Friday, September 30, 2022

BIG Exclusives

Potentially polarizing paper anything but model behaviour

A recently published article by Fisman et al., “Impact of population mixing between vaccinated and unvaccinated subpopulations on infectious disease dynamics: implications for SARS-CoV-2 transmission”, has received widespread acceptance and coverage in the mainstream media despite major flaws in its methodology. At BIG Media, we have examined the article of Fisman et al. and find its main conclusion – that risk of infection among vaccinated people is disproportionately attributed to unvaccinated people – is an exaggerated claim and does...

The smallest of lies are destroying our democratic institutions

Barack Obama recently took aim at misinformation on social media, calling it a threat to our society. Once the lies are widespread enough, he said, “ lose trust in their leaders, mainstream media, in political institutions, in each other, the possibility of truth – the game’s won.” Obama was arguing toward the need for more regulation of social media. However, the problem of disinformation arises not just from social media. Falsehoods are all around us, being...

Is it really ‘now or never’ to stave off climate disaster?

Earlier this month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its Working Group III contribution to the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6_WGIII) entitled “Mitigation of Climate Change”. There is a Final Draft Technical Summary, a Final Draft Full Report, and a Summary for Policymakers document – all with the stated goal of assessing literature on the scientific, technological, environmental, economic, and social aspects of mitigation of climate change. The Final Draft Full Report is an...

Fracking 101: Just the fracts

When I graduated from university and started my job at Shell Canada as an interpreter, I was trained on the basics of the petroleum system. To clarify, an “interpreter” in this context does not mean that I was hired to translate Greek to English. I do speak Seismic quite fluently, though, and my role as an interpreter was to translate sounds of a different type – the mysterious sound waves contained in seismic data...

Putting global emissions in perspective

Every activity, natural or manmade, from breathing to driving, generates emissions of some kind. Certain emissions are worse than others, causing pollution or, in large quantities, affecting the composition of the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases (GHGs), in particular carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4), generated by modern industry, transportation, and agriculture, have been rising steadily since the industrial revolution. These emissions are implicated in manmade influence on climate. Figure 1 shows the relative proportion of...

Climate change and energy: context for the great debate

Fifteen thousand years ago, humans walked across the Bering Strait from Asia to North America. How, you ask, did humans walk across an 80-metre-deep body of water? It was not a biblical miracle; it was because the strait was dry. Sea level was more than 100 metres lower than it is today. All that water was locked in the ice that covered much of the planet at the time. What was to become Calgary, Alberta, a city...

A look back at causes of death in the first year of COVID-19

Am I a bad person for getting excited by the discovery that the 2020 data was available in the Alberta Death database? I was anxious to dive into the information that could put that strange year in context, and perhaps shed some light on what to expect going forward. Mixed messaging, alarming on all sides, had been propagated throughout 2020 by all types of media; headlines and commentators gravely reporting the latest cluster of...

Exploring potential biases in estimating vaccine effectiveness

Since the COVID vaccines were first given emergency approval in the United States, Canada, and much of the world, the question of their effectiveness has been top of mind. We showed that vaccine effectiveness (VE) is part of the rational decision to vaccinate or not in this article, Prisoner’s dilemma and vaccination as it helps define the utility of vaccinating. Most recently, we discussed the VE against severe outcomes in Alberta, Canada, for the booster (3 doses), 2...

The Canadian prime minister’s emergency act

The news media are variously reporting that Justin Trudeau has “declared a state of emergency”, “invoked the Emergencies Act”, “enacted autocratic emergency powers”, “declared martial law”, “suspended civil liberties”, along with other colourful descriptions of the Canadian prime minister’s recent announcement of the federal government’s latest response to the so-called Freedom Convoy protests occurring in Ottawa and elsewhere across the country. What he has actually done is to declare a “public order emergency” under Canada’s Emergencies Act. This has...

Analog to digital music – where the magic happens

Unless you were born before 1875, you have most likely been affected by the digitization of music at some point in your lifetime. From iPhones to bluetooth speakers, to car stereos, the ability to convert an analog wave into a series of 1s and 0s is a process that almost resembles magic. How does this magic work? How is it possible to harness vibrations in the air and convert them into electrical signals? To...