Most of these stories are a bit stale, but they are about things that move slower than the news so it doesn’t much matter.
A hero of medicine dies
Dr. Dudrick invented the technique of intravenous nutrition, which has saved the lives of millions of people. He was the son of Polish immigrants.
Genetic engineering rears its terrifying head
A Swiss lab just created the coronavirus from scratch; it took them a few weeks and about $30,000 in materials. If that doesn’t worry you, then you ain’t paying attention.
Small nuclear reactors go to war
The Defense Department is developing small nuclear reactors to take to the front lines. That’s because “America expects to have all-electric vehicle brigades within the decade” and demand for electric power in the battlefield will “surge as new power-hungry weapons, like lasers and rail-guns, come to maturity.” As the Economist comments, “War zones are dangerous places. Where better, then, for a nuclear reactor?”
Natural gas is not a bridge fuel
Natural gas is often called a “bridge fuel” that will help us make the transition from oil and coal to cleaner renewable energy. That assertion rests on the assumption that natural gas can be produced relatively cleanly. However, new studies show that too much methane is leaked into the atmosphere during production to make natural gas a good bridge. That’s an important policy finding because big power plants have long lives, once built.
Mars, au naturel
A gorgeous panorama of Mars that was just taken by Curiosity. Mars is a beautiful planet, close enough so that we can reach it, and we are seeing it here in its perfectly natural state, as-yet-unmarred by humans. Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars/Green Mars/Blue Mars trilogy (which I review in Books/Science Fiction) gives an inkling of how the colonization of Mars might proceed, and how its natural state would be lost. As a companion piece, the president just signed an executive order allowing US companies and citizens to mine asteroid and moon resources, and saying that the US "does not view space as a global commons and sees a clear path to off-Earth mining, without the need for further international treaty-level agreements." https://mars.nasa.gov/resources/curiositys-1-8-billion-pixel-panorama/
How embryos make tubes from sheets
This is a very technical paper on development, but the central idea is easy to see and understand. The researchers are asking “How do embryos make tubes (which become the gut, the spinal cord, and some organs) from flat sheets of cells?” The answer seems to be that they use a combination of changing the shape of each cell to be wedge-shaped (“wedging”), and squeezing new cells in between existing cells (“intercalation”). The graphics are quite cool (also, it’s strange that certain organs are formed primarily by one of the two processes).
An entertaining podcast about memory
The story is about someone trying to find a hit song that he remembers from years ago, which seems to have disappeared entirely from the Internet’s memory. Is his own faulty memory at work, or is there something odd about the music business, or even the internet itself?
Amazing modern sand castles
Seibert’s Instagram account is also very interesting.
Pashmina goat herders on the Tibetan Plateau
This reminds me a lot of Mongolia, but the location and climate seem even harsher. Just a window into other, very different lives.
Curly Neal, one of the stars of the Harlem Globetrotters, just died. This is a wonderful short clip of him dribbling.
Humor: A thrilling snap decision
This nutjob derailed a train because he was suspicious of a nearby coronavirus hospital ship. According to the affidavit, in a video taken inside the train, Moreno ignited a road flare inside the train. He then "put the train in full speed and held his hand toward the camera with his middle finger raised." "I don't know. Sometimes you just get a little snap and man, it was fricking exciting... I just had it and I was committed," Moreno told police. "I just went for it, I had one chance."
Good thinking, dude.