Discover more from Simply Explained Newsletter
#13: Pixar, Stirling Engine, Hidden Blockchain Data, Crashing into the Moon, First Pig Heart Transplant, and more!
I hope you had a good start of the year and are already making progress towards realizing your goals for 2022. After all, the year is already 10% over!
This edition of the newsletter is once again full of interesting stuff I found online. But first, a brief story of something odd.
Keep away from fire
A few weeks ago, while putting on my jacket, I noticed it had a “Keep away from fire” tag inside. I thought to myself: duh, this stuff probably burns easily. Then, a few days later, I noticed the same label on some baby clothes.
This took me down the rabbit hole to figure out where the label came from. Turns out that the UK has rules about the flammability of various pieces of clothing. This legislation specifically mentions that manufacturers should put “Keep away from fire” on all clothes that aren’t treated to lower flammability.
I felt like this was stating the obvious, but apparently that’s not the case for everyone.
👨🏫 Simply Explained
I made my gas meter smart
During my last holidays, I made my analog gas meter smart by attaching an optical sensor to it. This allows me to track our gas usage. For now, I’m still collecting data and figuring out how we can reduce consumption. I’m planning on changing the thermostat’s schedule and see how that affects gas usage.
🤓 Cool Stuff I Found on the Internet
That famous Pixar lunch of 1994
I’m a big fan of Pixar movies, but what I didn’t know was that the ideas for 4 of their hit movies were born during a single lunch meeting. The movies were: A Bugs Life, Monsters Inc, Finding Nemo and Wall-E. That was one hell of a productive meeting! The lunch is also mentioned in the teaser trailer for Wall-E.
Open Infrastructure Map
Ever wondered where power lines, power stations, cell towers, water or oil pipes are? The Open Infrastructure Map shows exactly this! It’s based on data from OpenStreetMap, an open-source, community-driven mapping service. It also provides some mind-bending statistics. For instance: they mapped 5 million kilometers of power lines (and this isn’t a complete view of all power lines)! Wow!
Stirling engine running on waste heat of Starlink modem
Stirling engines run on the temperature difference between two surfaces. For instance: it can run off the heat of your hand. Here’s a Vsauce video explaining how it works. What else could you run it on? Well, this Reddit user put a Stirling engine on top of a Starlink modem which generates enough heat to make the engine spin at 300rpm! (Also check out my video about satellite internet)
Hidden surprises in Bitcoin's blockchain
Bitcoin’s blockchain is a distributed database that contains all transactions that ever happened with the coin. However, there are ways to store more than just transactions on a blockchain, like images and text. This includes a picture of Mandela, prayers, secret messages and even a Rickroll!
Don’t forget Microsoft
This article makes the case that Microsoft is the most overlooked company in tech. And there might be some merit to it! Microsoft is huge and many of its businesses are doing incredibly well (most notably Azure). The gist of this article is that if Microsoft can continue to grow Azure and attract more young users (a growing segment), it could well become the first company to be worth 10 trillion dollars!
How many people are on US government sites right now?
This website shows in real-time how many people are currently on US government websites. It also details which devices, browsers and operating systems that are in use. The data comes from a “unified Google Analytics” account for US federal government agencies.
James Webb Telescope is fully deployed!
Congrats to NASA for successfully deploying the most complex space telescope ever assembled! They also released the first image from the telescope. It’s blurry because the mirrors are being calibrated with “nanometer precision”. It’ll take until this summer to finish this process. And remember: this all happens 1.5 million kilometers from Earth.
A Falcon9 will crash into the Moon
When SpaceX launched NOAA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory in 2015, its Falcon 9 rocket was so far away from Earth that it couldn’t return to land or burn up in the atmosphere. Now, the first stage will slam into the Moon with a speed of 2.58km/s. This is the first time that a man-made object strikes the Moon unintentionally. The 4-ton rocket will hit the moon on March 4th.
🏥 Health & Medicine
Two weeks after his operation David Bennett is alive, his pig’s heart beating soundly
David Bennett was suffering from heart failure but didn’t qualify for a transplant. Now, he’s the first person to undergo xenotransplantation: where organs are transferred from one species to another. David received a genetically modified pig heart: 3 genes were disabled and 6 human genes were added to help the body accept the organ. And so far, so good! The patient is doing well and will soon start physical therapy to build up strength in his legs to go for a walk.
Bacteriophage therapy: How a virus helped a woman survive a dangerous antibiotic-resistant infection
A woman who survived the bombings at Brussels Airport in 2016 got a bacterial infection that didn’t respond to antibiotics. The WHO estimates that these types of bacteria (referred to as ESKAPE) will kill 10 million people per year by 2050. However, in this case, doctors were able to treat the infection with bacteriophages, a type of virus that infects bacteria.