The culture must be built. Dispatch 5
A NEWSLETTER FOR OPTIMISTS
“Maybe you don’t realize just how much authority the habitat personality has in Tranquillity. It is omnipotent, Joshua, it runs the whole shebang, there is no need for a court, for civil servants, it enforces the constitution with perfect impartiality. It provides the most stable political environment in the Confederation… That’s why it is such a successful haven; not just a tax haven either, but economically and financially. You’ll always be safe living in Tranquillity. You can’t corrupt it, you can’t bribe it, you can’t get it to change its laws even through logical argument.”
Geologists have discovered why the Indian Ocean has a 20-million-year-old gravity hole (Fast Company)
There is something strangely satisfying about discovering a mystery of physics has been solved. I had no prior idea about this mystery, but here we go.
The Indian Ocean Geoid Low refers to a region in the Indian Ocean where the gravity is lower than average. It is not an actual hole, but rather a dip in the gravitational field. The water level in this region is approximately 340 feet lower than the surrounding areas. The Indian Ocean Geoid Low spans a vast area of about 1.2 million square miles and is located just off the southern tip of India.
Now Indian geologists have discovered its formation can be attributed to the ascent of low-density magma plumes from the Earth’s mantle. These plumes were generated by the remnants of a submerged tectonic plate known as Tethys, which disappeared during the collision between India and Asia around 50 million years ago which also created the Himalayas.
Gravity is not constant on Earth. The force of gravity varies slightly depending on factors such as location, altitude, and the distribution of mass. However, these variations are generally very small and not noticeable in everyday life.
According to Fast Company, “geophysicists at the Indian Institute of Science in the city of Bengaluru used computer simulations to determine how the gravity hole was formed […] they were able to see the geoid actually taking shape.”
The hole developed about 20 million years ago and might be gone in a few hundreds of millions, so if you plan to visit you better get going.
The high-tech race to improve weather forecasting (The Economist)
For many years the business of weather forecasting has had a mildly perplexing dilemma. It has been technically possible to notably improve the accuracy of weather forecasting, but with so few willing to pay for weather data it just hasn’t been worth the capital expenditure in either computing power or sensors.
With climate change, that is no longer the case. “Weather forecasts gave countries advance warning [of heatwaves], a job that will become even more important as the planet warms further,” says The Economist.
As computers get more powerful, weather modelling has gotten more accurate. But weather is a chaotic physical system and that is a problem that no amount of computing modelling power can solve - the best case might be a 15 day prediction before any accuracy breaks down.
What’s exciting in The Economist article is all the companies focusing on the very short-term weather. Will it rain in the time it takes your Deliveroo/DoorDash to arrive? That’s valuable commercial data. And of course, it’s an AI market with both big players like IBM and Google and startups like Salient. With AI it may well be possible to push the models beyond just the weather to consider wider impact on everything from fish stocks to fire risks. Something to keep an eye on (as well as the clouds).
Alef Flying Car Preorders Hit 2,500 (IoT World Today)
We might not be getting close to the ‘jetpack future’ but flying cars are seeming more real by the day. Especially if you are one of the 2100 ‘regular’ folks who have pre-ordered a $300K Alef. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has given them an airworthiness certification for test purposes which will hopefully lead to consumer certs down the line, and shortly thereafter skies full of very fine drivers.
Plug (Silicon Catalyst)
The first publicly announced outcome of the UK’s National Semiconductor Strategy is the decision to commission SiliconCatalyst.UK Ltd to deliver a pilot semiconductor design incubator, with the first cohort of UK-based semiconductor startups to undertake an intensive nine-month incubation process starting in October 2023. They will be developed and supported by the renowned Silicon Catalyst’s global ecosystem.
If you are an early-stage UK semiconductor startup that is either at or before pre-seed funding, you can now apply to this UK Government backed semiconductor design incubator run by Silicon Catalyst. This is a nine-month no-cost incubation process, where early-stage UK semiconductor startups will gain access to the full Silicon Catalyst ecosystem, providing them access to EDA tools, Design IP and Semiconductor Foundry prototyping. Companies participating in the Pilot Semiconductor Design Incubation program will also have access to the Silicon Catalyst advisors (including me).
The future will still be coming, and tech will still be making everything better, but there will be no newsletter as I’m taking a few days to enjoy the sun. See you in two weeks.
A few notes on the culture
The culture? Is that a reference to Iain M. Banks? The Culture (capital C) is, according to Wikipedia, a utopian, post-scarcity space society of humanoid aliens, and advanced super-intelligent artificial intelligences living in artificial habitats. The culture (small c) is an informal but recognisably related set of people that align around the values of: Individual Freedom and Happiness; Growth and Education; Equality, Diversity and Tolerance; and Technological Advancement.
This newsletter is a “novelty aggregator”. Each week I’ll select a handful of things that seem to be to be ways in which technology is advancing our potential to survive, thrive and conjoin. They won’t necessarily be the biggest stories of the week; I’m presuming you saw those already. I may include a few things about my personal projects, when newsworthy. They include working as a fractional CMO (or whatever is needed) with companies in edutech, cleantech, and semiconductors, and a series of near-future spy novels (available on Amazon UK / Amazon US).