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In the last decade, only one flu shot has reached the 60 percent efficacy mark. Three others have gotten over 50 percent. The lowest: 19.

So when the Centers for Disease Control says this year’s flu vaccine is 36 percent effective, that’s not terrible news. Especially when, prior to this estimate, the CDC thought it might only be 10 percent, which is how effective this same vaccine was in Australia. It’s actually great news. In a season as severe as this one, any outcome that’s better than expected is cause for celebration.

And that’s not even the best part.

Data from CDC Infographic by Sara Chodosh

Though the vaccine is, yes, “only” 36 percent effective overall, it works far better for certain flu strains. The efficacy for H3N2—25 percent—brings down the average. We know that H3N2 is particularly hard to develop a good innoculation for, because it tends to accumulate mutations as it grows in eggs, which is how we make most flu vaccines. Those acquired mutations mean that the virus you end up with isn’t the same virus you started with, or the same virus that’s circulating. But we’re better at designing vaccines for other strains, like H1N1 and B viruses. This year’s efficacy for the B strain is 42 percent, and goes up to 67 percent for H1N1.

That’s even more crucial right now, because the CDC is starting to see a shift in which strains are circulating among Americans. Thus far, H3N2 has been the predominant virus type, which is why we’ve seen so many hospitalizations. H3N2 seems to be more dangerous in general, particularly for folks in the Baby Boomer generation (more on that here), and it’s tricky for vaccine manufacturers. So seasons where that strain dominates tend to be more severe. But now, the CDC says, the proportion of people with H1N1 and B viruses is starting to increase.

This is exactly why the CDC continues to recommend getting your flu shot. In the most recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Alicia Budd, an epidemiologist in the CDC’s Influenza Division, and colleagues wrote there are “several more weeks of elevated influenza activity expected,” and that given the shift in viral strains, we have “the potential to prevent significant illness through influenza vaccination.”

Even if the shot doesn’t stop you from getting the flu in the first place, it can—and does—help keep you out of the hospital. Even a vaccine that doesn’t keep you from contracting the virus it contains will still help your body fight it off, which means you’re less likely to suffer potentially deadly symptoms.

Data from CDC Infographic by Sara Chodosh

The flu had killed 63 children as of the CDC’s last report, and nearly half of them were otherwise healthy. Only a quarter of the children old enough to receive vaccinations had actually gotten a flu shot. Budd and colleagues at the CDC noted that in analyses of similarly severe seasons with the same rate of pediatric vaccination, the flu shot provided a 65 percent reduction in the risk of death.

There will, unfortunately, be many more deaths before the flu season is over. If you haven’t already gotten a flu shot, the CDC recommends you get one right now. If you have been vaccinated, they suggest you wash your hands regularly and, most importantly, stay home from work if you think you might have the flu. Millions of people don’t have this luxury, because the U.S. remains the only developed nation without mandatory paid sick leave. But those who do shouldn’t try to be the hero who comes into the office sick. In the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, which we’re about on-par with now in terms of severity, an estimated 1,500 people died because they caught the flu from someone who should have stayed home.

So no, 36 percent efficacy is nothing to sneeze at. And now that we know that the vaccine is 67 percent effective against the very strain that looks to be taking over the U.S., there’s absolutely no reason not to get the shot. Some pharmacies are running low on stock, but there’s no nationwide shortage. And there’s still time. Go now.

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Genius Is One Percent Innovation

Genius Is One Percent Innovation BU classroom stars share teaching strategies today

Video games are great teachers, a presenter will tell attendees at today’s Instructional Innovation Conference. Photo by Steve Ryan

“More and more commonly, students irritate their instructors by playing video games on their laptops instead of paying attention in class. Who wants to listen to a boring lecture when a more entertaining experience awaits?”

Candid words in a paper by postgraduate Nicholas Carlo DiDonato (GRS’16), who proposes that professors counter with a time-tested strategy: if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. “While class will never be as entertaining as a video game,” DiDonato says, “instructors can still learn important pedagogical lessons from video games.” As a teaching assistant at a New Jersey prep school, he tried to copy video games’ mesmerizing power in his classroom instruction by adopting the mindset of the gizmos’ designers and fans—and he suggests BU professors do the same.

His is one of almost three dozen presentations at the third annual Instructional Innovation Conference, being held today at the Metcalf Trustee Center. Run by the Center for Excellence and Innovation in Teaching, the conference showcases strategies for impassioning students about learning. This year’s features presentations from professors and teaching assistants across the University.

The conference drew 141 attendees the first year and 94 last year. “Anecdotally, people have told me that they have gotten many ideas from the conference that have sparked new thinking about their own courses,” says center director Janelle Heineke, a School of Management professor. “It’s intended to be an opportunity to share with colleagues.”

So how do you make a classroom as absorbing as a video game? DiDonato offers three suggestions: first, by requiring students’ classroom presentations to build on previous ones by their peers, and by using the content of those presentations in exam questions. Students thereby have an active part in scripting the class, just as video games allow them to script add-on features to games.

Second, professors can reward class participation, just as video technology rewards repeated game-play by making successful players more powerful in each round. A professor can gradually expand students’ choice of assignments as the semester progresses, ultimately lessening the assignment load at the end for students who successfully complete initial assignments. Finally, video games addict players partly by offering various choices and outcomes, coaxing people to play again and again. DiDonato suggests that professors can do the same by supplementing mandatory readings with a weekly menu of choices that students could sample, in any way, throughout the semester.

The students evaluate their choices in light of potential curve balls (a sudden illness preventing a parent from working, for example). A class-wide debriefing plumbs the challenges and frustrations each team encounters. As with DiDonato’s approach, the students are given choices—“the exercise is flexible and there is no right answer,” Feinberg and Donahue write in their conference paper. “Students are required to think critically as they make decisions that make sense for their family.”

Amelie Rorty’s presentation will highlight the benefits of working in teams. The College of Art & Sciences visiting professor of philosophy will explain an experiment she undertook in her Theories of Political Society course. Students were divided into four teams, and Rorty deliberately assigned all the women to the same team, instructing each team to write a paper on one of the philosophers studied in the class. (Part of the goal was finding any gender difference in how men and women perceived collaboration.)She exhorted the students to write the paper together, rather than have team members pen individual sections and cobble them together.

Rorty graded the papers blindly, without checking which team wrote a paper, she says. Later, she found that she’d given an A, the highest grade among the groups, to the female team, which had met frequently and collaborated in the writing. The lowest grade, a B minus, went to the team that disregarded her suggestion and farmed out each section of its paper to individual writers. Regardless of their grade, the students said they enjoyed the experiment, she says, learning that “the process of active collaboration deepened their thinking and improved their writing.” She plans to repeat the experiment in all her courses.

She cheerfully concedes the subjectivity involved in the experiment; another professor might have graded differently—and “isn’t that what we might expect?”

Rich Barlow can be reached at [email protected].

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Nyc Is Sinking And Climate Change Is Only Making It Worse

The catastrophic flooding from 2012’s Hurricane Sandy inundated parts of the New York City subway system with corrosive salt water and brought with it a warning for the future. Now, scientists have learned that the city is sinking, and it’s not just the underground trains that are in trouble.

[Related: New York City’s subway system isn’t ready for a storm-filled future.]

A study published earlier this month in the Earth’s Future journal found that New York City is sinking at a rate of roughly one to two millimeters per year, but certain parts of northern Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, and lower Manhattan are actually sinking faster at 2.75mm per year. 

There is not one cause for this sinking, but the weight from giant skyscrapers is magnifying the problem. In the study, the team calculated that all of the city’s structures weigh 842 million tons (1.68 trillion pounds), about the weight of 140 million elephants.   

Many of the city’s largest buildings sit upon solid bedrock called Manhattan schist, but there is a mixture of sand and other clays holding up some of the other structures. For example, the Manhattan stanchion of the famed Brooklyn Bridge is built on a hard layer of sand, since it was too dangerous for the workers building it to keep drilling down to bedrock. 

“The softer the soil, the more compression there is from the buildings. It wasn’t a mistake to build such large buildings in New York but we’ve just got to keep in mind every time you build something there you push down the ground a little bit more,” study co-author and a geophysicist at the US Geological Survey Tom Parsons told The Guardian. 

The clay and sand is adding to the sinking effect that might be due to the way that the Earth below continues to shift following the Earth’s most recent ice age–about 10,000 years ago. Giant ice sheets covered Earth during the coldest parts of the planet’s last ice age, which caused the ground right underneath them to sink. The landmasses tilted up and after the ice sheets melted, the areas that were propped up like New York and other cities in eastern North America are now sinking back down. Earlier studies suggest the East Coast could see as much as 19 to 59 inches of sinking by 2100. 

Climate change is compounding the issue, as the sea level rise continues to accelerate. The waters surrounding New York City are rising at about twice the global average due the glaciers melting from the effects of climate change and seawater expanding. Since 1950, the sea level around New York City has increased about nine inches. According to the NYC Panel on Climate Change, the sea level could rise between eight inches and 30 inches by the 2050s and as much as 15 inches to 75 inches by the end of this century.

“A deeply concentrated population of 8.4 million people faces varying degrees of hazard from inundation in New York City,” the team wrote in the study.

[Related: At New York City’s biggest power plant, a switch to clean energy will help a neighborhood breathe easier.]

New York is not the only city that will be facing this crisis. A report from the C40 Group, a network of mayors from some of the world’s biggest cities dedicated to confronting the effects of climate change, found that 800 million people are expected to live in coastal cities where sea levels are expected to rise by over a foot by 2050.

The study’s authors also stress the need to adapt to these threats of increased flooding. “Every additional high-rise building constructed at coastal, river, or lakefront settings could contribute to future flood risk,” the authors wrote. 

In the fall of 2023, New York City began construction on the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project which is aimed at reducing the flood risk and sea level rise along Manhattan’s east side. According to the city government, the boundaries of this project correspond with the natural “pinch-points” in the 100-year floodplain. These are areas where the land is higher along the coastline, making it easier to close the system off from water entering from the north and south. The project is expected to be complete in 2026 and will eventually span 2.4 miles and include 18 movable floodgates. 

Mixing Boosters, Tuberculosis Rising, And Other Covid News You Missed This Week

The COVID-19 news cycle continues to turn, and with the holiday and flu seasons on the horizon it’s only getting more complicated. While some news recently has been promising, like booster shots and vaccinations for kids, this COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause concern as unvaccinated individuals are left unprotected and side effects of the pandemic continue to unveil themselves. Here are some of the key headlines from this week that you may have missed.

Receiving a Pfizer or Moderna booster shot might be better than a Johnson & Johnson booster shot 

A new “mix and match” study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health showed that a second dose of either Pfizer or Moderna showed a stronger immune system response for those who had the J&J shot first than a J&J second dose. The study only included around 500 people, a much smaller size than initial vaccine trials, but in all possible combinations of the vaccines, those who got J&J for both the initial shot and the booster had the lowest immune response. Those who got the J&J first would be better off getting either Pfizer or Moderna as a booster—the combination boosts the J&J dose to be on par with the two-shot mRNA vaccines.

White House pushes for more action on global vaccination

Under pressure from the public to do more for vaccination worldwide, the Biden administration is pushing Moderna to provide more vaccination doses for global populations. Pfizer has already coordinated with the US government to donate 500 million doses worldwide, and Johnson & Johnson may also be asked to offer doses in the future if their production capacity increases. While the administration has not taken any direct action yet (they have some authority to compel manufacturers during times of crisis under the Defense Production Act), a Biden administration official has urged Moderna to step forward at this time to aid in the vaccination effort outside the US.  

Tuberculosis deaths rise as side effect of the pandemic

For the first time in more than a decade, the number of global deaths due to tuberculosis has risen as resources diverted to the COVID-19 pandemic, limiting the number of tests and treatment available. Roughly 1.5 million people died of the disease last year, up from 1.4 million in 2023. Far fewer individuals were also diagnosed with tuberculosis in the first place in 2023, and the World Health Organization expects that many more individuals have actually been infected but have not been diagnosed. 

Experts warn about a possible flu outbreak amidst COVID-19 pandemic 

The combination of distancing, masking, and other COVID-19 guidelines was effective at stopping the spread of the flu last winter, but even countries that did little to protect against the pandemic saw flu decreases. There were only around 2,000 cases reported in the US as opposed to the roughly 200,000 that occur on average. Experts think that the efforts of countries that did put in place COVID-19 guidelines may have affected the global spread of the disease. Because the season was so mild, they warn that it may be more aggressive this year (though one happy side effect is that at least one flu strain seems to have died out altogether). Last year, experts warned against a rough flu season as well, but the precautions that mitigated the season may not be practiced as commonly this year as vaccinations continue and individuals feel less inclined to stay home. 

Vaccine hesitancy causing hospitalization increase in pregnant individuals

Pregnant people continue to be one of the largest vaccine-hesitant groups in the country, despite the increased risk that contracting COVID-19 poses to them. According to CDC data, only a third of pregnant individuals aged 18 to 49 are vaccinated. The hesitancy likely comes from initial CDC guidelines that did not recommend the vaccine to pregnant individuals, as they were not initially included in studies, though it was widely considered safe (and though the risks of getting COVID while pregnant vastly outweigh the risks from the vaccine). The CDC formally recommended the vaccine to all those who are pregnant in August. More than 22,000 pregnant individuals have been hospitalized nationwide due to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. 

The Cat And Mouse Game Between Apple And Jailbreakers Is Only Just Beginning

Following the news that famed jailbreak hacker Comex was hired by Apple, many in the community called it the “beginning of the end” for jailbreakers. Apple is proving to be smarter than everyone thought. If you can’t beat ’em, hire ’em, right?

With iOS 5 set for a public release this Fall, the cat and mouse game between Apple and jailbreakers is not over. It’s only just beginning…

Apple has hired two notable jailbreak developers recently. First there was Peter Hajas, creator of an innovative iOS notifications replacement called MobileNotifier. While Hajas was not associated with exploiting actual jailbreaks, he was a prominent member of the jailbreak community.

As of a couple days ago, we broke the news that Nicholas Allegra (Comex) had been hired by Apple. Unlike Hajas, Comex was perhaps one of the most key jailbreak hackers currently active in the community. He is most famous for his web-based jailbreak called JailbreakMe. Comex was recently profiled by Forbes, and his work on JailbreakMe was compared to “that of Stuxnet, a worm thought to have been designed by the Israeli or U.S. government to infect Iran’s nuclear facilities.”

Seen as one of the greatest minds in the jailbreak community, Comex’s employment at Apple is definitely a huge blow to jailbreakers everywhere — but it is by no means the beginning of the end for jailbreaking.

The two main groups for iOS hacking are the Dev Team and the Chronic-Dev Team. While the Dev Team is responsible for jailbreak tools like RedSn0w and PwnageTool, the Chronic-Dev Team is known for tools like GreenPois0n. The Chronic-Dev Team has taken a backseat to releasing new jailbreaks since iOS 4.2.1. However, both the Dev Team and Chronic-Dev Team are ready to continue exploiting iOS in the future.

Joshua Hill, better known as P0sixninja, is a prominent hacker and leader of the Chronic-Dev Team. He recently assured everyone on Twitter that the Chronic-Dev Team is not only here to stay, but also adding more talented hackers to its roster.

Yes, losing Comex is an awful loss for the jailbreak community. Is it the straw that broke the camel’s back? Absolutely not.

If you look at the Chronic-Dev Team’s website, 9 astute hackers are officially listed as being apart of the team. The Dev Team currently has 10 official members. There are also independent hackers like iH8Sn0w. (The teenage dev is responsible for a widely used jailbreak tool on Windows called Sn0wbreeze.) There are also plenty of unnamed contributors that help to make jailbreaks possible.

The extensive list of new features in iOS 5 indicate that Apple’s innovation takes a huge cue from the jailbreak community. Many of the new features in iOS 5 have been available to jailbreakers already, and Apple has been known to add features and innovations from jailbreak devs in the past.

Examples of continued jailbreak innovation in iOS 5 include the robust list of third party Notification Center widgets that have already been developed and showcased by jailbreakers on the iOS 5 beta. Apple has yet to open up access for developing third party iOS 5 widgets, and, like usual, jailbreakers have paved the path for others to follow.

iOS 5 is by no means the end of jailbreaking. Jay ‘Saurik’ Freeman has no plans to discontinue the development of Cydia. Hackers and developers are expressing more interest in jailbreaking, and the Dev and Chronic-Dev teams are committed to uncovering exploits in iOS.

When Steve Jobs stepped down as CEO of Apple, the Dev Team bid Steve farewell with a nostalgic message:

“The coolest cat. We loved the chase! Good luck, Steve. Signed, Jailbreakers and tinkerers everywhere.”

With Steve gone, the cat and mouse game definitely won’t be the same. But rest assured that it will continue.

Review: The Logitech Circle View Doorbell Features Great Hardware Only Limited By Homekit

When I started looking at smart video doorbells for my new home, one specific feature I was looking for was HomeKit support, but as it turned out at the time (merely 3 months ago), there was none. So like everybody else, I settled for a Ring doorbell, which has worked reliably for me. Installation was simple. Set up was a breeze, and daily use was just as frictionless as you would expect from a doorbell.

But then Logitech introduced the Circle View Doorbell in December of 2023, the first device of its kind to support HomeKit, thus playing nice with all the Apple devices in my house and pocket.

So I reached out to the folks at Logitech who sent me a Circle View Doorbell after giving me a short briefing on the product. In this review, I’ll share my impressions of this smart video doorbell. But a bit of warning: this review will be heavily tinted by my experience with Ring, which I see as the standard in the category, or the device to beat, if you will.

Installation and initial setup

Installation was a bit more tedious than the Ring. Where I just had to connect a couple wires to the Ring doorbell, The Circle View required a bit more work. Specifically, the installation of a chime kit on your physical chime added work to an otherwise simple installation.

And because the Circle View needed more power than the Ring, I also had to change the doorbell transformer in my house. This is not necessarily hard to do, but it adds friction to the experience. It also adds cost!

Logitech has a great website walking you through the installation process, but the fact that it needs a website to begin with tells you a lot about it. In contrast, installing and setting up my Ring was done in minutes by following 3-step instructions from a pamphlet that was in the box.

Once installed, the set up was painless. It is done entirely in the Home app and takes just a few seconds.

Beautiful hardware

The look and feel of the Logitech Circle View Doorbell is absolutely top notch. It is simple, elegant and has a great feel to it, something I cannot say about the Ring which always looked and felt cheap to me.

I’d argue that the hardware itself is actually the best thing about the Circle View Doorbell. 

A lit up circle indicates your visitors where to press but the entire bottom half of the device can actually be pressed to ring the bell. At night, you have the option of enabling a night light which shines a surprisingly large amount of light to your doorstep. This can be turned off and on in the Home app.

All in all, this is a beautiful piece of hardware. Unlike the Ring which I find quite repulsive to look at, this one has a simple and modern design in a small footprint.

But HomeKit ruins it all

If the Logitech Circle View Doorbell shines with its hardware, it quickly falls behind Ring in the software department, and this is no way Logitech’s fault. By choosing to make a HomeKit-enabled doorbell, they had to rely entirely on what Apple’s Home app can offer to handle all the smarts.

There aren’t many things that you ask from a video doorbell. You want it to stream/record videos of activity happening at your doorstep, and you want to be notified about those activities. While the streaming/recording of activity has been flawless, my main gripe is with how HomeKit doesn’t allow for much customizations of notifications.

This quickly became apparent when I started being inundated by motion notifications. That was because my kids were playing by the font door. My phone was literally notifying me every few seconds that there was activity at the door. No big deal, I thought. Ring allows you to snooze/silence these notifications for a set amount of time right from the notification itself, so surely HomeKit has a similar feature. Wrong! Your only option is to set a schedule or to disable motion notifications entirely. While I didn’t want to, I chose to disable notifications altogether for motion activity detection. A huge bummer if you ask me, because this is one of the best features of smart video doorbells.

Worse than not being able to tweak my notification settings, I would often get notifications several seconds after activity was detected or after someone ran the doorbell. In one instance, the delivery guy rang the doorbell while I wasn’t home. By the time I received the notification and opened it to talk to him, the guy was already gone. This happened a few times, enough to infuriate me. I was told by the fine folks at Logitech that I should try to restart my hub (the Apple TV or HomePod used as the central brain for it all) or the doorbell itself. It didn’t change anything.

The straw that broke the camel back was when I stopped received notifications altogether!

This actually happened yesterday as I was starting to type this article and realized I hadn’t received a notification in days, which is impossible since I knew my son had rang the doorbell so he could talk to me while I was at my office (I know, weird, but it’s a quick way for him to plead to me when his mom says he cannot watch TV). 

So I ran a few tests, disabled and re-enabled notifications, but still nothing. Eventually I got the motion activity notifications to come back but no notification for when someone would ring the doorbell. After rebooting to the doorbell, these doorbell notifications came back temporarily, but 10 minutes later, they were gone once again.

That was enough for me. I grabbed a screwdriver, removed the beautiful Logitech Circle View Doorbell, and reinstalled the ugly Ring. And believe me, I cursed through it all!

I put all the blame on HomeKit

In case I wasn’t clear before, all these downsides have absolutely nothing to do with the Circle View Doorbell. The device itself is absolutely flawless but it’s held back by HomeKit itself, and there is apparently nothing Logitech can do about it.

Notifications are the one feature that a video doorbell must get right. Not only HomeKit didn’t get it right to begin with, but it also made it unreliable, begging me to wonder: what’s the point of using this if I can’t rely on it?

I don’t expect any progress to be made until iOS 15, because like most of Apple products and services, it all happens on an annual cycle, with little to no improvements in between. 

Until then, I will be using Ring.

Pros and cons of using a HomeKit doorbell


Plays nice with all your Apple products

Uses people from your Photos app for facial recognition

Stores videos on iCloud but doesn’t count against your iCloud storage plan

Announces who’s at the door on your HomePod and Apple TV when facial recognition is enabled

Can create automations using the Home or Shortcuts app

If you live in an Apple household like I do, these are really appealing features.


Cannot customize notification sound

Cannot differentiate motion activity notifications from doorbell notifications

Cannot snooze (ie temporarily silence) notifications

Unreliable notifications

The Logitech Circle View Doorbell is available from Logitech’s website, and starts at $199. You can get it professionally installed for an additional $100.

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