Quick Takes, March 21st

Part of a series of simple internal newsletters I did for a client, posted here early 2015 but back-dated to the original dates.

It's one of the most important pieces of news in astrophysics of the last few years, maybe ever: a team of astronomers led by John M. Kovac of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics have detected gravitational waves, the "smoking gun" for inflation and the Big Bang. (Also see this fantastic video of Stanford Professor Andrei Linde celebrating this physics breakthrough.) —Space Ripples Reveal Big Bang’s Smoking Gun

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Many Latin American countries have been experiencing some impressive growth and reduced inequality, with policies for better redistribution through government transfers, expansion of education opportunities, minimum wage hikes and stronger unions. —How Economic Populism Is Transforming the Most Unequal Region of the Globe

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A fascinating look at the current media situation in Myanmar, going through some important changes but it also includes an excellent overview by Ethan Zuckerman on how social media can be used and fostered in society. Some great lessons and guidelines. —Myanmar, no Longer Closed, Still Complicated

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A first major initiative at The Washington Post since Jeff Bezos acquired it and it’s an innovative one: it will “begin to offer free digital access to its websites and apps to subscribers of a number of local newspapers around the country in an attempt to reach a larger digital audience—and signaling that the paper is moving to position itself as a major national news brand.” —The Washington Post Goes National by Offering Free Digital Access to Readers of Local Newspapers

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A dramatic look at some indications of why we can’t seem to quit fossil fuels. Even as policies cut back some parts of our oil consumption, others raise it. There are also feedback loops involved, where certain cuts simply accelerate use elsewhere and finally the vested interests of all the oil and gas already accounted for in market valuations. —Why Can't we Quit Fossil Fuels?

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Airbnb has had some less than stellar experiences with media coverage of incidents—like apartments getting destroyed by guests—but more importantly, of the company’s own slow reaction to these events. Airbnb now has a hospitality chief in Chip Conley, the founder of the innovative boutique hotel line Joie de Vivre. He explains how the team now manages extremely rapid responses to such incidents thanks to scenario planning. —The Secret To Airbnb's Freakishly Rapid Orgy Response: "Scenario Planning"

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The use case for smartwatches (if still quite unproven and somewhat doubtful): in a major move, Google is making available a smartwatch version of its Android operating system. —Google Just Revealed The First Decent Smartwatch Interface