Covid-29?, farewell to Ravenholm, and more: THE WEEKLY RECAP (2022#18)

Busy week in the lab, running experiments that worked quite well (cool!). Temperatures on the rise, and not a lot of rain in sight (cool cool!!). Finished The Rhythm of War, a book that destroyed me, just to re-build me from the pieces left (cool cool cool!!!). Anyway, let’s share some reads for the weekend:

Playing hundreds of Zelda games in your browser (yes, hundreds)

Two news here, at least for me. First one is that 23 years ago, a guy nicknamed Phantom Menace started coding a clone from The Legend of Zelda using SPHYNX. Fast forward to today, and you have a complete engine to create your own adventures (with classic or modern graphics, new enemies, items, etc.), or as their own users call them, quests. Second news here is that the motor has been ported and you can enjoy those in your browser.

Bringing Zelda Classic To The Browser, on Hackaday
Porting Zelda Classic to the Web, on hoten blog
Zelda Classic

Nature images of the month, April edition

Underwater farms, eclipses on Mars, African floods, and some amazing jellyfishes that are able to live more than 3 km underneath the sea surface are among the picture selection from Nature this month.

Underwater farm and Martian eclipse — April’s best science images, on Nature

Farewell, Ravenholm

When a video game gets cancelled, you tend to see almost nothing from the development process, maybe some screenshots or concept arts if you are lucky. However, the guys at Noclip have aired one hour of footage from a cancelled spinoff set in the Half-Life universe. Really really cool.

This is «Ravenholm» – The Cancelled Half-Life Game from Arkane Studios, on Youtube

History repeats itself

Mad Wii vibes going on here. Now, instead of launching Wii remotes to plasma TVs at 5 m/s, people have started destroying OLED screens at 10 m/s. Joy-cons have a safety band for a reason, people.

Nintendo Switch Sports Fans Are Accidentally Smashing TVs Again, on Kotaku

Publishing at Google

Really interesting story on The New York Times about the internal procedures for publishing at Google. Apparently, Google is not very found of negative results or basically any doubt about its results, and tends to block any publication that could spark some debate about their AI implementations. This is kind of bonkers for several reasons. First, debate should be a central piece while doing research, specially in areas such as machine learning, where we see a huge variability on the results depending on the biases introduced by the developers. Second, I always thought that publishing research was a bit odd when coming from this mega corporations. They share some information, but of course they keep a lot of secrets (after all, their objetive is to make profits). This is something that does not happen at the same scale when academic institutions do research. Although not everyone in academia openly shares all the information they should, my experience is that papers published by the private sector tend to be much more secretive than their counterparts from universities. Then, why does Google publish in academic journals? I see several reasons. First, people working there are doing research, and researchers like to publish their findings. Moreover, publishing in high impact factors increases your caché, which usually implies earning bigger salaries, or being able to move to different jobs easily. While these are «human» factors, the same ideas also kind of apply to the company itself: it is quite nice to tell people that this year, the company published tens of papers at the most prestigious journals in the world, which means that they are developing cutting edge technologies, and many other PR phrases that you can imagine.

The problem here is that, on the one hand, the company embraces the publishing dynamics and promotes it among its workers. On the other hand, it creates internal systems that control what can be published and what cannot, which is against science itself (peer review, while a flawed system, should be the way to decide that).

Another Firing Among Google’s A.I. Brain Trust, and More Discord, on The New York Times

What about Covid-29?

A few months ago I started listening the the Babbage podcast, done by the people at The Economist. It is a cool mixture of science and technology with the current events happening in the world. They did a very nice episode not long ago about communication in war zones, specifically in Ukraine. This week they had a chat with Bill Gates on the different ways we can try to fight against pandemics, and what is next to prevent future waves (whether it be from Covid or any other virus) from being so lethal. Really interesting concepts being discussed there, let’s hope we actually learnt something from the past couple years.

Babbage: Bill Gates’s plan to prevent the next pandemic, on Babbage (The Economist)

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

Featured image by Giacomo d’Orlando, from the Sony World Photography Awards

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