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6 July

In the headlines

Ten million people have already signed up to a Twitter rival launched this morning by Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg. The Facebook founder says Threads will be a “friendly” platform; Twitter owner Elon Musk says indulging in “false happiness” is a waste of time. Tory MP Chris Pincher should be suspended for eight weeks for groping two men last year, parliament’s standards commissioner has concluded. The recommendation means Rishi Sunak will likely face a fifth by-election later this year. Adele says she won’t stand for audiences throwing things on stage. Referencing the recent trend of people lobbing everything from phones to a woman’s ashes at performers, the singer told concertgoers in Las Vegas: “I f***ing dare you… If you throw anything at me I’ll f***ing kill you.”


Of all the “wild swim looks du jour”, says The Wall Street Journal, the most prevalent – and “confounding” – is the many-stringed bikini. Model Emily Ratajkowski helped popularise the look with her range of complexly corded swimwear, leading “haute-sexy designers” from Jacquemus to Versace to follow suit. Look around the beach, and you’ll see women with all manner of criss-crossing straps around the neck, midriff and hips. It’s a divisive look: fans say they’re “flattering, playful and expressive”; detractors “compare their wearers to trussed pork tenderloin”.


To The Times:

Laura Freeman rightly points out the dangers of neglecting the arts in favour of Stem subjects on purely economic grounds. It is a shame, though, that she includes the stereotype of the “engineer as philistine”. In my experience there are more engineers and scientists who appreciate Bach, Vermeer or a great building than there are those with degrees in the humanities who appreciate an elegantly designed engine, the wonders of how ecologies evolve or why the Second Law of Thermodynamics matters.

Professor Peter Brook, Malvern

Tomorrow’s world

Engineers in South Korea have developed the world’s first robot conductor, says Classic FM. The 1.8m-tall mechanical maestro, which has flexible “wrist” and “elbow” joints to replicate the delicate baton movements of its human counterparts, led the country’s National Orchestra in a sold-out concert in Seoul last week. Called the EveR 6, the machine was programmed to conduct through 30 cycles of beat patterns, meaning it wouldn’t have been able to respond to any orchestral emergencies. But scientists now want to incorporate an AI system allowing it to change tempo and beat pattern when prompted by the musicians.

Love etc

Researchers have discovered that birds can “divorce” because of affairs or lengthy spells apart, just like humans. Some 90% of the winged creatures are “monogamous” – meaning they have a single mate for at least one breeding season – but studies have found that male promiscuity and long-distance migrations can cause them to break this pattern and find a new partner. “Divorces” are particularly common among plovers, swallows and martins, which are apparently the most licentious species.

Quirk of history

Paintballing was invented in 1981, says QI on Twitter, when an outdoorsy type and a Wall Street stockbroker got into an argument over who had the best survival skills. Instead of fighting with real weapons, they used paint guns. “The stockbroker lost.”


It’s a “comically oversized” bottle of bubbly, pictured next to a normal-sized one, says Moss and Fog. More than a metre tall and weighing 72kg, the Luc Belaire Zeus contains 1,000 glasses worth of fizz, and requires three people to carry and pour. To withstand the weight of all that wine, the bottles – only two of which have been made – had to be constructed with “custom powder-coated steel”.


Quoted 06-07-2023

“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”

Ray Bradbury