Hot Amazon workers, supercomputer record, Dr Toilet, and more

Published April 19, 2020

It’s not hot in here, it’s you

Amazon is deploy­ing ther­mo-imag­ing cam­eras in its ware­hous­es to detect employ­ees who are run­ning fevers. (It’s also going to deploy them for work­ers at Whole Foods.)

The cam­eras in effect mea­sure how much heat peo­ple emit rel­a­tive to their sur­round­ings. They require less time and con­tact than fore­head ther­mome­ters, ear­li­er adopt­ed by Amazon.

The accidental supercomputer

Folding@Home is a pro­gram that allows peo­ple to ‘donate’ their com­put­er’s pro­cess­ing pow­er when it’s not in use — specif­i­cal­ly, to help do med­ical research on pro­teins. Essentially, thou­sands of indi­vid­ual com­put­ers work togeth­er as one big computer.

Thanks to renewed inter­est with the out­break of CoviD-19, the pro­gram just set a new record for com­put­ing pow­er: It broke the “exaFLOP bar­ri­er” — 1 quin­til­lion oper­a­tions per sec­ond, mak­ing it far and away the most pow­er­ful com­put­er in the world. (In con­trast, a fast desk­top com­put­er proces­sor might be rat­ed at a mere 100 gigaFLOPs†.)

Folding@Home actu­al­ly hit 2.4 exaflops, mak­ing it “faster than the top 500 tra­di­tion­al super­com­put­ers combined.”

* 1,000,000,000,000,000,000
† 100,000,000,000

Fly, baby, fly

For the first time in almost a decade (!), NASA will be launch­ing two astro­nauts into space — to the International Space Station.

The U.S. does­n’t have any rock­ets capa­ble of doing it, so NASA is pay­ing SpaceX to deliv­er them. (Since 2011, only Russia has had the tech­nol­o­gy to send peo­ple into space.)

The launch is sched­uled for Wednesday, May 27 at 4:32 p.m. Eastern time.

Maybe it’s just Taco Bell

Severe bloat­ing can be mis­tak­en for a heart attack”.

OFF switch for binge drinking

Want to stop a mouse from binge drink­ing? Open its head and turn off its brain’s kap­pa opi­oid-recep­tor sys­tem. At least, that’s what researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina found.

The ‘kap­pa’ is the part of the opi­oid recep­tor sys­tem that makes you hun­gover. Strangely, though, when it’s deac­ti­vat­ed, so is the desire to binge drink.

After block­ing the kap­pa opi­oid recep­tors in these mice, the team test­ed how much alco­hol the ani­mals vol­un­tar­i­ly consumed.

“Blocking these kap­pa recep­tors in the extend­ed amyg­dala did­n’t com­plete­ly abol­ish drink­ing. It brought it down to a more mod­er­ate lev­el, the equiv­a­lent being a glass of wine at din­ner opposed to a bottle.”

Were you hit on the head too many times?

If some­one you know is about to do some­thing a lit­tle over the top, check for head bumps. It seems that con­cus­sions can lead to a loss of inhi­bi­tions — so found researchers at the University of Western Ontario.

The study found that par­tic­i­pants who had pre­vi­ous­ly suf­fered a con­cus­sion per­formed well on 11 of 12 cog­ni­tive tests, but showed a strong impair­ment in the test of inhibito­ry control.

The real­ly bad side is that few­er inhi­bi­tions can lead to more risk-tak­ing, and down a vicious spiral.

Breaking wind

Some inter­est­ing wind-ener­gy notes:

Scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should

Stanford University bio­engi­neers have devel­oped a “smart toi­let” that uses a whole bunch of devices to mon­i­tor a per­son­’s health. It not only col­lects and ana­lyzes sam­ples, but also (I kid you not) mea­sures “uro­dy­nam­ics”:

…which details the flow rate, mag­ni­tude, and stream time of each participant’s urine and then com­pares the data to see if there are any pat­terns between the bod­i­ly waste of healthy and unhealthy bodies.

It gets better.

After an individual’s trip to the toi­let is com­plete, the data and images col­lect­ed are then stored in an encrypt­ed cloud serv­er, which is sup­posed to keep the infor­ma­tion private.

Wait, what?

And I will leave it to you to read about how the toi­let knows who’s using it.…

(Click to enlarge)

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