2021-11-08 4 min read


Notes, 2021-11-08.

As I sifted through my bookmarked links to put together this issue, I noticed that a lot of them related to sound and music—you’ll find a sound-related link in all but one section.

This was surprising to me because in past issues I’ve gravitated a lot towards color, graphics, and visualization. I suspect this deviation is due to my recent reading of A Beautiful Question by physics Nobel Laureate Frank Wilczek. I recommend the book overall because Dr. Wilczek does an excellent job of explaining the history of physics in very readable prose, but he makes one observation that has been keeping me up: Why can we pick out discrete waves in sound (eg. hear the individual notes of a chord), but not see discrete waves in light (eg. we can’t see constituent colors when light is blended)?

Anyways, I ended down the rabbit hole of sound and perception. Anechoic chambers are designed to be echoless—effectively simulating an infinitely large acoustic space. While humans can be relatively comfortable in dark spaces for long periods of time, the longest anyone has managed to stay in the quietest anechoic chamber at Orfield Laboratories is 45 minutes. It’s supposedly very disturbing: you hear your body’s various organs and fluids moving and become disoriented without auditory spatial cues. Orfield’s primary business is equipment testing, but for $600 an hour you can attempt “The Orfield Challenge” and try to stay sane inside the chamber—which is how I plan to spend my next vacation.

-Kane Hsieh

The most clicked link from last week's issue (~10% of opens) was an interview with crop scientist Dr. Sarah Taber about the manipulative marketing behind ugly produce. In the Members' Slack, the reading group is nearing the end of The New Breed, which has sparked long conversations about anthropomorphism and cars, questions about what tasks robots arms are equipped to automate, and discussions about the strange genetics of domesticated animals.

Planning & Strategy.

Making & Manufacturing.

  • It’s the 20th anniversary of the iPod, and the team at Panic released pictures of an original prototype. With archetypical Apple paranoia, the prototype purposefully obfuscates the intended industrial design from the engineers working on it. Interestingly, the first iPad prototype preceded the iPhone.
  • Growing up, my mom used to tell me she didn’t care what I did as long as I was committed to being really good at it, and that view has shaped what I find interesting. As an example: WET (Water Entertainment Technology) is the company behind the most sophisticated water installations, including Singapore Changi Airport’s Rain Vortex and the Las Vegas Bellagio’s fountains.
  • Can you halt the production of an entire class of musical instruments through litigation? The Swiss manufacturers of the Hang, a brand of handpan, have been suing to control all production over the 20 years since its invention. This is a great example of Sayre’s law, which states "in any dispute the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the issues at stake."

Maintenance, Repair & Operations.

Distribution & Logistics.

Inspection, Testing & Analysis.


The largest clutch-operated screw press can generate 365,000,000 Newtons with its 1.33 meter diameter screw.

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