Nerd Corner #46

remote work, insects, and more!

Hi All!

Greetings from South Florida!

After 3+ months of lockdown in California, my girlfriend and I decided that a change of environment was due. We’ll be in Florida for the next several weeks visiting family and enjoying the Sunshine.

While things seem to slowly going back to normal—things are reopening slower in California than in Florida—airports are still mostly empty and flying with a mask doesn’t feel normal. But I guess we’ll need to get used to them for the foreseeable future. 


What I am reading 📚

I just finished Deep Simplicity by John Gribbin. As mentioned in my last email, Gribbin has a remarkable ability to simplify mathematical and physical concepts in such a way that they can read almost like a novel. The thesis of the book is that life as we know it—the creation, preservation, and evolution of complex organic structures—can happen only at the edge of chaos. Life is possible precisely because Gravity brings together and binds atoms in complex ways that—under the right conditions—can produce the complexity that makes possible humans and other animals exist. 

This theory also entails that computation is a fundamental force in the Universe for we can only get to the edge of chaos by repetition. This is very similar to Stephen Wolfram’s theory of physics, on which he has been working for the majority of his life. 


Nerd Corner 🍲🦗

In the West, it seems that insect-farming is a new practice and something that most of us don't appreciate and accept. But in reality, we've been farming insects for much of our history and not just for food.

We've been farming worms for their silk, bees for their honey and wax for thousands of years.

Many societies have a tradition of eating certain insects. For example, both Mexican and Chinese have a big culinary history revolving around edible insects.

Less known and perhaps surprising is that we also farm insects for other uses. Lac, a resinous substance that Kerridae (a type of insect) secret "is used in many applications, from its use in food to being used as a colorant or as a wood finish."

In the West, the interest for Entomophagy, the practice of eating insects, has seen a surge in interest over the past several years. This renewed interest stems from the fact that as the World's population is increasing there seems that it will be impossible for humanity to cover our protein needs in a sustainable way.

In particular, many have turned their attention to crickets since they are a potential environmentally friendly and potent source of animal protein. Crickets are already part of the cuisine of many countries. They are often eaten dry-roasted, baked, and even deep-fried. In North America, there are also companies that produce protein powder from crickets.

The advantages seem many, almost too good to be true, especially when compared to common cattle: "cattle use 12 times the amount of feed that crickets do to produce an equal amount of protein. Crickets also only use a quarter of the feed of sheep and one half the amount of feed given to swine and chicken to produce an equivalent amount of protein."

But many open questions remain. Not least one about perception and taste, or as Andras Forgacs from Modern Meadow—a company focusing on culturing meat and leather—argues, "If you're going to come up with a food product, the subtitle might be that it's good for the environment and good for animals, but if it tastes bad it's not going to be a success.”

What do you think? Do you envision yourself swapping your grass-fed steak for a pile of roasted crickets? 


Cool Finds 🤯

  • The most dangerous dams are not the ones you think. Small and usually old dams, that were built to control the flow and speed of rivers pose the greatest threats. Bear this in mind the next time you swim or navigate in a river.

  • The Airbus A380 is not just big but it is also a huge and complex logistic puzzle. It’s 4+ million parts are produced in more than 30 countries and then shipped by sea, air, and land Airbus’s assembly plant in France. 

  • The current pandemic accelerated changes in our relationship with work and our workplaces. This article by Cal Newport—one of my favorite productivity authors—discusses how we can make remote work work for most of us. If you’re working remotely now or if your company is going through this transition, this is a must-read


Before you go 😎

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Until next week, 

Alberto