US Tech Firms Fight Zika With Smart Traps That Can ID Deadly Mosquito’s Shadow

In this Sept. 29, 2016 photo, Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, responsible for transmitting Zika, sit in a petri dish at the Fiocruz Institute in Recife, Brazil.

Technology companies in the US are using automation and robotics to fight off the age-old task of battling mosquitoes. In a bid to stop the spread of the Zika virus, Microsoft Corporation and Verily, a California-based life sciences company, are forming partnerships with public health officials in several US states to test out the technology.

In Texas, Microsoft are testing a smart trap to isolate and capture Aedes aegypti mosquitoes — known Zika carriers — for study by entomologists to give them a jump at predicting outbreaks.

Tech companies wage war on disease-carrying mosquitoes
— Reuters World (@ReutersWorld) July 11, 2017​

Verily, Alphabet’s life sciences division, based in Mountain View, California, is speeding the process for creating sterile male mosquitoes to mate with females in the wild, offering a form of birth control for the species.

These advances may take a few years to become available, but public health experts say new players in the market will bring about fresh thinking.

Anandasankar Ray, an associate professor of entomology at the University of California, Riverside, said that the current time is an exciting one.

“It’s exciting when technology companies come on board. Their approach to a biological challenge is to engineer a solution,” Professor Ray said.

The Zika epidemic emerged in Brazil in 2015, and left thousands of babies suffering from birth defects.

​Cases have slowed down, however mosquitoes capable of carrying the virus — Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus — are spreading in the Americas, as well as in the southern parts of the US.

Workers holds a flag that reads in portugues Out Zika as part of a campaign to warn people about the spread of the Zika virus during carnival celebrations at the Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Monday, Feb. 8, 2016

Workers holds a flag that reads in portugues “Out Zika” as part of a campaign to warn people about the spread of the Zika virus during carnival celebrations at the Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Monday, Feb. 8, 2016

There have been 5,265 Zika cases reported in the US so far from people who have traveled and contracted the virus elsewhere. However, there are two states — Texas and Florida — who have recorded cases transmitted by local mosquitoes, making them prime testing grounds for the new technology.

Microsoft have set up 10 mosquito traps in Harris County. They are the size of a large birdhouse, and the device uses robotic, infrared sensors, machine learning and cloud computing to help health officials keep tabs on potential disease carriers.

Ever wondered how much you know about #mosquitoes? Test your knowledge before the warmer weather really sets in!
— MosquitoMate (@MosquitoMate) March 1, 2017​

Conventional traps capture all types of insects, such as moths and files, however the Microsoft machines can differentiate insects by measuring a feature unique to each species: the shadows cast by their beating wings.

When a trap detects an Aedes aegypti in one of its 64 chambers, the door slams shut.

“The machine makes a decision about whether to trap it,” said Ethan Jackson, a Microsoft engineer who is developing the device.

There are some companies who are working on developing technology that will shrink mosquito populations by rendering male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes sterile. When these sterile males mate with females in the wild, their eggs don’t hatch.

MosquitoMate, a startup company formed by researchers at the University of Kentucky, are using a naturally occurring bacterium called Wolbachia to render male mosquitoes sterile.

One of the biggest challenges is sorting the sexes, and that’s were Verily come in. The company is using robots to sort through the mosquitoes and have teamed up with MosquitoMate to test the technology.

(Source: sputniknews)

Come Again? Engineer Creates Mini-Satellites From Soda Cans

FILE - This July 15, 2013 file photo shows cans of Coca-Cola in Doral, Fla.

While everyone can recall a moment from primary school where they used everyday recyclable materials for an art project, one 22-year-old from Bengaluru, India, has taken it a step further.

Putting everyone to shame, Suraj Kumar Jana, the founder of Opencube LabsBased, shut down the game after he launched his 2014 project, “CanSat Development Programme.” In its launch, Jana saw the opportunity to give students the ability to experiment with small scale missions through several workshops.

“Receiving real-time experience of small scale space missions isn’t that reasonable and goes beyond affordability of Indian, middle class students,” Jana, a graduate of BMS Institute of Technology, told the Times of India. “Through our workshops, we provide students first-hand knowledge on making, operating and launch of satellites.”

In this particular project, the students created miniature versions of satellites in order to collect information about the city’s pollution levels, temperature, quality of air and water, and traffic congestion.

So how does one create mini-satellites? Well, for this innovator, it was all a matter of collecting coke, red bull and even beer cans to construct the body of the information-gathering bots. From there, the CanSat project saw the installation of the open source database hardware that came from either Arduino or RaspberryPi material.

After everything was good and ready to go, mind you it all fit into a 350ml soda can, the overachievers marched off to the air force base in Yelahanka, India, to release the parachuting soda cans. As the cans made their way to the ground the information was quickly transmitted to the ground station.

For Jana, the end goal of the project is for the data to be used to implement better environmental policies. All in all, it’s safe to say Elon Musk won’t be the only pioneer to use recycled material in space-like missions–time to make space for the new kids on the block.

(Source: sputniknews)

China produces world’s first cloned dog using gene editing

The mother dog feeds the puppy Longlong.

Already home to the world’s first cloned dog using somatic cell transfer technique, China is now the world’s first country to clone a dog using gene editing, after Sinogene, a Beijing-based biotech company, announced the achievement on July 5, Science and Technology reported.

China is the second country to master somatic cell cloning technology, followed by South Korea, according to Lai Liangxue, a researcher at the Guangzhou Institute of Biomedicine and Health under the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

A scientist shows the cloned dog Longlong.

Dog cloning has always been regarded in the scientific community as the most difficult, despite multiple successes in the cloning other mammals, including sheep, mice, cows, and pigs. Poor oocyte quality and the asynchronous reproduction cycle of the surrogate mother and the cloned embryo limit the application of the technology.

However, Lai’s team of scientists at Sinogene created a disease model using the latest gene-editing technology CRISPR/Cas9 to achieve mass production. It is the first of its kind in the world.

“It is advantageous to combine cloning technology with gene editing, and China has taken the lead,” said a researcher from the Institute of Zoology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The company said it will promote commercial dog cloning services worldwide by establishing a gene-editing development and research base and a bank for somatic cells and genes.

China to build up to 20 marine economy demonstration zones by 2020

China plans to build from 10 to 20 marine economy demonstration zones during the 13thFive-Year Plan period (2016-2020), according to a recent plan jointly issued by theNational Development and Reform Commission and the State Oceanic Administration.

Sixty-percent of China’s economy relies on foreign trade, and 90 percent of the country’sforeign trade is transported by sea. The plan is based on China’s strategic need to build thecountry into a strong maritime power and to expand China’s emerging “blue economy.”

According to Fang Jianmeng, vice director of the SOA, the country needs to strengthen itsmaritime economic strength and increase its international influence, and rely on themaritime economy to boost the growth of its coastal regions.

The plan stresses innovation, requiring the country to inject new dynamics into traditionalindustries with new technologies and methods. Scientific and technological innovationshould be enhanced and new driving forces, such as marine biological medicine, seawaterdesalination, modern marine services, and other newly emerging industries, should befostered to boost the maritime economy.

The plan called for special attention to be paid to protecting marine ecology andenvironment, which are valuable natural resources for the development of fishing andtourism industries.

During the 13th Five-Year Plan, China will build 10 to 20 marine economy demonstrationzones in order to explore how to best optimize the layout of maritime economy, constructmodern marine industry systems, strengthen ocean-related infrastructure, improvemarine public service systems, build a blue eco-security shield, and innovate marineadministration systems.

Chinese residents’ income increases by 60 percent in 2016, from 2010 levels

Chinese residents’ per capita disposable income in 2016 has increased by 62.6 percent to 23,821 RMB ($3,501) from 2010 levels, owing to effective measures taken by the Chinese government since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in 2012.

By 2020, income is projected to double that of 2010 levels, provided the real average annual growth rate maintains over 5.3 percent, said Wang Pingping, director of the Household Survey Office of China’s National Bureau of Statistics.

In addition, the income gap in China has been reduced. The Gini coefficient of Chinese residents’ per capita disposable income was 0.465 in 2016, down 0.009 since 2012.

Chinese people’s consumption level has continuously improved as well. The per capita consumption expenditure was 17,111 RMB ($2,515) in 2016, up 33.1 percent compared with that of 2012.

Statistics also show that consumption in China’s rural areas has increased, evident by the growing number of rural people purchasing durable consumer goods, including private cars, air conditioners, computers, and mobile phones.

Glittery crosswalk installed in Wuhan to improve traffic safety

A glittery crosswalk that can change colors has been put into use in Wuhan City’s Qiaokou District to improve traffic safety, according to the local traffic police, Chutian Metropolis Daily reported on July 6.

The crosswalk was jointly researched and developed by local traffic police and a scientific and technical company, and it has worked well to date.

It can change colors according to the traffic light at the crosswalk without influencing normal traffic operation. The system is made from special materials and can withstand temperatures as low as negative 30-100 degrees Celsius, rain, and sun exposure.

Its eye-catching colors helps remind pedestrians to abide by traffic laws and prevent traffic accidents.

China’s newest bullet train Hexie makes first public debut

China’s latest high-speed train model Hexie, type CRH5G, arrived at Xi’an, western China’s Shaanxi province, on July 6, making its first public debut.

The train will mostly be used for the newly constructed high-speed rail from Baoji to Lanzhou, which will start service on July 9.

Running between two western provinces, the train was developed to resist both cold and sand. The more modern and roomy train will also provide a better riding experience for passengers.

The dolphin-shaped train has a lower center of gravity and less wind noise. In addition, the body of the train has been widened by 10 centimeters. The train is also equipped with onboard Wi-Fi, enabling passengers to remain connected.

According to the Xi’an Railway Bureau, the new model is equipped with China’s first domestically-developed network control system, as well as an independently developed traction system. Over 90 percent of the train’s parts are manufactured China.

Long March rockets to provide commercial satellite-carrying service next year

More of China’s Long March rockets will be put into commercial use to meet the country’s increasing space launch demand.

The rockets will be used to shoot up small satellites to Sun-synchronous, Earth-synchronous, near-Earth orbits and other distances in space. According to China Aerospace Science and Technology Cooperation (CASC), the service will become available in 2018.

China’s colleges and universities, scientific research institutions as well as private enterprises are sending more small satellites to space, giving rise to the demand for carrier rockets.

CASC offers fast, stable and reliable shooting services for customers via constellation networks, exclusive, carrier and regular orbit launches.

Scientists Reveal Secret Formula That Keeps Roman Buildings From Collapsing

The mystery behind the outstanding strength of the ancient Roman aqueducts and other concrete buildings that have survived several millennia has finally been resolved.

The explanation lies in the unusual “chemistry” of its two main components — volcanic ash and sea water, an article published in the American Mineralogist journal says.

“The Pozzolanic reaction of volcanic ash with hydrated lime is thought to have dominated the cementing fabric and durability of 2,000-year-old Roman harbor concrete,” the study says.

Ancient Roman roads, aqueducts, the Pantheon, cathedrals and other constructions have survived several thousand years and are still in use.

Author of the publication Marie D. Jackson and her team found out that the main explanation of this phenomenon lies in a special type of concrete called “opus caementicium,” which was used during the construction of many buildings of that time.

In contrast to the modern concrete, which is made up of cement and crushed stone, its Roman ancestor is noticeably stronger. It did not fall apart, but on the contrary only grew stronger after contact with water, a phenomenon that remained a mystery to scientists for a long time. However, Jackson and other scientists found an extremely unusual component inside the concrete, namely Tobermorite group minerals.

These minerals consist of water, calcium, aluminum, silicon and oxygen and are usually formed in hydrothermal springs or within a volcano at ultrahigh temperatures.

According to the research team, the minerals formed inside the concrete as a result of the penetration of sea water and its interaction with an alkaline environment. The growing crystals of the tobermorite then interlocked with each other, which made the concrete stronger and prevented it from falling apart under the influence of chemically aggressive sea water.

This process, as scientists noted, can last several thousand years, during which the concrete not only does not collapse, but becomes increasingly stronger.

Now Jackson and several other geologists are trying to recreate the “formula” for the ancient Roman concrete, mixing different types of volcanic ash with sea water.

(Source: sputniknews)

Russia to Support China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ Initiative by All Means – Putin

Russia will fully support China’s “One Belt, One Road” project, because it will benefit economy, industry and trade of the both countries, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) — China’s “One Belt, One Road” strategy was launched in 2013 and is aimed at developing infrastructure and strengthening ties between the Eurasian countries, focusing on the land-based Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-century Maritime Silk Road. In May 2015, Russia and China signed an agreement aimed at combination of integration efforts of both the Eurasian Economic Union and the Silk Road project.

“We see a big potential in the joint use of the Northern Sea Route, the Trans-Siberian Railway and the Baikal-Amur Mainline. It matches the initiative of the Chinese partners, which has been discussed recently at ‘One Belt, One Road’ forum in China. The initiative of the Chinese leader deserves special attention and will be supported by Russia by all means,” Putin said after the talks with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in Moscow.

Putin expressed the belief that the large-scale projects would intensify trade, enhance modernization of industry, create new jobs and prompt the development of regions in China and Russia.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) and the China Development Bank (CDB) agreed to establish a joint 68-billion-yuan (some $10 billion) investment fund, a Sputnik correspondent reported.

The agreement implies that the new fund would contribute to direct investments, including within the framework of the China’s “One Belt, One Road” strategy.

The agreement was signed by the chiefs of the RDIF and the CDB within the framework of Xi’s visit.

Moreover, Russian oil giant Rosneft and China CEFC Energy Company Limited signed a strategic cooperation agreement on Tuesday.

The agreement was signed by the heads of the two energy companies during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Russia and the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Putin said after talks with Xi Jinping that Russian energy giant Gazprom and China’s CNPC continue coordinating the parameters of Russian gas supplies to China along the western route.

(Source: sputniknews)