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The Fate of Lethal Injection: Decomposition of the Paradigm and Its Consequences

Sarat, Austin and Denney, Mattea and Graber-Mitchell, Nicolas and Ko, Greene and Mroczka, Rose and Pelosi, Lauren (April 18, 2021).

Abstract

This article examines the use of lethal injection from 2010-2020. That period marks the “decomposition” of the standard three drug protocol and the proliferating use of new drugs or drug combinations in American executions. That development is associated with an increase in the number and type of mishaps encountered during lethal injections. This article describes and analyzes those mishaps and the ways death penalty jurisdictions responded, and adapted, to them. It suggests that the recent history of lethal injection echoes the longer history of the death penalty. When states encountered problems with their previous methods of execution, they first attempted to address these problems by tinkering with their existing methods. When tinkering failed, they adopted allegedly more humane execution methods. When they ran into difficulty with the new methods, state actors scrambled to hide the death penalty from public view. New drugs and drug combinations may have allowed the machinery of death to keep running. New procedures may have given the lethal injection process a veneer of legitimacy. But none of these recent changes has resolved its fate or repaired its vexing problems.

Available on SSRN.

Artificial Illusions: Deepfakes as Speech

The Stanford Journal of Science, Technology, and Society 14, no. 3 (June 23, 2021).

Abstract

Deepfakes, a new type of artificial media created by sophisticated machine learning algorithms, present a fundamental epistemological problem to society: How can we know the truth when seeing and hearing are not believing? This paper discusses how deepfakes fit into the category of illusory speech, what they do in society, and how to deal with them. Illusions present an alternate reality, much like a lie, but they also contain evidence for that reality. Some illusions, like games of tag and magic tricks, are harmless and fun. Others, like counterfeit coins and deepfakes, harm others and are deeply convincing. For example, the most common use for deepfake technology is to produce pornographic videos of women who never consented. After strangers attacked them in this way, women reported feeling violated and living in a state of constant “visceral fear.” Pornographic deepfakes — most often deployed against women — abridge their targets’ sexual agency and privacy, contributing to inequality and enabling intimate partner abuse, workplace sexual harassment, and other discrimination and hate. Deepfakes also pose a threat in politics and society more generally. In addition to allowing malicious actors to produce convincing, illusory disinformation, their increased use may lead to a general inability to discern the truth. In the face of the deep and distressing harms that deepfakers cause to women and the danger that they present to democracy, this paper argues for new civil and criminal penalties for deepfakers as well as new regulations and liabilities for internet platforms that host their work.

Available from Intersect and on SSRN.

Planes, Strains, and Hurricanes: Elections in the Wake of Catastrophes

The Amherst Dialectic, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 10-43, Winter 2020.

Abstract

Catastrophes often impact voting. From the coronavirus pandemic to Hurricane Katrina to 9/11, states and territories have dealt with catastrophes by canceling, replacing, postponing, and modifying elections. However, states rarely adopt preventative measures in their election statutes. By examining case studies from three different 21st century elections affected by catastrophe, I present a full account of the types of mitigatory measures that states take in response to different types of disasters. After highlighting the need for prevention and identifying how disasters act on elections, I argue that states and territories should implement universal vote-by-mail, hold elections over an entire week, and eliminate voter registration to make their elections more resilient to catastrophe.

Available on SSRN and from The Amherst Dialectic.

Finding the period of a simple pendulum

A low-level, fairly bad mathematics paper that I wrote in high school.

Abstract

Pendulums have long fascinated humans ever since Galileo theorized that they are isochronic with regards to their swing. While this simplification is useful in the case of small-angle pendulums due to the accuracy of the small-angle approximation, it breaks down for large-angle pendulums and can cause larger problems with the computational modelling of simple pendulums. This paper will examine the differences between the periods of small-angle and large-angle pendulums, offering derivations of the period in both models from the basic laws of nature. This paper also provides a common way of deriving elliptic integrals from physical phenomena, and the period of pendulums has been one of the major building blocks in this new, developing field. Lastly, this paper makes a number of suggestions for extensions into the study of simple pendulums that can be performed. While this paper is not intended as a rigorous mathematical proof, it is designed to illuminate the derivation of the exact periods of simple pendulums and carefully walks through the mathematics involved.

Available on the arXiv and from this website.

The application of an Ames fluctuation assay to determine the mutagenicity of freshwater sediment in Minnesota

Another paper from high school. Less bad this time. Involved actual lab research at the University of Minnesota.

Available on the from this website.