R.I.P., E.O.Wilson. Thank you for your many contributions.
• Congratulations to everyone at NASA, the CSA, and the ESA on the successful launch of the James Webb Space Telescope. This is a remarkable achievement that will lead to a better understanding of the fundamental nature of our universe. Lets hope for no problems on its way to L2 and with the deployment of the mirrors and solar shade.
Merry Christmas! We got you a new telescope.
The James Webb Space Telescope launched today, beginning a one-million-mile journey to see 13.5 billion years into the past. Follow @NASAWebb and join the quest to #UnfoldTheUniverse: https://t.co/TlYpoUHdJu pic.twitter.com/ilwWPuIJun
— NASA (@NASA) December 25, 2021
Matt Levine, giving you one way to think about NFTs in the Me elsewhere/NFT Stuff section of his December 20 column:
‘Meanwhile there is another strand of thinking that is like “human life takes place increasingly online, and whereas people used to get meaning out of being seen promenading in the plaza in fancy clothes, now they get meaning out of being seen promenading on Twitter with fancy Bored Ape avatars, and we are finding ways to create artificial scarcity and gradations of status there and sell those gradations for a lot of money.” And here, I mean, I see the point of “human life takes place increasingly online,” but I do not really see the point “so I have spent $20,000 on a pixelated JPEG of an ape to use as my Twitter avatar because people will think that’s cool.” It’s possible that I am just not cool, though! In 10 years maybe everyone will spend thousands of dollars on their avatars and only crusty weird nerds will be like, “No, I will just wear a burlap sack to promenade in the plaza, it keeps the wind out, that’s all I need.”’
I love his sense of humor. He goes on to say:
“…these relatively sophisticated ways of thinking about NFTs reflect of course a tiny minority of NFT projects. Most are just “let me scam some crypto bros who have too much money.” I would not buy those.”
• Tomas Puyeo does an excellent job discussing the early data on Omicron here. This is, I believe, quite a good assessment given the limited data available to date. Tomas authored the excellent “The Hammer and the Dance” substack post of March 19, 2020 talking about what might happen due to Covid.
His Omicron post is definitely worth a read.
Missing (due to lack of data, I presume) is a discussion of how antivirals like Paxlovid will influence outcomes. Alas, a full production ramp-up of Paxlovid is unlikely to come before the second half of 2022. See Scott Gottlieb’s take while being interviewed by Andy Slavitt on his In the Bubble podcast.
• An Associated Press review finds far too little voter fraud to have affected 2020 presidential election results.
An @AP review of every potential case of voter fraud in the six battleground states disputed by former President Donald Trump has found fewer than 475 cases of fraud — a number so small it would have made no difference in the 2020 presidential election. https://t.co/45F8jcUxFB
— The Associated Press (@AP) December 14, 2021
Matt Levine’s Money Stuff is a wonderful reminder of the madness inherent in our modern world. He’s brilliantly dissected the TMTG SPAC PIPE and in today’s post has an incredibly funny take on Big’s Peloton-related fate in HBO Max’s “And Just Like That…”. A totally fictional streaming video episode manages to cause a billion dollar shift in PTON’s real-world market value, forcing the company to issue a statement with a cardiologist’s post mortem re. the real (?fictional) cause of death. What a crazy world we live in.
For more, see Birds Aren’t Real in the Times…
• As if we weren’t feeling trepidatious enough already — Dave Leondardt’s December 13 The Morning column is a worrisome summary of the many efforts underway to undermine our current election process. An excerpt:
“Barton Gellman, who wrote a recent Atlantic magazine article about the movement, told Terry Gross of NPR last week, ‘This is, I believe, a democratic emergency, and that without very strong and systematic pushback from protectors of democracy, we’re going to lose something that we can’t afford to lose about the way we run elections.’ “
• Western Michigan emergency physician Rob Davidson describes his personal work experience in his excellent NYT guest essay “I’m an E.R. Doctor in Michigan, Where Unvaccinated People Are Filling Hospital Beds.” Well said, Rob, and as a fellow emergency physician, let me offer my thanks for the work you do not just in the hospital but also as a vocal advocate for public health measures and equity.
I also applaud his tweet:
If #SCOTUS denies a woman the right to equal protection of bodily autonomy under the 14th Amendment, but strikes down vaccine mandates over an individual’s right to bodily autonomy under the 14th Amendment, we might as well put Rs and Ds after their names and be done with it.
— Dr. Rob Davidson (@DrRobDavidson) December 2, 2021
Might as well add some positivity to the discussion; the often curmudgeonly John McWhorter argues that there are some signs of progress around us in his NYT Believe It or Not, I Like Some Things in Our Progressive Era opinion column.