September 22, 2020

Japanese supercomputer suggests face shields ineffective at preventing coronavirus

Japanese supercomputer suggests face shields ineffective at preventing coronavirus

Fugaku, the world’s fastest supercomputer, has been used by scientists in Japan to ascertain the effectiveness of plastic visors, like those used in the service industries, in preventing the spread of coronavirus.

The simulation, conducted by Fugaku at government-backed research institute Riken, combined air flow with the reproduction of tens of thousands of droplets of different sizes. It found that almost 100% of airborne droplets smaller than 5 micrometers (one micrometer is one millionth of a meter) escaped. About half of larger droplets measuring 50 micrometers also escaped into the air. 

Commenting on the results, Makoto Tsubokura, team leader at Riken’s centre for computational science, cautioned against wearing face visors as an alternative to masks.

Tsubokura suggests that people who are advised not to wear masks could wear face shields instead, but only outdoors or in properly ventilated indoor settings.

British scientists have also criticized the UK government this week for placing insufficient emphasis on aerosol transmission and ventilation in the fight against the pandemic.

In other recent simulations Fugaku found that face masks made from non-woven fabric are more effective at blocking the spread of Covid-19 via airborne droplets than those made of cotton and polyester. Fugaku has also been used to model the spread of respiratory droplets in partitioned office spaces and on busy trains when carriage windows are open.

Experts are hoping the supercomputer could be used to help identify treatments for Covid-19.

Writing about how workers can benefit from the rise of robots, Richard B. Freeman says: “There is only one solution to the long-term challenge posed by machines substituting for human skills and reducing demand for skilled labor. That is for you, me, all of us to have a substantial ownership stake in the robot machines that will compete with us for our jobs and be the vehicle for capital’s share of production. We must earn a substantial part of our incomes from capital ownership rather than from working. Unless workers earn income from capital as well as from labor, the trend toward a more unequal income distribution is likely to continue, and the world will increasingly turn into a new form of economic feudalism. We have to widen the ownership of business capital if we hope to prevent such a polarization of our economies.”

Read more from IZA World of Labor on the Covid-19 pandemic and also on the subject of digital transformation, big data, and the future of work