To the Stars with Data: September 26 2021

The world's fiber optic cable network, AI discovers new materials, studying weather in other solar systems, and more

Hello Datanauts!

Oh man, this issue is gonna be fun. Read further to explore:

  • Our undersea fiber optic cable network

  • 3D-printed houses and how AI is helping discover new materials

  • Extraterrestrial weather and how Steve Wozniak is tackling the space debris problem

  • Some awesome projects pushing the world into a better tomorrow through climate work and art

Let’s go to the stars with data!

-Joe Lisle


Thought-Provoking Data Viz

🌊 Visualizing Earth’s submarine fiber optic cable network

Quick hits. This visualization (video) displays the Earth’s submarine fiber optic cable network in striking detail. The author sourced their data from TeleGeography, a company that has been mapping this data for over 30 years. If you want to explore the cable map and the data in more detail, here’s an interactive version. If you like this viz, I recommend following @tylermorganwall!

Digging deeper. It’s amazing how long we have been connecting our continents via communication transmission cables. The first successful transatlantic cable was for the telegraph back in the mid-1800s (see more on Wikipedia). But it was only recently (the 1980s) when we developed and deployed the fiber-optic cable, whose modern renditions can transmit dozens of terabits of data per second.


Earth News

🏡 Entire street of 3D-printed homes now ready in Texas

Quick hits. An entire street of 3D-printed homes is now move-in ready in Austin, Texas. The developer, ICON, claims they are “the first 3D-printed homes ready for sale in the US”. The homes only took 5-7 days to print and were completed in March 2021. If you want to see other projects ICON is working on, check out their project list.

Digging deeper. There are a lot of 3D-architecture firsts this year, including the first 3D-printed home on Airbnb, the first 3D-printed school in the world, and more. Depending on the materials, 3D-printed buildings can be more sustainable (fewer emissions and reduction in waste), cost less, and unlock architecture that is difficult to achieve with typical building construction. Check out this All3DP 3D-printed home cost article if you want to learn more about the forefront of 3D-printed home architecture.

🧠 New Artificial Intelligence Tool Accelerates Discovery of Truly New Materials

Quick hits. Researchers from the University of Liverpool built an artificial intelligence tool to aid them in discovering new materials. The tool looks at relationships between known materials at a scale unachievable by humans and identifies/ranks combinations of elements that are likely to form new materials. With the help of the tool, the researchers discovered four new materials, including a new family of solid-state materials that conduct lithium.

Digging deeper. Materials research is mind-boggling in its scope. Just think: there are [currently] 118 elements on the periodic table that can be combined in an infinite number of ways. We also don’t know which new materials exist. Luckily, with this tool, and resources such as the Materials Project (credit to Andrew Cantino from the Orbital Index), we can start to open up the field and make some awesome discoveries. If you want to learn more about the tool, here’s the research paper.


Space News

Scientists were able to study the weather on a planet in another solar system

Quick hits. Researchers were able to study the clouds of a planet 525 light-years away—WASP-127b—by looking at how the light from its star passed through its atmosphere. WASP-127b is an interesting planet because it orbits its star on a different plane and opposite its star. It also orbits its star every 4 days and is only about 5% the distance from its star than Earth is to the sun.

Digging deeper. As of right now, NASA confirms 4521 exoplanets, 1430 of which are gas giants (similar to WASP-127b, though WASP-127b is considered a “Hot Jupiter”). Naturally, NASA also has a visualization tool where you can see what the WASP-127 system looks like based on our observations. You can even compare it to our solar system! 😱 If you want to get even nerdier, I recommend checking out the presentation materials from the 2021 Europlanet Science Congress.

🛰 Apple co-founder, Steve Wozniak, launches space startup to address the space debris problem

Quick hits. In a cryptic Tweet (with this video), Steve Wozniak announces that he’s starting a space company to address the space debris problem. It’s unclear exactly how the company, Privateer Space, will operate, as they’re currently in “stealth mode” (it even says this on their website).

Digging deeper. Space debris is a serious, serious problem. As noted by NASA, space debris can orbit up to 18,000 miles per hour (~29,000 kph), so even very small pieces cause huge damage upon collision. Considering that there a satellite collision could also create thousands of more pieces of space debris (among the millions already in existence), it’s a compounding problem. I’ll leave you with one question: how do you capture/destroy millions of small things flying around at 18,000 miles per hour?


Future-Thinking Companies

💪 Work on Climate. Work on Climate is an action-oriented Slack community for people serious about climate work meant to help people find climate jobs and build climate companies. If you want your work to mean something for the planet, check it out!

🎨 Art by an AI. An AI, Alice, generates images every day based on prompts submitted and voted on by the community. You can even order the images to be printed for framing. The image below was generated yesterday from the phrase “Like a whisper”.