Vol. 2.33 | 08.16.19

Vol. 2 | #33 | 08.16.19

A Perverse Game of “Name That Tune”

With it’s multi-million dollar verdict last week, a jury confirmed that a plaintiff could successfully sue a mega-successful pop star like Katy Perry over four notes. This week, a new would-be plaintiff has entered the game, making noise about suing Lady Gaga over three notes.

Uber Still Losing Billions

That’s billions, with a gold-plated capital B. Five billions, actually. The most eye-watering part? — Uber is still bleeding that much cash in a single, 3-month quarter. Read what Uber says its “path to profitability” is that it’s banking on and see if you can spot the hidden LOL’s:

Its path to profitability relies on several things going its way: the successful development of autonomous vehicle technology, which could allow Uber to retain more of each booking; boxing out Uber’s competitors in its growing (but also unprofitable) Uber Eats food-delivery business, where customers are fickle; and ensuring that it can keep classifying its drivers as independent contractors rather than employees, which could raise Uber’s costs even higher.

The Downside of Perpetual Learning

Or, more to the author’s point: “In entrepreneurial and business circles, consuming information has become a competitive sport.” Consuming information is very different from actually learning something. This article takes direct aim at stuff like the self-improvement myth that the average CEO reads 60 books a year and that consuming more podcast content by training yourself to listen to them at 2x speed is a way to “hack” your learning. It’s not. It’s just a way to amp up your consumption of information, much like the techniques used to eat 71 hot dogs in ten minutes.

All About NASA’s Launch Cameras

All the videophilic details about capturing launches of Saturn V rockets and twin-booster Space Shuttles throughout the years, using things like ultra-high-speed cameras and massive, twin-mounted telescopic cameras that look more like anti-aircraft guns than cameras.

“The Watcher” House Finally Sold

It only took the owners five years to sell this 3,900 sq ft, 6-bedroom home in Westfield, NJ, for $959,000 … at a loss of about $400,000. Why, and why is this news? To understand that, you really need to read the full story about the house and its tragic owners.

Vol 2.32 | 08.09.19

Vol. 2 | #32 | 08.09.19

This Is How Bad Movies Start

A team of scientists in China and California are working on a project to mix human stem cells in with the embryos of monkeys with the goal of breeding animals that contain fully human organs for use in human organ transplants. I mean, what could possibly go wrong here?

Who Owns the Building Blocks?

Not of biology, but of art. Where exactly should the lines for copyright protection be drawn in this age of digital information, which — as Kevin Kelly has been arguing for some time now — wants to be copied, edited, remixed, sampled? A jury in Los Angeles just ordered Katy Perry and Capitol Records to pay nearly $3 million in damages to the Christian rap artist “Flame” over the purported copying of a four note segment. How small does a piece of music get to be before it is less a song protected by copyright and simply a few notes, like a chord, usable by any and all?

The Scandal of Stock Buybacks

That may sound salacious, but it’s tame compared to what the headline writers at The Atlantic used: swindle. You read and be the judge … but I must confess this one example alone is pretty convincing: “Merck insists it must keep drug prices high to fund new research. In 2018, the company spent $10 billion on R&D—and $14 billion on share repurchases and dividends.”

The Soviet Union’s Apollo 13

No, it didn’t feature a dramatic explosion turning a then-routine trip to the moon into a live tv drama with the lives of thee astronauts in the balance. That said, the Soviet mission to rescue its silent and marooned space station Salyut 7 did feature some gutsy space flying and docking, and spacewalking bravery of two cosmonauts in a dark and frozen station, working with winter coats over their space suits to keep warm. Yes, really.

Take a 3D Tour of Apollo 11’s Columbia

The Command Modules of the Apollo Program were far more than just a slightly bigger space capsule than that of the Gemini Program to accommodate a third crew member. In my mind, I’ve always struggled to envision how, though. It’s always looked like a tiny compartment with just barely enough room for the 3 astronaut “couches” and the instrumentation and control panel. I never quite understood how they had room to change out of their pressure suits, where food and bathroom supplies were stored, and where containers full of moon rocks could possibly be kept for the ride home. Then I discovered this wicked cool, fully navigable, 3D-rendered model of the inside of Columbia, the Command Module for Apollo 11, built and hosted by the Smithsonian.

Vol. 2.31 | 08.02.19

Vol. 2 | #31 | 08.02.19

Einstein Is Still Right

This time, it’s the super-massive black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy that is confirming the genius of Einstein. Through high-tech scientific wizardry, astronomers are able to measure how much the black hole’s gravity well exerts a distortion affect on the wavelength of the light of nearby stars, just as Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity predicts.

When Origami Met Biology

Astonishing art by German paper artist Katrin Rodegast, using paper maps to map human organs in 3D sculpture.

How The DoD Buys Fighter Jets

After years of hearing about the virtues of “fifth-generation” fighter aircraft like the F-35, the Dept of Defense has to decided to buy a bunch more fourth-generation F-15X’s. It all comes down to the metric of “cost per hour of operation” and the “bathtub model” of how those costs fall, stabilize, and rise over the life of an aircraft. Call me a dork, but I found this fascinating.

A $20K DIY Lamborghini

Like this guy, I, too, play Forza on the X-Box with my 11-year-old son. Unlike him, I’m not an engineer a physicist with a 3-D printer and carbon fiber on hand. Advantage: HIM.

Oh By The Way…

An over 400-foot-wide asteroid zoomed through the neighborhood last week, and the world’s astronomers didn’t know it existed until just a couple days before. And by “zoomed through the neighborhood,” I mean passed within 45,000 miles of Earth. While that sounds like a long way away, keep in mind the moon is only 240,000 miles away. That, in the world of astronomical distances, was a close call indeed.

Vol. 2.30 | 07.26.19

Vol. 2 | #30 | 07.26.19

In Defense of Libraries

There’s a way of looking at the world based upon an often unspoken assumption: that most people will screw you if given the chance. Through these goggles of pessimism, something as innocuous and wholesome as a public library becomes a potential threat. How, you ask? Ask book publishers like Macmillan, who has decided to expand an “embargo” scheme that limits public libraries from buying more than one copy of new release e-books, under the misguided belief that making books available to readers through libraries leads to fewer books purchases, thereby costing publishers and authors revenue. Yes, while this theory may appear to make sense on paper, it doesn’t prove true in reality. Libraries stimulate in the people publishers are selling to (READERS) interest in the very things publishers are selling (BOOKS).

Who Wants to Become a Cyborg?

Elon Musk and his company, Neuralink, say they’re may be ready for human trials for their brain implant/AI interface as soon as next year. Using a custom-designed implanting robot, they’ve successfully implanted super-thin wires (about 1/3 width of human hair) into the brains of rats, and downloaded their brain activity via “a USB-C port in its head.” Any volunteers? 

Tech Trying to Match Your Brain’s Horsepower

Speaking of the collision between brain science and tech development, read this to truly appreciate how remarkable and mystifying … magical, even … the human brain is. Yes, our brains can still grossly outperform even the most power computers when it comes to processing information, but when you factor in the difference in energy spent doing so, it’s not even a contest. 

It’s Like Uber, for Ear Piercing

In the future, every single one of life’s moments will itself be an event, and there will be an app that will deliver what you need for a celebration worthy of posting to Instagram. Note that the brain behind this startup idea has already convinced investors to part with $4 MILLION (!!!) in venture capital funding. 

External Airbags That Deploy BEFORE Impact

Think about this for a second: not in the milliseconds between detecting an impact but before *you* feel the impact, but before the impact actually happens. The German company developing this capability calls it “predictive crash sensing.”

Vol 2.28 | 07.12.19

Vol. 2 | #28 | 07.12.19

The Career-Limiting Move That Took Apollo to the Moon

Read my latest article for Forbes about the story of Dr. John Houbolt, one of my favorite stories from the incredible history of the Apollo program. How many middle-aged middle-managers in large organizations with families and mortgages and the like would be willing to risk career suicide in order to make sure the leadership at the top knew that you believed the whole organization was going about its mission all wrong? That’s what Houbolt actually did in 1961, and it was the reason Apollo 11 successfully answered Kennedy’s call to land men on the moon and return them safely to Earth before the end of the decade.

Restoring Mission Control

It took 3 years, $5 million, but the important thing is it’s done and done in time for next week’s #Apollo50th anniversary. Just looking at the photo of the frozen-in-time Mission Control Center with all the tiny vintage details in place gives me the feels. After our family road trip next week to be at Kennedy Space Center for the July 20th celebration, making the trek out to Houston is now officially on the “must do that” list.

Should Moonshot 2.0 Be An International Effort?

That’s the case the editors of Scientific American make in this month’s issue: that for geopolitical reasons, 2019 is not 1969. Nearly everyone is familiar with the Cold War origins of the Apollo program’s raison d’être — to beat the Russians. Interestingly enough, the same JFK who responded to the Soviet’s achievement in launching Yuri Gagarin into orbit by laying down the lunar mission gauntlet would later propose that the first lunar landing mission should be a joint American-Soviet effort. Kennedy didn’t just float this idea privately; he announced it from the speaker’s podium before the United Nations General Assembly, during his final speech before that body on September 20, 1963.

You Only Thought You Owned That Book

If you bought an e-book from Microsoft over the last two years since their digital content store opened, then you’re about to get a full refund whether you want it not. The catch? — Microsoft is going to delete your book … whether you want it to or not. While many point to this as a sign that digital media — whether books, movies, or music — is less permanent a product than its physical media sibling, that isn’t the case. The problem is the use of DRM (Digital Rights Managament) software, and if you don’t know what that is, read this … because you’re gonna want to know.

Where Growth Mindset Went Wrong

If you’re a fan of Carol Dweck’s book Mindset and the “growth mindset” movement that has come from it, you should read this. Dweck herself says many are missing the point of her work, and she is out to try to correct the record.