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Engineer Builds Visualizations With Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Data

Ruben Usamentiaga Fernandez updates his site daily with data from the Johns Hopkins dashboard

2 min read
Photograph of Ruben Usamentiaga Fernandez studies the website he has created to track COVID-19 related deaths around the world.
Photo: Silvia Ruiz

Photograph of Ruben Usamentiaga Fernandez studies the website he has created to track COVID-19 related deaths around the world.Ruben Usamentiaga Fernandez studies the website he has created to visualize COVID-19 tracking data from JHU CSSE.Photo: Silvia Ruiz

THE INSTITUTE Ruben Usamentiaga Fernandez has created a website  that takes data from the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering (JHU CSSE) and presents it in the form of interactive graphs. The IEEE senior member, who lives in Gijón, Spain, updates the website daily.

The Institute asked Usamentiaga Fernandez about his project.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

What problem are you trying to solve?

Information is key to understanding the complex situation of the pandemic, and we need to lay the foundation for accurate decision-making. The problem I am trying to solve is presenting the most relevant information about the evolution of the disease through interactive graphs. The goal is to create scientifically accurate plots about the evolution of the COVID-19 according to the data provided daily by the JHU CSSE.

What technologies are you using?

A Web application parses the data and creates plots using the available information about COVID-19 related deaths. Technologies used include the programming tools C#, ASP.NET CORE, and JavaScript.

Explain how your projects works.

Data is downloaded from the JHU CSSE and processed daily. When the system is processing the data and creating the graph, other information—such as country population and density—is considered. Axes on the graph are adjusted to provide the clearest visualization possible with the origin being the day the virus spreads through the country.

What challenges have you faced, and how did you overcome them?

The data presented cannot be completely accurate because there are clear indications that some countries are reporting false information. This can be seen in the plots, as most countries follow the same evolution but there are some outliers, such as China. For example, data analysis shows how China’s death figures are not consistent with other countries.

What is the potential impact of the technology?

Better visualization, interpretation, and improved decision-making, which are important to any citizen, not just policy makers.

How close are you to the final product? 

The application has already been deployed on GitHub.

How can other IEEE members get involved?

The source code is available to IEEE members for free. Contributions are welcome. 

Attention IEEE members: are you part of a team responding to the COVID-19 crisis? We want to hear from you! Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, if you are helping deal with the outbreak in some way, let us know. Send us accounts of anywhere from 200 to 800 words, or simply give us a rough idea of what you are doing and your contact information. Write to: k.pretz@ieee.org

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Economics Drives Ray-Gun Resurgence

Laser weapons, cheaper by the shot, should work well against drones and cruise missiles

4 min read
In an artist’s rendering, a truck is shown with five sets of wheels—two sets for the cab, the rest for the trailer—and a box on the top of the trailer, from which a red ray is projected on an angle, upward, ending in the silhouette of an airplane, which is being destroyed

Lockheed Martin's laser packs up to 300 kilowatts—enough to fry a drone or a plane.

Lockheed Martin

The technical challenge of missile defense has been compared with that of hitting a bullet with a bullet. Then there is the still tougher economic challenge of using an expensive interceptor to kill a cheaper target—like hitting a lead bullet with a golden one.

Maybe trouble and money could be saved by shooting down such targets with a laser. Once the system was designed, built, and paid for, the cost per shot would be low. Such considerations led planners at the Pentagon to seek a solution from Lockheed Martin, which has just delivered a 300-kilowatt laser to the U.S. Army. The new weapon combines the output of a large bundle of fiber lasers of varying frequencies to form a single beam of white light. This laser has been undergoing tests in the lab, and it should see its first field trials sometime in 2023. General Atomics, a military contractor in San Diego, is also developing a laser of this power for the Army based on what’s known as the distributed-gain design, which has a single aperture.

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