31 December 2022

Scientific American: “NASA’s DART Spacecraft successfully Smacks a Space Rock–Now What?”

Scientists wanted DART’s target to be a binary asteroid, where one asteroid orbits another, because such celestial configurations allow easier measurements of small, impact-induced orbital changes. The deflection is almost instantaneous, says Patrick Michel of the French National Center for Scientific Research, former lead scientist of AIM and now principal investigator of Hera. In 2013 scientists selected the Didymos system as the target. First found in 1996, that larger asteroid gained its name (Greek for “twin”) following the discovery of a small orbiting companion in 2003, which was later dubbed Dimorphos, or “to have two forms”.

Dimorphos completes an orbit of Didymos every 11.92 hours. The asteroids share a similar orbit with Earth yet pose no threat as they never come closer than a few million kilometers to our planet. But their angle of orbit means that Dimorphos regularly “eclipses” in front of Didymos, allowing its orbital period to be precisely measured. Following the impact, a variety of telescopes, including the James Webb Space Telescope and Hubble—and even spacecraft such as NASA’s Lucy probe, which is currently on its way to visit asteroids near Jupiter—will track this eclipse, allowing scientists to work out just how much Dimorphos’s orbit has been changed.

Upcoming telescopes, such as the Vera C. Rubin Observatory, set to come online in Chile later this decade, will better track these asteroids. If we ever do find one on a collision course with Earth, the outcomes of the DART mission may well dictate what action we take. It is going to validate a tool that we could use, Rivkin says. To divert a hazardous asteroid, perhaps a larger version of DART could be used or even a series of DART-sized spacecraft to slam into the offending space rock, one after another, incrementally deflecting its doom. It depends on how much warning time we have, Rivkin says. Such a perilous event is unlikely to befall humanity anytime soon. But perhaps, far in the future, our distant descendants will have this little spacecraft to thank. If we can deflect Dimorphos, we can most likely deflect any other near-Earth asteroid, Agrusa says.

Jonathan O'Callaghan

I seem to be quite skeptical lately about boisterous announcements of ‘scientific breakthroughs’. Reading about DART felt… underwhelming. The mission was undoubtedly successful for what it set out to do – post-impact measurements showed that the orbital period of the asteroid-moon Dimorphos was reduced by 32 minutes, to 11 hours, 23 minutes (+/- 2 minutes).

27 December 2022

TechCrunch: “LastPass says hackers stole customers’ password vaults”

Password manager giant LastPass has confirmed that cybercriminals stole its customers’ encrypted password vaults, which store its customers’ passwords and other secrets, in a data breach earlier this year.

In an updated blog post on its disclosure, LastPass CEO Karim Toubba said the intruders took a copy of a backup of customer vault data by using cloud storage keys stolen from a LastPass employee. The cache of customer password vaults is stored in a “proprietary binary format” that contains both unencrypted and encrypted vault data, but technical and security details of this proprietary format weren’t specified. The unencrypted data includes vault-stored web addresses. It’s not clear how recent the stolen backups are.

LastPass said customers’ password vaults are encrypted and can only be unlocked with the customers’ master password, which is only known to the customer. But the company warned that the cybercriminals behind the intrusion may attempt to use brute force to guess your master password and decrypt the copies of vault data they took.

Zack Whittaker

I have moved away from LastPass after they restricted free accounts to a single device type, either desktop or mobile. The string of hacks that followed and the company’s bad practices continue to reassure me that I have made the right choice. Nevertheless, I haven’t deleted my account or any of the stored data, so it might have been affected by this breach. I use a fairly strong master password on LastPass, but that’s no guarantee that the encryption won’t be cracked eventually. It might be time to go through all those passwords, update them for critical services, and eventually remove my LastPass account altogether.

23 December 2022

MKBHD 2022: “Blind Smartphone Camera Test”

The Best Smartphone Camera 2022!

It’s time to find out once with SCIENCE: What’s the best smartphone camera? https://vote.MKBHD.com

Marques Brownlee

Cool experiment! One of the issue with smartphone reviews are that you are getting a limited viewpoint, that of the reviewer, colored by their hidden preferences and subjective views. With a blind test though people don’t know the brand beforehand, so the results should be less influenced by preconceived expectations.

22 December 2022

Entertainment Weekly: “Westworld and other series pulled from HBO Max are getting sent elsewhere”

The company announced Wednesday that it has recently decided to license certain HBO and HBO Max original programming to third party FAST services to be part of a packaged offering which will drive new, expanded audiences for these series. As we prepare for this transition, these series will be coming off of the HBO Max service in the coming days.

So what the heck are FAST services? FAST stands for “free, ad-supported streaming TV”. Examples include Amazon’s Freevee and the Roku Channel. And will the WBD shows stay there? Not necessarily. In a news release, the company said it will announce additional details about its own long-term WBD FAST offering in 2023.

Since WarnerMedia and Discovery Inc. merged into WBD in April, the company has been culling shows and films, as well as making plans to take entire series catalogs off HBO Max, as cost-cutting measures under new CEO David Zaslav. By taking programs like Westworld off the platform, the company avoids having to pay residuals to the cast and crew. It also makes money by licensing the titles to third-party services.

Westworld, once a celebrated HBO flagship series, was the most high-profile of the shows getting pulled from HBO Max. WBD canceled the sci-fi drama earlier this year after the season 4 finale.

Nick Romano

Guess I should be glad I watched the fourth season of Westworld when I did. I was planning to rewatch its first season to refresh it in my memory, but it seems that is now out of the question for the foreseeable future.

19 December 2022

The Wall Street Journal: “Instagram challenges BeReal and adds Notes Short-Message Feature”

Instagram’s Candid Stories still prompts users once a day and includes a timestamp so friends know when you posted. Unlike BeReal, however, users can enhance their daily posts with text or squiggles, and can opt out of the daily alert whenever they would like. (They also aren’t marked tardy.) Instagram previously enabled the dual-camera function, which simultaneously uses front and back lenses.

The new features are intended to give users more ways to engage with people they know, says Tessa Lyons-Laing, director of product management at Instagram.

Notes—the only announced feature now hitting the app—lets users share their thoughts in a 60-character text post with close friends or people who follow them back. The note appears at the top of recipients’ inboxes and invites them to respond before it disappears in 24 hours.

Cordilia James

Barely a week after reports that Meta employees were brainstorming how to build the next Twitter, one of the proposed features called Instagram Notes is seemingly ready for public rollout!

17 December 2022

The Verge: “Nuclear fusion power research passes milestone with ‘fusion ignition’”

In this case, at 1:03AM local time on December 5th, the national laboratory used 192 powerful laser beams to hit a solid target of hydrogen isotopes that’s only about the size of a peppercorn. The target is enclosed in a meticulously crafted diamond shell.

Today’s shells are almost perfectly round. They are 100 times smoother than a mirror, and they have a tiny tube attached to them that’s about a 50th the diameter of a hair through which the fuel is filled into the shell, said Michael Stadermann, Target Fabrication Program manager at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. As you can imagine, perfection is really hard, and so we’ve yet to get there — we still have tiny flaws on our shells, smaller than bacteria.

The experiment produced 3.15 megajoules of energy, about 50 percent more than the 2.05 megajoules the lasers used to trigger the reaction. By doing so, reaching a scientific energy breakeven, the researchers achieved what’s called “fusion ignition”.

It’s a key milestone, but there are still some important caveats to note. One key point is that the DOE is basing this victory on just the output of the lasers, which are pretty inefficient. It takes 300 megajoules of energy from the grid just to get those two megajoules of laser energy. So today’s announcement hinges on a limited definition of “net energy gain”.

Justine Calma

The sensationalism and hype around science reporting is frankly getting tiresome. Though this article is a refreshing exception, most of the headlines and reactions around this news were calling it anything from ‘major breakthrough’ to ‘historic, innovative’, ‘landmark achievement’ to ‘astonishing scientific advance’ – starting with the official press release. We can suspect the reason has more to do with securing renewed funding for this research, but I still find this spectacle off-putting.

13 December 2022

Responsible Statecraft: “How a lightly-sourced AP story almost set off World War III”

This morning, Biden disputed Ukraine’s line, saying it was “unlikely” that the missiles came from Russia. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also declared that there is no indication this was the result of a deliberate attack but added that Russia holds ultimate responsibility for the attack given Moscow’s invasion and continued attacks on Ukrainian cities.

The trajectory of events starting from the initial report about the missiles hitting inside Poland highlights the difference between U.S. and Ukrainian interests when it comes to direct NATO involvement in the conflict, according to Beebe.

There is a clear divergence of interests on that score, and the Biden team was appropriately cautious about gathering the facts about what happened and not rushing to judgment about potential retaliation, he said.

In the end, the voices calling for calm won out over their more hawkish counterparts. But the incident serves as a stark reminder that misinformation spreads fast in moments of crisis, which can result in dangerous escalation. This makes it all the more important that major outlets like AP News get the story right the first time, as journalist Ken Klippenstein argued on Twitter.

Connor Echols

Speaking of the dangers of escalation, this incident last month exemplifies how poorly vetted news reports can quickly spiral out of control and inflame the spirits, particularly of those who were itching for the tiniest excuse for military actions. I find the framing that the story almost set off World War III alarmist and exaggerated though; I would certainly hope that military commanders have better sources at their disposal than newspaper headlines and Twitter rumors.

12 December 2022

The Verge: “Amazon Kindle Scribe review: absolutely adequate”

I’m also crossing my fingers that the whole sync situation will improve because right now it is goofy as hell. To get articles and other documents on the Scribe, you email your Kindle and wait for it to receive the files, which it automatically loads into your library alongside any books (or comics) you might already own. But it doesn’t actually sync any notes you make to the Kindle app on your phone or the web. So annotations disappear when you open the same PDF on your phone. Notebooks do sync, but you can’t add to them on your phone or other device — only read them. And if you’re hoping to instantly convert your handwriting to text… seek another device. The Scribe doesn’t do that. Given Amazon is one of the largest and most successful cloud computing companies in the world, it’s stunningly goofy how poorly this whole process works.

Alex Cranz

Sending articles and various documents to Kindle devices has always been sort of a hassle – and retrieving your notes and highlights equally frustrating, as for documents you can only do that by physically liking the device to a desktop and manually copying the master Clippings file. For the past few months I have started using a newer webapp called Push to Kindle to send articles from to the web to my Kindle. It works much more reliably than Amazon’s Send to Kindle extension, and has additional options, such as excluding images to reduce the file size. This doesn’t unfortunately do anything to improve the second part of the process, accessing the notes from the device.

11 December 2022

Foreign Affairs: “The World Putin Wants”

Western energy, financial, and export control sanctions have been extensive, and they are affecting the Russian economy. But sanctions cannot alter Putin’s view of history or his determination to subjugate Ukraine, so they have not changed his calculus or his war aims. Indeed, close observers say that Putin has rarely consulted his economic advisers during this war, apart from Elvira Nabiullina, the head of the central bank, who has astutely managed the value of the ruble. This is a stark break from the past, when Putin has always appeared extremely interested in the Russian economy and eager to discuss statistics and growth rates in great detail. Any concerns about the long-term economic impact of the war have receded from his view.

Despite calls by some for a negotiated settlement that would involve Ukrainian territorial concessions, Putin seems uninterested in a compromise that would leave Ukraine as a sovereign, independent state—whatever its borders. According to multiple former senior U.S. officials we spoke with, in April 2022, Russian and Ukrainian negotiators appeared to have tentatively agreed on the outlines of a negotiated interim settlement: Russia would withdraw to its position on February 23, when it controlled part of the Donbas region and all of Crimea, and in exchange, Ukraine would promise not to seek NATO membership and instead receive security guarantees from a number of countries. But as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated in a July interview with his country’s state media, this compromise is no longer an option. Even giving Russia all of the Donbas is not enough. Now the geography is different, Lavrov asserted, in describing Russia’s short-term military aims. It’s also Kherson and the Zaporizhzhya regions and a number of other territories. The goal is not negotiation, but Ukrainian capitulation.

Fiona Hill & Angela Stent

This piece is notable for the muted admission that economic sanctions are failing to dissuade Putin from his military actions – and for the detail that back in April there was a tentative settlement between the parties. Some on Twitter have gone further, pointing to reports in the Ukrainian press that these talks came to a halt after a hasty visit in Kyiv by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who would have indicated that even if Ukraine is ready to sign some agreements on guarantees with Putin, the ‘collective West’ was not.

10 December 2022

The Guardian: “Finland PM Sanna Marin says Europe is ‘not strong enough’ without the US”

Finnish prime minister Sanna Marin has called for Europe to build its own defence capabilities in the wake of the war in Ukraine, saying that without US help it is not resilient enough.

We should make sure that we are stronger, Marin said in Sydney on Friday. And I’ll be brutally honest with you, Europe isn’t strong enough. We would be in trouble without the United States.

We have to make sure that we are also building those capabilities when it comes to European defence, the European defence industry, and making sure that we could cope in different kinds of situations, she said.

Marin said that when Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February, the priority of most Finns changed “overnight” to security.

Until Russia invaded Ukraine, Finland’s priorities were to have working bilateral relations with Russia and be close partners with members Nato, but not be a member, she said. That was the best way to secure our nation.

Helen Sullivan

This speech has been widely applauded on Twitter, and Sanna Marin praised for her ‘leadership’. I could only roll my eyes in dismay at the sheer number of facts contradicting these misinformed opinions.

07 December 2022

Windows Central: “Microsoft Edge’s Sidebar is the best browser feature you’ve never heard of”

It’s all fine and dandy that you can bring the Sidebar up, but what can you actually do with it? The Sidebar is a panel on the right-side of Edge that houses tools, shortcuts, and websites. By default, it includes Apps for search, discover, tools, games, Microsoft Office, and Outlook. You can toggle any of these on or off. Some of them, such as tools, allow further customization.

When I write news articles, I often have to convert units, so I have the tools app in the Sidebar show a calculator and a unit converter. The tools app also has a translator, dictionary, and world clock.

The Office app in the Sidebar shows your recent documents and shortcuts to create a Word, Excel, or PowerPoint document. Outlook, as you’d expect, shows your emails, calendar, contacts, and to do list. It’s basically the mobile version of Outlook, just housed within a panel.

If you aren’t completely in the Microsoft ecosystem, the default apps within the Sidebar won’t be that useful. Thankfully, you can pin any site you’d like in the panel. You can swap between the mobile and desktop versions of most webpages, though I’ve run into some that don’t support switching, such as the mobile version of Gmail.

Sean Endicott

The Edge sidebar has come quite a long way since I first discovered it in the dev version in the first half of the year. The Tools panel has been expanded with new widgets: a Dictionary, a Translator, and a World clock – nothing groundbreaking, as users can easily find definitions by searching the web, and a translation feature was already available in the context menu (also more convenient to use in my opinion, as you get instant result without having to copy the text and open the sidebar).

Noema Magazine: “The Clash of Two Gilded Ages”

Contrary to popular cultural tropes, America and China today are not caught in the “clash of civilizations”. Rather, as I earlier underscored in Foreign Affairs in July 2021, we’re witnessing a curious form of great power competition: the clash of two Gilded Ages. Both the U.S. and China confront sharp inequality, corruption or capture of state power by economic elites, and persistent financial risks to common people who have no way to indemnify themselves. Both are struggling to reconcile the tensions between capitalism and their respective political systems, albeit with greater intensity in China’s nominally communist system. Both U.S. President Biden and Chinese President Xi have staked their legacy on ending the excesses of capitalism, except under different banners. Whereas Biden pledges to “build back better”, Xi dubs his campaign “common prosperity”.

Robber barons like Stanford publicly championed free-market principles while privately benefiting from state-supplied privileges and protection. And yet, American capitalism boomed for reasons similar to China’s: a particular type of corruption came to dominate the economy. I call it access money, the purchase of privileges by capitalists from those in power. This transactional form of corruption must be distinguished from extractive corruption such as embezzlement, extortion and petty bribery. The latter existed during the early stages of capitalism in both America and China, but they were steadily brought under control through administrative reforms and increased state capacity. Access money, on the other hand, exploded.

Yuen Yuen Ang

Interesting perspective on the similar internal challenges that the US and Chinese societies are facing (among them, a certain breed of ‘new money’ taking over government structures and manipulating them for their own benefits) at a time many stress their overt differences. As some have noted, the ‘winner’ in this East vs. West competition will ultimately be the country who best manages internal struggles and builds up its domestic strength for the long haul. The danger though is that one – or both – of the rivals, failing to properly address internal woes, would conjure up fears of the other power to manufacture a sense of shared threat for the public and keep them distracted, thereby leading to increased economic and possibly military conflicts.

06 December 2022

Rolling Stone: “The U.S. is Losing Yet Another ‘War on Terror’”

Despite substantial engagement by American commandos, terrorism trends across the continent are dismal, according to the Pentagon’s Africa Center. Militant Islamist group violence in Africa has risen inexorably over the past decade, expanding by 300 percent during this time, reads an August assessment of the entire continent. Violent events linked to militant Islamist groups have doubled since 2019.

Earlier this year, Rolling Stone’s Kevin Maurer accompanied Green Berets on a training mission in the Sahelian nation of Niger, where four U.S. troops were killed in an Islamic-state ambush in 2017. It is hard to see how a dozen Special Forces soldiers and roughly 120 Nigérien commandos covering 200,000 square miles make a difference against an estimated 2,500 fighters aligned with either ISIS or Al Qaeda, he wrote. The numbers bear out his skepticism.

Nick Turse

Despite being driven back in the Middle East, ISIS and other terrorist groups are surging in Africa – as some have been warning for years. And the US intervention appears just as deficient and lacking strategic direction as in Syria and Afghanistan.

05 December 2022

Erik Torenberg: “The Hypocrisy of Elites”

We recently discussed Rob Henderson’s Luxury Beliefs, the idea being that if people buy expensive luxury goods to showcase how well-off they are, people also hold “expensive” beliefs for the same reason.

This idea is not new: Jared Diamond has suggested one reason people engage in displays such as drinking, smoking, drug use, and other costly behaviors is because they serve as fitness indicators. The message is: I’m so healthy I can afford to poison my body and continue to function.

Saying, I’m willing to redistribute my money and status is a costly but effective way of signaling, I’m so secure in my status and money that I can afford giving it away, seeing as I have a surplus of both.

This is what being an elite is about, after all. It’s not about money, although money plays a crucial role. It’s not even about education, though education plays a large role as well. It’s more about the set of behaviors and dispositions that indicate a person to be a member of the elite — which center around wanting to change the world. Recall we discussed the leveling and importance game: Wanting to change the world hits the sweet spot because it shows how important one is (you can afford worrying about the planet and not your rent), while also highlighting one’s empathy (wanting to take care of the less fortunate).

Which is the whole point of being an elite. It’s what separates a person from simply being a bourgeois. Aristocrats want to *matter*. Bourgeoisie just want comfort and safety. Meanwhile proletariats just want to put food on the table.

Erik Torenberg

Interesting perspective about the motivations of elites (although I feel the author is purposely conflating ‘elites’ with the ultrarich – you can have elites in particular fields like medicine or physics without the economic means to ‘change the world’). These are plenty of examples of billionaires spending on immensely expensive goods, from private islands to luxury yachts. I think the recent trend of influential people buying social media channels (Elon Musk acquiring Twitter, Trump launching Truth Social, Kanye West attempting to buy Parler, although this last one didn’t go through) can be ascribed to the same inclination of would-be aristocrats to shape the wider world by reinforcing their message.

04 December 2022

Reuters: “Tuvalu turns to the metaverse as rising seas threaten existence”

Tuvalu’s Foreign Minister Simon Kofe told the COP27 climate summit it was time to look at alternative solutions for his country’s survival and this included Tuvalu becoming the first digitised nation in the metaverse – an online realm that uses augmented and virtual reality (VR) to help users interact.

Our land, our ocean, our culture are the most precious assets of our people and to keep them safe from harm, no matter what happens in the physical world, we will move them to the cloud, he said in the video that sees him standing on a digital replica of an islet threatened by rising sea levels.

Lucy Craymer

Can’t decide what’s sadder about this story: that the world has done so little to address global warming that outlandish plans such as the virtualization of an entire nation are even being considered, or that anyone would genuinely think that a virtual recreation could ever replace the original. Not to mention that VR technology is still in its infancy; it doesn’t have mass adoption, nor industry-wide standards, so any current project might become incompatible with future hardware and software solutions, effectively erasing it from existence.

03 December 2022

MIT Technology Review: “The climate solution adding millions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere”

CarbonPlan’s study comes days after the Washington state legislature moved a cap-and-trade bill with an offset program to the governor’s desk for approval. Oregon has also debated in recent months establishing a carbon market program that would emulate California’s policy. In Washington, DC, the Biden administration has signaled growing interest in harnessing forests and soil to draw down CO2. Businesses, too, increasingly plan to rely heavily on trees to offset their emissions in lieu of the harder task of cutting corporate pollution.

Forest offsets have been criticized for a variety of problems, including the risks that the carbon reductions will be short-lived, that carbon savings will be wiped out by increased logging elsewhere, and that the projects are preserving forests never in jeopardy of being chopped down, producing credits that don’t reflect real-world changes in carbon levels.

But CarbonPlan’s analysis highlights a different issue, one interlinked with these other problems. Even if everything else about a project were perfect, developers would still be able to undermine the program by exploiting regional averages.

Every time a polluter uses a credit that didn’t actually save a ton of carbon, the total amount of emissions goes up.

Far from addressing climate change, California’s forest offsets appear to be adding tens of millions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere on balance, undermining progress on the state’s long-term emissions goals.

James Temple & Lisa Song

Convoluted story, and I’m not entirely certain I’ve understood all its twists and implications. Which I guess rather proves the point of the article: if not sufficiently transparent, the regulations used to determine carbon offsets can be exploited to generate meaningless carbon credits without materially reducing emissions. The overall effect thus delays climate action, as big polluters buy emissions credits while continuing to pollute, instead of investing in lasting measures to reduce their carbon footprint.

02 December 2022

The Washington Post: “Mysterious company with government ties plays key internet role”

Google’s Chrome, Apple’s Safari, nonprofit Firefox and others allow the company, TrustCor Systems, to act as what’s known as a root certificate authority, a powerful spot in the internet’s infrastructure that guarantees websites are not fake, guiding users to them seamlessly.

The company’s Panamanian registration records show that it has the identical slate of officers, agents and partners as a spyware maker identified this year as an affiliate of Arizona-based Packet Forensics, which public contracting records and company documents show has sold communication interception services to U.S. government agencies for more than a decade.

One of those TrustCor partners has the same name as a holding company managed by Raymond Saulino, who was quoted in a 2010 Wired article as a spokesman for Packet Forensics.

Saulino also surfaced in 2021 as a contact for another company, Global Resource Systems, that caused speculation in the tech world when it briefly activated and ran more than 100 million previously dormant IP addresses assigned decades earlier to the Pentagon. The Pentagon reclaimed the digital territory months later, and it remains unclear what the brief transfer was about, but researchers said the activation of those IP addresses could have given the military access to a huge amount of internet traffic without revealing that the government was receiving it.

Joseph Menn

Despite the concerted push a couple of years ago to move the majority of websites to secure connections, online traffic remains vulnerable to surveillance and hacking. After this investigation was published, Firefox and Microsoft Edge said they would stop trusting new certificates from TrustCor Systems, but the underlying issue remains. Organizations with an interest in interception would just create new, more sophisticated and concealed methods to exploit security certificates for their purposes.

01 December 2022

Engelsberg Ideas: “Mikhail Gorbachev gave Russia a chance”

The Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in his time spoke of crossing the river by feeling for the stones, emphasising a gradualist approach to reform. Gorbachev, by contrast, jumped right into the river, learning to swim even as the raging currents carried him thence. This was a brave, admirable, dramatic, even a foolhardy attempt. He drowned.

As the economic situation went from bad to worse, queues lengthened, and poverty deepened. But there was also a new, exhilarating sense of freedom. In March 1989 Soviet citizens took to the first reasonably democratic polls in the country’s history, electing the Congress of People’s Deputies. The often unruly sessions of this experimental assembly were subsequently televised to stunned audiences around the country, completely upending Soviet politics. The shelves were empty, but the minds were alive to remarkable changes. Fewer potatoes, true — but more freedom!

Yet when all was said and done, freedom alone was not enough. Impoverished, embittered populace looked away from Gorbachev: towards the fire-breathing demagogues, the would-be authoritarians, the prophets of nationalist causes. In short — to those who promised to deliver order — and potatoes. Are we to blame them? They were just trying to survive.

But Gorbachev backed off. He was not a Stalinist. He put his faith in the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, and often cited his well-known adage: Everything flows, everything changes. Gorbachev wanted to flow with, but also to direct change, to be recognised not just as the leader of a superpower but as the world’s strategist-in-chief for change: it was his mission, his historical role, and his claim to legitimacy.

Sergey Radchenko

Mikhail Gorbachev’s death at the end of August this year was largely overshadowed in the press by the passing of another major head of state, Queen Elizabeth II. In retrospect though, I would argue that his role on the world stage was evidently more impactful than the Queen’s, despite her exceptionally long reign. Granted, I may be biased in this opinion as a citizen of a former Communist country. I vaguely remember the fall of the Soviet Union from my childhood and the reverence people had for Gorbachev because he allowed Eastern European countries to go their own ways instead of attempting to repress the democratic revolutions.