DAILY DOSE: Gravitational waves detected again, vindicating Einstein (again); New Chief Scientist at WHO gets ready for AI and other tech.

Gravitational waves, first detected in 2015, have been found again, this time by tracking changes in the distances between Earth and nearby pulsar stars. The waves detected previously were from the collision of star-sized black holes. This new detection likely stems from larger black holes millions or billions of times the Sun’s mass, creating waves far stronger and longer. The detection isn’t confirmed yet, but if validated, it could herald two decades of intense study. Four groups—NANOGrav, European Pulsar Timing Array, Parkes Pulsar Timing Array, and Chinese Pulsar Timing Array—reported the findings. Their technique involved monitoring millisecond pulsars, neutron stars emitting radio waves, and observing changes in pulse intervals indicative of gravitational waves. The signal, potentially the first evidence of supermassive black hole binaries, may be detectable by the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna set to launch in the 2030s. (Nature)

The European Commission has contracted pharmaceutical companies, including Pfizer, to reserve capacity for producing up to 325 million vaccines annually for potential future health crises. This agreement, not related to existing COVID-19 vaccine contracts, covers mRNA, vector-based, and protein-based vaccines. The World Health Organisation has asked governments and manufacturers to reserve 20% of all tests, vaccines, or treatments for distribution in poorer countries to prevent failures observed during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Reuters)

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Jeremy Farrar, the former director of the UK-based Wellcome Trust, has taken up the role of Chief Scientist at the World Health Organization (WHO), succeeding Soumya Swaminathan. Farrar, only the second person to hold this post, aims to leverage scientific evidence to inform policy-making and believes in its critical role in decision-making in a political environment. He asserts that countries with access to scientific data are better equipped to make decisions, particularly in response to challenges like climate change, pandemics, antimicrobial resistance, and inequality. He also highlights the need for continued focus on COVID-19, preparations for potential future scenarios, and research into long-term effects of the disease. Farrar is keen to bring a forward-looking perspective to the WHO, stressing the importance of anticipating and preparing for future challenges such as the implications of data, AI, genomics, and climate change. (Science)

Scientists have observed the Milky Way galaxy in an entirely new way: not through light, but through subatomic particles called neutrinos. Detected in pristine Antarctic ice, these “ghost particles” were traced back to origins within our galaxy for the first time. Neutrinos, unaffected by even the strongest magnetic fields, interact with matter rarely and can pass through anything, including Earth. This breakthrough allows a more comprehensive exploration of the universe, opening another frontier in “multi-messenger astrophysics.” Contrary to cosmic rays, neutrinos’ paths can be traced back directly to their sources, a benefit of their neutrality. Machine learning helped distinguish between Milky Way neutrinos and those from other origins. The exact source of neutrinos in our galaxy is debated, though they are believed to be the remnants of past supernova explosions. (Reuters)

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

WORDS: The Biology Guy. (@thebiologyguy)


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