Science Shouldn’t Come at the Expense of Black Lives

Science should help, not hinder.

Davi Pereira Junior and LOGiCFACE fave Chanda Prescod-Weinstein wrote a piece for Scientific American on the exploitation of Black people for science, centred on the land displacement of Quilombolas in Brazil for the sake of space travel:

As with the debate about the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on Mauna Kea in Hawaii, the discussion about quilombo land rights and dignity is being framed as a discussion of science versus tradition. Alcântara is an ideal space launch site because it is on the equator, where Earth’s rotation gives rockets an extra velocity boost. In addition, Alcântara is a region that has traditionally been economically underresourced in the global capitalist economy. As with the debate about TMT, the argument goes that science is a hallowed activity and the region can benefit economically from the expansion of the Alcântara launch pad. However, as one of us argued with Keolu Fox in the Nation, the setup of science versus tradition or religion is a false juxtaposition. 

Imperial College London to launch a mentoring scheme for Black students

The scheme is said to cost around £20m.

A NEW mentoring scheme will be launched at the Imperial College London to tackle the under-representation of black students.

The scheme will offer a £5m scholarship to offer to a new intake of students as part of a wider £20m diversity scheme.

Figures show that out of more than 10,000 undergraduates at Imperial, only 235 are black. The university, one of the world’s top science institutions, says that it wants to at least double that number.

(via The Voice)

Links about the 2021 solar eclipse

And not a Jaffa Cake in sight!

So, once again, I missed the solar eclipse (the last one I missed was in 1999 when I had the opportunity to see it on holiday in Tunisia but decided to carry on playing on the hotel arcade machine).

For those who don’t know what a solar eclipse is, it’s when the Moon gets between the Earth and the Sun, casting a shadow over Earth in the process. It can only happen during the phase of a new moon but not every new moon. But different factors affect what kind of eclipse you get (more on that later), including:

Today’s was an annular eclipse meaning the sky gets a little darker and lasts no longer than 12.5 minutes. It’s like a cousin of a partial eclipse and they aren’t as rare as total eclipses.

Eclipse links

Can a black hole suck in another black hole?

You won’t BELIEVE the answer!

An awesome question with an awesome answer by Neil Tyson (without a pedantic “well, actually” in sight)

And once you’ve finished watching the video below, you can read this Forbes article about the question (but only read it after you’ve watched as not to spoil the fun).

A viral history of viruses

Thanks, French guy who made milk safer to drink and a bunch of other important immunologists!

Back in February, Will Sweatman wrote a brief history of viruses for Hackaday, covering the etymology and discovery of viruses all the way to the growing effectiveness of vaccines.

It was around the year 1590 when mankind figured out how to use optical lenses to bring into sight things smaller than the natural eye can observe. With the invention of the microscope, a new and unexplored world was discovered. It will likely be of great surprise to the reader that scientists of the time did not believe that within this new microscopic realm lay the source of sickness and disease. Most would still hold on to a belief of what was known as Miasma theory, which dates back to the Roman Empire. This theory states that the source of disease was contaminated air through decomposing organic materials. It wouldn’t be until the 1850’s that a man by the name of Louis Pasteur, from whom we get “pasteurization”, would promote Germ Theory into the spotlight of the sciences.

The last few lines brought everything back to the present COVID-19 pandemic and what the future (hopefully) holds:

The COVID-19 virus has in some shape, form, or fashion effected every single human being on earth. Those viruses once invisible to us now stand before our very eyes in full view, and yet we have suffered terrible losses to this one. Our best tool is a breakthrough barely 30 years old — our ability to tailor messenger RNA (mRNA) a targeted purpose — has very quickly led to a viable vaccine. There is no doubt in my mind that eventually this virus will succumb to the might of human ingenuity that has been unlocked by more than a century of cumulative scientific knowledge.

To all those people questioning the quickness of getting COVID-19 vaccines together, it’s taken centuries of research and billions of dollars to get to this point.

And, as with all Hackaday posts, don’t read the comments.

Hospitals in Osaka, Japan are struggling with new COVID-19 wave

It’s not looking good for Japan right now.

Pressure mounts on Japan’s second largest city, Osaka, as COVID-19 infection numbers rise. According to Reuters, hospitals are “running out of beds and ventilators as exhausted doctors warn of a ‘system collapse’, and advise against holding the Olympics this summer.”

This quote stood out for me:

“The highly infectious British variant and slipping alertness have led to this explosive growth in the number of patients.”

Like I said in my last post about what you can do after you’ve had the COVID-19 vaccine, the pandemic isn’t over just because you’re over it.

(featured image credit: peter-rabbit on Flickr, shared via CC BY-NC 2.0)

What can you do after you’ve had the COVID-19 vaccine?

The pandemic isn’t over just because you’re over it. But there are things you can do after you’ve had your jab(s) to keep yourself and everyone else safe.

Linda Geddes wrote a piece for The Guardian about things you can do safely after getting your COVID jab. For me, it’s the same information I’ve been reading over and over but given how poor information flow has been over the last year or so, these COVID-19 articles are necessary.

In a nutshell:

  • You’re not “bulletproof” against the virus, whether you’ve had the first or second vaccine.
  • Keep wearing a mask.
  • Hugging should be fine once you’re both vaccinated but be aware of local infection rates.
  • Don’t all rush back into those close contact social gatherings immediately.
  • Keep wearing a mask.
  • It’s sensible to be cautious and that might mean asking for tests before meeting with other people.
  • International travel is still a risk as not every country has the same infection rate or response to the virus as yours.
  • Keep wearing a mask.
  • Older relatives may be protected but that doesn’t mean you don’t need the vaccine (quit leaning on “herd immunity”).
  • And, finally, keep wearing a mask.

Although not explicitly mentioned in the article, please keep washing your hands, sanitising, and social distancing. The pandemic isn’t over just because you’re over it.

Tungsten: it’s a heavy metal!

Less Iron Maiden and more KT Tungsten!

YouTuber NileRed made a short about a tungsten cube and it’s a heavy sonuvametal.

Compared to 2 cubic inches of aluminium weighing less than a pound (about 450g), a tungsten cube of the same size weighs over 5 pounds. Here are some more facts about the dense metal:

  • Its density is 19.25 g/cm3, which is comparable with uranium and gold. Because of this, tungsten was used in jewellery as a gold alternative.
  • Metallic tungsten is also hypoallergenic and harder than gold alloys, meaning it resists scratching.
  • It has the highest boiling point of all elements (5,930 °C; 10,710 °F; 6,200 K) and melts at 3,422 °C (6,192 °F; 3,695 K).
  • The name tungsten is a Swedish word meaning “heavy stone” but the term “wolfram” is used in most European languages.
  • Tungsten is also used on yachts, commercial aircraft, civil and military helicopters, NASCAR and F1 race cars, incandescent light bulb, vacuum tube filaments, cathode-ray tubes, rocket engine nozzles, and heating elements.
  • In 1928, General Electric’s tried to patent tungsten but a US court rejected the claim.
  • In 2018, tungsten cost around $30,300 per metric ton. At the same weight, gold would cost about $574,917,094 (at its current price of $1,848.40 per troy oz.)

Stream the video below.

Why COVID-19 vaccines aren’t comparable

95%, 67%, 66%, what does it all mean?

Vox made a video on vaccine efficiacy rates and why you can’t compare the different COVID-19 vaccines.

In the US, the first two available Covid-19 vaccines were those from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna. Both vaccines have very high “efficacy rates” of around 95 percent. But the third vaccine introduced in the US, from Johnson & Johnson, has a much lower efficacy rate: just 66 percent.

Look at those numbers next to each other, and it’s natural to conclude that one of them is considerably worse. Why settle for 66 percent when you can have 95 percent? But that isn’t the right way to understand a vaccine’s efficacy rate, or to even understand what a vaccine does.

Since the pandemic hit the West in early 2020, we have been inundated with numbers and graphs and there’s been very little to explain them in a way that people can understand. I just hope there isn’t a Sex Panther vaccine.

Study shows alligators can regrow their tails

Researchers hope their findings will help lead to discoveries of new approaches to repairing injuries and treating diseases in alligators.

Tl;dr: can alligators regrow their tails? Yes. Well, some of it.

According to a team of researchers from Arizona State University and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, juvenile American alligators have the ability to regrow their tails up to 18% of their total body length.

An interdisciplinary team of scientists used advanced imaging techniques combined with demonstrated methods of studying anatomy and tissue organization to examine the structure of these regrown tails. They found that these new tails were complex structures with a central skeleton composed of cartilage surrounded by connective tissue that was interlaced with blood vessels and nerves. They speculate that regrowing their tails gives the alligators a functional advantage in their murky aquatic habitats.

In terms of what determined the length of regrowth, the team advised variations depended on “sex, age, or environment” due to reptiles being ectotherms and that “tail repair with regrowth in the alligator is a prolonged process.”

Overall, this study of wild-caught, juvenile American alligator tails identifies a distinct pattern of wound repair in mammals while exhibiting features in common with regeneration in lepidosaurs and amphibia.

Read and download the full paper on the Scientific Reports website.

Kalliroscopes create fluid vortexes that mimic hurricanes

The grandson of a famous impressionist painting invented the kalliroscope and that’s what you call following a legacy.

Kalliroscopes are devices that use rheoscopic fluids to create swirling vortexes. They were invented by artist Paul Matisse (grandson of Henri Matisse) and they mimic some of the universe’s greatest natural wonders like hurricanes and galaxies. Because of that, they can help in the study of fluid dynamics.

Kalliroscopes use mica, metallic flakes, or even fish scales suspended in fluid, between two thin chambers to allow movement and visualisation.

Below you can see an example of one in all its majestic beauty.

Coronavirus reinfection will be the ‘new norm’

It’s so hard to find helpful information on COVID-19 and coronavirus as a whole but I found this piece useful.

Katherine J. Wu wrote about the reality of coronavirus reinfection in the near future and that it shouldn’t scare the majority of us.

Newly saddled with the baggage of COVID-19, reinfection has taken on a more terrifying aspect, raising the specter of never-ending cycles of disease. It has sat at the center of debates over testing, immunity, and vaccines; its meaning muddled by ominous headlines, it has become wildly misunderstood. When I ask immunologists about reinfection in the context of the coronavirus, many sigh.

[…]

But infection is a two-player game, and a change in either contender can affect the dynamics of a second confrontation. On occasion, the body’s immune strongholds might weaken and crack. Or a microbe might alter its surface until it’s unrecognizable to the host that once fought it off—even if the original defenses raised against the bug are still standing tall. These latter cases might be described less strictly as reinfection than as, well, another infection.

She spoke to various immunologists and virologists to find out more about what reinfection actually means:

A repeat infection won’t necessarily come with the same symptoms, or the same level of contagiousness. In the most classical portrait of reinfection, the microbe is effectively identical; your body, with its memory of the bug, is not. That probably means you’re not “completely susceptible again,” says Angela Rasmussen, a virologist affiliated with Georgetown University.

It’s a very informative piece and should quell some fears of a never-ending pandemic. As always, remember to wear adequate masks to stem transmission, keep social distancing, wash and sanitise your hands and stay home as much as you’re able to.