‘Apollo 11’ is a stunning record of one of humanity’s greatest achievements

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Half a century after the moon landing, the event has become, for most people, just another fact of history. It’s something we only remember in the first place because it was so momentous, but it’s so commonly known that any thrill associated with it has long since faded. 

In other words, sure, it’s cool that humans have walked on the moon. But when’s the last time you really stopped to realize that, Holy shit, we landed on the frickin’ moon?

Thank goodness, then, that we have films like Apollo 11 to reminds us of that original wonder. 

Director Todd Douglas Miller combed through hours of 65mm archival footage never before seen by the public, and audio left uncatalogued for decades, to cut together this 93-minute journey to the moon and back. These historical recordings are accompanied only by by a few captions, a few diagrams, and Matt Morton’s elegant score, with nary a talking head or dramatic voiceover to be seen or heard.

When I saw Apollo 11 in a theater last month, the footage looked clear and crisp, as if it had just been captured yesterday; I hear it is better still in IMAX. It has the impact of transporting us right back to those few thrilling days in July 1969, recreating some of the anticipation and astonishment that must have surrounded the event.

Some of the images we see here are obvious showstoppers, made all the more moving by the realization that, for example, these must have been some of the first images anyone had ever seen of our little blue planet from that perspective. There are fiery explosions, and dispatches from space, and celebrations in the NASA control room, as you’d expect from any telling of this story.

It’s the quieter moments that make Apollo 11 so breathtaking to behold.

But much of Apollo 11 is spent simply watching people watch that journey – the NASA engineers monitoring the trip, the newscasters reporting on the event, the ordinary citizens gathering in parking lots and craning their necks for a glimpse of the launch. 

Paradoxically, it’s these quieter moments that make Apollo 11 so breathtaking to behold. They situate us with these people, and we get swept up along with them in the drama of the moment. Through them, we get a taste of how must have felt to see humankind achieve something we only recently realized was even possible, but that we’d been dreaming about since we first looked up at the sky.

We understand how much blood, sweat, tears, and sheer luck went into planning and executing the mission; what it meant to the astronauts, the engineers, and even regular folks to see something like this happen; how it united seemingly everyone on Earth in awe, if only for a moment. 

In that way, it’s a bit like last year’s First Man, a fictionalized account of the Apollo 11 mission from Neil Armstrong’s perspective, which similarly focused on tiny details that made the ultimate triumph feel all the bigger. If you’ve seen that movie, Apollo 11 makes for a perfect complement.

But even if you haven’t, Apollo 11 makes for a stunning experience on its own. It doesn’t matter that we’ve heard this story a thousand times before and know exactly how it ends. Or that our species has gone on to ever more advanced accomplishments, like sending a robot friend to scope out Mars

Because, again, we went to the frickin’ moon. We did that! Not only that, we came back to tell the tale! It’s worth stopping to appreciate that every once in a while, even if it was 50 years ago. And if this celebration of human ambition and ingenuity inspires this generation to reach for even greater things, we’re all the better for it.

Apollo 11 is playing in theaters now. 

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The ‘Coolest White Paint’ can cool down an entire city

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Over 50% of our population lives in urban areas. Areas with concrete buildings built with heat-absorbing aluminum cladding or greenhouse-effect enhancing glass panels. Combine this with the lack of large green spaces and you get something called the “Urban Heat Island Effect”… an effect which explains why urban areas are so much hotter than forests or areas without urban settlements.

In a bid to combat this trapping of heat, UNStudio has developed a paint dubbed The Coolest White Paint, a fluoropolymer-based paint that has the highest TSR (Total Solar Reflectance) in its category. By limiting the amount of light and therefore heat a building absorbs, the paint reduces the need for air-conditioning and the impact of urban heat islands. Aside from its interesting reflective property, the paint is also 2.5 times stronger than traditional polyester-based paints. With a lifetime of 40 years for a single coat, the guys at UNStudio say the paint is well suited for even high-quality metallic facade elements and aluminium, steel or fiberglass structures. The use of the paint could dramatically bring down the amount of heat absorbed by buildings, and effectively the overall temperatures of cities and districts!

Designers: UNStudio & Monopol Colors

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‘We were told we were crazy’ — Lyft’s founders describe how far the company has come in a new letter in its IPO filing

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Lyft founder John Zimmer

  • Lyft publicly filed for an IPO on Friday.
  • As part of the paperwork, Lyft founders Logan Green and John Zimmer published a letter outlining the company’s vision for the future.
  • In the letter, they detail their philosophy about ride-hailing and the reason they spell Lyft with a Y.

Ride-hailing startup Lyft officially unveiled its plans to go public on Friday. The long-anticipated move comes after the company confidentially filed for an initial public offering with the Securities and Exchange Commission in December.

The filing includes a letter from Lyft founders John Zimmer and Logan Green, who created the company in 2012. In the letter, they discuss the ride-hailing business as their "life’s work."

"We were told we were crazy to think people would ride in each other’s personal vehicles," the founders write of the service’s early days. 

The letter also indicates that the founders believe ride-hailing apps will impact the transportation industry similarly to the way Netflix, Spotify, and other streaming services have changed entertainment.   

"The good news is that recent innovation has helped redefine entire industries around a simple reality: you no longer need to own a product to enjoy its benefits," the letter says.

Citing internal data, Green and Zimmer estimate that over 300,000 Lyft riders have given up their personal cars because of Lyft. They also said that in 2018, 46% of Lyft riders said they’ve used their cars less because of Lyft. 

The letter also details why the company spells its name with the letter Y: "The why in what Lyft is doing is most important to us, as well as the cities and communities we serve, and it will always be our company’s North Star."

The move puts Lyft ahead of its biggest rival Uber as well as several other high-profile startups, including Pinterest, Postmates, and Slack, all of which are expected to go public this year. 

See below for the full letter, which can also be found here

OUR LIFE’S WORK

A letter from our co-founders

It’s time to redesign our cities around people, not cars.

Over the last 50 years, urban development has centered around the automobile, but imagine for a minute, what our world could look like if we found a way to take most of these cars off the road. It would be a world with less traffic and less pollution. A world where we need less parking — where streets can be narrowed and sidewalks widened. It’s a world where pedestrians, bikers, and children can navigate a city just as quickly and safely as an automobile. That’s a world built around people, not cars.

Every day, millions of people connect in Lyft rides, helping demonstrate that people from all backgrounds, neighborhoods and walks of life can come together — even when just for a short trip. This happens when a rider who had a tough day is comforted by their driver’s kind words. It happens when a driver and rider with opposing political views meet on common ground. And it happens when someone gets a safe ride home, a ride to the doctor or a ride to a job interview.

Focusing on purpose and people isn’t just the right thing to do, it provides a lasting competitive advantage.

Life is Better When You Share the Ride

For us, this work is personal. Growing up in Los Angeles traffic, Logan was inspired to find a better way to get around. As a student at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Logan launched the university’s first car-sharing program and was the youngest member to serve on the board of the Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District.

At the same time, John was studying at Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration, looking for ways to apply the principles of hospitality outside of hotels and restaurants. He took a city planning course, Green Cities, which sparked his interest in infusing hospitality with transportation to improve people’s quality of life.

We came together in 2007 to launch Zimride, a carpool matching service for universities and companies. In 2012, we launched Lyft and pioneered the idea of on-demand peer-to-peer ridesharing. In those early days, we were told we were crazy to think people would ride in each other’s personal vehicles. One billion rides later, we’re able to look back on an industry that has been defined by the products Lyft pioneered—and we’re able to look forward with excitement to the next generation of transportation services that will be led and created by our team.

The World’s Best Transportation

Today’s transportation status quo is unacceptable. Americans spend over $1 trillion every year owning and operating their cars, making it the second highest household expense (more money than Americans spend on food).28 Yet, each car is only used five percent of the time. On top of all that, every year there are 37,000 traffic-related deaths, and an additional 58,000 deaths caused by air pollution coming from U.S. road transportation. People and our cities are trapped in an unhealthy and inefficient car ownership ecosystem, and it’s time for a solution.

The good news is that recent innovation has helped redefine entire industries around a simple reality: you no longer need to own a product to enjoy its benefits. We’ve seen this play out in the entertainment industry with the introduction of streaming (Netflix, Apple, Spotify) and in computing with the shift to the Cloud (AWS, Google, Salesforce), but never before, and possibly never again, will an industry this large flip from an ownership model to a service model.

A full shift to Transportation-as-a-Service that offers more safe, affordable, reliable and enjoyable experiences across ridesharing, bike and scooter sharing and transit is finally possible. And, we’re beginning to see the early signs of this transition. Based on internal data, we estimate over 300,000 Lyft riders have given up their personal cars because of Lyft, and in 2018, 46% of our riders said they used their cars less because of Lyft.32 By providing riders with the best way to enjoy all modes of transportation in one place, Lyft will deliver the one thing people really want: the true freedom to ride.

The Y in Lyft

The why in what Lyft is doing is most important to us, as well as the cities and communities we serve, and it will always be our company’s North Star.

Lyft’s mission is to: improve people’s lives with the world’s best transportation.

We work to improve people’s lives in three key ways:

 

  1.

Socially: by providing a tangible means to bring millions of people and their communities together.

 

  2.

Economically: by unlocking affordable transportation access and flexible earnings to improve individuals’ economic mobility.

 

  3.

Environmentally: by redesigning the way consumers access transportation, Lyft will play a large role in driving carbon out of the transportation ecosystem.

We’ve been able to drive industry-leading growth against many odds, fueled by a company culture that attracts and retains top talent who is passionate about our shared purpose. In today’s world, operating with a genuine mission is essential to establishing an enduring brand and successful business.

The Road Ahead

Over the last 10 years, we’ve made early progress towards our vision, and today Lyft is a thriving business addressing one of the largest market opportunities of our lifetime. In 2018, we served over 30 million riders and nearly 2 million drivers, achieving $8.1 billion in Bookings and $2.2 billion in revenue.

As Lyft’s business impact expands, so too does its social impact. Our driver community has earned more than $10 billion since inception. In 2018, Lyft riders increased their local spending by more than $2.5 billion due to more accessible transportation.33 And we made all Lyft rides carbon neutral by purchasing offsets for over one million tons of carbon emissions in 2018.

We’re proud of the momentum and even more excited by what lies ahead. Just 1% of miles traveled in the United States happen on rideshare networks.34 The road ahead represents a massive opportunity to serve our communities and drive value for our stockholders.

We take this responsibility to serve our communities and stockholders seriously, and we look forward to proving that with actions and results. If we told you we were building the world’s best canal, railroad or highway infrastructure, you’d understand that this would take time. In that same light, the opportunity ahead requires

continued long-term thinking, focus and execution. In order to best deliver long-term value, we will drive the business forward with three key principles:

 

  1.

We first serve drivers and riders.

 

  2.

We prioritize the long-term health of the business, over day-to-day reactions of the markets.

 

  3.

We thoughtfully balance investments in growth and profitability considerations, while deliberately leaning more towards growth (especially in these early days).

Lyft has the opportunity to deliver one of the most significant shifts to society since the advent of the car. We do not take that lightly, and we intend to lead this shift with integrity, humanity and strong execution.

Thank you to our community of drivers, riders and team members for making this possible.

Onward,

Logan Green, Co-Founder

John Zimmer, Co-Founder

SEE ALSO: Lyft kicks off 2019 unicorn IPO spree with public S-1

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: What’s going on with Jeff Bezos and Amazon

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Scientists completed one of the most detailed explorations inside the Great Blue Hole. Here’s what they found at the bottom of the giant, mysterious sinkhole.

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  • The Great Blue Hole is a massive underwater sinkhole that lies off the coast of Belize.
  • Scuba divers and snorkelers have been cruising the surface waters for decades, but very few explorers have dared to venture deeper and explore what lies at the bottom.
  • In the winter of 2018, a crew from Aquatica Submarines ventured to the bottom of the Great Blue Hole and made some unexpected discoveries.

Following is a transcript of the video.

Narrator: There’s a massive underwater sinkhole off the coast of Belize that extends 125 meters into the Earth’s crust. It’s called the Great Blue Hole. Scuba divers and snorkelers have been cruising the surface waters for decades, but few have dared to venture deeper and explore what lies beyond the blackness.

In the winter of 2018, a crew from Aquatica Submarines started their descent to the bottom of the Blue Hole. Their mission was to create a 3D map of the sinkhole’s interior, but along the way, they came across some common and not-so-common sights.

As the crew started, they found the usual suspects: reef sharks, turtles, and giant corals. But as they pushed 90 meters, life started to vanish. The culprit was a thick layer of toxic hydrogen sulfide spanning the width of the entire sinkhole like a floating blanket.

Erika Bergman: Underneath that there’s no oxygen, no life, and down there we found conchs and conch shells and hermit crabs that had fallen into the hole and suffocated, really.

Narrator: Past the conch graveyard and toward the bottom of the hole, around 120 meters deep, the team found something they did not expect: small stalactites. The surprise gave scientists clues to the hole’s ancient past.

Bergman: Stalactites can only form because water is dripping down stone. And so we know that this was a big, dry cave, and it was during a really prolific era on Earth, so there were probably lots of stuff living in it.

Narrator: Scientists think the cave formed during the last Ice Age, which ended about 14,000 years ago. That’s when sea levels began to rise, and the cave flooded and collapsed, leaving behind the Blue Hole we see today. Researchers think that other marine sinkholes, like Dragon Hole in South China Sea, and Dean’s Blue Hole in the Bahamas probably formed the same way.

As the scientists continued down the hole, they found another clue to the past: a light buildup of silt on top of the conch graveyard.

Bergman: The silt itself on the bottom is a pretty good record of all of the different hurricanes and storm cycles and glaciations that have happened, so we can see that right around the time of the Mayan collapse, there were huge, huge storm cycles followed by very significant droughts.

Narrator: As the team continued to explore the bottom of the hole, they found a 2-liter Coke bottle and a lost GoPro containing some vacation photos. But that wasn’t all.

Bergman: We did encounter two of the probable three people who have been lost in the Blue Hole, so we found kind of the resting place of a couple folks, and we just sort of very respectfully let the Belize government know where we found them, and everyone decided that we would just not attempt any recovery. It’s very dark and peaceful down there, just kind of let them stay.

Narrator: Scientists predict this hole won’t be around forever to explore. Every day, waterfalls of sand fall into it, slowly filling it up like an underwater hourglass. But as for now, we can still admire its beauty and study its many mysteries.

Join the conversation about this story »

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What’s The Best Time Of Day To Work Out? Here’s What The Science Says

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best time to work out

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If you workout on a regular basis, there’s a very good chance you’ve settled into a routine that you’ve followed over the years, whether it involves waking up at the crack of dawn to hit the gym, skipping out of work for an hour to get your pump on, or taking out your frustrations after a long day with a lifting session.

I’ve always been an evening gym guy because mornings are the bane of my existence and dealing with the post-work ground is my personal version of hell on Earth, but despite years of tradition, I recently found myself wondering if I’ve actually been doing myself a disservice by hitting up the gym at the end of the day.

As a result, I decided it was time to consult people with more knowledge than I have to see if I’ve been shooting myself in the foot for the past decade by stopping by the gym after the sun begins to set.

Here’s what I discovered.

What’s The Best Time Of Day To Work Out?

best time to work out

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I’ve heard plenty of people argue there are merits to heading to the gym first thing in the morning. An article published by Shape outlined some of the many benefits of working out first thing; for example, the gym tends to be less crowded and you don’t have to deal with unexpected inconveniences that might get in the way of working out later in the day.

Additionally, as Heart.org notes, early morning visits tend to make you crave food that will kickstart your metabolism and give you the fuel you need to take on the world for the rest of the day—a claim that seems to be supported by NIFS, which states:

One of the first biological reasons working out in the morning can be effective is the increased levels of testosterone (especially in males) that happen first thing when you wake up. Overnight our bodies begin to increase their testosterone production.

Because of this, our testosterone levels are highest upon awakening. As you may or may not know, testosterone is the hormone that promotes muscle growth. The more testosterone we have in our bodies while working out, the more efficient our bodies will be at muscle production.

Taking advantage of this morning boost of testosterone can help build muscle more efficiently.

That’s not to say there aren’t other benefits to postponing your workout until later in the day. Some people lack the fuel they need to maximize the benefits of exercise in the morning and you may theoretically have more energy after consuming food over the course of the day. It’s also a great way to relieve any stress you may have dealt with prior to the evening.

On the flip side, Shape also noted post-workout insomnia is a very real thing and the inability to sleep after lifting on the later side could have a negative effect on your overall well-being.

PopSugar recently consulted Dr. Avigdor Arad, a scientist specializing in fitness to look into the issue. He had this to say:

“It’s important to know that the time of the exercise is not necessarily making the difference. If you exercise in the morning, if you exercise in the afternoon, if you exercise at night, it has a very similar effect.”

As a result, it doesn’t appear the time of day you work out will have a significant impact on the gains you make. When everything is said and done, it essentially boils down to consistency—you shouldn’t stress too much about the time of day assuming you can visit the gym on a consistent basis.

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This is the disturbing story behind the iconic “Afghan Girl” photo

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Although it sparked some controversy, Steve McCurry’s “Afghan Girl” is an iconic image that influenced and inspired many. Tony Northup wanted to talk about how this image inspired him, but then he learned the story behind it – and it wasn’t pretty. The truth behind how this legendary photo was taken is sad and disturbing, and Tony shares it in this video.

McCurry photographed the “Afghan Girl” (who was later identified as Sharbat Gula) in 1984, in a refugee camp near Peshawar, Pakistan. Gula was ten years old at the time, studying in a tent school. McCurry said that he had been drawn by her piercing green eyes and he’d wanted to take a photo of her. However, the girl was wearing a burka covering the rest of her face. With the help from his translator, McCurry reportedly asked Gula’s teacher to tell the girl to remove the cover and show her face. And this was severely breaching the personal boundaries of the young girl.

Gula is a Pashtun, and she wasn’t supposed to show her face and make eye contact. She also wasn’t allowed to be in the same room with a man who was outside her family, to have her photo taken, and especially have her photo published.  As you know, the iconic photo depicts Gula with her face uncovered and her stunning eyes looking straight at the camera. And she was photographed by a male photographer, who captured her in a way which was unnatural for her.

Some sources (including NatGeo) claim that Gula was an orphan when she fled Afghanistan during Soviet invasion in 1979. But according to BBC, Gula’s mother died in their village in Afghanistan when she was eight. Gula migrated to Pakistan with her father, four sisters and one brother, and started living in a refugee camp Kacha Garahi near Peshawar. So, McCurry was probably supposed to ask her father for permission before photographing the girl.

The photo was published on a cover of National Geographic in June 1985, and the magazine stated that the girl’s eyes were “reflecting the fear of war.” However, in some later interviews, Gula said that she was scared while having her photo taken, and she ran away immediately after it. So, her eyes did reflect fear, but at that time it wasn’t the fear of war.

McCurry’s photo became internationally recognized and he was widely celebrated. And it was only in 2002 when he went back to Pakistan and managed to track down Gula and find out who she was. This was the first time she found out that her face had been famous all over the globe – 17 years after the photo was taken. As she said in an interview, this got her and her husband “nervous and very sad” at first, but after a while, they were happy about it.

Gula has had a hard life full of hardship, fear, and suffering. She sought refuge in Pakistan and lived there for 35 years. She got married at 13 and had five children. One of them died at an early age, and her husband died in 2012 from hepatitis C. According to BBC, another of her daughters died from the same cause, leaving a two-month-old daughter. Gula’s eldest daughter and husband were buried in Peshawar, where she lived for 35 years. And in 2016, Gula she was imprisoned for illegally obtaining Pakistani ID. She was then deported to Afghanistan where she and her family were warmly welcomed, but she still saw Pakistan as her home, considering all the years she had spent there.

Both the story behind this iconic image and Gula’s life story are pretty disturbing and sad. But there is still some good that came from this photo, as Tony concludes. It led to NatGeo setting up a charity for Afghan girls, which reportedly raised over one million dollars. The photo inspired millions of people, and it contributed to spreading the word about Afghan people and their troubles. Things aren’t always black and white, and it’s apparently the case with this image too.

And what do you think? Would it be better for Sharbat Gula if this photo was never taken?

[The disturbing true story of the Afghan Girl photo | Tony & Chelsea Northrup]

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Zero Motorcycles leads in electric motorcycles as BRP scoops up Alta’s remains

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As the mobility world awaits Harley Davidson’s EV debut, there’s plenty of motion in the e-moto startup space.

Zero Motorcycles unveiled its new 110 horsepower SR/F model in New York this week, offering a 200 mile range, one hour charge capability, and top speed of 124 mph.

The California based startup—whose investors include New York VC firm Invus—wired the SR/F with Zero’s new Cypher III operating system and Bosch’s Motorcycle Stability Control.

Both combine to offer remotely synced mobile connectivity to the motorcycle’s charge status and performance controls. The 485 pound SR/F is upgraded from Zero’s existing line-up to include cornering ABS, traction control, and a new app and dash interface.

Zero’s two-wheeler comes in at an entry price of $18,995. On the business side, the EV startup could produce as many as 10,000 SR/Fs and add members to its 200 dealer network, CEO Sam Paschel told TechCrunch in New York.

Zero’s SR/F enters the e-moto market in a year where EV startups will face more competition on specs and pricing, and big motorcycle manufacturers will feel more pressure to go electric.

From a business perspective, as TechCrunch has reported, the U.S. motorcycle industry has been in pretty bad shape since the recession. New sales dropped by roughly 50 percent since 2008, with sharp declines in ownership by everyone under 40. The exception is women, who have become the only growing motorcycle ownership segment.

E-moto upstarts have worked to attract new riders and close gaps with gas motorcycles in performance and cost—but most offerings have come with some compromise.

Italian company Energica’s models hit high marks in tech controls and performance—with 150 horsepower, 30 minute fast-charge times, and 125 mile range—but not without a hefty price of $20K and up.

Lightning Motorcycles, another California based e-moto startup, offers ultra-high end of performance, claiming the world’s fastest production motorcycle in the world with its LS-218. But the $38K, 218 mph, track bred e-moto isn’t exactly average rider accessible.

Zero Motorcycles has found the widest market and model breadth, with prices starting at $8K on its FX model. Still, Zero’s e-motos (including the $16K SR) haven’t matched the performance control options, specs, or charge-times of the higher priced Energica Ego or Eva.

In 2019, Zero’s new machine—and a model being teased by Lightning—could bridge gaps in performance, range, charge-times, and price that have held many back from going e-motorcycle.

With its Bosch MSC system and upgraded operating system, the fully redesigned SR/F matches Energica in digital performance controls and comes close on power and speed at a more competitive price.

As TechCrunch reported, Lightning began taking reservations for a $12,998 Strike e-moto with some almost unbelievable stats at that price: 150 mph top speed, 35 minute charge-time, and 150 mile range. Lighting calls it their “first premium mass-market motorcycle,” with plans to unveil sometime in March.

Both Zero and Lightning’s 2019 models are positioned to compete with Harley Davidson’s EV entry, the $29K LiveWire expected to debut sometime this summer. HD revealed more product specs recently, such as 3 second 0-60 mph acceleration and 110 mile range. Harley Davidson has also indicated it plans a full pivot to electric, with additional e-motorcycles in the pipeline, as well as e-bicycles and scooters.

Harley’s electric moves, as well as Zero and Lightning’s more competitive offerings, could hasten major motorcycle manufacturers’ plans to sell e-motos. None of the big names producers—Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, BMW—have offered a production electric street motorcycle in the U.S. HD will be the first.

With momentum in the motorcycle world shifting electric, there are more than a few caveats as to whether there’s a viable U.S. market. In addition to the contracting sales environment, the e-moto startup space has racked up a series of failures. These include Brammo, Mission Motorcycles, and more recently,  Alta Motors—a California based EV venture backed by $45 million in VC that ceased operations in October. Alta had a partnership with Harley Davidson (now defunct) and there’s been little light shed on what forced them to shut off the lights.

Alta Motors resurfaced last week, when Canadian company BRP—the owner of such brands as snowmobile maker Ski-Doo and watercraft producer Sea-Doo—acquired select Assets of Alta. There had been hopes someone would purchase and revive the California e-moto startup, but that looks unlikely. “We don’t have any current plans for resuscitating Alta Motors in it’s old form,” BRP’s Vice President for Communications Leslie Quinton told TechCrunch. “We have no plans yet to announce how we’re going to use the technologies,” she said.

So as Harley Davidson, Zero, and Lightning move to mainstream electric motorcycles in 2019, it appears another e-moto startup has officially faded into history.

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Stanford Student Calls Out Crypto Professor for Inaccurate Bitcoin Lecture

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In January of 2019, student Conner Brown attended a guest lecture by a Professor Susan Athey at the University of Stanford Graduate School. She gave a presentation to his “Evolution of Finance” class titled “Blockchain and the Future of Finance.” According to Brown, the presentation contained “multiple misstatements” about Bitcoin and its fundamentals.

After the presentation, Brown was dissatisfied with how Bitcoin was referenced by Athey during the lecture to a room comprised (mostly) of people who were unfamiliar with the fundamental concepts behind the technology. This prompted him to write an email to the Stanford Graduate School Board, expressing his concerns.

Brown says that the only response he has received from the university thus far is an email stating, “We will get back to you on this.” That’s when he posted his complaint on Twitter.

What She Got Wrong

Athey, who Brown told Bitcoin Magazine is also slated to teach an entire course at Stanford next semester called “Cryptocurrencies,” claimed that not only is Bitcoin "controlled by a small group of miners in China," but that it also “wastes electricity by stealing from rivers to solve useless math problems.” Athey also mentioned that bitcoin is "secured economically and not cryptographically."

In her presentation degrading the first digital, decentralized currency, Athey drew comparisons to what she considered a better solution in Ripple’s technology, using XRP. Specifically, she cited exchange rate volatility, trust issues with exchanges, and long transaction times as drawbacks to using Bitcoin (stating that, subsequently, exchanges needed to buy bitcoin). Athey then, according to her presentation, explained how Ripple’s XRP, xRapid API, and overall consensus mechanism provide an alternative that is faster, cheaper, more secure, and more energy friendly than Bitcoin.

In protest, Brown composed a letter addressed to the Graduate School of Business, expressing his thoughts that certain statements about Bitcoin should have been subject to “high caliber discussion and peer review.”

In addressing Athey’s claims against Bitcoin, Brown properly explained where Athey missed key concepts.

Addressing her claim on mining centralization by a small group in China, Brown explained that Athey was conflating mining nodes with full nodes and had used this misrepresentation to position Ripple as a better alternative to Bitcoin. He also countered by explaining that miners often compile their resources together in a mining pool, but there are many individual miners in these pools and not one entity can completely control Bitcoin.

To Athey’s claim that Bitcoin is secured economically and not cryptographically, Brown pointed out that she is once again conflating two different things: Stealing funds by cracking the encryption of the wallet and using mining power to 51% attack a network.

Conflict of Interest?

As the matter came to light on Twitter, it was pointed out that Athey was welcomed to the Ripple Labs Board of Directors back in April 2014, where she still maintains an active role. When Nic Carter asked on Twitter if Athey had made any disclosure before her presentation, she replied directly: “Five minute verbal introduction discussing my background in the space — no way to miss it!”

Whether or not Athey had any ill-intent in her presentation, Brown told Bitcoin Magazine that is not what mattered to him.

“It concerns me that my classmates’ first introduction to Bitcoin contained severe factual errors along with strong anti-Bitcoin rhetoric. The academy is not a place for marketing, but rigorously testing ideas. If a professor has a potential conflict of interest, they should be held to the highest standards of scrutiny and peer review.

“That being said, Bitcoin is a creature of the internet. Its properties are difficult for academics to appreciate due to its deeply interdisciplinary and evolutionary nature. This makes it difficult for developing a curriculum because of the siloed design of academic disciplines and the slow pace of the peer review process. The internet will always be the best place to pursue a Bitcoin education.”

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

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