Note — Nov 24, 2019

No.104 Asides

  • ☀️ 🏗 This could be huge. So far there aren’t any real alternative ways of powering these industries. Secretive energy startup achieves solar breakthrough. “The breakthrough means that, for the first time, concentrated solar energy can be used to create the extreme heat required to make cement, steel, glass and other industrial processes. In other words, carbon-free sunlight can replace fossil fuels in a heavy carbon-emitting corner of the economy that has been untouched by the clean energy revolution.” On the same topic: Cement has a carbon problem. Here are some concrete solutions, and the previously featured Flash Forward episode, The Cement Ban.
  • Charlie Stross’ Sucker bet (a thought experiment) is interesting. You’re worth $100Bn. With the climate crisis, tensions generated by late-stage capitalism, and rampant nationalist populism, what is your optimum survival strategy? 575 comments so far, from the dumb to the interesting (I’ve only read a few). From his own answer lower down: “If we could shift everyone to a vegan but meat-equivalent diet within a couple of decades — much like switching to electric vehicles in the same time frame — we’d be in a much better place to feed everyone, both the population overshoot up to 11 billion mouths, and with environmental degradation.”
  • 👻 🚢 🇨🇳 Ghost ships, crop circles, and soft gold: A GPS mystery in Shanghai. “Now, new research and previously unseen data show that the Manukai, and thousands of other vessels in Shanghai over the last year, are falling victim to a mysterious new weapon that is able to spoof GPS systems in a way never seen before.”
  • 🤮 The messy legal scrap to bring celebrities back from the dead. “[N]ewly-formed IP licensing firm Worldwide XR announced that it holds the rights to more than 400 dead celebrities, actors, historical figures, musicians and sportspeople. The lid of Pandora’s box has flung wide open, and we could be about to see a whole glut of dead celebrities reappearing on our screens.”
  • 🌱 What America Lost When It Lost the Bison. “Their actions change the landscape. In areas where bison graze, plants contain 50 to 90 percent more nutrients by the end of the summer. This not only provides extra nourishment for other grazers, but prolongs the growing season of the plants themselves. And by trimming back the plant cover in one year, bison allow more sunlight to fall on the next year’s greenery, accelerating its growth.”
  • 🧮 Major Quantum Computing Advance Made Obsolete by Teenager. “For quantum computing, Tang’s result is a setback. Or not. Tang has eliminated one of the clearest, best examples of a quantum advantage. At the same time, Tang’s paper is further evidence of the fruitful interplay between the study of quantum and classical algorithms.” (2018)
  • 📚 🎬 👾 Lists: Best of the 2010s Decade. Lots of books, movies, and games so far but a growing breadth of topics.