What I'm Reading (Feb. 29)

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Even satellites grow old, but did we expect dementia?
The Gut - Wellness eludes those in dietary despair
Kitchen Aid, domestic muse
Ant societies -  “Humans should not confuse impact with control.”

“Voyager has grown old. It was never designed for this! Its original mission was supposed to last a bit over three years. Voyager has turned out to be much tougher than anyone ever imagined, but time gets us all. Its power source is a generator full of radioactive isotopes, and those are gradually decaying into inert lead. Year by year, the energy declines, the power levels relentlessly fall. Year by year, NASA has been switching off Voyager’s instruments to conserve that dwindling flicker. They turned off its internal heater a few years ago, and they thought that might be the end. But those 1970s engineers built to last, and the circuitry and the valves kept working even as the temperature dropped down, down, colder than dry ice, colder than liquid nitrogen, falling towards absolute zero.”

A moment to reflect, a eulogy of sorts from Crooked Timber, Death, Lonely Death

 

You cannot eat your way to or from health.

“Maintaining the health of the gastrointestinal tract, like the health of any body part, is always a good idea. But expecting certain foods and products to overhaul gut health is unrealistic, as is believing that they will guarantee greater overall well-being… “Gut health” cookies, after all, are still cookies.”

From The Atlantic, ‘Gut Health’ Has a Fatal Flaw

 

I am lucky to have my wife, who is well above my punching weight in many ways. She provides comfort and solace in many ways, but I wish to mention today her baking, specifically, her Kitchen-Aid.

“Pry the mixer open, and you will see that many of the parts are interchangeable. If my mixer stopped spinning, I could clean out the debris on the inside, replace a broken gear, re-grease the machine, and screw the top back on again. If need be, the mixer could be outfitted with a new motor, probably for about $100. It is hard to break and easy to fix, and because it is not laced through with computers or a Wi-Fi chip, it will never reach obsolescence because of a software update.

How a device dies is almost as important as how it operates. Appliances that cannot be repaired the way the KitchenAid can become trash in just a few years. In the United States alone, we threw out 2.2 million tons’ worth of hair dryers, coffee pots, toasters, and other small appliances in 2018…”

From The Atlantic, KitchenAid Did It Right 87 Years Ago

 

Remember Ant Farms, that ant terrarium that gave you some sense of the power of ants? Consider this,

“Global ant societies are not simply echoes of human struggles for power. They are something new in the world, existing at a scale we can measure but struggle to grasp: there are roughly 200,000 times more ants on our planet than the 100 billion stars in the Milky Way. …

A beehive is organised along similar lines to an ant nest, but human views of bee society tend to be benign and utopian. When it comes to ants, the metaphors often polarise, either towards something like communism or something like fascism – one mid-20th-century US eugenicist even used the impact of the Argentine ant as an argument for immigration control. …

The scale and spread of ant societies is a reminder that humans should not confuse impact with control. We may be able to change our environment, but we’re almost powerless when it comes to manipulating our world exactly how we want. The global society of ants reminds us that we cannot know how other species will respond to our reshaping of the world, only that they will.”

An essay from Aeon on a global empire just beneath our feet, Ant geopolitic