Big Tech &
SpaceX launches latest batch of internet satellites, including one with a visor (3 minute read)
SpaceX has successfully launched and recovered its Falcon 9 rocket for the fifth time, deploying 60 satellites into orbit before landing back on the company's drone ship in the Atlantic. SpaceX has launched just over 480 Starlink satellites into orbit, a fraction of the 12,000 satellites that the company has permission to launch. The company aims to provide global internet coverage from space. One of the satellites on the launch was equipped with a visor that was designed to block light from the sun, keeping the light from reflecting off the shiniest parts of the satellite. The satellites' brightness has been a concern for the astronomy community. SpaceX is experimenting with different methods to fix the problem.
Genetic engineers are working on making an invisible man. Seriously (2 minute read)
Scientists at the University of California recently published a paper describing their work in genetically engineering human cells to have the ability to vary their transparency. Cephalopods can change both the color and transparency of their skin. The researchers grew embryonic human kidney cells in a dish using a special technique to create a specific squid protein. When stimulated with salt, the proteins in the cells reacted and changed the cells' transparency. Further research will improve strategies for creating the protein and for controlling the cells' optical properties in real-time.
So Long TNT, There's a New Explosive in Town (6 minute read)
Bis-oxadiazole is a new explosive chemical that is less toxic to produce and more explosive than TNT. TNT has been used for more than 100 years as it can be liquified and poured into molds and shells to produce bombs. However, manufacturing it produces a lot of waste that can harm the environment and the workers that produce it. It is commonly combined with other chemicals to increase its explosiveness. Bis-oxadiazole has a melting point around that of TNT, with residue from manufacturing that will decompose much more easily in the environment.
Programming, Design & Data Science
Acme (GitHub Repo)
Acme is a library of reinforcement learning agents and agent building blocks. It is designed to be simple while still being flexible enough for more complex implementations. Acme supports both single-actor and distributed training paradigms, providing a variety of agent baselines with state-of-the-art performance.
A Photo Is Crashing Many Android Phones, This Could Be Why (3 minute read)
Some Android users are reporting that an image appears to be crashing their devices when set as a wallpaper. The issue appears to impact a large number of devices running the latest Android 10 version. Devices running the early Android 11 developer preview do not appear to be affected. There appears to be no clear pattern on which devices are impacted by the wallpaper and which are not. Users who are affected by the issue will have to factory reset their phones to fix it. The issue may be related to a bug in the Android system related to color formatting.
Byte flight (5 minute read)
People have protested against tech workers in Silicon Valley in the past. Now that many tech workers are no longer required to head into offices for work, a lot of them are choosing to leave the area. Some companies have plans to reopen offices in 2021, so it is too early to tell how large the impact the switch to remote work is yet. Tech workers feel unwelcome in the area and it is expensive to live there. Leaked audio from a recent all-hands meeting at Google suggested that the company might be considering taking a similar approach to Facebook and becoming more flexible about remote work over the next 10 years.