Squirrels Speak Bird

Squirrels are what Keith Tarvin, a biologist at Oberlin College and Conservatory in Ohio who led the study, calls “public information exploiters,” meaning they often take cues from other prey animals nearby. They’re not the only ones that do this. Early animal behavior studies have shown that birds, mammals, and even fish and lizards can recognize the alarm signals of other species that share similar geographic locations and predators. Within the bird family, a nuthatch may tune into the high-pitched call of a chick-a-dee, which might also be paying attention to the panicked tweet of a tufted titmice.

via https://www.citylab.com/life/2019/09/squirrels-chipmunks-listen-to-bird-chatter-urban-city-noise/597214/

WeWork could be one of the worst IPOs in 2019

WeWork’s business, essentially, aims to capture the spread between long-term and short-term rental costs. Landlords want stability and guaranteed cash flows, so they’re willing to lease office space at lower rates if a tenant is willing to make a long-term commitment, as WeWork does. Companies, on the other hand, want the flexibility of short-term leases that allow them to quickly grow, shrink, or move their office space in response to personnel needs. As a result, they’re willing to pay higher rents for this flexibility.

All of these factors – the dual-class shares, conflicts of interest, and unusual relationship with underwriters – suggest that this IPO is about Neumann and other insiders cashing in on the bubble-like valuation of WeWork’s shares and dumping the risk on public investors.

via https://seekingalpha.com/article/4289610-wework-one-worst-ipos-2019

From ancient Rome to modern Atlanta, the shape of cities has been defined by the technologies that allow commuters to get to work in about 30 minutes.

In 1994, Cesare Marchetti, an Italian physicist, described an idea that has come to be known as the Marchetti Constant. In general, he declared, people have always been willing to commute for about a half-hour, one way, from their homes each day.

This principle has profound implications for urban life. The value of land is governed by its accessibility—which is to say, by the reasonable speed of transport to reach it.

via https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2019/08/commute-time-city-size-transportation-urban-planning-history/597055/

Uber tries to reassure customers that it takes safety seriously, following NYTimes book excerpt

The email was clearly meant to reassure riders, some of whom might be absorbing negative press about Uber and wondering if it cares about them at all. But not everyone follows Uber as closely as industry watchers in Silicon Valley, and either way, what the email mostly accomplishes is to remind customers that riding in an Uber involves life-and-death risk.

A Boeing code leak exposes security flaws deep in a 787’s guts | Ars Technica


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Savage points in particular to a vulnerability Santamarta highlighted in a version of the embedded operating system VxWorks, in this case customized for Boeing by Honeywell. Santamarta found that when an application asks to write to the underlying computer’s memory, the tailored operating system doesn’t properly check that it’s not instead over­writing the kernel, the most sensitive core of the operating system. Combined with several application-level bugs Santamarta found, that so-called parameter-check privilege escalation vulnerability represents a serious flaw, Savage argues, made more serious by the notion that VxWorks likely runs in many other components on the plane that might have the same bug.


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“Every piece of software has bugs. But this is not where I’d like to find the bugs. Checking user parameters is security 101,” Savage says. “They shouldn’t have these kinds of straightforward vulnerabilities, especially in the kernel. In this day and age, it would be inconceivable for a consumer operating system to not check user pointer parameters, so I’d expect the same of an airplane.”

— Read on arstechnica.com/information-technology/2019/08/a-boeing-code-leak-exposes-security-flaws-deep-in-a-787s-guts/

The 18-month fence hop, the six-day chair, and why video games are so hard to make – Polygon

“Early on, we designed some glassware, but then we were having trouble seeing what the glass looked like because everything is so transparent,” Pascual says. “We needed [to] up the poly count on it to even be able to see the type of material, or the type of rendering or shading we had.”

“Yeah,” Krankel says, “it’s one of those things where we started and you spend all this time having, like, a fluid simulation in a goblet that’s flying around, and you’re like, ‘This looks so badass’ totally out of context. And then you look at it in the game, you’re like, ‘A, I don’t see any of this, B, our performance is taking a giant hit. What’s a better, more effective way to do it?’”

Read on www.polygon.com/features/2019/8/7/20755231/the-18-month-fence-hop-the-six-day-chair-remedy-control-and-why-video-games-are-so-hard-to-make

Lame title but interesting article.

In sociological storytelling, the characters have personal stories and agency, of course, but those are also greatly shaped by institutions and events around them. The incentives for characters’ behavior come noticeably from these external forces, too, and even strongly influence their inner life.

People then fit their internal narrative to align with their incentives, justifying and rationalizing their behavior along the way. (Thus the famous Upton Sinclair quip: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”)

The overly personal mode of storytelling or analysis leaves us bereft of deeper comprehension of events and history. Understanding Hitler’s personality alone will not tell us much about rise of fascism, for example. Not that it didn’t matter, but a different demagogue would probably have appeared to take his place in Germany in between the two bloody world wars in the 20th century. Hence, the answer to “would you kill baby Hitler?,” sometimes presented as an ethical time-travel challenge, should be “no,” because it would very likely not matter much. It is not a true dilemma.

From: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/the-real-reason-fans-hate-the-last-season-of-game-of-thrones