Big Tech &
Brandless, the pioneering Amazon alternative, shuts down (3 minute read)
Brandless is shutting down, just two and a half years after it launched. It had an original idea designed to disrupt the traditional grocery industry, but it could not perform under the pressure of its investors. Brandless blames the crowded e-commerce market, as the competition in the direct-to-consumer market is fierce. SoftBank poured $240 million into the company in mid-2018, a year after it launched. After it received the cash infusion, Brandless underwent major leadership changes, partly due to the fact that SoftBank was pushing Brandless to quickly turn a profit and meet steep financial targets. The company board decided to shut down the company while there was still enough money to provide severance packages to employees.
Equifax was hacked by Chinese military officers, federal prosecutors say (2 minute read)
The Department of Justice has announced the indictment of four members of China's military over the 2017 hack of Equifax. Using a vulnerability in the framework used by Equifax, the hackers obtained sensitive information such as names, social security numbers, birthdates, addresses, driver's license numbers, and sometimes even credit card numbers. Around 150 million Americans were affected by the attack. This is the second time the DOJ has indicted members of China's People's Liberation Army in an economic espionage case. There is no evidence that the stolen data has been used. People in the US are getting used to hearing about data breaches and should be more careful about managing the data that they give to companies.
A Bay Area startup is working to make 'air meat' using protein-producing microbes discovered by NASA (2 minute read)
Most meat alternatives rely on soy or pea protein to mimic the taste and texture of burger patties. A startup called Air Protein is using a technique discovered by NASA to convert carbon dioxide into protein the same way plants do. The process requires 1,000 times less land and water than soybean production as the protein is created inside a lab rather than on a farm. It uses microbes called hydrogenotrophs, which convert carbon dioxide into a flavorless protein powder. The resulting protein can be made into pasta, cereals, shakes, and now, a meat alternative. Similar technology is being used by other companies to create different types of foods. The biggest hurdle for this technology will be to win consumers over with taste.
A Long-Lost Legendary Roman Fruit Tree Has Been Grown From 2,000-Year-Old Seeds (3 minute read)
An ancient species has been brought back to life from 2,000-year-old seeds found in ancient ruins and caves. The Judean date palm has been lost for centuries, and the feat confirms the long-term viability of the seed kernels. By studying the saplings, scientists were able to determine that the palm was cross-cultivated with a blend of eastern and western date palm varieties. The findings helped shed some light on ancient cultivation practices. They show that humans in ancient civilizations deliberately introduced desirable traits into cultivated species. The scientists are trying to determine how the date seeds retained their viability for so long, as this could have important implications for agriculture.
Programming, Design & Data Science
fontpreview (GitHub Repo)
fontpreview is a command-line tool for searching and previewing local fonts. It uses a fuzzy search provided by fzf. fontpreview is highly customizable and can be configured through command-line flags or using environment variables.
6 things I wish I knew about state management when I started writing React apps (6 minute read)
Many sites have complex front ends that 'know' a lot of things and can make these things interact with each other in non-trivial ways. This is all achieved through state management, which is the core problem when developing a UI. Developers need to figure out how to store global states that can be accessed anywhere in order to build a non-trivial React application. Prop drilling becomes impractical as an app gets bigger, so it is better to just focus on state management. An application may have several different types of state, and the needs of each state should be considered individually. There are multiple state management libraries available, so it's worth the time to learn what each library offers.
Exclusive: Strange Russian Spacecraft Shadowing U.S. Spy Satellite, General Says (6 minute read)
Two Russian satellites are currently tailing a multibillion-dollar US spy satellite in space. They started moving towards the US satellite in November, sometimes getting within 100 miles of the spacecraft. This is the first time a direct threat to a specific US spacecraft by an adversary has been publicly identified. President Donald Trump created the Space Force in December, representing a strategic shift from passively operating satellites to actively defending them. Russia has stated that the satellites are 'inspector' spacecraft engaged in an experiment. The two spacecraft were launched as one, and then they split into its current two separate parts. They appear to be collecting data on the US satellite. This might be considered an aggressive act by Russia, and could be an attempt to test the US government's boundaries in space.
Sorrow-stricken mother reunites with deceased daughter in virtual world (2 minute read)
A special TV documentary in Korea tells the story of a sorrow-stricken mother and her reunion with her deceased daughter in a virtual world. 'I Met You' aired on February 6 after eight months of production. It is set at the charnel house which the mother visits once a month to remember her daughter. They have a heartfelt conversation and celebrate the daughter's birthday together. The mother said that she appeared in the documentary to help bring comfort to those who had lost family members.