Losing is fun, FORM, and more: THE WEEKLY RECAP (2022#49)

So much stuff and so little time! Really crawling through this last couple weeks before holidays. Let’s start:

Cyberpunk 2022

Back in February (time flies) I shared an article about people with cybernetic eye implants losing them when the company went bankrupt. To my surprise, this week I saw this article on Nature talking about the same problem, but with a couple different examples, all being related to neurotechnology:

This electronic device lies dormant much of the time. But, when Möllmann-Bohle feels pressure starting to gather around his left eye, he retrieves a black plastic wand about the size of a mobile phone, pushes a button and fixes it against his face in a home-made sling. The remote vibrates for a moment, then launches high-frequency radio waves into his cheek.
In response, the implant fires a sequence of electrical pulses into a bundle of nerve cells called the sphenopalatine ganglion. By disrupting these neurons, the device spares 57-year-old Möllmann-Bohle the worst of the agonizing cluster headaches that have plagued him for decades. He uses the implant several times a day. “I need this device to live a good life,” he says.

What surprised me the most here is that two users had to manage to either repair the implant by themselves or find novel treatment for their illness:

Left to fend for themselves, White and Möllmann-Bohle each leant on their own professional expertise. White drew on his medical training and found a drug, developed for treating migraines, that suppresses his headaches. But he must take triple the recommended dose, and worries about potential long-term side effects.
Möllmann-Bohle, meanwhile, turned to skills he developed as an electrical engineer. In the past three years, he has repaired a faulty charging port on the hand-held portion of his device and replaced its inbuilt battery several times. This battery was never intended to be accessible to the user, and it turned out to be unusual. Möllmann-Bohle scoured the Internet and eventually found suitable replacements made by a firm in the United States. When he returned for more, however, he learnt that the company had stopped making them. His most recent replacement came from a Chinese company that custom made what he needed.

How much are we going to wait until governments start regulating this?

Abandoned – The human cost of neurotechnology failure, on Nature

Academia being academia

Another exhibit on how fucked up research can get. A software used by thousands of researchers for almost 40 years now might stop being developed because… the creator and only maintainer is going to retire soon. In a world where publishing on flashy journals is the only thing that matters, creating tools that support science development is not a priority anymore.

Developed by the Dutch particle physicist Jos Vermaseren, FORM is a key part of the infrastructure of particle physics, necessary for the hardest calculations. However, as with surprisingly many essential pieces of digital infrastructure, FORM’s maintenance rests largely on one person: Vermaseren himself. And at 73, Vermaseren has begun to step back from FORM development. Due to the incentive structure of academia, which prizes published papers, not software tools, no successor has emerged. If the situation does not change, particle physics may be forced to slow down dramatically.

Crucial Computer Program for Particle Physics at Risk of Obsolescence, on Quanta magazine

Losing is fun

One of the best… games? of all time got a release on Steam, with many quality of life improvements, an amazing visual upgrade, and a new soundtrack. Also, love seeing all the stories and troubles newcomers are discovering. Losing has never been so fun!

Dwarf Fortress operates under a similar logic. It will instill in you, the player, that “slender intuition” of what to do. It may, as it did for me, invoke a sense of anxiety as you feel unsure what it is you ought to be doing. But in following your instincts, stories will begin to arise, just as they do for a novelist when they sit down to write. Your base motivation (survive the winter) will be supplanted by something else as you respond to what unfolds before you — whether that be drunken cats or, in my case, a dwarf who struggles to find purpose in life. Your only role, then, is to see that story through.

Grayson Morley – Polygon
Dwarf Fortress is no longer PC’s most inscrutable game, on The Verge
Dwarf Fortress’ Steam version immediately punched me in the gut, on Polygon
Dwarf Fortress Review, on IGN

Bow before your Elden Lord

Last night, the Game Awards were celebrated, and Elden Ring dominated the ceremony. Of course, it took the Game of the Year award, but probably the most interesting stuff that happened were the new announcements. You can take a look at all of them on the link below, but I am particularly interested in the sequel of Hades, Earthblade (the new game from the creators of Celeste), and the fact that both Returnal and the remake of The Last of Us are coming to PC soon.

The Game Awards 2022: all the announcements and trailers, on The Verge

And that’s it for the week. Stay safe!
Now listening: Hades – The Unseen Ones
Featured image: Dwarf Fortress

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