P.S. You Should Know... | Issue #306
I came to Austin to escape winter—hah!
my story 🚀
Here I was thinking this was going to be a “normal” week at home. Nope! We were fortunate and had power all week.
i’ve been thinking 💭
Are we the people forever doomed to suffer infrastructure risk? This week’s been tough for many Austin residents as the combination of rain, just-below-freezing temperature, and dense tree coverage proved devastating to the power grid. If you are wondering “Didn’t something like this just happen in Austin?”, you aren’t imagining things. Two years ago a similar episode of freezing weather nearly took out the entire grid.
This time was different. Rather than a supply problem, it was the distribution infrastructure that came under fire from nature. Rain froze on tree limbs and power lines. Austin has a lot of trees, and plenty of them have canopies that hang above power lines. The combined weight broke limbs and sometimes whole trees (including one of mine!). Many took power lines down with them.
I read that 30% of the city was without power at some point Wednesday. As I write this late Saturday, Austin Energy reports 9% of their customers still without power. Wondering if this was preventable? More aggressive tree trimming wouldn’t have done the trick. It seems only something drastically expensive, like burying most power lines for an estimated $12 billion, could have worked. I imagine that even if there’s someday financing for that, there are a handful of other risks that’d we’d discover over time.
fun facts 🙌
Life in the metaverse. This NYT reporter spent 24 non-consecutive hours in Facebook’s metaverse as research for this story. “My goal was to visit at every hour of the day and night, all 24 of them at least once, to learn the ebbs and flows of Horizon and to meet the metaverse’s earliest adopters.” ~ learn more
Brown gold: the great American manure rush begins. Dairy farms are now partnering with companies to turn their cow manure into “renewable natural gas (RNG)”. Possibly the most dystopian line in this article: “Taken to an extreme, some worry dairy farms could end up turning into feces farms that happen to also produce dairy.” ~ learn more
Humans can’t tell male and female eyes apart, but an AI model can. “Predicting gender from fundus [the part of the eyeball opposite the pupil] photos, previously inconceivable to those who spent their careers looking at retinas, also withstood external validation on an independent dataset of patients with different baseline demographics.” ~ learn more
What does it mean to be neurodivergent? I have been encountering this term more often recently. After a writer whose work I enjoy described herself in this way, I decided to look it up. ~ learn more
tech, startups, internet ⚡
Life in bioplastic, it’s fantastic. Plastic is ubiquitous but also somewhat complicated. Toss ‘bio’ into the mix and there’s some explanation required. “Bioplastic can mean that a material is biobased. Bioplastic can also mean that a material is biodegradable.” This short article can help you get it all straight. ~ learn more
Electric trucks are ready for the road. “Mercedes/Daimler plans to start manufacturing this truck in 2024, and it uses lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries.” The last line of this article felt like wisdom: “Refined lithium may be in short supply today, but the cure for high prices is high prices.” ~ learn more
Meet the company builders that think they can reverse ageing. Thanks to this publication’s EU focus, this article is not about all the same folks who regularly make it into my news feed. ~ learn more
better doing 🎯
The power of diverse thinking. “Success is no longer about individual talent, knowledge or skill. Success is about freeing ourselves from the blind spots that beset us all, and pooling our collective intelligence.” ~ learn more
to your health ⚕
Huberman Lab on the science & use of cold exposure. I’ve been taking advantage of the cold plunge at my gym the past few weeks, and I was wondering if I was doing it right. That led me to this article. “Done correctly, deliberate cold exposure can positively affect brain and body health. Below, I detail some of those benefits and how best to access them.” ~ learn more
The end of a billion-dollar drug. “AbbVie’s Humira—a monoclonal antibody used to treat autoimmune disease—is the most financially successful drug ever to hit the market, bringing in $200 billion in revenue over its 20-year market rein.” Soon, it “will be saying goodbye to its 20-year throne of U.S. market exclusivity.” ~ learn more
retail therapy 💸
Inflation has gotten Americans fed up with tipping. Unrelated to this link, but related to the topic: I asked chatGPT to write a short story about a future where police officers prompt you for a tip when issuing a ticket. ~ learn more
under the microscope 🔬
Extreme biology. “We are at the very beginning of our genomic exploration of the natural world. While many groups are now venturing beyond traditional organisms, our sampling of the biosphere is still incredibly sparse. Extreme Biology aims to accelerate this discovery process—with the goal of discovering the breakthrough medicines and products that Nature has already invented.” ~ learn more
The anti-inflammatory role of pain-sensing gut neurons. There are neurons in your gut. This study found that they do more than merely sensing pain and alerting the brain. They also trigger a protective response in the gut. ~ learn more
New mosquito repellents keep bugs at bay for over 8 hours. Please please please let’s hope something like this is safe and gets commercialized soon! “While several of the compounds were found to be as effective as DEET at repelling mosquitoes, some performed far better, preventing over 95% of bites for more than eight hours. Meanwhile, DEET’s effectiveness began to drop in as little as two hours.” ~ learn more
thoughts of food 🍔
14 vegetables that are actually fruits. I can never get enough of this. Peas are on the list. Peas! “Technically, peas aren't the fruit here, but the pods are. That's because they contain the seeds — the peas — that the plant uses to reproduce.” ~ learn more
big ideas 📚
The case for more energy. I am really finding myself drawn to this point of view. I think it may be the only truly great path forward for humanity. “America has been on a 45-year energy diet, and we ought to try and end it.” ~ learn more
thanks for reading!
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