What I learned last week (#120): bottling the sun

Learned last week: fusion, blogging, funnels, quantum computing, and more!

The quote to go along with the 80/20 rule (Pareto principle):

“Stop being afraid of what could go wrong and start being positive about what could go right.”

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Defining the concept of productivity:

I’ll take a stab at summarizing: Chosing what to do is akin to a funnel and how things go through it is called productivity.

The funnel begins with the fundamental task of selection, where you determine which activities to commit to accomplish. Relevant ideas for this level can be found in books like First Things First, Essentialism, How to Do Nothing, One Thing, The Dip, and Year of Yes.

Once committed, these activities must then go through processing, organization, and storage. There are two goals for this funnel level: to avoid forgetting what you’re supposed to do, and to make smart decisions about what to work on next. Relevant ideas for this level can be found in books like Getting Things Done and The Bullet Journal Method. This is also where the Capture/Configure/Control philosophy I talk about on my podcast, or software like OmniFocus, Trello, Basecamp, and Asana, can help.

The final level focuses on the actual execution of whatever it is you’ve figure out you should be doing in the moment. This includes how you plan your day, the rituals you deploy to support your efforts, and the processes you’ve put in place to support more effective collaboration with others. Relevant ideas for this level can be found in books like Deep Work, A World Without Email, Daily Rituals, The War of Art, and Bird by Bird. Planning tools like my Time Block Planner are also useful here.

Read The Productivity Funnel on calnewport.com


Book excerpt I was thinking about:

“Many people mistakenly believe that creativity is something that only some of us are born with, and either we have it or we don’t. Fortunately, there seems to be ample evidence that this isn’t true. We’re all born rather creative, but during our formative years, it can be beaten out of us by busy parents and teachers. As adults, we rely on convention and what we’re told because that’s easier than breaking things down into first principles and thinking for yourself. Thinking through first principles is a way of taking off the blinders. Most things suddenly seem more possible.” (Shane Parrish, Rhiannon Beaubien, The Great Mental Models)


A funny and useful meditation on blogging/writing but also about doing something useful for yourself and for others:

Q: What if I don’t think I’m a good writer? A: Don’t leave writing to good writers, because one result is a lot of bad ideas that happen to be well-written. And you’re probably better than you think. And you’ll get better by doing it regularly.


We might be “bottling the sun” soon:

A lot of science in my reading selection this week for whatever reason. This one on (nuclear) fusion as an energy source of the future was fun to learn about (all nuclear plants in operation today use fission, not fusion). ⚛️

Fusion carries none of fission’s catastrophic risks. Its raw materials are abundant and safe, derived primarily from seawater. Its waste is minimally radioactive—more like what’s produced by hospitals than fission power plants. And there is no risk of meltdowns: when a fusion reactor’s power is shut off, its reaction stops.

The challenge is a different kind of control. Fusion reactions take the form of a roiling hot plasma, burning at more than 50 million degrees Celsius. Engineering its containment—putting “the sun in a bottle,” in a classic metaphor—has consumed scientists since the 1950s.

A working fusion reactor has been perennially out of reach. But a proper magnet made of superconductors offers a new path.

Read Fusion & Magic on laphamsquarterly.org


A way to think about quantum computing:

I still don’t understand very much at all about quantum computing, but I enjoyed reading about it using the metaphor of a drunken walker. Maybe .01% less foggy on the subject now.

Read Understanding quantum computing through drunken walks on stackoverflow.blog


Sticking with a science theme this week, a little something strange:

Read the Chain Fountain on wikipedia.org


Dressing for the slide, not the ride:

A fun little read on all the cool kit that fighter pilots wear. Oh and sorry Dad, my Garmin is officially cooler than your imitation smartwatch because it is worn by FIGHTER PILOTS. 😃

Until recently, the inexpensive, practical, and durable Casio G-Shock wristwatch was the timepiece of choice for most fighter pilots. This was Scarbro’s first flying watch. “I flew with it for 15 years and changed the battery exactly one time,” he says. But in 2017, the Navy started issuing Garmin GPS smartwatches to help pilots better track their physiology while flying. Their oxygen levels, heart rate, even the air pressure in the cabin to warn of onset hypoxia can all be monitored. “I’m happy with my Garmin Fenix 5,” Scarbro says, “though I’m not sure I use it to its full potential. It’s got a lot of bells and whistles.”

Read Everything an F/A-18 Fighter Pilot Wears in the Cockpit on popularmechanics.com


Stuff I wrote and drew about this week:


Other things I was reminded of, or thankful for, last week:

  • As things are starting to open up more we are finally able to go the dentist now. I’ve been looking forward to this like nothing else, which is strange considering I generally don’t like the dentist (does anyone?). Anyway, I took the kids for a check-up this week and learned that Vivi has eight adult teeth now while we thought she only had 4. Turns out four molars have quietly appeared in the last year.
  • Watched a rare (for us) movie, The Trial of the Chicago 7, and really enjoyed it.
  • My wife and I celebrated our 6th anniversary and finally got out on a hike in the Campsie Fells just north of us on a spectacular day. The kids and the dog stayed with their auntie and it was just us for a few hours. Bliss.

Last but not least, check out what I’m up to now.

Comments welcome!