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Mikhail Gorbachev’s death this August reminded us of the extraordinary collapse of the Soviet Union, which began when Estonia declared its sovereignty in 1988. In their book, Revolution and Dictatorship, Steven Levitsky and Lucan Way show how revolutionary regimes tend to survive three times longer than non-revolutionary ones, thanks to their three essential pillars of durability: elite cohesion, a powerful and loyal coercive apparatus, and the absence of alternative power centres. But, while revolutionary regimes that temper their radicalism tend to be more vulnerable, so too are non-revolutionary autocracies, such as the ones in Spain and North Korea. Read full article here

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Societal Issues

To curb drug deaths, communities turn to Reddit, texts and wastewater

With drug overdose deaths on the rise, authorities are attempting to curb the epidemic by tracking and sharing information in real time. In one unique effort, a nonprofit in New York City is using drug-testing equipment and stamping or marking habits of dealers to identify drug batches that may endanger users. Other approaches are also being used, such as monitoring drug-related chatter on Reddit and analyzing local wastewater for opioid and other drug levels. With the combination of these efforts, researchers hope to put a dent in the opioid crisis and reduce overdose deaths. Read full article here


A look inside the lab building mushroom computers

The Unconventional Computing Laboratory at the University of the West of England is pushing the boundaries of computing, working to see if mushrooms can be used to carry out computing and sensing functions. By stimulating the mycelium—the branching, web-like root structure of the fungus—researchers can get it to produce electrical activity and see if it can be used to create complex, multi-dimensional functions that are more precise than traditional computers. This could lead to a whole new world of possibilities, such as using mushrooms to create fault-tolerant, energy-efficient computers and even mapping neural networks. It’s truly a fascinating field of study – and one that could shape the future of computing. Read full article here

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