Better virus questions and cat hamster wheels

Coronavirus: Do face masks work? And how to stop it from spreading?

Facemasks might prevent inhaling infectious aerosols, but that’s not how most people catch the virus[edit: It looks like that is a common route of infection. New data, new policy. There are enough masks now. It’s time to mask up. Still, wash your hands]. If you get the virus on your hands and then touch your face, the facemask won’t do anything.


WHO-recommended handrub formulations – WHO Guidelines on Hand Hygiene in Health Care – NCBI Bookshelf

Soap and water are the best tools to fight viruses. If a sink and soap are unavailable, then an alcohol-based hand sanitizer is an OK substitute. So I gather they are entirely sold out now. Of course. So here’s the recipe: 1 tablespoon glycerol, 3 tablespoons drug store (3%) hydrogen peroxide, and  3 2/3 cups 96% ethanol (192 proof Everclear alcohol).

Cryptic transmission of novel coronavirus revealed by genomic epidemiology

The coronavirus is changing as it spreads because evolution is a thing. The changes can be tracked with DNA sequencing and mapped. So we have a family tree of the viruses in circulation.

I Lived Through SARS and Reported on Ebola. These Are the Questions We Should Be Asking About Coronavirus. — ProPublica

This article is directed at journalists, but it is worth reading. The right questions to ask are tricky and technical. The difference between “how many samples can we test” and “how many patients can we test” is big. We test two samples from each patient, so it’s only half as many patients.

Making a Giant Hamster Wheel for our Cat – YouTube

These youtubers make great projects. Their cat is (predictably) not very impressed. Their humor is understated but great.

How a Little Shark Destroyed the US Navy – YouTube

When I was a kid I heard about a sonar dome on a surface ship covered with sucker holes from (probably) a giant squid. This is different. I had never heard of the cookie-cutter shark.

Finally! The Guide to Growing High Quality Sodium Chloride Crystals : crystalgrowing

A reddit user gives a great introduction to growing salt crystals. The principles are the same for most crystals.

Mormon Church has misled members on $100 billion tax-exempt investment fund, whistleblower alleges – The Washington Post

The LDS/Mormon church does not have democratic governance. So members get no vote on how their contributions (10% of their income) get spent. They don’t even get to see how the money gets spent. This report claims that the church quietly accumulated a vast fortune. Color me surprised.

Loneliness and Our Craving for Community – YouTube

This animated video touches on something very real: virtual interactions are not a good substitute for real in-person relationships and supportive communities. But then, not all in-person communities are created equal. In some abusive communities, leaders quietly accumulate vast fortunes at members’ expense.

CDC Tests for COVID-19

Information for Laboratories: 2019-nCoV | CDC

I made a video about qPCR and how it works to detect the RNA in viruses like 2019nCoV. An FDA approved and verified kit may be hard to get, but research hospitals can definitely make and verify their own. The FDA just needs to sign off. That seems to be happening now.

How To Make Synthetic Ruby In The Workshop – YouTube

When I was a kid I was obsessed with ruby lasers. The idea that a ruby (already a cool thing) could be used to generate laser light was the epitome of cool to my 10-year-old brain. If I had seen this I probably would have begged my dad to break out the arc welder and try it.

Robots aren’t taking our jobs — they’re becoming our bosses – The Verge

There was this science fiction story called Manna by Marshal Brain where “manna” was short for “manager.” It was a science-fiction take on exactly this phenomenon. Apps and software can replace middle managers more easily than low-wage laborers. Middle managers delegate orders and collect data. Neither task requires a physical body. Furthermore, middle managers get paid more, so automating their jobs has a big rate of return for very little capital (especially compared to the investment required to build physical robots). But that’s miserable for the managed. And it doesn’t have to be. The efficiency gains COULD be distributed to more people. If automated management results in better efficiency and cost savings, we COULD have shorter workweeks with better pay.

Coronavirus: US government test kits are faulty and ‘cannot be relied upon’,

It seems that one of the three primer sets was not working well. That still leaves two sets for good duplicate testing. But this all might have been mitigated if we had a pandemic preparedness team reporting to the president, or if we had stronger support of the CDC.

Is that too political? It shouldn’t be. It should be common sense.