A Blog by Jonathan Low


Jan 22, 2022

Though Covid Deaths Continue To Rise, Omicron Appears To Have Peaked In US

The data appear to show infection case count declines in the Northeast, Midwest, South and West, even though deaths will continue to rise for a while as there is generally a three week lag between infections and deaths. 

The looming question is whether a new variant will emerge. JL  

Kaitlin Sullivan reports in NBC:

Friday, the seven-day average of cases in the U.S. was 743,913 cases, down 7% from the week before. Deaths, however, rose slightly, from an average of 1,979 on Jan. 14 to 2,131 on Friday. The omicron variant now accounts for nearly 100% of new Covid cases in the nation. Although much of the decline is driven by immunity and fewer hosts for the variant to infect, behavior changes play a vital role. “Nationally, the case numbers are coming down, an optimistic trend.”

Bionic Exoskeletons Are Becoming Mainstream

As logistics and delivery become increasingly widespread and important jobs, this technology can reduce the soft tissue injuries that plague those doing that work by using machine learning algorithms to anticipate potentially hurtful actions. JL 

Andrew Tarantola reports in Engadget:

Advances in exosuit technology are changing how people perform physical tasks in their daily lives to improve a Marine’s warfighting capabilities or make physically repetitive vocations less stressful. German Bionic's is intelligent enough to learn from its users’ mistaken movements. (It) fits like a 7kg backpack with hip-mounted actuators that move carbon fiber linkages strapped to the upper legs, allowing a person to lift and walk with up to 30kg (66 lbs) fully supported. It collects granular telemetry information and uses a machine learning algorithm to adapt the to the worker wearing it. “It's real time software application that  can warn the worker when the ergonomic risk is getting too high.”

How Florida Real Estate Went From Most Affordable To Most Expensive

Housing prices have surged across the US, but nowhere more than in Florida. 

In what used to be considered an affordable real estate market, a 30% price increase is driving some middle and lower income residents out while it may become a disincentive even to wealthy buyers from elsewhere. Lack of affordable homes and a surge in demand from outsiders is causing the bubble. JL 

Tim Craig and colleagues report in the Washington Post:

Over the past six months, Florida’s home prices have risen faster than those of any other state. Florida’s prices are quickly catching up to higher-cost states such as New York and Virginia. Amid a surge of demand from out-of-state buyers, limited inventory and booming neighborhood redevelopment, the Sunshine State is quickly becoming one of the least affordable places to live in the US. Florida’s wages, meanwhile, have grown at a slower rate than the national average.

US Olympic Team Jackets Automatically Adapt To Athlete's Body Temperature

The 2022 Winter Olympics open in less than two weeks. The US Team jackets were designed by Ralph Lauren, long time outfitter to the US Olympic Team, but they use materials developed by a tech startup originally funded by the US Department of Energy. The materials in the jacket expand or contract at different rates depending on the temperature, creating more or less insulation. 

$1,998 retail for the jacket if you want one. JL

Elizabeth Segran reports in Fast Company:

The hero piece this year is a jacket made from a new material that adapts to the wearer’s body temperature, keeping them warm or cool without requiring any electronics. “Athletes are going from cold to hot to cold environments, but when you talk to athletes, they make it clear they don’t want lots of inconvenient layers.” A small textile-innovation company called Skyscrape developed a technology called Intelligent Insulation. The startup was initially funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. Materials expand and contract in response to changes in temperature. When it gets colder, the materials contract at different rates, causing an air pocket to form, which creates insulation.

Why Men Are More Likely To Die From Covid Than Women

The explanation appears more likely to be socio-economic and behavioral than biological.

Men are more likely to work in jobs that enhance their exposure to the virus. They are also more likely to have underlying health issues - co-morbidities - than women. But women are more likely to observe mitigating behaviors like mask wearing, hand washing and social distancing. Biology may play some role in the difference fatality rates, but behavioral patterns are, so far, clearer. JL

Azeen Ghorayashi reports in the New York Times:

Men die of Covid-19 more often than women do. (But) While men died at a higher rate than women, the trends varied widely over time and by state. Genes, hormones or immune responses are not likely to explain these differences. “There would be no reason for biology to be that variable across time and space.” That suggests social factors like jobs, behavioral patterns and underlying health issues played a big role. Men are more likely to have jobs in occupations with higher rates of Covid-19 exposure and fatalities. Men are also more likely to be incarcerated and to be homeless. Women are more likely than men to report hand washing, mask wearing and complying with social distancing.

What Does Value Even Mean Anymore: Cryptocurrencies lost $205 Billion On Friday

It was not a great week for traditional stock markets either, but crypto's volatility on top of China and Russia ending crypto mining or even outlawing its use in order to protect their own control of currency, financial markets and rule of law suggest that crypto's wild cowboy days may be drawing to a close. JL 

Chris Morris reports in Fortune:

Bitcoin, Ethereum, and all major cryptocurrencies tanked Friday morning, with drops of 10% or more. The plunge resulted in an overall market capitalization loss of more than $205 billion for the total cryptocurrency market in just 24 hours. Year to date, Bitcoin, the leading digital currency is down 16.6%—erasing more than 75% of 2021 gains. The drop in crypto prices follows a rough week on Wall Street. The Nasdaq index is down almost 5% since Tuesday and officially entered correction territory Thursday.

Jan 21, 2022

New CDC Studies Show Pfizer, Moderna 3rd Shots Offer 'Superior' Omicron Protection

New research shows that booster shots significantly reduce the severity of omicron, which has caused a number of breakthrough infections.

The implication is that vaccination and boosters are more effective against omicron than had previously been known. JL

Felicia Schwartz and colleagues report in the Wall Street Journal:

In one of the studies published Friday, a CDC analysis found that a third dose of either the vaccine from Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech or Moderna was at least 90% effective against preventing hospitalization from Covid-19 during both the Delta and Omicron periods. Hospital officials say they are seeing significant differences in Omicron-era cases based on a patient’s vaccination status. 80% of the Covid-19 patients requiring acute care are unvaccinated. “The vaccinated people that are affected by this are having a much better experience.”