20 March 2022

Welcome back to the Week That Was series highlighting things from the interwebs which are interesting, noteworthy and/or probably worth your time.

Articles📝, Tweet(s)📱, Videos🎥, Charts 📈 all fair game with or without attendant commentary.


🛰️🌠 Deep Field

Deep Field

Following the completion of critical mirror alignment steps known as “fine phasing”, the James Webb Space Telescope team has great confidence that the observatory’s optical performance will meet or exceed the science goals it was built to achieve.



🛢️📈 Stores of Value

2022 started off with a slump for equity and cryptocurrency prices, but real assets like gold, crude oil, and agricultural commodities have more than held their dollar value.

Even before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine resulted in extreme uncertainty over energy and raw material exports from both nations, commodities had already started to outperform other assets.




🚀🪓 Evolution

“Evolution?” - Soviet anti-nuke poster from the 80s


With this propaganda poster in mind as well as calls for no-fly zones and more direct interventions in Ukraine slowly ratcheting up - I’m reminded of the quote which is oft attributed to Einstein (although I can’t confirm it’s true provenance):

“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones”


💡 Indian Luminosity

Tracking development by lighting. India Nightime Luminosity comparison 2012 vs 2021. Source - Economic Survey of India 2022


🗺️Epic Maps


🎨 Misty Pond

Misty Pond

The Misty Pond of Villeneuve, Henri Biva, oil on canvas, 1908


🌐 System


System is a free, open, and living public resource that aims to explain how anything in the world is related to everything else.

System 2




🌏 Population

109 billion people have lived and died.



🌏Population.io is an interesting site which tries to show a journey of your life in numbers and dates - by trying to answer the questions:

What’s my place in the world population? How long will I live?

It starts off showing the current best estimate for the world population

Population 2


You then get a few sections, starting by showing you how many people currently are older or younger than you are.

Population 3


Then a very interesting life journey section. I’ve definitely gotta beat that eSwatini life expectancy estimate! 😄


Population 4


⛽💰 Diesel

Did diesel announce it’s minting an NFT? - Foundation Fund PM, Alex Barrow



⚔️💶 Running The Numbers

A few numbers relating to the current Russo-Ukranian conflict.

Russo Conflict


One thing that’s clear is that the coordinated global sanction response has been of a scale not many could have predicted. Russia now the most sanctioned nation on earth - surpassing perrenial US pariah Iran.

Russo Sanctions


That’s seen the currency collapsing (again)

Russo Currency

And a spike in implied inflation

Russo Inflation

And the 📰Institute of International Finance now predicts there are now very real risks of a recession worse than the 2008 Recession and the Russian 1998 debt default crisis together.

Russo Recession


Of course this is looking at the Russian side of the fallout of their unilateral invasion - the real victims here are Ukranians. We’ve already seen close to a million refugees fleeing into neighbouring countries, half ending up in Poland.

Ukraine Refugees


Disconcertingly forecasters at Metaculus estimate the probable number of refugees will leave the country in 2022 is between 4.5m and 6.25m.

Refugee Predict


The result of sanctions, Russia’s own restrictions and the war itself also means there is also serious risk of famine afflicting tens or even hundreds of millions of people within the next year or two - uhnless peace agreements are reached almost immediately.

David Friedberg explains the reasons why in some detail starting from 15:21 of this week’s All-In.


It largely boils down to the fact that 15 % of the calories consumed by humanity come from wheat - and between Russia and Ukraine, they supply something like a 3rd of that. That and Russia’s critical role in produdction of farming primitives which go into fertilisers and the like - which they’ve now banned exports of. This and the spikes in gas prices.

The hit will mainly affect developing countries, some of who get 100 % of their wheat from those two countries.

War Wheat


Big problems in one aspect of global food supply chains. There are many many other 2nd and 3rd order effects of the sanctions and if they remain in place, these will play out over the next few years. That script will almost certainly mean political instability in a number of countries as food and fuel issues almost invariably lead to this.

Let’s hope the 📰rumours of a 15-point potential peace-plan, or at least it’s contours taking shape, mean an end to the worst of the hostilities and economic shocks sooner rather than later.


🤖 Pessimists Archive

Looking back at reactions to either innovations or strategic investments in growth companies is always… amusing. And instructive.


🌌📷 Observable Universe

How far can you see? Everything you can see, and everything you could possibly see, right now, assuming your eyes could detect all types of radiations around you – is the observable universe. In light, the farthest we can see comes from the cosmic microwave background, a time 13.8 billion years ago when the universe was opaque like thick fog. Some neutrinos and gravitational waves that surround us come from even farther out, but humanity does not yet have the technology to detect them. The featured image illustrates the observable universe on an increasingly compact scale, with the Earth and Sun at the center surrounded by our Solar System, nearby stars, nearby galaxies, distant galaxies, filaments of early matter, and the cosmic microwave background. Cosmologists typically assume that our observable universe is just the nearby part of a greater entity known as “the universe” where the same physics applies. However, there are several lines of popular but speculative reasoning that assert that even our universe is part of a greater multiverse where either different physical constants occur, different physical laws apply, higher dimensions operate, or slightly different-by-chance versions of our standard universe exist.




📹👨‍💻 Unbreakable Law

Molly Rocket with a deep-dive on Melvin Conway’s seminal paper 📝“How Do Committees Invent” which he titles The Only Unbreakable Law

There are promising candidates for “laws” governing computer software. But are there any specifically for software architecture? In this lecture, I describe the only viable candidate I’ve so far seen.

Lecture was originally given to the School of Informatics of the Technical University of Madrid.


🎨 Starship


Starship, Daniel Palmi, Digital, 2022


💬 Deep Cuts

“It’s the people who don’t worry—those who never have any doubts that what they’re doing is good and right—they’re the ones that cause the problems.” ― Alastair Reynolds, Redemption Ark


🚌🤯 One More Thing

Sigh… it seems to check out. Damnit brain.


📧 Get this weekly in your mailbox

Thanks for reading. Tune in next week. And please share with your network.