Washington is a city of great bridges and terrible bridges. These are their stories.
Washington is a city of great bridges and terrible bridges. These are their stories.
No One Is Prepared for Hagfish Slime
It expands by 10,000 times in a fraction of a second, it’s 100,000 times softer than Jell-O, and it fends off sharks and Priuses alike.
Decades-Long Quest Reveals Details of the Proton’s Inner Antimatter
Twenty years ago, physicists set out to investigate a mysterious asymmetry in the proton’s interior. Their results, published today, show how antimatter helps stabilize every atom’s core.
We learn in school that a proton is a bundle of three elementary particles called quarks — two “up” quarks and a “down” quark, whose electric charges (+2/3 and −1/3, respectively) combine to give the proton its charge of +1. But that simplistic picture glosses over a far stranger, as-yet-unresolved story.
In reality, the proton’s interior swirls with a fluctuating number of six kinds of quarks, their oppositely charged antimatter counterparts (antiquarks), and “gluon” particles that bind the others together, morph into them and readily multiply. Somehow, the roiling maelstrom winds up perfectly stable and superficially simple — mimicking, in certain respects, a trio of quarks.
People Are Worried About Payment for Order Flow
Okay let’s do payment for order flow again, because people are talking about it and that always stresses me out. Here’s an intuitive description of how it works.
Exploring the Supply Chain of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines
The following text is a collection of notes I wrote down while exploring the process for manufacturing and distributing the two new vaccines that have appeared all over the news and in more and more people’s arms over the recent weeks. I started reading about mRNA but quickly found myself on tangents about glass vials and temperature tracking devices.
How NAT traversal works
We covered a lot of ground in our post about How Tailscale Works. However, we glossed over how we can get through NATs (Network Address Translators) and connect your devices directly to each other, no matter what’s standing between them. Let’s talk about that now!
The 8th Wonder Of The World
In exchange for billions in tax subsidies, Foxconn was supposed to build an enormous LCD factory in the tiny village of Mount Pleasant, creating 13,000 jobs. Three years later, the factory — and the jobs — don’t exist, and they probably never will. Inside the empty promises and empty buildings of Wisconn Valley.
Reverse Engineering the source code of the BioNTech/Pfizer SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine
In this post, we’ll be taking a character-by-character look at the source code of the BioNTech/Pfizer SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccine.
Now, these words may be somewhat jarring - the vaccine is a liquid that gets injected in your arm. How can we talk about source code? This is a good question, so let’s start off with a small part of the very source code of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine, also known as BNT162b2, also known as Tozinameran also known as Comirnaty.
A Cryptologic Mystery
Did a broken random number generator in Cuba help expose a Russian espionage network?
I remember concluding that the most likely, if still rather improbable, explanation was that the 9-less messages were dummy fill traffic and that the random number generator used to create the messages had a bug or developed a defect that prevented 9s from being included. This would be, to say the least, a very serious error, since it would allow a listener to easily distinguish fill traffic from real traffic, completely negating the benefit of having fill traffic in the first place. It would open the door to exactly the kind of traffic analysis that the system was carefully engineered to thwart. The 9-less messages went on for almost ten years. (If I were reporting this as an Internet vulnerability, I would dub it the “Nein Nines” attack; please forgive the linguistic muddle). But I was resigned to the likelihood that I would never know for sure.
How Toxic Fumes Seep Into The Air You Breathe On Planes
The air you breathe on airplanes comes directly from the jet engines. Known as bleed air, it is safe, unless there is a mechanical issue — a faulty seal, for instance. When that happens, heated jet engine oil can leak into the air supply, potentially releasing toxic gases into the plane.
For decades, the airline industry and its regulators have known about these incidents — called fume events — and have maintained that they are rare and that the toxic chemical levels are too low to pose serious health risks.
And yet there’s a lot of pushback to measuring just how bad the problem is.
Cameras and Lenses
Cameras and the lenses inside them may seem a little mystifying. In this blog post I’d like to explain not only how they work, but also how adjusting a few tunable parameters can produce fairly different results:
This is amazing work.
In 1927, a Baltimore man was on a mission to blast off to Venus. Nearly a century later, a documentary crew is on its own mission to find the rocket built for that journey.
Some great illustrations, too.
When SimCity got serious: the story of Maxis Business Simulations and SimRefinery
SimCity wasn’t meant to be taken seriously.
The game was inspired by research on real-world urban planning concepts, and although it was created as a way for players to experiment running a city, the goal was to be fun rather than accurate. “I realized early on, because of chaos theory and a lot of other things,” said designer Will Wright, “that it’s kind of hopeless to approach simulations like that, as predictive endeavors. But we’ve kind of caricatured our systems. SimCity was always meant to be a caricature of the way a city works, not a realistic model of the way a city works.”
Slate Star Codex and Silicon Valley’s War Against the Media
How a controversial rationalist blogger became a mascot and martyr in a struggle against the New York Times.
Fairly long, since it recounts all of SSC’s greatest hits.
The U.S. Is Getting Shorter, as Mapmakers Race to Keep Up
Scientists are hard at work recalibrating where and how the nation physically sits on the planet. It’s not shrinkage — it’s “height modernization.”
The grand recalibration, called “height modernization,” is part of a broader effort within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, to establish more accurately where and how the United States physically sits on the planet. This new National Spatial Reference System, encompassing height, latitude, longitude and time, is expected to be rolled out in late 2022 or 2023, Ms. Blackwell said. It will replace reference systems from the 1980s that are slightly askew, having been derived from calculations that were done before the advent of supercomputers or global navigation satellite systems such as GPS.
Something in the Air
The coronavirus pandemic is sparking baseless theories about the dangers of 5G. But the fear that wireless technology is slowly killing us isn’t new—and it doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon.
systemd, 10 years later: a historical and technical retrospective
10 years ago, systemd was announced and swiftly rose to become one of the most persistently controversial and polarizing pieces of software in recent history, and especially in the GNU/Linux world. The quality and nature of debate has not improved in the least from the major flame wars around 2012-2014, and systemd still remains poorly understood and understudied from both a technical and social level despite paradoxically having disproportionate levels of attention focused on it.
I am writing this essay both for my own solace, so I can finally lay it to rest, but also with the hopes that my analysis can provide some context to what has been a decade-long farce, and not, as in Benno Rice’s now famous characterization, tragedy.
Google Erases Thousands of Links, Tricked by Phony Complaints
Dubious copyright claims citing 1998 law led the search giant to make unfavorable articles vanish
Google removed search links to the Vietnamese-language article after someone identifying as Long Hoang filed a complaint claiming the piece violated the copyright on an identical blog post about the tourists dated October 20, 2019, more than four months before the unnamed Britons visited. The blog consists of only eight posts, all cited in copyright complaints filed with Google.
How Much of a Genius-Level Move Was Using Binary Space Partitioning in Doom?
A decade after Doom’s release, in 2003, journalist David Kushner published a book about id Software called Masters of Doom, which has since become the canonical account of Doom’s creation. I read Masters of Doom a few years ago and don’t remember much of it now, but there was one story in the book about lead programmer John Carmack that has stuck with me. This is a loose gloss of the story (see below for the full details), but essentially, early in the development of Doom, Carmack realized that the 3D renderer he had written for the game slowed to a crawl when trying to render certain levels. This was unacceptable, because Doom was supposed to be action-packed and frenetic. So Carmack, realizing the problem with his renderer was fundamental enough that he would need to find a better rendering algorithm, started reading research papers. He eventually implemented a technique called “binary space partitioning,” never before used in a video game, that dramatically sped up the Doom engine.
History of research into BSP.
The History of the URL
On the 11th of January 1982 twenty-two computer scientists met to discuss an issue with ‘computer mail’ (now known as email). Attendees included the guy who would create Sun Microsystems, the guy who made Zork, the NTP guy, and the guy who convinced the government to pay for Unix. The problem was simple: there were 455 hosts on the ARPANET and the situation was getting out of control.