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A quick look at everything that tickled my fancy this past week.

Let There Be Light:

Israeli researchers have discovered a new property of light: its ability to branch flow.

As the Times of Israel puts it:

“In an accidental breakthrough made while blowing kids’ soap bubbles, Israeli scientists have observed light behaving in a ‘beautiful’ manner never before seen by the human eye.

They captured the process on camera and wrote an academic paper declaring themselves the first people to see a physical phenomenon called ‘branched flow’ in action, which will be the cover story in Thursday’s edition of the renowned journal Nature.”

Interestingly, it could, “lead to a new area of physics…[where] the light from branched flow will be useful in medical diagnosis…[and] could bring about more pinpointed examination of blood vessels and veins, and could also be developed to ‘steer the flow of liquid’ inside the body to remedy some health issues.”

Better Queues: 

Netflix chills out, finally gives the people what they want: the ability to remove titles from their continue watching queue that they clearly have no interest in continuing to view due to the fact that they stopped viewing it in the first place!

As Deadline puts it:

“Netflix subscribers are celebrating the service’s latest innovation: the ‘Remove from row’ feature.

While it’s not exactly a game-changer, the feature is a fantastic way to remove annoying — or possibly embarrassing — content that keeps popping up in the ‘Continue Watching’ row.”

Netflix - Apps on Google Play

Higher Education:

COVID-19 may have forced everyone to turn to remote learning to finish their school years but one man in Japan took things to the extreme by going to a remote area of Japan to obtain the world’s first master’s degree in ninja studies!

CNN explains:

“A Japanese man has become the first person in the world to hold a master’s degree in ninja studies, after completing a graduate course that involved learning basic martial arts and how to stealthily climb mountains.

Genichi Mitsuhashi, 45, spent two years studying the history, traditions and fighting techniques of ninjas — the mysterious covert agents of feudal Japan — at the country’s Mie University.

Known for their secrecy and high levels of skill, ninjas were masters of espionage, sabotage, assassination and guerrilla warfare dating back to at least the 14th century. Yet Mitsuhashi said ninjas were also independent farmers, and he moved to the mountainous province of Iga, 220 miles from the Japanese capital Tokyo, to better understand how they lived.”
BBVA quiere convertir a sus empleados en 'ninjas digitales'

 

Amazing Hummingbirds:

The other day I almost got decapitated while reading outside, nearly the victim of an accidental Hummingbird flyby.  But that’s not why Hummingbirds are amazing.  They’re amazing because they can see colors that we can’t even fathom.

As Wired puts it:

“The tests showed that the birds could see every nonspectral color that the researchers threw at them. Color pairs that were closer together in hue resulted in more mistaken visits but still beat the 50/50 odds of the control experiments.

As an additional plausibility check, the researchers scanned databases of precisely measured colors that appear in plants and birds. These nonspectral colors are quite common in nature, accounting for 30 percent of bird plumage colors and 35 percent of plant colors in the databases. So it would certainly make sense that hummingbirds (and other birds) are able to see these colors in their environment.

And the researchers do think this study is generalizable beyond just the broad-tailed hummingbirds that volunteered for it. Many things are poorly understood about the physiology of eyesight across bird species, much less the neural processing of signals from those color cones in the eye, but what we do know suggests hummingbirds are probably representative. ‘Although these experiments were performed with hummingbirds,’ the team writes, ‘our findings are likely relevant to all diurnal, tetrachromatic birds and probably to many fish, reptiles, and invertebrates.'”

a hummingbird

Are any of these the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Here’s a hot take: I think we should ban fireworks.  Not 4th of July gatherings in general.  And not just this year because of COVID-19. But rather all fireworks.  All of the time.  I know, I know.  That’s blasphemy.  But just hear me out.  There is a method to my madness.

As The Conversation puts it:

“The number of fireworks being lit off at night is out of control this year.

While people often light off fireworks close to the Fourth of July, this year fireworks have been lit in large numbers starting weeks earlier. New York City had a 4,000% increase in fireworks complaints in the first two weeks of June compared with last year. This prompted Mayor Bill de Blasio to vow a crackdown on illegal fireworks.

Complaints about fireworks are not confined to just New York City, but in cities across the country like San FranciscoDenverHarrisburgAlbuquerqueProvidence and many other places. This has led to a rise in conspiracy theories, including one that the nightly noise is an elaborate government plot to create confusion in neighborhoods.”

Of course fireworks are already banned or at least illegal to buy in most places.  You may have to drive across state lines to get them if you can get them at all.  But what I’m talking about goes beyond that.  I’m talking about not even making them at all anymore.  Perhaps large scale professionally managed shows can stick around just for the Fourth of July but do we really need individual people setting them off in residential neighborhoods?  Do we really need to set them off every time someone hits a home run or scores a touchdown?  Every time we have something worth celebrating?

Sure, fireworks may look pretty and I love a good fireworks show myself, probably more than most.  I especially love fireworks that looks like real people and objects when they explode.  But there’s a cost to setting off fireworks and out poor pets are the ones paying it.  All the dogs spending the Fourth of July hiding in bathtubs don’t understand the concept of Independence Day.  All they know is that loud bangs keep happening, frightening them half to death.

And our pets aren’t the only ones suffering.  Fireworks keep everyone up at night, wrecking havoc on car alarms and sleep cycles.  There’s a reason why there are so many conspiracy theories about the government setting off fireworks on purpose.  Sleep deprivation is no joke and may very well be a legitimate police tactic to terrorize neighborhoods.  If we’re going to talk about defunding the police shouldn’t we also talk about banning one of the weapons at their disposal?

I know that I probably sound like an old curmudgeon complaining once again about something inconsequential.  But I really believe that there is merit to the idea of banning fireworks.  Just think about the impact on the environment that setting off fireworks has as chemicals get released into the air.  Think about the increased risk of fires in all the areas that are getting drier and drier due to Climate Change, which is pretty much everywhere.  And yes, think about all those poor pets and old people who just want peace and quiet.  Is that really too much to ask?  Do fireworks really mean that much to us that we value them more than the simple things in life?  Maybe, just maybe, we could live without them.

Why Do Americans Celebrate the Fourth of July with Fireworks ...

Is banning fireworks the Greatest Idea Ever?

 

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A random collection of some of the best COVID-19 related memes, tweets, soundbites and jokes currently making the rounds on the inter-webs.  Because sometimes you have to laugh so you don’t cry:

Image may contain: text that says 'Corona Virus- explained in craft terms. You and 9 friends are crafting. 1 is using glitter. How many projects have glitter?'

Image

Image may contain: 1 person, text that says 'Samantha Matt @SamanthaMatt1 ldk why people are against wearing masks. Masks protect you from coronavirus yes, but they also protect you from running into people you know in public. Add sunglasses and you are literally in disguise. It's safe to do anything, anywhere, even in your hometown. This is my dream'

Image may contain: ‎1 person, ‎text that says '‎L @7eandra sاانهه Those who have stayed inside, wore masks in public, and socially distanced during this entire pandemic are the same people who are used to doing the whole group project by themselves‎'‎‎

Image may contain: 1 person, text that says 'Keep complaining about quarantine. You just bought yourself another month. You wanna keep going, pal? this all 2020. can do'

Capture

Image may contain: 1 person, meme, text that says 'REMEMBER: MAGA Nurse You'll never get pregnant if you never take a pregnancy test.'

Image may contain: text that says 'CORONAVIRUS IN TERMS FLORIDIANS CAN UNDERSTAND S CAT 1 CAT 2 CAT 3 CAT 4 CAT 5'

Image may contain: one or more people and text

 

 

capture 1

6 COVID-19 Memes That Prove There Is Room For Levity | Adobe Blog

 

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Image may contain: text that says 'Dear July, don't want any trouble from you. Just come in, sit down, don't touch anything, and keep your mouth shut.'

And these were just the ones I saw this week! Proving once again that the Internet always wins.

 

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I previously wrote about Skin Hunger, the very real desire for human contact that sets in when we’ve been deprived of human touch for too long.  It may sound funny but it’s a very real condition and it’s something that a lot of us have been experiencing as we quarantine for months at a time with no end in sight.

Thankfully there may be a solution in the works that will let us hug again: cuddle curtains!

As CNBC puts it:

“One of the hardest parts of the coronavirus pandemic for many people has been that social-distancing measures have prevented them from visiting or comforting elderly relatives.

But, enterprising individuals, and institutions, have been coming up with the next best thing to a ‘real’ hug: The ‘cuddle curtain’ — essentially, a big plastic sheet with improvised armholes that allow individuals to embrace without direct contact.

Needless to say, the inventions (often made out of shower curtains) have provided several tear-jerker moments on social media, with videos of family reunions and cuddles through curtains between old and young — and indeed any loved-ones separated by the coronavirus pandemic — going viral.

A retirement home in Belgium told Reuters on Thursday that its “hug curtain” has been a hit with elderly residents, allowing them to see and, more importantly, embrace, their visiting relatives for the first time in months after lockdowns prevented both visits and physical contact.”

As great as the cuddle curtain is for people enduring months of isolation it obviously can’t replace the real thing.  Hopefully, we’ll develop a vaccine soon and get back to giving each old good old fashioned hugs once again.  The way we were meant to.

A son hugs his father at the Geriatric Clinic Três Figueiras on June 16, 2020 in Gravatai, Brazil. The clinic created the Tunel do Abraco (hug tunnel) for elderly residents to be able to hug relatives after more than 70 days apart due to the coronavirus pandemic. The tunnel is made of a thick plastic curtain with sleeves, which guarantees the safety of families. After each use, the environment is cleaned by a clinic professional.

Are cuddle curtains the Greatest Idea Ever?

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We need more testing, not less.  Yes, more tests mean more positive results which looks bad but you know what looks worse? A morgue full of dead bodies.  Testing helps save lives since it identifies who is sick (and who should quarantine) and who is safe to return to work or move freely throughout society.  Rampant testing is how we re-open the economy.  Rampant testing is how we fight back.

However, it takes a long time to test everyone one by one and it could be expensive to do so.  Considering how out of control COVID-19 is right now what we really need is a way to test a lot of people, all at once, cheaply and efficiently.  Enter pool testing.

The Conversation explains how it would work:

“Instead of testing one person at a time, samples from multiple individuals would be mixed together and tested as one. If the test comes back negative, everyone in the pool is clear. If positive, each member of the pool is then tested individually.

For example, imagine a workplace with 20 people, one of whom is infected. Pooled testing divides the 20 people into four groups of five. Samples are taken from each person and mixed with the samples from other people in their group. Each grouped sample is then tested – four tests in all.

One of the pools will turn up positive because it contains the single infected person. All five people in this pool are then retested individually, and the one sick person is identified.

In all, nine tests are used and all 20 workers have been screened. If everyone had been screened individually, it would have taken 20 tests.”

Sounds good to me.  Let’s roll it out and start saving lives!

COVID-19 pandemic: Fauci says pool testing key to stopping virus ...

Pool testing could help stop the spread of COVID-19.

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It’s official.  I am OBSESSED.  I want them all.  Each and every one of them.  Can’t live without them in fact.  There’s just one problem: there are way too many choices.  How will I ever choose?!  What is it that I’m referring to?  Only the Greatest Thing Ever. Frome!

What is Frome?! Well, think of it like watching a movie on extreme flash forward.  An entire film flashing before you in the blink of an eye.  One second here.  Gone the next.  That blur of light that you would see?  That unintelligible blur?  That’s Frome.  A combination of the words from and frame, it’s the idea that you can break a movie down, frame by frame, color by color, and come up with a visual representation of that movie in the form of a painted canvas that would capture its true essence.

As they put it on their website:

“The canvases you see are movies condensed into chronological color strips that represent each frame – meaning the colors you see can roughly represent the main color of that scene. The movie begins with a single color strip at the start of canvas (left) and ends with the last strip (right). You can see how beautiful movies are in terms of colors!”

In theory, with just one glance at that piece of artwork now hanging in your apartment you would instantly be transported back to your favorite fictional world.  Able to reminisce about key moments and reconnect with beloved characters, all while keeping things classy.  No cheesy movie posters here.  Just cherished works of art.  If you don’t feel like explaining what it is you wouldn’t even have to.  It could just be your little secret.

Here are some examples:

Avengers Endgame

Avengers: Endgame Frome

Avatar

Avatar Frome

Inception

Inception Frome

So, what do you think? Will you be getting a Frome to represent your favorite movie?  If so, you can check out the full list of options here.

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COVID-19 is really bad.  Really, really bad.  It has essentially shut the world down, ground the economy down to a halt, effectively cost people a year of their lives, and worse – taken lives.  But could you imagine a double whammy?  Another global pandemic unfolding, more or less, at exactly the same time?!

Unbelievably, that is exactly the path we’re heading down thanks to the rise in Zoonotic diseases brought upon by Climate Change.  In fact, we’ve already identified a new swine flu that has extreme pandemic potential even though it hasn’t turned up in humans yet.  Yet being the operative word.

As the BBC puts it:

“A new strain of flu that has the potential to become a pandemic has been identified in China by scientists.

It emerged recently and is carried by pigs, but can infect humans, they say.

The researchers are concerned that it could mutate further so that it can spread easily from person to person, and trigger a global outbreak.

While it is not an immediate problem, they say, it has ‘all the hallmarks’ of being highly adapted to infect humans and needs close monitoring.

As it’s new, people could have little or no immunity to the virus.”

Climate: Past, Present & Future | Are the risks of zoonotic ...

And this could be just the beginning with human behavior likely driving the risk of more pandemics higher and higher.

According to Business Insider:

“From what scientists know so far, COVID-19 is likely a zoonotic disease, meaning it was probably transferred from animals to humans.

Zoonotic diseases are not uncommon. SARS, MERS, Zika, and Ebola are all zoonotic diseases — and more new ones are emerging.

[Executive Director of UNEP Inger] Andersen said that, ‘75% or so of new infectious diseases are zoonotic in nature.’

Some experts think this increase might be related to an increase in deforestation and the subsequent increase in contact between humans and animal species. One study of Ebola found that the disease was more prevalent in areas that had recently been deforested.

‘When we encroach on nature, when we destroy forest, when we degrade the environment, then we are disturbing what is supposed to be left undisturbed,’ said Andersen.”

Which means that COVID-19 may just be the beginning of what mother nature has in store for us.  Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse…

Climate: Past, Present & Future | Are the risks of zoonotic ...

Is COVID-19 just the first of many global pandemics driven by Zoonotic Diseases?

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Today is Father’s Day.  A special day for families around the country who want to celebrate the amazing dad or father figure in their lives.  But if you are strictly quarantining (like you’re supposed to be doing) and haven’t been seeing your father or children either out of an abundance of caution or because they are in a high risk category then it may not be such a special day this year.  Social distancing and quarantining has been hard on all of us but today is one of those days where the impact will especially be felt.

So, what recourse do we have?  Is there another way that would let us see our loved ones again?  On a more consistent basis?  So that we can add some much needed social interactions back into our routines?  Well, as it turns out there may be.  All you’d have to do is establish a social bubble.

As Fast Company puts it:

“After three months of lockdowns, many people in the U.S. and around the world are turning to quarantine bubbles, pandemic pods, or quaranteams in an effort to balance the risks of the pandemic with the emotional and social needs of life.

When done carefully, the research shows that quarantine bubbles can effectively limit the risk of contracting COVID-19 while allowing people to have much-needed social interactions with their friends and family.”

Adds MIT Technology Review:

“Bubbles delay peak infection rate by 37%, decrease the height of the peak by 60%, and result in 30% fewer infected individuals overall…The researchers suggest that bubbles work well because they are built on a deliberate choice about who you will and won’t interact with, rather than depending on less deliberate social or geographic ties, which are more easily broken.”

Granted, it won’t be easy to pull off a totally fool proof social bubble.  Living alone I can 100% guarantee that I will be socially distancing and wearing a mask when I go out.  If I start hanging out with a few close friends can I still guarantee 100% safety for myself?  Probably not.  But in theory if everyone in my chosen group is being safe and we’re only seeing each other then perhaps our limited social bubble would be safe.  At least to a certain extent.  Which begs the question: who out there wants to start a social bubble with me? Any takers?  Bueller?  Bueller?

How to form a COVID-19 social bubble - ABC News

Is a Social Bubble the Greatest Idea Ever?

 

 

 

 

And with COVID-19 dragging on and even getting worse in some areas it may be unlikely that you’ll even be able to see them anytime soon either.  what recourse do you have to try and see them?

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One might expect lager economic superpowers like the United States and China to lead the world in innovation just based on sheer volume of manpower and breadth of financial resources.  But in actuality innovation can come from anywhere.  Case in point: humble Israel which has long maintained a reputation for being one of the more innovative countries out there in a variety of scientific fields ranging from Physics and Chemistry to Optics and Economics.  But a COVID-19 related medical breakthrough could dwarf anything else they’ve accomplished to date.  For they may have found a way to completely restore lung function in any patient affected by the novel coronavirus.

According to the Jerusalem Post, “Bonus BioGroup has completed a preliminary study of a new drug it developed to treat acute and life-threatening respiratory distress in COVID-19 patients, CEO Dr. Shai Meretzki told The Jerusalem Post.

The drug MesenCure, which consists of activated Mesenchymal Stromal Cells (MSCs) that are isolated from the adipose tissue of healthy donors, was found to reduce inflammation, promote the regeneration of the diseased lung tissue and alleviate respiratory and other symptoms in laboratory and animal models.”

In other words, there could soon be a drug on the market that would essentially reverse any COVID-19 induced damage, severely reducing the risks associated with contracting the virus.  At the very least such a treatment would significantly lower the chances of an infected person dying from respiratory issues and may even reduce the need for developing a costly vaccine.

The article explains why would that be:

“Accumulating evidence shows that many COVID-19 patients die because of an increase in the production of inflammatory molecules called cytokine, rather than the virus itself. When the immune system secretes too many cytokines, a so-called ‘cytokine storm’ can erupt. Such an excessive immune response ravages healthy lung tissue, leading to acute respiratory distress syndrome or failure, and eventually death.”

It’s precisely that damage to healthy lung tissue that Israeli doctors want to prevent and they think they’ve found a treatment that does precisely that, restoring affected lung tissue to its optimal condition in the process.  Hopefully, such a treatment passes all necessary clinical trials and regulatory hurdles and really does wind up being as good as advertised.  Delivering to all of us the coronavirus related miracle that we’ve all been longing for.  And all thanks to Israel, no stranger themselves to working miracles.

12 Israeli Startups Bettering The World | News Briefs

Is Israel’s drug that restores lung function the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Are we truly alone together?  Well, thanks to Spotify’s new feature we can find out as we now have the ability to know if anyone else around the world is listening to the same song as us at the same time.  Something that supposedly happens far more often that one might expect.

As Fast Company puts it:

“With more than 250 million Spotify users around the world, it’s not tough to imagine that two people may be listening to the same song at any given moment.

You hit play on Run the Jewels’ ‘Ohh La La.’

Who’s to say some dude in Germany didn’t just do that exact thing?

Spotify itself says that every second, more than 30,000 people are pressing play on the same song. Today, the platform is launching a new site called “Listening Together,” which visualizes these instances, showing us where these simultaneous listeners are, in real time.”

It may not seem like it now but Listening Together could be the start of a new trend.  An ironic one in which we look to technology to bring us together, to help strengthen the very social bonds that make us feel human.  And it should come as no surprise that we’d start with music considering the power that music has to unite us.  In fact, music may already be capable of syncing up our wavelengths.

Futurism explains:

“According to new research by Chinese neuroscientists, something extraordinary happens during a musical performance: the brain activity of listeners appears to sync up with the brain activity of the musician playing music for them. Yes, anyone who’s ever seen an awesome concert now has confirmation: Musicians and crowds really are connecting, at a neurological level.”

Considering the current state of our social distancing based reality that connection is now more important than ever before.  Sure, we all want to get to the point where we can hang out with our friends again, attend concerts and parties, and rock out to our heart’s content.  But until it is safe to do so we may have to settle for the next best thing:  Listening Together.

Spotify's New Global Map Tags People Who Are Playing the Same Song ...

Is Listening Together the Greatest Idea Ever?

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