Thursday 25 February, 2021

Where I’d like to be. Right Now.

Quote of the Day

”The English may not always be the best writers in the world, but they are incomparably the best dull writers.”

  • Raymond Chandler, “The Simple Art of Murder”, 1944

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Thomas Hampson | Hard times come again no more


Long Read of the Day

Shared (un)Realities

Lovely essay by Om Malik. Here’s how it begins…

You might have noticed that it has been awfully quiet here. I decided to take a “break” from reality and ended up staying as far away from the shackles of networked life as possible for as long as I could. I wanted to experience the kind of boredom that makes you come up with random and ludicrous ideas. The type that pushes you to jot down thoughts in a notebook, even if you can’t read your own scribbles.

My disconnection allowed me to start considering what constitutes reality in our hyper-connected world. It is apparent that we no longer live in a what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) kind of environment. Fact-based reality has become a figment of our imagination, or maybe we are beginning to realize that it was always so. “Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else,” George Orwell noted in 1984.

Much of today’s reality takes its cues from what we dubiously dubbed “reality” television. We all know that the Kardashians — like all reality show characters — are not really real, at least not as we know them. But they look and sound real enough, and they provide enough drama to provoke a real reaction. And this holds our attention, which can be sold to advertisers.

A few days back, I watched Vanity Fair writer Nick Bilton’s documentary, “Fake Famous”. . .

Likelihood of severe and ‘long’ COVID may be established very early on following infection  

Interesting new study by over 30 Cambridge scientists (including some from my college) on Covid and the human immune system which sheds light on some of the puzzling aspects of the virus.

The Abstract reads, in part,

In a study of 207 SARS-CoV2-infected individuals with a range of severities followed over 12 weeks from symptom onset, we demonstrate that an early robust immune response, without systemic inflammation, is characteristic of asymptomatic or mild disease. Those presenting to hospital had delayed adaptive responses and systemic inflammation already evident at around symptom onset. Such early evidence of inflammation suggests immunopathology may be inevitable in some individuals, or that preventative intervention might be needed before symptom onset. Viral load does not correlate with the development of this pathological response, but does with its subsequent severity. Immune recovery is complex, with profound persistent cellular abnormalities correlating with a change in the nature of the inflammatory response.

What it means, according to this commentary is that the likelihood of severe and ‘long’ COVID may be established very early on following infection. Some key findings are:

  • Individuals who have asymptomatic or mild disease show a robust immune response early on during infection.
  • Patients requiring admission to hospital have impaired immune responses and systemic inflammation (that is, chronic inflammation that may affect several organs) from the time of symptom onset.
  • Persistent abnormalities in immune cells and a change in the body’s inflammatory response may contribute to ‘long COVID’.

Covid-19 is such a weird disease. One of the researchers, Professor Ken Smith, was interviewed on the wonderful Naked Scientists podcast. The episode is well worth a listen. You can get it here.

The F-35 is, er, too heavy. Also too expensive.

If you want an insight into the madness of aerospace procurement, then this Forbes story provides it in style:

The U.S. Air Force’s top officer wants the service to develop an affordable, lightweight fighter to replace hundreds of Cold War-vintage F-16s and complement a small fleet of sophisticated—but costly and unreliable—stealth fighters.

The result would be a high-low mix of expensive “fifth-generation” F-22s and F-35s and inexpensive “fifth-generation-minus” jets, explained Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Brown Jr.

If that plan sounds familiar, it’s because the Air Force a generation ago launched development of an affordable, lightweight fighter to replace hundreds of Cold War-vintage F-16s and complement a small future fleet of sophisticated—but costly and unreliable—stealth fighters.

But over 20 years of R&D, that lightweight replacement fighter got heavier and more expensive as the Air Force and lead contractor Lockheed Martin LMT -1.1% packed it with more and more new technology.

Yes, we’re talking about the F-35. The 25-ton stealth warplane has become the very problem it was supposed to solve. And now America needs a new fighter to solve that F-35 problem, officials said.

You could buy an awful lot of drones for what a single F-35 would cost. But that wouldn’t keep a huge parasitic industry in employment.

Other, hopefully interesting, links

  • GameStop jumped 104% yesterday. The sport continues. Link.
  • QAnon used to be a conspiracy theory. Now it’s a full-blown cult. Link
  • Famous Philosophers in Quarantine. by Jesse Schupack and Michael Rauschenbach. Lovely. Guess what Plato would do. Or St Augustine. Link

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