Engagement Is the Enemy of Serendipity
> Whenever I’m grumpy about an update to a technology I use, I try to perform a self-audit examining why I’m unhappy about this change. It’s a helpful exercise since we are all by nature resistant to even minor alterations to the technologies we use every day (which is why website redesign is now a synonym for bare-knuckle boxing), and this feeling only increases with age. Sometimes the grumpiness is justified, since one of your tools has become duller or less useful in a way you can clearly articulate; other times, well, welcome to middle age.
> The New York Times recently changed their iPad app to emphasize three main tabs, Top Stories, For You, and Sections.
> So one way of extending political time horizons and increasing is to age-weight votes. The idea is that younger people would get more heavily weighted votes than older people, very roughly in proportion with life expectancy.
I suspect this has very little chance of becoming reality.
Why Nasa’s next Moon mission can’t be an Apollo retread
> There is a familiar question asked of politicians, entrepreneurs and innovators: if you were to do it all again, what would you do differently?
> At Nasa headquarters, they’re fielding almost the opposite inquiry. Why don’t you just do it the same? If you managed to put Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the Moon five decades ago, why is it so hard to do it now?
> My other visit here was thirty years ago, and most of all I am surprised by how little has changed. The architecture now looks all the more retro, the alleyways all the more noir, and the motorbikes have by no means vanished. Yes there are plenty of new stores, but overall it is recognizably the same city, something you could not say about Seoul.
The Persistence of Chaos
> Airgapped Samsung NC10-14GB 10.2-Inch Blue Netbook (2008), Windows XP SP3, 6 pieces of malware, power cord, restart script, malware
> (minimum bid: $1,200,750 - reserve met)
Rain Much on Your Vacation? One Italian Island Offers Hotel Refunds
> But beginning this month, the Italian island of Elba, off the coast of Tuscany, started offering tourists an unexpected guarantee: Hotels will refund guests if it rains.
Emily Wilson on Translations and Language
> In a recent Twitter thread, Emily Wilson listed some of the difficulties of translating Homer into English. Among them: “There aren’t enough onomatopoeic words for very loud chaotic noises” (#2 on the list), “It’s very hard to come up with enough ways to describe intense desire to act that don’t connote modern psychology” (#5), and “There is no common English word of four syllables or fewer connoting ‘person particularly favored by Zeus due to high social status, and by the way this is a very normal ordinary word which is not drawing any special attention to itself whatsoever, beyond generic heroizing.’” (#7).
> Using Twitter this way is part of her effort to explain literary translation. What do translators do all day? Why can the same sentence turn out so differently depending on the translator? Why did she get stuck translating the Iliad immediately after producing a beloved translation of the Odyssey?
> She and Tyler discuss these questions and more, including why Silicon Valley loves Stoicism, whether Plato made Socrates sound smarter than he was, the future of classics education, the effect of AI on translation, how to make academia more friendly to women, whether she’d choose to ‘overlive’, and the importance of having a big Ikea desk and a huge orange cat.
Mistakes, we’ve drawn a few
> At The Economist, we take data visualisation seriously. Every week we publish around 40 charts across print, the website and our apps. With every single one, we try our best to visualise the numbers accurately and in a way that best supports the story. But sometimes we get it wrong. We can do better in future if we learn from our mistakes — and other people may be able to learn from them, too.
A great gallery of good and bad graphs.
Mammalian Near-Infrared Image Vision through Injectable and Self-Powered Retinal Nanoantennae
> Vision is an essential sensory modality for humans. Our visual system detects light between 400 and 700 nm (Dubois, 2009, Wyszecki and Stiles, 1982, Schnapf et al., 1988), so called visible light. In mammalian photoreceptor cells, light absorbing pigments, consisting of opsins and their covalently linked retinals, are known as intrinsic photon detectors. However, the detection of longer wavelength light, such as near-infrared (NIR) light, though a desirable ability, is a formidable challenge for mammals. This is because detecting longer wavelength light, with lower energy photons, requires opsins (e.g., human red cone opsins) to have much lower energy barriers. Consequently, this results in unendurable high thermal noise, thus making NIR visual pigments impractical (Ala-Laurila et al., 2003, Baylor et al., 1980, Luo et al., 2011, St George, 1952). This physical limitation means that no mammalian photoreceptor can effectively detect NIR light that exceeds 700 nm, and mammals are unable to see NIR light and to project a NIR image to the brain.
> To this end, the successful integration of nanoparticles with biological systems has accelerated basic scientific discoveries and their translation into biomedical applications (Desai, 2012, Mitragotri et al., 2015). To develop abilities that do not exist naturally, miniature nanoscale devices and sensors designed to intimately interface with mammals including humans are of growing interest. Here, we report on an ocular injectable, self-powered, built-in NIR light nanoantenna that can extend the mammalian visual spectrum to the NIR range. These retinal photoreceptor-binding upconversion nanoparticles (pbUCNPs) act as miniature energy transducers that can transform mammalian invisible NIR light in vivo into short wavelength visible emissions (Liu et al., 2017, Wu et al., 2009). As sub-retinal injections are a commonly used ophthalmological practice in animals and humans (Hauswirth et al., 2008, Peng et al., 2017), our pbUCNPs were dissolved in PBS and then injected into the sub-retinal space in the eyes of mice. These nanoparticles were then anchored and bound to the photoreceptors in the mouse retina.
Vodka firm loses valuable iceberg water in apparent heist
> A Canadian vodka distiller has lost 30,000 litres of valuable iceberg water in what appears to be a heist.
Cat ladders: a creative solution for felines in flats
> Strategically placed ramps and ladders for urban cats are all the rage in Bern. Brigitte Schuster’s photo book Swiss Cat Ladders documents the phenomenon
Too Ugly to Be Saved? Singapore Weighs Fate of Its Brutalist Buildings
> Others see them as important markers of national identity because they were designed by a generation of up-and-coming local architects just after the city-state’s founding in 1965, when the area’s growth was fueled by large-scale urban renewal projects. But a few prominent Brutalist landmarks are on the verge of being sold to private developers, which has prompted a last-ditch scramble by enthusiasts to have the buildings protected by conservation laws. It has also set off a thorny debate about what type of architecture is worth saving in the first place.
Why We Can’t Have Nice Things–Elon Musk and the Subways
> Billionaires are undermining your home. And democracy! Grab your pitchforks! Yet dig a little deeper underneath the lurid headline and the actual complaints are–dare I say it–boring.
Eric Schmidt on the Life-Changing Magic of Systematizing, Scaling, and Saying “Thanks”
> Tyler questioned Schmidt about underused management strategies, what Google learned after interviewing one job candidate sixteen times, his opinion on early vs. late Picasso, the best reform in corporate governance, why we might see a bifurcation of the Internet, what technology will explode in the the next 10 years, the most underrated media source, and more.
> Well, turns out there were a few extra credit cards in the company floating around, and random things were showing up. This is how I ran things. But it’s important not to go to the person who bought the telephone booth and say, “You’re fired.” The important thing to do is take their credit card away.
> As a general rule, I try to blame the Internet for everything because everyone else does, and I think some of this is true and some of it’s false. That was a joke by the way. And you can’t joke anymore in the age of Twitter.
Time Traveler by Merriam-Webster
Hong Kong-Zhuhai bridge: World's longest sea bridge in pictures
> The 55km bridge and tunnel linking Hong Kong to mainland China via Macau has opened, years late.
There are pictures.
Texas likely is removing Helen Keller from the curriculum
> The first linked article claims that cutting Keller from the curriculum will save forty minutes. Even if you don’t think Keller is worth exactly forty minutes, surely she is worth more than zero minutes, and besides the teacher simply can talk faster if need be (don’t most teachers talk too slowly?).
Vitalik Buterin on Cryptoeconomics and Markets in Everything
> At the intersection of programming, economics, cryptography, distributed systems, information theory, and math, you will find Vitalik Buterin, who has managed to synthesize insights across those fields into successful, real-world applications like Ethereum, which aims to decentralize the Internet.
> Tyler sat down with Vitalik to discuss the many things he’s thinking about and working on, including the nascent field of cryptoeconomics, the best analogy for understanding the blockchain, his desire for more social science fiction, why belief in progress is our most useful delusion, best places to visit in time and space, how he picks up languages, why centralization’s not all bad, the best ways to value crypto assets, whether P = NP, and much more.
Kolyma Stories, by Varlam Shalamov
> That is not blurb inflation. Note that the book is long (734 pp. of stories), and the reading is slow, mostly because the narratives lack redundant information, not because they are clumsy or awkwardly written. It also takes perhaps a few stories to get into the swing of things and figure out how the fictional yet not fictional universe works here. But the content is entirely gripping, and full of social science.
Haven’t read it, but maybe some day.
What is Skim Milk? The FDA versus Dairy Farmers
> The FDA, however, wants skim milk to contain as many vitamins as whole milk so they define skim milk as including vitamin A and D. If farmers want to sell skim milk and call it “skim milk” they have to add vitamins.
I suppose the question is whether consumers realize that skimming milk removes more than just fat.