The DNA testing company 23 and Me has been using their massive data sets to assist scientists with analysis in how COVID-19 spreads and if genetic factors play a role in determining how likely someone is to get infected and how severe the infection will be.
While not definitive, some of their early data seems to confirm that blood type may be a factor in transmission and immunity.
“In percentages, in the entire population, individuals with blood group O were 9-18% less likely to test positive when compared to other groups. “Exposed” individuals with blood group O were 13-26% less likely to test positive.”
Remember that year when you quit drinking, went to Burning Man, was diagnosed with end-stage liver disease, spent months in and out of the hospital, saw Australia burn, the President get impeached, watched a global pandemic kill more than 400,000 people, giant locus swarms in Africa, survived a liver transplant operation, Saharan dust clouds, protests, civil unrest, riots and violence in cities around the globe, and Kanye West announced he was running for President with support from the guy who both designed your car and helped return America to manned Spaceflight? Here’s to one year of sobriety!
Why does the sound on everything stink today? TV’s, Tablets, computers, cells. (Corporate greed! Oh, buy this special sound component.) My Stupid Samsung Smart TV, brand new, on 100, the highest it goes, is just audible on some channels. And my hearing is perfectly normal.
Well, Dave, there are several factors. But it basically boils down to two: audio compression and format.
Almost all recorded audio today is compressed. CD-quality was established as an audio standard when CDs were first released. The quality is crystal clear and typically mixed to be presented as stereo sound with 2 channels (Left and Right). The problem is that the data files are really big and you can only fit about 80 minutes of music or 700mb. That’s about 35mb for a 3 minute song.
Then the Internet became a thing and people very quickly realized that downloading a song took FOREVER. So one guy said, hey, since humans can’t really hear EVERY frequency why don’t we remove some of that “extra data”? And so he set to chopping out the bits (compressing) HE deemed weren’t important. So now we have a whole generation of kids that only grew up hearing compressed audio (MP3’s) and don’t know any better.
This same compressed audio is used in streaming movies and television today because of the same logic. Some stations and streaming platforms compress the fuck out of the audio and/or picture. The only way to get really really good quality picture and sound is to buy the Blu-Ray versions and play them on a really good home theater system.
That’s the first thing: compression. The second thing is audio format.
Unless you have your smart TV connected to a fancy home theater audio system, you’re likely hearing plain old (compressed) stereo sound. If the source of that audio was originally mixed for stereo, it probably sounds fine. But if it was mixed for more than 2 speakers… such as Dolby 5.1 Surround, you are likely not hearing some of the mix.
5.1 refers to the number of speakers that an audio track is mixed to. In a typical 5.1 set up you would have Front L and R, Front Center, Side L and R, and a subwoofer. The Front Center would typically have the majority of dialogue where the sides and subwoofer would have music/Sfx and so on. This is how they create that “surround sound”.
The problem is, if you don’t have that center speaker, you’re probably missing much of the dialog audio. Most smart TVs attempt to compensate for this with some audio trickery but it is inconsistent because there are so many different ways the original audio can be formatted. It’s like if someone were to listen to early Beatles with all the treble down and all the bass up…it would totally sound fucked up.
Your smart TV likely has a few different audio settings (check your manual or look at your remote). You may try switching to a different format that sounds better to you for whatever you are watching at the time. Or you can start investing in a home theater system and spend thousands of dollars and thousands of hours learning the finer points of audio engineering.
I recently watched the FX-produced “limited series” Devs on Hulu. It stars Nick Offerman (aka Ron Swanson from “Parks & Recreation“) as the “mad genius” and Sonoya Mizuno as the protagonist trying to uncover the secret behind her boyfriend’s sudden and inexplicable disappearance. I might add that Sonoya Mizuno may very well be my new favorite actress. If you’re not familiar with her work, watch this: The Rise of Sonoya Mizuno
The roughly 8 hour show (broken into 8 segments) is the brainchild of writer/director Alex Garland, who also wrote and directed Annihilation and Ex-Machina and wrote 28 Days Later. Garland has been on my radar for several years and has brought some of the most intriguing science fiction to both the big and little screens in recent years. Here’s what I wrote on Facebook after seeing Annihilation a couple years ago:
After being a little late to the game on Devs, and despite the fact that I had seen the name pop up as recommended by several friends…I never went digging enough to find it. I saw it once on Apple TV+ but it wanted me to buy it…then I realized it was on Hulu for free! So I binged all 8 episodes in about 2 Covid quarantine days.
The story goes like this: A russian-born software security developer working for a Silicon Valley tech giant gets recruited by the company’s Founder/CEO, Forest (Offerman), to join an elite team within the company called “Devs”. Shortly after he joins Devs, he disappears and his girlfriend, Lily (Mizuno) suspects foul play, leading her on a journey that weaves international espionage, high-tech, quantum computing, determinism and the concept of a multiverse.
The Multiverse theory is a very real theory that has its roots in ancient Greek philosophy and basically postulates the multiverse is a hypothetical group of multiple universes. Together, these universes comprise everything that exists: the entirety of space, time, matter, energy, information, and the physical laws and constants that describe them. The different universes within the multiverse are called “parallel universes,” “other universes,” “alternate universes,” or “many worlds.”. The ideas of a Multiverse have been debated by physicists and philosophers alike, and has been the subject of many modern science fiction works, including the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Trek, Family Guy, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Chronicles of Narnia…and many, many more.
In Devs, the multiverse is explored as a predictive tool. If every action has a cause, say you drop a pen, the pen will fall to the floor. It’s predictable and quantifiable. Devs takes it a step further by saying that if the pen is already on the floor, you can calculate how it got there, essentially peering back in time to the initial drop. Once you can visualize it being dropped, in theory, you can continue predicting backwards (and forwards) further and further, using massive computing power to predict all possible scenarios and accurately visualize the most likely outcomes.
It very quickly gets sticky and mired in the ethics of this technology…and the concepts of “free will”, determinism and quantum physics are all blended nicely in the Devs Universe. Forest is driven to build this technology due to a great loss he suffered and hopes to use it to recapture what he lost. Lily works for the same company and uncovers the mystery of her boyfriend’s disappearance and the truth behind Devs but begins to question her own thoughts and reality along the way.
The series is visually stunning, filled with religious imagery and themes of death and rebirth. The Devs soundtrack is fantastic as well, with one notable episode starting and ending with a song called Congregation by Low. Every episode starts and ends with a unique song. It’s quite a fun watch, and I highly recommend it. But…could it happen for real??? Some physicists say perhaps.
“It’s easy to take time’s arrow for granted – but the gears of physics actually work just as smoothly in reverse. Maybe that time machine is possible after all?
“An experiment from 2019 shows just how much wiggle room we can expect when it comes to distinguishing the past from the future, at least on a quantum scale. It might not allow us to relive the 1960s, but it could help us better understand why not.”
“The second law of thermodynamics is less a hard rule and more of a guiding principle for the Universe. It says hot things get colder over time as energy transforms and spreads out from areas where it’s most intense.
“It’s a principle that explains why your coffee won’t stay hot in a cold room, why it’s easier to scramble an egg than unscramble it, and why nobody will ever let you patent a perpetual motion machine.
“It’s also the closest we can get to a rule that tells us why we can remember what we had for dinner last night, but have no memory of next Christmas.
“That law is closely related to the notion of the arrow of time that posits the one-way direction of time from the past to the future,” said quantum physicist Gordey Lesovik from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology.
“Virtually every other rule in physics can be flipped and still make sense. For example, you could zoom in on a game of pool, and a single collision between any two balls won’t look weird if you happened to see it in reverse.
“On the other hand, if you watched balls roll out of pockets and reform the starting pyramid, it would be a sobering experience. That’s the second law at work for you.
“On the macro scale of omelettes and games of pool, we shouldn’t expect a lot of give in the laws of thermodynamics. But as we focus in on the tiny gears of reality – in this case, solitary electrons – loopholes appear.
“Electrons aren’t like tiny billiard balls, they’re more akin to information that occupies a space. Their details are defined by something called the Schrödinger equation, which represents the possibilities of an electron’s characteristics as a wave of chance.
That’s the fancy title of a new report by Kazuki Takeishi and other scientists who have successfully created miniature human livers from stem cells and put them into mice. I won’t get into the details, mostly because I don’t understand them, but here’s a picture:
About 17,000 people are currently waiting for a liver transplant in the United States. This number greatly exceeds the amount of available, donated by deceased donors. Meanwhile, organ transplants can be prohibitively expensive. In 2017, patients receiving a liver transplant were billed an estimated $812,500. That includes pre and post-op care as well as immunosuppressant drugs to keep people’s bodies from rejecting the transplanted organ.
I am one of those liver transplant recipients. My donor passed away on May 12th 2020, and in the early hours of May 13th, my dying liver was removed and replaced with the donor’s healthy liver in an operation that lasted about 4 hours. That was exactly three weeks ago, but I could have been much more unlucky. Each year an estimated 2000 people die while on the national transplant list…there are just not enough donated livers to keep up with demand. And you can’t live without a functioning liver…it is one of the most important organs and supports over 500 key body functions.
While the science isn’t quite ready for prime-time, scientists expect that within 10 years, liver donations will be a thing of the past.
As I write this, I consider myself very fortunate. I was diagnosed with End-Stage Liver Disease in October of 2019 and spent the past six months in and out of the hospital, in the ICU having life-extending procedures and taking drugs to keep my damaged liver from completely shutting down. I was officially placed on the National Donor list in late February, a list with 16000+ other transplant candidates and a list in which 2000+ hopefuls sadly pass away before finding the right organ.
So I waited, battling the symptoms that made me weak and sick, draining fluid from my abdomen and chest cavities, suffering periodic life-threatening ammonia spikes that could cause me to become unconscious without warning, drops in hemoglobin, anemia, kidney failure, internal bleeding…The symptoms kept getting worse and tested my resolve many times.
But then at about 10:30 pm, Vanessa, my Liver Transplant Coordinator left me this message:
I was beside myself and shaking with this news. I was scared, but this was what I was waiting for. My buddy Jack came and picked me up and we drove to Advent and checked into pre-op (called the “Rapid In/Out” or “RIO:” department. Shower, Chest X-Ray, Blood tests, Covid-test, wait, wait, wait.
Around 7am the surgeon came in and said they were looking at a noon-ish time for surgery. He said he had not seen the donor liver yet but he needed to see it before they brought me in to make sure it was viable.
Noon turned into 2pm. 2pm turned into 4pm. At 4 pm a nurse came in and I did the final prep for surgery. Compression socks, hair net, enema…at about 4:50 the surgeon came in and, in a very somber tone said that he had finally seen the donor liver and it was not viable. It was “too fatty” and he couldn’t transplant it.
Devastation. I was SO ready and this just felt like the wind was taken out of my sails. I went back home in a daze and slept. I barely got out of bed the next couple of days. I was in a daze, but I knew this was a possibility. And so again I waited.
Fortunately I only had to wait a few days and I got another call. On Wednesday, May 13th I had liver transplant surgery. I went under about 12:30 am and woke up about 8 hours later in the post-transplant ICU. In less than 24 hours I was in a normal recovery room and eating solid foods.
With 48 hours I was standing and walking with a walker and within 5 days I was discharged from the hospital, walking out on my own two feet. It was amazing and my recovery has been quite smooth. My transplant surgeon has already reduced some of my meds and, after a couple weeks of staying with my parents, I am happy to be back in my own home and sleeping in my own bed.
I have a weekly blood test and visit with my doctor, but so far all my lab results have been good. I’m eating well and all of the symptoms of my disease have disappeared. I have a new life!