Netflix and the chocolate factory, AI controlling funding, and more: THE WEEKLY RECAP (2021#38)

So, this week we have quite a lot of different stuff. Let’s get to it.


Could you please stop doing that

Is Netflix going to destroy some of the best books ever written? My bet is a big yes. At least I hope Dahl’s family will enjoy the money…

Netflix Acquires Roald Dahl Story Company, Plans Extensive Universe, on Variety

Sorry [#researcher_ID], funds not found

Really cool article on the MIT technology review about using AI to guide research. The case study is about the Decadal Survey, where many scientists decide every ten years which are the most interesting areas for future research. This leads to lots of funding going in that direction, so it is a big deal for some people (the researchers getting the funds), but also relevant for the general public (in the end, all the research provides advances for everyone, no matter the subject).

The news here is that some researchers are suggesting that we should use AI algorithms to go through all the proposals (there is more than 500 for the next survey), because there is no way the experts that work on the survey have enough knowledge to decide over so many different topics. While this seems like a good point to me, I still think the AI technology that we have nowadays is far from being useful for such a relevant task.

Some other thoughts that came to mind where that, when you decide a reduced number of areas and give tons of funding for doing research on them, you attract many scientists, which in the end will generate lots of papers on those topics. These papers will cross-reference other papers on the same topic, thus generating a lot of impact (as we usually measure the impact of publications by how many citations they get). In this scenario, you can always say that giving funding to this research was the good thing to do (it generated a lot of impact). But, was it relevant in the first place or it generated publications because there was a lot of money in funding?

Also, we have seen countless times that serendipity in science is a big force to reckon. You never know the findings you will get when doing research, and many times you will find extremely relevant applications in distant fields when you fund basic / not trendy research fields. Will AI ever be able to grasp these ideas? Should we really focus on specific topics of research, or just fund everything?

This AI could predict 10 years of scientific priorities—if we let it, on MIT technology review

Was “Despacito” a virus?

It is actually nice to know that, while I was infected many years ago by electronic music, it was something bound to happen at some point. Cool study trying to link the way music spreads between people with the way infectious diseases unfold. I really liked the ideas about the similarities and differences between dynamics with viruses and music. Sometimes you just heard something walking through the street (which would be similar to getting influenza at your work space or with your family), but many times you just see a tweet from a friend which is miles away and you get attracted to a song/genre.

Mathematicians discover music really can be infectious – like a virus, on the guardian
Modelling song popularity as a contagious process, on Proceedings of the Royal Society A

Modern architecture was a mistake

Really nice post on openculture with a video essay on Modern architecture, and why so many people (including myself) kinda hate it. Anyway, at least is not brutalism/postmodern (I am thinking about you, Centre Pompidou)

Why Do People Hate Modern Architecture?: A Video Essay, on openculture

Keep going, nothing to see here…

Everything is fine. No monopolistic practices. We are cool. Privacy is our motto. All we do is for the benefit of our customers. We review the apps on our store. We work with developers.

THE BITTER LAWSUIT HANGING OVER THE APPLE WATCH’S NEW SWIPE KEYBOARD, on theverge
Fortnite likely isn’t coming back to the App Store anytime soon, on techcrunch
Apple Lies About Epic Again, on the Michael Tsai blog

The weekly recap (2021#16)

Quite a busy week, but fortunately I still managed to have some time to enjoy really cool stuff.

Lift off!

Just make a small pause and think about this: a couple days ago humanity did its first flight on a different planet. And we did not even were there. Let it sink. I have always been a bit jealous of the generation that lived through the Moon missions, but it seems that we are going to see incredible feats in the following years.

There were some really cool pieces on the Ingenuity helicopter:

Lift off! First flight on Mars launches new way to explore worlds, on nature.com
THE WRIGHT STUFF: FIRST POWERED FLIGHT ON MARS IS A SUCCESS, on hackaday.com

Look at it go!

Really cool article on OpenCulture on how the animation tools in Pixar have evolved through the years. A nice mix between tech and art:

How Pixar’s Movement Animation Became So Realistic: The Technological Breakthroughs Behind the Animation, on Openculture.com

The Times They Are a-Changin’

As we set course for other planets, I think it is time to reflect on the way we are shaping our home. Google released a new feature where you can take a look at some of our planet locations through the last decades, and see how humans have impacted on the landscape. You can take a look at Google Earth (they say they will keep adding info in the future too), and read about it on their blog post.


Long live the 70’s!

This actually happened last week, but I did not realize: Greta Van Fleet has a new album, and its awesome. Late birthday gift! Streaming links: Spotify, Deezer.


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

The weekly recap (2021#15)

Crazy things happening in the world this week. The header image of this post (well, the one in the header is a copy) was sold for $1.36 million. This NFT stuff still goes over my head, but seems like is something that will stick around, whether it really makes sense to burn energy this way… anyway, all hail capitalism I guess. There have been quite a lot of news on the topic, if you are interested[1,2,3]


MindPong revisited

Really cool video from P. Nuyujukian, going into all the details of the latest advances shown by Neuralink last week. It really was like watching a movie director’s cut.


Look at that one!

Astonishing collection of science-related images, made by Nature each month


Brace yourselves, they are coming

I knew at some they would stop dancing…

The French army is testing Boston Dynamics’ robot dog Spot in combat scenarios, on theverge.com

The end of paywalls on papers?

It seems we crossed the point of no return in going open-access, but is is not clear at all which is going to be the final model. An interesting debate is ongoing, as many institutions are pushing for making every public research publicly available, but that often interferes with journal publishers. You can read a nice piece on the topic here:

A guide to Plan S: the open-access initiative shaking up science publishing, on nature.com

Technologies that shaped music

Really cool video by Rick Beato on 20 inventions that revolutionized music. While I would have added some (I cannot believe mp3 and microphones did not make into the list!), the video is a nice take on the history of music.


Get out of here, stalker!

The film that keeps on giving. OpenCulture posted this week a video I did not know about on the history behind the movie. Really interesting.

The Story of Stalker, Andrei Tarkovsky’s Troubled (and Even Deadly) Sci-Fi Masterpiece, on openculture.com

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