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The Rise and Fall of the Iconic American Corporation

Born out of the inventions of America’s greatest inventor, Thomas Edison, the General Electric Company has been a staple of the blue chip American corporate landscape since the Dow Jones Industrial Average was born. As documented by this extensively researched piece by the journalists at the Wall Street Journal, bad leadership ultimately was responsible for doing what the Depression, two world wars, and a century’s worth of global history couldn’t: bring America’s largest and longest lived conglomerate to its knees.

2Bumblebee Drones

In the world of bees, drones are the males of the hive that serve one function: to mate with the queen on her mating flight, and then promptly die. Up at the University of Washington, engineers have built an electronic backpack that turns regular worker bumblebees into drones of a different sort: the kind that can fly for hours and collect environmental data that gets uploaded upon return to the hive. No batteries or FAA license required.

3“It’s Like a Rock Eavesdropping on a Bird.” 

There are things in the natural world that are freakier than science-fiction. For example, Princeton biologist Bonnie Bassler has spent the last two decades or more studying the way bacteria coordinate their infection behaviors through the use of molecular “quorum sensing.” (Bassler’s TED talk from 2009 explaining how this works has been viewed almost 2.4 million times.)

And that’s not even the freaky deaky part.

Recently, one of Bassler’s students discovered something truly weird: that viruses — which are not “living” organisms, mind you — can detect the bacteria’s molecular communication and interpret it accordingly. In other words, when bacteria send out the signals that tell each other their numbers are sufficiently large to commence their infectionary attack, the viruses in the area get the same message and know the time is right for them to attack the bacteria.

4Untangling the Brain

The mapping of the human genome is one of those technological achievements that will be seen as opening the doors on an entire new world of insight and discovery. Understanding just how our brain works — and how a person’s genetic code programs certain mental illnesses and disorders into some of those brains — is one of the mysteries that lay beyond that proverbial door.

Just think of the complex research and science that went into building this map of the genetic connections among the various genes and chromosomes of a single brain cell. The mind reels at the complexity of it…

After reading that article, I immediately added the new book of one of the quoted experts to my ever-growing / hardly-shrinking stack of “to be read” books. Let me know if you do the same. I’m always up for a reading partner when diving into an interesting book…


5The Origins of Blue Origin

Honest confession time: I genuinely had no idea that Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin rocket company was a legit trailblazer in the modern age of privately funded, reusable booster rockety. For all the interest I have in following the well-documented journey of Elon Musk’s SpaceX, I’ve yet to come across even a 10th of the media coverage for what Blue Origin has done and is doing compared to SpaceX. Here’s just one example: I was not aware that it was Blue Origin, and not SpaceX, that first demonstrated the ability to program a rocket to guide itself back down into a vertical landing after being launched. (That happened on November 24, 2015, although there was plenty of debate and disagreement as to how much the efforts of these two companies can be compared to each other.)

Regardless, it’s a fascinating read on how Bezos built Blue Origin, and why.