Giving Tuesday – Maximize the Effect of Your Donations

two Euro banknotes

Every year on the 1st of December, facebook matches millions of Dollars in donations. If you, for example, donate $20, facebook will put another $20 on top (at least for the first donations).

The event starts on Tuesday, December 1st at 8.00am EST (that is 14.00 in Berlin and 13.00 in London). The entire thing will probably only last seconds, so it is important to donate exactly at 8.00am EST.

This is an excellent opportunity to double the amount of … more

Who Should Get a Vaccine and When?

Announcements of early coronavirus vaccine breakthroughs have inspired new hope this may be the beginning of the end of Covid-19. Developing a vaccine is one thing. How best to distribute a vaccine is a whole different question – with some difficult ethical questions.

The large scale distribution of a vaccine is an an incredible logistic task. Sure, things have become easier since the 19th century. Back then people transported a cowpox ‘vaccine’ over the Atlantic by creating a chain of … more

Replication Markets for Covid-19 Preprints

white microscope on top of black table

ReplicationMarkets is launching another project – this time users are asked to predict and bet on the success of preprint papers on Covid-19. The process is simple: there is survey period (ending soon) and a market period (going until November 18th). During the survey period you are asked to make predictions like “How likely is this paper to get published in a journal with” or “How many citations will this paper get within a year” (4 items in total). During … more

How the Virus Spreads

Visualization of the coronavirus causing COVID-19

El País published an article with very nice visualizations of how the coronavirus spreads via aerosols. It’s a light and informative read. Main takeaways:

  • The main risk is spending prolonged time periods with an infected person in an unventilated rooms
  • (Ordinary) masks only help little in this scenario once the air is saturated with aerosols. Good ventilation and shortening the time spend together is most important.
  • Masks help during shorter encounters and if distance cannot be maintained.
  • Speaking (and

Using Facial Recognition to Identify Police Officers

white box security camera on wall

In many instances, police have used facial recognition technology to identify protesters and suspects. Clearview AI, a private company, has collected billions of photos from ordinary people (chances are good you are in their database) and made them available to law enforcement.

Now private activists are building facial recognition tools to identify police officers during protests. Oh the irony. I reckon that the most interesting aspect of this will become the legal side: Building the tools and collecting … more

Ten Years of Retraction Watch

silver microscope

Retraction Watch is a watchdog organization that monitors scientific misconduct and, well, watches the retraction of scientific articles. Not only is their work very thorough and important, it also offers interesting insights into the scientific machinery.

They recently published a piece called Ten takeaways from ten years at Retraction Watch. I recommend you read it and also click on some of the links in it. Here are some highlights:

Two decades ago, journals were retracting roughly 40 papers per


How Big Oil Misled The Public Into Believing Plastic Would Be Recycled

NPR’s Planet Money recently released an episode where they tell the story of how big plastic companies convinced the public to recycle more. At that time plastic producers were under a lot of pressure as consumers and regulators worried about the endless stream of plastic garbage. To address this issue, the industry launched a large campaign to promote recycling.

The catch is this: everybody in the industry knew that recycling was completely infeasible (at least at that time). The first … more

Gender Differences Among Top Performers in Chess

beige chess piece on board in selective focus photography

Chess is (unfortunately) a man’s world, and gender differences in chess are large. While the gap in average play is not large between men and women, differences at the top are striking: Among the top 50 players in the world (according to the FIDE Standard Rating List from October 16th) there is not a single woman. Among the top 500 players are only seven (Judit Polgar, Yifan Hou, Humpy Koneru, Aleksandra Goryachkina, Susan Polgar, Jun Xie and Wenjun Ju).

In … more

Finding Prime Minister Tony AbbotT’s Passport Number on Instagram

Here is the hilarious story about how a random guy on the internet obtained Tony Abbott’s passport number (among other things) from a picture the Prime Minister had posted on Instagram.

The man in question is Tony Abbott, one of Australia’s many former Prime Ministers.

For security reasons, we try to change our Prime Minister every six months, and to never use the same Prime Minister on multiple websites.

This particular former PM had just posted a picture of