The (very strong) case for COVID-19 leaking from a Chinese lab

(nationalpost.com)

After months of being dismissed as a fringe conspiracy theory, official support is starting to build for the notion that the COVID-19 pandemic is not a freak accident of nature, but was rather the result of an accidental escape from a Chinese virology lab. […]

The SARS pandemic was sparked by the eating of wild meat in China’s Guangdong province. HIV leaped from apes to humans in 1920s Congo. But COVID-19, a pandemic that has thus far killed at least 3.5 million and cost the equivalent of several world wars, could well be the result of a single breach in laboratory hygiene. […]

The world’s first cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Wuhan, a city of 11 million located about a day’s drive west of Shanghai. Wuhan is also home to China’s first-ever BSL-4-certified laboratory; a rare classification given only to labs dealing with the world’s most dangerous pathogens. […] Opened in 2018, the BSL-4 campus of the Wuhan Institute of Virology is known to work with coronaviruses, and in particular bat coronaviruses, the likely origin of COVID-19. A January investigation by New York magazine is to date the most rigorous journalistic probe into the potential lab origins of COVID-19. Among other things, it noted that the Wuhan institute is home to the “most comprehensive inventory of sampled bat viruses in the world.”

The lab also engaged in gain-of-function experiments, wherein researchers would attempt to supercharge coronaviruses in order to infect lab mice or human cell samples. The idea with gain-of-function is to find ways to combat the emergence of new viruses from nature, as occurred with SARS in 2003. But gain-of-function is also “exactly the kind of experiment from which a SARS2-like virus could have emerged,” read a lengthy scientific breakdown of COVID-19’s origins by the Indian news site The Wire. […]

In other words, if the Wuhan Institute of Virology turns out to have no connection to the birth of the COVID-19 pandemic, then a novel coronavirus with likely origins in bats will have coincidentally started infecting humans within walking distance of a lab that just happens to be the world centre of studying highly infectious bat coronaviruses.

This is a conspiracy theory that I’ve been following for 18 months. If it proves to be even half true — which I’ll admit is rare for any conspiracy theory — the how will the world’s governments respond?

Canada won’t do shit, because who cares what Canada thinks. Japan will write a strongly worded letter to the UN as if it means something. Will anyone apart from perhaps India have the nerve to sever relations with such an irresponsible and hostile nation? India and China don’t get along very well as it is, but they seem to be the only country on the planet standing up to Xi and his penny-ante comrades.

Black Conservative addresses an Alberta Christian University and a free speech fight breaks out

(nationalpost.com)

“As a Christian, what I was saying should not be controversial to them at all, but because they disagree with what the Bible says on racism, it becomes offensive to them,” Sey told the National Post on Monday. “They are essentially, by attacking me, attacking the Bible; I didn’t go there to share my opinion, I was going there to explain what the Bible says about racism.”

[His speech] opens with a question and a proposition: “If I asked you, what’s the best anti-racist book today, what would you say?”

“If we say anything other than the Bible we’re completely and destructively wrong.”

According to the student council statement, his views — and the event itself — “caused some members of the community to feel as though Ambrose did not support their lived experience of systemic racism.”

Thank God I’m not 20 years old anymore. My goodness, kids are coddled to the point where they’ll start stimming if McDonald’s runs out of ice cream, then expect a full apology and one year of free Happy Meals as compensation.

If you disagree, that’s great. It means you were listening and focussed. Articulate your arguments and get them out there. Let “the discussion” happen. Be ready to be wrong. Be ready to be right. But for fuck’s sake, be ready for the reality that not everyone on earth will accommodate your myopic views of reality.

Liberal MP causes consternation in House of Commons after appearing naked on camera in front of colleagues

(nationalpost.com)

'If you could remind our colleagues, particularly the men, that a tie and a jacket are obligatory, but also a shirt, underwear and pants'

Only in Canada 🙄

Fast and Furious 9 drops a new trailer ahead of June 25 release

(arstechnica.com)

First flying cars. Then an endless runway. Then a submarine. Now magnets.

Magnets? That could be interesting 🤔

As my colleague Jennifer Ouellette explained last year, "F&F9 will probably make about as much sense as its predecessors—in other words, not much sense at all. And fans wouldn't have it any other way."

Indeed. If I wanted to watch an action-packed movie with lots of cars and a logical story, I'd watch Pixar's Cars or Cars 3.

Lego has a new 2,354-piece NASA Space Shuttle set, and it's awesome

(arstechnica.com)

The ongoing collaboration between Lego and NASA continues to delight. Back in 2017, the Danish toymaker brought out a highly detailed Saturn V—a model ably assembled in time lapse by Ars' Eric Berger before its release. Two years later, Lego followed up with the Apollo 11 lunar lander, and in 2020 it was the turn of the International Space Station. And earlier this April, Lego released the latest set to bear NASA's famous worm logo: space shuttle Discovery, as it was for 1990's STS-31 mission. This was an important mission, reaching the highest orbit for a space shuttle to date. Discovery put the Hubble space telescope into orbit, and its crew even captured the event on IMAX cameras brought along for the ride.

Lego has made a number of space shuttle sets over the years, but none has been as detailed as this 2,354-piece set. The finished orbiter is a substantial 21.8 inches (55.46 cm) long with a 13.6-inch (34.6 cm) wingspan, and it lends itself well to reproduction in Lego bricks at this scale; the space shuttle was covered in blocky tiles, after all.

It’s a shame I can’t ask Santa for this …

A look under the hood: how branches work in Git - Stack Overflow Blog

(stackoverflow.blog)

Git has won the race for the most popular version control system. But why exactly is it so popular? The answer, at least in my opinion, is pretty clear: branches! They allow you to keep different versions of your code cleanly separated—ideal when collaborating in a team with other people, but also for yourself when you begin working on a new feature.

Although other version control systems also offer some form of branching, Git’s concept and implementation are just stunning. It has made working with branches so quick and easy that many developers have adopted the concept for their daily work.

This is a really clear writeup of how Git works, demystifying a good deal of it. I've shared it with a number of colleagues and it's good for anyone who might be interested in understanding how modern version control systems work1 👍🏻


  1. You'd be surprised how many file sync and backup tools have moved to a Git model for simplicity.

The forgotten director who gave us The Force, inspired 2001, and changed film

(arstechnica.com)

Kroitor, who died in 2012, was known for a string of innovations in movie-making. He was at the forefront of the cinéma vérité movement, typified by films like Lonely Boy as well as a pair of short documentaries on the legendary piano player Glenn Gould, and another that brings viewers into the life of Igor Stravinsky. Later, Kroitor pioneered multi-screen filmmaking and co-founded IMAX, the company that would deliver a giant-sized cinematic experience to viewers around the world. And along the way, he made a film that inspired Stanley Kubrick as he was making 2001: A Space Odyssey—plus Kroitor just happened to give George Lucas the idea for “the Force.”

But above all else, Roman Kroitor was a risk-taker who intuitively understood the elements of visual storytelling, recalls filmmaker Stephen Low, who often collaborated with Kroitor (as did his father, Colin Low). While Kroitor made dramas as well as documentaries, there was something about the latter format that fascinated him. As Low puts it, he “loved telling real stories that celebrated real people.”

It is Kroiter's contributions to documentaries that I appreciate most. What point is there of learning about humanity if all the humanity is stripped away, choreographed, and rehearsed?

NASA's InSight Detects Two Sizable Quakes on Mars

(www.nasa.gov)

NASA’s InSight lander has detected two strong, clear quakes originating in a location of Mars called Cerberus Fossae – the same place where two strong quakes were seen earlier in the mission. The new quakes have magnitudes of 3.3 and 3.1; the previous quakes were magnitude 3.6 and 3.5. InSight has recorded over 500 quakes to date, but because of their clear signals, these are four of the best quake records for probing the interior of the planet.

This is pretty cool to note. A seismically-active Mars makes for a slightly more viable colony location. Quakes mean the core is still molten to a degree, which acts as a dynamo to create the magnetic field that surrounds the planet. While there’s little we can do to increase the strength of a planet’s magnetic field1, being able to measure and determine the composition of Mars’ crust will go a long way to giving us the confidence we need in sending people there long term 🙂


  1. No, nukes won’t do it.

The End of AMP

(www.lafoo.com)

I am hopeful that 2021 will be the beginning of the end for two of my least favorite things – the pandemic and Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP).

For the past few months, I’ve been focusing on Google’s Page Experience update due to launch in May and what it means for publishers. The largest and most talked-about item in the update is Google announcing that sites with passing core web vitals will receive a ranking boost on mobile. However, there is another important item in the update – the end of special treatment for AMP pages.

While the stated goal of AMP – making the web fast – sounds noble, AMP also came with the unfortunate requirement that publishers let traffic sources such as Google cache their content and serve it from their domain, such as google.com. In practice, this meant that when a user clicks on a search result from the BBC, they didn’t go to BBC’s website; they view a copy of the BBC’s content on google.com. AMP created all kinds of problems, from analytics to ad serving to logins. Perhaps most importantly, it created a temptation that even Google couldn’t resist – encouraging users to stay on Google instead of consuming more content on a publisher’s website.

AMP going away would be a nice thing. It didn’t really add much value to begin with. If Google wanted a less-heavy way of reading site content, they could have made better use of RSS. This would encourage sites to stop being stupid with their “partial feed” crap and encourage a more open Internet.

Of course, an open Internet would be “bad” for a lot of companies, Google being one of them. It’s really no wonder they do what they do, be it evil or just “evil in disguise” 😕

When will the snow end, and the art of STFU

(phoneboy.info)

The fact is: the Internet is getting much smaller. If you put something on a web page, chances are someone will find it. Maybe the right someone, maybe the wrong someone. If you wouldn’t want someone to find out you said something, then practice the art of STFU: DON’T PUT IT ON THE INTERNET.

Very true 🤐