Weekly Tech Roundup #2

Don’t worry, 5G did not cause Coronavirus!


How the 5G coronavirus conspiracy theory tore through the internet

It started with one doctor. On January 22, Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws published an interview with Kris Van Kerckhoven, a general practitioner from Putte, near Antwerp. “5G is life-threatening, and no one knows it”, read the headline. One scientifically-baseless claim in this article, published in a regional version of the paper’s print edition and since deleted from its website, sparked a conspiracy theory firestorm that has since torn through the internet and broken out into the real world, resulting in fires and threats. Van Kerckhoven didn’t just claim that 5G was dangerous: he also said it might be linked to coronavirus.

Wired UK

On 5G And The Fear Of Radiation

The world around us is a scary place, with a lot of visible and invisible dangers. Some of those invisible dangers are pretty obvious, such as that of an electrical shock from exposed wiring. Some are less obvious, for example the dangers of UV radiation to one’s skin and eyes commonly known, but also heavily underestimated by many until it’s too late. In the US alone, skin cancer ends up affecting about one in every five people.

Perhaps ironically, while the danger from something like UV radiation is often underestimated, other types of electromagnetic radiation are heavily overestimated. All too often, the distinction between what is and isn’t considered to be harmful appears to be made purely on basis of whether it is ‘natural’ radiation or not. The Sun is ‘natural’, ergo UV radiation cannot be harmful, but the EM radiation from a microwave or 5G wireless transceiver is human-made, and therefore harmful. This is, of course, backwards.

Rather than dismissing such irrational fears of radiation, let’s have a look at both the science behind radiation and the way humans classify ‘danger’, such as in the case of 5G cell towers.

HackADay

Apple helped Stanford create a COVID-19 screening app for first responders

With some help from Apple, Stanford Medicine has built an iPhone app that connects first responders in California to COVID-19 testing. The university developed the software using Apple’s ResearchKit and CareKit frameworks.  

First Responder COVID-19 Guide has some similarities to the coronavirus screening service Alphabet’s Verily healthcare brand launched last month. Like with Verily’s website, there’s a questionnaire in which the person is asked to answer questions about their symptoms, exposure to the coronavirus and medical history. If the app recommends they get tested, the first responder then talks to their department’s “infection control officer,” who will work with Stanford to schedule an appointment. As a plus, first responders don’t need to be past Stanford Health Care patients to access testing.  

Engadget

MIT announces Bluetooth breakthrough in coronavirus-tracing app for Android and iOS

MIT and makers of the app Private Kit: Safe Paths say they’ve overcome an Android and iOS interoperability issue that will make the COVID-19 contact tracking app able to track people in close proximity with others using Bluetooth. MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory says it accomplished the feat last week.

Currently, Private Kit logs location history using GPS for 28 days. Bluetooth proximity apps record when two devices running the app are near each other, and when a person tests positive for COVID-19, notifications can be sent to people who crossed their path. Safe Paths will soon be able to share any incidences of contact between two people that have occurred within 14 days.

Venturebeat

COBOL-coding volunteers sought as creaking mainframes slow New Jersey’s coronavirus response

The governor of New Jersey has asked COBOL-capable coders to volunteer their skills as the State’s mainframe computers have struggled to cope with a surge of requests for benefits to help citizens through the coronavirus crisis.

In his daily press briefing on April 4th, governor Phil Murphy said: “In our list of volunteers not only do we need health care workers but given the legacy systems we should add a page for cobalt [sic] computer skills, because that’s what we’re dealing with in these legacies.”

Governor Murphy said his staff is “doing a heck of a job but literally we have systems that are 40-plus years old and there’ll be lots of post mortems and one of them on our list will be how the heck did we get here when we literally needed cobalt programmers.”

The Register

IBM makes AI tools and resources available to coronavirus researchers

IBM today announced the launch of services intended to furnish researchers with resources to fight the novel coronavirus. The company made molecules identified by AI as therapeutic candidates available under an open license, and it introduced a free version of its Functional Genomics Platform to support genome features discovery. Additionally, it provided free access to over 1,000 pieces of evidence-based curated COVID-19 and infectious disease content, and it rolled out an AI search engine trained on the COVID-19 Open Research Dataset to allow researchers to quickly find answers to questions.

VentureBeat

Windows 10 is testing WSL Linux integration in File Explorer

Windows 10 is getting improved integration between the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) and File Explorer that allows you to directly access the folders of installed Linux distributions.

Currently, if you want to access your WSL files in File Explorer you have to start the Linux distribution, change to the folder you want to access, and then type explorer.exe . command. 

BleepingComputer

Jean-Luc Picard Is the Captain We Need Right Now

The new CBS All Access series Star Trek: Picard features the return of the iconic character Captain Jean-Luc Picard, last seen in the 2002 film Star Trek: Nemesis. Science fiction author Daniel H. Wilson was pleased to see Patrick Stewart return to the Star Trek universe.

“As an actor, he’s got that character dialed in,” Wilson says in Episode 408 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast, “and I think that it provides a lodestar for the series, because no matter how many logical things don’t make sense, Picard himself will always make sense, because Patrick Stewart knows this character, he embodies this character, and he isn’t going to lead anybody astray.”

Wired

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