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Science behind the virus: Where is the epidemic going?

(Photo: CGTN)People hope the COVID-19 outbreak will come to an end as soon as possible. So what could be in store for the epidemic? We dont have a crystal ball to show us the future, but we can get some clues from the past.Both SARS and COVID-19 are known as coronaviruses, so it might be helpful to compare the 2003 SARS outbreak with the current one. This might present us with the best-case scenario, where the virus is put under control through public health intervention.The best way to contain the virus in both outbreaks is to identify cases as soon as possible and put the infected people in isolation.In both cases, large-scale control measures were carried out. In 2003, the SARS outbreak ended in China after about six months. One year later it was eradicated worldwide after infecting over 8,000 people, and killing almost 800.In addition, some scientists argued that the warm, humid weather of early summer greatly contributed to the fight against SARS. The same argument is being made about COVID-19.But the new coronavirus is more cunning. The latest research shows that its spike protein design allows it to hold its grip over a cell 10 to 20 times more firmly than SARS. That explains why the new coronavirus is more infectious than SARS. It also has anincubation period of potentially more than 20days,much longer than that ofSARS.All this suggests that containing it is much harder.But this doesnt mean it is a patient virus. It has to move fast because itssingle strand nucleic acid structure is so fragile that it could be easily torn apart by powerful immune systems. It, therefore, causes acute symptoms in the host in order to swiftly leave and jump to another, infecting as many people as possible in a shorter period of time. But at the same time, this strategy sounds alarm for humans to trigger more measures to fight againstit.Thats why SARS fizzled out so quickly and completely. Actually, there have been j...

NASA engineers try new plan to resume InSight Lander's heat probe

File photoLOS ANGELES, Feb. 21 (Xinhua) -- NASA engineers have a new plan for pushing down on the heat probe of the InSight Lander, which has been stuck at the Martian surface for a year, according to a release of NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) published on Friday.The mission team plans to command the scoop on InSights robotic arm to press down on the "mole," a mini pile driver designed to hammer itself as much as 5 meters down.They hope that pushing down on the moles top will keep it from backing out of its hole on Mars, as it did twice in recent months after nearly burying itself.As part of the heat probe, the mole is a 40-centimeter-long spike equipped with an internal hammering mechanism. While burrowing into the soil, it is designed to drag with it a ribbon-like tether that extends from the spacecraft.Temperature sensors are embedded along the tether to measure heat coming deep from within the planets interior to reveal important scientific details about the formation of Mars and all rocky planets, including Earth.The mole found itself stuck on Feb. 28, 2019, the first day of hammering. The InSight team has since determined that the soil here is different from what has been encountered on other parts of Mars. InSight landed in an area with an unusually thick duricrust, or a layer of cemented soil.The mole needs friction from soil in order to travel downward; without it, recoil from its self-hammering action causes it to simply bounce in place, according to JPL.Throughout late February and early March, InSights arm will be maneuvered into position so that the team can test what happens as the mole briefly hammers.Meanwhile, the team is also considering using the scoop to move more soil into the hole that has formed around the mole. This could add more pressure and friction, allowing it to finally dig down, according to JPL.The InSight landed safely on Mars on Nov. 26 of 2018 for a two-year mission to explore the deep int...

Columbia University to develop drugs, antibodies against coronavirus

File photoNEW YORK, Feb. 21 (Xinhua) -- Four teams of researchers from Columbia University in New York City will jointly develop potential antiviral drugs and antibodies against the novel coronavirus, according to the university.The researchers will pursue four different approaches to develop drugs or antibodies that could prevent the virus from replication. Each approach will draw on prior knowledge and expertise that the scientists have gained while working on successful antiviral therapies against HIV and hepatitis C, the university said on its website on Thursday.David D. Ho, founding scientific director of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center and professor of medicine at Columbia, is the leader of the joint effort. He said the four approaches will lead to the development of a broad spectrum antiviral drug or antibody that could be effective against a wide range of current and future coronaviruses."Were undertaking this work with a great sense of urgency because of the nature of the current coronavirus outbreak," he said, "but we are also thinking ahead to what we may confront in the future."He said that the Columbia teams expect to move at least one protease inhibitor, one polymerase inhibitor, and one monoclonal antibody into clinical trials within a year.The four teams will share a 2.1 million U.S. dollars grant awarded by the China-based Jack Ma Foundation.As part of the project, the Columbia scientists will collaborate with academic researchers in China who are fighting to control the outbreak."We are deeply grateful to the Jack Ma Foundation for their partnership and support as our scientists work to tame a contagion that has rapidly become a global threat," he added.

Technology kicks China-LatAm cooperation into high gear

A driver of a trolley bus manufactured by Chinese company Yutong talks with a passenger in Mexico City, Mexico, on Jan. 17, 2020. (Photo: Xinhua)MEXICO CITY, Feb. 20 (Xinhua) -- "I was surprised by the service," Chilean Cristobal Velasquez recently said of Chinese ride-hailing app Didi, which in a short time has gained a firm foothold in Latin America."While its a relatively new app (here), it has spread quickly in (Chiles capital) Santiago and throughout the whole country," offering a "safe and economical" alternative to standard ride-sharing services, said Velasquez.Didi is a prime example of the kind of technology-driven cooperation China is spearheading in Latin America today.Andres Borquez, director of the Chinese Studies Center at the University of Chile, described Didi as the face of the "new wave" of Chinese cooperation in Latin America "based on the development of sophisticated products and services" to promote "the development of innovations and solutions for smart cities."From the southern tip of Argentina to Mexico, Chinese technology is helping boost productivity and raise standards of living with innovations in transportation, agriculture, renewable energy, e-commerce and other sectors.NEW TECHNOLOGIESIn Mexico City, a fleet of 63 Chinese-made trolley buses are propelling the capital towards cleaner electromobility.Manufactured by Chinese company Yutong, the buses began circulating in early January along one of the citys main arteries."Mexico Citys last trolley bus acquisition was 22 years ago, so this purchase is very important because it radically changes users experience," said Guillermo Calderon, general director of the Mexico City Electric Transport Service.These modern units can run for 75 km on battery power, should overhead cables fail to operate, and emit no pollutants, an important factor given that Mexico City is one of the most polluted urban area...

Innovative paste developed to better protect medical workers

Medical staff members show their confidence in their fight against the novel coronavirus. (Photo: China Plus)Researchers from the Second Military Medical University in Shanghai have developed a type of paste to better protect the countrys medical staff when battling the coronavirus epidemic, reports the Science and Technology Daily.The protective paste for clinical masks and goggles is made from a hydrogel that is not only elasticated and but also skin-friendly, according to the report.It could effectively reduce the pressure on the face and reduce injures like swelling and skin tears that come from wearing masks, goggles and other protective gear for long periods of time. As a result, the paste could also lower the possibility of medical workers being infected with coronavirus.So far, the first batch of 6,000 tubes of protective paste have been sent to frontline medical workers at the Huoshenshan Hospital in Wuhan.

Drones used to spray pesticides

Farmers in Xingyang, Central Chinas Henan province, are using drones to spray pesticides on croplands to prevent cross-infection of the novel coronavirus.Several drones are used to spray pesticides on wheat fields in Gaocun town, Xingyang city, Central Chinas Henan province on Friday. (Photo: China Daily)As spring arrives, farmers are tilling the land and doing other related work to prepare for a new round of planting.To prevent cross-transmission, the local government has taken a series of measures, including using drones and organizing farmers to work the land at different times and separately."We used six drones today to spray pesticides on 167 hectares of our land," said Li Jie, director of a local specialized farmers cooperative in the city.According to Li, the cooperative now works more than 6,667 hectares of land, having been founded in 2011.

Google updates terms in plain language after EU scrutiny

In a Sept. 24, 2019 file photo, sign is shown on a Google building at their campus in Mountain View, Calif. (Photo: AP)Google is attempting to make sure people know exactly what they’re signing up for when they use its online services — though that will still mean reading a lengthy document.The company updated its terms of service on Thursday — its largest update to the general use contract since 2012 — in response to a pair of court orders in Europe.As Britain leaves the European Union, Google also announced that UK customers will now legally be part of its main US operations rather than a separate European center based in Ireland. The company says the move won’t change how UK customers’ data is protected or stored. UK officials have said they will still abide by the EU privacy rules, called GDPR, for now.Google has been updating its policies and tweaking what’s allowed on its services as scrutiny of the tech industry heats up in the US and Europe. Google, Facebook, Twitter and other digital companies have been under a spotlight as regulators and consumers examine just how much the companies know about their users and what they do with that information.Facebookupdated its terms of servicelast year to clarify how it makes money from user data.Google says it hasn’t changed anything significant in the document, but rather used plain language to describe who can use its products and what people can post online.“Broadly speaking, we give you permission to use our services if you agree to follow these terms, which reflect how Google’s business works and how we earn money,” the document reads.The new document is now about 2,000 words longer than it was before, in part because Google included a list of definitions and expanded it to cover Google Drive and Chrome. The new terms take effect in March.Google’s privacy policy is separate and was substantially updated in 2018 after Europe enacted broad-reaching privacy laws.The company also updated its “About Google”...

EU digital chiefs unveil long-awaited rules for 'ethical' AI technologies

The European Union has unveiled new proposals to impose strict rules and regulations on artificial intelligence technologies, as part of a wider data strategy that aims to crackdown on the dominance of US and Chinese tech firms.EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Europe was already a world-leader in AI. (Photo: AP)Unveiling the long-awaited plans on Wednesday, EU digital and industry chiefs said caution would be exercised in "high-risk AI systems" such as health, policing and transport. This would ensure that AI is "grounded in our values and fundamental rights such as human dignity and privacy protection."The Commission said it was launching a debate about the use of facial recognition in public spaces, amid privacy and data protection concerns about the technology.Speaking in Brussels, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Europe was already a world-leader in AI, particularly in manufacturing, but a "responsible, human-centric approach" was needed to maximize the potential for European businesses.The new rules would have far-reaching consequences, particularly for US tech giants like Facebook and Google who have invested heavily in AI in recent years.Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg visited Brussels on Monday to meet EU digital leaders, where he emphasized the need for "good regulation" of online content.However, EU industry Commissioner Thierry Breton dismissed Zuckerbergs proposals of a looser regulatory model as "insufficient," saying it was up to Facebook to adapt to Europes standards, not the other way around.In measures designed to boost European competitiveness, the EU is also proposing to spend nearly $22 billion annually over the next decade, building new data systems designed to maximize governmental and commercial data held in industries such as healthcare, transport and manufacturing.The aim is a European data single market, designed to rival the technological industries ...

Silicon Valley inventor of 'cut, copy and paste' dies

Silicon Valley on Wednesday was mourning a pioneering computer scientist whose accomplishments included inventing the widely relied on "cut, copy and paste" command.File photo: CGTNBronx-born Lawrence "Larry" Tesler died this week at age 74, according to Xerox, where he spent part of his career."The inventor of cut/copy & paste, find & replace, and more was former Xerox researcher Larry Tesler," the company tweeted."Your workday is easier thanks to his revolutionary ideas. Larry passed away Monday, so please join us in celebrating him."A graduate of Stanford University, Tesler specialized in human–computer interaction, employing his skills at Amazon, Apple, Yahoo, and the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC).The cut and paste command was reportedly inspired by old time editing that involved actually cutting portions of printed text and affixing them elsewhere with adhesive."Tesler created the idea of cut, copy, & paste and combined computer science training with a counterculture vision that computers should be for everyone," the Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley tweeted Wednesday.The command was made popular by Apple after being incorporated in software on the Lisa computer in 1983 and the original Macintosh that debuted the next year.Tesler worked for Apple in 1980 after being recruited away from Xerox by late co-founder Steve Jobs.Tesler spent 17 years at Apple, rising to chief scientist.He went on to establish an education startup and do stints in user-experience technology at Amazon and Yahoo.

Chinese military adopts new rules against cybersecurity risks

A transport aircraft of the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force arrives at Tianhe International Airport in Wuhan, central Chinas Hubei Province, Feb. 17, 2020. (Photo: Xinhua)The Chinese military will adopt a new regulation on confidentiality in a move to better manage cybersecurity risks amid the increasingly intense strategic games between China and the US, experts said on Wednesday.President Xi Jinping, who is also chairman of the Central Military Commission, recently signed an order to publish the new military confidentiality regulation, which will come into force on March 1, the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) Daily reported on Wednesday.The regulation will provide a strong basis for military development, reform and preparations for military struggle, the report said.It aims to effectively deal with the current grim situation in confidentiality work, use innovations in management of carriers of military secrets and focus on the confidentiality of information network systems and smart electronic devices, according to the report.Cybersecurity has become an urgent issue for the Chinese military, since some electronic information facilities remain relatively vulnerable and may cause leaks of secrets if not used with caution, Li Daguang, a professor at the National Defense University of the PLA in Beijing, told the Global Times on Wednesday, noting that some hardware and components are imported and may have backdoor programs."The confidentiality work of the military, particularly in terms of cybersecurity, is very important at a time when China and the US are in the midst of increasingly intense strategic games," Li said.The US government and relevant departments have engaged in large-scale, organized and indiscriminate cyber theft, tapping and surveillance of foreign governments, businesses and individuals, said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang at a daily briefing on Monday.Most cyberattacks against Chinese networks in 2018 came ...

EU proposes rules for AI to limit risks

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. (Photo: AP)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.The reportis 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 US 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 l...

Magnificent robots make medical magic

Technicians check a disinfection robot at a high-tech company in Qingdao, East Chinas Shandong province. (Photo: Xinhua)Custom automation promises to evolve into trillion-yuan industry as demand surges amid novel coronavirus spreadPan Jing, founder of Shanghai TMiRob Technology, is a little bit overwhelmed by the unprecedentedly huge demand for the firms disinfection robots after the novel coronavirus epidemic hit China hard."We have come across great challenges in our supply chain over the past week. All our inventory has been exhausted. Even the robot model demonstrated in the exhibition hall of our company has been purchased and delivered," he said on Feb 6.The company wasted no time. Staff at TMiRob have been working overtime during the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday. To help combat the virus, TMiRob has so far delivered 42 disinfection robots to Hubei province, where the most infections have been reported. That number of delivered machines is equal to one-sixth of the companys monthly output, said Pan.By combining chloric acid and plasma, the companys robot can disinfect the environment where both human beings and machines are present. The robot can move around on its own and deliver intensive disinfection services in areas frequented by patients and medical workers alike. The robot can operate automatically so it can minimize peoples extra exposure to the hospital environment, said Pan.At present, TMiRobs disinfection robot has been used in 60 hospitals in China, among which 14 are based in Shanghai, said Pan. Another 70 Chinese hospitals are using other robot models produced by the company. With more staff returning to their positions after the holiday, the company is expected to produce 300 robots every month, he said.Founded in January 2015, TMi-Rob has mainly targeted the high-end medical service robots. One year later, the company obtained the first patent for invention. Two of its robot models entered on-site trial...

Hubei uses AI phone calls for screening residents' health

WUHAN, Feb. 19 (Xinhua) -- Central Chinas Hubei Province, center of the novel coronavirus outbreak, is using AI-powered phone calls for asking residents about their temperature, according to its developer.File photo: VCG"Are you in Wuhan at the moment? Is the body temperature of you and your family normal?" These are questions that many Hubei residents receive after picking up the phones in recent days.Voice recognition is applied to the residents replies, which are used as evidence for health screening, according to its developer Hubei branch of telecommunication giant China Mobile.The phone calls have reached nearly 100,000 residents in the cities of Wuhan, Yichang and Huangshi, the company said."The technology will greatly save the time of community workers, who can put the time for other tasks of epidemic prevention," said Fan Bingheng, general manager of the company.Hubei Province reported 1,693 new confirmed cases and 132 new deaths Tuesday. The latest report brought the total confirmed cases in the province to 61,682.

3D printing technology helps combat ongoing epidemic

(Photo: CGTN)The coronavirus outbreak has significantly increased the pressure on Chinas hospitals as many other types of patients also need medical treatment but wards are limited. 3D printing technology at this time stands out to brace the challenge.A Shanghai firm can create coronavirus quarantine rooms with 3D printing technology. Theyve made 15 so far, and have donated them to a hospital in Xianning City, Hubei Province.Winsun Building Technique Company said all their quarantine rooms were put into use last week. Each one measures 10 square meters, big enough for two beds. They meet required standards for heat preservation and isolation, and are designed to withstand strong winds and even earthquakes. The company said theyre easy and cheap to make."A quarantine room can be printed in two hours, and one printing machine can produce 15 rooms a day. Its base cost is around 28,000 yuan (about $3,999)," said Ma Yihe, the Chairman at Winsun Building Technique Co.Winsun said the cost is low because the construction materials are so cheap."We use recyclable materials including sand and construction residue. It is very environmentally friendly. When it comes to safety, the structures are at least twice as strong as concrete construction," Ma Yufeng, the marketing manager at Winsun Building Technique Co. further elaborated.Very mobile and easy to set up, the 3D printed wards can be used as soon as theyre connected to electric power. Theyre easy to disinfect, and can be reused when the epidemic ends.Ma Yihe also introduced that if theres no further use for the rooms, they can recycle them to build something else. "Weve been getting donations from other companies to sponsor more rooms."The companys 3D printing technology is also being used for other structures including agricultural facilities, industrial parks and some tourist attractions.According to the Chinese Mechanical Engineering Society, the mark...

SpaceX aims to launch up to 4 tourists into super high orbit

Crew Dragon spacecraft undergoing acoustic testing in Florida. (Photo: AP)SpaceX aims to launch up to four tourists into a super high orbit, possibly by the end of next year.The private company is working with Space Adventures Inc. for the flight, officials announced Tuesday. Ticket prices are not being divulged but expected to be in the millions.Space Adventures already has helped put tourists into orbit with trips to the International Space Station, working with the Russian space program.For this trip, paying customers will skip the space station and instead orbit two to three times higher, or roughly 500 miles to 750 miles (800 kilometers to 1,200 kilometers) above Earth.It’s a lofty goal that would approach the record 850-mile-high (1,370 kilometers) orbit achieved by Gemini 11′s Pete Conrad and Dick Gordon in 1966.The tourist flight “will forge a path to making spaceflight possible for all people who dream of it,” SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said in a statement.Elon Musk’s California-based SpaceX already is dabbling in space tourism, signing on a Japanese billionaire to fly to the moon in three or so years. Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic also plan tourist trips to space, but these will be brief up-and-downs, not orbital.SpaceX will use the same kind of Dragon capsule that will launch NASA astronauts to the space station, possibly in another few months. The capsule has flown only once in space so far, making its debut last year in a successful test flight without a crew.Space Adventures spokeswoman Stacey Tearne said the tourist flight could occur in the last quarter of 2021. The company is in discussions with “several potential clients.”No professional pilot or astronaut will be required, Tearne said, because the Dragon is fully autonomous. But passengers will be able to control the spacecraft if required, she said in an email.The cost will be in line with previous tourist flights, she said. Canadian billionaire Guy Laliberte...

Spain set to impose digital tax on tech giants

(Photo: Xinhua)MADRID, Feb. 18 (Xinhua) -- The Spanish government approved the introduction the so-called "Google tax" on digital companies during its weekly meeting held on Tuesday.The bill for a digital service tax proposes taxing the revenues of large web companies, such as Google, Amazon and Facebook, obtained through publicity from advertising and the sale of data and intermediary services at a rate of three percent, Spains Minister of Finance Maria Jesus Montero confirmed.The tax would be imposed on companies with digital sales of at least 750 million euros ($810 million) internationally and at least three million euros in Spain.Montero said that the affected companies would have to make their first payments in December 2020 in order to allow time for international negotiations, adding that the decision had been taken as part of a move towards a "fairer and more redistributive fiscal system, which adapts to the new economic reality."The bill still requires parliaments approval. (1 euro = $1.08)

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