The shape of the clean meat industry

I made a story about clean meat on Graph Commons that you can check out here. It’s a bit light as an explainer piece as it took me a while to find a decent, online graph maker.

Graph Commons is a relatively intuitive tool to use. While I was excited about the speed at which I could build the graph, I quickly noticed difficulties between what I envisioned and what this tool offered.

  • It’s difficult to create clustering based on your choice of features e.g. food product or investors
  • Nodes have categories, the highest level of grouping, and properties which can provide additional information. You can’t color nodes based on their property.
  • Their story feature is shaped around slides and zooming in on sections of the graph. You can’t have a story where the graph is built (through animation) alongside a main body of text. A good example of this would be where the media supports the text.

Still, Graph Commons may be a good tool to draft a graph and export the data to a more customizable tool.

On the general idea of incorporating graphs into storytelling, it’s much more feasible to have it manually authored rather than computer generated. Although the most useful form of the tool might be a browser extension that generates a graph as you read an article, that’s difficult. Automatically generating graph networks based on text is an ongoing (read: unsolved) research field for knowledge representations in artificial intelligence. On the hand, having the author create the graph and its animation alongside the article is a natural extension of curating a story into an article, creating a graphical structure alongside a textual one. The trade-off is that requires more work on the author’s part. This additional work may be offset if the author considers it a valuable tool to use while they’re crafting the story.

Research Funding at MIT

In 2018, MIT spent $731 million through research expenditures. A large portion of the money came from federal sources like the Departments of Defense, Energy, Health as well as NASA and the National Science Foundation. Within the $731M, $144M came from industry sources like IBM, Google, Lockheed Martin, Exxon Mobil, Wal-Mart, Toyota, and Capital One to name a few.

I got curious in MIT’s funding sources when Fossil Free MIT campaigned for the school to divest its endowment from fossil fuels and President Reif declined. Among the possible reasons for his decision, I wondered what MIT had to lose financially. Two potential reasons that stood out were career opportunities for students and research funding. Showing the first with a counterfactual would be difficult, and I was more interested in the second scenario. I found that the data published in the Brown Book could go a long way towards answering my question.

(The Brown Book is not a public document so I will share aggregate values, not sponsor level values on this post. See the note at the end and stay tuned for more this semester.)

While the analysis is still ongoing, here’s what I’ve found for 2017: about $720M of sponsored research funding was spent that year by the report was made. If 20% came from industry like it did in 2018, $144M of industry funding was spent. By a manual search for companies whose business is predominately fossil fuel energy, MIT spent $21.2M of fossil fuel money, or 14.7% of industry funding.

Total pie area represents approximately $21 million.

It would be a logical jump to say that 14.7% is a good or bad number. Each company has varying levels of commitment to sustainability as well as their history with acknowledging climate change. Additionally, one caveat is that although the money comes from profits derived from fossil fuels, the research may in fact be for clean energy. To find out, analysis into other documents published in the Brown Book is necessary (but hasn’t been done yet).

Other analysis I’m incorporating is look where the money flows to within MIT at the departmental (or similar) level as well as gender.

Made in Tableau

The focus of funding in the chemical and mechanical engineering is logical. The null values in the figure arise from faculty that I haven’t been able to assign into a department using an automated tool that searches MIT’s online directory. This prevents me from putting the values in the figure above into context of the respective department’s spending.

My larger goal is to create a financial transparency tool via interactive data visualizations accessible to all of MIT. I’d be curious to hear what other kinds of analysis you’d like to see or better ways to convey the narrative in the visualizations.

Climate Delayism

Climate change is an issue that needs to be addressed now.

Global greenhouse gas emissions need to start declining now to reach the 2°C goals to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

Source: Climate Action Tracker

195 of 196 state parties signed the 2015 Paris Agreement with the aim of “Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change” [1].

Although communication of climate science has been able to refute falsehoods used by denialists, a new group of “climate delayers” is trying to forestall regulation by downplaying the urgency of climate change and role of regulation.

The Cato Institute, a well-funded think tank with a history of climate change misinformation, claims that there is “ample time” to develop technologies necessary for emissions reduction.

Climate delayers may make similar claims to stall progress on climate change in order to maintain their (or rather their anonymous funders’) profits. For example, the Cato Institute was founded in part by Charles Koch, whose wealth largely originated from oil refining and chemicals.

Boeing 737 Max 8

Lion Air Flight 610 crashed on October 29, 2018. All 189 passengers and crew died.
Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed on March 10, 2019. All 157 passengers and crew died.

No photo description available.

(For some reason the embed for original post isn’t working)
Facebook’s translation:

March 10, 2019-my lucky day
Running to catch flight et 302 Addis Ababa – Nairobi, which crashed 6 minutes after taking off, I had my nerves because there was no one to help me go fast. I lost it for two minutes, when I arrived, the boarding was closed and I watched the last passengers in tunnel go in – I screamed to put me in but they didn’t allow it. In fact, the flight lost it because I didn’t give a suitcase (otherwise they would expect me for 10-15 minutes or more, because finding a suitcase loaded wants at least 40 minutes). Also, as I learned later, I lost her because I came out first and very quickly from the plane and the connection ambassador who came to receive me didn’t find me

Airport people, kind, promoted me to the next flight that would leave at 11:20, they apologized for the inconvenience and transferred me to a nice lounge for the-waiting.

On 10:50, as we joined the next flight, two security officers informed me that for security reasons that a senior officer will explain to me, they will not allow my boarding. In my intense protests they left no margin of discussion and led me to their superior, to the airport police department.

He told me gently not to protest and say thank you to God, because I am the only passenger who did not enter the flight et 302 which is missing. And that this was why they can’t let me go, until I determine who I am, because I didn’t get on the flight and everything. At First I thought he was lying, but his style left no margin of doubt.

I felt the ground lost under my feet, but I came back in 1-2 seconds because I thought something else would happen, some communication problem maybe. People were kind, they asked that they had to ask, they my elements and let me wait.

They made me sit in a living room and they told me to wait there until they warn me.

I was looking on the internet to find elements for the flight, friends from Nairobi informed me that 30 minutes after the expected time had not landed and there was no information about her luck and suddenly all the wifi of the airport.

Fortunately there are sms – from close friend I learned that the flight crashed almost just took off and that the issue was going out in the Greek media.

Then I realized that I must immediately contact my own people and tell them that I was not in and that for two small random circumstances I lost the flight – the moment I made that thought i collapsed because then exactly I realized how lucky I stood.

This text I wrote to manage my shock. I’m posting it because I want to tell everyone that the invisible and, nēmatídia of fortune, the out-of-plan circumstances knit the web in which our life is taken. It’s millions of small threads we almost never feel – but one to break is enough to feed the whole web instantly.

Really, it’s the first time I’m so glad I wrote a post and I’m grateful to live and that I have so many friends that made me feel their love – kisses to all and a warm thank you for your touching support. Special citation reference for early surgery and support to Jeroen Par Dijk Panos Fragiadakis Haris Kamariotakis and a big sorry to my family for the shock you’ve been looking for.

Maybe not too old to rock n roll – but certainly too young to die…

Sunday 10/3/2019, 13:00 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

(the post went up from Nairobi to which I finally arrived)

Both planes were Boeing’s 737 MAX 8, which flew its first commercial flight between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore on May 22, 2017.

Source: Airways

Boeing was optimistic about its new plane even after the Lion Air crash.

Since Sunday’s crash, many countries have responded quickly by grounding all of their 737 Max 8’s. Here are snapshots from around the world. In India…

In China…

When government has been slow to react, customers and travel agents are taking matters into their own hands.

And, from the US…

Here’s NYTimes’ flight map of existing routes flown by the 737 Max 8.

Source: NYTimes

For good measure, let’s toss in news about Trump:

Do we bridge the divide?

In the recently published book, Educated, Tara Westover writes about her experience of how education exposed to her immensity of the world after having grown up in an isolated community with her family. As a child growing up in Idaho, she never saw a doctor and didn’t learn about the Holocaust or the civil rights movement until college. Our perception of the world is filtered by what (we think) we know. Besides formal education, our knowledge can come from observation, experience, friends, family, and media. Of those, media is what private individuals and organizations can control. The power to control what we think is the reason that Maggie Hughes, a graduate student at the MIT Media Lab, believes “media has an immense amount of power”.

That power has been twisted and abused worldwide, leading to the popularly used term fake news. Although still rampant, knowledge of its prevalence is spreading through stories about Russia, China, climate change, the alt-right, online advertisements, and much more. One way to defend against misinformation is to know who publishes it. An analysis from 2018 by ad fontes media plots news source by partisanship and factfulness. Although one may disagree on exactly what source is considered neutral, it shows that as partisanship increases, so does fabricated information.

Source: ad fontes media

Another way to blunt the effects of disinformation is to encourage self-reflection of biases. Maggie works in the Laboratory for Social Machines which has the mission to “conduct analyses and build tools that promote deeper learning and understanding in human networks”. This results in projects such as the Electome, which analyzed Twitter for the popularity of campaign issues during the 2016 election, and Social Mirror, an interactive visualization to help twitter users identify the political polarization of their network. A third way to fight fake news is to change how news is made. Maggie has been working on a project to enable communities to create their own news and take control of their portrayal in the media. She hopes that this will build empathy between social groups that might be suspicious of each other.

At the same time, she’s “skeptical about the desire to bridge or to bring people together [because] … what’s the halfway point between moral and immoral”. Maggie clarified that statement, “not to say everyone on the right is immoral”, which was reminiscent of Hilary Clinton’s comment describing Trump supporters as a “basket of deplorables”. The sentiment of finding the halfway point echoes the concept of journalistic objectivity. It’s important to show both sides of the story, but if one is clearly wrong, it doesn’t deserve equal credibility.

When thinking about the oft-discussed social divisions in the United States today, one question to ask is, what are we fundamentally divided on? Is it something irreconcilable like slavery was in the 19th century, which was one cause for the American Civil War? Or, is it a litany of issues including immigration, equal rights for women/minorities/LGBTQ, taxes, economic opportunity, and anti-establishmentism? Are our dividing issues something that we could discuss and work together towards an agreeable outcome? If not, what’s next?

Seiji Engelkemier

(Since I didn’t submit a bio earlier, here’s one now.)

Hi, I’m Seiji Engelkemier. I’m interested in working on renewable energy generation and storage as well as other issues relevant to climate change. To that end, I’m a senior studying mechanical engineering with a concentration in energy (and minor in energy studies). Since I’ve been at MIT, I’ve worked on projects involving evaporative cooling, mycelium, silkworms, algae, and thermal power plants.

While I don’t have a background in journalism or news, I’m interested in learning more about the field as well as hearing from people with firsthand experience. I found about this class because I talked to Prof. Zuckerman about an interactive financial transparency tool (targeted for institutions) that I’m currently building. It uses data visualizations to illuminate relationships found in financial data.

Posted in Bio

BetterMIT Innovation Challenge (4 Hour Challenge)

By: Seiji Engelkemier

Start: 12:10 pm
End: 4:07 pm

On Sunday February 24th, MIT community members consisting of undergraduates, graduates, and employees presented their ideas to improve MIT to a panel of three judges. The participants’ ideas included websites to help students develop intuition for p-set problems, creating a hands-on volunteering room, and expanding capabilities of online learning platforms. These ideas were pitched for the semi-final stage of the weeklong BetterMIT Innovation Design Challenge.

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Seiji’s Media Diary

Timetable summary of my media intake organized by method: laptop, phone, or in person

I kept track of my media consumption on Google Keep for the past week and summarized it with a timetable. This past week, I’ve mostly been working on a research project, so I didn’t spend much time reading articles – my primary method of staying up to date. My time outside of class, homework, and human interaction was primarily reading MATLAB and Python documentation. I was mostly surprised that most of my world news comes from NYTimes’ daily briefing. It had me thinking about the trade off between being able to get my attention with phone notifications versus the information bandwidth, which enables deep dives, limited by screen size.