I’m comparatively fortunate that the coronavirus and covid-19 have not affected me or anyone I know directly. Having spent the last 15 years working from home, life has not changed as significantly as it has for others.
So, apart from staying home and doing nothing much, what’s a geek to do to contribute back?
First, contribute data. As often as I remember, I update the KCL/Zoe app to say I’m still alive.
Second, grid computing projects.
There’s a significant amount of computer power available and machines would otherwise spend their time idle. A couple of months before the coronavirus became known, I had already installed BOINC, perhaps the oldest and best-known grid-computing system. As the scale of the Covid-19 problem became more apparent, I discovered the Rosetta@Home project which has been working to predict structure of proteins involved in the disease.
For mobile devices, there is Vodafone’s DreamLab project which similarly uses one’s iphone/ipad/tablet’s downtime to perform computations hopefully to identify drugs to fight Covid-19.
This took a bit of thought, but recently RedBubble who I use for selling my photography added the option of selling masks alongside the usual prints, mugs, etc.
I wasn’t at all sure what to make of it. The idea of profiting off others’ health and necessity jarred with the idea of art being a luxury item. However, a friend pointed out that if face-masks are to become normalized in society, having interesting art designs on could make them more approachable. There’s also the bit where Redbubble match each mask bought with a donation to an appropriate charity. So, a net good thing then.
Inspiration struck and I spent much of the weekend designing an image to represent the coronavirus (using a fragment of its gene sequence as a background, naturally) and even rendering a little video from it, both using Povray, my favoured ray-tracing software from the late 1990s(!). Naturally I made the scene description and other sources available as open-source: the-lurgy (on github).
The “lurgy” design and a selection of other landscape images are available on redbubble as face-masks with a profit margin set to 0.
And of course work continues, producing more photos to go on my website, ShinyPhoto…