Tag Archive | SCIENCE!

My hero today is whoever made the call to totally sidestep the phrase “nu variant”

All COVID news in here. If you don’t want to read anything depressing this evening, maybe open the first link, but skip all the others.

March 16: “…the authors find evidence of fairly significant change, but all before the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 in humans. This means that the ‘generalist’ nature of many coronaviruses and their apparent facility to jump between hosts, imbued SARS-CoV-2 with ready-made ability to infect humans and other mammals, but those properties most have probably evolved in bats prior to spillover to humans.

May 27: “Isabella had felt like a bit of a black sheep in her conservative, COVID-flippant family. Even so, she was shocked when she found out that her great-aunt and great-uncle had died after not getting vaccinated. Both had been eligible for a dose since the beginning of January.

November 2: “Mariano Quisto, a remote community leader in Peru’s dense Amazon rainforest, first learned of the global pandemic in October when health workers arrived by boat at his isolated village with vaccines.

November 11 (Twitter thread): “My brother died of COVID on Monday. I’ve learned he left the hospital early, against doctor’s recommendation. He never told me that part. He let me think he was getting better. For 9 days, I did what I could to help him. In the end, he died alone. I’m on another planet now.”

(Compiled into an article on DailyKos for easier reading, if necessary.)

November 23: ““I have been on ivermectin for 16 months, my wife and I,” Dr. Bruce Boros declared at the end of the meeting at the World Equestrian Center in Ocala. “I have never felt healthier in my life.” Two days later, the 71-year-old cardiologist fell ill with COVID-19.

November 23: ““If you look at healthcare systems that have actually mandated this, they’ve retained over 99% of their workforce,” he said in support of the mandates during an August press event. “Their workforce does go along when the employer requires it.” […] Fierce Healthcare will update this list as more deadlines are reached and hospitals share their numbers.”

November 24: “With more than a month to go to close out the year, the CDC has recorded 386,233 COVID deaths in 2021 through Tuesday, more than the 385,343 counted in 2020 […] The paper cited experts as saying the cause was not just persistently low vaccine uptake but also the relaxation of safety measures such as wearing face masks and avoiding indoor gatherings, with many people wrongly assuming that vaccines alone had effectively ended the crisis.”

November 24: “When she went to the emergency room because half her body had gone numb, the ER doctor offered to book her an appointment with a counselor. Another doctor told her to try removing her IUD, because, she remembers him saying, “hormones do funny things to women.” When she asked her neurologist for more tests, he said that her medical background had already earned her “more testing than I was entitled to,” she told me. Being part of the medical community made her no different from any other patient with long COVID, her eventual diagnosis.” (Most of the medical professionals interviewed for this article are, unsurprisingly, women — but not all.)

I put all the nice links in the back half of the post (tech, grifting, COVID, economic boosts, and more)

Things to worry about:

June 12: “In 2016, Gun Violence Archive recorded that 241 people were shot and killed or wounded in a road rage incident; so far this year, as of June 7, that number is 212, the analysis found. ‘I don’t think we quite realized how dramatic the change was going to be.’

“Customers trying to avoid online delivery platforms like Grubhub by calling restaurants directly might be dialing phone numbers generated and advertised by those very platforms — for which restaurants are charged fees that can sometimes exceed the income the order generates.

Magie filed a legal claim for her Landlord’s Game in 1903, more than three decades before Parker Brothers began manufacturing Monopoly. She actually designed the game as a protest against the big monopolists of her time — people like Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller. […] And yet it was the monopolist version of the game that caught on, with Darrow claiming a version of it as his own and selling it to Parker Brothers. While Darrow made millions and struck an agreement that ensured he would receive royalties, Magie’s income for her creation was reported to be a mere $500. ”

“What do you mean ‘text’? There’s obviously some math text on the blackboard on the right, just like there’s obviously a woman covering almost half of the photograph. Is that woman invisible? Why?” When neural nets try to auto-detect what’s in an image…and what kinds of things they miss.

The Onion, in “this isn’t even a joke”: “Promising to let him know as soon as something becomes available, nurse Janae Howager informed a man having a heart attack Thursday that there was about an hour wait until the next Covid-19 patient died.”

Things to make you smile:

“Despite being lauded by some of the right-wing media’s leading figures, though, the Freedom Phone’s buyers could be getting less than they expect for its $500 price tag. That’s because the Freedom Phone appears to be merely a more expensive rebranding of a budget Chinese phone available elsewhere for a fraction of the Freedom Phone’s price.” But hey, influencers get referral codes, so when their followers buy the phones they get a $50 cut. It’s grifters all the way down.

February 25: “The lawyers working to reunite immigrant parents and children separated by the Trump administration reported Wednesday that they have found the parents of 105 children in the past month.” And that was just the Biden administration’s first month.

““We both started writing grants,” Dr. Weissman said. “We didn’t get most of them. People were not interested in mRNA. The people who reviewed the grants said mRNA will not be a good therapeutic, so don’t bother.’”” (There’s a happy ending! It’s the research that led to the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccines.)

“A New York City pilot program that dispatches mental health specialists and paramedics instead of police for certain nonviolent emergency calls has resulted in more people accepting assistance and fewer people sent to the hospital, early data shows.” Don’t send cops to do non-cop jobs! It works!

Cash transfers have arguably the strongest existing evidence base among anti-poverty tools, with dozens of high-quality evaluations of cash transfer programs spanning Africa, Asia, and Latin America and including both unconditional and conditional cash transfer. These studies include many randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and also include studies that measured impacts 4–5 years out,1,2 evidence which exists for hardly any other interventions.”

The Onion again: “Deeming the move unfortunate but necessary to keep his fledgling Silicon Valley dream alive, CEO Jason Ipser told reporters Tuesday that his struggling tech company was almost desperate enough to start making an actual product.

No to Bad Things

Antivaxxer aunt posted a bunch of signs from protests she says she supports, and they all look like this:

Signs with text like, No to Bad Things

Other rallies have signs that take stands — “Black Lives Matter,” “Justice for George Floyd,” “Gay Rights Are Human Rights,” “End Anti-Trans Discrimination.” These are just “Freedom! Freedom is good! Please assume without question that everyone here agrees perfectly with me about what we need to be Free from.”

Gotta wonder what % of the group says afterward “look how many of us aren’t into any CRAZY stuff, we just agree Big Pharma is faking everything” and what % says “look how many of us agree a secret cabal is kidnapping children to get high by snorting their ground-up bones.”

(…did you know that’s not a parody? Do you know that’s actual, totally-earnest QAnon lore? Was your mind as blown by that as mine was?)


In TWIV #720 (starts around 51:17), Paul Offit told a story that I’ve been meaning to write down.

So his wife’s a pediatrician. A 4-month-old comes into her office for a vaccination…and the kid has a seizure.

Child gets rushed to the hospital. Is diagnosed with a seizure disorder. Ends up having a chronic neurological condition. Offit doesn’t say what it was called, but the important part is — only a few years later, the child dies from it. They were 5.

And this is the kind of story antivaxxers love to tell as Proof that Vaccines are Harmful and Evil —

except —

the vaccination hadn‘t happened yet.

The seizure hit before the child got any shots. Like — moments before. “The doctor was drawing the vaccine into the syringe” before. And obviously they didn’t finish — when a baby is having a seizure, you get them the hell to a hospital, now! General preventative care can wait.

And Offit points out that if the timing had been five minutes different — if the appointment was a bit earlier, if the office moved a bit faster, maybe if the parents hit a few more green lights on the way there — the parents would’ve blamed the shots for all of it.

And who could talk them out of it? If you spent years trying to care for a child with a terrifying deadly disease, and the symptoms all started moments after a vaccine — how would anybody convince you that that was a coincidence?

Except here’s a case that was just as vanishingly unlikely, that we know was a coincidence.

It’s absolutely wild. One-in-a-million doesn’t even come close. If you wrote it in a novel, people would dunk you to the end of time for trying to make a serious point with such a transparent, exaggerated, anvilicious setup.

But sometimes, in medicine, in health, in real life, that’s just how it is.

And it’s not a “totally happened to my friend’s cousin’s barber!” urban legend. It’s from a specific doctor. You can listen to — or watch the video version of — a source, as told by her specific husband.

Some serious COVID links, then some palate-cleansing science

“The federal government’s Operation Warp Speed has been gearing up and holding news conferences headlined by generals promising a military-style rollout. But jokes about military precision aside, experts are already expecting a lot of confusion, a fair amount of fear and more than a little outrage.” Some helpful perspective on how much screwing-up will be Situation Normal, and not a reason to panic that we’re doing it all wrong.

“A vaccine may be around the corner, but how long will it be until you get the shot? […] we worked with the Surgo Foundation and Ariadne Labs using their vaccine tool to calculate the number of people who will need a vaccine in each state and county — and where you might fit in that line.” (I’m firmly in the “other” category, behind an estimated 268.7 million more-urgent cases. There’s an article after the results, so don’t stop scrolling.)

“As the coronavirus has spiked across the country, leaving a record 100,226 Americans hospitalized on Wednesday, travel nurses, who work on temporary contracts for higher fees and move from city to city, have become more urgently needed than ever.”

“loss of smell is a possible effect of covid. if things don’t smell/taste as strong as you remember GET TESTED and ISOLATE. if someone you know is complaining about their candles not having a scent, inform them and encourage them to get tested.


Okay, have some Cool Science Links, completely unrelated to any of this. (I think I saved them all before the pandemic started.)

“After every heavy rain shower, Trovants absorb the rain’s minerals. The minerals are combined with the chemicals already present in the stone that later creates a reaction and pressure inside. The pressure spontaneously makes the rock grow from the center to its margins and multiply, with a deposition rate of about 4-5 cm in 1000 years.”

At first glance the reassembled gray blocks look like a nine-foot-long sculpture of a dinosaur. A bony mosaic of armor coats its neck and back, and gray circles outline individual scales. Its neck gracefully curves to the left, as if reaching toward some tasty plant. But this is no lifelike sculpture. It’s an actual dinosaur, petrified from the snout to the hips.”

An interactive map of the evolutionary relationships between 2,235,362 species of life on our planet. Each leaf on the tree represents a species and the branches show how they are connected through evolution. Discover your favourites, see which species are under threat, and wonder at 105,277 images on a single page.”

“To produce the unpredictable, chaotic data necessary for strong encryption, a computer must have a source of random data. […] To collect this data, Cloudflare has arranged about 100 lava lamps on one of the walls in the lobby of the Cloudflare headquarters and mounted a camera pointing at the lamps.

When the globe hits 300K deaths, I’m closing this COVID-19 Dashboard tab

It’s the one from Johns Hopkins University, for anyone who wants a good site to check in with. There’s also good detailed graphs — scroll down for links to all the options — on this page by Worldometers.org. Other options: Links to a variety of COVID-19 maps & visuals.

Happy/reassuring/uplifting links:

Lockdown Omens, written by GNeil and performed by Sheen and Tennant — in which Crowley isn’t setting a bad example and Aziraphale is catching up on his reading.

April 22: What masks don’t help with, what they’re very good at, and why it makes a difference if you wear them: a lengthy and detailed breakdown.

May 4: “Staff working in a care home in France have kept their residents safe by locking down with them for 47 days and nights to wait out the coronavirus storm.” And it worked — not one of them died.

All the other virus links:

April 10: “A doctor who has been testing the homeless in downtown Miami for COVID-19, the deadly infection associated with the coronavirus, said he was handcuffed by police outside his Miami home Friday morning — for no reason that he can discern — while he was placing old boxes on the curbside for pickup.”

April 24: Virus sweeps through Bible Belt evangelicals who won’t stay home. “Bishop Gerald Glenn, founder and leader since 1995 of the New Deliverance Evangelistic Church in Chesterfield, Virginia, was the first black chaplain of the town’s police. He had vowed to continue preaching ‘unless I’m in jail or the hospital’ before his death from coronavirus earlier this month.”

April 28: “These numbers are preliminary because death certificates take time to be processed and collected, […] In Connecticut, for example, where reported coronavirus deaths are high, the C.D.C. statistics include zero reported deaths from any cause since Feb. 1, because of reporting lags.” And even with that — the death counts are way up in places that are (a) hard-hit and (b) have numbers starting to come in. Like 120% of normal in MA, and 325% of normal in NYC.

May 7: “It’s not that the bathroom poses a more serious coronavirus risk than anything else you’re doing. (Workplace consultants believe the bottleneck on the return to downtown offices will be elevators.) But it does serve as a reminder that what we’re really talking about, when we talk about density as a factor in disease transmission, is particular spaces that a number of people have to share.

May 8: “I ended up in an isolation room in the antechamber of the intensive care department. You’re tired, so you’re resigned to your fate. You completely surrender to the nursing staff. You live in a routine from syringe to infusion and you hope you make it. I am usually quite proactive in the way I operate, but here I was 100% patient.” A virologist’s infection story.

May 9 (NYT): “Dr. Bright was largely sidelined by personal disputes with Dr. Kadlec and his aides, some of which long predated the coronavirus, the documents suggest. By the time the pandemic arrived in force, the relationship between them had become toxic, with Dr. Bright increasingly left out of key decisions. His ideas about battling the threat ‘were met with skepticism,’ the complaint says, ‘and were clearly not welcome.’” Hey look, it’s the scientist from the first act of Every Disaster Movie Ever.

May 10: “People disregarded a rule to order an hour before pickup and demanded their ice cream anyway, he wrote on [the Polar Cave Ice Cream Parlour’s’ Facebook page. Customers took out their anger at delays on overwhelmed employees, including a teenage girl who quit, he said.”