What We’re Reading

Why Moderna won:

What many academic scientists do is to spend the next 5, 10 years putting the connections in place to make what’s being proposed a natural extension of what existed before.

In industry, we don’t have that need, and the reason Moderna was able to really be the pioneer in the space of establishing a therapeutic platform, even before a vaccine platform, is because for us, the lack of connection between what we were able to do and what had been done before was marginally interesting, but we weren’t trying to publish it.

Unforeseen risks:

Take the case of a small fire in a Philips semiconductor plant in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in March 2000. Triggered by a lightning strike, it was extinguished by the local fire department within minutes. The plant manager dutifully reported the fire to the plant’s customers, telling them that it had caused only minor damage and that production would resume in a week. The purchasing manager at Ericsson, a major customer, checked that his on-hand inventory of the plant’s semiconductors would meet production needs over the next couple of weeks and didn’t escalate the issue.

Unfortunately, the fire’s smoke and soot and the extensive hosing of the facility had contaminated the clean rooms where highly sensitive electronic wafers were fabricated, and production didn’t restart for several months. By the time the Ericsson purchasing manager learned about the delay, all alternative suppliers of several of the plant’s wafers had already been committed to other companies. The component shortages cost Ericsson $400 million in lost revenues from the delayed launch of its next-generation mobile phone and contributed to its exit from this market the following year.

Locked out:

Stefan Thomas, a German-born programmer living in San Francisco, has two guesses left to figure out a password that is worth, as of this week, about $220 million.

The password will let him unlock a small hard drive, known as an IronKey, which contains the private keys to a digital wallet that holds 7,002 Bitcoin. While the price of Bitcoin dropped sharply on Monday, it is still up more than 50 percent from just a month ago, when it passed its previous all-time high of around $20,000.

The problem is that Mr. Thomas years ago lost the paper where he wrote down the password for his IronKey, which gives users 10 guesses before it seizes up and encrypts its contents forever. He has since tried eight of his most commonly used password formulations — to no avail.

Learning young:

Using the best available dataset of avalanche fatalities in the United States, we found that the age of avalanche victims increased from 1950 to 2018. Though avalanche educators should still reach out to students of all ages, our results suggest that programs that target recreationalists over 30 years of age could have a better chance of reducing the number of people killed in avalanches. In addition, avalanche warning services should use a wide range of methods to disseminate avalanche safety information, and include products that target older and, potentially more experienced, users.

Have a good weekend, stay safe.


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