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Computer Scientists Find a Key Research Algorithm's Limits

By Nick Thieme
The most widely used technique for optimizing values of a math function turns out to be a fundamentally difficult computational problem.

Would the Free Guy Inflatable Bubble Protect a Real Person?

By Rhett Allain
In the movie’s video game world, a whole-body airbag protects Ryan Reynolds as he falls off of a building and onto a car. Would that … work?

How Big Data Carried Graph Theory Into New Dimensions

By Stephen Ornes
Researchers are turning to the mathematics of higher-order interactions to better model the complex connections within their data.

How to Ace Physics Class (Even if You Don’t Ace Physics)

By Rhett Allain
It’s back-to-school season, so here are some tips on getting the most out of college science courses.

Insight Partners leads $30M round into Metabase, developing enterprise business intelligence tools

By Christine Hall

Open-source business intelligence company Metabase announced Thursday a $30 million Series B round led by Insight Partners.

Existing investors Expa and NEA joined in on the round, which gives the San Francisco-based company a total of $42.5 million in funding since it was founded in 2015. Metabase previously raised $8 million in Series A funding back in 2019, led by NEA.

Metabase was developed within venture studio Expa and spun out as an easy way for people to interact with data sets, co-founder and CEO Sameer Al-Sakran told TechCrunch.

“When someone wants access to data, they may not know what to measure or how to use it, all they know is they have the data,” Al-Sakran said. “We provide a self-service access layer where they can ask a question, Metabase scans the data and they can use the results to build models, create a dashboard and even slice the data in ways they choose without having an analyst build out the database.”

He notes that not much has changed in the business intelligence realm since Tableau came out more than 15 years ago, and that computers can do more for the end user, particularly to understand what the user is going to do. Increasingly, open source is the way software and information wants to be consumed, especially for the person that just wants to pull the data themselves, he added.

George Mathew, managing director of Insight Partners, believes we are seeing the third generation of business intelligence tools emerging following centralized enterprise architectures like SAP, then self-service tools like Tableau and Looker and now companies like Metabase that can get users to discovery and insights quickly.

“The third generation is here and they are leading the charge to insights and value,” Mathew added. “In addition, the world has moved to the cloud, and BI tools need to move there, too. This generation of open source is a better and greater example of all three of those.”

To date, Metabase has been downloaded 98 million times and used by more than 30,000 companies across 200 countries. The company pursued another round of funding after building out a commercial offering, Metabase Enterprise, that is doing well, Al-Sakran said.

The new funding round enables the company to build out a sales team and continue with product development on both Metabase Enterprise and Metabase Cloud. Due to Metabase often being someone’s first business intelligence tool, he is also doubling down on resources to help educate customers on how to ask questions and learn from their data.

“Open source has changed from floppy disks to projects on the cloud, and we think end users have the right to see what they are running,” Al-Sakran said. “We are continuing to create new features and improve performance and overall experience in efforts to create the BI system of the future.

 

Animals Can Count. How Far Does Their Number Sense Go?

By Jordana Cepelewicz
Crows recently demonstrated an understanding of the concept of zero. It’s only the latest evidence of animals’ talents for numerical abstraction.

The Physics of Johnny Knoxville, Human Cannonball

By Rhett Allain
'Jackass Forever' is back with more dumb stunts. Please: Only try the physics at home.

Gymnasts Make the Wolf Turn Look Easy. Physics Shows It’s Not

By Rhett Allain
The spin seems simple if you’re just watching it on TV. But it’s a complex move that requires understanding your center of mass.

A Failed Star Called 'The Accident' Puzzles Astronomers

By Jonathan O'Callaghan
The brown dwarf isn't a star and it's not a planet. But it's illuminating the murky borderlands that separate the two.

Calendly CEO Tope Awotona is joining us at Disrupt 2021

By Jordan Crook

It all seems so simple. Instead of the dreaded back-and-forth on email, what if there was a solution that helped two parties (or multiple parties) schedule a call or a hangout?

Calendly was born out of that question. Today, the company is worth more than $3 billion, according to reports, and has more than 10 million users. The growth of the product is insane, with more than 1,000% growth from last year.

But that kind of success doesn’t come without hard work and dedication.

To hear more about the journey from bootstrapped to billions, Calendly founder and CEO Tope Awotona will join us at Disrupt this September.

P.S. Early Bird Tickets to Disrupt end today, Friday, July 30. Book your tickets now! 

Awotona put his entire life savings into Calendly and managed to bootstrap it for years before taking a $350 million funding round led by OpenView and Iconiq.

We’ll chat with Awotona about the early days of Calendly, how he navigated the hyper-growth phase, what made him choose to finally take institutional funding, his thoughts on pricing and packaging, and much more.

Awotona joins an incredible roster of speakers, including Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, Mirror’s Brynn Putnam, Chamath Palihapitiya, Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield and more. Plus, Disrupt features the legendary Startup Battlefield competition, where startups from across the globe compete for $100,000 and eternal glory.

Disrupt’s virtual format provides plenty of opportunity for questions, so come prepared to ask the experts about the issues that keep you up at night.

One post can’t possibly contain all of Disrupt’s events. Don’t miss the epic Startup Battlefield competition, hundreds of early-stage startups exhibiting in the Startup Alley expo area, special breakout sessions — like the Pitch Deck Teardown — and so much more.

TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 offers tons of opportunities. Don’t miss out on the first one — buy your Disrupt pass today, July 30, by 11:59 pm (PT) for less than $100. It’s a sweet deal!

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt 2021? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

Connected car insurance startup Flock raises $17M Series A led by Chamath Palihapitiya

By Mike Butcher

Cast your mind back to that scene in Minority Report where all those autonomous cars are whizzing through the city. The more practically-minded of you may well have gone: “Yeah, but what about the insurance…?”.

Among the startups building the on-demand, connected insurance world for the vehicles of tomorrow right now are UK-based Zego which has raised $201.7 million. Another is Flock.

Emerging from an academic project to look at drones, Flock shifted into providing drones insurance then commercial vehicle insurance. The twist is that it hooks into the telematics of cars so that the vehicle only triggers insurance cover when it’s actually moving, not when it’s sitting on the lot, incapable of causing any accidents.

Flock has now raised $17 million in a Series A funding led by Social Capital, the investment vehicle run by Chamath Palihapitiya, best known as a SPAC investor and Chairman of Virgin Galactic. Flock’s existing investors Anthemis and Dig Ventures also participated. This round brings Flock’s total funding to $22 million. Justin Saslaw (Social Capital’s Fintech Partner) joins Flock’s Board of Directors as does Ross Mason (Founder of Dig Ventures & MuleSoft).

Ed Leon Klinger, CEO of Flock said: “Transportation is changing faster than ever, but the traditional insurance industry can’t keep up! The proliferation of electric cars, new business models such as ridesharing, and the emergence of autonomous vehicles pose huge challenges that traditional insurers just aren’t equipped for.”

He added: “Modern fleets need an equally modern insurance company that moves as fast as they do. Commercial motor insurance is a $160Bn market, crying out for disruption. The opportunity ahead of us is enormous.”

In a statement Chamath Palihapitiya, CEO of Social Capital said: “Flock is bridging the gap between today’s insurance industry and tomorrow’s transportation realities. By using real-time data to truly understand vehicle risk, Flock is meeting the demands of our rapidly evolving, hyper-connected world. Flock has the potential to help unlock and enable a truly autonomous world, and even save lives. We’re excited to be a part of their journey.”

Speaking to me over a call, Klinger outlined how the company had hit a sweet spot by hooking into Telematics APIs for cars, or by doing special integrations with existing providers and OEMs: “We’ve built our own integrated approach whereby we partner with some and we build bespoke integrations with them. Often they are not as advanced as others. So we’ll either use our integration platform or or we’ll use their approach. We’re highly flexible. The core value proposition at Flock is its flexibility, so we don’t force our own integration approach.”

The Incredible Physics of Simone Biles' Yurchenko Double Pike

By Rhett Allain
Calculating angular velocity and the moment of inertia isn’t quite as hard as competing in the Olympic gymnastics tournament—but it’s pretty darn tough.

What Causes Gamma-Ray Bursts? Their 'Afterglows' Hold Clues

By Jonathan O'Callaghan
These high-energy explosions, brighter than billions and billions of suns, have recently been tracked for days, upending ideas about the cataclysms that create them.

Mathematicians Prove a 2D Version of Quantum Gravity Works

By Charlie Wood
In three towering papers, a team of mathematicians has worked out the details of Liouville quantum field theory, forging a bridge between math and physics.

No, Covid-19 Vaccines Won't Make You Magnetic. Here's Why

By Rhett Allain
No matter how many videos you’ve seen of people sticking spoons to their faces, that’s just not how magnets work.

The Mystery at the Heart of Physics—That Only Math Can Solve

By Kevin Hartnett
The full picture of quantum field theory has long eluded physicists. Calling in mathematicians will have profound consequences for both fields.

What Makes Quantum Computing So Hard to Explain?

By Scott Aaronson
Before we can even begin to talk about these computers' potential applications, we need to understand the fundamental physics behind them.

A New Way to Shape Metal Nanoparticles—With a Magnetic Field

By Karmela Padavic-Callaghan
Making the tiny nanoparticles used in everything from electronics to paint isn't easy. But a new experiment creates order out of chaos.

Will a Volcanic Eruption Be a Burp or a Blast?

By Robin George Andrews
Scientists have begun to decipher the seismic signals that reveal how explosive a volcanic eruption is going to be.

You Need to Weigh Some Water. All You’ve Got Is a Paper Clip

By Rhett Allain
OK, so you might need a couple other supplies, but your best option is to do what MacGyver would do: Turn it into a scale.
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