More on Science
9 months ago
Soon, a Starship Will Transform Humanity
Launched last week.
Four minutes in:
SpaceX will succeed. When it does, its massiveness will matter.
Its payload will revolutionize space economics.
Civilization will shift.
We don't yet understand how this will affect space and Earth culture. Grab it.
The Cost of Space Transportation Has Decreased Exponentially
Space launches have increased dramatically in recent years.
We mostly send items to LEO, the green area below:
SpaceX's reusable rockets can send these things to LEO. Each may launch dozens of payloads into space.
With all these launches, we're sending more than simply things to space. Volume and mass. Since the 1980s, launching a kilogram of payload to LEO has become cheaper:
One kilogram in a large rocket cost over $75,000 in the 1980s. Carrying one astronaut cost nearly $5M! Falcon Heavy's $1,500/kg price is 50 times lower. SpaceX's larger, reusable rockets are amazing.
SpaceX's Starship rocket will continue. It can carry over 100 tons to LEO, 50% more than the current Falcon heavy. Thousands of launches per year. Elon Musk predicts Falcon Heavy's $1,500/kg cost will plummet to $100 in 23 years.
People underestimate this.
2. The Benefits of Affordable Transportation
Compare Earth's transportation costs:
It's no surprise that the US and Northern Europe are the wealthiest and have the most navigable interior waterways.
So what? since sea transportation is cheaper than land. Inland waterways are even better than sea transportation since weather is less of an issue, currents can be controlled, and rivers serve two banks instead of one for coastal transportation.
In France, because population density follows river systems, rivers are valuable. Cheap transportation brought people and money to rivers, especially their confluences.
How come? Why were humans surrounding rivers?
Imagine selling meat for $10 per kilogram. Transporting one kg one kilometer costs $1. Your margin decreases $1 each kilometer. You can only ship 10 kilometers. For example, you can only trade with four cities:
If instead, your cost of transportation is half, what happens? It costs you $0.5 per km. You now have higher margins with each city you traded with. More importantly, you can reach 20-km markets.
However, 2x distance 4x surface! You can now trade with sixteen cities instead of four! Metcalfe's law states that a network's value increases with its nodes squared. Since now sixteen cities can connect to yours. Each city now has sixteen connections! They get affluent and can afford more meat.
Rivers lower travel costs, connecting many cities, which can trade more, get wealthy, and buy more.
The right network is worth at least an order of magnitude more than the left! The cheaper the transport, the more trade at a lower cost, the more income generated, the more that wealth can be reinvested in better canals, bridges, and roads, and the wealth grows even more.
Throughout history. Rome was established around cheap Mediterranean transit and preoccupied with cutting overland transportation costs with their famous roadways. Communications restricted their empire.
The Egyptians lived around the Nile, the Vikings around the North Sea, early Japan around the Seto Inland Sea, and China started canals in the 5th century BC.
Transportation costs shaped empires.Starship is lowering new-world transit expenses. What's possible?
3. Change Organizations, Change Companies, Change the World
Starship is a conveyor belt to LEO. A new world of opportunity opens up as transportation prices drop 100x in a decade.
Satellite engineers have spent decades shedding milligrams. Weight influenced every decision: pricing structure, volumes to be sent, material selections, power sources, thermal protection, guiding, navigation, and control software. Weight was everything in the mission. To pack as much science into every millimeter, NASA missions had to be miniaturized. Engineers were indoctrinated against mass.
Starship is not constrained by any space mission, robotic or crewed.
Starship obliterates the mass constraint and every last vestige of cultural baggage it has gouged into the minds of spacecraft designers. A dollar spent on mass optimization no longer buys a dollar saved on launch cost. It buys nothing. It is time to raise the scope of our ambition and think much bigger. — Casey Handmer, Starship is still not understood
A Tesla Roadster in space makes more sense.
It went beyond bad PR. It told the industry: Did you care about every microgram? No more. My rockets are big enough to send a Tesla without noticing. Industry watchers should have noticed.
Most didn’t. Artemis is a global mission to send astronauts to the Moon and build a base. Artemis uses disposable Space Launch System rockets. Instead of sending two or three dinky 10-ton crew habitats over the next decade, Starship might deliver 100x as much cargo and create a base for 1,000 astronauts in a year or two. Why not? Because Artemis remains in a pre-Starship paradigm where each kilogram costs a million dollars and we must aggressively descope our objective.
Space agencies can deliver 100x more payload to space for the same budget with 100x lower costs and 100x higher transportation volumes. How can space economy saturate this new supply?
Before Starship, NASA supplied heavy equipment for Moon base construction. After Starship, Caterpillar and Deere may space-qualify their products with little alterations. Instead than waiting decades for NASA engineers to catch up, we could send people to build a space outpost with John Deere equipment in a few years.
History is littered with the wreckage of former industrial titans that underestimated the impact of new technology and overestimated their ability to adapt: Blockbuster, Motorola, Kodak, Nokia, RIM, Xerox, Yahoo, IBM, Atari, Sears, Hitachi, Polaroid, Toshiba, HP, Palm, Sony, PanAm, Sega, Netscape, Compaq, GM… — Casey Handmer, Starship is still not understood
Everyone saw it coming, but senior management failed to realize that adaption would involve moving beyond their established business practice. Others will if they don't.
4. The Starship Possibilities
SpaceX invented affordable cargo space and grasped its implications first. How can we use all this inexpensive cargo nobody knows how to use?
Satellite communications seemed like the best way to capitalize on it. They tried. Starlink, designed by SpaceX, provides fast, dependable Internet worldwide. Beaming information down is often cheaper than cable. Already profitable.
Starlink is one use for all this cheap cargo space. Many more. The longer firms ignore the opportunity, the more SpaceX will acquire.
What are these chances?
Satellite imagery is outdated and lacks detail. We can improve greatly. Synthetic aperture radar can take beautiful shots like this:
Have you ever used Google Maps and thought, "I want to see this in more detail"? What if I could view Earth live? What if we could livestream an infrared image of Earth?
We could launch hundreds of satellites with such mind-blowing visual precision of the Earth that we would dramatically improve the accuracy of our meteorological models; our agriculture; where crime is happening; where poachers are operating in the savannah; climate change; and who is moving military personnel where. Is that useful?
What if we could see Earth in real time? That affects businesses? That changes society?
1 year ago
Did volcanic 'glasses' play a role in igniting early life?
Quenched lava may have aided in the formation of long RNA strands required by primitive life.
It took a long time for life to emerge. Microbes were present 3.7 billion years ago, just a few hundred million years after the 4.5-billion-year-old Earth had cooled enough to sustain biochemistry, according to fossils, and many scientists believe RNA was the genetic material for these first species. RNA, while not as complicated as DNA, would be difficult to forge into the lengthy strands required to transmit genetic information, raising the question of how it may have originated spontaneously.
Researchers may now have a solution. They demonstrate how basaltic glasses assist individual RNA letters, also known as nucleoside triphosphates, join into strands up to 200 letters long in lab studies. The glasses are formed when lava is quenched in air or water, or when melted rock generated by asteroid strikes cools rapidly, and they would have been plentiful in the early Earth's fire and brimstone.
The outcome has caused a schism among top origin-of-life scholars. "This appears to be a great story that finally explains how nucleoside triphosphates react with each other to create RNA strands," says Thomas Carell, a scientist at Munich's Ludwig Maximilians University. However, Harvard University's Jack Szostak, an RNA expert, says he won't believe the results until the study team thoroughly describes the RNA strands.
Researchers interested in the origins of life like the idea of a primordial "RNA universe" since the molecule can perform two different functions that are essential for life. It's made up of four chemical letters, just like DNA, and can carry genetic information. RNA, like proteins, can catalyze chemical reactions that are necessary for life.
However, RNA can cause headaches. No one has yet discovered a set of plausible primordial conditions that would cause hundreds of RNA letters—each of which is a complicated molecule—to join together into strands long enough to support the intricate chemistry required to kick-start evolution.
Basaltic glasses may have played a role, according to Stephen Mojzsis, a geologist at the University of Colorado, Boulder. They're high in metals like magnesium and iron, which help to trigger a variety of chemical reactions. "Basaltic glass was omnipresent on Earth at the time," he adds.
He provided the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution samples of five different basalt glasses. Each sample was ground into a fine powder, sanitized, and combined with a solution of nucleoside triphosphates by molecular biologist Elisa Biondi and her colleagues. The RNA letters were unable to link up without the presence of glass powder. However, when the molecules were mixed with the glass particles, they formed long strands of hundreds of letters, according to the researchers, who published their findings in Astrobiology this week. There was no need for heat or light. Biondi explains, "All we had to do was wait." After only a day, little RNA strands produced, yet the strands continued to grow for months. Jan Paek, a molecular biologist at Firebird Biomolecular Sciences, says, "The beauty of this approach is its simplicity." "Mix the components together, wait a few days, and look for RNA."
Nonetheless, the findings pose a slew of problems. One of the questions is how nucleoside triphosphates came to be in the first place. Recent study by Biondi's colleague Steven Benner suggests that the same basaltic glasses may have aided in the creation and stabilization of individual RNA letters.
The form of the lengthy RNA strands, according to Szostak, is a significant challenge. Enzymes in modern cells ensure that most RNAs form long linear chains. RNA letters, on the other hand, can bind in complicated branching sequences. Szostak wants the researchers to reveal what kind of RNA was produced by the basaltic glasses. "It irritates me that the authors made an intriguing initial finding but then chose to follow the hype rather than the research," Szostak says.
Biondi acknowledges that her team's experiment almost probably results in some RNA branching. She does acknowledge, however, that some branched RNAs are seen in species today, and that analogous structures may have existed before the origin of life. Other studies carried out by the study also confirmed the presence of lengthy strands with connections, indicating that they are most likely linear. "It's a healthy argument," says Dieter Braun, a Ludwig Maximilian University origin-of-life chemist. "It will set off the next series of tests."
Michael Hunter, MD
1 year ago
5 Drugs That May Increase Your Risk of Dementia
While our genes can't be changed easily, you can avoid some dementia risk factors. Today we discuss dementia and five drugs that may increase risk.
Memory loss appears to come with age, but we're not talking about forgetfulness. Sometimes losing your car keys isn't an indication of dementia. Dementia impairs the capacity to think, remember, or make judgments. Dementia hinders daily tasks.
Alzheimers is the most common dementia. Dementia is not normal aging, unlike forgetfulness. Aging increases the risk of Alzheimer's and other dementias. A family history of the illness increases your risk, according to the Mayo Clinic (USA).
Given that our genes are difficult to change (I won't get into epigenetics), what are some avoidable dementia risk factors? Certain drugs may cause cognitive deterioration.
Today we look at four drugs that may cause cognitive decline.
Dementia and benzodiazepines
Benzodiazepine sedatives increase brain GABA levels. Example benzodiazepines:
Diazepam (Valium) (Valium)
Alprazolam (Xanax) (Xanax)
Clonazepam (Klonopin) (Klonopin)
Addiction and overdose are benzodiazepine risks. Yes! These medications don't raise dementia risk.
USC study: Benzodiazepines don't increase dementia risk in older adults.
Benzodiazepines can produce short- and long-term amnesia. This memory loss hinders memory formation. Extreme cases can permanently impair learning and memory. Anterograde amnesia is uncommon.
2. Statins and dementia
Statins reduce cholesterol. They prevent a cholesterol-making chemical. Examples:
Atorvastatin (Lipitor) (Lipitor)
Fluvastatin (Lescol XL) (Lescol XL)
Lovastatin (Altoprev) (Altoprev)
Pitavastatin (Livalo, Zypitamag) (Livalo, Zypitamag)
Pravastatin (Pravachol) (Pravachol)
Rosuvastatin (Crestor, Ezallor) (Crestor, Ezallor)
Simvastatin (Zocor) (Zocor)
This finding is contentious. Harvard's Brigham and Womens Hospital's Dr. Joann Manson says:
“I think that the relationship between statins and cognitive function remains controversial. There’s still not a clear conclusion whether they help to prevent dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, have neutral effects, or increase risk.”
This one's off the dementia list.
3. Dementia and anticholinergic drugs
Anticholinergic drugs treat many conditions, including urine incontinence. Drugs inhibit acetylcholine (a brain chemical that helps send messages between cells). Acetylcholine blockers cause drowsiness, disorientation, and memory loss.
First-generation antihistamines, tricyclic antidepressants, and overactive bladder antimuscarinics are common anticholinergics among the elderly.
Anticholinergic drugs may cause dementia. One study found that taking anticholinergics for three years or more increased the risk of dementia by 1.54 times compared to three months or less. After stopping the medicine, the danger may continue.
4. Drugs for Parkinson's disease and dementia
Cleveland Clinic (USA) on Parkinson's:
Parkinson's disease causes age-related brain degeneration. It causes delayed movements, tremors, and balance issues. Some are inherited, but most are unknown. There are various treatment options, but no cure.
Parkinson's medications can cause memory loss, confusion, delusions, and obsessive behaviors. The drug's effects on dopamine cause these issues.
A 2019 JAMA Internal Medicine study found powerful anticholinergic medications enhance dementia risk.
Those who took anticholinergics had a 1.5 times higher chance of dementia. Individuals taking antidepressants, antipsychotic drugs, anti-Parkinson’s drugs, overactive bladder drugs, and anti-epileptic drugs had the greatest risk of dementia.
Anticholinergic medicines can lessen Parkinson's-related tremors, but they slow cognitive ability. Anticholinergics can cause disorientation and hallucinations in those over 70.
5. Antiepileptic drugs and dementia
The risk of dementia from anti-seizure drugs varies with drugs. Levetiracetam (Keppra) improves Alzheimer's cognition.
One study linked different anti-seizure medications to dementia. Anti-epileptic medicines increased the risk of Alzheimer's disease by 1.15 times in the Finnish sample and 1.3 times in the German population. Depakote, Topamax are drugs.
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Ben "The Hosk" Hosking
1 year ago
The Yellow Cat Test Is Typically Failed by Software Developers.
Believe what you see, what people say
It’s sad that we never get trained to leave assumptions behind. - Sebastian Thrun
Many problems in software development are not because of code but because developers create the wrong software. This isn't rare because software is emergent and most individuals only realize what they want after it's built.
Inquisitive developers who pass the yellow cat test can improve the process.
Carpenters measure twice and cut the wood once. Developers are rarely so careful.
The Yellow Cat Test
Game of Thrones made dragons cool again, so I am reading The Game of Thrones book.
The yellow cat exam is from Syrio Forel, Arya Stark's fencing instructor.
Syrio tells Arya he'll strike left when fencing. He hits her after she dodges left. Arya says “you lied”. Syrio says his words lied, but his eyes and arm told the truth.
Arya learns how Syrio became Bravos' first sword.
“On the day I am speaking of, the first sword was newly dead, and the Sealord sent for me. Many bravos had come to him, and as many had been sent away, none could say why. When I came into his presence, he was seated, and in his lap was a fat yellow cat. He told me that one of his captains had brought the beast to him, from an island beyond the sunrise. ‘Have you ever seen her like?’ he asked of me.
“And to him I said, ‘Each night in the alleys of Braavos I see a thousand like him,’ and the Sealord laughed, and that day I was named the first sword.”
Arya screwed up her face. “I don’t understand.”
Syrio clicked his teeth together. “The cat was an ordinary cat, no more. The others expected a fabulous beast, so that is what they saw. How large it was, they said. It was no larger than any other cat, only fat from indolence, for the Sealord fed it from his own table. What curious small ears, they said. Its ears had been chewed away in kitten fights. And it was plainly a tomcat, yet the Sealord said ‘her,’ and that is what the others saw. Are you hearing?” Reddit discussion.
Development teams should not believe what they are told.
We created an appointment booking system. We thought it was an appointment-booking system. Later, we realized the software's purpose was to book the right people for appointments and discourage the unneeded ones.
The first 3 months of the project had half-correct requirements and software understanding.
Open your eyes
“Open your eyes is all that is needed. The heart lies and the head plays tricks with us, but the eyes see true. Look with your eyes, hear with your ears. Taste with your mouth. Smell with your nose. Feel with your skin. Then comes the thinking afterwards, and in that way, knowing the truth” Syrio Ferel
We must see what exists, not what individuals tell the development team or how developers think the software should work. Initial criteria cover 50/70% and change.
Developers build assumptions problems by assuming how software should work. Developers must quickly explain assumptions.
When a development team's assumptions are inaccurate, they must alter the code, DevOps, documentation, and tests.
It’s always faster and easier to fix requirements before code is written.
First-draft requirements can be based on old software. Development teams must grasp corporate goals and consider needs from many angles.
Testers help rethink requirements. They look at how software requirements shouldn't operate.
Technical features and benefits might misdirect software projects.
The initiatives that focused on technological possibilities developed hard-to-use software that needed extensive rewriting following user testing.
High-level criteria are different from detailed ones.
The interpretation of words determines their meaning.
Presentations are lofty, upbeat, and prejudiced.
People's perceptions may be unclear, incorrect, or just based on one perspective (half the story)
Developers can be misled by requirements, circumstances, people, plans, diagrams, designs, documentation, and many other things.
Developers receive misinformation, misunderstandings, and wrong assumptions. The development team must avoid building software with erroneous specifications.
Once code and software are written, the development team changes and fixes them.
Developers create software with incomplete information, they need to fill in the blanks to create the complete picture.
Yellow cats are often inaccurate when communicating requirements.
Before writing code, clarify requirements, assumptions, etc.
Everyone will pressure the development team to generate code rapidly, but this will slow down development.
Code changes are harder than requirements.
1 year ago
Small Pieces of Code That Revolutionized the World
Few sentences can have global significance.
Ethan Zuckerman invented the pop-up commercial in 1997.
He was working for Tripod.com, an online service that let people make little web pages for free. Tripod offered advertising to make money. Advertisers didn't enjoy seeing their advertising next to filthy content, like a user's anal sex website.
Zuckerman's boss wanted a solution. Wasn't there a way to move the ads away from user-generated content?
When you visited a Tripod page, a pop-up ad page appeared. So, the ad isn't officially tied to any user page. It'd float onscreen.
"width=200, height=400, toolbar=no, scrollbars=no, resizable=no, target=_top");
Simple yet harmful! Soon, commercial websites mimicked Zuckerman's concept, infesting the Internet with pop-up advertising. In the early 2000s, a coder for a download site told me that most of their revenue came from porn pop-up ads.
Pop-up advertising are everywhere. You despise them. Hopefully, your browser blocks them.
Zuckerman wrote a single line of code that made the world worse.
I read Zuckerman's story in How 26 Lines of Code Changed the World. Torie Bosch compiled a humorous anthology of short writings about code that tipped the world.
Most of these samples are quite short. Pop-cultural preconceptions about coding say that important code is vast and expansive. Hollywood depicts programmers as blurs spouting out Niagaras of code. Google's success was formerly attributed to its 2 billion lines of code.
It's usually not true. Google's original breakthrough, the piece of code that propelled Google above its search-engine counterparts, was its PageRank algorithm, which determined a web page's value based on how many other pages connected to it and the quality of those connecting pages. People have written their own Python versions; it's only a few dozen lines.
Google's operations, like any large tech company's, comprise thousands of procedures. So their code base grows. The most impactful code can be brief.
The examples are fascinating and wide-ranging, so read the whole book (or give it to nerds as a present). Charlton McIlwain wrote a chapter on the police beat algorithm developed in the late 1960s to anticipate crime hotspots so law enforcement could dispatch more officers there. It created a racial feedback loop. Since poor Black neighborhoods were already overpoliced compared to white ones, the algorithm directed more policing there, resulting in more arrests, which convinced it to send more police; rinse and repeat.
Kelly Chudler's You Are Not Expected To Understand This depicts the police-beat algorithm.
Even shorter code changed the world: the tracking pixel.
Lily Hay Newman's chapter on monitoring pixels says you probably interact with this code every day. It's a snippet of HTML that embeds a single tiny pixel in an email. Getting an email with a tracking code spies on me. As follows: My browser requests the single-pixel image as soon as I open the mail. My email sender checks to see if Clives browser has requested that pixel. My email sender can tell when I open it.
Adding a tracking pixel to an email is easy:
<img src="URL LINKING TO THE PIXEL ONLINE" width="0" height="0">
An older example: Ellen R. Stofan and Nick Partridge wrote a chapter on Apollo 11's lunar module bailout code. This bailout code operated on the lunar module's tiny on-board computer and was designed to prioritize: If the computer grew overloaded, it would discard all but the most vital work.
When the lunar module approached the moon, the computer became overloaded. The bailout code shut down anything non-essential to landing the module. It shut down certain lunar module display systems, scaring the astronauts. Module landed safely.
CADR VAC5STOR # STORE ERASABLES FOR DEBUGGING PURPOSES.
ABORT2 TC BORTENT
OCT77770 OCT 77770 # DONT MOVE
CA V37FLBIT # IS AVERAGE G ON
TC WHIMPER -1 # YES. DONT DO POODOO. DO BAILOUT.
This fun book is worth reading.
I'm a contributor to the New York Times Magazine, Wired, and Mother Jones. I've also written Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World and Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds. Twitter and Instagram: @pomeranian99; Mastodon: @email@example.com.
Tech With Dom
1 year ago
6 Awesome Desk Accessories You Must Have!
I'm gadget-obsessed. So I shared my top 6 desk gadgets.
These gadgets improve my workflow and are handy for working from home.
Without further ado...
Computer light bar Xiaomi Mi
I've previously recommended the Xiaomi Mi Light Bar, and I still do. It's stylish and convenient.
The Mi bar is a monitor-mounted desk lamp. The lamp's hue and brightness can be changed with a stylish wireless remote.
Changeable hue and brightness make it ideal for late-night work.
Desk Mat 2.
I wasn't planning to include a desk surface in this article, but I find it improves computer use.
The mouse feels smoother and is a better palm rest than wood or glass.
I'm currently using the overkill Razer Goliathus Extended Chroma RGB Gaming Surface, but I like RGB.
Using a desk surface or mat makes computer use more comfortable, and it's not expensive.
Third, the Logitech MX Master 3 Mouse
The Logitech MX Master 3 or any from the MX Master series is my favorite mouse.
The side scroll wheel on these mice is a feature I've never seen on another mouse.
Side scroll wheels are great for spreadsheets and video editing. It would be hard for me to switch from my Logitech MX Master 3 to another mouse. Only gaming is off-limits.
Google Nest 4.
Without a smart assistant, my desk is useless. I'm currently using the second-generation Google Nest Hub, but I've also used the Amazon Echo Dot, Echo Spot, and Apple HomePod Mini.
As a Pixel 6 Pro user, the Nest Hub works best with my phone.
My Nest Hub plays news, music, and calendar events. It also lets me control lights and switches with my smartphone. It plays YouTube videos.
Google Pixel Stand, No. 5
A wireless charger on my desk is convenient for charging my phone and other devices while I work. My desk has two wireless chargers. I have a Satechi aluminum fast charger and a second-generation Google Pixel Stand.
If I need to charge my phone and earbuds simultaneously, I use two wireless chargers. Satechi chargers are well-made and fast. Micro-USB is my only complaint.
The Pixel Stand converts compatible devices into a smart display for adjusting charging speeds and controlling other smart devices. My Pixel 6 Pro charges quickly. Here's my video review.
6. Anker Power Bank
Anker's 65W charger is my final recommendation. This online find was a must-have. This can charge my laptop and several non-wireless devices, perfect for any techie!
The charger has two USB-A ports and two USB-C ports, one with 45W and the other with 20W, so it can charge my iPad Pro and Pixel 6 Pro simultaneously.
These are some of my favorite office gadgets. My kit page has an updated list.
Links to the products mentioned in this article are in the appropriate sections. These are affiliate links.
You're up! Share the one desk gadget you can't live without and why.