Weekend Reading XXXIII
- Successful Galileo position fix
- Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and the Washington Post
- German Boy Finds Mummy in Attic
- Cultured Meat Burger
- Shakespearian Star Wars
The EU’s Global Satellite Navigation System has made its first position fix. That means that there are two active (GPS and GLONASS), the European one and the Chinese one (Beidou/Compass) are projected for 2020, and there may be more from India and other countries (Wiki Overview). It’s an intriguing prospect, though one thing is that I am not sure they will really make a massive difference to the consumer, unless they can provide better indoor positioning.
Galileo will allow users to know their exact position in time and space, just like the USA’s GPS, but with greater precision and reliability. It will be compatible and, for some of its services, interoperable with GPS and Glonass (Russia), but independent from them.
Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post and sent a shockwave through media circles. I am fascinated by people like Bezos, who seem to be single people that can effect unbelievable change on all our lives. I can’t imagine anyone living in the West can not have been affected by what he’s done.
Leaf through these letters and you’ll discover that, like Apple under Steve Jobs, Amazon led by Bezos has sought to get rid of frustration.
There has to be a great scenario to be written from this. Laundry, Trail of Cthulhu seem the obvious choices, but I wonder could you be more creative and off the wall?
“You just don’t get the feeling that’s something you could buy at a shop around the corner,” he says.
The first cultured meat burger has been eaten in London. The interesting thing that it raises are 1) could we make burgers or steaks from proteins that currently aren’t steak or burger shaped? I’m thinking of the classic retro-future giant tomatoes, but this time we could have turkey-breast sized lobster tails, or make otherwise-unavailable things like elephant-(or human-)burgers? The problem from several sources seems to be scaling it up. I guess that finding a set of gourmet products that early adopters will pay way over the odds for is the right way to commercialise, if technology is any guide.
I’m also interested in the idea that meat production without animals is more ethical. I wonder if an animal-free society would really be more sympathetic to welfare in the long run, or would it become so distanced from our fellow creatures that they might be seen as a pest to be removed? There would certainly be a difficult transition phase if we needed to get rid of the billions of farm animals around the world.
In addition, even in those sophisticated vats, the three-dimensional techniques that would be required to grow actual steaks with a mix of muscle and fat have not been invented yet, though not for lack of trying. (This technology would primarily benefit our ability to make artificial organ replacements.) Add on top of that the fact that these three-dimensional wads of meat would have to be exercised regularly with stretching machinery, essentially elaborate meat gyms, and you can begin to understand the incredible challenge of scaling in vitro meat.
I like this post because it has some fascinating detail on how we count time, and it reminds me that things that look irrational now (such as Biblical Chronology) were not always so mad. I think there is tremendous hubris in each age that they are free of the shackles of previous generations’ primitive perceptions.
All calendars are conventions and a compromise. The natural measures of time the day, the (lunar) month and the year are incommensurable, a long mathematical word meaning you can’t measure the one with the other without a bit left over. In fact the lengths of those three natural measuring units vary according to how you measure them. Any calendar is an attempt to some how combine those units for practical purposes. The end result is that the ancient world had a wonderful patchwork of lunar calendars, lunar-solar calendars and solar calendars making the comparison of dates between different cultures an arithmetical nightmare.
I like the idea and the art more than the execution. It’s hard to mimic a stylistic structure well, or to conceal your own (as JK Rowling discovered).