Month: March 2022

Far UVC Sanitization Kills COVID

A new type of ultraviolet light that is safe for people took less than five minutes to reduce the level of indoor airborne microbes by more than 98%, a joint study by scientists at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and in the U.K. has found.

…Far-UVC light has a shorter wavelength than conventional germicidal UVC, so it can’t penetrate into living human skin cells or eye cells. But it is equally efficient at killing bacteria and viruses, which are much smaller than human cells.

In the past decade, many studies around the world have shown that far-UVC is both efficient at destroying airborne bacteria and viruses without causing damage to living tissue. But until now these studies had only been conducted in small experimental chambers, not in full-sized rooms mimicking real-world conditions.

…The efficacy of different approaches to reducing indoor virus levels is usually measured in terms of equivalent air changes per hour. In this study, far-UVC lamps produced the equivalent of 184 equivalent air exchanges per hour. This surpasses any other approach to disinfecting occupied indoor spaces, where five to 20 equivalent air changes per hour is the best that can be achieved practically.

“Our trials produced spectacular results, far exceeding what is possible with ventilation alone,” says Kenneth Wood, PhD, lecturer in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of St. Andrews and senior author of the study. “In terms of preventing airborne disease transmission, far-UVC lights could make indoor places as safe as being outside on the golf course on a breezy day at St. Andrews.”

Summary here. Study here.

Here and here and here are my previous posts on UV-C sanitization. We are moving slower than I would like but the picture is of a UVC robot being used at Pittsburgh airport so kudos to them.

Peru facts of the day

When Félix Chero knelt before Peru’s president Pedro Castillo last Sunday and swore to serve as the country’s justice minister he became the 46th minister in the Castillo government in just eight months. Since taking office last July, the president has rattled through four cabinets, four prime ministers, three foreign ministers and two finance ministers. Chero is his third justice minister…

On average, Castillo has changed a minister every nine days.

Here is much more from Gideon Long at the FT.

The benefits of educational migration

That is the topic of my Bloomberg column, and I offer up a very concrete proposal:

The educational migration idea also has potential for the U.S., though with additional hurdles. American universities typically offer some tuition aid to foreign students, but they could pledge to do more. Imagine if every school in America offered 10 additional zero-tuition slots a year to students from very poor countries. The strain on the facilities of most schools would be minimal, yet with about 5,000 institutions of higher education in America, that could amount to tens of thousands of new slots for educational migrants.

Given the great and justified interest in helping emigrants from Ukraine, the U.S. and other countries might also consider special programs for Ukrainian students. Millions are leaving Ukraine, and while the charitable response has been impressive, over the longer term these individuals will need to find good jobs. Education is one major step toward this end.

And some caveats:

It remains to be seen how readily educational migration can be scaled. Not all students from poor countries have the linguistic and cultural preparation to study in the West. They may require mentoring, and they may have difficulties navigating the university application process. Universities, and the charities working with them, may have to work harder to create admissions tests that are relevant, challenging and secure. Still, they may get better at those tasks the more they try to make educational migration work.

For the original pointer I thank Richard Nerland.

Sunday assorted links

1. “Tobacco ties hinder WHO authorization of Canada’s coronavirus vaccine.”  Is there a word for this?

2. Limitations on children innovating.

3. A nuclear expert offers some commentary on nuclear risks.

4. Four Best Picture Contenders are Remakes (NYT).

5. “It’s no coincidence, Mangus thinks, that several former museum guards have gone on to successful artistic careers, from Sol LeWitt to Robert Mangold.

6. Does misery love company?  Oddly perhaps, this study yielded the opposite result that for the general population “happiness hates company.”

How to Get Tough on Crime

Republicans attack judges for being soft on crime but judges mostly determine sentence lengths and as Jason Willick argues in the Washington Post, sentences lengths are long and making them longer probably won’t help. 

A comprehensive 2013 review of the literature by Carnegie Mellon criminologist Daniel Nagin found that “there is little evidence that increasing already long prison sentences has a material deterrence effect.”…A 2021 analysis by economists Evan K. Rose of the University of Chicago and Yohan Shem-Tov of UCLA found that while serving time behind bars reduces the likelihood that someone will reoffend in North Carolina, there are diminishing returns to longer sentences.

So what can be done?

George Mason University economist Alex Tabarrok, in reviewing some of the evidence on crime deterrence in 2016, wrote: “We need to change what it means to be ‘tough on crime.’ Instead of longer sentences let’s make ‘tough on crime’ mean increasing the probability of capture for those who commit crimes.”

Six years on, we appear headed in the opposite direction. Just 50 percent of murders were solved in 2020 — the lowest rate in at least 40 years. Efforts to beef up police forces, at least in progressive jurisdictions, are likely to face political resistance.

Longer sentences for convicted criminals, meanwhile, remain difficult to oppose on the merits (except perhaps for drug crimes). That was evident during the Jackson hearings, when Republicans attacked her sentences in certain child-pornography cases as too lenient. Democrats shied away from defending the sentences themselves, instead simply explaining that they were within the mainstream.

The Jackson hearings showed that the GOP perceives a political advantage on crime. The key to actually bringing rates down, however, is not a more punitive judiciary, but more effective prosecutors and police. Republicans’ political messaging would pack more policy punch if they focused their attention there.

In praise of Paul Farmer

From an email by John Quattrochi:

There are no mentions of Paul Farmer, who recently passed away, on MR. This is a shame, because he excelled in two areas of interest to you: talent identification and cross-cultural integration of ideas.

Paul did so much for so many people that it’s easy to lose sight of what set him apart. He was a leader in the social movement to improve health among the most vulnerable. He did so by building organizations and writing and speaking across multiple cultures.

He began by going to an important center in his industry and becoming an understudy to a master practitioner. Rural Haiti is to health vulnerability what Silicon Valley is to tech innovation. In his early 20s, Paul went there to work for Fritz Lafontant, a Wozniak-like Haitian priest pioneering a community-based approach to the social determinants of health.

Paul then identified the talent with whom he would co-found, in 1987, aged 28, the central organization for his work, Zanmi Lasante (“Partners in Health”). In 1983, he met and recruited the 18-year-old Ophelia Dahl. She has been in PIH leadership for 35 years. Around the same time, he met and recruited fellow medical student Jim Kim, who also led PIH, before stints as president of Dartmouth and the World Bank.  From his undergrad friends, he brought on Todd McCormack, son of the founder of one of the world’s leading talent management agencies, IMG. And finally, for startup capital, he successfully pitched Tom White, a 67-year-old Boston construction magnate.

To expand his movement, he adapted his ideas to the peculiar idioms of many cultures and subcultures: medicine, anthropology, Christianity, Washington DC, Haiti, Russia, Rwanda, and more. He lectured widely, and always lingered afterward, forging brief but powerful individual connections. His charisma included equal parts moral exhortation and dry humor. As a Harvard professor for over 30 years, he convinced many students to join his movement in lieu of (or in addition to) rent-seeking careers in finance or management consulting.

Paul is often called a hero. Yet, if a hero is someone who sacrifices much, Paul may not qualify. By all appearances he loved his work and was richly rewarded in status and attention. What’s not debatable is his genius. From boardrooms to bedsides, lecture halls to shanty stalls, he channeled the idea that every human life has equal moral worth in irreplicable ways. His legacy is immense.


James Person’s Hawaii bleg

Could you please recommend or ask your readers’ recommendations for books about Hawaiian history and culture? I am visiting the state for the first time and like to approach my travels with a deeper understanding as you exemplify in your MR travel posts. Thank you for your time and help and especially for MR and Conversations!

Your assistance for James would be much appreciated!


Surrogates is a 2009 science-fiction movie starring Bruce Willis, Radha Mitchell, Rosamund Pike and Ving Rhames. On Rotten Tomatoes it’s rated at a measly 37% (tomatometer) and 38% (audience). When I first saw it I thought it was underrated and a recent re-watch cemented that conclusion.

Surrogates is about a slightly future world in which people predominantly interact with one another through surrogates, i.e. humanoid robots controlled from home. The premise should be familiar today in the Zoom, Metaverse, avatar age in a way it wasn’t in 2009. Surrogates touches on trans issues (your surrogate can be a different gender), the meaning of identity, age, aging and youth, the advantages of surrogates for creating low crime and even eliminating infectious diseases (good prediction!) and the sense of anxiety and fear we feel when interacting in the real world after becoming comfortable with surrogates and the sense of unrealness of interacting with avatars.

The world of surrogates is threatened when for the first time ever a human operator is murdered by “killing” their surrogate. Willis and Mitchell are detectives trying to solve the mystery and track down the killer. The film noir aspect isn’t Chinatown but it follows the formula and follows it well. A luddite cult is involved.

Perhaps one of the reasons Surrogates didn’t do well is that it’s low-budget. At the same time as this world has advanced robotics the cars are purely circa 2009! The surrogates are played by the same actors as the operators with only makeup and hair pieces to indicate the differences but in fact the make-up and surrogate acting is very well done! The contrast between young, perfectly coiffed and flattened surrogate Bruce Willis and the old, bloody, beaten but expressive Bruce Willis is well done. The ending is excellent.

A masterpiece? No. But Surrogates is an underrated gem. It’s available now on HBO.

surrogates | Where to Stream and Watch | Decider

That was then, this is now, again Russia/Ukraine edition

Circa 1919, with Ukraine under siege from the Bolshevik armies:

Things, however, did not soon improve.  Again to take the case of Odessa, by the end of April electricity was running out.  “Thus in one month they have brought chaos to everything,” Bunin snarled, “no factories, no railroads, no trams, no water, no bread, no clothes — no nothing!”  In fact the Bolsheviks had inherited the chaos and the crisis; they also inherited — and exacerbated — the free-wheeling brutality displayed on all sides and of which…they were the beneficiaries.  To this kind of panache they applied a new moral calculus.

That is from Laura Engelstein, Russia in Flames: War, Revolution, Civil War 1914-1921, which as noted yesterday is quite a good book, especially for viewing the Bolshevik Revolution through the eyes of what became the broader Soviet empire.

U.S.A. fact of the day

But the 10 fastest growing counties last year accounted for nearly 80 percent of the national total, a testament not so much to the rapid pace of change in these places, but to the lack of significant growth in the rest of the nation.

Here is more from the New York Times, with useful maps as well.  And this:

That was then, this is now: Russia/Ukraine edition

What became known as “the first Soviet conquest of the Ukraine” was achieved without much resistance. The Ukrainian soldiers who had pledged allegiance to the Rada in summer 1917, while still part of the Imperial Army, were now back in their villages.  Petliura had poorly trained men at his disposal, mostly the so-called Free Cossacks (Vilne kozatsvo), some of whom found the Bolshevik appeal more attractive and changed sides.  In abandoning the city, Petliura’s followers not surprisingly had executed as many of the renegades as they could get their hands on.  Once in possession of Kiev, Colonel Murav’ev introduced his own reign of terror.

That is from Laura Engelstein, Russia in Flames: War, Revolution, Civil War 1914-1921, which is in general a very useful book.

The virtues of seaweed collecting

Nineteenth-century seaweed albums have a baked-in melancholy. Despite the best intentions, they do not flatter seaweed. The samples are brittle where the plant was pliant, opaque when once translucent, flaccid where previously ballooned. The displacement from sea to paper steals a measure of the plants’ integrity, and time leaches away the rest. In every respect, the wonders of seaweed have fled the book. And yet, these albums still speak — not of seaweed exactly, but of the collector’s care and devotion. There is a particular kind of eros that thrums between a receptive human and the natural world; the contours and depth of this eros is the true subject of a seaweed album.

Here is much more, interesting throughout, via Jodi Ettenberg.