Feedback is forever grateful for the alertness and exactitude of our readers, which keeps us on our toes. And not just us, but our robotic associates too.
Peter Knight writes in to say that if you ask Amazon’s electronic assistant, Alexa… “What is the mass of the neutrino?”, it answers, with confidence… “The mass of the neutrino is 95 kilograms.” “Seems a bit heavy,” says Peter.
He enquires whether New Scientist readers have detected any similar electronic eccentricities. To which we can only say… over to you.
Return of the mask
The covid-19 pandemic has been a source of much controversy over the past year. Many people who think coronavirus is just a big hoax have heaped scorn on those who wear face masks, despite it being in accordance with medical advice, not to mention, in many places, the law. The poor masks are pejoratively referred to as “muzzles” or “face nappies”, and so on.
But that may be about to change, according to Vice. While some may scoff at there being any risk from the coronavirus itself, the idea of vaccine “shedding” is now causing concern in certain circles. Some people falsely believe that those who have had a covid-19 vaccine can breathe out small particles of it.
While shedding is a risk for some vaccines – such as a polio vaccine made from a live but weakened version of the poliovirus – none of the available covid-19 vaccines contain live virus, a prerequisite for any pathogen to replicate within the body. The vaccines currently used in the UK and US, for instance, work by causing the person’s arm muscle to manufacture the virus spike protein.
Yet, it seems that not everyone is accepting this fact. Some of those worried about vaccine shedding are taking refuge in a defence from airborne dangers that the rest of the world has become all too familiar with… the dreaded face nappies.
It is an unusual case of two wrongs – the belief that covid-19 vaccines are harmful and that they can spread to others through the medium of breath – making a right… these coronavirus sceptics are finally wearing masks.
Not all coronavirus sceptics follow this logic, sadly. The owner of Sun City Silver and Gold Exchange, in Kelowna, Canada, has banned people from entering the store if they have been vaccinated – or are wearing face coverings. You just can’t win with some people.
Similarly, at a Miami school, the headteacher has forbidden teaching staff from contact with pupils if they have had a covid-19 jab.
To their credit, politicians in the Florida Senate debated a legislative amendment that would ban any such vaccine bans. Republican Jeff Brandes of St Petersburg spoke in favour, pleading with his colleagues:”Let’s show that the Senate is not insane.”
And the result was? The amendment failed. Readers can draw their own conclusions.
Many of you have been busy sending in obscure units of measurement you have seen elsewhere. Reader Brian Horton was left scratching his head after some sad news about the pace of glacier melting on The Independent website. The global volume of ice and snow lost each year would be enough to put Switzerland under 7.2 metres of water, said the article.
What has the author of the piece got against Switzerland, he wonders. The country is in one of the world’s higher regions so is unlikely to be affected by sea level rise any time soon. It is also famously mountainous – or “lumpy”, as Brian puts it – so the water would flow down into the valleys. “Surely it won’t stay evenly spread out,” says Brian. “Water doesn’t work like that.”
Meanwhile, another reader, who wishes to remain nameless, is confused by various websites claiming that blue whale farts are big enough to contain a horse – or, according to alternative sources, a Volkswagen car. But an in-depth investigation by fact-checking website Snopes says this may be fanciful because the size of whale farts has never been accurately measured.
It is even in doubt whether whales have the ability to fart, says the site, because rather than storing it up, cetaceans generally release their faeces and gas continuously, “akin to a slow and steady leak of air from a tire”.
A few observers have claimed to witness a whale fart, but the fact that the creatures’ burps from their blowholes smell like farts only serves to, er … muddy the waters.
Speaking of faecal matters, a correction is needed. In a previous column, Feedback drew attention to the existence of the Bristol Stool Chart (6 March), which classifies our bowel movements from type 1 (severe constipation) to type 7 (severe diarrhoea). We speculated that residents of the UK city may be unenthusiastic about their association with different textures of faeces, but Bristol citizen Emily Cox has put us right.
Cox says that, in her circle at least, it is de rigeur to have a poster of the eponymous faeces classification system in the smallest room in the house. As to how her community feels about its name? “Proud, very proud,” she says. Feedback regrets the error.
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