The surprising future of vaccine technology
We owe a lot to vaccines and the scientists that develop them. But we've only just touched the surface of what vaccines can do.
LOU REESE: The largest gains in human longevity ever are debatably attributed to vaccine technology.
The antibiotic revolution was very important, but vaccine technology is currently over 6.2 billion people in the world have been vaccinated right now. These are the most widely distributed medications and solutions that have ever been brought to mankind. And the consequence was that we really dramatically improved our quality of life and our longevity. We gave people better, healthier, longer lives.
LARRY BRILLIANT: Vaccines are the best thing science has ever given us. It saved hundreds of millions of children's lives. It eradicated smallpox. It has reduced the population explosion. I know that's pretty paradoxical but as long as there are vaccines children will not die as they did when I was in India. There were places that 50 percent of kids died before the age of five. When that happens parents have many more babies because they expect to lose so many. Vaccine has changed that.
BILL NYE: Vaccines, you know, part of the reason I'm able to be here talking with you is my grandparents did not die in 1918 during the Spanish flu when it is estimated 50 million people died. Twice as many people as were killed in combat in World War I died of this disease. If you go to old cemeteries you can see these tombstones of very young people that died of the flu. People just lost sight of history.
BRILLIANT: I live in Marin County. I live in the epicenter of the antivax movement. It's pretty obvious I have not been very successful in my own county in persuading people. And I understand. This is a very complicated business. Measles, for example, one of the M's in MMR, measles spreads faster than any other virus we've ever seen. One case can give rise to 20 or 30 cases in two weeks. If we had a lot of measles around and there were a lot of children getting sick all the time we wouldn't be looking at the marginal question of whether vaccinating my child or not was a good idea. We'd be rushing to get the measles vaccine and that's what happened. When polio was around and you always knew somebody in the neighborhood who was paralyzed in an iron lung. We all rushed to get that polio vaccine. In fact, there's photographs of parents standing in line for four or five hours to get the Salk vaccine or the Sabin vaccine.
MICHAEL WIGLER: It's unfortunate that the age at which parents begin to recognize autism in their children often correlates with the age at which they receive vaccinations. That's an unfortunate thing. One could go to Third World countries and do a study and ask is the rate of autism there the same as it is in the developed countries. No one has done a study that I know of that type but it certainly could be done.
BRILLIANT: When there's no measles around we change our calculus. Why should I subject my child to a one in a million risk if there's less than a one in a million chance of them getting the disease? This is where it becomes hard because we have to talk about prevention of a disease that still exists in the world but not in our neighborhood.
WIGLER: Anything having to do with the development of an organism has an environmental component to it. But you can only study that when there's some evidence which enables you to isolate that environmental component. I think the vaccine studies have been now largely discredited. They took mercury out of the vaccines and the rates of autism didn't change. And now of the 12 authors of the original paper that got some people very excited, I think 11 of those 12 authors have now withdrawn their backing for that paper and the methods used in that paper are really in doubt. I don't take it as there being any evidence that vaccines is such an environmental factor. I think every parent who has a child suffers through nightmares hoping that their child will be healthy. They give birth to a healthy child and then at age two or three the child suddenly stops developing. That's a tragedy of horrendous proportions and it's natural for the parents of such children to look around for the possible causes, something external. However, it should be born in mind that our brains continuously are developing at that age and it is well known that there are genetic defects whose onsets can occur at almost any particular age. For example, there are a class of disorders that are called storage disorders where the child develops normally but because of a buildup of some compound due to the faulty metabolism of some essential thing that they eat everyday builds up to a point and then begins to poison the brain. So the idea that you can't have sudden onset of an illness in a child that is two or three is just wrong.
REESE: The big problem with vaccines is that you could never use them against non-external targets. So, they worked great with viruses whether it was Ebola or Zika, polio, smallpox. We actually can solve those problems pretty fast for the external targets. But now what's killing us more than everything external are actually for the first time this year the bar crossed and internal things are killing us more. So the agents of chronic illness, so, it's no longer fighting bacteria and viruses in these other external causes of death or causes of suffering or causes of disease. Instead it's internal ones. It's things that are causing arthrosclerosis and heart disease and stroke. Things that are causing cancers. Things that are causing diabetes, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's. All of these different chronic illnesses. Now why don't we vaccinate against chronic illness? Well, the idea is that you would be fundamentally targeting something that's in your own body. You'd be targeting something your body was making and so what does that sound like? It sounds like an autoimmune disease. It sounds like if you made your body do that it could trigger an autoimmune disease. And it turns out that that's one of the big challenges in making vaccines against things your body generates. And they call that the self-barrier or breaking self-tolerance or all of these different things that describe this phenomena. But the bottom line is the body does not like to attack itself and it's trying not to. For millions of years our immune systems have evolved so that we don't do exactly that. Now, what's awesome is that our technology platform has been able to do it and do it safely and we've been able to do it in a lot of applications. Something that I found out that blew my mind was that this year for the first time since the Spanish flu we will have three years in a row of decreasing longevity in the United States. We will live less long three years in a row. Less long than ever and everybody else believes that we're living longer and longer and longer. It's driven primarily by two things and primarily Alzheimer's is the number one driver in this. And the secondary driver unfortunately is drug overdoses and suicides. It's related to the opioid epidemic. We're actually developing products for both of those primary problems, for both of those decreasers in longevity. So, we're working on a suite of nonopioid pain alternatives, but our lead compound is a vaccine for Alzheimer's. So, if we look at the cost of Alzheimer's, if we look at the cost of – and this isn't all neurological disorders, this is just Alzheimer's. If we look at those costs, direct and indirect, we're spending as much taking care of people with Alzheimer's every year as an Iraq war.
So, the magnitude of these numbers is astronomical. These numbers are devastating and we could all be pretty morose about it. The reality is that I've never felt more optimistic to be alive. I've never felt better about the environment that we're in in terms of solving problems, being able to identify them, being able to direct resources to them. If you look at it from a disease progression state these toxic proteins are building up in your brain 10, 15, 20 years before you have any symptoms. So, this is something that is laying there in a lot of us and just waiting for its chance to jump up. And so knowing that and having seen that in lots and lots of people the general thought is that you have the beta amyloid levels rising. Thereafter you have the tau levels rising, and consequence and in concert with the tau level rising there's some correlation with the actual cognitive impairment. So, the goal is to create endobodies naturally that cross the blood-brain barrier and engage the toxic forms of a beta plaque. And the way that I think about it is like this. A beta is naturally occurring in everyone. A beta amyloid is made by every person's body. It's when it starts to get stuck together that it becomes a problem. So, first two of them get stuck together it's a dimer. Then a bunch of them get stuck together it's an oligomer. Then a bunch of those get stuck together it's a fibral. Then a bunch of those get stuck together it's a plaque. So, by the time it gets to be a plaque it's a toxic form of that protein. What I'm excited about is that I believe that we can target safely and effectively the toxic forms of that misaggregated protein or that aggregated protein and remove them safely.
My audacious goal for my team is if you can go early enough and your product is safe enough there's absolutely opportunities to prevent the accumulation of these proteins in the very first place. So, before there are symptoms, before there are any of those things. We vaccinate 500 million pigs a year for less than a dollar a dose with over 70 percent margins. If you think about – now obviously human there's slightly different CMC and different manufacturing but the bottom line is that technology platform is going to be accessible and it's going to be available for everyone of the millions of people that are suffering from this disease. And it's going to be able to solve these problems potentially in ways that we envision to be or to be part of a solution for these problems in ways that we really envision to be beneficial for society, for people and for their families and for this global impact idea.
Text: How vaccines for chronic pain could stop the opioid epidemic
REESE: The opportunity to create accessible, safe, and efficacious products to go after and train, to unlock the body's immune system and actually solve these problems ourselves is amazing. So, by turning the body into the drug factory because it's naturally producing these endobodies, I think that's a revolution in terms of the way we're going to approach chronic illness. And so I'm pretty excited about that part. We have unbelievable rates of overdose happening in this country that are unprecedented. Some of that is driven by genuine need and pain, and so some of those alternatives which are not particularly effective and there have been more studies coming out around this over and over and over again that I think we can find more effective alternatives that are safer than opioids.
What I like about vaccines is that if we can turn your body on to activate against something that is an agent of pain that your body itself is generating, then you can have a very easy way to take the product – it's a single shot once a year potentially. So, you have a great compliance rate with your patient so it's easy on your patient. The cost is absolutely affordable and attainable so the cost becomes something that is accessible and you are, in effect, having a long duration of that treatment. That's going to give us the best chances to, in my opinion anyway, it's going to be one of the approaches that maximize our chances against the opioids and against the epidemic that's outstanding. So, for example we have an IL-6 vaccine that I'm really excited about and there are indications surrounding sciatica there that are really compelling. I think that's a huge need in terms of being able to remove that suffering and that pain in a long acting, affordable, and accessible way. So, that's an example. Another one is there's been a lot of noise around CGRP and monoclonal antibodies that have been approved around that for migraine. We've got a vaccine for CGRP that we're extremely excited about. One of the big problems with getting people to take drugs is when they feel better they don't want to take them. But if your body is fighting that same target then you don't have that same compliance issue and so you actually make it easier for the patients to take the products that they're supposed to take in a timely manner and then maintain the benefits of those products. I think that's going to be a really interesting product that we're going to bring to market and I think that's a huge need. We should morally and we are practically focused on addressing those biggest possible problems.
So, it's only consistent and it's only right that we're also dedicating some resource and time and energy to addressing both the Alzheimer's epidemic, the Parkinson's epidemic and also the nonopioid pain epidemic. When we look at this going forward, just to underline it I guess, these are diseases that don't discriminate. I can't articulate that enough. These diseases don't discriminate, they don't care how much money you have. They don't care where you live. They don't care what color your skin is. And the bottom line is that our medicines can't discriminate either. And so our platform technology enables us to be accessible. It enables us to actually go where the need is, and for that I'm eternally optimistic. To me this is our Sputnik moment. This is my generation's opportunity to say for the first time the ecosystem, the pieces, the motivation, the goals are there. We're aligning around this and we have an absolute opportunity to make a dramatic impact. And it'll be that village, it'll be that ecosystem that ultimately achieves the goal. When we put people on the moon – and I tell my team this all the time – no one person put someone on the moon. There were over a thousand different companies that were all involved full time going a thousand miles an hour. There were companies that were making the screens. There were companies making the knobs. There were companies making the wiring systems, the rocket engines. There were companies making the external heat deflectors. These are so many little details and without all of them it doesn't work. So, when we go after things that are really big goals and when we go after huge problems it's that village, it's that ecosystem that solves it. I really have a firm belief that this is the greatest time that we could possibly be alive and solving these problems are some of greatest problems facing mankind, but they're also we've never had a better chance of solving them. So, I feel like it's a really great time.
- "Vaccines are the best thing science has ever given us," says Larry Brilliant, founding president and acting chairman of Skoll Global Threats. From smallpox, to Ebola, to polio, scientists have successful fought viruses and saved millions of lives. So what's next?
- As Covaxx (formerly United Neuroscience) cofounder Lou Reese explains in this video, the issue with vaccines is that they don't work against "non-external threats." This is a problem, especially now when internal threats (things that cause cancers, Alzheimer's, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses) are killing people more than external threats like viruses.
- The future of vaccine tech, which scientists are already working toward today, is developing safe vaccines to eradicate these destructive internal agents without harming our bodies in the process.
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From "mutilated males" to "wandering wombs," dodgy science affects how we view the female body still today.
- The history of medicine and biology often has been embarrassingly wrong when it comes to female anatomy and was surprisingly resistant to progress.
- Aristotle and the ancient Greeks are much to blame for the mistaken notion of women as cold, passive, and little more than a "mutilated man."
- Thanks to this dubious science, and the likes of Sigmund Freud, we live today with a legacy that judges women according to antiquated biology and psychology.
The story of medicine has not been particularly kind to women. Not only was little anatomical or scientific research done on women or on women-specific issues, doctors often treated them differently.
Even today, women are up to ten times more likely to have their symptoms explained away as being psychological or psychosomatic than men. Worryingly, women are 50 percent more likely to be misdiagnosed after a heart attack, and drugs designed for "everyone" are actually much less effective (for pain) or too effective (for sleeping) in women.
Are these differences real or imagined? And what can the history of female medicine teach us about where we are today?
A mutilated male
Aristotle is rightly considered one of the greatest minds of all time and is recognized as the founding father of many disciplines, including biology. He was one of the most rigorous and comprehensive scientists and field researchers the world had known. He categorized a large number of species based on a wide range of traits, such as movement, longevity, and sensory capacity. His views on women, then, stemmed from what he thought of as good, proper study. The problem is that he got pretty much all of it wrong.
According to Aristotle, during pregnancy, it was the man who, alone, contributed the all-important "form" of a fetus (that is, its defining nature and personality), whereas the woman provided only the matter (that is, the environment and sustenance to grow the fetus, which was provided by the menstrual blood).
From this, Aristotle extrapolated all sorts of dubious conclusions. He ventured that the man was superior, active, and dominant, and the woman inferior, passive, and submissive. As such, the woman's role was to nurture children, run a household, and be silent and obedient — political and cultural manifestations of dodgy biology. If women did not provide a child's form and nature, how important could they really be?
Given this passivity, Aristotle argued that the woman must be associated with other passive things, like being cold and slow. The man, being dynamic and energetic, must be hot and fast. From this, Aristotle concluded that any defects or problems in childbirth can only be due to the sluggishness of the female womb. Even the positive biological aspects of being female, such as greater longevity, were put down to this cold rigidity — a lack of metabolism and spirit. Most notorious of all, since Aristotle believed that female children were themselves the result of an incomplete and underdeveloped gestation, women were simply "mutilated males" whose mothers' cold wombs had overpowered the warm, vital, male sperm.
Aristotle can still be counted as a great mind, but when it came to women, his ideas have not aged well in just how far they negatively influenced what came after. Given that his works were seen as the authority well into the 16th century, he left quite the pernicious legacy.
A wandering womb
But, how much can we really blame Aristotle? Without the aid of modern scientific equipment, physicians and biologists were left to guess about female anatomy. Unfortunately, the damage was done, and Aristotle's ideas of a troublesome uterus became so mainstream that they led to one of the more bizarre ideas in medical history: the wandering womb.
The "wandering womb" is the idea that the womb is actually some kind of roaming parasite in the body, possibly even a separate organism. According to this theory, after a woman menstruates, her womb becomes hot and dry and so becomes extra mobile. It is transformed into a voracious hunter. The womb will dart from organ to organ, seeking to steal its moisture and other vital fluids. This parasitic behavior caused all sorts of (female only) illnesses.
If a woman had asthma, the womb was leeching the lungs. Stomach aches, it was in the gut. And if it attacked the heart (which the ancients thought was the source of our thoughts), then it would cause all manner of mental health issues. In fact, the Greek word for womb is "hystera," and so when we call someone (often a woman) hysterical, we are saying that their womb is causing mischief.
The "solutions" or "remedies" for a wandering womb were as strange as the theory. Since the womb was supposed to be attracted to sweet smells, placing flowers or perfumes around the vagina would "lure" it down. On the flip side, if you smoked noxious substances or ate disgusting foods, it would "repel" the womb away. By using all manner of smells, you could make the womb move wherever you wanted.
The oddest "remedy" — and most male-centric of all — is that, since the wandering womb was said to be caused by heat and dryness, a good solution would be male semen, which was thought of as cooling and wet. And so, the ancient and highly inaccurate myth was born that sex could cure a woman of her "hysteria."
A lingering problem
We live today with the legacy of this kind of thinking. Freud was much taken with the idea of "hysteria," and although he did accept that men could be subject to it as well, he believed it was overwhelmingly a female problem caused by female biology. The woman, for Freud, is mostly defined by her "sexual function." What Freud calls "normal femininity" (the preferred and best outcome) is defined by passivity. A woman's ideal development is one which moves from being active and "phallic" to passive and vaginal.
Nowadays, Freud and Aristotle's legacy lies in just how easily women are defined by their sexuality. Given that men and women, both, are equally dependent on their biology, it is curious how much more often women are reduced to theirs. The idea that women are more emotional or slaves to their hormones than men is still a depressingly familiar trope. It is an idea that goes back to the Greeks.
If we think biology is important to who we are (as it most certainly is), we ought to make sure that the biology is as good and accurate as it can be.
People tend to reflexively assume that fun events – like vacations – will go by really quickly.
For many people, summer vacation can't come soon enough – especially for the half of Americans who canceled their summer plans last year due to the pandemic.
But when a vacation approaches, do you ever get the feeling that it's almost over before it starts?
If so, you're not alone.
In some recent studies Gabriela Tonietto, Sam Maglio, Eric VanEpps and I conducted, we found that about half of the people we surveyed indicated that their upcoming weekend trip felt like it would end as soon as it started.
This feeling can have a ripple effect. It can change the way trips are planned – you might, for example, be less likely to schedule extra activities. At the same time, you might be more likely to splurge on an expensive dinner because you want to make the best of the little time you think you have.
Where does this tendency come from? And can it be avoided?
Not all events are created equal
When people look forward to something, they usually want it to happen as soon as possible and last as long as possible.
We first explored the effect of this attitude in the context of Thanksgiving.
We chose Thanksgiving because almost everyone in the U.S. celebrates it, but not everyone looks forward to it. Some people love the annual family get-together. Others – whether it's the stress of cooking, the tedium of cleaning or the anxiety of dealing with family drama – dread it.
So on the Monday before Thanksgiving in 2019, we surveyed 510 people online and asked them to tell us whether they were looking forward to the holiday. Then we asked them how far away it seemed, and how long they felt it would last. We had them move a 100-point slider – 0 meaning very short and 100 meaning very long – to a location that reflected their feelings.
As we suspected, the more participants looked forward to their Thanksgiving festivities, the farther away it seemed and shorter it felt. Ironically, longing for something seems to shrink its duration in the mind's eye.
Winding the mind's clock
Most people believe the idiom “time flies when you're having fun," and research has, indeed, shown that when time seems to pass by quickly, people assume the task must have been engaging and enjoyable.
We reasoned that people might be over-applying their assumption about the relationship between time and fun when judging the duration of events yet to happen.
As a result, people tend to reflexively assume that fun events – like vacations – will go by really quickly. Meanwhile, pining for something can make the time leading up to the event seem to drag. The combination of its beginning pushed farther away in their minds – with its end pulled closer – resulted in our participants' anticipating that something they looked forward would feel as if it had almost no duration at all.
In another study, we asked participants to imagine going on a weekend trip that they either expected to be fun or terrible. We then asked them how far away the start and end of this trip felt like using a similar 0 to 100 scale. 46% of participants evaluated the positive weekend as feeling like it had no duration at all: They marked the beginning and the end of the vacation virtually at the same location when using the slider scale.
Thinking in hours and days
Our goal was to show how these two judgments of an event – the fact that it simultaneously seems farther away and is assumed to last for less time – can nearly eliminate the event's duration in the mind's eye.
We reasoned that if we didn't explicitly highlight these two separate pieces – and instead directly asked them about the duration of the event – a smaller portion of people would indicate virtually no duration for something they looked forward to.
We tested this theory in another study, in which we told participants that they would watch two five-minute-long videos back-to-back. We described the second video as either humorous or boring, and then asked them how long they thought each video would feel like it lasted.
We found that the participants predicted that the funny video would still feel shorter and was farther away than the boring one. But we also found that participants believed it would last a bit longer than the responses we received in the earlier studies.
This finding gives us a way to overcome this biased perception: focus on the actual duration. Because in this study, participants directly reported how long the funny video would last – and not the perceived distance of its beginning and its end – they were far less likely to assume it would be over just as it started.
While it sounds trivial and obvious, we often rely on our subjective feelings – not objective measures of time – when deciding how long a period of time will feel and how to best use it.
So when looking forward to much-anticipated events like vacations, it's important to remind yourself just how many days it will last.
You'll get more out of the experience – and, hopefully, put yourself in a better position to take advantage of the time you do have.
Inventions with revolutionary potential made by a mysterious aerospace engineer for the U.S. Navy come to light.
- U.S. Navy holds patents for enigmatic inventions by aerospace engineer Dr. Salvatore Pais.
- Pais came up with technology that can "engineer" reality, devising an ultrafast craft, a fusion reactor, and more.
- While mostly theoretical at this point, the inventions could transform energy, space, and military sectors.
The U.S. Navy controls patents for some futuristic and outlandish technologies, some of which, dubbed "the UFO patents," came to light recently. Of particular note are inventions by the somewhat mysterious Dr. Salvatore Cezar Pais, whose tech claims to be able to "engineer reality." His slate of highly-ambitious, borderline sci-fi designs meant for use by the U.S. government range from gravitational wave generators and compact fusion reactors to next-gen hybrid aerospace-underwater crafts with revolutionary propulsion systems, and beyond.
Of course, the existence of patents does not mean these technologies have actually been created, but there is evidence that some demonstrations of operability have been successfully carried out. As investigated and reported by The War Zone, a possible reason why some of the patents may have been taken on by the Navy is that the Chinese military may also be developing similar advanced gadgets.
Among Dr. Pais's patents are designs, approved in 2018, for an aerospace-underwater craft of incredible speed and maneuverability. This cone-shaped vehicle can potentially fly just as well anywhere it may be, whether air, water or space, without leaving any heat signatures. It can achieve this by creating a quantum vacuum around itself with a very dense polarized energy field. This vacuum would allow it to repel any molecule the craft comes in contact with, no matter the medium. Manipulating "quantum field fluctuations in the local vacuum energy state," would help reduce the craft's inertia. The polarized vacuum would dramatically decrease any elemental resistance and lead to "extreme speeds," claims the paper.
Not only that, if the vacuum-creating technology can be engineered, we'd also be able to "engineer the fabric of our reality at the most fundamental level," states the patent. This would lead to major advancements in aerospace propulsion and generating power. Not to mention other reality-changing outcomes that come to mind.
Among Pais's other patents are inventions that stem from similar thinking, outlining pieces of technology necessary to make his creations come to fruition. His paper presented in 2019, titled "Room Temperature Superconducting System for Use on a Hybrid Aerospace Undersea Craft," proposes a system that can achieve superconductivity at room temperatures. This would become "a highly disruptive technology, capable of a total paradigm change in Science and Technology," conveys Pais.
High frequency gravitational wave generator.
Credit: Dr. Salvatore Pais
Another invention devised by Pais is an electromagnetic field generator that could generate "an impenetrable defensive shield to sea and land as well as space-based military and civilian assets." This shield could protect from threats like anti-ship ballistic missiles, cruise missiles that evade radar, coronal mass ejections, military satellites, and even asteroids.
Dr. Pais's ideas center around the phenomenon he dubbed "The Pais Effect". He referred to it in his writings as the "controlled motion of electrically charged matter (from solid to plasma) via accelerated spin and/or accelerated vibration under rapid (yet smooth) acceleration-deceleration-acceleration transients." In less jargon-heavy terms, Pais claims to have figured out how to spin electromagnetic fields in order to contain a fusion reaction – an accomplishment that would lead to a tremendous change in power consumption and an abundance of energy.
According to his bio in a recently published paper on a new Plasma Compression Fusion Device, which could transform energy production, Dr. Pais is a mechanical and aerospace engineer working at the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD), which is headquartered in Patuxent River, Maryland. Holding a Ph.D. from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, Pais was a NASA Research Fellow and worked with Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. His current Department of Defense work involves his "advanced knowledge of theory, analysis, and modern experimental and computational methods in aerodynamics, along with an understanding of air-vehicle and missile design, especially in the domain of hypersonic power plant and vehicle design." He also has expert knowledge of electrooptics, emerging quantum technologies (laser power generation in particular), high-energy electromagnetic field generation, and the "breakthrough field of room temperature superconductivity, as related to advanced field propulsion."
Suffice it to say, with such a list of research credentials that would make Nikola Tesla proud, Dr. Pais seems well-positioned to carry out groundbreaking work.
A craft using an inertial mass reduction device.
Credit: Salvatore Pais
The patents won't necessarily lead to these technologies ever seeing the light of day. The research has its share of detractors and nonbelievers among other scientists, who think the amount of energy required for the fields described by Pais and his ideas on electromagnetic propulsions are well beyond the scope of current tech and are nearly impossible. Yet investigators at The War Zone found comments from Navy officials that indicate the inventions are being looked at seriously enough, and some tests are taking place.
If you'd like to read through Pais's patents yourself, check them out here.
Laser Augmented Turbojet Propulsion System
Credit: Dr. Salvatore Pais
A global survey shows the majority of countries favor Android over iPhone.
- When Android was launched soon after Apple's own iPhone, Steve Jobs threatened to "destroy" it.
- Ever since, and across the world, the rivalry between both systems has animated users.
- Now the results are in: worldwide, consumers clearly prefer one side — and it's not Steve Jobs'.
A woman on her phone in Havana, Cuba. Mobile phones have become ubiquitous the world over — and so has the divide between Android and iPhone users.Credit: Yamil Lage / AFP via Getty Images.
Us versus them: it's the archetypal binary. It makes the world understandable by dividing it into two competing halves: labor against capital, West against East, men against women.
These maps are the first to show the dividing lines between one of the world's more recent binaries: Android vs. Apple. Published by Electronics Hub, they are based on a qualitative analysis of almost 350,000 tweets worldwide that presented positive, neutral, and negative attitudes toward Android and/or Apple.
Steve Jobs wanted to go "thermonuclear"
Feelings between Android and Apple were pretty tribal from the get-go. It was Steve Jobs himself who said, when Google rolled out Android a mere ten months after Apple launched the iPhone, "I'm going to destroy Android, because it's a stolen product. I'm willing to go thermonuclear war on this."
Buying a phone is like picking a side in the eternal feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys. Each choice for automatically comes with an in-built arsenal of arguments against.
If you are an iPhone person, you appreciate the sleekness and simplicity of its design, and you are horrified by the confusing mess that is the Android operating system. If you are an Android aficionado, you pity the iPhone user, a captive of an overly expensive closed ecosystem, designed to extract money from its users.
Even without resorting to those extremes, many of us will recognize which side of the dividing line that we are on. Like the American Civil War, that line runs through families and groups of friends, but that would be a bit confusing to chart geographically. To un-muddle the information, these maps zoom out to state and country level.
If the contest is based on the number of countries, Android wins. In all, 74 of the 142 countries surveyed prefer Android (in green on the map). Only 65 favor Apple (colored grey). That's a 52/48 split, which may not sound like a decisive vote, but it was good enough for Boris Johnson to get Brexit done (after he got breakfast done, of course).
And yes, math-heads: 74 plus 65 is three short of 142. Belarus, Fiji, and Peru (in yellow on the map) could not decide which side to support in the Global Phone War.
What about the United States, home of both the Android and the iPhone? Another victory for the former, albeit a slightly narrower one: 30.16 percent of the tweets about Android were positive versus just 29.03 percent of the ones about Apple.
United States: Texas surrounded!
Credit: Electronics Hub
There can be only one winner per state, though, and that leads to this preponderance of Android logos. Frankly, it's a relief to see a map showing a visceral divide within the United States that is not the coasts versus the heartland.
- Apple dominates in 19 states: a solid Midwestern bloc, another of states surrounding Texas, the Dakotas and California, plus North Carolina, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.
- And that's it. The other 32 are the United States of Android. You can drive from Seattle to Miami without straying into iPhone territory. But no stopovers in Dallas or Houston – both are behind enemy lines!
North America: strongly leaning toward Android
Credit: Electronics Hub
Only eight of North America's 21 countries surveyed fall into the Apple category.
- The U.S. and Canada lean Android, while Mexico goes for the iPhone.
- Central America is divided, but here too Android wins hands down, 5-2.
Europe: Big Five divided
Credit: Electronics Hub
In Europe, Apple wins, with 20 countries preferring the iPhone, 17 going for Android, and Belarus sitting on the fence.
- Of Western Europe's Big Five markets, three (UK, Germany, Spain) are pro-Android, and two (France, Italy) are pro-Apple.
- Czechia and Slovakia are an Apple island in the Android sea that is Central Europe. Glad to see there is still something the divorcees can agree on.
South America: almost even
Credit: Electronics Hub
In South America, the divide is almost even.
- Five countries prefer Android, four Apple, and one is undecided.
- In Peru, both Android- and Apple-related tweets were 25 percent positive.
Africa: watch out for Huawei
Credit: Electronics Hub
In Africa, Android wins by 17 countries versus Apple's 15.
- There's a solid Android bloc running from South Africa via DR Congo all the way to Ethiopia.
- iPhone countries are scattered throughout the north (Algeria), west (Guinea), east (Somalia), and south (Namibia).
Huawei — increasingly popular across the continent — could soon dramatically change the picture in Africa. Currently still running on Android, the Chinese phone manufacturer has just launched its own operating system, called Harmony.
Middle East: Iran vs. Saudi Arabia (again)
Credit: Electronics Hub
In the Middle East and Central Asia, Android wins 8 countries to Apple's 6.
- But it's complicated. One Turkish tweeter wondered how it is that iPhones seem more popular in the Asian half of Istanbul, while Android phones prevailed in the European part of the city.
- The phone divide matches up with the region's main geopolitical one: Iran prefers Android, Saudi Arabia the iPhone.
Asia-Pacific: Apple on the periphery
Credit: Electronics Hub
Another wafer-thin majority for Android in the Asia-Pacific region: 13 countries versus 12 for Apple — and one abstention (Fiji).
- The two giants of the Asian mainland, India and China, are both Android countries. Apple countries are on the periphery.
- And if India is Android, its rival Pakistan must be Apple. Same with North and South Korea.
Experts point to the fact that both operating systems are becoming more alike with every new generation as a potential resolution to the conflict. But as any student of human behavior will confirm: smaller differences will only exacerbate the rivalry between both camps.
Maps taken from Electronics Hub, reproduced with kind permission.
Strange Maps #1096
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