Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Google’s using AI to help predict floods

I love the mix of high & low tech in this use of AI for social good:

A team of engineers from Google’s Crisis Response team is using machine learning to develop a more accurate and reliable flood forecasting system for countries that need it most.

Learn more about how AI and other technology is being used to help provide people with more accurate crisis alerts.


Tangentially related if at all, but what the heck: How great are these 3D renderings of vintage topographical maps?



Impressive Animoji-powered music videos

I am not, you may have noticed, curing cancer with my limited time on this planet. Having said that, I love working on the continued democratization of creative tech. These example videos show off an incredible leap in one kind of expressivity, letting one person with a telephone create animation that would’ve previously required huge amounts of effort in complex software:

Kanye/Daft Punk:

Nickelback (sorry)


Great long(ish) reads about computer science badasses

  •  The Yoda of Silicon Valley discusses the life & work of computer-science OG Don Knuth. The whole article & the accompanying reader comments are fascinating. (Side bonus for me: I ended up learning the names of various people in my extended team (!), who are quoted in the article.) I love that Don’s defiantly 1997-looking personal site includes a list of Infrequently Asked Questions.
  • The New Yorker profiles Google coding duprass Jeff Dean (who leads our org) and Sanjay Ghemawat. They “seem like two halves of a single mind,” and their work enabled planet-scale data infrastructure (among many other things). Retaining as I do the most unimportant details, I now really want to see Jeff’s bespoke basement trampoline. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Oh, and you should definitely read Chuck Norris-style Jeff Dean Facts (“Jeff Dean’s PIN is the last 4 digits of pi,” etc.).


Treat yourself to “Everything Is Alive”

The Nack fam is in the midst of a somewhat fraught roadtrip (busted Westfalia, freezing temperatures, etc.)—hence the light blogging—but this reminds me to recommend the brilliant podcast “Everything Is Alive.” This description doesn’t do it justice…

Everything is Alive is an unscripted interview show in which all the subjects are inanimate objects. In each episode, a different thing tells us its life story–and everything it says is true.

 …so please just trust me & try an episode (e.g. Louis the soda can or Sean the subway seat). Our kids are enthralled, as are we, and we end up learning a bunch of random facts (from radioactive beverages to ghost-attracting soda to Ukrainian rejection pumpkins) that are now firm parts of family banter.



50 years ago today: “The Mother Of All Demos”

I’ve been hearing about this seminal presentation for ages, but until now I’d never actually seen it. It’s well worth a look at what must’ve been a jaw-dropping peek into so many breakthroughs that remain central to our lives today:

On December 9, 1968, Dr. Douglas C. Engelbart and the Augmentation Research Center (ARC) at Stanford Research Institute staged a 90-minute public multimedia demonstration… [F]or the first time, the public saw a computer mouse, which controlled a networked computer system to demonstrate hypertext linking, real-time text editing, multiple windows with flexible view control, cathode display tubes, and shared-screen teleconferencing. The 1968 demo presaged many of the technologies we use today, from personal computing to social networking.

[YouTube] [Via Peyman Milanfar]

“Squoosh” is a new Google app to slim down Web images

Cool—and open source. 9to5 Google writes,

By using WebAssembly, Squoosh is able to use image codecs that are not typically available in the browser.

Supporting a variety of web formats like MozJPEG and WebP and traditional ones like PNG, Squoosh allows you to quickly make your images web-ready. The app is able to do 1:1 visual comparisons of the original image and its compressed counterpart, to help you understand the pros and cons of each format.