Bullshit alert: VR kitchen to raise awareness of food poisoning

Me and Chapman and Hubbell, we always had this idea to have our own ice hockey arena, with a restaurant where we could evaluate all sorts of food safety ideas.

We would play hockey and do research, as you do.

It grew out of me and Chapman playing hockey at the University of Guelph (that’s in Canada) whenever we could, and led to the development of Chapman’s food safety infosheets, which were posted above urinals and on the backside of toilet doors at the bar bathrooms.

A group of British academics are promoting virtual reality (VR) as the way forward.

It may be hard to pee with VR googles on your head.

I went to the big computer graphics conferences in the early 1990s, where everyone was gaga about this Toronto start-up that did all the graphics for Terminator 2, I’ve had lunch with the founders of Pixar, and I’ve seen Jaron Lanier preach his VR gospel.

Almost 30 years later, the adoption is decidedly slow.

But not according to Nikholai Koolonavich of VR Focus, who writes that thanks to the advancements in technology, reduced development costs and wider adoption of the products, turning to VR to help train people and raise awareness of food poisoning is a logical decision.

The project is titled the The Corrupt Kitchen VR and is being made at the University of Nottingham by the Digital Research Team as a means to educate and train users on food hygiene and food poisoning. Dr Paul Tennent outlines The Corrupt Kitchen VR writing on the projects blog saying: “The Corrupt Kitchen VR is a game where players must balance the task of cooking meals as requests come in with adhering to health and safety rules: keeping themselves and the kitchen clean and free of infestation; ensuring the quality of their ingredients; and ensuring that their employees have all the correct paperwork. The more meals they produce, the more money the restaurant makes and the higher their score. Neglecting the other tasks will certainly make them more money, but there’s an associated risk.”

That’s enough PR fluffery.

I prefer to have my kids cook with me in the kitchen, and teach some basics.

We’re all hosts on a viral planet: New virus breaks the rules of infection

Michaeleen Doucleff of North Carolina Public Radio writes that human viruses are like a fine chocolate truffle: It takes only one to get the full experience.

283615-virusAt least, that’s what scientists thought a few days ago. Now a new study published Thursday is making researchers rethink how some viruses could infect animals.

A team at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases has found a mosquito virus that’s broken up into pieces. And the mosquito needs to catch several of the pieces to get an infection.

“It’s the most bizarre thing,” says Edward Holmes, a virologist at the University of Sydney, who wasn’t involved in the study. It’s like the virus is dismembered, he says.

“If you compare it to the human body, it’s like a person would have their legs, trunk and arms all in different places,” Holmes says. “Then all the pieces come together in some way to work as one single virus. I don’t think anything else in nature moves this way.”

Most viruses have simple architecture. They have a few genes — say about a half-dozen or so — that are packaged up into a little ball, 1/500th the width of a human hair.

“You can think of it like a teeny-weeny tennis ball with spikes,” Holmes says.

When the virus infects a cell, the ball latches onto the cell’s surface, opens up and pops its genes into the cell.

Poof! The cell is infected. That’s all it takes. One ball, sticking to one cell.

But that’s not the case for the Guaico Culex virus. It has five genes. And each one gets stuffed into a separate ball. Imagine five tennis balls, each with a different color: a red tennis ball, a blue one, a green one, a yellow one and an orange one.

Then to get infected with the virus, a mosquito needs to catch at least four different colored balls, researchers write in the journal Cell Host & Microbe. Otherwise the infection fails.

“The fifth ball seems to be optional,” says Jason Ladner, a genomicist at USAMRIID, who helped discover the virus. Getting the fifth one could control how dangerous the virus is, he says.

Ladner and his team found the virus inside a Culex mosquito found in Guaico, Trinidad — hence the name of the virus, Guaico Culex. Culex mosquitoes are common across the U.S. and spread West Nile Virus.

The study is part of a larger project aimed at figuring out what viruses, in addition to Zika and yellow fever, could be lurking inside mosquitoes and possibly waiting to spill over into people.

Indeed, each year, scientists are finding thousands of new viruses, says Vincent Racaniello, at Columbia University. “It’s hard to put a number on it. But it’s huge.”

“We finally have the tools to find them,” he says.

But that doesn’t mean we can immediately understand what they do, or even whom they infect.

“There’s so much we don’t know about viruses,” Racaniello adds. And with viruses, really anything is possible. “We should always expect the unexpected,” he says.