(Image: AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

Going viral

The increasingly concerning spread of coronavirus around the world might seem like the sort of thing which has no winners, as borders shut, tourism collapses and racist invective seems to govern the discourse and also the federal government’s quarantine procedure.

When a paper has to literally publish a story saying that a food court does not have coronavirus, you know things have hit an exciting new level of crazy.

But you’ll be relieved to know that there’s one definite winner of all this hopefully misplaced panic: Ndemic Creations, makers of the insanely addictive mobile and desktop game Plague Inc.

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The game, in which you control the spread vector and infectiousness of a worldwide pandemic, was originally released in 2012 and has puttered along ever since with a new options and updates a few times a year.

But a quick look at the game’s download stats shows there was a massive spike in downloads starting at the beginning of the year and jumping over 1000% in the space days, which suggests that a lot of people are gameifying the hell out of their anxiety.

According to Gamespot, it’s the #1 app in China right now, to the surprise of no one. And while it’s fun to see things from the virus’ perspective for once, just remember: it’s a game, not a scientific model.

That you can infect people in the game via vampire attacks should be something of a giveaway.

Shock(ing) therapy

The government’s controversial religious freedom bill is yet to slouch toward parliament where it will doubtlessly be debated for either legalising prejudice and bigotry, or for not legalising prejudice and bigotry nearly enough.

But there are signs in Queensland that maybe folks aren’t banking on the law getting through the federal parliament at all.

The state government is trying to outlaw the practice of conversion therapy on the grounds that it’s unscientific nonsense based on homophobia. Meanwhile, a collection of Christian schools and ministries are fighting the move on the basis that it will stifle legitimate discussion of sexuality and gender (or at least the bits where you pretend you can pretend your way to heterosexuality, one presumes).

According to The Guardian, the law would make “the practice of conversion therapy to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity punishable by up to 18 months in jail”.

However, Renew Ministries submitted that the laws were “an attack on Christians who are same-sex attracted but want to live according to their own personal definitions of their sexuality”.

Which, again, would require that definition of their sexuality to be “I can wish my way straight, if only I’m ashamed enough”.

It’s worth adding that Attorney-General Christian Porter has said that the religious freedom bill will not override state law, which seems a remarkably optimistic interpretation of the whole federal vs state law bit of the constitution.

Isn’t he meant to have read that stuff?

The Prince of New Power Generation

Much has been made of the government’s supposed pivot toward low emission energy generation, despite the lack of new targets or renewable energy investment or any actual pivoting whatsoever.

But part of the rhetoric involves talking up loads of alternatives to coal — nuclear! Gas! Pumped hydro Snowy 2.0! — while assiduously ignoring wind and solar farms and maintaining the fiction that Australia is regularly wreathed in windless darkness unsupported by battery storage.

Unfortunately and annoyingly, wind and solar keep succeeding, even that big battery in South Australia, which Scott Morrison dismissed as being a “Hollywood Solution” and a leftist tourist attraction.

Indeed, the five “big batteries” saw their revenue jump by 70% last quarter, making a cool $20 million now that they’re feeding into the national energy market and can do things like make power when it’s cheap and then release it when demand drives up the price. You know, like a battery.

Pumped hydro, meanwhile, has struggled because it’s not nearly as dispatchable since it takes power and thus money to pump the water up to release it for generation which is, by definition, most expensive to do when the power is the most lucrative to generate. Revenue actually dropped in the last quarter by $3 million for that very reason.

But yeah, let’s keep having discussions about building nuclear reactors and north Queensland power plants. That seems far more economically prudent than, you know, the stuff we’ve already got.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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