kottke.org posts about Veritasium

The Fastest Maze-Solving Competition On Earth

posted by Jason Kottke   May 26, 2023

Oh this is so nerdy and great: Veritasium introduces us to Micromouse, a maze-solving competition in which robotic mice compete to see which one is the fastest through a maze. The competitions have been held since the late 70s and today's mice are marvels of engineering and software, the result of decades of small improvements alongside bigger jumps in performance.

I love stuff like this because the narrow scope (single vehicle, standard maze), easily understood constraints, and timed runs, combined with Veritasium's excellent presentation, makes it really easy to understand how innovation works. The cars got faster, smaller, and learned to corner better, but those improvements created new challenges which needed other solutions to overcome to bring the times down even more. So cool.

The Longest-Running Evolution Experiment

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 08, 2022

From Veritasium, a video about an experiment in evolution that's been running continuously for more than 33 years.1The LTEE (the E. coli long-term evolution experiment) was started with 12 identical bacterial populations in 1988 and as of early 2020, they have reached 73,500 generations (the equivalent of 1.5 to 2 million years in human generational terms). When you can fast-forward evolution while also preserving past generations (the bacteria can be easily frozen and reanimated), you can discover some surprising things about it.

  1. Well, sort of. As you will learn in the video, the bacteria can be frozen without damaging them or ending the experiment, so the experiment was interrupted for 6 months due to the Covid-19 pandemic. But they're back at it now.