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A mini project to force me to match facts with theory, since I think theoretically all the time.

June 30, 2021



Louis Pasteur said "where observation is concerned, chance favors only the prepared mind." For me, there are three components to intellectual growth: observation, intake, and reflection. Observation is by far the component that I pay the least attention to, and this page is an attempt to give more effort to observation.

In other words, I'm just trying to trick myself into not being a theoretical-head-in-the-clouds geek. Mind you, the news articles listed here are not the most important or interesting, but more a reflection of what I am able to address.

Thursday, September 2, 2021

    Back in February, Shell acquired Ubitricity, a company that develops EV charging infrastructure.
  1. Royal Dutch Shell aims to increase the number of electric vehicle (EV) charging points around Great Britain. This expansion is in line with the country's plans to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030, and to go net zero by 2050.[1]
  2. Carbon-emissions markets heating up, making energy traders perk up. With emerging carbon-emissions market in China and the expanding market in Europe, trading houses look optimistically at growth potential.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

    [1] From John Kemp's energy email blast.
  1. U.S. battery storage capacity grew 35% in 2020.The fast-increasing trend is expected to continue. [1]
  2. Pfizer to buy Trillium Therapeutics. Trillium is an oncology biotech company that has two promising drugs that harness the immune system to target blood cancers such as leukemia. Pfizer's oncology division seems to be betting on the success of these drugs in early to mid-stage trials.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

  1. Biden administration wants OPEC to raise oil production to counter rising U.S. petrol prices. Despite OPEC+ agreeing to boost supply last month, petrol prices have risen. The FTC was also urged to crack down on any collusions in the petrol market.
  2. Hackers return stolen funds to Poly Network.
  3. Tesla demand falls in China while demand for domestic EV makers surges.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

    [1] Many blockchains develop independently, so their tokens also travel along these separating paths by extension.
  1. $600 million taken by hackers from DeFi-platform Poly Network. The job exploited a tool offered by Poly Network that allows users to transfer tokens between different blockchains. [1]
  2. [2] Essentially a mini-computer on a single chip.
  3. Chip lead times stretch to 20+ weeks. Microcontrollers [2] now take 26.5 weeks - a drastic departure from the usual 6-9 weeks - while power management chip lead times have reduced.
  4. A number of articles that discuss Apple's announcement regarding CSAM:
    • Ben Thompson argues Apple is betraying its privacy values by confusing capability vs. policy, and cloud vs. on-device.
    • Antonio Garcia Martinez is skeptical about the reported false positive rate of the photo-matching algorithm(s), and how greater power implies greater responsibility (and greater attention to the means of channeling this reponsibility).
    • Neal Krawetz discusses the fool-not-so-proof photo-matching algorithms and the potential legal problems with Apple's detection and reporting pipeline.
    Overall, Ben Thompson's delineation of capability vs policy, and cloud vs. on-device is spot-on. The general arguments of the anti-Apple-policy crowd can be separated into 1. the slippery slope that these photo-matching algorithms could lead to if the definition of problematic photos expands and 2. Apple's newfound power in accessing on-device data, coupled with reporting process, demands greater responsibilty (which will probably be ignored).

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

    [1] Paraxylene is a petrochemical used for making bottles and other daily necessities. In particular, it is used for polyvesters such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET).
  1. Second-generation oil companies flourish under Chinese vision for self-sufficiency. These Teapot 2.0 companies are more environmentally conscious (unlike their older Teapot 1.0 counterparts), primarily focused on using crude to make paraxylene [1] rather than diesel. As a result, they enjoy tangible advantages such as tax benefits and permission to import directly from crude suppliers like Saudi Arabia.
  2. Knowde, an "Amazon" for chemical ingredients, raises $72 million in Series B round. The vast majority (~90%) of the products produced by chemical companies are sold to other manufacturers that combine these products into our common consumer goods. Knowde provides a digital marketplace for these manufacturers.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

  1. Roaring consumer demand tests global supply chain resilience. Increases in shipping and production rates have trickled down to the consumer level. The main bottleneck seems to be transportation and shipping congestion.
  2. Methane plume spotted near natural gas pipeline in Kazakhstan. As methane is the second-largest contributor to global warming, methane emissions are often misreported by governments and oil/gas operators.

Saturday, July 31, 2021

    [1] From John Kemp's energy email blast.
  1. Industrial policy returns to America. In an effort to compete with China's goals of industrial self-sufficiency, the Biden administration plans to pump government support into critical sectors such as semiconductors, batteries, specialized minerals and pharmaceutical ingredients. The U.S. has traditionally led in innovation but lagged in production, preferring to outsource to other countries - no longer. It now aims to gain more control over the overall supply chain. [1]
  2. [2] Renewable diesel fuel is made from various biomass sources, and is chemically the same as petroleum diesel fuel. It differs from biodiesel by production process.
    [3] From John Kemp's energy email blast.
  3. U.S. production capacity for renewable diesel may surge through 2024. [2] With incentives such as higher state/federal targets and attractive tax credits, many projects have been announced; the projected renewable diesel output by 2024 is 5.1 billion gallons per year. A possible downside is that feedstocks also double as food, so food prices may spike. [3]

Friday, July 30, 2021

  1. Scientists develop DNA polymerase capable of encoding L-DNA. [1]
    [1] DNA polymerase is the enzyme responsible for DNA replication.
    As far as essential molecules for life are concerned, they follow a curious phenomenon called homochirality; roughly speaking, objects have "handedness". For example, most amino acids are L-chiral, while sugars are D-chiral. [2]
    [2] Think: L = left, D = droit. L-chiral is left-handed, D-chiral is right-handed. The question of the homochirality's necessity is off-topic, but there seems to be some evidence that homochirality aids in information storage and reduces entropy barriers.
    DNA, as it occurs in nature, is D-chiral. However, Tsinghua scientists have re-engineered DNA polymerase to encode L-DNA, the mirror image of D-DNA. Furthermore, this L-DNA is resistant to biodegradation i.e. it remains amplifiable and sequenceable after a nontrivial span of time. The greater implications of this technology is an explosion of mirror biology systems, which could lead to fantastic solutions for climate change or other significant central issues. [3]
    [3] Read the paper here.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

  1. Biden expresses cyberwar concerns regarding Russia and China following recent cyberattacks on essential infrastructure systems. [1]
  2. Redwood Materials, an energy startup that aims to recycle lithium-ion automotive battery packs, raises $700M in funding round. Its greater goal is to close the EV supply chain loop in the U.S., given that the EV supply chain is also an issue of national security - China currently controls a significant portion of the supply chain.
  3. [2] Opinion piece.
  4. Dan Wang's article on how U.S. sanctions on China have inadvertently aligned China's state and private goals for self-sufficiency. [2] Many of China's leading companies have critically relied on American technologies (e.g. semiconductors). However, Washington's restrictive actions regarding Huawei and other major companies further incentivize industrial self-sufficiency - in other words, the U.S. may be feeding the Chinese fire.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

    [1] From John Kemp's energy email blast.
  1. United Kingdom's nuclear ventures may unravel. In 2015, the U.K. teamed up with China General Nuclear Power Corp. (CGN) and Electricite de France SA to build three nuclear reactors - one of which is led by CGN. However, the political and power implications of a Chinese-led major infrastructure project may derail the U.K.'s clean energy plans. [1]
  2. Consumer behavior on track towards pre-pandemic patterns. Companies like UPS and 3M benefitted during the heights of the pandemic, but a reversion of consumer behaviors means slower growth.
  3. A number of threads/articles that attempt to explain the Chinese regulatory surge:
    • @noahpinion's Why is China Smashing Its Tech Industry? claims that China's crackdown is in line with its goals regarding comprehensive national and geopolitical power.
    • @ruima's thread on China's wanting to be a "manufacturing-based superpower".
    • @lillianmli's Let The Bullets Fly For A While. She contends that China's recent crackdown fits into its regulatory pattern innovate-then-regulate, making the hot question not "why?", but "why now?".
    The common theme running through all these arguments is a point made in Dan Wang's 2020 letter: China's future is focused on industralizing, manufacturing, and the real economy.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

    [1] Read this tweet for further information.
    [2] China has poor uranium reserves compared to its thorium reserves, so this is great for them.
  1. China nears completion of a Thorium Molten Salt Reactor (MSR). Thorium as found in nature (Th-232) is fertile, but Th-232 transmutes into the fissile Uranium-233 when bombarded with high-energy neutrons. In a Thorium MSR, thorium is dissolved into liquid salt, which is then sent into a reactor chamber. The liquid salt mixture ensures that the excess neutrons are high-energy neutrons, hence effectively 'waking the thorium beast'. The MSR's implications include low water requirements and effective usage of fertile elements. [1][2]
  2. U.S.-China relations still sour after Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman's visit. China demands that the U.S. not suppress or infringe upon its development, system of socialism, and state sovereignty.
  3. [3] From Matt Levine's Moneystuff newsletter.
  4. Banks lending more to high net worth clients. On the bank side, the logic is that they would rather lend to people who are likely to pay them back; for the wealthy, they want to liquidate their assets without paying taxes. [3]

Friday, July 23, 2021

    [1] From John Kemp's energy email blast.
  1. PG&E to underground ten thousand miles of its power lines. Over the past few years, PG&E's powerlines have ignited many California wildfire from powerlines touching trees or branches. The project will cost an estimated $20 billion; despite the hefty cost, the financial consequences of further wildfires are greater, affecting some past wildfire victims that were compensated for their losses with PG&E shares. [1]
  2. [2] Opinion piece from Reuters.
    [3] From John Kemp's energy email blast.
  3. Japan's latest energy policy may shake up liquefied natural gas (LNG) and coal producers. [2] Japan has kept up steady demand for LNG and coal, but its new policy aiming to ramp up renewable and nuclear energy use may affect Australia especially, who is a major exporter in LNG and coal. [3]
  4. U.S.'s confrontational approach to China to be tested. The U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, Wendy Sherman, flies to China this weekend for the first face-to-face meeting in three months.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

    [1] From John Kemp's energy email blast.
    [2] I mentioned during the Coop ransomware attacks that implementing technology is hard. A potential weakpoint here is then pipeline operators resorting to third-parties to construct their security systems. An attack on the third-party alone could be enough to hit a number of critical targets (although security systems are probably built bespoke so as to prevent standardization).
  1. Biden administration releases cybersecurity measures for U.S. pipelines. The directive also disclosed previously classified information that China, between 2011 and 2013, had compromised many U.S. oil and natural gas pipeline systems. In light of the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack and the alleged Chinese cyberattack on Microsoft, the Biden administration appears to be taking a more active stance on protecting critical infrastructure systems. [1][2]
  2. Nord Stream 2 deal between U.S. and Germany complete. The deal includes various checks on Moscow and aid to Ukraine. Ukraine and Poland are unhappy, asserting that the pipeline is a serious security threat.
  3. Tesla makes a deal for nickel with BHP. With nickel being a key component in lithium-ion batteries, BHP and Tesla aim to make the battery supply chain more transparent.
  4. Saudi Aramco confirms $50m ransomware "attack". A cyber extortionist allegedly had copies of stolen data and demanded a $50m ransom. However, Aramco denies that any of its systems were compromised.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

    [1] Many current Russian gas pipelines connected to Europe run through Ukraine, who subsequently rakes in cash from transit fees.
    [2] From John Kemp's energy email blast.
  1. US and Germany near an agreement regarding the completion of the Nord Stream 2 (NS2) gas pipeline. The Russian pipeline, which runs from Russia to Germany through the Baltic Sea, has been controversial considering its potential geopolitical and strategic implications. On the American side, the pipeline may increase Europe's already-high dependence on Russia for gas and allow the Kremlin to further bully Ukraine. [1] On the German and Russian side, the NS2 will double the amount of natural gas directly transported to Germany. Despite their continued opposition, the Americans concluded that bruising relations with Germany and other allies are a greater consequence. Under the agreement, U.S. and Germany will invest in Ukraine's green infrastructure and ensure that Ukraine continues to receive its transit fees. [2]
  2. Delta variant hitting southeast Asia, affecting the semiconductor industry. SEA, especially Malaysia and Vietnam, has a major role in the production process (e.g. packaging, testing). The rapidly spreading Delta variant lands another punch, reducing worker capacity due to lockdowns and clogging up shipment schedules.
  3. Bezos touches down. Topics about the environment regarding frequent space explorations, social inequality, and space economy have entered the forefront of people's minds.
  4. Unilever pulls Ben & Jerry's from occupied Palestinian territories. Some, like Israel's foreign minister Yair Lapid, have deemed this action as anti-semitic. Ben & Jerry's is known to be a brand with strong ethical values, having supported Black Lives Matter and other social protests.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

    [1] From John Kemp's energy email blast.
  1. OPEC+ agrees to release more oil into the market. UAE's baseline has increased by 332,000 bpd, and both Russia and Saudi Arabia's baselines have rise by 500,000 bpd. With more supply, the question of how demand will develop remains ambiguous - arguments for both bullish and bearish narratives are convincing. [1]
  2. [2] This is following the NSO Group's Pegasus spyware incident, where several journalists and human rights activists were targetted. Check out July 4th's news post for more.
  3. Apple under scrutiny for refusing to collaborate with rivals on the cybersecurity front. Apple's "closed-ecosystem" approach means that the tech giant is tight-lipped about its vulnerabilities and updates. [2]
  4. Swimply, a platform for renting private pools. [3]
    [3] An AirBnB type service.
    Pool hosts are hunting for the best pool maintenance prices, as disruptions in the pool-chemical supply chain due to the pandemic have caused prices to spike. Some hosts are even looking for more eco-friendly ways to maintain their pools.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

  1. Hubble Space Telescope back in action. The entire Science Instrument Command and Data Handling (SIC&DH) unit was switched out.
  2. Cooking industry holding onto gas stovetops. With many American cities aiming to reduce carbon emissions, gas-fired stovetops are (weirdly enough) becoming a point of contention. Some chefs are pushing back, arguing that electric setups have overall higher-cost and cannot achieve the same texture and flavor. Others are open to more environmentally friend possibilities.
  3. Tin prices on a high this past week. Used for solder in circuit boards, power shortages due to heatwaves and political unrest (in Myanmar, the third largest tin producer) have decreased supply while demand continues to rise.

Friday, July 16, 2021

    [1] From John Kemp's energy email blast.
    [2] I've covered the events leading up to this compromise, so read below for further information.
  1. Compromise between Saudia Arabia and UAE regarding oil supply is on the horizon. [1][2]
  2. US-China relations remain cold. China refused to grant the US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman permission to meet with her counterpart Le Yucheng. This rebuttal comes four months after the bitter Alaska talks between Yang Jiechi and Antony Blinken; China's expectation then was most likely to "reset" US-China relations with the Biden administration, but each side had fundamental disagreements over the other's values and behaviors.
  3. Moderna wants to use mRNA technology against other diseases. Undoubtedly a heroic breakthrough in modern medicine, mRNA vaccines bypass the protein construction phase required in making traditional vaccines. Once injected, the immune cell constructs the protein from reading the mRNA and the immune system subsequently develops antibodies matching this protein. [3]
    [3] In traditional vaccines, the protein is constructed first, then inserted into the body.
    Due to the modularity of mRNA vaccines, they are easy to produce, and reliable at that. With these advantages, Moderna believes that mRNA vaccines could be used to combat HIV/AIDS, Zika, and other viral diseases.
  4. Intel might buy GlobalFoundries Inc., a US-based semiconductor manufacturer.
  5. Square looking to launch a Bitcoin DeFi platform.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

    [1] From John Kemp's energy email blast.
  1. China prepares to launch emissions trading program. Having been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the program will launch this Friday, involving around two thousand companies that make up a seventh of global carbon emissions from fossil-fuel combustion. In contrast to other cap and trade systems that impose an absolute cap, this program will allow for some margin depending on previous years' performances. [1]
  2. [2] From John Kemp's energy email blast.
  3. Mega oil/gas pipelines in danger. The trend of regulatory crackdowns and increasing costs of building pipelines is forcing oil/gas industries to re-think how hydrocarbons should be transported. Some are researching novel ways of transporting them (e.g. cooking into solid pucks and transporting via road or rail), while others are expanding into renewable energy and biofuel projects. [2]
  4. [3] From Matt Levine's Moneystuff newsletter.
  5. Saudi Arabia is considering issuing green bonds in Q4 this year. [3]
  6. Netflix looking to expand into the video game space, hence offering something that its competitors - Disney+, Amazon, Hulu, etc. - do not have yet. Furthermore, Netflix will offer these games at no further cost.
  7. [4] Twitter is a good source of information and no one can convince me otherwise.
  8. Cuba's protests and what might actually be going on. The tweet author suggests three factors: "the Leninist government's years-long crisis of legitimacy, the causes of recent hyper-inflation, the mixed politics of dissidents". Regarding the second factor, the government essentially tried to reform their two-currency system to match their plans for a tourist economy, but COVID made tourism evaporate. [4]

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

  1. Cryptocurrency miners looking to cheaper and renewable energy sources. With the Chinese government banning cryptocurrency mining over alleged illicit coal mining, many have been forced to seek power for their mining operations elsewhere. One favorite destination is Kazakhstan, where miners can get electrocity for as low as 3 cents per kilo-watt hour. However, Kazakhstan's power potential is waning, given its popularity and its lack of development in energy capacity over the past twenty years. Additionally, some miners are using this opportunity to investigate greener energy sources.
  2. [1] Michael Foucault said: "Where there is power, there is resistance, and yet, or rather consequently, this resistance is never in a position of exteriority in relation to power." I first encountered this relationship between attacker, defender, and customer in cryptography. From the defender's (Amazon, Ebay, etc.) point of view, you don't want your service to be too easy to penetrate. But you also don't want to increase the friction so much that people are discouraged from using your service entirely.
  3. E-commerce fraud - a weird exploding world amidst the pandemic. Fraudsters are taking advantage of the difficulties in proof of correct delivery and reception; for example, in the "item not received" fraud, a fraudster will falsely claim that he/she did not receive his/her ordered item, consequently receiving a refund. E-commerce frauds have taken off during the pandemic especially, for social distancing measures have decreased contact between delivery drivers and receivers. Some fraud operations even provide step-by-step manuals for committing these frauds. At the same time, fraud prevention services are working overtime to create effective deterrence methods. [1]

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

    [1] From John Kemp's energy email blast.
  1. Houston considering its post-oil future. Despite rising crude prices, shale producers are holding back on production to return capital back to investors as demand recovers. Given that the oil and gas shares of Houston's GDP have fallen dramatically in recent years, many Houston energy companies are looking favorably upon renewable energy such as wind power. Bobby Tudor of Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co also points to emerging technologies such as carbon and hydrogen capture. [1]
  2. [2] From John Kemp's energy email blast.
    [3] Carbon leakage is when companies move their environmentally un-safe operations out of tough climate regulation zones. Resource shuffling is when companies sell their environmentally friendly products to tough climate regulation zones, and sell their unfriendly products to places with weaker regulations.
  3. Aluminum producers seek to be excluded from the first phase of the EU's carbon border adjustment mechanism (CBAM). CBAM would replace the existing emissions trading system, which compensates the aluminum industry for any carbon-related electricity costs. Aluminum producers claim that including aluminium in the CBAM will do nothing to prevent carbon leakage, or resource shuffling by competitors.[2][3]
  4. Japan's Lunar Industry Vision Council (LIVC) urges state to remain competitive in new space race. LIVC - which includes Sony and Nissin - submitted a white paper to Japan's space policy minister Shinji Inoue, claiming that Japan must be active if it is to be included in later lunar industrialization.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

  1. Executive order signed by U.S. President Joe Biden. The order aims to "promote competition in the American economy" [1]
    [1] Press release of the order.
    , and is in line with Biden's mission to redistribute centralized power to the smaller peripheries. The 72 total guidelines include vigorous enforcement of antitrust laws, greater scruntiny of mergers, and prevention of equipment manufacturers from restricting DIY repairs. [2]
    [2] This tweet claims that this order is very similar to that of Chinese regulators in recent years. The similarities are really striking.
  2. Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) continues to spark clashes with neighboring countries Sudan and Egypt. Given that both Sudan and Egypt depend on the Nile for farming and energy generation, GERD's second phase of filling threatens to sour relations even further. For one, the GERD retains silt, but a momentary opening of its lower gates in November caused heavy silt to block the turbines of Sudan's Roseires dam - this lead to power outages throughout Sudan. Drought and flooding remain principal concerns also.
  3. Biometrics law goes into effect on Friday in New York. The state will be requiring businesses that collect biometric information to post signs informing customers about how their data will be collected. Although weaker than Illinois' Biometric Information Privacy Act, which allows residents to sue for any collection without consent, New York seems to be making steps to ensure a more deliberate approach to biometric data.

Friday, July 9, 2021

    [1] From John Kemp's energy email blast.
  1. United States looking to decrease their dependence on China for rare earths. Important rare earths include cerium, lanthanum, and neodynium, which are used to make fuel cells or batteries. However, although rare earths are necessary for many green technologies such as electric cars, obtaining them can be a environmentally damaging process. [1]
  2. [2] From John Kemp's energy email blast.
  3. Drought affects California's hydroelectric generation. Melting mountain snowpack normally acts as a natural source for hydroelectric generation, but most of it either melted earlier in the spring or was absorbed by dry soils and streams. Hydroelectric generation is therefore expected to be lower than that of previous years.[2]
  4. Tencent rolls out facial recognition to curb gaming addiction. Minors will not be able to game after 22:00 and before 08:00; furthermore, refusing face verification implies immediate minor status, hence making a seemingly airtight system for preventing minors from gaming.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

    [1] In Seeing Like A State, James C. Scott mentions scientific forestry and how the compression of natural complexity into a more administrative, controlled form led to uncontrollable setbacks. However, as similar as these pollination robots sound to scientific forestry, technology can be used to bypass artificial forcing-complexity-into-boxes altogether (given that the algorithm can recognize natural complexity). Nonetheless, whether this forced intrusion into the natural feedback loop between insects and plant reproduction is also ignoring levels of complexity is worth thinking about.
  1. Pollination robots might become a common sight on agricultural farms. With the declining insect population, farmers are looking for ways to decrease their dependence on bees to pollinate their crops. Arugga AI Farming, an AI-first-farming-second startup based in Israel, creates robots that identify and pollinate flowers that are ready for pollination. The robots would work faster than bee and human workers while offering more control over variables. [1]
  2. Animal contagion may explain the COVID-19 pandemic. Edward Holmes and 19 other researchers released a pre-print that hypothesizes that animal contagion is to blame for the pandemic. [2]
    [2] I didn't read the original paper, but here it is if you are curious.
    The authors claim that Wuhan coincidentally became the epicenter, it having a large population and being a nexus point for multiple animal markets. The anti-Chinese charged suspicion of the lab-leak theory is also probabilistically dismissed, as Wuhan coincidentally houses a biosafety lab also.
  3. [3] Part of the appeal of Clubhouse is the FOMO aspect - you miss "juicy" tips by not being on the platform. Is Tiktok trying to leverage FOMO? At the same time, though, I wonder if this will introduce friction to the fairly frictionless content creation system that Tiktok has (content creation on Tiktok is almost genetic, with templates and filters that can be easily replicated and altered).
  4. Applying for a job on TikTok becomes a reality. Part of Tiktok's effort to connect creators with brands, applicants can submit Tiktok video resumes to apply for positions such as social media manager or sales representative. [3]
  5. Increase in coffee prices might trickle down to wholesale and retail. With a big question mark surrounding consumer demand, coffee prices at the consumer level could be affected. On the supply side, bottlenecks caused by a shortage of containers and ships may lead to growers and exporters holding on to their reserves, exacerbating the price increase. For the most part, coffee buyers are protected by forward contracts, but problems will emerge once these contracts expire.

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

  1. Pentagon cancels the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure contract (JEDI) with Microsoft. The contract originally marked the Department of Defense's (DoD) attempt to move from physical to cloud-based operations. In 2019, President Donald Trump placed the contract on hold for complaints of favouritism towards Amazon. The winner was announced to be Microsoft later in the year. Amazon subsequently appealed, claiming that Trump was biased against them given Trump's known dislike of Bezos-owned The Washington Post.
  2. [1] Just goes to show much culture/context matters. I think people regularly forget that cultural difference can rarely be overcome directly - you can attempt to abstract them away, however.
  3. Japan aims for greater solar capacity by 2030. Along with the large anti-nuclear sentiment, Japan is seeking alternative methods to lower their dependence on eco-malicious fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas. [1]
  4. Robotic delivery may become a regular occurrence on college campuses. Russian tech giant Yandex annouced their partnership with Grubhub to deliver food to college students using self-driving delivery robots. Yandex is using a robot-first approach to the delivery problem.
  5. [2] We do not naturally make enzymes to alleviate allergic reactions, for example.
    [3] Enzymes are made of strings of amino acids that are bunched up in a very specific way.
  6. Allozymes wants to make enzyme bio-engineering more efficient. Enzymes that are not naturally occurring are often required [2], but inventing new enzymes is no easy task. Given how complex amino acid chains are [3], the traditional process takes long and costs much, adopting an almost naive "find the needle in the haystack" approach. Allozyme instead aims to make the enzyme selection process more self-contained, hence reducing costs and increasing efficiency.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

  1. The OPEC+ fiasco continues. The next OPEC meeting has been called off, with another date hopefully to be set in the near future. The markets responded accordingly - brent crude oil rose to $77.16 per barrel.
  2. [1] Eugene Wei's amazing essay claims that TikTok has used AI to abstract away cultural differences between the U.S. and China. However, this new article overrates the AI's power; IMHO, the very specific deployment of AI to erase cultural boundaries is what made Tiktok powerful, not solely the AI itself.
  3. Bytedance starts selling the artificial intelligence technology that powers TikTok.[1]
  4. Rimac takes over Bugatti, with a controlling 55% share of the new Bugatti-Rimac. Rimac is an electric hypercar manufacturer with a single model: the Nevera.
  5. Other US-listed Chinese tech groups targeted by China's cyberspace division. Didi Chuxing was removed from Chinese app stores shortly after its IPO for improperly collecting user data.

Monday, July 5, 2021

  1. UAE refuses to budge on OPEC+ deal. Long-term allies UAE and Saudi Arabia are expressing their differences, with the former refusing to sign the deal that extends into 2022. UAE agreed to the current baseline in April 2020, but an extension of this baseline into 2022 is undesirable, as they have invested heavily in production capacity.
  2. Astronauts make first spacewalk outside of the Tiangong space station, installing cameras and other equipment on the Tianhe core module. The space station is part of the larger Tiangong project, beginning in 1992. [1]
    [1] Apparently NASA refused China's involvement in the ISS's construction, which heightened China's incentives to build their own station.
    The launch of the Tianhe core module in April 2021 marks the start of the program's deployment.
  3. [2] Lithography machines are used to etch circuit designs on silicon wafers. ASML uses a special brand of lithography called extreme ultraviolet lithography, which uses extreme ultraviolet for etching.
  4. ASML lies at the center of the semiconductor war. The Dutch semiconductory company possesses the technology to push past the performance barrier. However, being a company that has a near-monopoly on EUV lithography machines [2], the company is getting shut into the US-China war.
  5. Stephen S. Roach talks about inflation. This is an older opinion piece from May 2021, but highlights bigger themes surrounding inflation this time around. Roach remembers Arthur Burns' philosophy surrounding inflation - Burns believed that price trends are largely affected by transitory noise that has nothing to do with monetary policy. Hence he sought to reduce the consumer price index (CPI) to products that were independent of noise, at one point excluding energy and food products. Only when the resulting CPI continued to rise at a double-digit rate did Burns acknowledge America's inflation problem.

    This highlights the dangers of cherry-picking: picking "nicer" data points to see a desired result like a lower significance level. Furthermore, the delineation between COVID and normalcy can be dangerous; treating COVID as merely a passing phase encourages a Burns-esque philosophy that increases in various consumer products will disappear once COVID is "over".

Sunday, July 4, 2021

    [1] I think this highlights a number of interesting things.
    1. Power graphs (i.e. the distribution of power) are important, and they are not always equivalent to the distribution of agents.
    2. We sometimes forget, but software - and technology in general - is hard. The costs of implementing in-house systems for small/medium-sized businesses that are not in the tech space are far greater than just getting a third-party to take care of everything.
  1. Hackers hit Kaseya, an IT software provider, to spread ransomware. Consequently, many of Sweden's Coop grocery chain stores, which depend on Kaseya for their cash register and self-checkout systems, remained closed. This attack suggests the dependence of many small/medium-sized companies on centralized third parties for their IT service needs. [1]
  2. Digital Forensics presents an interactive timeline of the state terror caused by the NSO Group's spyware Pegasus. The spyware is allegedly capable of activating personal smartphone cameras and microphones, hence leveraging the widespread use of smartphones to gain intelligence.
    [2] I'm working on a thesis that as things become more niche, the need to standardize and homogenize increases also. Pegasus seems to be exploiting this thesis, if true.
    Digital Forensics developed digitalviolence to counter the use of spyware like Pegasus towards questionable, unethical purposes. [2]
  3. Herbicide suggested to be linked to Parkinson's disease could fuel a new mass tort. Paraquat is a known toxic herbicide marketed by Syngenta and previously sold by USA's Chevron. A tort may arise from data showing that chronic exposure to paraquat may be correlated with Parkinson's disease.

Saturday, July 3, 2021

    [1] From John Kemp's energy email blast.
  1. Cars are back in fashion. [1] A primary reason for this resurgence in car ownership is the pandemic, which discouraged the use of public transportation (due to fears of viral transmission). Used car prices and waiting times for driving tests have risen. An interesting observation is that, at least in America, the total distance travelled by car is not even at pre-pandemic levels. I would guess that this discrepancy emerges from the prevalence of remote work and other stay-at-home policies.
  2. [2] From John Kemp's energy email blast.
  3. UAE wants OPEC+ to let it raise oil output. OPEC+ is looking to increase oil supply in the market to ease a surge in oil prices. However, UAE have rejected this new deal on the grounds that their maximum production capacity has increased since 2018, so the proposed deal will cut into their production revenues more than it will for Russia and Saudi Arabia.
  4. [3] I really wonder how our ancestors would react if they saw 1. people getting information from these massively vast social graphs and 2. the mediators of these social graphs policing the information.
    [4] It'd be cool to build a GAN with the Twitter misinformation labeller as the adversary.
  5. Twitter rolls out misinformation labels. The labels color-code misleading information, and include a link that takes you to a curated landing page with verified information. The role of social networks in the spread of information (true or un-true alike) is interesting. Social graphs have always been a source of information, but the constant verification of information with social origins is the fascinating bit. [3] I suspect a lot of Americans will call this a rights infringement, but that's a separate conversation altogether. [4]
  6. Tensions between China and India rise. Both sides have been fortifying their positions, continuing the escalating narrative since the June 2020 Galwan Valley clash.

Friday, July 2, 2021

    [1] From John Kemp's energy email blast.
  1. Natural gas suppliers [1] experiment with hydrogen blending. Hydrogen blending is a method of reducing carbon emissions from natural gas by mixing hydrogen into natural gas pipelines. Apparently, there is such a thing as green hydrogen, which is hydrogen produced from low-carbon sources (as opposed to the usual fossil fuel sources). The high cost of green hydrogen production seems to be the barrier.
  2. [2] From John Kemp's energy email blast.
  3. California [2] and other major regions are at risk of energy shortages this summer. Peak energy demand may increase given the heat wave. California is most at risk because it relies on energy imports, and solar energy output falls in the late afternoon.
  4. [3] A similar mechanism to why increasing interest rates theoretically increases the home currency's value?
  5. 130 countries back a plan for setting the minimum global corporate tax rate at 15%. The minimum tax rate is meant to discourage multinational corporations from shifting their money to lower-tax countries.[3] Lower-tax countries such as Ireland have benefitted from the influx of investments from multi-national companies, so a final agreement could have major repurcussions.
  6. [4] I don't know anything about the housing market, so this is an excuse for me to learn more about it.
  7. Property valuations are soaring globally. I wonder if the pandemic has made people more selective about their living spaces.[4]

Thursday, July 1, 2021

    [1] For one, the presenter doesn't gesticulate nor have any facial expressions.
  1. Hour One, a startup that creates photo-real presenters, signs a deal with Berlitz. COVID has led to greater acceptance of technological solutions for traditionally offline things, but I'm curious how this turns out. I do think this has the most application in language learning, since being able to see a mouth sounding out words can be crucial for learning pronunciation. However, I'm doubtful that putting a face to text is really more engaging.[1] Also text has the greatest signal density, so by using this presenter, the signal density goes down significantly.
  2. [2] "It's called the little bighorn. That's smart, Mark."
  3. Zipline, a drone delivery startup, raises $250 million. Zipline first attacked the African space by making strides in medical supply lines, using drones to deliver vaccines and medicines to local hospitals. Using drones may not usher in a technological revolution, but it reminds me of Carlota Perez's Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital; in her model, technological revolutions generally start at certain cores (US, Britain, etc.), then diffuse to the peripheries. This appears to demonstrate the opposite phenomenon. Ghana's restrictions against drones may have been more lax, hence providing a nice training ground for Zipline.
  4. Robinhood faced to pay $70 million to resolve allegations that it misled customers. The psychology surrounding money is fascinating; at least in America, having a lot of money is synonymous with a good life, and I think the behaviors seen on Robinhood are in-line with this thesis.

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

  1. Sinotype III and how Chinese characters arrived onto the digital computing scene. Sinotype III was an Apple II with a modified word processor and operating system; it was developed (strangely?) by the Graphic Arts Education and Research Foundation (GARF), an American foundation.
  2. Didi Chuxing, a Chinese ride-hailing company, to raise an expected $4 billion in US IPO. A lot of Didi's ride-sharing comes from taxi-hailing rather than private-car sharing (similar to Kakao Taxi), and with Meituan and Ele.me already popular in the Chinese food delivery market, it'll be interesting to see how Didi grows.
  3. Life360 announces a new investment round of $2.1 million. This trend of wanting to know the locations of your families and friends is an interesting one. I remember it started back in the 2010s with Snapchat announcing their locations feature. Since then, I've had multiple friends ask me to install location-sharing apps, but I never understood why someone would willingly give away his/her location. Maybe the placement of a social graph in physical space?
  4. Worldcoin, a cryptocurrency that requires a retinal scan for identification. As the name suggests, it strives for universal basic income by bypassing government regulation with technology. The relationship between centralized and decentralized systems, and the analogous tension between centralized and decentralized power comes to mind here.
  5. Disco Corps is a Japanese company that specializes in precision grinding and dicing equipment, which are essential for semiconductor manufacturing.