Venkatesh Rao Profile picture
19 Nov, 6 tweets, 1 min read
Feeling unreasonably cheerful because I’ve made a tiny start towards starting a personal space program 😎
The first step is admitting you have a space program
Rocketry is easily the hardest subfield of aerospace engineering and one I don’t know much about. So I feel a bit guilty when someone says something like “ha ha so you’re an actual rocket scientist!”

I feel like responding, “no, I specialize in somewhat easier stuff”
Rovers are more my speed. Stuff happens in more intuitive and forgiving regimes. No 40,000 rpm compressors or huge tanks of cryogenic fuels. Or blistering temperatures and things exploding because of tiny errors. Very unforgiving shit.
Fields acquire reputations for engineering badassery in proportion to how far away from everyday human experience their operating regimes are. Nothing you do in everyday life develops rocketry intuitions.
Which is why brain surgery replaced rocketry as the paradigmatic “smart” field sometime in the 80s. It’s even more unintuitive. Even though we ARE brains, nothing in our direct experience works like a brain. Except maybe global population. 7.5b people/planet vs. 86b neurons/brain

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More from @vgr

20 Nov
The Yak Collective @yak_collective has been doing a futures project called Astonishing Stories, led by @SachinB91 and @WabiSabiFutures to explore near-future scenarios. The output is a series of short stories being published as an evolving anthology…
The stories are based on some structured design fiction type visioning based on something called The Thing from the Future. Project participants spent a few weeks doing the exercises, then writing the stories.…
I’m not part of this project, but I’m gonna read all the stories (5 out so far and more on the way) and live-tweet my reactions. This will be my 🍿 critical review thread. I don’t quite get the process they used to get to this output, but I don’t think I need to as a reader.
Read 22 tweets
20 Nov
Poll: Have you heard of Dalton’s law and the principle of partial pressure? If so, where/when did you learn it?
Dammit, trending small majority not heard of it 🙁

Wanted to use it as a metaphor for a piece. Didn’t realize it was that obscure.

I think I learned it in 8th grade by which time I think STEM kids were already on a separate track. For the curious ones:…
I keep forgetting how early STEM forks off from mainstream. In my high school, there were 4 tracks: CS and biology on STEM side (targeting engineering and medicine for college) and commerce and arts for humanities/social science side. I think ~40% was STEM and that was high.
Read 4 tweets
20 Nov
What Trump is up to is some true 4th world shit. Worse than third world because when first worlds fall, they fall below third world levels.… Image
In 2016 he just looked like many third world politicians. But the salting-of-the-earth type of vandalism he’s attempting now out of sheer rage is not something I’ve seen in even the worst third world politics.
Talking to my mom in India in 2016, I explained “he’s like Lalu Yadav” (archetypal modern Indian populist, CM of the state I grew up in through much of my childhood; eventually went to prison for corruption). Now I have to say: Lalu looks more civilized…
Read 5 tweets
17 Nov
When you don’t solve problems they just go away, which is kinda a nice feature of the universe
This is my thread of true facts
The true facts will continue until morale improves
Read 4 tweets
17 Nov
bluecheck invasion ruining substack a bit 😬
I have more hope for the platform than for Medium or Patreon (that's why I'm on it). It has less of a top-down cultural feel, and little to no cross-talk/cross-flow across newsletters, which is a good thing. Sacrifices content-network effect for diversity.
Basically the bias-variance tradeoff writ large. An aggregator platform will either have a large bias or a large variance. So far, unlike Medium or patreon (or livejournal or tumblr or what have you) substack is heading towards higher variance. x
Read 40 tweets
17 Nov
Anyone actually enjoy the zoom-conference circuit? I’ve pretty much entirely avoided it. I’ve realized that to the limited extent I enjoy conferences at all, it’s 100% about getting to travel to places I want to visit. Take that out and it’s just feels like work to me.
The one thing I enjoyed was a very lowkey set of maker-skill demos hosted by a local repair cafe.
Looking back on a couple of decades of conferences, the memorable things I actually remember are the local side trips.
Read 4 tweets

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