kottke.org posts about nathanmyhrvold

Nathan Myhrvold, cookbook authorNov 17 2009

Nathan Myhrvold, ex-Microsoftie and founder of an invention company called Intellectual Ventures, is also really interested in food, so much so that he's writing a monster cookbook (currently ~1500 pages) about the science of cooking.

In another discovery of culinary heat transfer physics, Dr. Myhrvold said the bulbous shape and black color of Weber grills were wrong. To achieve an even cooking temperature across the cooking grate, the inside of the grill should be vertical and shiny to reflect the heat. That can be fixed by adding an aluminum insert to the grill. "So we have directions for that," Dr. Myhrvold said.

You may remember reading about Myhrvold and IV in Malcolm Gladwell's piece on the nature of invention last year.

Nathan Myhrvold in the northJul 24 2008

Nathan Myhrvold, billionaire polymath, recently wrote a series of three posts for the Freakonomics blog about his trips to Iceland and Greenland.

I'd like to say that global warming was evident during my visit, but that is not really the case. Indeed, [my guide] Salik tells me that he and most Greenlanders are pretty skeptical about it. The local fishing industry used to be based on arctic prawns, but the sea temperature has changed just enough that the prawns are much further north, so now they fish for cod.

But, as Salik points out, this cycle has happened several times in living memory. The same with the glaciers: yes they are retreating, but at least in his area, they have yet to reach the limits that the locals remember them. Objective measurements do show that climate change is happening. Nevertheless I was amused that the locals don't seem to think it is such a big deal.

The photos are worth a look by themselves.

Ideas in the airMay 12 2008

In last week's New Yorker, Malcolm Gladwell talked about inventions, scientific discovery, and how it's possible to "manufacture" ideas.

In 1999, when Nathan Myhrvold left Microsoft and struck out on his own, he set himself an unusual goal. He wanted to see whether the kind of insight that leads to invention could be engineered. He formed a company called Intellectual Ventures. He raised hundreds of millions of dollars. He hired the smartest people he knew. It was not a venture-capital firm. Venture capitalists fund insights -- that is, they let the magical process that generates new ideas take its course, and then they jump in. Myhrvold wanted to make insights -- to come up with ideas, patent them, and then license them to interested companies.

Myhrvold believes that scientific discovery is largely "in the air" and inevitable, not the product of individual genius. Given the thesis of the piece, as Kevin Kelly notes, it's odd that Gladwell tells the story of this new idea as not one that was "in the air" but as stories like these are traditionally told, through the insight of one man, Nathan Myhrvold.

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