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13th August 2019

From the Tumblr staff blog:

Hello Tumblr 👋

Today, Tumblr’s owner, Verizon Media, announced that Automattic plans to acquire Tumblr. Automattic is the technology company behind products such as, WooCommerce, Jetpack, and Simplenote—products that help connect creators, businesses, and publishers to communities around the world.

What a great acquisition. It’s clear to see the impressive work that Automattic have been doing over the years, and it will be interesting to see what Tumblr will be like in a few years.

12th August 2019

Daniel Oberhaus, writing for Wired:

It was just before midnight on April 11 and everyone at the Israel Aerospace Industries mission control center in Yehud, Israel, had their eyes fixed on two large projector screens. On the left screen was a stream of data being sent back to Earth by Beresheet, its lunar lander, which was about to become the first private spacecraft to land on the moon. The right screen featured a crude animation of Beresheet firing its engines as it prepared for a soft landing in the Sea of Serenity. But only seconds before the scheduled landing, the numbers on the left screen stopped. Mission control had lost contact with the spacecraft, and it crashed into the moon shortly thereafter.

Half a world away, Nova Spivack watched a livestream of Beresheet’s mission control from a conference room in Los Angeles. As the founder of the Arch Mission Foundation, a nonprofit whose goal is to create “a backup of planet Earth,” Spivack had a lot at stake in the Beresheet mission. The spacecraft was carrying the foundation’s first lunar library, a DVD-sized archive containing 30 million pages of information, human DNA samples, and thousands of tardigrades, those microscopic “water bears” that can survive pretty much any environment—including space.

But when the Israelis confirmed Beresheet had been destroyed, Spivack was faced with a distressing question: Did he just smear the toughest animal in the known universe across the surface of the moon?

This is a very interesting story. It’s the first time I’ve heard of the Arch Mission Foundation, and I find it fascinating that people are trying to spread information regarding the human race around the solar system.

What I find most interesting is the fact that they also sent tardigrades. I’ve heard about them before, and how they can survive basically anywhere. So, although they were sent in a dehydrated state, it’s weird to think that there is actually now life on the Moon. It might not be the first time, but it’s the first I’ve heard of such scenario.

6th August 2019

I just watched a fascinating video by the National Geographic. Where Andrew Gray, a Curator of Herpetology at Manchester Museum, spent years researching the Splendid leaf frog, and later discover something truly surprising about the specimens that have already been collected.

There’s a few twists and turns in the story, and to withhold the pleasure of discovering them as you watch, I’ve not disclosed any spoilers.

Watch the video on YouTube.

1st August 2019

Craig Mod wrote a great piece recently about the speed of software affects the overall perception of quality.

It’s interesting all the way through, but my favourite paragraph was where he uses a typewriter as an example:

A typewriter is an excellent tool because, even though it’s slow in a relative sense, every aspect of the machine itself operates as quickly as the user can move. It is focused. There are no delays when making a new line or slamming a key into the paper. Yes, you have to put a new sheet of paper into the machine at the end of a page, but that action becomes part of the flow of using the machine, and the accumulation of paper a visual indication of work completed. It is not wasted work. There are no fundamental mechanical delays in using the machine.

I find it all resonated with me quite a lot. I have very little patience, and that is a big factor in choosing what software I use.

16th July 2019

Trevor Nace, writing at Forbes:

NASA has some good news, the world is a greener place today than it was 20 years ago. What prompted the change? Well, it appears China and India can take the majority of the credit.

In contrast to the perception of China and India’s willingness to overexploit land, water and resources for economic gain, the countries are responsible for the largest greening of the planet in the past two decades. The two most populous countries have implemented ambitious tree planting programs and scaled up their implementation and technology around agriculture.

This is very encouraging. Hopefully this is something that we can start to compete on, as it will only result in a better planet for us all.

16th July 2019

Leah Burrows, writing at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences blog:

People have long dreamed of re-shaping the Martian climate to make it livable for humans. Carl Sagan was the first outside of the realm of science fiction to propose terraforming. In a 1971 paper, Sagan suggested that vaporizing the northern polar ice caps would “yield ~10 s g cm-2 of atmosphere over the planet, higher global temperatures through the greenhouse effect, and a greatly increased likelihood of liquid water.”

Sagan’s work inspired other researchers and futurists to take seriously the idea of terraforming. The key question was: are there enough greenhouse gases and water on Mars to increase its atmospheric pressure to Earth-like levels?

In 2018, a pair of NASA-funded researchers from the University of Colorado, Boulder and Northern Arizona University found that processing all the sources available on Mars would only increase atmospheric pressure to about 7 percent that of Earth – far short of what is needed to make the planet habitable.

Terraforming Mars, it seemed, was an unfulfillable dream.

Now, researchers from the Harvard University, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, and the University of Edinburgh, have a new idea. Rather than trying to change the whole planet, what if you took a more regional approach?

This is all rather fascinating. And I wonder if any of this stuff will actually happen in the near future? Or if it will remain in theories, and local experiments here on Earth.

13th July 2019


In 1986, 20-year-old Christopher Knight drove into a forest in rural Maine. He abandoned his car, and taking just some very basic camping supplies, simply walked into the woods. He didn’t come out again for 27 years.

After getting deliberately lost, Knight eventually found the site that would become his home, a small clearing in the densely wooded area surrounding a lake called North Pond. He stretched some tarpaulin between trees, put up his small nylon tent, and settled down. He was completely hidden, despite being only a few minutes’ walk from one of the hundreds of summer cabins that dotted the area.

My immediate expectation of this article, after reading the headline, was a story about how someone worked their way to having a sustainable living outside in the woods. Turns out, I was wrong, and it’s fascinating in a whole other way!

12th July 2019

I stumbled upon this video just now, and it immediately grabbed my attention. As for some reason, the working life of others is interesting to me, and the Japanese culture, even more so.

So watch the video, and follow Makoto through a day in his life:

Japanese work day at a Japanese office for an average Japanese salaryman in a Tokyo office.
Living in Japan and working in Japan is quite a unique experience. This is a day in the life of Japanese worker, Makoto, 27 years old who lives in a Tokyo 3-story house with his family.
This Tokyo salaryman works in a small Tokyo office, but spends many of his Japan working hours traveling from client to client on the Tokyo trains.
Makoto works for a company called Mobal and as many Japanese salarymen, he entered the company straight from a Japanese University and he plans to spend his entire salaryman career at the same company.
That is the life in Japan for a salaryman. We take a look inside what it’s like to work in a small Tokyo office as well as to visit clients throughout Tokyo city area.
His job experiences maybe unique to his company, but fundamentally he is very much an average salaryman.

He commutes by train everyday to get to work and has to ride his mama-chari bike to get to the train station from his home.
This Tokyo salaryman life has him arriving to work early and working late. As a salaryman, Makoto receives a standard salary every month for all the long work hours.
The Japanese office is also configured so his boss’ desk is right in front of him, quite a Japanese style office working environment. This very average Japanese work day and work lifestyle showcases a true day in Japan work life.