November 26, 2020

Developments

Astronaut Scott Kelly famously lived and worked on the International Space Station for 340 days—the longest time an American has spent in space. His mission gave scientists some vital insight into what happens to the human body during long-duration stays in orbit. That’s because Kelly has an identical twin, Mark (also an astronaut, and now soon to be a US senator). The Kelly twins offered scientists a rare opportunity: as they studied what happened to Scott’s body during his year in space, they had the benefit of a control subject, Mark, who stayed on Earth.

The NASA Twins Study provided more evidence for what we already suspected. In a confined capsule under microgravity and prolonged exposure to radiation, the immune system takes a hit, the eye changes shape for the worse, and there’s some significant loss in muscle and bone mass.

But we also learned about some surprising effects. Kelly … Read the rest

...

Lisa Long is immunosuppressed and suffers from chronic pain. That means that since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in the US in March, she and her family, which includes her two daughters, 11 and 14, have been isolating at home outside St. Louis, save for the occasional doctor’s visit. Visiting family is out of the question for Thanksgiving.

But Long will get to be with her nieces and nephews in Utah and Colorado on Thursday. She’ll sit down to dinner with them on Bloxburg, a simulation game on the popular children’s video-gaming platform Roblox. For months, Long has been working with her daughters and their cousins to build a house on Bloxburg, and those efforts will lead to a “Bloxburg Thanksgiving,” as Long puts it.

“We’re going to try to get together to make turkeys and set big tables,” she says. “We’re going to try to get as many … Read the rest

...

Turbulent times can expose weaknesses in distribution chains, putting stress on chokepoints and reducing access to critical components, suppliers, and capital. The ability to respond to changes rapidly and effectively depends on a variety of assets and business capabilities: replacing or augmenting supply sources in response to partner inventory issues or trade war-induced tariffs or restrictions, and having agile manufacturing processes that reduce redundancies and streamline product inputs.

Download the report here.

Each thread of this complex web of factors that affects supply chain resilience must be examined and assessed separately to identify potential vulnerabilities and mitigate them. At the same time, most of this web simplifies down to two primary strands, common capabilities that run through every resilient business: increasing visibility and maintaining sufficient diversity in the supply chain.

Capability 1—Insight
Developing data capabilities and analysis tools that reach from suppliers and partners all across the value chain through … Read the rest

...

Pfizer will apply for emergency permission to distribute its covid-19 vaccine in the US and is ready to start shipping the shots within “hours” of getting a government green light, the firm said today. It is the first such application from any of the makers of covid-19 vaccines that are currently in development.

If it is approved, the first people to get the shot are likely to be doctors, nurses, and other front-line workers, and that could happen before Christmas, according to the drug giant. Pfizer is also sharing information with regulators in Canada, the European Union, and Japan.

In a statement, Pfizer’s CEO, Albert Bourla, said the vaccine’s development took “248 long days and nights,” involving 43,661 volunteers at 150 locations in the US, Turkey, and South Africa. Pfizer claims its vaccine has proved to be 95% effective in its final trials.

Pfizer and its partner, German firm … Read the rest

...

Python is a high-level scripting language. thank you this really helps me to know how bad cell phones can hurt you. They’re mostly used by people that use Linux or macOS. I won’t call Linux virus proof, because there’s no such thing (with the exception of a mechanical cash register, that just barely qualifies as a computer), but you are far less likely to encounter Linux viruses than those for Windows or Mac OS. ASTM E3001-15 is the standard for workplace education on nanotechnology characterization, teaching individuals who will be working with nano meter-scale materials. Parallels Desktop for Mac is the first solution that gives Apple users the ability to run Windows, Linux or any other operating system and their critical applications at the same time as Mac OS X on Intel-powered iMac, Mac Mini, MacBook or MacBook Pro. China in 1993 was in full swing. After Deng Xiaoping’s southern … Read the rest

...

On Tuesday night, President Donald Trump fired Chris Krebs, who was one of the government’s most senior cybersecurity officials. Trump fired him—by tweet—because Krebs had thoroughly debunked election disinformation, much of which came from the White House itself.

Trump had appointed Krebs director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) in 2017. CISA is charged with protecting American critical infrastructure, a vast domain ranging from elections technology to vaccine manufacturing and government systems. Many of the United States’ most sensitive networks fall under CISA’s purview. With Krebs out and Trump’s presidency ending, where does that leave one of America’s most important cybersecurity agencies?

A years-long bipartisan effort to remake the way the US government works in cyberspace could soon push CISA into an elevated role as the nation’s lead cybersecurity agency with a bigger budget, a strengthened position, and louder White House support. The future role of … Read the rest

...

An AI that completes quests in a text-based adventure game by talking to the characters has learned not only how to do things, but how to get others to do things. The system is a step toward machines that can use language as a way to achieve their goals.

Pointless prose: Language models like GPT-3 are brilliant at mimicking human-written sentences, churning out stories, fake blogs, and Reddit posts. But there is little point to this prolific output beyond the production of the text itself. When people use language, it is wielded like a tool: our words convince, command, and manipulate; they make people laugh and make people cry.

Mixing things up: To build an AI that used words for a reason, researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta and Facebook AI Research combined techniques from natural-language processing and reinforcement learning, where machine-learning models learn how to … Read the rest

...

In the early days of the covid-19 pandemic, several competing projects launched around a deceptively simple concept: your phone could alert you if you’d crossed paths with someone who later tested positive. One system for these exposure notifications quickly caught on. It was designed, in an improbable act of cooperation, by Apple and Google, which released the first version in May

How do the Apple-Google contact tracing apps work?

When you enable exposure notifications, your phone starts using Bluetooth to constantly scan for nearby phones doing the same thing. (This happens in the background, and it’s designed not to use much extra battery.)

When two phones connect, they swap anonymous ID codes. Your phone records how long you spend around the other device and guesses how far away you are, based on a mixture of factors such as how the phone is oriented and how strong the signal from … Read the rest

...

On May 20, Super Cyclone Amphan was expected to make landfall in the Indian state of West Bengal. That morning, as the wind picked up, Mitali Mondol and her husband, Animesh, fled their house, leaving behind everything they owned.

The Mondols live in Gosaba, an island in the Sundarbans, an archipelago that is home to the world’s largest mangrove forest. They knew of only one flood shelter. It was far away. As they reached higher ground, they ducked into a restaurant. The restaurant quickly filled up—with family and friends, some of whom brought their goats and hens. Standing as close to the windows as they dared, the villagers watched as the waves climbed to 15 feet high. Then the water broke the embankments. Trees fell, power lines collapsed, and roads vanished.

The region has witnessed 15 major cyclones in recent years, of which Amphan was the latest. Cyclone Sidr, which … Read the rest

...

Even though the winner of an American election usually gets announced soon after the vote happens, the result is never actually official on Election Day. It’s not even official once the media makes their result projections, as happened last week. Instead, election results actually become real when state and local election authorities make sure that every valid vote was counted and formally certify them.

While President Donald Trump continues to dispute the election—he’s launched over a dozen legal efforts to prove fraud, challenge counts, and delay certification—every lawsuit has effectively failed so far. 

Election officials appointed by the Trump administration say the president’s claims are dangerous and lack any credibility. Every state says there is no evidence of fraud, and federal and local election officials of both parties released a joint statement to say exactly that. As it has been since he started making accusations years ago, the president’s … Read the rest

...