photo of medical professionals wearing personal protective equipment

DAILY DOSE: Zero-Covid-Zero-Chance?; U.S. nears grim Covid-19 milestone.


In one of the clearest signs that Beijing’s Zero-Covid strategy is facing more challenges that anticipated, citizens in different cities across the country are apprehensive about their hometowns being next in line for a shutdown. Unfortunately, infections are increasing rather than decreasing. Per the Associated Press, “Anti-virus controls that have shut down some of China’s biggest cities and fueled public irritation are spreading as infections rise, hurting a weak economy and prompting warnings of possible global shockwaves. Shanghai is easing rules that confined most of its 25 million people to their homes after complaints they had trouble getting food. But most of its businesses still are closed. Access to Guangzhou, an industrial center of 19 million people near Hong Kong, was suspended this week. Other cities are cutting off access or closing factories and schools… The closures are an embarrassment to the ruling Communist Party and a setback for official efforts to shore up slumping growth in the world’s second-largest economy.” It will be interesting how much economic pain needs to be experienced before changes to the strategy are made.


Sustainable energy has a lot of problems that keep it from being adopted widely. Quite simply, it’s not ready for primetime. But a recent advance in energy storage has possibly cleared the way for one big hurdle to be solved. According to an article in the journal Science, “A team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory achieved a nearly 30% jump in the efficiency of a thermophotovoltaic (TPV), a semiconductor structure that converts photons emitted from a heat source to electricity, just as a solar cell transforms sunlight into power. ‘This is very exciting stuff,’ says Andrej Lenert, a materials engineer at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. ‘This is the first time [TPVs have] gotten into really promising efficiency ranges, which is ultimately what matters for a lot of applications.’ Together with related advances, he and others say, the new work gives a major boost to efforts to roll out thermal batteries on a large scale, as cheap backup for renewable power systems.”


The death toll in the United States serves as a reminder that the country’s handling of Covid-19 was as disastrous as it proved deadly. The country is creeping toward a grim milestone. One million dead. With such a massive number of deaths, victims run the risk of being forgotten in a huge data point. An article in the Associated Press, tries to paint faces and personalities to the people who succumbed to the virus. “Soon, likely in the next few weeks, the U.S. toll from the coronavirus will surpass that once unthinkable milestone. Yet after a two-year drumbeat of deaths, even 1 million can feel abstract. ‘We’re dealing with numbers that humans are just not able to comprehend,’ says Sara Cordes, a professor of psychology at Boston College who studies the way people perceive quantity. ‘I can’t comprehend the lives of 1 million at one time and I think this is sort of self-preservation, to only think about the few that you have heard about.’ It goes far beyond faces and names.”


If you ever wondered how changes in climate affected the migration of homo sapiens out of Africa, look no further. A massive simulation run by researchers at Pusan National University in South Korea offers clues to what might have happened. Per Nature, “A colossal simulation of the past two million years of Earth’s climate provides evidence that temperature and other planetary conditions influenced early human migration — and possibly contributed to the emergence of the modern-day human species around 300,000 years ago. The finding is one of many to come out of the largest model so far to investigate how changes in Earth’s movement have influenced climate and human evolution, published in Nature today.” While the results of the simulation are interesting, they are not altogether surprising.


The Ukraine war is truly a 21st century war. The control of information has been a major part of Ukraine’s strategy against Russia. The government has shown an uncanny control of using social media. On top of that, recent reports suggest that they are doxing Russian soldiers. Per Wired, “Names, birthdays, passport numbers, job titles—the personal information goes on for pages and looks like any typical data breach. But this data set is very different. It allegedly contains the personal information of 1,600 Russian troops who served in Bucha, a Ukrainian city devastated during Russia’s war and the scene of multiple potential war crimes. The data set is not the only one. Another allegedly contains the names and contact details of 620 Russian spies who are registered to work at the Moscow office of the FSB, the country’s main security agency. Neither set of information was published by hackers. Instead they were put online by Ukraine’s intelligence services, with all the names and details freely available to anyone online. “Every European should know their names,” Ukrainian officials wrote in a Facebook post as they published the data.” It’s worth noting that not everybody is on board with the tactic. Instead, they warn that it is ripe for abuse. It’s also unclear how the tactic stands legally.


There’s no denying the ambition and competence of China’s space program. With the moon under their belt, they have shifted their focus. According to Nature, “After sending robots to the Moon, landing them on Mars and building its own space station, China is now eyeing distant solar systems. This month, scientists will release detailed plans for the country’s first mission to discover exoplanets. The mission will aim to survey planets outside the Solar System in other parts of the Milky Way, with the goal of finding the first Earth-like planet orbiting in the habitable zone of a star just like the Sun. Astronomers think such a planet, called an Earth 2.0, would have the right conditions for liquid water — and possibly life — to exist.”

Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.

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