No. 524: Space dogs, electric cars and the miracle of Tito Velasquez – you want fries with that?

Nothing to see here: "Hostess" cakes mark an anniversary of sorts today. Look away, dear readers, look away!


Slow and steady: Welcome to Wednesday, dear readers, and over the hump we go.

It’s the dog days, all right, as families take vacations (where possible), back-to-school sales proliferate (where applicable) and we reach the latter half of August, the summer and this latest warm workweek.

Gives you wings: It’s Aug. 19 out there, a.k.a. National Aviation Day, which will make lots of sense when you read the birthdays below.

It’s also the U.N.’s World Humanitarian Day, which of course has taken new meaning through the teeth of the global pandemic.

Serving suggestion: Potatoes are hot today.

Tell me about it, spud: Unconcerned by carbs? Enjoy National Potato Day, you lucky $%&@.

Picture this: You know who liked potatoes? French photography pioneer Louis Daguerre. Actually, we don’t know that – but Daguerre did introduce his breakthrough photography process on this date in 1839.

Snack time: Adding further insult to the injurious existence of the weightwatcher, Brooklyn inventor Gail Borden patented his “Improvement in Concentration of Milk” on Aug. 19, 1856, and entrepreneur William Ward trademarked “Hostess” brand cakes on this date in 1919.

Start your engines: They waved the green flag for the first-ever automobile race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Aug. 19, 1909.

Coincidentally, the first All-American Soap Box Derby – the classic childhood competition where gravity, not motors, provides the drive – rolled out on this date in 1934.

Plant based: The Yankee Rowe Nuclear Plant, back in the day.

Self control: Ultimately decommissioned in 1992, the 185-megawatt Yankee Rowe Nuclear Power Station in Massachusetts – officially, the third U.S. nuclear power plant – achieved its first self-sustaining nuclear reaction on this date in 1960.

ASPCA in spaaace: And it was that same date – Aug. 19, 1960 – when the first animals to ever return safely from space (two dogs, two rats and 40 mice) blasted off aboard the USSR’s Sputnik 5 mission, which would bring the crew home safely a few orbits later.

Alas, they were not the first animals in space: On Nov. 3, 1957, the Soviets launched Sputnik 2, carrying stray Siberian husky Laika into orbit. By design, though, that capsule did not return to Earth, and neither did the dog (booooo).

The Wright stuff: Speaking of space news (kinda), you knew he and big brother Wilbur invented the airplane, but did you know master innovator Orville Wright (1871-1948), who would be 149 years old today, also served on the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, predecessor of NASA?

Tailor, soldier, spy: The complicated Coco Chanel.

Also born on Aug. 19 were French mathematician Pierre Vernier (1584-1638), namesake of the get-down-to-it Vernier scale; English clockmaker Edward Dent (1790-1853), known for remarkable precision; pharmacist Charles Hires (1851-1937), who commercialized root beer; French fashion icon (and Nazi collaborator) Gabrielle Bonheur “Coco” Chanel (1883-1971); American inventor Philo Farnsworth (1906-1971), who significantly advanced electronic television systems; and 42nd U.S. President William Jefferson Clinton (born 1946).

Transcendental plan: And take a bow, Alan Baker – the British mathematician, expert in transcendental number theory and 1970 Fields Medal winner (like a Nobel Prize for math) turns 81 today.

Wish these and all the other Aug. 19 innovators well at – we also gratefully accept news tips, calendar events and, incidentally, transcendental theories.


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Hitting the gas on EVs: A statewide lobbying group bent on reducing fossil-fuel consumption is employing a unique storytelling effort to energize its Electric Vehicle Campaign.

The New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund is seeking electric vehicle owners and lessees willing to share their EV purchasing, leasing and driving experiences. Responses will be collected via email, the league’s Facebook page and the Electric Vehicle Campaign Storytelling Form, which actually replaces a looser storytelling narrative with a more restrictive multiple-choice form – answers accessible only by NYLCVEF staffers – that cuts to the chase on EV ownership.

However the data is submitted and collated, it’s important to the cause, according to the league, which has one eye on November’s elections and makes no bones about its storytelling-project goals. “The purpose of collecting stories is to inspire other drivers to make the change from fossil-fueled cars over to EVs,” the NYLCVEF said in a statement.

Jennifer Cano: This is a job for superlattice.

Sounds simple enough: An assistant professor in Stony Brook University’s Department of Physics and Astronomy has assisted an international team of physicists designing a new multilayer “superlattice” material that safely and efficiently insulates electric currents – a potentially huge breakthrough for energy-efficiency applications.

Jennifer Cano, a researcher based in SBU’s College of Arts and Sciences, joined colleagues from Russia, Germany, Poland and across the United States to explore the “quantum anomalous hall effect,” which involves insulators that conduct currents – without sacrificing any charge – across their surfaces. The collaborative research, led by Physics Professor Lia Krusin-Elbaum of the City College of New York and detailed in a new paper published this week in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Physics, shows great potential for improving energy-efficient technologies.

Cano, who’s also an affiliate associate research scientist at the Flatiron Institute‘s Center for Computational Quantum Physics, explained it simply: “We show that this superlattice is highly tunable through electron irradiation and thermal vacancy distribution, thus presenting a tunable and more robust platform for the QAHE.” All righty then.



All for one: Specialists from across the Northwell Health spectrum united to save Tito Velasquez, who faced death numerous times during his COVID-19 battle.

Working it out: Gyms and fitness centers are reopening across New York State – at least, those meeting Albany’s strict coronavirus guidelines.

Innovation in the Age of Coronavirus: The alleys are open, but the bars are closed – keep up with Long Island’s one-and-only pandemic primer, still going strong.



Disarmed and dangerous: Scientists are losing the COVID-19 information war to disinformation and conspiracy theories – and that can’t happen, warns ZE Creative Communications Senior VP David Chauvin, who offers a communications battle plan to turn the tide.



Go big: What America can learn from Europe about regulating Big Tech. The New Yorker considers.

Go team: With new agility, expanded collaboration and open communication, your post-pandemic team could be stronger than ever. Inc. explores.

Go crazy: Behold, the JackRabbit 2.0, an awkward-looking e-bike that’s just nutty enough to work. Electrek takes a spin.



+ Cecelia Health, a New York City-based med-tech focused on diabetes and chronic-disease management, closed a $13 million Series B funding round co-led by Rittenhouse Ventures and Endo Investors, with participation from Boston Millennia Partners, SustainVC, G100 Capital and others.

+ GoPeer, a Massachusetts-based ed-tech pairing college-student tutors with K-12 students, closed a $2 million seed round led by angel investors Ed Baker, Javier Olivan, Deborah Quazzo, Tom Medrek, Will Weddleton, George Gon and investors at Launchpad Venture Group, among others.

+ Allergy Amulet, a Wisconsin-based tech company developing consumer-side food allergen sensors, raised $3.3 million in seed funding led by TitletownTech (a joint venture of Microsoft and the Green Bay Packers), with participation from Great North Labs, Colle Capital, Great Oaks VC, DeepWork Capital, Dipalo Ventures and Bulldog Innovation Group.

+ Trala, an Illinois-based violin-teaching app, raised $3.5 million in seed funding led by Next Play Ventures, with participation from Techstars Ventures, Lachy Groom, Hyde Park Angels, Phoenix Rising, Blue Titan Ventures, Webb Investment Network and Concrete Rose Capital.

+ Springboard, a California-based, mentor-guided online training platform for in-demand careers, raised $31 million in Series B funding led by new investor Telstra Ventures, with participation from Vulcan Capital, SJF Ventures, Costanoa Ventures, Pearson Ventures, Reach Capital, International Finance Corporation, 500 Startups, Blue Fog Capital and Learn Capital.

+ SpyCloud, a Texas-based fraud prevention and investigation platform, closed a $30 million Series C funding round led by Centana Growth Partners, with participation from Microsoft venture fund M12, Altos Ventures, Silverton Partners and March Capital Partners.



Soylent Green with envy: We can do better, food innovators.

Read up: Fifteen must-read books for every entrepreneur.

Eat up: Even the pandemic can’t stop food innovation.

Look it up: Remembering the little-known patent-protection law that created Google.

Up to date: Nobody understands changing land-use regulations (in the Age of Coronavirus and always) better than Sahn Ward Coschignano, one of the amazing firms that support Innovate LI. Check them out.