Vol 2.26 | 06.28.19

Read time: 3 minutes
The World’s Dumbest Idea

Every time there’s a news story about some big megacorp’s latest share buyback plan, or a leading politician proposes new legislative rules to regulate them (they come from both the left and the right), I’m reminded of the fundamental debate about the proper purpose of a company. Is it, as has been the oft-repeated mantra for the past 50 years, to “maximize shareholder value?” Or, is that really the “dumbest idea in the world” as former GE CEO Jack Welch once put it? This Forbes article from 2 years ago neatly summarizes the arguments for and against, and the history behind their development, with a nod to a book I’ve mentioned before by the recently departed Professor Lynn Stout.

The Exciting News of Martian Methane

When you hear about methane hear on Earth, you may think about things like bovine flatulence and its effect on climate change. In reality, it’s not the cow that’s to blame for the methane, but the microbes living in the cow’s many guts. Methane and other natural gases are an organic byproduct of microbes doing their microbial thing, which is why the detection of a huge spike in methane on Mars by NASA’s Curiosity rover is such a big deal. While there are geological processes that can also produce a rise in methane, the prospect of finding evidence of even microbial life on Mars has scientists buzzing. 

Heartbeat Identification

All the raging about facial recognition technology could end up becoming quite moot if this tech that uses lasers to measure a person’s identifiable heartbeat pattern from up to 200 meters away becomes a thing. I’ve heard of other unique biological markers besides fingerprints before like irises, but this one is a new one for me.

The Rhythm of Good Writing

Just a magnificently succinct example of how rhythm in writing works and why it matters.

The Art of Mapping the Sky

Having the work of Eleanor Lutz cross my scopes truly is one of those moments of networking serendipity that makes the Internet so special. Eleanor is a Ph.D. student in biology and a dataviz artist on the side who announced in June that she would be releasing 10 maps of the heavens that she’s designed using open source data found on the web, Python programming and Photoshop/Illustrator skills, and 18 months of her free time. Here’s just one of the stunning pieces of art that she has published to her blog so far, with more coming each week:

IMAGE: Eleanor Lutz, Tabletopwhale.com

Equally impressive is her effort to truly share her art beyond just the map/images themselves. Eleanor posts all of the data and coding she used to GitHub along with an in-depth tutorial on how she did it, which is worth scanning just to gain an appreciation for the work that goes into making such stunning displays of excellence.

Check out these others that she’s released so far as well: