Tech News

Watch live: China attempts Chang’e 5 Moon landing [Updated]

Science - Posted On:2020-12-01 09:29:57 Source: arstechnica

Update, Tuesday 9:20am ET: It appears that Chinese state television will broadcast the landing attempt of its Chang'e 5 mission live. The landing attempt, which will seek to collect and return rocks from the surface of the Moon, is expected to begin at 9:58am ET (14:58 UTC) and be completed by 10:13am ET (15:13 UTC).

The best available live video will be embedded below.

Original post: China's ambitious space program does not often publish detailed plans of its activities in advance—perhaps because it makes it easier for the government to explain away any failures. But thanks to social media leaks, we can now be reasonably confident that the country will attempt to land its Chang'e 5 mission on the Moon on Tuesday.

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Rocket Lab says recovered booster in “good condition,” some parts will re-fly

Science - Posted On:2020-12-01 06:44:57 Source: arstechnica

Rocket Lab successfully launched its "Return to Sender" mission 10 days ago. Then, for the first time, the company attempted to recover the Electron booster's first stage from the ocean after this launch, and now Rocket Lab has provided a preliminary assessment of the vehicle's condition.

In summary, the company said in an update on its website, "We couldn't have asked for a better outcome of our first recovery attempt and the team is thrilled." The rocket came back in such good condition, the company added, "We will re-qualify and re-fly some components."

The November 20 flight marked the first time Rocket Lab has fished an Electron out of the Pacific Ocean. The rocket was picked up in the waters off the coast of New Zealand, where the small booster launches from. Founder Peter Beck said the company wanted to assess the health of the first stage—and make necessary modifications to heat-shield and flight software—before going to the final step of catching the Electron rocket midair, with a helicopter.

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Chinese Submarine Reaches the Deepest Place On Earth

science - Posted On:2020-12-01 06:44:57 Source: slashdot

The Chinese submersible Fendouzhe just reached one of the deepest spots on the planet, reaching a dizzying (and dark) depth of 35,791 feet (10,909 meters), according to a state-run news agency. LiveScience reports: During a months-long expedition, Fendouzhe completed 13 dives into the Mariana Trench -- which boasts the deepest region on Earth -- in the western Pacific Ocean over the course of the mission, which began Oct. 10, according to China Daily. Eight of those dives exceeded 32,808 feet (10,000 m), and the crewed submersible reached its own record depth on Nov. 10 -- plunging to a depth exceeding the height of Mount Everest. The depth world record is still held by Victor Vescovo, a private equity investor who dived to 35,873 feet (10,934 m) on June 26 in his vessel Limiting Factor, according to Guinness World Records. The Fendouzhe's maximum depth reached by Fendouzhe (which means "Striver" in Chinese) exceeds film director James Cameron's solo 2012 dive to 35,787 feet (10,908 m) in the trench, and falls short of the 35,800 feet (10,912 m) attained by the Swiss-Italian-American vessel Trieste on Jan. 23, 1960. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Engineers Are Building Huge Salt Caves To Store Huge Amounts of Hydrogen

science - Posted On:2020-11-30 22:44:58 Source: slashdot

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Popular Mechanics: Scientists are going back to the salt mines, literally, to find a revolutionary new way to store large quantities of hydrogen for energy. Proponents say this could be a step toward unlocking hydrogen for renewables -- something that could change the energy landscape if it were resolved. "The project would initially have enough energy to power 150,000 households for one year and is scheduled to be operational by 2025," Fuel Cell Works reports. "It is being managed by Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems (MHPS), a maker of gas turbines, and Magnum Development, which owns salt caverns for liquid fuel storage." This works by basically repurposing existing, enormous caves to store reserves of hydrogen as well as other fuels. Salt in particular makes a great medium for storing and then continuing to generate green hydrogen. CNBC explains how the caves are used to store and generate hydrogen: "Caverns can be created in salt domes by drilling into the salt dome and injecting the rock with water, which dissolves the salt. The resulting brine is extracted, leaving a large cavity. The next step is storing hydrogen in the cavern. Hydrogen electrolyzers can convert water into hydrogen by using renewable energy from solar and other sources. The hydrogen can then be stored, and reconverted to electricity when needed." Fuel Cell Works reports that while these caves are in the U.S., the major push for salt cave storage is in Europe. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Mars’ underground brine could be a good source of oxygen

Science - Posted On:2020-11-30 19:59:59 Source: arstechnica

If humans are ever going to visit Mars, they may well need to make some crucial resources while they are there in order to survive long enough to explore and restock for the long return journey. Although the days of flowing surface water are long gone, the red planet is not entirely without the raw ingredients to make this work.

The Mars 2020 mission that launched in July is carrying an experiment with exactly this goal in mind. MOXIE—the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment—is a box not much bigger than a toaster that produces oxygen from atmospheric CO2. While a much larger version would be required to make liquid-oxygen fuel for a rocket, MOXIE is sized to produce about the amount of oxygen an active person needs to breathe.

A new study led by Pralay Gayen at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, tests a device that could tap a different resource—perchlorate brine believed to exist in the Martian ground at some locations. The device can split the water in that brine, producing pure oxygen and hydrogen.

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No One Who Got Moderna's Vaccine In Trial Developed Severe COVID-19

science - Posted On:2020-11-30 19:29:59 Source: slashdot

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Science Magazine: Continuing the spate of stunning news about COVID-19 vaccines, the biotech company Moderna announced the final results of the 30,000-person efficacy trial for its candidate in a press release today: Only 11 people who received two doses of the vaccine developed COVID-19 symptoms after being infected with the pandemic coronavirus, versus 185 symptomatic cases in a placebo group. That is an efficacy of 94.1%, the company says, far above what many vaccine scientists were expecting just a few weeks ago. More impressive still, Moderna's candidate had 100% efficacy against severe disease. There were zero such COVID-19 cases among those vaccinated, but 30 in the placebo group. The company today plans to file a request for emergency use authorization (EUA) for its vaccine with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and is also seeking a similar green light from the European Medicines Agency. The data released today bolster an interim report from the company two weeks ago that only analyzed 95 total cases but produced similarly impressive efficacy. "I would still like to see all of the actual data, but what we've seen so far is absolutely remarkable," says Paul Offit, a vaccine researcher at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia who is a member of an independent committee of vaccine experts that advises FDA. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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DeepMind AI handles protein folding, which humbled previous software

Science - Posted On:2020-11-30 17:14:59 Source: arstechnica

Today, DeepMind announced that it had seemingly solved one of biology's outstanding problems: how the string of amino acids in a protein folds up into a three-dimensional shape that enables their complex functions. It's a computational challenge that has resisted the efforts of many very smart biologists for decades, despite the application of supercomputer-level hardware for these calculations. DeepMind instead trained its system using 128 specialized processors for a couple of weeks; it now returns potential structures within a couple of days.

The limitations of the system aren't yet clear—DeepMind says it's currently planning on a peer-reviewed paper, and has only made a blog post and some press releases available. But it clearly performs better than anything that's come before it, after having more than doubled the performance of the best system in just four years. Even if it's not useful in every circumstance, the advance likely means that the structure of many proteins can now be predicted from nothing more than the DNA sequence of the gene that encodes them, which would mark a major change for biology.

To make proteins, our cells (and those of every other organism) chemically link amino acids to form a chain. This works because every amino acid shares a backbone that can be chemically connected to form a polymer. But each of the 20 amino acids used by life has a distinct set of atoms attached to that backbone. These can be charged or neutral, acidic or basic, etc., and these properties determine how each amino acid interacts with its neighbors and the environment.

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In a Major Scientific Breakthrough, AI Predicts the Exact Shape of Proteins

science - Posted On:2020-11-30 14:00:00 Source: slashdot

Researchers have made a major breakthrough using artificial intelligence that could revolutionize the hunt for new medicines. The scientists have created A.I. software that uses a protein's DNA sequence to predict its three-dimensional structure to within an atom(TM)s width of accuracy. weiserfireman shares a report: The achievement, which solves a 50-year-old challenge in molecular biology, was accomplished by a team from DeepMind, the London-based artificial intelligence company that is part of Google parent Alphabet. Until now, DeepMind was best known for creating A.I. that could beat the best human players at the strategy game Go, a major milestone in computer science. DeepMind achieved the protein shape breakthrough in a biennial competition for algorithms that can be used to predict protein structures. The competition asks participants to take a protein's DNA sequence and then use it to determine the protein's three-dimensional shape. Across more than 100 proteins, DeepMind's A.I. software, which it called AlphaFold 2, was able to predict the structure to within about an atom's width of accuracy in two-thirds of cases and was highly accurate in most of the remaining one-third of cases, according to John Moult, a molecular biologist at the University of Maryland who is director of the competition, called the Critical Assessment of Structure Prediction, or CASP. It was far better than any other method in the competition, he said. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Poopy salad greens still plague public health

Science - Posted On:2020-11-30 12:15:01 Source: arstechnica

With pandemic stress-eating colliding with holiday feasts last week, many of us may be eyeing some healthy salads in the coming days. But if there’s one constant we can rely upon in this year of upheaval—it’s the enduring possibility that our leafy greens may be laced with poopy bacteria.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently has three open investigations on Escherichia coli outbreaks—two directly linked to leafy greens and the other involving a bacterial strain that caused an outbreak in 2018 linked to romaine lettuce.

Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration had issued four separate safety alerts for recalled salad fixings this month. Three of the recalls involved romaine lettuce—a now notorious source of gut-busting bacteria—for potential E. coli contamination. Over the past weekend, the FDA added baby spinach to the list, another common culprit, for potential Salmonella contamination.

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China likely to attempt its Chang’e 5 Moon landing on Tuesday

Science - Posted On:2020-11-30 09:44:57 Source: arstechnica

China's ambitious space program does not often publish detailed plans of its activities in advance—perhaps this is because it makes it easier for the government to explain away any failures. But thanks to social media leaks, we can now be reasonably confident that the country will attempt to land its Chang'e 5 mission on the Moon on Tuesday.

The spacecraft's lander has already separated from the main orbital module and is expected to position itself in low-lunar orbit on Monday. Sources suggest the following timeline for activities on Tuesday:

The Change'5 lander—the latest probe in China's Moon program, which is named after a goddess of the Moon and began back in 2007—is the country's most ambitious mission to the Moon yet. The probe launched on November 23 and reached lunar orbit a couple of days later.

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China likely to attempt its Chang‘e 5 Moon landing on Tuesday

Science - Posted On:2020-11-30 09:29:57 Source: arstechnica

China's ambitious space program does not often publish detailed plans of its activities in advance—perhaps this is because it makes it easier for the government to explain away any failures. But thanks to social media leaks, we can now be reasonably confident that the country will attempt to land its Chang'e 5 mission on the Moon on Tuesday.

The spacecraft's lander has already separated from the main orbital module and is expected to position itself in low-lunar orbit on Monday. Sources suggest the following timeline for activities on Tuesday:

The Change'5 lander—the latest probe in China's Moon program, which is named after a goddess of the Moon and began back in 2007—is the country's most ambitious mission to the Moon yet. The probe launched on November 23 and reached lunar orbit a couple of days later.

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For the First Time Scientists Detect Neutrinos Traced To CNO Cycle Inside the Sun

science - Posted On:2020-11-29 18:14:59 Source: slashdot

NBC News calls it "the ghostly signal that reveals the engine of the universe." Long-time Slashdot reader fahrbot-bot shares their report: In research published Wednesday in the journal Nature, scientists reported that they've made the first detection of almost-ethereal particles called neutrinos that can be traced to carbon-nitrogen-oxygen fusion, known as the CNO cycle, inside the sun. It's a landmark finding that confirms theoretical predictions from the 1930s, and it's being hailed as one of the greatest discoveries in physics of the new millenium. "It's really a breakthrough for solar and stellar physics," said Gioacchino Ranucci of the Italian National Institute for Nuclear Physics (INFN), one of the researchers on the project since it began in 1990. The scientists used the ultrasensitive Borexino detector at the INFN's Gran Sasso particle physics laboratory in central Italy — the largest underground research center in the world, deep beneath the Apennine Mountains, about 65 miles northeast of Rome. The detection caps off decades of study of the sun's neutrinos by the Borexino project, and reveals for the first time the main nuclear reaction that most stars use to fuse hydrogen into helium... Scientists calculate that the CNO cycle is the primary type of fusion in the universe. But it's hard to spot inside our relatively cool sun, where it accounts for only 1 percent of its energy... Ranucci said the Borexino detector has spent decades measuring neutrinos from the sun's main proton-proton chain reaction, but detecting its CNO neutrinos has been very difficult — only about seven neutrinos with the tell-tale energy of the CNO cycle are spotted in a day. The discovery required making the detector ever more sensitive over the last five years, Ranucci said, by shielding it from outside sources of radioactivity so that the inner chamber of the detector is the most radiation-free place on Earth. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Duck! Meteor! Oh, Maybe Don't Bother - This Time...

science - Posted On:2020-11-29 15:59:59 Source: slashdot

RockDoctor (Slashdot reader #15,477) is a professional geologist, and asks: Did anyone feel a sudden wind through their hair at about 17:19+00:00 on Monday, particularly in the mid Pacific? No? Good. Nobody else did. Nobody noticed the asteroid whizzing past just above the Earth's atmosphere (for certain values of "above" including "not very far" and "373km above ground"). That's the closest natural body (i.e., not a spacecraft) documented in near-Earth space which hasn't actually hit the thick-enough parts of the atmosphere to glow, fragment, make sonic booms and dent automobiles. So, we dodged another bullet, and no windows were broken. This one probably wouldn't have done significant damage even if it had touched down in fire and fury — it was about half the size of the 2013 Chelyabinsk meteor, and so around one eighth of the energy (and potential damage). Everyone can go back to bed and sleep easy. Right? But one tiny thing to disturb your sleep : we didn't see this one coming until after it had gone past us. Nor did we see it in it's close approaches on 2014-10-26.60152 or 2017-11-06.57008. And with another 39 projected Earth approaches before the next turn-of-century, it's pretty obvious that one day this is going to hit us. For those who know what an MPEC is [a Minor Planet Electronic Circular], Bill Grey has written up one of his "pseudo-MPECs" with links to other work on this object here, while the actual discovery record is here. The object has been given a formal name of 2020 VT4 unless the discoverers at the ATLAS Mauna Loa Observatory choose to give it a name ("COVID", or "hair-parter", or "hats-off", perhaps. Or just "Rupert".) Wikipedia has caught up too. There will be another close-pass, and an impact, one day. This doesn't change the odds of that happening (probability 1), but it might make it feel a little more immediate. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Researchers Calculate Earth is 2,000 Light-years Closer to the Milky Way's Black Hole

science - Posted On:2020-11-29 09:44:57 Source: slashdot

"Earth just got 7 km/s faster and about 2000 light-years closer to the supermassive black hole in the center of the Milky Way Galaxy," reports Phys.org: But don't worry, this doesn't mean that our planet is plunging towards the black hole. Instead the changes are results of a better model of the Milky Way Galaxy based on new observation data, including a catalog of objects observed over the course of more than 15 years by the Japanese radio astronomy project VERA. CNET explains: Over the last 15 years, a Japanese radio astronomy project, VERA, has been gathering data. Using a technique called interferometry, VERA gathered data from telescopes across Japan and combined them with data from other existing projects to create what is essentially the most accurate map of the Milky Way yet. By pinpointing the location and velocity of around 99 specific points in our galaxy, VERA has concluded that the supermassive black hole Sagittarius A, at the center of our galaxy, is actually 25,800 light-years from Earth — almost 2,000 light-years closer than what we previously believed. In addition, the new model calculates Earth is moving faster than we believed. Older models clocked Earth's speed at 220 kilometers (136 miles) per second, orbiting around the galaxy's centre. VERA's new model has us moving at 227 kilometers (141 miles) per second. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Cretaceous birds were thought to have small bills—except this one

Science - Posted On:2020-11-29 08:14:57 Source: arstechnica

Given the unusual attention granted to turkeys this week, let’s talk dinosaurs. Today’s birds are, of course, descendants of the only branch of the dino tree that made it through the end-Cretaceous mass extinction. In the dinosaurs’ halcyon days, the early birds were a bit different, still retaining teeth and foreclaws among some subtler anatomical differences with their modern descendant. A new fossil find reveals an unexpected bird from that time—one with a whopping-great, toucan-like beak.

The fossil, named Falcatakely forsterae, comes from late Cretaceous rocks in Madagascar. Many of the early bird fossils we've discovered so far come from older, early-Cretaceous rocks in China, with the timeframe between then and the end-Cretaceous extinction more of a question mark. The new fossil is a nicely preserved head of a crow-sized bird with a strikingly long, tall, and narrow beak.

The early Chinese bird fossils don’t show much diversity in beak shape. That’s a big contrast with modern birds, which have a wild variety of beak shapes befitting their many different ecological niches. Pelicans, woodpeckers, and parrots have very different diets that require a beak adapted to the job. It had been thought that enlarged beaks may not have been possible until some anatomical shifting in the parts of the skull took place, meaning that the early birds were simply limited. But the new find shows that wasn’t entirely true. This species could have inhabited an ecological niche that was empty after the extinction—until a more modern bird drifted back into it much later.

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The ungentle joy of spider sex

Science - Posted On:2020-11-29 07:44:57 Source: arstechnica

First, the confession: I’m an arachnophobe, spooked by the most harmless everyday spiders. Close encounters with the scarier sort—the goliath bird-eating spider in an undergraduate zoology class, the venomous redbacks sharing my tent on a research trip to Australia—well, let’s just say they taught me more about myself than about arachnids. And yet I’ve discovered a soft spot for one group of spiders: those undersized males faced with the daunting prospect of sex with a giant mate, often one with murder in mind. Think Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, only with spiders.

Why the sympathy? It’s not because these puny males risk their lives for love. It’s because they’ve evolved such a bizarre array of ways to achieve their ultimate goal of siring spiderlings with a monster of a mother.

Sexual size dimorphism—where one sex is bigger than the other—is nothing too much out of the ordinary: Picture a massive male orangutan, or the bull elephant seal towering over his harem. And many insects and other terrestrial arthropods have large females, because a bigger body can produce more eggs.

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The ESA Starts a New Commercial Sector in Space: Removing Space Debris

science - Posted On:2020-11-28 17:29:59 Source: slashdot

Long-time Slashdot reader SonicSpike brings some big news from outer space. European Space Agency announced this week that they're signing "a €86 million ($102 million USD) contract with an industrial team led by the Swiss start-up ClearSpace SA to purchase a unique service: the first removal of an item of space debris from orbit" in the year 2025. "With this contract signature, a critical milestone for establishing a new commercial sector in space will be achieved..." In almost 60 years of space activities, more than 5,550 launches have resulted in some 42,000 tracked objects in orbit, of which about 23,000 remain in space and are regularly tracked. With today's annual launch rates averaging nearly 100, and with break-ups continuing to occur at average historical rates of four to five per year, the number of debris objects in space will steadily increase. ClearSpace-1 will demonstrate the technical ability and commercial capacity to significantly enhance the long-term sustainability of spaceflight... "This is the right time for such a mission..." says Luc Piguet, founder and CEO of ClearSpace. [I]n the coming years the number of satellites will increase by an order of magnitude, with multiple mega-constellations made up of hundreds or even thousands of satellites planned for low Earth orbit to deliver wide-coverage, low-latency telecommunications and monitoring services. The need is clear for a 'tow truck' to remove failed satellites from this highly trafficked region...." Supported within ESA's new Space Safety programme, the aim is to contribute actively to cleaning up space, while also demonstrating the technologies needed for debris removal. "Imagine how dangerous sailing the high seas would be if all the ships ever lost in history were still drifting on top of the water," says ESA Director General Jan Wrner. "That is the current situation in orbit, and it cannot be allowed to continue. ESA's Member States have given their strong support to this new mission, which also points the way forward to essential new commercial services in the future..." "NASA and ESA studies show that the only way to stabilise the orbital environment is to actively remove large debris items. Accordingly we will be continuing our development of essential guidance, navigation and control technologies and rendezvous and capture methods through a new project called Active Debris Removal/ In-Orbit Servicing — ADRIOS. The results will be applied to ClearSpace-1. This new mission, implemented by an ESA project team, will allow us to demonstrate these technologies, achieving a world first in the process." The ClearSpace-1 mission will target the Vespa (Vega Secondary Payload Adapter) upper stage left in an approximately 800 km by 660 km altitude orbit after the second flight of ESA's Vega launcher back in 2013. With a mass of 100 kg, the Vespa is close in size to a small satellite, while its relatively simple shape and sturdy construction make it a suitable first goal, before progressing to larger, more challenging captures by follow-up missions — eventually including multi-object capture. The ClearSpace-1 'chaser' will be launched into a lower 500-km orbit for commissioning and critical tests before being raised to the target orbit for rendezvous and capture using a quartet of robotic arms under ESA supervision. The combined chaser plus Vespa will then be deorbited to burn up in the atmosphere. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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How many turkey feathers does it take to make an ancient blanket? 11,500

Science - Posted On:2020-11-28 14:00:00 Source: arstechnica

Indigenous Pueblo populations in the American Southwest—ancestors of today's Hopi, Zuni, and Rio Grande Pueblo tribes—typically wove blankets, cloaks, and funeral wrappings out of animal hides, furs, and turkey feathers. Anthropologists at Washington State University (WSU) have examined one such ancient turkey-feather blanket and determined it took thousands of those feathers, wrapped around nearly 200 yards to yucca fiber, to make, according to a new paper published in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.

"Blankets or robes made with turkey feathers as the insulating medium were widely used by Ancestral Pueblo people in what is now the Upland Southwest, but little is known about how they were made because so few such textiles have survived due to their perishable nature," said co-author Bill Lipe, emeritus professor of anthropology at WSU. "The goal of this study was to shed new light on the production of turkey feather blankets and explore the economic and cultural aspects of raising turkeys to supply the feathers."

For their study, Lipe and his WSU colleague and co-author, Shannon Tushingham, studied a blanket framework on display at the Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum in Blanding, Utah. Although insects had devoured the original feather vanes and barbs, the shafts were still visible, wrapped around yucca fiber cords. They were also able to look at a second, smaller blanket which still had most of its feathers intact. Both blankets roughly date to the early 1200s CE.

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A mildly insane idea for disabling the coronavirus

Science - Posted On:2020-11-28 12:15:00 Source: arstechnica

When the COVID-19 pandemic was first recognized for the threat that it is, researchers scrambled to find anything that might block the virus' spread. While vaccines have grabbed much of the attention lately, there was also the hope that we could develop a therapy that would block the worst effects of the virus. Most of these have been extremely practical: identify enzymes that are essential for the virus to replicate, and test drugs that block similar enzymes from other viruses. These drugs are designed to be relatively easy to store and administer and, in some cases, have already been tested for safety in humans, making them reasonable choices for getting something ready for use quickly.

But the tools we've developed in biotechnology allow us to do some far less practical things, and a paper released today describes how they can be put to use to inactivate SARS-CoV-2. This is in no way a route to a practical therapy, but it does provide a fantastic window into what we can accomplish by manipulating biology.

The whole effort described in the new paper is focused on a simple idea: if you figure out how to wreck one of the virus' key proteins, it won't be able to infect anything. And, conveniently, our cells have a system for destroying proteins, since that's often a useful thing to do. In some cases, the proteins that are destroyed are damaged; in others, the proteins are made and destroyed at elevated paces to allow the cell to respond to changing conditions rapidly. In a few cases, changes in the environment or the activation of signaling pathways can trigger widespread protein destruction, allowing the cell to quickly alter its behavior.

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The Pope Praises Medical Workers, Criticizes 'Personal Freedom' Protests

science - Posted On:2020-11-28 11:45:00 Source: slashdot

More Americans travelled Wednesday than on any other day in the last eight months — 1.1 million Americans — continuing the country's long-standing annual tradition of gathering to give thanks. The same week the Pope apparently felt compelled to publish an opinion piece in one of the country's largest newspapers to share his own thoughts about the pandemic. First, the Pope remembered life-saving medical procedures he'd had when he was 20 — including a wise nurse who'd doubled a dosage recommended by a doctor "because she knew from experience I was dying... Because of her regular contact with sick people, she understood better than the doctor what they needed, and she had the courage to act on her knowledge." And he also remembers another nurse who'd prescribed him extra painkillers for intense pain. "They taught me what it is to use science but also to know when to go beyond it to meet particular needs. And the serious illness I lived through taught me to depend on the goodness and wisdom of others. This theme of helping others has stayed with me these past months." Then he points out the great sacrifices made during the pandemic by doctors, nurses, and caregivers: Whether or not they were conscious of it, their choice testified to a belief: that it is better to live a shorter life serving others than a longer one resisting that call. That's why, in many countries, people stood at their windows or on their doorsteps to applaud them in gratitude and awe. They are the saints next door, who have awakened something important in our hearts, making credible once more what we desire to instill by our preaching. They are the antibodies to the virus of indifference... He contrasts this with groups opposing government measures protecting the public health: [S]ome groups protested, refusing to keep their distance, marching against travel restrictions — as if measures that governments must impose for the good of their people constitute some kind of political assault on autonomy or personal freedom! Looking to the common good is much more than the sum of what is good for individuals. It means having a regard for all citizens and seeking to respond effectively to the needs of the least fortunate. It is all too easy for some to take an idea — in this case, for example, personal freedom — and turn it into an ideology, creating a prism through which they judge everything... Our fears are exacerbated and exploited by a certain kind of populist politics that seeks power over society. It is hard to build a culture of encounter, in which we meet as people with a shared dignity, within a throwaway culture that regards the well-being of the elderly, the unemployed, the disabled and the unborn as peripheral to our own well-being. To come out of this crisis better, we have to recover the knowledge that as a people we have a shared destination. The pandemic has reminded us that no one is saved alone. What ties us to one another is what we commonly call solidarity. Solidarity is more than acts of generosity, important as they are; it is the call to embrace the reality that we are bound by bonds of reciprocity. On this solid foundation we can build a better, different, human future. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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