Crypto nonsense, x-ray time-lapses, and more: THE WEEKLY RECAP (2021#47)

Pretty busy week (this post was not published at its common time, in fact), but some cool links to share. Christmas is coming!

Hats hats hats vs NFTs and crypto

Companies love money, and videogames industry is particularly greedy. They were one of the first industries to switch to digital (probably we are in the last console generation with non-digital versions of their games, and pc left that support years ago with Steam), and they have been introducing new tech to create new experiences since… forever.

Now, we are entering the world of digital currencies (crypto) and NFTs, and of course many developers are trying to grab some cash in a fast way. The funny thing is that all the crypto-based games are terrible, and nothing in the gameplay really depends on that characteristic (you could do the same without tokens, NFTs, and burning trees and thousands of € in the process). As far as I am concerned, the only purpose of those products is to scam people who think they will be able to get rich by playing. This feeling is also reinforced when you look at big companies that are behind this trend, which are the greediest ones the community has ever dealt with.

On the other hand, it is always interesting to see this kind of trend, and online economies is a topic that always amazed me. World of Warcraft, Eve Online, and my favourite: the hatconomy from Team Fortress 2 (super cool video about the market crash, below).

Blockchain in Gaming Is all the Rage for No Good Reason, on bloomberg

~homemade X-ray videos?

Cool article on hackaday about an amazing project to get timelapse images using x-rays. While being homemade, is not something that you can really try to do at home without years of experience in the field. However, watching how the vascular system of plants works is quite impressive:

Observing A Plant’s Vascular System With X-Ray Video, on hackaday

X-ray timelapse of fluid movement in plants, stop-motion animation, sensor teardown/repair, on the Ben Krasnow blog

What Science-Fiction tells us about the present

Having grown reading lots of sci-fi (which is actually something I still enjoy doing), hearing about what writers think the future will bring is always quite thought evoking. During the past century, many authors explored the topics of tech evolution (computation, internet, advances in medicine, space travel, etc.) and how those could shape society. Seems that nowadays the topics are shifting towards how are we going to destroy the planet (doh!). Still, the article from was super cool.

Sci-Fi vs Science: How Authors View the Greatest Scientific Challenges of Our Time, on

Another crypto stupidity

Probably my favourite news of the week. It is always super funny to see how greed makes people do stupid things, and even better when they get scammed in the process. Quick recap: a lot of cryptobros did a crowfund to buy a copy of the US constitution. They did not win the auction, but now they cannot get a refund because crypto fees are so high that the costs are basically the same as the average amount people invested. Also, the people that created the platform (which in principle only existed to buy the constitution) have been managing the whole thing in the dark, without letting others in the community decide the next steps. By the way, being managed by voting between members is exactly how a DAO, which stands for Decentralized Autonomous Organization, should work. Hilarious.

‘Buy the Constitution’ Aftermath: Everyone Very Mad, Confused, Losing Lots of Money, Fighting, Crying, Etc., on vice

And that’s it for the week. Stay safe!

Blah, blah, blah; Bezosism moves, and more: THE WEEKLY RECAP (2021#46)

Super interesting news this week. The Climate Change Conference ended and it kinda sucked (as expected). Amazon keeps screwing around (as expected). The metaverse is coming, and its start is not really impressive (as expected). On the bright side, a couple really cool articles on eyeglasses and the press. Let’s start:

The invisible tech

Good designs merge with the environment and effectively disappear, so you do not even notice they are there. This is true in almost all the branches of design, whether it be architecture, decoration, or software. For me, one perfect example are eyeglasses. I depend on them to see accurately (suffering from both myopia and astigmatism), but most of the time I forget they are there. I am so used to them that even when I am not wearing them, I keep trying to fix their position (like a phantom limb). Also, the moment my glasses do not exactly correct my eyes aberrations, I instantly notice they are not working ‘right’.

This week I found this article by the folks at hackaday talking about the design of lenses, and also a bit about their history. Quite a good read.

Tech In Plain Sight: Eyeglasses, on hackaday

The metaverse is coming for you

Whether you like it or not, the metaverse is something you are gonna read about from now on. Everywhere. So I will try to filter a lot of stuff, but keep the interesting news around. The first one is about some nice piece of hardware that lets you feel touch in your VR sessions. It is not the first device I see doing this (the idea is actually pretty old), but it is coming from a company with infinite resources, so it is always cool to take a look at what they are developing, and where will they be able to end.

The second one is a cool piece on the current state of Facebook’s metaverse. What can you do, how does it work, and what could be the next steps in the platform. Not a big fan of the company, but they have positioned themselves pretty good and thus there are many chances that their vision will lead the industry for quite some time.

Meta’s sci-fi haptic glove prototype lets you feel VR objects using air pockets, on the verge

I Spent 24 Hours in the Metaverse. I Made Friends, Did Work and Panicked About the Future., on the Wall Street Journal

Some news are better when read together

Imagine this: you run one of the most powerful companies in the world. You win billions, sell stuff all over the globe, develop new products, buy other companies, you even go to space. This is the life of Bezos. However, you really do not care about how you achieve all of this. I previously posted about how Amazon workers are treated, using algorithms to track their performance and firing them if they are not efficient enough (with a totally arbitrary definition of ‘efficiency’). However, it seems that all this tracking is unable to tell you if some of your co-workers got infected with Covid. How could this happen? Well, take a look at the second article and you might see a trend: they only care about making money. All the data they acquire is getting used to improve their margins by training algorithms which increase sells on their store. They know what you search (and they manipulate the search results to show their own products first). They know what music you listen to (Amazon music), and also the movies and streams you like (Prime and Twitch). They even know what you speak about at home (Alexa). Respecting your privacy does not increase revenue. Neither caring for the health of their workers.

Amazon fined $500,000 for failing to notify California workers about COVID-19 cases, on the verge

Amazon’s Dark Secret: It Has Failed to Protect Your Data, on wired

Another one bites the dust

Are you ready for this? Are you hanging on the edge of your seat? Another Climate Change Conference bites the dust. And another one gone, and another one gone. Another one bites the dust.

Now seriously (the topic deserves it). Even with flawed data that pictures a prettier world than the real one (see the following links), we cannot seem to realise that the price of not stopping global warming will be infinite orders of magnitude higher than the route we are taking right now. Empty words (blah, blah, blah), actions that talk about reducing (and not stopping the use of) fossil fuels, and very naive proposals that risk the future generations.

It seems to me that there are only three ways of solving this problem. Either we go extinct and the planet heals over time, capitalism as we know it disappears (good luck with that), or science makes it that green energy is cheaper than burning the planet down (good luck with that with the way we fund it, too).

We are getting closer and closer to the point of no return, but economy seems to be above science. So be it.

‘COP26 hasn’t solved the problem’: scientists react to UN climate deal, on Nature

COP26: World agrees to phase-out fossil fuel subsidies and reduce coal, on New Scientist

Countries’ climate pledges built on flawed data, Post investigation finds, on the Washington Post

The invention that rewrote history

I like to end on a bright tone, so sharing this is the right thing to do. Amazing 1-hour documentary on one of the most valuable inventions of human history: the press. I love Stephen Fry, and he does a superb work both in narrating the story and in building a freaking printing press to show how it worked. I particularly enjoyed the bits where you can see one of the first Bibles that Gutenberg printed, which is in a pretty god shape even today.

Stephen Fry Takes Us Inside the Story of Johannes Gutenberg & the First Printing Press, on openculture

And that’s it for the week. Stay safe!

The Unity of the ring, and more: THE WEEKLY RECAP (2021#45)

Super nice week where the only screen I used was the one protecting me from the sun. Ran a half-marathon using summer clothes, ate paella and empanadillas de pisto, saw family and friends. I read a couple books and saw some movies, too. I call it a win.

Just a couple links that I could not help but read:

Another success for academic publishing

Let’s get over this one more time. First, you write your projects and ask for money to develop them. You find the scientists, you hire and also train them. You buy all the equipment, and do the actual research (which sometimes works, but most of the time it does not). After some years, you might have enough data and results to share with the community, which you do by writing a paper. You write it, you prepare the images, you do all the styling and formatting. After that, you send it to a journal, which decides if your results are interesting enough for other researchers. If that’s the case, they send it to a couple scientists for them to review your work. They neither pay those researchers nor the editorial work (which is also done by another experienced scientist). After a couple rounds of revision, if you are lucky enough, they finally accept to publish your paper. You still do some more formatting work, and after that you get a preprint file, in which you still look for grammatical and/or graphical mistakes, which you also correct. Finally, after everything is looking perfect, you pay again (depending on the journal, from ~2k to ~8k €) and they publish the paper. IF you paid enough, the paper will be open access (so everyone will be able to read it for free), otherwise, people will have to pay again to read it.

And yet, after all this nonsense, publishers are getting scammed by people who manage to publish rubbish papers on their “prestigious” journals. Bravo. I guess their solution will involve asking for scientists to check for this without paying them.

Scammers impersonate guest editors to get sham papers published, on nature

Videogames > movies

Exhibit number 13545621. It still amazes me how video games have taken over almost all the entertainment industry by now. Even though I have always preferred this media over films and tv shows, I really never thought that the mainstream would finally end embracing the medium. However, news like this show how video game companies are starting to take over more traditional (even though highly technical) ones. Expect similar movements in the near future, and also the “old” companies going into game development (Netflix already did a couple months ago).

Unity to pay $1.6 billion for The Lord of the Rings VFX maker Weta Digital, on the verge

Peter Jackson Sells Weta Tech Assets to Unity for $1.62B, on the Hollywood reporter

And that’s it for the week. Stay safe!

Mistborn videogame? Asimov’s genius, and more: THE WEEKLY RECAP (2021#44)

Writing this from the airport, on my way back home to spend a few days with the gang! Busy week, but with cool stuff to share. Let’s start:

October’s best science images from Nature

A high resolution map of lava from the La Palma volcanic eruption flowing over land and pouring over a cliff face into the sea

Another month, another astonishing compilation of science-related pictures. While I have been following the news from La Palma, I did not really stop to watch the scale of the natural disaster. It never stops to amaze me the sheer strength of nature when I see pictures from these kind of disasters. Anyway, there are also more cheerful pictures on the batch, so go take a look.

Water bear fossil and grizzly bear selfie — October’s best science images, on nature

I am the one thing you can never kill. I am Hope.

Good news on the videogames front this week. Even though this might never see the light of day, a cool concept for a Mistborn game was released the other day. It is just a matter of time someone does a tv show or a series of movies about the universe, and of course videogames will be on the table too at some point. This looks quite cool, similar in scope to the last Spiderman videogames. It would be amazing to see what a triple A budget can do with this universe. Wait and see.

Mistborn: Ashes Project

Science in sport, and how Nike is doing it

Really interesting article on techcrunch on how Nike is building bridges between the tech/science world and athletes. Decades ago, you just wore some shoes that were made thinking about the ‘standard’ foot (whatever that means). Nowadays, scientists measure how often your feet touch the ground, how much force you generate when running, how the weight is distributed at each foot, etc. By doing this, it is possible to design footwear which is not only comfortable, but also boosts your performance.

I had previously seen these kind of studies mainly in the swimming world, where you can record swimmers movements and track the water resistance to improve their technique. You can also see the turbulences they generate and try to correct them by using different materials and/or swimsuit designs. However, it is always cool to see these ideas applied at different sports such as basketball. Anyway, it was a cool read with some insights on the field of biomechanics.

How Nike innovates for everyday athletes, on techcrunch

Asimov’s genius

I’ve been forcing myself to watch the new Foundation tv show in order to chat a bit about it on the podcast. The show is quite terrible: basically a Star Wars rip-off , but with a lot of budget so it looks visually appealing. Death Star? Check. Dead people coming back as holograms? Check. People with magical powers? Check. Cloned emperors? Check. Random storylines that have nothing to do with the main story? Check check check.

Anyway, at some point I was thinking: why did they buy the rights to do a Foundation show and throw the source material down the drain? Asimov was a genius, and Foundation is a very cool saga, much better than anything coming from Hollywood today. Then, just by coincidence, I saw this post on Open Culture with an old interview on The David Letterman Show. Funny as hell, but also delivering prediction after prediction (he predicted Twitch in 1980 btw).

I would love if people started doing original shows and stopped destroying beloved classics. I guess this will never happen. Hopefully you can always ignore that rubbish and go back to the source material.

Isaac Asimov Predicts the Future on The David Letterman Show (1980), on openculture

First gameplay of Elden Ring is here, and it looks dope

You can see the Dark Souls bits, the Sekiro vibes, some Bloodborne here and there, and of course some Zelda: Breath of the Wild. February 25th is almost there, and I can feel the hype already.

And that’s it for the week. Stay safe!

Featured image from Raul Rosell