This newsletter is a collection of things I have found in the last month that I enjoyed, found interesting, or simply wanted to share.
Like, Super Random
LavaRand is a system that uses lava lamps as a secondary source of randomness for our production servers. A wall of lava lamps in the lobby of our San Francisco office provides an unpredictable input to a camera aimed at the wall. A video feed from the camera is fed into a CSPRNG, and that CSPRNG provides a stream of random values that can be used as an extra source of randomness by our production servers. Since the flow of the “lava” in a lava lamp is very unpredictable,1 “measuring” the lamps by taking footage of them is a good way to obtain unpredictable randomness. Computers store images as very large numbers, so we can use them as the input to a CSPRNG just like any other number.
“I shot myself, but I killed my ego.”
Being a professional baseball player isn’t only about playing baseball better than everyone else. It’s accelerated adulthood. It’s an 18-year-old paying bills, managing disappointment, navigating politics, forging relationships — figuring out how to live in a universe designed to weed out the weak.
Particularly intriguing is to watch them position their body when the action is to one side of their net, near the goal line. On their knees, one leg extended to the bottom far corner, the top of that leg pad filling the five-hole, their upper body crammed up against the post, their shoulders shrugged upward to take away the top corners, all of their body parts coming together so seamlessly. It is like watching an origami master in action, constructing not a paper crane, but a perfect wall.
It is imperative to dispel any ambiguity about how vaccine efficacy shown in trials translates into protecting individuals and populations. The mRNA-based Pfizer, and Moderna vaccines were shown to have 94–95% efficacy in preventing symptomatic COVID-19…It means that in a population such as the one enrolled in the trials, with a cumulated COVID-19 attack rate over a period of 3 months of about 1% without a vaccine, we would expect roughly 0·05% of vaccinated people would get diseased. It does not mean that 95% of people are protected from disease with the vaccine—a general misconception of vaccine protection…
A 95% vaccine efficacy means that instead of 1,000 COVID-19 cases in a population of 100,000 without vaccine we would expect 50 cases.
I couldn’t really wrap my mind around how this math worked out. Or rather, I hadn’t found anyone who could explain it well enough for me to explain to someone else. This NY Times exercise really helped.
Don’t fail to wear your seatbelt today because your next car may have airbags.
All three vaccines were 100% effective at preventing severe disease six weeks after the first dose (for Moderna) or seven weeks after the first dose (for Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, the latter of which requires only one dose). Zero vaccinated people in any of the trials were hospitalized or died of COVID-19 after the vaccines had fully taken effect.