Explainer video - this is a good time to understand what exponential growth means

Here's a good video that shows how the increase in the number of Covid-19 follows an exponential growth curve. Each day, says 3Blue1Brown, the number of coronavirus cases is "between 1.15 and 1.25 of the number of cases the previous day."

3Blue1Brown writes: "While this video uses COVID-19 (aka the Coronavirus) as a motivating example, the main goal is simply a math lesson on exponentials and logistic curves. If you're looking for a video more focused on COVID-19 itself, I'd recommend taking a look at this one from Osmosis:"

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Purrrre Genius: CatVideoFest 2020 is clawing its way to a theater near you

Cat videos. They’re almost like a universal language; even people who don't love cats love cat videos. And what better way to overindulge than with CatVideoFest 2020, coming soon to a theater near you. What started as an experiment at a Minneapolis art center eight years ago quickly grew into an international phenomenon, and it's sweeping the country, with a curated compilation of the latest and best cat videos culled from countless submissions including “sourced animations, music videos, and internet powerhouses.” The first festival was held outdoors in the summer of 2012 and drew a crowd of 10,000!

Image: Catvideofest.com Read the rest

Unicorn piggy bank

With the coronavirus pandemic tanking markets and hammering stocks, wise investors should consider putting their remaining funds in this charming unicorn piggy bank [Amazon], equipped with a 1.5 inch coin slot at the top and a firm but easily-removable stopper underneath.

Measuring 6.75 x 4 x 3.5 inches, the unicorn can hold about three dollars in pennies and far more in other denominations, allowing thrifty kids to ride out the apocalypse with plenty of cash for candy, comics and .223 Remington/5.56 NATO ammunition.

VANVEVE Lovely Unicorn Piggy Bank for Girls [Amazon] Read the rest

Max Von Sydow, 1929-2020

Max Von Sydow is dead at 90. The Swedish-born actor appeared in more than 100 films and TV shows, with famed roles playing chess with death in 1957's The Seventh Seal, dressing down demons in 1973's The Exorcist and dressing up as Ming the Merciless in 1980's Flash Gordon.

He was often typecast in Hollywood as the sophisticated villain, which the Associated Press said was down to him being "all and lanky, with sullen blue eyes, a narrow face, pale complexion and a deep and accented speaking voice".

But, he once said in an interview: "What I as an actor look for is a variety of parts. It is very boring to be stuck in more or less one type of character."

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You can use a microwave without a door, but you shouldn't

Just because you can do a thing, doesn't mean you should. This rule especially holds true where the removal of radiation safeguards are involved. Read the rest

Photoshop has a curious feature to easily grow trees and forests in your photos

If you have a photo in need of foliage, fire up Photoshop and generate for a 3D rendered Sakura Cherry Blossom, Redwood, Young Maple, Palm, or nearly three dozen other trees. Just go to Filter Render Tree and let your creativity, er, take root. This curious feature even enables you to tweak the leaf sizes, branch height, and other variables. But what's the story behind this curious feature? From Input:

The trees, it turns out, came in response to architectural artists who wanted to be able to drop trees into their work but struggled to smoothly integrate them into the image. Before the tree filter was introduced in 2014, designers would have to cut out a preexisting image of a tree taken at the right angle and then paste it in. “We thought it would be convenient if you could generate customizable trees that fit illustrations,” says Daichi Ito, the technical research artist who developed the tree filter for Adobe. “By ‘fit,’ I mean it doesn’t have a strong style; it’s somewhat realistic, but not photorealistic.”

Ito created the project as part of the development of an engine, codenamed Deco, that would help Photoshop create generative patterns. “Daichi came to us and said, ‘I can actually write a bunch of interesting scripts that leverage that Deco engine and allow us to generate all kinds of things,’” recalls Stephen Nielson, director of product management for Photoshop at Adobe. Ito spent a month writing the algorithm that created the generative images. “Generating tree data took me some more time,” he adds.

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CDC may ground flights if airlines fail to collect data on coronavirus-prone flyers

Penalties include fines as high as $500,000 as well as jail time of up to a year.

CDC coronavirus "daily update" site takes the weekend off

The CDC created a website to make it easy to keep track of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., but it hasn't been updated in several days and is stuck at the count from late last week, with 11 deaths and 161 infections. In fact, nearly twice this number are dead with more than 500 testing positive.

The government (least of all the Trump administration) isn't taking it seriously, but newsmedia is starting to. CNN:

Starting today, you will notice that CNN is using the term pandemic to describe the current coronavirus outbreak. It is not a decision we take lightly. While we know it sounds alarming, it should not cause panic. So why now? The World Health Organization hasn't called the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. Nor has the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But many epidemiologists and public health experts argue the world is already experiencing a pandemic because of the novel coronavirus. There are now over 100,000 cases and over 3,000 deaths attributed to this new virus. In one day last week, the number of new cases outside of China, where the virus originated, was nearly 9 times higher than the number of new cases in China. This virus has found a foothold on every continent except for Antarctica. In several countries, the number of cases continues to climb.

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Revolutionize your next Dungeons & Dragons game with this anticapitalist / anarchist campaign guide

From the Dungeon Masters Guild:

Eat the Rich is a collection of explicitly anticapitalist adventures for  the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game. Each original adventure dives into classic D&D tropes, and puts a new spin on them. Tackling issues of workers’ rights, health care, the prison industrial complex, the environment, animal rights, agriculture and more, these adventures will make you passionate to join the revolution.

Eat the Rich features 17 original adventures for tiers 1-4, in a 213 page colour PDF. Set in the Forgotten Realms, Ravnica, Eberron, or ready to be dropped into your own setting, the anthology features work by a global team of new and established designers and artists.

If you want to free the Goblins from the bonds of racial oppression and forge your dwarves together in an iron working union to face down the tyrannical production expectations of the rock giants, now's your chance.

Eat the Rich, Volume 1 [Dungeon Masters Guild]

Image: Huntleigh / Wikimedia Commons (CC 3.0) Read the rest

Transform your handwritten notes into editable digital text with this writing pad

From outlines to lists to freeform scrawl that tumbles and twists its way across a page, everybody’s got their own style for taking notes. That style often comes from years of scholastic and professional arenas, refining the process for retaining key information that works best for you. And, as you probably learned from borrowing your buddy’s chem notes, trying to decipher somebody else’s takeaways from a lecture or assignment often requires a cryptography course of its own.

Technology is now stepping in to help put some form to all that note-taking function with the help of tools like the NEWYES Smart Pen and Writing Pad, a mostly paperless method of automatically digitizing and saving every critical piece of data — and even all your idle doodles.

The pen actually works two ways, with both traditional paper and ink or with full digitization. With the ink pen cartridge, you just jot down your notes as you would with a typical pen. However, by using the special NEWYES paper with its unique microdot pattern, your writings are tracked like GPS, immediately transferring what you’re writing in ink to a digital file in your connected phone or other devices.

Of course, if you want to abandon the old-school method completely, you can by changing to the stylus attachment and using the pen on the accompanying LCD pad, which also translates every pen movement on to your device.

In addition to capturing all your notes in digital form in real-time, the NEWYES app also lets you transform handwriting into written text for easier reading, record audio to accompany your note or capture video as your note is being written if you’d like to actually watch as your work comes to life. Read the rest

My life on the road: Marrakesh

In my experience, the beds in Morocco are generally hard. Bounce a coin on one and you’ll lose a fucking eye. They are also cool and pleasant to sleep on. It was still dark when I first heard it: a single voice assuring observant Muslims that prayer is better than sleep. Other men soon joined the call to the first prayers of the day. I felt a smile fall on my face as I strained to make out individual voices. In under a minute, so many mu’azzin had joined the call that what once could be made out became a melodic din.

It was not a message meant for me. I drifted back into the black as the undulating prompt to pray continued.

After being awake for close to 24 hours the day before, we slept in until 10am, our internal clocks synced, through misadventure, with Moroccan time. As we stumbled downstairs, our host made us breakfast. The features of the meal were ones that we’d come to know well over the next three weeks: A single scrambled egg, served with fresh-squeezed orange juice, an an assortment local breads and a pastry. Using my questionable Canadian French, our host Basal’s Belgian-accented French, and a smattering of assistance from Google Translate, we hash out some pleasant conversation about the surrounding area. When asked where we could find a local SIM card and where the nearest bank could be had, Basal threw on his shoes and offered to show us the way himself. Read the rest

The great coronavirus toilet paper shortage of 2020

Sign of the times. Unfortunately for the people hoarding toilet paper during the coronavirus outbreak, toilet paper does absolutely nothing to protect you from coronavirus. Read the rest

Otters combed

Here two otters, Kotaro or Hana, enjoy a nice combing courtesy of their human. Read the rest

Twitter uses 'manipulated media' label for first time on clipped Biden video RTd by by Trump

It's about freaking time. Read the rest

Scientists have successfully performed CRISPR gene editing in a live human body for the first time ever

CRISPR-Cas9 is the cutting-edge genomic technology that essentially lets you target exact sequences in DNA and then cut into them like a knife and insert or remove a gene. You may remember it from that Chinese scientist who successfully (but controversially) implanted gene-edited embryos into a woman who then gave birth to live lab babies. More often, it's used to create things like malaria-resistant mosquitoes or mushrooms that don't brown as fast.

But it does have a lot of practical medical potential, too. It's already been used to remove HIV from a patient's genome. And now, after CRISPRing out a blindness-causing gene from mice, scientists have now successfully scaled-up this procedure to work in a live human body. From NPR:

In this new experiment, doctors at the Casey Eye Institute in Portland, Ore., injected (into the eye of a patient who is nearly blind from a condition called Leber congenital amaurosis) microscopic droplets carrying a harmless virus that had been engineered to deliver the instructions to manufacture the CRISPR gene-editing machinery.

[…]

The goal is that once the virus carrying the CRISPR instructions has been infused into the eye, the gene-editing tool will slice out the genetic defect that caused the blindness. That would, the researchers hope, restore production of a crucial protein and prevent the death of cells in the retina, as well as revive other cells — enabling patients to regain at least some vision.

[…]

The procedure, which takes about an hour to perform, involves making tiny incisions that enable access to the back of the eye.

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Australia sues Facebook, says Cambridge Analytica scandal violated privacy of over 300,000 Australians

“Facebook’s default settings facilitated the disclosure of personal information, including sensitive information, at the expense of privacy.”

Reply All goes on a wild scavenger hunt to find a song that might not exist

I'm not an obsessive listener to the Reply All podcast, but when it's on, it's on — and this week's episode is fantastic. Host PJ Vogt is contacted by Tyler Gillett, a film director who is absolutely not a musician, about a song that he remembers from his childhood. Every word and note of this alleged 90s pop song is perfectly imprinted onto Gillett's brain … but there's no proof anywhere on the Internet that such a song has ever actually existed. They even go as far as to recreate the song in a studio with a professional band, completely from Gillett's memory.

The full hour episode is strangely gripping, and offers some fascinating insights into the ways that we remember things, as well as the bizarre world of that late 90s major label music boom. (Also: Barenaked Ladies.)

Reply All #158: The Case of the Missing Hit [PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman / Gimlet Media]

Image: Hanul / Flickr (CC 2.0) Read the rest

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