A Fortnightly Summary: Issue #1

Hello and welcome to issue #1 of my little blog series.

This format is heavily inspired by Dave Pell’s mailing list, which you should absolutely go check out because it’s how I get my news with a good laugh these days: http://nextdraft.com

Let’s get started.

People Hear But Don’t Listen

This week marks 50 years since the original recording of what is considered one of the greatest records of all time — Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. For the youthful lot amongst us, that is the eighth studio album by The Beatles. To celebrate, Giles Martin, son of the original producer of the record, decided — let’s make a remix!

In his interview with NPR Music, Martin said that he is remixing one of the greatest records of all time because music is now ubiquitous and experienced differently. “When children and grandchildren are told about this album that changed the face of pop music … you don’t want it to come up on a streaming service or a radio station sounding old.” The remix is meant to encourage people to listen and not just hear; achieved by bringing them closer to the music.

This record is important because it pioneered new music production techniques: multitrack, pitch shifting (recording tracks and playing them back at different speeds for different pitch). Combined with that technical superiority, the record is filled with a diverse avant-garde sound; putting forth the idea in the mid 60s that music and art are synonymous.

☝🏻 People complained in the original mono ’67 vinyl pressing that Ringo Starr’s kick drums were inaudible. This “production error” however, was intentional — to protect the styluses from jumping out of the groove of the vinyl record.

☝🏻 I once attempted studying classical music theory and made my own music instrument with MIDI controllers and other gizmos in hopes I will be the next Brian Eno. I failed miserably. Said music instrument has been erased off the face of this planet.

☝🏻 My favourite song off the record is She’s Leaving Home , what’s yours?

CPU, GPU, now TPUs — WTF are they?

TPUs (Tensorflow Processing Units) is a new type of processor built specifically for Google’s machine learning system: Tensorflow. Last week, Google announced their second-generation Tensorflow Processing Units (TPUs) which is particularly exciting for many reasons. Processors and the software that runs on them has always been tech’s best metaphor of the yin and yang. Software gets done easily on a general purpose processor but sometimes producing customer-built ones for a routine and repeatable process is entirely reasonable. Like how GPUs were made to optimise for basic additions and multiplications really quickly for its shaders (programs that run on a GPU). TPUs are set to do what the GPU did with CPUs — seeking to bring far superior efficiency to machine learning, effectively lowering the marginal costs of it.

☝🏻 We can all unequivocally agree on this: Google dominates machine learning. Back in 2015, Google open-sourced Tensorflow, taking a shot at making it /the/ default machine learning system experts use in the future. This move makes 100% sense seeing it this way: by increasing scale, Google has brought down the cost to manufacture the TPUs they already use for their own infrastructure, and brings up their profitability as a company when it comes to chip production.

☝🏻 If you think Google is the only one on this, think again: Apple Is Working on a Dedicated Chip to Power AI on Devices - Bloomberg .

Breaking The 2-Hour Marathon

According to tales of days past, the origins of the marathon can be traced back to Philippides, who ran 24-26 miles back to Athens to announce the victory The Battle of Marathon in 490BC. While this story sounds hardly believable, it definitely isn’t as novel as Nike’s attempts earlier this month to gather a few handpicked runners to try and finish the 26.2 mile race in under 2 hours. The result? Current Olympic-champion Eliud Kipchoge did it in… 2 hours, 25 seconds. 25 seconds. I wonder how he slept that night.

☝🏻 For those of us wondering how close we can ever get to that record, /Wired/ put up an amazing video on that to effectively dash your dreams: Why It’s Almost Impossible to Run a Two-Hour Marathon

☝🏻 This event was conducted in a controlled 5km race track called /Autodromo di Monza/. Some of you might know this as the same track used for the Italian Grand Prix, also sometimes known as, “The Temple of Speed”.

Double Crown Weekend

As a huge fan of motorsport, this weekend is fantastic for many reasons. 2 out of 3 of the most prestigious motor races in the world are in session: the Monaco Grand Prix and the Indianapolis 500. The Monaco Grand Prix is the oldest track race in the F1 calendar, having been around since 1929. Due to the narrow barrier-to-barrier tracks and short distance, this race demands precision driving and pit-stop strategies down to the very millimetre and millisecond. In other words: Monaco isn’t just a test of how the cars grip and launch off corners, it’s a test of a driver’s skill. It has only seen true legends with the likes of Schumacher, Senna, and Vettel prosper.

☝🏻 By the time you’re receiving this, the Monaco Grand Prix will be over and we will have already known the results of the race. But if you need help convincing yourself next year to tune in, Wired has a great piece on: Why You Must Watch the Monaco Grand Prix

☝🏻 You might have noticed I left out talking about the Indianapolis 500, and it was done intentionally because it’ll be my first year tuning in too! One of the greatest drivers of Formula One, Fernando Alonso, has had a particularly rubbish season and he’s looking to roll his dice in the Indy 500, hoping to crush some American drivers. And of course: you can trust the Brit to question the sophistication of the Americans.