Curating the Internet: Science and technology digest for April 1, 2020

in STEMGeeks8 months ago

A number of articles are now arguing for mask use in public spaces; Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and the Internet Archive have both provided free online libraries in response to the COVID-19 pandemic; Researchers claim to reverse aging in human cells and tissues; Archaeologists uncover the forgotten past of a WWII Nazi concentration camp on an island in the English Channel; and a Steem essay tells us how and when to view an approaching comet in our nighttime skies...


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First posted on my Steem blog: StemGeeks, SteemIt, SteemPeak*, SteemSTEM.

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  1. It's Time to Face Facts, America: Masks Work - Despite pronouncements from policy makers that masks don't work, the actual science is easy to understand. While masks may not be perfect, they do provide some level of protection - even the DIY kind, and should be deployed as part of the strategy to "flatten the curve" and slow the spread of the COVID-19 disease. There is little doubt that wearing a mask, even a DIY mask, physically blocks the spread of many particles. Arguments against masks include the notions that (i) if the public starts buying them, there won't be enough for health care workers; (ii) That no masks except for N95 masks can block all particles, and N95 masks are uncomfortable and hard to fit properly; and (iii) that mask wearing will cause the public to engage in risky behavior. However, evidence from countries where mask-wearing is the norm reveals a reduced spread of COVID-19 and a complete absence of economic lockdowns. More here and here. The last article says,
    There are good reasons to believe DIY masks would help a lot. Look at Hong Kong, Mongolia, South Korea and Taiwan, all of which have covid-19 largely under control. They are all near the original epicenter of the pandemic in mainland China, and they have economic ties to China. Yet none has resorted to a lockdown, such as in China’s Wuhan province. In all of these countries, all of which were hit hard by the SARS respiratory virus outbreak in 2002 and 2003, everyone is wearing masks in public. George Gao, director general of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, stated, “Many people have asymptomatic or presymptomatic infections. If they are wearing face masks, it can prevent droplets that carry the virus from escaping and infecting others.”

    My data-focused research institute, fast.ai, has found 34 scientific papers indicating basic masks can be effective in reducing virus transmission in public — and not a single paper that shows clear evidence that they cannot.


  2. Open Access to ACM Digital Library During Coronavirus Pandemic - Not much to say about this, but it's useful for computing enthusiasts.
    We believe that ACM can help support research, discovery and learning during this time of crisis by opening the ACM Digital Library to all. For the next three months, there will be no fees assessed for accessing or downloading work published by ACM. We hope this will help researchers, practitioners and students maintain access to our publications as well as increasing visibility and awareness of ACM’s journals, proceedings and magazines. Please be sure to inform your colleagues that the ACM DL is now open, and will continue that way through June 30, 2020.
    Related: The Internet Archive has launched a National Emergency Library that is open to the world
    To address our unprecedented global and immediate need for access to reading and research materials, as of today, March 24, 2020, the Internet Archive will suspend waitlists for the 1.4 million (and growing) books in our lending library by creating a National Emergency Library to serve the nation’s displaced learners. This suspension will run through June 30, 2020, or the end of the US national emergency, whichever is later.

  3. Transient non-integrative nuclear reprogramming promotes multifaceted reversal of aging in human cells - This preprint describes a method, known as Epigenetic Reprogramming of Aging (ERA) of rejuvinating cells in the lab. The authors claim that the method, "promotes a rapid reversal of both cellular aging and of epigenetic clock in human fibroblasts and endothelial cells, reduces the inflammatory profile in human chondrocytes, and restores youthful regenerative response to aged, human muscle stem cells, in each case without abolishing cellular identity" They go on to argue that the method opens the door to potential therapies for lab-based therapies and medicines for cellular and tissue rejuvination in humans. -h/t Daniel Lemire

  4. New Research Exposes Horrific Conditions at Britain's Forgotten Nazi Concentration Camp - British islands in the channel between France and England were occupied by the Nazis after the 1940 occupation of France by Germany. The northernmost island, Alderney, then became home to the Sylt forced labor camp. Research into the site was published in Antiquity on March 30. The Germans fled the island in 1944, and took great pains to cover the evidence of the harsh conditions that were endured by the prisoners there. Additionally, the British government also downplayed the atrocities in order to reduce the associations between the island and the Nazis. In the first onsite inspections since WWII, these archaeologists are breaking through the veils. In 1942, the Germans held hundreds of prisoners - most from the eastern front - on the island, and forced them to participate in building a wall to defend against potential allied invasion of France. Somewhere around 20% of those prisoners perished within months of arriving on the island. In 1943, the Waffen SS took over command of the island and the inmate population increased into the thousands. The new paper details the transition, including maps, 3D imaging, and a more detailed accounting of the various transitions that the came went through. The researchers also found a tunnel that passed under the wall from the camp. The tunnel's purpose is unknown, but it may have been an air raid shelter, an ingress/egress way for sex workers to access a brothel, or simply a quick access method for the German occupiers. The article also details how inadequate barracks forced prisoners to sleep outside, and how prisoners were executed for transgressions like stealing food or trying to escape. Official Nazi records show 103 deaths on the island, but these researchers put the number closer to 700. -h/t RealClear Science

  5. Steem @kralizec: Prepare For Watching A Comet In A Few Weeks - This post tells us about the comet, C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS), that is gradually coming into view in the nighttime skies. As it approaches Earth, it is expected to become visible to the naked eye around mid-April, and at it's brightest it will be the second brightest object in the sky, behind just the moon. To find the object, northern hemisphere viewers should look, "very high over the horizon in the Camelopardalis Constellation (also known as the Giraffe Constellation) and over time it will move to the Perseus Constellation." (A 10% beneficiary setting has been applied to this post for @kralizec.)


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Not sure why this showed up on the blockchain under @remlaps instead of @remlaps-lite. It shows in @steempeak View Scheduled posts -> History under @remlaps-lite, not @remlaps. Maybe I confused the interface by switching accounts in another browser tab while editing(?).

Anyway, I have been thinking about moving it to @remlaps permanently, so maybe this will be a good excuse for switching.