• This partnership is changing the game for logistics…
  • We just got a big clue to the secret of immortality…
  • Toyota took the bait…

Dear Reader,

As we enter the fall in the northern hemisphere, we’re bound for the inevitable change that always comes with this time of the year.

The color of leaves will gradually change to a spectrum of reds, oranges, and yellows. The nights will get cooler. We’ll start wearing warmer clothing. Many of us will catch a cold. And unfortunately, in some places, the subject of reinstating mask mandates will rear its ugly head.

In fact, even though we discovered that they were completely ineffective in stopping – or even slowing – the spread of COVID-19 during the pandemic, some counties and schools around the country are requiring masks again. Insanity.

But aside from their ineffectiveness, very few asked whether or not masks may be causing harm. We’ve already learned of the catastrophic developmental delays caused to children by mask-wearing in children. But what about the broader population? 

I’d like to share the results of two recently published research reports analyzing the impact of masks on our health. First, I’ll start with a picture…

Bacteria and Fungi Found in Masks

Source: Nature.com

The above picture is from recently published research on Nature.com titled “Bacterial and fungal isolation from face masks under the COVID-19 pandemic.”

While some of the microbes found are non-pathogenic to humans, others were not. Specifically, Bacillus cereus, Staphylococcus saprophyticus, Aspergillus, and Microsporum were all found. Not good, and not exactly what we want to be inhaling with each breath.

Another interesting thing from the research is that it was determined that the incidence of bacteria was high within one day of usage. And within two days of usage, the incidence of fungi was also high. I think it goes without saying that most of us have used the same mask for more than two days.

While it wasn’t my choice to wear one, this research tells me that I would have been much better off using a new mask every day.

And the researchers went so far as to propose “that immunocompromised people should avoid repeated use of masks to prevent microbial infection.” That says a lot.

But what about the actual masks themselves… Could they be harmful? That brings me to another recently published study in Nature titled “Titanium dioxide particles frequently present in face masks intended for general use require regulatory control.”

As the title suggests, Titanium dioxide (TiO2) was found in all sorts of masks – as shown below. It wasn’t just the mere presence, but also the the quantity of TiO2, that was found.

Source: Nature.com

If any of us have worn a mask similar to the ones shown above, we’ve almost certainly been exposed to varying levels of TiO2. The TiO2 found at the fiber surface ranged anywhere from 17 micrograms to 4,394 micrograms. It’s worth noting that the “safe” exposure level to TiO2 is a mere 3.6 micrograms.

What that means is that in the best case, we’re exposed to almost five times the acceptable limit (and worst case, 1,220 times more) than what is determined to be safe.

Why is this a big deal? TiO2 is categorized as a group 2B carcinogenic. A carcinogenic is something that can cause cancer, and a group 2B carcinogenic is defined as a possible carcinogenic for humans. The French government has gone so far as to determine that titanium dioxide is a carcinogen when inhaled.

Considering the scientific research, it seems remarkable that some public health officials still continue to recommend wearing them. A cynic might say that the intended goal is actually to cause harm.

What’s clear is that masks are not healthy. They are ineffective. They cause damage. They may make us sick from direct exposure to bacteria and fungi. And they expose us to a potentially carcinogenic substance.

So if the discussion comes up this fall in your local town or school district about whether or not to return to previous policies, I hope we all just say “NO!”… And hopefully, for those readers that may have to fight these policies, this research might prove to be very useful in the weeks ahead.

Middle-mile autonomous driving is here…

Pitney Bowes just made an interesting announcement that is a sign of things to come. It’s the beginning of a trend that will reshape logistics and distribution around the world.

Pitney Bowes may not be a name that most recognize, but it’s a massive logistics company that focuses on packages and delivery. Pitney works with all sorts of retailers. This includes both brick-and-mortar and online stores.

And the company just announced that it is partnering with autonomous driving firm Gatik for middle-mile delivery. That is the term for deliveries between facilities like holding, fulfillment, and distribution centers.

Regular readers may remember Gatik. We talked about this company when it partnered with Walmart last December. In that case, Gatik deployed self-driving trucks to ferry goods from Walmart’s distribution centers to its retail locations.

Pitney is partnering with Gatik to do something similar. Gatik will deploy short-haul trucks that move goods between distribution centers:

Gatik’s Short-Haul Trucks

Source: Gatik

Notice how this is much different from what companies like Amazon and UPS are trying to do with their logistics networks – they are looking to deploy autonomous deliveries directly to consumers. That’s referred to as last-mile delivery, and it’s a far more complex and larger problem to solve.

Autonomous delivery between distribution centers is much easier… That’s because companies can preprogram the routes.

Gatik can ensure that its self-driving trucks avoid areas that are difficult to navigate. And it can eliminate any routes that would be challenging for a self-driving truck – for example, routes that require difficult left turns.

So Pitney and Gatik are focusing on a very specific problem here. This is something that they can implement much faster than fully autonomous driving solutions.

To that end, the two will test this autonomous driving technology with a safety driver in each truck over the next few months.

Once they confirm that the trucks can handle each route, they’ll pull the safety driver out. Then each truck will run the predefined routes autonomously. That’s expected to happen by early next year.

And here’s the key – Gatik estimates that its services will save Pitney up to 30% in costs, just by automating middle-mile deliveries.

I see this estimate and can’t help but think… Imagine what happens to costs when we can fully automate last-mile deliveries as well. The cost savings will easily be multiples greater.

The end result is that consumer goods are going to become far cheaper to distribute. And those cost savings will ultimately get passed down to consumers as well.

In other words, everything we buy online will likely become even less expensive to have delivered straight to our doorstep, once self-driving technology is prevalent. The savings will be shared by both the consumer and the commerce providers, who will enjoy higher gross margins.

We’ve discovered the first “immortal” creature – and learned its secret…

This next topic is wild. Hang with me on this one, as it has relevance for human longevity…

Some incredible research just came out of the Universidad de Oviedo in Spain. It’s about a particular species of jellyfish known as Turritopsis dohrnii.

I know readers may wonder why we are talking about jellyfish here in The Bleeding Edge. Well, this particular jellyfish is immortal. Biologically, it lives forever.

That alone is remarkable. And it gets even better…

The researchers analyzed the jellyfish’s genetics and figured out exactly how the species does it. These images tell the story:

Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)

The image on the left depicts the lifecycle of a normal jellyfish species found in the waters around Japan.

As we can see, the jellyfish comes to life, grows into an adult, reproduces, and eventually dies. The act of reproducing creates a larva that becomes a polyp and then develops into an adult jellyfish from there. And the species perpetuates. It’s a very similar lifecycle to most known organisms.

But then look at T. dohrnii on the right.

Its lifecycle starts out the same. It comes to life, grows into an adult, and reproduces. And that creates a larva, which becomes a polyp and then develops into an adult jellyfish.

But look at the blue line in the middle. That line walks us through what happens to the original jellyfish after it reproduces.

Instead of dying off, the jellyfish shrinks itself down into a cyst. In time, it then becomes a polyp and starts the entire lifecycle all over again.

In other words, the jellyfish goes from young to old, reproduces, and then goes from old to young and does it all over again. In a way, it skips death entirely. Genetically, it’s the same jellyfish the entire time.

The researchers pinpointed specific variants in this species’ DNA that power this immortality. This jellyfish has genes that enable it to protect the end of its telomeres, or critical chromosomes that repeat throughout all organisms’ DNA.

This is crucial, because in every other organism, telomeres shrink over time. That triggers the aging process, and it ultimately leads to death.

But this jellyfish avoids it by preventing its telomeres from shrinking. Incredible.

And here’s the big picture takeaway…

Now that we understand the mechanism that enables these jellyfish to shirk a “normal” death, researchers can analyze similar genetic sequences in humans. We may be able to design a therapy that stops our own telomeres from shrinking… or at least slows the process.

And if we can do that, it could very well be a cure for aggressive degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. These diseases cause the telomeres to shrink at a rapid rate.

So I’m very excited to see what comes from this research.

And as a final point of interest, the researchers here used DeepMind’s AlphaFold 2 when conducting their analysis of proteins within the jellyfish. How’s that for timely?

It’s only been a couple of weeks since DeepMind published AlphaFold’s entire database of protein predictions, and it’s already led to an incredible breakthrough.

This is just the first of many more to come…

The Great Recalibration is coming to North Carolina…

Toyota just made a big announcement: the auto giant is tripling its investment in U.S. manufacturing, to $3.8 billion. Specifically, Toyota is partnering with Panasonic to produce electric vehicle (EV) and hybrid vehicle batteries in Liberty, NC.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) is a critical part of The Great Recalibration, that is re-architecting the global manufacturing base, moving manufacturing closer to end markets, and building resiliency into supply chains.

In order to draw such a massive investment, North Carolina offered Toyota a nice incentive to build a manufacturing plant in the state. The state agreed to reimburse $350 million if Toyota’s investment topped $3 billion.

Clearly, Toyota was happy to take the bait. And it makes perfect sense.

I don’t think many people realize this, but the top Japanese and European carmakers manufacture a lot of their cars right here in the U.S. That includes Toyota.

By producing batteries in the U.S. as well, these companies simplify their supply chains and make the process far more efficient. The closer we can produce the batteries to the EVs, the better. And obviously, manufacturing in stable jurisdictions is strongly preferred.

Toyota’s new plant is on track to go into production in 2025. It’s just a few years away.

The end result will be a far more resilient supply chain for all of us. That’s why it’s so exciting to see energy and semiconductor-related manufacturing coming back onshore.


Jeff Brown

Editor, The Bleeding Edge