[This fragment is available in an audio version.]
For a while there I was posting a Long Links early in each month, recommending long-form pieces that I’d had the time to read, acknowledging that people who aren’t semi-retired wouldn’t have time for all of them but perhaps one or two would add value even for the busy. I fell out of that habit but now it’s 2022 and there are plenty of tabs I meant to write about, some dating back to early 2021. So… Welcome, everyone, to 2022, and let’s go long!
I bet a lot of people who read this blog play video games. I bet a lot of people also read The New Yorker. I bet they’re probably not the same people. So, for people on the left side of that Venn diagram, I recommend The Best Video Games of 2021. The list is idiosyncratic and light on AAA productions. I want to give a few of these a try!
Anyone who knows me well, or has read much of what I write, has probably encountered a rant about the irritating habit, among the rich and successful, of attributing their position solely to their own talent and energy. I’ve never believed that, simply because I know how many of my own successes have involved a lot of good luck, and because I know many people who are smarter and harder-working than I am but who struggle to get along in life. For those who agree, and especially for those who don’t, I offer Talent vs Luck: the role of randomness in success and failure by Pluchino et al, published in Advances in Complex Systems. I quote from the abstract: “In particular, we show that, if it is true that some degree of talent is necessary to be successful in life, almost never the most talented people reach the highest peaks of success, being overtaken by mediocre but sensibly luckier individuals. As to our knowledge, this counterintuitive result - although implicitly suggested between the lines in a vast literature - is quantified here for the first time.” Told ya so.
John Battelle asks, on his blog, Why Is The Streaming Experience So Terrible? Nobody really liked the era of cable TV, and streaming felt like a fresh new direction when it arrived, but today it’s starting to have that cable-TV smell, on top of becoming really expensive. I enjoyed reading this because I thought I was the only one generally grumpy about the streaming-video era. I guess I’m not.
Batteries are much in the news these days, as we embark on the first stage of the titanic shift away from a world that runs by burning fossilized micro-organisms to one that runs on renewables. There are a whole lot of issues around batteries: Cost, durability, and the environmental impact of building them. I can’t say how much I enjoyed Electric cars and batteries: how will the world produce enough? published in Nature. It addresses all the issues around batteries that I knew about and a bunch that I didn’t, is impeccably written, and, as you’d expect from this publication, armed with high-quality graphics and first-rate references.
In recent years I’ve been fascinated by the science of “Dark Matter” — I put the words in quotes because no matter how hard physicists look, they can’t find the stuff that needs to be there for galaxies to behave the way they do, according to ΛCDM, the “standard model” of cosmology. Some suggest that Dark Matter doesn’t actually exist, and offer an alternative explanation of the galactic weirdness that produces good results, but requires an adjustment to Newton’s famous gravitational formula G(m1m2)/r2, a thing that (rightly) makes physicists nervous. This alternative vision of cosmic reality is called MOND. Recently, there’s been lots of coverage of the JWST space telescope, and in his Triton Station blog, Stacy McGaugh considers What JWST will see. Because JWST will allow astronomers to establish the size of the furthest-away (and thus oldest) galaxies, and the predictions of ΛCDM and MOND on what they’ll see are very different. One waits with bated breath.
David Heinemeier Hansson (universally referred to as “DHH”) is the inventor of the popular “Rails” website-building software and a successful businessperson, with a loud voice and many interesting opinions. When I first ran across him in 2005, he was also kind of an asshole, spewing testosterone all over the blogosphere and Web-conference circuit. In recent years he’s become way more grown-up and likeable, and usually worth paying attention to, although his standing took a beating last April when a controversy about what sort of political discussion was legit on internal company channels led to a third or so of the staff bailing out. Whatever you may think of him, if you’re interested in software and in particular Open Source, I recommend I won't let you pay me for my open source. It’s a little longer than it needs to be but covers interesting territory, and lots of it, and although I certainly don’t agree with every word, I sure enjoyed reading it.
Long-form works aren’t all in words. Here’s 12 minutes of Vivaldi’s Concerto in E minor for Bassoon; super tasty stuff. The performance is from Poland and the performers almost all women. First-class music, beautifully recorded.
Let’s hope 2022 is better.