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25 Apr 2020

SCIENTISTS MAY BE CLOSE TO UNDERSTANDING WHY THE UNIVERSE EXISTS

Universal Imbalance
Scientists think that they’ve taken a step toward finally understanding one of the greatest mysteries of the universe: why it exists in the first place.

When the universe formed, it created both antimatter and matter, which destroy each other when they meet. So why there’s enough matter left to form all the galaxies, stars, and worlds out there is a key question.

Now, Scientific American reports that scientists have made substantial progress toward providing an answer.

Piecing It Together
The theory, called leptogenesis, posits that the Big Bang spewed out a massive number of subatomic particles called neutrinos. When those neutrinos eventually broke apart, leptogenesis suggests that they happened to form more matter byproducts than antimatter ones.

New findings out of Japan’s Tokai to Kamioka (T2K) experiment, which were published last week in the journal Nature, aren’t definitive evidence of the leptogenesis theory. But, pending the many follow-up experiments and analyses that would be necessary to actually make that declaration, SciAm reports that the findings do seem to strongly suggest that leptogenesis is on to something.

Missing Data
The study suggested there’s a 95 percent chance that the neutrinos break down into an uneven proportion of matter to antimatter, a measurement called CP violation. That sounds convincing, but it’s not good enough for such a fundamental mystery of the universe.


“We don’t call it a discovery yet,” Stony Brook University researcher and T2K team member Chang Kee Jung told SciAm.

Source: https://futurism.com/the-byte/scientists-close-understanding-why-universe-exists

14 Apr 2020

Scientists find 78% of people don’t show symptoms of coronavirus — here’s what that could mean

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread, with 1.4 million cases and almost 75,000 deaths reported worldwide as of April 7. To slow down the spread and reduce mortality, governments across the world have put in place social distancing measures. When such measures are lifted, the “flattened epidemic curve” is expected to start rising again in the absence of a vaccine.

As most testing takes place inside hospitals in the UK and many other countries, the confirmed cases so far largely capture people who show symptoms. But to accurately predict the consequences of lifting the restrictions, we need to understand how many people with COVID-19 don’t show symptoms and to what extent they are contagious.

A recent study, published in the British Medical Journal, suggested that 78% of people with COVID-19 have no symptoms.

The findings are in line with research from an Italian village at the epicenter of the outbreak showing that 50%-75% were asymptomatic, but represented “a formidable source” of contagion. A recent Icelandic study also showed that around 50% of those who tested positive to COVID-19 in a large-scale testing exercise were asymptomatic.

Meanwhile, a WHO report found that “80% of infections are mild or asymptomatic, 15% are severe infections and 5% are critical infections”. Though we don’t know what proportion of that 80% were purely asymptomatic, or exactly how the cases were counted, it again points to a large majority of cases who are not going into hospital and being tested.

The new BMJ study is seemingly different to the findings of studies from earlier in the pandemic, which suggested that the completely asymptomatic proportion of COVID-19 is small: 17.9% on the Diamond Princess Cruise Ship and 33.3% in Japanese people who were evacuated from Wuhan.

The new paper is based on collated data that Chinese authorities began publishing daily from April 1 on the number of new coronavirus cases in the country that are asymptomatic. It reports that “a total of 130 of 166 new infections (78%) identified in the 24 hours to the afternoon of Wednesday April 1 were asymptomatic”. They say that the 36 symptomatic cases “involved arrivals from overseas”, quoting China’s National Health Commission.

The new BMJ data is hugely important as the majority of new information and findings released daily worldwide is from the potentially small proportion of people who have shown symptoms, sought hospital help, undertook a test and tested positive. This is different to previous epidemics such as SARS, where most of the infections were symptomatic and could be traced.

Ultimately, widespread antibody testing, which is still not imminent, will be able to tell us how many people have already had COVID-19. This will give a better approximation of the total number of infections. This will be important in making decisions on lifting social distancing measures.

For example, if antibody testing suggests that a large proportion of the population has had COVID-19 already, there is a smaller chance of asymptomatic and undiagnosed cases spreading the infection once restrictions are lifted. But if only a very small proportion of the population has had the infection, then lifting of social distancing measures may have to be delayed until vaccination strategies are ready to be implemented.

Tweaking the models
Mathematical modeling allows us to develop a framework in which to mimic reality using formulaic expressions and parameters based on what we know about the virus spread. Models can be refined to replicate known aspects – for example the number of reported infections and deaths due to COVID-19. Such models can then be used to make a prediction about the future.

Ideally, a mathematical model for infectious disease spread should be based on parameters including the population of susceptible people, those exposed to the virus, those infected by the virus and those recovered from the virus. The group infected by the virus can further be split into asymptomatic and symptomatic population groups that can be modeled separately. But currently, there are large uncertainties around these numbers.

The new information will be crucial in addressing some of these uncertainties, and developing more robust and reliable modeling frameworks. This is because, although modeling has strong predictive power, it is only as good as the data it uses.

The data currently being used is from people who have tested positive to COVID-19 infections. And if asymptomatic infections are a large proportion of COVID-19 infections, as the recent estimates seem to suggest, then a number of model parameters potentially need to be refined and reconsidered. We don’t know how many people current models assume to be asymptomatic, but it could be different to the newly suggested 78%.

Increasing this number would considerably reduce the case fatality rate – the proportion of deaths per number of infections. That’s because, while the number of deaths related to COVID-19 are clearly countable, this new evidence suggests that there are a lot more infections than we thought, with a large proportion asymptomatic.

There is also very little information available to estimate the model parameter describing the time it takes for an infection to progress from asymptomatic to symptomatic. One study from Singapore suggested that progression occurs within one to three days. Confirming this will notably change the model predictions.

So while the new study suggests a large proportion of people may have already had COVID-19, we can’t say this for sure. Ultimately, we need a large blanket antibody testing strategy to confirm it.

Only then can we discuss whether the UK has reached “herd immunity” – whereby enough people have been infected to become immune to the virus – for this pandemic, and think about relaxing social distancing measures. Hopefully such a test will be available very soon.

Source: https://thenextweb.com/syndication/2020/04/13/scientists-find-78-of-people-dont-show-symptoms-of-coronavirus-heres-what-that-could-mean/

23 Mar 2020

Researchers Find Captivating New Details In Image of Black Hole

Last April, the international coalition of scientists who run the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), a network of eight telescopes from around the world, revealed the first-ever image of a black hole.

Now, a team of researchers at the Center for Astrophysics at Harvard have revealed calculations, as detailed in a paper published in the journal Science Advances today, that predict an intricate internal structure within black hole images caused by extreme gravitational light bending.

The new research, they say, could lead to much sharper images when compared to the blurry ones we’ve seen so far.

“With the current EHT image, we’ve caught just a glimpse of the full complexity that should emerge in the image of any black hole,” said Michael Johnson a lecturer at the Center for Astrophysics, in a statement.

The EHT image was able to catch the black hole’s “photon sphere” or “photon ring,” a region around a black hole where gravity is so overpowering, it forces photons to travel in orbits.

But as it turns out, there’s even more to the image.

“The image of a black hole actually contains a nested series of rings,” Johnson said. “Each successive ring has about the same diameter but becomes increasingly sharper because its light orbited the black hole more times before reaching the observer.”

Until last year, that internal structure of black holes remained shrouded in mystery.“As a theorist, I am delighted to finally glean real data about these objects that we’ve been abstractly thinking about for so long,” Alex Lupsasca from the Harvard Society of Fellows said in the statement.

These newly discovered substructures could allow for even sharper images in the future. “What really surprised us was that while the nested subrings are almost imperceptible to the naked eye on images — even perfect images — they are strong and clear signals for arrays of telescopes called interferometers,” Johnson added.

“While capturing black hole images normally requires many distributed telescopes, the subrings are perfect to study using only two telescopes that are very far apart,” Johnson said. “Adding one space telescope to the EHT would be enough.”

There might be other ways as well. In November, a team of Dutch astronomers suggested sending two to three satellites equipped with radio imaging technology to observe black holes at five times the sharpness of the last attempt.

Source: https://futurism.com/researchers-take-sharper-black-hole-images

15 Mar 2020

Scientists Discover “Peculiar” Teardrop-Shaped Star

“I’ve been looking for a star like this for nearly 40 years and now we have finally found one.”

A team of astronomers have discovered a strange star that oscillates in a rhythmic pattern — but only on one side, causing gravitational forces to distort it into a teardrop shape.

“We’ve known theoretically that stars like this should exist since the 1980s,” said professor Don Kurtz from the University of Central Lancashire and co-author of the paper published in Nature Astronomy on Monday, in a statement. “I’ve been looking for a star like this for nearly 40 years and now we have finally found one.”

The star, known as HD74423, is about 1.7 times the mass of the Sun and was spotted around 1,500 light years from Earth — still within the confines of the Milky Way — using public data from NASA’s planet-hunting TESS satellite.

“What first caught my attention was the fact it was a chemically peculiar star,” said co-author Simon Murphy from the Sydney Institute for Astronomy at the University of Sydney in the statement. “Stars like this are usually fairly rich with metals – but this is metal poor, making it a rare type of hot star.”

Stars have been found to oscillate at different rhythms and to different degrees — including our own Sun. Astronomers suspect they’re caused by convection and magnetic field forces inside the star.

While the exact causes of these pulsations vary, these oscillations have usually been observed on all sides of the star. HD74423, however, was found to pulsate on only one side because of its red dwarf companion with which it makes up a binary star system.

They were found to do such a close dance — an orbital period of just two days — that the larger star is being distorted into a teardrop shape.

The astronomers suspect it won’t be the last of its kind to be discovered.

“We expect to find many more hidden in the TESS data,” said co-author Saul Rappaport, a professor at MIT.

Source: https://futurism.com/scientists-peculiar-teardrop-shaped-star

25 Feb 2019
Why Sheikh Mohammed's vision, leadership style should be taught in schools

Why Sheikh Mohammed’s vision, leadership style should be taught in schools

Dubai’s creative leadership paving the road for emirate to light and shine

Think of leadership and vision and the first name that comes to mind is His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai. Hence, academia, researchers and business executives have suggested that the vision and style of leadership of Sheikh Mohammed should be taught in the schools and be made a part of the curriculum.

“Dubai’s creative leadership is paving the road for this emirate to light and shine. The unique style of leadership of Sheikh Mohammed is inspiring all of us. The environment that Dubai created paved ways for individuals like us and this is the reason for being here and what I am now. I am indebted to His Highness,” said Dr Manahel Thabet, president of the Economic Forum for Sustainable Development.

“Being a resident of Dubai, I believe his leadership style should be taught in schools. Sheikh Mohammed has taken critical, crucial and quick decision to tame the complicated financial issues that Dubai faced in the past 10-15 years. His vision is distinguishing him from the rest of the world.”

Dr Thabet has been ranked among the 30 smartest people alive worldwide by SuperScholar and is a Guinness World Record holder in mind ability.

She highlighted different styles of his leadership such as Dubai’s march towards being a knowledge-based economy, as well as the creation of incubators and accelerators, which she suggested they should be followed by emerging economies.

Dr Raed Safadi, chief economic advisor at Dubai’s Department of Economic Development, pointed out that the critical element of Sheikh Mohammed’s vision is flexibility, which helps seize an opportunity that arises and also foresee future challenges.

“This emirate has embraced technological changes before they were common currency. There was fear that technology is going to take away jobs, but we are embracing it – not fearing it,” he said during a panel discussion on leadership organised by Accounting, Audit & Advisory Services Focus Group (AAA), a unit of the Indian Business & Professional Council, in Dubai.

Sanjay Manchanda, CEO of Nakheel Properties, said Sheikh Mohammed is a great inspiration.

“Thanks to the vision of His Highness, they realised that there is somebody capable of [handling Nakheel] and that is how I took my seat as CEO,” Manchanda said during the panel discussion on leadership.

He strongly recommended public to read Sheikh Mohammed’s latest book, Qissati, which reveals a strong message of how Sheikh Mohammed shaped the business and the emirate with his vision. Citing an example, he said: “Dubai started the Government Summit and that has taken his entire vision to global platform of bringing global audience to the UAE.”

Naweed Lalani, head of audit and credit rating agencies supervision at the Dubai Financial Services Authority, also recommended reading 50th chapter of Sheikh Mohammed’s latest book, which talks about leadership.

“His Highness said either innovate or leave – you cannot sit without innovating. The leaders need not necessarily be creative but catalyst for the change.”

Naveen Sharma, convener at AAA Focus Group, said creativity will be an essential talent that people will be judged on by 2020.

“IBM had conducted a global CEO study and the results surprised the world. Creativity was selected as the most crucial factor for future success – way ahead of integrity, openness and even fairness.”

Other keynote panelists, speakers and attendees were Mishal Kanoo, chairman of Kaaf Investments; Abbas Ali Mirza, past president of the IBPC and ICAI Dubai Chapter; Dr Mohammed Abu Ali, dean of the school of business administration and professor of economics at American University; Rahul Mahajan, vice-president fpr digital transformation at Nagarro; and Mahmood Bangara, chairman of ICAI – Dubai Chapter.

Source: https://www.khaleejtimes.com/business/local/why-sheikh-mohammeds-vision-leadership-style-should-be-taught-in-schools

28 Feb 2018
Manahel Thabet

Long Term Depression Permanently Changes the Brain

IN BRIEF

Is clinical depression a degenerative illness? One new study shows that inflammation in the brain linked to depression increases over time.

DEPRESSION INFLAMMATION

New research from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto has revealed something remarkable about mental illness: years of persistent depression-caused inflammation permanently and physically alter the brain. This may dramatically affect how we understand mental illness and how it progresses over time.

In a study published in The Lancet Psychiatry, researchers found that those who had untreated depression for over a decade had significantly more inflammation in their brains, when compared to those with untreated clinical depression for less than a decade. This work jumps off of senior author Jeff Meyer’s previous work, in which he found the first concrete evidence that those with clinical depression experience inflammation of the brain.

This study went even further, proving for the first time that long-term depression can cause extensive and permanent changes in the brain. Dr. Meyer thinks that this study could be used to create treatments for different stages in depression. This is important because now it is clear that treating depression immediately after diagnosis should be significantly different than treatment after 10 years with the illness.

IMPROVING UNDERSTANDING

Once a doctor and patient find a treatments for depression that works for the patient, treatment typically remains static throughout the course of the patient’s life. Taking this new study into account, this might not be the most effective method.

A PET image of a slice of human brain, showing areas of blue and red coloring. This method was used to measure depression-caused inflammation in this study.
A PET image of a slice of human brain. Image Credit: Jens Maus

This study examined a total of 25 patients who have had depression for over a decade, 25 who had the illness for less time, and 30 people without clinical depression as a control group. The researchers measured depression-caused inflammation using positron emission tomography (PET), which can pick out the protein markers, called TSPO, that the brain immune cells produce due to inflammation. Those with long-lasting depression had about 30 percent higher levels of TSPO when compared to those with shorter periods of depression, as well as higher levels than the control group.

Many misunderstand mental illness to be entirely separate from physical symptoms, but this study shows just how severe those symptoms can be. These findings could spark similar studies with other mental illnesses.

It is even possible that depression might now be treated as a degenerative disease, as it affects the brain progressively over time: “Greater inflammation in the brain is a common response with degenerative brain diseases as they progress, such as with Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease,” Meyer said in a press release.

Source: Futurism