Links

The top three links really are that good.

----- 4 stars -----

The Twilight of the Iranian Revolution / New Yorker
Dexter Filkins:

This February 11th, the forty-first anniversary of the revolution, a celebration was scheduled for downtown Tehran. I was at a restaurant in the city that morning, when a waitress overheard me discussing plans to attend. “You’re going?” she asked with a sneer. “They force people to be there—they blackmail them. They tell people that if they don’t go they will lose their jobs.” A parade wound down Independence Boulevard for more than two miles. Along the way, placards proclaimed the victory of the revolution, and on every block hung portraits of Khomeini and Khamenei. The festivities seemed subdued, though, with small bands of marchers shepherding kids bundled against the cold. Some of the attendees dutifully cried “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.” But when Hassan Rouhani, the country’s President, came to the lectern in Freedom Square there was barely a murmur. Most people carried on talking to one another. “Rouhani promised that after the nuclear deal most of our problems would be solved,” a woman named Majideh told me. “We decided to believe in a miracle. Look what happened.” [...] Khamenei did not always project menace. When he was first chosen to be the Supreme Leader, he was seen as weak, lacking the respect of his fellow-clergymen. So he turned to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. To build support, he reached far down into the ranks and appointed new colonels and brigadiers. “Khamenei micromanages the whole system, so everyone is loyal to him,” Khalaji, of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said. “He is hyperactive. He knows every low-ranking commander and even the names of their children.” The I.R.G.C. became the principal basis of Khamenei’s power. In turn, he made it the country’s preëminent security institution. During the Green Movement, the Guard and its plainclothes militia, known as the Basij, were instrumental in crushing dissent. According to Abbas Milani, the director of the Iranian Studies program at Stanford and a former political prisoner in Iran, the uprising amounted to a political anointment. “Clearly, the regime believed it was going to lose control, and the I.R.G.C. and the Basij saved the day,” Milani said. “The result is that the I.R.G.C. now has the upper hand. Khamenei knows that without the I.R.G.C. he’d be out of a job in twenty-four hours.” [...] Khamenei attempted to shift the blame, maintaining that the decision to use force had not been his. But he showed no pity toward those killed, saying that the security forces had fired on “hooligans” and dupes of foreign agents. “Such actions are not carried out by ordinary people,” he said of the protests. “They are thugs.” Khamenei warned that he would not stand in the way of the security forces in the future. President Rouhani did not appear in public for several days. During my visit, though, he held a press conference, and I asked him how many civilians the government had killed. He gave a rambling response before concluding, “You’re going to have to ask the medical examiner’s office.” (Iranian reporters later reached out to the medical examiner in Tehran. The office demurred, saying, “The Ministry of Interior is responsible for announcing these statistics.”) When I returned to my seat, an Iranian reporter, her face surrounded by a chador, turned to me and spoke loudly enough for much of the room to hear. “I noticed the President didn’t answer your question,” she said, in flawless English. “We hate him.”

https://bit.ly/2WX5EYi


Solving the “The Miracle Sudoku” / Kottke

Every once in a while during my internet travels, I run across something like this video: something impossibly mundane and niche (a ~26-minute video of someone solving a sudoku puzzle) that turns out to be ludicrously entertaining. I cannot improve upon Ben Orlin’s description: "You’re about to spend the next 25 minutes watching a guy solve a Sudoku. Not only that, but it’s going to be the highlight of your day." The solver himself calls it “a work of sublime genius” and “one of the most extraordinary puzzles we’ve ever seen”. It’s fascinating listening to him slowly uncover different aspects of the puzzle — watching him methodically figure out the 3s was genuinely thrilling.

https://bit.ly/3efjTgY


Michael Jordan: A history of flight / ESPN
Wright Thompson:

"We had field days in elementary school where in May you'd go out and have a 100-yard dash," he says. "Even then, Mike, he hated losing. Some of the memories I have on activity buses going to football, basketball, baseball games. There was many times we'd have a game of cards on the activity bus. And we'd get to the school we were playing, and Mike hadn't been winning the last few hands? He wouldn't let anybody get off the bus." Al says he met Michael Jordan only once. It must have been 30 years ago, when the Bulls star came back to his hometown to put on a basketball clinic. They ran into each other afterward and laughed and told stories for a good half-hour. They knew the same people. Their fathers had sat together at their games. They'd driven the same roads to and from school. "I don't know Michael," Al says. "I've always known him as Mike." Once more he is the center of our sporting lives. Michael Jordan wasn't destined to just fade away. After the 1997-98 season, which we have been reliving in "The Last Dance," Phil Jackson looked into the future: "I know I will be forgotten as soon as this is over. All of us will. Except Michael. Michael will be remembered forever." Jackson was right. Such is the power of Michael Jordan that ESPN's prime-time ratings are up versus last year, in a time with almost no live sporting events. [...] Every 10 years, when the census takers would fan out around the countryside, when roads were makeshift things and not codified government projects, they'd find a Jordan man living in the same pie-slice-shaped wedge of land where they had always been. Dawson lived on Holly Shelter Road in 1920, Bannerman's Bridge Road in 1930. Both of those are tucked into bends in the river, where the old Stag Park plantation used to be, where Dawson used to work a boat. By 1940, Dawson Jordan lived between the swamps, Holly Shelter to the south and Angola Bay to the north. The year before, he'd worked 52 weeks straight and made $300. His son, William, and grandson lived with him too. The boy's name was James R. Jordan. James was 4 years old, and 23 years from the birth of his son the basketball star, Michael Jeffrey Jordan, living back near the swamp with the son of a former slave -- 17 miles northwest of Highway 117 where it intersects Burgaw and a half-hour drive, looping to either the north or the south of the Angola Bay swamp, from that house to the cemetery where James Jordan would one day be buried. [...] In that moment, he began to understand the focus he could find by turning everyone and everything into an adversary. Like when he told the story, to himself and everyone else, that he was cut from the basketball team by a coach who doubted his talent. Turns out, he wasn't really cut at all. No, he didn't make the team. But according to a famous Sports Illustrated story, that's because the coach recognized his immense talent and put him on junior varsity, where he'd get more minutes a game. Clifton "Pop" Herring, that coach, later found himself taunted by Michael's story about what happened for decades. "The thing is, people in Wilmington who knew the story," says Pop's daughter, Paquita Yarborough, "they didn't hate that Michael was a hometown hero, but they hated the story was never set straight. That's what people's irritation really was. Part of the story was for his brand. Part of the story was to sell shoes and products and 'You can be like me, I got cut. Then after that I became the greatest basketball player who ever lived.' It is annoying. It's very annoying. I have intentionally not watched Michael Jordan things. I had no clue there was a documentary." [...] "My biggest lesson about people came from my father," Michael told me that afternoon in Carolina. "He could talk to anybody. He could get along with anybody. But he never let people into his life. He never let people see his thoughts. His secrets. I have those traits. I can sit and talk to all the different sponsors, and they know only as much as I want them to know. I am always able to maintain that mystique. You could talk to him for two or three hours and not know a f---ing thing in two or three hours. But at the same time, you'll say he's a nice gentleman. He never gave any family secrets away. I've got that trait. I use it."

https://es.pn/2ZxP5Uw


----- 3 stars -----

Why Our Economy May Be Headed for a Decade of Depression / New York Magazine

In September 2006, Nouriel Roubini told the International Monetary Fund what it didn’t want to hear. Standing before an audience of economists at the organization’s headquarters, the New York University professor warned that the U.S. housing market would soon collapse — and, quite possibly, bring the global financial system down with it. Real-estate values had been propped up by unsustainably shady lending practices, Roubini explained. Once those prices came back to earth, millions of underwater homeowners would default on their mortgages, trillions of dollars worth of mortgage-backed securities would unravel, and hedge funds, investment banks, and lenders like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could sink into insolvency. At the time, the global economy had just recorded its fastest half-decade of growth in 30 years. And Nouriel Roubini was just some obscure academic. Thus, in the IMF’s cozy confines, his remarks roused less alarm over America’s housing bubble than concern for the professor’s psychological well-being. Of course, the ensuing two years turned Roubini’s prophecy into history, and the little-known scholar of emerging markets into a Wall Street celebrity. A decade later, “Dr. Doom” is a bear once again. [...] What I’m saying is that once you run a budget deficit of not 3, not 5, not 8, but 15 or 20 percent of GDP — and you’re going to fully monetize it (because that’s what the Fed has been doing) — you still won’t have inflation in the short run, not this year or next year, because you have slack in goods markets, slack in labor markets, slack in commodities markets, etc. But there will be inflation in the post-coronavirus world. This is because we’re going to see two big negative supply shocks. For the last decade, prices have been constrained by two positive supply shocks — globalization and technology. Well, globalization is going to become deglobalization thanks to decoupling, protectionism, fragmentation, and so on. So that’s going to be a negative supply shock. And technology is not going to be the same as before. The 5G of Erickson and Nokia costs 30 percent more than the one of Huawei, and is 20 percent less productive. So to install non-Chinese 5G networks, we’re going to pay 50 percent more. So technology is going to gradually become a negative supply shock. So you have two major forces that had been exerting downward pressure on prices moving in the opposite direction, and you have a massive monetization of fiscal deficits. Remember the 1970s? You had two negative supply shocks — ’73 and ’79, the Yom Kippur War and the Iranian Revolution. What did you get? Stagflation. Now, I’m not talking about hyperinflation — not Zimbabwe or Argentina. I’m not even talking about 10 percent inflation. It’s enough for inflation to go from one to 4 percent. Then, ten-year Treasury bonds — which today have interest rates close to zero percent — will need to have an inflation premium. So, think about a ten-year Treasury, five years from now, going from one percent to 5 percent, while inflation goes from near zero to 4 percent. And ask yourself, what’s going to happen to the real economy? Well, in the fourth quarter of 2018, when the Federal Reserve tried to raise rates above 2 percent, the market couldn’t take it. So we don’t need hyperinflation to have a disaster.

https://nym.ag/3c5UNQt


Inside the Flour Company Supplying America’s Sudden Baking Obsession / Medium

Baking bread was a regular family affair in Linda Ely’s childhood home, leaving her with a lifelong bread-baking habit and some powerful memories. “I think of my family every single time I bake,” she says. Ely has been able to pay some of that gift forward to the thousands of people she has advised over the Baker’s Hotline run by the company she works for — and is to a tiny degree a part-owner of — King Arthur Flour. Most of the people who call with bread-baking questions already know a thing or two about the craft themselves, but want to check on some of the finer points for a particular project: Should you alter the hydration ratio if you’re using a mixture of white, whole wheat, and almond flour? How long can you keep the unbaked dough in the refrigerator if you want an extended rise? So tricky and specific are some of the bread-baking questions that even though Ely is one of the bread specialists working the hotline, she sometimes puts callers on hold and yells over the cubicle walls to colleagues for second opinions. But in early March, Ely noticed a change in the questions. Partly it was an increase in the sheer number of calls, a jump that seemed more sudden and pronounced than the normal mild pre-Easter build-up. But even stranger was how many of the callers seemed, well, clueless. How do you tell if bread is done? Do I really need yeast? And strangest of all: What can I use instead of flour? Ely and the other half-dozen or so hotline experts share an open office with the employees who take call-in orders from customers, and they, too, were getting a flood of odd calls. Namely, countless people were calling in to order as many as 10 of the company’s five-pound bags of flour at once. Who would need that much flour in their homes? “That was another data point that told us this wasn’t just the holiday build-up,” recalls Ely. Ely and her colleagues didn’t know it, but across Carbohydrate Camelot — the name that employees gave the 14-acre headquarters campus in Norwich, Vermont, that contains a restored farmhouse and a handful of small buildings — co-CEO Karen Colberg was staring in shock at the recent daily sales figures that had just popped up on her screen. “I fired off a text to the sales team to check their figures,” says Colberg. “It was obviously some sort of mistake.” No mistake, came the reply. The figures had already been double-checked. They showed a 600% increase in grocery-store sales almost literally overnight.

https://bit.ly/2A3S3FS


----- 2 stars -----

Inside the mind of Dominic Cummings / The Guardian

I can’t honestly claim to do much by way of community service but, as some twisted equivalent of a new year resolution, I decided I would sacrifice myself for the common good in January by spending the greater part of the month reading The Complete Blogs of Dominic Cummings. Well, perhaps not quite complete, as I have only gone back to 2013 and I have skipped several of the more functional or repetitive pieces, but I have more than compensated for any light-footed skimming by reading all 133,000 words of his magnum opus, posted in 2014 and titled “Some thoughts on education and political priorities”, in which he described his ideal of “an Odyssean education”. What follows is my report on this unusual body of work. [...] In Cummings’s ontology, the world appears to be made up of an extremely small number of outstandingly clever individuals and a mass of mediocrities. Human progress depends on giving those with the highest IQ (he’s very keen on the notion of IQ) the education that will allow them fully to develop their talents and then the freedom to apply them. [...] Dominic Cummings is now, in effect, the country’s project manager. He’s the Downing Street version of the Deliveroo guy who doesn’t care whether you’ve ordered pepperoni or four-cheese: his job is to make it happen, and if that involves cycling the wrong way up one-way streets then that’s probably a plus. His writing displays an alarming ability to focus on a goal to the exclusion of noticing, or caring about, any amount of collateral damage. Emotions mostly figure as forms of irrational distraction. Toes, after all, were put in the world largely to be trodden on. People around him don’t have to take umbrage: he gives it to them, makes a present of it, with a liberality that would put a drunk in a bar to shame.

https://bit.ly/2A6Nkmy


‘It’s something I have never seen’: How the Covid-19 virus hijacks cells / STAT News

“Most other viruses interfere with some aspect of both the call to arms and the call for reinforcements,” tenOever said. “If they didn’t, no one would ever get a viral illness”: The one-two punch would pummel any incipient infection into submission. SARS-CoV-2, however, uniquely blocks one cellular defense but activates the other, he and his colleagues reported in a study published last week in Cell. They studied healthy human lung cells growing in lab dishes, ferrets (which the virus infects easily), and lung cells from Covid-19 patients. In all three, they found that within three days of infection, the virus induces cells’ call-for-reinforcement genes to produce cytokines. But it blocks their call-to-arms genes — the interferons that dampen the virus’ replication. The result is essentially no brakes on the virus’s replication, but a storm of inflammatory molecules in the lungs, which is what tenOever calls an “unique” and “aberrant” consequence of how SARS-CoV-2 manipulates the genome of its target. [...] In fact, the Icahn School team found no interferons in the lung cells of Covid-19 patients. Without interferons, tenOever said, “there is nothing to stop the virus from replicating and festering in the lungs forever.” That causes lung cells to emit even more “call-for-reinforcement” genes, summoning more and more immune cells. Now the lungs have macrophages and neutrophils and other immune cells “everywhere,” tenOever said, causing such runaway inflammation “that you start having inflammation that induces more inflammation.” At the same time, unchecked viral replication kills lung cells involved in oxygen exchange. “And suddenly you’re in the hospital in severe respiratory distress,” he said. In elderly people, as well as those with diabetes, heart disease, and other underlying conditions, the call-to-arms part of the immune system is weaker than in younger, healthier people, even before the coronavirus arrives. That reduces even further the cells’ ability to knock down virus replication with interferons, and imbalances the immune system toward the dangerous inflammatory response. The discovery that SARS-CoV-2 strongly suppresses infected cells’ production of interferons has raised an intriguing possibility: that taking interferons might prevent severe Covid-19 or even prevent it in the first place, said Vineet Menachery of the University of Texas Medical Branch.

https://bit.ly/3bYMzcz


Should Scientists Take UFOs and Ghosts More Seriously? / Scientific American

Horgan: Journalist Keith Kloor, writing in WIRED, calls your recent New York Times article on UFOs “thinly-sourced and slanted.” Astrophysicist Katie Mack, in Scientific American, says she doesn’t take alien spaceships seriously enough to debunk them. How do you respond to these critics? Kean: People are entitled to their opinions. As one of three people writing the Times stories, which include scrutiny by fact-checkers and multiple editors, I simply don’t agree with Kloor’s statement. We stand by all our reporting at the New York Times and will continue to cover the topic whenever we can. Our first story in Dec. 2017 reverberated around the world and has made the subject respectable for many who would not have touched it before. It opened the door to classified briefings on the Hill and a chain of events involving the Navy issuing new reporting guidelines and acknowledging the anomalies in the videos. I don’t think Katie Mack and I stand that far apart. She writes, “It’s not that we don’t think aliens exist. To the best of my knowledge, most of us do.” But the leap to alien spaceships in our atmosphere is another matter, for many reasons which she spells out. I respect her position. I have never claimed that UFOs are alien spaceships. Unfortunately, this is the takeaway for many people from our stories in the Times, even though this is not what is actually written and even though we include counter statements to this idea. So I would respond to Katie Mack that any question about alien spaceships misses the point. These are unknowns, plain and simple. But they are physically real. They interact with military pilots and commercial aircraft. Therefore, they deserve investigation. [...] Horgan: Do you ever worry that your claims about life after death will discredit your claims about UFOs, or vice versa? Kean: Yes, I was worried about that question regarding the material in Surviving Death. However, I didn’t make any “claims about life after death” that I felt could discredit me, at least in terms of reporting on research and drawing conclusions. I invited others to write their own chapters, and they said things that I didn’t say. My conclusion was that the evidence was suggestive, but not definitive, and I never claimed that we survive death. I pointed out that we all have our own criteria for “evidence” which is strongly impacted by personal experience. I “tested” mental mediumship, received what appeared to be after-death communications from my brother, saw an apparition, and experienced genuine physical mediumship. I thought about whether to make myself vulnerable by including these things. But I think my narrative would have remained one-dimensional and abstract without this personal element. So, I stepped inside this investigation through first-hand examination, and not just from the perspective of a detached observer who studies data and peers into a strange world from the outside. Yes, it could be professionally risky to expose these very personal events, but I felt it was my obligation to do so. It would have been dishonest to omit them, because they impacted my thinking and my effort to come to terms with many remarkable phenomena. However, I was also careful to step back from them, remaining as analytical and discriminating as I was with everything else. The tricky aspect lies in the interpretation of the extraordinary events, not in their reporting.

https://bit.ly/2X111g9


Jordan vs Lebron - The Best GOAT Comparison / YouTube
All the recent Michael Jordan content in these e-mails is due to a combination of a ton of high-quality writing about him (due to The Last Dance and the attention that's gotten in the current sports-starved environment) and my own -- very clearly biased -- enthusiasm as someone who grew up in Chicago in the 1990s. The earlier 4-star Wright Thompson piece, like all Wright Thompson pieces, is genuinely a great read. Go read it. This YouTube video...well, I do think it's very good, especially compared to the vast majority of sports videos like it, but perhaps my bias is showing.
https://bit.ly/2A1fbF1


The medieval engineering strokes of genius that led to the building of Old London Bridge / Country Life

Despite our familiarity with bridges, their history has scarcely been studied. The most famous is Old London Bridge because, as the song tells us, it fell down. Engineers have often stressed that it was a clumsy structure with its piers resting on massive wooden platforms, creating a narrow, turbulent waterway, inferior to the works of the Romans and the Renaissance. Despite its failings, it was, in fact, a remarkable work of civil engineering. It was also utterly atypical.

https://bit.ly/36tbFPW


Chips and Geopolitics / Stratechery

The debate around who belongs on the Mount Rushmore of tech would be a long one; what is certain is that Morris Chang should be on the list. He certainly leads the way in terms of impact relative to name recognition. [...] The international status of Taiwan is, as they say, complicated. So, for that matter, are U.S.-China relations. These two things can and do overlap to make entirely new, even more complicated complications. Geography is much more straightforward. Taiwan, you will note, is just off the coast of China. South Korea, home to Samsung, which also makes the highest end chips, although mostly for its own use, is just as close. The United States, meanwhile, is on the other side of the Pacific Ocean. There are advanced foundries in Oregon, New Mexico, and Arizona, but they are operated by Intel, and Intel makes chips for its own integrated use cases only. The reason this matters is because chips matter for many use cases outside of PCs and servers — Intel’s focus — which is to say that TSMC matters. Nearly every piece of equipment these days, military or otherwise, has a processor inside. Some of these don’t require particularly high performance, and can be manufactured by fabs built years ago all over the U.S. and across the world; others, though, require the most advanced processes, which means they must be manufactured in Taiwan by TSMC. This is a big problem if you are a U.S. military planner. Your job is not to figure out if there will ever be a war between the U.S. and China, but to plan for an eventuality you hope never occurs. And in that planning the fact that TSMC’s foundries — and Samsung’s — are within easy reach of Chinese missiles is a major issue. China, meanwhile, is investing heavily in catching up, although Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC), its Shanghai-based champion, only just started manufacturing on a 14nm process, years after TSMC, Samsung, and Intel. In the long run, though, the U.S. faced a scenario where China had its own chip supplier, even as it threatened the U.S.’s chip supply chain.

https://bit.ly/2WY4trJ


Graduate Student Solves Decades-Old Conway Knot Problem / Quanta

It took Lisa Piccirillo less than a week to answer a long-standing question about a strange knot discovered over half a century ago by the legendary John Conway. [...] The question asked whether the Conway knot — a snarl discovered more than half a century ago by the legendary mathematician John Horton Conway — is a slice of a higher-dimensional knot. “Sliceness” is one of the first natural questions knot theorists ask about knots in higher-dimensional spaces, and mathematicians had been able to answer it for all of the thousands of knots with 12 or fewer crossings — except one. The Conway knot, which has 11 crossings, had thumbed its nose at mathematicians for decades. Before the week was out, Piccirillo had an answer: The Conway knot is not “slice.” A few days later, she met with Cameron Gordon, a professor at UT Austin, and casually mentioned her solution. “I said, ‘What?? That’s going to the Annals right now!’” Gordon said, referring to Annals of Mathematics, one of the discipline’s top journals. “He started yelling, ‘Why aren’t you more excited?’” said Piccirillo, now a postdoctoral fellow at Brandeis University. “He sort of freaked out.” “I don’t think she’d recognized what an old and famous problem this was,” Gordon said.

https://bit.ly/3bXvv6P


----- 1 star -----

This Demo Of Unreal Engine 5 Running Real-Time Graphics On A Playstation 5 Is Unbelievable / Digg
Digg is known for its sensationalist headlines. But in this case I agree; hard to believe that this is rendered in real time. Even if you have no interest in this stuff, check out how amazing technology can be these days...
https://bit.ly/2LVX4CU


Doordash and Pizza Arbitrage / Substack
You know where this is going...

In March 2019 a good friend who owns a few pizza restaurants messaged me (this friend has made appearances in prior Margins' pieces). For over a decade, he resisted adding delivery as an option for his restaurants. He felt it would detract from focusing on the dine-in experience and result in trying to compete with Domino's. But he had suddenly started getting customers calling in with complaints about their deliveries. Customers called in saying their pizza was delivered cold. Or the wrong pizza was delivered and they wanted a new pizza. Again, none of his restaurants delivered. He realized that a delivery option had mysteriously appeared on their company's Google Listing. The delivery option was created by Doordash. To confirm, he had never spoken with anyone from Doordash and after years of resisting the siren song of delivery revenue, certainly did not want to be listed. But the words "Order Delivery" were right there, prominently on the Google snippet. He messaged me asking me if I knew anything about Doordash, and oh boy, did I get Softbank-triggered. I had just read about their $400 million Series F and it was among the WeWorkian class of companies that, for me, represented everything wrong about startup evolution through the 2010s. Raise a ton of money, lose a ton of money, and just obliterate the basic economics of an industry. Doordash was causing him real problems. The most common was, Doordash delivery drivers didn't have the proper bags for pizza so it inevitably would arrive cold. It led to his employees wasting time responding to complaints and even some bad Yelp reviews. But he brought up another problem - the prices were off. He was frustrated that customers were seeing incorrectly low prices. A pizza that he charged $24 for was listed as $16 by Doordash. My first thought: I wondered if Doordash is artificially lowering prices for customer acquisition purposes. My second thought: I knew Doordash scraped restaurant websites. After we discussed it more, it was clear that the way his menu was set up on his website, Doordash had mistakenly taken the price for a plain cheese pizza and applied it to a 'specialty' pizza with a bunch of toppings. My third thought: Cue the Wall Street trader in me…..ARBITRAGE!!!! If someone could pay Doordash $16 a pizza, and Doordash would pay his restaurant $24 a pizza, then he should clearly just order pizzas himself via Doordash, all day long. You'd net a clean $8 profit per pizza [insert nerdy economics joke about there is such a thing as a free lunch]. He thought this was a stupid idea. "A business as successful a Doordash and worth billions of dollars would clearly not just give away money like this."

https://bit.ly/3cYHbHX


Fascinating Simulation Shows What Launched Rockets Would Look Like If They Were Transparent / Digg

It's an incredibly satisfying video, watching the fuel burn out on Saturn V, Space Shuttle, Falcon Heavy and the Space Launch System rocket.

https://bit.ly/2LUiZKH


Coronalinks 5/18/20: When all you have is a hammer, everything starts looking like a dance / Slate Star Codex

Here are some CDC graphs that use cell phone data to measure percent of people leaving home over time. On this measure, official government stay-at-home orders didn’t seem to affect the percent of people staying at home, even the tiniest bit. Facebook is tracking something similar – see their terrible and hard-to-use website here. Here are the data from California. Can you tell what day a statewide lockdown order was issued? (click here and check the date of the article for answer). If comparing times doesn’t impress you, we can also compare places. Sweden has attracted international attention for its refusal to shut down business – restaurants and bars there are open as usual. And Nashville has attracted attention as a center of growing anti-lockdown protests by people who think its shelter-in-place order is too strict. But cell phone data finds that citizens of Stockholm and Nashville “have nearly the exact same adjustment in driving, walking, and transit use”. [...] This seems to match the conclusion from the last section: government policy isn’t mattering as much as we think. We thought South Korea and Taiwan were doing well because their governments were so brilliant and competent, but Japan’s government kept denying the problem existed in order to preserve their shot at holding the Olympics, and they seem to be doing equally well. Switzerland is another weird case. It’s a loose confederation of linguistically French, Germany, and Italian regions. Remember that France and Italy have been devastated by the virus, and Germany has mostly gotten off unscathed. The same is true of Swiss regions; French- and Italian-speaking cantons have been devastated, while their German-speaking neighbors wonder what all the fuss is about. The Swiss government swears that this has nothing to do with policy.

https://bit.ly/2ZwiFKc


Scientists Captured a Planet's Birth and It Is Terrifying and Beautiful / Vice

The new image could be the first direct evidence of the site of a planet's fiery birth in interstellar space.

https://bit.ly/2TAlTsh


Freaky ‘Active’ Object in Jupiter’s Orbit Is First of Its Kind Seen by Astronomers / Gizmodo

It’s neither an asteroid nor a comet but something in between. It’s also parked within Jupiter’s orbit, making this object the first of its kind to ever be detected.

https://bit.ly/2Xu196E


Scientists Reveal a Proof-of-Concept Bionic Human Eye / Science Alert

Researchers say they've created a proof-of-concept bionic eye that could surpass the sensitivity of a human one.

https://bit.ly/2TwCygA


The economics of college vs. the economics of private tutors / Marginal Revolution

The average tenure hopeful adjunct makes $40 an hour. If you were to employ her as a private tutor at the cost of $60 an hour, and had four hours with her a week, and did that for 14 weeks (that’s the length of an average college course folks) that is about $3,400. Were you to employ three such professor-tutors, that would be about $10,200, or a bit over $20,000 a year. In four years you would have racked up $80,000 in costs. But this is still $30,000 less than the total for the ‘cost conscious’ universities. It is a quarter of what you would pay for Trinity. Remember: this $80,000 is for private tutoring, where individual attention would give you far and away a better and more thorough education than the 300-kids-in-a-lecture-hall style of classes that dominate undergraduate education today. But it can get even cheaper. Let’s say you take the general principle of group classes from the university. Say you can find four other people to take all of these other classes with you. Just four. Well that equals out to $680 per class, or $16,000 a person for four years of classes. To be fair, add in $1,000-$2,000 for textbooks and a subscription to JSTOR, for a total of about $17,000 to $18,000 for four years.

https://bit.ly/2Zx9cCw


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