Hand Sanitizer Made by Prisoners

As the Corona Virus takes over the world, there is one way to battle it. It is by washing our hands regularly and using sanitizer to kill bacteria. This has, however, led to shortages of sanitizers all over the country and people have started to overstock items. As officials have ordered social isolation, people have begun to stock up on their supplies. However, some have gone so overboard that they have taken months worth of supplies including hand sanitizers. Because of this shortage the Governor of New York, Andrew M Cuomo, decided to use prison inmates to urgently produce more sanitizers.

His plan to use the prisoners was met with protest, however, because of the situation the world currently finds itself in, he has decided to proceed with his original idea. He unveiled the sanitizer made by Corcraft, a prison-based product company, last week, and it will be displayed in every store and supermarket across the country. He did warn online retailers, however, to not use the sanitizer for their own benefit or sell it overpriced because of the high demand.

He even believes that the product is better those currently on the market because of the high alcohol content, meaning it works more efficiently, and the better fragrances it comes with. He also emphasized that it was cheaper to make at just $6.10 per gallon.

Soon after his sales pitch he was criticized heavily by lawmakers and criminal justice reform groups. Some believed that prisoners should be given minimum wage like the rest if they are being relied upon in such a health crisis. In New York, inmates are often paid up to 60 cents an hour, which is way below minimum wage. This is why last year a bill was introduced to make the minimum wage for prisoners 3 dollars per hour.

Another thing that concerned people is that even though these prisoners might be making the sanitizer, they will not be able to use it because of the alcohol content within it which is forbidden in prison, as well as being threatened with solitary confinement if they refuse to work.

However, Corcraft, the prison-based company responsible for the manufacturing of the sanitizer, claims that job training and learning new skills are part of prison life and an essential skill for their development, helping them get back on their feet and giving them a way to earn.

Extending Lifespans

Aging is a subject that effects everyone and almost everyone in the modern world is busy finding effective and harmless ways to slow it down. Scientists have recently made an incredible step forward in their experiments by extending the life span of worms. According to a study published in July in the journal Cell Reports, a team of international researchers have made it possible for a worm, that lives typically for three or four weeks only, to live five times longer than his expected life-time. This is similar to a human being living 400 years. Scientists are confident that some additional research can turn this study into reality in near future.

How will this be done?

Molecules in a cell act as the pathway to carry various cellular functions. One molecule receives a signal to do something then transfers that signal to another molecule. The other molecule transfers the message to the next one and so on until the signal or message is acted upon. As the field of biology is very wide, researchers found a link between the insulin signalling pathway and the aging signalling pathway.

All the experimenting was done on a worm. When scientists changed the first pathway, the life span of the worm doubled, but by altering the second pathway the life span increased by about thirty percent. So, logically it was concluded that by changing both the pathways the average life span can be increased by about 130 percent.

However, the scientists argued that doing this should actually increase the life span by about 500 percent. To support this statement Jarod Rollins of the MDI Biological Laboratory said in a press release “…the synergistic extension is really wild, the effect is not one plus one equals two, it is one plus one equals five. Our findings demonstrate that nothing in nature exists in a vacuum; in order to develop the most effective anti-aging treatments we have to look at the longevity networks rather than individual pathways…”

These findings showed that aging is not simply the result of one specific gene or pathway acting on its own, but rather a union of networks all working together for the long term. This will certainly help explain why no single gene or pathway has been found that can provide longer life for worms, humans, or any other animal.

Although worms are not like humans, they do share many similar cellular pathways with us. So, scientists have now agreed that the process used to extend the lifespan of worms could also be applied to human beings.

Despite all efforts, the manner of interaction between pathways has not been found yet. The president of MDI Biological Laboratory Hermann Haller in a press release said “… by helping to characterize these interactions, our scientists are paving the way for much needed therapies to increase a healthy lifespan for a rapidly aging population…”

Humans Produce More CO2 Than Volcanoes

Every year, humanity releases 100 times more carbon dioxide into the Earth’s atmosphere than all the volcanoes on the planet together. This is one of the key findings of a study of carbon stocks in the world that the Deep Carbon Observatory has conducted over the past decade. According to Newsweek, scientists have estimated that there are 1.85 billion gigatons of carbon on Earth. It exists in various forms in soil, in gases and in liquids. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and oceans accounts for 1% of the total matter reserves, that is 43,500 gigatons.

“Carbon, the basis of all living forms and an important source of energy for humanity, is moving across the planet from the mantle to the atmosphere. To maintain a stable future, it is imperative that we understand the full carbon cycle”, said Marie Edmondson of the University of Cambridge, who participated in the DCO program.

One of the mechanisms how carbon enters the Earth’s atmosphere is provided by volcanoes. Magma contains dissolved gases, including carbon dioxide. When a volcano erupts, these substances enter the atmosphere.

The DCO team found that every year, due to the activities of people, 40-100 times more carbon dioxide rises into the air than all the volcanoes on the planet. According to scientists, volcanoes and other magmatic processes spew about 300-400 million tons of carbon dioxide. The publication recalls that mass extinctions are associated with the eruption of volcanoes on Earth, in particular the one that happened 252 million years ago. Then 96% of marine species on the planet died.

Atmospheric CO2 exceeded 415 parts per million for the first time in history. Specifically, it has reached 415.26 parts per million according to the records. Remember that the consensus among experts puts the “safe” limit at 350 ppm.

However, as usual when we talk about climate change, the problem is not the concentration, but the trend. To get an idea, when scientists started recording in 1959, the figures were at 315 ppm and most of the growth has occurred in recent years. According to the United States Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), three of the four largest increases in atmospheric CO2 have occurred in the last four years.

Although, in a way, we are getting used to this type of news, put in perspective the figures give vertigo. As Eric Holthaus explained, we humans have never known a world like this. We have to go back many years in time to find similar CO2 concentrations: about three million years according to the most precise models.

And as the World Meteorological Organization pointed out at the end of 2018, “there are no indications of investment in this trend, which is triggering long-term climate change, sea level rise, ocean acidification and a greater number of phenomena extreme weather”.

Therefore, it is much better understood how it is possible that the conclusions of the Intergovernmental Platform for Biodiversity (IPBES) stated that more than one million species were at risk of extinction due to pollution and climate change.

Human Brain Robots

We have all seen countless movies in which robots take over the world and wipe out humanity, where robots behave like humans and form a whole force to fight against the beings that created them. Most of us didn’t really believe that one day, robots that behave like humans, would actually become real. Until now. Scientists have been able to make tiny human brains and hook them up to robots! For many, it is still unbelievable, but scientists are actually moving closer and closer to creating life in a laboratory.

The steps that have been taken are just the beginning and there is a very long way to go until scientists are able to completely replicate a human brain and successfully implant it into a metal body.

Scientists have been able to come up with ways to make robots behave like humans. They were able to produce organoids which generate brain waves that could show signs of consciousness, and reproduce qualities of the human brain like being capable of sentience (capacity to feel, perceive, or experience subjectively) and of feeling pain, agony and distress.

It all started at the University of California, San Diego lab, of biologist Alysson Muotri, where the scientists used stem cells to grow organoids. These are tiny, self-organized three-dimensional tissue cultures. These organoids were then packed into a box and shipped to space to see how they develop in a zero gravity environment. As said by Muotri, they are most likely ‘replicating like crazy’ in space. It was then observed that the organoids produced were giving off brain waves or complex designs of neural activities. As the organoids matured, it was observed that they showed changes in the brain waves, similar to the changes that take place in the developing brain of a premature baby. This peculiar finding is forcing the scientists to revisit the limitations of lab-grown mini-organs and the ethical issues surrounding them.

To proceed with the experiment, Dr. Muotri hooked the mini brains up onto a spider-shaped robot in order to study the neural activity. The results that he got from this could possibly prove that scientists are now able to generate partially conscious life in a laboratory.

Dr. Muotri emphasized the fact that these are just clusters of replicating brain cells, not actual brains. Another point to state is that the mini brains barely scratch the surface of a human brain’s capabilities. The human brain is immensely complex, whereas the mini-brains are just a simple ball of neurons. But, of course, creating these simple balls of neurons, somewhat similar to the human brain, was also once believed to be an impossible task.

As the scientists agree, there is a long way to go to make human brain robots a success in the world of science and technology. But, this is also a huge landmark and many scientist across the globe are experimenting with and are hopeful that this research will not stop here.

Neom – Future city

Neom is a future city that is being planned by the Saudi government and especially the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammad Bin Salman. He plans to create a city that will be out of a movie using all sorts of technology and advancements. Some of the features of the city were listed in a 2,300-page document that has been created by the Saudi government while planning for this mysterious and futuristic city.

The city will have many attractions that the tourists will love and will definitely want to see. They will have an artificial moon that will light up the night sky, every night. They plan to have Jurassic park inspired robotic dinosaurs that people interact and mingle with. They also will have robot maids, glow in the dark beaches and even flying cars! This ambitious city looks like something that will attract the whole world and will encourage people to visit Saudi Arabia, which hasn’t really been a hub for tourism, except the holy pilgrimage.

However, the downfall of this futuristic city is that it will force the local tribes to relocate that have existed in Saudi Arabia for centuries. It is also planned that a human gene-editing clinic will be placed within the city and the city will be under surveillance of the government 24 hours of the day. It seems that the city is more of a dystopian future in books rather than a futuristic, fun tourist spot.

The location that has been planned for this city is the North-west of Saudi Arabia, which at the moment is barren except for a few tribes that live there. The city is said to cost around 500 billion dollars and will need a lot of investment from very rich people and the crown prince himself, who will also be overseeing the construction of the city.

Right now the place where Neom is said to be created is barren and is a large desert, like most of Saudi Arabia. However, the crown prince plans on using the method of cloud seeding, which means that they engineer the clouds to produce rain and this will not only improve the climate of the city but also enable fresh produce to grow on a barren land.

According to the document, Neom plans to have more Michelin star restaurants in one city than anywhere around the world. The city also plans on having the best education provided to children who inhabit the city with holographic teachers. The crown prince wants to give people the best-paying jobs and wants to create a healthy economy where both parties are satisfied.

The chief executive of the city says that they plan on using the latest and most advanced technology; hence this is the reason why some of it is still theoretical and may take time to develop.

Facebook’s Mind Reading Headset

Have you ever imagined a world where you would just think things and they would happen? For example, you thought to send a happy birthday message to your grandmother and your phone does it automatically? Well, this concept seems to be coming closer to becoming reality very soon. In 2017, Facebook decided to create a device which would use your thoughts to type. So whatever you were thinking at that moment would be typed out by Facebook’s new brain-computer. Now Facebook has started to show how far they have come with this invention and how soon consumers can have it in their hands. It is something that will revolutionize technology as it will let the disabled speak and make our daily lives much easier.

Facebook says that they are in collaboration with scientists and researchers at the University of California to work on this new invention. They stated that they want to connect the world without any limitations whether they are geographical, physical or mental. They want to make the world instantly accessible and completely hands-free. So with collaboration from researchers, Facebook is trying to build a device that will let patients with neurological diseases have a voice again by examining their brain’s activity in real-time.

An experiment was conducted by the researchers where a neurological patient who had been surgically implanted with electrodes on the surface of his brain was asked to answer questions aloud. Around 61% of the time, the computer was able to comprehend and present the correct answer through brain signals alone. Researchers now believe that this could have a real impact on society as it would enable those who cannot speak to now have a voice and share their opinion with the world too.

However, there is much more work to be done. Right now the project is just at the beginning stage where it is starting to take form. What the researchers aim to achieve will take many years of trials and practice. The researchers want to decode around 100 words per minute with a vocabulary of 1000 words, and they want less than a 17% chance of error. This is a huge goal for the researchers and if this is achieved, it could transform the technological world.

However there are a few downfalls too, the procedure is surgically invasive, which in itself is a huge risk. This is a different model compared to the one aimed for normal consumers which will be manual headsets. Also in the initial trials, there was very limited vocabulary that was tested which means very limited answers could be provided. It leaves a great deal of scope for improvement. This device will take many years to be completed and to reach the consumers and patients, and will need much more money and effort to become a reality.