The worldwide spread of coronavirus may feel a little too familiar for players of Plague Inc., the eight-year-old game that asks you to shepherd a deadly disease seeking to kill all of humanity. Now, developer Ndemic Creations says it is working on a new update that flips the game on its head by "let[ting] players save the world from a deadly disease outbreak."
Ndemic says it is "accelerating work" on the free new mode, which was developed in consultation with the World Health Organization and the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network, Ndemic said in an announcement. In it, "players will have to balance managing disease progression and boosting healthcare systems as well as controlling real-world actions such as triaging, quarantining, social distancing, and closing of public services."
In addition to the update, Ndemic says it donated $250,000 to the Coalition of Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and the WHO COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund. Plague Inc. players will soon be prompted to consider a similar donation of their own in the game.
“Eight years ago, I never imagined the real world would come to resemble a game of Plague Inc. or that so many players would be using Plague Inc. to help them get through an actual pandemic,” Plague Inc. creator James Vaughan said in a statement. “We are proud to be able to help support the vital work of the WHO and CEPI as they work towards finding a vaccine for COVID-19."
Back in January, Ndemic issued a public warning that players shouldn't use its game as a scientific model for the then-nascent coronavirus outbreak. As the game surged in popularity while the outbreak intensified, Chinese officials suddenly pulled it from the local iOS App Store, citing unspecified "content that is illegal in China as determined by the Cyberspace Administration of China."
Plague Inc. has been at or near the top of the iOS App Store's overall US download rankings since late January, with similar popularity surges in other countries, according to data compiled by App Annie.
Remember a few years ago when the owner of a credit card payment processing company based in Seattle raised the minimum wage of his employees to $70,000/yr while taking a huge pay-cut himself and capitalists the world over, afraid of their beloved & apparently suuuuper delicate system collapsing from such madness, flipped out?1 The BBC recently checked in with Gravity Payments and its owner Dan Price to see how things were going. Pretty damn well, as it turns out:
The headcount has doubled and the value of payments that the company processes has gone from $3.8bn a year to $10.2bn.
But there are other metrics that Price is more proud of.
“Before the $70,000 minimum wage, we were having between zero and two babies born per year amongst the team,” he says.
“And since the announcement — and it’s been only about four-and-a-half years — we’ve had more than 40 babies.”
More than 10% of the company have been able to buy their own home, in one of the US’s most expensive cities for renters. Before the figure was less than 1%.
“There was a little bit of concern amongst pontificators out there that people would squander any gains that they would have. And we’ve really seen the opposite,” Price says.
The amount of money that employees are voluntarily putting into their own pension funds has more than doubled and 70% of employees say they’ve paid off debt.
When Price made the announcement about raising wages, two senior employees quit because they thought the junior employees would become lazy and the company would suffer. Spolier alert: didn’t happen.
Rosita Barlow, director of sales at Gravity, says that since salaries were raised junior colleagues have been pulling more weight.
“When money is not at the forefront of your mind when you’re doing your job, it allows you to be more passionate about what motivates you,” she says.
Senior staff have found their workload reduced. They’re under less pressure and can do things like take all of the holiday leave to which they are entitled.
The thing about the increased number of babies is astounding. Some of that has to be demographic (employees getting older and entering prime family-starting years) but having a baby in the United States is expensive and that has to factor into many people’s decision on whether to have a child, especially if it’s a second kid or if you’re a single parent.
But the most interesting observation is this one by Price equating the freedom of his employees to their capability:
“We saw, every day, the effects of giving somebody freedom,” Price says.
He thinks it is why Gravity is making more money than ever.
Raising salaries didn’t change people’s motivation — he says staff were already motivated to work hard — but it increased what he calls their capability.
Employees that worry less about debt, healthcare, or where their next meal is coming from are happier, more productive employees. Imagine that.
Update: Although what he did in raising the salaries of his company’s employees is commendable, Price himself is perhaps not the corporate role model that BBC article makes him out to be. From a 2016 piece about Price in Esquire:
In a TEDx Talk last fall, Price’s ex-wife, Kristie, claimed he once “got mad at me for ignoring him and grabbed me and shook me… He also threw me to the ground and got on top of me. He started punching me in the stomach and slapped me across the face.” (The video of the talk was never released, but Bloomberg Businessweek quoted it in a story about Price in December.) The suit brought by Lucas Price, his business partner and brother, was unrelated to Kristie’s allegations. Lucas was seeking $26 million because, essentially, Dan had been a dick in their business dealings.
The rest of the piece corroborates that Price is in fact a dick who raised his employees’ salaries partially because it was a good PR move. (via @adrianhon)
Have you noticed that when hardcore capitalists talk about plans to raise corporate taxes or re-institute a more progressive income tax scheme or regulate businesses, they seem deathly afraid that these changes are going to completely derail capitalism in America, as if capitalism were this super weak thing instead of one of the most powerfully unstoppable inventions that humans have ever created? Your great engine of change is indeed mighty! Have some confidence in your beliefs, man!↩
I would bet these guys played a role in depressing performance:
“When Price made the announcement about raising wages, two senior employees quit because they thought the junior employees would become lazy and the company would suffer. Spolier alert: didn’t happen.”
The ubiquity in the modern world of consumer electronics has created a corresponding demand for better super-capacitors for energy storage, thereby enabling rapid-charging for our mobile phones, tablets, laptops, and electric cars. But the best materials for building high-performance super-capacitors are often costly. Now, scientists from the University of Sydney in Australia have successfully created a low-cost alternative, building electrodes for super-capacitors out of waste scraps from durian and jackfruit, according to a new paper in the Journal of Energy Storage.
"Durian waste, as a zero-cost substance that the community wants to get rid of urgently due to its repulsive, nauseous smell, is a sustainable source that can transform the waste into a product to substantially reduce the cost of energy storage through our chemical-free, green synthesis protocol," said co-author Vincent Gomes of the University of Sydney in Australia.
Scientists have typically relied on a variety of carbon-based materials as electrodes when building super-capacitors: activated carbon, carbon nanotubes, and graphene sheets, for example. It's best to use materials that boast high porosity, since they help diffuse electrolytes through the electrodes, and to maximize surface area.
A 2010 paper found that electrodes based on aerogels are even better than standard carbon materials in terms of maximizing capacitance. Aerogels are 99.8 percent air, making them pretty much the lightest known solid material. They were first synthesized in 1931—the result of a bet between Samuel Kistler and Charles Learned over who could best replace all the liquid in "jellies" with a gas. The trick is super-critical drying, which retains the structure of the original gel. Carbon-based aerogels appeared in the 1980s and are favored for many applications by NASA, among others, since they are extremely light-weight with exceptional thermal insulation properties.
But many of these advanced materials are also costly, sparking interest in using organic waste as precursor materials when making electrodes out of aerogels, such as pomelo peel, paper pulp, and watermelon. The waste can be simply freeze-dried to eliminate water while still retaining the hierarchical structure that makes for a good aerogel.
"The structural precision of natural biomass with the hierarchical pores, developed over millions of years of biological evolution, affords an outstanding resource as a template for the synthesis of carbon-based materials," Gomes and his co-authors wrote. That, in turn, means organic waste would help achieve high-performance energy storage at lower costs.
Enter the durian, known as the "king of fruits" in the Southeast Asia regions where it is especially popular. Its most distinctive feature is its strong odor—so persistent that it can linger for days, which is why many hotels and public transport systems in Asia don't allow durian fruit at all. Naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace praised the fruit as "a rich custard highly flavored with almonds," while acknowledging it initially smelled like rotten onions. Novelist Anthony Burgess claimed the experience was "like eating sweet raspberry blancmange in the lavatory."
Smell aside, the durian's inedible spongy core turns out to be ideal for making biomass-based aerogels. First, Gomes et al. selected pieces of both durian and jackfruit, looking for those that were very porous and had a large surface area. They picked the jackfruit from a tree in Australia and purchased the durian at a local market, then took core samples from each piece of fruit, rinsing them off with deionized water to remove all the dirt and debris.
Next, they converted the fruit waste into a carbon aerogel. The samples were placed in Teflon autoclaves and heated for ten hours at 180° C (356° F), and then cooled over night. Then the samples were rinsed and freeze-dried. To carbonize the freeze-dried samples, they were heated in a furnace for an hour at 800° C (1,472° F), yielding "black, highly porous, ultra-light aerogels," per the authors.
Finally, the Australian team used the fruit-derived aerogels to build electrodes and then tested them to assess how well they stored energy. Both durian and jackfruit waste produced aerogels with excellent energy storage properties, although the durian-based ones performed a bit better than those derived from jackfruit. That makes sense, since the durian-based carbon aerogels also proved to have significantly greater porosity and surface area than the jackfruit-based aerogels. Both, however, provide a comparable (and cheaper) alternative to the activated carbon super-capacitors currently being used for energy storage.
"We have reached a point where we must urgently discover and produce ways to create and store energy using sustainably-sourced materials that do not contribute to global warming," said Gomes. "Confronted with this and the world's rapidly depleting supplies of fossil fuels, naturally-derived super-capacitors are leading the way for developing high efficiency energy storage devices."
This clever trick popped up on Reddit recently and I’m very amused. Apparently you can use textured sheets on your 3d printer’s print bed to imprint that texture on the first layer of your print. Sounds obvious right? Well, what if that textured sheet is fine enough to give an […]
One of the best and most popular DIY tips I shared in my newsletter last year was this one. In this video on Tech Tangents, AkBkukU shows how you can use CA/Superglue and baking soda to reconstruct and repair broken plastic hinges, pins, and other parts on old computers and consumer electronics.
You basically use the glue and soda to build up material that you can then sand and file down into the shapes you desire. The resulting material is surprisingly workable, strong, and durable.
If you wanted to learn about creating modern computer games, 3DBuzz had some of the best tutorials around. In fact, some of the tutorials about C#, C++, Android, and math would be useful for anyone, while the ones about game art and modeling in Maya are probably mostly for game developers. While these were once available only by subscription, the company — now defunct — has left them available for download via this BitTorrent file.
We don’t know enough about things like Blender and Maya to evaluate the material, but it is well regarded and the ones we do know something about seem very high quality. There are, for example, many videos about C++ and C# that are very professional and cover quite a few topics.
We don’t know how long the page will remain up, and it has an SSL issue, but to save you some time, here’s a quick way to grab all the ZIP files on a page:
wget -nc -r -np --span-host -l 1 -A zip --no-check-certificate https://3dbuzz.com/index.html
However, as you might expect, the site is overloaded, so expect to not get them all in one swoop. We were surprised they didn’t make them available as torrents. (Update: the site now says downloads are temporarily disabled, but a Reddit user did start a torrent that is missing two small files and a corrected torrent with all the files, but it may not have as many seeds.)