Archive for the ‘science’ Category

Ebola spreads in Uganda, but not an international emergency, WHO says [Updated]

June 13th, 2019
A health worker puts on protective gear as he prepares to screen travelers at the Mpondwe Health Screening Facility in the Ugandan border town of Mpondwe as they cross over from the Democratic Republic of Congo, on June 13, 2019.

Enlarge / A health worker puts on protective gear as he prepares to screen travelers at the Mpondwe Health Screening Facility in the Ugandan border town of Mpondwe as they cross over from the Democratic Republic of Congo, on June 13, 2019. (credit: Getty | Isaac Kasamani)

UPDATE 6/14/2019, 1pm ET: The World Health Organization's Emergency Committee met today to discuss the spread of Ebola outbreak and declared (for the third time) that the ongoing outbreak does not constitute a “public health emergency of international concern" or PHEIC. It is an emergency for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the region, but does not meet the criteria for an international public health emergency, the committee concluded. Original story from 6/13/2019 follows.

Local and international health officials are scrambling to smother a flare-up of Ebola in Uganda, which spread this week from a massive, months-long outbreak in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo. The outbreak has sickened 2,084 and killed 1,405 since last August.

Uganda announced its first case stemming from the outbreak on Tuesday, June 11. The case was in a 5-year-old Congolese boy who traveled across the border with family a few days earlier. The Ugandan Health Ministry reported shortly after that the boy succumbed to his infection the morning of June 12. Two of his family members also tested positive by that time: the boy’s 50-year-old grandmother and his 3-year-old brother.

Today, June 13, the Ministry announced that the grandmother had also passed. In an urgent meeting over the situation, officials from Uganda and the DRC mutually decided to send the remaining family back to the DRC. That includes the 3-year-old boy with a confirmed case, as well as the mother, father, a 6-month-old sibling, and their maid. Health officials noted that the latter four family members are all considered “suspected cases.”

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Posted in ebola, Infectious disease, public health, science, vaccine, WHO | Comments (0)

Why Kevin Durant’s Achilles Tendon Was His Achilles’ Heel

June 13th, 2019
When the Golden State Warriors star limped off the court, his Achilles tendon had been pulled to the point of rupture. Here's how that may have happened.

Posted in science, Science / Health | Comments (0)

Expanding and focusing beam of light makes parallel computer

June 13th, 2019
Image of multiple beams of light entering a device and exiting as a single beam.

Enlarge / If everything's set up properly, you know you have a solution when the input light results in a single point of light as the output. (credit: Robert Horn/Argonne National Laboratory)

When it comes to computation, the modern approach seems to involve an enormous bucket of bits, vigorous shaking, and not a lot of explanation of how it all works. If you ever wondered how Excel became such an abomination, now you know.

We don’t seem to have a problem creating and filling enormous buckets of bits, but shaking them up is energy-intensive and slow. Modern processors, as good as they are, simply don’t cope well with some problems. A light-based, highly parallel processor may just be the (rather bulky) co-processor that we've been looking for to handle these tasks.

Solutions are downhill

One way to compute a solution to a problem is called annealing. I’ve written a lot about annealing in the context of quantum computing, but annealing works for classical computers as well. The essential idea is that a problem is recast so that the solution is the lowest energy state of an energy landscape. The landscape determines how strongly the value of one bit affects the value of the surrounding bits.

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Posted in annealing, interference, optical computing, science, spatial light modulators | Comments (0)

Medical marijuana vs. opioid abuse: New study questions the connection

June 13th, 2019
Legal cannabis for sale in a tobacco shop in Italy.

Enlarge / Legal cannabis for sale in a tobacco shop in Italy. (credit: Stefano Guidi | Getty Images)

In the US, federal law has severely restricted our ability to study any potential medical properties of cannabis. But, given some limited studies and a lot of anecdotal stories, a number of states have gone ahead and legalized medical marijuana. This has allowed some population-level studies of what's going on in the states, but those have faced additional complications, like rules that differ from state to state and an ongoing legalization of recreational use confusing the picture.

Just how confusing all this can be was driven home this week by the release of a paper that suggests that one of medical marijuana's greatest successes was illusory. A couple of early studies indicated that states that had legalized medical marijuana use saw drops in opioid-related deaths. The new research replicates those results but finds that the trend has reversed in recent years, with those states now seeing increased deaths. While the new study's authors suggest the initial results were spurious, others suggest that the shifting legal landscape and changes in drug abuse may have driven the change.

What does everyone agree upon?

Back in 2014, researchers compared deaths due to opioid abuse in states with and without legalization of medical marijuana. For the decade prior to 2010, the trend was clear: states that allowed medical marijuana had lower rates of opioid-abuse-driven death.

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Posted in Biology, epidemiology, Medical Marijuana, medicine, opioids, Policy, science | Comments (0)

Estimate the Energy of an Utterly Massive Wind Turbine

June 13th, 2019
The Hornsea Wind Farm is expected to be the largest offshore wind farm in the world. Here's how much energy is generated from one rotation of a turbine.

Posted in science, Science / Physics and Math | Comments (0)

The Most Delicious Foods Will Fall Victim to Climate Change

June 13th, 2019
Author Amanda Little explains why high-nutrient, high-flavor crops are the most likely to suffer in a less predictable environment.

Posted in science, Science / Environment | Comments (0)

Group to fund and operate first hydrogen fuel ferry fleet in the US

June 12th, 2019

On Wednesday, a plan to put hydrogen fuel cell-powered ferries in US waters moved forward as startup Golden Gate Zero Emission Marine (GGZEM) announced a partnership with Switch Maritime, an impact investment fund that will finance and operate a fleet of such vessels.

GGZEM received a $3 million grant from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) last November to build a 70-foot, 84-passenger, hydrogen fuel cell-powered boat. Named the Water-Go-Round, the vessel will be used to take passengers across the San Francisco Bay. The ferry, which is currently under construction in Alameda, Calif., is expected to be complete in September. After its completion, it will undergo three months of testing so researchers can gather data on its performance.

Switch Maritime (sometimes styled SW/TCH) is the new operator of the ferry, and it hopes to decarbonize water transport throughout the United States. The company recently announced another project in New York City to build a battery-powered ferry, which will be completed after the Water-Go-Round's debut. Switch says it "plans to work with existing ferry operators on both coasts to provide capital to accelerate the adoption of zero-emission modes of transit," according to a press release.

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Posted in Biz & IT, Energy, ferry, hydrogen, science, water go round | Comments (0)

Oldest evidence of cannabis smoking found in ancient Chinese cemetery

June 12th, 2019
Photo of skeleton and braziers in excavated tomb.

Enlarge / This is how the braziers were placed in the tomb alongside the deceased. (credit: Xinhua Wu)

The broken wooden braziers, unearthed from 2,500-year-old tombs in Western China, contained burned, blackened stones, and the interior of the wooden vessels also looked charred. To find out what had been burned in them, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences archaeologist Yemin Yang and his colleagues used gas chromatography/mass spectrometry to analyze small samples of the charred wood and the residue from the stones.

Their analysis turned up a chemical called cannabinol, or CBN—an unmistakable chemical signature of cannabis. Those ancient chemical traces offer an important clue in the history of human drug use and the domestic history of cannabis.

In around 500 BCE, the ancient Greek historian Herodotus described people near the Caspian Sea gathering in small, enclosed tents to breathe in the smoke from cannabis burned atop a bowlful of red-hot stones. Yang says people did something similar at Jirzankou, probably as part of funeral ceremonies. Archaeologists there also found the remains of a musical instrument called an angular harp, which played an important role in later funeral rites in Western China.

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Posted in Archeology, cannabis, chemistry, domestication, science | Comments (0)

A New Fuel for Satellites Is So Safe It Won’t Blow Up Humans

June 12th, 2019
SpaceX’s next Falcon Heavy launch will carry a satellite that will test, for the first time, a “green” fuel that is even less toxic than caffeine.

Posted in science, Science / Space | Comments (0)

Ancient Potheads, a Russian Troll Controversy, and More News

June 12th, 2019
Catch up on the most important news from today in two minutes or less.

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