Big Tech &
SpaceX rocket debris creates a fantastic light show in the Pacific Northwest sky (3 minute read)
The remains of what was likely a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket recently burned up in the atmosphere above Oregon and Washington, creating what looked like a meteor shower streaking across the night sky. SpaceX has not claimed responsibility for the spectacle. This sort of event now happens around once a week, but predicting the timing of the re-entries is difficult. The Falcon 9 rocket the debris came from was launched on March 4. Re-entries are usually safe. Footage of the event is available in the article.
Google is testing Memory, an upgrade for Assistant to ‘save and find everything’ (2 minute read)
Memory is a new feature for Google Assistant that uses a digital locker to store things like to-do lists, notes, reading lists, images, and more. It is designed so users can save nearly anything and then search, sort, and revisit everything that was saved. Memory will also show contextual information about the data if it is available. The feature is still being tested, and Google has not announced any plans for when it will be released.
First known gene transfer from plant to insect identified (4 minute read)
Bemisia tabaci is a whitefly that acquired a gene from its plant host millions of years ago, allowing it to neutralize a toxin that some plants produce to defend against insects. Early studies suggest that inhibiting the gene could make the whiteflies vulnerable to the toxin and help fight the pest. The whitefly is among the most destructive of plant pests. Examples of organisms acquiring genes from microbial genomes is common, but this is the first example of a direct transfer between plants and insects.
Scientists will test the world’s first nuclear fusion reactor this summer (3 minute read)
The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) will begin its inaugural test runs this summer. If successful, it will be the first fusion reactor capable of producing more energy than it takes to operate. Creating energy from fusion is hard as it has to be controlled so it doesn't produce too much. The kind of dangers that can occur with fission are essentially impossible with fusion. ITER will begin low-power operations in 2025. If the project works according to plan, we could be within decades of solving the global energy crisis.
Programming, Design & Data Science
Emoji under the hood (8 minute read)
All text inside computers is encoded with numbers, with the most popular system being Unicode. Unicode defines around 150k characters, which covers all the scripts used on Earth, along with other symbols. Emojis are included in the Unicode table, which is why they can behave like any other text. This article explores the seven different ways emojis can be encoded and shows how the techniques can be combined to construct complex messages.
Ohm (GitHub Repo)
Inside BitClout, the Dystopian Social Network with Big Backers and Vocal Critics (11 minute read)
BitClout is a decentralized social network that tokenizes its personalities. Every BitClout account is tied to a 'coin' that changes in value depending on how many people use it, allowing users to monetize themselves. The company created 15,000 profiles based on popular Twitter personalities without asking for anyone's permission. Users who want to claim their profiles need to publicly tweet that they have joined BitClout. The company was criticized for using people's profiles without permission. This, in addition to other controversies, has unnerved some investors.
NASA Is Launching a $10 Billion 'Time Machine' (3 minute read)
The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is set to launch on Halloween this year, after decades of careful planning and development. It will travel from Earth to a gravitational eddy located nearly one million miles from Earth. From there, it will potentially be able to spot the first generation of stars to ever shine in the early universe, as well as exoplanets in our galaxy. The JWST will focus on the infrared part of the spectrum. It has 100 times the observational power of the Hubble Space Telescope, and scientists are hoping it will reveal galaxies that Hubble can't see.