Fear clung to his gut and, at night, it emerged in the form of nightmares. That’s why little Mathias tried not to watch those movies: he changed the channel, closed his eyes, turned off the TV. But everything changed when he reached adolescence. By chance, he stumbled upon a miniseries called Apocalypse, about a dystopian future after a pandemic. Then, he read the book that the series was based on. It was by a certain Stephen King. It was terror at first sight.
Mathias swept the library, then the video store. Scream, Halloween, Friday the 13th, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre… he still had nightmares, but he didn’t care anymore. He read and watched everything. It was the kind of adolescent obsession that ends up marking a life.
Mathias Clasen is 45-years-old today. He’s a professor of literature who specializes in the horror genre. He’s the author of the book Why Horror Seduces and director of the Recreational Fear Lab at the University of Aarhus, in Denmark.
Clasen has a theory about his sudden teenage conversion. “It’s a very common trajectory,” he explains. “More than 95% of parents say their children find pleasure in some type of recreational fear. In young children, it’s mainly driven by risky behaviors: physical play, climbing a tree too high, or riding a bike too fast. But when they grow up, it becomes a more controlled fear. They look for it in movies, books and video games.”
This interest begins in the early-teens and peaks before one reaches the age of 20. It then gradually declines with age… but it doesn’t disappear completely. Human beings feel a strange fascination with fear. We pay to be scared at amusement parks. We go to the movies or pick up a console to scream a little. We seek experiences that expose ourselves to unpleasant sensations, which push us to the limit. This is all part of what’s known as the “terror paradox” — a mystery that the fields of psychology and neuroscience have been theorizing about for years.
“The short answer is that humans are biologically designed to find pleasure by playing with fear, because it’s a learning mechanism,” Clasen reflects. “Recreational fear is a safe space in which we can practice [regulating our emotions].” Consuming these cultural products could provide an adaptive advantage, by preparing viewers to face new scenarios in life
Clasen had the opportunity to test this theory when the world became a horror movie, similar to the one he was obsessed with as a teenager. With the population locked down at home due to the pandemic, his team began asking volunteers how they were coping with the situation. Subsequently, his theories were verified. “People who’d seen a lot of horror movies, (especially related to viruses and pandemics) reported greater psychological resilience to stress [than those who hadn’t],” he confirms. “These films proved to be a tool to regulate emotions.”
The lists of most-viewed films during those months also validated his idea. You might have expected people to take refuge in gentle comedies, but this wasn’t the case. Contagion (2011), a Steven Soderbergh production about a deadly virus that devastates the planet, became the second-most downloaded film on iTunes during the pandemic, despite having been released 10 years earlier. The consumption of horror films increased exponentially, reaching figures that have remained stable since then. In 2014, they accounted for 2.69% of the annual box office, but this percentage jumped to 12.75% by 2021, according to The Numbers, a film industry data platform.
“Horror movies have never been as popular as they’ve been in the last three years,” Clasen confirms. “But I still don’t have a clear idea as to why.” It may be that, in times of uncertainty, people seek explanations in fiction, inoculating themselves with a dose of tolerable terror that prepares them for fear in real life. “It’s a way of getting vaccinated,” the expert shrugs. “It prepares us, in a safe environment, to deal with stress and anxiety. And with the war, the pandemic, the crises… we have a lot of that in our reality lately.”
Jorge Casanueva is a film critic who specializes in horror. He manages the Horror Losers online community. He agrees that the genre is thriving commercially, although he frames this success within historical stability. “The topics change to reflect the fears of society… but the success [of the horror film industry as a whole], even with its ups and downs, does not,” he tells. “This is an infinite genre. It’s a constant, because it’s in our nature to watch these types of films.”
Casanueva has a more practical theory for why horror is so appealing. “It’s fun,” he summarizes. “I think the viewer is looking — on a physiological level — for an adrenaline rush. Having a bad time, sometimes, is simply entertaining, especially if you do it with friends in a movie theater.” The context in which we consume these films is important. They’re not usually watched alone, but in groups… for obvious reasons. A 2021 study published in the scientific journal PLOS One showed that well-matched couples felt much less stress watching a scary movie with their partner than when doing so alone. Terror is less terrifying when it’s shared.
Detecting murderers in real life
A recent study from the University of Toronto — Surfing Uncertainty with Screams — analyzes human attraction to horror movies from the framework of predictive perception. This theory means that our internal model of the world isn’t necessarily based on reality, but is rather an interpretation of it. Our brain analyzes what’s happening and fills in the information gaps with what it believes is happening. That’s why we can read a word perfectly, even if it’s missing letters. Or interpret the image of a puzzle, even if it doesn’t have all the pieces. But to do this, one requires prior information, such as having read that word before, or having seen a landscape similar to the one in the puzzle. “That’s why horror movies are perfect, because they give us information about contexts we’ve never been in,” explains Mark Miller, the lead author of the study. He’s a researcher in the Department of Psychology at the University of Toronto.
These films are based on familiar scenarios and situations. They reproduce stereotypes and clichés. They leave clues about what’s going to happen, with elements such as music. But at the same time, one of the main mechanisms of horror is the element of surprise, which usually occurs in an unexpected final twist, or — in its most distilled and basic form — in the sudden scare. “In a way, we can say that horror movies are designed for our system: they have a balance between the predictable and the unexpected,” the author reflects. “If we think of man as a machine that wants to collect information to minimize surprises, this type of training is perfect.”
So, for example, watching “true crime” can help detect the behavior of a murderer or a rapist… very valuable knowledge in real life. This would explain why these documentaries are more successful among women, who make up 70% of the audience, according to a study by Social Psychological and Personality Science. They’re overwhelmingly the potential victims of these crimes, so they’re the ones who can best benefit from what’s been learned.
The success of giallo – a subgenre that originates in Italian cinema, in which clues to the identity of the murderer are given during the movie and revealed in the final scene (with examples ranging from Scream to Murder, She Wrote), also fits into the framework of predictive processing. These films actively toy with the viewer, while helping them solve the mystery before the protagonist does. “And the most important thing isn’t only our reaction,” Dr. Miller explains. “We see how the characters react… and then we comment on it. If you notice, when you watch a scary movie, you’re always comparing what you would do with what the character does. You say, ‘don’t go down to the basement,’ ‘grab the bat,’ or ‘don’t get separated!’ This is because you’re adjusting your predictive model for how things work in uncertain scenarios, comparing possible [real-life] behaviors. So, you’re harvesting information and [improving] results.”
This mechanism would work with all types of films, but it’s in the horror genre where it becomes most important. Firstly, because it places us in improbable scenarios: the life of any person swings between comedy, drama, or porn, depending on the context, but it will rarely go through horror scenarios. You’re more likely to fall in love with a co-worker than to encounter a killer clown hiding in a sewer. Furthermore, Miller points out, “we’re evolutionarily predisposed to be attracted to negative stimuli a little more than positive. It’s less important to notice someone [winking] at you than to detect a tiger’s tail moving behind the tree.”
The example of the tiger, the expert points out, isn’t coincidental. “When we try to represent our fears, we appeal to our evolutionary heritage. We use symbols that produce a visceral reaction in us… a reaction that has been encoded in our instincts for millennia.” Fictional villains — such as Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers, or Ghostface, lurk in the shadows like feline predators, using sharp weapons, as if they were claws or teeth. They’re the pop culture update of atavistic fears, symbols that man learned to fear thousands of years ago.
“If these movies were about effective killing, all the villains would carry automatic rifles,” Miller’s study notes. “However, they [principally] have to do with fear. A chainsaw isn’t a very effective method for killing a group of teenagers… it’s heavy, noisy and can run out of fuel. However, it instills fear, because its characteristics (sharp teeth and a loud roar) mimic those of predatory mammals.”
There are other aspects in which the genre has evolved. “Currently, there’s an average of 10 scares per film,” Clasen points out, “which means we have a scare every 10 minutes or so.” It’s the optimal number, as if it were a mathematical formula. But it wasn’t always like this: in the 1960s, there were only two or three shocks per film. “Then, it went up. And it’s been stable ever since,” he explains. All this can be verified on Where’s the Jump? This scary movie repository points out the exact second where there’s a scare. In the long list of the films that have abused this resource the most, there are hardly any productions from the 20th century.
In horror, the maxim of “the more the better” doesn’t work. “We demonstrated it a few years ago in a study,” Clasen recalls. “We thought there would be a linear relationship, but no, the curve is rainbow-shaped. There’s a moment, which we have called the optimal point of fear, in which enjoyment begins to decline.” That’s when fear stops being fun and starts being unpleasant. The expert explains that this is the reason why horror video games haven’t completely succeeded in the new virtual reality: they’re simply too intense. Titles such as Resident Evil VII, which could be enjoyed without problems on a TV, require special courage to be played with a VR headset. Perhaps that’s why the new bets in the sector, such as the recently-released Alan Wake 2, have left virtual reality aside, to be released only in the classic format.
Fear, in the world of video games, is a particularly fertile genre. It works very well, because it requires the player to take action… they cannot simply close their eyes in the face of a frightening scene. You cannot simply say, “I would do that instead.” You must do it, or your character will die. This generates more concern than a movie, as the experience is more immersive. Still, there comes a point where it can be too much.
In any case, video games are the latest evolution of a tool that has always been there: stories designed to warn about the dangers of real life. And this ranges from children’s fables, such as Little Red Riding Hood, to folkloric myths that were told around the bonfire, or depicted in cave paintings, which reflected terrifying beasts.
“Terror has always existed, since humans have had the ability to create imaginary worlds,” Clasen concludes. And it will continue to exist, he adds, unless something truly terrifying happens.
‘Mrs. Doubtfire’: The highlights Of Robin Williams’ Role That defined His Artistic Greatness
The highlights Of Robin Williams’ Role That defined His Artistic Greatness
The Voice Of EU | One of the most versatile comedian and actor Robin Williams left an indelible mark on an entire generation throughout the 1990s, evoking both laughter and tears. His portrayal of a strict yet endearing housekeeper in the hit film “Mrs. Doubtfire” (1993) resonated deeply with audiences worldwide, propelling it to resounding success across global boundaries.
Williams played the role, despite the adversities and addictions that plagued his life at the time, by putting aside the devised script and becoming a master of improvisation during the filming of the movie, which brought in more than €400 million.
In the year of its release it was only outdone by Jurassic Park (€1 billion). This is what its director, also an avowed admirer of the American actor, explained on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of Mrs. Doubtfire’s debut on the big screen: “It took me three months to rewrite the script. I sent it to Robin and he said he loved it.” After Williams’ suicide in 2014, in an interview for Business Insider magazine, Chris Columbus unveils details that were buried 30 years ago.
“Four and a half hours, maybe five,” is the time in which, according to the director, Robin Williams was able to play Mrs. Doubtfire, a characterization for which the film earned the Oscar for Best Makeup. The actor was not comfortable in portraying his role: a father who disguises himself as a housekeeper in order to spend more time with his children after a bitter divorce. For him, it presented a challenge. “We never could shoot two consecutive days of Robin as Mrs. Doubtfire. It was a punishing day for him, so always the next day, we would shoot him as Daniel (the father),” the director of the film reveals three decades after its release.
“Comedy is acting out optimism.” — Robin Williams
In between the laughs and moments that are etched in the minds of many, Columbus describes the challenge of keeping actors such as Pierce Brosnan and Sally Field, who played leading roles in the film, from breaking away from the script of their characters while Williams was at his most unrestrainedly creative.
Indeed, according to the director, his boundless energy even created situations where the script supervisor could not keep up, resulting in unrepeatable and spontaneous takes. “None of us knew what he was going to say when he got going and so I wanted a camera on the other actors to get their reactions.” Most of the sequences in the film, and specifically all of those featuring Williams, were the result of an incredible amount of improvisation from the American comedian. “If it were today, we would never end. But back then, we were shooting film so once we were out of film in the camera, we would say to Robin, ‘We’re out of film.’ That happened on several occasions,” recalls Columbus.
“Hey boss, the way I like to work, if you’re up for it, is I’ll give you three or four scripted takes, and then let’s play.” This was the actor’s first warning to the director of Mrs. Doubtfire. Robin Williams was a significant figure in Chris Columbus’ life, and he still is to this day. Not only because he was responsible for his move to San Francisco, the actor didn’t want to shoot anywhere else, but due to his ability to make people laugh and cry at the same time. “Williams wanted the film to be shot there because he was living in San Francisco with his wife, Marsha, and their children. Thanks to him I fell in love with the city that has become my home,” he explains.
“You will have bad times, but they will always wake you up to the stuff you weren’t paying attention to.” — Robin Williams
The director also reminisced about some memorable scenes that contributed to the film’s status as a cinematic masterpiece, as perceived by many. However, what stood out the most was his innate ability to improvise: “The entire restaurant sequence was remarkable. When Robin, portraying Mrs. Doubtfire, accidentally loses his teeth in his drink, you can see the joy on Robin’s face; he’s almost smirking to himself for coming up with that.” Following the success of the Mrs. Doubtfire premiere, the production team is currently exploring ways to honor Williams and his portrayal in the film, although no definitive plans have been made yet. “There are approximately 972 boxes of footage stored in a warehouse somewhere in California. There’s something truly special and enchanting about his performances, and I believe it would be exciting to delve deeper into it.”
Despite initial reservations about creating a sequel, the notion of a new spin-off gained traction shortly before the actor’s tragic passing on August 11, 2014, at his residence in Paradise Bay, California. “Robin’s only concern was: ‘Boss, do I have to spend as much time in the suit this time around?’ The physical toll of portraying Doubtfire was immense for Robin; it felt like running a marathon every day,” the director recounts. Following a brief meeting at the actor’s home, and a simple handshake, Chris Columbus began outlining the script mere days before the unfortunate event. “During the rewrite, we contemplated reducing the role of Doubtfire. However, Robin’s untimely demise extinguished any hopes of a sequel,” he laments. Although not spearheaded by its creator, Mrs. Doubtfire has found new life as a stage musical. “What set him apart as a performer is that there was no one like Robin Williams before him, and there will never be anyone like him again. He was truly one-of-a-kind,” reflects the actor’s superior.
In addition to the director, another Mrs. Doubtfire star who later spoke of Robin Williams’ brilliance was Matthew Lawrence, who played Daniel’s son. Lawrence was just a teenager in the film, which also gave a debut to his co-star Mara Wilson, the unforgettable Matilda. One day Lawrence went to Robin’s dressing room and did not expect what he was told: “‘Stay away from drugs, particularly cocaine.’ He was being serious and told me: ‘You know when you come to my trailer and you see me like that?’ He’s like, ‘That’s the reason why. And now I’m fighting for the rest of my life because I spent 10 years doing something very stupid every day. Do not do it.’ I stayed away from it because of him”, Lawrence recalled in an interview with People magazine in March 2022.
The lesser-known chapter of Williams’ life, while unrelated to his demise, shed light on the inner struggles of a comedian committed to bringing joy to others yet grappling with profound personal sorrow. “As charismatic as he appeared on screen, I’d often visit him in his trailer for chats, he was tormented. It was truly agonizing for him. He didn’t conceal it. He confided in me about his battles with addiction,” the actor concluded.
‘The Bill Gates Problem’ – The Case Against World’s Richest Man
The Case Against World’s Richest Man
When Clinton assumed the presidency of the United States, there was eager anticipation from the Chinese, not for Clinton himself, but for Bill Gates. This was during the late 1990s, a period when the internet was still in its nascent stages, and the digital boom of the early 2000s had not yet reached its peak. The enigmatic persona that captivated the attention of the burgeoning Asian powerhouse is now portrayed in “The Bill Gates Problem” as a “domineering, brusque figure” whose demeanor is likened to “a cauldron of passions that freely erupts.” According to a former employee cited in the book, Gates was perceived as “a complete and utter jerk to people 70% of the time,” while the remaining 30% saw him as a “harmless, enjoyable, exceptionally intelligent nerd.”
The 1990s were also the decade of the conflict between Microsoft and the now defunct Netscape browser, which challenged what was already being openly described as the former’s monopolistic practices. Gates was investigated and accused in Congress for such practices; he ultimately won the battle, but the case harmed his reputation, and in 2000 he resigned as CEO of his company. From there he undertook an expansion of the foundation that he had established with his wife and to which he has dedicated his main efforts in the last two decades. In 2006, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation received the Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation.
With a personal fortune of $100 billion and tens of billions more in his private foundation, Gates has been one of the richest men in the world for decades, and the foundation has been the most generous organization of its kind, specializing above all in health aid, education and child nutrition, with a large presence in Africa and India among other regions of what was formerly known as the Third World. Tim Schwab, a contributor to the weekly left-wing newspaper The Nation, undertook a detailed investigation to denounce something that in truth was already known: that American foundations are largely a way for billionaires to avoid taxes.
To prove this, he thoroughly looked into the accounts and procedures of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the failures and occasional successes of its philanthropic policies, and came to the conclusion that behind this facade of help to the needy hides an operation of power. He is ruthless in his criticism, although accurate in his analysis of the growing inequality in the world. Absorbed by the revolutionary rhetoric, he laments that the Gates Foundation has remained “deadly silent” regarding movements such as Occupy Wall Street or Black Lives Matter, which demand social change in the face of the “excess wealth and ‘white savior’ mentality that drives Bill Gates’ philanthropic work.” He does attribute some good intentions, but his criticism is merciless, sometimes even coarse, while the absence of solutions for the problems he denounces — other than the calls for do-goodism — is frustrating.
His abilities as an investigative journalist are thus overshadowed by a somewhat naive militancy against the creative capitalism that Gates promotes and an evident intention to discredit not only his work but, above all, him. The demands he makes for transparency and the accusations of obscurity are dulled by the author himself in the pages he dedicates to Gates’ relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, the famous corruptor of minors at the service of the international jet set. Gates has explained his meetings and interviews with him on countless occasions, and in no case has any type of relationship, other than their commercial relations or some confusing efforts to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, been proved. Still, Schwab raises, with no evidence whatsoever, the possibility that their relationship “could have had something to do with Epstein’s principal activities in life: sexual gratification and the exercise of power.” The book is full of this kind of opinions and speculations, to the detriment of a more serious analysis of Gates’ mistakes in the management of his foundation, the problems of shielding the intellectual property of vaccines in the hands of the pharmaceutical industries and, ultimately, the objective power that big technology companies have in global society.
He signed a collaboration agreement with the RAE to improve Microsoft’s grammar checker and was interested in the substantial unity of the Spanish language in all the countries where almost 600 million people speak it. That man was very far from the sexist, arrogant, miserable predator that Schwab portrays. Nor did we deduce — and this can be applied to the personal adventure of Steve Jobs, Larry Page, Zuckerberg, Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos — that his life’s goal was world domination, as suggested by this book. If they have achieved it, or may achieve it, it is due to the dynamics of digital civilization and the objective difficulties in governing it. The deregulation of financial capitalism, which has increased inequality among humankind, is due to the incompetence of obsolete political institutions and to leaders who care more about their own fates than those of their people. The criticism against “lame and wasteful government bureaucracies” might be part of the propaganda promoted by the world’s wealthy, but lately we have also heard it from small-scale farmers across Europe.
In conclusion, we found the book to be more entertaining than interesting. It provides a lot of information — we’re not sure if it’s entirely verified — and plenty of cheap ideology. Above all, one can see the personal crusade of the author, determined to prove that Bill Gates is a problem for democracy and that millionaire philanthropists are a bunch of swindlers. The world needs their money; maybe managed by party bureaucracies, that much is not clear. Bill Gates’ money, that is, but not Bill Gates himself.
Conflicted History: ‘Oppenheimer’ And Its Impact On Los Alamos And New Mexico Downwinders
‘Oppenheimer’ And Its Impact On Los Alamos And New Mexico Downwinders
The Voice Of EU | In the highly anticipated blockbuster movie, “Oppenheimer,” the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the man behind the first atomic bomb, is portrayed as a riveting tale of triumph and tragedy.
As the film takes center stage, it also brings to light the often-overlooked impacts on a community living downwind from the top-secret Manhattan Project testing site in southern New Mexico.
A Forgotten Legacy
While the film industry and critics praise “Oppenheimer,” a sense of frustration prevails among the residents of New Mexico’s Tularosa Basin, who continue to grapple with the consequences of the Manhattan Project. Tina Cordova, a cancer survivor and founder of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium, expresses their feelings, stating, “They invaded our lives and our lands and then they left,” referring to the scientists and military personnel who conducted secret experiments over 200 miles away from their community.
The Consortium, alongside organizations like the Union of Concerned Scientists, has been striving to raise awareness about the impact of the Manhattan Project on New Mexico’s population. Advocates emphasize the necessity of acknowledging the human cost of the Trinity Test, the first atomic blast, and other nuclear weapons activities that have affected countless lives in the state.
The Ongoing Struggle for Recognition
As film enthusiasts celebrate the drama and brilliance of “Oppenheimer,” New Mexico downwinders feel overlooked by both the U.S. government and movie producers. The federal government’s compensation program for radiation exposure still does not include these affected individuals. The government’s selection of the remote and flat Trinity Test Site, without warning residents in the surrounding areas, further added to the controversy.
Living off the land, the rural population in the Tularosa Basin had no idea that the fine ash settling on their homes and fields was a result of the world’s first atomic explosion.
The government initially attempted to cover up the incident, attributing the bright light and rumble to an explosion at a munitions dump. It was only after the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Japan weeks later that New Mexico residents realized the magnitude of what they had witnessed.
Tracing the Fallout
According to the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, large amounts of radiation were released into the atmosphere during the Trinity Test, with fallout descending over a vast area. Some of the fallout reached as far as the Atlantic Ocean, but the greatest concentration settled approximately 30 miles from the test site.
“Now I Am Become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds.”
J. Robert Oppenheimer
The consequences of this catastrophic event have affected generations of New Mexicans, who still await recognition and justice for the harm caused by nuclear weapons.
A Tale of Contrasts: Los Alamos and the Legacy of Oppenheimer
As the film’s spotlight shines on the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer, a contrasting narrative unfolds in Los Alamos, more than 200 miles north of the Tularosa Basin. Los Alamos stands as a symbol of Oppenheimer’s legacy, housing one of the nation’s premier national laboratories and boasting the highest percentage of people with doctorate degrees in the U.S.
Oppenheimer’s influence is evident throughout Los Alamos, with a street bearing his name and an IPA named in his honor at a local brewery. The city embraces its scientific legacy, showcasing his handwritten notes and ID card in a museum exhibit. Los Alamos National Laboratory employees played a significant role in the film, contributing as extras and engaging in enlightening discussions during breaks.
The “Oppenheimer” Movie
Director Christopher Nolan’s perspective on the Trinity Test and its profound impact is evident in his approach to “Oppenheimer.” He has described the event as an extraordinary moment in human history and expressed his desire to immerse the audience in the pivotal moment when the button was pushed. Nolan’s dedication to bringing historical accuracy and emotional depth to the screen is evident as he draws inspiration from Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer.”
For Nolan, Oppenheimer’s story is a potent blend of dreams and nightmares, capturing the complexity and consequences of the Manhattan Project. As the film reaches global audiences, it also offers a unique opportunity to raise awareness about the downwinders in New Mexico, whose lives were forever altered by the legacy of nuclear weapons testing.
The Oppenheimer Festival and Beyond
Los Alamos is determined to use the Oppenheimer Festival as an opportunity to educate visitors about the true stories behind the film’s events. The county’s “Project Oppenheimer” initiative, launched in early 2023, encompasses forums, documentaries, art installations, and exhibits that delve into the scientific contributions of the laboratory and the social implications of the Manhattan Project.
A special area during the festival will facilitate discussions about the movie, fostering a deeper understanding of the community’s history. The county aims to continue revisiting and discussing the legacy of the Manhattan Project, ensuring that the impact of this pivotal moment in history is never forgotten.
As “Oppenheimer” takes audiences on an emotional journey, it serves as a reminder that every historical event carries with it complex and multifaceted implications. The movie may celebrate the scientific achievements of the past, but it also illuminates the urgent need to recognize and address the human cost that persists to this day.
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‘Mrs. Doubtfire’: The highlights Of Robin Williams’ Role That defined His Artistic Greatness
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