2022-01-01 06:02:19 ..
2022-04-29 11:33:11 UTC
2022-04-30 23:59:26 UTC --fnord666
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New research suggests that adults (aged 18 or older) with severe obesity generate a significantly weaker immune response to vaccination compared to those with normal weight. The study was conducted by Professor Volkan Demirhan Yumuk from Istanbul University in Turkey and colleagues and was presented at this year's European Congress on Obesity (ECO) in Maastricht, Netherlands (May 4-7).
The study also found that people with severe obesity (BMI of more than 40kg/m2) vaccinated with Pfizer/BioNTech BNT162b2 mRNA vaccine generated significantly more antibodies than those vaccinated with CoronaVac (inactivated SARS–CoV–2) vaccine, suggesting that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine might be a better choice for this vulnerable population.
Obesity is a disease complicating the course of COVID-19, and the vaccine antibody response in adults with obesity may be compromised. Vaccines against influenza, hepatitis B, and rabies, have shown reduced responses in people with obesity.
To find out more, researchers investigated antibody responses following Pfizer/BioNTech and CoronaVac vaccination in 124 adults (average age 42-63 years) with severe obesity who visited the Obesity Center at Istanbul University-Cerrahpasa, Cerrahpasa Medical Faculty Hospitals, between August and November 2021. They also recruited a control group of 166 normal weight adults (BMI less than 25kg/m2, average age 39-47 years) who were visiting the Cerrahpasa Hospitals Vaccination Unit.
Researchers measured antibody levels in blood samples taken from patients and normal weight controls who had received two doses of either the Pfizer/BioNTech or CoronaVac vaccine and had their second dose four weeks earlier. The participants were classified by infection history as either previously having COVID-19 or not (confirmed by their antibody profile).
It took almost an entire year from their initial release, but the LHR (low hashrate) versions of Nvidia's RTX 30 series graphics cards have finally been completely unlocked by a mining software called Nicehash, restoring each card's respective mining capabilities.
Many of the best graphics cards were nearly impossible to find available to buy over the last two years because of the global chip shortage, a broader supply chain crisis at ports around the world and demand for consumer tech putting even more pressure on the availability of semiconductors needed by AMD and Nvidia for their products.
Part of this demand also included cryptominers who were buying up the available stock in bulk of popular GPUs during the height of the recent crypto currency boom. And while there are mixed opinions about how this affected overall availability for gamers and building hobbyists, there was certainly no love lost between the two groups which resulted in Team Green putting measures in place to make its consumer graphics cards less desirable to those hoping to use them to mine currencies such as Ethereum.
A marker that could help identify babies at a higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) has been discovered by Sydney researchers.
The study conducted by The Children's Hospital Westmead confirmed what had long been suspected — that SIDS victims were unable to wake themselves up — but it went one step further by providing the why.
The enzyme butyrylcholinesterase (BChE) plays a major role in the "brain's arousal pathway" and was found at "significantly lower" levels in babies who die of SIDS.
[...] "Usually, if a baby is confronted with a life-threatening situation, such as difficulty breathing during sleep because they're on their tummies, they will arouse and cry out.
"What this research shows is that some babies don't have this same robust arousal response.
The UK government added 63 Russian entities to its sanction list on Wednesday [04 May]. Among them are Baikal Electronics and MCST (Moscow Center of SPARC Technologies), the two most important chip makers in Russia.
The two sanctioned entities will now be denied access to the ARM architecture since Arm Ltd., the licensee, is based in Cambridge, England, and will have to comply with the sanctions.
[...] The two firms are considered vital for Russia's technological independence efforts, as they are expected to step up and cover the shortages created by the lack of processors made by Western chip-makers such as Intel and AMD.
[...] While these processors [the most advanced processors Baikai and MCST currently supply], and the much worse mid-tier and low-tier chips that carry the Baikal and MCST sticker, don't feature impressive performance, they could keep some vital parts of the Russian IT section going during shortages.
Although Russia has eased licensing regulations on other sanctioned items, such as software, that will most likely not happen here.
[...] However, it is important to remember that Baikal and MCST processors are made in foreign foundries, like Samsung's and TSMC's, and those two wouldn't infringe Arm's licensing rules and international law to facilitate Russian interests.
Baikal, which holds a valid license to produce at 16nm, only has a design license for its upcoming models, not manufacturing, so the only solution is to take the production domestically and ignore the rules.
[...] The Russian government has already approved an investment of 3.19 trillion rubles (38.2 billion USD) to counteract this in April 2022, but boosting local production will take many years. In the most optimistic scenarios, Russian foundries will be able to produce 28nm chips by 2030.
An interesting article over at PCMag that is worth the read as this brief summary cannot do the topics justice. It discusses the issues with getting employees back into the office after two years of working remotely.
[...] The 2022 Microsoft Work Trend Index reported that 50% of mid-level managers said their companies are making plans to return to in-person work five days a week in the year ahead, but 52% of employees are considering going hybrid or remote.
[...] While the pandemic has exposed the many challenges of working remotely, it has also made the benefits clear. People are unwilling to lose hours of their day to the things they find most frustrating about work, such as commuting and the drudgery of office life. [...]
[...] While offices are a collective place of work, they're experienced individually. And for some individuals, that experience is not as welcoming as it is for others. This is reflected in women, people of color, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and those with disabilities being less inclined to want to return to the office than others.
[...] In-office employees have found themselves spending time commuting only to sit in an office and spend the day not interacting with anyone there and having a Zoom meeting or two. Meanwhile, those still working remote can feel ignored when they're logged on to a Zoom meeting and see their colleagues in a conference room having side conversations that they're not a part of.
[...] There have been some unpleasant new realities faced by those returning to the office. Lots of workplace perks have disappeared in the pandemic. Fully stocked kitchens are a lot barer since they have to feed a much smaller fraction of a workforce. Free gym memberships didn't make much sense when gyms were closed and the benefit at some companies didn't return when their doors reopened.
[...] But there are some perks that have evolved into ones more suited to remote work. Companies, particularly at the beginning of the pandemic, set up stipends to outfit home offices. Childcare, which has always been a concern for working parents, became more of one. And benefits have expanded to include longer paid leave for parents, more flexible schedules, backup childcare services, and even tutoring stipends. [...]
[...] Companies would do well to set up an outreach system for employees of all levels to really check in on their individual needs and concerns. Forego formal surveys for a more human touch of a one-on-one chat by phone or Slack. Because no matter how remote we might be from one another in our workplaces at present, we've all lived through a trying time and could benefit from some connection.
Have your working environments changed, and if so, has it been for the better or worse (or neither)?
Scientists have uncovered strange ridge networks on using images from spacecraft orbiting the Red Planet over the previous two decades. How and why the ridges formed, as well as what clues they may reveal about the history of Mars have remained unknown.
[...] How the ridge networks were formed on Mars has remained a mystery ever since they were discovered in orbital imagery. Scientists have determined that there are three stages that were involved to create the ridges, including polygonal fracture formation, fracture filling, and finally erosion, which revealed the ridge networks.
[...] Ultimately, with the help of the citizen scientists, the team was able to map the distribution of 952 polygonal ridge networks in an area that measures about a fifth of Mars' total surface area.
"Citizen scientists played an integral role in this research because these features are essentially patterns at the surface, so almost anyone with a computer and internet can help identify these patterns using images of Mars," Khuller said.
[...] This discovery helps scientists "trace" the footprints of groundwater running through the ancient Martian surface and determine where it was suitable, during that time 4 billion years ago, for liquid water to be flowing near the surface.
"We hope to eventually map the entire planet with the help of citizen scientists," Khuller said. "If we are lucky, the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover might be able to confirm these findings, but the nearest set of ridges is a few kilometers away, so they might only be visited on a potential extended mission."
Aditya R. Khuller, Laura Kerber, Megan E. Schwam, et al., Irregular polygonal ridge networks in ancient Noachian terrain on Mars, Icarus, 2022
Keep an eye on the project page for when they continue their work. Does anyone volunteer in these kind of projects or have recommendations where else the budding citizen scientist can help out?
While most of us were baking sourdough bread and watching "Tiger King" to stay sane during the pandemic shutdown, UC Riverside bioengineering professor William Grover kept busy counting the colorful candy sprinkles perched on top of chocolate drops. In the process, he discovered a simple way to prevent pharmaceutical fraud.
The technique, which he calls CandyCode and uses tiny multicolored candy nonpareils or "hundreds and thousands" as a uniquely identifiable coating for pharmaceutical capsules and pills, is published in Scientific Reports.
[...] "The inspiration for this came from the little colorful chocolate candies. Each candy has an average of 92 nonpareils attached randomly, and the nonpareils have eight different colors. I started wondering how many different patterns of colored nonpareils were possible on these candies," said Grover. "It turns out that the odds of a randomly generated candy pattern ever repeating itself are basically zero, so each of these candies is unique and will never be duplicated by chance."
[...] To test this idea, Grover used edible cake decorating glue to coat Tylenol capsules with nonpareils and developed an algorithm that converts a photo of a CandyCoded pill into a set of text strings suitable for storing in a computer database and querying by consumers. He used this algorithm to analyze a set of CandyCode photos and found they function as universally unique identifiers, even after subjecting the CandyCoded pills to physical abuse that simulates the wear-and-tear of shipping.
"Using a computer simulation of even larger CandyCode libraries, I found that a company could produce 10^17 CandyCoded pills—enough for 41 million pills for each person on earth—and still be able to uniquely identify each CandyCoded pill," Grover said.
[...] "Anecdotally, I found that CandyCoded caplets were more pleasant to swallow than plain caplets, confirming Mary Poppins' classic observation about the relationship between sugar and medicine," said Grover.
Grover, W.H. CandyCodes: simple universally unique edible identifiers for confirming the authenticity of pharmaceuticals [open] Sci Rep 12, 7452 (2022).
In a bid to support local PC makers and software developers and reduce the impact of any potential future sanctions from western governments, China's government this week reiterated its order to replace foreign-branded PCs and programs used by government agencies and state-backed companies with local technology within two years.
While replacing a Dell running Windows with a Lenovo running Linux sounds tempting for Chinese companies, it looks like the country has been failing to do so up to this point, but the renewed initiative appears to have more teeth.
Chinese central government authorities this week ordered government agencies and state-owned and state-backed firms to stop using foreign-branded computers and software within two years and replace them with locally developed hardware and software, reports Bloomberg. Eventually, the mandatory program will be extended to provincial governments and give them a two-year switch period. The aggressive plan requires the replacement of at least 50 million PCs used by central government agencies alone, notes the report.
There are several reasons why the Chinese government wants the country to switch to local technologies. Firstly, it wants to keep Chinese money in China and not see it headed to foreign companies. Secondly, after learning from the Huawei crackdown lesson, it wants to ensure that it does not rely on technology developed and built elsewhere. Specifically, technology that could be barred from being imported to China. Thirdly, it wants to strengthen the security of its agencies and commercial entities.
The vast majority of PCs sold globally are assembled in China, but they carry brands of American or European origin. The Chinese government and state-owned corporations also use China-made Dell and HP-badged computers. Still, it looks like Beijing only wants to see local brands — Lenovo, Inspur, Founder, Tsinghua Tongfang — in state offices and state company offices.
Being the world's largest PC maker, Lenovo can certainly produce enough computers to satisfy the demands of central and eventually local governments and state-owned and state-backed firms. Companies like Founder, Tsinghua Tongfang, and Hasee can certainly increase their output, too. Local electronic manufacturing services (EMS) providers like Foxconn Technology will certainly be glad to help (and offset dropping orders for China-bound PCs from brands like Dell and HP).
[...] In general, building PCs with Chinese brands on them is not a problem for Chinese manufacturers. The biggest challenge — and one of the main reasons why China still relies on foreign technology — is replacing American and European software with Chinese alternatives.
Changes made during the past week to Cloudflare's "Browser Integrity Check" used by many web sites result in an infinite redirect loop for many non-mainstream browsers. So far it appears this affects Palemoon, Waterfox, older Firefox, and Firefox developer edition:
As it stands, this is effectively blocking a significant portion of the web from these browsers. Attempts to work around this by changing the user agent string do not appear to work. While the specific cause is not yet known, and Cloudflare doesn't appear to have acknowledged the issue, it's suspected that they might be moving to some sort of whitelist of browser signatures. So far, every thread on the issue entered at Cloudflare has been locked:
Chinese scientists have proven that aerial robots can work together, navigate obstacles and, perhaps worryingly, track humans out of sight
Drone swarms that dart nimbly around obstacles, mapping their surroundings or searching for fugitives, have long been the stuff of science fiction. But now Chinese scientists have proven that aerial robots can work together, manoeuvring at speed through a dense bamboo forest without crashing into the plants or themselves.
In new footage, released by a team from Zhejiang University, a swarm of 10 lightweight drones was filmed moving gracefully through the gaps between trunks, successfully navigating uneven ground, weeds and tangled branches.
The system works through an algorithm which crunches data from cameras on the drone, mapping the surroundings in real time and looking for obstacles and other craft, before readjusting the flight path as needed.
[...] It does not need a GPS signal to locate itself, meaning it could be used in areas with little satellite penetration such as deep cave systems, impenetrable forests or even other planets. The breakthrough could allow surveying of remote wildlife or hunting for survivors in disaster zones which are often harsh, remote or difficult to navigate.
The full story contains some impressive video footage.
XIN ZHOU, XIANGYONG WEN, et. al., Swarm of micro flying robots in the wild , Science Robotics, Vol. 7, No 66, (https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/scirobotics.abm5954)
Nvidia has agreed to pay $5.5 million in fines to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission to settle charges that it failed to disclose how many of its GPUs were being sold for cryptocurrency mining, the agency announced today.
These charges are unrelated to the current (slowly ebbing) crypto-driven GPU shortage. Rather, they deal with a similar but smaller crypto-driven bump in GPU sales back in 2017.
The agency's full order (PDF) goes into more detail. During its 2018 fiscal year, Nvidia reported increases in its GPU sales but did not disclose that those sales were being driven by cryptocurrency miners. The SEC alleges that Nvidia knew these sales were being driven by the relatively volatile cryptocurrency market and that Nvidia didn't disclose that information to investors, misleading them about the company's prospects for future growth.
Nvidia did disclose how cryptocurrency mining was affecting other segments of its business—the company made and sold some GPUs marketed exclusively to cryptocurrency miners. This created an impression that Nvidia was being transparent about the impact of cryptocurrency mining on its overall business, even though those CMP products didn't stop people from buying regular GeForce gaming GPUs to use for cryptocurrency mining.
A new study by researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and collaborators highlights a sharp contrast between urban and suburban ways of thinking about coastal ecosystems.
The authors of the study used statistical and cognitive science techniques to analyze data from a survey of 1,400 residents across the U.S. East Coast. Their results, published in the journal npj Urban Sustainability, showed that surveyed residents of urban centers often held a more simplistic, and less realistic, understanding of coastal ecosystems than residents in suburban areas. The research also uncovered a lower propensity to take pro-environmental actions among urban populations. The study provides evidence for an issue the authors refer to as urbanized knowledge syndrome, which may be detrimental to natural ecosystems and hamper community resilience to natural disasters.
[...] The survey was targeted at coastal counties in metropolitan areas across eight states, each of which featured shorelines with varying densities of roads, sea walls, ditches and other "gray" infrastructure. On the National Center for Health Statistics' six-level urban-rural classification scheme, surveyed residents largely resided in the three most urban levels, ranging from city centers to suburbs.
[...] As the authors of the study searched for patterns among the crowd of maps, two distinct types emerged.
In the maps of some respondents, relationships tended to run in one direction, exhibiting a way of thinking, or mental model, called linear thinking. In a linear thought process, a person might view sea walls as shoreline fortifications that prevent erosion at no cost. [...]
The maps of other residents displayed more complex, two-way relationships, which indicated that these respondents thought about the environment as a system. With this line of thinking, known as systems thinking, someone might recognize that although sea walls provide structural integrity to a shoreline, they alter the way that water flows along the shore and could potentially accelerate erosion. [...]
[...] . "We explored the association of these two distinct clusters of mental models with many different aspects including education, age, political affiliation, homeownership," Aminpour said. "We found that, among those factors, urbanization and the percentage of shorelines armored with gray infrastructure had strong positive associations with the mental models of residents that showed more linear thinking."
[...] An important behavioral difference between the two was in the self-reporting of behaviors that favored the environment. Linear thinking, a trait largely manifested by urbanites, was linked closely to less pro-environmental action.
[...] "We can't yet say which comes first. Do you have systems thinking so you prefer to live in areas with more natural ecosystems, or does living in less urbanized areas make you develop systems thinking? We need more rigorous experiments to find out," Aminpour said.
Aminpour, P., Gray, S.A., Beck, M.W. et al. Urbanized knowledge syndrome—erosion of diversity and systems thinking in urbanites' mental models. [open] npj Urban Sustain 2, 11 (2022).
Over at ACM.org, Samuel Greengard speculates Elon Musk buying Twitter is more about freedom to control speech:
The press has mostly accepted Musk's statement that the $44-billion acquisition is a "free speech" crusade that will create wonderful online town squares brimming with democratic ideas! It's 1998 naivete revisited. The Internet will bridge the digital divide! It will end oppression and censorship! It's the dawn of a new era for world freedom!
This isn't 1776, or even 1976. No one assembles at a town square to politely share ideas and debate philosophies. The Federal Communications Commission's imperfect but beneficial Fairness Doctrine is now buried deep in history. Today's online world, while delivering an appearance of democratization, has introduced hidden traps and limitations that we can't see.
It's no secret that algorithmic engines run (and rule) the Internet—and Twitter. They amplify, magnify, and even distort ideas. They introduce biases and, too often, they discriminate. They also manipulate our minds—and our thinking.
[...] Make no mistake, there will be a line; actually, lots of lines. What's more, even if Musk somehow accomplishes the seemingly impossible task of ensuring that everyone on the platform is verified, there's no way to guarantee that this will stop abuse—or that there will be any real penalty for the offenders.
[...] Yes, Twitter will wind up with different rules, results and outcomes—and it may be the better or worse for it. Along the way, some people will cheer, and others will jeer. But framing the discussion as a "free speech" issue is entirely disingenuous. This is simply a billionaire attempting to etch his world view into an algorithm—even if he brands himself a swashbuckling digital freedom fighter.
Virgin Galactic is again postponing the start of commercial service of its SpaceShipTwo suborbital spaceplane from late 2022 to early 2023, blaming the latest delay on supply chain and labor issues.
[...] Michael Colglazier, chief executive of Virgin Galactic, noted in an earnings call that it was experiencing "elevated levels of supply chain disruption" and hiring that was not keeping pace with projections. [...]
[...] Asked later about specific supply chain issues, Colglazier mentioned availability of "high-performance metallics" used on the vehicles, which primarily are made of carbon composites. [...]
The other issue is hiring. Virgin Galactic is expanding its engineering staff, but he said most of the new employees are working on the design of the company's new "Delta-class" spaceplane that the company expects to enter service in mid-decade. Existing staff, he said, are spread out working on Unity, Eve and Imagine, the new suborbital spaceplane now slated to enter commercial service in mid-2023.
[...] Virgin Galactic is still seeing strong interest in suborbital flights despite the delays. The company now has 800 customers signed up, and Colglazier said the company should easily reach its goal of having 1,000 customers once commercial service begins in early 2023.
Jeffrey Hall is passionate about two things in particular – friendship and social media – and he thinks the latter is too often mistaken as the enemy of the former.
[...] "The social displacement hypothesis is probably the most well-known, long-lasting explanation for where time spent using new technologies — from the internet to texting, and now social media — comes from," Hall said. "The social displacement argument says that new media cuts into our face-to-face time. The best available evidence suggests it's just not so."
Hall took data on FtF time from the U.S. Department of Labor's annual American Time Use Survey and from similar governmental studies in Australia and Great Britain between 1995 and 2021 and plotted them on a single chart. All three lines decline over time at a similar rate.
[...] "The fact that the U.K. data track U.S. data so tightly despite using slightly different methods in different years is surprising," Hall said.
This international trend of reduced time in face-to-face communication may reflect growing rates of loneliness, according to the authors.
[...] "The best available evidence suggests face-to-face is in competition with hours spent at work and commuting," Hall said. In other words, people who work longer spend more of their leisure time alone. During the pandemic, when people got that time back from commuting, "They still spent it working virtually," Hall said. "They didn't spend it socializing with each other.
"It seems we live in a society that privileges working and media consumption over everything else," Hall said. "The decline in face-to-face time is a matter of priority and a matter of availability. And we are neither prioritizing face-to-face time, nor are we available to do so."
Jeffrey Hall and Dong Liu, Social media use, social displacement, and well-being, Cur. Op. in Psych., 46, 2022