A Starbucks Drive-Thru Customer Bought the Stranger Behind Her a Coffee. Then She Got an Astonishing Letter

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

We waft about our lives absorbed in our fascinating selves and assuming so much about others.

We don’t really have much time for others, do we? 

There’s so much to do and so much to post to Facebook.

Yet here’s the story of an Ohio student called Mackenzie Mauller. This week, she described a simple day when she pulled up at a Starbucks drive-thru.

Yesterday I bought coffee for the lady behind me at Starbucks.. later in the day I found this is my mailbox. Small acts can make a big difference folks, spread some kindness.

Paying it forward can mean paying it backward, you see.

The letter she received told a story she could have never expected. 

It began: 

Thank you for the coffee! I rarely go to Starbucks and treat myself, but the last couple of months have been a bit of a struggle. My father just passed away and he was also my babysitter. My family and my children have had a really hard time. This morning my babysitter called off sick and I had to take the day off work. I decided to buy my kids breakfast and get myself coffee with total guilt because I am going to become a stay-at-home mom for awhile. 

The words total guilt were underlined. 

The mom continued: 

Since I was not planning on going this route in my life, I was not emotionally and financially prepared to quit working. I cried when I found out you were so sweet to buy my coffee and thrilled to see you in a couple houses down from where I live. I felt it necessary to know that what you did for me was more than just a coffee. It was something that turned my whole day around, put tears in my eyes and a smile on my face and I feel so grateful.

More than just a coffee.

Because we have a lot of assumptive talent, we have no idea what others may be going through.

Faces reveal and mask in equal measure.

Sometimes, a gesture this simple can have a strong and lasting effect, and the mom felt it necessary that Mauller know the effect her gesture had had. 

I asked Mauller, who’s studying flight technology at Kent State University, what made her do what she did. 

“There wasn’t much thought behind it,” she told me. “I just felt like doing something nice.”

She also told me she’s offered to babysit for Mauller.

“She has a babysitter, but if she needs someone I told her I could,” she said.

Mauller’s tweet went, as they say in today’s world. viral. Principally, I suspect, because simple, generous humanity is in rather short supply in our currently fractious world.

Mauller told the mom — Nicole Clawson — about the story now having been enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of people.

This has been such a great learning opportunity for them, on how to treat others, no matter what. They are excited to pay it forward, and treat others with kindness and selflessness.

Oh, I know the business world isn’t built on the twin rocks of kindness and selflessness.

But perhaps if these elements were a little more prominent, more people would enjoy their jobs and even be more productive.

It’s a thought, isn’t it?

?Prometheus, Kubernetes and system monitoring, reaches maturity

Video: What is Kubernetes?

Prometheus, the open-source systems monitoring toolkit usually used with Kubernetes, has graduated from the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF). To move from incubation to graduation, projects must demonstrate thriving adoption, a documented, structured governance process, and a strong commitment to community sustainability and inclusivity. Prometheus has made the grade.

Also: What Kubernetes really is

First built at SoundCloud in 2012, Prometheus became a standalone open-source project and joined the CNCF in 2016 as the second hosted project, after Kubernetes. This systems and service monitoring system collects metrics from configured targets at given intervals, evaluates rule expressions, displays the results, and can trigger alerts if some condition is observed to be true. When used with Kubernetes Prometheus supports service discovery and monitoring of dynamically scheduled services. It’s licensed under theApache 2.

Prometheus boasts the following features.

  • A multi-dimensional data model with time series data identified by metric name and key/value pairs
  • A flexible query language to leverage this dimensionality
  • No reliance on distributed storage; single server nodes are autonomous
  • Time series collection happens via a pull model over HTTP
  • Pushing time series is supported via an intermediary gateway
  • Targets are discovered via service discovery or static configuration
  • Multiple modes of graphing and dashboarding support

This sounds complex, but as Frederic Branczyk, a Red Hat Principal Software Engineer, wrote in a blog posting, “Prometheus is easy to set up as a single, statically linked binary that can be downloaded and started with a single command. In tandem with this simplicity, it scales to hundreds of thousands of samples per second ingested on modern commodity hardware. Prometheus’ architecture is well suited for dynamic environments in which containers start and stop frequently, instead of requiring manual re-configuration. We specifically re-implemented the time-series database to accommodate high churn use cases with short lived time-series, while retaining and improving query latency and resource usage.”

In short, Prometheus is a powerful, open-source system for collecting server metrics. It then stores them in a searchable database. With a highly dimensional data model, you can run queries to slice and dice a collected series of data to generate ad-hoc graphs, tables, and alerts, You can also integrate Prometheus allows with third-party data exporters, such as for Docker, HAProxy, and StatsD.

Also: How to install the Prometheus monitoring system TechRepublic

Branczyk continued, “Nearly as important as the software itself is Prometheus’ low barrier to entry into monitoring, helping to define a new era of monitoring culture. Multiple books have been written by both users as well as maintainers of Prometheus highlighting this shift towards usability, and even the new Google SRE workbook uses Prometheus in its example queries and alerts.” Chris Aniszczyk, CNCF’s COO added, “Since its inception in 2012, Prometheus has grown to become one of the top open-source monitoring tools of choice for enterprises building modern cloud native applications.”

While it’s best known for its use with Kubernetes to monitor containers and microservices on clouds, that’s far from Prometheus only use. For example, Uber uses Prometheus with its newly open-sourced M3 large-scale data metrics program,

Since Prometheus became a CNCF incubation program, its developers have completely rewritten its storage back-end to support high churn and been made more stable. The Prometheus team has also started a documentation push to make it easier to adopt.

“Since becoming part of CNCF, Prometheus has become an incremental piece in modern infrastructure stacks and helped shape the way organizations monitor critical applications,” said Julius Volz, Co-founder of the Prometheus project. “We are incredibly proud to have Prometheus graduate, and we look forward to working with CNCF to sustain and grow our community.”

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Bugs in Mobile Credit Card Readers Could Expose Buyers

The tiny, portable credit card readers you use to pay at farmer’s markets, bake sales, and smoothie shops are convenient for consumers and merchants alike. But while more and more transactions are passing through them, devices from four of the leading companies in the space—Square, SumUp, iZettle, and PayPal—turn out to have a variety of concerning security flaws.

Leigh-Anne Galloway and Tim Yunusov from the security firm Positive Technologies looked at seven mobile point of sale devices in all. What they found wasn’t pretty: bugs that allowed them to manipulate commands using Bluetooth or mobile apps, modify payment amounts in magstripe swipe transactions, and even gain full remote control of a point of sale device.

“The very simple question that we had was how much security can be embedded in a device that costs less than $50?” Galloway says. “With that in mind we started off quite small by looking at two vendors and two card readers, but it quickly grew to become a much bigger project.”

All four manufacturers are addressing the issue, and not all models were vulnerable to all of the bugs. The researchers are presenting their findings Thursday at the Black Hat security conference.

The researchers found that they could exploit bugs in Bluetooth and mobile app connectivity to the devices to intercept transactions or modify commands. The flaws could allow an attacker to disable chip-based transactions, forcing customers to use a less secure magstrip swipe, and making it easier to steal data and clone customer cards.

Alternatively, a rogue merchant could make the mPOS device appear to decline a transaction to get a user to repeat it multiple times, or to change the total of a magstripe transaction up to the $50,000 limit. By intercepting the traffic and clandestinely modifying the value of the payment, an attacker could get a customer to approve a normal-looking transaction that is really worth much more. In these types of frauds, customers rely on their banks and credit card issuers to insure their losses, but magstripe is a deprecated protocol, and businesses who continue to use it now hold the liability.

The researchers also reported issues with firmware validation and downgrading that could allow an attacker to install old or tainted firmware versions, further exposing the devices.

The researchers found that in the Miura M010 Reader, which Square and Paypal formerly sold as a third-party device, they could exploit connectivity flaws to gain full remote code execution and file system access in the reader. Galloway notes that a third-party attacker might particularly want to use this control to change the mode of a PIN pad from encrypted to plaintext, known as “command mode,” to observe and collect customer PIN numbers.

The researchers evaluated accounts and devices used in the US and European regions, since they’re configured differently in each place. And while all of the terminals the researchers tested contained at least some vulnerabilities, the worst of it was limited to just a few of them.

“The Miura M010 Reader is a third-party credit card chip reader that we initially offered as a stopgap and today is used by only a few hundred Square sellers. As soon as we became aware of a vulnerability affecting the Miura Reader, we accelerated existing plans to drop support for the M010 Reader,” a Square spokesperson told WIRED. “Today it is no longer possible to use the Miura Reader on the Square ecosystem.”

“SumUp can confirm that there has never been any fraud attempted through its terminals using the magnetic stripe-based method outlined in this report,” said a SumUp spokesperson. “All the same, as soon as the researchers contacted us, our team successfully removed any possibility of such an attempt at fraud in the future.”

“We recognize the important role that researchers and our user community play in helping to keep PayPal secure,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “PayPal’s systems were not impacted and our teams have remediated the issues.”

iZettle did not return a request from WIRED for comment, but the researchers say that the company is remediating its bugs as well.

Galloway and Yunusov were happy with the proactive response from vendors. They hope, though, that their findings will raise awareness about the broader issue of making security a development priority for low cost embedded devices.

“The kind of issues we see with this market base you can see applying more broadly to IoT,” Galloway says. “With something like a card reader you would have an expectation of a certain level of security as a consumer or a business owner. But many of these companies haven’t been around for that long and the products themselves aren’t very mature. Security isn’t necessarily going to be embedded into the development process.”

More Great WIRED Stories

5 best Chromebooks for school in 2018

I started my “portable” computer life with a 22-pound KayPro II in 1982. Since then, I’ve used IBM and Lenovo ThinkPads, Compaq luggables, Nec Ultralites, Dell XPS 13s, the list goes on and on. These days, my laptop of choice is the Google Pixelbook.

At a starting price of $999, this is not a Chromebook for everyone. But, if you want to make the most not just from Chrome OS, but from Android and Linux as well, it’s your Chromebook.

There are often discounts for the Pixelbook. You can also get a 10-percent discount on the Pixelbook if you’re a student.

At a minimum the Pixelbook comes with a 1.2GHz 7th gen Intel Core 7Y57 processor, 256GB of SSD storage, and 8GB of RAM. Unlike the others, the Pixelbook comes not with a 100GB free Google Drive storage for two years, but 1TB of free storage for two years. That’s a value of almost $240 alone.

The Pixelbook also has Google Assistant, built-in. You can get to it via its own dedicated button on the Pixelbook’s keyboard or by simply saying “OK Google.” It’s context sensitive, so it will open with search results for what you already have on screen.

This luxury-model Chromebook comes with a pair of USB-C ports. One of these, however, is used to power the system up. For Wi-Fi, it uses 802.11ac.

With a battery life of about 10 hours, it won’t last long as some of the others, but then you can do a lot more with it. On my high-end model, I’ve had over 100 tabs open, while running Android and Linux applications.

You sure wouldn’t want to give this Pixelbook to an elementary student, but an advanced high-school or college student would be another matter. The Pixelbook is meant for power users and developers, if that describes your daughter or son, then get them this one. You’ll be glad you did.

Back-to-school tech: More resources

Musk plan to privatize Tesla pushes $2.3 billion of debt above conversion price

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Elon Musk’s suggestion on Tuesday that he would like to take Tesla Inc private may provide something the electric car maker needs: a little debt relief.

FILE PHOTO: Tesla Motors Inc Chief Executive Elon Musk pauses during a news conference in Tokyo September 8, 2014. REUTERS/Toru Hanai/File Photo

The 11 percent jump in Tesla’s stock price following Musk’s public musings on possibly buying the company from existing shareholders drove $2.3 billion of convertible debt past the level at which investors can swap them for stock at a profit.

Tesla shares ended the day at $379.57, within reach of their all-time high and more than 5 percent above the bonds’ conversion price of $359.8676.

“This is great news for any bondholder any way you spin it,” said Ross Gerber, chief executive of Gerber Kawasaki Wealth and Investment Management who owns both the convertibles and the stock.

“Most of these bonds are convertible notes, so we can choose to convert into stock at a huge profit,” he said. “This is a boon for any bondholder at Tesla, because most of the bonds are convertible notes.”

Convertibles give bondholders the right to trade their debt for equity after shares rise over a certain set price.

The $2.3 billion in debt that investors can now take in equity rather than cash removes pressure from the cash-strapped company which has about $9.5 billion in long-term debt, according to its latest financial statements.

After first issuing a tweet that he was mulling the idea of taking Tesla private, Musk on Tuesday said in a letter to employees that he would prefer to run Tesla as a private company to allow it to operate away from the attention it receives due to its notoriously volatile stock price.

While no final decision has been made, he suggested a buyout price of $420 per share.

Investors like billionaire George Soros now have the option to take advantage of Tesla’s recovering share price, as the company’s $920 million convertible bond due in March 2019 passed its $359.8676 conversion rate.

Soros Fund Management LLC took a $35 million stake in the 2019 Tesla convertible bonds in May of 2018.

The company’s $1.38 billion convertible bond due in March 2021 also passed the same conversion rate.

The convertibles have oscillated between being in and out of the money several times over the last year.

They first rose above the conversion price in June 2017 and Tesla’s stock price hit a record high of $389.61 in September last year. The stock then plunged to as low as $244.59 in April as the company struggled to meet production targets for its Model 3 sedan and Moody’s Investors Service cut Tesla’s credit rating deep into junk-bond territory.

Tesla on Aug. 1 reported that it had ended the second quarter with $2.78 billion in cash after spending $610 million in capital expenses, while its negative free cash flow narrowed.

Tesla has been burning through cash as manufacturing problems have thwarted its ability to meet production targets for its Model 3 sedan.

The company also has a $1.8 billion high-yield bonds, which rose to 92 cents on the dollar on Tuesday, up half a cent and the highest since mid-June. Following the Moody’s downgrade, the bond had fallen to as low as 86.25 cents on the dollar. It now yields 6.75 percent versus more than 7.7 percent in early April.

Reporting by Kate Duguid; Editing by Dan Burns and Clive McKeef

Elon Musk says taking Tesla private is 'best path,' shares jump

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Chief Executive Elon Musk said on Tuesday he is considering taking Tesla Inc private in what would be the largest deal of its type, moving the electric car maker out of the glare of Wall Street as it goes through a period of rapid growth under tight financial constraints.

“Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured,” Musk said on Twitter bit.ly/2Om3gn3. At $420 per share, a deal would be worth $72 billion overall.

In a letter to Tesla employees published more than an hour later on the company’s blog here, Musk explained that going private would be “the best path forward.” Such a move – over which no final decision had been made – would let Tesla “operate at its best, free from as much distraction and short-term thinking as possible,” he wrote.

Tesla shares closed up 11 percent at $379.57, slightly below their all-time high.

Asked on Twitter whether Musk would continue to be CEO under such a scenario, he replied there would be “no change.”

Musk has been under intense pressure this year to turn his money-losing, debt-laden company into a profitable higher-volume manufacturer, a prospect that has sent Tesla’s valuation higher than that of General Motors Co.

The company is still working its way out of what Musk called “production hell” at its home factory in Fremont, California, where a series of manufacturing challenges delayed the ramp-up of production of its new Model 3 sedan, on which the company’s profitability rests.

The Silicon Valley company faces a make-or-break moment in its eight-year history as a public company as competition from European automakers is poised to intensify with new electric vehicles from Audi and Jaguar, with more rivals to follow suit next year.

Meanwhile, Tesla has announced plans to build a factory in Shanghai, China, and another in Europe, but details are scarce and funding unknown.

Going private is one way to avoid close scrutiny by the public market as Musk and the company face those challenges. Musk has feuded publicly with regulators, critics, short sellers and reporters, and some analysts suggested that less transparency would be welcomed by Musk.

“Musk does not want to run a public company,” said Gene Munster of Loup Ventures, as Tesla’s ambitious mission makes it “difficult to accommodate investors’ quarterly expectations.”

Musk owns nearly 20 percent of the company. He said in his letter to employees he did not seek to expand his ownership.

A price of $420 per share would represent a nearly 23 percent premium to Tesla’s closing price on Monday, which gave the company a market value of about $58 billion.

In his letter, Musk suggested a choice for shareholders of selling their shares for $420 each or remaining investors in a private Tesla. He said he hoped all current investors would remain were the company to go private.

He made no mention in his tweets nor his letter where the funding for a deal would come from, and the letter did not discuss funding for the plan.

Like any other investor, Musk is beholden to securities laws and several securities attorneys told Reuters he potentially could face lawsuits if it was proven he did not have secure financing at the time of his tweet.

(GRAPHIC-Market value of Tesla, Ford, GM: tmsnrt.rs/2n4mFjh)


If Musk were to succeed in taking Tesla private, it would be the largest leveraged buyout of all time, beating the record set by the $45 billion deal for Texas power utility Energy Future Holdings, which ended in bankruptcy in 2014.

Raising both the debt and equity required for such a deal would be a challenge. Many major Wall Street bankers contacted by Reuters said on condition of anonymity they were not aware of Musk’s plans ahead of his tweets, and several expressed skepticism that a leveraged buyout of Tesla could be financed given the company’s negative cash flow.

“It’s unfathomable to me that anyone would finance the acquisition of such a liability-laden company that is losing so much money and have massive capex requirements going forward,” said Mark Spiegel, portfolio manager of hedge fund Stanphyl Capital Partners, who holds a short position in Tesla and has been a vocal critic of Musk on Twitter.

FILE PHOTO: Elon Musk listens at a press conference following the first launch of a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., February 6, 2018. REUTERS/Joe Skipper/File Photo

The most obvious equity partners for Musk would be a sovereign wealth fund such as Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) or major technology investment funds such as SoftBank Group Corp’s Vision Fund, bankers said.

China’s Tencent Holdings, which took a 5 percent stake in Tesla last year, is another possible partner.

Such foreign sources of capital would be subject to scrutiny by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which looks closely at deals for potential national security risks.

Earlier on Tuesday, a source familiar with the matter said Saudi Arabia’s PIF had bought a minority stake of just below 5 percent in Tesla.


The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission declined to comment on Musk’s tweet, but the agency allows companies to use social media outlets like Twitter to announce key information in compliance with its fair disclosure rules if investors are alerted about which social media outlets will be used.

Tesla alerted investors in a 2013 SEC filing that they should follow Musk’s Twitter feed for “additional information” about the company. There is no reference to Musk’s Twitter account on the company’s investor relation page under “investor communication,” although Tesla’s Twitter feed is included.

In his letter to employees, Musk wrote that, “as the most shorted stock in the history of the stock market, being public means that there are large numbers of people who have the incentive to attack the company.”

A short squeeze is a trading scenario that occurs from time to time in heavily shorted stocks, when bearish traders are forced to buy shares to avoid big losses – something that ends up pushing the stock only higher.

Short interest in Tesla on Tuesday stood at nearly $13 billion, according to S3 Partners, a financial analytics firm.

(GRAPHIC-Tesla shares jump 10 percent, near record high: tmsnrt.rs/2MbzJin)

FILE PHOTO: A Tesla sales and service center is shown in Costa Mesa, California, U.S. June 28, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Reporting by Sonam Rai in Bengaluru, Alexandria Sage in San Francisco, Carl O’Donnell, Liana Baker, David Randall in New York and Pete Schroeder in Washington; editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty, Bill Rigby and Chris Reese

Top 10 Crowdfunding Platforms of 2018

It’s an excellent way to gauge interest since people will only fund what they’re seriously interested in.

However, not all crowdfunding platforms are equal. Each one specializes in a different purpose.

You can choose among 10 of the most popular crowdfunding platforms online as of 2018.


The most popular crowdfunding site on the Internet, Kickstarter has become a household name.

However, it’s more for funding inventions and creative works and not for helping nonprofit organizations or funding your own endeavors without something in return.

Also, you don’t get to keep the money pledged if the kickstarter goal is not reached.


While it tends to play second fiddle to Kickstarter, Indiegogo has a number of advantages its counterpart doesn’t provide.

For instance, Indiegogo has flexible funding that lets you keep the funds you’ve raised, even when you haven’t been able to reach your goal.

It also lets you buy funded products in the platform’s marketplace, so successful projects have another potential source of income.


Another popular crowdfunding platform, Patreon sets itself apart with its subscription model.

Instead of being for straight-up campaigns, this is more for providing ongoing financial support for a creative venture or artist.

There’s also the option to provide content exclusive to patrons who are subscribed to your Patreon through the site itself.


This one is more popular for individuals who need money right away.

You may often see people asking for crowdfunding for short-term projects and medical emergencies in GoFundMe, which is common practice in this platform.


While not as popular as the platforms mentioned above, Crowdrise has garnered attention for its focus on crowdfunding “real-world issues” over funding for-profit ventures.

It can also be used to fund college scholarships, weddings, and even birthday parties.

Due to this mostly socially-conscious objective, GoFundMe took notice and acquired it in early 2017.


If you’re a musician and need a way to cover expenses for things like launching a new album or going on a tour, then PledgeMusic may be good for that.

You can also provide rewards for donors who pledge a certain amount of money, like free digital copy of your music or such.


Like Crowdrise, this platform has its focus on crowdfunding worthy causes, so it’s not really the right platform for businesses and for-profit ventures.

Razoo is great if you’re looking to fundraise for charity.


This one is mostly for venture capital, so businesses and other for-profit ventures can use RocketHub for crowdfunding their startups.

Meanwhile, their ELEQUITY Funding Room lets you pitch your project idea and generate interest, which can then lead to getting advice and even additional funding.


It has a fairly straightforward name, which matches what it’s for.

Crowdfunder lets you sell equity and debt in your business to attract angel investors and venture capitalists to raise money for your projects.

It’s like a regular venture capital program, but with the online infrastructure to raise awareness usually beyond smaller business’ means.


Rather than a website, Give is a WordPress plugin you can install in your blog to help you collect donations from visitors.

However, it’s meant for non-profit ventures only, so it’s not really a “beg for money to pay your rent” type of plugin.

On the other hand, it doesn’t take any fees for collecting donations.

If you’re looking for a way to fund your next unicorn idea, crowdfunding could be the key.

What Do The Best Innovators Do Differently? The Answers Will Surprise You

I’ve never really liked the phrase “innovate or die.” Why not, “finance or die” or “sell or die” or even “manage or die?” Clearly every business function is essential and no organization can survive without building some competency in all of them. In an ultra-competitive business environment, you have to do more than just show up.

What makes great innovators different is that they succeed where most others fail. They not only come up with new ideas, they find ways to make them work and create value for the rest of us. Even more importantly, they are able to do it consistently, year after year, decade after decade.

Over the years, I’ve gotten the opportunity to know many of these extraordinary people and they are all impressive in their own way, but what has struck me is not their differences, but what they have in common. It seems that there are some things that all great innovators share and, even more importantly, they are all things that we can do as well. So there is hope for the rest of us.

1. They Seek Out Problems, Not Ideas

Elance launched as a startup in 1999 to do for freelancers what Monster.com did for full-time positions — create a marketplace to match employers with talent that had the skills they were looking for. It seemed like a great idea, but it turned out to be a total bust and the company soon shifted to developing vendor management software, where it had better success.

The company sold its software business in 2006 and decided to return to the original idea, but focused on a different problem. Instead of merely making matches, it would design algorithms to make engagements more successful. This time it began to gain traction and soon saw its business grow.

The team also began to see more problems it could solve. Freelancers needed to update their skills, so it added training and certification programs. Employers needed to track freelancers internally, so it created private talent clouds. Every new problem it identified led to a new solution and more value created. Elance merged with rival oDesk in 2014 to form Upwork, and continues to thrive to this day.

I found that every great innovator I met had a similar stories. To my surprise, most didn’t have a lot of ideas and the ones they did come up with weren’t necessarily any better than the rest do. What they did have was a passion for solving problems. Some spent years or even decades to solve a single grand challenge. That passion, it seems, is what makes all the difference.

2. They Don’t Shout Eureka!

Another thing I began to notice with the best innovators, those who came up with ideas that truly changed the world, is that when they described their moment of discovery they didn’t recall any excitement. No high-fives. No shouting to the rooftops. No alerting of the media. Nothing like that at all.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m sure that they felt excited, but it was other thoughts that were dominant. Did they get it right? What could they do to validate their findings? Were their other explanations for the data they were seeing? How could they apply these new insights to a bigger problem?

One conversation in particular I remember is with Jim Allison, who developed cancer immunotherapy. When he described his discovery to me he said he “slowly started to put the pieces together.” He didn’t seem to feel brilliant. In fact, he seemed to feel a bit foolish for not noticing where the data was so clearly leading him.

Suffice it to say, nobody else saw it either until Jim pointed it out. In fact, for three years he had to pound the pavement to get anyone to invest in his idea (and that never makes you feel particularly good about yourself). But he saw that as just another problem to be solved and, through sheer will and perseverance, he prevailed. Untold thousands are alive today because he did.

3. They Are Active Collaborators

One of the people I enjoy talking to most is Bernie Meyerson, the Chief Innovation Officer at IBM. Bernie is not only a brilliant scientist in his own right, his position puts him at the nexus of much of the really advanced work being done in a number of fields. If something important is going on, chances are he knows about it. Besides, Bernie is a tremendous amount of fun!

He was also kind enough to write the Forward to my book, Mapping Innovation in which he recounts how he developed the Silicon-Germanium chips that make WiFi Internet connections possible. He explained how at each stage of the development process, they needed to widen the circle to bring in new people with the expertise to take the invention to the next level.

Innovation is never a single event, but a process of discovery, engineering and transformation and those three things almost never happen in the same place. So creating anything that’s truly new and important involves a series of handoffs. Your ability to create and manage those handoffs will, to a large extent, determine your ability to innovate.

Everyone Can Innovate (Which Means That You Can Too)

G.H. Hardy was undoubtedly one of the great mathematicians of the 20th century, but he considered his greatest discovery not a theory, but a person — Srinivasa Ramanujan, the self-taught Indian prodigy. Ramanujan had sent his theories to three great English mathematicians, but it was Hardy — and only Hardy — who was able to see the breathtaking genius beneath the almost indecipherable scrawl.

That’s not to say that Hardy was the only one capable of recognizing Ramanujan’s genius, but he was the only one who took the time to look closely at the humble correspondence of a destitute Indian amateur mathematician. It was his passion, rather than any innate ability, that led him to greatness. In concluding his memoir, Hardy wrote:

The case for my life, then, or for that of any one else who has been a mathematician in the same sense which I have been one, is this: that I have added something to knowledge, and helped others to add more; and that these somethings have a value which differs in degree only, and not in kind, from that of the creations of the great mathematicians, or of any of the other artists, great or small, who have left some kind of memorial behind them.

The truth is that seeking out problems to solve, rigorously checking your facts and actively collaborating with others who can drive an idea forward are all things that anyone can do, but most don’t. Nevertheless, it is those things that set great innovators apart.

What makes the difference is not brilliance or even hard work. Lots of brilliant people work hard and achieve little. It is the passion to contribute something, to add not only knowledge but to the collective well being, that sets great innovators apart.

Ask Ethan: Can We Send A Cassini-Like Mission To Uranus Or Neptune?

Voyager 2 flew by both Uranus (R) and Neptune (L), and revealed the properties, colors, atmospheres, and ring systems of both worlds. They both have rings, many interesting moons, and atmospheric and surface phenomena we’re just waiting to investigate.NASA / Voyager 2

From where we are in the Solar System, looking out at the distant Universe with our powerful ground-based and space-based observatories has given us views and knowledge many of us never thought we’d achieve. But there’s still no substitute for actually traveling to a distant location, as dedicated missions to many of the planets have taught us. Despite all the resources we’ve devoted to planetary science, we’ve only ever sent one mission to Uranus and Neptune: Voyager 2, which only flew by them. What are our prospects for an orbiter mission to those outer worlds? That’s what our Patreon supporter Erik Jensen wants to know, as he asks:

There is a window coming when spacecraft could be sent to Uranus or Neptune using Jupiter for a gravitational boost. What are the constraints on using this but being able to slow sufficiently for entering orbit around the “ice giants”?

Let’s take a look.

While a visual inspection shows a large gap between Earth-size and Neptune-size worlds, the reality is you can only be about 25% larger than Earth and still be rocky. Anything larger, and you’re more of a gas giant. While Jupiter and Saturn have enormous gas envelopes, comprising roughly 85% of those planets, Neptune and Uranus are very different, and should have large, liquid oceans beneath their atmospheres.Lunar and Planetary Institute

The Solar System is a complicated — but thankfully, regular — place. The best way to get to the outer Solar System, which is to say, any planet beyond Jupiter, is to use Jupiter itself to help you get there. In physics, whenever you have a small object (like a spacecraft) fly by a massive, stationary one (like a star or planet), the gravitational force can change its velocity tremendously, but its speed must remain the same.

But if there’s a third object that’s gravitationally important, that story changes slightly, and in a way that’s particularly relevant for reaching the outer Solar System. A spacecraft flying by, say, a planet that’s bound to the Sun, can gain-or-lose speed by stealing-or-giving-up momentum to the planet/Sun system. The massive planet doesn’t care, but the spacecraft can get a boost (or a deceleration) depending on its trajectory.

A gravitational slingshot, as shown here, is how a spacecraft can increase its speed through a gravity assist.Wikimedia Commons user Zeimusu

This type of maneuver is known as a gravity assist, and it was essential in getting both Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 on their way out of the Solar System, and more recently, in getting New Horizons to fly by Pluto. Even though Uranus and Neptune have spectacularly long orbital periods of 84 and 165 years, respectively, the mission windows for getting to them recur every 12 years or so: every time Jupiter completes an orbit.

A spacecraft launched from Earth typically flies by some of the inner planets a few times in preparation for a gravity assist from Jupiter. A spacecraft flying by a planet can get proverbially slingshotted — gravitational slingshot is a word for a gravity assist that boosts it — to greater speeds and energies. If we wanted to, the alignments are right that we could launch a mission to Neptune today. Uranus, being closer, is even easier to get to.

NASA’s flight path for the Messenger probe, which wound up in a successful, stable orbit around Mercury after a number of gravity assists. The story is similar if you want to go to the outer Solar System, except you use gravity to add to your heliocentric speed, rather than to subtract from it. NASA / JHUAPL

A decade ago, the Argo mission was proposed: it would fly-by Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, and Kuiper belt objects, with a launch window lasting from 2015 to 2019. But fly-by missions are easy, because you don’t have to slow the spacecraft down. Inserting it into orbit around a world is harder, but it’s also far more rewarding.

Instead of a single pass, an orbiter can get you whole-world coverage, multiple times, over long periods of time. You can see changes in the atmosphere of a world, and examine it continuously in a wide variety of wavelengths invisible to the human eye. You can find new moons, new rings, and new phenomena that you never expected. You can even send down a lander or probe to the planet or one of its moons. All of that and more already happened around Saturn with the recently-completed Cassini mission.

A 2012 (L) and a 2016 (R) image of Saturn’s north pole, both taken with the Cassini wide-angle camera. The difference in color is due to changes in the chemical composition of Saturn’s atmosphere, as induced by direct photochemical changes.NASA / JPL-Caltech / Space Science Institute

Cassini didn’t just learn about the physical and atmospheric properties of Saturn, although it did that spectacularly. It didn’t just image and learn about the rings, although it did that too. What’s most incredible is that we observed changes and transient events that we never would have predicted. Saturn exhibited seasonal changes, which corresponded to chemical and color changes around its poles. A colossal storm developed on Saturn, encircling the planet and lasting for many months. Saturn’s rings were found to have intense vertical structures and to change over time; they’re dynamic and not static, and provide a laboratory to teach us about planet-and-moon formation. And, with its data, we solved old problems and discovered new mysteries about its moons Iapetus, Titan, and Enceladus, among others.

Over a period of 8 months, the largest storm in the Solar System raged, encircling the entire gas giant world and capable of fitting as many as 10-to-12 Earths inside.NASA / JPL-Caltech / Space Science Institute

There’s little doubt we’d want to do the same for Uranus and Neptune. Many orbiting missions to Uranus and Neptune have been proposed and made it quite far in the mission submission process, but none have actually been slated to be built or fly. NASA, the ESA, JPL, and the UK have all proposed Uranus orbiters that are still in the running, but no one knows what the future holds.

So far, we’ve only studied these worlds from afar. But there is a tremendous hope for a future mission many years from now, when the launch windows to reach both worlds will align at once. In 2034, the conceptual ODINUS mission would send twin orbiters to both Uranus and Neptune simultaneously. The mission itself would be a spectacular, joint venture between NASA and the ESA.

The final two (outermost) rings of Uranus, as discovered by Hubble. We discovered so much structure in the inner rings of Uranus from the Voyager 2 fly-by, but an orbiter could show us even more.NASA, ESA, and M. Showalter (SETI Institute)

One of the major, flagship-class missions proposed to NASA’s planetary science decadal survey in 2011 was a Uranus probe and orbiter. This mission was ranked third priority, behind the Mars 2020 rover and the Europa Clipper orbiter. A Uranus probe-and-orbiter could launch during the 2020s with a window of 21 days every year: when Earth, Jupiter, and Uranus reached the optimal positions. The orbiter would have three separate instruments on it designed to image and measure various properties of Uranus, its rings, and its moons. Uranus and Neptune should have enormous liquid oceans beneath their atmospheres, and an orbiter should be able to discover it for certain. The atmospheric probe would measure cloud-forming molecules, heat distribution, and how wind speed changed with depth.

The ODINUS mission, proposed by the ESA as a joint venture with NASA, would explore both Neptune and Uranus with a twin set of orbiters.ODINUS Team – Mart / http://odinus.iaps.inaf.it

Proposed by the ESA’s Cosmic Vision program, the Origins, Dynamics, and Interiors of the Neptunian and Uranian Systems (ODINUS) mission goes even farther: expanding this concept to two twin orbiters, which would send one to Neptune and one to Uranus. A launch window in 2034, where Earth, Jupiter, Uranus, and Neptune all align properly, could send them both off simultaneously.

Flyby missions are great for first encounters, since you can learn so much about a world by seeing it up close. They’re also great because they can reach multiple targets, while orbiters are stuck at whatever world they choose to orbit. Finally, orbiters have to bring fuel on board to perform burns, slow down, and enter a stable orbit, making a mission much more expensive. But the science you get from remaining long-term around a planet, I would argue, more than makes up for it.

When you orbit a world, you can see it from all sides, as well as its rings, its moons, and how they behave over time. Thanks to Cassini, for example, we discovered the existence of a new ring originating from the captured asteroid Phoebe, and its role in darkening just one half of the mysterious moon Iapetus.Smithsonian Air & Space, derived from NASA / Cassini images

The current limitations on a mission like this don’t come from technical accomplishments; the technology exists to do it today. The difficulties are:

  • Political: because NASA’s budget is finite and limited, and its resources must serve the entire community,
  • Physical: because even with NASA’s new heavy lift vehicle, the uncrewed version of the SLS, we can only send a limited amount of mass to the outer solar system, and
  • Practical: because at these incredible distances from the Sun, solar panels will not do. We need radioactive sources to power a spacecraft this distant, and we may not have enough to do the job.

That last one, even if everything else aligns, might be the dealbreaker.

A Plutonium-238 oxide pellet glowing from its own heat. Also produced as a by-product of nuclear reactions, Pu-238 is the radionuclide used to power deep-space vehicles, from the Mars Curiosity Rover to the ultra-distant Voyager spacecraft.U.S. Department of Energy

Plutonium-238 is an isotope created in the processing of nuclear material, and most of our stores of it come from a time when we were actively creating and stockpiling nuclear weapons. Its use as a radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG) has been spectacular for missions to the Moon, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Pluto and a slew of deep space probes, including the Pioneer and Voyager spacecrafts.

But we stopped producing it in 1988, and our options to purchase it from Russia have dwindled as they’ve stopped producing it, too. A recent effort to make new Pu-238 at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory has begun, producing about 2 ounces by the end of 2015. Continued development there, as well as by Ontario Power Generation, could create enough to power a mission by the 2030s.

A stitching together of two 591-s exposures obtained through the clear filter of the wide angle camera from Voyager 2, showing the full ring system of Neptune with the highest sensitivity. Uranus and Neptune have many similarities, but a dedicated mission could detect unprecedented differences as well.NASA/JPL

The faster you’re moving when you encounter a planet, the more fuel you need to add onto your spacecraft to slow down and insert yourself into orbit. For a mission to Pluto, there was no chance; New Horizons was too small and its speed was far too great, plus Pluto’s mass is quite low to try and do an orbital insertion. But for Neptune and Uranus, particularly if we choose the right gravity assists from Jupiter and possibly Saturn, this could be feasible. If we want to go for just Uranus, we could launch any year during the 2020s. But if we want to go for them both, which we do, 2034 is the year to go! Neptune and Uranus may look similar to us in terms of mass, temperature, and distance, but they may truly be as different as Earth is from Venus. There’s only one way to find out. With a little bit of luck, and a lot of investment and hard work, we may get to find out within our lifetimes.

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'NBA 2K19' Player Ratings: Marvin Bagley III Render And Overall Rating Revealed

Sacramento Kings rookie and No. 2 overall pick Marvin Bagley III will be rated a 78 overall in NBA 2K19 when the game releases on September 11.

MBIII in 2K19Credit: 2K

The 19-year-old big man from Duke averaged 21 points and 11 rebounds in his lone year in college. Bagley helped lead the Blue Devils to the Elite Eight where they fell to the Kansas Jayhawks.

Marvin Bagley 2K19 ratingCredit: 2K

Still, his accomplishments in Durham, North Carolina weren’t enough to produce an overall rating higher than No. 3 pick Luka Doncic. On Friday, we learned Doncic would be receiving a 79 overall.

Last year, No. 2 pick Lonzo Ball was rated a 79 overall and the No. 3 pick Jayson Tatum (another Duke alum) was at a 77.

Obviously, we know Tatum would go on to have a better rookie season than Ball, but it’s a little rare to see the No. 2 pick rated lower than the guy at No. 3. The fact that the gap is two whole points makes it even more eye-popping. Overall, it seems ratings are up across the board and that’s something I’m still trying to understand.

I’m still trying to get an interview with the man in charge of ratings to put the numbers in the proper perspective. At any rate, like every other player in the league, Bagley will have an opportunity to improve his rating over the course of the season.

Last year, Tatum went from a 77 to an 82 by season’s end. Sacramento is hoping they will see a similar spike in productivity and development from their Duke rookie.

I write about sports and video games. I began my career with Bleacher Report in 2010 and I’m now a Forbes Contributor as well as a YouTuber, Twitch streamer and co-host of The Fight Guys podcast, The SimHangout, and my own weekly Q&A AskMazique. I’ve been blessed to make…