2018-03-12 4 min read


On the podcast! I talk to Tara Pham, CEO of Numina, about transportation policy, doing business with cities, and building a team in NYC. Numina makes systems for cities who want to measure and analyze how people use urban space. They're one of my favorite urban tech companies, and Tara is awesome.

Planning & Strategy.

Making & Manufacturing.

  • Lamera Hybrix is a thin composite sandwich panel made of a pair of metal sheets bonded together with microscopic fibers. Related, how flocking works.
  • Levi's is planning to use lasers to do the weathering (previously done by hand) on their jeans.
  • On hypersonic drilling. "HyperSciences is developing a novel drilling system that fires concrete projectiles at over 2 kilometers per second in advance of a drill bit. It claims that its system can drill deep wells up to 10 times faster than existing systems, enabling geothermal energy 'anywhere in the world.'" See also this earlier article about HyperSciences, which goes into a little more technical detail.
  • Me, on the Tulip blog, with more detail on how The Public Radio's manufacturing process works.
  • The Wikipedia page for poka-yoke, or "mistake-proofing."

Maintenance, Repair & Operations.

Distribution & Logistics.

  • An interesting thread started by Christopher Mims of "non-crypto, non-ethereum, non-hype-y uses of blockchain." Note, "has proven useful enough to gain widespread adoption" isn't necessarily implied here, and there's a lot of "could" in the replies and the followup article.
    Note 1: I was a bit confused at the Walmart citation, so I asked Mims for clarification on Twitter. The "1.1 million items sold or on sale at Walmart [which] are on a blockchain" is a count of actual units sold; the total number of SKUs is 20. Which would represent .0000851% of Walmart's total catalog. Looked at through another lens: Walmart has 5.2 billion customer visits per year. If each customer purchases only one product (this would be the worst case scenario) and if all of those 1.1 million blockchain-tracked products were sold over at most 12 months (seems conservative as well), then they would represent .02% of Walmart's sales over that period.
    Note 2: While Everledger (the example in the article with the most detail attached to it) says they're cataloging 100,000 diamonds per month (1.2 million per year; let's assume each is one carat), between 120 and 177 million carats of diamonds are mined per year. If (guesses, but judging from this they seem conservative by a factor of two) half of that goes into jewelry and half of that is lost in cutting, that's still tens of millions of centerstone-sized diamonds (which let's just say is the minimum size that's worth tracking) being introduced into the market every year. And, of course, we've got existing inventory: 5.4 billion carats have been mined worldwide in history (same link as before; for argument's sake let's say a quarter of those, or 1.35 billion carats, are worth tracking). In other words: If Everledger increases their rate by 10x, they could *maybe* keep up with global production but will still have a 112 year backlog to work through.
    To be clear, I'm not saying that none of these applications will eventually outpace their centralized predecessors - or that their rates of adoption will hold at anything close to their current states. But if someone wants to make a bull case on Longbets then I'll certainly consider taking the bear ;)
  • How the US's fixation on bicycle helmets has failed cyclists. “By constantly reinforcing the need for cyclists to feel responsible for their own safety (akin to the manner in which jaywalking was invented in the early 20th century), this helmet fixation serves to redistribute blame back onto the victim of vehicular violence.”
  • A rather romantic collection of stories about what it was like to get lost before digital maps.

Inspection & Testing.


  • Kobe Steel's management team is (finally) turning over as a result of their recent quality scandal.
  • "The company that failed to deliver nearly all of the hot meals it promised to Puerto Ricans after Hurricane Maria plagiarized the bid that won it the $156 million contract from the Federal Emergency Management Agency."

Long exposure photos lit by drones.

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