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Current Events & History

Squid Game Dominates Global TV Scene per Wikipedia Trends

The new Korean TV series Squid Game has taken the world by storm and become a global breakout phenomenon. Netflix, its distributor, announced, “Squid Game has officially reached 111 million fans—making it our biggest series launch ever!” It’s topped the charts in 90 different countries, including the United States, and has been called “a word-of-mouth global sensation” that’s flooded the news and social media.
Current Events & History

Newick Trees, Proximity Resources and Accessions Analyzing SARS-CoV-2 Genetic Sequences

While working with SARS-CoV-2 genetic data in the Wolfram Data Repository, we noticed that there was frequently only a relative handful of differences compared with the overall size of the sequences. This allowed us a number of interesting opportunities for further processing.
Current Events & History

John Snow & the Birth of Epidemiology Data Analysis & Visualization

In 1854, there was a major cholera outbreak in Soho, a neighborhood in London that Judith Summers described as full of “cow-sheds, animal droppings, slaughterhouses, grease-boiling dens and primitive, decaying sewers.” At the time, the cause of the outbreak was unknown because germ theory was still being developed and disease transmission was not well understood. Miasma theory was the dominant hypothesis, and it proposed that diseases, including cholera and the plague, were spread by foul gasses emitted from decomposing organic matter.
Current Events & History

The Solution of the Zodiac Killer’s 340-Character Cipher

In 2020, Melbourne, Australia, had a 112-day lockdown of the entire city to help stop the spread of COVID-19. The wearing of masks was mandatory and we were limited to one hour a day of outside activity. Otherwise, we were stuck in our homes. This gave me lots of time to look into interesting problems I’d been putting off for years.

I was inspired by a YouTube video by David Oranchak, which looked at the Zodiac Killer’s 340-character cipher (Z340), which is pictured below. This cipher is considered one of the holy grails of cryptography, as at the time the cipher had resisted attacks for 50 years, so any attempts to find a solution were truly a moonshot.

Current Events & History

Florida Spring Break 2021: February COVID-19 Data Forecasts the March of the Variants

It is widely believed that students and others spending their 2020 spring break in Florida helped spread COVID-19 far and wide, in the US and elsewhere (see also this study). The picture in 2021 is quite different in several ways. For one, the disease has been in the US for over a year, and an approximated 30% of the population has antibodies from prior exposure. Also, several vaccines are now in use, and close to 20% have received at least one inoculation at the time of this writing. (Since those two groups overlap, the total is believed to be in the ballpark of 45% of the total population.) We now know that children under the age of 16 do not get the disease in large numbers and are not a major vector for its spread. Social distancing practices are in use to varying degrees, and infection numbers are currently falling across the country. This is believed to be due to a combination of increased immunity and non-pharmacological interventions (NPIs) such as social distancing and mask use.