PICKS are stories from many sources, selected by our editors or recommended by our readers because they are important, surprising, troubling, enlightening, inspiring, or amusing. They appear on our site and in our daily newsletter. Please send suggested articles, videos, podcasts, etc. to picks@whowhatwhy.org.

Hubble Trouble: Computer Woes Hit Hubble Space Telescope, Science Halted (Maria)

The author writes, “The Hubble Space Telescope has been hit with computer trouble, with all astronomical viewing halted, NASA said Wednesday. The orbiting observatory has been idle since Sunday when a 1980s-era computer that controls the science instruments shut down, possibly because of a bad memory board. Flight controllers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland … are now trying to switch to a backup memory unit.”

It’s Not a Worker Shortage, It’s a Worker Renaissance in a Post-Pandemic Economy (Reader Steve)

From the Nevada Independent: “Headlines continue to call attention to a shortage of workers in the leisure and hospitality sector here and around the country. Workers are supposedly staying at home and avoiding work given federal unemployment insurance benefits — or so the story goes. But the commentaries fail to fully acknowledge that the ‘weird’ labor dynamics we are observing may be the result of a paradigm shift fueled by workers who are reimagining work in a post-COVID economy. This ‘worker shortage’ may actually be driven by a shift in worker preferences regarding job satisfaction and work environment, which is leading many to choose different career paths (or stay home). Those who believe this paradigm shift is occurring simply because of a supplemental federal benefit will be left behind in a post-pandemic recovery if they do not also reimagine their workspaces.”

America’s Image Abroad Rebounds With Transition From Trump to Biden (Nick)

The authors write, “The election of Joe Biden as president has led to a dramatic shift in America’s international image. Throughout Donald Trump’s presidency, publics around the world held the United States in low regard, with most opposed to his foreign policies. This was especially true among key American allies and partners. Now, a new Pew Research Center survey of 16 publics finds a significant uptick in ratings for the U.S., with strong support for Biden and several of his major policy initiatives. In each of the 16 publics surveyed, more than six-in-ten say they have confidence in Biden to do the right thing in world affairs. Looking at 12 nations surveyed both this year and in 2020, a median of 75% express confidence in Biden, compared with 17% for Trump last year.”

Polyester Is One of the Biggest Polluters in Fashion — Here’s What One CEO Wants to Do About It (Sean)

The author writes, “Fashion has a polyester problem. It’s the most widely-used clothing fiber in the world, but as a synthetic material made from plastic, polyester needs a lot of energy to produce and is highly water and air polluting, according to the Council of Fashion Designers of America. The fashion industry is trying to tackle the issue, but there’s no simple solution, according to the CEO of one of the world’s largest clothes manufacturers. ‘There isn’t so far (a) raw material that is as cheap and as versatile as polyester today,’ said Roger Lee, who runs Hong-Kong headquartered TAL Apparel.”

Archaeologists Have Unearthed a 2,000-Year-Old Roman Basilica in Israel That May Have Been Built by Herod the Great (Dan)

The author writes, “Archaeologists in Israel have unearthed the largest ancient Roman basilica in the nation, a 2,000-year-old building dating to the reign of the Biblical figure Herod the Great, who may have built it. ‘The writings of the historian Josephus mention Herod’s construction in the city of Ashkelon and list fountains, a bathhouse, and colonnaded halls,’ Rachel Bar-Natan, Saar Ganor, and Federico Kobrin, excavation directors working with the Israel Antiquities Authority, said in a statement.”

Researchers Perform Magic Tricks for Birds, Who Are Not Amused (Dana)

From Ars Technica: “Most magic tricks require a fairly sophisticated understanding of how humans perceive the world. To fall for a trick, people have to see things they perceive as important and ignore things that are actually important. Understanding why magic works can tell us important things about how humans direct their attention and form expectations. At some point, behavioral scientists realized they could take this idea and apply it to animals. If animals are also fooled by magic tricks, we can identify where our cognitive skills overlap. If the trick fails, we can identify points where our understandings of the world diverge. Unsurprisingly, most early experiments were done with other primates, as they would likely have a lot of overlap with us. But a new study attempts magic with birds and finds that many tricks just don’t work with them.”

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