Things I learned this week #6

  • These ways of thinking: When we hand over a new problem to our brain there's a lot of things we need to do to solve it. We need to understand the problem and the surrounding/causal concepts as well as the constraints on a solution. For example the challenge might be "what should I write about on my blog this week?", and a constraint might be that it a) can't be boring, and b) can't be too long. When we're doing these mental processes we have two broad types of thinking: Divergent Thinking, where we produce a lot of possible solutions and new ideas; and Convergent Thinking, which is where we hone in on a narrow "right" answer. Often one will follow the other: we'll generate ideas with Divergent Thinking and filter them using Convergent Thinking. (source)
  • A word for this social media phenomenon: "Sadfishing" is the act of exaggerating or highlighting personal struggle or problems online in order to gain attention. Interestingly, the same kind of person who is more likely to sadfish is also more likely to judge someone else's emotional/personal social media posts as less genuine (source)
  • This thing about embryonic cells: It's wild that as an embryo develops, each cell knows what it needs to become. The protein SHH, which actually genuinely short for Sonic Hedgehod (I'm not joking) is a morphogen, which means it is used in the process of instructing cells in what they should become. Specifically, SHH, plays a role in the neural development of an embryo - letting cells know that they need to form the nervous system by forming the nerual tube (kinda cool, kinda gross name). Anyway, a beacon emits SHH into the surrounding area and the surrounding cells "eat it up", so the further away from the beacon the further cells know they are from the neural tube (and vice-versa). Nature's cool, yo. (amazing explanation on reddit)
  • This surprisingly relevant architecture: Nothing would stop the Italians drinking wine, not even the Black Death. During the 1600s, the Italians started building tiny windows in wine shops through which wine could be purchased and passed, without the need for face-to-face contact. They're called Buchette del vino and during the COVID-19 pandemic, certain Florentine cafes, bar, and gelaterias started re-serving food through them. (more info)
  • This thing that oak trees do: This year is apparently a mast year, which means that oak (and other fruit-bearing trees, like beech) produce loads and loads of their fruit (e.g. acorns). Evolutionarily speaking, this means that the animals who feed off these fruits are not able to eat everything the trees produce, and there's a higher chance that there will be leftover seeds for producing baby trees (saplings?) come spring. We're not sure how trees know when they should fluctuate their fruit production, but we suspect it's something to do with the weather in spring. (source)

What I've had on Rotation

  • Something New: Boreas by The Oh Hellos (Folk). The folksy sound of this band are unlike a lot of similar bands. They're loud and delicate, joyful and mournful - they're a beautiful set of humans, and their new EP brings more of their delightful tones into my life. (links)
  • Something Old: Oh Wonder by Oh Wonder (Gentle Pop). I remember discovering Oh Wonder during my time at uni and I remember vividly listening to them in my car as I was driving around a busy but happy time of my life. This album is calm and gentle, and brings back a lot of those memories. (links)

Cool Articles

  • A supercomputer analyzed COVID-19 - and an interesting new theory has emerged by Thomas Smith on Medium's Elemental. We're all a little tired of hearing about COVID-19 but in this article, Smith breaks down a lot of the current pathological/biological theories behind COVID-19 which I don't hear a lot of discussion about. I don't think we're giving enough airtime to the global scientific community who are figuring this out as fast as is realistically possible, largely because these things are inherently uncertain and changing. The main takeaway for me was this increased view of COVID-19 as blood/circulatory disease, not primarily a respiratory one.
  • Web Brutalism, Seamfulness, and Notion by Brandon Dorn on Viget. As I've moved further away from design as a UI-centric process (i.e. drawing rectangles and selecting the right kind of grey), I've taken a lot more value from design as a UX or thought process. This piece covers the design/aesthetic/philosophy of brutalism, just in the context of web and software - as an approach which argues that we should embrace the underlying tools, materials, and concepts and not try to design them away. The author makes a compelling point, which is likely too extreme to be useful to many, but there's nearly always value in hearing an apposing opinion made coherently.