World

Ideas and developments of global importance

Eldorica, more prosperity with less work

The Club of Rome report came out about half a century ago. What if we had listened then? The visionary book Eldorica by the late Jurriaan Andriessen (1951-1991) explores the possibilities.

Consumer society: cheap is expensive

Not only do we consume much more now than, say, a century ago. The stuff we use also lasts much shorter. Compare something as simple as scissors. Good tailor's scissors, from the Swiss brand Victorinox, for example, cost around forty euros, but with careful maintenance, will last a lifetime. A pair of scissors from a Chinese manufacturer that works with razor-thin margins and underpaid employees costs around two euros at the hedge fund firm Action. This may last a few weeks with intensive use.

There may be three times as much raw material in Victorinox scissors as in Action scissors, but this is negligible compared to the raw material in the hundreds of Chinese tailor scissors. What if we bought these quality scissors right away and avoid the clutter of the Action? That would save a lot of environmental pollution, unnecessary work and energy. This is exactly the rationale behind the late Jurriaan Brouwer's utopian society Eldorica.

Eldorica: a luxury car for everyone

In the Netherlands, 400,000 new cars are sold per year, with an average of around 35,000 euros each. These last an average of twenty years. But what if each of these new cars lasted a hundred years, for example because their build quality is five times better? Then we could spend five times as much on this car. In other words, a luxury Rolls Royce or Tesla for everyone. Or, a much lower amount, so that we would have to work less.

This sustainable luxury car for Eldorica consists of the raw materials of the cars, which are driven through in our society. (c) Jurriaan H. Andriessen

Fitness center? No, generate energy yourself

Eldorica is not for lazy people, although you would say that at first glance with a four-hour working week. Because you generate the energy for your household appliances yourself. The exercise bike in Eldorica is there to power your TV set, radio and music system. Our body can generate about two hundred watts of power. So an hour or two of cycling and swinging provides enough energy for an evening of watching TV (Eldorica dates back to before the advent of the personal computer). Everything that can be done by hand is manually operated. That also saves electricity. Cars are only available for longer journeys. There is a covered bicycle for rides up to five kilometers. Aircraft and oil tankers do not occur in Eldorica. Instead, Andriessen imagined zeppelins and computer-controlled sailing ships.

Only those devices that really cannot do without power, such as TVs, work on power in Eldorica. These are charged via crank wheels and an exercise bike. The rest is manually operated. (c) Jurriaan H. Andriessen

Could Eldorica be possible?

In short: yes, if we had a meritocratic and technocratic administration, without incompetent and lying politicians. Admittedly, with a few adjustments - for example, the temporary use of nuclear energy to lay the foundation for a sustainable energy supply cannot be avoided, and solar panels are more practical than his exercise bike power station. And he didn't think about anything as prosaic as heating houses. Or healthcare.

Capitalism will also have to be replaced by a form of managed economy. Eldorica's economic system can be seen as one of a kind luxury techno communism. It is not without reason that Jurriaan Andriessen strongly emphasized a computer-controlled (cybernetic) form of governance.

Unfortunately we can no longer ask Jurriaan himself. He died in a tragic accident in a swimming pool in 1991 at the age of 39. The Jurriaan Andriessen foundation was established in memory. His book Eldorica, a travelogue to a better world (ISBN: 9789027424846) is unfortunately no longer in print, but is still available second-hand. There are also PDF scans of the book in circulation.

More information

Theme website graphic work Jurriaan H. Andriessen and Eldorica
Jurriaan H. Andriessen Foundation

Matryoshka world, if one earth isn't enough

If the Earth isn't enough, don't we just build a second Earth around it? Discover a craft project for megalomaniac souls in the distant future: the matryoshka world.

Almost everyone knows the matryoshkas (Russian for grandmother), the well-known Russian dolls, in which a large doll contains smaller and smaller dolls. But what if you did that with our increasingly overpopulated planet? So, say, packing the earth in hollow shells? The Futurologist Isaac Arthur worked out this concept a video.

This concept only becomes interesting when the human population becomes enormously large. We are talking about flats that span the earth, a metropolis the size of a planet. But even on our huge Earth, there is only limited space. Where do you leave all those people when you have really cultivated every square meter of earth? The answer: the matryoshka world. In this way we can, if necessary, build dozens of “extra earths” around the earth.

A clear advantage is that we would then multiply the surface of the earth, and thus be able to house many more people than on the earth now.

The matryoshka world magnifies the Earth's surface many times over. But how safe is this future superstructure? Source: screenshot from accompanying video / Isaac Arthur / fair use provision

Matryoshka World: Many worlds with one source of gravity

Is it smart? It solves one problem. The earth within the matryoshka shells provides gravity. So much gravity, in fact, that we no longer need to generate artificial gravity. But how do we keep this enormous construction in the air? Two effects help us. First: the net gravity on one hollow shell around the earth is zero. Second, dynamic structures. You can keep an object in the air with a stream of projectiles. Even if the weight is greater than all known materials can support.

In return we get a number of annoying problems. So we have the huge amount waste heat discharge. And if the power, or what kind of power-carrying medium there will be in the future, goes out? Then there is probably little that can be saved. A disaster that overshadows everything that man has experienced so far. Then the matryoshka world turns into a planet-sized cemetery.

Mini houses, a bizarre dozen explore the boundaries

If you can ignore nonsensical rules such as the Building Decree, an explosion of creativity will arise. Get acquainted here with the spirit products of ten inventors, who explore the concept of mini houses to the very extreme.

Not every design will appeal to everyone. But after watching this video, your understanding of what a habitable house means, probably a lot extensively. The emphasis in the video is on round shapes. Because where in nature do you come across boxes of blocks?

Abod Shelter mini houses

The Abod design by Abod Shelters is very suitable for refugees in tropical areas. For an amount under five thousand euros, a family can find shelter in a full-fledged, small house.

The design, from Abod Shelter in South Africa, is versatile and can also be combined with other houses in larger units. Both for shelter, as for clinics and workshops. Because the design consists of light corrugated sheets, it is easy to transport. You can load an entire village on a truck. That also happens regularly. The design is in reasonable demand, even in Tanzania and Ghana.

The nice thing about this design is that it lasts a long time and is maintenance-free. Construction can be carried out by fairly clever unskilled workers. So if you have a ton in the bank and you want to improve your inky karma, this is the solution.

Abod mini houses can be built by a group of volunteers in one day. The corrugated iron construction makes the design less suitable for use outside the tropics. Source / copyright: Abod

The disadvantage of this design is the noise, when a heavy tropical monsoon rain beats the corrugated iron. This may be solved with a thatched roof. Although that is a source of vermin in the tropics.

The thermal insulation is of course also quite sparse, but that is usually less of a problem in the tropical belt in Africa. The white lacquer prevents overheating in the blazing sun. [1]

More information: Abod website

Singleton hypothesis: world government inevitable

According to Nick Bostrom's singleton hypothesis, one great power will eventually emerge that swallows or subdues the rest. Is he right?

Singleton hypothesis

The world is increasingly becoming a “village that encompasses the world”. That's no coincidence, according to the singleton hypothesis. This theory comes from the brain of Nick Bostrom. Bostrom is a philosopher from Oxford University, who previously made a name for himself with his theory about super intelligence. According to this theory, the logical outcome of human evolution is that there is one world government will come [1]. At least one entity that will rule all of humanity. That can be a super intelligence are, but also a mega-corporation or a superstate.

Increasing levels of order

As philosophers often do, Bostrom uses induction and makes an abstraction of it. In concrete terms: he established that in history, people started to live together in ever-increasing relationships. From a handful of hunters and gatherers to states with more than a billion inhabitants. Think of India and China. Or quasi-states like the EU. He continues this trend. He thinks that these enormous states will also merge into one earth-spanning realm.

Or in an artificial intelligence, something like Skynet from the Terminator series. Or in a company such as Tencent in China, which is a bank, social credit rater, shop and social network in one. But then much, much bigger.

Temporary trend of nationalism

Bostrom thinks that the prevailing trend in Western countries of anti-globalism today is temporary. Bostrom looks at timescales spanning centuries. Millennia, even. In the longer term, the outcome is clear, he says. We're heading towards a singleton. Whether we like it or not.

The singleton theory predicts that there will eventually be a world government on Earth. For example a United Nations, but with more power. Source: Converted SVG from wikipedia.org

World government more effective

Bostrom thinks a singleton could turn out well. After all, now there is the threat of nuclear wars. And an arms race. Plus tackling global issues, such as the SARS-CoV-2 epidemic, is failing. A world government is nipping an epidemic in the bud and introducing a lockdown. And quickly arranges compensation for the affected area, so that no one has to grumble. Thus the epidemic had been contained. Unless the world government is a totalitarian dictatorship afraid of losing face, of course.

Singleton only for open systems?

Bostrom generalizes from a limited dataset. Namely that of open systems. Most people live in an open system, in which there are plenty of contacts with the rest of the world. In closed systems, such as islands, you see that these usually split up into a few parts. Take for example the Guanches of the Canary Islands and the inhabitants of Rapa Nui, also known as Easter Island. A lonely island in the Pacific. Rapa Nui was completely isolated. The original inhabitants of the island, about the size of Texel, had cut down all the trees. Other islands are more than a thousand kilometers away. When explorers discovered the island, the population had split into different clans. This effect also occurred in the Guanches.

The soil is such a closed system. That is, as long as humans are the predominant species, the earth will likely remain split into a few large blocks. That is, if historical trends are correct. But that's the question. In modern times many trends have been turned upside down.

That would change if an outside threat were discovered. For example aliens, or colonies elsewhere in the solar system. So, as humanity we will not get much further than the United Nations. Unless humanity spreads beyond the Earth. Then a new field is added for quarreling. We humans are, unfortunately, quite stubborn. Hopefully we have learned that we get along more with peace than with war.

Sources
1. Nick Bostrom, What is a singleton? - 2005

Arctic Ocean consisted of fresh water at the beginning of the Ice Age

This is shown by the lack of thorium-230 isotopes in sediment from the Arctic Ocean. Does fresh water explain the start of the Ice Age? And should we be concerned?

Our most northerly ocean is almost completely landlocked. The Arctic Ocean is sandwiched between the Eurasian and North American landmasses, and Greenland. There is little evaporation and a lot of fresh water inflow. That is why the water in the Arctic Ocean is already a quarter less salty than in the other oceans.

An iceberg located near Upernavik, Greenland. Did the melting of large amounts of ice sweeten the Arctic Ocean? Source: Kim Hansen / Wikimedia Commons

Thorium as a reliable index of salinity

Salt water contains many more dissolved minerals than fresh water, including uranium and thorium. Unlike uranium, which dissolves easily in water, thorium forms insoluble crystals that sink to the sea floor. The isotope thorium-230 is formed by the decomposition of uranium. That is to say, this isotope gives a good estimate of the amount of dissolved uranium, and therefore salt, in the ocean water. A group of scientists discovered something remarkable. There were sediment layers in which there was almost no thorium-230 anymore. In other words, at that time the Arctic Ocean was sweet, from the surface to the sea bed. These periods occurred at the beginning of glacial periods (ice periods). [1]

When was the Arctic Ocean sweet?

The most recent period with fresh water took place between 70,000 and 62,000 years ago. Large ice dams then blocked the only major access between the Arctic Ocean and the rest of the oceans, the sea between Greenland and Norway. Due to the fall in sea levels, the Bering Strait, between Siberia and Alaska, then also dry. Perhaps even just 15,000 years ago, there was a period with a lot of fresh water. The amount of fresh water needed to make the Arctic Ocean fresh is enormous: around nine million cubic kilometers. This was provided by a combination of melt water and precipitation, the authors say [2].

Beginning of the Ice Age

At the moment it is still unclear what caused the ice ages. In fact, the next ice age should have started by now. It weaken the Gulf Stream, with the enormous amount of heat that this brings in from the tropics is a plausible cause. But a much greater freshwater discharge from the surrounding land may also play a role, for example due to thawing permafrost. Which is now happening on a large scale. Fresh water freezes faster than salt water. The Arctic Ocean may have been covered with a thick layer of fresh melt water. This made it easier for an ice cover to form over the entire Arctic Ocean in winter. And thus start an ice period, because ice reflects sunlight very well.

Sources

1. The Arctic Ocean might have been filled with freshwater during ice ages, Nature News and Views, 2021
2. Geibert, W., Matthiessen, J., Stimac, I. et al. Glacial episodes of a freshwater Arctic Ocean covered by a thick ice shelf. Nature 590, 97–102 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-03186-y

Ozone layer threatened by mysterious Chinese gases

The hole in the ozone layer is an environmental problem that was solved in the late 1980s by banning all CFCs in the Montreal Protocol. But now three new mysterious CFC compounds, which also deplete the ozone layer, threaten to destroy this again.

These substances delay the recovery of the ozone layer by 20 years. Measurements show that they come from China.

Usefulness of the ozone layer

Almost all oxygen in the atmosphere is di-oxygen, O2. Only a tiny fraction of all oxygen is ozone, O3. Ozone blocks UV-A and UV-B radiation and thus protects life on earth against this energy-rich radiation. There is not very much ozone. Think of a layer of 3 mm thick, with the air pressure at sea level. But if this thin layer disappears, it means, for example, more skin cancer. And damage to plants and animals.

The ozone layer is recovering reasonably well. Unfortunately, new emissions from China are throwing a spanner in the works. Source: EU / EEA

Mysterious origin

Martin Vollmer of the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology in Dübendorf and his colleagues analyzed air samples. These come from a network of sensors around the world to track trends in atmospheric gases.

The team found a CFC compound called HCFC-132b that had never been found in the atmosphere. According to analysis of ancient samples, HCFC-132b first appeared about 20 years ago. Since then, levels of the compound, which appears to come from factories in East Asia, have risen. But the researchers also saw two other compounds, HCFC-133a and HCFC-31. Its levels, too, fluctuated over time, more than those of HCFC-132b. [1]

Deprecated

HCFC-132b is a replacement for the infamous ozone-depleting gas CFC-113 and should be banned by 2020 [2].
HCFC-133a is an intermediate for the preparation of the agent halotran. HCFC-31, the third gas, is also an intermediate product that is now being replaced by ozone-saving alternatives. Although these three gases are less aggressive than previous ozone depleting gases.

So, the owner of a chemical plant in China may be messing with outdated chemical processes here to keep costs down. Nor did he take into account that thanks to modern, much improved detection methods, even parts per quadrillion can now be detected in air. Bad news, because thanks to this bungler it will take 20 years longer for the hole in the ozone layer to heal permanently.

Source

  1. Martin K. Vollmer et al., Unexpected nascent atmospheric emissions of three ozone-depleting hydrochlorofluorocarbons, Proc. Natl Acad. Sci., 2021, 118 (5) e2010914118; https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2010914118
  2. Nonadiabatic Dynamics of HCFC-132b, barbatti.org, 2016

Found a replacement for copper

Copper thefts are an increasingly persistent scourge. That could change. With this revolutionary discovery, researchers have succeeded in finding a replacement for copper: carbon.

Naturally occurring copper. Will copper be replaced by carbon nanotubes in electric wire? Source

Copper substitute urgently needed

Copper is a very good electrical conductor. Of all metals, only the scarcer silver conducts electricity even better. No wonder copper is widely used for electronics and power cables. Especially the strong demand from China now means that a kilo of copper can easily cost more than six euros and that no copper-containing object is safe from the thieves' guild.

Researchers have now succeeded for the first time in finding a replacement for copper. [1] A material that conducts electricity better than this increasingly scarce metal. The material in question is carbon, which is very common on Earth in the form of coal, carbon dioxide and carbonates. It will be a current conductor in the shape of an old acquaintance: carbon nanotubes, which look a lot like a rolled up piece of graphene. Carbon nanotubes also hold another record: the material with the highest tensile strength in the world.

Years of laborious research provides a replacement

After years of laborious work, researchers have reached the point where the current density of carbon nanotubes is as great as that of copper. That is to say: per unit volume. The material even scores six times better per kilo because it is much lighter. Individual tubes even conduct electricity ten times better than copper, but until now it was not technically possible to make a thick power cable from carbon nanotubes. The experiments were carried out with double-walled tubes, which are easier to make and process. The researchers now want to develop a power cable that conducts electricity much better than copper. To do this, they have to braid single-walled carbon nanotubes into a power cable. A tough challenge.

Benefits

In addition to an end to copper shortage, the new, light copper substitutes also save a lot of weight. Good news for aircraft and spaceship builders. Carbon is very resistant to corrosion, so the carbon power cables can also be used in chemically very hostile environments. If the researchers can live up to the promise of a much better conductive alternative to copper, which they are going to try, it means that the seven percent of energy that is now lost in the high-voltage grid as transport losses will be halved or better. This applies even more so to the power cables in the house. So there is a chance that these cables will pop up all over the house and that the copper will be melted down again into beautiful statues or coins. What else can you do with it?

Slow advance of copper substitutes

The advance of carbon nanotubes as conductors turned out to run less smoothly in practice than first thought. It is still very expensive to produce carbon nanotubes in large quantities, although prices are falling. At the beginning of 2021, these will be around 200 euros per kilogram. This is still many times more than copper. However, the density of copper is much higher than that of carbon nanotubes. And not all problems have been solved yet. Researchers are still struggling to get the tubes connected together. As long as that doesn't work, a lot of internal resistance remains in the cables. The first applications will probably be in aerospace and aircraft. Weight saving is very important here.

In 2019 the “technical readiness level” was almost 3. This means that the principle has been shown to work, but there is no lab-validated prototype yet. [3] So don't short-sell copper mines for the time being. But in the somewhat longer term, copper will probably go the way of the Bakelite. Certainly, now that a major manufacturer, Yazaki, already incorporates carbon nanofibres into aluminum cables to allow them to conduct current as well as copper [4].

Source:
1. Yao Zhao, Jinquan Wei, Robert Vajtai, Pulickel M. Ajayan and Enrique V. Barrera, Iodine doped carbon nanotube cables exceeding specific electrical conductivity of metals, Nature Scientific Reports (2011)
2. Can Carbon Nanotubes Replace Copper ?, Assembly magazine, 2016
3. George Slenski, Replacement of copper wiring with carbon nanotubes in aerospace applications, 2019
4. Danielle Szatkovski, How do you replace all that copper wiring, Automotive News, 2019

Disaster strikes every 27 million years (update)

Due to an as yet unexplained cause, the earth is visited by a death angel every twenty-six to twenty-seven million years, struck by a natural disaster that wipes out many species. Nemesis, the supposed dark companion of the sun who would occasionally cause death and destruction with a trip through the comet-rich Ear Belt, is, however, increasingly emerging with the latest research data as a possible explanation.
There is also good news: the last mass extinction took place 11 million years ago. So it will take a while before the next devastating disaster, at least from that corner, strikes.

Asteroid Belt, Kuiper Belt and Ear Belt

Our solar system has three major collection points of irregular debris: the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and the Kuiper belt: the belt just outside Neptune's orbit. Ex-planet Pluto is the first Kuiper object discovered.

The Kuiper Belt and the Oort Cloud. Compared to the Kuiper Belt and the rest of the solar system, the Oort cloud is gigantic. Source: NASA

Furthermore, there is probably the gigantic one Ear belt, which extends more than a light-year away from the sun: the limit of the sun's gravitational action. There is no direct experimental evidence of the existence of the Ear Belt yet, but most comets have an aphelion (point in their orbit furthest from the Sun) 20,000 times the Earth-Sun distance, the center of the Ear Belt.

Know Neptune, Jupiter and Mars  trojans, which are space rocks that are about one-sixth orbit in front of or behind the planet in the orbit of the planet and around the Lagrange points rotate: the point where the sun and planet exert the same gravitational pull. The composition of meteorites from these belts indicates that many valuable raw materials can be found. It goes without saying that various countries are therefore very interested in these belts. The rare metals and the like that can be found there completely overshadow the earth.

Nemesis
The Nemesis hypothesis (Nemesis is the Greek goddess of fate who punishes the proud) assumes that the sun has a dark, invisible companion: Nemesis.

The glow of Nemesis through the Oort cloud debris. The small bright spot in the center is the sun.

Candidate objects include brown dwarfs (stars too small for nuclear fusion), wandering planets the size of a giant Jupiter, or tiny black holes. All three are virtually invisible from a great distance.

Nemesis follows an elliptical orbit around the sun. As Nemesis draws close to the Sun, the celestial body's gravity disrupts the orbits of comets and other debris in the Ear Belt, the icy-cold debris ring at the outermost limit of the solar system.

As a result, Earth is hit by a devastating bombardment that wipes out much of all species. Some very tough species survive and become the progenitors for a new phase of evolutionary expansion, such as after the devastating Cretaceous-Tertiary mass extinction, 250 million years ago (the ancient dinosaur was one of the survivors) and the Chicxulub Disaster (which wiped out the dinosaurs and paved the way for the mammals such as humans and birds) happened.

The Pluto-like object Sedna is located in a place that according to some astronomers can only be explained by the gravitational field of a Nemesis-like celestial body.

An additional clue to the existence of Nemesis is the sharp boundary of the Ear belt (calculated from the orbits of comets). Other stars with companions are known to have their debris rings sharply defined as well. Lonely stars have a diffuse outer ring. Finding nemesis gets tricky. At this point, the hypothetical object is at its aphelion - the farthest point from the sun - and is thus virtually invisible. Nevertheless, gross astronomical artillery is now being launched - remember the planned ones Pan-STARRS, LSST and completed in 2013 WISE missions, so that Nemesis - if it exists - can hardly escape us. In 2020 we still haven't discovered a trace of Nemesis.

But does Nemesis exist? And what is the explanation?

From one recent Arxiv publication shows that there are some solid arguments against the Nemesi hypothesis. For example, the pattern of 99% extinctions is too regular to be caused by the hypothetical Nemesis. Gravitational fields from neighboring stars would disrupt Nemesis's orbit in such a way that the celestial body would take an irregular orbit - thereby confusing its periodicity.

There are currently few other explanations that come close to a sensible mechanism of action. The sun orbits around the core of the galaxy in about 200 million years - six times as long as the periodicity of the extinctions. Our stellar neighbors are too chaotic to deliver this near-perfect regularity. Whatever the explanation, we still have 15 million years to expose the culprit. So we still have some time ...

Update: publication in Nature

The research has continued since 2011, this time using artificial intelligence. The researchers examined the distribution over time of 1,273,254 Fanerozoic fossils (ie, the last 541 million years), which belonged to 171 231 species.
This resulted in some striking results. The pattern of extinctions every 27 million years (or multiples thereof) has been reaffirmed. We still don't know what process triggered these extinctions. It is true that all five mass extinctions and seven smaller extinction waves follow the pattern of the 27 million years [1].

It is still not known which process causes this, but an invisible companion of the sun or some other cosmological process that destabilizes the orbits of Kuiperbelt objects seems plausible in my view. This period of 27 million years corresponds to an aphelion of hundreds of thousands of astronomical units, ie several light years. Such an object is hardly bound to the sun anymore and is soon taken in tow by other passing stars. Yet the iron periodicity indicates a relatively strong gravitational bond with the sun and a stable orbit. A resonance effect with the galactic gravitational field? In short: a challenging puzzle.

There appears to be no connection between extinction and the subsequent emergence of new species. Speciation events, in which many new species emerge, occur randomly. The earlier theory that extinction waves automatically lead to the emergence of many new species that fill the places of previous species, therefore appears to be incorrect. In fact, speciation appears to be causing new extinctions, which the researchers call “destruction by creation”. A good example is of course our own kind. We have known many extinctions of other species, from the mammoth to the dodo.

Sources
1. Impacts of speciation and extinction measured by an evolutionary decay clock ”by Jennifer F. Hoyal Cuthill, Nicholas Guttenberg and Graham E. Budd, December 9, 2020, Nature.
DOI: 10.1038 / s41586-020-3003-4

'Vaccinate the super spreaders first'

The Dutch Council for Public Health recommends that the government first vaccinate the elderly and other people with a weak immune system against the covid-19 causing SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. Is that sensible? No, says a physicist who made an epidemiological analysis. Is it better to vaccinate the (generally very healthy) superspreaders first, no matter how unethical it sounds?

Spread of SARS-CoV-2 mainly through superspreaders and in superspreading events
Massive outbreaks of SARS-CoV-2 mainly occurred at indoor mass gatherings [1]. Infamous cases included auditions of choirs, church services, Friday prayers in mosques, nightclubs, slaughterhouses, indoor parties and political gatherings. Or in nursing homes with vulnerable people. Often times, this epidemic started in one infected person who attended several such occasions: the superspreader. For example, a South Korean infected woman infected dozens of people in both a hospital and a church service [2].

Extinguish the curve: why the superspreaders should be tackled
Humanity is better off without the SARS-CoV-2 virus and other viruses that thrive on humans. A vaccine, certainly one in rapid succession, so relatively poorly tested for side effects as is now being marketed by the pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna, is a rather drastic way of eliminating this virus worldwide. If there are other, less invasive methods to get the transmission rate R well below 1 (ie to ensure that less than 1 person is infected per infected person, so that the epidemic will die out), these are preferable. Preventing superspreading events, such as banning all large gatherings indoors, is not a lot of fun, and a serious violation of the constitutional freedom of association, but it is effective. Another measure that would prove very successful is the vaccination of super spreaders. In the case of covid-19, these are people with a lot of social contacts, people who work with vulnerable groups (hospital staff and nursing homes) or people who work in covid-19 sensitive areas (such as slaughterhouses). For example, we get the epidemic under control much faster with a smaller amount of vaccines.

How do we track down the super spreaders?

SARS-CoV-2: is it ethically responsible to vaccinate healthy people earlier if we stop the epidemic sooner?
Source: USA government (state.gov)

Most people have a relatively small number of contacts. A small number of people have a huge number of contacts. Israeli physicist Shlomo Reuvin developed an effective way to track down these potential superspreaders: ask a large number of people who their acquaintances are. A small number of people turn up much more often than others. It is precisely these people who must first be vaccinated, says Reuvin, and not lonely elderly people. In his calculation models, a much smaller percentage of vaccinations already turned out to have an enormous effect: if most superspreaders are vaccinated, the epidemic appears to be a drastic decrease in R even with a low vaccinated percentage of the population, think of ten to twenty percent exhibit. With what we now know about the SARS-CoV-2 virus, we can vaccinate these super spreaders in a targeted manner. The 'indirect vaccination obligation', advocated within the VVD, is indeed an infringement of constitutional freedoms (physical integrity, in this case), but would in fact be extremely effective in stopping superspreading events.

Also see: Covid-19: the nonsense of the five-foot rule

Sources
1. Such is the impact of superspread events, MauriceDeHond.nl (Mari de Hond), 2020
2. 'Superspreader' in South Korea infects nearly 40 people with coronavirus, LiveScience, 2020
3. Shlomo Reuvin et al., Efficient Immunization Strategies for Computer Networks and Populations, ArXiv pre-print server, 2003
4. Minister De Jonge: 'No indirect vaccination obligation', Parool, 2020

Startup turns air into flesh

Meat production is extremely harmful to the environment. Still, animal protein is the easiest to digest and protein is essential for humans. A startup has found a solution that sounds almost too good to be true.

The startup Air Protein uses an old NASA technology from the 1960s. This one uses hydrogenotrophic (hydrogen-eating) bacteria that live on molecular hydrogen, H.2. Hydrogen occurs on Earth mainly as part of water, H.2Oh, but there are places on Earth where there is pure hydrogen gas. These bacteria are able to use this hydrogen gas as an energy source and with the help of carbon dioxide and nutrient salts convert it into organic substances, such as proteins. In TED lecture below this technique is explained.

Obviously, the production of hydrogen from water requires energy. The technology is therefore not free. A big advantage is that no soil is needed for livestock and, above all, that the amino acid profile of 'air protein' corresponds almost entirely to that of animal proteins. This makes it a full-fledged meat substitute, although the reddish-brown powder has little resemblance to meat. As an astronaut food and to help malnourished children and adults in the developing world, it is ideal.

Air Protein uses a NASA discovery to produce protein for astronauts. Could this solve world hunger? Source / Copyright: Air Protein

Developing meat substitutes may seem trivial, but it certainly is not. The production of every kilogram of meat costs between three to ten kilograms of animal feed. This makes meat a major burden on the environment. If we eat less meat, less agricultural land is needed and there is more space for nature areas and recreation, for example. We no longer have to be annoyed by the restrictions imposed by nitrogen nuisance.

Source
Air Protein

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