Why for instance should I be called “Professor Cowen,” but few people would address the person fixing their toilet as “Plumber Jones”?
For a long time I have insisted that my graduate students call me “Tyler.” My goal has been to encourage them to think of themselves as peer researchers who might someday prove me wrong, rather than viewing me as an authority figure who is handing down truth.
This post from Tyler Cowen about titles resonated.
There’s something about forced titles that annoys me. I don’t like introducing myself with my title because it signals a place in the organization. And I abhor terms like mentor and mentee.
It is an idea a good friend shared with me a decade ago when I asked him if he’d be my mentor. “Let’s just be friends” he said. If he was wise enough, he reasoned, he’d share perspective that was useful. He didn’t need to be called a mentor for that.
Form Energy, a Boston-based startup, announced a fascinating breakthrough in battery technology recently (WSJ article – paywalled). They claim to have built an inexpensive “Iron-air” battery.
Iron-air batteries are attractive for several reasons. We have plenty of iron and know how to extract it cheaply ($200/ton of ore compared to $12-15k per ton for Lithium salts).
While these will be too heavy for electric cars, they will help solve a much bigger problem – energy storage on the electric grid. These batteries will enable us to store large amounts of renewable electricity. Current estimates are that Form’s batteries should be able to operate at around $20 per kWh, sufficient to compete with fossil fuel systems.
The progress on this one felt is similar in nature to the likes of mRNA. It is technology that has been in development for nearly 50 years. But, progress in nanotechnology and catalysts have enabled the path for Form.
“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” | Roald Dahl
A friend said this was one of her favorite quotes.
I saw this short clip of the Argentinian football (“soccer”) team players celebrating their victory against Brazil in “Copa America” – the South American variant of the Euros.
A few seconds in, we hear one of the players begin singing a song that makes fun of Brazil. Lionel Messi – Argentina’s star captain and arguably the greatest player of all time – stops him immediately. “No no” – he nods vigorously as he walks away.
Even after winning the final against Brazil Lionel Messi stops De Paul of singing a song which makes fun of Brazil.
It is a powerful moment for many reasons. It speaks to the importance of leadership in reinforcing culture. By immediately saying no, the Captain made it clear that “this is not how we do things here.”
Messi also underscored a simple idea – we can celebrate constructively. Enjoying our own victory doesn’t have to include mocking someone else’s failure or defeat. It is an idea that is easy to forget as we go through our lives – especially in competitive endeavors.
Finally, it is a reminder that money and success do not guarantee class.
And that is exactly what that was – a moment of class.
There was a fascinating article about giant goldfish being found in lakes around the United States.
Those innocent looking fish grow to between 0.2 to 0.6 pounds in a tank. But, when fish owners dispose them in the wild, they can grow up to 30-40 times bigger. Here is an example.
Here’s another example to get a sense of size.
As is the case with species that aren’t part of the natural ecosystem, these goldfish are invasive and end up messing with the ecosystem within these lakes. Disposing these fish in lakes is now illegal in many states.
A few months ago, there was a remarkable paper posted about the influence of the 2019 wildfires in the Amazon on global climate. While deforestation was thought of as the only contributor to these fires, the researchers showed that climate analogies originating in the Indian ocean likely was ~40% contributor to the problem.
This is a particularly powerful finding because deforestation in the Amazon causes climate anomalies all over the planet. When said climate anomalies come back to affect the Amazon, it speaks to just how connected the global ecosystem is.
Deforestation in the Amazon is a particularly sensitive global issue because the Amazon used to be one of the world’s largest carbon sinks. However, that is sadly no longer true. In an ingenious study (paper, article), a research team studied the Carbon dioxide and Carbon Monoxide profile of parts of the Amazon between 2010 and 2018. And, they’ve found that the South Eastern Amazon is now a Carbon source rather than a Carbon sink.
That’s both the powerful and challenging thing about understanding ecosystems – especially that on our planet. Things are more connected than we think. There’s more nuance than we think. And the balance is more delicate than we think.