A closer look at Apple’s new HomePod

The first time I got close to one of Apple’s HomePods was in a secluded meeting room at WWDC. Sonically, at least, it blew away the competition. After seven months — not to mention the introduction of other impressive smart speakers — Apple invited me to spend another hour with a near-final HomePod, and it still sounds like the one to beat. There’s much more to the HomePod than just its stellar sound quality, though, and my time spent with Apple’s new speaker provided answers to some key lingering questions. But first: the basics.

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Yes, There Is Gravity in Space

This week, I settled down to watch the first episode of The 100. If you haven’t seen the show, I’ll just point out that it takes place in the near future (though it ran, on the CW, in the near past). For reasons that I won’t get into, there is a spacecraft with a bunch of teenagers that is traveling from a space station down to the surface of the Earth. During the reentry process, one kid wants to show that he is the master of space travel and that he’s awesome. So what does he do? He gets out of his seat and floats around as a demonstration of his mastery of weightlessness. Another teenager points out that he’s being pretty dumb—and that he’s going to get hurt very soon.

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How Much Worse Could That Eruption in the Philippines Get?

There’s no end in sight to the hellish-looking eruption at Mount Mayon, the Filipino volcano that’s been spewing a mix of ash and lava for two weeks. This week, after Mayon ratcheted things up with tall ash clouds and half-mile-high lava fountains, volcanologists placed it on alert level 4 out of 5—meaning a “hazardous eruption” could be imminent.

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South Africa’s identity is complicated, contested and unresolved. While Archbishop Tutu’s “rainbow nation” remains a noble aspiration, the current forecast is increasingly stormy. So, while it’s tempting to read South African cuisine simply as some kind of melting pot of the influences brought by those who migrated to the country, many of the country’s most notable and tasty dishes reflect histories of violent conquest, enslavement, and oppression. But even as post-apartheid South Africa remains locked in an unfinished struggle to digest and resolve the consequences of its troubled history and to recast a fresh identity based on equality and justice, its cuisine reflects the common humanity of its citizenry: their search for succor and comfort, identity, communion, and hope for a better day.