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26 Nov
I can't understand why the US is imposing travel limits starting on Monday. Either impose them right away, or don't. For this entire pandemic our health system has behaved like covid takes weekends off (for example, by not updating infection statistics on Saturdays and Sundays)
Here's a Johannesburg flight 12 hours out from Newark. Is there a plan for testing passengers, quarantine, questionnaire, extra disinfecting towelette, anything? Or is the plan "our policy starts Monday"? It seems late in the pandemic for this clown car…
I'm also 100% down with "travel bans don't work", if that's the expert consensus. But what rustles my jimmies is that after two years of this shit we appear to be doing the useless things again rather than the effective things, driven by bureaucratic inertia.
Read 8 tweets
25 Nov
Hopefully we'll get an early Christmas present with the launch of the James Webb space telescope, which if it unfolds right will make Hubble look like a dirty coke bottle. Building Webb cost $9B, or about half the price of the relaxed-fit remake of the Apollo capsule called Orion
The challenge with the Webb is keeping the sensors really cold despite being in full sunlight. I love the solution NASA chose, because it is extremely carefully designed but looks like something you'd throw together in a panic the night before the middle school science fair
Two exciting things about the Webb are:

1. The mirror is YUGE
2. Unlike Hubble it sees in infrared, which means we can look at really distant stuff that is redshifted, or at nearby things in wavelengths that the Earth's atmosphere absorbs. Plus the design will attract space bees
Read 4 tweets
24 Nov
I think my favorite thing about web3 tooling is how "what is one useful thing you can do with it today?" is treated as a gotcha question, beneath contempt, even though for binary search, asymmetric cryptography, Bloom filters or any other technology it was dirt simple to answer
This is why I keep getting drawn to the analogy to string theory. The grand intellectual edifice of the whole ensemble is supposed to be so compelling that pointing to the absence of any contact with reality is treated as either bad faith or sign of insurmountable ignorance
The fact is if you get deep into the tech, cryptocurrency is *impressively* stupid, in the same way it would be difficult but stupid to make a working slot machine entirely out of raisins. And the fact that this slot machine pays out real money with every pull is unsettling.
Read 9 tweets
20 Nov
We need to talk more loudly, and write in bigger print, about the crisis of gerontocracy in the Democratic Party. Biden will be 82 in 2024, Pelosi will be 84, Hoyer will be 85. Is there any way for Schumer (who will be 73) to keep up? Image
You know your organization has a problem if elevating a bunch of baby boomers to leadership would bring down the average age by a lot.
Also kind of hard to talk the 83 year old on the Supreme Court into retiring when an 88 year old Democratic senator is filing for re-election in California, and the President announces he plans to be in office until he's 86.
Read 4 tweets
20 Nov
This is why I reached for the space popcorn when NASA assigned responsibility for the moon lander to Elon Musk's other company
Panel gaps are a bigger deal in hard vacuum, no matter how forgiving a fanboy you are
SpaceX's plans depend on being able to produce a magical, reusable, totally reliable next-generation rocket at pennies on the bitcoin compared to competitors, all at ludicrous scale. Musk's ability to run the same clown playbook without ever getting called out is his superpower
Read 5 tweets
14 Nov
The political messaging around Build Back Better continues to be so weird. Going into last week it was the last, best hope of mankind and the Democratic Party. Then Congress left DC and it was not mentioned again. Soon Congress will return and it will be hair-on-fire urgent again
Among the many artificial deadlines coming up there is also the deadline of January 3, 2022, when the Democrats will have been in office for a year without being able to pass their own platform.
Schumer now saying the Senate will take up a big military bill before the President's agenda. Since the Senate elects to only work one more week in November, this pushes consideration of BBB to at least December, another vacation-heavy month for Congress.…
Read 10 tweets
29 Oct
Where does she think the profit comes from?
Ocasio-Cortez, who has one of the safest seats in Congress, has spent over $870,000 on Facebook ads in calendar 2021 while excoriating the company for destroying democracy. What ads does she run? Fundraising appeals! Her campaign is just a Facebook profit center with extra steps.
I also think Facebook is evil, which is why I don't give them money.
Read 7 tweets
27 Oct
Ah, the annual "tech workers are organizing" article is out!…
I have no idea what happened at Hootsuite, but Coinbase and Basecamp solved their activist employee problem quite effectively by getting them all to quit. You'd also think an article like this would mention the crushing defeat of the drive to unionize an Amazon plant at Bessemer. Image
A more honest take on what we're seeing is that the evaporative cooling model of driving out prominent complainers, coupled with the skillful provision of places to vent feelings internally, has been extremely effective at keeping tech employees inert and without a say in policy
Read 4 tweets
27 Oct
A funny story about how SpaceX dealt with clandestine toilet issues on the recent Micturation 4 flight. This kind of thing is SpaceX's kryptonite—if you look at what breaks on ISS, it's a slog of unglamorous maintenance issues with no cool engineering fix…
The Mars Toilet has to work without issues in free fall for six months to get to the planet, and then is required by international treaty to work at at least a Biosafety Level 4 containment level (!) while on the Martian surface, which Elon Musk really doesn't like to talk about.
Keeping their off-grid airless mobile home working is the full-time mission of the ISS crew when they're not exercising to slow bone loss. Making this primate zoo not require constant repair and resupply is the real impediment to Mars exploration, not "we need a bigger rocket". ImageImageImage
Read 11 tweets
22 Oct
What we could really use is a whistleblower from Facebook's dirty tricks division.
The last thing the world needs or want is another one of these. But they are apparently an unavoidable waste product of the surveillance economy.…
The most explosive accusation in this whistleblower's affidavit appears to be that a Facebook marketing person told the truth
Read 6 tweets
22 Oct
The buried lede here is we need to think harder about preparing for another solar event like happened in 993 that left its mark in the tree rings, because such events are not all that rare and the next one will destroy GPS and much of the power grid.…
Another solar event about 200 years earlier was nearly twice as intense. And for the less intense ones (that would still fry our infrastructure) we're basically dependent on some monk somewhere writing down how weird it is that he can read by aurora light…
Everyone loves the Carrington Event, the well-documented solar storm in 1859 that has been the gold standard for "if this happened today, we'd be toast". But the 774 event was at least 10 times as strong. The Sun does not play.…
Read 6 tweets
21 Oct
Every election cycle there's one of these explainers about how having a 20 minute conversation on your porch with a condescending stranger is so much different from just telling them to go away. The one thing deep canvassing really *is* good for is as a fundraising fairy tale. Image
The impression left is that ordinary, unenlightened canvassers tear themselves away from these potentially transformative, deeply empathetic conversations on the porches of real America so they can meet their arbitrary canvassing quota. The truth is we all hate door knockers.
But expect to hear all about this secret progressive weapon to bridge the political divide just around the time when campaigns badly need your donation to meet their filing deadline.
Read 7 tweets
20 Oct
I really like this question and the challenge of answering it. I believe what makes NFTs different is a transformative vision of a future that true believers find inspiring and achievable. In their eyes, the current speculative bubble is a mechanism for growing something enduring
A good analogy to NFT believers are the people who are really into colonizing Mars. You can argue with them on the technical demerits of their project (no air, far away, all our stuff is here, slow internet), but you're not really getting to the heart of their belief system.
People want to colonize Mars because they (pick one) want to live out a libertarian fantasy, have deep anxieties about human extinction, want humanity to take over the galaxy, want a fresh start in Year Zero without all the baggage that comes with life on Earth, you name it.
Read 14 tweets
20 Oct
This is a fun paper that shows there's a decent chance we don't have to go to Mars, because Mars may eventually come to us (thanks to instabilities in Mercury's orbit). We'd only need to put landing gear on the ISS.…
The authors ran a general relativity model on the Solar System extrapolated 5 billion years out. For each run, they changed the initial size of Mercury's orbit by a few millimeters. Since the Solar System is chaotic, this is enough to produce some spectacularly different outcomes
The upshot is—don't trust Mercury, especially when it's in retrograde. In many of these scenarios it gets pulled into a highly eccentric orbit by Jupiter, and then crashes into Venus or into the Sun. Add this to your list of anxieties if you feel optimistic about life extension.
Read 4 tweets
20 Oct
It would be hard to overstate the scientific return on investment from missions like New Horizons, which cost taxpayers less than the dining room on the International Space Station. It's enormously frustrating that we don't do ten of these a year.
To pick one egregious example, we visited Uranus exactly one time, in 1974, and discovered the planet is really weird, colder than any planetary model predicts but with a strangely hot corona, a bizarro magnetic field, and... that's it. No plans to go back. Just dads to the Moon.
(Sorry, got my dates wrong. The one Uranus flyby took place in 1986, with 1974 hardware.)
Read 4 tweets
18 Oct
Okay, I think there's an Apple event? Let's do this. God help us all.
The Apple Music guy has some thoughts on R.E.M.'s uneasy embrace of mainstream success Image
The new AirPods have a thing called spatial audio, which will make it sound like you're listening to a band playing somewhere even though in reality you're on a bus
Read 27 tweets
17 Oct
The political messaging here from Wyden is *chef's kiss*. "We've been waiting years to raise taxes on the middle class!" Image
The fact that Democrats' Plan B for "let's build out abundant clean energy" is "here's a tax to make you all drive less and wear a cardigan" does not fill me with confidence. Image
Looking forward to whatever creative way the Democrats find to screw up the messaging around free universal pre-school Image
Read 4 tweets
15 Oct
The part west of the mountain chain is Transylvania, where the Hungarians hid after they decided to stop marauding. They even hired Germans to build cities in the mountain passes to protect them from the next set of nomadic steppe raiders to get a gleam in their eye and head west
The strategy held until the first Mongol invasion. By that point the settled Hungarians had gotten soft and forgotten how to steppe nomad, so the Mongols ate their goulash. After that, Hungary doubled down on the "make Germans come and build fortified cities" strategy. It worked!
These fortified Saxon cities built as Mongol repellent are the reason Transylvania is called "Seven Cities" in many languages. The point of all this is that you should visit Transylvania if you can, because you can eat Hungarian food in lovely Saxon cities with Romanian wine.
Read 6 tweets
14 Oct
CO2 is a settler gas colonizing the atmosphere.
Here's the actual chart when you're not trying to make a ridiculous point. The key lesson in the chart is that the future of climate mitigation depends on either convincing 2/3 of humanity to stay poor, or orchestrating a massive global clean energy development program.
Put another way, we can continue to sell climate mitigation as "the good times are over" in the rich countries, or make it into a decarbonization gold rush that makes a lot of people rich (and hated on this site) while electrifying the poorest and most populous countries.
Read 5 tweets
13 Oct
The unintentional lesson in this map is that for Boston, it doesn't really matter much whether we stop emitting greenhouse gases tomorrow or just relax and keep on going. The 1.5º C of warming responsible for most of the flooding is already baked in.
This fallacy comes up a lot in the discussions of climate change. Because so much warming is already locked in, the baseline for comparing various future scenarios should not be how things look today. That is an unattainable future goal unless we start doing crazy geoengineering.
When you stop framing the climate question as "can we save Miami?" and replace it with the more correct "can we save West Palm Beach?", it becomes less motivating. People have done a poor job communicating how much future impact is already irreversible.
Read 4 tweets
12 Oct
The web3 concept that is slowly congealing is an interesting inversion of web 2.0. Back then the idea was "build social websites and figure out the money part later." Today it's "build money stuff and figure out some non-speculative use for it later."
There are three non-fraud foundational problems with "web3":

1. No way to reference anything in the real world (oracle problem)
2. Immutable code makes any smart contract its own bug bounty.
3. Everything breaks (more) unless expensive distributed systems are run in perpetuity.
You can't write this off as idiotic because there may be serendipitous discoveries waiting, just like happened with the web 2.0 hype. But the money element is new and quite toxic. It's a set of legos where every lego is also an unregulated casino, ponzi scheme, and ransomware kit
Read 14 tweets