Sunday musings: Dolphins in Venice, Virus-free money, Faster inflight WiFi

dolphins in veniceSome good news during the coronavirus times. Venice in the midst of the coronavirus problems. Dolphins in Venice have reappeared in the lagoons. And satellite photos can see right to the bottom of canals. Money repatriated from overseas is being cleaned before being introduced into the system here in the USA. And, another silver lining — faster WiFi inflight, as long as the system keeps operating.

Dolphins in Venice have returned after city locks down to prevent coronavirus spread

For the last few years, I have been spending a month at a time in Venice. I have repeatedly told friends that the city has changed. Even with the stories about runaway massive cruise liners and stinky canals, the reality is much different. The canals are clean and fish are thriving. Couples strolling along the canals can see fish swimming in the canals and the sandy bottoms or the waterways between ancient buildings. Now, with less boat traffic, the change is very visible. Even dolphins in Venice have been reported.

Residents of Venice have reported spotting dolphins, swans and fish in newly clear canal waters after the usually bustling city went quiet as coronavirus spread throughout Italy.

The country has become Europe’s COVID-19 epicentre, with infections jumping to nearly 28,000 on Tuesday and its 2,503 deaths accounting for a third of the global death toll.

But, amid a country-wide lockdown, Venetians have been posting photos and videos of animals reclaiming the city’s canals, usually muddied by passing boat traffic.

The Space Academy tweeted a video of a canal showing water so clear the bottom of the canal could be seen.

Fed quarantines U.S. dollars repatriated from Asia on coronavirus caution

Click here to subscribeI wondered about the effects of spreading germs that money has. You know, physical money — change and bills. I know that a lot of it comes from places with raging COVID-19 problems. I know that I should wash my hands often after touching exposed surfaces. But what about money? It may be the most exposed surface in the world. It may be handled by more people and be more virus-infected than any tabletop.

Well, the government has thought of that. Amazingly, the government has been quarantining physical dollars repatriated to the US. New York University studied our money and found 3,000 types of bacteria. These bacteria are spread further when the money circulates.

According to the CDC, it “may be possible” to transmit the virus through objects that have had direct contact with it, but person-to-person contact is the main means of spreading the disease. The CDC recommends U.S. residents returning from China and other high-risk countries stay home for 14 days.

The World Health Organization, however, has been much more cautious on risks posed by currency notes, advising consumers to use contactless payments whenever possible, according to several British media reports.

As the global reserve currency, U.S. dollars are the most widely distributed notes in the world, with around $1.75 trillion worth of cash in circulation globally, according to the Fed. Much of that is circulated overseas, particularly in Asia, where the dollar is often stronger than local currencies.

It is also filthy.

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 A perk of coronavirus — faster airplane WiFi

Ahh. Another silver lining of the current coronavirus (COVID-19) — faster airplane WiFi. Fewer people flying means faster WiFi. But, on the other hand, we need enough people to fly to make it worthwhile for airlines to keep flying. There are rumors that all transatlantic flights will be curtailed and later all domestic flights. Time will tell.

As coronavirus fears lead to more canceled events, foregone trips, and emptier planes, those left on board will have more bandwidth to enjoy.

Longer-term, in-flight Wi-Fi should benefit from some upgrades better suited to keep up with a plane full of people streaming, browsing, and otherwise sapping bandwidth from their seats.

Almost all airborne connectivity today relies on satellites in geosynchronous orbits that keep them parked above one spot on the Earth’s equator. That allows one satellite to cover a huge expanse, but also imposes a nontrivial lag on every online interaction — each bit of data must take a 44,000-mile round trip from the plane to the satellite and back.

… an executive with an inflight-connectivity firm predicted less-laggy service from satellites in lower orbits.