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Man-made super-flu could kill half humanity

A virus with the potential to kill up to half the worlds population has been made in a lab. Now academics and bioterrorism experts are arguing over whether to publish the recipe, and whether the research should have been done in the first place.
The virus is an H5N1 bird flu strain which was genetically altered to become much more contagious. It was created by Ron Fouchier of the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, who first presented his work to the public at an influenza conference in Malta in September.
Fouchier said the strain circulates in animals, particularly birds, but rarely affects humans.

In the ten or so years since bird flu first emerged in Asia, fewer than 600 cases have been reported in humans. But the H5N1 strain is particularly vicious, killing roughly half of patients diagnosed with it. What stops it from becoming a major threat to public health is that it does not readily transmit from human to human. Or at least it didnt until now.
Researchers in Fouchiers team used ferrets test animals which closely mimic the human response to influenza and transmitted H5N1 from one to another to make it more adaptable to new hosts. After 10 generations, the virus had mutated to become airborne, which means ferrets became ill from merely being near other diseased animals.
A genetic study showed that the new, dangerous strain had only five mutations compared to the original one, and all of them were earlier seen in the natural environment just not all at once. Fouchiers strain is as contagious as the human seasonal flu, which kills tens of thousands of people each year, but is likely to cause many more fatalities if released.
“I can’t think of another pathogenic organism that is as scary as this one,” Paul Keim, a microbial geneticist who has worked on anthrax for many years, told Science Insider. “I don’t think anthrax is scary at all compared to this.”
Now Keim, who chairs the US National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB), and other members of the body, have a very difficult decision to make. Fouchier wants his study to be published. So does virologist Yoshihiro Kawaoka, who led similar research in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and the University of Tokyo, and reached comparable results. And it is up to NSABB to give them the green light.
Many academics and biosecurity experts are naturally cautious about releasing information which could provide any bioterrorist with a ready recipe to hold the world to ransom. Some argue that such work should never have been done in the first place and call for international monitoring of potentially harmful research.
“It’s just a bad idea for scientists to turn a lethal virus into a lethal and highly contagious virus. And it’s a second bad idea for them to publish how they did it so others can copy it,” believes Dr. Thomas Inglesby, a bioterrorism expert and director of the Center for Biosecurity of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
However the very same data, if made available to the scientific community, could potentially allow humanity to prepare for an H5N1 pandemic, which Fouchiers study has shown to be far more probable than was previously believed. Clamping down on freedom of information in the scientific domain may in the end leave us defenseless against the flu, should it arise naturally.
NSABB plans to issue a public statement soon, says Keim, and is likely to issue additional recommendations about this type of research. “We’ll have a lot to say,” he says.

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Bizzare & Odd

Meet Susan: how working remotely will change us in the future

© DirectlyApply

The Covid-19 pandemic has seriously affected the labor market. Employers transferred employees to a remote mode of operation, scientists are trying to understand how the new conditions will affect us and what will happen if we keep them. 

Some large companies are already thinking about closing their offices and points of sale in favor of working through the Internet, and Twitter invited all employees to stay on the remote forever.

Susan model illustrating the effect of office work on the body / © DirectlyApply
Susan model illustrating the effect of office work on the body / © DirectlyApply

According to a study conducted by IWG (International Workplace Group) , before the pandemic, 80% of respondents would prefer a job with more flexible working conditions. In April of this year, commercial property provider Cresa presented its study, which showed that 29% of people who switched to remote work feel less productive than in the office, despite the control of their bosses.

At the same time, some companies noted that the hybrid mode of operation (combining an office and a remote office) seems to them effective, and they are going to use it further. But such a schedule can affect people’s health. The DirectlyApply job search platform has shown what consequences await the “remote” workers if they do not change their daily habits.

Its creators invited a group of clinical psychologists and fitness experts to study how udalenka affects a person physically and psychologically. Experts explained what changes will occur with this mode of operation after 25 years. As a result, Susan appeared – a model of a typical remote employee of the future, on which they analyze in detail all the negative consequences.

50% of people around the world work outside the office for approximately 2.5 days

So, a constant presence in front of the monitor will cause “computer vision syndrome”, in which the eyes become dry and sore, and vision – blurred. In addition, red spots will begin to appear on the squirrels, and large bruises under the eyes.

Lack of physical activity and sitting in the wrong position will lead to curvature of the spine, back and neck pain, obesity and a tech neck (the effect of constantly looking at mobile devices and tablets): the skin will sag around the neck, and a second chin will appear. From constant work on the keyboard, the hands are deformed. A lack of vitamin D will cause hair loss, the skin will turn pale, dull and wrinkle.

Susan / © DirectlyApply
Susan / © DirectlyApply

Finally, a person working remotely will be constantly under stress, which will cause a mode of work and lack of personal contacts. From this, in turn, blood pressure rises, and the state of health worsens even more.

To preserve it, the authors of the study advise to adhere to several rules. It is important to maintain a constant mode of work, regularly perform physical exercises and from time to time go out to recover after a day spent at the computer. Psychologist Rachel Allan notes:

“Adhering to one lifestyle and level of productivity is necessary to maintain emotional health when working remotely. Routine gives us the opportunity to manage our time and maintain our attention. Think about how you want to manage your time and what will work best in the wider context of your life.”

One of the main problems that we encounter when working remotely is the lack of direct contact with people. Staying alone for long periods can increase the level of the stress hormone cortisol. Dr. Allan believes that “some of our most important professional relationships come from informal conversations and unstructured moments that organically arise in the physical workplace.” According to her, “remote work may require us to consciously create opportunities for informal communication with colleagues.”

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1947 film predicts smartphones and other modern technology

Inspired by Barjavel’s essay, a 70-year-old documentary offers the evolution of portable pocket television as well as a way people interact with objects. Today, parallels are drawn between the objects, like smartphones described in a short documentary.

Anne-Katrin Weber, television historian at Lausanne University, said:

People using miniature television devices in public places; professional meetings held by telephones with a picture; cars equipped with television screens; shops that advertise their products on television: these topics are from the 1947 short film Television: Oeil de Demain. Produced and directed by Raymond-Millet.

The film combines documentary and science fiction sequences, while also offering a television image in post-war France, as well as creative speculation about future developments.

While Raymond-Millet’s work is almost forgotten today, his film received a standing ovation for “predicting our present” and although the small portable devices used in the film have long retractable antennas that resemble the first cell phones, it shows that 70 years ago smartphones already existed. In fact, they mirror today’s smartphones that are in the pockets of almost every person.

At the end of the film, the audience is transferred to the bedroom, where the man is having trouble sleeping. He seems to be “invoking” the hologram of a dancing woman who appears on the bed and looks at her while his wife is sleeping.

The film outline about upcoming television shows, really look like a fairly accurate forecast of modern digital media in terms of flexibility and hybridity of media technologies and their various forms of consumption.

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The time when US wanted to detonate a nuclear bomb on the moon

In the United States during the Cold War, there was a plan to explode a nuclear bomb on the moon as a “demonstration of dominance” before the Soviet Union. New details of the secret mission are revealed in a recently published book.

Intimidate the Soviet Union: Americans wanted to detonate a nuclear bomb on the moonPhoto: nasa.gov

The secret mission, codenamed Project A119, was conceived at the dawn of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union in the US Air Force Division, located at the Kirtland Air Base in New Mexico.

A report written in June 1959, entitled A Study of Lunar Research Flights, outlines plans for an atomic bomb exploded on the Moon’s “terminator,” the region between the Sun-lit portion of the surface and the darker portion of our planet’s natural satellite.

The explosion would probably be visible to the naked eye from the Earth, because the military planned to add sodium to the bomb, which was supposed to glow during the explosion.

A nuclear explosion on the lunar surface was certainly “one of the stupidest things the government could do,” says John Greenwald, Jr., author of Secrets from the Vault.

According to the Daily Mail, a recently published book details some of the most surrealistic offers in history.

John Greenwald has been interested in the secrets of the US government since he was 15 and has filed more than 3,000 requests for freedom of information. He oversees The Black Vault’s online repository, which has collected about 2.1 million pages of previously classified documents related to UFOs, mysterious murders and other mysterious phenomena.

According to Greenwald, the US Air Force was developing a lunar project to “show US dominance in space over the Soviet Union and, ultimately, over the whole world.”

The plan, of course, has never been implemented – perhaps because of a potential “unprecedented scientific disaster,” as one declassified document says.

The existence of this scheme was first discovered in 1999 in the biography of the world famous astronomer Carl Sagan, who died in 1996. Sagan was hired to work with him in Chicago by Dr. Leonard Raiffel, a physicist who was studying the possibility of creating a lunar nuclear bomb.

Leonard Raiffel (he died in 2017 at the age of 89) in an interview in 2000 claimed that the bomb would be as big as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

“It was clear that the main purpose of the proposed detonation was a PR act and a demonstration of sole domination,” the scientist told The Observer. – The Air Force wanted the mushroom cloud to be so large that it could be seen on Earth. The United States lagged behind in the space race.”

Photo: nasa.gov

In 1958, Raiffel was approached by senior US Air Force officers who asked him to “expedite” a project to study the visibility and consequences of a nuclear explosion on the moon.

According to the scientist, he made it clear that as a result, the pristine lunar environment will be destroyed, and this will be a huge damage, “but the US Air Force was mainly concerned about how a nuclear explosion would be perceived on Earth.”

“If the project were made public, there would be protests,” Raiffel said.

Greenwald’s book also explores the 1959 Army project on building a military base on the moon, code-named Project Horizon. The aim of the project was to create a permanent lunar colony for 10-20 people by the end of 1966. To get equipment there, it was projected to require an average of 5.3 Saturn rocket launches per month from August 1964 to November 1966.

In the entire history of the American space program, only 19 Saturns were launched.

“Military power based on the moon will be a strong deterrent to war because of the extreme difficulty, from the enemy’s point of view, of eliminating our ability to strike back,” the project suggested.

In a 1959 memorandum, US Army Research and Development Head Lieutenant Arthur Trudeau argued that if the United States created a permanent base on the moon, the prestige and psychological advantage for the American nation would be invaluable in confronting the Soviets.

The report indicated that creating an outpost of 12 people and maintaining it in working condition over the course of the year would cost more than $ 6 billion (which is equivalent to more than $ 53 billion in modern money).

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