Vol. 2.40 | 10.18.19

Read time: 4 minutes
Visit Chernobyl!

People visit dangerous places for their vacation all the time. They visit canyons with steep drops from giant cliffs, national parks populated with wild predators, and even the gulag state that is North Korea. So, why not the site of the worst nuclear disaster in mankind’s history? Who wouldn’t want to take a historical safari into Chernobyl’s no-go zone, wearing a hazmat suit in and getting checked for radiation on the way out? Says Ukraine’s President Volydymyr Zelensky, “Until now, Chernobyl was a negative part of Ukraine’s brand. It’s time to change it.”

Mutant Fish Invades Georgia

I mean, the story doesn’t actually say the fish is a “mutant” in the common understanding of the word, but note what it does say: “An invasive fish species that can breathe air and survive on land has been found in Georgia for the first time. And officials are warning anyone who comes into contact with the species to kill it immediately.”


Did We Already Find Life On Mars??

And by “already,” I mean like *40 years ago*?!? That’s what “a former NASA scientist” claims is the case. And by “former NASA scientist,” I don’t mean like some anonymous figure talking in a shadow with altered voice on some sketchy UFO TV show in which “NASA scientist” is used most loosely. This person is named — Gilbert Levin — and he wasn’t just any “scientist” at NASA. He was the “principal investigator on a NASA experiment that sent Viking landers to Mars in 1976.” According to his recently published article in Scientific American, Levin claims one of the Viking lander’s experiments actually produced results consistent with the presence of microbial life way back in 1976.

Reinventing Math

Not gonna lie: this was a heady read, and I’m not quite sure I fully understand it. (Actually, that’s somewhere between a full lie and a mere exaggeration with rhetorical flourish. In truth, I’m quite sure I don’t understand much of any of it.) But, it’s worth reading nonetheless, just to appreciate the magnitude of what this mathematician may be in the process of doing: triggering a mathematical revolution by “reinventing algebra.” Think of his starting point as asking the question: what if the equals sign (=) in equations isn’t exactly right all the time?

Noise Matters

For all the tech marketing talk about “the cloud,” it’s easy to forget that there isn’t a “cloud” up far away where all that data is stored. That work is done in banks of servers, rows and rows and rows and rows of them, in buildings planted firmly on the ground. With those data centers comes the need to provide two pieces of vital infrastructure to support “the cloud” — electricity to power the servers, and massive cooling systems to keep them from overheating their circuits into oblivion. In places like Chandler, Arizona, the sprouting of these server farms is creating a new type of pollution that is proving harmful to residents: background noise. This was one of the most fascinating things I’ve read about in months.