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Why cities will come back stronger after covid

MIT Technology Review

Actually, studies show urban living may not be as covid-risky as you might suspect. Last June researchers at Johns Hopkins and the University of Utah found that density wasn't linked to infection rates in US counties after accounting for metropolitan-area population, socioeconomic factors, and health-care infrastructure; rather, connectivity between counties through such things as travel mattered more for viral spread and mortality. A paper published by Germany's IZA Institute of Labor Economics in July found that while covid-19 was more likely to show up sooner in denser counties, population density didn't correlate with the overall number of cases and deaths. In other words, when it comes to the coronavirus, density isn't destiny. New York City was initially the US epicenter of the pandemic in part because of its status as an international destination, but its weekly caseload dropped as safety measures took root. Rural counties in Alaska, Colorado, and Texas--far from dense population centers--were hit hard around the start of 2021, each with more than 100 daily cases per 100,000 residents, according to the New York Times.


AI Weekly: AI models illustrate the importance of continued social distancing

#artificialintelligence

As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on unabated in countries around the world, there's a shared desire among those forced to shelter in place to see the extent to which social distancing is slowing the disease's spread. It's understandable -- collateral damage from government-imposed business closures threatens to devastate entire industries. As of this week, 26 million Americans have filed for unemployment claims, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the International Monetary Fund predicts a global financial crisis rivaling the Great Depression. Fortunately, a preprint study published by researchers at the University of Texas, the Southwest Research Institute, and the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio strongly implies that quarantining and physical distancing are having the intended effects. Using a hybrid AI system dubbed SIRNet and several epidemiological models, which were trained on smartphone location data along with population-weighted density and other data points from the startup Safe Graph, World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and elsewhere, the coauthors claim they managed to accurately predict the outcomes of various social distancing policies.


UN report warns more than THREE MILLION people could die from coronavirus in Africa

Daily Mail - Science & tech

Africa could see anywhere between 300,000 and 3.3 million deaths due to coronavirus, according to the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). It warned that if the continent does not implement measures to prevent the spread of the virus then total infections could spiral out of control and reach 1.2 billion. But if intense social distancing measures are implemented, the number of total infections could drop to 122 million by the end of the pandemic. The first confirmed COVID-19 case in Africa was reported in Egypt on February 14 and since then there have been more than 18,000 confirmed cases. Algeria has the most COVID-19 related deaths in Africa with 348, with Egypt, Morocco and South Africa the next hardest hit countries.


The Self-Driving Car Is a Red Herring - Issue 92: Frontiers

Nautilus

Ten years ago this fall, Google gave us a glimpse of a new device unlike any it had ever built before--a computer-controlled car. It seemed such a strange thing for an Internet company to spend its time and energy on, a "moonshot" as the company's engineers called such massive efforts. But with a single blog post, the search giant promised to reinvent our cars, and our communities, too. It was a big vision for a single invention to carry. And the details were scant. But we quickly filled in the blanks. Software was going to replace our dangerous, congested, sprawling roads with something utterly safe, seamless and organized. Humans would take the back seat in a new network of "ghost roads," as I call them.


Building dense cities was California's cure for the housing crisis. Then came coronavirus

Los Angeles Times

For more than a decade, California lawmakers have pushed with increasing urgency to build more housing near transit stops and job centers. Density, they've reasoned, is the best way to control the exploding cost of living and reduce residents' reliance on carbon-spewing vehicles in a state best known for its sprawling suburbs. But now density has a new foe: the coronavirus. Skeptics of greater urbanization say the pandemic has proved that they were right all along, pointing to orders from public health officials to use social distancing to slow the spread of the virus. Even some ardent urbanists worry that the speed with which the virus devastated packed neighborhoods could lead to a backlash against cities.