Nobel Laureate Frances Arnold in Chemistry

xyo Today (3 Oct 2018) I woke to news of Caltech’s Frances Arnold winning the Nobel Prize in Chemistry (along with 2 others) for evolution research. Around 9am I went to the chemistry main office at Caltech. In the corridor outside the Chair’s office is a wall with photos of 4 previous Nobel Laureates in chemistry from Caltech. Grubbs. Marcus. Zewail. Pauling. The photos are in a row across the wall.

Alas there is no room for a 5th photo. 🙁

I entered one of the offices and spoke to an administrator. I pointed in the direction of the corridor wall and said “You’ve got a problem with that wall.”

She laughed and immediately replied “We’re on it!”

Damn! I wanted to be the first to tell her. But even at 9am, someone else at Caltech had already twigged to it. People are sharp on campus.

Dubious XYO

Today I came across XYO, another crypto startup with dubious claims. (I am sure you are surprised at the concept.) They are in San Diego and say that they combine location and blockchain. Along with the use of an eponymous token. And yes in Feb 2018 they published an article in Medium. See the pretty diagram in page describing their components.

I went to their website and looked at their tech page. See what it says –


“Sorta like GPS, minus the government monopoly”?? Say what??

If you read their whitepaper, they USE GPS. Here is a direct quote – “ XY’s Bluetooth and GPS devices allow everyday consumers to place physical tracking beacons on the things they want to keep track of”. This is not magic. They have a software layer with 4 impressively named parts (see the figure in the Medium article). But none of those actually determine the location of themselves or anything else.

What they are doing on their website is take advantage of the ignorance and bias of some visitors. (Not you eh?) They play up a supposed libertarian ethos that says government and monopoly are bad, as personified by GPS. This is misleading. They need GPS to find locations.

There is more. See this page from a company called Decentric –


See “network that isn’t reliant on GPS”. This is a lie. XYO’s network, as explained above, depends on and sits on top of GPS.

If you want to know more, see a pretty article by Mick West that goes into further gory details. He also points out that Decentric and XYO are tight indeed. They are in the same building. Both are startups. A cynical person (you?) might wonder that they are practically the same firm.

Oh did I forget, XYO has tokens for sale. How encouraging.

Crypto Thermidor

The Thermidor is the period in the French Revolution when radicals fed upon themselves to become ever more fanatical. Laggards were denounced and executed. I was reminded of this in February 2018 at a Blockchain conference in Los Angeles. Speaker after speaker declaimed the limitless glories of blockchain, with attendant requisite ICOs as the enablers. One speaker in particular discussed recent actions by governments to restrict access to cryptocurrencies and ICOs. He said anyone should be free to invest and bear the risks. The (US) government should not intervene.


Say what? If you buy a car with air bags, you have to take the word of the seller that the bags work. Few of us have the ability to check before purchase. If the bags fail in a collision whose fault is it? Yours or the seller or the manufacturer? This is not hypothetical. Takata who makes air bags just settled a big suit over defective bags and several deaths. The point is that the government sets rules in place to assign responsibility. Sellers and makers have an obligation to accurately describe their products.

By most unfortunate unhappy coincidence, the next day Bitcoin came out with an analysis of 902 ICOs that happened in 2017. Just by the 2nd month of 2018. 46% of the ICOs had already failed?! Wow. From fast fraud, where after an ICO ended, the sponsors vanished, to slow fraud, where they put dummy progress reports and then gradually wound down the purported development of the custom blockchain. Plus a third case, where there was a genuine effort but futile.

Kudos to Bitcoin for the survey. It does not mean that 54% of the 2017 ICOs were successful. They fully expect, and so should you, that more will fail with time.

I make this prediction. By March 2019, if another survey is made, 90% or more of the 2017 ICOs will have flopped.

There is 1 caveat. Perhaps my estimate of 90% is too pessimistic. The Bitcoin article pointed out that most of the ICOs occurred in the second half of 2017, both in the number of ICOs and the amounts raised. It could be that honest startups who bulked up on a lot of (real) money may have longer runway if they are careful about the burn rate. Maybe it will take 2 years after 2017 for the statistics to be finalised.

Dead Crypto Meetups

Want to see symptoms of fading cryptocurrencies? Meetup had hundreds of blockchain and crypto groups formed worldwide. In Los Angeles many have shut down. Twenty at last count (September 2018). This list shows the groups and when they closed.

DTLA Blockchain ICO Development — Dec 2017

Blockchain, cryptocurrency & startup networking in Hollywood — Jan 2018

Los Angeles Crypto Currency Meetup — Mar 2018

Bitcoin, Blockchain, and Cryptocurrency Workshop — May 2018

Falcon Horst Advanced Blockchain — Jun 2018

Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Wealth — Jun 2018

making360: Blockchain + XR (VR/AR/MR)–Jun 2018

North Hollywood Blockchain/Cryptocurrency/Fintech Meetup–Jun 2018

CryptoStache Bitcoin & Cryptocurrency Club — Jul 2018

LA Elastos Meetup — Blockchain, Cryptocurrency, Fintech — Jul 2018

Los Angeles IOTA Meetup — Jul 2018

Crypto Salon — Jul 2018

Inland Empire area Burstcoin Crypto 2.0 community Meetup — Jul 2018

Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs)- Deal Makers — Aug 2018

China CryptoCurrency Business Opportunity and Tech Meetup — Aug 2018

CryptoCurvy — Aug 2018

BitClub Network Southern California — Aug 2018

Bitcoin Blockchain Technology — Aug 2018

Bit-Social LA — Sept 2018

BTC Blockchain, Tea and Conversations — Sept 2018

I suspect a similar list for New York or San Francisco would be longer. The year is not over yet. But at the grass roots level, this does not look good for crypto. Are some of you regretting the coins you bought at ICOs?

Check out This site lists some 700 defunct coins. From scams to where products were made but died out of lack of interest.

Remember this. The proponents of crypto keep saying much is happening and everything is changing. So far the evidence is otherwise.

Dubious Greeneum

Electrical Grid

Recently at a startup event in Silicon Beach (Los Angeles) I came across a flyer from Greeneum. This is a blockchain startup which claims to have a new way to connect producers and consumers of electricity throughout the world. It pushes all the trendy buttons for a blockchain startup. But crucially it appears bogus. See the above closeup figure about “a single global blockchain”. This riffs off the bitcoin and ethereum global blockchains, while the “eum” in Greeneum explicitly evokes ethereum.

Greeneum Brochure Cover

What’s the problem? Power transmission losses. Wikipedia gives an example of a 160km line carrying 1GW that has losses of 1%. Specifically, there is no significant electrical transmission between North America and Asia or Europe. Suppose a producer in Wichita sends power to a buyer in Denver and this gets into a record in the Greeneum global blockchain. Someone in Paris or Shanghai who verifies the blockchain in order to trade in Europe or Asia will end up verifying that US record. Totally unnecessary.

Read more

Smartphone Innovation Slowing ?

Smartphone Innovation Graphs

Game over for smartphones? There are ominous implications for tech. Figure 1 is the patent applications received by the US Patent and Trademark Office and the patents granted, with the phrase mobile device. From 2005 to 2015. Each year for a 12 month period, from 19 June of the previous year to 18 June of the labelled year.

Figure 2 is for smartphone. Smaller numbers than Figure 1 because a smartphone is a type of mobile device.

The figures are consistent. First, applications peak in 2013 for mobile device and in 2014 for smartphone. Now see patents. The falloff is far more dramatic, especially in 2015, where there was an utter collapse. Why?

Read more

A Trilingual Pun

Demi Moore Vanity Fair

The cover is famous. Demi Moore in her third trimester. Alas the editors missed the chance of a lifetime for a trilingual pun. The title is More Demi Moore. It should have been Sesqui More.

Why? Three languages are used. Demi is Greek for half. Replace this by Sesqui, which is Latin for one and a half. Moore becomes the English More, for extra. The title now means one and a half extra. Looking at her condition and granting some literary licence, you can see this.

Why is this a pathetic fallacy? It is the idea that a person’s mood is reflected by and indeed causes his surroundings. A man is depressed and walking outside. The weather is gloomy. The fallacy is that this mere mortal’s mind can affect the nature around him. See again the cover and use the title Sesqui More. Or indeed use Demi More. (Half extra.) In either case, she and her name are the same thing. A rare and temporary coincidence of her gravid condition. If we conflate her name with her mood and herself with nature, then we get a nice analog of the usual pathetic fallacy.

Use Hackathons to improve your career


Hackathon ParticipantsIf you are a programmer, engineer, graphics designer, or business person, consider attending hackathons to improve your career. Most attendees just go for the prizes. Few are aware of this more important aspect. If you live in a large city you can attend 4 hackathons a year. You invest 4 weekends and often at no cost. Most are free, and they feed you. For that small investment, you add half a page to your resume by writing concise summaries of what you did. In a regular full time job, it can take years to make half a page of task descriptions. So hackathons are a highly leveraged investment.

There is much more. Often if you send your resume to a large firm, they run it thru a keyword check of their keywords. The higher the number of keywords in your resume, the greater the chance you meet their needs and thus the likelier they call you for an interview. But when you go to hackathons, you work on different projects. Just writing these up gives you more keywords and thus the chance of meeting the requirements of a new job.

Read more