Latest at a Glance: Beijing’s Vaccine Flip, EU Energy Shutter and Marburg Virus in West Africa | Science

PALEONTOLOGY

Dino’s puny arms resemble t rex‘s

for dinosaurs, tiny arms might have been the price for a huge, carnivorous headaccording to a study of a new species. In the Patagonian desert of Argentina, paleontologists discovered a semi-finished skeleton 11 meters long Tyrannosaurus rex Doppelganger, with stocky arms and a cartoonishly large skull, but is only distantly related to the tyrannosaurids. The team called their discovery “a stroke of luck”. Meraxes Gigas after a Targaryen dragon game of Thrones. Because the researchers found that the head and arms belong together, they were able to compare the fossil to other known members of its family, the carcharodontosaurs. They found that over time, dinosaurs’ heads got larger and their forearms shrunk. Two other families of giant dinosaurs – tyrannosaurids and abelisaurids – independently show similar trends. The large skull supported large jaws that helped the carnivores capture large prey, researchers say, while the front legs likely shrunk to keep the bipedal creatures balanced or as developmental compensation for a larger skull, not an adaptive advantage of its own Team reports in the July 7 issue Current Biology.

HEALTH CARE

Beijing is reversing the vaccination mandate

Beijing city authorities announced China’s first large-scale COVID-19 vaccine mandate on July 6, only to scrap the plan a day later after social media posts questioned the measure’s legality and the vaccines’ effectiveness had. (China’s censors have allowed citizens to air grievances about how COVID-19 outbreaks are being handled, so long as they don’t question the government’s overall “zero-COVID” strategy.) The mandate called for those who use libraries, museums, cinemas, Gyms, and other public facilities to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination, a directive issued by many countries during the pandemic. Instead, Beijing required proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken in the past 72 hours and a temperature check to visit facilities, which draw crowds. About 90% of China’s population has voluntarily been vaccinated, but only half of those over 80 were vaccinated in March when the latest national details were released. Many unvaccinated seniors fear vaccination side effects, leading the national government to be reluctant to relax its zero-COVID strategy, which relies on contact tracing, mass testing and lockdowns.

ENERGY POLICY

The “sustainable” power of the EU came knocking

EU lawmakers last week voted 328 to 278 to define natural gas and nuclear power as “sustainable” energy sources, prompting fierce objections from environmental groups. The designation, proposed by the European Commission earlier this year, aims to facilitate private investment in energy sources that some see as less polluting than coal and oil. But critics say the policy ignores scientific evidence, only complicates efforts to mitigate climate change and could end up diverting funds from solar and wind projects to relatively expensive nuclear power plants. Opponents are urging EU member states to halt the directive’s entry into force next year, saying they will go to court if that strategy fails. In 2020, natural gas provided about 24% of the European Union’s total energy, while nuclear provided 13%.

Let’s hope that some fresh political faces can move the situation forward.

  • Research politician Graeme Reid
  • in times higher educationon the prospects that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s resignation will help British researchers gain access to the European Union’s main science funding scheme.
INTEGRITY OF RESEARCH

The embattled spider biologist resigns

A behavioral ecologist who has been under fire for more than 2 years over data irregularities or possible falsification in dozens of publications resigned this week from a prestigious tenure at McMaster University. Jonathan Pruitt’s work on social behavior in spiders had received international recognition, and their willingness to share data attracted many eager contributors. In a statement, McMaster confirmed it had reached a “confidential” settlement with Pruitt, but said it was unwilling to release the results of its probe into possible research misconduct. said Pruitt Science You cannot yet publicly comment on the allegations. Some scholars who have co-authored papers with Pruitt have criticized McMaster for being too slow to respond to misconduct concerns, first published in 2020, and urged the university to present its findings now.

INFECTIOUS DISEASES

The Marburg virus hits Ghana

Two people infected with Marburg virus have died in Ghana, the first confirmed cases of the deadly hemorrhagic fever in the country, health officials report. Tissue samples collected from people in the Ashanti region in the south have been sent to the Pasteur Institute in Senegal for confirmation, the World Health Organization announced last week. Marburg is closely related to the Ebola virus, but outbreaks are rarer and typically smaller; the largest in Angola in 2004/05 ended after 252 cases. There are no approved vaccines or treatments. It is only the second time that a Marburg infection has been detected in West Africa. A single case was confirmed in Guinea in 2021, but no further cases were found and the outbreak was declared over after 5 weeks.

CRYPTOGRAPHY

The US wants to tame the quantum threat

The US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announced last week that it would expand its standards to include four encryption algorithms that are said to be immune to hacking attacks by a quantum computer. One algorithm is for general encryption and three for digital signatures. The standards are part of a 6-year push to protect Internet communications from quantum computers that manipulate bits of information, called qubits, that can be set to 0 or 1 at the same time. Scientists expect that a large quantum computer will be able to crack current “public key” encryption algorithms. NIST will consider four more general-purpose encryption algorithms for inclusion in its standards, which the agency expects to complete in two years.

CONSERVATION

The United Nations does not call the use of wild species sustainable

A man with a bow and arrow in a boat next to a pirarucu
Indigenous groups helped protect the Amazon’s pirarucu, one of the largest freshwater fish, from commercial overfishing.PETE OXFORD/MINDEN PICTURES

One in five people is directly dependent on wild animals, plants and other organisms for their food or livelihood. but many of them are not using the resources sustainably, according to the first global assessment of these practices. Billions of people are tapping into 55,000 wild species, and some uses are intensifying as populations grow, according to a report released July 8 by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. The panel spent 4 years collecting input from researchers, policy makers and indigenous groups Status report on the sustainable use of wild species. The fixes include increased regulation of supply chains and curbing illicit trade in heavily consumed organisms such as fish or the use of wood for cooking; According to the report, one in three people worldwide rely on wood in this way. It also emphasizes the need for inclusive, just and tailored policies to ensure tribal peoples continue to survive and manage their resources.

POLITICAL SCIENCE

Teaching program promotes coordination

A US program that trains recent college graduates to teach in high-need schools also increases their chances of voting, according to a study. Political scientists Cecilia Mo from the University of California, Berkeley, and John Holbein from the University of Virginia examined the impact of Teach for America (TFA) on political engagement by applying a statistical tool to a group of trainees and a control group Applicants to form from rejected; The demographic characteristics of the two groups differ minimally. The TFA Graduates vote up to nine percentage points higherthe researchers report in this week’s issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, in the first such study by a US national service program. Participation in TFA was 14 times more effective in encouraging voting by eligible young people than voting campaigns or other direct appeals. It’s not clear why TFA improves the woefully low voting record of under-30s, but the authors say possible reasons include prolonged exposure to social inequalities.

BIOLOGY

Satellite, sailors spot bright ocean

Scientists have found that unusually high concentrations of bioluminescent bacteria occasionally cause large swaths of the ocean to glow. The phenomenon is rarely observed by humans or, when it is, scientifically confirmed. That changed after researchers combing through imagery from the Joint Polar Satellite System discovered a 100,000-square-kilometer “sea of ​​milk” off Java in 2019. The find attracted media coverage, which was seen by crew members who had sailed a 16-metre private yacht through the glowing water but were unaware that bioluminescence was the cause. “It gives the impression of sailing through snow,” they noted in the logbook. The sailors took too Videos and cell phone photosas Steven Miller, remote sensing expert at Colorado State University, reports this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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