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Round Two: Coronavirus outbreak could begin in September, scientists say

Recently, news about the coronavirus has come increasingly alarming and controversial. Perhaps this is a natural consequence of the panic that inevitably occurs during times of serious upheaval, such as the CoVID-19 pandemic.

From the very first case of infection with the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, recorded in Wuhan at the end of 2019, a series of shocks followed. Even if not immediately, but more and more conspiracy theories appear: some question the existence of the virus, others are convinced of its artificial origin and and there are more further on the list. However, there is still a reason for doubt in the available data. For several weeks now, the entire world press has been discussing the likelihood that the Chinese government may be hiding the real number of those killed during the outbreak. Distrust of the Celestial Empire’s official information added a new bill, which limits the publication of studies on the origin of CoVID-19. Now all research needs to be coordinated with the government. Now, as Cambridge scientists studying the origins of the disease found out, an outbreak of coronavirus could begin in mid-September in another city.

Coronavirus in Wuhan

According to Newsweek, geneticist Peter Forster of the University of Cambridge leads a research project to study the historical processes that led to the CoVID-19 pandemic. Ultimately, he and his team hope to identify the “null patient,” the first person to become infected with the new coronavirus. To date, they have managed to schedule SARS-CoV-2 distribution, while tracking genetic mutations that occur as it moves from China to Australia, Europe, and the rest of the world.

Specialists conducted a network analysis using more than 1000 coronavirus genomes. The analysis includes the date of infection of the patient and the “type” of the virus that the person was infected with – there are three types – A, B and C. The closest to the new coronavirus, the natural host of which is bats, turned out to be option A, which is considered the original genome of the virus person. The same type was found in Chinese and American citizens, as well as in patients from Australia and the United States with an already mutated variant.

However, in most cases, type A virus was not in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak. Instead, type B was found in most Chinese citizens. In turn, type C, a “daughter” of type B, was identified during the first cases in Europe, as well as in South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong, but was apparently absent Mainland China.

The virus breaks the cells of the human body using spikes (corona)

The virus breaks the cells of the human body using spikes (corona)

Judging by the data collected by Forster and his colleagues, the outbreak of the coronavirus began in the period from September 13 to December 7. This period assumes a constant mutation rate, which is unlikely, and therefore the time estimate may be erroneous. However, this is the best assumption at the moment, as scientists expect the results of the analysis of further samples obtained from patients during 2019. Moreover, according to researchers, it is quite possible that the outbreak occurred not far from Wuhan, seven of the 11 cases identified were of type A. The work was published in the journal in PNAS on April 8.

Let me remind you that the first recorded case of coronavirus was registered on November 17, 2019. According to the South China Morning Post, government data show that the 55-year-old resident of Hubei, whose capital is Wuhan, was the first person to become infected with CoVID-19. Today it is believed that the virus at some point jumped to a person from an animal – probably from a bat. Also, scientists do not exclude the presence of an intermediate host of coronavirus.

Doctors in the midst of an epidemic in Wuhan, China

Doctors in the midst of an epidemic in Wuhan, China

However, when and where the infection occurred is unknown. In December, the first cases identified were related to the seafood market in Wuhan, which served as the basis for speculating the birth of the virus. But as we learn more about the virus, this version of events seems less and less likely. So, the results of a study published in The Lancet magazine showed that some of the first infected with the new coronavirus were not on the market. Let us remind you that since the first cases appeared at the end of last year, more than two million people are infected with CoVID-19. According to Johns Hopkins University, the virus has spread to 185 countries and regions. The death toll exceeded 150 thousand people.

Scientists are looking for a “zero patient” so that the pandemic does not recur again. Understanding the different types of viruses and what role they play in the spread of CoVID-19 is “one of the urgent issues that need to be addressed urgently,” the authors of the study write.


Science & Technology

A picture from the Internet killed Samsung smartphones

The image from the network led to the breakdown of Samsung smartphones. The image was shared by an insider of Ice Universe on his Twitter.

“Never set this picture as wallpaper, especially on Samsung smartphones,” said the blogger, emphasizing that the image from the Internet can break the device. Despite the warning, Ice Universe made a link to the landscape with an image of a flooded island in the setting sun “for enthusiasts.”

Users of Samsung smartphones in the comments confirmed that the mysterious image can really “kill” the device. In particular, after setting the picture as wallpaper, the phone may reboot or turn off, which is fraught with data loss. The comments explained that the cause of the failure could be an incorrect color profile of the file that the system cannot process.

The author later clarified that Samsung was aware of the problem and had already released a special update. The blogger also published a landscape breaking smartphones on the Chinese Weibo service, noting that when loading the social network automatically changes the color profile of the picture.

Samsung device owners who set the image as wallpaper were advised to remove it through safe mode. If the device does not boot in the selected mode, then a clean installation of Android should be performed on the smartphone.

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Science & Technology

The first ever SpaceX rocket launch with crew will be shown online

May 27, 2020 may go down in the history of astronautics as the day when people first reached the orbit of the Earth on aircraft, fully developed by a private company and owned by it. Previously, without the participation of state organizations, people were only launched into suborbital flights.

The SpaceX-created by Elon Mask, a partially reusable heavy Falcon 9 booster rocket and the Crew Dragon passenger ship, should launch today from the launch site at Cape Canaveral in Florida. The task – to deliver to the International Space Station two NASA astronauts, Doug Hurley and Bob Benken.

Elon Musk tweeted a photograph of the launch site this early morning:

The live broadcast of the launch, which is tentatively scheduled for 16:33 by the east coast of the United States, can be viewed on the official NASA YouTube channel:

As confirmed by CBS News in the press service of the White House, President Donald Trump, despite the ongoing epidemic of COVID-19, decided to personally attend the historic launch and will arrive at Cape Canaveral. Last week, Trump said he was “thinking” about visiting the cosmodrome and added that he would gladly send journalists on a rocket into space to get rid of them for a while. 

True, the start may still be postponed due to bad weather. If the conditions prove to be unfavorable, it will be postponed to the 30th or 31st of May.

The first SpaceX passenger ship, the Crew Dragon, is an evolution of the Dragon transporter, which has recently made several deliveries to the ISS. In total, it can take on board up to 7 crew members, but this time only two will fly, and the rest of the space will be taken by cargo.

The interior of the ship reminds of sci-fi films, and touch screens are used for control, as in electric cars of another company Ilona Mask, Tesla.

The last time the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) launched its astronauts from the United States on an American spacecraft in July 2011. After the crash of the “space shuttle” Columbia in 2003, it was decided to gradually phase out the shuttle program and focus on developing a new ship that would also be suitable for traveling to the moon.

The first manned space flight, organized by a private company, took place back in 2004 – the SpaceShipOne rocket plane with pilot Brian Bonnie on board, reached a height of 100 km above the surface in a suborbital flight and successfully returned to Earth. For comparison, the altitude of the orbit of the ISS, where the Crew Dragon astronauts go, exceeds 400 km. 

SpaceShipOne was developed and launched by Mojave Aerospace Ventures, a joint venture between Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and engineer Burt Rutan of Scaled Composites.

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Science & Technology

Scientists have created a robotic eye that is completely similar to human

The developers plan to make it completely autonomous due to power from sunlight.

Scientists have created an artificial eye, the device of which almost completely copies the structure of the human organ of vision. Its diameter is about two centimeters, it has a retina made of nanowires and a lens for focusing light instead of the lens. The article describing the development was published by the scientific journal Nature.

We can see due to the fact that the light that enters the eyes passes inside them through the lens system and enters the photoreceptors in the retina. They convert particles of light into signals that are transmitted to the brain. Scientists have long been trying to reconstruct this complex system to create robots or in order to try to restore lost vision to people.

Another and relatively successful attempt to achieve this was made by scientists led by Zhiyong Fang of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. The artificial eye that they created looks like a ball about two centimeters in diameter, filled with a fluid that conducts electric current. The eye of an adult is about the same size, inside it is also filled with a jelly-like liquid.

The device can see thanks to an artificial retina made of photosensitive nanowires. They are made on the basis of perovskite – a hybrid material, which due to its unique structure is now widely used in solar panels. Nanowires react to light and transmit a signal about it further like the photoreceptors of the human eye.

To test whether this eye can see, scientists projected images of several letters onto it. The device successfully recognized the letters I, E, and Y. However, while it creates an image of rather poor quality – about 100 pixels, compared with 120-140 megapixels of the human eye.

For operation, the device needs an external power source. However, scientists plan to make the artificial eye self-contained so that the device works like a small solar cell.

Among other plans of scientists – to check whether it is possible to subculture these nanowires to the human optical nerve. In addition, the developers hope to increase the quality of the picture to the level of the human eye and even surpass it by an order of magnitude.

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