Weekendlinks 2021-38


Question I’m pondering

I was listening to Lex Fridman’s podcast where he interviews Daniel Kahneman. You might have heard about Kahneman: he wrote the influential book “Thinking Fast and Slow”. It is about the two modes of thinking our brain: System 1 (fast, instinctive and emotional) and System 2 (slower, more deliberative, and more logical).

At one point in the interview Fridman and Kahneman discuss happiness. Kahneman tells he gave up on happiness research. And he explains this, hopefully hypothetical, scenario:

Suppose you go on a vacation. But at the end of the vacation you’ll get an amnesic drug and you won’t remember anything. And all your pictures will be destroyed. Would you choose the same vacation?

That is kind of interesting. I look fondly back on my recent vacation in France: the beautiful routes I’ve ridden, the wonderful meals I had, the cols I’ve climbed. And I’m still busy making video compilations of each day. And I’m looking proudly back on Strava on the rides I’ve done. Suppose all that was deleted? What would I change my holiday? That is such an interesting question.

I think I would do another cycling holiday, just because I feel great afterwards. Part of the fun though is reviewing the videos and photos I shot. Would I do an intensive cycling holiday in a less beautiful area, just because I would not remember anything about it anyway?


An asteroid hit Jupiter

This is something almost only amateur astronomers find: impacts of asteroids on Jupiter. Like Jose Luis Pereira from Brasil, who made this find, while imaging the largest planet in our solar system.

(You’d think spacecraft would pick that up first, but then you overestimate how many active spacecraft there are around our planets. Currently there’s only NASA’s Juno mission in orbit around Jupiter. Juno is in a very elongated orbit to stay out of Jupiter’s harmful radiation belt for most of the time. It was that, or make  spacecraft with expensive fully radiation hardened electronics. Also Juno does have a camera, but that was more or less added to the spacecraft for public outreach. It can’t view Jupiter any better than amateur astronomers can from the point in it’s orbit it is currently in. It will take until October 16th for Juno to get close again and by that time probably there will be no trace left of the impact.)


The Vinland map is (partly) fake

When I was young I remember about this possible map, drawn by Vikings, which would have Northern America on it. Well, it was analyzed by scientists at Yale University. The map is old, but if you do X-ray spectroscopy on it, it will show that the ink used to depict America has titanium in it. And those types of ink started being used only since the 1920s.



Wonderful picture from ISS

This is Eastern Europe, shot at night from the ISS. In front you see the Soyuz spaceship (used to bring cosmonauts to ISS and back home) and the new Nauka module

The Soyuz and Nauka above eastern Europe

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Weekendlinks 2021-33

I’m back for a wonderful cycling holiday in the Vercors and Drôme regions of France. And this is what it looked like:

But enough of that. Let’s have some weekend links.


One little RNA change: Boom! 50% more potato for you

Scientists found that by changing one methyl group in the structure of RNA of potato plants causes it to yield 50% bigger potatoes. And it’s not just a more watery potato. There were no changes to starch and protein. And it doesn’t stop at potatoes. In rice plants it causes more rice (not bigger). The reason of this seems to be because the roots of the plants grow deeper and the photosynthesis is quite more effective.

So the world rejoyces, right? Bigger potatoes and more rice for everyone. No more world hunger! Probably more tests need to be done. And likely the stigma of genetically modified organisms (GMO) will prevent much change happen here in Europe. But hopefully in other countries it will indeed cause less hunger some day?



GPT-3 writes an attorney case

The GPT-3 is a language model that can generate very impressive texts. But it has its limits. You can use it to create the text of an exciting court case with plot twists and everything. But that doesn’t mean it understands how courts work.

(Found on the Links for July post on the Astral Codex Ten blog)


A different cooking program

I love Nat’s What I Reckon. It’s not your average cooking program and yet he serves totally good food.

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Weekendlinks 2021-29

I won’t end this week without a few weekendlinks. This time: SciBabe, an ugly rock from Mars and Have I Been Powned Domain Search.


SciBabe’s Moment of Science

Yvette d’Entremont, also known as SciBabe, writes daily about either adorable creatures, strange deceases, monstrous chemicals, nuclear f%$k-ups and ways Australian flora and fauna can harm or kill you.

Daily MOS: The Ferocious Lemming

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Growing up, the story of how I became a skeptic

In this blogpost I will reveal something about myself, which I never shared anywhere in my long life on the Internet. It’s rather personal and I don’t like to share a lot on that online. The more because of what the great data aggregators nowadays do with that. But to tell this story, I need to explain what happened to me and how that changed things. Also, I’m fine, really. I do 100+ km bike rides now and this week I rode 60 kms with an average speed of 33.5 km/hr, so that hopefully proves I am currently pretty healthy.


Never grow up!

Stories like this always start by saying that when I grew up I was in every aspect a normal kid. But I’m actually not sure :). Anyway at age 11 my parents noticed that I was not growing very much. This fact was underscored by the fact that my 4 year younger brother was getting taller than me: I was about 120 cm (4 feet) at the time. My mother decided this needed to be checked out by a doctor. And before I knew it, I was dragged to a local medical facility where a nurse drew some blood. I can honestly say I hated people poking needles in my arm very much. Continue reading

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Weekendlinks 2021-28

The weather is looking good for this weekend. Time to do some cycling after a creative, but also hectic week. Talking about cycling…


The Alt Tour

You think my 160 km bike ride was crazy? How about a guy who did every kilometer in the Tour de France plus the distances between race starts and finishes (for which the riders take trains, busses and airplanes). A distance of 5500 km and double the altitude gain! That is the Alt Tour that Lachlan Morton rode.

All this with no support team or teammembers to keep him out of the wind. In fact, without hotels even. He has to gather his own food. And his nights of sleep were also less than to be desired. But nevertheless he made it in half the time of the real Tour de France.

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Weekendlinks 2021-27

Here is the third weekendlinks edition.


Vael Ouwe bike ride

In the previous weekend I rode the Vael Ouwe bike ride. We had lots of luck with the weather. My video, made with my Sony actioncam, turned out really nice. The ride through the heather with wildflowers was beautiful and at the halfway point we rode past Radio Kootwijk, a large art deco style building that has been used for radio transmission. Near the end we climbed the Posbank twice. You can find details of the route here.

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Weekendlink 2021-26

This is my second Weekendlink post with interesting links for you to enjoy in the weekend.


Presentation Zen on Zoom?

I’ve written many years ago on my old Oracle blog how important it is to be able to give good, clear presentations. Garr Reynolds’s Presentation Zen blog and book have been very influential on my presentation techniques. I was wondering what he was up to nowadays, apart from the 3rd edition of his Presentation Zen book. Turns out he has some good advise for your next online presentation on Zoom or WebEx.

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Weekendlinks 2021-25

Back when I worked for Transfer Solutions we had an internal weekly newsletter that appeared every end of the week. At the end of it there was a small section by me called “weekendlinks”: 3 or 4 things I found on the Internet that were interesting, funny or thoughtprovoking for people to look at on the Friday afternoon. When I left Transfer Solutions I’ve been on the lookout for a place for my weekendlinks, but either the company where I worked didn’t have a similar newsletter, the culture was too serious or “not a good fit” otherwise.

But since this is my blog and I might just as well do as I please here, I decided to revive my weekendlinks here. It will be my Five Bullet Friday. So here goes:


An illustrated children’s book to Apache Kafka

Teaching complex matters to people is an art. Explaining modern software concepts to children is even more a challenge. But there are people who try it. There already was a Children’s Illustrated Guide to Kubernetes. Well, now there’s one for Apache Kafka too. Expect some tortured analogies though.


Maybe I should write a children’s book to data engineering one day?

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What I think data engineering is (revisited)

Four years now I’ve been working as a data engineer. And when I started writing about how to enter this field (because people sometimes ask me), I found out it’s beter to start writing about what data engineering actually is. Because my view on that has changed. And actually, data engineering changed as well.

Back in 2017, when I made the jump from Oracle database administration, I thought, or was hoping, that a data engineer more or less was a data administrator in Big Data. Sure, it took a bit more programming skills and DevOps and all that, but I thought my experience in operations would largely pay off.

On the other hand, weren’t data engineers supposed to support data scientists, so the data would be prepped for them and they could iterate over this data faster? I found out data engineers exist without data scientists just as well. They provide data to the whole organization, so it can be data driven. Or management at least hopes it will be.

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