Month: November 2020
The Top 10 Ways to End the COVID 19 Pandemic
This is my list of the ways that the COVID 19 pandemic can be stopped and brought under control. It is in order from what I believe is the least effective to the most effective ways to combat COVID 19. I will try not to involve any politics in this list but it may be necessary to mention how the results are effected by politics. This pandemic should not be in the least bit political, and should be purely scientific, but that has not been the case. I think some of the answers may shock you, or just surprise you, since some are not widely known or understood.
Herd Immunity: This concept is widely misunderstood but is actually simple. That is why I have two spots on my list. Both classifications have the same result: A certain percentage of the total population becoming immune to the virus will stop the spread of the virus. That number is estimated somewhere between 50% and 95% of the population. The percentage is determined by how infectious the disease is, or how easily it is spread from person to person.
What is not agreed upon is how to achieve this percentage. The doctor that was in charge of the Trump task force says that herd immunity should be achieved by just letting the disease run its course through the population. The other method is by increasing the immunity with vaccinations.
First, there is a big problem with letting the disease run its course. They state that most of the population who survives the disease will have immunity. The population that is in the most danger of dying from the disease would need to be protected (quarantined) from getting the virus. This is an overgeneralized statement since a large percentage of the population is at high risk of becoming seriously ill from the disease, and it is nearly impossible to tell who is going to die from the disease. Many people at risk have no way to protect themselves like extended quarantining for many months. Then there is the moral issue: Letting 1% of the population die to reach herd immunity! 1% seems like a small number but 1% of 300 million people is 3 million people that would perish! This percentage could be reduced in the future but even .5% death rate would mean 1.5 million people will die! The death rate today stands at around 1% for people contracting COVID 19, and is higher in poorer communities. Not a good idea in my opinion! Here is a link to an excellent article that explains more about herd immunity:
Herd Immunity by Vaccination: As mentioned before, this is getting to that magic percentage where the disease stops spreading by vaccination. This seems simple but it has major drawbacks and problems.
The worst drawback is that there is a public distrust of vaccinations. In a recent poll that asked if you would take the COVID19 vaccination, 50% said “no”! This alone would not be enough to stop the spread of the disease even if the vaccine is 100% effective, which leads me to the second problem. No vaccine is 100% effective. The seasonal flu vaccine is only about 50% effective. In other words 50% of the people that take the vaccine still get the flu! So if the COVID 19 vaccine is only 50% effective but is given to everyone (which will never happen), more than 150 million people will still be able to get COVID 19 and 1.5 million to 750 thousand of them could eventually die since the spread would not be stopped but would be slower. Of course 1.5 million to 750 thousand lives would be saved which is better than solution 1 on my list!
Another problem is that no one is sure of the percentage that is needed for herd immunity. And yet another problem is that the vaccine might become ineffective if the virus mutates which most viruses do over time.
The last problem with vaccination is that it is not known how long the immunity will last with each vaccine. The only way to know this is to give the vaccine and see how many people get sick over time. It might be only one month, six months, one year, or a lifetime. There is no way to know until that time has passed!
One positive thing about a vaccine is that it will reduce the infection rate among high risk people and will protect people who have a high exposure to COVID 19, like first responders, medical personal, and essential workers. It will also prevent people from dying or even getting seriously ill from COVID 19. Don’t get depressed, there are eight more solutions to explore.
Increasing Resistance to Getting COVID 19: Most people who contract COVID 19 only have mild symptoms. 80% do not need any hospitalization. Why do the other 20% either get seriously ill or never recover? The medical community states the main reason is something called comorbidity, which basically means that they are in poor health. Medical conditions such as diabetes, cancer, obesity, congestive heart conditions, asthma and other lung diseases cause a higher percentage of patients to need hospital care after contacting COVID 19. But why is this?
There are clues and studies, some of which have led to the death rates going down. It all has to do with having a healthy immune system. Not all people with comorbidities end up in the hospital and many people without comorbidities end up in the hospital, and some die.
Why does the seasonal flu increase in the fall, and peak in the winter? Many scientists say it is because we go inside and pass the diseases between each other and colder outside temperatures. This is a vague explanation and has little scientific merit. The real reason is simple. It does have to do with people going inside, but not directly. It has to do with the seasons. In the fall the days get shorter. There is one element that is important in having a healthy immune system. It is not a vitamin but is called a vitamin. People mainly get it with sun exposure but it is also in some foods. It is a type of hormone called vitamin D!
Absorption through the skin with direct sun exposure is the main way that we get vitamin D. In the fall we go back to school and work and the days grow shorter reducing the amount that we absorb and have in our systems. Many peer reviewed studies show that being deficient in D leads to a compromised immune system. This leads to lower resistance to many diseases and conditions such as the flu, all contagious diseases, cancer, heart and lung diseases, and nervous system conditions, just to name a few.
The percentage of the population who is deficient in D varies greatly. The farther north that people live is causally related to deficiencies. Skin color is another factor since darker skin does not absorb vitamin D as easily. The percentage of people in the US that are deficient is somewhere around 45%! That means that their immune systems are compromised and more susceptible to having a bad outcome with COVID 19 infection. 80% of hospitalized COVID 19 patients have vitamin D deficiencies.
One of the treatments for hospitalized COVID 19 patients is supplementing vitamin D and other vitamins which have been proven to help the immune system become stronger. Zink, selenium, magnesium, vitamin A and E, and others along with D have doubled the positive outcomes of hospitalized COVID 19 patients.
These vitamins can help in the treatment of COVID 19 and in the prevention of having to be hospitalized and dying. This is a good thing, but the problem is that the medical community does not recognize vitamin therapies universally, and no matter how much they help, they do not prevent the spread of the disease. Any other treatments being developed also do not stop the spread. Here is a link to more information on these developments:
Complete Shutdown: Shutting down all of the economy and confining people to stay at home can stop the spread of the virus, but it is impractical. People need to go out and buy food, go the pharmacy, and other essential travel and not everyone can work from home, and many people’s jobs are essential, like police, fire, ambulance, doctors, and nurses, and many businesses cannot close like pharmacies, and grocery stores. Early in the COVID 19 pandemic this was tried but failed to stop the spread, but did slow it down until the shutdown orders were lifted, then the COVID 19 transmission increased again. Another problem with this is that if it is not put in place everywhere at the same time, then the spread will continue in the areas that are not shut down and then spread to areas that have eased their shutdown again. That is what happened in the US.
I have this analogy that makes this easier to understand: If a farmer’s field with rows of crops has an infestation of bugs and they decide to apply insecticide on every other row, then the other rows of crops will continue with the infestation while the treated row’s bugs are killed. After a while, the insecticide wears off on the treated rows and the bugs travel from the untreated rows to infect the previously treated rows again. Even if the farmer treats the first untreated row after this, the first treated row will continue to be infected. This could go on forever, or until all the crops are dead. This sounds stupid and it is! No farmer would do this. This is what happened in the US. Some states initiated a shutdown and others did not, so the COVID 19 virus lives on. Some places did partial shutdowns others only shutdown certain businesses, there was no consistent national guidelines, and the guidelines that were given by the CDC were either not followed or discredited by politicians, thus COVID 19 passed back and forth between states, causing the epidemic to go on endlessly until everyone gets the disease and millions die!
Personal Hygiene: One of the first guidelines to protect against the spread of COVID 19 was to have good hygiene practices such as, washing hands frequently, using a disinfectant, not touching your face, sneezing and coughing into your elbow or a tissue, and not greeting people by shaking hands or kissing. Wearing masks was not recommended because the demand for medical and first responders was so great that it caused a shortage. It was thought that most of the transmission was from large respiratory droplets passing directly from person to person and being deposited on surfaces passing to people who contacted the contaminated surfaces then touching their faces.
These good hygiene practices are important but they did not stop the spread of COVID 19. After more research, it was discovered that COVID 19 could be easily spread through the air, not just by large droplets, but as an aerosol. Aerosol transmission is much harder to control since the COVID 19 virus is microscopic, free floating in the air, and can travel with the air flow both indoors and out. Just breathing out projects the particles a long distance and can even fill a small space in a matter of seconds. Outside it is not as much of a problem since the wind, if windy, will carry away the aerosol faster, but the disease still can be transmitted outside. Number 8 will discuss this.
Disinfecting Surfaces: This is self-explanatory but it has problems also. Early on this was a recommended practice and for good reason. Infected droplets that land on a surface can transmit the disease to anyone who comes in contact with those droplets lasting for an extended period of time depending the type of surface. Early on people were even disinfecting their mail packages. Any typical household disinfectant can kill the virus that is on surfaces, so using them after every person contacts the communal surfaces is helpful in stopping the spread from shared surface contact. This is good but does not stop the spread of the virus as mentioned before, only slows it down.
Avoiding Close Contact with Others: This is another strategy that can work in theory; keeping a certain distance away from others so the disease does not pass between persons, and avoiding congregating in groups. People are social creatures and feel the need to be close to others, but it has proven to help with the spread of the disease. Young people are particularly bad at this, (party on), and politics has also cast doubt and caused people not to stay a safe distance apart. Of course, like my analogy in 4, this does not work unless everyone does this 100% of the time and at the same time. As mentioned in number 5, the virus can travel long distances through the air as an aerosol, thus keeping a six-foot (two meters) distance does not prevent the transfer through aerosols. COVID will continues to spread despite people keeping a distance apart.
Wearing Masks in Public Places: This has been one of the most controversial strategies in the US mainly because of politics. Mask wearing to prevent the spread of disease has been around for more than 100 years. During the 1919 flu epidemic masks were also mandated, and effective in 1918 during the start of the epidemic, but in 1919 people got tired of wearing them, and then the flu spread increased dramatically in the fall with even more deaths than the year before. Sound familiar?
Yes, surgical masks do help prevent the wearer from spreading disease if they are contagious, this is the reason all surgeons are required to wear masks during surgery. An open incision is particularly susceptible to infection. A different kind of mask is worn by health care workers to protect themselves from infection from patients, called a N95 mask. This mask has valves that filter the incoming air and prevent microbes from infecting the wearer. Health care workers also wear protective clothing (PPP) to further reduce the risk of infection. The shortage of these materials was of great concern early on and caused many health care workers and first responders to become infected and die. Some citizens wore the N95 masks in public, thinking that they stopped the transmission of COVID 19. They were wrong. N95 masks only protect the wearer. If you have the disease, the N95 masks does not prevent you from passing the disease to others since the valves only work one way. When you exhale the valves open up and let your infected air pass through without resistance. That is why N95 masks are no longer allowed to be worn in public places.
As stated before, without 100% compliance wearing masks does not stop the spread of the disease. If one infected person enters a room, and everyone is wearing a mask but that person, then that person can infect everyone in that room. Remember that surgical masks only protect other people. When you breath in with a surgical mask and the air is infected you can be infected. Surgical masks do not prevent the wearer from getting infected. They are only about 80% effective in preventing the wearer from spreading the disease. They are not a complete solution but can help reduce the transmission if everyone wears them.
Testing, Tracing, Quarantining: This is also simple and self-explanatory. This technique was used in some countries as soon as the virus was discovered and it was successful at defeating the spread of the virus. South Korea is the prime example. As soon as the virus was discovered in China, the Korean government sponsored the development of a COVID 19 test. When the virus was discovered in the country (the same time as the US) tests were distributed where the virus was being found. Testing centers were set up throughout the infected locations. Temperature check points were also set up in all public areas. When someone was identified with a high temperature, they were led to a testing center and tested first for the seasonal flu. If they tested positive for the seasonal flu they were sent home. They didn’t waste a COVID 19 test on them. If they tested negative they would be sent to the next step and tested for pneumonia with a lung scan. If this test showed signs of pneumonia in their lungs, even if they had no other symptoms, they were given a COVID 19 test. They were then put in a quarantine area until the results of the test were received. If negative they were sent home. If the tests were positive, they were either sent to a quarantine center. (mostly hotels were converted for this), or if they were ill, sent to a COVID 19 ward in a hospital. They were not allowed to go home, thus not spreading the virus to their family members. This was the problem in the west. Most people who were positive, but not sick enough to be admitted into the hospital, were sent home to “self-quarantine”. Studies have shown that the level of compliance was extremely low, as low as 11%!
When the South Koreans discovered a positive person, they interviewed them asking them who they were in contact with in the past weeks, called contact tracing. They then contacted all of these persons and had them come to the testing centers and were tested. If they were not sure where they had been, their cell phone records were checked to see where they had been. If the people they were in contact with were positive, rinse and repeat. This technique stopped the spread in South Korea and other countries that did the same. In a country with a population of about 52 million people, to date they had about 100,000 total cases and 2,000 deaths! They did not have to close schools or any businesses! Unfortunately, this is only effective with a low level of infection as when it was first discovered. To trace 150,000+ cases a day is impossible!
Disinfecting Everywhere: To end the pandemic the virus has to die! This sounds simple, and it is as simple as changing a light bulb, but a little history will help to explain and prove my point. There have been epidemics and pandemics throughout recorded history and probably before recorded history. There are different types of diseases that are the cause. The two main types are viruses and bacteria. They have various ways of transmission such as, through the air, water, animals, and insects just to name a few.
Only two infectious diseases have been totally eradicated out of the many scores of infectious diseases that are still killing people today, smallpox and rinderpest. The smallpox vaccine was first used in 1796 and stopped the spread in Europe and the US, but still took almost 200 years to finally get rid of it. Other diseases, like cholera, were discovered to be caused by contaminated water from sewage, so sewage and water treatment prevent this disease from spreading, but is still a problem today in third world countries with inadequate water treatment.
The easiest way for diseases to pass from person to person is through the air. This is the case with COVID 19 and many of todays viral and bacterial infectious diseases. To make things worse, overuse of antibiotics has created mutations that cause them to be resistant to the antibiotics. This has been a particularly bad problem in hospitals with resistant diseases infecting patients. This is being combated with strict hygiene control and disinfecting operating rooms. The operating rooms are disinfected by a number of methods; with strong chemicals, gasses, and ultraviolet lights, all of which are toxic when exposed to humans. The problem with this is that once the patient leaves the operating room they are then not in a sanitary environment. Hospital rooms are kept clean but not sanitized like operating rooms, and thus the resistant bacteria is still a problem in most hospitals.
There is a way now to sanitize all living spaces and not involve toxic chemicals or ultraviolet light that burns the skin and causes skin cancer. It has flown under the radar of the media and politicians. I think that if all public and private spaces can be sanitized like an operating room, COVID 19 could be exterminated along with all virulent diseases that are transferred through the air and surfaces like the flu and many others.
You may have heard of UVC lamps that are used to disinfect operating rooms. The problem with them is that the spectrum of ultraviolet light they emit is extremely dangerous when exposed to people. It passes through the skin, burning and causing skin cancer. In nature it does not reach the surface of the earth because it can’t pass through the upper layers of the atmosphere. This is why astronauts need extra protection while in space. UVA and UVB ultraviolet light from the sun that give you a tan and a sun burn is also necessary for absorption of vitamin D but does not kill virusus.
In 2018 a new type of disinfectant lamp called Far-UVC was invented. This lamp uses a lower frequency, 222nm of ultraviolet C light whichis less than the frequency of regular UVC. After testing it has proven to be just as effective in killing all viruses and bacteria, and does not penetrate the upper layers of skin and the outer surface of the eyes, thus making it safe for human exposure. Safety testing was completed in 2020 at Columbia University: https://www.cuimc.columbia.edu/news/far-uvc-light-safely-kills-airborne-coronaviruses
The lamps are available now from various manufacturers and starting to be used for disinfection, but I think that these lamps need to be manufactured and distributed with the defense production act to save as many lives as possible. The cost of these lights is high but will come down when production is ramped up. Of course this should be prioritized where COVID 19 is spreading the most. I am not an expert but it is obvious where these lamps should be installed.
This is not just a solution to combat COVID 19, but a solution to combat all future communicable disease outbreaks and all communicable diseases killing people now. As in the past most epidemic and pandemics were stopped by improving public hygiene like cholera, the various plagues, and TB to name a few. I think these lamps are the next step in improving public hygiene and making our world a better and healthier place to live in! Please share this article and comment if you have any disagreements, questions, or think I left anything out. If you like this article make sure you follow me to receive more of the same, I have a top ten list of scientific topics I will write about.
Update: Far UVC disinfectant devices which use solid state technologies are now on sale: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20201216005924/en/NS-Nanotech-ShortWaveLight%E2%84%A2-Purifier-Neutralizes-Viruses-with-Far-UVC-Sanitizing-Light
#science #COVID19 #Pandemic
Alexa, Tell Me What is on the Table?
Now Alexa can answer you and even recommend what to do with the objects like, what recipes can be made with them (if they are food items), or even tell you if you forgot something like your keys, wallet. lipstick, or credit card.
How can this be you may ask? The answer is… Smart Fabrics. You may have purchased a smart fabric, like the Christmas sweater with led lights woven into the fabric (my wife has one), or the sneakers that display messages (my son has three pairs), and a face mask that also displays messages (my son also has one). But smart fabrics have developed way beyond this. They are fabrics that can react to environmental stimuli. In other words, they have a brain! Now they are many and varied, like fabrics that react to temperature to keep you cool or warm. There are many smart fabrics being developed for the military, firefighters, police, and other high-risk professions.
The fabric that is being developed that can connect to Alexa, or any computer or smart phone, is basically a smart tablecloth! This is being developed and tested by a team of researchers at Dartmouth College.
The team made this smart tablecloth using capacitive sensing for object recognition. (Watch out, nerdy language!). They call the material Capacitivo (really original name, give them a break, they are just science nerds). Let me explain this nerdy term. This means that objects can be identified by sensing the electrical resistance, the shape, and the weight of the object, and It is not necessary for any user input to function.
The team made this material by using diamond shaped electrodes that are layered onto a cloth, a similar process as iron on t-shirt decals. There is also a layer of material that acts as a ground underneath the electrodes. When an object is placed on the cloth, the resistance of the material is measured along with the shape. The grounding material also helps to identify the object by measuring the resistance as an electrical current passes from the electrode to the ground. There is a special module that is attached to the material and is connected to a computational device, like a computer, smart phone, or Alexa.
So how does the computational device know what the object placed on the cloth is? The program that determines this uses machine learning to have a catalog of the characteristics of these items. In other words, it learns what the objects are by the response of the electrical signals from the cloth and module. Machine learning is a fairly new field of computation and is a form of artificial intelligence (AI) which is transforming our lives as I type this. AI is teaching robots how to respond without human input, as well as the development of autonomous vehicles, such as trains, planes and automobiles, (movie reference, one of my favorites), and many more applications like, research in medicine, physics, materials development, and weather prediction. (And not to program robots to take over the world).
The material was tested with twenty different objects and was successful 94.5% of the time. Just what objects did they test you may ask? Various objects were tested including, fruits and vegetables, a container, different liquids is in the container (milk, juice, whisky, etc.), how full the container is, and everyday items like a lipstick, and a potted plant. Alexa then can tell you when the plant needs to be watered, suggest recipes for the foods on the table, or tell you where you left your lipstick.
There are limitations though. Light weight objects, like a credit card, are not as easily identified because they don’t leave a heavy footprint that makes contact with the grounding material. It also can’t tell you if you are hungry or thirsty or drunk or stupid or tired or cheating on your wife or if your wife is cheating on you or burgling the house or hanging from the ceiling…..
I would love to hear back from you on your opinion if you think that people might actually buy a smart tablecloth. Of course people buy just about anything that is high tech and can be connected to a computational devise!
Here is a video of the smart tablecloth if you don’t believe me and think I am pulling your leg, (no it can’t tell jokes about the objects either), and at the end I will post some links for further reading:
Dartmouth College. “Smart tablecloth can find fruit and help with watering the plants: Interactive fabric senses everyday non-metallic objects.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 October 2020. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/10/201030092246.htm>.
Te-Yen Wu, Lu Tan, Yuji Zhang, Teddy Seyed, Xing-Dong Yang. Capacitivo: Contact-Based Object Recognition on Interactive Fabrics usingCapacitive Sensing. UIST ’20, October 20–23, 2020, Virtual Event, USA, 2020 DOI: 10.1145/3379337.3415829
#science #smartmaterials #technology #computers
How I Got the Nickname, “Perfect Pete”.
It was my sophomore year in high school when I got the nickname “Perfect Pete”. I have had other nicknames throughout my life like Pete the Peach, Pete the Weatherman, and Pete when my voice was changing.
I was a band geek throughout high school which turned into my main profession throughout my life. A few years earlier in eighth grade I had started taking private trombone lessons from a young, but strict, teacher, Frank T. Williams III. He gave me lots of advise like “If you want to become a professional musician, one thing you don’t do is get married, and the other thing is you have to be a great sight reader.
I wasn’t worried about the first thing, but I didn’t get married until I was 43. Frank made sure I became a great sight reader by force. Every lesson he put some music in front of me that I had never seen before and made me sight read it. He taught me tricks on how to do it better, like looking over the music before starting and checking out the key and time signature, as well as spotting where the more difficult sections were.
After two years of private teaching I started to become a good sight reader. Many of my band mates were not. Before the school year started, we had a band camp and would learn new music and marching formations for the upcoming football season and competitions. During one band practice Jim Crumbly, our band director, handed out a new piece of music called “Gospel John”. I was familiar with this song since I had listened to it on an album of trumpet virtuoso Maynard Ferguson, but this was a different marching band arrangement. The music was quite challenging, so when we started playing most of my bandmates stopped playing a short time after starting. Mr. Crumbly understood the problem and said that it was OK because the music was so difficult. Then he gave us a challenge and said that if anyone could play through the music by the next practice they would get an “A”.
I then opened my big mouth and said, “I can play it perfectly today!” Mr. Crumbly had a startled look on his face and then said, “Go ahead and play it perfectly for us then!”. I then played through the music from beginning to end without any mistakes. Mr. Crumply then gave me an “A” grade and one of my bandmates said, “Way to go Perfect Pete!” and that’s how I got the nickname. I don’t remember which one of my bandmates said it but if they are reading this please comment below!
As for the subject for this blog on “Science Technology and Beyond” is concerned, I am also a bit of a science nerd, and even had college level courses on the Earth Sciences even though I was a music major. With so much negativity in the world, I wanted to write about something positive. So please subscribe to by blog if you like what I am writing about. I will try not to sound like a science nerd and explain everything in layman’s terms. Please let me know what you think.