Tag Archives: might

New Study Proposes Warp Drive That Might Actually Work

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(Credit: Eduard Muzhevskyi/Getty Images) 
Exploring the universe in Star Trek is as easy as firing up the warp drive and zipping off to the next adventure, but real life is much more tedious without faster-than-light (FTL) travel. Physicists have speculated on the possibility of a real warp drive for years, but a new paper lays out a vision for a warp drive that might actually work. We still don’t know how to build it, but at least we know why we can’t build it yet.

Let’s say you want to visit Proxima Centauri, which is the closest alien solar system. It’s four light-years away, which works out to trillions of kilometers, or miles, or leagues, or whatever — in the trillions, it doesn’t really matter. It’s very, very far away. It would take millennia to reach Proxima Centauri with current technology, but if you can move faster than light, you could be there in no time. The problem is physics: General relativity says that nothing can go faster than light, a claim that has thus far held up to scientific scrutiny. 

In 1994 theoretical physicist Miguel Alcubierre proposed a model for a warp drive vessel that didn’t violate the laws of the universe, but it required exotic negative energy that we can’t produce (it may not even be possible). A new paper from physicists Alexey Bobrick and Gianni Martire started making the rounds late last year, claiming that a physical warp drive may indeed be possible. That paper has now been peer-reviewed and published in the journal Classical and Quantum Gravity.

Unlike the Alcubierre Drive, the Bobrick-Martire version doesn’t require unfathomable amounts of negative energy. The paper doesn’t describe a vessel but rather a bubble of spacetime that could surround a vessel, a person, or anything else. The bubble (above) can behave however it likes, including accelerating to speeds faster than light. At least, that’s how it would look to an outside observer. To anyone inside the bubble, the laws of physics would remain intact as the “passenger area” consists of completely flat spacetime. Physicist Sabine Hossenfelder (below) broke the paper down when it first began circulating a few months ago. 

There are still problems to work out here, so don’t start packing for your space adventure quite yet. We don’t know how to make a spacetime bubble. The matter and energy distribution in such a structure are still a mystery. Even if we could make such an object, we’d have to find the right geometry to accelerate it efficiently. Something as small as the way people are sitting inside a warp bubble could change the amount of energy required. 

The important thing is that the Bobrick-Martire Drive gives us a stronger mathematical basis for studying the possibility of FTL travel. Physicists who are adept at sniffing out silly space travel hypotheses have given this paper their stamp of approval, and it will no doubt spur others to add their two cents. In Star Trek, they didn’t develop warp drive until 2063. We’ve got some time yet.

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The provinces might get their health funding boost — with strings attached

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said Thursday that when it comes to funding for health care, the provinces aren’t looking for the federal government to be their “banker” — they’re looking for a “partner.”

He’s at least half right.

The premiers certainly aren’t looking for a banker, because bankers typically apply pretty stringent conditions to any money they hand out (and they usually expect you to pay it back).

For the same reasons, it’s not clear how much the premiers want a “partner” either. The money they seek is money they can spend without the federal government being able to say much of anything about it.

What the provinces actually seem to be looking for is a donor.

WATCH: Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister calls out Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on health transfers

The premiers held a virtual press conference today to warn Ottawa that health care transfers must be increased in this year’s federal budget. They told reporters that all governments need to work together to reduce the wait times Canadians face in getting care. 2:44

You can see the likely compromise here: the federal government increasing funding while acting like something in between a donor and partner. But underneath the political negotiation are some long-term questions about taxes, spending and debt — questions about whether governments at all levels will have enough money to do what citizens want or need them to do in the years ahead.

Officially, the premiers are demanding that the federal government give them enough funding through the Canada Health Transfer (CHT) to cover 35 per cent of all health care costs. There’s nothing particularly magical about the number — the last time federal cash transfers covered that share of health costs was in the mid-1970s. But the premiers have decided that it feels like a fair number, or a sufficiently ambitious opening bid.

There is no requirement that CHT funds be spent on health care. Right now, the funding provided by the CHT is equal to about 22 per cent of all health costs incurred by the provinces (though there is a long trail of context behind that number).

In 1977, the federal government transferred “tax points” to the provinces — effectively reducing federal taxes so that provinces could raise theirs — to cover health care costs. The current Liberal government also has signed separate agreements to provide $ 11 billion over ten years to the provinces to cover specific costs related to mental health and home care.

The provinces have a point

Raising the CHT to cover 35 per cent of all health costs incurred by the provinces would amount to an increase of $ 28 billion in new annual spending for the federal government. The provinces argue that the federal government is in a better position to carry that cost. But that’s not the same as saying it would be easy.

The provinces have a case for calling on the federal government to pay more. The parliamentary budget officer’s latest fiscal sustainability report, released last November, repeated a warning that has been offered on a regular basis over the last several years: assuming that an aging population leads to rising health care costs, the combined “subnational” debt-to-GDP ratio will continue to climb unsustainably into the future.

According to the PBO, provinces would need to either raise taxes or cut annual spending by a combined $ 12 billion to stabilize their collective debt-to-GDP ratio at the pre-pandemic level of 24.1 per cent.

The federal government’s debt-to-GDP ratio, meanwhile, is set to decline over the long term. In fact, according to the PBO’s calculations, the federal government could cut taxes or increase spending by $ 19 billion and still expect to get back eventually to its pre-pandemic debt-to-GDP ratio of 28 per cent.

It’s time to talk about taxes

A transfer of $ 28 billion from the federal government to the provinces would flip those calculations. The premiers have their own report from the Conference Board of Canada that says the federal debt-to-GDP ratio would increase to 60 per cent and then very slowly decline to 57 per cent by 2038 — though the Conference Board calculates that provincial debt-to-GDP eventually would continue to rise.

It’s debatable what sort of debt-to-GDP ratio the federal government can now carry responsibly. While provincial conservatives might be happy to take that $ 28 billion, federal Conservatives might be even happier to criticize the federal debt levels that would result.

But it’s also possible that someone here needs to think about raising taxes — and most federal governments are going to be reluctant to surrender fiscal room to the provinces if it means those provinces can avoid raising taxes, or even cut them.


Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s government is cutting the corporate tax rate — a decision that could lead to some awkward moments when the provinces and Ottawa get down to negotiating a boost in the federal health transfer. (Jason Franson/Canadian Press)

The Alberta government, for instance, is in the process of cutting its corporate tax rate from 12 per cent to eight per cent. (When he was Quebec’s premier, Jean Charest semi-famously used a boost in federal transfers in 2007 to hand out a pre-election income tax cut.)

One way or another, a conversation about the resources needed to tackle the challenges of the post-pandemic world is necessary — and maybe inevitable.

But Trudeau seems to be in no rush to start the health care aspect of that conversation. “As I’ve said to the premiers, we will be there to increase those transfers,” he told reporters on Friday. “But that conversation needs to happen once we are through this pandemic.”

Room for compromise

While the Liberals might be willing to increase the unconditional transfer to some degree, they also have other health care priorities that they’d like to pursue — expanding pharmacare and improving the conditions of long-term care (including a commitment to new national standards).

Put those things together and the provinces might end up with an offer to increase the federal contribution through a combination of conditional and unconditional funds — though perhaps not nearly equivalent to $ 28 billion in new money.

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole has insisted that he would be prepared to increase the transfers without conditions. He’s also stopped short of saying that a Conservative government would actually put up the full $ 28 billion.

Barring a quick change in government, though, the premiers and the prime minister might realize — as any number of first ministers before them have done — that they’re ultimately tied together.

The provinces want money. The federal government wants to advance some legacy-defining priorities. And the public might not be terribly interested in jurisdictional arguments right now.

These are the makings of a beautiful, if acrimonious, partnership.

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GPUs Used For Crypto Mining Might Lose Game Performance, Long-Term

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One question that’s come up from time to time in gaming is whether older GPUs get slower over time. ExtremeTech has examined this question before with respect to software updates, meaning we checked whether older GPUs lost performance as a result of later driver updates that were not as well optimized for older GPU architectures. While our driver tests found no evidence of software-driven slowdowns, we didn’t check the impact of whether aging GPU hardware could impact performance.

A new investigation of an 18 month-old RTX 2080 Ti claims to have uncovered evidence that an old GPU will run more slowly than a newer card, based on a comparison of two (we think) MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Gaming X Trio GPUs. Unfortunately, based on available information, there’s no way to confirm that conclusion. At best, what YouTube channel Testing Games has established is that long-term mining might slow down a GPU.

At first glance, the findings seem equivocal. Testing Games runs a suite of games, including Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Battlefield V, Cyberpunk 2077, Forza Horizon 4, Horzion: Zero Dawn, Kingdom Come Deliverance, Mafia Definitive Edition, and Red Dead Redemption. The MSI Gaming X Trio GPU card used for crypto mining for the past 18 months is typically about 10 percent slower than the new MSI Gaming X Trio GPU that hasn’t been used for mining. Spot checks of various games show that the used RTX 2080 Ti runs 15-20 degrees hotter than the new card, uses somewhat less power, and hits a lower maximum clock speed. This would seem to be an open-and-shut demonstration of the fact that mining can wear out a GPU, but there are some problems with this analysis.

First, the authors don’t appear to have re-pasted or dusted the used GPU. Dust is an absolutely magnificent insulator and enough of it will easily destabilize a gaming rig. This alone could account for the higher temperatures and lower clocks on the used card, no explanation needed.

Second, it is not clear if this represents the same GPU being tested, or two different versions of the card purchased at two different times. The former would be more useful. The wide use of Turbo clocks in GPUs and CPUs today allow for variations in binning that can impact the final result. It could be that the newer card fielded a better core, allowing for higher base performance, and effectively invalidating our ability to derive any useful information from this comparison. The official boost clock on the MSI Gaming Trio X is 1755MHz, which means both GPUs are shown running above this specification. It is possible that some of the variance between the two GPUs reflects SoC quality.

If these are two different GPUs, we also don’t know if they use an identical VBIOS version or if they use exactly the same brand of RAM. Micro-timings and VBIOS updates can introduce their own performance changes. The newer GPU is also often faster than the older GPU than the difference in its clock speed would indicate. The clock gap as measured in-game is on the order of 3-5 percent (it varies depending on where you are in the run), while the performance variation varies by 8-12 percent. The RAM clock is supposedly locked to an effective 7GHz (14Gbps) across both cards.

There’s another point I want to bring up: These numbers are a little odd as far as the implied relationship between clock variation and actual observed performance.

From Testing Games. The clock speed gap, current FPS difference, and the average FPS score across the benchmark run do not agree with each other. A nearly 20 percent momentary performance difference is shown to correspond to a 6.6 percent clock variation, with the older card running nearly 10 percent slower overall. These gaps are present in almost every title, at any given moment of measurement.

GPU clocks and performance results do not typically move in lockstep. Increase the GPU core and memory clocks by 10 percent, and a game’s performance may only improve by 6-8 percent. This is expected because there’s always the chance that a benchmark is slightly limited by some other aspect of the system. The expected result from a linear clock speed increase is a linear-to-sublinear improvement in performance. It therefore follows that the expected impact of reducing clock is a linear-to-sublinear reduction in performance.

The results in this video show the opposite, in almost every case. Apart from Kingdom Come: Deliverance, the gap between the reported GPU clocks is about half the size of the performance improvement. 4-6 percent clock speed differences are associated with 8-15 percent performance shifts.

This could be a result of polling errors in the utilities being used to gather this information. Alternately, it suggests some other variable in play that hasn’t been accounted for in the YouTube video above. The used GPU could be hitting thermal limits and throttling itself back, but doing so more quickly than monitoring utility can detect. Most polling utilities only poll once per second, while GPUs are capable of adjusting their clocks in a matter of milliseconds. It’s possible that the used GPU’s clock looks more stable than it would if we had finer-grained reporting tools.

Testing Games has not released any follow-up information on their testing protocols or whether this comparison was performed on the same GPU at two different points in time or on two different GPUs purchased at different times. It also hasn’t released any discussion of why these results point to greater-than-linear performance improvements despite linear increases in GPU clock and no changes to memory clock.

Until these questions are answered, the idea that heavily-mined cards lose gaming performance can only be considered a theory. We’re not saying the theory is wrong, but it hasn’t been properly tested yet. More data is needed, either from Testing Games or from other sources, to illustrate the accuracy of this claim.

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GPUs Used For Crypto Mining Might Lose Game Performance, Long-Term

This site may earn affiliate commissions from the links on this page. Terms of use.

One question that’s come up from time to time in gaming is whether older GPUs get slower over time. ExtremeTech has examined this question before with respect to software updates, meaning we checked whether older GPUs lost performance as a result of later driver updates that were not as well optimized for older GPU architectures. While our driver tests found no evidence of software-driven slowdowns, we didn’t check the impact of whether aging GPU hardware could impact performance.

A new investigation of an 18 month-old RTX 2080 Ti claims to have uncovered evidence that an old GPU will run more slowly than a newer card, based on a comparison of two (we think) MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Gaming X Trio GPUs. Unfortunately, based on available information, there’s no way to confirm that conclusion. At best, what YouTube channel Testing Games has established is that long-term mining might slow down a GPU.

At first glance, the findings seem equivocal. Testing Games runs a suite of games, including Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Battlefield V, Cyberpunk 2077, Forza Horizon 4, Horzion: Zero Dawn, Kingdom Come Deliverance, Mafia Definitive Edition, and Red Dead Redemption. The MSI Gaming X Trio GPU card used for crypto mining for the past 18 months is typically about 10 percent slower than the new MSI Gaming X Trio GPU that hasn’t been used for mining. Spot checks of various games show that the used RTX 2080 Ti runs 15-20 degrees hotter than the new card, uses somewhat less power, and hits a lower maximum clock speed. This would seem to be an open-and-shut demonstration of the fact that mining can wear out a GPU, but there are some problems with this analysis.

First, the authors don’t appear to have re-pasted or dusted the used GPU. Dust is an absolutely magnificent insulator and enough of it will easily destabilize a gaming rig. This alone could account for the higher temperatures and lower clocks on the used card, no explanation needed.

Second, it is not clear if this represents the same GPU being tested, or two different versions of the card purchased at two different times. The former would be more useful. The wide use of Turbo clocks in GPUs and CPUs today allow for variations in binning that can impact the final result. It could be that the newer card fielded a better core, allowing for higher base performance, and effectively invalidating our ability to derive any useful information from this comparison. The official boost clock on the MSI Gaming Trio X is 1755MHz, which means both GPUs are shown running above this specification. It is possible that some of the variance between the two GPUs reflects SoC quality.

If these are two different GPUs, we also don’t know if they use an identical VBIOS version or if they use exactly the same brand of RAM. Micro-timings and VBIOS updates can introduce their own performance changes. The newer GPU is also often faster than the older GPU than the difference in its clock speed would indicate. The clock gap as measured in-game is on the order of 3-5 percent (it varies depending on where you are in the run), while the performance variation varies by 8-12 percent. The RAM clock is supposedly locked to an effective 7GHz (14Gbps) across both cards.

There’s another point I want to bring up: These numbers are a little odd as far as the implied relationship between clock variation and actual observed performance.

From Testing Games. The clock speed gap, current FPS difference, and the average FPS score across the benchmark run do not agree with each other. A nearly 20 percent momentary performance difference is shown to correspond to a 6.6 percent clock variation, with the older card running nearly 10 percent slower overall. These gaps are present in almost every title, at any given moment of measurement.

GPU clocks and performance results do not typically move in lockstep. Increase the GPU core and memory clocks by 10 percent, and a game’s performance may only improve by 6-8 percent. This is expected because there’s always the chance that a benchmark is slightly limited by some other aspect of the system. The expected result from a linear clock speed increase is a linear-to-sublinear improvement in performance. It therefore follows that the expected impact of reducing clock is a linear-to-sublinear reduction in performance.

The results in this video show the opposite, in almost every case. Apart from Kingdom Come: Deliverance, the gap between the reported GPU clocks is about half the size of the performance improvement. 4-6 percent clock speed differences are associated with 8-15 percent performance shifts.

This could be a result of polling errors in the utilities being used to gather this information. Alternately, it suggests some other variable in play that hasn’t been accounted for in the YouTube video above. The used GPU could be hitting thermal limits and throttling itself back, but doing so more quickly than monitoring utility can detect. Most polling utilities only poll once per second, while GPUs are capable of adjusting their clocks in a matter of milliseconds. It’s possible that the used GPU’s clock looks more stable than it would if we had finer-grained reporting tools.

Testing Games has not released any follow-up information on their testing protocols or whether this comparison was performed on the same GPU at two different points in time or on two different GPUs purchased at different times. It also hasn’t released any discussion of why these results point to greater-than-linear performance improvements despite linear increases in GPU clock and no changes to memory clock.

Until these questions are answered, the idea that heavily-mined cards lose gaming performance can only be considered a theory. We’re not saying the theory is wrong, but it hasn’t been properly tested yet. More data is needed, either from Testing Games or from other sources, to illustrate the accuracy of this claim.

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Tiger Woods survived near-fatal crash, but his career might not

The sheared-off front of the wrecked SUV told part of the story, and the officers on the scene filled in the rest. Tiger Woods was lucky to be alive, they said, thanks to modern safety technology and a big dose of good luck.

Alive and well, no. But alive nonetheless.

The good news — no, make that the BEST news — is that Woods seems on track to survive after being pried Tuesday from the SUV he wrecked in Los Angeles. That’s despite injuries that are so severe — including multiple open fractures of his leg — that he will be convalescing a long, long time.

The other piece of good news was that there was no immediate sign Woods was impaired at the time of the crash — a significant bit of information, of course, because of his past.

The bad news is that the career of the world’s greatest golfer — at least on the game’s biggest stages — is probably over.

WATCH | Woods suffers leg injuries in car crash

Golf superstar Tiger Woods needed surgery after a car crash in Los Angeles on Tuesday that left him with multiple leg injuries. Officials say he was conscious when pulled from the wrecked SUV and the injuries are not life threatening. 2:02

A return from his recent back surgery to play again at the age of 45 was always going to be a problem. Woods himself said previously that Father Time remains undefeated and his return to top-level play wasn’t guaranteed.

Combine that with the gruesome injuries from his crash and now that return borders on impossible.

This isn’t Ben Hogan, coming back from a near fatal car accident in 1949 to win the U.S. Open next year. Hogan was nine years younger, hadn’t been through multiple back and knee surgeries, and didn’t have to swing his driver hard enough to hit the ball 350 yards to keep up with the other players.

Woods was fragile enough to begin with, and there were already questions about whether he could return to play at a high level. He might share Hogan’s determination to overcome everything in front of him, but in the end, there’s only so much he can do to mend his broken body.

That means Woods will never break the record of 18 major championship wins held by Jack Nicklaus. It means his fans will never be able to will him on to another win like they did at the 2019 Masters.

And it means golf will be a lot quieter for a long time to come.

The wreck on a downhill stretch of road in tony Rancho Palos Verdes was stunning, though it shouldn’t have come as a shock. It marked the third time in a dozen years that Woods has been taken from vehicles in various stages of distress — a disturbing pattern that began with his infamous Thanksgiving weekend 2009 encounter with his now ex-wife outside his Florida mansion.

Four years ago, after he was found passed out in his car on a Florida highway with the engine running, Woods was charged with a DUI that was later plea bargained down.

Now, the questions are just beginning about how he managed to crash a brand-new Genesis SUV on a clear morning on the California coast — a wreck that sheriff deputies say he was lucky to escape alive.


The vehicle Woods was driving Tuesday morning lies on the side of the road in Los Angeles. (KABC-TV/The Associated Press)

Suddenly, the 2019 Masters Tournament seems like it was an awful long time ago.

Woods has done things over the years we couldn’t imagine on the golf course. I’ve been along for many of them, covering Woods from his first PGA Tour win in Las Vegas in 1996 as well as the Masters comeback win two years ago that was one of the great sports stories of our times.

He transitioned from young phenom to all-time great as the years and the wins piled up, only to be humbled by a scandal that cost him his marriage and a lot of fans. Then he came back to win his fifth green jacket in a storybook tale that might have made him more popular than ever.

Woods celebrated behind the 18th green that day by hugging his children, much as he celebrated becoming the youngest Masters champion ever in 1997 by hugging his father. Woods not only seemed to regain his game in the last few years but his ability to connect with others as he began smiling and signing autographs like it wasn’t the chore he made it out to be most of his career.

WATCH | ‘Probably the best player ever’

Lorne Rubenstein, who co-authored “The 1997 Masters: My Story” with Tiger Woods, reflects on the golfer and the man. 12:32

On Sunday he was at the Genesis Invitational at nearby Riviera Country Club as the tournament host. He couldn’t play because of his most recent back surgery just before Christmas but came on CBS to answer questions about whether he would be back in time for the Masters.

“God, I hope so,” Woods said. “I gotta get there, first.”

He won’t be there this year. The odds are he will never tee it up at Augusta National as a competitive player again.

The one sure thing is that golf won’t be the same without him. The game will survive, of course, but it’s hard to imagine it without the one player who transcended the sport.

The only thing that really matters now, though, is that Woods survived, too.

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The First Black Hole Ever Discovered Might Be Even Larger

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The general idea of a stellar object with such intense gravity that even light cannot escape dates back to the late 18th century. However, it wasn’t until Einstein’s contributions in the early 20th century that we had the necessary theoretical underpinnings to go looking for such an object. Cygnus X-1 caught the attention of scientists because of its X-ray signature. Today, Cygnus X-1 is widely accepted to be the first black hole ever discovered, but we might not know as much about it as we thought. 

Scientists have been looking for black holes ever since general relativity predicted such an object could exist. Cygnus X-1 made history in 1964 as the first likely candidate black hole. Astronomers have revisited Cygnus over the years, and a new analysis suggests the first black hole spotted by humanity might be larger and farther away than believed. 

Cygnus X-1 is a stellar-mass black hole currently thought to have about 15 times the mass of our sun. It’s orbiting a blue supergiant variable star, the light from which has helped to characterize Cygnus X-1. In 2011, researchers used parallax measurements from different points in Earth’s orbit to pin down the black hole’s location. The team found it was just over 6,000 light-years away. Astrophysicist James Miller-Jones worked on this research, and now he’s back with a new team to refine the numbers. 

Miller-Jones and his team used a network of large radio telescope dishes across the US called the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) to observe Cygnus X-1. The 2011 research didn’t collect data from the black hole during all parts of its orbit around the supergiant star, and that might affect the distance measurement. The VLBA scanned Cygnus X-1 for 12 hours at a time over the course of six consecutive days. Combining this parallax data with the 2011 numbers, the team has reported a different result. Instead of being 6,070 light-years away, Cygnus X-1 might be 7,240 light-years distant. 

The M87 supermassive black hole imaged in 2019.

So, why does that matter? Many of the characteristics of celestial objects are calculated based on their distance from Earth. If Cygnus X-1 is farther away, that means it’s also larger. The researchers have calculated that at more than 7,000 light-years away, Cygnus X-1 would be about 21 times more massive than the sun, a significant increase over the currently accepted figure. 

The new figures for Cygnus X-1 could change how we measure other black holes. This is likely not the most massive stellar-mass black hole in the universe, but we may need to revise estimates of how much mass a dying star loses as it collapses into a singularity.

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Why it might be best to avoid painkillers as a precaution before your COVID-19 vaccine

Billions of people worldwide will receive vaccines to protect against COVID-19 and some will temporarily feel a sore arm, fever or muscle aches. But reaching for some common painkillers could blunt the effect of the vaccine, experts say.

Mahyar Etminan, an associate professor of of ophthalmology, pharmacology and medicine at the University of British Columbia, looked at data on taking medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol) and anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) before or close to the time of vaccination.

“Given that a lot of people would probably resort to using these drugs once they’re vaccinated, if they still have aches and pains, I thought to put the data into perspective,” said Etminan, who has a background in pharmacy, pharmacology and epidemiology. 

The jury is out on what happens to a person’s immune system after a COVID-19 vaccine if the person has taken those medications. But based on research on other vaccines like for the flu, there may be a blunting effect on immune response from the pills.

“If you tell people not to take them and they don’t like the side-effects they’re experiencing, that may lead to non-compliance with the second dose,” Etminan said. “I think it is an important sort of question to look at scientifically and also to tell patients.”

Why might fever-reducing meds interfere with our immune response after vaccination?

It has to do with what’s happening when our temperature rises to fight off an infection.


Dr. Dakotah Lane, a member of the Lummi Nation, right, raises his arms in a traditional motion of thanks after receiving a COVID-19 vaccination from registered nurse Alyssa Lane on Dec. 17, 2020, on the Lummi Reservation, near Bellingham, Wash. Arm pain after vaccinations may be uncomfortable but is generally mild, doctors say. (Elaine Thompson/Associated Press)

Dr. Sharon Evans, a professor of oncology at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo, N.Y., works on training the immune system to attack cancer. She became interested in fever because it is such a common response across animals that walk or fly, even cold-blooded ones.

Before the pandemic, Evans and her colleagues wrote a review on how fever generally helps to reduce the severity and length of illness.

Evans called fever “incredible” for its ability to boost all the components needed for a protective immune response.

Fever “literally mobilizes the cells, it moves them in the body into the right place at the right time,” Evans said.

There’s also good evidence that inflammation, even without fever, can boost immune responses, she said.

Fever pills generally not recommended before vaccines

In a preprint to be published in the journal CHEST, Etimanan and his colleagues noted that a randomized trial looking at infants given acetaminophen immediately following vaccination showed lowered antibody levels compared with other infants who had not been given acetaminophen.

Another study in adults did not find their antibody levels fell after being vaccinated and taking acetaminophen. Immune responses can differ between children and adults.


Mahyar Etminan wants people to know about recommendations on avoiding painkillers around the time of COVID-19 vaccination. (Submitted by Mahyar Etminan)

Evans said the ability to mount a strong immune response also tends to go down as we age.

“What’s the difference between different age groups, different types of anti-inflammatory or antipyretics?” Evans said. “They’re all likely to be important and we just don’t know the answer.”

In the absence of those answers, authorities such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization say the use of antipyretics or fever-reducing medications is not recommended before or at the time of vaccination. They are approved in the days after vaccination.

For COVID-19 vaccines, Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) gives similar advice.

“NACI recommends that prophylactic oral analgesics or antipyretics (e.g., acetaminophen or ibuprofen) should not be routinely used before or at the time of vaccination, but their use is not a contraindication to vaccination,” according to the Government of Canada’s website. “Oral analgesics or antipyretics may be considered for the management of adverse events (e.g., pain or fever, respectively), if they occur after vaccination.”

The side-effects of vaccination such as a sore arm at the site of injection or wider effects like headache, fatigue, fever, muscle and joint soreness, while uncomfortable, are generally mild.

Bright side of mild vaccine side-effects

“All those side-effects are like a bell ringer telling you that your body is ramping up immune response,” Evans said. “It’s what you want. It’s sometimes disappointing if you didn’t get that response.”

If you do spike a fever after receiving the COVID-19 vaccination, Evans said the best advice is to stay home and ride it out.

If the temperature reaches 39.4 C or 103 F, redness or tenderness in the arm increases after a day or if side-effects don’t go away after a few days, the CDC says call your doctor.

WATCH | How Canada’s other vaccine candidates for COVID-19 stack up:

Canada has other vaccines in line for approval — how they compare to the ones already being rolled out and how COVID-19 variants are a complicating factor. 2:03

Likewise, if you’re regularly taking anti-inflammatory or pain and fever-relieving medications for a chronic condition, Evans suggests contacting your doctor about what to do about taking the medications around the time of COVID-19 vaccinations.

The CDC suggests holding a cool, wet washcloth over the area of the shot and exercising that arm. For fever, drink lots of fluids and dress lightly.

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Canada might face the Dream Team at the Tokyo Olympics

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Canada could face the Dream Team in Tokyo

The draws for the Olympic basketball tournaments took place today and the NBA-star-studded U.S. men’s team landed in a group with France, Iran and the winner of this summer’s last-chance qualifier in Victoria. That’s the one Canada is in. So winning the event will not only clinch the Canadian men’s squad its first Olympic berth in more than two decades, but also its first-ever Olympic showdown with America’s best players.

The NBA started participating in the Olympics in 1992 in Barcelona, where Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Charles Barkley headlined the original (and still greatest) Dream Team. But the Canadian men’s squad has reached the Olympics only once since then — in 2000 in Sydney. Future NBA MVP Steve Nash led Canada to a first-place finish in a group that did not include the U.S., and they didn’t cross paths in the knockout round either. Canada fell in the quarter-finals to France, which went on to lose to the Americans in the gold-medal game. Vince Carter (at the peak of his powers that summer — just ask Frederic Weis) co-led the U.S. with 13 points in the final.

In order to earn a date with the Americans — which would happen on July 31 — Canada must first get out of Victoria. The June 29-July 4 qualifier has six teams in it, and only the winner gets to go to Tokyo. One of the countries Canada has to beat is Greece, which could be led by two-time reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo — if his Milwaukee Bucks are eliminated from the playoffs in time.

And, of course, all this comes with the caveat that some NBA stars (not to mention the teams that pay them millions of dollars a year) might not be too keen on the idea of travelling to Japan after a long, compressed season… during a global pandemic. So this could be the softest Dream Team in quite some time, though other countries could lose NBA players too.

The Olympic women’s draw was also held today. Canada, which has already qualified for the third straight time, avoided the mighty U.S., which is heavily favoured to win its seventh straight gold. But the fourth-ranked Canadians still drew a tough-looking group that also includes No. 3 Spain, No. 8 Serbia and No. 19 South Korea.

Both the women’s and men’s tournament are made up of three groups of four teams. The top two from each group advance to the knockout stage, plus the two best third-place teams. Canada hasn’t won an Olympic basketball medal since the Hitler-hosted 1936 Games in Berlin, where a men’s tournament (and only a men’s tournament) was played on an outdoor dirt court.

Read more about the draws for Tokyo here, and read about the “virtual” training camp the Canadian women’s team is holding this week here.

Jevohn Shepherd talks with some of the biggest names in Canadian basketball about how the culture of the sport has changed over the past two decades, and if this is only the beginning of developing NBA stars. 7:18

Bianca Andreescu delayed her comeback again

She was supposed to play her first match in 15 months at the Grampians Trophy — one of the Australian Open warmup events happening in Melbourne. Andreescu was seeded No. 1, which entitled her to a first-round bye. After that, she was scheduled to meet the winner of a match between former U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens and Canadian teenager Leylah Annie Fernandez. But Andreescu pulled out last night, saying in a statement that she and her “team” have “decided to focus this week on training for the Australian Open,” which starts Monday.

It’s a curious move, considering Andreescu has said she’s fully recovered from the knee and foot injuries that have contributed to her being sidelined since October 2019. She indicated in an interview a few months ago that it was more than just physical issues that kept her off the court, saying “the virus kind of pushed me back, and some little personal things here and there.” But she described herself at the time as “perfectly healthy” and said she’d “100 per cent” be at the Australian Open.

The trip has been a tough one, though. Andreescu was among the 72 players forced to endure a two-week, solitary quarantine in their hotel rooms after arriving on one of three contaminated charter flights. Andreescu’s coach, Sylvain Bruneau, tested positive for COVID-19 upon arriving in Melbourne on one of those planes. He said the rest of his “team” tested negative, and there has been no indication that Andreescu tested positive. Read more about her withdrawal from the Aussie Open tuneup here.

Quickly…

The baseball season will be normal. That’s a relative term these days, but the players’ association rejected the owners’ interesting proposal for a modified season that would see spring training pushed back from Feb. 17 to March 22, opening day from April 1 to April 28, and each team’s schedule cut from 162 games to 154. The offer also included expanding the playoffs from 10 teams to 14, extending the DH to the National League and putting a runner on second base to start extra innings, which was first tried last year. Plus, this fun wrinkle: the higher-seeded teams involved in the first round of the playoffs would get to pick their opponents — and the choices would be announced on a television show. But, in classic baseball fashion, the offer was swiftly rejected. So we’re back to the old 162-game season, starting around the usual time. Read more about the rebuffed proposal here.

The National Women’s Hockey League lost another team. Last week, the Metropolitan Riveters dropped out of the NWHL hub in Lake Placid, N.Y., after several team members tested positive for the coronavirus. Now the Connecticut Whale have bailed for reasons unstated, leaving only four teams. They all advance to Thursday’s semifinals, which pit the top-seeded Toronto Six vs. the Buffalo Beauts, and the Boston Bride vs. the Minnesota Whitecaps. The winners of those games play for the Isobel Cup on Friday.

And finally…

A defenceman who almost never scores beat one of the NHL’s best goalies — from the far blue-line. Calgary’s Chris Tanev racked up exactly two goals in each of the past four seasons. Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck won the Vezina Trophy last year. So, naturally, Tanev put one past him from about 115 feet away last night:


Watch a better video of the blooper and read more about the game here.

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Why you might want to start wearing better masks — even outdoors

The spread of more contagious coronavirus variants in Canada amid already high levels of COVID-19 makes it a critical time to think about the masks we wear. 

Whether that means finding better quality masks, doubling up on masks, or wearing them in settings we wouldn’t normally think to, experts say it’s time we step up our game.

The variants first identified in South Africa and the U.K are spreading in Canada, in some cases with no known link to travel, and have already led to devastating outbreaks in long-term care homes. 

The variant discovered in the U.K., known as B117, is estimated to be at least 56 per cent more transmissible and potentially more deadly than the original coronavirus strain.

But even as COVID-19 case numbers show early signs of slowing down in Canada, experts say it’s becoming more important than ever to lower our risk of exposure as much as possible to prevent variants from taking hold here. 

“The floodwaters are receding right now, but it’s still very, very dangerous,” said Erin Bromage, a biology professor and immunologist at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth who studies infectious diseases.

“If [B117] does pop up as the dominant variant here, we are going to need to really up our game in regards to masks, in regards to … how many contacts we have in a day, because it definitely appears to have an upper hand.” 

‘Time to step it up’ with masks

Canada currently recommends the use of three-layer non-medical masks with a filter layer to prevent the spread of the virus, but has not updated its recommendations since November, before the emergence of new variants. 

Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious diseases physician at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, said that while three-layer non-medical masks are a good “minimum standard,” Canadians should opt for masks that offer better protection whenever possible.

Those include N95KN95KF94 of surgical masks masks, which come in three different filtration levels determined by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).

WATCH: How does a three-layer mask protect you from COVID-19?

Doctors answer viewer questions about COVID-19 including why three-layer masks are now being recommended to protect against the virus. 5:22

“When I go to the grocery store now, I wear my very best mask,” said Linsey Marr, one of the top aerosol scientists in the world and an expert on the airborne transmission of viruses at Virginia Tech. “Before I was wearing an OK mask that was comfortable and easy.”

She said a cloth mask can “easily filter out half of particles, maybe more, but we’re at the point where we need better performance.” 

Bromage said he changed his approach to masks several months ago when COVID-19 cases started to spike in many parts of North America. That’s when he ditched common cloth masks for surgical masks, he said.

Bromage said Level 3 ASTM surgical masks, those that are used at dental clinics, for example, offer both a better level of protection and a better quality fit.

“The most important part is you’ve got to make sure your breath actually goes through the material,” he said.

“You really should see the mask expand and then collapse and expand and collapse with each breath that you take. That’s a good indication that what you’re breathing is actually going through the material.” 

Double-masking and other tips

Bromage said a tight-fitting mask is more important than ever due to the emergence of variants, which is why it’s becoming more common to see people wearing two masks at the same time.

“It’s not that double-masking provides extra protection if the mask was fitting well,” he said. “Double-masking helps the mask that is closest to your skin fit more snugly, meaning more air goes through that mask.”

If you’re already wearing a high-quality mask that fits well, with air going through the material rather than out the sides, Bromage said there’s really no extra benefit in throwing an extra mask on top.  


U.S. President Joe Biden seen wearing two masks in this file photo as he arrives in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Oct. 13, 2020. Immunologist Erin Bromage says a tight-fitting mask is more important than ever due to the emergence of variants, which is why it’s becoming more common to see people ‘double-masking.’ (AFP via Getty Images)

He recommends looking at yourself in the mirror before you go out to make sure your mask isn’t too loose fitting, which could put you at heightened risk of exposure in situations such as in-store shopping. 

“I really want people to look at them and think, is all the air going through the material? And if it’s not, work out a way to do that,” he said. “And that may be putting a second mask on or finding a different mask that fits their face.” 

Outdoors not without risk

Coronavirus variants can also change the level of risk we face in situations that are typically more safe, such as being outdoors. 

Places such as San Francisco and New Brunswick have mandated outdoor mask use, and Toronto recently announced it now require face masks for outdoor activities such as skating.

“The risk is much lower outdoors than indoors, but with the new variants, we should be more careful outdoors as well as indoors,” said Marr.

“The times we need to be paying attention to it is if there are a lot of people around at a sporting event, or in a crowded park, or if you’re out walking or running and you’re passing by several people per minute, because all those little exposures can add up over time.”


Coronavirus variants can also change the level of risk we face in situations that are typically more safe, such as being outdoors. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Bromage said he gets concerned when he sees a group of people huddling together outdoors without moving around.

“The closer you are outdoors, the much more risky it is,” he said. 

While not common, there have been cases of outdoor transmission of COVID-19 in Canada.  

An outdoor 40-person barbecue at a park in Ottawa last summer led to 105 people being exposed and two testing positive, while a “heated conversation” in B.C. caused an infection. 

B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry told CBC News there have been several outdoor transmission events between spectators “clustering and talking with each other” during soccer games, and during wedding receptions where groups of people crowded together under tents.

“Again it comes down to being in close contact, without a mask, talking loudly or sharing food and drinks that makes it risky even outside,” Henry said.  

She said B.C. has not seen transmission from brief outdoor encounters, waiting in line outside or at outdoor picnics where people maintain a reasonable distance and wear masks when close for short periods of time.

Chagla said standing six-feet apart while wearing masks is a responsible way to interact with others outdoors.

“There are ways to do things outdoors safely, even in the context of the variant,” said Chagla. “You don’t want outside to be a free pass, but you also want to use it for what it is, to let people see each other and have contact with humanity, too.” 


Places such as San Francisco and New Brunswick have mandated outdoor mask use and Toronto and Ottawa recently announced they require face masks for outdoor activities such as skating. (Andrew Lee/CBC)

Bromage said that while the risk of exposure outdoors is less than indoors, the risk of both is higher due to the emergence of coronavirus variants.

“It’s really time that people think about upping their game just in general,” he said.

“Because if we are going to get a new wave from this variant, and it’s already going to build off a very high level of infection that we already have, we need to do better to keep it out of our lives.”

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CBC | Health News

Paleontologists Might Have Discovered the Largest Dinosaur That Ever Lived

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The largest land animal alive today is the African bush elephant, weighing in at around 20,000 pounds. As big as elephants are, they’ve got nothing on some extinct megafauna. Scientists excavating a new species of dinosaur in Argentina have reported that the specimen might be the largest that ever lived. Even if it doesn’t set a record, the animal was much bigger than anything alive today. 

Only part of the animal has been exhumed from its stone coffin, but paleontologists know it’s from the sauropod family. These creatures, like Brachiosaurus and Apatosaurus, had long tails and necks along with four thick, pillar-like legs. This body design allowed some species to grow to unfathomable proportions — the current dino record-holder is a sauropod called Patagotitan mayorum. This animal was about six times more massive than a modern African elephant, and the new find looks to be even larger. 

The new dinosaur, which is being excavated not far from where scientists discovered Patagotitan mayorum, is still mostly buried in rock. So, it doesn’t have a name, and the team hasn’t ventured a guess as to how large the animal was in life. However, some human-sized bones are 10 to 20 percent larger than the same bones in Patagotitan mayorum. The location makes sense, too. Patagotitan mayorum is also from this region of Argentina, which has gained a reputation for being home to several species of enormous, record-breaking sauropods. 

A Patagotitan mayorum reconstruction on display at the Field Museum, Chicago. Credit: Ryan Whitwam

Researchers first spotted the remains of this animal in 2012. A team didn’t make it to the site for excavations until 2015, but the animal had been lying there for 98 million years. A few more seasons wasn’t going to matter. Currently, the team has uncovered the tail, a few pelvic bones, and some vertebrae. From these, paleontologists know they’re looking at a very large dinosaur, possibly even the largest. 

It’s rare for an entire animal to fossilize — in fact, many species of dinosaurs are only known from a few sets of incomplete skeletal remains. This specimen appears to be mostly intact, but the bulk of it is still buried in rock. The team expects to spend several more years carefully removing rock from around the fossils. Hopefully, the remains include intact femurs or humorous bones. From these, researchers will be able to make an accurate estimate of the animal’s size. When that happens, this unnamed creature might take the crown as the largest known dinosaur.

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