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Web surfing that feels instantaneous, even though it’s not

DURHAM, N.C. — If the coronavirus pandemic drove your life online, you’ve probably been there: Credit: Credit: Bruce Maggs. DURHAM, N.C. — If the…



DURHAM, N.C. — If the coronavirus pandemic drove your life online, you’ve probably been there:

Credit: Credit: Bruce Maggs.

DURHAM, N.C. — If the coronavirus pandemic drove your life online, you’ve probably been there:

Maybe you’re using video chat to get work done or connect with far-flung friends. No matter how much bandwidth you have, the lag between one person speaking and the rest hearing the words means you keep talking over each other.

It’s the annoying delay when you hit play on your streaming service, and your movie or TV show takes forever to load. Or when you’re about to reach a new level in a video game, but your controller doesn’t register your moves in time.

That fraction of a second — less than the blink of an eye — is called network latency. It’s how long it takes in milliseconds for a signal to make a round-trip from your computer to a server and back. The greater the distance, the longer it takes to make the trip.

Milliseconds may not seem like a big deal. But on the internet it can feel like wading through mud. It can even cause users to lose interest or take their business elsewhere.

Google found that if search results are slowed down by four tenths of a second, their users do eight million fewer searches a day. And according to Amazon, even smaller delays — an extra tenth of a second — would cost the company 1% in sales, a staggering hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

Duke computer scientist Bruce Maggs thinks we can do better. A few years ago, he and colleagues decided to take on a challenge: building a speed-of-light internet.

If they could get data to and fro more quickly, they wondered, could they make web surfing feel smoother and more seamless, even instantaneous?

The team presented their approach on April 6 at the 19th USENIX Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation (NSDI ’22) in Renton, Washington.

In a project co-led with Brighten Godfrey at the University of Illinois, Gregory Laughlin at Yale and Ankit Singla at ETH Zurich, they envision a network stretching across the U.S. that responds 10 to 100 times faster than the normal internet.

If deployed in the 120 largest cities, it could give 85% of Americans the option of connecting over vast distances in near real-time, as if they were in the same room.

The problem is that today’s internet isn’t optimized for speed, Maggs said.

Given the speed of light, data should theoretically be able to transmit at a top clip of 300,000 kilometers per second. That’s a mind-boggling 670 million miles an hour.

At that pace, internet traffic should be able to cover the 2,800 miles between Los Angeles and New York City in 15 milliseconds.

But the reality is much slower. Maggs and his team showed that moving even small amounts of data over the internet — say, just downloading a webpage — often takes between 37 to 100 times longer than you’d expect.

“It should be faster, right?” Maggs said.

A big culprit behind the delay, they say, is the way internet traffic is routed.

Every time you check email, search for information on Google, or scroll through social media, data is being sent and received through hundreds of thousands of miles of buried fiber optic cables, thin strands of glass that are bundled together and transmit data as pulses of light.

But this system can be inefficient. Buried cables have to zigzag around mountains and squiggle their way across the landscape as they follow roads and railways, the twists and turns costing precious time.

Internet traffic traveling from Sweden to Croatia — a driving distance of about 1,300 miles — might take an 8,000-mile oceanic detour through a router in New York City first.

“Fiber paths almost never follow a straight line between two locations,” Maggs said.

Add to that the fact that internet providers often route data along the path that is the cheapest, not the fastest, even backtracking to save money.

“That means the path will be more roundabout,” Maggs said.

There’s another thing that gets in the way. When people talk about the speed of light, they usually mean the speed of light in a vacuum. When light passes through a medium other than a vacuum — such as air, water, or glass — it slows down.

The speed of light in a vacuum is 300,000 kilometers per second, but it slows down to two thirds that speed in silica glass, which is what normal optic fiber cables are made of.

“These things all compound and multiply each other,” Maggs said. Which is why — when it comes to response time on the information superhighway — the cosmic speed limit is far from a reality. But the researchers found that one tiny corner of it gets close:

In early 2010s, a custom-built network was set up to shave a few thousandths of a second off the time it takes for financial traders to send data back and forth between the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and stock exchanges in New Jersey, a roughly 700-mile route traversing six states.

That amount of time is imperceptible to humans. But it’s enough to give trading firms an edge over their rivals in the stock market, where receiving data even a millisecond sooner can make the difference between making a profit or losing out.

By analyzing this specialized network, the team wondered if they could use similar approaches to reduce internet delays nationwide.

Part of the trading network’s advantage lies in how data is transported, Maggs said.

Instead of buried cables, it cuts trading times by using microwave radio transmissions to carry data through the air, where signals can travel 50% faster than light through fiber.

The network also saves time with a shortcut. Unlike fiber cables, which have to wind their way about obstacles as they follow the lay of the land, microwave signals don’t bend — they’re transmitted in a straight line. That makes for shorter routes, allowing them zip back and forth between New Jersey and the Windy City in eight thousandths of a second.

In tests, the researchers found that the financial traders’ microwave-based network was reliably faster than fiber even in bad weather, when rain can weaken the signal between towers.

The technology is decades old. The team’s research showed that something similar — towers equipped with antennas that send microwave signals to and fro — could be built among the biggest cities in the U.S. or Europe, and could shrink lag to within 5% of what’s possible at light speed.

Assuming a hypothetical budget of 3,000 towers spaced roughly 40 to 60 miles apart, the team figured out the best way to beam signals from tower to tower along the shortest possible paths, and without things like hills or buildings or trees getting in the way.

Just routing data along straighter, more direct routes, they find, would make it possible to click on a link to a website and get the request to a server three times faster.

And at an estimated cost of 81 cents per gigabyte, the potential value of such a network would greatly exceed its price tag. The team’s cost-benefit analyses suggest that, for a company like Google, delivering search results a mere 200 milliseconds faster would mean an additional $87 million a year in profits.

But what’s most exciting about this, the researchers say, is the potential for people separated by hundreds of miles to feel like they’re interacting and sharing information online in real-time.

Studies suggest that delays less than 30 milliseconds go by too fast for most people to notice. If scientists could shrink lag times to less than that, they could make them virtually imperceptible.

“We’re not saying we can make the whole internet operate at the speed of light,” Maggs said. That’s because, while microwave transmission may be faster than fiber, in terms of carrying capacity it can’t compete.

But for applications where timing is everything, such a network could reduce lag at lower costs than existing services.

For online gamers, who are constantly sending and receiving data to play together in real-time, routing traffic through their network could shrink lag times to a third of what’s possible with today’s internet.

In the case of his musician wife, Maggs said, she and her colleagues on the West Coast could play together in sync over the internet and hear each other as if they were in the same concert hall, without noticing a delay.

“It would be kind of like deciding when to use the U.S. Post Office and when to use Federal Express,” Maggs said. “There’s a huge difference in cost and performance. You’d have to pick just the things where the latency actually mattered.”

If you’re just streaming movies you might not care. But for Maggs, who used to play multiplayer online games as a kid, “when I’m sending my command to the gaming server, where I’ve just pressed F to fire my phasers, I want that to go as fast as I possibly can.”

This work was supported by National Science Foundation Awards CNS-1763492, CNS-1763742, and CNS-1763841.

CITATION:  “cISP: A Speed-of-Light Internet Service Provider,” Debopam Bhattacherjee, Waqar Aqeel, Sangeetha Abdu Jyothi, Ilker Nadi Bozkurt, William Sentosa, Muhammad Tirmazi, Anthony Aguirre, Balakrishnan Chandrasekaran, P. Brighten Godfrey, Gregory Laughlin, Bruce Maggs, and Ankit Singla. NSDI ’22, April 4-6, 2022, Renton, WA.


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Maternal mortality jumped during COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts have taken a disproportionate toll on American mothers who were pregnant or just gave birth. Maternal mortality (i.e.,…



The COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts have taken a disproportionate toll on American mothers who were pregnant or just gave birth. Maternal mortality (i.e., deaths during pregnancy or in the early postpartum period) increased by 18% in 2020, according to data from the National Center for Health Statistics, exceeding the ~16% increase in overall US mortality in 2020. Yet according to a new analysis from the University of Maryland and Boston University, the maternal death rate after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic was even higher, and disproportionately impacted Black and non-white Hispanic mothers. 

Credit: Marie E. Thoma, PhD; Eugene R. Declercq, PhD in JAMA Network Open

The COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts have taken a disproportionate toll on American mothers who were pregnant or just gave birth. Maternal mortality (i.e., deaths during pregnancy or in the early postpartum period) increased by 18% in 2020, according to data from the National Center for Health Statistics, exceeding the ~16% increase in overall US mortality in 2020. Yet according to a new analysis from the University of Maryland and Boston University, the maternal death rate after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic was even higher, and disproportionately impacted Black and non-white Hispanic mothers. 

A research letter published in JAMA Network Open by Marie Thoma in the UMD School of Public Health and Eugene Declercq in the BU School of Public Health compared maternal mortality data from 2018-March 2020, when the pandemic began, to April-December 2020. Overall, they found large increases in maternal death (33%) and late maternal deaths (41%) after March 2020 compared with before the pandemic, and conspicuous increases among Black and Hispanic mothers. 

“The increase was really driven by deaths after the start of the pandemic, which are higher than what we see for overall excess mortality in 2020,” said Dr. Thoma, assistant professor of family science in the UMD SPH. The study also showed that existing and new disparities emerged after the pandemic with a 40% jump among already high rates for non-Hispanic Black women and a 74% jump among formerly lower rates in Hispanic women.  

Strikingly, said Dr. Declercq, professor of community health sciences at BUSPH, “for the first time in more than a decade, the maternal mortality rate for Hispanic women during the pandemic was higher than that for non-Hispanic white women, a shift that may be related to COVID and deserves greater attention moving forward.”  

COVID-19 was listed as a secondary cause of death in 14.9% of maternal deaths in the last nine months of 2020, with it being a contributing factor for 32% of Hispanic, 12.9% of Black and 7% of non-Hispanic white women giving birth.

In their analysis of causes of maternal death, they found the largest increases were due to conditions directly related to COVID-19 (respiratory or viral infection) and conditions made worse by COVID-19 infection, such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease. However, interruptions to the health care system could have led to delayed prenatal care that could have meant that risk factors for pregnancy complications went undetected. 

“We need more detailed data on the specific causes of maternal deaths overall and those associated with COVID-19,” Dr. Thoma said. “Potentially we could see improvements in 2021 due to the rollout of vaccines, as well as the extension of postpartum care provided for Medicaid recipients as part of the American Rescue Act of 2021 in some states. We’re going to continue to examine this.”

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U.S. FDA will decide on redesigned COVID vaccines by early July

U.S. regulators plan to decide by early July on whether to change the design of COVID-19 vaccines this fall in order to combat more recent variants of…



U.S. FDA will decide on redesigned COVID vaccines by early July

By Michael Erman

“The better the match of the vaccines to the circulating strain we believe may correspond to improve vaccine effectiveness, and potentially to a better durability of protection,” Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said at a meeting of outside advisers to the regulator.

Vials with Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine labels are seen in this illustration picture taken March 19, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

The committee is scheduled to vote on a recommendation on whether to make the change later on Tuesday.

The updated shots are likely to be redesigned to fight the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, experts say. read more The exact composition of the retooled shots and whether they also will include some of the original vaccine alongside new components will be considered at the meeting.

Pfizer Inc (PFE.N), Moderna Inc (MRNA.O) and Novavax Inc. (NVAX.O) are scheduled to present data at the meeting. All three companies have been testing versions of their vaccines updated to combat the BA.1 Omicron variant that was circulating and led to a massive surge in infections last winter.

Both Moderna and Pfizer with partner BioNTech (22UAy.DE) have said that their respective redesigned vaccines generate a better immune response against BA.1 than their current shots that were designed for the original virus that emerged from China.

They have said that their new vaccines also appear to work against the more recently circulating BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants, even though that protection is not as strong as against BA.1.

Experts also want to know if the new shots will boost protection against severe disease and death for younger, healthier people or merely offer a few months’ additional safeguard against mild infection.

Scientists who have questioned the value of booster shots for young and healthy people have said a broad campaign is not needed with an updated shot either.

Other experts have championed any additional protection new vaccines may offer.

Reporting by Michael Erman Editing by Bill Berkrot and Bernadette Baum

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Source: Reuters


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Stock Market Today: Dow Jones, S&P 500 Edge Higher; Stock Surges From China Covid Easing

Markets opened in the green today as they rebound from Monday’s losses.
The post Stock Market Today: Dow Jones, S&P 500 Edge Higher; Stock…



Stock Market Today Mid-Morning Updates

On Tuesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up by 270 points as it followed modest losses on Wall Street. Investors are still weighing the risks of red-hot inflation as rates continue to rise. Aside from the U.S., European Central Bank Leader Christine Lagarde downplayed recession concerns in the eurozone, already being destabilized by Russia’s war on Ukraine. She also says that her team is ready to raise rates at a faster pace if needed, in order to combat inflation.

Shares of Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS), Bank of America (NYSE: BAC), Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC), and Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS) raised their dividends after passing their annual stress tests. For instance, Goldman Sachs is boosting its dividend payout by 25% to $2.50 per share. On the other hand, shares of Las Vegas Sands (NYSE: LVS) and Wynn Resorts (NASDAQ: WYNN) are up today after China announced that it will be easing Covid-19 quarantine rules for international arrivals.

Among the Dow Jones leaders, shares of Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) are up by 0.13% today while Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) is down by 0.79%. Meanwhile, Disney (NYSE: DIS) and Nike (NYSE: NKE) are trading mixed on Tuesday. Among the Dow financial leaders, Visa (NYSE: V) is up by 0.17% while JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM) is also up by 1.67%

Shares of EV leader Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) are up by 0.83% on Tuesday. Rival EV companies like Rivian (NASDAQ: RIVN) are down by 0.17%. Lucid Group (NASDAQ: LCID) is down by 1.09% today as well. However, Chinese EV leaders like Nio (NYSE: NIO) and Xpeng Motors (NYSE: XPEV) are trading mixed today. 

Dow Jones Today: U.S. Treasury Yields Inches Higher; House Price Increases Slows Down In April 

Following the stock market opening on Tuesday, the S&P 500, Dow, and Nasdaq are trading higher at 0.68%, 0.89%, and 0.31% respectively. Among exchange-traded funds, the Nasdaq 100 tracker Invesco QQQ Trust (NASDAQ: QQQ) is up by 0.28% while the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (NYSEARCA: SPY) is also up by 0.67%. 

The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury yield currently hovers around 3.22% as the market continues to push against a bear market. Oil prices rallied for the third day today as major producers like Saudi Arabia looked unlikely to be able to boost output significantly. This comes as the West agreed to explore ways to cap the price of Russian oil. Brent crude, for instance, currently trades at around $116 per barrel.

Home prices increased slower than before in April and could be a potential sign of a cooling in prices. Diving in, prices rose by 20.4% nationally in April compared with a year earlier. This is according to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Index. For comparison, home prices increased by 20.6% year-over-year in March. Cities like Tampa, Miami, and Phoenix continue to lead the pack with the strongest price gains. Tampa home prices, for instance, are up by a whopping 35.8% year-over-year.

[Read More] Top Stock Market News For Today June 28, 2022 Stock Gains Following Better-Than-Expected Quarterly Performance On Travel Rebound; China Covid Easing Group (NASDAQ: TCOM) seems to be among the top gainers in the stock market now. Evidently, TCOM stock is now up by over 14% at the opening bell today. Overall, this likely stems from the company’s latest financial update. Getting straight into it, reported a quarterly loss per share of $0.01. Furthermore, the company’s total quarterly revenue is $649 million. For reference, consensus figures on Wall Street are a loss per share of $0.08 on revenue of $575.04 million. With these commendable results, investors looking to bet on the return of travel would be considering TCOM stock.

According to, the company has recovering travel demand in global markets to thank for its latest quarterly performance. In particular, highlights a bump in activity from consumers across its Europe and Asia Pacific user bases. This, the company believes, is a result of easing travel restrictions amidst countries in these regions. Moreover, also notes that staycation-related travel in China is another notable contributor to growth for the quarter. Accordingly, its local hotel bookings are now up by 20% year-over-year.

On the whole, travel firms like continue to thrive as consumers book their vacations. For its latest quarter, the company’s air-ticket bookings on global platforms are now up by a whopping 270% year-over-year. As mentioned earlier, this is mainly led by a rebound in demand from its European and Asian Pacific operations. Looking forward, CEO Jane sun notes that will “remain adaptive to embrace the changing environment and be flexible with our strategies to swiftly seize growth opportunities.” With all this in mind, I could understand if TCOM stock is turning some heads in the stock market today.

TCOM stock
Source: TradingView

[Read More] Best Oil Stocks To Buy Right Now? 5 For Your Late June 2022 Watchlist 

Occidental Petroleum On The Rise Following Latest Berkshire Hathaway Stake Increase

Meanwhile, the likes of Occidental Petroleum (NYSE: OXY) seem to be gaining attention in the stock market now. For the most part, this is likely a result of the latest regulatory filing from Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK.A). Namely, Berkshire disclosed a purchase of an additional 794,000 shares of Occidental. This adds up to a $44 million transaction, bringing its total stake to about 16.4%. In total, Berkshire currently holds about 153.5 million shares of OXY stock, worth $9 billion.

All in all, Buffett’s focus on Occidental would likely draw attention to the energy firm’s shares. This is apparent as OXY stock is currently gaining by over 6% in the stock market now. According to Berkshire’s filings since March, the company’s average purchase price per share of OXY stock is $53. Following this investment, Berkshire would be bolstering its position as Occidental’s largest stakeholder. In second place on this front is investment firm Vanguard with an almost 11% stake. As a result of all this, it would not surprise me to see OXY stock making the rounds in the stock market now.

OXY stock
Source: TradingView

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