Shocking genetics news (yet again).
A scientist has succeeded in making a new kind of DNA with 8 bases instead of 4. It can store twice as much information as regular DNA. I suppose it’s probably not a big threat to life because there’s an entire cell ecosystem that supports the current 4-base system and I assume it would be tough to evolve an ecosystem for an 8-base organism, but still it shakes me to think that it’s possible.
SpaceX (Elon Musk’s company) successfully sent a capsule designed to carry astronauts to the space station. It returned to earth and splashed down successfully today.
A wild article on dark energy (whatever the hell that is—physicists don’t know, either!) and the possible consequences for how the universe will end. Mostly I think the article is interesting for exposing the big knowledge gaps that currently exists in physics.
A decent man
Okay, this is political: Elijah Cummings’ closing remarks in the Michael Cohen testimony. He managed the contentious hearing with gentlemanly restraint and dignity, despite the best efforts of the Republicans to derail it. His amazing closing remarks were unscripted; he just winged it. Cummings has more common sense and compassion than any politician I’ve seen in a long time. A reporter from the Baltimore Sun wrote “It was one of the most inspirational TV moments I have seen in more than 30 years of writing about media and politics.”
A religious scam, just for the guy’s expression, which cracks me up. "Holy shit, I'm alive!" I have that feeling every morning.
Hydrofoils are transforming sailing. I hadn’t realized it, but the four winners of the 2016/17 Vendee Globe around-the-world solo sailing race all used boats that had hydrofoils. They didn’t lift the boats out of the water entirely, but they provided “righting momentum” and lifted them a little, which allowed them to sail faster. The yachting community watched the race closely because it was considered a true test of whether foils were going to be useful in blue-water sailing. The answer was unequivocally “yes,” although I think the boats still have to be very lightweight, so foiling may not be coming to sail cruisers anytime soon. A couple of the Vendee boats broke their foils, but boats also lost masts, rudders and so on; the foils weren’t unduly vulnerable, apparently. The record time was 74 days, which contrasts with 105 days 20 years ago; the boats are really hauling ass. One of the sailors set the 24-hour single-handed record of 563 nautical miles (however, in full disclosure, a non-foil racing trimaran with a big crew averaged 37.8 knots for 24 hours on an Atlantic crossing in 2009, in the process setting the 24-hour distance record of 908 nautical miles (that’s like going from Boston to Atlanta or Chicago in 1 day—on a sailboat!)
A bunch of new, rapidly-growing foiling sports are popping up; they include all sorts of foil sailing from foiling catemerans to foiling windsurfers, foil kiteboarding, and my favorite, the really bizarre foil surfing. Kai Lenny makes it look easy, but apparently it’s very difficult; watch him “pump” the board to keep it moving between waves. If you search on his name there’s lots of great stuff, including him crossing between the Hawaiian Islands on a foil, surfing the big waves (“Jaws”), etc. Here he is, showing off the basics:
Tierra del Fuego
Finally, a short video from the BBC that shows Harberton. It’s the southernmost farm in the world, desolate and remote and beautiful. The weather is almost always terrible. We visited when I was 11 years old. The story of its founding is told in “The Uttermost Part of the Earth” by E. Lucas Bridges, an extraordinary account of the travails of the Bridges family. They were missionaries who settled there in the 1800s, braving the weather and the terrain and trying to bring religion to the indigenous tribes.