From psychological suspense that recalls the best of Hitchcock to international espionage that strikes all too close to home, these page-turners top our must-read list – but be forewarned, they may have you burning the midnight oil.
THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW: A NOVEL (William Morrow) by A.J. Finn
The unreliable female narrator (alaGirl On a Train and Gone Girl) is all the rage in “grip-lit” these days, but Finn’s smart Hitchcockian thriller takes it to another level with his story of agoraphobic former psychologist, Anna Fox. Separated from her family, she spends her days drinking copious amounts of red wine, watching old movies and spying on her neighbours. But her predictable routine is turned upside down when she witnesses a murder in a neighbour’s house. Or does she? After police find no signs of a crime –believing her judgment is impaired from prescription drugs and the aforementioned wine — even Anna questions what she saw.
Touted as one of the year’s most anticipated debut, the much-buzzed The Woman in the Window shot to the top of the New York Times bestseller list, and is already in development as a major film from Fox. A.J. Finn is a pseudonym for Daniel Mallory, an executive editor at William Morrow, the novel’s publisher.
THE PERFECT NANNY: A NOVEL by Leila Slimani
It’s every parent’s nightmare. The “perfect nanny” you trust to look after your children suddenly falls apart, and in the worst possible way. The prize-winning novel, which was a runaway hit in France, is inspired by the 2012 real life murder of two children in New York City by their nanny.
ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL (Atria) by Sarah Vaughan
The scandal in this story may sound uncomfortably familiar: A government minister, and boyhood friend of the Prime Minister, is accused of rape by his assistant, putting into motion a legal thriller that could have come straight from today’s #MeToo headlines. A riveting read about Britain’s powerful and long-entitled elite and the women caught up in their wake.
NEED TO KNOW (Random House) by Karen Cleveland
This domestic thriller also has a ripped-from-the-headlines story line, this time about Russian spies meddling in American affairs. While investigating a Soviet sleeper cell, CIA agent Vivian Miller is forced to face the fact her own husband may be a Russian spy, and she, his target. This debut novel from Karen Cleveland, herself a former CIA analyst, is already set to be made into a film with Charlize Theron.
THE UNDERTAKER’S DAUGHTER (Grand Central) by Sara Blaedel
From the author of the popular Louise Rick police procedural series (The Forgotten Girls, The Killing Forest) The Undertaker’s Daughter marks the launch of a new suspense series from Denmark’s most popular novelist. The story follows a young Danish woman who journeys to America after receiving an unexpected inheritance from a father she hasn’t heard from in three decades, only to find herself in the middle of an unsolved murder – and a killer who is very much alive.
Release date: Feb. 6, 2018
THE MITFORD MURDERS (Minotaur) by Jessica Fellowes
From the author of Downton Abbey—A Celebration: The Official Companion to all Six Seasons, it’s not surprising that Fellow’s foray into mystery fiction is rich in period detail. The story, based on the life of the famed Mitford sisters, involves a real unsolved murder in the 1920s.
DANGEROUS CROSSING: A NOVEL (Atria) by Rachel Rhys
Murder and mayhem on the high seas. In 1939, with Europe on the brink of war, a young Englishwoman running from a shadowy past boards an ocean liner in Essex, bound for Australia. But she is not the only one with a dark secret. In the tradition of Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile, the glamour of the voyage fades, setting the stage for something truly sinister.
The old adage of Schrödinger’s Cat is often used to frame a basic concept of quantum theory.
We use it to explain the peculiar, but important, concept of superposition; where something can exist in multiple states at once.
For Schrodinger’s feline friend – the simultaneous states were dead and alive.
Superposition is what makes quantum computing so potentially powerful.
Standard computer processors rely on packets or bits of information, each one representing a single yes or no answer.
Quantum processors are different. They don’t work in the realm of yes or no, but in the almost surreal world of yes and no. This twin-state of quantum information is known as a qubit.
To harness their power, you have to link multiple qubits together, a process called entanglement.
With each additional qubit added, the computation power of the processor is effectively doubled.
But generating and linking qubits, then instructing them to perform calculations in their entangled state is no easy task. They are incredibly sensitive to external forces, which can give rise to errors in the calculations and in the worst-case scenario make the entangled qubits fall apart.
As additional qubits are added, the adverse effects of these external forces mount.
One way to cope with this is to include additional qubits whose sole role is to vet and correct outputs for misleading or erroneous data.
This means that more powerful quantum computers – ones that will be useful for complex problem solving, like working out how proteins fold or modelling physical processes inside complex atoms – will need lots of qubits.
Dr Tom Watson, based at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, and one of the authors of the paper, told BBC News: “You have to think what it will take to do useful quantum computing. The numbers are not very well defined but it’s probably going to take thousands maybe millions of qubits, so you need to build your qubits in a way that can scale up to these numbers.”
In short, if quantum computers are going to take off, you need to come up with an easy way to manufacture large and stable qubit processors.
And Dr Watson and his colleagues thought there was an obvious solution.
Tried and tested
“As we’ve seen in the computer industry, silicon works quite well in terms of scaling up using the fabrication methods used”, he said.
The team of researchers, which also included scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, turned to silicon to suspend single electron qubits whose spin was fixed by the use of microwave energy.
In the superposition state, the electron was spinning both up and down.
The team were then able to connect two qubits and programme them to perform trial calculations.
They could then cross-check the data generated by the quantum silicon processor with that generated by a standard computer running the same test calculations.
The data matched.
The team had successfully built a programmable two-qubit silicon-based processor.
Commenting on the study, Prof Winfried Hensinger, from the University of Sussex, said: “The team managed to make a two qubit quantum gate with a very respectable error rate. While the error rate is still much higher than in trapped ion or superconducting qubit quantum computers, the achievement is still remarkable, as isolating the qubits from noise is extremely hard.”
He added: “It remains to be seen whether error rates can be realised that are consistent with the concept of fault-tolerant quantum computing operation. However, without doubt this is a truly outstanding achievement.”
And in an accompanying paper, an international team, led by Prof Jason Petta from Princeton University, was able to transfer the state of the spin of an electron suspended in silicon onto a single photon of light.
According to Prof Hensinger, this is a “fantastic achievement” in the development of silicon-based quantum computers.
He explained: “If quantum gates in a solid state quantum computer can ever be realised with sufficiently low error rates, then this method could be used to connect different quantum computing modules which would allow for a fully modular quantum computer.”
You’re a honeybee. Despite being around 700,000 times smaller than the average human, you’ve got more of almost everything. Instead of four articulated limbs, you have six, each with six segments. (Your bee’s knees, sadly, don’t exist.) You’re exceptionally hairy. A shock of bristly setae covers your body and face to help you keep warm, collect pollen, and even detect movement. Your straw-like tongue stretches far beyond the end of your jaw, but has no taste buds on it. Instead, you “taste” with other, specialized hairs, called sensillae, that you use to sense the chemicals that brush against particular parts of your body.
You’ve got five eyes. Two of them, called compound eyes and made up of 6,900 tiny lenses, take up about half your face. Each lens sends you a different “pixel,” which you use to see the world around you. The colors you see are different. Red looks like black to you and your three “primary” colors are blue, green, and ultraviolet. You detect motion insanely well, but outlines are fuzzy and images blocky, like a stained-glass window. (Your three other eyes detect only changes in light to tell you quickly if something dangerous is swooping your way.)
Now that you’re a honeybee you can do all kinds of things you couldn’t before. Your four wings move at 11,400 strokes per minute. You can sense chemicals in the air. You’re fluent in waggle dance, so you’re able to tell the other members of your colony where the nectar supplies are. But how much does any of this tell us about what it actually feels like to be a bee?
We all know what it’s like to be ourselves—to be conscious of the world around us, and be conscious of that consciousness. But what consciousness means more generally, for other people and other creatures, is a hot potato tossed between philosophers, biologists, psychologists, and anyone who’s ever wondered whether it feels the same to be a dog as it does to be an octopus. In general, we think that if you have some kind of unique, subjective experience of the world, you’re conscious to some extent. The problem is that in trying to envisage any consciousness besides our own, we run into the limits of the human imagination. In the case of honeybees, it’s hard to know if interesting behavior is reflective of an interesting experience of the world or masks a more simple stimulus-response existence. The lights are on, but is anyone home? To examine these questions means to take a ride on that hot potato—from philosopher to scientist and back again and again and again.
More and more, scientific research seems to suggest that bees do have a kind of consciousness, even as myths and misconceptions about their capacities persist. In a recent TED Talk, cognitive scientist Andrew B. Barron of Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, described how he had had to be lovingly “talked down” from a “pearl-clutching” moment after someone asked him whether bees actually have brains. They do, of course.
Understanding what their consciousness might look or feel like is probably a fool’s errand. It’s really hard to imagine what it’s like to be almost anything or anyone other than what you are, says philosopher Colin Klein, also from Macquarie University, who has worked extensively alongside Barron. With people, it’s much easier. “You can talk to them, you can read fiction, there are a lot of things you can do—but it takes a certain amount of work to get into that space and in particular to realize what you experience, what you don’t experience, what your horizons look like,” he says. But the more different the experience of the organism you’re trying to imagine is, the harder it becomes. “You can start to think at least in what senses the experience of something like a bee might be different from ours”—how they structure the world around them, say, or whether they experience “space” the way we do.
The philosopher Thomas Nagel’s famous 1974 essay, “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?” suggests that being “like” something else is possible only if the target is conscious of the world around it. “The fact that an organism has conscious experience at all means, basically, that there is something it is like to be that organism,” he writes. Or, “fundamentally an organism has conscious mental states if and only if there is something that it is to be that organism—something it is like for the organism.” On top of that mindscrabble, our ability to imagine ourselves as another being is limited by the world that we know—as people. We might be able to imagine having webbed arms and hands, like a bat, or five eyes, like a bee, but the specific senses and abilities these animals possess are frankly inconceivable. “I want to know what it is like for a bat to be a bat. Yet if I try to imagine this, I am restricted to the resources of my own mind, and those resources are inadequate to the task,” he adds. Moreover, “I cannot perform it either by imagining additions to my present experience, or by imagining segments gradually subtracted from it.”
Despite these difficulties, what we want to know, Klein and Barron wrote in an op-edin The Conversation in 2016, is whether bees and other insects “can feel and sense the environment from a first-person perspective.”
It seems likely that there are lots of different kinds of consciousness, of varying levels of complexity. As human beings, not only are we aware of ourselves and the world around us, we’re also aware of that awareness. A step down in complexity might lack that awareness of self-awareness. And a step down from that might be limited to a distinctive experience of the external world only.
Such a simple ladder may not be the best way to organize this kind of complexity, says David Chalmers, a leather jacket-wearing Australian philosopher at New York University best known for his work in philosophy of mind—a branch of philosophy that asks these kinds of questions. “But there are probably different ways of arranging states of mind, or consciousness, in a hierarchy,” he says. What’s harder to distinguish is the precise point where consciousness ends, and what the light switch, “on-off,” moment might be, further down the evolutionary chain. “It’s awfully hard to see what a borderline case of being conscious would be,” he says, even while it’s not that hard to know what a borderline case of being alive might look like, as in a virus. “It would sort of feel like something,” he says, trailing off in thought, “but not.”
So far as bee consciousness goes, however, he thinks there are likely to be some factors in consciousness that we share, like vision, and some that we don’t at all, “whether it’s sensory systems that humans have that bees don’t have, or whether it’s things more like concepts, like language, that give us a kind of consciousness that bees don’t have.”
Klein is more specific. “We think that bees have experiences that feel like something to the bee,” he says. “We don’t think the bees are aware of having experiences that feel like something to them. The bee is not going round saying to itself, ‘Gee, it’s a lovely day, look at that flower.’ It doesn’t have any of these more sophisticated, reflexive kinds of consciousness.”
Still, despite having a brain that is a fraction of the size of even the tiniest mammal’s, bees seem capable of some incredibly complex behaviors and mental gymnastics. Studies over the last few decades have revealed them to do everything from having a concept of zero to experiencing emotion, from tool use to social learning. If you give them cocaine, they dance more vigorously and tend to overestimate how much pollen they’ve foraged. If they watch a plastic bee scoring goals with a soccer ball, they can follow suit for a sugar water reward. Wouldn’t these complex behaviors be enough to assume some kind of consciousness? Not necessarily, says Barron. “Honeybees are unusual among the insects in that they have a whole list of clever things that they are able to do,” he says. “And some people would say that that means that they are more likely to be conscious. I disagree with that.”
Think of all the other things able to perform complicated tasks that we’re pretty sure aren’t conscious. Robots do everything from juggle to play the piano, but, as far as we know, are “dark” inside. Like bees, Roomba vacuum cleaners make decisions, navigate around the world, and adapt—but there’s probably nothing it’s “like” to be one of them. And plants have been shown to have a kind of memory: Over time, for example, they can learn that being repeatedly dropped isn’t anything to freak out about. But few suggest they possess consciousness.
“I think this is one of the problems with the behavioral approach, is that it encourages this looking for very clever things,” says Klein. “Whereas if consciousness is a widespread phenomenon, you should expect that it might be in a lot of different types of things that don’t necessarily do the things that we take to be markers of consciousness.”
If behavior can’t enough tell us about the inner life of a bee, perhaps the structure of their sesame seed–sized brains can. In a human brain, key studies suggest consciousness lies in the midbrain, an evolutionarily much older section. In a study published last year, Barron and Klein investigated the structure of the bee brain, which seems to be made up of similar bits to our own, with a region responsible for similar tasks. “It’s smaller, it’s organized differently, it’s different-shaped, but if you look at the kind of computations it does, it’s doing the same sort of things as the midbrain,” Klein says. “So if you think in humans the midbrain is responsible for being conscious, and you think this is doing the same kind of thing, then you ought to think insects are conscious as well.”
This biological approach opens up consciousness to a variety of other organisms that don’t do the clever things that bees do, like beetles or potato bugs. They might be less obviously interesting, but that doesn’t make them less likely to be conscious. The technology that allows us to examine insect brains on a neuron-by-neuron level is very new, Barron says. “If they really are instinctive, then we’re learning something about what the insect brain is capable of. If they’re not, then we’re learning something more profound.”
The technology also allows us to map the brains of organisms that we think probably aren’t conscious, and assess what they lack. Caenorhabditis elegans is a roundworm commonly used in scientific research. In recent years, scientists have developed a connectome—a sort of complex brain map—for this tiny soil-dweller, which measures barely a millimeter in length. “They have 302 neurons,” says Klein, compared to a bee’s 960,000 and a human’s 86 billion. “Those [worms], we think, are actually very much like robots, like complicated robots.” If exposed to a particular stimulus, they respond in a particular, predictable way. “Unless there’s some kind of danger, and then it does that, unless it’s hungry, and then it does this—so you can really map out what it’s going to do.” In bees, he says, there seems to be a kind of qualitative shift, in which the brain is somehow more than its connections.
All of this neurobiology is beginning to paint a picture—that it feels like nothing to be a C. elegans, or a robot, or a plant, but it probably feels like something to be a bee. If that’s the case, it is still not known where, between the roundworm and the honeybee, that awareness switches on, if it does. While neurobiology is a very important part of the story, says Chalmers, “it may not settle the issue of consciousness. You very frequently find a situation where two people might agree on the neurobiology of a given case, but disagree on what that implies about consciousness.” He gives the example of fish, and the ongoing discourse about whether their neurobiology suggests that they do or do not feel pain. “Knowing the neurobiological facts doesn’t necessarily settle the question.”
We can try to imagine what it’s like to have six hairy legs, or see in pixels, or crave nectar. We can even try to imagine what it’s like to be part of a hive, a superorganism with motivations of its own. But what it’s actually like to be a bee—its subjective experience of the world—is going to remain elusive. But we’re starting to figure out that it’s probably like something. And that’s not nothing.
I was prepared for a lot of things when I emerged from the internship birth canal and became a full-time working person: Show up on time, don’t overdo it on the exclamation points, and always ask about a business woman’s special.
But there were some things no career counselor, professor, sister, friend, or parent warned me about!!!!!! (Clearly, I’ve gone rogue on the exclamation point thing.) My first year or so of work was filled with so much “Wait, is it just me, or…” and, “Well, I guess that’s a thing” that I wanted to write a strongly worded letter to everyone who’d given me career advice because it all fell so short.
Every workplace and job is different, but in talking to people in my five and a half years of work experience, I’ve discovered that the things that really took me by surprise are pretty universal. So instead of writing that strongly worded letter, I’m going to share them here as one giant subtweet/PSA instead:
1.It’s really hard getting used to the fact that this is your life…for the rest of your life.
2.It’s a little weird to drink with your boss and coworkers at first.
3.Just because you have a job doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep your resume updated.
4.Your work BFF will probably leave, but you’ll survive.
5.There are a lot of a horrible bosses out there who are also great people.
6.You might love your job and hate your coworkers.
7.You might hate your job and love your coworkers.
8.Either way, leaving a job because you hate your coworkers isn’t a guarantee that you’ll be happy at your next one.
9.It’s hard to maintain hobbies/side hustles/activities when you have a full-time job, but it’s worth it.
10.You could wear the same outfit every day and most people wouldn’t notice.
11.There’s more to networking than just going to a young professionals happy hour.
12.It’s ok if your first job isn’t the exact type of position you want, or even in the field you want.
13.Pooping at the office is normal and necessary.
14.Your professional success isn’t a direct reflection of your personal success.
15.It’s not just you; everyone feels like they don’t totally know what they’re doing at least once a week.
In the overcrowded world of fictional characters, there are few faces as adorable as Tintin’s. Unlike Batman, Superman, or Wonder Woman, Tintin, the young investigative reporter, is not a household name in America, but he is definitely one of the most beloved figures in Europe.
With no specific magic powers, he is the antithesis of a superhero, but that didn’t prevent him from being widely admired by both children and adults. Charles de Gaulle once declared that Tintin is his only international rival, saying that “nobody notices, because of my height. We are both little fellows who won’t be got at by big fellows.”
Tintin and his fox terrier, Snowy, appeared for the first time on January 10, 1929, in the children’s supplement of the Belgian newspaper Le Vingtième Siecle. What started as the subject of a supplement went on to become a symbol of the 20th century, appearing in an independent comic book, on television, and even on the big screen in Steven Spielberg’s animated movie The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn.
Georges Prosper Remi, known by the pen name Hergé, is the man behind the creation of Tintin. With almost no formal training, Hergé began drawing the legendary comic-book character in 1929, but little did he know that by doing so he would give birth to an entire European comics publishing industry.
Since 1929, Tintin comics have sold more than 200 million copies, and over the years, this beloved character served as an inspiration for many people and influenced the ways comic book readers perceive the world around them. But what actually inspired Hergé to create the iconic character?
Debate still exists on what exactly inspired Hergé to come up with the snub-nosed teenage reporter, but most people agree that it was a real life person known by the name Palle Huld. It is one of the most original of origin stories in the comic book world.
Less than a year before Tintin made his first appearance, in the children’s supplement of Le Vingtième Siecle, a15-year-old Danish Boy Scout named Palle Huld won a competition organized by a Danish newspaper to mark the centennial of Jules Verne.
The winner of the competition would re-enact Phileas Fogg’s voyage from Verne’s famous novel Around the World in Eighty Days. Strangely enough, only teenage boys were allowed to take part in the competition, and the 15-year-old was the perfect match. There was another twist: The winner had to complete the journey within 46 days,without any company and without using planes.
Hundreds of Danish teenagers applied to participate in the competition, and Palle was lucky enough to be chosen. He started his journey on March 1, 1928, from Copenhagen and traveled by rail and steamship through England, Scotland, Canada, Japan, the Soviet Union, Poland, and Germany.
His journey made the headlines at the time and when he arrived in Denmark, he was already a celebrity. Over 20,000 admirers greeted their hero when he came back home.
The next thing he did was write a book about his journey, which was quite popular among his admirers, and published in several languages. That book also came into the hands of a Belgian cartoonist known by the name of Hergéand that same year, when Huld’s book was published, Tintin made his debut.
Huld himself suggested on several occasions that he was the inspiration for Tintin. However, others believe that the inspiration behind the character was actually the French travel photojournalist Robert Sexe, whose journeys were exactly in the same order as Tintin’s first three books.
Nonetheless, true Tintin fans couldn’t care less. For them it is all about the character, a hero they all know and love, representing something that others don’t have: uncompromising vigilance and the need to succeed no matter what the cost.
Tintin proves that a hero doesn’t need to be big or strong, he or she just needs to be tenacious and stubborn enough to do what needs to be done.
Abraham Lincoln elected president of the United States
On this day in 1860, Americans elected as their presidentAbraham Lincoln, whose victory led to the secession of Southern states and the long and bloody Civil Warthat lasted until 1865 and ended slavery in the U.S.