What Are The Biggest Global Threats To Public Health?

(I did not even think that Mr. Trump’s policies may end up increasing the risks of global pandemic of viruses like Zika virus. worth reading small article in Big Idea by Larry Brilliant f. sheikh )

The greatest global threats to health can be divided into two categories, explains epidemiologist and former head of philanthropy at Google, Dr. Larry Brilliant: there is the biological, and the socio-political. In the last 30 years, there have been at least 30 heretofore unknown viruses that have jumped from animals to humans, for worrying reasons Brilliant attributes to modernity and our increase in animal protein consumption. Still, the socio-political threats are the more immediately dangerous. There are centrifugal forces at play that are pushing society to two extreme camps. The domestic and global division caused President Trump’s ‘America First’ mentality and disregard for public health leaves us vulnerable to new viruses that, if they aren’t detected early enough, could be the next pandemic. “Right now because of the re-organization and nationalism… and dislike for the United Nations and its agencies, I think we’re in a period of grave vulnerability,” says Brilliant. Larry Brilliant is the author of Sometimes Brilliant: The Impossible Adventure of a Spiritual Seeker and Visionary Physician Who Helped Conquer the Worst Disease in History.

Quantum Computer-First Blueprint

(It will take billion of years to solve some of the deepest mysteries of space by an ordinary computer, but a quantum computer can solve it within a short time. As atom can be both wave and particle and at two positions at the same time, this parallel quality gives quantum computer the ability to run multiple probable scenarios at the same time and come up with the most probable outcome in a short time. No such computer exists yet, and first blue print of such a computer was released recently. Worth reading article. F. Sheikh)

This huge leap forward towards creating a universal quantum computer is published today (1 February 2017) in the influential journal Science Advances (1). It has long been known that such a computer would revolutionise industry, science and commerce on a similar scale as the invention of ordinary computers. But this new work features the actual industrial blueprint to construct such a large-scale machine, more powerful in solving certain problems than any computer ever constructed before.

Once built, the computer’s capabilities mean it would have the potential to answer many questions in science; create new, lifesaving medicines; solve the most mind-boggling scientific problems; unravel the yet unknown mysteries of the furthest reaches of deepest space; and solve some problems that an ordinary computer would take billions of years to compute.

The work features a new invention permitting actual quantum bits to be transmitted between individual quantum computing modules in order to obtain a fully modular large-scale machine capable of reaching nearly arbitrary large computational processing powers.

Previously, scientists had proposed using fibre optic connections to connect individual computer modules. The introduces connections created by electric fields that allow charged atoms (ions) to be transported from one module to another. This new approach allows 100,000 times faster connection speeds between individual quantum computing modules compared to current state-of-the-art fibre link technology.

The new blueprint is the work of an international team of scientists from the University of Sussex (UK), Google (USA), Aarhus University (Denmark), RIKEN (Japan) and Siegen University (Germany).

Prof Winfried Hensinger (2), head of Ion Quantum Technology Group (3) at the University of Sussex, who has been leading this research, said: “For many years, people said that it was completely impossible to construct an actual quantum computer. With our work we have not only shown that it can be done but now we are delivering a nuts and bolts construction plan to build an actual large-scale machine.”

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2017-02-blueprint-unveiled-large-scale-quantum.html#jCp

“Break In Search Of Origin Of Complex Life” By Ed Yong

In Norse mythology, humans and our world were created by a pantheon of gods who lived in the realm of Asgard. As it turns out, these stories have a grain of truth to them.

Thanks to a team of scientists led by Thijs Ettema, Asgard is now also the name of a large clan of microbes. Its members, which are named after Norse gods like Odin, Thor, Loki, and Heimdall, are found all over the world. Many of them are rare and no one has actually seen them under a microscope. But thanks to their DNA, we know they exist. And we know that they are singularly important to us, because they may well be the group from which we evolved.

If Ettema is right, then around two billion years ago, an Asgardian microbe (or an incredibly close relative) took part in a unique event that gave rise to the eukaryotes. That’s the group which includes humans, our fellow animals, plants, fungi, and every living thing made from large, complex cells—all the living things we’re most familiar with, and all the ones we can actually see. Our origins lie either in Asgard, or next door to it.

To understand this story, we have to go back to the very beginning. The Earth was created around 4.5 billion years ago, and judging by some astonishingly ancient fossils, life emerged relatively soon after. For the longest time, living things belonged to two great domains: the bacteria and the archaea, both microscopic and both comprising single cells. That was the status quo for at least 1.7 billion years, until the two domains were joined by a third: the eukaryotes. And they were very different.

Eukaryotic cells are generally much bigger than either bacteria or archaea. They also have larger genomes. They have internal compartments that act like our organs, each with its own special job. They have an internal skeleton that acts as a transport network for molecules. There’s this huge gulf of complexity that separates them from the other two domains. It’s a gulf that has only ever been crossed once in life’s history. Bacteria and archaea are capable of amazing feats of evolution, but in over 3.7 billion years of existence, none of them have ever evolved into anything approaching a eukaryote-like cell—except that one time. Why?

One possible answer, which I’ve written about before, says that eukaryotes were created through an incredibly unlikely merger between members of the other two domains. Somehow, a bacterium found its way inside an archaeon and, rather than being digested or destroyed, became a permanent part of its host. In doing so, it provided the archaeon with an extra source of energy, which allowed it to get bigger, accumulate more genes, and evolve down new paths that were previously inaccessible to it. That fusion cell gave rise to the eukaryotes, and the bacterium eventually turned into the mitochondria—little bean-shaped structures that still power eukaryotic cells to this day.

Once the eukaryotes evolved, they repeatedly engulf microbes and fused with them—a process called endosymbiosis. But that’s much easier to do when the host cell is already big, and can engulf smaller neighbors. If the host is an archaeon, the feat becomes much harder and far more improbable. That’s maybe why the merger between an archaeon and a bacterium—the one that gave rise to mitochondria and may have spawned the eukaryotes—has only happened once.

What were those two ancient partners like? We know that the bacterium belonged to a group called the alphaproteobacteria (which also includes Wolbachia, a microbe that I’ve repeatedly written about here.) But until recently, no one knew anything about the archaeon host.

Full Article Click Here

posted by f. sheikh

Aristotle was wrong and so are we: there are far more than five senses

Worth watching short video about how many senses we have.

Aristotle was wrong and so are we: there are far more than five senses

Scientists have long known that there’s much more to our experience than the five senses (or ‘outward wits’) described by Aristotle – hearing, sight, smell, touch and taste. Yet the myth of five senses persists, perhaps because a clearer understanding of our sensory experience at the neurological level has only recently started to take shape. In this instalment of Aeon’s In Sight series, the British philosopher Barry C Smith argues that the multisensory view of human experience that’s currently emerging in neuroscience could make philosophising about our senses much more accurate, and richer, allowing philosophers to complement the work of scientists in important ways. But first, philosophy must catch up to the major advances being made in brain science.


posted by f. Sheikh