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Tuesday, 18 February 2020

China reports 1,886 new coronavirus cases, death toll up by 98

Slide 1 of 163: A couple wearing masks kiss at a main shopping area, in downtown Shanghai, China, as the country is hit by an outbreak of a new coronavirus, February 16, 2020. REUTERS/Aly Song     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Mainland China reported 1,886 new virus cases and 98 more deaths for a total of 1,868 in its update Tuesday, following a report that 80% of cases have been mild, prompting guarded optimism from health officials.
The latest figures come after health officials in China published the first details on nearly 45,000 cases of infection with the coronavirus that originated there, saying more than 80% have been mild and new ones seem to be falling since early this month.
A total of 72,436 cases have been reported in mainland China as of Tuesday, although a spike in recent cases was due to a broader definition in the hardest-hit region based on doctors' diagnoses before laboratory tests were completed.
Monday's report from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention gives the World Health Organization a "clearer picture of the outbreak, how it’s developing and where it’s headed,” WHO's director-general said at a news conference.
"It’s too early to tell if this reported decline will continue. Every scenario is still on the table," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
China may postpone its annual congress in March, its biggest political meeting of the year, to avoid travel while the disease is still spreading. The standing committee for the National People’s Congress will meet Feb. 24 to deliberate on a postponement of the meeting due to start March 5. More..........

Health: Here’s what Coronavirus does to the body

Slide 1 of 13: WUHAN, CHINA - JANUARY 22: (CHINA OUT) Security personnel check the temperature of passengers in the Wharf at the Yangtze River on January 22, 2020 in Wuhan, Hubei province, China. A new infectious coronavirus known as "2019-nCoV" was discovered in Wuhan as the number of cases rose to over 400 in mainland China. Health officials stepped up efforts to contain the spread of the pneumonia-like disease which medicals experts confirmed can be passed from human to human. The death toll has reached 17 people as the Wuhan government issued regulations today that residents must wear masks in public places. Cases have been reported in other countries including the United States, Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea. (Photo by Getty Images)
A new SARS-like coronavirus, named 2019-nCoV, originated in Wuhan, China, in December 2019 and has since claimed several lives and spread to a number of countries around the world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the health agency of the United Nations (U.N.), "Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV)." The nCoV is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans. As nations struggle to contain the spread of the virus, the WHO declared the outbreak a global health emergency, and has issued an advisory recommending standard precautionary measures that people can take to reduce the transmission of a range of illnesses. Click through to take a look.
Much remains unknown about the novel coronavirus ripping through China, but one thing is certain. The disease can cast a storm over the whole human body.
Such has been the nature of past zoonotic coronaviruses, ones that hopped from animals to humans like SARS and MERS. Unlike their common-cold-causing cousins, these emergent coronaviruses can spark a viral-induced fire throughout many of a person’s organs, and the new disease—dubbed "COVID-19" by the World Health Organization on Tuesday—is no exception when it is severe.
That helps explain why the COVID-19 epidemic has killed more than 1,500 people, surpassing the SARS death toll in a matter of weeks. While the death rate for COVID-19 appears to be a tenth of SARS, the novel coronavirus has spread faster.
Confirmed cases rose to more than 60,000 on Thursday, nearly a 50 percent jump relative to the prior day, and the tally has risen by another 7,200 since then. This leap reflects a change in the way Chinese authorities are diagnosing infections instead of a massive shift in the scope of the outbreak. 
Rather than wait for patients to test positive for the virus, diagnoses now include anyone whose chest scan reveals COVID-19’s distinctive pattern of pneumonia. This method will hopefully allow authorities to isolate and treat patients more quickly.
If this outbreak continues to spread, there’s no telling how harmful it could become. A leading epidemiologist at the University of Hong Kong warned this week that COVID-19 could infect 60 percent of the globe if left unchecked. On Thursday, China’s National Health Commission said more than 1,700 health care workers are ill with the new virus, and the announcement came just a day after the WHO wrapped a summit on the best protocols for hospital care and the development of therapeutics, like vaccines.
But what actually happens to your body when it is infected by the coronavirus? The new strain is so genetically similar to SARS that it has inherited the title SARS-CoV-2. So combining early research on the new outbreak with past lessons from SARS and MERS can provide an answer.

The Lungs: Ground zero

For most patients, COVID-19 begins and ends in their lungs, because like the flu, coronaviruses are respiratory diseases.
They spread typically when an infected person coughs or sneezes, spraying droplets that can transmit the virus to anyone in close contact. Coronaviruses also cause flu-like symptoms: Patients might start out with a fever and cough that progresses to pneumonia or worse. (Find out how coronavirus spreads on a plane—and the safest place to sit).
After the SARS outbreak, the World Health Organization reported that the disease typically attacked the lungs in three phases: viral replication, immune hyper-reactivity, and pulmonary destruction.
Not all patients went through all three phases—in fact only 25 percent of SARS patients suffered respiratory failure, the defining signature of severe cases. Likewise, COVID-19, according to early data, causes milder symptoms in about 82 percent of cases, while the remainder are severe or critical.
Look deeper, and the novel coronavirus appears to follow other patterns of SARS, says University of Maryland School of Medicine associate professor Matthew B. Frieman, who studies highly pathogenic coronaviruses.
In the early days of an infection, the novel coronavirus rapidly invades human lung cells. Those lung cells come in two classes: ones that make mucus and ones with hair-like batons called cilia.
Mucus, though gross when outside the body, helps protect lung tissue from pathogens and make sure your breathing organ doesn’t dry out. The cilia cells beat around the mucus, clearing out debris like pollen or viruses.
Frieman explains that SARS loved to infect and kill cilia cells, which then sloughed off and filled patients’ airways with debris and fluids, and he hypothesizes that the same is happening with the novel coronavirus. That’s because the earliest studies on COVID-19 have shown that many patients develop pneumonia in both lungs, accompanied by symptoms like shortness of breath.
That’s when phase two and the immune system kicks in. Aroused by the presence of a viral invader, our bodies step up to fight the disease by flooding the lungs with immune cells to clear away the damage and repair the lung tissue.
When working properly, this inflammatory process is tightly regulated and confined only to infected areas. But sometimes your immune system goes haywire and those cells kill anything in their way, including your healthy tissue.
a person holding a teddy bear wearing a blue hat: Medical staff members hugging each other in an isolation ward at a hospital in Zouping in China's easter Shandong Province.© Photograph by STR/AFP via Getty Images
Medical staff members hugging each other in an isolation ward at a hospital in Zouping in China's easter Shandong Province.
“So you get more damage instead of less from the immune response,” Frieman says. Even more debris clogs up the lungs, and pneumonia worsens. (Find out how the novel coronavirus compares to flu, Ebola, and other major outbreaks).
During the third phase, lung damage continues to build—which can result in respiratory failure. Even if death doesn’t occur, some patients survive with permanent lung damage. According to the WHO, SARS punched holes in the lungs, giving them “a honeycomb-like appearance”—and these lesions are present in those afflicted by novel coronavirus, too.
These holes are likely created by the immune system’s hyperactive response, which creates scars that both protect and stiffen the lungs.
When that occurs, patients often have to be put on ventilators to assist their breathing. Meanwhile, inflammation also makes the membranes between the air sacs and blood vessels more permeable, which can fill the lungs with fluid and affect their ability to oxygenate blood.
“In severe cases, you basically flood your lungs and you can’t breathe,” Frieman says. “That’s how people are dying.”

The Stomach: A shared gateway

During the SARS and MERS outbreaks, nearly a quarter of patients had diarrhea—a much more significant feature of those zoonotic coronaviruses. But Frieman says it’s still not clear whether gastrointestinal symptoms play a major part in the latest outbreak, given cases diarrhea and abdominal pain have been rare. But why does a respiratory virus bother the gut at all?
When any virus enters your body, it looks for human cells with its favorite doorways—proteins on the outside of the cells called receptors. If the virus finds a compatible receptor on a cell, it can invade.
Some viruses are picky about which door they choose, but others are a little more promiscuous. “They can very easily penetrate into all types of cells,” says Anna Suk-Fong Lok, assistant dean for clinical research at the University of Michigan Medical School and former president of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.
Both SARS and MERS viruses can access the cells that line your intestines and large and small colon, and those infections appear to flourish in the gut, potentially causing the damage or the leakage of fluid that becomes diarrhea.
But Frieman says we don’t know yet if the novel coronavirus does the same. Researchers believe COVID-19 uses the same receptor as SARS, and this doorway can be found in your lungs and small intestines.
Two studies—one in the New England Journal of Medicine and one preprint in medRxiv involving 1,099 cases—have also detected the virus in stool samples, which might indicate the virus could spread via feces. But this is far from conclusive.
“Whether that kind of fecal transmission is occuring for this Wuhan virus, we don’t know at all,” Frieman says. “But it definitely looks like it’s there in the stool and it looks like people do have GI symptoms associated with this.”

Blood storm

Coronaviruses can also cause problems in other systems of the body, due to the hyperactive immune response we mentioned earlier.
A 2014 study showed that 92 percent of patients with MERS had at least one manifestation of the coronavirus outside of the lungs. In fact, signs of a full body blitz have been witnessed with all three of the zoonotic coronaviruses: elevated liver enzymes, lower white blood cell and platelet count, and low blood pressure. In rare cases, patients have suffered from acute kidney injury and cardiac arrest.
But this isn’t necessarily a sign that the virus itself is spreading throughout the body, says Angela Rasmussen, a virologist and associate research scientist at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. It might be a cytokine storm.
Cytokines are proteins used by the immune system as alarm beacons—they recruit immune cells to the site of infection. The immune cells then kill off the infected tissue in a bid to save the rest of the body.
Humans rely on our immune systems to keep their cool when facing a threat. But during a runaway coronavirus infection, when the immune system dumps cytokines into the lungs without any regulation, this culling becomes a free-for-all, Rasmussen says “Instead of shooting at a target with a gun, you’re using a missile launcher,” she says. That’s where the problem arises: Your body is not just targeting the infected cells. It is attacking healthy tissue too.
The implications extend outside the lungs. Cytokine storms create inflammation that weakens blood vessels in the lungs and causes fluid to seep through to the air sacs. “Basically you’re bleeding out of your blood vessels,” Rasmussen says. The storm spills into your circulatory system and creates systemic issues across multiple organs.
From there, things can take a sharp turn for the worse. In some of the most severe COVID-19 cases, the cytokine response—combined with a diminished capacity to pump oxygen to the rest of the body—can result in multi-organ failure. Scientists don’t know exactly why some patients experience complications outside of the lung, but it might be linked to underlying conditions like heart disease or diabetes.
“Even if the virus doesn’t get to kidneys and liver and spleen and other things, it can have clear downstream effects on all of those processes,” Frieman says. And that’s when things can get serious.

Liver: Collateral damage

When a zoonotic coronavirus spreads from the respiratory system, your liver is often one downstream organ that suffers. Doctors have seen indications of liver injury with SARS, MERS, and COVID-19—often mild, though more severe cases have led to severe liver damage and even liver failure. So what’s happening?
“Once a virus gets into your bloodstream, they can swim to any part of your body,” Lok says. “The liver is a very vascular organ so [a coronavirus] can very easily get into your liver.”
Your liver works pretty hard to make sure your body can function properly. Its main job is to process your blood after it leaves the stomach, filtering out the toxins and creating nutrients your body can use. It also makes the bile that helps your small intestine break down fats. Your liver also contains enzymes, which speed up chemical reactions in the body.
In a normal body, Lok explains, liver cells are constantly dying off and releasing enzymes into your bloodstream. This resourceful organ then quickly regenerates new cells and carries on with its day. Because of that regeneration process, the liver can withstand a lot of injury.
When you have abnormally high levels of enzymes in your blood, though—as has been a common characteristic of patients suffering from SARS and MERS—it’s a warning sign. It might be a mild injury that the liver will quickly bounce back from or it could be something more severe—even liver failure.
Lok says scientists don’t completely understand how these respiratory viruses behave in the liver. The virus might be directly infecting the liver, replicating and killing off the cells itself. Or those cells might be collateral damage as your body’s immune response to the virus sets off a severe inflammatory reaction in the liver.
Either way, she notes that liver failure was never the sole cause of death for SARS patients. “By the time the liver fails,” she says, “oftentimes you’ll find that the patient not only has lung problems and liver problems but they may also have kidney problems. By then it becomes a systemic infection.”

Kidney: It’s all connected

Yes, your kidneys are caught up in this mess, too. Six percent of SARS patients—and a full quarter of MERS patients—suffered acute renal injury. Studies have shown the novel coronavirus can do the same. It may be a relatively uncommon feature of the disease, but it is a fatal one. Ultimately 91.7 percent of SARS patients with acute renal impairment died, according to a 2005 study in Kidney International.
Like the liver, your kidneys act as a filter your blood. Each kidney is filled with about 800,000 of microscopic distilling units called nephrons. These nephrons have two main components: a filter to clean the blood and a little tubes that return the good stuff back to your body or send the waste down to your bladder as urine.
It’s the kidney tubules that seem to be most affected by these zoonotic coronaviruses. After the SARS outbreak, the WHO reported that the virus was found in kidney tubules, which can become inflamed.
It’s not uncommon to detect a virus in the tubules if it’s in your bloodstream, says Kar Neng Lai, a professor emeritus at the University of Hong Kong and consultant nephrologist at Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital. As your kidneys are continuously filtering blood, sometimes the tubular cells can trap the virus and cause a transient, or milder, injury.
That injury could become lethal if the virus penetrates the cells and begins to replicate. But Lai—who was also a member of the first group of researchers reporting on SARS and contributed to the Kidney International study—says there was no evidence that the SARS virus was replicating in the kidney.
That finding, Lai says, suggests acute kidney injury in SARS patients might be due to a diverse set of causes, including low blood pressure, sepsis, drugs, or a metabolic disturbance. Meanwhile, the more severe cases that led to acute renal failure showed signs of—you guessed it—a cytokine storm.
Acute renal failure can also sometimes be brought on by antibiotics, multi-organ failure, or being connected to a ventilator for too long. Everything is connected.

Pregnancy and coronavirus?

It’s the great irony of the Twitter age that we know too little about the novel coronavirus as we drown in information updates about it. Medical journals have published several studies about this outbreak—some more vetted than others as researchers rush to feed the maw. Meanwhile, news outlets are reporting every development. All this information whirls around the internet where discerning fact from fiction is a notorious challenge.
“This is really unprecedented in terms of the up-to-the-minute reporting on what’s going on in these studies,” Rasmussen says. “It’s really tricky trying to sort through all of the information and figure out what’s really supported, what’s speculative, and what’s plain wrong.”
For example last week, doctors at a hospital in Wuhan reported that two infants tested positive for the novel coronavirus, one just 30 hours after birth. Naturally, this troubling headline spread across news organizations, given it raised questions of whether pregnant women can infect their unborn children in utero or whether the disease can be transmitted during birth or through breast milk.
But let’s pump the breaks. Mother-to-infant transmission wasn’t observed with SARS nor MERS despite numerous cases involving pregnant women. Plus, there are other ways a newborn could catch the coronavirus, Rasmussen says, such as by being born at hospital overrun with infected patients during a hectic emergency.
In fact, a new study published Thursday in The Lancet offers preliminary evidence that the coronavirus cannot be passed from mother to child.
In the report, researchers observed nine women in Wuhan who had COVID-19 pneumonia. Some of the women had pregnancy complications, but all cases resulted in live births without evidence of transmitting the infection. While this study doesn’t completely rule out the possibility of transmission during pregnancy, it underscores the need to exercise caution in speculating about this disease.
“There needs to be a high standard of evidence before you can say that’s happening definitively—and certainly before you start making changes to how cases are managed clinically or in terms of public policy,” Rasmussen says.
Frieman agrees. He hopes this epidemic will prompt more funding for coronavirus research like the recent pledges from the European Union and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. But Frieman wants the support and interest to last even if this outbreak eventually fizzles out, unlike what happened with SARS research.
“Right after the SARS outbreak, there was a big bunch of money and then it went away,” Frieman says. “Why don’t we have these answers? Nobody funded these things.”
Source: National Geographic

Friday, 14 February 2020

Tech: Alibaba Cloud revenue reaches $1.5B for the quarter on 62% growth rate

Alibaba headquarter
Alibaba issued its latest earnings report yesterday, and the Chinese eCommerce giant reported that cloud revenue grew 62 percent to $1.5 billion U.S., crossing the RMB10 billion revenue threshold for the first time.
Alibaba also announced that it had completed its migration to its own public cloud in the most recent quarter, a significant milestone because the company can point to its own operations as a reference to potential customers, a point that Daniel Zhang, Alibaba executive chairman and CEO, made in the company’s post-earnings call with analysts.
“We believe the migration of Alibaba’s core e-commerce system to the public cloud is a watershed event. Not only will we ourselves enjoy greater operating efficiency, but we believe, it will also encourage others to adopt our public cloud infrastructure,” Zhang said in the call.
It’s worth noting that the company also warned that the Coronavirus gripping China could have impact on the company’s retail business this year, but it didn’t mention the cloud portion specifically.
Yesterday’s revenue report puts Alibaba on a $6 billion U.S. run rate, good for fourth place in the cloud infrastructure market share race, but well behind the market leaders. In the most recent earnings reports, Google reported $2.5 billion in revenue, Microsoft reported $12.5 billion in combined software and infrastructure revenue and market leader AWS reported a tad under $10 billion for the quarter.
As with Google, Alibaba sits well in the back of the pack, as Synergy Research’s latest market share data shows. The chart was generated before yesterday’s report, but it remains an accurate illustration of the relative positions of the various companies.
Alibaba has a lot in common with Amazon. Both are eCommerce giants. Both have cloud computing arms. Alibaba, however, came much later to the cloud computing side of the house, launching in 2009, but really only beginning to take it seriously in 2015.
At the time, cloud division president Simon Hu boasted to Reuters that his company would overtake Amazon in the cloud market within 4 years. “Our goal is to overtake Amazon in four years, whether that’s in customers, technology, or worldwide scale,” he said at the time.
They aren’t close to achieving that goal, of course, but they are growing steadily in a hot cloud infrastructure market. Alibaba is the leading cloud vendor in China, although AWS leads in Asia overall, according to the most recent Synergy Research data on the region.
Source: Techcrunch

NASA’s next science missions will head for Venus, Jupiter’s moon Io, or Triton, a moon of Neptune

Venus, one of three possible destinations for NASA’s next Discovery missions
NASA just gave four teams $3 million each to bring their Solar System exploration dreams closer to reality. Two of the scientific teams have their sights set on Venus, one is focused on Jupiter’s highly volcanic moon Io, and the last is targeting Triton, a moon of Neptune.
“These selected missions have the potential to transform our understanding of some of the solar system’s most active and complex worlds,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said in a press release. “Exploring any one of these celestial bodies will help unlock the secrets of how it, and others like it, came to be in the cosmos.”
The four teams are finalists for NASA’s next round of Discovery-class missions. Discovery-class missions are considered NASA’s “small” planetary science missions. These projects can cost no more than $450 million and are intended to complement NASA’s larger Solar System exploration missions, including the midsized New Frontiers missions and the flagship Solar System Exploration missions.
Of the four teams selected today, no more than two will actually be fully funded. The $3 million that they’ve just been awarded will be used to develop their mission plan, and concepts related to their mission over the course of nine months. At the end, each will present NASA with a study report and wait to see which of them actually makes the cut.
Related Slideshow: An exploration of the planets in our Solar System (Provided by Photo Services)
       Slide 1 of 25
Here are the four projects selected today:
VERITAS — VERITAS stands for Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy. Its focus would be on mapping the surface of Venus and gathering data about how and why this planet developed so differently from Earth.
DAVINCI+ — DAVINCI+ stands for Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging Plus and, as the name suggests, is also looking to go to Venus. Instead of focusing on the planet itself, it would focus on the gases surrounding the planet. One highlight of the potential mission would be sending a probe deep into Venus’ atmosphere. Its goals are to see how Venus’ atmosphere evolved and whether it had an ocean.
IVO — The Io Volcano Observer would visit Io, a moon of Jupiter and the most volcanic body in the Solar System. This mission would get a closer look at Io’s extreme volcanism and try to understand more about the moon’s structure.
Trident — The only non-acronymed proposal in the bunch, Trident would visit Triton, one of Neptune’s moons. The flyby mission would map the moon’s surface, and would look for clues as to whether the moon really has a predicted subsurface ocean.
Current Discovery missions include the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and the Mars InSight probe. The track records of the projects have been mixed. While the LRO has been in orbit around the Moon since 2009, and continues to collect valuable data, the InSight lander ran into trouble last year when a burrowing heat probe unexpectedly popped back up out of the Martian surface.
Two other Discovery-class missions were selected in 2017 and will launch in the next few years. Lucy will launch in 2021 and will explore seven asteroids, while Psyche will launch in 2023 and will explore a giant metal asteroid.
A final decision on which of the four newest projects will become fully funded missions is expected next year.
Credit: The Verge

Thursday, 17 October 2019

China's helicopter 'Super Great White Shark', prototype looks like a UFO

A static display at Chinese airshow of the "Super Great White Shark" stealth helicopter.
A static display at Chinese airshow of the "Super Great White Shark" stealth helicopter.
China has been unveiling a lot of new weaponry lately, but one of their latest reveals looks really, well, out of this world.
Called the "Super Great White Shark" by Chinese media, the aircraft conjures up images of 1950s sci-fi movies more than 21st century technology. But China says the "armed helicopter" was designed for the "future digital information battlefield."
State-tabloid the Global Times published an image gallery of the aircraft, calling it a fusion of modern, proven helicopter designs -- such as the American AH-64 Apache and CH-53 Sea Stallion as well as the Russian Ka-52 and Mi-26 copters. It also has the blended-wing design employed by stealth aircraft, including the US B-2 bomber.
    China Great White Shark helicopter schematic
    The Super Great White Shark is 7.6 meters (25 feet) long, almost three meters (10 feet) high and has room on board for two crew. Schematic drawings show its outer shell covers rotors and engines, which would presumably give the helicopter stealth capability because any sharp angles would be covered, making it harder for radar to detect.
    The prototype was displayed last week at the China Helicopter Exposition in Tianjin. It was a static display only. The aircraft is landbound -- at least for now.
    If it does make it to the test flight stage, it wouldn't be the first UFO-inspired helicopter to get off the ground.
    Credit: CNN

    Thursday, 10 October 2019

    Uber’s newest feature alerts drivers that pets will be joining the ride

    Uber is piloting a new feature that lets U.S. riders alert drivers that a pet will be coming along, the latest effort from the company to appeal to a broader audience and become the one-stop shop for transportation, meals and other services.
    The feature, called Uber Pet, will be available beginning October 16 in Austin, Denver, Nashville, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Tampa Bay. Riders will pay for the privilege of taking their pets with them through what Uber describes as a “small surcharge.” And drivers will have the option of avoiding trips with non-service animals by opting out of Uber Pet trips in the driver preferences menu in the app.
    Uber says it will pay drivers “a significant portion of that surcharge,” on top of their standard trip earnings.
    The company emphasized that Uber Pet does not replace their service animal policy. Riders with service animals are not expected or required to use Uber Pet, and can select from any number of ride options without paying the surcharge.
    Instead, Uber Pet was designed for riders who are pet or non-service animal owners. Uber expects cats and dogs will be the most common animals on Uber Pet trips.
    Uber Pet is another example of the company making efforts to become the app behind every aspect of its users’ lives, namely through transportation and meal delivery. Uber unveiled last month a number of changes across its products designed to achieve that very goal.
    “We want to be the operating system for your everyday life,” CEO Dara Khosrowshahi at the time. “A one-click gateway to everything that Uber can offer you.”
    Credit: Techcrunch

    John Goodenough, 97-year-old Chemist becomes oldest Nobel Prize winner



    97-year-old John Goodenough becomes oldest Nobel Prize winner
    John Goodenough has won the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry alongside Stanley Whittingham and Akira Yoshino. 

    The 97-year-old Chemist and his team members were awarded the prize for their work on developing rechargeable lithium-ion batteries which are used in everything from smartphones to pacemakers.

    The Cockrell School of Engineering Professor at The University of Texas became the oldest Nobel laureate following the announcement made in the early hours of Wednesday October 9.  A share of the nine million Swedish Kroner (£740,000) prize money has been awarded to the winners by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. 

    The Nobels are considered to be among the most prestigious prizes in the world and have been awarded for achievements in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, and literature by the Nobel Foundation in Stockholm, Sweden since 1901. The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded by the Norwegian Nobel Committee. Goodenough and other members of his team will receive a medal, cash prize and diploma at a ceremony in Stockholm in December.

    Scientists from Australia, find 'cure' for cervical cancer in mice - and it could be tested in humans by 2024

    In a huge world first, scientists have discovered a ‘cure’ for cervical cancer in mice.

    Researchers from Griffith University used gene-editing technology called CRISPR to cure the disease - and believe the same technology could be used to treat cervical cancer in humans.
    Professor Nigel McMillan, who led the study, said: “This is the first cure for any cancer using this technology.”
    In the study, the team used CRISPR-Cas9 to target and treat cervical cancer tumours via injection, using ‘stealth’ nanoparticles.
    CRISPR-Cas9 is a powerful gene-editing tool that can be used to cut away precise elements of DNA.
    Professor McMillan explained: “The nanoparticles search out the cancer-causing gene in cancer cells and ‘edit it’ by introducing some extra DNA that causes the gene to be misread and stop being made.
    “This is like adding a few extra letters into a word, so the spell checker doesn’t recognise it ‘anyTTmore’. Because the cancer must have this gene to produce, once edited the cancer dies.
    “In our study, the treated mice have 100% survival and no tumours.
    "The mice showed no other clinical signs such as inflammation from treatment but there may be other gene changes we haven’t measured yet.
    “Other cancers can be treated once we know the right genes.”
    While the findings are undoubtedly exciting, it’s important to note that the technology has only been tested on mice so far, and it remains unclear if it will have the same effect in humans.
    Despite this, the researchers say that they’re working towards human trials of the gene therapy ‘in the next five years.’

    Six elephants die after falling into waterfall in Thailand

    Six wild elephants have died after falling into a waterfall at the Khao Yai National Park in Thailand.
    Two others were saved in the incident on Saturday at the Haew Narok Waterfall in the northeastern province of Nakhon Ratchasima, officials said.
    Representative image© Gilitukha Representative imageThe dead elephants included a three-year old calf, said park chief Kanchit Srinoppawan. The waterfall has been closed temporarily following the incident.
    "It was an accident. We have often seen this happening," National Resources and Environment Minister Varawut Silpa-archa told Reuters.
    Slide 1 of 12: Baby elephant showing affection to it's mother, Masai Mara, Kenya
    There are around 300 wild elephants in the park, which covers more than 2,000 square km (772 square miles) of forest and grassland. It is home to various wild animals, including bears, elephants and gibbons, and is a popular destination for tourists.
    Source: Reuters

    Wednesday, 2 October 2019

    Tech: Nigeria 3D animated cartoon Malika was recently screened in Lagos, Nigeria at the 9th comic con.

    Nigeria 3D animated cartoon
    The long-awaited 3D animated cartoon; Malika was recently screened in Lagos, Nigeria at the 9th comic con. Malika, which is inspired by the warrior, Queen Amina of Northern Nigeria won wars while leading her people.
    Like other super hero cartoons, Nigerians had desired that stories from history be made into cartoons and films to showcase stories to the world and for children to easily learn about Africa.
    The screening of the cartoon was the first of its kind in the animation industry.
    The comic con was organized to bring arist and lovers of comic together while motivating them to do new things in the industry.
    Based on the concept, it was mad and it was interesting. I wasn’t really expecting that from a Nigerian as a whole; expecting them to put something like that and using our tradition in creating comics, making it blend and making it feel like wow! This is lovely, this is nice,” said Sarah, creative art student.
    “Its a great start, I say a jumpstart towards what we could be achieving. It was really nice. I see a lot of potential for Malika to be bigger. It was really, really amazing,” said Edna, a web comic content creator.
    The animation which was done to meet a near standard of Disney posed a little challenge but didn’t deter the animators from achieving their goals
    Despite the challenges facing the animation
    industry, project head animator said animated short film was a winning battle.
    “It was for sure a winning battle because it wasn’t just an easy battle because we had to battle the clothe simulation, the hair simulation, the rendering, lightning also we had to render online because we couldn’t render in house,” added Eri Umusu, project head animator.
    This yearly pop culture event started in 2012 and have come a long way forming partnership with companies.
    Source: Africannews

    Tourism: Japan and Singapore have world’s most powerful passports

    Singapore and Japan have topped a ranking of the world’s strongest passports.
    The two Asian countries both offer access to 190 destinations without needing a visa in advance.
    Compiled by residence and citizenship planning company Henley & Partners, the Henley Passport Index ranks all the world’s passports based on data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the firm’s research department.
    a stack of flyers on a table© Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited
    The quarterly index primarily rates travel documents based on how many countries they allow access too, either visa-free or by only needing to get a visa on arrival (rather than in advance).
    With a score of 188, Finland, Germany, and South Korea remain in second place; while Denmark, Italy, and Luxembourg are in third place, with citizens now able to access 187 destinations worldwide without requiring a visa in advance.
    The UK takes joint sixth place with the US – the lowest position either country has held since 2010 – with a score of 184.
    One of the most dramatic shifts has been the UAE’s position in the rankings; the Middle Eastern nation has climbed five places since last quarter and 46 places over the past decade, thanks to recently gaining access to a slew of African countries, including South Africa. It now sits in 15th place with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 172.
    Former Soviet states have also vastly improved over the last decade: Ukraine and Moldova have both climbed 19 places, while Georgia has jumped 16.
    Afghanistan remains at the bottom of the ranking, in 107th place, with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of just 25, followed by Iraq (27) and Syria (29).
    The index is about more than just hassle-free travel, according to Henley & Partners.
    “Our ongoing research has shown that when we talk about ‘passport power’, we are discussing more than simply the destinations a holder can travel to without acquiring a visa in advance,” said Dr Christian H Kaelin, chairman of Henley & Partners and the creator of the passport index.
    “Often, there is a strong correlation between visa freedom and other benefits such as business and investment freedom, independence of the judiciary, fiscal health, and property rights.”

    World's most powerful passports

    1. Singapore
    1. Japan
    2. Finland
    2. Germany
    2. South Korea
    3. Denmark
    3. Italy
    3. Luxembourg
    4. France
    4. Sweden
    4. Spain
    5. Austria
    5. Netherlands
    5. Portugal

    Least powerful passports

    107. Afghanistan
    106. Iraq
    105. Syria
    104. Somalia
    104. Pakistan
    103. Yemen
    Henley Passport Index for each Country
    Japan
    1
     
    190
    Singapore
    1
     
    190
    South Korea
    2
     
    188
    Germany
    2
     
    188
    Finland
    2
     
    188
    Denmark
    3
     
    187
    Italy
    3
     
    187
    Luxembourg
    3
     
    187
    France
    4
     
    186
    Sweden
    4
     
    186
    Spain
    4
     
    186
    Austria
    5
     
    185
    Netherlands
    5
     
    185
    Portugal
    5
     
    185
    Norway
    6
     
    184
    Switzerland
    6
     
    184
    United Kingdom
    6
     
    184
    United States
    6
     
    184
    Belgium
    6
     
    184
    Canada
    6
     
    184
    Greece
    6
     
    184
    Ireland
    6
     
    184
    Czech Republic
    7
     
    183
    Malta
    7
     
    183
    New Zealand
    8
     
    182
    Australia
    9
     
    181
    Lithuania
    9
     
    181
    Slovakia
    9
     
    181
    Iceland
    10
     
    180
    Hungary
    10
     
    180
    Latvia
    10
     
    180
    Slovenia
    10
     
    180
    Estonia
    11
     
    179
    Malaysia
    12
     
    177
    Liechtenstein
    12
     
    177
    Chile
    13
     
    174
    Poland
    13
     
    174
    Monaco
    14
     
    173
    Cyprus
    14
     
    173
    United Arab Emirates
    15
     
    172
    Romania
    16
     
    171
    Brazil
    17
     
    170
    Argentina
    17
     
    170
    Bulgaria
    17
     
    170
    Hong Kong (SAR China)
    18
     
    168
    Croatia
    18
     
    168
    San Marino
    19
     
    167
    Andorra
    20
     
    166
    Brunei
    21
     
    165
    Israel
    22
     
    159
    Barbados
    22
     
    159
    Mexico
    23
     
    158
    Bahamas
    24
     
    154
    St. Kitts and Nevis
    24
     
    154
    Uruguay
    25
     
    153
    Seychelles
    26
     
    151
    Costa Rica
    27
     
    150
    Antigua and Barbuda
    28
     
    149
    Trinidad and Tobago
    29
     
    148
    Vatican City
    29
     
    148
    Mauritius
    30
     
    146
    Taiwan (Chinese Taipei)
    31
     
    145
    St. Lucia
    31
     
    145
    St. Vincent and the Grenadines
    31
     
    145
    Grenada
    32
     
    142
    Paraguay
    32
     
    142
    Macao (SAR China)
    33
     
    141
    Panama
    34
     
    140
    Dominica
    35
     
    137
    Peru
    36
     
    135
    El Salvador
    37
     
    134
    Honduras
    37
     
    134
    Venezuela
    38
     
    132
    Guatemala
    38
     
    132
    Serbia
    39
     
    131
    Samoa
    39
     
    131
    Solomon Islands
    40
     
    130
    Vanuatu
    40
     
    130
    Nicaragua
    41
     
    128
    Tuvalu
    42
     
    127
    Ukraine
    43
     
    126
    Colombia
    43
     
    126
    Tonga
    44
     
    125
    North Macedonia
    45
     
    123
    Marshall Islands
    46
     
    122
    Kiribati
    46
     
    122
    Montenegro
    46
     
    122
    Moldova
    47
     
    119
    Micronesia
    47
     
    119
    Palau Islands
    47
     
    119
    Russian Federation
    48
     
    117
    Bosnia and Herzegovina
    49
     
    116
    Georgia
    50
     
    114
    Albania
    51
     
    113
    Turkey
    52
     
    112
    South Africa
    53
     
    100
    Belize
    54
     
    99
    Timor-Leste
    55
     
    95
    Kuwait
    56
     
    93
    Qatar
    57
     
    92
    Ecuador
    58
     
    91
    Fiji
    59
     
    88
    Guyana
    60
     
    87
    Nauru
    60
     
    87
    Maldives
    61
     
    84
    Jamaica
    61
     
    84
    Papua New Guinea
    62
     
    83
    Botswana
    62
     
    83
    Bahrain
    63
     
    81
    Oman
    64
     
    79
    Suriname
    65
     
    78
    Bolivia
    65
     
    78
    Thailand
    66
     
    77
    Namibia
    67
     
    76
    Belarus
    68
     
    75
    Kazakhstan
    68
     
    75
    Lesotho
    69
     
    74
    Saudi Arabia
    69
     
    74
    Eswatini (Swaziland)
    70
     
    73
    Malawi
    71
     
    72
    China
    72
     
    71
    Kenya
    72
     
    71
    Indonesia
    73
     
    70
    Zambia
    73
     
    70
    Gambia
    74
     
    69
    Tanzania
    75
     
    68
    Tunisia
    75
     
    68
    Azerbaijan
    76
     
    66
    Cape Verde Islands
    76
     
    66
    Uganda
    76
     
    66
    Philippines
    77
     
    65
    Cuba
    77
     
    65
    Ghana
    77
     
    65
    Dominican Republic
    78
     
    64
    Zimbabwe
    78
     
    64
    Sierra Leone
    79
     
    63
    Kyrgyzstan
    80
     
    62
    Benin
    80
     
    62
    Mongolia
    80
     
    62
    Morocco
    80
     
    62
    Armenia
    81
     
    60
    Mozambique
    81
     
    60
    Sao Tome and Principe
    81
     
    60
    India
    82
     
    59
    Mauritania
    83
     
    58
    Burkina Faso
    83
     
    58
    Tajikistan
    84
     
    57
    Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast)
    84
     
    57
    Rwanda
    84
     
    57
    Uzbekistan
    85
     
    56
    Guinea
    85
     
    56
    Gabon
    85
     
    56
    Senegal
    86
     
    55
    Togo
    86
     
    55
    Mali
    87
     
    54
    Niger
    87
     
    54
    Guinea-Bissau
    87
     
    54
    Madagascar
    87
     
    54
    Cambodia
    88
     
    53
    Chad
    88
     
    53
    Comores Islands
    88
     
    53
    Bhutan
    89
     
    52
    Equatorial Guinea
    89
     
    52
    Turkmenistan
    90
     
    51
    Vietnam
    90
     
    51
    Central African Republic
    90
     
    51
    Algeria
    91
     
    50
    Laos
    92
     
    49
    Haiti
    92
     
    49
    Jordan
    92
     
    49
    Angola
    92
     
    49
    Egypt
    92
     
    49
    Cameroon
    92
     
    49
    Liberia
    93
     
    48
    Burundi
    93
     
    48
    Congo (Rep.)
    94
     
    47
    Myanmar
    95
     
    46
    Nigeria
    95
     
    46
    Djibouti
    95
     
    46
    Sri Lanka
    96
     
    43
    Congo (Dem. Rep.)
    97
     
    42
    Ethiopia
    97
     
    42
    South Sudan
    97
     
    42
    Kosovo
    98
     
    41
    Iran
    99
     
    40
    Bangladesh
    99
     
    40
    Eritrea
    99
     
    40
    North Korea
    100
     
    39
    Lebanon
    100
     
    39
    Nepal
    101
     
    38
    Libya
    102
     
    37
    Palestinian Territory
    102
     
    37
    Sudan
    102
     
    37
    Yemen
    103
     
    33
    Pakistan
    104
     
    31
    Somalia
    104
     
    31
    Syria
    105
     
    29
    Iraq
    106
     
    27
    Afghanistan