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CoolNews is my stab at a fluff-free sometimes-weekly newsletter of links curated for recent engineering / design articles and videos I find interesting.
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Hey happy Wednesday everyone.  It’s regrettably taken me a while to get back up to speed as I’ve been traveling and focusing on other things.  One silver lining to this is having spent more time on audiobooks, I put together a set of recent favorites/recommendations following the usual assorted links.
 


 

🗼 The 20 best new buildings from around the world recognized by the Royal Institute of British architects: “The projects range from luxury homes to a school for disadvantaged children and represent some of the finest new buildings from around the world.”  Two more cool buildings specifically designed for company headquarters - Bjarke Ingels will design WeWork’s new NYC space, and Foster + Partners has incorporated a towering skybridge for DJI’s Shenzhen HQ to launch / test their drones.


🚁 Elevate — Speaking of drones, a short documentary from Dezeen on how drones are destined to “revolutionize the way people travel, transform how buildings are designed and built, and radically alter the form cities take.


🛴 Of the electric scooters popping up in San Francisco and other cities across the US, almost all of them are made by Xiaomi and Ninebot, the parent company of Segway.  Interesting to see multiple companies centered on renting out a product that anyone can buy on Amazon for $500 and relies on a frenzied Pokemon Go-esque scavenger hunt culture to charge the Birds nightly.


🚅 Following with the infrastructure / transportation theme, here's Elon Musk giving an update on The Boring Company.  Key ways in how this will differ than existing tunnel networks:  Stations will be far smaller and more numerous than subways.  A circulatory-system approach will eliminate the need for intermediate stops.  Excavated dirt can be continuously converted into high-strength bricks for the actual tunnels and stations reinformecents.  The current goal to 10X current tunnel boring speed will be on pace to outpace a snail. 


💾  A great talk from 1992 of Steve Jobs, then-CEO of NeXT Computer, giving a wide-ranging talk at MIT Sloan on topics from consulting, management, to current software / business trends.  Interesting to note how the concept of object-oriented programming was so critical focus for both consumer-facing tools and the streamlining of NeXT’s own internal just-in-time manufacturing operations.


🤖 Disney research has made an air-filled soft robotic arm with force-sensing fingertips.  Now just combine that with Boston Dynamics’ newest iteration of Atlas that can jog and jump over obstacles outdoors for a full Baymax experience. In other biomimicry / robotics, how researchers taught a spider to jump for the first time to studying their kinetics and high speed video monitoring for posture stabilization of a small running bipedal robot over unexpected changes in terrain and.  Also interesting talks revolving around the general state of humanoid robotics from TechCrunch Sessions Robotics 2018 from Boston Dynamics’ CEO Marc Railbert and Andy Rubin of Android / Google / Playground Global.


☮️ A look at the important work being done by the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, an international organization of scientists that monitors sensors for nuclear blasts and is pushing for countries to agree to install and open-source such networks. 


🔬 3D Cell Biology — Adaptive optics allows for a new microscopy technique to create stunning 3D video of life at the cellular level.  Similar, the Allen Integrated Cell is a powerful tool for visualizing detailed 3D models of various human cells and their internal organelles / proteins.


⚱️ A cool pattern-changing four-layered vase CNC milled from aluminum.


🌎  Cool applications of technology in ecology and conservation, — utilizing sensors, automation, 3D printing, etc.


🧠 Google’s AI program DeepMind learns human navigation skills — Scientists noticed that when they trained the AI to move through a landscape, it developed spontaneous electrical activity akin to that seen in the specialised brain cells that underpin human navigational skills. So-called ‘grid cells’ were only identified in animals in 2005 in work that earned researchers a Nobel prize.


🏇🏻 The story of of Billy Benter, a self-taught gambler / statistician, who began tracking horse-racing back from paper ledgers through honed computational models eventually to the tune of billions of dollars.  Yet, why horses in the Kentucky Derby aren’t getting faster, but humans are.

 


 

🎧 📖  Some of the recent Audiobooks I'd most recommend.  Let me know what else I should add to the list!

 

Science Fiction
 

The Nexus Trilogy by Ramez Naam.  Three great thrillers centered around the awesome / terrifying possibilities of brain-computer interfaces, really taking off from where Wait But Why’s must-read post on Neuralink ends.

 

I’ve been specifically enjoying Daniel Suarez’s writing as realistic explorations of potential manifestations of currently existing technologies and their respective social/political implications.  Similar vibes to Nexus Trilogy.  I’d recommend roughly in the following order:

  • Daemon and FreedomTM: A two-part series an AI that spreads influence across the world through both legal and nefarious means.
  • Influx: If top-secret government agencies shut-down technologies deemed unsuitable for public awareness…
  • Kill Decision: On the consequences of combining autonomous drones with the swarm-intelligence of aggressive insects.
  • Change Agent: CRISPR taken to the extreme.

 

Neal Stephenson’s: Snow Crash (the OG Ready Player One), Seveneves (similar in style / scope to The Three Body problem), and The Diamond Age.

 

Non-fiction

 
  • Ray Dalio’s Principles. (Relevant a16z and Bloomberg MIB podcasts).  A great extensive catalogue of precisely worded observations and questions to improve any decision-making mindset.
 
  • Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff as an insightful into the not-always-glamorous training of the first class of NASA astronauts.  This, not surprisingly, went on to also inspire the career and life of Scott Kelly as documented in his book Endurance.  Given the pace of recent space technology development, it strikes me that the limiting factor for interstellar travel will quite soon be our lack of knowledge of how the human body reacts to extended space-time / how to prepare for it.
   
Cheers until next time,
Kendall
CoolNews
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