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The CDC Has Requested a $400-Million Lab to House Deadly Microbes

Posted: 25 Feb 2018 09:09 AM PST

Containing Microbes

If smallpox, Ebola, especially threatening strains of the flu, or other deadly microbes were to spread to large populations, there would be obvious and severe consequences. Containing such pathogens, especially those like smallpox which we’ve managed to eradicate, is vital. It allows us to study the germs, develop preventative measures and treatments, and above all ensure that they are not released.

But, just 13 years after the CDC built a cutting-edge laboratory to house these organisms, the facility has worn down so much that proposed repairs and updates would take years. This is why the CDC is requesting more than $400 million to build a new facility.

Image Credit: Flickr
Image Credit: Raed Mansour / Flickr

There are only eight total facilities in the U.S. that are equipped to work with such high-threat organisms, James Le Duc, director of the University of Texas's Galveston National Laboratory, told Time. It takes extremely specialized planning to ensure safety while both containing and working with these specimens.

However, while it seems natural to replace and repair aging facilities, this CDC building is fairly new and many are shocked that they are already looking to rebuild.

Faltering Facilities

The CDC’s existing lab, which cost $214 million initially — significantly less than the proposed new facility — was anticipated to last up to 50 years. But many of the original parts used to build the facility’s complex systems are no longer being produced, making containing the deadly microbes a near impossibility. Because of this, those who work with the lab’s dangerous germ inhabitants assert that building a new facility is the best solution.

In the Footsteps of Zika: The Next Critter-Borne Viruses [INFOGRAPHIC]
Click to View Full Infographic

This new facility — which would cost about $350 million plus $50 million for related work — is proposed to take less time than repairing the existing facility and improve security surrounding the germs. The CDC's former director, Tom Frieden, said to Time, "The longer it takes, the more likely there will be a failure. And if there's a failure, we lose an essential line of defense.”

The CDC will likely experience some pushback since the relatively new facility should not be as degraded as it reportedly is and neither repairs nor new infrastructure was expected at this point. However, Frieden is correct in saying that time is an essential element in maintaining safety with these pathogens. A new, $400 million facility seems ludicrous, but the thought of smallpox clawing its way back into the population is beyond frightening.

The post The CDC Has Requested a $400-Million Lab to House Deadly Microbes appeared first on Futurism.

Canada to Devote $1 Billion of Federal Budget to Fighting Cybercrime

Posted: 25 Feb 2018 08:30 AM PST

Next-Generation Cyber-Professionals

The Canadian government will release details of its federal budget this coming week, and local news outlets are reporting it will include a $1 billion cybersecurity fund. According to CBC News, federal government agencies requested for the funding to bolster Canada’s cybersecurity infrastructure, as multiple departments are facing growing cybercrime issues.

A bulk of the funding will be a much-needed supplement to Canada’s 2010 National Cyber Security Strategy — although the revised plan would not be included in the budget. The revised plan is expected to come out later this year from Public Safety Canada.

The proposed budget would finance a number of efforts to combat cybercrime in the country, which could include training the next-generation of so-called cyber-professionals and encouraging them to apply their craft in Canada. The money would also likely be used to strengthen military’s cybersecurity capabilities by outsourcing the expertise needed from local private companies. The idea is to keep the pool of cyber-security warriors trained in and working for Canada.

A Timely Decision

Many experts also see the budget translating to funding cyber “co-development” projects between the government and the private sector. Cybersecurity in Canada would be provided for by Canadian information and technology companies, which in turn would work with the federal government to develop both hardware and software solutions. Experts in the field have also noted that they’re looking forward to the revised plan outlining a national data strategy that would cover both private citizens and corporations.

At the same time, several anonymous sources told CBC News the federal government may also intend to secure separate funding to help protect the 2019 national elections from foreign interference. Such action would not be unexpected in light of what happened during the United States’ 2016 Presidential Elections.

Canada’s decision to bolster cybersecurity is timely: cyber crimes have become prolific over the past two to three years. That said, without a concrete plan in place, attempting to put a stop to every cyber attack are a waste of money and other resources. Setting aside a budget is just the first step. As United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a February 19 speech at the University of Lisbon, nations should start having clear rules — international rules, even — to protect citizens from cyber crimes.

The post Canada to Devote $1 Billion of Federal Budget to Fighting Cybercrime appeared first on Futurism.

New Study Challenges Previous Conclusions About Water on the Moon

Posted: 25 Feb 2018 08:02 AM PST

Recently, scientists discovered that there is an enormous quantity of water on the Moon, hiding beneath the surface. Since these initial findings, researchers with the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado have found evidence that this water is widely distributed all across the Moon and is present during both the lunar day and the lunar night.

However, they also noted that the water seems to exist mostly as OH (a reactive hydroxyl molecule, instead of H2O) and may not be easily accessed. These findings are published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

We're slowly understanding the water found on the Moon. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
We’re slowly understanding the water found on the Moon. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

These discoveries could give researchers a better understanding of the origins of this Moon water and how it came to be distributed as it is. Not only that, but the information also could be a great asset for future missions to our lunar satellite.

Additionally, as more and more agencies and companies explore the possibility of traveling back to the Moon and setting up a lunar base, this water could potentially be used as drinking water or even to be turned into rocket fuel by splitting apart hydrogen and oxygen.

These findings are in direct opposition to our earlier understanding of water on the Moon. Previously, researchers thought that the water formed primarily around the poles. Additionally, the water signal they were observing seemingly changed with the Moon’s day and night, leading them to initially conclude that the water was moving.

The Race for a Moon Base: Who Will Build the First Lunar Colony?
Click to View Full Infographic

However, there is still some debate about the location and behavior of the water because of the subtleties of the signals from the remote, infrared-sensing instruments used to support this study’s claims.

Beyond this discovery’s potential to expand human knowledge and our ability to live on and use the Moon as a resource, it could also allow scientists to better understand how water may exist on other rocky cosmic bodies. As we search for exoplanets, it can be difficult to concretely observe the conditions of their surfaces. Perhaps remote sensing instruments and new analysis techniques like those used for this study can improve such observations from afar.

The post New Study Challenges Previous Conclusions About Water on the Moon appeared first on Futurism.

To Measure the Universe’s Expansion, We Might Need New Physics

Posted: 24 Feb 2018 12:07 PM PST

A Constant Discrepancy

As far as astronomers can tell, the universe is continuing to expand — and our understanding of how it is doing this needs to expand as well. In fact, recent findings from researchers partnering with NASA suggest that we may need to discover new physics to explain discrepancies between measurements of universal expansion.

The rate by which the universe expands, called the Hubble Constant, consistently indicates that the size of the universe is growing — but no one can be sure exactly how quickly. The currently accepted rate is a little over 70 km/s/Mpc (roughly 44 miles/s/Mpc). A number of recent studies suggest, however, that the rate of expansion is actually faster, while others suggest that it could be slower.

Image credit: NASA
Image credit: NASA

“The community is really grappling with understanding the meaning of this discrepancy,” Nobel Laureate Adam Riess of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) and Johns Hopkins University, told NASA. Riess was one of the researchers who studied Cepheid stars and Type Ia supernovae to measure the universe’s expansion, and they found it to be faster than what we thought.

Precision is Key

Riess and colleagues, including Stefano Casertano who is also from SRScI and Johns Hopkins, have been giving these stars another look using NASA’s Hubble to gather data on Cepheids that are some 6,000 to 12,000 light-years away. What they did was measure the how the positions of these stars changed with the Earth’s every rotation around the Sun.

“You’re measuring the separation between two stars, not just in one place on the camera, but over and over thousands of times, reducing the errors in measurement,” Reiss said said in the NASA press release.

The Evolution of Human Understanding of the Universe [INFOGRAPHIC]
Click to View Full Infographic

Their latest findings, which have been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal, suggest a different measurement for the Hubble Constant that’s supposedly more precise because of the instruments they have been using. They’re not stopping there, though.

The team plans to improve their measurements using data from Hubble and the European Space Agency’s Gaia space observatory. “This precision is what it will take to diagnose the cause of this discrepancy,” Casertano said in the NASA press release.

Reiss and his team, however, are still uncertain why there have been discrepancies in the first place, which could potentially show that there is something going on in the universe that could even require new physics in order for us to understand.

The post To Measure the Universe’s Expansion, We Might Need New Physics appeared first on Futurism.

Using “Nanodrops” to Repair Corneas Could Ultimately Replace Glasses

Posted: 24 Feb 2018 10:17 AM PST

New eye drops developed by researchers from the Shaare Zedek Medical Center and Bar-Ilan University in Israel can improve both nearsightedness and farsightedness, the inventors claim. However, so far the “nanodrops” have only been successfully tested on pigs’ corneas.

The eye drops are “a new concept for correcting refractory problems,” said David Smadja, one of the ophthalmologists who worked on the eye drops, at Shaare Zedek's research day on Feb. 21, as reported by The Jerusalem Post. The patented drops use nanotechnology to improve vision.

According to the National Eye Institute, both children and adults can develop either nearsightedness or farsightedness. Around five to 10 percent of Americans suffer from farsightedness, and it becomes more likely to develop if both parents are also farsighted. Nearsightedness, however, currently affects around 42 percent of Americans between the ages of 12 and 54, with those living in urban environments more than twice as likely to develop the condition.

Smadja explained during the research day that the nanodrops could potentially be used for more than just correcting someone’s corneas. Replacing multifocal lenses is also feasible, which would enable people to focus on objects from various distances.

Patients would have to launch an app on their phones to measure their eyes’ refraction and create a laser pattern. This pattern would then be “stamped” onto the corneal surface of the eyes.

While a promising development, Smadja didn’t say how often the eye drops need to be applied in order to fix a person’s corneas or ultimately replace glasses. Furthermore, what additional work needs to be done before moving on to human trials was not discussed. One factor that may need to be determined is whether the eye drop solution is toxic to humans, and another is how much of the solution is needed per application in order to make an impact.

Sight is one of the most important senses we have, and scientists continue to research ways to maintain and improve it. Alongside Smadja’s nanodrops, work has been done to determine if stem cells can effectively treat macular degeneration, and the Ocumetics Technology Corporation is working on a bionic eye that could prevent cataracts and push eyesight beyond 20/20 vision. As we continue to discover new ways to upgrade our senses and abilities, we advance closer and closer to a world of enhanced humans.

The post Using “Nanodrops” to Repair Corneas Could Ultimately Replace Glasses appeared first on Futurism.