#Techxpore; #InternetGiants; #Facebook; #Google; #Misinformation; #Coronavirus
New York, Feb 26 (Canadia-Media): As the new coronavirus spreads globally, the online battle to keep misinformation about the disease is also stepping up, Techxplore news reports said.
Tech platforms are stepping up efforts to stop the spread of misinformation about the new coronavirus. Image credit: www.techxlore,com/news
Google, Facebook and other platforms are struggling to keep ahead of scammers, trolls, and others with ill intent who routinely use major tragedies or disasters as opportunities to swindle or manipulate people.
"The public concern about coronavirus is being used as a vehicle to get people to transmit misinformation and disinformation," said University of Washington biology professor Carl Bergstrom.
Internet companies took part in a meeting with the World Health Organization last week at Facebook offices in Silicon Valley to discuss tactics such as promoting reliable information and fact-checking dubious claims about the coronavirus referred to as COVID-19.
"(We must) combat the spread of rumors and misinformation," WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told AFP recently.
"To that end, we have worked with Google to make sure people searching for information about coronavirus see WHO information at the top of their search results."
Google search ranks authoritative sources higher when people are seeking information on health and labels results or news stories that have been fact-checked.
Ghebreyesus said that social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook, Tencent and TikTok have also taken steps to limit spread of misinformation about coronavirus.
Facebook said in a recent online post that it is focusing on claims which, if relied on, could increase the likelihood of someone getting sick or not getting proper treatment.
Researchers say internet trolls and others often use a health crisis to spread false information or to sell "snake oil" remedies"This includes claims related to false cures or prevention methods—like drinking bleach cures the coronavirus - or claims that create confusion about health resources that are available," Facebook head of health Kang-Xing Jin said in the post.
"We will also block or restrict hashtags used to spread misinformation on Instagram, and are conducting proactive sweeps to find and remove as much of this content as we can."
Selling snake oil
Bergstrom said some virus misinformation is "people trying to sell snake oil products" such as bogus cures or treatments, while others use attention-grabbing deceptions to drive online traffic that yields money from advertising.
#UniversityOfPortsmoth; #AgriculturalWaste; #LaundryDetergentAddtive; #Biotechnology
New York, Feb 26 (Canadian-Media): An international team of researchers has developed an enzyme produced from agricultural waste that could be used as an important additive in laundry detergents, phys.org/news reports said.
Dr Pattanathu Rahman. Image Credit: University of Portsmouth
By using an enzyme produced from a by-product of mustard seeds, they hope to develop a low-cost naturally derived version of lipase, the second largest commercially produced enzyme, which is used in various industries for the production of fine chemicals, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and biodiesel including detergents.
Thousands of tons of lipase are used annually for the production of laundry detergents as an additive or to replace the chemical detergents because of its advantage of being eco-friendly and better ability to remove oil stains without harming the texture of the cloth.
Lipase is one of the most rapidly growing industrial enzymes in the market and is worth $590.5million. However, the cost of biotechnologically produced lipases has always been a challenge, mainly due to the high cost of feedstocks.
In this collaborative project, Dr. Pattanathu Rahman, a microbial biotechnologist from the Centre for Enzyme Innovation at the University of Portsmouth worked with Professor Subudhi and scientists from the Centre for Biotechnology at Siksha O Anusandhan University in Odisha, India, where Dr. Rahman is also a visiting Professor.
They examined a lipase produced from mustard oil cakes, which are the by-products of oil extraction from the mustard seeds. Oil cakes are a very good resource for growth of microbes to produce enzymes. They fermented the oil cakes with the bacteria Anoxybacillus sp. ARS-1, living in a tropical hot spring Taptapani, Odisha, India to produce the lipase enzyme.
Mustard are the third most produced oilseed crops in the world after soybean and palm oil seed. These seeds are produced in tropical countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan and Northern India. The mustard oil extracted from the seeds are used as cooking oils. Oil cakes that are the by-products of oil extraction contain relatively high amounts of protein with small amounts of anti-nutritional compounds like glucosinolates and their breakdown products, phenolics and phytates.
Dr. Rahman said: "We further investigated suitability of the lipase enzyme in detergent formulations. Anoxybacillus sp. ARS-1 produced lipase was found to be stable and resist almost all chemical detergents as well as common laundry detergent such as Ezee, Surf, Ariel and Ghadhi, proving it to be a prospective additive for incorporation in the new detergent formulations."
The study 'Parameter optimization for thermostable lipase production and performance evaluation as prospective detergent additive' is published in the journal Preparative Biochemistry & Biotechnology.
#California, #FossilFuels, #Diamond;
California (United States), Feb 25 (Canadian-Media): A new study from Stanford University and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory reveals how, with careful tuning of heat and pressure, that recipe can produce diamonds from a type of hydrogen and carbon molecule found in crude oil and natural gas, phy.org/news reports said.
Yu Lin shows models of diamondoids with one, two and three cages, which can transform into the intricate, pure-carbon lattice of diamond – seen in the larger, blue model at right – when subjected to extreme heat and pressure. Image Credit: Andrew Brodhead
It sounds like alchemy: take a clump of white dust, squeeze it in a diamond-studded pressure chamber, then blast it with a laser. Open the chamber and find a new microscopic speck of pure diamond inside.
"What's exciting about this paper is it shows a way of cheating the thermodynamics of what's typically required for diamond formation," said Stanford geologist Rodney Ewing, a co-author on the paper, published Feb. 21 in the journal Science Advances.
Scientists have synthesized diamonds from other materials for more than 60 years, but the transformation typically requires inordinate amounts of energy, time or the addition of a catalyst—often a metal—that tends to diminish the quality of the final product. "We wanted to see just a clean system, in which a single substance transforms into pure diamond—without a catalyst," said the study's lead author, Sulgiye Park, a postdoctoral research fellow at Stanford's School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences (Stanford Earth).
Understanding the mechanisms for this transformation will be important for applications beyond jewelry. Diamond's physical properties—extreme hardness, optical transparency, chemical stability, high thermal conductivity—make it a valuable material for medicine, industry, quantum computing technologies and biological sensing.
"If you can make even small amounts of this pure diamond, then you can dope it in controlled ways for specific applications," said study senior author Yu Lin, a staff scientist in the Stanford Institute for Materials and Energy Sciences (SIMES) at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.
A natural recipe
Natural diamonds crystallize from carbon hundreds of miles beneath Earth's surface, where temperatures reach thousands of degrees Fahrenheit. Most natural diamonds unearthed to date rocketed upward in volcanic eruptions millions of years ago, carrying ancient minerals from Earth's deep interior with them.
As a result, diamonds can provide insight into the conditions and materials that exist in the planet's interior. "Diamonds are vessels for bringing back samples from the deepest parts of the Earth," said Stanford mineral physicist Wendy Mao, who leads the lab where Park performed most of the study's experiments.
After squeezing diamondoid samples and blasting them with a laser, the researchers used a second, cooler laser beam to help characterize the resulting diamond. Credit: Andrew BrodheadTo synthesize diamonds, the research team began with three types of powder refined from tankers full of petroleum. "It's a tiny amount," said Mao. "We use a needle to pick up a little bit to get it under a microscope for our experiments."
At a glance, the odorless, slightly sticky powders resemble rock salt. But a trained eye peering through a powerful microscope can distinguish atoms arranged in the same spatial pattern as the atoms that make up diamond crystal. It's as if the intricate lattice of diamond had been chopped up into smaller units composed of one, two or three cages.
Unlike diamond, which is pure carbon, the powders—known as diamondoids—also contain hydrogen. "Starting with these building blocks," Mao said, "you can make diamond more quickly and easily, and you can also learn about the process in a more complete, thoughtful way than if you just mimic the high pressure and high temperature found in the part of the Earth where diamond forms naturally."
Diamondoids under pressure
The researchers loaded the diamondoid samples into a plum-sized pressure chamber called a diamond anvil cell, which presses the powder between two polished diamonds. With just a simple hand turn of a screw, the device can create the kind of pressure you might find at the center of the Earth.
Next, they heated the samples with a laser, examined the results with a battery of tests, and ran computer models to help explain how the transformation had unfolded. "A fundamental question we tried to answer is whether the structure or number of cages affects how diamondoids transform into diamond," Lin said. They found that the three-cage diamondoid, called triamantane, can reorganize itself into diamond with surprisingly little energy.
At 900 Kelvin—which is roughly 1160 degrees Fahrenheit, or the temperature of red-hot lava—and 20 gigapascals, a pressure hundreds of thousands of times greater than Earth's atmosphere, triamantane's carbon atoms snap into alignment and its hydrogen scatters or falls away.
The transformation unfolds in the slimmest fractions of a second. It's also direct: the atoms do not pass through another form of carbon, such as graphite, on their way to making diamond.
The minute sample size inside a diamond anvil cell makes this approach impractical for synthesizing much more than the specks of diamond that the Stanford team produced in the lab, Mao said. "But now we know a little bit more about the keys to making pure diamonds."
4th edition of National Science Technology & Innovation features Emirates Young Scientist Competition
#Dubai; 4thEditionOfNSTI; #UAE;#EmiratesYoungScientistCompetition;
Dubai, Feb 23 (Canadian-Media): The fourth edition of the National Science, Technology and Innovation (NSTI) Festival 2020, organized by the Ministry of Education (MoE) concurrently with the United Arab Emigrates (UAE) Innovation Month was hosted Feb 4 through Feb 8 at Dubai Festival Arena, media reports said.
NSTI Festival. Image credit: Facebook
The inauguration ceremony was attended by H.E. Hussain Ibrahim Al Hammadi, Minister of Education, H.E. Jameela Al Muhairi, Minister of State for Public Education, H.E. Dr. Thani Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, and a large number of officials, education leaders, experts and specialists and students.
Innovative programs and students’ projects that simulate future orientations in scientific disciplines were showcased in this festival.
The festival consolidated with the MoE to raise students’ awareness and skills by keeping students abreast of the latest updates related to artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced technology in areas such as environment, public health and other vital cognitive and scientific fields.
Of the several major sections included in this festival, the most important was the Science Fair (Emirates Young Scientist Competition), which provides a platform for public education students to display scientific research results of their innovative projects.
The festival also included a world-class conference, which attracted a group of prominent local and global speakers.
An innovation lab in the festival featured a group of governmental and private establishments offering specialized workshops.
Other section included was a student retreat, which this year was devoted to supporting entrepreneurs while in school.
Then there was a family festival, which provided an ideal platform for community involvement and familiarize the public with the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in an interactive and entertaining atmosphere.
Additionally, the festival hosted a group of artists and innovators in several contemporary disciplines and features a competition titled Junior Innovators Challenge.
Held in line with the national policies and strategies aimed at bringing innovation and entrepreneurship in the UAE to higher levels.
The Emirates Young Scientist Competition simulated multiple disciplines including technology, biological sciences, environment, chemistry, physics, mathematics and social and behavioral sciences.
Students get motivated by these competitions to participate later in dedicated international scientific festivals and events.
A scientific conference, held in the first 3 days of the festival, regarded as a vita platform for exchanging ideas and sharing experiences is also featured in this festival.
The festival offers many prizes for each different categories of the Emirates Young Scientist Competition. A dedicated prize was also offered to the best participating school.
#ResearchJunctionCollaboation; #UrbanIssues; #SaskatoonWasteWater
Saskatoon (S.K.), Feb 21 (Canadian-Media): New funding of $100,000 was awarded to the five projects through the Research Junction Development Grant program to the new Research Junction collaboration between the City of Saskatoon and the University of Saskatchewan, media reports said.
Saskatoon Wastewater. Image credit: Twitter
Research Junction Development Grant program is a jointly funded university-municipal research partnership announced in September of 2019.
One of these five projects would be devoted to the measurement pharmaceuticals in Saskatoon’s wastewater.
Markus Brinkmann, a researcher from the University of Saskatchewan’s Toxicology Centre and the College of Engineering will work on this project with Mike Sadowski, the operations manager of the City of Saskatoon’s wastewater treatment plant.
These grants would enable researchers to access to the City’s resources, data and expertise through these as well as the city staff to analyses and data resulting from the projects in informed decision-making process.
Projects funded through the initiative also create hands-on learning and research opportunities for USask students and post-doctoral fellows, helping them prepare for future careers.
“It is incredible to see City employees and university researchers come together to solve problems...helps us move forward as a community and shows how we can lead the country through collaboration to create the best results for our community and residents...can create real benefits and build a healthy, strong and sustainable future,” said Mayor Charlie Clark
They will undertake comprehensive measurements of pharmaceuticals such as antibiotics, pain killers, beta-blockers, and hormone-like substances in the wastewater treatment plant and downstream in the South Saskatchewan River. The researchers will also work to better understand and stay current with technology and new solutions to treat wastewater.
Projects funded through the initiative also create hands-on learning and research opportunities for University of Saskatchewan students and post-doctoral fellows.
“Through the power of research, these collaborative projects will address some tough challenges in our community,” said University of Saskatchewan President Peter Stoicheff. “It is exciting to see from this list of approved projects the first concrete ways in which this strategic partnership will help build a better Saskatoon.”
#EuropeanUnion; #ArtificialIntelligence; #Technology; #EuropeanCommission;
Europe, Feb 19 (Canadian-Media): The European Union unveiled proposals Wednesday to regulate artificial intelligence that call for strict rules and safeguards on risky applications of the rapidly developing technology, phys.org/news reports said.
President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen looks at the invention 'Do you Speak Robot?' at the AI Xperience Center at the VUB (Vrije Universiteit Brussel) in Brussels, Tuesday, Feb. 18. 2020. Image credit: Stephanie Lecocq, Pool Photo via AP
The report is part of the bloc's wider digital strategy aimed at maintaining its position as the global pacesetter on technological standards. Big tech companies seeking to tap Europe's vast and lucrative market, including those from the U.S. and China, would have to play by any new rules that come into force.
The EU's executive Commission said it wants to develop a "framework for trustworthy artificial intelligence." European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen had ordered her top deputies to come up with a coordinated European approach to artificial intelligence and data strategy 100 days after she took office in December.
"We will be particularly careful where essential human rights and interests are at stake," von der Leyen told reporters in Brussels. "Artificial intelligence must serve people, and therefore artificial intelligence must always comply with people's rights."
EU leaders, keen on establishing "technological sovereignty," also released a strategy to unlock data from the continent's businesses and the public sector so it can be harnessed for further innovation in artificial intelligence. Officials in Europe, which doesn't have any homegrown tech giants, hope to to catch up with the U.S. and China by using the bloc's vast and growing trove of industrial data for what they anticipate is a coming wave of digital transformation.
They also warned that even more regulation for foreign tech companies is in store with the upcoming "Digital Services Act," a sweeping overhaul of how the bloc treats digital companies, including potentially holding them liable for illegal content posted on their platforms. A steady stream of Silicon Valley tech bosses, including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Microsoft President Brad Smith, have visited Brussels in recent weeks as part of apparent lobbying efforts.
"It is not us that need to adapt to today's platforms. It is the platforms that need to adapt to Europe," said Thierry Breton, commissioner for the internal market. "That is the message that we delivered to CEOs of these platforms when they come to see us."
If the tech companies aren't able to build systems "for our people, then we will regulate, and we are ready to do this in the Digital Services Act at the end of the year," he said.
Eeuropean Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, left, talks to Commissioner for Europe Fit for the Digital Age Margrethe Vestager during a weekly College of Commissioners meeting at the EU headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020. During the meeting, the College will set out plans on the EU's strategy to deal with the challenges of the digital age and the use of artificial intelligence. Image credit: AP Photo/Francisco Seco
The EU's report said clear rules are needed to address "high-risk AI systems," such as those in recruitment, healthcare, law enforcement or transport, which should be "transparent, traceable and guarantee human oversight." Other artificial intelligence systems could come with labels certifying that they are in line with EU standards.
Artificial intelligence uses computers to process large sets of data and make decisions without human input. It is used, for example, to trade stocks in financial markets, or, in some countries, to scan faces in crowds to find criminal suspects.
While it can be used to improve healthcare, make farming more efficient or combat climate change, it also brings risks. It can be unclear what data artificial intelligence systems work off. Facial recognition systems can be biased against certain social groups, for example. There are also concerns about privacy and the use of the technology for criminal purposes, the report said.
Human-centered guidelines for artificial intelligence are essential because "none of the positive things will be achieved if we distrust the technology," said Margrethe Vestager, the executive vice president overseeing the EU's digital strategy.
Under the proposals, which are open for public consultation until May 19, EU authorities want to be able to test and certify the data used by the algorithms that power artificial intelligence in the same way they check cosmetics, cars and toys.
It's important to use unbiased data to train high-risk artificial intelligence systems so they can avoid discrimination, the commission said.
Specifically, AI systems could be required to use data reflecting gender, ethnicity and "other possible grounds of prohibited discrimination."
Other ideas include preserving data to help trace any problems and having AI systems clearly spell out their capabilities and limitations. Users should be told when they're interacting with a machine and not a human while humans should be in charge of the system and have the final say on decisions such as rejecting an application for welfare benefits, the report said.
EU leaders said they also wanted to open a debate on when to allow facial recognition in remote identification systems, which are used to scan crowds to check people's faces to those on a database. It's considered the "most intrusive form" of the technology and is prohibited in the EU except in special cases.
#WashingtonResearch; #Grasshopper; #detectionOfExplosiveChemicals
Washington, Feb 18 (Canadian-Media): Washington University in St. Louis has made news with their research efforts to use cyborg insects as biorobotic sensing machines. Translation: University engineers wanted to see if they could capitalize on the sense of smell in locusts for sensing systems that could be used by such departments as homeland security, https://techxplore.com/news reports said.
Credit: Baranidharan Raman
The year was 2016 and the headlines talked about something called cyborg insects and reflected on a branch of technology called biorobotics.
Barani Raman, an associate professor at the Washington University's biomedical engineering, and his team have been studying how sensory signals are received and processed in locusts' brains. Fundamental olfactory processing in grasshoppers was in the spotlight; Raman focused on how sensory signals are received and processed in their relatively simple brains and his team fashioned a cyborg sniffer.
Fast forward from 2016 to Monday. New Scientist reported that cyborg grasshoppers have been engineered to sniff out explosives.
How the system works: Bomb-sniffing grasshoppers are kitted out with backpacks. They are engineered to transmit data to reveal explosive chemicals. The signals are transmitted wirelessly to a computer from their attached backpacks.
Again, it was Prof. Raman and colleagues at Washington University in St. Louis, featured this time for having tapped into "the olfactory senses of the Schistocerca americana, to create bomb sniffers, uniting sensors of a grasshopper with electronics. Donna Lu reported in New Scientist that these tiny lightweight sensor backpacks fitted to the grasshoppers "were able to record and wirelessly transmit the electrical activity almost instantaneously to a computer."
What gives insects a special edge on sniffing out dangerous systems?
New Scientist: Consider olfactory receptor neurons in the antennae. They pick up on chemical odors in the air. They send electrical signals to a part of the insect brain known as the antennal lobe. Each grasshopper antenna has approximately 50,000 of these neurons.
In their testing, the team implanted tiny electrodes into the insects' antennal lobes and puffed vapors of different explosive materials. The non-explosive controls were hot air and benzaldehyde. Vapors of different explosive materials puffed into the antennae included TNT and DNT.
"The last step was to fit grasshoppers with a sensor 'backpack' which would record and transmit their neural activity in real-time to a computer, where it would be interpreted," said ZME Science.
What were the test results? Recordings of neural activity from seven grasshoppers were around 80 percent accurate,
"The grasshoppers' brains continued to successfully detect explosives up to seven hours after the researchers implanted the electrodes, before they became fatigued and ultimately died," said Lu.
Not only that, and also impressive: "The grasshoppers were able to detect where the highest concentration of explosives was when the team moved the platform to different locations," said New Scientist.
The paper "Explosive sensing with insect-based biorobots" is up on the preprint server bioRxiv. The authors stated that "We demonstrate a bio-robotic chemical sensing approach where signals from an insect brain are directly utilized to detect and distinguish various explosive chemical vapors."
They said in their paper that they believed their approach was not that different from the 'canary in a coal mine' approach, "where the viability of the entire organism is used as an indicator of absence/presence of toxic gases."
#WHOCoronavirusStudyTeam; #COVID-19; #WHO'sEmergencyPreparednesProgram
China, Feb 12 (Canadian-Media: Due to increase of the number of deaths and infections in China and elsewhere, Dr. Bruce Aylward, renowned Canadian epidemiologist, was on his way to China Feb 11 to lead a team of WHO experts to study the origin of the virus and its severity.
Dr. Bruce Aylward. Image credit: Facebook
It was reported by World Health Organization (WHO) Tuesday that 1,017 people had died from Coronavirus in China, and there were 42,708 infected cases.
Aylward was responsible for previously leading reforms of WHO's emergency preparedness program.
A group of WHO' s virologists, in charge of naming infectious diseases has dubbed the illness Coronavirus as COVID-19.
The new name did not create stigma by referring to a geographical location, an animal or group of people, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Tuesday.
Canada has agreed to provide $2 million to the World Health Organization to help vulnerable countries prepare for a potential coronavirus outbreak beyond China.
Additionally, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) has put out a call for proposals to scientists interested in launching quick studies of the coronavirus if it breaks out here in Canada.
#HumanTextiles, #RepairBloodVessels; #WHO; #CardiovascularDisease
France (Italy), Feb 11 (Canadian-Media): As the leading cause of mortality worldwide, cardiovascular diseases claim over 17 million lives each year, according to World Health Organization estimates. To open up new research avenues into this serious public health problem, Inserm researchers are developing ''human textiles'' from collagen in order to repair damaged blood vessels, ScienceDaily News release of Feb 10 reported.
Human textiles to repair blood vessels. Image credit: Twitter
What if we could replace a patient's damaged blood vessels with brand new ones produced in a laboratory? This is the challenge set by Inserm researcher Nicolas L'Heureux, who is working on the human extracellular matrix -- the structural support of human tissues that is found around practically all of the body's cells.
In a study published in Acta Biomaterialia, L'Heureux and his colleagues at the Tissue Bioengineering unit (Inserm/Université de Bordeaux) describe how they have cultivated human cells in the laboratory to obtain extracellular matrix deposits high in collagen -- a structural protein that constitutes the mechanical scaffold of the human extracellular matrix. "We have obtained thin but highly robust extracellular matrix sheets that can be used as a construction material to replace blood vessels," L'Heureux explains.
The researchers then cut these sheets to form yarn -- a bit like that used to make fabric for clothing. "The resulting yarn can be woven, knitted or braided into various forms. Our main objective is to use this yarn to make assemblies which can replace the damaged blood vessels," adds L'Heureux.
Made entirely from biological material, these blood vessels would also have the advantage of being well-tolerated by all patients. Given that collagen does not vary from individual to individual, it is not expected that the body will consider these vessels as foreign bodies that need to be rejected.
The researchers would now like to refine their techniques used to produce these "human textiles" before moving on to animal testing, in order to validate this last hypothesis. If these are conclusive, this could lead to clinical trials.
Story Source: Materials provided by INSERM (Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale).
#NewYork; #TimesSquare; #Promobot; #Robot; #CoronavirusAdvice
New York, Feb 10 (Canadian-Media): Times Square, New York was visited on Monday by a five-foot tall (1.5 meter) Promobot with a friendly face to help provide information about the new Coronavirus that has caused WHO to declare an international health emergency, media reports said.
Promobot was created by Philadelphia-based startup that makes autonomous service robots for businesses and is run by a group of Russians.
“We did a special software to detect coronavirus symptoms,” the company’s chief business development officer, Oleg Kivorkutsev, told Reuters.
“We understand how this problem is important, how people are nervous, people are afraid of this. But if they understand a few, simple things, for example, what symptoms coronavirus has, what they should do to prevent (it), everything will be fine and everyone will be happy.”
An iPad-like touch screen attached to the robot’s chest allowed the people to fill out a short questionnaire. The people even had a conversation with the machine.
The robot, which does not detect the virus, asks if a person has common symptoms such a fever and the person has to hit “yes” or “no” on the touch screen, after which they receive a reassuring message if they chose no.