Quarantined Italians Send a Message to Themselves 10 Days Ago: What They Wish They Knew Then

Countries like the US, England, France, Spain and Germany are about 9-10 days behind in the COVID-19 progression. For our benefit, the video channel called "A THING BY" asked Italians to record a message they wish had heard 10 days prior. Let's take careful note of what they have to say.

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The History of the Plague: Every Major Epidemic in an Animated Map

All of us have tried to come to grips with the coronavirus in different ways. Here on Open Culture we've featured online courses to get you conversant in the science around the pandemic, but readers of this site will also have sought out the most pertinent works of history and literature. That goes especially for those in need of reading material while in states of quarantine or lockdown (self-imposed or otherwise), and any list of recommended books must include Daniel Defoe's A Journal of the Plague Year and Albert Camus' The Plague. (I recently wrote about the experience of reading that last in Korea, where I live, for the Los Angeles Review of Books.) Both fictionalize local outbreaks of the bubonic plague, but how far and wide did that horrific and much-mythologized disease actually spread?

You can see exactly how far and wide in the animated historical map above, created by a Youtuber called EmperorTigerstar. It mainly covers the period of 431 BC to 1353 AD, during most of which the plague looks to have occurred in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa with some regularity. Up until the 1330s, the outbreaks stay small enough that you may have to view the map in fullscreen mode to ensure that you even see them.




But even the most casual students of history know what happened next: the best-known occurrence of the Black Death, whose peak lasted from 1347 to 1351 and which claimed somewhere between 75 to 200 million lives (including roughly half of Europe's entire population). Rendered, suitably, in black, the plague's spread comes eventually to look on the map like a sea of ink splashed violently across multiple continents.

The plague hardly died with the 1350s, a fact this map acknowledges. It would, writes EmperorTigerstar, "take years to go away, and even then there would be local outbreaks in individual cities for centuries." These Black Death aftershocks, "big in their own right," include the Great Plague of Milan in the 1630s, the Great Plague of Seville in the 1640s, and the Great Plague of London in the 1660s — the subject of Defoe's novel. When Camus wrote The Plague in 1947, the Algerian city of Oran in which he set its story had experienced its last outbreak of the disease just three years before (at least the fifth such experience in its history). Though harrowing stories are even now coming out of places like modern-day Milan, the coronavirus has yet to match the gruesome deadliness of the plagues featured in either of these books. But unless we understand how epidemics afflicted humanity in the past, we can hardly handle them properly in the present.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Why New Diseases Like COVID-19 Keep Appearing in China

From Vox comes a short explainer that delves into why viruses like COVID-19 have often first taken off in China. They write:

As of early March 2020, a new coronavirus, called COVID-19, is in more than 70 countries and has killed more than 3,100 people, the vast majority in China. That's where the virus emerged back in December 2019. This isn't a new phenomenon for China; in 2003, the SARS virus also emerged there, and under similar circumstances, before spreading around the world and killing nearly 800.

Both SARS and COVID-19 are in the "coronavirus" family, and both appear to have emerged from animals in China's notorious wildlife markets. Experts had long predicted that these markets, known to be potential sources of disease, would enable another outbreak. The markets, and the wildlife trade that supports them, are the underlying problem of these pandemics; until China solves that problem, more are likely to emerge.

Days ago, China's wildlife-farming industry was permanently shut down by Chinese officials.

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How to Protect Yourself Against COVID-19/Coronavirus

A short public service announcement from the World Health Organization. When you're done watching this short video, also see this WHO primer on properly washing your hands. And read this article in The New York Times: Surfaces? Sneezes? Sex? How the Coronavirus Can and Cannot Spread.

If you find other valuable resources, please feel free to mention them in the comments section below and we can perhaps build a collection of useful materials for all OC readers.

Free Courses on the Coronavirus: What You Need to Know About the Emerging Pandemic

The coronavirus has spread out of China, into South Korea, Japan and now Italy. We're settling into the reality that we're likely facing a pandemic. It's time to educate ourselves--to take some free courses on COVID-19.

In response to the outbreak, Imperial College London has put together a free course (offered through Coursera) called "Science Matters: Let's Talk About COVID-19." The course will teach you the "science underpinning the novel Coronavirus outbreak," so that you can understand "how the spread of the epidemic is modelled, how transmissibility of infections is estimated, what the challenges are in estimating the case fatality ratio, and also ... the importance of community involvement in responding to the epidemic." You can get started with this course right now.

Alternatively you can sign up for COVID-19: Tackling the Novel Coronavirus. Created by FutureLearn and The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, this course looks at "how COVID-19 emerged, was identified and spreads, the public health measures for the virus worldwide, and what is needed to address COVID-19 and prevent it [from] spreading." Although the course is now open for enrollment, it won't officially start until March 22.

Both courses will be added to our collection, 1,500 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

Note: The University of Hong Kong also offer a course on Epidemics.

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Interactive Web Site Tracks the Global Spread of the Coronavirus: Created and Supported by Johns Hopkins

 

Interactive Web Site Tracks the Global Spread of the Coronavirus: Created and Supported by Johns Hopkins

Johns Hopkins has created an interactive website that tracks the spread of the coronavirus around the globe. The site is updated daily, if not several times per day. And it shows the number of confirmed coronavirus cases around the globe (along with the precise location on a map), the number of people who have recovered from the virus, and the total number who have perished. With the report today that Italy has seen coronavirus spike from 3 cases, to 132 230, in a matter of days, it does look like coronavirus is taking on a more global dimension. That's all reflected on the Johns Hopkins site, whose data is drawn from the WHOCDCECDCNHC and DXY. You can read more about the interactive website at The Lancet.

Find information about the Coronavirus at this dedicated CDC website.

Would you like to support the mission of Open Culture? Please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere.

Also consider following Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and sharing intelligent media with your friends. Or sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

Electronic Musician Shows How He Uses His Prosthetic Arm to Control a Music Synthesizer with His Thoughts

The techno-futurist prophets of the late 20th century, from J.G. Ballard to William Gibson to Donna Haraway, were right, it turns out, about the intimate physical unions we would form with our machines. Haraway, professor emeritus of the History of Consciousness and Feminist Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, proclaimed herself a cyborg back in 1985. Whether readers took her ideas as metaphor or proleptic social and scientific fact hardly matters in hindsight. Her voice was predictive of the everyday biometrics and mechanics that lay just around the bend.

It can seem we are a long way, culturally, from the decade when Haraway’s work became required reading in “undergraduate curriculum at countless universities." But as Hari Kunzru wrote in 1997, “in terms of the general shift from thinking of individuals as isolated from the ‘world’ to thinking of them as nodes on networks, the 1990s may well be remembered as the beginning of the cyborg era.” Three decades later, networked implants that automate medical data tracking and analysis and regulate dosages have become big business, and millions feed their vitals daily into fitness trackers and mobile devices and upload them to servers worldwide.




So, fine, we are all cyborgs now, but the usual use of that word tends to put us in mind of a more dramatic melding of human and machine. Here too, we find the cyborg has arrived, in the form of prosthetic limbs that can be controlled by the brain. Psychologist, DJ, and electronic musician Bertolt Meyer has such a prosthesis, as he demonstrates in the video above. Born without a lower left arm, he received a robotic replacement that he can move by sending signals to the muscles that would control a natural limb. He can rotate his hand 360 degrees and use it for all sorts of tasks.

Problem is, the technology has not quite caught up with Meyer’s need for speed and precision in manipulating the tiny controls of his modular synthesizers. So Meyer, his artist husband Daniel, and synth builder Chrisi of KOMA Elektronik set to work on bypassing manual control altogether, with a prosthetic device that attaches to Meyer’s arm where the hand would be, and works as a controller for his synthesizer. He can change parameters using “the signals from my body that normally control the hand,” he writes on his YouTube page. “For me, this feels like controlling the synth with my thoughts.”

Meyer walks us through the process of building his first prototypes in an Inspector Gadget-meets-Kraftwerk display of analogue ingenuity. We might find ourselves wondering: if a handful of musicians, artists, and audio engineers can turn a prosthetic robotic arm into a modular synth controller that transmits brainwaves, what kind of cybernetic enhancements—musical and otherwise—might be coming soon from major research laboratories?

Whatever the state of cyborg technology outside Meyer’s garage, his brilliant invention shows us one thing: the human organism can adapt to being plugged into the unlikeliest of machines. Showing us how he uses the SynLimb to control a filter in one of his synthesizer banks, Meyer says, “I don’t even have to think about it. I just do it. It’s zero effort because I’m so used to producing this muscle signal.”

Advancements in biomechanical technology have given disabled individuals a significant amount of restored function. And as generally happens with major upgrades to accessibility devices, they also show us how we might all become even more closely integrated with machines in the near future.

via Boing Boing

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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