Three readings worth your time this week.
Growing up I was a big fan of Issac Asimov. Although he is primarily known for science fiction, Asimov also wrote books, short stories, and essays on almost any topic you can name. Like this piece from Technology Review, unpublished until 2014, in which he explores the sources of creativity. Although written in 1959, it’s still very relevant and a good example of Asimov’s thought processes. (about 7 minutes)
This week I saw a lot of chatter around the “fact” that NASA had updated the signs of the zodiac and inserted a new astrological sign. It all sounded like just another of the many absurdities that swim around the web and Phil Plait, who writes as the Bad Astronomer, explains just how stupid the whole deal is. Starting with the real fact that NASA had nothing to do with this, not to mention that astrology isn’t “worth wrapping a fish in”. (about 4 minutes)
Speaking of space, Elon Musk, the billionaire CEO of Tesla Motors, this week outlined his vision for not only traveling to Mars but establishing large working colonies on that planet. His current plans call for launching the first mission to Mars in 2024, less than eight years from now. It’s all very ambitious, and very much lacking in details. But Musk’s plans are certainly worth watching. (about 18 minutes)
Two audio tracks for your commute.
Did you ever wonder how Facebook determines which news stories and ads will be placed in your timeline? On a segment of the Note To Self podcast the host and a reporter for Pro Publica discuss those invisible algorithms and the impact they might have your perception of the world. They also introduce a Pro Publica project that asks users to contribute their data in an attempt to learn more about the Facebook “black box”. (18:00)
At last Monday’s presidential debate, both candidates tossed around a variety of economic terms, most of which you may have heard before. But what do they mean? The Planet Money team does an entertaining job of explaining the Terms of the Debate. (20:25)
One video to watch when you have a few minutes.
Have you ever seen an assembly line for airplanes? Boing builds 42 of their workhorse 737 model every month at their massive facility in Renton, Washington. This short video is an interesting look at how the assembly of each aircraft is completed in just nine days. (2:28)