“Less than a year to develop a COVID vaccine – here’s why you shouldn’t be alarmed”

An excellent article that explains why the fact that a COVID-19 virus has been developed, tested and (in the UK) approved in a matter of months is not, in and of itself, a cause for concern.


I suppose that I should state the obvious: life is not without risks. There is no guarantee that any approved vaccine will not harm anybody. What we do know and should take to heart is that the COVID vaccines which are ultimately approved by major regulators have been studied and deemed to be sufficiently safe for use by the population as a whole.

Also, anyone who refuses to take any risks at all when it comes to vaccines should ask themselves why they routinely take risks in their day-to-day lives: crossing at a traffic light, flying, riding in or driving an automobile, eating a meal which (for a variety of reasons) might contain dangerous bacteria or other substances, getting out of bed in the morning (obviously, the risk of falling and breaking your neck is much lower if you just stay in bed), etc, etc, etc.

P.S. I fully intend to be vaccinated for COVID-19 when my cohort becomes eligible, and getting vaccinated becomes feasible and relatively hassle-free. My current best if somewhat wild guess is that this will happen sometime in the spring or summer of 2021.

“Assault Rifles Won’t Solve Your Feral Hog Problem, Say Scientists”

There really are people out there who believe that they need to be prepared should a herd of 30 to 50 feral hogs suddenly come charging out of the woods into the space that their children are playing in. These sorts of “Hollywood-movie-threats” tend to be given as examples when people with an overreliance on the effectiveness of firearms find themselves having to justify their need for an assault rifle.

The problem is that these folks don’t seem to understand that:

  1. there are all sorts of ‘surprises’ which could suddenly threaten their children like an out-of-control car crashing through the fence or a piece of an airplane falling out of the sky
  2. many of these ‘surprises’ are more likely to happen than a herd of 30 to 50 feral pigs appearing in the backyard of their suburban neighbourhood home
  3. an assault rifle with a super-sized clip isn’t going to be very useful should most of the most likely ‘surprises’ happen


“Hospital viruses: Fake cancerous nodes in CT scans, created by malware, trick radiologists”

Computer security researchers have developed proof-of-concept malware that can add fake lung cancer tumours to or remove real cancer tumours from CT scans. In a blind study, scans of healthy ‘patients’ in which fake tumours had been added fooled skilled radiologists 99% of the time and scans of real patients in which real tumours had been removed fooled the same radiologists 94% of the time. Even after the radiologists had been told that a new set of scans had been falsified, they still misinterpreted the scans 87% of the time.

The researchers were also able to gain sufficient access to a number of hospitals’ network equipment to be able to insert the malware in points in the network such that CT scans could be falsified before any radiologist saw the scan (in many hospitals, the relevant networks are directly or indirectly accessible from the Internet such that physical access to network equipment is almost certainly not necessary).

A Washington Post article describing the attack can be found at https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2019/04/03/hospital-viruses-fake-cancerous-nodes-ct-scans-created-by-malware-trick-radiologists/

A pre-print of a formal paper describing the attack can be found at https://arxiv.org/abs/1901.03597