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#18: Planet Crasher, Floppy Drives, Gene-editing, Our Black Hole, Powerwalls, Data Breaches, and more!

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Hi everyone!

It's summer in the northern hemisphere, which means.... suffering from hay fever! For me, symptoms are at their worst right now, and they get better towards the end of July.

Thanks to the book Immune by Philipp Dettmer, I now know what's going on inside my body: IgE antibodies attach themselves to pollen in my body, which causes my immune system to release histamine. This causes itchy eyes, a running nose, and even shortness of breath. Damn you IgE (but also thank you for protecting me from real intruders). I’m still very fascinated by the immune system and all the delicate parts and machinery that make it all work.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this edition of the newsletter, which contains 13 interesting bits from all around the web.

Stay cool!

🤓 Cool Stuff I Found on the Internet

Super Planet Crash

A fun game where the goal is to create a stable solar system with as much mass as possible. You lose if two bodies crash or if one gets flung out of the system.

512 floppy drives play the Star Wars theme song

The Floppotron 3.0 is a musical instrument that consists out of 512 floppy disk drives, 4 flatbed scanners and 16 hard drives. Together, they can play any piece of music in the world. It's fully MIDI-compatible and draws up to 1200watts of power at peak. More details on how it works can be found here.

Your life stats

This website will tell you some stats about your life based on your date of birth. Like total amount of heart beats, blood pumped, how many breaths you took, how the world changed since you were born, how far you've travelled in the Milky Way, etc...

How mechanical watches work

Before I bought my Apple Watch, I was fascinated by automatic watches. They don't run on batteries, and instead harvest the energy from wrist movements to tighten a spring (this is called automatic winding). The energy stored in this spring is slowly released through an escapement. In his latest interactive article, Bartosz Ciechanowski takes us through how it all works with beautiful 3D models and animations.

CRISPR gone wrong: angry hamsters

Hamsters were genetically modified to knock out their Avpr1a receptor, which is linked to aggression. Disabling this receptor was thought to reduce aggression, but it actually increased it. Hamsters were chasing, biting, and pinning each other down twice as often. The conclusion of the researchers is sobering: "we don’t understand this system as well as we thought we did". Being able to edit genes is incredible, but to use it in a meaningful way, we have to understand what a specific gene does in the first place.

👽 Space

We have a picture of OUR black hole!

Somehow I didn’t mention this in previous editions of the newsletter, but we finally have confirmation that there’s a massive black hole in the center of our galaxy! In case you’re wondering: we always believed there to be a black hole, but we had no proof. Until now! The team behind the Event Horizon Telescope (a bunch of telescopes around the world that work together) has collected 3.5 petabyte of data and combined that into a picture of Sagittarius A*.

The size of our planet limits the resolution of this image, and the team plans to add more telescopes and even expand into space to increase it! There's also a great video by Veritasium that explains how the picture was taken and why it was so hard.

Bubble wrap to cool Earth

We desperately trying to reduce our emissions to keep global warming to a minimum. But what if we fail? A team at MIT suggests we could shade the Earth by launching bubble wrap into the space. The technique is called solar geo-engineering, where we reflect solar radiation back into space. The bubble wrap would need to orbit Earth in one of Lagrange Points (where the James Webb Telescope is) so it keeps its orbit indefinitely. And what if it has unforeseen side-effects? Just pop the bubbles!

🤑 Finance

Central Bank Simulator

You've probably read some news articles about how inflation is rising and how central banks are trying to rein it in. Feel overwhelmed? In this game, you're in charge of a central bank, and your job is to maximize the economic potential of a country that produces apples. That means you can only change the interest rate. I found it quite difficult and ended the game with 260,000 apples produced (GDP) and an inflation of -48%. Yikes!

Why do companies raise prices? Because they can.

The high inflation that were experiencing today is due to supply shortages, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and strong consumer demand. This article, however, suggests that prices are also rising because customers are less price sensitive. That means companies can raise prices, while demand stays roughly the same.

Bargaining tip: never bid round numbers

When you're negotiating for price, never make a bid with a round number. You'll come across like you don't know what you're doing. Similar to how "let's meet in a year" comes across as "yeah, that will never happen", while "let's meet in 365 days" feels much more concrete. By using a precise price (like $21.38), you signal that you've done the work to determine the price, and sellers are more likely to accept your initial bid.

GWEI: Google Will Eat Itself

This “project” has created a network of hidden websites that use Google advertisements to make money. They then use this revenue to buy Google shares. The goal is to buy Google with their own ads! At the moment, they own 819 shares (worth over $400.000) and they estimate it’ll take 200 million years to fully own Google. This just proves that the internet is a crazy place ;)

⚡️ Energy & Environment

Tesla Powerwalls working together to support the grid

California’s electricity grid is highly stressed because of widespread use of air conditioning, droughts, and preemptive power outages to prevent wildfires. Together with PG&E, Tesla is creating a virtual power plant by having Powerwalls stabilize the grid. Owners can sign up for the Emergency Load Reduction Program and they’ll get $2 for every kWh delivered to the grid in case of emergencies.

😱 Scary

Data from 1 billion Chinese people leaked

An unknown hacker has breached a Shanghai Police database and released 23TB worth of personal data from over a billion Chinese people. This includes names, addresses, national IDs, and even criminal case information!

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