Wednesday What We’re Reading (Aug. 21, 2019)

Parvusimperator is on vacation this week, and I’m on vacation next week, so expect a lighter WWWR than usual.

The promised USPSA match video isn’t done yet. I only recorded three of the six stages, so I have some further prep work to do for the ones missing video.

Defense

Science and Technology

  • Amazon’s facial recognition technology can smell your fear – Or at least recognize it to a high degree of confidence in a picture of your face.
  • The universal law that aims time’s arrow – Quanta Magazine story. Have your coffee first.
  • Astronomers observe a pair-instability supernova – Super-massive stars explode with enough energy to make gamma rays which in turn make particle-antiparticle pairs which annihilate the entire star.
  • Random space fun fact: if you packed them as tightly as possible, you could fit every star in the Milky Way inside the orbit of Neptune with room to spare1.
  • Deep reinforcement learning is not an AI panacea – You heard it here before you heard it at Wired, although I phrase it in terms of when self-driving cars in their final form will be a reality. (Refresher: at least a few decades and one major AI paradigm shift away.)
  • Usable renewable energy means hydroelectric or nuclear – Right now, nuclear power costs as much as solar or wind… ignoring storage for solar/wind demand shifting. See also: heat waves in Texas with minimal wind causing power shortages exactly when you’d want more power.
  • Homeostasis, parasites, and antidepressants – Of course it’s a Slate Star Codex article.
  • Europa Clipper is a go – That’s the Wikipedia page on the mission, but it was approved this week and is now on the way into detailed design. The ‘clipper’ name comes from how it’ll orbit Jupiter, making Europa flybys, both to reduce its exposure to the near-Jupiter high-radiation bands, and to give it more time to transmit data back to Earth in between flybys.
  • The beginning of the end for Nest – Convert your account to a Google account, and lose all your Nest home automation hub features! A friendly reminder from your Soapbox contributors: don’t buy any home automation thing you can’t self-host.
  • Supply chain attacks on open-source projects continue – It’s hard to sneak a backdoor into a popular open-source project. It’s easy to slip a backdoor into a tiny, unnoticed dependency of many open-source projects.

Grab Bag

Hong Kong Protests


  1. Assumptions: average solar radius 0.6, stars occupy a cubic volume whose dimension is the star’s diameter, no more than 400 billion stars in the Milky Way, ‘inside the orbit of Neptune’ means a sphere whose radius is Neptune’s average orbital radius. However big you think astronomical distances are, they’re bigger than that. 

2 thoughts on “Wednesday What We’re Reading (Aug. 21, 2019)

    1. Fishbreath Post author

      I don’t recall if it was Paperclip Maximizer proper, but I’ve done one or two if the all-consuming-general-purpose-AI games, yeah.

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