Seed Links 1

1. The valet parking Olympics

“At first glance, an Olympics organized entirely around valet parking seems absurd: a luxury service treated as a Decathlon. Yet the Valet Olympics draw attention to a line of work—or, as some would say, an emerging motorsport—that few ever pause to consider. Successful valets boast automotive skills unappreciated outside the parking lot. And valet parking is a hidden vein of economic opportunity that provides full-time work, first jobs, and summer employment to thousands. For immigrants from Nigeria, India, or Ecuador, or displaced by war in Iraq, the industry can supply a much-needed foothold in the United States, even launching a lifelong career. What’s more, as cities grow in size and complexity, America’s urban centers are becoming harder to navigate—with byzantine parking laws, dense downtowns that require real-life Tetris skills to park, and massive lots located blocks from the venues they serve. All of this makes valets, as they invisibly rearrange streets, the set designers of every busy cityscape. Giving them an arena to demonstrate their talents is, in this sense, a no-brainer.”

2. To make a soybean work more like an olive takes a lot of work

“Soybean oil is high in linoleic acid, which means it goes rancid fast. So manufacturers have long been partially hydrogenating their oil to extend shelf life and improve frying capability. Now that legislation has banned the trans fats caused by partially hydrogenated oil, soybean processors are looking for alternatives. This new gene-editing technique means that it will be shelf-stable without having to be hydrogenated… These variations increase shelf life up to five times longer, and increase fry-life threefold, with no need for hydrogenation.”

3. I remain unconvinced about the magical powers of VR, but if anyone can create something transcendent with it, I would bet on Iñarritu.

“‘Nothing actually exists. It’s an invention of your wired brain and it’s a kind of phenomenon between your consciousness, your memories, and your own understanding of yourself and how you project yourself in others. The ability that you have, or don’t have, to do that,’ he said. Carne y Arena, which became the first VR film to receive an honorary Oscar back in November, is meant to be an individual undertaking. Iñárritu’s long-time collaborator, three-time Academy Award winner, cinematographer Emmanuel ‘Chivo’ Lubezki was part of the equation behind the camera once again.”

4. On “late exterminism,” and ways to fight it.

“Thompson’s 1980 essay ‘Notes on Exterminism, the Last Stage of Civilization’ described the nuclear arms race as an autonomous, self-reproducing, irrational force fed in equal parts by the United States and the Soviet Union. As Thompson defined it, this force — exterminism — ‘designates [the] characteristics of a society — expressed, in differing degrees within its economy, its polity and its ideology — which thrust it in a direction whose outcome must be the extermination of multitudes.’ Meant as a unifying call to action against a phenomenon that was pushing the world to the brink of nuclear war, ‘Notes on Exterminism’ was widely read and hugely influential, not least on the European disarmament movement that Thompson would soon help lead.

5. The world's oceans have dueling oceanic surveillance systems to help submarines target their weapons.

“According to technical briefings posted on oceanology institute’s website, the Chinese system is based on a network of platforms – buoys, surface vessels, satellites and underwater gliders – that gather data from the South China Sea, and the Western Pacific and Indian oceans. That information is then streamed to three intelligence centres – in the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, the southern province of Guangdong, and a joint facility in South Asia – where it is processed and analysed. For submarines patrolling the sea route, or ‘road,’ element of China’s global trade and infrastructure development plan known as the ‘Belt and Road Initiative,’ the system’s ability to not only measure, but also predict temperature and salinity at any location, any depth and at any time will be invaluable.”

6. Life springing into being is such an improbable and weird event that no theory seems close to explaining much. The most widely held theory appears to be falling apart.

“Perhaps most importantly, an RNA-only world could not explain the emergence of the genetic code, which nearly all living organisms today use to translate genetic information into proteins. The code takes each of the 64 possible three-nucleotide RNA sequences and maps them to one of the 20 amino acids used to build proteins. Finding a set of rules robust enough to do that would take far too long with RNA alone, said Peter Wills, Carter’s co-author at the University of Auckland in New Zealand — if the RNA world could even reach that point, which he deemed highly unlikely. In Wills’ view, RNA might have been able to catalyze its own formation, making it ‘chemically reflexive,’ but it lacked what he called ‘computational reflexivity.’”