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Five Things I Found Interesting for 12/30/22

Here are five things I found interesting while on the internet:

1. It should not be difficult for wrongfully convicted people to get a judge to review new evidence or science relevant to their case. The Innocence Project shared a story about how a wrongfully convicted man used a re-run of the Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters to prove his innocence“In 2007, John Galvan was about 21 years into a life sentence for a crime he didn’t commit when he saw something on the prison television he thought might finally help him prove his innocence and secure his freedom: A re-run of an episode of the Discovery Channel’s MythBusters.” Galvin was convicted after a coerced false confession under the theory that he and two others had “started the fire by throwing a bottle filled with gasoline at the building and then tossing a cigarette into the pool of gasoline on the porch to ignite it.” That Mythbusters episode demonstrated that while this may be a frequent plot point in movies and television shows, it isn’t scientifically possible. It took 15 years for Galvin and his attorneys to use this science to get the false convictions suppressed. Illinois freed Galvin and the two others falsely convicted earlier this year after they served a combined 105 years in prison for a crime they did not commit. 

2. Jessica Valenti warns about the next lie forced birth activists will try to use to keep women and people capable of becoming pregnant from receiving necessary health care. Republicans have learned that the radical laws they’ve enacted are unpopular with voters. As Valenti explains, “And with horror stories from anti-choice states rolling in at record speed—from sobbing cancer patients and raped children being denied care to women going into sepsis—conservatives have realized that they need a new message and tweaked legislation. And they need it fast.” So we are about to see anti-choice activists suggest amendments to these laws to guarantee equal care for the mother and child. But this is just another so-called abortion exception that is a lie designed to protect Republican politicians instead of patients. Valenti shares how this equal care standard would have complicated critical medical decisions during her pregnancy. Doctors and patients should make health care decisions, not political activists. 

3. Humanity does not have a plan for what to do if we detect a signal from an alien civilization. And this could be a problem, as The Guardian’s Ian Sample explains“It would be a transformative event for humankind, one the world’s nations are surely prepared for. Or are they? “Look at the mess we made when Covid hit. We’d be like headless chickens,” says Dr John Elliott, a computational linguist at the University of St Andrews. “We cannot afford to be ill-prepared, scientifically, socially, and politically rudderless, for an event that could happen at any time and which we cannot afford to mismanage.” Elliott is bringing together researchers to propose ways to get ready, including whether we should even respond. That’s a complicated question, one scientists and science fiction writers like Liu Cixin (in his masterpiece The Three-Body Problem) have considered. I don’t think we should respond because of the risks involved, but I am glad some people are thinking about this challenge. 

4. Ten Major League umpires are retiring this year, the highest number since 1999. As Bleacher Nation’s Brett Taylor explains, this kind of turnover has some benefits“The sudden openings mean MLB will be able to promote ten new umpires from the minor leagues, where there will already have been familiarity with the new rules, and, in most cases, with the automated balls and strikes system.” That is a good point. But I continue to be stunned that a couple of particularly bad umpires are not on this list and continue on like a bad sitcom. 

5. President Ulysses S. Grant couldn’t hear music and was particularly sensitive to military songs. As Salon’s Matthew Rozsa writes, Grant (along with Theodore Roosevelt and William Taft had “…congenital amusia, or an inability to hear music and understand it as — well — music. To those with the condition, music typically sounds cacophonous, like noise.” I may need to use this factoid in pub trivia someday. 

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