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


Big if True: Nuclear Fusion

The NY Times reports about Sparc, a nuclear fusion reactor designed by the private company Comonwealth Fusion Systems. The reactor design is called Tokamak and is the same one that is used in the ITER reactor as well. Hot plasma is kept in a donut-shape by powerful magnets. Hot means really hot: Temperatures needed are around 50-100 millions degree Celsisus. What makes Sparc different from ITER is a new magnet design that allows for much stronger magnets. This … more

Data is Not the New Oil

I have argued before and linked to articles suggesting that advertising is less useful than is commonly thought and that targeted advertising is largely ineffective. Here is another article I found interesting, titled “Why Data Is Not the New Oil“.

The article nicely confirms what I thought before. Don’t we all like that?

I knew it!
From J. Burello at

It explains that data is very different from oil from an economic perspective. Most of the facts it highlights … more

The Economics of Interstellar Trade

In 1978 economist Paul Krugman wrote a paper titled The Theory of Interstellar Trade that was published in 2010. It is pure genius:

while the subject of this paper is silly, the analysis actually does make sense. This paper, then, is a serious analysis of a ridiculous subject, which is of course the opposite of what is usual in economics.

In the paper Krugman analyzes the effect of travel near the speed of light on interest rates and interstellar … more