this sequel to Victoria Schwab’s novel This Savage Song, Kate Harker is a monster hunter who was thrown together with a monster named August Flynn. Six months later, the war between humanity and monsters has come, and the two are pitted against one another. However, there’s a new, terrifying monster that’s emerged from the shadows, one that will test them all.



Image: Saga Books

The Witch Who Came In From The Cold by Lindsay Smith, Max Gladstone, Cassandra Rose Clarke, Ian Tregillis, and Michael Swanwick

Serial Box is a publisher that’s been releasing serialized stories online for a couple of years now, and their latest, The Witch Who Came In From The Cold, is an intriguing spy thriller set at the height of the Cold War. Now collected into a single volume, the story follows spies and sorcerers in 1970s Prague, holding the balance of the East and West in their hands. Publisher’s Weekly gave the book a star rating, noting that the individual “installments are easy to read one at a time, but the tangles of alliances, secrets, and shocking double-crosses will have readers up all night mumbling, ‘Just one more.’”

The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.: A Novel by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland

Neal Stephenson has teamed up with historical novelist Nicole Galland (they previously worked on Mongoliad) for a new novel: The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. Set in the near future, Melisandre Stokes, a linguistics and language expert, is approached by the military to translate some old documents. What they contain is earth-shattering: they prove that magic existed before the scientific revolution, and that the industrial revolution essentially weakened magic. The Department of Diachronic Operations has a plan and a device: they want to bring magic back, and to send an operative back in time to ensure that magic never went away in the first place. Kirkus Reviews gave the book a star rating, saying that the book is a “departure for both authors and a pleasing combination of much appeal to fans of speculative fiction.”

Virology by Ren Warom

In this follow-up to Ren Warom’s Escapology, Shock Pao opened up the virtual world known as the Slip, and with some stolen tech, he’s the one in charge of the world’s systems. That’s put a target on his back, and he’s running out of places to hide.

June 20th

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss

Theodora Goss is an acclaimed short story writer, and in her debut novel The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, she mashes up a bunch of classic science fiction characters. Mary Jekyll, daughter of Dr. Henry Jekyll, is orphaned, and she decides to go after her father’s murderer, Edward Hyde. She comes across Hyde’s daughter Diana, and with the help of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, she finds other women who were created through experiments: Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherin Moreau, and Justine Frankenstein. Along the way, she comes across a secret society of mad scientists, and it’s time for the monsters to take on their creators.

Transformation by James Gunn

James Gunn (not the director of Guardians of the Galaxy) is one of the last authors from the original golden age of science fiction, and with Transformation, he brings to a close a trilogy that he opened with Transcendental and Transgalactic. Riley and Asha crossed the galaxy, discovered the Transcendental Machine, and have been turned into something more than human. The worlds at the end of the Federation have gone quiet, and they’re dispatched to investigate. Along with a planetary AI, a Federation agent, and a member of a group bent on destroying the AI, they have to come together to fend off a more powerful threat than the Transcendentals. Clarkesworld Magazine spoke with Gunn about the series last year, if you want to know more.

Indigo by Charlaine Harris, Christopher Golden, Jonathan Maberry, Kelley Armstrong, Kat Richardson, Seanan McGuire, Tim Lebbon, Cherie Priest, James A. Moore, and Mark Morris

What stands out about Indigo is the fact that it was written by 11 separate authors. The collaborative novel follows Investigative reporter Nora Hesper who moonlights as Indigo, a vigilante who can manipulate shadows. She’s after a cult called the Children of Phonos, and after one battle, she learns a secret from a dying cultist that makes her question her own origins.



Image: Tor.com

Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones

Last month, we posted an excerpt from Stephen Graham Jones’ upcoming novella, and we’re really excited to dig into it. The story is about a 15-year-old boy who catches a glimpse of someone he thinks is his mysteriously deceased father. When he investigates, he discovers that his house is much bigger and more dangerous than he imagined. Publisher’s Weekly says that “the immediacy of Jones’s fiction is wonderfully refreshing and not to be missed.”

Shattered Minds by Laura Lam

Laura Lam returns to her futuristic world of Pacifica, which we last saw in her novel False Hearts. Carina was a biohacker who became disillusioned with her work on brain recording and the disturbing things she saw. She quits and becomes addicted to Zeal, and acts out horrific fantasies in the digital dream world. When a co-worker sends her pictures of a murdered girl and is then killed by her former employer, Carina has to track down the clue to the murder, a case that could have a profound impact on herself and the world.



Image: Mythic Island Press

The Last Good Man by Linda Nagata

One of my favorite trilogies of all time is Linda Nagata’s three The Red novels, a near-future, military science fiction series. She’s returning to military SF with The Last Good Man, about former Army pilot True Brighton. Brighton is employed at a private military company called Requisite Operations, which uses robots, artificial intelligence, and big data to enhance soldiers in the field. When she makes a scientific breakthrough, it leaves her questioning everything. Publisher’s Weekly gave the book a coveted star rating, saying that the book is a “thrilling novel that lays bare the imminent future of warfare.”

Godblind by Anna Stephens

A thousand ago, the Mireces were exiled from Rilpor for worshipping the bloodthirsty Red Gods. When Rillirin, an escaped Mireces slave, arrives at the border, she threatens to undo the life that Watcher Dom Templeson has set up, letting his followers learn some of his darkest secrets. And as political tensions within Rilpor flare, the Mireces are plotting to return.

June 27th

Unbreakable by Will McIntosh

Will McIntosh has written some of my favorite science fiction novels, and for his latest, Unrbeakable, he’s turning to self-publishing. Celia has never left the walls of her town: all she knows of it is that there’s an audience out there that come in once a week to watch her and her fellow residents attempt to break world records. A friend of hers is dying, and she escapes to help him. Aided by a mysterious stranger and a hostile clown, she’s going to be pushed to her limits in a strange new world.



Image: Penguin Random House

The Waking Land by Callie Bates

In this debut novel from Callie Bates, a girl named Elanna Valtai grew up in the court of King Antoine, a hostage to keep her father in check. She discovers that she has fantastic powers: she can make flowers grow in her hands, and more. However, magic has been forbidden ever since her home was conquered by the Paladis Empires two centuries ago. When the King is murdered, she flees to her homeland when she’s accused, only to find that that she no longer recognizes her home.

The Bones of the Earth by Rachel Dunne

The next entry in Rachel Dunne’s Bound Gods series, a priest named Joros has assembled a team of fighters to win the coming fight for control of the world and its mortal residents. In the preceding novel, In the Shadow of the Gods, Joros and his company burned the hand of one of the evil twin gods, Fratarro, and they’re dealing with the outcome. As they lick their wounds, Joros has to try and hold the group together, because things are going to get much harder from here on out.

Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory

Daryl Gregory’s has written some fantastic novels in his career, and his next looks to be just as interesting. Teddy Telemachus conned his way into a classified governmental study about telekinesis, where he met his wife, Maureen McKinnon, a real psychic. They marry, have children, and make their way around the country as performers. Then, everything changes. After withdrawing from the public eye, they’re forced to use their powers to protect themselves from criminals, the government, and the general public.

Escape Velocity by Jason M. Hough

Jason Hough’s novel Injection Burn came out earlier this week, but you won’t have long to wait for its sequel: Escape Velocity comes out at the end of June. In the first novel, Skyler Luiken is the captain of a starship headed to a distant planet to make it through the Swarm Blockage and rescue them. Along the way, they discover fellow ship captain Gloria Tsandi and her crews on the same mission.

In this second novel, they (spoilers) make their way through the Blockage, but but now they have to contend with enemies on the ground, and the return back to Earth.

Everyone’s a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too by Jomny Sun

An alien lands on Earth and finds that he’s incredibly lonely, and works to make himself at home when he realizes that he’s not quite alone. Along the way, he finds a whole bunch of other creatures who in strange places in their lives, such as a bear who’s sad that everyone runs away from him, and a tadpole who’s contending with turning into a frog. The book is based off of the popular Twitter account, @jonnysun.

Amatka by Karin Tidbeck

Swedish writer Karin Tidbeck has written some of the best fantastic fiction that I’ve ever read. If you haven’t read her collection of Weird short stories, Jagganath, do yourself a favor and pick it up immediately. Now, her novel Amatka has been translated into English for the first time. An information assistant named Vanja goes to the winter colony of Amatka to collect some intelligence on behalf of the government. However, something strange is going on, and as her visit lengthens, she discovers evidence of a plot and coverup that threatens the colony.

The Witchwood Crown by Tad Williams

The first installment of the new Osten Ard series from Tad Williams is set more than 30 years after the last installment of the series, To Green Angel Tower. An envoy to the rulers of Osten Ard is attacked and left for dead, and dark rumors are swirling around the kingdom about forbidden magic. War is coming, all while King Simon works to prevent his kingdom from falling into chaos. Kirkus Reviews gave the book a star rating, saying that it’s a “richly described, meticulously plotted, and multilayered narrative tapestry featuring a diversity of adeptly developed characters and multiple storylines, this is flawless epic fantasy.”

via The Verge http://ift.tt/2qKhL7J

Chris Cornell, the Soundgarden frontman who helped define grunge music, is dead at 52

Known for his vocal range, the singer was found dead after a concert Wednesday night.

Chris Cornell, frontman of Soundgarden and Audioslave — and a pillar of the grunge-rock movement — has died unexpectedly at 52, reports the Associated Press. The musician was found dead at the MGM Grand Detroit Hotel on Wednesday night, following a Soundgarden concert earlier that night. A medical examiner determined that Cornell killed himself by hanging; a full autopsy has yet to be completed as of Thursday afternoon.

Along with Nirvana and Pearl Jam, Soundgarden was instrumental in shaping the Seattle rock movement that would come to be known as grunge in the late 1980s and early ’90s. Co-founded by singer and rhythm guitarist Cornell, who was born in Seattle, Soundgarden was the first grunge band to sign to a major label, A&M Records — a move that some grunge purists looked at askance, but that also helped facilitate the group’s ascension to the rock mainstream.

The apex of that mainstream success was 1994’s Superunknown, an album that “both redefined and transcended grunge.” The group’s fourth album, Superunknown propelled Soundgarden to enormous commercial success, on the back of No. 1 singles like “Spoonman” and “Black Hole Sun,” which dominated modern-rock radio and earned the band two Grammys.

Part of what made Soundgarden stand out amid the era’s swelling grunge-rock hordes was Cornell’s voice, an extraordinarily powerful instrument with a four-octave range — he could pivot between a crystal-clear wail and a gritty rumble seemingly in the same syllable. Listening to the isolated vocals of “Black Hole Sun,” it’s easier to appreciate the astounding dynamism and control Cornell brought to a genre that was rarely associated with pristine vocals:

Soundgarden disbanded in 1997 but reunited in 2010 and has been playing shows regularly since then, including the concert the night of Cornell’s death (where Cornell’s voice was reportedly still on fine display). In the interim, Cornell formed Audioslave in 2001 alongside members of Rage Against the Machine, after that band’s frontman, Zack de la Rocha, departed the group. Audioslave’s first release, the self-titled 2002 album, went triple platinum in the US and was succeeded by two follow-ups, Out of Exile and Revelations, before the band broke up in 2007.

Cornell released several solo albums following the dissolution of Audioslave, to varying degrees of success. (2009’s Scream, produced by Timbaland, was a particularly notorious flop — Trent Reznor famously called it embarrassing, provoking a feud between the two frontmen — but even the critics savaging it usually had a kind word for Cornell’s vocals.) His last full album was 2015’s generally well-received Higher Truth, which found the singer living comfortably in the territory he’d staked out in recent years: stripped-down, intimately arranged acoustic rock that allowed his vocals to take center stage.

But Cornell’s solo career never consistently hit the commercial or critical highs of his work with Soundgarden and Audioslave, which is perhaps why the singer kept returning to the rock band model via other projects. In addition to reforming Soundgarden, Cornell reunited with Audioslave earlier this year at the Trump-protesting Anti-Inaugural Ball, the band’s first performance in more than a decade.

Cornell famously struggled with both drug abuse and alcoholism throughout his career; he claimed in 1994 to have been a daily drug user by age 13, and reportedly sobered up and relapsed multiple times over the years. In 2009, he dryly described himself as a “pioneer” of OxyContin, an addiction to which nearly torpedoed his life and career until he went to rehab in 2002. He had reportedly remained sober from then until his death.

While the details of Cornell’s death are still coming to light, the music world is loudly mourning a man, and a voice, who helped redefine modern rock music. Despite a restless career and personal life, Cornell was a near-constant, almost comforting presence in the rock scene, consistently bouncing back and releasing new music and performing live — literally up until the night he died.

via Vox – All http://ift.tt/2pXQWgI

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal – Nightmares

Just a week to go in our proposal round for BAHFest MIT. We’ve gotten very few proposals from women, so please nudge that clever woman in your nerd group!

Marvel as Jon Wilson explains spider evolution at BAHFest Sydney 2016.

PS: Just about a week left to get your BAHFest East proposal in!

via Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal http://ift.tt/2k7fwNy

The Case for Donald Trump’s Official White House Photographer

In the next 48 hours, as President Barack Obama prepares to leave the White House, his official photographer, Pete Souza, will document the last moments of his history-making presidency. The photographs Souza will take on Jan. 20 will join the more than two million images he has shot in the last eight years, completing a lasting visual record of the first black President’s time in office.

When Donald J. Trump takes up the baton, however, his first hours in the White House – and possibly his entire term – might go undocumented.

The President-elect has yet to name Souza’s replacement. It’s even unclear whether the position of official White House photographer will be kept once Trump takes office. If it is abandoned, that decision will represent a break from 40 years of precedent. Trump’s communication officer did not return TIME’s request for comment.

Lyndon B. Johnson was the first U.S. president to employ a full-time, civilian White House photographer. “When he took office, Johnson thought it was important to have somebody to document the presidency,” says Michael Martínez, a photojournalism professor specializing in political photography at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. Previously, the position, typically held by a military photographer, had been more informal. As a result, important moments had been missed. For example, John F. Kennedy’s photographer Cecil W. Stoughton was given only limited access, with the result that key moments such as the Cuban Missile Crisis were largely left undocumented.

And, in the decades since, it has become clear just how important an official White House photographer can be.

After Johnson was sworn in, he offered the job to Yoichi Okamoto, who had worked at the United States Information Agency and had met Johnson while he was still Kennedy’s Vice President. But Okamoto, affectionately known as Oke, had one condition, Martínez tells TIME. “He said: ‘I want to be there before you get to the office and leave after you leave. I want to document this. I don’t want to come in and just do a hit and miss.’” Johnson agreed and Okamoto set the standard for more the presidential photographers who followed in his footsteps.

“He, to this day, remains the best White House photographer ever,” says David Hume Kennerly, who photographed President Gerald Ford. “He had a dramatic subject. He was a wonderful storyteller with a camera. And LBJ had a big sense of history and had rapport with Okamoto.”

The Presidents who followed differed on their feelings about photography. Richard Nixon kept photographer Oliver F. Atkins at a distance—but, Martínez says, having Atkins there paid off, as the photographer was present to capture the “human side” of Nixon’s departure from power. Kennerly says that he had no problem getting close to Ford, and was often the only person in the room with him, whereas Carter’s presidency was “a visual disaster” because the President was reluctant to have a photographer around. But Carter’s presidency was just a hitch in the U.S.’s visual history. Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all had their official photographers, who produced historic photos like the ones seen in the gallery above.

“There’s a White House diary-keeper who records everything that’s the president is doing but that’s on paper,” says Eric Draper, who served under George W. Bush. “When you look at pictures, these frozen moments can tell stories, they can capture emotions and they can capture the mood.”

President Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger discuss the ongoing negotiations on the SALT treaty

David Hume Kennerly—Getty Images“As White House photographer I was able to be in situations off limits to other photographers, and was able to document many critical historical moments,” says David Hume Kennerly, who photographed President Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger discussing the ongoing negotiations on the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT) being conducted with the Soviets on March 24, 1976.

But the job is about more than ceremony and PR.

“I was in the room when Ford ended the Vietnam War. I was there when he pardoned Richard Nixon. I was there when he lost the election,” says Kennerly, whose photographs can add visual and human context to the history of Ford’s presidency.

“I think it’s important to have [a] visual record for people and generations to come, to get a sense of not just what the presidency was like but what [the President] was like as a person,” adds Pete Souza.

And that kind of photographs can only be achieved with the right access. “You have the historic level, but you also have all these moments that let you stress out who the president is on a personal level. I had the opportunity to photograph President George W. Bush as a father, a husband, a dog owner, a son of another president,” says Draper. “It’s all about the confidence level of the president. If you’re in the way, if the president doesn’t want you there, you’re not there. That relationship is important to be in a position where the president is conformable being around you.”

If the relationship is a successful one, the result can offer incredible value to the country, adds Robert McNeely, who was Clinton’s photographer for six years, even if the President doesn’t necessarily appreciate it. (“I’m sure Bill Clinton doesn’t see the value of my picture of him and Monica Lewinsky standing there in the chief of staff’s office during the government’s shutdown, even though he asked me to take it,” he says.) But, given Donald Trump’s business background, where transparency tends to be less valued, he is not optimistic that the new President will grant deep access to a White House photographer—or any access at all.

After all, it’s still unclear whether Trump will see the benefits in allowing someone to photograph him all day, every day.

“I would only encourage him to give it a try,” says Kennerly. “But it’s his call.”

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