Vol. 1 / No. 28 — Feeling #Blessed, Superheavy 117, and the Earth From Above

Like? - Photo: FACEBOOK(LET), CC-BY-2.0
Like? – Photo: FACEBOOK(LET), CC-BY-2.0

Congratulations, I Feel #Blessed!

Bloggers and companies that have a Facebook site are always trying to find new ways of directing users their way. Meanwhile Facebook is always trying to deliver a better user experience by implementing algorithms that send the content you might be interested in your way. Sometimes, that means weird things happen. Last week, Slate reported that Mark Zuckerberg himself asked for posts with the word “congratulations” in the title or the comments to be moved up into his feed, to be sure to get friends’ and family-members’ life events like birthdays and weddings in his feed. Now, the New York Times is reporting that Americans are addicted to using the word “blessed” to describe things — in their Facebook and Twitter statuses. And it’s trending. So in the entrepreneurial spirit of trying to get to the top of your feed, I just thought I’d let you all know: I feel #blessed. Congratulations (to me?).

In other news, the Washington Post has an interesting article this week on the afterlife of Facebook users: what happens to our social media lives when we die? (Turns out, they don’t go with us.)

Feeling (Super)Heavy

Scientific American is reporting this week that experiments at the GSI Helmholtz Center for Heavy Ion Research in Darmstadt, Germany, have replicated results from last year by the joint US-Russian team at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia: it’s offical. We have a new element on the periodic table. Furthermore, Ununseptium, or element 117, seems to be bringing us closer to the “Island of Stability,” a theorized area in the superheavy part of the periodic table (as yet undiscovered) where instead of having half-lives of milliseconds, the elements may have much more stability — taking minutes or even days to decay. For those of you with a strong technical background, the paper can be found in the May 1 issue of Physical Review Letters.

Putting Your Driveway To Work

Scott and Julie Brusaw, who’ve previously been reported as working on a solar road, have revealed a new prototype hexagonal tile that can be used to pave your driveway, turning it into a solar power station. Though covered in glass, the tiles can support a 250,000-pound load, easing worries about the durability of the materials. They’ve just entered another round of IndieGogo fundraising, and are aiming to get to a million dollars to help create a world with ubiquitous distributed solar power generation from one of the most commonly-underused areas: our driveways in the daytime. Take a look at their Solar Roadways site for more.

Earth From Above

A new set of HD feeds is being broadcast from the International Space Station starting this week. You can now watch the Earth from space live at any hour of the day or night, a free-to-all astronaut’s-eye-view of the world. Part of an experiment to test how to improve camera technology for use in the harsh environment of space, the cameras made by Hitachi, Sony, Panasonic, and Toshiba, have been strapped to the outside of the space station and are being run for 1-2 minutes in series. Meanwhile you can test out how they’re doing yourself with the live feed from ustream.

In a less PR-friendly but equally valuable piece of research, Wired is reporting that data is just streaming in from a “washing machine” sized satellite known as Proba-V, made and run by the ESA to track global vegetation levels on a 10-day timescale. Plus the pictures are just fantastic.

Bitcoin is Big Money

This week TechCrunch is reporting that BitPay, a payment-processing platform for the still-young cryptocurrency, is entering the biggest round of funding for a Bitcoin startup yet. They’re raising $30million USD, topping the next-largest related fundraiser, last year’s $26million raised by Circle last year. Combined with the company’s report that it processed over $100million in transactions last year alone, it’s becoming obvious that the Bitcoin economy is really taking off.

Best of the Rest

There was a lot more going on this week than that! Here’s a list of my favourites: Google shopping went same-day; Raytheon’s drones are switching to Linux; scientists have created DNA with more than just Gs, Ts, As, and Cs; a new Chinese supercomputer has come online ahead of schedule and under budget; and we now live in a world where plastic can be made from shrimp shells.

And I leave you today with an object lesson in how correlation does not equal causation: Tyler Vigen links similar datasets to show the best and worst of “spurious correlations.”

Have a great week.