Weekend edition—Earth’s odds, apathetic eggs, Arab Spring’s fall

Good morning, Quartz readers!

(We apologize for a technical glitch that resulted in today’s brief being sent out late.)

In 2006, NASA launched humanity’s first mission to Pluto, discoveredgeysers shooting liquid on Saturn’s moon Enceladus, and sent itsMars Reconnaissance Orbiter to circle the Red Planet.

That was also the year the Global Footprint Network coined “Earth Overshoot Day,” a not-exactly-BBQ-and-beer-worthy holiday marking the point in the calendar year when humanity used up more resources than Earth can regenerate that year. In 2006, Overshoot Day hit on August 24. It’s been creeping up the calendar ever since and in 2016, we crossed the bright line on August 8, the earliest yet.

This shouldn’t shock us. Despite growing public acceptance of manmade climate change—and at least some political will to address it—there’s no chance of reversing course overnight (geologically speaking). The true metric of success moving forward will be whether, year over year, we can slow our calamitous roll.

The past week offered signs of movement in the right direction. Harvard climate and energy expert David Keith said he thinks solar power is finally ready to compete in the marketplace. Scotland’s wind farms provided enough energy for the entire country for a day. And the Perlan Project announced that it will soon launch a campaign to break the world altitude record for gliding, which could eventually lead to rockets that don’t need rocket fuel. Since most of our very conspicuous consumption is related to carbon use and emissions, initiatives like these could make all the difference. We need more of them.—Elijah Wolfson


Behind the rise of China’s most belligerent tabloid. There are plenty of people who condemn the hawkish tone of the Global Times, but a close read of the newspaper provides valuable insights into growing nationalism in Beijing. Quartz’s Zheping Huang sat down with editor-in-chief Hu Xijin to discuss the paper’s history and his vision for the future.

Simone Biles’ signature move defies physics. In a detailed video breakdown, Michael Tabb lays out the elements of the American gymnast’s eponymous (and seemingly impossible) move: a double somersault in an outstretched position with a mid-air half-twist.

Japan’s millennials have a new Hello Kitty—a cartoon egg. Gudetama the apathetic egg is the latest character to crack it big in the country’s long lineage of tasty mascots, writes Amelia Schmidt. With catchphrases like “Ugh” and “Seriously, I can’t,” the cartoon antihero personifies millennials as seen through the eyes of older generations.

Confidence comes from knowing the odds. When Molly Rubin was selected to compete on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? sheprepared with a series of mental and mathematical exercises, and walked away with $68,000. Here’s how she applies the same strategy to other stressful, high-stakes situations.

America’s “Southern charm” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. A self-proclaimed Bible Belt refugee, Maggie Young explores the dangerous, hypocritical Southern conservative culture she eventually escaped from. Stubborn in their ideology, Southern traditionalists will stop at almost nothing to protect their way of life.


Still waiting on peace in the Middle East. In a very, very deep diveinto the causes and aftermath of the Arab Spring. The New York Times Magazine devotes an entire issue to a complex story—from the US invasion of Iraq to the rise of ISIL to the refugee crisis—told through the eyes of six characters. Spoiler alert: no happy ending here.

Legal pot might be behind America’s heroin epidemic. As marijuana-legalization efforts gain traction across the US, Mexico’s cartels are adjusting their business model and turning to heroin, novelist Don Winslow writes in Esquire. Already, the Sinaloa cartel has upped production of Mexican heroin by almost 70%.

Plants lead secret lives. In the New Yorker, Robert Macfarlane details scientist Merlin Sheldrake’s work unraveling the mysteries of the “Wood Wide Web,” a fungal communications network that plants use to transfer information and nutrients in London’s Epping Forest. Among other things, plants use the networks to warn of insect attacks.

The life and death of Cheg Cheg. The bloody Syrian civil war is often an abstraction to those observing from afar. Phil Sands’ and Suha Maayeh’s profile in The National of an assassinated arms dealer is a deeply reported portrait of the alliances and battles between rebel groups, ISIL, Syrian forces and Western states—and the economy of violence they created.

The tyranny of temp work. Working in an Amazon warehouse may not be a dystopian nightmare, but it is hard on the soul, Dave Jamieson writes in the Huffington Post. Temp work leaves employees feeling disposable and only as good as their last recorded input in a computerized performance monitoring system.

The mountain man of the airline industry. In developing the Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System, which tells pilots when they’re too close to a mountain, an 84-year-old engineer named Don Bateman has saved more lives than any individual in the history of modern commercial aviation. Alan Levin describes for Bloomberghow Bateman devised the system in the mid-1990s.


Russia doesn’t trust Ukraine in fiction, either. In Alexei Nikitin’sY.T., a group of college friends in 1984 Ukraine invent a world-conquering strategy game and are soon targeted in a monthslong KGB interrogation. Nikitin provides doses of fun and intrigue to a story of old-school government paranoia that the BBC calls “gripping, sardonic, and elegantly written.”

Our best wishes for a relaxing but thought-filled weekend. Please send any news, comments, Japanese cartoons, and Amazon warehouse horror stories to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.



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