News

Observation of the onset of a blue jet into the stratosphere

A cool article introducing and discussing “blue jets” which are basically lightning bolts that shoot upwards into the atmosphere instead of down to the ground. In this study, they view these events from the International Space Station to observe how these blue jets occur.

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COVID curbed carbon emissions in 2020 — but not by much

This article reports on carbon dioxide emission data for 2020 and traces the effect of the pandemic on carbon emissions in countries across the world. Although total carbon dioxide emissions fell in 2020 by several percent, climate researchers expect a rebound in emission levels once the pandemic ends as they continue to study how different industries and countries will bounce back.

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Warming May Push Ecosystems to Release Carbon instead of Absorbing It

This article describes how despite the perception that plants release much more oxygen than carbon, global warming may disrupt this process. As the survival of many organisms is dependent on oxygen in the atmosphere, if the balance of plants’ respiration to photosynthesis, the results could be drastic.

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Model analyzes how viruses escape the immune system

This article describes how MIT researchers have developed computational models that can simulate the spread of viruses. The models are unique because they were based in the field of Natural Language Processing—they were originally built to analyze language. They can also predict which individual sections of viral proteins mutate, making them important contributors to both vaccine research and containment efforts.

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Supercapacitors Challenge Batteries: Powerful Graphene Hybrid Material for Highly Efficient Energy Storage

This article discusses scientists’ creation of a new supercapacitor that utilizes a graphene hybrid material to efficiently store energy. The combination of new materials is an important factor in the supercapacitor’s improved energy storage amount and charging rate. Using nature as a model, an international network of scientists from various research backgrounds focused on long-term power and stability of the supercapacitor to maximize its capabilities.

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Snakebite steals millions of years of quality life in India

This news brief shines a light on an issue that is often overlooked, snake bites. Although many expect that antivenoms are readily available to save those bitten by a venomous snake, many rural farmers, especially in India, do not have access to high-quality anti-venom or any medication at all, resulting in around 100,000 deaths from snake bites each year. However, scientists believe that the number is much higher due to the fact that many farmers are unable to report snake bites to authorities due to their remote location.

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New DNA modification 'signature' discovered in zebrafish

This study summarizes recent research done on zebrafish DNA investigating to investigate a process called DNA methylation, or the process of modifying DNA using methyl groups to adjust gene function. Since the zebrafish shares a large portion of DNA with humans and are ancient ancestors, the new form of DNA methylation discovered in the zebrafish proves potentially important in furthering understanding neurodevelopmental disorders in humans.

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‘It will change everything’: DeepMind’s AI makes gigantic leap in solving protein structures

This article discusses Google’s creation of a deep learning program that can determine a protein’s tertiary/quaternary structure, or 3D structure, based on its amino acid sequence. Scientists have been working on programs that could accomplish this goal for many years, making the success of DeepMind extremely exciting to the scientific community.

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Health Care AI Systems Are Biased

This article explores the implications of bias on AI health care systems. Contemporary medical data used to train AI systems are confronted with a diversity problem in a variety of factors (race, gender, geography, etc.) that largely arises from the privacy limitations of medical data sharing. Addressing this imbalance, which may negatively affect the benefits that health care can bring to underrepresented groups, is a complex but important task.

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NASA's SOFIA discovers water on sunlit surface of Moon

Water has been discovered on the surface of the Moon that is exposed to the Sun. Previous studies have confirmed that water exists on shaded areas that are much colder; the new study supports the idea that water is distributed all along the Moon. H2O molecules have been distinguished from OH molecules using NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy.

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Water Found in Sunlight and Shadow on the Moon

This article describes a NASA team’s results suggesting that water is found on the moon. The discovery offers many possibilities for the future including water mining and careful analysis of water distribution and abundance.

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Drivers of Biogeochemical Variability in a Central California Kelp Forest: Implications for Local Amelioration of Ocean Acidification

A new study by the US National Science Foundation discovered that kelp can remedy the effects of ocean acidification near coastal environments. The study found that the pH of surface water was less acidic than deep ocean water, indicating that kelp productivity was beneficial.

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Dozens to be deliberately infected with coronavirus in UK ‘human challenge’ trials

A UK “human challenge trial,” where participants are deliberately exposed to SARS-CoV-2, is projected to start in January. This article explores the details of the trial, as well as medical and bioethical issues that it brings up.

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Researchers Extract More Energy From Sunlight – Could Boost the Efficiency of Solar Panels by 50%

Researchers are attempting to increase the spectrum of light from which they can extract energy in solar cells and solar panels by layering multiple different materials, each with a unique absorption spectrum, on top of each other. By layering different materials, the energy from each portion of the spectrum, from UV to infrared, can be converted with a lower rate of energy loss, increasing the entire cell’s efficiency.

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COVID-19 lockdown and its latency in Northern Italy: seismic evidence and socio-economic interpretation

The authors creatively use a seismic approach to assess how well Northern Italians are complying with the lockdown measures imposed by the government on March 10th. This article shows how two seemingly unrelated areas of research can intersect and ultimately help us combat the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Risk factors of critical & mortal COVID-19 cases: A systematic literature review and meta-analysis

The study selects 13 studies of COVID-19 patients from China to identify risk factors for COVID-19 patients to develop critical disease or death. The researchers analyzed patient age, gender, smoker status, comorbidities, and more, and these factors are meta-analyzed to see which factors are most closely correlated with COVID-19 critical/mortal condition.

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Sea urchins mediate the availability of kelp detritus to benthic consumers

This paper studies how urchins process the kelp they eat through observing how dependent detritivores are on urchins for kelp detritus assimilation. The detritivores consumed significant amounts of kelp, signifying that urchins can actually play a positive role in the ecosystem by making kelp available to detritivores (in addition to just the “traditional view” that they are destroying kelp forests.)

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The unequal vulnerability of communities of color to wildfire

This paper studies how communities of color are disproportionately vulnerable to wildfire and the consequences of wildfire.The authors used fire hazard potential and adaptive capability to measure a vulnerability metric, which was then related to resident ethnicity. The paper brings to light, from a scientific perspective, how various communities have different vulnerability to even wildfires, a natural disaster relatively unrelated to humans.

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Interview: Dr. Atul Butte

UC San Francisco Professor Atul Butte speaks about his mindset in science and research into personalized medicine.