Nikola Tesla, Garbage, Sleep, Markov Chains, Creationism

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The Extraordinary Life Of Nikola Tesla

Richard Gunderman | Smithsonian | 5th January 2018

Remembering Nikola Tesla, the Serbian-born genius who might have rivaled Thomas Edison as the founding father of American electrification, but who lacked Edison’s business sense. Tesla sold his patents cheaply, some to investors who duped him and others to Charles Westinghouse. He died in 1943 in a New York hotel room, penniless and seemingly deranged, claiming to have developed a motor that ran on cosmic rays, a “death ray”, and a technique for photographing thoughts (1,500 words)


Kiera Feldman | Pro Publica | 4th January 2018

Tales from the New York garbage-collection trade. The Mafia were forced out in the 1990s, but the unions went with them, and conditions for workers have got worse since then. Private waste collectors have the most dangerous job in America after loggers, fishermen, roofers, and aircraft pilots. “From the collection out on garbage trucks, to the processing at transfer stations and recycling centers, to the dumping at landfills, the waste industry averages about one worker fatality a week” (9,950 words)

Why Do We Need To Sleep?

Veronique Greenwood | Atlantic | 3rd January 2018

Report from the International Institute for Integrative Sleep Medicine in Tsukuba, Japan, where 120 researchers from various disciplines try to understand why humans and other animals need to sleep, what causes them to sleep, and what benefits they derive from it. “What is the physical substrate of sleepiness?” No answers as yet. But there must be something vital in sleep, if we have evolved as sleeping creatures even when our sleep assists our predators (2,100 words)

Generating Inspirational Quotes

Ramtin Alami | 31st December 2017

Short and pleasingly informative post which explains what Markov chains are, and how you can use them, with a bit of computer programming, to generate plausible-sounding sentences. “When it comes to natural language generation, people normally think of advanced AI systems using advanced mathematics; however, that is not always true. In this post, I will be using the idea of Markov chains and a small dataset of quotes to generate new quotes”. The author is 19 (1,100 words)

How Do You Prove A Creationist Wrong?

Sabine Hossenfelder | Backreaction | 22nd November 2017

You cannot. Short of a time machine, and perhaps even then, you have to concede that Earth might have been created 10,000 years ago looking much as it does today. But the data required to construct a ready-made Earth would be impossibly vast, making this “initial condition” vanishingly improbable. The proposition that Earth was born four billion years ago, and that accidents of chemistry gave rise to life, assumes a much simpler initial condition, and is thus scientifically preferable (1,440 words)

Video of the day How Airlines Price Flights

What to expect:

It’s complicated, but not chaotic. Airlines are permanently A/B testing how much people will pay (11’58”)

Thought for the day

I don’t care that they stole my idea — I care that they don’t have any of their own
Nikola Tesla

Podcast of the day Negotiating Secrets | Farnham Street

Shane Parrish talks to former FBI kidnap negotiator Chris Voss about how to negotiate when a life depends on it

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