Why COVID-19 vaccines aren’t comparable

95%, 67%, 66%, what does it all mean?

Vox made a video on vaccine efficiacy rates and why you can’t compare the different COVID-19 vaccines.

In the US, the first two available Covid-19 vaccines were those from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna. Both vaccines have very high “efficacy rates” of around 95 percent. But the third vaccine introduced in the US, from Johnson & Johnson, has a much lower efficacy rate: just 66 percent.

Look at those numbers next to each other, and it’s natural to conclude that one of them is considerably worse. Why settle for 66 percent when you can have 95 percent? But that isn’t the right way to understand a vaccine’s efficacy rate, or to even understand what a vaccine does.

Since the pandemic hit the West in early 2020, we have been inundated with numbers and graphs and there’s been very little to explain them in a way that people can understand. I just hope there isn’t a Sex Panther vaccine.

Interesting Engineering on the Veluwemeer Aqueduct

What is it about German(ic) engineering?

One of my favourite pieces of engineering is the Veluwemeer Aqueduct located over Veluwemeer lake in Harderwijk, Netherlands. It opened in 2002 and bypasses the N302 road, connecting mainland Netherlands with Flevoland, the largest artificial island in the world.

When most people think of roads and water, they think of bridges that go over water. But what makes the Veluwemeer Aqueduct so awesome is that the water goes over the road. Every time I see a photo, it looks like an optical illusion but it’s simply incredible engineering.

Unlike drawbridges or other roadway structures, the water bridge design allows for constant traffic flow both on the road and over the aqueduct.

For most of the span of the N302 road across the lake, the road is raised above the waterline by a stretch of artificial embankments, but for the short, 55.7 feet (17 m) span on the aqueduct, the road plunges, briefly, underneath the lake’s surface. 

Interestingly, around 1,3212 feet (400 m) NW of the aqueduct, the N302 crosses the lake once again on a more traditional bridge structure.

via IE

You can read the full piece on Interesting Engineering’s website.

Web Development History and internet history from a dev perspective

Relive the burgeoning days of the early Web with Web Development History.

Described as “Internet history for developers and the technically curious”, Web Development History is a blog that looks at how the Internet was built through the eyes of the builders: web developers.

Richard MacManus is the man behind WDH and he takes a chronological approach when discussing web dev subjects such as JavaScript, Netscape, and Server-Side Web Programming. The blog started in December 2020 so it’s early days but it’s already off to a great start.

Study shows alligators can regrow their tails

Researchers hope their findings will help lead to discoveries of new approaches to repairing injuries and treating diseases in alligators.

Tl;dr: can alligators regrow their tails? Yes. Well, some of it.

According to a team of researchers from Arizona State University and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, juvenile American alligators have the ability to regrow their tails up to 18% of their total body length.

An interdisciplinary team of scientists used advanced imaging techniques combined with demonstrated methods of studying anatomy and tissue organization to examine the structure of these regrown tails. They found that these new tails were complex structures with a central skeleton composed of cartilage surrounded by connective tissue that was interlaced with blood vessels and nerves. They speculate that regrowing their tails gives the alligators a functional advantage in their murky aquatic habitats.

In terms of what determined the length of regrowth, the team advised variations depended on “sex, age, or environment” due to reptiles being ectotherms and that “tail repair with regrowth in the alligator is a prolonged process.”

Overall, this study of wild-caught, juvenile American alligator tails identifies a distinct pattern of wound repair in mammals while exhibiting features in common with regeneration in lepidosaurs and amphibia.

Read and download the full paper on the Scientific Reports website.

Kalliroscopes create fluid vortexes that mimic hurricanes

The grandson of a famous impressionist painting invented the kalliroscope and that’s what you call following a legacy.

Kalliroscopes are devices that use rheoscopic fluids to create swirling vortexes. They were invented by artist Paul Matisse (grandson of Henri Matisse) and they mimic some of the universe’s greatest natural wonders like hurricanes and galaxies. Because of that, they can help in the study of fluid dynamics.

Kalliroscopes use mica, metallic flakes, or even fish scales suspended in fluid, between two thin chambers to allow movement and visualisation.

Below you can see an example of one in all its majestic beauty.

Awesome songs played by stepper motors

You’ve not heard these classics until you’ve heard them on 4 rotating motors.

YouTube recommended two cool videos of songs played by stepper motors.

Britney Spears – Toxic

The Mii Channel theme

A sight for the eyes as well as the ears. Kinda wish there was one for Daft Punk’s ‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger‘.

How the Williams FW43B Formula 1 car got leaked

A Williams AR app got hacked, revealing info about their latest FW43B F1 car.

Anything that is digitally accessible is open to leaks. Just ask Game Freak and The Pokémon Company. But this one is a little different and a lot more embarrassing.

Williams’s FW43B Formula 1 car was leaked on Friday which sucks but the worst part? One of its chief sponsors is Acronis, a cybersecurity firm. The F1 team had planned to reveal its latest car via an AR app but they had to pull it from the App Store and Google Play store, according to their official statement.

And to add insult to injury, this from CEO of Acronis, Serguei Beloussov:

“We are proud to support one of the most iconic Formula One teams on the grid. With our technology, we’re ensuring the safety, accessibility, privacy, authenticity, and security (SAPAS) of Williams Racing’s workloads, data, applications, and systems.”

Quote via sponsorship announcement

As for how they got leaked and what was taken, the hackers stole renders of the FW43B car and CAD models straight from the app. They were posted on Reddit but I won’t link to them here: do your own digging!

But there’s even more to the story.

In a response to Interesting Engineering’s original report, both Williams and Acronis said the security breach wasn’t linked to Acronis as the incident happened to a system outside of Williams’s network (which Acronis protects).

Let’s hope this has reminded both parties of the importance of security of all systems involving Williams property.

How many payments does it take to break even in Monopoly?

Where should you buy property: Mediterranean Avenue or Boardwalk? Or both? Or neither? Find out how to break even on Monopoly with this handy table.

I haven’t played Monopoly in a long while. In fact, the last time I remember was in 2000 and that took 3 days (I lost from a winning position).

Monopoly is quite a strategic game and the best players know this. But for most casual players, they’ll want to buy property on the expensive squares and avoid jail. That doesn’t work as well as a landlord with a diverse lower-end portfolio. So how do you know where to put your money to make sure you at least break even by the end?

A Reddit user called Zackdevil02 made a table showing the minimum number of payments required to break even in Monopoly Classic. The colums show the property prices, rent prices for each property type, and the all-important “number of payments to break even” section.

Note: this is for the US version only and there may be a second version on the cards (no pun intended).

From what I can see, it takes longer to break even for the brown and blue properties in terms of rent but this decreases the further down you go. So I guess it pays to keep your property and location choices diverse.

Coronavirus reinfection will be the ‘new norm’

It’s so hard to find helpful information on COVID-19 and coronavirus as a whole but I found this piece useful.

Katherine J. Wu wrote about the reality of coronavirus reinfection in the near future and that it shouldn’t scare the majority of us.

Newly saddled with the baggage of COVID-19, reinfection has taken on a more terrifying aspect, raising the specter of never-ending cycles of disease. It has sat at the center of debates over testing, immunity, and vaccines; its meaning muddled by ominous headlines, it has become wildly misunderstood. When I ask immunologists about reinfection in the context of the coronavirus, many sigh.

[…]

But infection is a two-player game, and a change in either contender can affect the dynamics of a second confrontation. On occasion, the body’s immune strongholds might weaken and crack. Or a microbe might alter its surface until it’s unrecognizable to the host that once fought it off—even if the original defenses raised against the bug are still standing tall. These latter cases might be described less strictly as reinfection than as, well, another infection.

She spoke to various immunologists and virologists to find out more about what reinfection actually means:

A repeat infection won’t necessarily come with the same symptoms, or the same level of contagiousness. In the most classical portrait of reinfection, the microbe is effectively identical; your body, with its memory of the bug, is not. That probably means you’re not “completely susceptible again,” says Angela Rasmussen, a virologist affiliated with Georgetown University.

It’s a very informative piece and should quell some fears of a never-ending pandemic. As always, remember to wear adequate masks to stem transmission, keep social distancing, wash and sanitise your hands and stay home as much as you’re able to.

The Winamp Skin Museum

If she doesn’t remember Winamp, she’s too young for you bro!

Before Spotify, before iPods, and before iTunes, there was Winamp. The media player launched in 1997 and when I had a Windows PC, it was my go-to music playing software. It could play MP3, MIDI, AAC, M4A, FLAC, WAV, and WMA but it was one of the first major music players to suppose Ogg Vorbis, making it a great underground pick too. Winamp also let you apply custom skins to jazz up its UI, burgeoning a community of skin makers.

Fast forward to the 21st century and we now have the Winamp Skin Museum, which lets you infinite scroll through 65,000 Winamp skins. According to Wikipedia, there were only 3,000 skins in 2000.

The themes are spectacular covering the likes of Zelda, Mountain Dew, Garfield, and Jennifer Love Hewitt.

Check out the rest on the official website.

Gizmodo’s 100 websites that shaped the Internet

From AltaVista to Yahoo!, these sites changed the Internet landscape as we know it (according to Gizmodo)

Last November, Gizmodo published a list of 100 websites that shaped the Internet as we know it.

Some of these sites seemed perfectly arbitrary a decade ago and turned into monstrous destinations or world-destroying monopolies. Other sites have been net positives for humanity and gave us a glimpse of what can happen when the world works together. In many ways this list is an evaluation of power and who has seized it. In other ways, it’s an appreciation of the places that still make the web worth surfing.

From the list, I was familiar with the Top 50, as I’m sure most Web users of the last 20 years will be. The 50-100 were a little more obscure in places. Blingee passed me by and that’s okay as glitter has never been my thing. Being 12 in 2002 and without legit internet, MeetUp wasn’t going to be for me and yet I knew what Goatse was (by the time I was in college). RuneScape was something my friends played but I never got into it.

Maybe I’ll do my own list. I’m certain there’ll be some overlap.

Paul Ford on the myth of ‘real’ programming

Oh, so you’re a programming expert? Then name every program.

Last year, Paul Ford wrote a great piece for Wired on ‘real’ programming as an elitist myth.

He opened with a story about his partner and how she used a database service called Airtable to manage a mutual aid group.

“Real” coders in my experience have often sneered at this kind of software, even back when it was just FileMaker and Microsoft Access managing the flower shop or tracking the cats at the animal shelter. It’s not hard to see why. These tools are just databases with a form-making interface on top, and with no code in between. It reduces software development, in all its complexity and immense profitability, to a set of simple data types and form elements. You wouldn’t build a banking system in it or a game. It lacks the features of big, grown-up databases like Oracle or IBM’s Db2 or PostgreSQL. And since it is for amateurs, the end result ends up looking amateur.

But it sure does work. I’ve noticed that when software lets nonprogrammers do programmer things, it makes the programmers nervous. Suddenly they stop smiling indulgently and start talking about what “real programming” is. This has been the history of the World Wide Web, for example. Go ahead and tweet “HTML is real programming,” and watch programmers show up in your mentions to go, “As if.” Except when you write a web page in HTML, you are creating a data model that will be interpreted by the browser. This is what programming is.

I get hot every time I hear the phrase “HTML isn’t a programming language (it’s a markup language” as if that’s meant to mean something. Gatekeeping those 1’s, 0’s, and oddly shaped brackets only serves the (predominately [white]) men who use them to make unnecessarily verbose code that no one can read but them. And they break just as much as “the amateur who doesn’t know what he/she is doing”.

It’s about time we just let people get involved with code and program how they want. If it’s with Python, good! There’s no need to shit on it and say why Java or C++ is better or scrutinise its popularity.