Magnitude and Direction, Issue #31 | 19 Apr 2019


Yes, I know the header is another sans serif font, but it's a cool open-source one, as you'll see down in the Software section.


Also, I've just launched a new portion of this newsletter, which takes ones of the topics covered in the previous day's issue of M&D and expands on it, with a little bit more of my own voice and opinions. Think of it as an Op-Ed column for M&D. 

And, of course, another physics pun is involved, this one to reflect that point in time when you're still sitting in bed, grab your phone, open the article, and end up stuck in bed reading it. It's a moment when an object at rest (you) stays at rest... one could call it a Moment of Inertia. (So I did.)

Hardware, Prototyping, and Fabrication

 The sleek, geometric design of this industrial-modern table by Tyler Bell belies the intense craftwork that went into it. I just wish I had that much workshop space...

 Is it possible to take out the Internet? (And are you wondering why I put this in the hardware section rather than the software section?)

 The next time you think you're experiencing a home invasion, make sure it isn't just your robotic vacuum.

 Boston Dynamics' first consumer robot is ready for the Iditarod.

 My dad found this one: Etch-a-snap takes pictures and renders the image using a classic Etch-a-Sketch. As you might guess, these aren't 4K images, but they are definitely unique.

Software and Programming

CSSBattle is code golf for CSS code. Change the CSS code to match the design you're given, but try to do it in as few modifications as possible (hence the "golf" part).

 Public Sans is "a strong, neutral typeface for interfaces, text, and headings" developed by the United States Web Design System (did you know we had one of those?). It's also this edition's header font.

 "[i]f the Web should be 'a per­ma­nen­t, long-lived store of humanity’s in­tel­lec­tu­al her­itage… it needs to be in­dexed, just like a li­brary. Google ap­par­ent­ly doesn’t share that view.'"

Science, Engineering, and Biomedicine

🧠 Anatomists and evolutionary biologists answer the age-old question "what is the least useful body part?"

🥃 According to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, "whiskey" is any spirit that touches wood. As you might expect, this can enable you to get away with quite a bit.

 To understand how people will react to driverless cars, those cars have to be, well, driverless. This poses some difficulties, however, since you can't currently let an autonomous vehicle roam around completely unsupervised. A compromise? Have your safety drivers disguise themselves as car seats.

 If an organism has chlorophyll, it does photosynthesis, right? Apparently not always...

‍ What's it like spending almost a year in space? Depending on who you ask, apparently, it's either great news or a sobering outcome. But how can that be when the experiment in question was the same? Tomorrow's edition of Moment of Inertia will explore this phenomenon (and maybe also the outcomes of long-term space habitation), and what we can do to address it.

Mapping, History, and Data Science

⚰ I wasn't really sure initially where to put the Google Cemetery, since it's sweeping amalgamation of the tech giant's now-dead hardware and software initiatives. Ultimately, this stuff is a part of Internet history, I suppose, so I decided to split the difference and put it in this section. As a bonus, I challenge to you see how many of these products you'd even heard of before. I had used or heard of somewhere between 20% and 25% (RIP Google Inbox).

🦅🦆 Digitization has had an impact on numerous fields, from manufacturing, to marketing, and even birding - yes bird-watching has its own online, open data set. One of the things you can do with this data set is visualize bird migration patterns as they correspond to regional climates. Seen together, you almost wonder if the birds are responding to the weather, or vice-versa... A description of the data set can be found here.

 These breakdowns of how the big tech companies make their money is extremely illuminating with respect to each one's business priorities. One big takeaway: Facebook either needs to do everything in its power to diversify its business model, or they're never actually going to change the way they do anything (despite what Zuck might write in his Op-Eds).

Events and Opportunities

There's only one event that really matters in the coming two weeks...

  • Sunday-Friday, 4/21-26 The New York Taste of Science Festival is back all next week with boozy lectures, interactive science fairs, and much more at a variety of locations around the city.

  • Tuesday, 4/23 The 4th Annual GRO Your Career life sciences conference will be at Columbia University (and yes, I am helping organize this event). A wide array of professionals from industries directly and indirectly related to the life sciences will be giving talks and participating in panel discussions, with lots of opportunities for networking.

  • Wednesday, 4/24 Scientists, artists, and everything in between gather together for the April SciArt Synapse mixer at the Peculier Pub.

  • Tuesday, 4/30 Derek Brand's next ECHO Bio-entrepreneurship meetup gathers together a cross-section of the NYC biotech community for the first get-together of the spring.

  • Thursday, 5/2 Falling Walls is a global lightning pitch competition hosted by the German Embassy in celebration of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and featuring enterprising scientists and startups seeking to answer the question of "what will be the next walls to fall"? Their next New York event takes place at NYU's Leslie eLab.

  • Friday, 5/3 CUNY Startups hosts a bracket-style pitch competition where startups go head-to-head in a series of elimination rounds to see who wins the final prize of free access to CPGO Network, which provides a three-month capital listing on Castle Placement’s website, 100 targeted investors with contact information, and access to CPGO (Castle Placement’s proprietary capital raising app).

Some other upcoming events to keep on your radar...

  • May 3-5 MIT is holding their 2019 Grand Hack, one of the biggest medical hackathons in the world that has spawned several successful companies over its history. Applications to participate are due by April 17th!

  • Wednesday, 5/8 The Transit Techies meet up once again at Sidewalk Labs in the Hudson Yards for their eighth event.

  • Thursday, 5/16 The RobotLab meetup holds their next event at the heart of Silicon Alley with a discussion about the future of human-robot interactions.

  • Thursday & Friday, 6/20-21 The Biodesign Challenge Summit 2019 on June 20th and 21st at Parsons School of Design and the Museum of Modern Art brings together 36 teams from 9 countries to present their visions for the future of biotechnology. Use code SUMMITVIP115 for a free pass.

Map of the Month

 Follow the growth of NYC's street grid with Here Grows New York City.

Odds & Ends

 More stuff to play with in your browser. This time it's the Chrome Music Lab.