Sci/Tech http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech.rss en Mon Dec 27 16:40:37 IST 2021 https://www.theweek.in/privacy-an-settlement.html electricity-from-tapioca-leaves--ctcri-scripts-success-story <a href="http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2022/04/30/electricity-from-tapioca-leaves--ctcri-scripts-success-story.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/news/2020/images/2022/2/10/tapioca-casava-leaves-leaf-shut.jpg" /> <p>Amid growing concerns over the energy crisis, one of the foremost research institutes of the country claimed that it has achieved experimental success by generating electricity from tapioca leaves.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Central Tuber Research Institute (CTCRI), Thiruvananthapuram under the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) has come up with the new invention that can offer new impetus to India's initiative for clean energy sources. The efforts of the team led by Dr C A Jayaprakash, Principal Scientist, CTCRI have borne fruit under the project funded by the Department of Atomic Energy.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The experiment was presented before a group of journalists from Himachal Pradesh, who visited CTCRI on Friday under the aegis of Press Information Bureau under the 'Ek Bharat Shreshth Bharat' project, an official release said here on Saturday. &quot;Wastage after the mechanical extraction of insecticidal molecules from tapioca leaves was subjected to Methanogenesis.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Subsequently, pure methane was segregated from the gas complex by scrubbing off unwanted gases&quot;, it said. As the electricity was generated from cassava (tapioca), the end product has been christened as CASSA DIPAH. &quot;Approximately 5 tons of leaves and twigs are wasted per hectare of tapioca harvest. This shows the potential of generating electricity from the success of this experiment,&quot; it added.&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2022/04/30/electricity-from-tapioca-leaves--ctcri-scripts-success-story.html http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2022/04/30/electricity-from-tapioca-leaves--ctcri-scripts-success-story.html Sat Apr 30 15:49:53 IST 2022 honeybees-can-tell-the-difference-between-odd-and-even-numbers <a href="http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2022/04/30/honeybees-can-tell-the-difference-between-odd-and-even-numbers.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/news/sci-tech/2018/january/honeybee-bees-bee-honey.jpg" /> <p>Two, four, six, eight; bog in, don't wait.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As children, we learn numbers can either be even or odd. And there are many ways to categorise numbers as even or odd.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We may memorise the rule that numbers ending in 1, 3, 5, 7, or 9 are odd while numbers ending in 0, 2, 4, 6, or 8 are even. Or we may divide a number by 2 where any whole number outcome means the number is even, otherwise it must be odd.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Similarly, when dealing with real-world objects we can use pairing. If we have an unpaired element left over, that means the number of objects was odd.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Until now odd and even categorisation, also called parity classification, had never been shown in non-human animals. In a new study, published today in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, we show honeybees can learn to do this.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Why is parity categorisation special?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Parity tasks (such as odd and even categorisation) are considered abstract and high-level numerical concepts in humans.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Interestingly, humans demonstrate accuracy, speed, language and spatial relationship biases when categorising numbers as odd or even. For example, we tend to respond faster to even numbers with actions performed by our right hand, and to odd numbers with actions performed by our left hand.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We are also faster, and more accurate, when categorising numbers as even compared to odd. And research has found children typically associate the word even with right and odd with left.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>These studies suggest humans may have learnt biases and/or innate biases regarding odd and even numbers, which may have arisen either through evolution, cultural transmission, or a combination of both.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It isn't obvious why parity might be important beyond its use in mathematics, so the origins of these biases remain unclear. Understanding if and how other animals can recognise (or can learn to recognise) odd and even numbers could tell us more about our own history with parity.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Training bees to learn odd and even</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Studies have shown honeybees can learn to order quantities, perform simple addition and subtraction, match symbols with quantities and relate size and number concepts.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To teach bees a parity task, we separated individuals into two groups. One was trained to associate even numbers with sugar water and odd numbers with a bitter-tasting liquid (quinine). The other group was trained to associate odd numbers with sugar water, and even numbers with quinine.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We trained individual bees using comparisons of odd versus even numbers (with cards presenting 1-10 printed shapes) until they chose the correct answer with 80% accuracy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Remarkably, the respective groups learnt at different rates. The bees trained to associate odd numbers with sugar water learnt quicker. Their learning bias towards odd numbers was the opposite of humans, who categorise even numbers more quickly.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We then tested each bee on new numbers not shown during the training. Impressively, they categorised the new numbers of 11 or 12 elements as odd or even with an accuracy of about 70%.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Our results showed the miniature brains of honeybees were able to understand the concepts of odd and even. So a large and complex human brain consisting of 86 billion neurons, and a miniature insect brain with about 960,000 neurons, could both categorise numbers by parity.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Does this mean the parity task was less complex than we'd previously thought? To find the answer, we turned to bio-inspired technology.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Creating a simple artificial neural network</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Artificial neural networks were one of the first learning algorithms developed for machine learning. Inspired by biological neurons, these networks are scalable and can tackle complex recognition and classification tasks using propositional logic.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We constructed a simple artificial neural network with just five neurons to perform a parity test. We gave the network signals between 0 and 40 pulses, which it classified as either odd or even. Despite its simplicity, the neural network correctly categorised the pulse numbers as odd or even with 100% accuracy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This showed us that in principle parity categorisation does not require a large and complex brain such as a human's. However, this doesn't necessarily mean the bees and the simple neural network used the same mechanism to solve the task.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Simple or complex?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We don't yet know how the bees were able to perform the parity task. Explanations may include simple or complex processes. For example, the bees may have:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>-- paired elements to find an unpaired element</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>-- performed division calculations although division has not been previously demonstrated by bees</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>-- counted each element and then applied the odd/even categorisation rule to the total quantity.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>By teaching other animal species to discriminate between odd and even numbers, and perform other abstract mathematics, we can learn more about how maths and abstract thought emerged in humans.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Is discovering maths an inevitable consequence of intelligence? Or is maths somehow linked to the human brain? Are the differences between humans and other animals less than we previously thought? Perhaps we can glean these intellectual insights, if only we listen properly.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>(The Conversation: by Scarlett Howard, Lecturer, Monash University; Adrian Dyer, Associate Professor, RMIT University; Andrew Greentree, Professor of Quantum Physics and Australian Research Council Future Fellow, RMIT University; and Jair Garcia, Research fellow, RMIT University)&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2022/04/30/honeybees-can-tell-the-difference-between-odd-and-even-numbers.html http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2022/04/30/honeybees-can-tell-the-difference-between-odd-and-even-numbers.html Sat Apr 30 15:38:22 IST 2022 india--uk-asked-to-learn-from-us-on-mobility-of-researchers <a href="http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2022/04/30/india--uk-asked-to-learn-from-us-on-mobility-of-researchers.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/health/cover/images/2019/3/8/25-Scientists-1.jpg" /> <p>India and the UK must learn from the model followed by the US on encouraging scientific research by allowing a free flow of people and ideas, one of India's leading scientific advisers has said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Professor K VijayRaghavan, who has just completed his tenure as the Principal Scientific Adviser to the government of India, highlighted the issue during a virtual address at a UK-India Science and Innovation Partnerships dialogue at Imperial College London this week, along with Sir Patrick Vallance, Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK government.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Both our countries need to learn from America. America has succeeded because of its welcoming nature for ideas and immigrants from anywhere in the world,&quot; said VijayRaghavan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The UK needs to, in my opinion, do this on a scale and in a manner which is distinct from its general policy on immigration. Talented people, the best and the brightest in the world, need to be able to come in and out very, very quickly; and if the UK needs to do this, India has to do this 100 times more, he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Vallance echoed the view, highlighting how the AstraZeneca and Serum Institute of India COVID-19 vaccine collaboration had resulted in people &quot;right across the globe benefiting.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Science fundamentally rests on partnerships and Indian scientists have played an enormously important part in UK science, and have been crucial to the advances here, he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India today is firmly on the path to being a science superpower, he added.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The hybrid event on Tuesday brought together thought leaders from India and the UK to discuss and promote the crucial role of research, education and innovation partnerships in driving forward the Roadmap 2030, launched by Prime Ministers Boris Johnson and Narendra Modi to enhance bilateral ties across all sectors.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Our formal institutional engagements include the biennial UK-India Science and Innovation Council that usually sets the broad agenda for our cooperation, Indian High Commissioner Gaitri Issar Kumar said in her keynote address.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Pointing to the recent visit of Prime Minister Johnson to India, she flagged a broad range of collaborations, from civil nuclear and electric propulsion to earth system sciences and artificial intelligence (AI).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I would emphasise that our partnership in science and technology research and innovation should eventually bring outcomes that are most relevant not only for our mutual progress and prosperity but which also enable us to bring progress and prosperity to third countries through adaptable, affordable and accessible technologies that help to sustain healthier climate resilient societies, she said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Lord Jo Johnson, Chairman of Access Creative and former Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, coordinated a panel discussion on the scientific partnership between the two counties, also involving Professor Mary Ryan, Imperial College Interim Vice-Provost (Research and Enterprise), and Professor Govindan Rangarajan, Director of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bangalore.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The stars are aligning for very real progress for the UK-India relationship and in no area is this clearer than in science and education, said Jo Johnson, a former universities minister and younger brother of Prime Minister Boris Johnson.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rangarajan urged political leaders to create an India-UK data exchange to share important data.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;This is crucial for the knowledge partnerships to thrive. We need a free data agreement, he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Imperial College London, which hosted the session as a celebration of its India ties, has 500 Indian students on the rolls and says in the last five years its academics have co-authored just over 1,200 research publications with partners at more than 300 Indian institutions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Its research partners include the IISc Bangalore, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Christian Medical College, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research.&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2022/04/30/india--uk-asked-to-learn-from-us-on-mobility-of-researchers.html http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2022/04/30/india--uk-asked-to-learn-from-us-on-mobility-of-researchers.html Sat Apr 30 14:27:07 IST 2022 google-adds-ways-to-keep-personal-info-private-in-searches <a href="http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2022/04/30/google-adds-ways-to-keep-personal-info-private-in-searches.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/news/2020/images/2022/2/10/logo-of-Google--logo-of-Google-reu.jpg" /> <p>Google has expanded options for keeping personal information private from online searches.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The company said Friday it will let people request that more types of content such as personal contact information like phone numbers, email and physical addresses be removed from search results.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The new policy also allows the removal of other information that may pose a risk for identity theft, such as confidential log-in credentials.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The company said in a statement that open access to information is vital, but so is empowering people with the tools they need to protect themselves and keep their sensitive, personally identifiable information private.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Privacy and online safety go hand in hand. And when you're using the internet, it's important to have control over how your sensitive, personally identifiable information can be found,&quot; it said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Google Search earlier had permitted people to request that highly personal content that could cause direct harm be removed. That includes information removed due to doxxing and personal details like bank account or credit card numbers that could be used for fraud.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But information increasing pops up in unexpected places and is used in new ways, so policies need to evolve, the company said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Having personal contact information openly available online also can pose a threat and Google said it had received requests for the option to remove that content, too.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It said that when it receives such requests it will study all the content on the web page to avoid limiting availability of useful information or of content on the public record on government or other official websites.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It's important to remember that removing content from Google Search won't remove it from the internet, which is why you may wish to contact the hosting site directly, if you're comfortable doing so,&quot; it said.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>(AP)&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2022/04/30/google-adds-ways-to-keep-personal-info-private-in-searches.html http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2022/04/30/google-adds-ways-to-keep-personal-info-private-in-searches.html Sat Apr 30 12:45:14 IST 2022 racial-split-on-covid-19-endures-as-restrictions-ease-in-us <a href="http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2022/04/29/racial-split-on-covid-19-endures-as-restrictions-ease-in-us.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/news/2020/images/2021/1/13/person-presenting-with-symptoms-gets-tested-for-the-coronavirus-disease-COVID-19-US-reu.jpg" /> <p>Black and Hispanic Americans remain far more cautious in their approach to Covid-19 than white Americans, recent polls show, reflecting diverging preferences on how to deal with the pandemic as federal, state and local restrictions fall by the wayside.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Despite majority favorability among US adults overall for measures like mask mandates, public health experts said divided opinions among racial groups reflect not only the unequal impact of the pandemic on people of color but also apathy among some white Americans.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Black Americans (63 percent) and Hispanic Americans (68 percent) continue to be more likely than white Americans (45 percent) to say they are at least somewhat worried about themselves or a family member being infected with Covid-19, according to an April poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Throughout the pandemic, Black and Hispanic communities have experienced higher rates of illness and death from Covid, said Amelia Burke-Garcia, public health program area director at NORC. Those experiences have resulted in greater levels of stress, anxiety and awareness of the risks of catching Covid-19, she said, which means people of color are more likely to feel measures like mask mandates are needed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We've seen these trends endure throughout the entire pandemic, Burke-Garcia said. What we're seeing now as mitigation measures are being rolled back is there's still great concern amongst Black Americans and Hispanic Americans around the risk of getting sick.&quot;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Seventy-one percent of Black Americans say they favor requiring face masks for people traveling on airplanes, trains and other types of public transportation. That's more than the 52 percent of white Americans who support mask mandates for travelers; 29 percent of white Americans are opposed. Among Hispanic Americans, 59 percent are in favor and 20 percent are opposed. The poll was conducted before a ruling by a federal judge scuttled the government's mask mandate for travelers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In Indiana, Tuwanna Plant said she sees fewer and fewer people wearing masks in public, even though she said she has been diligent in always wearing one. Plant, who is Black, said she sees people treating the pandemic like it's over, and she wants the mask mandate to continue.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Plant, a 46-year-old sous chef, said she had some concerns about getting the vaccine and took every other precaution, such as cleaning and masking, to avoid getting sick but recently was hospitalized for Covid-19.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The experience scared her she has a preexisting lung condition, and knew family members who died from Covid-19. She said she plans to get vaccinated as soon as she can.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I called my children while I was in the emergency room, Plant said. I didn't know ... if it was going to get better or worse, I didn't know. So it was the experience for me altogether.&quot;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Dr. Celine Gounder, an infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist and editor-at-large at Kaiser Health News, said people's lived experiences deeply shape how they perceive the pandemic. Anecdotes and personal experience can have a larger impact on behavior than numbers, she said, and people of color are more likely to have had negative experiences with health care prior to and during the pandemic.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While new medicines and vaccines have made it easier to treat Covid-19, Gounder said many people still face systemic barriers to accessing that medical care. Others risk losing their jobs or are unable to take time off if they do fall ill, she said, or cannot avoid things like public transit to reduce their exposures.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When people argue that they don't have to mask on the plane, that means something very different for someone who has access to all of these new innovations than it does for somebody who has no health insurance, who struggles to care for an elderly parent and their children, who's maybe a single mom working in a job where she has no paid sick and family medical leave, Gounder said. It's just a completely different calculation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In January, an AP-NORC poll showed Black and Hispanic Americans were more likely than white Americans to feel certain things would be essential for getting back to life without feeling at risk of infection. For example, 76 percent of Black Americans and 55 percent of Hispanic Americans said it was essential for getting back to normal that most people regularly wear face masks in public indoor places, compared with 38 percent of white Americans.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Last month, an AP-NORC poll showed Black and Hispanic Americans, 69 percent and 49 percent, were more likely than white Americans, 35 percent, to say they always or often wear a face mask around others.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Lower support for mask mandates and other precautions among white Americans may also reflect less sensitivity towards what occurs in communities of color. In a 2021 study of mask wearing during the early part of the pandemic, researchers found that mask wearing among white people increased when white people were dying at greater rates in the surrounding community. When Black and Hispanic people were dying, mask usage was lower.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Berkeley Franz, a co-author of the paper, said that in addition to residential segregation that separates white people from communities of color, past research has shown that white people can display ambivalence toward policies that they believe mostly help people of color.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Anti-Blackness is really pervasive and has tremendous consequences, both in terms of the policies that get passed, and what doesn't,&quot; Franz said. &quot;White people can still have really racist actions without seeing themselves that way and understanding the consequences. It's largely below the surface and unintentional but has tremendous consequences in terms of equity.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Communities of color also have a different perception of risk from the pandemic than their white counterparts, said Michael Nio, a sociology professor at the University of Arkansas who co-authored a paper on race, gender and masking in the pandemic.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Masking is something that is relatively cheap, it's effective, and it's something that can be easily done, he said. It doesn't require any sort of governmental response. These broader histories of racism and sexism in the United States are most certainly shaping some of the patterns we're seeing.&nbsp;</p> <p>(AP)&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2022/04/29/racial-split-on-covid-19-endures-as-restrictions-ease-in-us.html http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2022/04/29/racial-split-on-covid-19-endures-as-restrictions-ease-in-us.html Fri Apr 29 16:46:45 IST 2022 scientists-identify-100-crucial-research-questions-on-climate-ch <a href="http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2022/04/27/scientists-identify-100-crucial-research-questions-on-climate-ch.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/news/2020/images/2022/2/10/Panchchuli-Peaks-Himalayas-Himalaya-view-from-Munsiyari-Uttarakhand-shut.jpg" /> <p>Scientists have identified 100 pressing research questions on climate change and water resources in the Upper Indus Basin (UIB), which they say must be answered to protect the communities living in the region.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The UIB is located in the mountainous Hindu-Kush Karakoram Himalaya (HKH) region, of which Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh is a part, and which feeds the river systems that supply the world's largest network of irrigated agriculture.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Hundreds of millions of people across Pakistan, India, China, and Afghanistan depend on these water resources and so adapting to climate change is essential, the researchers, including those from the University of Kashmir in Srinagar, noted.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The study, published in the journal Earth's Future, employed a 'horizon scanning' technique to identify 100 essential questions required for successful adaptation to ongoing and future climate change in the UIB.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The aim of the study is to identify knowledge gaps and opportunities in social and natural sciences to help inform climate plans, water management, and development policy, the researchers said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The questions identified push the boundaries of current thinking and are grouped into overarching topics of governance and policy, socioeconomic processes, and earth system processes, they said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Raising awareness of these pressing knowledge gaps will encourage researchers, funding bodies, practitioners, and policy makers to address them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;Water resources in the UIB are under a range of ever-increasing pressures including population growth, industrialisation and of course the serious threat posed by climate change,&quot; said British Antarctic Survey climate scientist Andrew Orr, who led the study.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;If we are going to successfully adapt to ongoing and future hydrological and climate change in the UIB we must address pressing knowledge gaps in social and natural sciences,&quot; Orr said in a statement.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The researchers noted that the coming years will likely see dramatic changes to this region, and the questions they have identified must be addressed to prepare for such changes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;The Top 100 research questions identified in the study would inform policymaking for developing strategies and action plans to combat climate change and hydrological extremes in UIB, of which Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh is a part,&quot; said Professor Shakil Ahmad Romshoo, from the University of Kashmir, who participated in the study.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;The study demonstrates a collaborative role for stakeholders within and outside the UIB to develop climate change adaption plans, and policies which will secure and protect the UIB communities that live there,&quot; said Romshoo, who is also the Vice-Chancellor of Islamic University of Science and Technology (IUST) in Awantipora, Jammu and Kashmir.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The authors noted that one of the main priorities of the study was to emphasise the importance of identifying knowledge gaps in both the natural and social sciences, as research efforts to identify the impacts of climate change on the latter have for a long time often been neglected in favour of the former.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The consequences of neglecting social sciences are that the understanding of the dynamics and impacts of climate change are often limited, they added.&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2022/04/27/scientists-identify-100-crucial-research-questions-on-climate-ch.html http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2022/04/27/scientists-identify-100-crucial-research-questions-on-climate-ch.html Wed Apr 27 17:21:56 IST 2022 asia--less-brain-drain-more-global-consciousness- <a href="http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2022/04/27/asia--less-brain-drain-more-global-consciousness-.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/news/2020/images/2022/2/10/migration-brain-drain-profession-career-braindrain-.jpg" /> <p>Universities, already encouraged to self-finance in the face of declining government funding, faced even more uncertainty when the pandemic hit. But few strayed from their strategy to monetise the growing global student market.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the Netherlands, there is one international student for every four domestic students. Canada's Immigration Refugee and Citizenship data shows that in 2015 to 2016 and 2019 to 2020, the number of Indian students studying there increased by 350 percent. Meanwhile, the UK's Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) reported a 220 per cent annual increase of Indian students enrolling in UK universities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In Asia, many international programmes are provided by branches of UK universities. By 2021, there were 17 British universities in 27 countries around the world, providing education for approximately 60,000 students.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The University of Nottingham Malaysia was opened in Selangor, Malaysia in 2000 catering to more than 5,000 students via the private university model. Newcastle University partnered with the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) and created the Newcastle University International Singapore (NUIS) to offer medical degrees in Malaysia through NUMed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 2006, the Xi'an Jiaoting-Liverpool University (XJTLU) was founded in Suzhou, China reaching approximately 14,000 students in 2019.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It's a trend that Adam Habib, Director of the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London says is accelerating the brain drain in Africa and Asia, weakening their intellectual and institutional capacity to deal with the pandemic, climate change, and inequalities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Habib cautions that UK universities are inadvertently taking away intellectual capacity from economically-developing countries as former students marry, find work abroad, and eventually stay.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Such partnerships are, for Asian states, part of neoliberal aspirations to become world class'. What is deemed world class' is constructed through international university rankings agencies like Quacquarelli Symonds and Times Higher Education. These rankings, after all, are prerequisites for Asian universities to tap into regional student markets by opening up their own English-based undergraduate programmes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, there is little authentic' intellectual and institutional capacity in Asia to begin with. For many countries in Southeast Asia, universities and hospitals were inherited from colonialist regimes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In Indonesia, independence movements of the early 20th century were mobilised by intellectuals and scientists who received a European education and were exposed to modern nation-state ideas.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Historically, Asian societies have been dealing with contradictions relating to the formation and spread of intellectualism, including how it reproduces new kinds of social inequalities between English-speaking Asians and their local counterparts.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the meantime, at least in India and Indonesia, since the pandemic, governments and academic communities are increasingly realising the fundamental need to address these inequalities by leveraging on the science diaspora.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>These alliances between sojourners, who feel that they are very much Indian and Indonesian, and local intellectuals, encourage people to bridge more equal partnerships between science and technology.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But this idea comes with new kinds of issues. Chinese diaspora and Confucius Institutes in Southeast Asia are viewed with suspicion, specifically as spreaders of the communist state's propaganda through science collaborations seen as soft power.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On one hand, the sense of belonging of diasporic communities can teach us new ways to imagine more equal partnerships. On the other, developing a global consciousness is crucial in order to respond to upcoming global crises such as climate change and current ones like the COVID-19 pandemic; where borders are transformative and problems go beyond nation-states.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Perhaps it is less a question of whether Northern universities are draining Asia's intellectual capacity than it is about deeper structural inequalities that have impinged on meaningful academic work and our ability to explain how all of us face fundamentally the same issues.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Regardless of location, academics working in social sciences and humanities face less and less funding, their campuses led by notions of surplus value as advocated by university leaders who think like CEOs, managers and administrators. There's a tension between the public meaning of their work and the market mechanisms that hinder it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So it is less a Wallersteinian issue of intellectualism, where the system between countries is hierarchical, led by former colonisers who dominate the world economy which translates into the stronger education capacity held by universities in developed countries over developing ones.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And, it is more about the social reality that we live in an unequal world that exploits all kinds of labouring that tries to criticise and explain it, let alone undo it. A capitalist, social world that narrows the space to rethink our global future in meaningful ways.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This space must be widened if we are to recuperate from the pandemic in ways that equalise power between the richest and poorest as well as between societies in environmentally-sound and long-lasting ways.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Perhaps, a realistic expectation is to work within the conditions that exist while continually acknowledging and explaining how new kinds of colonialisations such as those made worse by market imperatives surface through the modes of production of intellectualism in the world and in Asia.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ironically, or maybe consistently, it is the disciplines so often viewed as not monetisable that are able to critically unpack and explain to us how to find a solution. So maybe we begin there.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>(360info: By Inaya Rakhmani, University of Indonesia, Jakarta)&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2022/04/27/asia--less-brain-drain-more-global-consciousness-.html http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2022/04/27/asia--less-brain-drain-more-global-consciousness-.html Wed Apr 27 16:31:03 IST 2022 machines-are-learning-to-track-wartime-destruction <a href="http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2022/04/27/machines-are-learning-to-track-wartime-destruction.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/news/2020/images/2022/2/10/Earth-view-from-space-satellite-global-satellite-shut.jpg" /> <p>A new automated analysis of satellite imagery can reveal the extent of building destruction in conflict zones, providing vital information for humanitarian aid.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Among the shocking images to emerge from Ukraine in recent weeks is the sight of civilian lives torn apart by shelling. Shredded apartment buildings, with their ordinary contents microwaves, shoes, cushions incongruously spilling into the muddy, rubble-strewn streets.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Building destruction during war is a form of violence that is particularly harmful to civilians. Used by aggressors as a strategy to displace populations, it is responsible for tremendous human suffering beyond loss of life. The Red Cross warns that massive urban destruction has dramatic knock-on effects on health, as it often involves destroying water and power supplies, as well as hospitals.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Reliable and up-to-date data on destruction in war zones plays an important role in humanitarian relief efforts. It also informs human-rights monitoring, reconstruction initiatives and media reporting, as well as the study of violent conflict by researchers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As high-resolution satellite imagery becomes more readily available, images can be monitored for building destruction weekly or even daily. At the same time, recent advances in machine learning have provided sophisticated tools to extract information from these images.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Recent research has demonstrated a tool that automatically analyses satellite imagery to identify buildings destroyed by shelling. The method combines existing state-of-the-art computer-vision methods with a new strategy of augmenting the labels applied to destroyed or intact buildings. An additional post-processing step improves classifier performance.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The standard approach for this kind of task is something known as convolutional neural networks (CNNs). These have achieved unprecedented success in large-scale visual image classification with accuracy rates beating humans'.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The new method trained a CNN to spot destruction features from artillery and bombing in satellite images for example, the rubble from collapsed buildings or the presence of bomb craters. The researchers tested the concept on six Syrian cities, including Aleppo, which suffered significant damage during the civil war of 201216.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Even in heavily bombed cities, the percentage of destroyed buildings relative to intact ones is low. This means that even a small number of mistakes will result in unacceptable false-positive predictions. This would yield data that is useless for all practical purposes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In heavily bombed Aleppo, only 2.8 percent of all images of populated areas contained a building that was classified as destroyed by the UN Operational Satellite Applications Program (UNOSAT) in September 2016.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To expand the computer's training dataset, the research used a series of images taken over time. This brought down error rates, although it added complications caused by seasonal changes in vegetation or non-war related building demolition. The researchers then tested the tool on images of other bombed Syrian cities, with good results.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Organisations such as the United Nations, the World Bank and Amnesty International currently use humans to manually classify satellite images to produce damage-assessment case studies. Academics studying violent conflict often rely on news organisations, who themselves rely on eyewitness accounts. All these methods are slow and subject to bias.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>An automated building-damage classifier for use with satellite imagery, which has a low rate of false positives in unbalanced samples and allows tracking on-the-ground destruction in close to real time, can therefore be extremely valuable for the international community and academic researchers alike. The researchers calculated that manual labelling of the images from Syrian cities would have cost USD 200,000.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Such a tool could also work with humans. It could take a first pass through masses of data to flag the most noteworthy images for human classification. More training and checking by humans could also improve the computer's predictions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Monitoring of conflict tends to reduce armed violence, which suggests that a monitoring tool could be a vehicle for greater peace. However, sometimes the opposite has been true: violence increased because someone was watching.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Because building destruction is often used to create wholesale displacement of people, information about atrocities and destruction may help aggressors displace a population. If the aggressors do not fear repercussions linked to the monitoring of these atrocities, then monitoring itself can increase violence. Covert monitoring could be used in such a situation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As satellite images improve in quality and resolution, a computer monitoring tool to automatically reveal building destruction in times of conflict can be expected to increase in reliability. Lower-cost, automated monitoring offers the possibility of long-range, long-term, safe assessment of urban destruction and its toll on the innocent citizens of cities at war.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>(360info: By Hannes Mueller, Institute of Economic Analysis (Spanish National Research Council), Barcelona School of Economics and Andre Groeger, Autonomous University of Barcelona, Barcelona School of Economic)&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2022/04/27/machines-are-learning-to-track-wartime-destruction.html http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2022/04/27/machines-are-learning-to-track-wartime-destruction.html Wed Apr 27 13:41:24 IST 2022 data-literacy-is-our-best-weapon-against-fake-satellite-images <a href="http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2022/04/27/data-literacy-is-our-best-weapon-against-fake-satellite-images.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/news/sci-tech/images/2018/5/1/laptop-computer-apple.jpg" /> <p>A new algorithm can detect faked satellite images with a high degree of accuracy, but the best safeguard is an informed public.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Maps have always told white lies. To paraphrase the words of Mark Monmonier in his classic book How to Lie with Maps, representing a curving Earth on a flat plane necessarily involves some distortion.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Fake satellite images are different: the apparent authority of a satellite photograph can make us forget that they have the same vulnerabilities as any other piece of data.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We know fake satellite images exist. The question is whether we can detect them and how reliably. A new machine-learning algorithm can spot a particular kind of faked satellite imagery with 94 percent accuracy, but data literacy is the best way to sort reliable images from unreliable ones.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs) are frequently used to create convincing deep-fake media. Sometimes the results are less than convincing, as with the recent fake videos of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Using Cycle-GANs, researchers created fake maps of Tacoma, a city in the US state of Washington. The fake maps included some features of Seattle, Washington, and the Chinese city of Beijing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>GANs consist of a generator network and a discriminator network, which work in tandem through rounds of tuning until they have produced a convincing fake according to the characteristics of the data they are aiming to simulate.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As the GANs working to produce a convincing fake map of Tacoma went through the tuning process, the map grew sharper: shadowed areas gave way to simulated roads, detail increased, and areas intended to show land and water acquired more natural-looking colour.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To the naked eye, the fake map of Tacoma looked authentic.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The machine-learning algorithm sorted through a deep-fake detection dataset consisting of genuine satellite images of Tacoma as well as the faked images. With a success rate of 94 percent, the algorithm picked out the fakes they were slightly less colourful and had sharper edges than the genuine images.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is further work to do to develop the algorithm. It must of course be tested on datasets of other cities. It is effective with CycleGAN images but may not be as effective with other GAN models. And it is currently limited to a binary result totally accurate or totally fake and it cannot detect when only part of a map has been faked. Beyond algorithms, though, there is data literacy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Any satellite image has its limits as a data source. Images are produced from high to low, so unless a particular satellite has geothermal capabilities, such as a synthetic aperture radar (SAR) that can take images through cloud, it cannot show that there are people below an opaque structure. For example, a satellite image of the destroyed bridge in the Ukrainian city of Irpin would not be able to convey that there were people sheltering beneath it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Michael Goodchild wrote about citizen sensors' in a 2007 article, and this idea has particular relevance to images of conflict zones. Journalists, volunteers and NGO staff can provide detail about what is happening on the ground.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A satellite image is a single data point, but a holistic understanding of a geographical situation needs a variety of data sources.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>These should come not only from the perspective of a satellite, which in geographic information science is referred to as the god's eye, but also from the perspective of people's eyes images from smartphones, cameras or drones. Our perception of the conflict in Ukraine can be informed by short videos on TikTok and photographs on Twitter. With a range of data sources, we can build a more complete picture.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>High-resolution satellite imagery with superb data quality is available but it usually comes at a cost. US satellite-image distributor Maxar provided high-resolution imagery to the Ukrainian government for free, but most high-resolution satellite images for public consumption are very expensive. Maxar's daily updated image from its WorldView-3 satellite was priced at USD 22.50 per square kilometre.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To make the best use of their resources, most media platforms purchased high-impact images likely to draw audiences: images of destroyed buildings and bridges, and city blocks reduced to rubble. Few satellite images of humanitarian corridors appeared online.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Satellite imagery is still in high demand in order to better allocate humanitarian aid to people forced to flee. More and more NGOs have become aware of the crucial role of satellite imagery in humanitarian work during conflicts. Free satellite images from https://www.ukraineobserver.earth were a vital resource in supporting the emergency response to the Ukraine conflict.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is important that consumers of satellite images both journalists and the public maintain a critical perspective and look at a range of data sources to assess whether these images are reliable. A fact-checking platform that allows the public to validate satellite imagery would be a great help too.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Methods of distorting satellite images will only grow more sophisticated. Ways to keep pace with the fakery can be found, but there is no substitute for a vigilant, data-literate public.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>(360info.org: By Bo Zhao, University of Washington in Seattle)&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2022/04/27/data-literacy-is-our-best-weapon-against-fake-satellite-images.html http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2022/04/27/data-literacy-is-our-best-weapon-against-fake-satellite-images.html Wed Apr 27 12:24:44 IST 2022 this-planet-is-protected-by-video-surveillance <a href="http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2022/04/27/this-planet-is-protected-by-video-surveillance.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/news/2020/images/2022/2/10/CCTV-system-camera-video-surveillance-Spying-Intelligent-recording-cameras-shut.jpg" /> <p>Spying from space has lifted the veil over the battlefield, diffusing the fog of war and lessening the utility of aggression.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>No one likes to be caught in the act. Homes and businesses use CCTV cameras as a deterrent against crime and to document criminal behaviour when it occurs. Something similar can be said to have occurred in the current Russian invasion of Ukraine. Cameras in space are recording the activity of the war, sharing the movement of Russian forces with all of us, and documenting their war crimes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ordinary citizens watching the evening news will know more about Russian troop dispositions in and around Ukraine than many heads of state would have been able to access in previous century's conflicts.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In a 2021 study, researchers found nations possessing reconnaissance satellites were less likely to be attacked than other states. Surprise is an attractive and useful force multiplier in war an attacker that can invade unannounced is more likely to win a war or major dispute.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Spying from space using satellite technology makes it much harder for a nation to achieve strategic, or even tactical surprise, especially when attempting to conduct a larger, more intensive attack.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The number of governments possessing their own reconnaissance satellites remains limited but has steadily grown, especially over the past two decades. This includes SpaceX, a leading private space exploration company, placing a Ukrainian reconnaissance satellite into orbit for the first time in January of this year.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Open-source satellite imagery has become ubiquitous, but such imagery only became commercially available in 2000. The quality of satellite images' resolution has also dramatically increased. Possessing national satellites still provides governments with significant advantages in having real-time access to satellite imagery and offers the ability to direct where satellites look.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The deployment of Russian troops in and around Ukraine has been the focus of intense interest and concern since Russian President Vladimir Putin began his country's armoured build-up in late 2021. The availability of eyes in the sky' meant Putin could not achieve strategic surprise.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So, Putin did not try to hide the possibility of invasion. Instead, Russian officials capitalised on the prospect of an attack making demands of NATO and the West to the point that many observers suspected Putin was bluffing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He was not in part because of Russia's superior surveillance capabilities. The United States and the United Kingdom highlighted the risk of a Russian invasion, in several instances predicting the how, when and where of attacks to the point that Russian commanders were forced to adjust their invasion plans.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As tanks rolled into Ukraine from the west of Russia, the annexed Crimean peninsula and Belarus, photographic evidence led to international condemnation and sanctions. Some have credited the widespread availability of surveillance imagery of the Russian build-up and invasion with assisting in both the pace and scale of the international reaction.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But even a generally effective deterrent fails some of the time. Surveillance cameras record violations of the law because criminals are sometimes foolish or brazen enough to commit their transgressions anyway.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Such is the case with Putin's invasion. We have all witnessed in near real time the scope of the Russian president's ambitions, attacking Ukraine on multiple fronts, with multiple apparent military objectives and political goals.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Russian officials stretch our credulity when they claim, for example, that Russia only ever intended to solidify control over the region of Donbas (on the eastern edge of Ukraine), when we have all seen the photos of long columns of Russian military vehicles stalled on the roads leading to the capital, Kyiv.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The ability to document actions from on high allows the world to judge for itself whether Russian forces are targeting civilians. Russian denials that its forces were involved in war crimes are shown to be inconsistent with commercial satellite imagery detailing the location of bodies that were later recovered after Russian forces withdrew from cities like Bucha.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Pictures of Mariupol, taken from space, show a city reminiscent of urban centres in the grip of World War Two. They tell quite a different story than official claims from Moscow.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Defeat in the north has led the Russian military to revise its focus of attack to the south-east of Ukraine. This is due in no small part to the impact of space surveillance on Russian plans. Satellite imagery has allowed international observers to track the progress or lack thereof of Russian armoured columns day by day.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Much has been made of the success of Ukrainian forces in interdicting these columns, destroying a substantial amount of Russian armour and killing or putting to flight Russian troops. But successful interdiction requires intelligence; mobile Ukrainian units, armed with anti-tank weapons, such as the US Javelin missile or the British Next generation Light Anti-tank weapons, still require information on the location of tanks in order to intercept them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Some of this information has been gleaned by RPVs (remotely piloted vehicles), such as the Turkish-made Bayraktar drones. Video imagery taken by Bayraktars and other RPVs has been a staple on social media covering the war. But even drones need to have an inkling of where to look.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is an open secret that Western intelligence agencies are actively assisting in Ukraine's defence. Utilising various resources, the US has provided Ukraine's government with timely satellite imagery and intelligence to assist its defensive efforts.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One of the unique benefits of space surveillance is the ability to disseminate information about a nation's espionage efforts without compromising sources and methods. Unlike a human spy, a satellite can be seen to be spying and still continue to do so.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>National leaders contemplating aggression will have to reflect on the effect space reconnaissance technology has had in making aggression more difficult.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Over the past weeks, Russian forces have re-deployed to eastern Ukraine to concentrate their aggression on the Donbas. We know this because it is being photographed. Ukraine's army possesses an important advantage that embattled defenders in the past often lacked. An attacker could screen' its movements, maintaining tactical surprise by preventing those in the defence from knowing where they would be attacked next.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Today, Ukrainian soldiers already know where Russia is preparing to strike. This can aid the Ukrainian armed forces both in preparing their defences and in taking the initiative to counter Russian manoeuvres.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Spying from space has lifted the veil over the battlefield, diffusing to some degree the fog of war and lessening the utility of aggression.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It has made it possible for the world to see and document violence and transgressions that in the past might be undocumented, ignored or disputed. It can be an important mode of protection, deterring aggressors and criminals and aiding in their containment or punishment if necessary.&nbsp;</p> <p>(360info.org: By Erik Gartzke, University of California, San Diego and Bryan Early, University at Albany, State University&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2022/04/27/this-planet-is-protected-by-video-surveillance.html http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2022/04/27/this-planet-is-protected-by-video-surveillance.html Wed Apr 27 12:03:25 IST 2022 how-to-control-invasive-rats-and-mice-at-home-without-harming-na <a href="http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2022/04/26/how-to-control-invasive-rats-and-mice-at-home-without-harming-na.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/news/sci-tech/images/2018/8/2/mice-face.jpg" /> <p>As I write this article, a furry blur of a rodent has just scampered across the room and under the couch. It's autumn in Australia and, as air temperatures plunge outside, rodents start seeking the warmth and plentiful food inside our houses.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This is a familiar experience for many of us, whether it's a mouse in your house, or rats invading your chicken cage or eating the fruit from your trees.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In fact, a study last year found rodents have cost the global economy up to US$35.53 billion between 1930 and 2018, largely due to the damage they inflict on farms.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Farmers along Australia's east coast know this all too well. The rodent problem can amplify to plague proportions following wet years and warmer than average minimum temperatures.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Having personally experienced a mouse plague while staying on the Nullarbor, I can attest that these are horrible experiences. The economic losses are huge and the unrelenting waves of mice day and night are horrifying for those who have to live with them, sometimes for months.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Last year's plague resulted in a proposal to drop the poison bromadiolone over large parts of eastern Australia. Had it been successful, it would have significantly harmed non-target species of native wildlife such as owls, goannas and quolls, which our research has shown are highly vulnerable to a range of rodenticides as they travel up the food chain.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Indeed, I'm often asked by people grappling with invasive rodents how best to manage them without harming native wildlife. So, here's some advice.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mechanical traps</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Use them indoors only</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sometimes old-fashioned is best. The snap traps you might remember from your childhood are still a highly effective way of removing pesky rodents from your home. Just keep them away from the exploring toes of children and pets!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Some newer plastic traps with pivoting jaws that close on the mouse are, in my experience, less effective and can risk injuring but not killing the mouse. I've had several experiences of traps being dragged away by a mouse caught only by a leg.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A new entry to the Australian market is a type of mechanical trap, the A24. It's self-resetting with a scent-based lure and can kill 24 mice or rats on one canister. These, however, are not suitable for use outside in areas with native wildlife.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I recently had an horrific experience of a native quenda (bandicoot) killed by one of these traps set on my bush property. I was devastated and, after deploying a monitoring camera on the deactivated trap, I found possums are at grave risk from this type of trap, too.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>These traps don't seem to discriminate invasive rodents from native wildlife and are known to kill native birds, rabbits and hedgehogs in New Zealand.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Governments need to reconsider the ethics and conservation implications of such traps in Australia. It is my view that no mechanical traps should be set outside the home or shed where there's risk to native wildlife.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Conversation asked Goodnature, which manufactures A24 traps, whether it is taking steps to address this issue.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Goodnature co-founder and industrial designer Craig Bond said the traps' threat to native animals is ideally mitigated by the overall benefit to nature. He said the company is working on preventative measures such as warning users, through various means, about reducing risks to native wildlife. Bond went on: &quot;We can and do put processes in place to mitigate and hopefully empower our trappers. And we have employed staff with the requisite expertise to do that. However [] we can be more proactive in our warnings regarding the risk to non-target species. The issue in the past has not been widespread but [we] understand that Australia is a particularly vulnerable environment.&quot;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Bond said Goodnature was keen to learn more about reducing the risks its traps might pose to native Australian wildlife.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Electric traps</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Effective and humane</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>These are battery-powered rat and mouse traps that work by delivering a fatal shock to rodents once they make contact with the two plates in the trap.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>These are highly effective and very humane because upon touching two plates, a fatal electric shock is administered, instantly stopping the heart.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Though not cheap, I swear by these traps as they catch and kill quickly using a bait of your choice, such as peanut butter. There is minimal risk of impacts to non-target animals in the home.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But again they definitely should not be used where native wildlife could enter the trap. The traps are usually labelled as being not for outdoor use and this advice should be followed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Live traps</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Compassionate or inhumane?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Live catch traps are popular with those not willing to kill animals. These include bucket traps for dealing with large plagues. The main issue is finding ways to dispatch them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Killing the invasive rodents often requires drowning them and, if the animals are not killed, you are releasing vermin for somebody else to deal with. Unless you address the problem of how they're entering your home, they may just be back for a visit again that night.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Some live traps are inhumane, such as glue traps, which comprise sticky boards to capture rodents that walk over them. These traps are not recommended under any circumstances.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Glue traps are not only cruel as it can take days for the animal to die, but they do not discriminate. Unless contained and used carefully, they have a high risk of catching reptiles, birds or other non-target species.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Poisoned baits</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Best for industrial and broadscale use</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Despite the risk to non-target animals, baits will always be needed for large scale rodent problems, such as mouse plagues. However, they are not humane as animals die slowly by blood loss over an average of 7.2 days and have the most potential for poisoning other species.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In Australia, it's almost always unnecessary to use so-called second-generation baits such as brodifacoum. These baits are made in response to rodents developing resistance to some chemical formulations, and require only one feed to be fatal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The active ingredients in second generation baits have a very long persistence time in the liver of animals that eat them, resulting in widespread secondary poisoning along the food chain.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Research from 2020 showed invasive rodents in Australia are unlikely to have the gene for rodenticide resistance shared by their kin from Europe and North America. Consequently, some first generation products containing coumatetralyl and some natural alternatives such as zinc phosphide can be safely used in Australia to control rodents.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>These products have a much shorter half life in the livers or rats and mice. What's more, a 2018 study didn't detect them in significant quantities in dead southern boobook owls, which eat mice.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It's also important to remember that baits must be deployed according to manufacturer's instructions. Too often I hear stories of people throwing wax baits or grain baits into their gardens.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This is horrifying given the direct access this provides to possums, bandicoots, birds, small children and pets. Most baits should be deployed in bait holders that prevent exposure to non-target species.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Pest management is holistic</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We should recognise that pest management is a holistic activity. Relying on any one technique is unlikely to be sufficient. Rodent-proofing your house, shed or grain silos as much as possible is essential in the war against pests. This might include sealing water and power inlets, holes in skirting boards and gaps or holes in grain storage facilities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On a commercial scale, investing in modern vermin-proof facilities such as sealed grain silos and blocking all possible gaps, may well balance out the long-term expense of baiting. They certainly come with a much reduced risk to native wildlife.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>(The Conversation: By Robert Davis, Senior Lecturer in Wildlife Ecology, Edith Cowan University)&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2022/04/26/how-to-control-invasive-rats-and-mice-at-home-without-harming-na.html http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2022/04/26/how-to-control-invasive-rats-and-mice-at-home-without-harming-na.html Tue Apr 26 12:05:10 IST 2022 fresh-signs-of-mosquito-insecticide-resistance-in-south-africa- <a href="http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2022/04/25/fresh-signs-of-mosquito-insecticide-resistance-in-south-africa-.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/news/sci-tech/2019/June/malaria-Mosquito-sucking-human-blood-shut.jpg" /> <p>Most South Africans aren't worried about malaria even though the disease is endemic in the country. Four of the country's nine provinces carry malaria risk while 10 percent of the population is at risk of contracting malaria.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The lack of concern can be attributed to the fact that the country has a relatively low burden of the disease. In 2020, South Africa had 8,126 cases and 38 deaths. This is low when compared to the estimated 10,007,802 cases and 23,766 deaths in Mozambique during the same period.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The low number of cases means that South Africa is a candidate for malaria elimination. To reach this goal the country would need to record no new infections for three years. This goal has recently been achieved by China and El Salvador in 2021, and Argentina and Algeria in 2019.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The region in South Africa most likely to achieve this status is KwaZulu-Natal where the incidence rate is very low. But there are threats to achieving the goal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In a recent paper we set out our findings on malaria in northern Kwa-Zulu Natal. We found that certain species of malaria-carrying mosquitoes showed resistance to insecticides. Though the resistance levels are low, they nevertheless point to a potentially worrying trend.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This is not the first time that insecticide resistance has been reported in the province. Monitoring resistance is important because it gives an early warning sign of coming danger. The loss of insecticide efficacy can be a major blow to malaria control efforts.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Levels of malaria incidence can change very quickly. This was the case during a epidemic between 1996-2000 which was caused by a combination of insecticide resistance and anti-malarial drug resistance.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Insecticide resistance is a growing threat to malaria control efforts globally. In South Africa, indoor residual spraying is the cornerstone of the malaria elimination efforts. Hence, it is important to keep a close eye on vector mosquito populations in affected areas.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A concerted effort on the part of the government ensured that malaria infection rates were brought down again. Our research suggests there needs to be extra vigilance to ensure there isn't another spike.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Resistance</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Our research was done as part of ongoing malaria surveillance in the country. Malaria surveillance is essential for provincial control and elimination programmes. These surveillance activities include collecting mosquitoes, identifying them and testing their sensitivity to insecticides. The aim is to provide important information on vector mosquito populations in affected areas, such as their feeding, breeding and resting behaviours and their susceptibilities to insecticide.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In our paper we looked at Anopheles with special emphasis on Anopheles arabiensis, which is the primary vector of malaria in the northern Kwa-Zulu Natal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We collected Anopheles specimens from Mamfene, Jozini, northern KwaZulu-Natal between November 2019 and April 2021. We conducted standard insecticide susceptibility tests. These showed resistance to DDT, permethrin, deltamethrin, and bendiocarb, as well as full susceptibility to pirimiphos-methyl. These are classes of insecticides that are approved for indoor residual spraying.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The levels of resistance we detected are still low, with an average survival rate of 12%. But they're nevertheless concerning.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>If insecticide resistance becomes widespread it can result in operational failure. This would mean that the current insecticide-based mosquito control strategies would not be effective. This, in turn, can lead to mosquito numbers growing as parasite densities increase.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is, therefore, essential that control is maintained and strengthened by adopting suitable strategies to prevent the development of insecticide resistance.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>South Africa is aware of the problem, which is why it has adopted malaria control programmes that use at least two different insecticides in a mosaic spraying pattern. This approach has proved highly successful. This is like using a multi-drug approach to combat resistance in bacteria and viruses. It will slow down the development of insecticide resistance compared to using a single insecticide.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>No time for complacency</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>South Africa's low number of cases mean that the country is a candidate for malaria elimination. But this is not the time for complacency. The spike in malaria cases in South Africa in 2017 shows how quickly the progress can be undone.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Various countries have relegated malaria to history. China is the latest country to achieve this, which is significant due to the size of its population and geographical area.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>South Africa could join this list, with KwaZulu-Natal province at the forefront of the charge towards elimination. Yet, the province is also a reminder of what could happen if the country lets its guard down.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Malaria is a dynamic disease, and mosquitoes do not respect borders. The epidemics of 1996-2000 and the spike in cases in 2017 should be a stark warning of what can happen, especially if complacency steps in.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>(The Conversation)&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2022/04/25/fresh-signs-of-mosquito-insecticide-resistance-in-south-africa-.html http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2022/04/25/fresh-signs-of-mosquito-insecticide-resistance-in-south-africa-.html Mon Apr 25 16:53:07 IST 2022 covid-shots-still-work-but-researchers-hunt-new-improvements <a href="http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2022/04/25/covid-shots-still-work-but-researchers-hunt-new-improvements.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/news/2020/images/2022/2/10/Covid-19-vaccine-during-a-vaccination-clinic-ap.jpg" /> <p>Covid-19 vaccinations are at a critical juncture as companies test whether new approaches like combination shots or nasal drops can keep up with a mutating coronavirus even though it's not clear if changes are needed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Already there's public confusion about who should get a second booster now and who can wait. There's also debate about whether pretty much everyone might need an extra dose in the fall.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I'm very concerned about booster fatigue causing a loss of confidence in vaccines that still offer very strong protection against Covid-19's worst outcomes, said Dr Beth Bell of the University of Washington, an adviser to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Despite success in preventing serious illness and death, there's growing pressure to develop vaccines better at fending off milder infections, too as well as options to counter scary variants.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We go through a fire drill it seems like every quarter, every three months or so when another mutant causes frantic tests to determine if the shots are holding, Pfizer vaccine chief Kathrin Jansen told a recent meeting of the New York Academy of Sciences.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yet seeking improvements for the next round of vaccinations may seem like a luxury for US families anxious to protect their littlest children kids under 5 who are not yet eligible for a shot. Moderna's Dr Jacqueline Miller told The Associated Press that its application to give two low-dose shots to the youngest children would be submitted to the Food and Drug Administration fairly soon.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Pfizer hasn't yet reported data on a third dose of its extra-small shot for tots, after two didn't prove strong enough.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>COMBINATION SHOTS MAY BE NEXT</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The original Covid-19 vaccines remain strongly protective against serious illness, hospitalisation and death, especially after a booster dose, even against the most contagious variants.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Updating the vaccine recipe to match the latest variants is risky, because the next mutant could be completely unrelated. So companies are taking a cue from the flu vaccine, which offers protection against three or four different strains in one shot every year.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Moderna and Pfizer are testing 2-in-1 Covid-19 protection that they hope to offer this fall. Each bivalent shot would mix the original, proven vaccine with an omicron-targeted version.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Moderna has a hint the approach could work. It tested a combo shot that targeted the original version of the virus and an earlier variant named beta and found vaccine recipients developed modest levels of antibodies capable of fighting not just beta but also newer mutants like omicron. Moderna now is testing its omicron-targeted bivalent candidate.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But there's a looming deadline. FDA's Dr Doran Fink said if any updated shots are to be given in the fall, the agency would have to decide on a recipe change by early summer.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>DON'T EXPECT BOOSTERS EVERY FEW MONTHS</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For the average person, two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine plus one booster a total of three shots gets you set up and ready for what may become an annual booster, said Dr David Kimberlin, a CDC adviser from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After that first booster, CDC data suggests an additional dose offers most people an incremental, temporary benefit.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Why the emphasis on three shots? Vaccination triggers development of antibodies that can fend off coronavirus infection but naturally wane over time. The next line of defence: Memory cells that jump into action to make new virus-fighters if an infection sneaks in.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rockefeller University researchers found those memory cells become more potent and able to target more diverse versions of the virus after the third shot.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Even if someone who's vaccinated gets a mild infection, thanks to those memory cells there's still plenty of time to protect you against severe illness, said Dr Paul Offit of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But some people those with severely weakened immune systems need more doses up-front for a better chance at protection.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And Americans 50 and older are being offered a second booster, following similar decisions by Israel and other countries that offer the extra shot to give older people a little more protection.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The CDC is developing advice to help those eligible decide whether to get an extra shot now or wait. Among those who might want a second booster sooner are the elderly, people with health problems that make them particularly vulnerable, or who are at high risk of exposure from work or travel.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>COULD NASAL VACCINES BLOCK INFECTION?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It's hard for a shot in the arm to form lots of virus-fighting antibodies inside the nose where the coronavirus latches on. But a nasal vaccine might offer a new strategy to prevent infections that disrupt people's everyday lives even if they're mild.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When I think about what would make me get a second booster, I actually would want to prevent infection, said Dr Grace Lee of Stanford University, who chairs CDC's immunization advisory committee. I think we need to do better.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nasal vaccines are tricky to develop and it's not clear how quickly any could become available. But several are in clinical trials globally. One in late-stage testing, manufactured by India's Bharat Biotech, uses a chimpanzee cold virus to deliver a harmless copy of the coronavirus spike protein to the lining of the nose.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I certainly do not want to abandon the success we have had with Covid-19 shots, said Dr Michael Diamond of Washington University in St Louis, who helped create the candidate that's now licensed to Bharat.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But we're going to have a difficult time stopping transmission with the current systemic vaccines,&quot; Diamond added. We have all learned that. (AP)&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2022/04/25/covid-shots-still-work-but-researchers-hunt-new-improvements.html http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2022/04/25/covid-shots-still-work-but-researchers-hunt-new-improvements.html Mon Apr 25 16:22:34 IST 2022 what-jewellery-to-buy-this-akshaya-tritiya--be-trendy-this-year <a href="http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2022/04/30/what-jewellery-to-buy-this-akshaya-tritiya--be-trendy-this-year.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/news/sci-tech/images/2022/4/30/Akshaya-Tritiya.jpg" /> <p>India is a country of several cultures and several festivities. One of the most important ones that are celebrated by many Hindus and Jains in India is Akshaya Tritiya. Essentially, this festival marks the commencement of spring and the term means “never diminishing”. This symbolism revolves around the belief that buying gold during this time guarantees wealth and prosperity. The ‘never diminishing’ fortunes associated with gold is a practice conducted all over India.</p> <p><b>Trendy designs to choose for this Akshaya Tritiya</b></p> <p>While there are an exhaustive list of trending Jewellery to buy, taking the functionality and use of Jewellery here is a list of categories you can choose from:</p> <p>· &nbsp;&nbsp;<u>Gold chains</u>&nbsp;– A very common accessory worn by many women in India would be a gold chain. Often gifted by elders as a blessing, what better way to commemorate the holy day of Akshaya Tritiya than by wearing gold chains. The designs are so unique that you will be able to pull off any look with grace and charm. Find pieces in 22k or 18k gold and add them to your collection.</p> <p>· &nbsp;&nbsp;<u>Gold bangles</u>&nbsp;– There are several designs – open cuffed, single-layered, multiple-layered, colored bangles, plain bands, etc that you could opt for. You can also enhance the uniqueness and wear a fusion of ethnic-looking and modern ones. Leave the onlookers awestruck with your brilliant fashion sense.</p> <p>· &nbsp;&nbsp;<u>Gold earrings</u>&nbsp;– Who would not want a pair of cute earrings? The gold earring designs right here are various. If your outfit is heavy, you can choose a pair of studs, if you want the earrings to be the focal point, go for a pair of danglers that will take the limelight. Find a plethora of designs even among studs, drops, danglers, hoops, etc, and choose what fits you the best.</p> <p>· &nbsp;&nbsp;<u>Gold Pendants</u>&nbsp;– Pendants are often considered to be the easiest to style as they are super flexible and can go with any chain with any outfit. Find an assortment of pendants in gold right here that will not only fit your budget but will be your auspicious purchase on this special and holy day. Browse through the range of pendants and choose between traditional and chic ones.</p> <p>· &nbsp;&nbsp;<u>Gold rings</u>&nbsp;– Whether you want to gift a loved one or buy it for yourself, a ring can be the perfect purchase. It is an ornament that does not need much thought to style. Add a ring to anything – Indian or Western and watch the attention and compliments it gets.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Gold collection and designs</b></p> <p>It is said to be auspicious to&nbsp;<a href="https://www.melorra.com/jewellery/occasion/akshaya-tritiya/"></a><a href="https://www.melorra.com/jewellery/occasion/akshaya-tritiya/"><u>buy gold jewellery on Akshaya Tritiya</u></a>&nbsp;. The collection right here has the perfect blend of traditional yet stylish pieces that will fit into the likes and tastes of the modern woman. Add to the vibrancy of the gold by choosing pieces with embedded gemstones or diamonds.</p> <p>This collection from this brand can be your go-to place for all things gold. Enjoy the glitter and the shine and carry it home with you to call them exclusively yours. Possess the best in gold jewellery right here.</p> <p><b>Wondering where to purchase gold from</b>?</p> <p>Synonyms to trust and quality&nbsp;<a href="https://www.melorra.com"></a><a href="https://www.melorra.com"><u>Melorra</u></a>&nbsp;is one brand that you can totally rely on to buy gold ornaments online. Choose from the most trending designs right at the comfort of your homes, you can scroll through a selection of designs in a choice of price range and purity of gold as per your preference.</p> <p>Another important aspect is the one hundred percent authenticity and transparency in the quality of the materials, gemstones, and gold they use for their jewels. Along with the best quality and exquisite designs, this brand is one of the leading ones to understand a woman’s heart and the very idea of buying gold to grace all festivities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2022/04/30/what-jewellery-to-buy-this-akshaya-tritiya--be-trendy-this-year.html http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2022/04/30/what-jewellery-to-buy-this-akshaya-tritiya--be-trendy-this-year.html Sat Apr 30 17:30:18 IST 2022 fly-over-6-hours-attack-armour-how-phoenix-ghost-uav-will-help-ukraine <a href="http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2022/04/25/fly-over-6-hours-attack-armour-how-phoenix-ghost-uav-will-help-ukraine.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/news/sci-tech/images/2022/4/25/switchblade-rep2.jpg" /> <p>&nbsp;Last week, US President Joe Biden announced a military aid package for Ukraine valued at $800 million. Since the US has announced multiple such packages in the last two months, it would have hardly made headlines. But it did, thanks to one seemingly obscure item on the list: The US would supply over 121 Phoenix Ghost tactical drones to Ukraine.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was the first time the press had heard of such a system. The Biden administration had previously supplied hundreds of Switchblade drones to Ukraine.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Switchblade comes under the category of 'loitering' or 'Kamikaze' munitions, which are designed to fly in search of targets to crash into. Unlike larger UAVs that can be equipped with missiles and light bombs, <a title="Why Indian Army is eyeing a mini ‘suicide drone’ from Israel" href="https://www.theweek.in/news/india/2020/07/14/why-indian-army-is-eyeing-a-mini-suicide-drone-from-israel.html">loitering munitions are expendable</a> and are the weapon themselves. The lighter weight and simpler controls of UAVs like the Switchblade mean small squads of soldiers can employ them to destroy enemy personnel, equipment or vehicles.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At the time the arms package was announced on August 21, the Pentagon claimed the Phoenix Ghost was developed by the US Air Force hurriedly for use by the Ukrainian military after the Russian invasion started. However, later, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said the Phoenix Ghost was developed before the invasion started on February 24.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>So what do we know about the Phoenix Ghost?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kirby claimed the “purpose [of Phoenix Ghost] is akin to that of the Switchblade… which is basically a one-way drone, an attack drone. And that’s essentially what this is designed to do”. He claimed the Phoenix Ghost would be suitable for operations in the Donbas region in Ukraine's east, which has flat and open terrain.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Switchblade weighs less than 5kg and can be carried in a backpack by a soldier. It can fly about 10km searching for targets to crash into.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Pentagon revealed the Phoenix Ghost was being manufactured by Aevex Aerospace, a company formed in 2017. Aevex Aerospace did not directly comment on the Phoenix Ghost project.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Retired Lt. Gen. David Deptula, a former US Air Force officer who is a member of the Aevex board, revealed some capabilities of the Phoenix Ghost.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><a href="https://www.politico.com/news/2022/04/21/mystery-drone-air-force-new-weapon-ukraine-00026970">Deptula told <i>Politico</i></a> recently the Phoenix Ghost “is a different type of aircraft, it’s a one-way aircraft that is effective against medium armored ground targets”. Deptula's revelation about the capability of the Phoenix Ghost to engage medium-armoured vehicles marks a significant upgrade over the Switchblade. Most variants of the Switchblade can only attack 'light' armoured vehicles like HUMVEEs or protected jeeps. Medium-armoured vehicles would include troop carriers that Russia is extensively using in Ukraine.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Politico </i>reported the Phoenix Ghost “drone can take off vertically, fly for six-plus hours searching for or tracking a target, and operate at night using its infrared sensors, Deptula said. Phoenix Ghost has a longer loitering capability than the Switchblade, which can fly for less than an hour...”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Implications</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Based on Deptula's revelations, it appears the Phoenix Ghost is a heavier weapon than the Switchblade and can hit a larger variety of ground targets, excluding tanks. The availability of the Phoenix Ghost would effectively free up more capable and larger assets such as the TB2 Bayraktar drones of the Ukrainian military for other tasks. The reference to vertical take-off capability, similar to a helicopter, would also have considerable utility in urban combat, where Ukrainian soldiers will be operating in constrained spaces.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The decision to supply a more capable mini-UAV also appears to confirm Ukrainian and US fears the Russian military is unlikely to leave the occupied areas soon.</p> http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2022/04/25/fly-over-6-hours-attack-armour-how-phoenix-ghost-uav-will-help-ukraine.html http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2022/04/25/fly-over-6-hours-attack-armour-how-phoenix-ghost-uav-will-help-ukraine.html Mon Apr 25 13:15:05 IST 2022 warmer-summers-threaten-antarctica-s-giant-ice-shelves-because-o <a href="http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2022/04/25/warmer-summers-threaten-antarctica-s-giant-ice-shelves-because-o.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/news/sci-tech/2019/October/Beautiful-view-of-the-ice-of-Antarctica-shut.jpg" /> <p>During the Antarctic summer, air temperatures get warm enough to melt snow and ice on the surface of the great ice sheets that make up around 99 pc of Antarctica.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This melted water collects to form thousands of lakes around the edges of this vast continent.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Most of these lakes form on gigantic platforms of floating ice called ice shelves, which extend out from the continent into the sea.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Lakes forming on the surface of these ice shelves can sometimes cause them to break up.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The most famous example is the collapse of Larsen B ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula, which shattered entirely over a matter of weeks in 2002. Satellites recorded the appearance and drainage of thousands of lakes on Larsen B's surface before it broke up.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Scientists believe meltwater from these lakes widened and deepened cracks and crevasses within the shelf in a process called hydrofracturing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ice shelves act as doorstops, supporting vast masses of ice known as glaciers that lie further inland.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But if hydrofracturing forces them to break up, these rivers of ice that feed into the ice shelf flow faster into the ocean, contributing to rising sea levels.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Scientists have recently found that lakes are more extensive around the Antarctic ice sheet than previously thought.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Endurance swimmer Lewis Pugh even swam one kilometre through one of these lakes in 2020 to raise awareness of climate change.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But how much does the meltwater stored in these lakes vary between years, and how is this linked to climate conditions? This is something my colleagues and I have explored in a new study, published in Nature Communications.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Our research uncovers for the first time how meltwater lake coverage and volumes vary between years around the whole Antarctic ice sheet.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We analysed over 2,000 satellite images of the East Antarctic sheet the world's largest to record the changing size and volume of these lakes over the past seven years.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Until now, observations of surface meltwater lakes on the East Antarctic ice sheet were relatively scarce and their year-to-year changes were largely unknown, making it difficult to assess whether some ice shelves were close to breaking up under the effects of climate change.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We found that total lake volume varies between years by as much as 200% on some ice shelves and by up to 72% across the entire ice sheet, with large differences between ice shelves.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Across the whole ice sheet, total meltwater stored in lakes peaked in 2017. That water could have filled about 930,000 Olympic swimming pools.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>More warming means more lakes</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Melting at the surface of the sheet doesn't just form lakes: the water also seeps into air spaces in the layers beneath the surface, where it freezes as temperatures get colder.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>These layers, called firn, are made up of old snow that has not yet been compressed into ice.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>If more melting occurs than snowfall each year, air in the firn becomes replaced with refrozen meltwater.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When that happens, meltwater forming the next summer is forced to collect on the surface as lakes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The more surface melting there is, the more the firn gets saturated like a sponge and so the more lakes form on the surface, increasing the risk of fracturing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To investigate lake variability between years, we ran model simulations of firn air content, surface melt and runoff on Antarctic ice shelves where lakes form.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We found that across the whole ice sheet, summer air temperatures and the amount of air in the firn are important factors affecting the total area and volume of meltwater lakes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We've noticed on satellite images that on some ice shelves lake coverage is already expanding into regions vulnerable to fracturing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Interestingly, we found large differences between where we've observed lakes in satellite images and the amount of meltwater that can form lakes predicted by our models.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This means local climate conditions are more important than we thought in predicting surface melting and therefore lake formation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Our climate models still need refining to allow these processes to be fully captured to better predict future surface meltwater around Antarctica.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In a warming world, these lakes are likely to continue to spread onto ice shelves that are vulnerable to breaking up.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Our work is a step forward in understanding not just where lakes are forming now across the whole ice sheet, but what controls the way they change every year.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This is key to predicting which ice shelves are most at risk of collapse, as well as for improving model projections of Antarctica's contribution to sea-level rise.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>(The Conversation: By Jennifer Arthur,PhD student in Cryospheric Remote Sensing, Durham University)&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2022/04/25/warmer-summers-threaten-antarctica-s-giant-ice-shelves-because-o.html http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2022/04/25/warmer-summers-threaten-antarctica-s-giant-ice-shelves-because-o.html Mon Apr 25 12:08:23 IST 2022 covid-19-three-times-more-lethal-than-influenza--study-suggests <a href="http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2022/04/23/covid-19-three-times-more-lethal-than-influenza--study-suggests.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/news/india/2020/March/covid-19-patient-coronavirus-outbreak-coronaviruses-influenza-medical-crisis-flu-strain-pandemic-public-health-shut.jpg" /> <p>Adults hospitalised with Covid-19 are at significantly higher risk of complications and death than those with influenza, despite being younger and having fewer chronic illnesses, according to a study conducted in Spain.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The finding, being presented at this year's European Congress of Clinical Microbiology &amp; Infectious Diseases (ECCMID) in Lisbon, Portugal from April 23-26, also suggests that Covid-19 is associated with both longer stays in hospital and intensive care, and costs nearly twice as much to treat.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The researchers from the Hospital del Mar in Barcelona, Spain examined medical records of 187 patients -- average age 76 years and 55 per cent male -- admitted to hospital with seasonal influenza infection between 2017 and 2019.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>They also analysed records of 187 Covid-19 patients -- average age 67 years and 49 per cent male -- hospitalised during the first wave of the pandemic between March and May, 2020, who all required oxygen therapy at admission.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In both groups, patients were enrolled consecutively until the required sample size was reached.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The study compared clinical characteristics, healthcare resource use outcomes, including length of stay, admission to intensive care, hospital costs, and death.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Influenza patients tended to have more existing chronic illnesses and problems performing activities of daily living than Covid-19 patients, but were less likely to be overweight or obese. The analysis found that Covid-19 was associated with higher risk of infection severity and admission to ICU.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;Our findings suggest Covid-19 is far more lethal than influenza. Despite influenza patients being older and having more comorbid illnesses, Covid-19 patients had consistently worse health outcomes and were considerably more expensive to treat,&quot; said study lead author Inmaculada Lopez Montesinos from the Hospital del Mar. &quot;Even for those people who are lucky enough to survive Covid-19 and make it out of the hospital, they will be forever scarred by the consequences. It is vital that people get fully vaccinated and boosted against both viruses,&quot; Montesinos said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Covid-19 patients were more likely to experience certain complications such as acute kidney injury, blood clots, and moderate to severe acute respiratory distress syndrome, where the lungs cannot provide the body's vital organs with enough oxygen.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On the other hand, influenza patients were more likely to suffer from bacterial pneumonia, according to the researchers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Overall, 29 out of 187 (15 per cent) Covid-19 patients and 10 out of 187 (5 per cent) influenza patients died of any cause within 30-days of hospitalisation, and the death rate after 90 days was even higher, they said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The authors of the study noted that there were no differences in mortality trends between the three seasonal influenza periods studied. After accounting for potential confounders including age, comorbidities, sex, disease severity, presence of pneumonia, and corticosteroid treatment, the researchers found that Covid-19 patients were more than three times as likely to die within 30 and 90 days of being admitted to hospital than influenza patients.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Further analyses showed that Covid-19 patients spent far longer in hospital compared with influenza patients, the researchers said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The average cost of critical care for Covid-19 patients was almost twice as much as for influenza patients, they said, adding pharmacy treatment and testing costs were also significantly higher in the Covid-19 group.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The authors acknowledge that several limitations of their study, including that it was conducted in one tertiary-care hospital in Spain, so the findings might not be generalisable to other populations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>They also noted that no genotyping studies were conducted, and although it is highly likely that Covid-19 patients were affected by wild-type B.1, the results may not reflect the current scenario in which multiple SARS-CoV-2 variants are circulating globally.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2022/04/23/covid-19-three-times-more-lethal-than-influenza--study-suggests.html http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2022/04/23/covid-19-three-times-more-lethal-than-influenza--study-suggests.html Sat Apr 23 13:04:12 IST 2022