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Two months after infection, COVID-19 symptoms persist

Longterm problems —

Almost 90 percent still have at least one symptom long after the virus has gone.

John Timmer
– Jul 12, 2020 5:56 pm UTC

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues unabated in many countries, an ever-growing group of people is being shifted from the “infected” to the “recovered” category. But are they truly recovered? A lot of anecdotal reports have indicated that many of those with severe infections are experiencing a difficult recovery, with lingering symptoms, some of which remain debilitating. Now, there’s a small study out of Italy in which a group of infected people was tracked for an average of 60 days after their infection was discovered. And the study confirms that symptoms remain long after there’s no detectable virus.
The study was incredibly simple in design. Patients being treated in Rome for COVID-19 were asked to participate in a tracking study. Overall, 143 patients agreed and were enrolled in the study following a negative test for the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The group ranged from 19 to 85 years old, with an average age of 57. Overall, they had spent an average of 13 days in the hospital while infected, and about 20 percent had needed assistance with breathing.
Roughly 60 days later, the researchers followed up with an assessment of these patients. Two months after there was no detectable virus, only 13 percent of the study group was free of any COVID-19 symptoms. By contrast, a bit over half still had at least three symptoms typical of the disease.
The most common symptom was fatigue, followed by difficulty breathing, joint pain, and chest pain. Over 10 percent were still coughing, and similar numbers hadn’t seen their sense of smell return. A large range of other symptoms were also present.
And that’s about all the data the researchers have. The study has a number of potential issues. The study population is smaller than anyone would like, and the participants were asked to recall the symptoms they had while hospitalized, instead of having their symptoms pulled from their medical records. Plus, some of the COVID-19 symptoms surveyed for—such as headaches—are pretty generic and could have a variety of causes.
Still, it’s good to start to get some quantitative data on what has largely been limited to anecdotal reports until now. And the data does provide information that could be valuable for officials coordinating the response to the pandemic, as it indicates that the strains on the medical system won’t necessarily drop if we can get the death rate down. And, hopefully, it will provide an additional reason for people to take the threat from COVID-19 seriously. This is a population that, on average, is substantially lower than the high-risk population, and (obviously) all of them have survived the disease, yet they continue to have difficulty two months after the virus was cleared.
JAMA, 2020. DOI: 10.1001/jama.2020.12603  (About DOIs).

What will happen to the Hagia Sophia now that it’s a mosque again?

Take me back to Constantinople —

This isn’t the first time the former cathedral has been repurposed.

Kiona N. Smith
– Jul 12, 2020 5:12 pm UTC

Maksym Kozlenko / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

The 1,500-year-old Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey, will become an active mosque beginning on July 24, ending its 85-year run as a secular museum.
Byzantine Emperor Justinian I ordered the building’s construction in 532 CE; for nearly 1,000 years, its 55.6 meter (180 ft) dome covered the largest indoor space in the world. Over a millennium and a half, the monumental structure has been an Eastern Orthodox cathedral, a Roman Catholic cathedral, an Eastern Orthodox cathedral again, and then a mosque.
Today, the Hagia Sophia is one of Turkey’s largest tourist attractions; an estimated 3.7 million people visited the site in 2019. It became a museum in 1934, under a decree from the Cabinet of Ministers under then-president of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
The country’s Cabinet of State repealed the 1934 order this week, following 15 years of legal back-and-forth over the site’s status; after the final ruling was issued, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued the order. The first Friday prayer service is scheduled for July 24.
“The Director-General of UNESCO deeply regrets the decision of the Turkish authorities, made without prior discussion, to change the status of Hagia Sophia,” said UNESCO in a July 10 statement. “It is regrettable that the Turkish decision was made without any form of dialogue or prior notice. UNESCO calls upon the Turkish authorities to initiate dialogue without delay, in order to prevent any detrimental effect on the universal value of this exceptional heritage, the state of conservation of which will be examined by the World Heritage Committee at its next session.”
In other words, the eyes of the world will be on whatever happens next.
The Turkish government has stated that, although Muslim religious services will resume at the site, it will remain open to visitors of all nationalities and faiths—much like the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, which has been an active Catholic church as well as a major tourist attraction and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Erdogan’s spokespeople have also stated that Christian iconography inside the Hagia Sophia will continue to be preserved as it has been since the 1930s.
No, you can’t go back to Constantinople
Although the change raises serious concerns about the fate of the cultural landmark, it’s also pretty much par for the course in Hagia Sophia’s dramatic history, which started a century before the current cathedral was built.
Erdogan, like his predecessor Ataturk, appears to be using the fate of the Hagia Sophia to make a political statement and score some points with his supporters. Their much earlier predecessor, Emperor Justinian I of the Eastern Roman Empire, would probably be nodding in grudging recognition right about now. After all, he ordered the cathedral’s construction in the first place for similar reasons.
Justinian hired famed architects Isidore of Miletas and Anthemius of Tralles—along with more than 10,000 workers—to build his grand cathedral in the aftermath of the Nika Revolt, which nearly ended his reign. The Nika Revolt had burned down the cathedral that had previously stood on the site (a few marble blocks with carved reliefs are all that remain today, and they’re mostly buried beneath Hagia Sophia). The cathedral before that one burned down during a revolt in 404.
Enlarge / The four minarets were built over several decades in the late 1400s, not all at the same time.By Arild Vågen – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24932378
A new cathedral, bigger and grander than anything else in the world, built atop the one destroyed by a thwarted rebellion, allowed Justinian to make a powerful statement about his… well, power. The Hagia Sophia has always been as much a political landmark as a religious or cultural one—so it’s not surprising that it has also changed hands, and functions, at least four times in its history.
The Fourth Crusade came galloping into Constantinople in 1204. The crusaders, as crusaders tend to do, ransacked the Hagia Sophia, desecrated it, then declared it a Roman Catholic cathedral instead of an Eastern Orthodox one. In 1261, the Hagia Sophia returned to the Eastern Orthodox Church. Less than 200 years later, in 1453, Mehmet II’s Ottomans came charging into Constantinople (now it’s Istanbul, not Constantinople). The conquerors, as conquerors tend to do, ransacked the Hagia Sophia, desecrated it, then declared it a Muslim mosque instead of an Eastern Orthodox cathedral.
In the 1930s, as Turkey became a more secular state, Ataturk turned the mosque into a museum. It was declared a World Heritage site in 1985.
Why did Constantinople get the works?
To understand what’s happening now, we have to go back to 1453 CE, the year the Ottoman sultan Mehmet II conquered the city of Constantinople (been a long time gone, Constantinople). He claimed the tremendous domed cathedral at the heart of the city as part of his personal spoils. Shortly thereafter, he included it in a special type of Muslim charitable endowment called a waqf, which he gave to the newly renamed city of Istanbul. In the endowment, Mehmet II specified that the former cathedral was supposed to become a mosque.
In 1934, the Ataturk administration converted the Hagia Sophia from a mosque into a deliberately secular museum. Christian mosaics that had been plastered over in the late 1400s were carefully uncovered, and they shared the domed space with Muslim prayer niches and pulpits. The museum’s rules actually forbade any religious group from holding services inside (except for a small prayer room set aside for museum staff). It was widely viewed as a symbol of shared cultural heritage and unity between people of different faiths.
Enlarge / This isn’t the first time the Hagia Sophia has been at the center of political turmoil.
Then, in 2005, an Istanbul-based organization with the unwieldy title of Permanent Foundations Service to Historical Artifacts and Environment Association filed a petition asking Turkey’s Council of State to overturn the 1934 decree. Another organization filed a similar petition in 2007 asking the Turkish government to convert the Hagia Sophia back into a Christian church. And 15 years later, the Council of State ruled that a waqf endowment can’t be changed, so according to Islamic law, the Hagia Sophia could only be turned back into a mosque.
Erdogan, a member of Turkey’s conservative Justice and Development party, quickly jumped at the chance; he had stated previously that he wanted to see the Hagia Sophia as a working mosque again. Since 2013, when Erdogan was serving as prime minister, the four 500-year-old minarets surrounding the original domed cathedral have broadcast the daily Muslim calls to prayer. And since 2016, the year before Erdogan took office as president, readings from the Quran have been held at the site on certain occasions.
Given Turkey’s current political climate, observers have suggested that Erdogan is trying to appeal to his party’s conservative religious support base by reopening the former mosque, while also pointing to the height of the Ottoman Empire to evoke a sense of nostalgic nationalism.
The Permanent Foundations Service to Historical Artifacts and Environment Association, whose name is presumably more concise in Turkish, reportedly intends to pursue similar actions for several former mosques in Greece, which were built during the reign of Mehmet II. At least one of those former mosques is currently serving as a museum.

The anatomy of a fake news headline

As confrontations between Black Lives Matter protesters and police erupted across the country earlier this month, some Oregonians, mostly older people, saw a Facebook ad pushing a headline about how a Republican politician “Wants Martial Law To Control The Obama-Soros Antifa Supersoldiers.”
Needless to say, there was no army of left-wing “supersoldiers” marching across Oregon, nor were former president Barack Obama and billionaire George Soros known to be funding anything antifa-related. And the politician in question didn’t actually say there were “supersoldiers.” The headline, originally from the often-sarcastic, progressive blog Wonkette, was never meant to be taken as straight news.

The whole thing was a mishap born of the modern news age, in which what headlines you see is decided not by a hard-bitten front-page editor but instead by layers of algorithms designed to pick what’s news and who should be shown it. This system can work fine, but in this instance it fed into a maelstrom of misinformation that was already inspiring some westerners to grab their guns and guard their towns against the largely non-existent threat of out-of-town antifa troublemakers.
This was just one headline that fed into a sense of paranoia reinforced by rumors from many sources. But deconstructing exactly how it came about provides a window into how easy it is for a fringe conspiracy theory to accidentally slip into the ecosystem of mainstream online news.
The trouble started when SmartNews picked up Wonkette’s mocking story. SmartNews is a news aggregation app that brings in users by placing nearly a million dollars worth of ads on Facebook, according to Facebook’s published data. According to the startup’s mission statement, its “algorithms evaluate millions of articles, social signals and human interactions to deliver the top 0.01% of stories that matter most, right now.”
The company, which says that “news should be impartial, trending and trustworthy,” usually picks ordinary local news headlines for its Facebook ads—maybe from your local TV news station. Users who install the app get headlines about their home area and topics of interest, curated by SmartNews’s algorithms. This time, however, the headline was sourced from Wonkette, in a story mocking Jo Rae Perkins, Oregon’s Republican U.S. Senate nominee, who has sparked controversy for her promotion of conspiracy theories.
In early June, as protests against police violence cropped up in rural towns across the country, Perkins recorded a Facebook Live video calling for “hard martial law” to “squash” the “antifa thugs” supposedly visiting various towns in Oregon. She also linked protesters, baselessly, to common right-wing targets: “Many, many people believe that they are being paid for by George Soros,” she said, and “this is the army that Obama put together a few years ago.”
Perkins never said  “supersoldier”—the term is apparently a Twitterverse joke, in this case added to its headline by Wonkette to mock Perkins’s apparent fear of protesters. To someone familiar with its deadpan sardonic style, seeing the hyperbolic headline on Wonkette’s website wouldn’t raise an eyebrow—regular readers would know Wonkette was mocking Perkins. But it’s 2020, and even insular blog headlines can travel outside their readers’ RSS feeds and wend their way via social media into precincts where Wonkette isn’t broadly known. SmartNews, when it automatically stripped Wonkette’s headline of its association with Wonkette and presented it neutrally in the ad, epitomized that phenomenon.
SmartNews’s algorithms picked that headline for ads to appear on the Facebook feeds of people in almost every Oregon county, with a  banner like “Charles County news” matching the name of the county where the ad was shown. It’s a strategy that the company uses thousands of times a day.
SmartNews vice president Rich Jaroslovsky said that in this case its algorithms did nothing wrong by choosing the tongue-in-cheek headline to show to existing readers. The problem, he says, was that the headline was shown to the wrong people.
SmartNews, he said, focuses “a huge amount of time, effort and talent” on its algorithms for recommending news stories to users of SmartNews’s app. Those algorithms would have aimed the antifa story at “people who presumably have a demonstrated interest in the kind of stuff Wonkette specializes in.” To those readers and in that context, he said, the story wasn’t problematic.
“The problems occurred when it was pulled out of its context and placed in a different one” for Facebook advertising that isn’t aimed by any criterion other than geography. “Obviously, this shouldn’t have happened, and we’re taking a number of steps to make sure we address the problems you pointed out,” Jaroslovsky said.
Jaroslovsky said Wonkette stories wouldn’t be used in ads in the future.
SmartNews targets its ads at people in particular geographic areas—in this case, 32 of Oregon’s 36 counties.
But Facebook had other ideas: Its algorithms chose to show the “antifa supersoldiers” ad overwhelmingly to people over 55 years old, according to Facebook’s published data about ads that it considers political. Undoubtedly, many of those viewers ignored the ad, or weren’t fooled by it, but the demographic Facebook chose is a demographic that a recent New York University study showed tends to share misinformation on social media more frequently.
This choice by Facebook’s algorithms is powerful: An academic paper showed that Facebook evaluates the content of ads and then sometimes steers them disproportionately to users with a particular gender, race, or political view. (The paper didn’t study age.)
Facebook also doesn’t make it possible to know exactly how many people saw SmartNews’s antifa supersoldiers ad. The company’s transparency portal says the ad was shown between 197 and 75,000 times, across about 75 variations (based on Android and iPhone and number of counties). Facebook declined to provide more specific data.
Facebook doesn’t consider the ads to have violated the company’s rules. Ads are reviewed “primarily” by automated mechanisms, Facebook spokesperson Devon Kearns told The Markup, so it’s unlikely that a human being at Facebook saw the ads before they ran. However, “ads that run with satirical headlines that are taken out of context are eligible” to be fact-checked, Kearns said, and ads found to be false are taken down. (Usually, satire and opinion in ads are exempt from being marked as “misinformation” under Facebook’s fact-checking policy, unless they’re presented out of context.)
Wonkette publisher Rebecca Schoenkopf told The Markup she wasn’t aware SmartNews was promoting her site’s content with Facebook ads but wasn’t necessarily against it. In theory, at least, it could have the effect of drawing more readers to her site.
Ironically, she says, Wonkette has a limited Facebook presence. In recent years, the reach of Wonkette’s posts on the platform had dwindled to almost nothing.
Following the chain of information from Perkins’s Facebook video all the way to the SmartNews ad makes it easy to see how a series of actors took the same original piece of content—a video of Perkins espousing conspiracy theories—and amplified it to suit their own motives. Each of those links created a potential for misinformation, where the context necessary for understanding could be stripped away.
Lindsay Schubiner, a program director at the Portland, Ore., based Western States Center, which works to counter far-right extremism in the Pacific Northwest, told The Markup that, while social media has had a democratizing effect on information, it’s also been an ideal format for spreading misinformation.
“The SmartNews ad—inadvertently or not—joined in a chorus of false, misleading and racist posts from white nationalists in response to Black Lives Matter protests,” Schubiner wrote in an email. “Many of these posts traded in anti-semitism, which has long been a go-to response for white nationalists looking to explain their political losses.”
In this case the ad, she said, potentially promulgated the common right-wing trope that Soros, who is Jewish, funds mass protests for left-wing causes.
“These bigoted conspiracy theories have helped fuel a surge in far-right activity and organizing,” she continued. “It’s certainly possible that the ads contributed to far-right organizing in Oregon in response to false rumors about anti-fascist gatherings in small towns.”
Those conspiracy theories have had real-world consequences. Firearm-toting residents in nearby Washington State harassed a multiracial family who were camping in a converted school bus, trapping them with felled trees, apparently mistakenly believing them to be antifa. The family was able to escape only with the help of some local high school students armed with chainsaws to clear their way to freedom.
This article was originally published on The Markup by Jeremy B. Merrill and Aaron Sankinand and was republished under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license.

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Chipmaker Qualcomm invests $97 million in Jio Platforms

US chipmaker Qualcomm announced today that it’s investing $97 million (₹730 crores) in Jio Platforms in exchange for a 0.15% stake in the company through its venture arm.
Qualcomm is the second chipmaker to pump money in Jio Platforms after Intel invested $253 million to pick up a 0.39% share. The US-based chipmaker is a key player in 5G development, especially when it comes to mobile phones. The investment can help both companies test 5G in India.

Mukesh Ambani, Reliance’s Chairman, said Qualcomm offers insights that will help us deliver our 5G vision:

Qualcomm has been a valued partner for several years and we have a shared vision of connecting everything by building a robust and secure wireless and digital network and extending the benefits of digital connectivity to everyone in India. As a world leader in wireless technologies, Qualcomm offers deep technology knowhow and insights that will help us deliver on our 5G vision and the digital transformation of India for both people and enterprises.

In the past few months, Jio has raised a total of $15.73 billion from 13 investors including some prestigious names such as Facebook, Silver Lake Partners, and General Atlantic. In exchange, the Indian company has given up 25.24% stake of the firm. Reliance Jio has already raised more capital in 2020 than all of India‘s startups combined in 2019.

Published July 12, 2020 — 15:01 UTC

Ivan Mehta

July 12, 2020 — 15:01 UTC

7 debugging techniques for developers to speed up troubleshooting in production

Providing production support to an application is one of the most challenging aspects of software development. Developers are assigned to the maintenance team and work on patching bugs on the application. They are, however, also available on-call in case a production outage happens, in which case they work to get the application back on track as quickly as possible.
This article aims at providing a set of curated recommendations so that you can prevent bugs in production, and find issues much quicker. Handling these applications in production is a complicated task: Often, there is no documentation available, the application has been written in a legacy technology stack, or both. There are very few training sessions, and it’s common to be called in to provide support for an application about which you know little.

Many developers do not have experience handling an application in production. There is an array of issues that happen in production environments that cause bugs and outages, generally causing thousands and sometimes millions of dollars in lost revenue to the company. Moreover, since the majority of developers have no exposure to the environment they keep making some mistakes that will, in turn, cause those issues. This list of tips should make your job less painful by teaching from production experience.
Tip #1: Remove or automate all the configuration needed for the application to run
How much configuration is required to get the software installed on a new server? In the past, this could sometimes take three days to complete every time there was a new developer on the team. Installing the application would require many steps that have to be performed manually. Over time, software evolves to new versions which become incompatible with those instructions, and of course, instructions aren’t usually updated. Suddenly, you’re spending way more time than necessary simply to get the application up and running.
With the advent of containerization, it has become much easier to provide a way to get an application up and running in no time, with zero configuration and with the added benefit that, since the Docker image is self-contained, you run a much lower risk of running into issues with different versions of the operating system, languages, and frameworks used.
Likewise, simplify developer setup, so it does not take much time to be up and running, including IDE setup. A developer should be able to go from zero to hero in less than 30 minutes.
When a production issue happens, sometimes your best experts might not be available (e.g., vacation or sickness) and you want whomever you throw at the problem to be able to solve it, and quickly.
Tip #2: Don’t fall into the tech stack soup trap
The fewer technologies used, the better. Of course, sometimes, you have to use the right tool for the job. However, be careful not to overload on “right tools.” Even drinking water can result in serious health issues if you do it too much. Every new language and framework added to the tech stack has to go over a clearly defined decision-making process with careful consideration of the impacts.

Do not add a new framework dependency just because you need a StringUtils class.
Do not add a completely new language just because you need to write a quick script to move files around.

A big dependency pile can make your life miserable when libraries become incompatible or when security threats are found either the frameworks themselves or on their transitive dependencies.
Moreover, remember, added stack complexities make it challenging to find and train new developers for the team. People move on to new roles in other companies, and you have to find new ones. Turnover is very high in engineering teams, even in companies recognized for having great perks and work-life balance treats. You want to find the new team member as quickly as possible. Every new technology added on top of the technology stack increases the time to find a new candidate and has the potential of making new hires more and more expensive.
Tip #3: Logging must guide you to find the issue, not drown you with useless details
Logging is very similar to comments. It’s necessary to document all the critical decisions being taken plus all the information to use in your debugging techniques. It isn’t simple, but with a little bit of experience, it’s possible to map out a few possible scenarios of production outages and then put in the necessary logging to solve at least that. Of course, logging evolves together with the codebase depending on what kind of issues show up. Generally speaking, you should have 80% of your logging on the most important 20% of your code—the part that will be used the most. Important information, for instance, is values from arguments passed into a method, runtime types from children classes, and important decisions taken by the software—that is, the time when it was at a crossroads, and it chose either left or right.
Tip #4: Handle unexpected situations
Map out very clearly what the assumptions of the code are. If a certain variable should always contain the values 2, 5, or 7, make sure it’s of an enum type, not int. The number one source of large production outages is when a certain assumption fails. Everybody is looking for the problem at the wrong place because they take a few things for granted.
Assumptions should be documented explicitly, and any failures to those assumptions should raise enough alarms that the production support team can quickly rectify the situation. There should also be code to prevent data from going in an invalid state, or at least creating some sort of alert in that case. If certain information should be stored in one record, and suddenly there are two records, a warning should be fired.
Tip #5: It should be straightforward to replicate an issue happening to a customer
One of the hardest steps is always to replicate the issue faced by the customer. Many times, you will spend 95% of the time trying to replicate the issue, and then the moment you can replicate it, it’s a matter of minutes to patch, test, and deploy. As such, the application architect should make sure that it’s tremendously simple and quick to replicate issues. A lot of this happens because, to get to the same situation the customer is in, the developer has to do a significant amount of application configuration. There are many records stored that together compound the situation the customer is in—the problem being that you as the developer have to guess exactly what the customer did. And sometimes, they have performed a sequence of steps, of which they only remember the last one.
Also, the customer will explain the issue in business terms, which the developer has to then translate to technical terms. And if the developer has less experience with the application, they will not know to ask for the missing details, since they don’t even know the missing details yet. Copying the entire production database to your machine is infeasible. So there should be a tool to quickly import from the production database only the few records necessary to simulate the situation.
Say the customer has an issue with the Orders screen. You might have to import a few of their orders, their customer record, some order detail records, order configuration records, etc. Then you can export that into a database within a Docker instance, launch that instance, and just like that, you are seeing the same thing the customer is seeing. All of this, of course, should be done with the appropriate care to ensure no developer has access to sensitive data.
Tip #6: It should be obvious where to place the breakpoints in the application
If you have a Customer screen, there should be some Customer object where you can place the breakpoints to debug an issue on that screen. Sometimes developers fall into abstraction fever and come up with some incredibly smart concepts on how to handle the user interface events. Instead, we should always rely on the KISS principle (Keep it Simple, St— er, Silly) and have one easily locatable method per UI event. Likewise, for batch processing jobs and scheduled tasks—there should be an easy way to spot where the place breakpoints to assess whether that code is working or not.
Tip #7: Make sure all the external dependencies are explicitly documented
Ideally, do this in the README file within the source control system so that the documentation cannot be lost. Document any external systems, databases, or resources that must be available for the application to run properly. Also, note which of these are optional and add instructions on how to handle when they’re optional and not available.
Beyond Debugging Techniques
Once these recommendations are followed while creating new features or providing maintenance to a system, production support will become a lot easier, and your company will spend a lot less time (and money). As you already know, time is of the essence while troubleshooting production bugs and crashes—any minute that can be saved makes a big difference on the bottom line. Happy coding!
The Toptal Engineering Blog is a hub for in-depth development tutorials and new technology announcements created by professional software engineers in the Toptal network. You can read the original piece written by Flavio Pezzini here. Follow the Toptal Design Blog on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Chipmaker Qualcomm invests $97 million in Jio Platforms

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Inside the Milan Hotel That Housed Covid-19 Patients

Hotel Michelangelo is a fine place to stay. Located in central Milan, it boasts four stars and close proximity to tourist attractions. Not that those things matter much to its recent guests: They’re forbidden to leave. As part of efforts to contain Covid-19, which has claimed more than 34,000 lives across Italy, Milanese authorities have converted the 17-floor hotel into a quarantine facility. It opened March 30 with enough space for 300 patients—mostly people well enough to be discharged from hospitals, but who still test positive and don’t have the space to isolate at home.“It feels like a hospital,” says photographer Alberto Bernasconi. “The smell, the cleaning products, the nurses wearing scrubs and masks. It’s completely different from the normal daily life of a hotel.”Bernasconi visited in April, donning full protective gear to capture an inside look. A flurry of medical staff filled the polished reception area, now draped in plastic like a construction zone. When “guests” arrived, they were sent up to their rooms via a specially-designated Covid-19 positive elevator, not to emerge for weeks.The stay is free and typically lasts 14 to 21 days, or until patients test negative twice—an eternity when you’re stuck alone in a 200-square-foot room, unable to hug your loved ones. The only humans they see are the nurses who stop by to check their vitals and take swabs. Meals arrive in paper bags hung on the door handles three times a day. Fresh sheets and towels are delivered once a week. They never leave their rooms … at least, they’re not supposed to. “The manager told me that there was a party with three people just talking and drinking and having a good time,” Bernasconi says. “He was really pissed and sent everyone back to their rooms.”Bernasconi visited several patients to shoot their portraits, keeping his distance and limiting talking. The images drip with ennui and anxiety. Everyone just wants to leave—and even more, to return to life as it was before the pandemic, back when Hotel Michelangelo was just a place people crashed after a fun day of seeing the sights.More From WIRED on Covid-19We can protect the economy from pandemics. Why didn’t we?Vaccine makers turn to microchip tech to beat glass shortages15 face masks we actually like to wearIt’s ridiculous to treat schools like Covid hot zonesAfter the virus: How we’ll learn, age, move, listen, and createRead all of our coronavirus coverage here

How to Trick Your Brain to Remember Almost Anything

Many people complain about having a terrible memory. Shopping lists, friends’ birthdays, statistics for an exam—they just don’t seem to stick in the brain. But memory isn’t as set in stone as you might imagine. With the right technique, you may well be able to remember almost anything at all. WIRED UKThis story originally appeared on WIRED UK.Nelson Dellis is a four-time USA Memory Champion and Grandmaster of Memory. Some of his feats of recollection include memorizing 10,000 digits of pi, the order of more than nine shuffled decks of cards, and lists of hundreds of names after only hearing them once.But with a little dedication, Dellis says that anyone can improve their memory. Here are five steps to follow that will get your filling your head with information.1. Start With Strong ImagesLet’s start with a fairly simple memorization task: the seven wonders of the world. To memorize these, Dellis recommends starting by turning each one of those items into an easily-remembered image. Some will be more obvious. For the Great Wall of China, for example, you might just want to imagine a wall. For Petra, you might instead go for an image of your own pet.“Using juicy mental images like these is extremely effective. What you want to do is create big, multi-sensory memories,” explains Julia Shaw, a psychological scientist at University College London and the author of The Memory Illusion: Remembering, Forgetting, and the Science of False Memory. You want to aim for mental images that you can almost feel, smell and see, to make them as real as possible.There’s science behind all of this. “Images that are weird, and maybe gross or emotional are sticky,” says Shaw. “When looking at the brain, researchers found that the amygdala—a part of the brain that is important for processing emotion—encourages other parts of the brain to store memories.” That’s why strong emotions make it more likely that memories will stick.2. Put Those Images in a LocationThe next step is to put those strong mental images in a place that you’re really familiar with. In Dellis’ example, he places each one of the seven wonders on a route through his house, starting with a wall in his entryway, then Christ—representing Christ the Redeemer— lounging around on his sofa. “The weirder the better,” Dellis says. In the kitchen, you might imagine a Llama cooking up a meal.This technique of linking images with places is called the memory palace, and it’s particularly useful for remembering the order of certain elements, says Shaw. “A memory palace capitalizes on your existing memory of a real place. It is a place that you know—usually your home or another location that you know really well.”If it’s a list with just seven items, that space can be relatively small. But when it came to memorizing 10,000 digits of pi, Dellis had to widen out his memory palace to the entirety of his hometown, Miami. He divided the 10,000 digits into 2,000 chunks of five digits each, and placed them all across 10 different neighborhoods.“Neuroimaging research has shown that people show increased activity in the [occipito-parietal area] of the brain when learning memories using a memory palace,” says Shaw. “This means that the technique helps to bring in more parts of the brain that are usually dedicated to other senses—the parietal lobe is responsible for navigation, and the occipital lobe is related to seeing images.”3. Pay AttentionRemembering seven weird images for the wonders of the world shouldn’t be too hard, but when you’re memorizing 10,000 digits of pi you might need a little more motivation. “I would tell myself this mantra. I want to memorize this, I want to memorize this,” Dellis says. “It’s a simple mantra but it would align my attention and focus on the task at hand and help me remember it better.”4. Break Things UpWith very large numbers like pi—or a long sequence of cards, for example, it also helps to break things up. Dellis turned each five digit chunk of pi into an image that he could easily remember. “Words are easy, you see a word and it typically evokes some kind of imagery in your mind. But things like numbers, or cards or even names are a little trickier,” he says. “And those have systems that we’ve developed and learned so that whenever we see a name or a number or a card, we already have an image preset for it.”

10 Best Android and iPhone Games to Help You Survive Social Distancing

Throughout the entirety of the coronavirus pandemic, one recommendation has been doled out over and over again: stay home. It’s possible you’ve fantasized about never having to leave the house before—a time where you’re supposed to be lazy and stay inside for the good of society. It’s a glorious proposition, but after several months, we’re all going stir crazy. If you need a break from The Office reruns, check out some of the mobile videogames we’ve rounded up below. They’re sure to distract you from all the bad news, at least temporarily.Prefer to game on a larger screen? Check out our favorite console and PC games to play if you’re stuck inside. For passing the time passively, our list of what to watch while you’re stuck inside and our favorite geeky YouTube channels may help.Updated for July 2020: We’ve added a couple of new games and updated descriptions to reflect recent gameplay updates.If you buy something using links in our stories, we may earn a commission. Learn more.Photograph: mytonaSolve Puzzles in SolitudeRavenhill: Hidden MysteryIn Ravenhill, you need to find hidden objects in pictures, kind of like those bizarre I-Spy books from when you were a kid. Come for the immersive storyline, satisfying sounds, lovely graphics, and fun minigames. Stay because of the rewarding gameplay. There are tons of free boosters and monthly events that make any in-game purchases unnecessary. I’ve played this game every day since October 2019 and I have yet to get sick of it. If it’s a bit too easy, the same developer makes a tougher version called Seeker’s Notes. (Yes, I play that one, too.)Photograph: Tru LuvA Game Where You Stay in Bed#SelfCareThis game is all about staying in bed. There’s no way to win, no clear objectives, and no timers or countdowns. #SelfCare encourages you to be gentle with yourself and be mindful of your own mental state. Sweet reminders (there’s no rush) and bits of encouragement (the storm will pass) will leave you feeling peaceful after each session. Added bonus? Your laundry sorts itself with just a few taps. MyOasis (Android, iOS) is a similar game with a less overtly feminine design.Photograph: BlizzardPlay Your Cards RightHearthstoneThis is a controversial pick, given Blizzard’s less-than-stellar history as a company. Still, if you’re looking to sling cards à la Magic the Gathering but prefer to sling them in the Warcraft universe, Hearthstone is what you want. The game is easy to learn and tough to master. Weekly Tavern Brawls and solo game modes keep things feeling fresh. Fans of card games (or The Witcher) might also like Gwent.

Hybrid Remote Work Offers the Worst of Both Worlds

Remote work, once considered a novelty or an odd experiment, has become a necessity for many businesses in the Covid-19 world. This has challenged the common assumption that remote work environments hinder employee productivity. Executives across industries have marveled at productivity remaining consistent or even increasing as employees rapidly shifted to working from home with many of them doing double duty as home-school teachers. Yet, somehow, the lesson that companies have deduced from this isn’t that they should go all-remote, but instead that they should go hybrid: combining remote and co-located work. No matter how you approach it, hybrid-remote is hard, and in the end, companies that attempt to do both will either go all-in with remote or go back to being office-based.WIRED OPINIONABOUTSid Sijbrandij is the co-founder and CEO of GitLab, which is a DevOps platform that helps teams collaborate on software development and project management. The company has raised over $426 million from Goldman Sachs, ICONIQ Capital, Khosla Ventures, Google Ventures, and August Capital, among others.Hybrid creates two fundamentally different employee experiences to manage. Despite recent successes with remote work, employers are reopening offices to some of their employees to encourage social bonding, reinforce culture, and increase business collaboration. The assumption underlying these reopenings is that some critical things can’t be done as effectively outside of the office. Leaders who built their businesses in offices counted on shared space to act as a glue for culture and as a stopgap for inefficiencies in communication systems and processes. While the office-based model has historically proven to be successful for many companies, it will provide significant challenges for companies committed to also supporting a remote workforce. If an office is the “glue”, and processes and systems don’t adapt for a remote workforce, remote team members will not feel included and will face constant communication barriers. This will make it harder for them to perform at the same level as their in-office peers.And whenever there is a head-office, a physical co-located space where leadership resides, there will always be two ways of communicating. To get everyone on the same level, a company would need leadership to leave the shared office so no single physical place holds more power than another. Realistically, however, most leadership in hybrid-remote firms will keep working from the head-office, degrading the default way of working from ‘remote-first’ to ‘remote-allowed,’ where remote employees are not penalized for working outside the office, but are also not proactively integrated into the fabric of the company. This will be a particularly frustrating result for team members whose organizations sold them on the idea that they could opt-in to remote work as a perk. Employees will quickly discover that the company didn’t make the shift from the old ways of rewarding attendance (equating ‘being seen’ in an office with being a great worker) to a new way of rewarding output (equating achieved results with being a great worker). Eventually, remote workers will find that they are not getting promoted at an equal rate because they are less visible and the productive remote employees will leave for all-remote companies that invest in their remote team members.But it doesn’t have to happen that way. Success with a remote workforce, hybrid or fully remote, requires operational intentionality. Unquestioningly sticking to systems and processes that made an office-based model successful will doom any remote model to fail.As a co-founder and the CEO of GitLab, I proactively built an all-remote company after discovering early-on that you don’t need everyone in the same building to achieve results. Our executives, managers, and individual contributors all work remote. We don’t even have an HQ. This avoids the complexities of having to cater to onsite and offsite employees. It also fosters a shared commitment to our unique way of operating and iterating to improve over time.Working from home will never be the best solution for everyone and “remote” doesn’t always mean “home.” If a team member wants to work in an office because their home isn’t conducive to work, they’re distracted by roommates or family members, they want the social interaction of a co-working space, or they simply feel more productive away from home, we’ll pay for the space. We have noticed, however, that some people who prefer an office in the beginning transition to work-from-home during their first months.We also care about and encourage informal digital communication such as coffee chats and even all-remote talent shows. This isn’t to say we don’t recognize the importance of in-person face-time: Pre-pandemic, we organized an in-person all-employee event every year and encouraged local meet-ups amongst team members who live in the same region. We also offered visiting grants, which provided company subsidized travel to visit team members in another location anywhere in the world, and we look forward to bringing them back.Proactively setting up your organization for remote goes beyond where you sit and how often you see other people. That’s why we don’t have employees from different disciplines report to the same manager even though much of our work is multi-disciplinary. Instead, we require each individual to be a ‘manager of one’ who can self-organize and work asynchronously without a project manager.While leading an all-remote company will require many managers to rethink and rework how they run their businesses, all-remote is possible and will lead to greater resilience to crises, increased efficiency and access to talent that was previously out of reach. There is so much talent outside of major metropolitan areas, and this talent will suddenly be able to compete for high paying and rewarding jobs at the world’s leading companies. This will help spread income a bit more equally around the world (even if inequality will still rise).In the time since offices shut down, some companies have already canceled their leases with the intent to go all-remote. On the other hand, many companies are intent on reducing their in-office presence, rather than eliminating it, and plan to go hybrid-remote. Those who do hybrid, if not intentional about making systemic changes and treating every employee as if they are remote (whether in-office or not), will see their most effective remote people leave. The hybrid companies will then blame the lack of productivity on remote instead of the actual cause: managing two distinct employee experiences is a very arduous task. These companies will write off remote work as a novel experiment, blame it for operational difficulties, and pull remaining remote workers back into the office.WIRED Opinion publishes articles by outside contributors representing a wide range of viewpoints. Read more opinions here. Submit an op-ed at opinion@wired.com.More Great WIRED StoriesScreen share: A college teacher’s Zoom journalWIRED’s ultimate summer reading listHow to switch to Signal and bring all your texts with youEverything you need to know before buying a gaming PCWe can protect the economy from pandemics. Why didn’t we?👁 The therapist is in—and it’s a chatbot app. Plus: Get the latest AI news🎧 Things not sounding right? Check out our favorite wireless headphones, soundbars, and Bluetooth speakers

Dyson Airwrap Review: A Pricey Curling Iron, Blow Dryer, and Hot Air Brush in One

There are some products you just hate to love. The Dyson Airwrap, a multi-featured hair-styling tool, is a prime example. I wanted to hate it for price alone—a cool $500—so that I didn’t have to yearn for it. And yet, like all the Dyson products I’ve tried thus far, I quickly warmed to it. That’s good for Dyson, bad for my pocketbook.When it comes to hair gadgets, there are many gimmicks out there that claim to make styling easy and effortless (the Air Curler, anyone?) and if you weren’t aware of Dyson’s reputation for making quality products for the home, it would be easy to write off the Airwrap as something out of a late night infomercial. I mean, it uses air to suck strands of your hair around the curling barrels, and somehow produces a lasting result without subjecting your hair to too much damaging heat? It’s a tough sell, but I’ve used it enough times now to know that it works, even though it does take some getting used to.Curly-QThe Airwrap isn’t new; it was released in 2018, but a reputable competitor has yet to present itself. It would probably cost you less to buy a hot air brush, a curling iron, and a hair dryer separately, but no company has been able to combine all three of those products into a system that works as well. Plus, with this machine, you don’t need any real hairstyling skills to get a polished look. It does most of the hard work for you.Photograph: Tom Bunning/DysonThe Airwrap styler is a 10.5-inch wand with different attachment heads that click in to the top. The wand is light, and the power button, fan speed, and heat settings are all within reach of the grip, so you can easily maneuver the wand for one-handed styling. It comes in three versions: Volume and Shape for fine and flat hair, which comes with 1.2-inch curling barrels, a soft smoothing brush, a round brush, and a hair dryer attachment; Smooth and Control for frizz-prone hair, which comes with 1.2-inch and 1.6-inch curling barrels, a firm smoothing brush, and a hair dryer attachment; and the Complete set, which comes with all of the above accessories for about $50 more than the base price. The Complete option makes sense if you’re a hairdresser, or if you’re intending to use the Airwrap in a home with several different people and hair types. Each of the attachments can be bought separately if you end up wanting something that wasn’t included in the kit you chose. You can also buy longer curling barrels and smaller versions of the smoothing brushes.It’s a multi-function styler, but the Airwrap really shines as a curling iron. Its secret is in its air flow. It employs what’s called the Coanda effect. Using its internal motor (remember, Dyson is famous for its powerful vacuums), it creates a vortex of air inside the hollow barrel powerful enough to draw your hair to it. All you have to do is place the end of your hair near the barrel, and the machine does the gripping and wrapping for you, so you don’t have to worry about touching a hot curling barrel.Heat can damage hair of all types, and traditional curling irons typically heat up to around 400 to 430 degrees Fahrenheit. The Airwrap uses less direct heat, and it continuously measures the temperature so it never goes above 302 degrees.The Airwrap is designed to be used on damp hair, which is unusual for hair gadgets. Most flat irons and curling irons need to be used on dry hair, or else you run the risk of them frying your strands. But the Coanda airflow safely does the drying and styling in one, without singeing any hairs. After washing your hair, you can use the dryer attachment (which has the same open design as Dyson’s larger Supersonic hair dryer) to get your hair from soaking wet to damp before going in with the curling barrel. Jon Reyman, Dyson’s global styling ambassador, told me that coarser hair can be mostly dry before using the Airwrap, but softer hair should be left damp.I found it worked best for my coarse hair after a few strokes through with the hot air brush, which left it just slightly damp to the touch while smoothing out my natural frizz-prone curls enough to make nice large waves that didn’t need touching up at the roots. To get more of a beachy wave, I wrapped the hair around the barrel myself and then turned the Airwrap on, which helps to manipulate the hair into a wave pattern rather than a spiral. Like I would after using any curling device, I let the curls set and then run my fingers through my hair so I’m not left with super-tight princess curls.Each size barrel comes with two versions, one oriented clockwise and the other oriented counter-clockwise, so you can make curls that go in both directions. This makes it almost effortless to create a face-framing hair style. If you’ve ever curled your hair with a traditional curling or flat iron, you know that it can be hard to get each side to curl away from the face; I always struggle with my right side. If you’re a pro at doing hair, you might be laughing at this silly detail. But with two separate barrels, there’s none of the awkward maneuvering required to get that perfect face-framing style just right.Smooth It OutThe styling wand with a hot-air brush attachment.
Photograph: DysonWhile the Airwrap is at its best as a curling iron, it also takes some of the aggravation out of blowing out hair. An at-home blowout can be tiring and frankly painful for your arms, especially if you have a lot of hair. You’ve got one hand on a brush, one hand on your blow dryer, and have to angle everything just right to get your hair properly smoothed down. But with the Airwrap, you can do it basically with one hand—just know that if you have coarser hair, it helps to put some tension on the bottom of the hair so you don’t have to repeatedly go over one section multiple times.The brush attachments, like any hot-air brushes on the market, blow hot air through the brush to dry and smooth your hair in one swoop. The Dyson, of course, has an edge. The teeth of the brush pivot so air flows downward, not through the hair, which is more efficient, Reyman claims.Blowouts are typically the first step in the long process of straightening curls. But with the firm smoothing brush and a quick swipe of the round brush, my hair was almost smooth enough for the outside world to see. I still think it needed a quick run through with a flat iron to smooth out some of the puffiness caused by the brushes, but not nearly as much as is typically needed. Reyman confirmed that more coily hair, like mine, will likely need a finishing touch after using the brushes.Typically, I need to plan ahead of time if I want to straighten my hair. I start the night before, washing it to get any product out. Then I brush out all the knots, wait for it to air dry almost completely, then put it in two braids for sleeping so that when I wake up the next day and am ready to straighten it, most of the tight curls have loosened. But with the Airwrap, I can wake up in the morning and decide I want to wear it straight that day. After washing it, I can dry it and smooth it out in one step, then go over it with a flat iron to fully straighten it. This isn’t a simple affair, of course; it’s still going to take me the better part of an hour. But reducing a two-day ordeal to around 60 minutes of work is a win in my book.Much like the Dyson Corrale hair straightener that I reviewed recently, the Airwrap is a solid hair tool that almost anyone who frequently styles their hair will love. If you’re regularly blowing out or curling your hair, your mane will benefit from being subjected to less heat, and you’ll benefit from spending far less time in front of the mirror. You’ll just have to decide if the upsides are worth the hefty price tag.