Tag Archive | SCIENCE!

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.”

Hospitals, politics, viral mutations, blood donations

Thank you for serving our communities

March 24: “According to the current research, the virus that causes COVID-19 has a low “error rate,” meaning that its pace of mutation remains slow despite its rapid spread. Because it remains more or less stable as it travels through hundreds of thousands of patients, researchers state that it is less likely to become more dangerous (or less) as it spreads.

March 26: “Landon Spradlin, a Virginia pastor who claimed the “mass hysteria” around the coronavirus pandemic was part of a media plot against Trump, has died from the virus.”

March 28 (NYT): “In a matter of days, [New York] city’s 911 system has been overwhelmed by calls for medical distress apparently related to the virus. Typically, the system sees about 4,000 Emergency Medical Services calls a day. On [March 27], dispatchers took more than 7,000 calls — a volume not seen since the Sept. 11 attacks. The record for amount of calls in a day was broken three times in the last week.”

March 30: “General Electric factory workers launched two separate protests demanding that the company convert its jet engine factories to make ventilators. At GE’s Lynn, Massachusetts aviation facility, workers held a silent protest, standing six feet apart. Union members at the company’s Boston headquarters also marched six feet apart, calling on the company to use its factories to help the country close its ventilator shortage amid the coronavirus pandemic.”

April 1: “It wasn’t government spending the Tea Party opposed, it was government spending on “losers,” imposed by the party that the “losers” had brought to power. That’s why a less-than-$1 trillion bill meant to stave off a depression garnered enough outrage from those on the right to start a movement, while a piece of legislation more than twice its size prompts celebration by those same people. The CARES Act, the largest spending bill in American history, sparked no Tea Party rebellions, no protesters in tricorne hats, no cries of “take our country back,” and no invocations of “Second Amendment remedies.” The illegitimacy of Democratic Party governance, not the size of the deficit, the reach of the federal government, or the fact of economic stimulus itself, was the problem.”

April 2: “The new policy states that the [period of not being eligible to donate blood] for MSM will change from 12 months to 3 months. These guidelines also apply to female donors who would have been deferred for having a sex with a man who has sex with men, as well as individuals who have recently received a tattoo or piercing. The FDA has also revised their policy in regards to people who engage in commercial sex work (CSW) and injection drug use (IDU), changing their indefinite deferrals to 3-month deferrals.” …So now we know what it takes to make that happen, huh.

April 4 (NYT): “As Dr. Rosenberg walked down the corridor, nearly every door he passed had a neon colored sticker warning that personal protective equipment must be worn inside. “COVID” was handwritten on many of them.” Notes from the dystopian landscape of NYC hospitals.

April 4 (also NYT): “…it breaks my heart that Americans who get sick enough to need them won’t know what desperate situations they face, nor will they understand what ventilators can do to help, and what they can never fix. As hard as the facts may be, knowledge will make us less afraid.” Medical information about how this lung failure works.

Ways to help, things to do, Eurovisions to watch

I’m watching the recordings of Eurovisions past…and 2015 opens with a montage of “people in all different home countries making long-distance connections with each other” that, if you’re anything like me, will mean all of a sudden you need a minute, you’ve got something in your eyes.

A set of productive, helpful, or at least generally non-awful links:

Folding@home lets you donate your computer’s spare processing power to disease-fighting research. Since March 10, that includes simulations to design potential treatments for COVID-19.

If the program gives you any trouble or doesn’t pick up much to do, try World Community Grid, actively working on AIDS, tuberculosis, childhood cancer, and more. That’s the one I’ve been running on-and-off for more than a decade. (Full disclosure, it’s a referral link….but the only thing I get out of it is a 50x50px image to commemorate how many people I’ve referred.)

And if you have money to spare, Doctors Without Borders is one of the organizations that will make good use of it.

History’s Deadliest Viruses Illustrated to Scale.” (Illustration.)

Finally, some personal posts about people’s medical experiences. Not an endorsement of specific treatments, just a recommendation to read them, and decide if any of it would be personally helpful for you to explore further.

“The important thing to note here is that lysine is not immune-system-boosting in the vague ‘we hope it does something but we aren’t sure what’ way of many herbs; lysine, as an amino acid, is a basic building block for immune cells, particularly antibodies.

I’ve been seeing a lot of people who don’t normally worry about lung complexities ask questions about it, and my lungs are also going through their change of season crankiness, so now seems a really good time to write up some notes about things I’ve found helpful.”

Vintage gay wedding photos, more-vintage cheap souvenirs, super-extra-vintage fossils, and other neat things

…the photos depict him in a commitment ceremony with another man, and unbeknownst to him, the store manager had a policy of withholding developed photos if he deemed them “inappropriate”—as he did these.The photos, though, lived on because the manager of the shop had another policy: Staff were allowed to do whatever they pleased with confiscated pictures. An employee held on to the photos.”

“About a month after they met, Hay and Gernreich combed the gay beaches of Malibu and the Pacific Palisades looking for new Mattachine members. They brought along copies of the Stockholm Peace Petition, which called for a withdrawal of troops from Korea. They mistakenly believed that the peace petition was so radical it would make the new gay organization seem mild by comparison. Nearly 500 people signed the petition. No one signed up for Mattachine.

“IDK” was attested as military slang in 1918.

“It sounds just like the kind of joke that is ubiquitous in today’s cheap-and-cheerful souvenir industry: ‘I went to Rome and all I got you was this lousy pen.’ But the tongue-in-cheek inscription recently deciphered on a cheap writing implement during excavations in the City of London is in fact about 2,000 years old.”

“As the water slowed and became slack, it deposited everything that had been caught up in its travels—the heaviest material first, up to whatever was floating on the surface. All of it was quickly entombed and preserved in the muck: dying and dead creatures, both marine and freshwater; plants, seeds, tree trunks, roots, cones, pine needles, flowers, and pollen; shells, bones, teeth, and eggs; tektites, shocked minerals, tiny diamonds, iridium-laden dust, ash, charcoal, and amber-smeared wood. As the sediments settled, blobs of glass rained into the mud, the largest first, then finer and finer bits, until grains sifted down like snow.” A geological dig preserving the day of The Asteroid.

“It’s not a frequent topic of discussion, but doctors die, too. And they don’t die like the rest of us. What’s unusual about them is not how much treatment they get compared to most Americans, but how little.

He stopped taking ART (Antiretroviral Therapy) three months ago and there continues to be no evidence of infectious HIV in his system. Each of the three patients were being given the procedure with that aim of treating cancer, so while a bone marrow transplant is not a viable option as a common cure for HIV infection, it does give us hope that we’re getting closer to a permanent cure.”

Sorry, liberals, there are only 23,328 genders

[Boag] was shocked at the size of this population, which he’d never before encountered in his time as a queer historian of the American West. Trans people have always existed all over the world. So how had they escaped notice in the annals of the Old West?” (Some not-well-thought-out use of the phrase “assigned sex”, but worth reading anyway.)

““M” and “F” didn’t always appear on the federal identity document. In fact, sex was not directly listed on U.S. passports until 1977.

“I believe that gender reassignment surgery is a right but I didn’t know what surgery would mean for me. […] Even my friends who’d had the procedure couldn’t really explain what would happen, so I made my decision without proper information about possible outcomes. I’m writing this essay to offer a small window so that other trans girls have more information than I did.

“‘He was rightly classified as a man’ in the medical records and appears masculine, Stroumsa said. ‘But that classification threw us off from considering his actual medical needs.’

“And that, these devout fundamentalist Baptist women all knew and believed, was simply wrong. The life of the mother, they all knew — with utter confidence and moral certainty — was more important than the potential life who wasn’t expected to survive this difficult pregnancy.

The idea that millions of sperm are on an Olympian race to reach the egg is yet another male fantasy of human reproduction.”

We couldn’t see the [Alzheimer’s] plaques in the brain until 10 years ago because we didn’t have the technology. So now that we have the technology to find the plaques, we actually understand that we probably misdiagnosed women forever. And that could be one of the reasons why some treatments don’t work that well in women.”

“Until the 1960s, scientists considered the idea of a cancer-causing virus to be preposterous. At the same time, more than 8,000 women a year were dying of cervical cancer, and researchers couldn’t figure out what was causing it. […] Way back in the 1950s, bacteriologist Sarah Stewart pioneered the concept that viruses could lead to cancer—and was almost thrown out of the scientific community for her heretical ideas.

There’s a species of fungus that has 23,328 distinct sexes. “Individuals of any sex are compatible for mating with all but their own sex. However, there are two genetic loci determining the mating type, locus A with 288 alleles and locus B with 81 alleles. A pair of fungi will only be fertile if they have different A and different B alleles; that is, each sex can enter fertile pairings with 22,960 others.” Sorry, liberals, there are only 23,328 genders. And 368 ways for these mushrooms to be gay.

Good things. (Candy invention, migrant citizenship, Ursula Le Guin being awesome, and more)

“At first the brothers printed the sayings by hand. Since the lozenges were fairly large, they could accommodate long statements (Victorian favorites included “How long shall I have to wait? Pray be considerate” and “Please send a lock of your hair by return mail”).” The origin of Sweethearts.

“Impressive as this finding about hemimastigotes is on its own, what matters more is that it’s just the latest (and most profound) of a quietly and steadily growing number of major taxonomic additions. Researchers keep uncovering not just new species or classes but entirely new kingdoms of life — raising questions about how they have stayed hidden for so long and how close we are to finding them all.” Guys, we found a New Science Thing.

“I emerged from the complicated underworld of toxic shock syndrome science with far more than I bargained for, including a lecture from an elderly man on the “art of making love,” a possible TSS-related upside to having sex early and often, multiple accusations of collusion, and the story of a bitter, decades-long rivalry between two prominent microbiologists. I also learned that everything you think you know about tampons, period sex, and toxic shock syndrome is probably wrong.”

“On this page, you will find more information about The Green Hosting Directory. For every country, the list starts with Partners: the [Internet] hosting companies that provide proof of their green claim online.”

“Greece has awarded citizenship to three migrant fishermen – two Egyptians and an Albanian – who rescued Greeks from a devastating fire near Athens last July. At a ceremony the Greek President, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, thanked the fishermen for showing “solidarity and humanity” by rescuing dozens of people. ‘You are now European citizens too, and so you can teach all our partners who don’t realise the values of Europe, to do what they ought to do.’

Le Guin – sanguine, curious, unconcerned – looked around at the Venus of Willendorf replica, the flyers advertising knitting circles and separatist meetings, the box set of Dykes to Watch Out For, and said, ‘I like it.’ She walked further into the store. ‘Let’s look around.’”

Seaweed, marshmallows, phantom hands, and other science tidbits

How a mistakenly-hired seaweed scientist helped win WWII. (Bletchley Park tried to recruit a cryptogramist…well, a cryptogamist is a biologist who studies seaweed, mosses, and ferns.)

According to my mother, my missing pectoral muscle was noticed almost immediately by the doctor who delivered me. There was no diagnosis of any cause for the defect, and I’m not sure if she even asked. It was just missing, and I accepted that absence as a simple fact for most of my childhood.”

“RN’s case is interesting because the hand that was amputated only had three fingers to begin with. One would expect that her phantom limb would be a replica of the hand she lost. But that’s not what happened. RN reported feeling five fingers on her phantom hand. They weren’t five normal fingers—her thumb and index finger felt shorter than the rest—but there were definitely five.

“While students of all categories suffered from class-induced jet lag, the study found that night owls were especially vulnerable, many appearing so chronically jet-lagged that they were unable to perform optimally at any time of day.”

“Ultimately, the new study finds limited support for the idea that being able to delay gratification leads to better outcomes. Instead, it suggests that the capacity to hold out for a second marshmallow is shaped in large part by a child’s social and economic background—and, in turn, that that background, not the ability to delay gratification, is what’s behind kids’ long-term success.”

And the laptop Negroponte was pitching in 2005 simply didn’t exist. [One Laptop Per Child]’s prototype was little more than a mockup. It hadn’t signed a manufacturer, let alone priced out a sub-$100 product. Groundbreaking technologies like the crank and mesh networking system were still mostly theoretical.”

“Portugal decriminalised the use of all drugs in 2001. Weed, cocaine, heroin, you name it — Portugal decided to treat possession and use of small quantities of these drugs as a public health issue, not a criminal one. The drugs were still illegal, of course. But now getting caught with them meant a small fine and maybe a referral to a treatment program — not jail time and a criminal record.