140: Jeff O’Shaughnessy & Jim Bezos, Semiconductor Boost, Nvidia Omniverse, Apple iCloud+ & Cloudflare, Seawater Lithium, Alzheimer’s, and Time Travel's Orbital Mechanics

"not suffocate in deep outer-space"

Being enthusiastic is worth 25 IQ points.

—Kevin Kelly

🛀 ⏱ 💫 Something I never see mentioned in fiction when there’s time travel involved (either magical or technological):

Stuff moves around.

Everything is always moving. The universe is expanding, the galaxy is moving in a certain direction and rotating at the same time, the solar system is also moving, planets are spinning on their axes and orbiting around the sun, etc.

When you’re time-traveling, you have to take into account all this stuff if you want to end up in the right 3D coordinates and not suffocate in deep outer-space.

So if you go to the past or the future, the system has to keep track of a lot of stuff to make sure you pop out on the other side on the same spot on the planet (or wherever you wanted to go, if this includes teleportation too).

I don’t know why it’s not mentioned. Either they don’t think of it, or think it’d be boring to explain…

But if it’s the latter, I disagree. I can imagine a really neat scene where they talk about this, with neat orbital animations, and this level of detail would make it seem more real and helps with the suspension of disbelief.

(This also sometimes applies to teleportation without time-travel, depending on the specifics of how it’s implemented in the story)

🖥 Gotta admit, I’m disappointed that Apple didn’t announce any new hardware at WWDC on Monday. I’m still waiting for the larger ARM-based iMac Pro, which I plan to upgrade to.

(I’m assuming they’ll call it “Pro” and segment it in a way that stands out more from the smaller model than with previous generations, based on the fact that they didn’t release both at the same time and discontinued the Intel iMac Pro earlier this year).

The glass-half-full way to see this is that if they wait until the Fall to announce the new larger iMacs, maybe they’ll get M2 cores instead of M1, since they’ll be announcing the new iPhones with the new A15 ARM cores then too (and the M1 is based on the A14, so the M2 should be based on the A15).

🛀 KnowLent Capital on Twitter posted this:

"The wise should learn to accept wisdom from anybody, even from a child. Doesn’t the small night lamp light up things which the sun can not?"

— Subhāṣita Ratna Bhāṇḍāgāraḥ 153.25

It’s a nice image. What it made me think of is the corollary:

If you can't learn from anywhere or anything, you will always be at a disadvantage to those who can, and you'll never come as close to reaching your full potential the way that you would if you could1.

🛀 I can't believe I haven't heard NFT pronounced "nifty" on a podcast yet...

🦊 I like to rotate between web browsers and use multiple ones at the same time, partly to keep up with the field and see how each team is innovating (or getting worse), and partly because novelty is fun (keep that brain plasticity alive!).

For the past year+, Microsoft Edge was my primary browser (it’s not like the old IE — it’s not based on Chromium, so it’s very close to Chrome, but I like the little differences), but I’m finding the latest version of Firefox very nice, so I’m going to date it for a while and see where it goes.

0️⃣ Whatever you do, don’t multiply by zero.

I’m not talking about your finances, though that applies there too.

I’m talking about your life, and the things that make it a good life.

When people talk about this, they often frame it as “it won’t have mattered if you exercise daily and study hard if you drink and drive and kill yourself”, but I also think a good life can be decomposed into smaller elements — don’t multiply your good relationships by zero, or even by something that’s close to zero…

Don’t multiply your health by 0.2, your cognitive abilities by 0.6 through laziness and disuse (brain = use it or lose it), your finances by 0.4 through wasteful spending/bad management/bad use of leverage/etc.

①④⓪ A hundred-and-forty editions without ever missing a day. Could never have guessed when I started this on a whim on July 20, 2020.

Funny how when you start stacking bricks, it doesn’t look like much, but when you look back after a while, it’s almost surprising how big that wall has become.

The power of one foot in front of the other day after day after day…

Join the fun, it takes 19 seconds (or 3 secs on mobile thanks to our Jetson-like biometrics):

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Investing & Technology

Jeff Bezos 🚀

On Bezos’ Instagram:

Ever since I was five years old, I’ve dreamed of traveling to space. On July 20th, I will take that journey with my brother. The greatest adventure, with my best friend.

I guess I just have a very different risk-tolerance than he has, but this seems a little crazy to me.

It would still be a pretty risky thing if he was going up on a SpaceX or Russian rocket that flies frequently, but Blue Origin doesn’t have tons of experience yet.

I mean, it’s great publicity for Blue Origin if it works, and I guess if it doesn’t he’ll never know about it, but if I was him, I’d trade the “historic first flight” for flight #500 when the risks are a few orders of magnitude lower…

And July 20th, 2021 will be exactly the 1-year anniversary of this newsletter. Not that Bezos cares ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Jim O’Shaughnessy Unleashed

Not that Jim feels restrained in normal times, but I’ve listened to a couple of his podcasts recently — more conversations than interviews, as per his usual style — that felt particularly free-ranging and close to the core of his being.

The first is this one, with Chris Williamson (he has abs and he’s smart? dammit):

Sometimes it's good to listen to someone smart with whom you disagree, because they may bring up points that help you change your mind, discover errors in your thinking, or even just recalibrate some beliefs that may have been held a bit too strongly or weakly.

But sometimes it's good to listen to someone smart with whom you are sympatico on most things, and this one definitely falls in the latter category for me (maybe in the first for you, though — we’re all different, and that’s kind of the point).

I liked this line by Jim from it:

It's hard to come up with an escape plan if you don't know you're in jail.

Also as a kind of Easter egg/trivia, this newsletter is briefly featured in the podcast. Bonus points if you spot it.

The other conversation I really enjoyed was this one with Tren Griffin:

I’ve mentioned it before, but I just really enjoy Tren’s outlook on life, and how he obviously loves the game of learning and understanding and helping others, and this enthusiasm is contagious.

What makes this one extra-interesting is that Tren flips the script and spends a lot of it interviewing Jim.

The part about his grand-father reminded me of the excellent book ‘The Billionaire Who Wasn’t’ about Chuck Feeney, who made a fortune via the Duty Free shops and then turned to philanthropy, but in his own way, without compromise (it’s one of those books I had heard good things about — which is why I read it in the first place — but it turned out to be much better than I expected. Always nice when that happens).

U.S. to Throw Lots of $$$ at Semiconductor Industry…

Through strategic engagement with industry, the Department of Commerce (DOC) has supported nearly $75 billion in direct investments from the private sector in domestic semiconductor manufacturing and R&D. […]

Building on the success of recent engagements with Japan and the Republic of Korea, including the announcement of more than $17 billion in U.S. semiconductor investments by leading companies in ROK, the Administration will strengthen engagement with allies and partners to promote fair semiconductor chip allocations, increase production, and promote increased investment. […]

recommend Congress support at least $50 billion in investments to advance domestic manufacturing of critical semiconductors and promote semiconductor R&D. (Source)

Nvidia Omniverse

The green chip company (no, not AMD, the other one) has been giving more and more space to its Omniverse software in recent presentations… It’s interesting to see them go into such a large software market, almost stepping into the space that Adobe and Autodesk operates in with a complex creation/collaboration app:

Omniverse is basically a platform for collaboration, for collaborative design. It began because, as you know, NVIDIA, as a company, does a lot of design work or 3D work itself. And we have remote teams, and especially with COVID, it was necessary to work in a remote fashion. So we saw that opportunity, and we built a software platform.

And as we built it and started working with early customers, we saw really quite high interest. So for example, already today, we're just launching the platform now, and we have more than 400 companies already evaluating the platform with us

the problem we began to solve for ourselves is actually a universal problem because more and more companies work collaboratively, and there's a lot of design work, no matter what kind of company you are. [...]

there's over 20 million designers and engineers in the world today that can benefit from a platform like this, where they can work collaboratively, work out of their house,

we have a licensing model for Omniverse. We've announced that already. Announced it at Computex, for a typical company, they can have a starting point of about $14,000 per year for the company to get started with a few designers.

Always interesting when companies build for themselves and dogfood their own products.

It’s often a decent signal for the viability and relative quality of a product (like Amazon building on AWS, Cloudflare building on Workers, etc).

You can see a little more of what Omniverse does here (this is part 2 of a series on it):

Apple’s iCloud+ ‘Private Relay’ is Cloudflare Under-the-Hood

Apple announced an upgrade to its paid iCloud subscriptions (adding a + to differentiate it from the old version) that includes what they call a ‘private relay’, which is basically an encrypted tunnel connection that has two hops before exiting back to the open web, so that both your ISP can’t see what you’re doing (they only see that you have an encrypted connection to that server) and the sites and apps you access can’t tell where you are (they see the exit server, but because it’s not the same server that you are connected to at entry, they can’t tell where you are, or at least, not with precision (for performance reason they probably won’t make the entry and exit servers be super far apart geographically — ie. not entry in the US and exit in Japan).

As Jane Manchun Wong confirms (via friend-of-the-show Muji), they are using Cloudflare’s infrastructure to do this. It seems to be a variant on the Warp VPN, which doesn’t have two hops (it optimizes for performance more than privacy).

This is also likely to use Oblivious DoH, a protocol co-authored by Apple, Cloudflare, and Fastly. You can learn more about how that works here.

I don’t know what kind of financial deal there is between Apple and Cloudflare for this, but iCloud+ is a paid product, and while Apple has probably bargained hard, the sheer scale of Apple’s user-base probably means a nice revenue stream for Cloudflare, even if just a few pennies per month per user.

Update: Looks like Apple went with everyone on this one. On top of Cloudflare, they’re also apparently using Akamai and Fastly.

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Science & History

New Technique to Economically (?) Extra Lithium from Seawater

With the usual caveat that there’s always a steady stress of press releases about cool stuff in the lab, and little of it makes it to large scale deployment, this is cool:

Seawater contains significantly larger quantities of lithium than is found on land, thereby providing an almost unlimited resource of lithium for meeting the rapid growth in demand for lithium batteries. [...]

we creatively employed a solid-state electrolyte membrane, and design a continuous electrically-driven membrane process, which successfully enriches lithium from seawater samples of the Red Sea by 43 000 times (i.e., from 0.21 to 9013.43 ppm) with a nominal Li/Mg selectivity >45 million. Lithium phosphate with a purity of 99.94% was precipitated directly from the enriched solution, thereby meeting the purity requirements for application in the lithium battery industry. Furthermore, a preliminary economic analysis shows that the process can be made profitable when coupled with the Chlor-alkali industry. (Source)

Not that lithium is as rare as some make it sound (I remember reading something about how Bolivia alone has enough of it to make a billion+ electric cars), and it isn’t destroyed by use, unlike fossil fuels, so eventually when we reach a more mature state in the transition to EVs, a lot of the lithium we need will come from recycling old batteries.

It’s only in the ramp-up phase that the demand for new lithium means that lots of new supply needs to be created.

‘Alzheimer’s disease prevention—patient and doctor perspectives’ (Podcast)

Hey you, do you have a brain?

Do you know if you’re a carrier of the ApoE 4 gene? It seems to increase significantly the chances of Alzheimer’s disease — many people may think they wouldn’t want to know if they’re a carrier because there’s no cure for this horrible disease (yet), but what you have to understand is that this gene isn’t a deterministic sentence, it’s a probability increase in some odds, and there are things you can do to lower those odds.

Some may counter that we should all do everything we can to lower those odds anyway so what’s the point of knowing.

That’s a nice theory, but that’s not how human psychology works in practice. You are a lot more motivated to take action when you feel there’s a clear danger, and a clear reward for doing so.

Anyway, I thought this podcast was quite good. It’s a 3-way conversation with both a patient with a scary family history putting her at higher risk, and the doctor who’s in charge of the prevention/cognitive health program she’s on.

There’s also another brand new Attia podcast also on this topic, but I haven’t heard it yet. If you want to be ahead of me and let me know what you think in the comments, here it is:

There’s also a new drug by Biogen called Aducanumab (Aduhelm is the branded version) that has just been approved, but I don’t know anything about it either, except that there’s some controversy surrounding its effectiveness.

Wait, what?!, Syria Edition

TIL:

To prevent cheating in exams many countries restrict or even shut down Internet access during critical exam hours. For most of June Syria is having planned Internet shutdowns during critical exam periods.

Seems like it just encourages other kinds of cheating (it’s not like you can’t have a local copy of info on the topic/past exam answers/etc), and any benefits wouldn’t make up for the downsides of, y’know, shutting down the internet in a whole country...

WWII & Wedding Rings for Men

This is a bit random, but I didn’t know that it wasn’t common for men to wear wedding rings until around WWII (at least in the Western countries, don’t know about elsewhere):

While the wearing of wedding rings by brides has been traced back to ancient Egypt, it is only in the latter part of the last century that more than a small minority of bridegrooms began doing the same.

World War II is considered to have heralded a seismic shift, as many Western men fighting overseas chose to wear wedding rings as a comforting reminder of their wives and families back home.

"The mid-20th Century is when it becomes mainstream," says Rachel Church, a curator in metalwork at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

"That's when men started to be expected to wear wedding rings, and nowadays when you hear men don't want to wear them you think that it's a bit odd." (Source)

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Arts & Business

‘Ant rolling a water droplet on a rough surface, an example of ideal nonwetting conditions.’

Source. Via Massimo

Satisfaction from Good Ol’ Craftsmanship

Most of us here are probably what Jim O. calls “symbol manipulators”, a cooler way to say “knowledge workers”.

But look at this, at how satisfying a more tangible craft can feel:

I’m not saying I want to do this all day, but I get it.

The Office S1 —> S2

After kind of slogging through season 1, my wife and I watched the first four episodes of season 2 of The Office.

You guys were right, it’s basically a different show than S1.

Michael Scott’s physical and character transformation is so stark, it changes the whole dynamic. It’s much better now.

They do the suddenly-charming moments surprisingly well too. Reminds me a bit of how Scrubs could be a silly comedy and then BAM — hit you right in the feels.

Rick Roma on Twitter shared this video that gives some context to the transformation of Michael Scott between S1 & S2:

1

I know sometimes I sound like a motivational poster, but whatever, I won’t lean away from it.

What’s the point of being ashamed of how we think if we’re sincere about it?