Vintage-inspired links for March 16, 2015

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  • "Metrics and standards" in court! Last week, the Supreme Court decided in favor of Amtrak and the US Department of Transportation in a case regarding Amtrak's authority to set standards. Lots of interesting legal reasoning about metrics and standards as regulation, as Sasha Volokh points out in his analysis of Justice Kennedy's decision and the concurrences of Justices Alito and Thomas. But what would Justice Schaffer say?
  • For those of you who have been waiting for a 2,000 page parable of the scientific method in the form of Harry Potter fanfic: wait no longer! Here's a pdf of the whole damned thing, penned by Eliezer Yudkowsky.
  • This week in Anthropocene news: A new study argues that the Age of Man began in 1610, with the arrival of white Europeans in North America; Scientists believe a series of recently formed craters in the Russian Arctic are the result of global warming; and paleontologists reported the discovery of an extinct species of arthropod that was similar in size and shape to a six-foot lobster.
  • Scientists try to explain "hanger," that seemingly irrational feeling of extreme anger you feel when it's been to long since your last meal.
  • "All living organisms have absorbed the products of 20th century petrochemistry. We now embody its genius, its intellectual property, its mistakes, and its hubris": Grappling with the legacy of our century-long romance with plastics.
  • This week, the Australian National Health and Research Council (under the leadership of CEO and historian of medicine Warwick Anderson) released a comprehensive report condemning practice of homeopathy. Edzard Ernst, a physician and leading expert in complementary medicine, declared the debate over homeopathy's merits officially over. The report has also reignited arguments across the pond that homeopathy should no longer be covered by Britain's National Health Service. [The British comic duo Mitchell & Webb had a wonderful bit called Homeopathic A&E. —Ed.]
  • Marina Warner writes for the London Review of Books on the way that measurement systems like the Research Excellence Framework in combination with huge funnels of cash are radically transforming British universities, and not for the better. The mining conglomerate BHP Billiton can finance a sustainability center at UCL, and "by getting involved closely with a university, BHP Billiton can then be involved potentially in defining the very term sustainability." 
  • Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen finds the wreck of the battleship Musashi
  •  A highly sophisticated break-in at a South African site that stores weapons-grade fissile material has never been satisfactorily explained
  • You can buy a "vintage-inspired" [??] map of the world's submarine cables.
  • And Leah and David are both presenting this weekend at the annual meeting of the American Society for Environmental History in Washington, D.C. David is up on Friday morning and Leah on Saturday. Drop by if you're around.

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