Interesting Things #10 β€” Zero Knowledge


This is Beng Tan and welcome to Interesting Things, a curation of interesting stories and links from tech, indie biz, science, and related fields.

There’s less stories (40) than usual this week (50-ish). I was busy with other things.

But this might be the new normal because (a) I’m working on a new project, and (b) I still hear sometimes that there are too many stories. πŸ˜† (Tip: Just read what you like and ignore the rest.)

I hope you continue to find the stories interesting. If you don’t, no worries, you can always [unsubscribe]({{ unsubscribe_url }}).

Happy reading!


Zero Knowledge β€” A descriptive introduction to Zero Knowledge Proofs with some real world analogies.

How to end up with 500,000 commits in your log β€” Every little change you wanted to see you had to commit. Add a debug print? Commit. Remove that print again? Commit.

Bombshell Report Finds Phone Network Encryption Was Deliberately Weakened β€” The designers confirmed that a weakness was introduced in order to meet political requirements. (hn)

How Much Testing is Enough? β€” How to define a qualification process and testing strategy best suited for the case at hand. (hn)

On Comments in Code β€” To see how many comments I write, and what kind they are, I wrote a script to analyze the last six years.

Versioned Value β€” Store every update to a value with a new version, to allow reading historical values. (hn)

Unreliability At Scale β€” Another write-up about silent computation errors in CPU cores.

The Principles of Deep Learning Theory [pdf, textbook] β€” An Effective Theory Approach to Understanding Neural Networks. (hn)

Static Integer Types β€” Most programming language designers and implementers aren’t fully aware of some of the subtleties and pitfalls. (hn)

Verkle trees β€” Verkle trees are a powerful upgrade to Merkle trees that allow for much smaller proof sizes.

Software Estimation Is Hard. Do It Anyway. (May 2021) β€” Estimating software projects is hard but you should learn how to do it anyway.

Opinion-driven design β€” Some of my personal thoughts on how we design open source projects. (hn)

What does First Normal Form actually mean? β€” In databases, First Normal Form (or 1NF) is often explained confusingly or downright incorrect.

An Elixir Adoption Success Story β€” How a team that was new to Elixir over-delivered a big project in just three months. (hn)

Deserializing Binary Data Files in Rust β€” How to read a file of raw C structures.

Setting up a multi-arch Kubernetes cluster at home β€” I had a 4 day weekend at work and with nothing better to do so I decided to setup a K8s cluster. (hn)

The Evolution of the Unix System Architecture β€” Studying its evolution can provide insights on how to manage the growth of large, complex, and long-lived software systems.

Book Review - Unix: A History and a Memoir β€” I’m really glad that I got to hear the story of Unix from someone who was there and actually contributed to the project.

RenderingNG β€” In 2021, we will largely complete designing, building and shipping a next-generation rendering architecture for Chromium. (hn)

Incidents are for everyone β€” We have incidents in all parts of the business. We just don’t call them incidents. (hn)

I’m Changing How I Review Code β€” Are there better ways that I could review code? What could I do differently?

Subclassing in Python Redux β€” What’s a pragmatic approach to subclassing in Python, specifically? (hn)

#indie biz

The cost to run my SaaS β€” I actually didn’t know how much I was paying for all the SaaS products I use. So I decided to look into it.

Let’s Build a Chip – With Math (May 2021) β€” How much does it cost to build custom silicon? Hundreds of millions. Or even more.


There’s no such thing as a tree (phylogenetically) β€” On the evolutionary tree of plants, trees are regularly interspersed with non-trees.

Hubble Data Confirms Galaxies Lacking Dark Matter β€” Dark matter is widely considered to be an essential ingredient of galaxies, but this study suggests otherwise. (hn)

The Long, Strange Life of the World’s Oldest Naked Mole Rat (May 2021) β€” These death-defying rodents do not age normally.

Reviving extinct species may soon be possible β€” Banking cells from endangered species can help in other ways, too. (hn)

Photoactivatable Metabolic Warheads: Light-Sensitive Drug Acts As Trojan Horse to Kill Cancer Cell β€” A light-activated drug that can enter and kill bacterial and cancer cells has been tested successfully.

Unexpected Beauty in Primes (Oct 2019) β€” The Visualization of Primes and Its Potential Significance. (hn)

MIT Engineers Have Discovered a Completely New Way of Generating Electricity β€” A new material made from carbon nanotubes can generate electricity by scavenging energy from its environment.

How a Sharp-Eyed Scientist Became Biology’s Image Detective β€” It seemed that duplicated or doctored images could be more damaging to science than plagiarism. (hn)

Soaking up the sun: Artificial photosynthesis promises clean, sustainable source of energy β€” It could open a whole new frontier of clean energy.

Researchers translate a bird’s brain activity into song β€” Researchers were able to reproduce the songbird’s complex vocalizations down to the pitch, volume and timbre of the original.

Gas Giants’ Energy Crisis Solved After 50 Years β€” Jupiter and Saturn should be freezing cold. Instead, they’re hot. Researchers now know why. (hn)


How the Personal Computer Broke the Human Body (May 2021) β€” The so-called computer revolution brought with it a world of pain previously unknown to humankind.

What Robots Can and Can’t Do for the Old and Lonely (May 2021) β€” For elderly Americans, social isolation is especially perilous. Will machine companions fill the void?

Lab-grown meat is on the rise. It’s time to start asking tough questions β€” It offers environmental and ethical benefits but what if a few companies control what we eat?

Irrational Modesty β€” Here is someone who is much smarter than me but unable to think clearly due to irrational modesty.


Funazushi: The fermented predecessor of modern sushi β€” One family has preserved a 400-year-old recipe showing how sushi once tasted, and it doesn’t use raw seafood.


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Enjoy your reading and have a good day, Beng