Photo by Elizabeth Fraser, U.S. Army

Happy 4th of July

It’s been a brutal year for America and the world on every front, so do take a relaxing respite from the chaos this holiday weekend. Or, dive into the “Securities” archives and (re-)read our original issue “American Civil War 2.0.”

Actually, maybe just enjoy the sun.

We’ll be back with a full issue next week.

Podcast: “Shoving the rocket into space with your bare hands”


The "Securities" podcast. Artwork by Chris Gates

This morning, we published the latest episode of our “Securities” podcast, and it’s an inspiring look at the future of American innovation in space.

SpaceX has grown from nascent dreams of the final frontier into the world’s premier commercial space launch company, with dozens of successful missions that have continually become more and more ambitious. Now, there’s a budding ecosystem of SpaceX alumni who have left the mothership to build their own companies, taking the culture and values they learned and applying it to problems they saw at the front lines of space innovation.

I interview two of those alumni, Laura Crabtree, the co-founder and CEO of Epsilon3, and Will Bruey, the co-founder and CEO of Varda Space (both Lux-backed companies). Laura and Will shared a cube at SpaceX, and are now building software and hardware startups, respectively.

We discuss how SpaceX’s culture shaped their perspectives as entrepreneurs, why they chose different problem areas of space to tackle, how the 2022 financial markets impact their approach to growth, and how they think about company building and the Los Angeles / Southern California hard tech ecosystem.

🔊 Take a listen

Lux Recommends

  • Our scientist-in-residence Sam Arbesman recommends a new research article from Peter Turchin and colleagues published in Science Advances. Turchin has long been known as an historian obsessed with “cliodynamics,” which is a field focused on extraordinarily long-run analyses of societal and cultural evolution. In this latest research paper using extensive data and complexity modeling, he and his co-authors investigated what triggered the growing social complexity of human civilization over the last couple of millennia. The result? “…This analysis identified an unexpectedly simple web of causation, in which the chief drivers of increasing social complexity and scale are agriculture and warfare.”
  • One of our Summer Associates, Zaid Fattah, recommends Dylan Patel’s analysis on “Why America Will Lose Semiconductors.”
  • Sam and I were both fascinated by Wu Peiyue’s story in Sixth Tone on how a single Chinese-langauge Wikipedia editor managed to invent dozens of articles and write millions of fake words on Russian history over a period of 10 years — all without anyone noticing until now. “Eventually, he realized that there was no such thing as the great silver mine of Kashin (which is an entirely real town in Tver Oblast, Russia). Yifan had uncovered one of the largest hoaxes in Wikipedia’s history.”
  • Josh Smith has a great piece in Reuters exploring what the crypto crash means for North Korea’s economy. The DPRK has been hacking for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies for years, and those thefts represent a shockingly high percentage of the country’s liquid currency reserves. With prices dropping rapidly, there could be new economic constraints on North Korea’s nuclear weapons testing program.
  • Sam has been playing around with Craiyon (formerly DALL-E Mini), generating all kinds of fascinating AI art. He recommends this article from Edwin Chen that looks at whether and how well these AI tools can invent children’s books. I found it much better than anticipated.
  • Finally, just for pure, puerile, cynical satisfaction, I enjoyed this scorching Dean Kissick takedown of the aesthetics of NFTs and the broader crypto ecosystem. “Do all the bad artists know that they’re bad? Some must do surely. But NFTs are the first cultural form made by people that are fully aware of how bad it is, and don’t care at all; and aren’t taking an ironic stance, or playing nihilists or anything like that, they just understand the enduring appeal of trash on the internet. They are able to effortlessly produce worse images than anything art has come up with in decades.”

That’s it, folks. Have questions, comments, or ideas? This newsletter is sent from my email, so you can just click reply.