Leftover #003 - Productivity, Metals, Bees, Wealth

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I just wrote a post about how productivity systems can be so nefariously attractive, and why they may be fundamentally counter to getting real deep work done. You can check it out here.

Cool materials

πŸ“Ž I came across a cool material called Nitinol, which is what's known as a shape-memory alloy (SMA), in this an alloy of nickel and titanium. It's a metal that can "remember" a shape and return to it. It does this using a temperature-induced phase transformation, except instead of a normal phase transition like from liquid to gas (eg water boiling), it phase changes from one solid shape to another solid shape. In nitinol this phase transition is reversible, which is what gives the metal its "memory" of a specific shape. To teach nitinol a shape, you put it in the shape you want, heat it to about 1,000 degrees, and then douse it in cold water. Now whenever it reaches a certain transformation temperature (which is controlled by the ratio of nickel to titanium), it reverts to the trained shape. With this pretty simple capability to can do some incredible stuff, from creating heat engines to stents. It has been used to automatically open and close greenhouse windows, and restrict water flow in showers when it gets too hot. SMAs are finding their true calling in space, where weight and simplicity are at a premium. The metal itself can be used to function as a temperature sensor or a motor, without the need for any additional parts. And soon it's going to debut in Mars rover tires, where it will let the tires deform under weight but then spring back to their original roll-y shape (link)

Bees are cool

🐝 Murder hornets (remember them?) are new to the US, but they've been terrorizing honeybees in Asia for a long time. As such, bees have developed a number of cool defense mechanisms besides just stinging. They build their hives with small entrances and thick walls, and will even envelop attackers in "bee balls" that get so thick they actually heat up enough to cook the attacker alive. And a newly discovered defense includes just stacking piles of buffalo dung outside their hives. Scientists found that after hornet attacks bees would quickly stick a ton of dung balls all over their hive. They're not sure why this deters the hornets, but it cut down future attacks by 94% (link)


πŸ’Έ Wealth inequality is nuts. Check out this visualization. Ridiculous fact: The 400 richest Americans own about $3.2 trillion, which is more than the bottom 60% of Americans (almost 200M people). Things we could do with that money: eradicate malaria (which kills 400,000 people every year, 275,000 of whom are children); eradicate medical debt in the US; eradicate poverty in the US (38M people); provide clean water and toilets to everyone on earth; paid parental leave in the US for 100 years; give $10,000 to every US household; aaaaaand we still have 40% left over so they can all still be billionaires! Whew.


πŸ™πŸ» If you enjoyed this, how about forwarding to a friend or two? I aim to make this one of the few newsletters you truly enjoy opening every week. And if you find anything interesting you think I should include next week, let me know!