Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Geeking out in the new year

😎 The little rocket that could, couldn't. JAXA's experimental souped-up sounding rocket didn't go up yesterday. But here's hoping that there'll be a successful launch next time. These nano-launchers have a lot of potential for small experimental payloads, and the cost is incredibly small for a orbital insertion.

😎 Via, we learn that Escherichia Coli (yes, that E. Coli) can be genetically reprogramed to make industrial chemicals, in this case the nonessential aminoacid L-serine. Who knew the local food trucks were potential competitors to BASF and DuPont?

😎 Veritasium goes over some of the issues involved in the detection of gravity waves:

😎 Donald Norman and Mick McManus have a cage match about the future of design in the age of AI (by which I think they mean ML, not AI in general)

😎 To comment on a blog post by the Supreme Dark Lord of the Evil Legion of Evil about the book "Uncertainty" by William Briggs, I reread my notes on it and found this shining example of academic snark (click to embiggen):

😎 Godspeed, SpaceX, on your return to flight operations, currently delayed due to storm conditions and range conflict at Vandenberg. Very fast turnaround, compared for example with the shuttle program after the two losses. Of course, those were manned missions, so there was a much larger PR angle. As for the "anomaly," as predicted by almost everyone in the various discussion forums, it was a helium tank issue.

😎 Via the Singularity Hub, we learn that one-third of american workers would rather work for a robot than for a human boss. There's something here reminiscent of Marc Andreesen's remark that in the future people would be divided into those who give orders to computers and those who are given orders by computers. People are just pre-adapting to that incoming reality.

😎 CES came and went and a lot of opportunities for unnecessary expenditure presented themselves. Linus of the tech tips has some of the most interesting novelties in these videos:

📕 First book of 2017 was "Operation Paperclip: The secret intelligence program that brought Nazi scientists to America" by Annie Jacobsen. There are a few inconsistencies between this and other descriptions of the program (and some questionable anecdotes), but overall a compelling narrative of how german scientists were essential to a lot of US military programs (and NASA) after WWII.

📕 Second book of 2017 was "The Winter Fortress: The epic mission to sabotage Hitler's atomic bomb" by Neal Bascomb. It's the book version of the Netflix series (well, I saw it on Netflix) "the Heavy Water War." Does a reasonable job of explaining a number of operational difficulties with the attack on Norsk Nydro.

📕 Third book of 2017 was "32 Yolks: From my mother's table to working the line" by Eric Ripert. Autobiography of the executive chef at Le Bernardin, NY. Essential reading for a food snob cooking aficionado. Better than Anthony Bourdain's multiple autobiographies; and I like Bourdain.

📕 Fourth book of 2017 was "Anathem," by Neal Stephenson (reread, obviously). I read it -- twice in a row -- on the day it came out in 2008. (Yes, it's over 1000 pages.) I tend to read it at least once a year, to enjoy all the multi-level puzzles and self-referential jokes that Stephenson planted in it. Like fraa Orolo, I too suffer from Attention Surplus Disorder.

📕 Fifth book of 2017 was "Scare Pollution: Why and how to fix the EPA" by Steven Milloy of junkscience. It makes a reasonable case for ending the EPA, not fixing it, but will never happen. Absent a revolution or a societal collapse, government ratchets up, never down.

(Yes, I read a lot of books. These, by the way, are non-work books. I also read work-related books.)