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In theory, the Universe should be the same, on average, everywhere.

On the largest scales, it shouldn’t matter which direction you observe.

Nor should it matter which location you’re examining.

We expect isotropy and homogeneity, with physical consequences if they’re violated.

Initially, the Big Bang simultaneously occurred everywhere.

All locations possessed equivalent temperatures and densities.

Only tiny, 1-part-in-30,000 imperfections get superimposed atop them.

Those imperfections then evolved gravitationally, limited by our physical laws.

Tremendous cosmological structures formed: stars, galaxies, and the great cosmic web.

We expect a structural size limit: ~1.2 billion light-years.

Anything larger wouldn’t have sufficient time to form.

We’ve discovered many enormous galaxy “walls” in space.

Similarly, great cosmic voids exist between them.

These largest structures approach, but don’t significantly exceed, the expected cosmic limits.

But two classes of structures threaten this picture.

Three separate large quasar groupings are clustered across too-large cosmic scales.

Similarly galaxy groups from gamma-ray burst mapping surpass these limits.

If real, these structures defy our present cosmic understanding.

However, they may be purely phantasmal.

These signals may emerge from underlying random noise, with statistics incorrectly “discovering” non-existent patterns.

Only superior data, sufficiently mapping out our Universe, will decide.


Mostly Mute Monday tells an astronomical story in images, visuals, and no more than 200 words. Talk less; smile more.

After months of rumors, Apple finally launched its lost item-tracker last month. Named the AirTag, the small plastic disc works so well they’re not just going to threaten the entire business of Tile (the Silicon Valley company known for its eponymous trackers), but perhaps personal privacy as well. Apple is, however, hard at work to prevent the latter, and I feel like it’ll figure it out. After all, it is Apple.

Design

The AirTag is slightly larger (1.26-inch in diameter) and heavier (11g) than a coin and about the thickness (8mm) of two stacked coins. The white side is plastic, and the other side is aluminum. The aluminum part can be twisted off to reveal a removable CR2032 battery inside. Apple says the battery will power the AirTag for one year. These batteries are small and cheap enough that replacing them should be no issue for most.

They’re small and light enough to be placed inside the coin pouch of most wallets, or the small key pocket in a pair of jeans. The idea of the AirTag is that it can be attached to items like keys or luggage or laptop bags, so that if those items are misplaced or stolen, we can track their whereabouts. But Apple being Apple, the AirTag in its naked form cannot attach to anything naturally. There are no holes (like Tile or Samsung trackers, for example) for an easy loop around key rings; there’s no clip to wrap around a suitcase zipper. Unless you’re willing to do something tacky like just tape or glue the AirTag onto an item, you’re going to need to buy an accessory like a loop or strap, which Apple will happily sell you ranging from $30 to $440 (it’s a Hermes branded leather luggage strap with a slot for the AirTag). The good news is, Apple products are so popular, there will be dozens, if not hundreds, of other brands making far cheaper accessories within a month.

How does it work?

Setting up the AirTag is dead simple: as soon as you activate the tracker, if you have an iPhone nearby, you’ll be prompted to pair the two. Once you connect that specific AirTag to your iPhone, it is bonded to your Apple ID. From there, you’ll be able to see the whereabouts of the AirTag directly in the “Find My” app of not just your iPhone, but your iPad and Mac computer, too, if you own those items.

If the item is misplaced but within your proximity (like, say, you dropped your AirTag-attached keys behind the sofa), you can have the Find My app send a bluetooth alert to the tracker to make an audible beep.

If you can’t hear the beep for whatever reason (maybe you’re in a noisy environment) and you own an iPhone 11 or 12, you can use “Precision Finding,” which uses the U1 chip inside the recent iPhones to build a much stronger connection than just Bluetooth, which then allows the phone to “guide” you to the lost AirTag. This guiding process is really clever and well done: an arrow pops up on the iPhone screen, and as you walk in that direction, the arrow will rotate not just left or right, but even up or down to provide a visual guide to the exact location of the AirTag. So if the item is under the sofa, the arrow will point downwards as you approach the sofa; if the item is above you on top of a closet, the arrow will point upwards. As you get closer, the phone vibrations will even grow more intense. Unfortunately, you need to be within 30 feet or so for Precision Finding to work, if it’s not working, then you know the item is further than that.

If the AirTag-attached item is lost in another location not within your proximity (maybe you left it at your friend’s house or at the local coffee shop), or if it’s been stolen by someone who’s already left the premises, the third way to track the lost AirTag is to use the Find My Network. This is essentially a crowd-sourced network consisting of Apple products who have opted into the network (Apple says there are over a billion devices opted in already). When that lost AirTag is within the proximity of another opted-in Apple device, that AirTag will ping its location to that device, allowing you to see its latest location. Let’s say someone has stolen your bag containing an AirTag. Even if he’s halfway across town, another stranger’s iPhone could help you locate the thieve.

This is where the AirTag has a leg up on all the competition. The basic tracking stuff for lost items within your home is easy to recreate with a competing product like Tile or Samsung’s SmartTags. But neither Tile nor Samsung will ever have an item as ubiquitous as an iPhone to help build a tracking network like Apple’s Find My Network. Heck, no other company has such a product, period.

Where the AirTag could create problems

But here’s where things get scary: because the Find My Network is so vast and work so well—think about how many iPhones you encounter in a day—it makes the AirTag a potential stalking device. For example, someone could in theory slip an AirTag into my bag without me knowing, and track my whereabouts throughout the day.

Apple has already created some safeguards to prevent malicious use of the AirTag. For example, if there’s a loose AirTag (meaning one that’s away from its owner but moving out in the wild) in my proximity for long periods of time, my iPhone will ping an alert telling me there’s a foreign AirTag following me. But this alert requires the latest version (14.5) of iOS to work. I’ve upgraded to iOS 14.5, but there are others out there who have not. Plus, there’s also a chance I don’t see the notification (maybe I am at the movie theater and haven’t checked my phone; or maybe my phone is out of battery).

There’s also the fact that the alert can only be sent to iPhones. For Android users the only alert they will get is the beep that will emit from a loose AirTag in the wild—good luck hearing that in a bar or in busy city streets.

There are a lot of complicated factors at play here, so Apple can’t just do the obvious and make the alerts stronger and more frequent. Apple can’t risk someone getting a dozen false alerts in an hour just because they’re at a coffee shop with several foreign AirTags.

But until Apple figures out the exact balance and science of how and when to send alerts, right now AirTags can unfortunately be used to stalk. This is not just an Apple-only problem, of course—other trackers can also be used maliciously, it’s just Apple’s trackers work better because its iPhones are so globally beloved.

I am confident Apple will figure it out; they didn’t become the world’s biggest and most influential company by not solving problems.

The price is cheap enough for most iPhone users

Apple’s AirTag sells for $29 per piece, or in a four-pack for $99. These prices can be considered low for an Apple product, and people who are already entrenched in Apple’s entire ecosystem will have no problem picking them up. I can see AirTags being as ubiquitous as AirPods and iPhones in a year or two. Apple just needs to figure out how to solve the unwanted tracking issue before then.

The past two years have been challenging for everyone, especially U.S. universities and international students. While many people hope the Fall 2021 semester will bring a return to normalcy on college campuses, the world and Covid-19 may have other plans. To better understand the multitude of issues facing universities, employers and international students, I interviewed Kenneth Reade, director of international student and scholar services at University of Massachusetts Amherst, and Dan Berger, a partner at Curran, Berger & Kludt.

Stuart Anderson: How challenging is it for students to obtain visas today?

Kenneth Reade: In the university community, we face a “double-whammy” of pent-up demand for U.S. consular visa appointments: Not only this year’s newly admitted class but most of the international students admitted in 2020 who were not able to make it to the United States last fall or this spring. International students are seeking appointments, and we wish we could provide more reassurance at this anxious moment.

One bit of breaking news illustrates the situation. The State Department on April 30th announced a presidential proclamation barring most people coming to the United States from India, which raised questions and sparked fear among Indian students already facing a fraught time with the Covid-19 situation there. Hours later, the State Department clarified that students would be exempt. It’s very positive that the State Department is listening to the international education community. In this world of lighting social media communication, it would have alleviated more concerns if the clarification had been issued at the same time as the proclamation.

Dan Berger: It has been a busy time with lots of news. The new proclamation on India highlights the uncertainty. We do not know how the Covid-19 situation in India will affect U.S consular operations, or if the State Department will consider more interview waivers to keep cases moving. Everything is in flux. Just last week, the U.S. consulates in Russia cut back to emergency services, and there are hints that U.S. consulates in China may offer more appointments for students.

Despite this uncertainty, we are slowly seeing glimmers of hope. The State Department just issued updated guidance that students in all countries with Covid-19 travel bans (UK, Ireland, the Schengen area, Iran, Brazil and China) will be eligible for “national interest exemptions.” But at the same time, most countries in the world are now under a travel advisory, meaning travel for a visa appointment is uncertain. We still do not have clear guidance about how the travel bans apply to the spouses and children of students or more generally for scholars and staff.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has also rolled out an online version of the student work authorization (OPT) application, which seems to be very gradually cutting processing times to help graduates start jobs on time. But the in-person biometrics requirements for changes of status (for example for those working in H-1B status who go back to school and prefer not to travel abroad during the pandemic) makes those applications move glacially slow.

Anderson: What is the current policy on international students and in-person and remote learning at U.S. universities?

Reade: The April 26 updated guidance from SEVP (Student and Exchange Visitor Program) confirming the extension of existing guidance for the entire 2021-22 academic year is very helpful because it has come early. Last year we did not get guidance until the last minute, making it extremely difficult to advise international students. We appreciate being able to continue Covid-19-related “flexibility,” including being able to issue I-20 immigration documents electronically and letting currently enrolled F-1 students stay outside of the U.S. beyond five months while maintaining their underlying F-1 immigration status. The ability for individual campuses to classify themselves with SEVP as hybrid, fully remote, or fully in-person allows significant leeway depending on each school’s operational capacities and local Covid-19 conditions.

The current guidance does not force a hard return to in-person classes for international students. But even as our campuses move back in that direction, I foresee increasing complications. Zoom isn’t going away, and the line between in-person and online instruction is now perhaps irreversibly blurred. The resumption of standard F-1 regulations without temporary guidance exceptions will make advising F-1 students even more challenging in the future now that online instructional delivery is bound to continue in some form.

Berger: Yes, unfortunately, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program has offered essentially no updated guidance regarding student work programs, such as Optional Practical Training or Curricular Practical Training (CPT) for students currently stranded abroad. It does not make sense to require students to fly to the U.S. to file their OPT applications when the students are allowed to study remotely from their home country.

Anderson: What advice do you have for international students?

Reade: It’s easier said than done, but international students, especially new admits who have yet to secure an F-1 visa, need to try to remain as patient and flexible as possible, and know that their institutions in the U.S. support them fully and sincerely empathize with their concerns.

They should try to avoid the temptation to be distracted by online and social media “advice,” and instead rely on your U.S. institution’s guidance. Also, grab any type of U.S. consular appointment that may be available just to get into the State Department’s appointment booking system, even if the date is unrealistically far in the future (we’ve already had some new students offered consular appointment bookings for early 2022!).

The State Department is working on a plan to prioritize student visa processing for the fall. But we know it’s hard for students who are planning their lives and their move to wait—especially because last summer many did not make it to America.

Anderson: What advice do you have for university administrators?

Berger: Continue to be active in supporting international students through advocacy, and, if necessary, court challenges. Such efforts are still needed even with a new administration. Stephen Yale-Loehr, a Cornell Law School professor, shares this goal in a recent article. Advocate for more guidance and a positive message for international students, for a path to long-term status for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), TPS (Temporary Protected Status) and undocumented students, for the ability of refugees to attend U.S. colleges, and for increased consular services abroad so students can come to our campuses.

Reade: Listen to your senior international officers and include them in every aspect of fall campus planning, even if some of that planning is not necessarily “international” in nature. Remember that even though Covid-19 rates are declining in the United States and vaccinations are increasing, that is not the case in most of the world. Covid-19 conditions worldwide will continue to hamper U.S. consular operations, and fall international enrollment will continue to be negatively impacted as a result.

Anderson: Have you been pleased with Biden administration policies that affect international students?

Reade: I think it’s fair to say that most, if not all, immigration practitioners are relieved by the positive tone of the Biden Administration’s policies on immigration. I will say, however, that there is a remaining sense of exhaustion at trying to keep up with the updates to advise our international students. Similar to policy directives during the Trump Administration, Biden’s new policies are equally challenging—albeit in a very different way— since absorbing the updates often leads to more questions.

Anderson: What else would you like to see the Biden administration do?

Berger: We would like to see more guidance based on back-and-forth communication, such as to:

1) Continue the very welcomed trend of setting visa policies at U.S. consulates abroad based on the public health situation there, and updating policies as the Covid-19 situation evolves, but keep open to ways to avoid in person services in countries where the pandemic is spiking.

2) Expand the “special student relief” granted recently to students from two countries in dire situations—Syria and Venezuela—to support all students during the pandemic (at least through the end of 2021).

3) Continue issuing clarifying FAQs (frequently asked questions) on the Student and Exchange Visitor Program guidance about the flexibility schools have to support international students abroad or taking online classes during the pandemic. Uncertainty can be difficult and discouraging for international students. More communication will help move beyond the fear that lingers from last year.

4) Revive high-level communication between the government and higher education by bringing back the Homeland Security Academic Advisory Council.

Reade: I would like to see progressive reform to student visa regulations be decoupled from the larger debate over “comprehensive immigration reform.” Immigration has sadly become such a toxic political football that lumping international education regulatory reform together with all of the other critical but highly contentious immigration issues such as border security, asylum and refugees, DACA, etc., can be a recipe for policy stagnation.

Reforming international student policies should instead be presented for what they are: an undeniable national economic benefit crucial to competing for the world’s most talented individuals. Over the years, whenever I have spoken with members of Congress and their staff about international education issues, there is near-unanimous support, regardless of one’s side of the aisle. And it’s because the issue is ultimately a local one.

The significant economic impact to the district and state that international students bring speaks for itself whether it be tuition revenue or the high-skilled jobs created by our international graduates through startups and other local business development. International education touches on so many areas that are often not linked together: the economy, national security, public diplomacy, education and the labor market, to name a few.

We have a golden opportunity to take international student policy to the next level with the Biden Administration. It needs to be driven steadily and confidently by facts and data about the value of international students, and with the aim of removing regulatory impediments for students. We need to continue to welcome the world’s most talented young minds to this country for education, and reward them with an opportunity to contribute to American society and the economy.

Each Monday I pick out the northern hemisphere’s celestial highlights (mid-northern latitudes) for the week ahead, but be sure to check my main feed for more in-depth articles on stargazing, astronomy, eclipses and more. 

What To Watch For In The Night Sky This Week: May 3-9, 2021

It’s time to go stargazing. With the “Super Pink Moon” out of the way our satellite enters its Last Quarter phase and rises late enough at night to leave the evening sky dark and star-filled.

However, the highlight comes not from stars, but from the little planet Mercury, which on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday will appear to be close to the beautiful Pleiades star cluster.

It will be viewable just after sunset in the northwestern sky, so you’ll have to be quick, but it should make a great sight for anyone wanting to tick-off Mercury.  

Monday, May 3, 2021: Last Quarter Moon and Saturn

At 19:50 Universal Time today our satellite will reach its Last Quarter phase. It essentially means that the Moon rises after midnight, clearing the way for 10 successive nights of dark, moonless skies.

However, get up early this morning and you’ll see our satellite in the southeast with Saturn about 6º to its upper left, and brighter Jupiter over twice as farther away in the east. Tomorrow the Moon will be halfway between the two planets. 

Tuesday, May 4, 2021: Mercury in the Pleiades

The smallest, hottest and fastest-moving planet is in for a great month of May. It’s going to get as far from the Sun as it almost ever gets, which makes it the perfect time to tick “the Swift Planet” off your list. Tonight on Star Wars Day (May the Fourth be with you!), right after sunset, it will be about 2° from the Pleiades open cluster of stars—also known as the “Seven Sisters”—low down in the west-northwest.

You can also look on Wednesday and Thursday when Mercury and the Pleiades will still appear to be relatively close. 

Wait until the Sun has gone down and use binoculars. Look to the southwest and you may see Orion’s Belt sinking, and beyond it, Sirius—the brightest star in the night sky. 

Wednesday, May 5, 2021: Eta Aquariid Meteor Shower

Though best viewed from the southern tropics, the Eta Aquariids—which peak in the early hours—usually produce 10 to 30 meteors per hour at their peak for those in southern latitudes of the northern hemisphere.

A waning crescent Moon during the meteor shower’s peak this year will allow for darker skies. It’s active from mid-April to the end of May. 

Constellation of the week: Canes Venatici

This little-known two-star constellation is small, but it will help you find some interesting night sky sights in the vicinity. Find its brightest star—Cor Caroli—by following the curve of the handle of the Big Dipper towards the horizon. It’s a double star about 115 light-years distant whose name means “Heart of Charles.” 

Times and dates given apply to mid-northern latitudes. For the most accurate location-specific information consult online planetariums like Stellarium and The Sky Live. Check planet-rise/planet-setsunrise/sunset and moonrise/moonset times for where you are. 

Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes. 

Getting stuck is not fun.

With technology, in business, or with a marketing campaign, it also doesn’t feel productive. In fact, it feels like you’re spinning your wheels and going nowhere.

One reason for that is because of how long it takes to get anything started. Think of an innovative new tech product like the iPhone or the entire Android platform.

In the early days, getting started took forever. Even the late Steve Jobs didn’t quite realize that the original iPhone was going to become so popular and go well beyond a music player that makes phone calls. Android was stuck in tech purgatory before it actually launched and took hold with the masses. I remember meeting an Android developer early on at Google headquarters as he lamented the slow start.

For anyone in business, if you have an innovative idea, it’s important to analyze your market. Think through the logistics, but then move quickly through the launch phases.

According to author and pastor Keion Henderson, the main reason people question their decisions and get stuck is because they wonder if they can really move forward. It’s rampant and persistent self-doubt. The former NCAA basketball player wrote a book called The Shift: Courageously Moving from Season to Season that is all about the seasonal change in our lives.

In fact, the book itself launched right before the pandemic and Henderson had to shift his entire approach in terms of how he connected with readers. I recently chatted with him on Clubhouse (the drop-in audio app) and asked him why shifting is so important in business.

“You have to count what you already have to see if there is enough equity in your current sphere to make the decision,” says Henderson. Also known as opportunity costs, his idea is to see if there is enough opportunity within your influence to make a decision and finish a task, but then to act quickly.

Successful people spend the time to think about a decision, but then they make decisions without hesitating. They contemplate, says Henderson, then act.

“The moment you know you have to move or move on, you have to do that pretty quickly,” says Henderson. The reason is that the extended rumination and double-thinking after you decide is what slows people down, especially when it comes to career changes or starting a company.

I’ve experienced this many times. I’ve been working on a book lately and there were times when I had to make tough decisions about it. Which chapters to include and exclude, which sections to revise. It wasn’t easy, but when I was able to analyze it and then make the decision, I could then move ahead and implement the changes. I ripped out entire chapters with one click of the delete key and never looked back.

With technology and business, there’s a similar scenario where the “getting stuck” part after a decision is what really causes most of the problems. Namely, other innovators breeze past you and find success. A good idea languishes.

With my book, I’m also aware of how quickly things need to happen. I built a website in only a few days (on my own) because I knew it needed to launch quickly. It’s meant to be a landing page for people to find out more about the book anyway. It didn’t need to be fancy. I plan to follow Henderson’s idea, which he explained on the Clubhouse chat, about doing virtual meetings and I may even pivot to doing a podcast about the book. I researched forever, now I want to launch quickly.

Slow analysis and fast decisions makes sense. 

I plan to put that into practice with most of my endeavors.

The Mac platform’s move to ARM-based processors has given Apple a significant upgrade in terms of performance. Starting with the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air, and moving to the desktop first with the mac Mini and now the new iMac, the massive technological gains have forced the competition to react.

Now Microsoft and Qualcomm are leveraging one of Apple’s advantages in the race to catch up. 

One of the advantages that Apple has had with the iPhone and iPad is the close links between hardware and software. The Axx chips are custom built for Apple’s mobile hardware which promotes greater integration. You have the same arrangement on the software side of things, both iOS and iPadOS are only ever going to run on Apple Silicon. Where ‘general purpose’ operating systems such as Android and Windows 10 have to accommodate countless combinations of hardware and software, Apple has in effect a one to one relationship.

That allows much deeper connections inside your device. You can design the processor and I/O chips in a way that complements the software and hardware; which leads to more performance, better efficiency, and a lot of headroom to design your products for various scenarios.

With an almost infinite number of configurations available in the market, that’s not an advantage that Microsoft can leverage with Windows 10… with one notable exception.There’s one space where Microsoft can, and is, utilising an approach similar to Apple’s macOS. Windows 10 on ARM.

Qualcomm is working on its third-generation Snapdragon 8cx chip. This series is designed for laptops and tablets and will run the ARM based version of Windows 10. You’ll find a variant of the first- and second- generation 8cx chips in Microsoft’s Surface Pro X. 

The third-generation promises a significant uptick in terms of processing power (according to the latest benchmarks). While it’s not close to matching Apple’s M1 chips, it offers near parity with Intel and AMD on similarly priced hardware. As noted by WindowsLatest, Microsoft has “promised to work closely with Qualcomm and OEM partners to make Windows run great on ARM”. 

It looks like the advantages of closer co-operation between hardware and software are coming to Windows 10 later this year.

Now read more about the latest Windows 10 on ARM benchmarks…

How would you define the metaverse? Is it one metaverse? Is it multiple metaverses? Is the term metaverse the term we should use? Is the metaverse here, or is it being created? So many questions arise when one is asked to define the term metaverse. Defining the term in 2021 is not a simple task. 

Google the term metaverse and you’ll find several definitions. Wikipedia defines it as a collective virtual shared space, created by the convergence of virtually enhanced physical reality and physically persistent virtual space, including the sum of all virtual worldsaugmented reality, and the Internet. The word “metaverse” is a portmanteau of the prefix “meta” (meaning beyond) and “universe”; the term is typically used to describe the concept of a future iteration of the internet, made up of persistent, shared, 3D virtual spaces linked into a perceived virtual universe. But do those definitions really reflect what many in the technology and business world refer to when they use the word metaverse? 

Roblox, Epic, Genies, and Zepeto use the term metaverse, while Facebook uses Live Maps, and Magic Leap prefers the Magicverse. Kevin Kelley called it the Mirrorworld in Wired, and Nvidia uses the term Omniverse. Others prefer the term AR Cloud, Spatial Internet, or Spatial Web. 

While defining the term is not easy, one thing is probably true. The term will not be defined by one single person or company, it will be defined by many, and it will evolve. The language we use to describe the future today is ever-changing. That is why we asked 20 professionals to share their definitions and perspectives on the metaverse with us to delve deeper into what the metaverse is, what it means, and what it might become. 

Here’s How 20 Professionals Define The Metaverse Today:

Jason Warnke (Senior Managing Director, Global Digital Experiences Lead at Accenture)

We coined the term “the Nth Floor” at Accenture where we are building our global, virtual world for our more than 530,000 people and rapidly growing, can engage in whole new ways… As we have never really had a single corporate campus HQ, we believe we now have the opportunity to bring our people together in ways never before possible in the physical world.”

Claire Kimber (Group Innovation Director at Posterscope)

I think the Metaverse is the all-encompassing space in which all digital experience sits; the observable digital universe made up of millions of digital galaxies”

 Eric Redmond (Global Director, Technology Innovation, Nike)

My general description: The Metaverse crosses the physical/digital divide between actual and virtual realities.”

Esther O’Callaghan OBE (Co-Founder Hundo.careers)

I hope it will be like the Oasis from ReadyPlayerOne where in the end; it’s owned by young people who care more about community than profit and use it for the good of the real and virtual world. And if that sounds ludicrously naive and optimistic about it – I am and I’m not sorry!”

Luke Shabro (Futurist & Deputy Director of the Mad Scientist Initiative – Army Futures Command)

A nebulous, digitally mixed reality with both non-fungible and infinite items and personas not bound by conventional physics and limitations.”

 Emma-Jane MacKinnon-Lee (CEO & Founder of Digitalax)

Well, the ideal definition is “full interactive reality” layered across every segment of our lives. It is the connective tissue between humanity that we have always literally lucid dreamed of but until recently haven’t had the infrastructure to make it real.”

Piers Kicks (Investment Team at BITKRAFT Ventures)

“The Metaverse: a persistent, live digital universe that affords individuals a sense of agency, social presence, and shared spatial awareness, along with the ability to participate in an extensive virtual economy with profound societal impact.”

Karinna Nobbs (Co-CEO of The Dematerialised)

My definition is more around its purpose and driver of adoption than its tech composition. The Metaverse is the next significant third space (coined by sociologist Ray Oldenburg) as not home (1st), not work or study (2nd) but where you will spend your leisure time. It is the anchor of community life and where you meet with old and new friends.”

Tom Allen (Founder of The AI Journal)

An exponentially growing virtual universe where people can create their own world how they see fit adapting experiences and knowledge from the physical world”

Elena Piech ( Experiential Producer at AMP Creative )

First coined in Neal Stephenson’s 1992 Sci-Fi novel Snowcrash, I see the Metaverse as the gradual convergence of the digital world with the physical world. A world where we no longer notice a distinction between our digital avatars and our physical selves. A world where smart lenses and BCI devices enable us to be surrounded by information – interactive information for work, entertainment, education, and more. This is the next iteration of the internet. And as dystopian it may sound, this is the next iteration of life.”

Ryan Gill (Co-Founder & CEO of Crucible)

I think it’s less about who’s right with their definition and more about us aligning on the values of what’s most important. To me, decentralization is the key. If the metaverse will become a large part of our lives, which it will, like the internet, then the closer to reality it becomes the more it will be abstracted in defining through all of our own relative experiences of it and with it.”

Richard Ward (Global lead Enterprise VR at McKinsey)

We are already in the MetaVerse, it’s just mostly 1D (text apps, clubhouse), 2D (Zoom, shared productivity apps like Google Sheets), 2.5D (games like Fortnite, Virbela) – 3D (VR/AR) is just in the development stages.” 

Kenneth Mayfield (CEO of Xyris Interactive Design)

My definition, from an autistic adult’s view, of the metaverse is that it’s actually a reconfiguring of our assumptions regarding sensory input, definitions of space, and points of access to information. The sensory leap is from our adaptations recognizing physical points of interest, meridians and borders, and navigation, to a much more elaborate concept of what we’ll recognize unconsciously as ‘place’, motion and presence. The oncoming metaverse is enabled by software and hardware but the most critical leap is our belief in that shared illusion as a space. So much more closely aligned with stereoscopic perception, balance, and orientation the metaverse more closely resembles how we make sense of it compared to simple web pages. We interact now via computers and phones with a metaverse but this lacks the useful cognitive dissonance of accessing the real in the digital and vice versa compared to immersion in VR and persistence of the digital in the real world via AR. The sum of these elements and our essential participation is greater than the parts giving the metaverse a unique presence in our experience of it.”

Samuel Jordan ( CEO of ICONIQ)

The metaverse is a digital space where you can create memories that rival physical experiences in scope, meaning, and value. It’s not about the best tech or creating the best simulation. It’s about enabling humanity to experience the things that make us human. Hyper social co-experiences where we can connect with each other in authentic ways.”

 Neil Redding (Founder and CEO, Redding Futures)

“I’ve heard people using the term to include cryptocurrency and voice interaction and all kinds of things that are not immersive 3D. Neal Stephenson had a reasonably clear idea of it when he wrote Snow Crash in the early 90s. However, since Snow Crash was 30 years ago and the term virtual reality is even older, I’m very supportive of creating a new definition. To me the metaverse is an effectively infinite space in which humans can do everything we do in physical space but in a multisensory stimulation. Current technology (early 2021) is capable of fulfilling a fraction of this vision of the metaverse — including 3D photoreal immersive visuals, spatialized audio, primitive tactile feedback and voice interaction, early forms of location-independent presence, etc. It feels like a start.”

Bosco Bellinghausen (Founder of Alissia Spaces)

The Metaverse for me is an actual bridge, which for now is a gateway between the real and the virtual reality. But in 50 years, it will be the gateway for us to space and beyond! Right now we just see virtual reality as another playground for innovators, nerds, and gamers. But soon we will have understood that everything is just ONE reality. The Metaverse stands, like Blockchain, for equality for each one of us human beings, living beings, and machines. A true technological democracy that will make every real and artificial life equal. Everyone will have a true digital twin, which they will own 100%. That way we can travel between the real and the virtual reality and always remain us.”

Michael Robbins (Co-Founder, Learning Pathmakers) 

“There are many words in technology that work against us. We need new words and lexicon for the future. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are neither. Blockchain sounds like a child’s toy. Metaverse is even worse. As long as we have technologists naming things based on science fiction, they’ll remain inaccessible and foreign to most of society. When we mysticize concepts they are seen as magic. The word metaverse is particularly harmful for other reasons. At a time when technology is pulling us apart, this word literally says that in the future we will live in separate universes. This is dystopian far beyond our current digital society. We need a better word to describe our future where we will come together in all the ways imaginable with technology. With augmented reality and virtual reality. Synchronously, asynchronously, with digital twins, and even after our biological lives.”

JB Grasset, (Founder of Monochrome)

“We are speaking to many brands who are right now very interested by the Metaverse. If the question “have you seen Ready Player One?” is negative we say imagine a social network based on gaming. The real challenge is to answer “what do you mean by gaming?”

Lucas Rizotto (CEO of Where Thoughts Go) 

“A mass delusion that assumes that the future should look like Ready Player One for some reason.”

Rafael Brown (CEO at Symbol Zero)

I think the important thing to remember is that the metaverse is a notion that comes initially out of science-fiction, and then was adopted by academia and game developers, it was a notion that we talked about for a thing we could eventually build when the processing and data transfer was fast enough. It is expressly a future-facing term to describe a thing we can grow and build towards. While it is tricky to make an exact definition of an aspirational thing that we want to build towards, it is very easy to talk about what it is not. The meta-verse is not here. Existing technologies are not the meta-verse. The meta-verse is not passive it is not streaming video, it is not chat, it is an immersive experience with presence that we have yet to build, and as such it has to be interactive, it has to be real-time rendered, it has to make use of technologies that do not yet exist. But we cannot dilute ourselves into thinking that existing technologies or backwards-facing comfortable technologies are or can ever be the meta-verse. It has to be about a future-facing notion of what we will create that goes beyond what currently exists.”

Convergence Ahead

In the next decade, technology will accelerate at an exponential rate and our physical and digital lives will converge even further. As professionals across industries and as brands and companies seek to be part of the future, they too might need to ask themselves what the metaverse is.

How do you define the metaverse today?

Solar energy conjures up images of solar panels on rooftops. The depiction is especially true in Africa, where about 600 million people are without reliable access to power — power to keep the lights on and power to keep the COVID-19 vaccine frozen.

Africa’s economy has experienced solid growth at an average of 3.7% throughout the continent. That expansion can be fueled even more with solar-based electrons and the absence of CO2 emissions. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), as many as 30 countries in Africa have electricity outages because supply lags demand. 

“The reliability of the grid is a major issue in Nigeria and many other parts of Africa,” says Starsight Energy’s Chief Executive Tony Carr, in an interview. “That makes expensive and highly polluting on-site diesel generators not only backup but often the principal sources of power. Further, where reliable grid conditions do exist, the costs for electricity can be rather high in some countries. Africa’s phenomenal size means that large areas of the continent have no grid at all.”

Think about this predicament for a moment. Electricity is the lifeblood of any economy. Gross Domestic Product per capita is generally three to five times greater in North Africa where less than 2% of the population is without reliable power, IRENA says. In sub-Saharan Africa, the problem is far more acute and will require billions in new investment.

By 2050, Africa is expected to grow from 1.1 billion people today to 2 billion, with a total economic output of $15 trillion — money that will now, in part, be targeted to the transport and energy venues.

Electricity also gives life to medical facilities. Reuters did a video story on how “solar freezers” are being put to use — freezers that can preserve COVID-19 vaccines. The video points to a study by Journal of Global Health, which says that nearly 60% of healthcare facilities in sub-Saharan Africa have no access to electricity. But Power Africa and a network of public groups set up by USAID is winning the financing to set up off-grid solar-powered health centers. 

“Economic growth, changing lifestyles, and the need for reliable modern energy access is expected to require energy supplies to be at least doubled by 2030,” the IRENA study says. “For electricity, it might even have to triple. Africa is richly endowed with renewable energy sources, and the time is right for sound planning to ensure the right energy mix.”

Brighter Lights Ahead

The good news is that, excluding South Africa, about 1,200 megawatts of off-grid solar power is expected to come online this year in sub-Saharan Africa. That is more than twice the amount commissioned in 2018, says BloombergNEF. It adds that regional power markets will develop, allowing countries to buy electrons from those places with surpluses. It says, however, that a lack of private investment in transmission infrastructure and in small generation fleets will hinder that growth. 

In total, more than 700,000 solar systems have been installed in the region, says the World Bank. IRENA adds that renewable energy, generally, can supply 22% of the African continent’s electricity by 2030. That is up from 5% in 2013. The ultimate goal is to hit 50%: hydropower and wind energy could reach 100,000 megawatts each while solar power could hit 90,000 megawatts. To get there, though, an investment of $70 billion a year is necessary. That’s $45 billion annual for generation capacity and $25 billion a year for transmission. 

One potential remedy is “energy-as-a-service.” Starsight Energy uses such a model, which takes the solar panels, battery storage, and cooling assets off of the balance sheets of its commercial and industrial customers. Starsight, for example, will conduct an energy audit and design a tailored solution based on its energy demand. It then maintains this solar system at no upfront cost. Instead, the commercial or industrial facility will pay the vendor a monthly fee for monitoring, maintenance, and support throughout the system’s life-cycle.

Globally, energy-as-a-service is expected to reach $173 billion by 2027, says Grand View Research. The key driver is the precipitous fall in solar panel prices, about 80% of what they were a decade ago. The Asia-Pacific region is expected to embrace this business plan — one that sub-Saharan Africa could also easily adopt. And commercial enterprises with limited access to capital and little energy management experience are the best prospects. The market leaders in this area, says the research firm are: General Electric

GE
, Siemens Engie, Honeywell International Inc.

HON
, Veolia, Johnson Controls

JCI
, and EDF. 

While reliability and affordability are paramount, “Our industry may face regulatory challenges as governments continue to develop policy regimes for renewable energy development, says Starsight’s Carr. “Currency risks can also be an issue.”

Energy access provides hope for a stable economic life as well as a more vibrant existence and one free from COVID-19. An expansion of off-grid solar energy in Africa could help ensure this outcome. And a burgeoning continent is good for everyone and especially those energy ventures that want the region to shine.

Topline

Despite international aid efforts ramping up, the second wave of Covid-19 infections in India continues to intensify, yielding a new record high for daily deaths on Sunday and prompting an outcry—from businessmen and public officials alike—for government intervention to help ease the rate of infection.

Key Facts

In a Sunday statement for the Confederation of Indian Industry, Indian billionaire Uday Kotak called on increased lockdown measures in India and urged “the strongest national steps, including curtailing economic activity, to reduce suffering.”

India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare reported 3,689 new Covid-19 deaths Sunday, marking the nation’s largest daily death toll yet and bringing the total number of Covid-19 deaths in the country to more than 215,000.

The country also reported 392,488 new cases Sunday, down from a record high of 401,993 reported Saturday but still the second-highest daily tally on record for any country around the world.

Meanwhile, India’s death and infection rates continue to outpace its rate of vaccination: Roughly 157 million vaccines have been administered in the country, up just 1.2% Sunday, and despite India being the world’s leading producer of vaccines, only 2% of its population has been fully inoculated due largely to high vaccine prices and a large impoverished population.

“Enough is enough,” the High Court of Delhi said Saturday as it directed the nation’s central government—which has been criticized for its lackluster pandemic response—to supply oxygen to India’s capital territory of Delhi, warning officials that it may initiate contempt of court proceedings if the order is not implemented.

“The hospitals are full,” Germany’s Ambassador to India, Walter J Lindner, said late Saturday while delivering ventilators to New Delhi, adding that people are sometimes dying in front of hospitals and in their cars because they have no oxygen.

Crucial Quote 

“At this critical juncture when [the] toll of lives is rising… safeguarding lives is of utmost priority and nationwide maximal response measures at the highest level [must be] called for to cut the transmission links,” Kotak said Sunday. “We must heed expert advice on this subject—from India and abroad.”

Key Background

For roughly two weeks, a second wave of the pandemic has intensified in India—overwhelming hospitals, exhausting the nation’s vaccine supply and making the country the biggest Covid-19 hotspot in the world. Many are blaming India’s ruling party for the outbreak, saying Prime Minister Narendra Modi campaigned aggressively for crucial state elections while failing to impose measures to help prevent a pandemic outbreak. Now starting to trickle in, election results are pointing to an overwhelming defeat for Modi’s party. “Evidently something went wrong, evidently we were hit by a tsunami,” Narendra Taneja, a spokesperson for India’s ruling party, told CNN last week. “We know we’re in power, we are responsible… our focus is now on how we can save lives.” So far, only six of India’s 29 states have imposed some form of Covid-19 lockdown during the new wave of infections.

Surprising Fact

According to an early Sunday report by Reuters, Indian officials ignored a forum of scientific advisors in early March who warned of a more contagious Covid-19 variant rapidly spreading around the country. Despite the calls for increased lockdown measures, officials instead held large political rallies attended by millions of maskless people ahead of the elections, Reuters reported.

Big Number

19.6 million. That’s how many Covid-19 cases have been reported in India through Sunday—the second-most among countries and behind only the United States’ count of 32.4 million.

Tangent

Speaking to CBS’ Face the Nation Sunday morning, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said the U.S. is “rushing aid” to India, including therapeutics, ventilators, personal protective equipment and rapid diagnostic tests. The U.S. is also looking to send over a portion of already purchased AstraZeneca vaccines.

Further Reading

India hits new grim record with 3,689 COVID-19 deaths in one day (Al Jazeera)

Photos Show The Distressing Severity Of India’s Covid-19 Crisis (Forbes)

India’s Daily Covid Cases Soar Past 400,000 As Crisis Deepens (Forbes) 

Enough is enough, ensure oxygen supply, Delhi High Court directs Centre (Tribune India)

Oops, Joe Rogan did it again. While it’s not fair to characterize Rogan as “anti-vaxx,” he did repeat a misconception about the Covid-19 vaccine. Not once but twice.

Back on the April 23 episode of his popular Spotify podcast “The Joe Rogan Experience,” Rogan had said, “I’ve said, yeah, I think for the most part it’s safe to get vaccinated. I do. I do. But if you’re like 21 years old, and you say to me, should I get vaccinated? I’ll go no.” The following tweet included a clip of what Rogan, a comedian, podcaster, and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) commentator, had said:

Oh, no, Joe. Say it isn’t so. Rogan’s statement didn’t quite mesh with the following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statement: “Everyone 16 years of age and older is now eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccination. Get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as you can. Widespread vaccination is a critical tool to help stop the pandemic.”

Not surprisingly, Rogan got push-back from public health experts for this statement, because suggesting to the public that there’s no reason for young and healthy people to get the Covid-19 vaccine is wrong, wrong like a bedroom gong. Young and healthy people are not invulnerable. They can still get infected by the Covid-19 coronavirus. They can still get Covid-19. Some can get very sick with Covid-19. They can still pass the virus on to others when they are not vaccinated. That’s essentially what Anthony Fauci, MD, the Director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), emphasized on the Today show when asked to comment about what Rogan had said:

OK, Fauci didn’t use the words “bedroom gong.” But he did use the word “vacuum,” as when you think that you don’t need to get vaccinated because you are young and healthy, “you’re talking about yourself in a vacuum then.” And he wasn’t referring to the “suck up dust and truffle bits” type of vacuum but rather the “only thinking about yourself” type of vacuum.

As a result of the push-back, on the April 29 episode of his podcast, Rogan tried to clarify what he had said the week before, emphasizing that “I’m not an anti-vaxx person,” and that “in fact, I said I believe they’re safe and I encourage many people to take them. My parents were vaccinated.” Indeed, calling Rogan an “anti-vaxxer” or describing his previous comments as “anti-vaccination” would be going a bit too far. Someone who is “anti-vaxx” is actively trying to get others to not get vaccinated often by spreading misinformation. That didn’t seem to be what Rogan has been doing.

But then Rogan did add, “I just said I don’t think if you’re a young healthy person you need it,” as you can see in following video:

Joe close, yet Joe far away.

As a reminder, Rogan is not a medical doctor, which comedian Bill Burr has pointed out on a previous show:

And to be fair, Rogan has never claimed to be a medical doctor. In fact recently, Rogan did re-iterate, “I’m not a doctor, I’m a bleeping moron. I’m not a respected source of information, even for me.” Note, Rogan didn’t actually say the word bleeping but instead said something that begins with the letter “f” and wasn’t “floccinaucinihilipilification.”

Nevertheless, Rogan does have quite a megaphone at his hands. According to Natalie Jarvey writing for The Hollywood Reporter, The Joe Rogan Experience was Spotify’s most popular podcast in 2020. The show’s YouTube channel has at least 10.6 million subscribers. So what he says, even if it is about a topic that’s beyond his expertise, may get traction among his viewers and listeners. These days, if you are famous for one thing, people may assume that you know a lot about everything. This is true even though getting medical or public health advice from a movie, TV, or podcast stars who aren’t medical doctors makes about as much sense as having Kim Kardashian or Justin Bieber play quarterback for your NFL team.

Rogan’s comments did reveal a continuing widespread misconception about the Covid-19 vaccination program. It isn’t just all about you. The Covid-19 vaccine isn’t a gigantic concrete full body condom. Your risk of catching the virus and getting sick from Covid-19 depends on not only whether you get the vaccine but also whether other people around you get the vaccine. As long as the virus can find more people to infect, it will keep spreading. The longer and further it can spread, the more opportunities the virus may have to mutate, potentially into something more contagious and even more deadly. Just because young, healthy folks seem to have had a lower probability of getting very sick from Covid-19, who knows what may happen in the future.

In fact, as Peter Hotez, MD, PhD, Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine tweeted, recently more and more younger folks have been getting sicker with Covid-19:

By the way, Covid-19 expertise does not seem to be in the Liz Wheeler-house.

Plus, younger, healthier folks may be more likely to spread the virus. They may be more likely to go to bars and yell stuff like “YOLO” at the top of their lungs, spewing virus all over the place if they are infected. They may be more likely to travel to different locations and mix with more people. That’s why getting the younger and the healthier vaccinated is critical to stopping the pandemic.

The longer it takes for our society to reach the herd immunity thresholds needed to really slow the spread of the virus, the longer our society will have to keep talking about social distancing and face mask wearing. Therefore, the more that such scientific facts can get out there, the better, so that people understand how important it is to encourage each other to get vaccinated. And Rogan can help do this by getting more real medical and public health experts on his show. After all, Rogan isn’t your average Joe.