The Daily Dose: COVID-19 on the rise in Spain; Science to the rescue of the divine

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COVID-19 hotspots continue to sprout up across Europe. Italy and France have already been established. Now, it appears the Iberian peninsula is emerging as yet another. As per the Associated Press, “With new infections rising sharply in Spain, the government put 60,000 people in four towns on a mandatory lockdown Friday — the nation’s first and Europe’s second after drastic nationwide measures in Italy. In Madrid, which is struggling with nearly 2,000 infections, many in nursing homes, the government is pooling intensive care units and considering offers by hotel chains to transform rooms into sick wards.” Meanwhile, glimmers of hope grows in Asia as numerous countries appear to have effectively mitigated or contained the outbreaks there. Again, from the AP, “In China, where new infections have tailed off, authorities mobilized to prevent a boomerang effect, quarantining new arrivals for 14 days.”

Coronavirus be damned. According to published reports, China’s much anticipated mission to Mars, due to be launched later this year, will proceed as planned. In order to ensure that it is not delayed, the Chinese Space Agency employed distancing tactics implemented. As per Nature, “Several days ago, the team had to move six scientific payloads for the orbiter from Beijing to Shanghai, where they will be assembled. Instead of risking the team members getting infected on a plane or high-speed train, 3 people drove the 6 payloads in a car — a journey that took more than 12 hours. To limit physical contact between employees, the NSSC has introduced a flexible work policy that allows researchers and engineers to come into the office only in the mornings or the afternoons. Basic scientists can work from home.”

On the other hand, the European Mars Mission has hit a snag. As per Science, “Multiple technical issues will delay the launch of the ExoMars mission for 2 years until 2022, the European Space Agency (ESA) and its Russian counterpart, Roscosmos, announced today. ExoMars includes a Russian-built landing station and an ESA rover that would drill 2 meters below Mars’s surface to look for signs of past or present life.” At least it isn’t a SARS-CoV-2 related setback, just the old fashioned technological bump in the road.

In April 2019, fire ripped through Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. The images were dramatic and disheartening. The uncertainty of what would be spared seemed boundless. Once the fire was put out, the focus turned to saving what was inside and whether the structure could be saved. Conservation scientists have been at work ever since. As per Science, “At LRMH, the laboratory tasked with conserving all the nation’s monuments, Magnien and her 22 colleagues apply techniques from geology to metallurgy as they evaluate the condition of Notre Dame’s stone, mortar, glass, paint, and metal. They aim to prevent further damage to the cathedral and to guide engineers in the national effort to restore it.” The French President has vowed to reopen Notre Dame by 2024. Nearly €1 billion has been pledged to the restoration effort.

One of the most common theories regarding the appearance of organic compounds that made the Earth’s so-called primordial soup the source of life is that they were delivered to the planet from outer space. A paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, has tackled the question of whether primitive polysaccharides arrived on earth via meteorites. “Here we provide evidence of extraterrestrial ribose and other bioessential sugars in primitive meteorites. Meteorites were carriers of prebiotic organic molecules to the early Earth; thus, the detection of extraterrestrial sugars in meteorites implies the possibility that extraterrestrial sugars may have contributed to forming functional biopolymers like RNA.”

If you thought I was going to say the molecules were delivered by alien visitors, sorry to disappoint… But Happy Friday!

IMAGE SOURCE: Creative Commons

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