Collaborating Authors


2020 in Review With Brian Tse


In 2020, Synced has covered a lot of memorable moments in the AI community. Such as the current situation of women in AI, the born of GPT-3, AI fight against covid-19, hot debates around AI bias, MT-DNN surpasses human baselines on GLUE, AlphaFold Cracked a 50-Year-Old Biology Challenge and so on. To close the chapter of 2020 and look forward to 2021, we are introducing a year-end special issue following Synced's tradition to look back at current AI achievements and explore the possible trend of future AI with leading AI experts. Here, we invite Mr. Brian Tse to share his insights about the current development and future trends of artificial intelligence. Brian Tse focuses on researching and improving cooperation over AI safety, governance, and stability between great powers. He is a Policy Affiliate at the University of Oxford's Center for the Governance of AI, Coordinator at the Beijing AI Academy's AI4SDGs Cooperation Network, and Senior Advisor at the Partnership on AI.

News at a glance


SCI COMMUN SCIENTISTS' TERM LIMITS The Trump administration moved to impose 5-year term limits on top scientists at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The rule, released on 15 January, requires that directors of seven centers at the Food and Drug Administration, as well as 17 positions at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, undergo a performance review that could lead to a new 5-year appointment, or to the staffer's transfer. A 2016 law mandates such 5-year reviews for institute and center directors at the National Institutes of Health. But some current and former officials worry the term limits will subject such positions to political interference from the White House, and they could face legal challenges, Politico reported. GLOBAL WARMING A surprise Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule finalized last week would effectively ban the government from regulating greenhouse gas emissions from heavy industries other than power plants. The agency substantially rewrote a draft rule originally focused on regulating carbon emissions from new power plants, expanding it to exempt other “stationary” sources, such as refineries and oil and gas wells. The exemption covers an entire class of sources if its collective emissions are less than 3% of the U.S. total. Only power plants, which produce 27% of U.S. carbon emissions, exceed that bar. Analysts say the rule is vulnerable to a court challenge, and the Biden administration can likely suspend its implementation. SPOTTED OWLS The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service slashed protections for the endangered northern spotted owl on 13 January, declaring more than 1.4 million hectares of Pacific Northwest forests would no longer be considered critical habitat for the bird. The decision comes despite findings by agency scientists that the owl's population is declining and that it warrants stricter protection. The habitat reduction is part of a move by the outgoing Trump administration to settle a lawsuit by the timber industry and counties that earn revenue from logging. The land area is 17 times the amount that the agency initially proposed to remove from protections in August 2020. TRANSGENIC ANIMALS A push by the White House would essentially eliminate the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA's) authority to regulate genetically modified animals and put the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in charge. The two agencies had been negotiating on dividing the task, and critics of the White House move say it would put USDA in the problematic position of both promoting and regulating genetically modified animals. FDA opposes the shift, Politico reported. ARCTIC OIL DRILLING The first-ever auction of oil drilling rights inside the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, a policy priority for the Trump administration, met with a tepid response this month. Just three bidders paid $14.4 million to claim 11 parcels covering 220,000 hectares—about half of the land up for auction. In an unusual move, a state agency, the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, won bids for nine of the parcels. It joined the auction in part because the agency fears the Biden administration will slow or block further leasing, reducing the state's potential economic gains. The leases must still be finalized by the Bureau of Land Management. Wildlife scientists have warned that the drilling could harm caribou herds and other parts of the ecosystem. FETAL TISSUE RESEARCH Scientists who use fetal tissue obtained from elective abortions would need to comply with new rules under a proposal released by the Trump administration on 13 January. Among other changes, the policy would add new requirements to forms used to obtain informed consent from women who donate tissue for research. It would also limit the source of fetal tissue, which often comes from nonprofit clinics, to federally or state funded hospitals or academic medical centers. In 2019, Trump's administration banned fetal tissue research by federal researchers and required a new ethics review for studies by scientists receiving federal grants; research groups have urged the Biden administration to reverse that policy. The new proposal, which is open for comment for 30 days, is not expected to move forward. CENSUS FIGHT The Trump administration last week abandoned a 2-year effort to prod the Census Bureau to provide a separate tally of undocumented U.S. residents as part of the 2020 census. In 2019, the president had ordered that the separate tally, and a rushed compilation of the decennial head count used for apportioning the 435 seats of the U.S. House of Representatives, be delivered before he left office. Most demographers said it could not be done and called the directive political interference. On 11 January, U.S. government lawyers told a federal judge that the apportionment numbers would not be ready until 6 March. Civil rights organizations want Census Director Steven Dillingham to resign before his term ends in December, saying he has failed to uphold the agency's high standards for data quality. ### Leadership President Joe Biden on 15 January named Eric Lander to be his science adviser and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. A mathematician turned molecular biologist, the 63-year-old Lander will take leave from his post as president and founding director of the Broad Institute, jointly run by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The first biologist to hold the job, Lander spent 8 years as co-chair of the nation's top science advisory panel under former President Barack Obama. He also co-led the public Human Genome Project, which completed its first draft in 2001. Biden has picked chemistry Nobel laureate Frances Arnold and MIT's Maria Zuber to lead his science advisory panel. He named David Kessler, a former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, to direct Operation Warp Speed, the federal effort to speed development of COVID-19 vaccines. And Biden said Francis Collins has agreed to remain as director of the National Institutes of Health. ### Conservation To study one of Europe's rarest butterflies, researchers pioneered a new method of observation: rappelling down vertiginous mountainsides along the border of Italy and Switzerland. Scientists first described the orange-and-brown Raetzer's ringlet ( Erebia christi ) more than 100 years ago, but its dangerous, inaccessible habitat complicated population surveys. Drawing on decades of climbing experience, independent biologists Andrea Battisti and Matteo Gabaglio slid down ropes to count butterflies in several areas during the past 6 years. It was “like being an explorer … going where nobody has ever [gone],” Gabaglio says. Researchers sighted the ringlet 177 times at two key sites in Italy, they reported this month in the Journal of Insect Conservation . That's good news, they add: The ringlet appears to be more abundant that previous studies suggested. But because of climate change and other threats, they recommend reclassifying the species as endangered rather than vulnerable. ### Policy President Joe Biden announced a sweeping, $400 billion plan last week to tackle the “dismal failure” of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, safely reopen schools by March, and ramp up testing people for the pandemic coronavirus. The measures are part of an ambitious, $1.9 billion “American Rescue Plan” unveiled by Biden ahead of his inauguration to help people who are struggling financially because of the pandemic—a proposal that depends on Congress providing the money. The federal government would pay for 100,000 new public health workers to assist states in vaccination and other pandemic response efforts. Biden promised to invoke the Defense Production Act to provide vaccinemakers with whatever they need to increase production. Biden's administration would also work more closely with pharmacies to move vaccines from freezers into arms. “The more people we vaccinate and the faster we do it, the sooner we can put this pandemic behind us,” Biden said. ### Infectious diseases All eight gorillas at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park were exposed to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, and at least two have begun to cough, zoo officials said last week. Tests of fecal samples showed that two were infected, marking the first known cases in nonhuman apes. The officials suspect the western lowland gorillas caught the virus from an asymptomatic staff member who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2; the zoo has been closed to the public for weeks because of the pandemic. The news confirmed fears that the virus can infect endangered great apes. Human respiratory viruses are already a leading cause of death for chimpanzees in the wild. ### COVID-19 High virus levels in saliva are correlated with later hospitalization, serious illness, or death from COVID-19, raising the prospect that testing saliva for the coronavirus that causes the disease will help identify patients most at risk, a study has found. The standard test to detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus analyzes samples of nasal mucus taken with nasopharyngeal (NP) swabs. But patients with the worst outcomes were more likely to have high virus loads in their saliva, but not in their NP swabs, report Akiko Iwasaki of Yale University and colleagues in a 10 January preprint. That may reflect that nasal mucus comes from the upper respiratory tract, whereas severe disease is associated with damage deep in the lungs; coughing regularly brings up viral particles to the throat, where they can pervade saliva. If the results are confirmed, saliva tests could help doctors prioritize which patients in the early stages of the disease should receive medicines that drive down levels of the virus. ### Planetary science The Red Planet has claimed another robot. Scientists at NASA and the German Aerospace Center last week called off a 2-year effort to rescue the failed rod-shaped heat probe, or “mole,” of the InSight lander. The mole was designed to burrow 5 meters into the martian soil and tease out how quickly heat escapes from Mars—a clue to how the planet formed. But soil compacted instead of crumbling as the rod tried to dig in, leaving it stuck at the surface. Even after engineers used InSight's robotic arm to push the probe down and scraped dirt on top, the probe failed a final attempt this month to dig on its own, leaving the mole buried in a shallow grave. InSight's other primary instrument, a seismometer, continues to function normally. ### Foreign influences The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has added another prominent scientist to its crackdown on U.S.-based academics with allegedly undisclosed ties to China. On 14 January, police arrested nanotechnologist Gang Chen of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) at his Cambridge home, charging him with violating federal wire fraud, banking, and tax laws. DOJ alleges Chen held various appointments with Chinese institutions and provided technical advice, “often in exchange for financial compensation and awards.” He allegedly failed to disclose these affiliations as required when applying for U.S. Department of Energy grants, and did not tell tax authorities about a bank account in China. MIT said, “We take seriously concerns about improper influence in U.S. research.” Chen was born in China and is a naturalized U.S. citizen. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and fellow of AAAS (which publishes Science ). ### History of science Fans of Mary Anning are hoping to raise £33,000 by next month to fund a statue honoring the paleontological pioneer, who discovered and interpreted key fossils along England's Jurassic Coast. Anning, who lived in Lyme Regis in the early 1800s, was the first to correctly identify an ichthyosaur, and discovered England's first pterosaur. Her discoveries were profoundly influential, but as a self-taught, working-class woman she was excluded from meetings of the Geological Society of London. Its members discussed and built on her discoveries, but often failed to acknowledge her. The £100,000 statue project was inspired by 13-year-old local Evie Swire. Organizers hope the cause will be helped by the film Ammonite , starring Kate Winslet as Anning, which opened in U.S. theaters in November 2020. ### Publishing AAAS, which publishes the Science family of journals, said last week it will offer its authors a free way to comply with funder requirements that their papers be open access on publication. Under a new policy, authors may deposit near-final, peer-reviewed versions of papers accepted by paywalled Science titles in public repositories where they are free to read. This “green open-access” route will apply for now only to authors of papers funded by Coalition S, a group of mostly European funders and foundations behind a mandate for immediate open access that takes effect this month. AAAS said it will pilot the new policy for 1 year.

O2 expands its 5G coverage in the UK to more than 150 locations

Daily Mail - Science & tech

O2 has rolled out its 5G network in 53 new towns and cities across the UK, pulling ahead of its rival EE to become the nation's biggest provider of ultra-fast mobile internet. The new locations include Birmingham, Durham and Portsmouth, bringing O2's total number of locations with 5G to 150. The network also allows for larger amounts of data to be transferred at once, which could one day help power technologies such as fully autonomous cars. O2 has rolled out its 5G network in 53 new towns and cities across the UK, taking it ahead of its rival EE to become the nation's biggest provider of the ultra-fast internet The network also allow for larger amounts of data to be transferred at once, which could one day help power technologies such as fully autonomous cars. For most consumers, 5G will allow you to carry out tasks on your smartphone more quickly and efficiently.

Computer vision app allows easier monitoring of glucose levels


A computer vision technology developed by University of Cambridge engineers has now been integrated into a free mobile phone app for regular monitoring of glucose levels in people with diabetes. The app uses computer vision techniques to read and record the glucose levels, time and date displayed on a typical glucose test via the camera on a mobile phone. The technology, which doesn't require an internet or Bluetooth connection, works for any type of glucose meter, in any orientation and in a variety of light levels. It also reduces waste by eliminating the need to replace high-quality non-Bluetooth meters, making it a cost-effective solution. Working with UK glucose testing company GlucoRx, the Cambridge researchers have developed the technology into a free mobile phone app, called GlucoRx Vision.

Pilot 'draws' Pac-Man, Ghost with flight route over coast of England

FOX News

U.S. Department of Defense and United Airlines conduct study and find the risk of exposure to coronavirus on commercial airlines is'virtually nonexistent'; Fox News correspondent Bryan Llenas reports. We're not sure this pilot should be flying with such an incurable case of Pac-Man fever. A pilot flying over the Lincolnshire, England, paid homage to one of their favorite arcade games on Sunday by drawing Pac-Man -- complete with one of Pac-Man's nemesis ghosts -- with their flight path. The flight, which took off from Retford Gamston Airport (EGNE) in Nottingham at 11:35 a.m., lasted about an hour and a half. The flight, which took off from Retford Gamston Airport (EGNE) in Nottingham at 11:35 a.m., lasted about an hour and a half, according to FlightRadar24.

UK video game industry thrives amid lockdowns and US bidding wars

The Guardian

The lockdown boom in video games has put the spotlight on the global success of British game makers, attracting the attention of deep-pocketed US giants looking to snap up valuable pandemic-proof businesses. Electronic Arts, the California-based global gaming giant, announced a surprise £945m bid for Codemasters, the maker of Formula One racing games. EA's offer, which has been recommended by the Codemasters board, is almost £200m more than that tabled last month by its rival Take-Two Interactive, the maker of games including Grand Theft Auto, which is expected to rejoin the bidding war with a sweeter deal. The gaming industry has proved to be a coronavirus winner, with tens of millions of consumers looking for relief from lockdown boredom and Britain's pedigree ensuring excited investors sent stocks soaring. Industry veterans are not surprised by the latest boom, pointing to Britain's history of creating world-class games The handful of UK game developers that are listed on the London stock market, including the Warwickshire-based Codemasters, have all experienced share price surges of more than 100% this year.

Some UK Stores Are Using Facial Recognition to Track Shoppers


Branches of Co-op in the south of England have been using real-time facial recognition cameras to scan shoppers entering stores. This story originally appeared on WIRED UK. In total 18 shops from the Southern Co-op franchise have been using the technology in an effort to reduce shoplifting and abuse against staff. As a result of the trials, other regional Co-Op franchises are now believed to be trialing facial recognition systems. Use of facial recognition by police forces has been controversial, with the Court of Appeal ruling parts of its use to be unlawful earlier this year.

Ones we've lost


Scientists, too, died in the pandemic. COVID-19 has made 2020 a cruel year for us all. As Science went to press, the global toll of the pandemic had already exceeded 1.6 million, a tragic number that includes scientists of all specialties, ages, and backgrounds. Behind the mind-numbing total are individuals, each a spark of ingenuity, imagination, and creative spirit. Because we can't do justice to every life lost, we've chosen only a few. In remembering them, we mourn the much larger losses for the scientific community—and the world. ### Li Wenliang Li Wenliang did not set out to be a hero. On 30 December 2019, the 33-year-old Wuhan Central Hospital ophthalmologist warned a small group of colleagues that cases of a severe acute respiratory syndrome–like illness had been confirmed in area hospitals. “Don't spread the word, let your family members take precautions,” he wrote in a brief message. Someone did spread the word, which went viral. Four days later, Li was called to a meeting with local police, who forced him to confess to spreading rumors. When the young doctor fell ill with COVID-19 less than 1 week later, he took to the microblogging website Sina Weibo to tell his story. Citizens were outraged at the officials' tactics. As Li's condition deteriorated in the early hours of 7 February, millions followed media updates on his condition. When his hospital confirmed his death shortly before 3 a.m., thousands of locked-down Wuhan citizens came to their high-rise windows, calling his name and grieving. He became “the face of COVID-19 in China,” independent social media expert Manya Koetse wrote on her What's on Weibo website. The outrage forced an investigation, and in March, officials formally exonerated Li and apologized to his family. Although his death shook a nation, Li was a modest man dedicated to his work. In one social media post, he apologized to his patients for being irritable, then added that he enjoyed his fried chicken dinner after “thinking about it all day.” Ten months after his death, more than 1.5 million people still follow Li's Weibo page. His final post, in which he finally reported testing positive for the COVID-19 virus weeks after infection, has drawn more than 1 million comments, with dozens more posted every day. Writers address Li as if he's an old friend, sharing their daily troubles and future hopes, calling him an inspiration, and sending birthday wishes. Many sent congratulations when his wife gave birth to their second son, about 4 months after Li died. In early February, Li was “a symbol of public anger against the failure of the Chinese system to address the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Steve Tsang, a political scientist who focuses on China at the SOAS University of London. As China brought the outbreak under control, that anger has largely dissipated. But in the eyes of the public, Li remains the hero he never set out to be. — Dennis Normile and Bian Huihui ### Gita Ramjee After finishing her Ph.D., epidemiologist Gita Ramjee made a decision that would change the course of her life—and many others. She paused her work on childhood kidney disease to explore whether vaginal microbicides could protect South African women from contracting HIV. It was 1994, and the world was at the height of the AIDS crisis: Few treatments were available, and no end was in sight. And women, especially sex workers, were being hit increasingly hard. The largely overlooked plight of these women “sparked her passion,” says Gavin Churchyard, CEO of the Aurum Institute, the HIV and tuberculosis prevention nonprofit where Ramjee was chief scientific officer. “She wouldn't just sit back and allow things to happen,” Churchyard says. “She would make them happen.” Ramjee, a fierce advocate for women's health, devoted the rest of her life to searching for ways to prevent HIV infection and providing them to the communities that needed them most. She held herself and colleagues to high standards, Churchyard says, pushing for excellence in an area of research that often had disappointing results. “She was a persevering and dedicated person,” says social scientist Neetha Morar, whom Ramjee mentored at the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC). “Every time a negative result came through, she would get up and continue on.” Ramjee's commitment to work was matched only by her devotion to her family, Morar says. When her two sons still lived at home, she would prepare a full meal—with handmade bread—every day before work, to make sure her family ate dinner together in the evening. After her sons left home, Morar says, she kept up the ritual with her husband. She was ecstatic at the birth of her first grandchild and often brought pictures to the office to show colleagues, Churchyard remembers. Ramjee died on 31 March at age 63. Even months after her passing, her life's labor is still bearing fruit, says Wafaa El-Sadr, an epidemiologist at Columbia University and longtime collaborator. While at SAMRC, Ramjee oversaw on-site trials for a long-acting antiviral injection recently found to be more effective than a daily pill at preventing HIV in women. “She would have been thrilled,” El-Sadr says. “It's very bittersweet to have this amazing victory and she's not around to celebrate.” — Lucy Hicks ### Lynika Strozier Lynika Strozier lay in a hospital bed dying of COVID-19 as Black Lives Matter protesters took to the streets of Chicago in June. The 35-year-old geneticist was a gifted laboratory scientist, a passionate teacher, and a mentor to scores of students, many from underrepresented backgrounds. “Science was her baby,” says her grandmother, Sharon Wright, who raised Strozier from birth. Her path wasn't easy. Strozier was diagnosed early in life with a learning disability, and she had to study harder than her peers, Wright says. But she was a natural when it came to lab work, discovering her talent in college when she landed an internship taking care of cell lines at Truman College. “Most of us would have given up—and she always persevered,” says Matt von Konrat, a botanist at the Field Museum who watched Strozier move from intern to research assistant to collections associate at the museum's Pritzker DNA Laboratory, where she studied evolution in liverworts, birds, and other organisms. By 2018, Strozier had completed two master's degrees, one in biology and one in science education, before starting a job teaching ecology and evolution in January at Malcolm X College. “We had hoped that that would be just the beginning of her success story,” says Sushma Reddy, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, who was Strozier's graduate adviser at Loyola University Chicago. She was an inspiring teacher, Reddy says, and she was also someone her students could aspire to be. “She was literally the first Black scientist I ever met,” says Heaven Wade, a biochemistry undergraduate at Denison University whom Strozier mentored during an internship at the Field Museum. “We all loved her.” Wade, who is also Black, credits Strozier with keeping her in science: When she considered switching her major because she wasn't feeling “very welcome” in her program, Strozier persuaded her to stay. “She was so encouraging … it really inspired me to keep going.” Even now, Strozier continues to inspire young scientists. Her colleagues came up with the idea of creating an internship in her name, to help women of color gain research experience at the Field Museum. The fund is halfway to its $100,000 goal. “That's what Lynika would have wanted,” Reddy says. — Katie Langin ### John Houghton John Houghton loved a good country walk. So when the British climate scientist, instrumental to sounding the global alarm on climate change, found himself with a free afternoon at the National Center for Atmospheric Research's Mesa Laboratory near Boulder, Colorado, he headed straight out the back door—and into the Rocky Mountains. He even convinced a handful of fellow visitors, in inappropriate shoes, to join him as the sunlight waned. That spirit of exploration was fundamental to Houghton, who began his career in the 1960s developing space-based sensors that used the radiation emitted by carbon dioxide to take the atmosphere's temperature. Those measurements soon helped make clear that the burning of fossil fuels could, in a few generations, deeply alter the planet. In time, Houghton found himself in a position to make a difference, directing the United Kingdom's Met Office and helping lead the first three reports from the United Nations's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Houghton was widely regarded as brilliant, but it was his emotional intelligence that made him so effective, says Robert Watson, a former IPCC chairman. “He showed respect for people,” Watson says. During the summit of the third IPCC assessment, published in 2001, government representatives spent the entire first day squabbling over a sentence that explained who was preparing the report. Fellow panelist David Griggs despaired of getting more controversial language approved. “Everyone wants to hear their own voice,” Houghton told him. “If I allow them to take control now, they'll allow me more flexibility later.” And sure enough, by the third day, the IPCC scientists were willing to include a sentence that is now seen as a turning point in climate science: “Most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities.” Like many who led the charge on climate change, Houghton, who died in April at age 88, did not live to see the world mount a credible response. But he never lost faith in humanity, Griggs says. “He always felt, in the end, people would respond and act on climate change.” That optimism may have stemmed in part from Houghton's deep Christian faith, which led him to engage with climate change skeptics—and sometimes convince them, Watson says. The hikers who set off from the Mesa Lab that afternoon never made it to the summit, says Griggs, who was among them. A pitch-black night fell, and they were ready to bed down outside—but Houghton believed they'd find the road back. They did. — Paul Voosen ### Lungile Pepeta When the breadwinner of a Xhosa family dies, mourners say umthi omkhulu uwile , a mighty tree has fallen. That's what family, friends, and colleagues felt when Lungile Pepeta, a leading South African pediatric cardiologist and dean of health sciences at Nelson Mandela University, lost his life to COVID-19 at age 46, says Samkelo Jiyana, a pediatric cardiologist who trained under Pepeta, a tireless champion of rural and child health care. “He was an incredible person,” says pediatric cardiologist Adèle Greyling, who also trained under Pepeta. “It was a devastating loss for us all.” Pepeta, who grew up in Eastern Cape province, never forgot his roots. After his training in Johannesburg, he returned to the Eastern Cape, where he founded the poverty-stricken province's first pediatric cardiology unit and began to train others to follow in his footsteps. Before his arrival, children with serious heart conditions were forced to travel hundreds of kilometers—often by bus or even hitchhiking—to medical centers in major cities. Pepeta's research at Nelson Mandela University, in the Eastern Cape, focused on congenital heart conditions and rheumatic heart disease, which often arises from untreated streptococcal throat infections. It is a “disease of the poor,” says Jiyana, who now works at Netcare Greenacres Hospital in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. But when the pandemic reached the Eastern Cape, Pepeta launched a public information battle through social media and TV interviews in which he urged social distancing and the isolation of anyone who might be infected. He also called for coordination between the region's public and private health care systems and advised the provincial government on its pandemic response. Pepeta did not live to see the achievement of one of his most ambitious dreams: the opening of South Africa's 10th medical school, at his university. He deliberately located the school on the Missionvale campus—once an apartheid-era university built for Black people—to fulfill its mission of delivering “proper healthcare for all our communities,” he wrote last year. On his birthday on 16 July, Pepeta was in the hospital with COVID-19 symptoms when he received news that the medical school's accreditation application had been approved. Soon after, when he was already on high-flow oxygen and within days of being admitted to the intensive care unit, he submitted his final paper to a medical journal. He died on 7 August. “He did the work of two or three other people in his lifetime,” Greyling says. “I don't think we'll ever meet anyone like him again.” — Cathleen O'Grady ### Maria de Sousa When Portuguese immunologist Maria de Sousa was teaching at the University of Porto in the 1990s, she would take her students to the city's famous art museum, in a former 18th century palace. She would tell them to describe a painting, then take a second look. “She wanted to teach people how to see, because people miss what's there,” says Rui Costa, a neuroscientist at Columbia University and former student. De Sousa herself looked beyond the obvious in a career that took her to top research centers in the United Kingdom and New York City, then back to her home country. Her discoveries, and her tireless devotion to Portuguese science, earned her the status of a revered hero in the research community. She died in Lisbon, Portugal, on 14 April at age 80. De Sousa's work in immunology began in the 1960s, when a dictator ruled Portugal and most young women had no choice but to become homemakers. After earning a medical degree, de Sousa left at age 25 for graduate studies in London and Glasgow, U.K. There, she examined mice from which the thymus—an organ whose role in the immune system was just coming to light—had been removed soon after birth. A whole class of immune cells produced by the thymus was missing from the animals' lymph nodes. She realized that the cells, now called T cells, must migrate from the thymus to specific areas in the lymph nodes, where they stand ready to fight pathogenic invaders. The discovery soon became part of standard immunology textbooks. De Sousa moved to New York City in 1975 and later established a cell ecology lab at what is now Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. But she was drawn back to Portugal in 1984 to study hemochromatosis, an inherited disease common in the northern part of the country that causes a harmful overload of iron in the blood. De Sousa also had a second mission: to bring scientific rigor to Portugal's then-weak research institutions. She worked with the country's science minister to establish outside reviews of university research programs. And de Sousa pushed for Portugal's first graduate programs in biomedical science, including a highly regarded Ph.D. program that she led at the University of Porto. “She spearheaded a revolution in Portuguese science,” Costa says. De Sousa was not only a creative scientist and demanding mentor; she was also a poet, pianist, and art lover. “She was the quintessential intellectual,” Costa says. After her death, Portugal's president, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, remembered her as “an unmatched figure in Portuguese science.” — Jocelyn Kaiser ### Mishik Kazaryan and Arpik Asratyan In 1980, at the tender age of 32, experimental physicist Mishik Kazaryan won the Soviet Union's top science prize for his pioneering work on metal vapor lasers. At the same time, his wife—epidemiologist Arpik Asratyan—was making her own mark as a scientist, crisscrossing the vast nation and probing disease outbreaks. The high-achieving couple, who mentored scores of scientists, persevered through the Soviet collapse and the subsequent privations visited on Russian research. But within days of celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary, they succumbed to COVID-19: Asratyan first, on 27 March, and Kazaryan 10 days later. The couple ran a science-first household: Their daughter, Serine Kazaryan, is a gynecologist with the Global Medical System Clinic in Moscow, and their son, Airazat Kazaryan, is a gastrointestinal surgeon at the Østfold Hospital Trust in Grålum, Norway. Talk at the dinner table often revolved around research, and daughter, father, and mother published several papers together. Mishik Kazaryan, born in Armenia, spent his entire working life at one of Russia's scientific powerhouses, the P. N. Lebedev Physical Institute. His research spanned areas including high-power tunable lasers, laser isotope separation, and laser medicine; he collaborated with Alexander Prokhorov, who shared the 1964 Nobel Prize in Physics for the invention of the laser. Mishik Kazaryan's “major contribution,” Serine Kazaryan says, was a self-heating copper vapor laser—the brightest pulsed visible-light laser—that found wide use in the precision machining of semiconductors and other materials. Asratyan, also born in Armenia, first studied Mycoplasma hominis , a then–little-known bacterium linked to pelvic inflammatory disease, vaginosis, and respiratory ailments. She became a leading figure in the diagnosis of hepatitis B and C at the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, and she spent much of her career working with vulnerable individuals: drug addicts and those with psychiatric afflictions or HIV. “I don't remember my parents to complain of anything,” says Serine Kazaryan, who lived with her son, daughter, and parents in an apartment in Moscow. They all took ill in mid-March. Serine Kazaryan and her children recovered. Her parents did not. Right up until his last days, Mishik Kazaryan was wrapping up a book about the laser cutting of glass. It was “very touching,” Serine Kazaryan says, when an old friend and co-author, Valery Revenko of the JSC Scientific Research Institute of Technical Glass, vowed to complete it. — Richard Stone ### Ricardo Valderrama Fernández Peruvian scientist and politician Ricardo Valderrama Fernández was first in many things. In the 1970s, he was among the first anthropologists to make contact with the Kugapakori, an Indigenous group living in the Peruvian Amazon. He co-founded the first research institute for Andean studies in Cusco in 1974. And in 1977, he wrote a “revolutionary” work on Indigenous, Quechua-speaking laborers, in which—breaking with anthropological traditions of the time—their testimony took center stage. The book, one of the first works on contemporary Andean culture, “broke the barrier” between anthropology and politics, says César Aguilar León, an anthropologist at the National University of San Marcos. Gregorio Condori Mamani: An Autobiography documented the poverty, discrimination, and mistreatment faced by those left behind in a society grappling with the legacy of Spanish colonialism. “We wanted to be the voice of those who are not heard, to write the words of those who cannot read and write,” says Valderrama Fernández's co-author and wife, anthropologist Carmen Escalante Gutiérrez. The couple always worked together and published four more books and dozens of articles on the legends and customs of the Andean people. They immersed themselves in remote communities and lived alongside Indigenous people for months. Valderrama Fernández's fluency in abstract Quechua, which included theological and philosophical concepts and terms, helped him speak freely with Andean elders and understand how they adapted their ancient cosmology to the present. His love of the language, which he learned from his grandmother, never diminished. “That's what made him special,” Escalante Gutiérrez says. Valderrama Fernández taught for 30 years at his alma mater, the National University of Saint Anthony the Abad in Cusco. In his final years, he embarked on a second career in politics, advocating for the region's Indigenous people. In 2006, he was elected to the municipal council of his hometown; in December 2019, he became interim mayor of Cusco, after his predecessor left office under a cloud of corruption charges. In his new role, Valderrama Fernández led the COVID-19 response in Cusco, visiting markets and other areas of the city to enforce health measures. He caught the virus on one of those visits, and died on 30 August at 75 years old. Jan Szemiński, a historian at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, says the world has lost a great anthropologist—and someone who embodied the Incan ideal of reciprocity, or ayni : the idea that you should give to others today—knowing that tomorrow, you will receive. — Rodrigo Pérez Ortega ### John Horton Conway John Horton Conway liked to have fun. The U.K.-born mathematician cut a broad path, making important contributions to geometry, group theory, and topology. But unlike some great mathematicians who grind away on inscrutable problems in jealously guarded isolation, Conway—who worked at the University of Cambridge and Princeton University—was gregarious, talkative, and, above all, playful, often drawing deep insights from mathematical games. In the 1970s, while musing about the end stage of the board game Go, Conway expanded the concept of real numbers into something called “surreal numbers,” which are smaller or larger than any positive number. In 1985, he and four colleagues essentially wrapped up an entire subfield of math by identifying all groups with a finite number of elements. (A group is a closed set of elements and a rule akin to addition or multiplication for combining them—for example, all rotations that leave the image of a featureless cube the same.) Most famously, in 1970 Conway invented something he called the game of life. Imagine a grid of squares, some colored black for “living,” others colored white for “dead,” with rules for changing a square's color that depend on those of its neighbors. The simple system can produce a shocking variety of moving patterns depending on its initial configuration, and the game became popular as computers made their way into everyday life. Conway showed the squares could also be configured to do computations. As impressive as Conway's genius was his generosity of spirit, says Marjorie Senechal, a mathematician at Smith College. In the 1990s, she helped organize summer geometry institutes to build bridges among professional mathematicians, math teachers, and students. The first few summers, the pros simply lectured the others, Senechal says. Then she invited Conway, and everything clicked. “He didn't see these as separate communities,” she says. “He was like the Pied Piper. He'd go to get a coffee and a hundred people would follow him.” Conway, who died in April at age 82, would prowl the Princeton math department at night, chatting with anyone he could find about his latest interest, recalls Timothy Hsu, a mathematician at San Jose State University who earned his doctorate with Conway in 1995. Unkempt and funny, Conway studiously ignored his mail, but could be reached by phone—in the department common room. “Towards the end of my graduate career, he told me that because math is such a forbidding subject, it helps to make yourself slightly ridiculous,” Hsu says. Conway then teased, “That seems to come naturally to you.” — Adrian Cho ### Donald Kennedy Neurobiologist Donald Kennedy brought a towering intellect, insatiable curiosity, and abiding interest in both the concerns of individuals and the fate of society to everything he did. The longtime faculty member and former president of Stanford University “could talk to people about science without condescending to them,” says research advocate Thomas Grumbly, a friend and colleague. “And he could stand toe to toe with the best scientists in the world.” Kennedy, who died on 21 April at age 88, relished his role as a scientist, educator, public servant, and communicator—even when his views did not prevail. After Congress refused to embrace his proposed ban on the artificial sweetener saccharine while he was commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in the late 1970s, he questioned its logic. The body had “established a principle,” Kennedy said. “You shouldn't have cancer-causing substances in the food supply, unless people like them a lot.” That dry wit did him no favors in a subsequent fight with a congressional panel investigating Stanford's questionable use of federal research funds during his tenure as president. The fallout from that grueling inquiry led him to step down from the presidency in 1991. In 2000, Kennedy became editor-in-chief of Science . He used the platform to prod climate researchers to work harder on public outreach, condemn politicians who bent—or ignored—scientific findings to serve their own purposes, and publish the best research on the planet, including the first sequence of the human genome. Kennedy had been a larger-than-life figure at Stanford, whether dashing around campus on his bike or posing bare-chested with the championship swim team. He brought that enthusiasm to the journal, where he also liked to shine a light on the personal side of science. One of his editorials accompanied a 2005 paper describing a sighting of the ivory-billed woodpecker, long thought to be extinct. Kennedy recounted how, at age 7, he wrote a “fan letter” to famed Cornell University ornithologist Arthur Allen about Allen's pursuit of the fabled bird. The letter, signed “Love, Donny,” prompted a reply that ended “Love, Arthur.” The woodpecker sighting didn't hold up to scrutiny. But Kennedy's point did: that an encouraging word from a senior scientist could have a lasting impact on a curious child. In fact, one could say Kennedy spent his entire career paying forward that kindness. — Jeffrey Mervis

Orwell's Animal Farm Sticks a Bit Too Close to the Book


George Orwell's Animal Farm: A Fairy Story is a well-loved parable set on a farm in England, where rebellious animals stand in as critique for the corruption and downfall of the Communist Revolution in Russia. It is also a story that has often been made to serve different meanings for different groups of people. In 1946, Orwell received a letter (documented in the book George Orwell: A Life in Letters) from a colleague, Dwight Macdonald, who reported that anti-Stalinists in his circle "claimed that the parable of Animal Farm meant that revolution always ended badly for the underdog, 'hence to hell with it and hail the status quo.'" In his response, Orwell made sure to clarify his thoughts, writing: "If people think I am defending the status quo, that is, I think, because they have grown pessimistic and assume that there is no alternative except dictatorship or laissez-faire capitalism." He emphasized that if there was one lesson behind his parable, it was "you can't have a revolution unless you make it for yourself; there is no such thing as a benevolent dictatorship."

Co-op is using facial recognition tech to scan and track shoppers


Branches of Co-op in the south of England have been using real-time facial recognition cameras to scan shoppers entering stores. In total 18 shops from the Southern Co-op franchise have been using the technology in an effort to reduce shoplifting and abuse against staff. As a result of the trials, other regional Co-op franchises are now believed to be trialling facial recognition systems. Use of facial recognition by police forces has been controversial with the Court of Appeal ruling parts of its use to be unlawful earlier this year. But its use has been creeping into the private sector, but the true scale of its use remains unknown.