DAILY DOSE: Covid-19’s devastation is unprecedented; White House adds support to quantum computing in the U.S.


If people are honest, they will acknowledge the devastation the Covid-19 pandemic has inflicted on the world. Somehow, a recent estimate of mortalities associated with the global outbreak has  managed to out-do even the worst imagined scenarios. Per the Associated Press, “The World Health Organization is estimating that nearly 15 million people were killed either by the coronavirus or by its impact on overwhelmed health systems in the past two years, more than double the official death toll of 6 million. Most of the fatalities were in Southeast Asia, Europe and the Americas. In a report released on Thursday, the U.N. agency’s chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus described the figure as ‘sobering,’ saying it should prompt countries to invest more in their capacities to quell future health emergencies.” https://bit.ly/3yh7qXE


The Biden Administration has acknowledged the importance of taking the lead in the race to develop quantum computers. Per Reuters, “The White House on Wednesday will announce a slate of measures to support quantum technology in the United States while laying out steps to boost cybersecurity to defend against the next generation of supercomputers. The U.S. and other nations are in a race to develop quantum technology, which could fuel advances in artificial intelligence, materials science and chemistry. Quantum computers, a main focus of the effort, can operate millions of times faster than today’s advanced supercomputers.” Unlike a classic computer, which performs calculations one at a time, a quantum computer can perform many calculations at the same time. https://reut.rs/3FiZoyI


Artificial intelligence is slowly being incorporated into every aspect of daily life. In the sciences, it has been used to analyze x-rays and narrow down drug candidates. Now, evolutionary scientists are beginning to test the waters and see how AI can open new lines of inquiry. Per the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, “It’s one of a variety of new machine learning methods that are finding applications in the field, shedding light on longstanding questions about the forces that shape genomes, such as selection and genetic drift. These approaches have already demonstrated the potential to deal with the messiness of real data in ways that formal population genetic theory cannot. In the early 2000s, researchers who were ‘thinking a little bit ahead,’ says evolutionary geneticist Andrew Kern at the University of Oregon in Eugene, ‘saw that there was going to be this collision happening, where we have this giant corpus of mathematical theory, and all of a sudden reality was going to intrude on our models in the form of all the genomic data that we’re about to collect.’ What the field needed, he adds, were “more ways to bridge that gap between theory and biology.’ Evolutionary biologists are starting to do exactly that.” https://bit.ly/3OZQlr6


Plants are deceptively complex. They can also be deceptively resilient. An article in Futurity highlights one extreme plant that can survive in the harshest of environments. Not only that, it actually thrives in extreme conditions. According to the article, “When faced with conditions that are too dry, salty, or cold, most plants try to conserve resources. They send out fewer leaves and roots and close up their pores to hold in water. If circumstances don’t improve, they eventually die. But some plants, known as extremophytes, have evolved to handle harsh environments. Schrenkiella parvula, a scraggly, branching member of the mustard family, doesn’t just survive in conditions that would kill most plants—it thrives in them.  It grows along the shores of Lake Tuz in Turkey, where salt concentrations in the water can be six times higher than in the ocean. As reported in Nature Plants, researchers found that Schrenkiella parvula actually grows faster under these stressful conditions.” It’s easy to see how research into extremophytes can possible lead to agriculture on planets such as Mars that are less hospitable than Earth. https://bit.ly/3vMhq9B

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

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