• Boycott businesses that use these Orwellian measures…
  • More evidence there could be other life out in the universe…
  • Not ready for that Zoom call? This app is here to help…

Dear Reader,

Today, I’m excited to share the results of some very interesting research on COVID-19 that was published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine. I reviewed the research over the weekend so that I could share the details.

I’m actually surprised that it was published at all.

The purpose of the study was to determine the efficacy of public health measures for COVID-19. This includes things like masks, hand sanitizer, and social distancing.

Researchers used U.S. Marine recruits on Parris Island, South Carolina, to conduct the study. This was a great decision. After all, the authors could essentially ensure 100% compliance with the personal health measures in order to get the highest quality results from the study.

Every Marine recruit quarantined for two weeks prior to moving to Parris Island to ensure that they weren’t infectious. The study started with a clean slate.

1,848 recruits participated in the study and adhered to the study’s public health measures:

  • All recruits wore double-layered cloth masks at all times indoors and outdoors.

  • They stayed at a distance of at least six feet.

  • No one was allowed to leave the campus.

  • No one had access to personal electronic devices or anything else that might be a surface for spreading transmission.

  • They practiced routine washing of hands.

  • Recruits cleaned their rooms daily (of course).

  • They sanitized their bathrooms with bleach wipes with each use.

  • They ate pre-plated meals in a dining hall that was cleaned with bleach after each platoon ate.

I think we’ll agree that these are very strict measures taken in the hopes of stopping the spread of COVID-19. The high compliance and repeated cleanings after each use make this study unique.

There were also 1,554 nonparticipants who did not take these measures. Over a 14-day period, all of the recruits were tested for COVID-19.

We would expect the infection rates to be higher in those who did not participate in the strict personal health measures.

But that’s not at all what happened.

By day 14, 51 of the 1,848 participants had tested positive for COVID-19. Only 26 out of the 1,554 nonparticipants tested positive.

In other words:

  • Those who wore masks, used bleach, and stayed strictly distanced tested positive at a rate of 2.8% within the first two weeks.

  • Those who didn’t and went about a normal life tested positive at a 1.7% rate over the same time period.

I believe the journal agreed to publish the study because the authors drew no conclusions. They didn’t explore why the personal health measures were unsuccessful in stopping the spread of COVID-19 and produced worse results.

They also didn’t explore why the infection rate was lower for those who didn’t participate.

This is one of the very best studies that I’ve seen to date on COVID-19. And these insights should be used in public policy making for how we go about our lives.

Now let’s turn to today’s insights…

Immunity passports are coming…

We first talked about immunity passports back in April. These are certificates that confirm an individual has either received the COVID-19 vaccination or recently tested negative for the virus.

The idea is to require people to prove that they are immune to COVID-19 before they are permitted to go about their business as normal.

We first talked about immunity passports around the peak of the pandemic. One would think that the idea would have dissipated by now given that there are several vaccines that will get approved for use, two of which will likely happen before the end of this year.

Sadly, despite being able to see a clear path toward the end of this nightmare, the topic of immunity passports has picked up steam.

Entertainment company Billboard just announced its subsidiary Ticketmaster will implement COVID-19 checks for anyone who wants to attend one of its events. I’m sure many subscribers have used Ticketmaster before.

Ticketmaster’s smartphone app would link up with several health information companies to gain access to its customers’ sensitive health data.

To attend a concert or sporting event, consumers would be forced to agree to this system that will share their health information with Ticketmaster. And their data will need to demonstrate that they have received a vaccination within the last 12 months, or that they have tested negative for COVID-19 within the last 72 hours.

It looks like Billboard may take this one step further. It may partner with biometric identification company Clear, which we talked about back in August.

Clear produces kiosks that verify a person’s identity using fingerprint or retinal scans. And the kiosks can also check a person’s temperature on the spot.

Clear’s Kiosk

Source: Clear

If Billboard does in fact partner with Clear, we’ll see these kiosks outside of Ticketmaster events. It could resemble airport security lines. Consumers may be forced to share their immunity passports, have their identity checked, and have their temperature checked before being permitted to attend the event they paid for.

So this is the start of what will likely be a tremendous amount of friction when it comes to living our daily lives.

It’s not hard to imagine employers implementing a similar system for employees. What if employees are forced to get an unproven vaccine or demonstrate a negative COVID-19 test every few days just to go to work?

And what if this type of system is implemented at airports, shopping centers, and even our local stores?

To me, Billboard is setting a scary precedent here. Not only is this Orwellian, but it’s also not necessary. The procedures don’t match the risk.

And think about this – Billboard wants to implement this system within the next 12 months. COVID-19 will have burned itself out by then. It will be almost entirely gone.

As a society, we need to push back against draconian measures like this. Immunity passports are not going to make us safe. They are only going to grossly erode our freedoms.

We should remember that most of the population is at greater risk of severe illness or death from influenza or pneumonia rather than COVID-19.

The solution is to allow those who are at risk to choose to take the vaccine and allow the rest of society to develop natural immunity to COVID-19 as we do every year with every other airborne virus.

My recommendation is to boycott any events, venues, or stores that implement this system. If they see that people aren’t going to put up with these measures, they will be forced to pull back.

In fact, the performers, sports teams, and stores that see their revenues diminish will demand that these systems be removed.

Let’s make sure that’s what happens.

More evidence that there is extraterrestrial life right here in our galaxy…

Moving on to another exciting space topic…

Incredible research from a team of astrophysicists was just released. It’s set to be published in the Astronomical Journal very soon.

This team painstakingly went through all existing data on exoplanets in our galaxy. This data was collected by NASA’s Kepler space telescope and the European Space Agency’s Gaia project, which seeks to map out every star in the Milky Way galaxy.

Prior to this research, we believed that there were about 4,300 exoplanets in the Milky Way. But we didn’t know how many of those planets were rocky, likely to have water, and in the habitable zone capable of supporting life.

Well, it turns out that prior research was way off.

Taking a conservative approach, this new research shows that there are at least 300 million Sun-like stars with habitable planets orbiting them in our galaxy. That’s astonishing.

What’s more, the research estimates that there are 4.1 billion Sun-like stars in the galaxy. When the researchers widened their parameters a bit, the model suggests that up to two billion of these stars may have an Earth-like planet orbiting them.

The implications are astronomical.

Not only are there far more habitable planets in our galaxy than we ever thought, but I believe it is an absolute certainty that there is other life out there.

While we won’t be able to travel to these worlds in our lifetime, I can only hope that we at least receive a signal from another civilization sometime over the next few decades. We have the technology to search now, so it is only a matter of time.

We are definitely not alone.

How to make your own digital avatar…

This was bound to happen.

A company out of Japan called EmbodyMe has developed a product called Xpression Camera. This is a virtual camera app that imprints the movements of the user’s face onto another image while talking on Zoom, Twitch, Microsoft Teams, or Google Meet.

We have talked about digital avatars in these pages before. Here it is:

Xpression Camera

Source: EmbodyMe

Xpression Camera allows us to get in front of the camera to create several different avatars of ourselves.

We could have a casual avatar wearing everyday clothing. We could have an avatar of ourselves wearing formal attire or a business suit. And we could have a funny avatar of ourselves imprinted on a historical figure.

Then, when we jump on a video call, we can choose which avatar to use based on the occasion. The artificial intelligence (AI) will depict our words and facial expressions in real time. So when we are on a business call, we may be wearing pajamas, but our avatar will show us wearing nice business attire.

I love this idea.

Many of us have been doing video calls in lieu of in-person meetings these last eight months or so. Inevitably we run into the situation where we are asked to jump on a video call that we weren’t expecting.

Maybe we are not in the right clothes. Or maybe we are just under the weather that day. Our hair is a mess, or we haven’t taken a shower for a couple of days. Whatever the case is, the last thing we want to do is go on camera.

This solves that problem. With Xpression Camera, we will always look our best on video calls going forward.

So I think this will catch on in a big way. It’s a perfect post-pandemic offering.

Jeff Brown
Editor, The Bleeding Edge

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