Best Of the Web: Best City In the World, Russians Reverse Time and Fasting Q&A

This edition leans towards tech and science: why big tech is not a monopoly in the conventional sense, what happened to all those Uber-style businesses and scientists want to dim the sun. On the culture side, Captain Marvel defies trolls, do you know who Billie Eilish is and indie movies to look out for. Health-wise, you learn about the nuances of the placebo effect, sleep issues and the trouble with excessive hygiene. There’s a bunch more fascinating articles, and great pics at the bottom of the email. Enjoy.

Japanese Kaiju Figurines Apologizing at Press Conferences “The art of the apology – it’s an integral part of Japanese culture that helps maintain balance and harmony in society. Combining that with kaiju figurines is this brilliant little set of toys that feature the likes of Godzilla and Mechagodzilla apologizing at a press conference, head hanging solemnly, for the destruction they’ve caused.”

Travel and Living Guide

Peak California “There are three related problems that make California economically tenuous, and a fourth that makes the situation worse 1) It’s no longer the best place to start a startup. 2) The gains from existing tech industry accrue to  passive investors, and lucky landlords. 3)The state government is a levered bet on tech compensation. 4) These three problems, which are interrelated, won’t show visible symptoms until well after they’re terminally un-fixable.”

The 48 best cities in the world in 2019 Time Out surveyed 34,000 city-dwellers to rank the best cities in the world right now. #1….NY!, then Melbourne and Chicago. London at #4, Paris #9, Tokyo #10, Singapore #29, San Fran #32 and HK #41

The Impossibility of Finding a Place to Write in New York More a commentary of living in NY. A fun read with lines like: “ I was also assured that Ridgewood was, if not exactly desirable, then certainly pre-desirable. “ and “the telltale signs of gentrification—small dogs, coworking spaces, people like me—were only just beginning to crop up”

The best art galleries in Hong Kong Time Out’s round up of their favourite Hong Kong art galleries

Best things to do at Kashiwa and Urakashi in Chiba The best shops and farm-to-table restaurants in Chiba’s under-the-radar style hub

The Secret Ingredient of Resilient Cities: Culture. Under Pablo Escobar, the drug lord (and featured in Netflix show Narcos), Medellín (Colombia) was one of the most violent places on earth. And then it became one of the most innovative—a “model city.. This was partly due to rebuilding culture: building libraries and parks, enabling art, and creating transportation access in the comunas in the hills above the city.(I imagine many of the social tensions we see today are likely due to the destruction of real-world culture and the construction of digital/social media culture)

The case against lawns “What makes a place distinct goes beyond its built environment into its unbuilt environment. On the train home, I know I am exiting the mid-Atlantic and entering the South when the hardwoods fade into pine and the thorny smilax vine begins to creep along the peripheral trees. I know I am home in the sandhills of North Carolina because of, well, the sandy hills.”

Department Of Entertainment

The 25 Authors Who’ve Made the Most Money in the Last Decade James Patterson, JK Rowling and Jeff Kinney feature a lot.

The New Movies from SXSW We’re Excited About Includes Stuffed, Olympic Dreams and Any One of Us. Never heard of them (a good thing!)

‘Captain Marvel’ Shows How the Culture War Is Making User Reviews Useless. Rotten Tomatoes had to make changes to audience rating functionality following a review-bombing campaign against the film. (looks like trolling/review bombing is a thing now) On a lighter note listen to my new podcast Captain Marvel, Avengers Endgame and the Meaning Of God and also read  The ‘Captain Marvel’ After Credits Scenes Explained

Science Projects

Neuroscientists Can Predict Decisions 11 Seconds Before We Make Them A small study but still interesting: “participants envision one of two distinct images then, by monitoring brain activity, researchers were able to predict which image a participant would choose and how vividly they were picturing it in their mind.”

Scientists have discovered a shape that blocks all sound–even your co-workers Dubbed an “acoustic meta-material,” the ring was printed from a mathematically modeled design, shaped in such a way that it can catch certain frequencies passing through the air and reflect them back toward their source (this has great potential)

Portugal approved creation of the Portuguese Space Agency The space agency that will be based on the Azores island of Santa Maria, in the Atlantic Ocean. The initiative has the support of the European Space Agency (ESA). (Seems quite random unless I’m missing something about Portugal’s space industry?!)

Russian Scientists Used a Quantum Computer to Turn Back Time The quantum system was kicked a tiny fraction of a second backward in time. (no time machine though). Also worth readingExplainer: What is quantum communication? And A quantum experiment suggests there’s no such thing as objective reality

Harvard Scientists Say Their Wild Plan to Dim The Sun Could Actually Work Safely In a new study, researchers say spraying chemicals into the atmosphere to ‘dim the Sun’ has never been a magical fix-all to cure humanity’s dangerous addiction to burning fossil fuels, but if used carefully – with a goal of only halving global temperature increases – it could safely work after all. (isn’t there a Gerald Butler movie, Geostorm about this. Spoiler, it doesn’t end well unless you have Butler involved)

The best books on Engineering Not the first topic I think of, but might be worth considering for books. Suggestions include: The Simple Science of Flight: From Insects to Jumbo Jets, Carl Sagan’s Cosmos and In Pursuit of the Unknown: 17 Equations That Changed the World

New Tech

The Servant Economy “Ten years after Uber inaugurated a new era for Silicon Valley, we checked back in on 105 on-demand businesses. This micro-generation of Silicon Valley start-ups did two basic things: It put together a labor pool to deliver food or clean toilets or assemble IKEA bookshelves, and it found people who needed those things done” (good overview of the fortunes of Uber, DoorDash, Blue Apron and others)

Why Self-Checkout Is and Has Always Been the Worst “If some enterprise solutions pitchman or government contractor can sell the top brass on the idea that a half-baked bit of automation will save it some money, the cashier, clerk, call center employee might be replaced by ill-functioning machinery…” (I actually don’t mind the self-check outs, but hate automated call centres/phone calls)

In China, you’ll soon be able to pay your subway fare with your face In Shenzhen, the local subway operator is testing various advanced technologies backed by the ultra-fast 5G network, including facial-recognition ticketing.

The 10 worst technologies of the 21st century includes Google Glass, e-cigarettes and selfie sticks

Japan eyes 2020 Olympics to retake place on tech podium Driverless cars, robot volunteers and ultra high-definition TV: Japan Inc. hopes to use the Tokyo 2020 Olympics to show the world it has regained its touch for innovation and technology.

There will soon be a whole community of ultra-low-cost 3D-printed homes The latest iteration of New Story’s home can be printed in a single day–and is being designed by Yves Behar’s Fuseproject. Soon, they’ll start going up in Latin America. (construction is an area that has yet see costs fall much, so this is very interesting) Worth reading with this article:Why American [construction] Costs Are So High  

Department Of Big Tech

Where Senator Elizabeth Warren’s Wrong [on breaking up Big Tech] Ben Thompson dismantles her case: “Aggregation Theory is the reason why all of these companies have escaped antitrust scrutiny to date in the U.S.: here antitrust law rests on the consumer welfare standard, and the entire reason why these companies succeed is because they deliver consumer benefit.”

Huawei: The story of a controversial company BBC story:Soon 5G mobile internet will be everywhere.  Huawei is a pioneer but is accused of being a gateway for China to spy on Western nations.  Is the firm guilty? Or the victim of unfair rumours?”

5 things Facebook will need to do to become more like WeChat Makes sense to compare FB’s new direction to WeChat. Article’s points include WeChat contacts are private unlike FB, WeChat has a separate section for subscriptions and  limits daily ads and WeChat has digital payments (which is huge)

“Apple News Magazines” details leak: PDF-based, offline reading, both on iOS and macOS New details about Apple’s revamped news and magazine subscription service—expected to be announced at the company’s Special Event on March 25—have been unearthed in Apple’s software code. (PDFs are alive!) Also worth reading: Apple reportedly ‘racing’ to get HBO and Showtime on its streaming service

Department Of Health

Bigger, Saltier, Heavier: Fast Food Since 1986 in 3 Simple Charts “Adding lighter fare like salads to the usual burgers and fries has meant more options for time-pressed diners. But the meals are largely less healthy now, a new study finds.”

The Placebo Effect, Digested – 10 Amazing Findings Includes The Placebo Effect Works Even When You Know It’s A Placebo, Branding, Colours and Medical Paraphernalia Can All Boost The Placebo Effect (blue better than pink) and The Placebo Effect Isn’t Just About Pain Reduction – It Can Boost Creativity And Cognitive Performance Too

Fasting Q&A with Dr. Rhonda Patrick and Mike Maser Excellent podcast on all things fasting. Also learnt about the Zero app (which has great fasting resources)

Here’s Why Joints Crack And Pop, And What It Really Means For Your Poor Old Body You will probably have heard in childhood that if you crack your joints, you will give yourself arthritis. Several studies have shown that this is not true. (my work desk neighbour is cracking her knuckles all the time, and it makes me cringe)

Weekday–Weekend Sleep Imbalance Bad for Blood Sugar Regulation Featured on Scientific American’s 60-Second Science podcast. Worth reading with A Genetic Basis for Insomnia Emerges from the Twilight which reports two studies found significant overlap between genes implicated in insomnia and those related to psychiatric and metabolic traits. 

Excessive hygiene promotes resistance to antibiotics Don’t tell New Yorkers

On-the-spot genome analysis The scientists’ algorithm may make it possible to identify infectious diseases in remote locations, or at the hospital bedside, using the computational memory of devices as small as a smartphone. (This could be revolutionary)

Business School

Egomaniac designers aren’t just annoying. They’re bad for business Egos have no place in the creative industries. Removing egomaniacs from your office will result in a better work environment, better work, and more profit. [The finance industry doesn’t many egomaniacs, so this is just for intellectual interest 😉 ]

Microsoft’s new AI School “Whether you’re completely new to AI or a seasoned professional looking to stay on top of your game, AI School is quite simply the best place to find the information, learning materials and resources you need to start building intelligence into your solutions.”

Do Your Finances Spark Joy? Applying the ‘KonMari’ Method to Your Money The craze continues, but this time has spread to money. Advice includes “Tidy up spending category”, “be aware of where your spending is going” and  “check your values around spending”

The Science of Tipping Points: How 25 Percent Can Create a Majority Do you have to wait for more than 50 percent of the group to agree with a minority opinion before it can take over? It turns out, you need far less than that

‘No drama Obama’ shared his tricks for staying cool under pressure Includes: “Don’t fill your head with what people are saying about you, good or bad. “

Lives Of Rich and Famous

The ‘Hidden Mechanisms’ That Help Those Born Rich to Excel in Elite Jobs “When two sociologists interviewed highly paid architects, TV producers, actors, and accountants, they encountered work cultures that favor the already affluent….One of the big ideas of the book, for me, is it’s really hard for any given individual in any given situation to fully parse what’s actual talent or intelligence or merit, and what’s, Gosh, that person reminds me of me, or I feel an affinity for them because we can talk about skiing or our trips to the Bahamas. “ (there goes meritocracies)

Who’s Billie Eilish? “The 17-year-old already has billions of streams and is on the verge of pop superstardom. What have you done with your life?” (all teenagers know here, but no adults!)

Here’s Where to Find the World’s Super Rich, From Paris to Tokyo Surprised by the high number in Tokyo (more than New York and Shanghai)

Ministry Of Distractions

Why Urban Millennials Love Uniqlo “Only a small percentage of Uniqlo’s stores are located in the United States. But for a certain segment of American shoppers—young, urban, professional, practical—Uniqlo basics have become a cornerstone of the contemporary wardrobe. “ (For me, they are the new Gap)

New Dating App Matches Singles Over The Contents of Their Fridges Uh oh

The Curious Foreign Accent Syndrome “Foreign Accent Syndrome” (FAS) is a rare disorder in which patients start to speak with a foreign or regional tone. 

Hiking Interactions Comedian Miel Bredouw packed every single type of interaction you’re ever going to have with another human being on a hiking trail into a video less than 40 seconds long… They’re all here: the friendly dog greeting, the sing-song “hello”, the running “excuse me”, and the classic “hey how ya doin?” My go-to is usually the panting “hey”.

Tacko Fall Is 7-Foot-6. And He’s Breaking Basketball. Tacko Fall can dunk without his feet leaving the floor and play keep-away [what is that?!] with the ball by merely raising his arms above his head.

Art School

Shooting the Last Photos of the Rare ‘Queen of the Elephants’ F_MU1 was an incredible elephant. For more than 60 years, she lived a peaceful life in a quiet corner of Tsavo in Kenya.


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