Franklin Faraday Insights Roundup for April 10, 2021
Technology + Common Sense + Mars Helicopters - Cyber
Welcome to Our Weekly Roundup of Actionable and Interesting Things!
Editor’s note: We usually spend a lot of time on issues like cybersecurity, privacy, and AI in our newsletter, but this week we are going to focus on different issues to mix it up. Don’t worry, something will get hacked, and we will talk about it next week…
In this issue:
— Stay up late (or wake up really early) on Monday to get the results of the first flight of the Mars helicopter!
— “Everyone assumed it was a joke…”
— “Why be an entrepreneur?”
— What does the fox say (in the backyard)?
— You thought YOU had problems with Excel!
— “Put down the brush and step away from the painting”
— No silver bullets for green challenges
— There’s good news and bad news about that COVID vaccine…
— It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a… kite?
By the way, you’re missing a lot more great stuff if you aren’t following us on Twitter @FranklinFaraday!
First Test of the Mars Helicopter
Update: Shortly after publication, JPL advised that the Ingenuity test flight would take place no earlier than 14 April based on data that arrived late Friday night (April 9th.) JPL is currently troubleshooting Ingenuity following a high speed rotor test.
As of Friday (April 9), the Mars helicopter Ingenuity has separated from Perseverance, unfolded from its storage configuration, and unlocked its rotor blades. Ingenuity is expected to fly no sooner than late on Sunday, April 11. A livestream with the first test data is expected to take place at 0330 EDT (0030 PDT) on Monday, April 12. You can watch on JPL’s YouTube channel or NASA’s website.
Prior to attempting the first flight, NASA will test the rotor blades at 50 and then 2,400 RPM. The atmosphere on Mars is extremely thin—1% of Earth’s atmosphere—so the rotor blades are larger and spin faster than would be required on Earth.
Remember: this is very much a high-risk technology test. If Ingenuity flies at all, it will be a major victory! Up to 5 flights are planned over the next 30 days — though it’s a good bet that JPL is cautiously sandbagging this a bit, and we may get a couple of extra flights if things go really well.
This week Ethiopian Airlines cargo flight ET3891 was the first plane to arrive at the new Copperbelt International Airport in Ndola, Zambia. One problem: the airport wasn’t open yet.
The plane was supposed to land at Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe Airport, 9 miles away.
There are, of course, regulations specifying that runways under construction should be marked with a big X…
Well, before blaming African airport standards or Chinese construction companies, we looked on google maps… and there it is!
It turns out another Ethiopian Airlines flight (ET871) almost made the same mistake earlier that day. That raises obvious questions about flight planning; however, the new airport is much larger and more visible with runways oriented in the same direction as the old airport.
At least it wasn’t as bad as the March 2019 British Airways flight scheduled to fly from London’s City Airport to Dusseldorf, Germany that instead landed in Edinburgh, Scotland.
[A passenger] said when the pilot first made the announcement that the plane was about to land in Edinburgh everyone assumed it was a joke. She asked the cabin crew if they were serious.
The pilot then asked passengers to raise their hands if they wanted to go to Düsseldorf.
Everyone raised their hands.
[According to the passenger] "The pilot said he had no idea how it had happened. He said it had never happened before and that the crew was trying to work out what we could do."
Last week we cited an article by David Heinemeier Hansson (@dhh); this week our favorite entrepreneurship article was by the other half of the Basecamp duo, Jason Fried (@JasonFried). They’ve written a number of excellent books (“It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work,” “Rework,” and “Remote”) about their philosophy of entrepreneurship, where they focus heavily on remote teams and eschewing venture capital. They are also the first to tell you that this model doesn’t work for every situation.
In any case, Fried described talking to a friend about “Why be an entrepreneur?”
For me it's this: You get to do things no one would give you permission to do.
That's it. At least that's how I've see it.
I don't have to ask anyone's permission, seek anyone's permission, or be granted anyone's permission. It ain't about getting rich (that's a crapshoot with terrible odds). It ain't about power or influence. If you happen into those things, maybe they're a bonus — although maybe they're not.
It's about doing things that don't make sense. That don't fit into the obvious frameworks. That don't add up, line up, or seem like they'll hold up.
It's those things — the unusual, the unjustifiable, the downright fun regardless of what happens — that made me want to be an entrepreneur. And stay one too. Once those things go away, I'm out. There are a million people better suited to follow your rules than me.
But of course this a very specific breed of entrepreneurship. It's a bootstrapped one. It's one without a board of directors. It's one without an oversight body. It's one where no decks have to be developed and distributed around a table. One where you don't have to pitch something to someone else who's got something riding on your success. One where your gut is the only thing that's going to get punched if you're wrong.
We were going to talk about a disturbing water quality survey, but we thought you’d enjoy this story instead:
A homeowner in Arlington, Virginia, found this baby fox crying in the garden and called the Animal Welfare League of Arlington. Since the baby fox was in good health—and the welfare officers suspected that the mother was still nearby—they placed the baby fox in a basket. That way he would be safe but could not climb out. Fortunately, the mother fox returned and retrieved her baby the next day.
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Excel Wagging the Dog
Last August the Human Genome Organization’s (HUGO) Gene Nomenclature Committee (HGNC) changed its guidelines, and at least 27 different genes have been renamed as a result.
What caused the changes?
It turns out that there were genes such as Septin 2 (symbol: SEPT2) and membrane associated ring-CH-type finger 1 (symbol: MARCH1).
What happens when you are conducting a medical study and type “MARCH1” into Excel? That’s right, Excel thinks it is a date and automatically changes it to “1-MAR.”
A 2016 study found that 20% of scientific papers in the genomics field contained errors because of Excel’s auto-formatting! While it’s entirely possible to make manual formatting changes on spreadsheets, it’s very easy to have the mistake creep back in when sharing or exporting and importing data.
So, rather than training genomics researchers to be more careful, or waiting for Microsoft to change Excel’s defaults to fix this problem for a small subset of users, the scientific community just decided to change their naming conventions. You can read more on this topic and other interesting reasons that names had to be changed over at The Verge.
While visiting an art exhibition in Seoul called “Street Noise,” a couple noticed brushes and open paint cans on the ground next to a canvas. Thinking that this was part of a participatory art project, they added a few splotches to the work… and damaged a $500,000 painting by abstract American graffiti artist JonOne!
The couple was taken into custody by police, but the gallery did not press charges because they considered it an honest mistake.
The 9x23 foot painting was created in front of a live audience in 2016 at the Seoul Arts Center. The brushes and paint by the canvas were supposedly the same ones used to create the painting and considered part of the artwork.
The gallery has now added a sign saying, “Do not touch.”
Question 1: If it is the same paint, how come it didn’t dry out?
Question 2: We’ve seen the painting before and after—how could anyone tell?
In any case, we suspect the price of this “damaged” art will actually go up given this story. Or, perhaps JonOne can sell the CCTV video as an NFT…
We have really been enjoying The Polymerist Newsletter (@TPolymerist) by Anthony Maiorana (@Maioranaa). Anthony has a remarkable ability to go very deep into the chemistry, and then bring the reader back to the big picture—not an easy feat! Here’s an example from his latest article “Circular Economy of my Dreams or is it Just Green Washing,” where he casually combines words like polyhydroxyalkanoates with common sense thinking about how to help the environment.
If you have been following the space for the last twenty years everything seems to have been just out of reach. We almost had chemical recycling of plastics in the 1990s and now its back is a good example. Typically, new green technologies promise to unlock the future of our dreams. Examples might include polyhydroxyalkanoates being degradable in marine environments, biofuels replacing gasoline, or carbon capture technologies making fossil fuel power generation cleaner. If we can get these technologies to work then our green economy dreams could come true.
How do we predict companies and technologies that might succeed where others have failed?
One thing that I look for is alignment of the article or press release I am reading to my perception of what is possible in reality now or even possible in the lab.
Any time there is a claim by a company proclaiming anything resembling a “silver bullet” indicates someone who either does not understand the chemical industry or does not understand the difficulty in scaling a new technology. Those who proclaim they got 7-20% recycled material improvements in their products know how hard it was to get the 7-20% in the first place and once again aligns with my sense of reality.
You might have heard about all the COVID-19 problems in South America, especially in Brazil. Chile, it turns out, has one of the most successful vaccination programs so far, having given at least one shot to 7 million people and two shots to 4 million, out of a total population of about 19 million.
Unfortunately, Chile relies on China’s Coronavac vaccine for 93% of its inoculations, and the level of protection 28 days after a single Coronavac dose is approximately… zero!
(Technically it is 3%, but that is within the margin of error of the study by the University of Chile.)
After two doses, the vaccine appears to be about 54% effective; however, this is still far inferior to the 94% rate estimated for the Pfizer vaccine.
Feng Tsan Huang, a designer in Taiwan, created this amazing moving bicycle kite for the Yilan International Children’s Folklore and Folkgames Festival in 2016. It’s 2 meters tall, weighs 0.8 kg, and is constructed with carbon fiber beams and polyester panels.
0.00116592040 - 0.00116591810 = Big News
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