Search Results for: Alexis Madrigal

The quest for the perfect dairy cow—starting with Badger-Bluff Fanny Freddie, a bull who has 50,000 markers on his genome that make him the best sire at the moment:

While breeders used to select for greater milk production, that’s no longer considered the most important trait. For example, the number three bull in America is named Ensenada Taboo Planet-Et. His predicted transmitting ability for milk production is +2323, more than 1100 pounds greater than Freddie. His offspring’s milk will likely containmore protein and fat as well. But his daughters’ productive life would be shorter and their pregnancy rate is lower. And these factors, as well as some traits related to the hypothetical daughters’ size and udder quality, trump Planet’s impressive production stats.

One reason for the change in breeding emphasis is that our cows already produce tremendous amounts of milk relative to their forbears. In 1942, when my father was born, the average dairy cow produced less than 5,000 pounds of milk in its lifetime. Now, the average cow produces over 21,000 pounds of milk.

“The Perfect Milk Machine: How Big Data Transformed the Dairy Industry.” — Alexis Madrigal, The Atlantic

See more #longreads from Madrigal

Writer Steve Silberman: My Top 5 Longreads of 2011

Steve Silberman is a contributing editor for Wired magazine, one of Time‘s selected science tweeters, and the author of the NeuroTribes blog at the Public Library of Science. He is currently working on a book about autism and neurodiversity for Avery/Penguin. (Read recent Longreads by Silberman here.)


After years of predictions from pundits that the migration of media to the Web and mobile devices would mean shorter and shallower stories aimed at a juvenilized readership incapable of sustained attention, I’m delighted to report that we’re in a renaissance of long-form writing. This has been made possible, in part, by insightful curators like Maria Popova (@brainpicker) and Mark Armstrong (@longreads), who point their readers to the best of the best, daily, on Twitter. Now what’s required are ways for freelancers and bloggers to earn the money they need to support this level of in-depth reporting and discursive exploration. Here are five pieces from 2011 that really stuck with me.


• Sy Montgomery, “Deep Intellect: Inside the Mind of an Octopus” (Orion Magazine

• Carl Zimmer, “The Human Lake” (his blog, The Loom)

• Julia Bascom, “Quiet Hands,” (her blog, Just Stimming)

• Alexis Madrigal, “A Guide to the Occupy Wall Street API, Or Why the Nerdiest Way to Think About OWS Is So Useful” (The Atlantic)

Michael Hall, “Falling Comet: The Last Days of Bill Haley” (Texas Monthly)


See more lists from our Top 5 Longreads of 2011 >

Share your own Top 5 Longreads of 2011, all through December. Just tag it #longreads on Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook. 

COVID-19 and the Fight for Justice

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 08: People protest outside of One Police Plaza on June 8, 2020 in New York City. More than 500 former and current mayor's office staff joined with city agency staff to demand policy reforms on the NYPD amid the nation-wide protests against police brutality and racial inequality. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

COVID-19 has not been vanquished in the United States — in recent days, some states, including Arizona, North Carolina, and California have reported their highest numbers of cases to date. And yet, the U.S. Coronavirus task force is winding down and states are relaxing restrictions. Large crowds are in the streets protesting the death of George Floyd and the U.S.’s history of systemic racism against Black people. Although many protestors are wearing masks and trying to maintain distance, police protest response tactics, including kettling and the use of tear gas, can help the virus spread. What might this mean? As Robinson Meyer and Alexis C. Madrigal report at The Atlantic, it means that those fighting for justice are those that may end up suffering the most.

The protests have led to unusually agonized public-health communication. They have not been met with the stern admonition to stay home that has greeted earlier mass gatherings. Given the long-standing health inequities that black Americans have experienced, hundreds of public-health professionals signed a letter this week declining to oppose the protests “as risky for COVID-19 transmission”: “We support them as vital to the national public health and to the threatened health specifically of Black people in the United States,” they wrote. Yet the protests are indisputably risky, and officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have warned the gatherings might “seed” new outbreaks.

Americans have not fully grasped that we are not doing what countries that have returned to normal have done. Some countries have almost completely suppressed the virus. Others had large outbreaks, took intense measures, and have seen life return to normal. Americans, meanwhile, never stayed at home to the degree that most Europeans have, according to mobility data from Apple and Google. Our version of the spring lockdown looked more like Sweden’s looser approach than like the more substantial measures in Italy, or even the United Kingdom and France. Swedish public-health officials have acknowledged that this approach may not have been the best path forward.

People partying in a pool may live while those protesting police brutality may die. People who assiduously followed the rules of social distancing may get sick, while those who flouted them happily toast their friends in a crowded bar. There is no righteous logic here. There is no justice in who can breathe easy and who can’t breathe at all.

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