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Saints' Michael Burton active for game against Lions after false positive COVID-19 test

FOX News

New Orleans Saints' fullback Michael Burton will be active for Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions just one day after receiving a false positive COVID-19 test result. Burton tested positive on Saturday night signaling trouble for the league already dealing with an outbreak and several other isolated cases among teams but a re-test on Sunday morning turned back a negative test result, The Athletic reported. Burton and other Saints players also underwent rapid testing which all came back negative giving them a green light to carry on with the Lions game as scheduled. The NFL has been forced to postpone two games and adjust team schedules after the Tennessee Titans had around 20 people - 10 players and 10 personnel - test positive this past week. The Titans-Pittsburgh Steelers game, originally scheduled for Sunday, was postponed until Oct. 25 -- during Tennessee's bye.


Researchers say they can predict epileptic seizures an hour in advance

Engadget

Researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel have developed a wearable electroencephalogram (EEG) device they claim can predict epileptic seizures up to an hour before the onset. Epiness uses machine learning algorithms to analyze brain activity and detect potential seizures, and it can send a warning to a connected smartphone. Other devices on the market can detect seizures in real-time, but can't give advance warnings. However, researchers from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette last year unveiled an AI prediction model of their own. That was said to offer a similar level of prediction accuracy to Epiness, and it can also alert patients up to an hour in advance of a seizure taking hold.


News at a glance

Science

SCI COMMUN### Computer science The United States will establish a dozen centers to study artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum information science (QIS), the White House announced last week. The seven university-based AI centers will receive $20 million each over 5 years from the National Science Foundation or the Department of Agriculture and will use AI—algorithms that can learn to recognize patterns—to tackle problems in areas ranging from farming to particle physics. The five centers on QIS, located at the Department of Energy's national laboratories, will focus on topics such as developing quantum computers that could solve challenges that would overwhelm conventional computers. Each of these centers will receive $125 million over 5 years, as Congress called for in the 2018 National Quantum Initiative Act. ### Archaeology Tiny parasitic worms known as helminths cause malnutrition and developmental disorders in some 1.5 billion people around the world, mostly in developing countries. Scientists now report new evidence that better sanitation can alleviate this scourge. During the Middle Ages and for centuries after, worm infections were as prevalent among Europeans as they are today in people living in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, South America, and East Asia, the authors report in a paper published on 27 August in PLOS Neglected Tropical Disease . They based the conclusion on an analysis of 589 samples from skeletons in medieval cemeteries in the Czech Republic, Germany, and the United Kingdom. Because such worms were eradicated in Europe before effective antiparasite drugs were developed, the results reinforce the idea that improvements to water supplies, sanitation, and hygiene can dramatically reduce the disease burden they cause today. ### Disasters When it roared ashore last week in Louisiana, Hurricane Laura packed a double whammy, endangering public safety with its wind and water and slowing efforts to stem the COVID-19 pandemic. Its top wind speed at landfall, 241 kilometers per hour, was the fifth highest documented for any U.S. hurricane. Laura tied a record for the fastest intensifying storm in the Gulf of Mexico, with its wind increasing on 26 August by 105 kilometers per hour in just 24 hours; the causes of such rapid strengthening are little understood. The storm led to at least 19 deaths in Louisiana and Texas. It also threatened to accelerate the spread of COVID-19; testing centers were temporarily closed, and residents of southwest Louisiana, which bore the storm's brunt and had been recording some of the state's highest rates of positive test results, evacuated elsewhere. Seven hurricanes and tropical storms have hit the United States so far this year, one of the most active seasons on record. ### Agriculture The Dutch government last week decided to end mink farming to prevent the animals from becoming sources of the virus that causes COVID-19. More than 40 mink farms in the Netherlands—almost one in three—have had outbreaks of the virus since late April, triggering massive culls. A Dutch law adopted in 2012 banned mink farming by 2024 for ethical reasons, but now the remaining farms must close by March 2021. The government has set aside €182 million to indemnify farmers. Although farms implemented hygiene rules, scientists suspect infected people carried the virus into them. Denmark, Spain, and the United States have seen outbreaks at mink farms as well. ### Public health By testing dormitory wastewater for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, the University of Arizona may have stamped out a potential outbreak before it could spread. Several countries, U.S. municipalities, and some universities have been checking sewage for RNA from the virus, which can signal infections shortly before clinical cases and deaths are recorded. In Arizona, officials announced last week that wastewater from a student dormitory contained the viral RNA just days after students had moved into their rooms in August; all 311 residents and dorm workers had previously tested negative on a mandatory test for COVID-19. The university retested all of them and found two students who were asymptomatic but positive for the virus; they were then quarantined. ### Diagnostics The U.S. Food and Drug Administration last week issued an emergency use authorization to Abbott, a laboratory company, for a 15-minute test for the COVID-19 virus that could help expand the number of Americans regularly tested. The new diagnostic, called BinaxNOW, detects proteins, or antigens, that are unique to the virus with high accuracy and at a cost of only $5 each. Other coronavirus tests that identify genetic material unique to the virus typically cost $100, and laboratories often take days to provide results. The genetic tests and other, antigen-based ones require specialized lab equipment; Abbott's does not, although a health care professional must administer it. The company says it plans to produce 50 million tests in October. Last week, the Trump administration announced it would buy 150 million. The United States currently conducts about 700,000 tests for the virus per day. ### Policy The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) drew criticism last week for revising its guidelines to state that people exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19 “do not necessarily need a test” if they lack symptoms and do not have medical conditions that make them vulnerable. Scientists and public health specialists slammed the 24 August revision, noting that people who do not feel sick can still spread the virus and that the United States continues to lead the world in COVID-19 cases and deaths. Trump administration officials have said too many people have been getting tested out of fear and tests should be reserved for those at highest risk, The New York Times reported. But CDC Director Robert Redfield appeared to muddy the message when he said on 26 August that testing “may be considered for all close contacts of confirmed or probable COVID-19 patients.” ### Infectious diseases The EcoHealth Alliance, a nonprofit whose highly scored grant to study bat coronaviruses that could jump to humans in China was summarily defunded after President Donald Trump targeted it, has received new funding worth $7.5 million over 5 years, the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced last week. In April, Trump alleged without evidence that the COVID-19 virus escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology; the EcoHealth Alliance had collaborated with scientists there on the canceled grant. NIH ended it days later, drawing strong protests from scientists. The newly funded work will not revive the earlier project but instead will focus on risks of animal viruses jumping to humans in Southeast Asia, but not China. The EcoHealth Alliance is one of 11 groups NIH plans to fund with $82 million to study such risks. “It's a relief for us to know that NIH isn't going to blackball our organization because of political interference,” EcoHealth Alliance President Peter Daszak says. ### Funding China continued in 2019 its yearslong run of double-digit annual percentage increases in spending on R&D. But it has not yet reached its long-standing goal of increasing R&D expenditures to 2.5% of gross domestic product (GDP). Total public and private science and technology expenditures in 2019 rose 12.5% to 2.21 trillion Chinese yuan ($322 billion), the National Bureau of Statistics of China reported last week. Most (83%) went to development, while basic research received 6% and applied research 11%. Relative to other countries, China has been spending more on development and less on basic research. Its total R&D spending in 2019 amounted to 2.23% of GDP, still short of the United States's 2.83%. China was the world's second biggest spender on R&D behind the United States in 2018, the latest year for which a comparison is available, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Analysts expect China to continue to close the gap. ### Astronomy Gravitational wave hunters have netted a big fish: the signal from a pair of black holes merging to produce one with a mass of about 142 Suns. That heft makes it the first confirmed intermediate-mass black hole, with a mass between those produced by collapsing stars and the giant black holes at the hearts of galaxies. Detected in May 2019 by the twin Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory facilities in the United States and the Virgo detector in Italy, the merger is also the most distant seen, at 7 billion light-years away, as well as the most powerful, with the mass of eight Suns converted into energy. The masses of the individual black holes—85 and 66 solar masses—before they merged pose a puzzle, as theorists believe it impossible to make a black hole heavier than 65 Suns from the collapse of a single star. The discovery is reported this week in Physical Review Letters and The Astrophysical Journal Letters . ### Nonproliferation After a monthslong impasse, Iran has agreed to allow international inspectors access to two sites that were allegedly part of a clandestine nuclear weapons program. The move preserves, for now, what remains of a multination nuclear deal reached in 2015, from which the Trump administration has withdrawn. The inspections will take place at Abadeh, a testing range for high explosives in central Iran, and at an undisclosed site, which intelligence reports revealed might have contained undeclared nuclear materials and activities. Iran had rebuffed requests from the International Atomic Energy Agency to take samples at the sites; continued stonewalling could have prompted the agency to declare Iran out of compliance with its commitments. The United States maintains that Iran has violated the nuclear deal, and banking and other sanctions lifted after the 2015 accord must automatically resume. But members of the United Nations Security Council last week reiterated their disagreement with that interpretation, and the United States now plans to reimpose those sanctions unilaterally on 20 September. ### Environment The Trump administration on 31 August eased rules on toxic wastewater created by coal-burning power plants, which operators discharge into rivers and streams. The move changes a rule adopted in 2015 by former President Barack Obama's administration requiring plant operators to treat and recycle water used to store coal ash, which contains mercury and arsenic, by 2023. The Trump administration's version instead exempts plants set to close or switch to natural gas by 2028 and allows other plants to delay compliance until that year if they voluntarily adopt advanced biological treatment. The administration says its rule will save the industry money and retain coal-industry jobs while reducing total pollution by 1 million pounds annually, over and above the 1.4 million pound reduction anticipated under the Obama rule. But environmental groups rejected those assertions and predicted that power plants—now the largest contributors of industrial water pollution—will discharge even more. The critics add that the move will prop up coal power, which is responsible for emitting a significant share of global warming gases. ### Conservation A Norwegian wind farm has devised an inexpensive method that may prevent birds from being killed by turbines' rotating blades. By painting only one turbine blade black, the farm reduced bird collisions by more than 70%, say researchers who conducted the first field study of the approach. Fast-moving, monotone blades can be difficult for birds to see; in the United States alone, collisions with wind turbines kill 140,000 to 500,000 birds each year. But a single contrasting black blade makes this rotating obstacle easier for birds to identify and avoid, researchers report in the 27 August issue of Ecology and Evolution . The approach needs further validation, other researchers say. And they note that windmills still rank low on the list of threats to birds: Collisions with power wires and communication towers kill an estimated 32 million birds in the United States annually, for example, and cats are believed to kill 2.4 billion each year. Loss of habitat is another leading threat. ### Infectious diseases Togo is the first African country to have eliminated Human African trypanosomiasis (HAT), better known as sleeping sickness, as a public health problem. The World Health Organization (WHO) on 25 August certified the country as free of HAT, which is caused by two subspecies of the Trypanosoma brucei parasite and spread by tsetse flies. Occurring only in sub-Saharan Africa, HAT causes neurological damage and is fatal when left untreated. Surveillance and control programs have helped bring reported cases down sharply, from more than 25,000 in 2000 to 980 last year. WHO hopes the subspecies T. b. gambiense , which occurs in West and Central Africa and is responsible for more than 98% of cases, can be eliminated altogether by 2030. “I am sure [Togo's] efforts will inspire others,” Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, said in a statement. 3.4 million —Square kilometers of sea floor changed by human activities, such as the construction of ports, communication cables, oil rigs, and wind farms, as of 2018, representing an estimated 1.5% of all coastal areas. ### Why it matters The modified area equals that of cities on land, and its marine ecosystems may have sustained damage ( Nature Sustainability ).


Lizard man

Science

For Jonathan Losos, tiny Caribbean islands and their reptile inhabitants are test tubes of evolution. The morning of 17 October 1996 started as usual for Jonathan Losos. The evolutionary biologist donned a broad hat and slathered on sunscreen, then headed by boat to several unnamed islets off Great Exuma Island in the Bahamas. Three years earlier, he and ecologist David Spiller had introduced local lizard species there to learn how they would compete in a once lizardless place. The pair spent the day snaring lizards, noting their exact locations, and taking stock of the insects, spiders, and vegetation. They were worried about reports of an impending hurricane, but the locals seemed confident it would veer off and spare the islands, as usual. Not this time, however. The next day, Losos and Spiller helped their hotel owner board up the windows of their beachfront cottage on Great Exuma as Hurricane Lili bore down on the island. As the wind picked up and the first squalls dumped rain, they scurried to a cinder block building up a hill. That night, the wind blew off parts of the roof and felled palm trees. A 4-meter storm surge flooded the streets, and 2 days later they found their rented motorboat stuck in a tree. The lizards had it even worse. When Losos and Spiller finally made it back out to their most exposed study sites, the islands were stripped nearly bare of brush and all the lizards were gone. But the setback for Losos's project was the start of a new chapter in his research on how the animals adapt to the varied, changeable environments on islands in and around the Caribbean. Since Lili, a half-dozen other hurricanes have inundated islets and swept away animals relocated there by Losos, who is based at Washington University in St. Louis (WashU), and his team. But he and his colleagues have persevered, collecting data on how the animals adapt to predators, storm damage, and other challenges—natural and those contrived by the researchers. A lifelong reptile enthusiast, Losos is driven in part by his passion for a group of lizards called anoles, which thrive in South and Central America and throughout the Caribbean. He also views them as an opportunity. Almost half of the 400 anole species live on islands, and their diverse lifestyles, habitats, and histories have proved to be a vehicle for exploring some of evolution's biggest questions. “Jonathan's islands are like giant test tubes, and he is the ultimate tinkerer,” says Martha Muñoz, an evolutionary biologist at Yale University. Losos's research on anoles has shown that evolution can happen faster than most scientists had assumed, and that—contrary to what some leading thinkers have proposed—it is often predictable. Faced with similar challenges, separate populations often evolve similar solutions. Along the way, Losos has mentored dozens of young scientists, and some are now carrying his work in new directions. “Beyond his many contributions to the field, Jonathan has also changed the course of science simply by being who he is,” Muñoz, a former student, says. “He is proof that success is richer and more rewarding when accompanied by kindness and humility.” ODDLY ENOUGH, THE 1950S TV show Leave it to Beaver started Losos down this path. When 7-year-old Beaver brought home a pet alligator, young Losos asked his parents whether he, too, could get one. His mom was against it, but his father said he would ask a family friend, the deputy director of the St. Louis Zoo, for advice. A successful businessman, the senior Losos also loved animals, taking his family on nature vacations, joining the zoo's board, and even financing the zoo's acquisition of a baby elephant from Thailand, which he named Carolyn in honor of his wife. To everyone's surprise, the director heartily approved, saying that having an alligator as a childhood pet was how he got his start in herpetology. So the junior Losos acquired several baby caimans, which lived in a baby pool in the basement in winter and in a horse trough in the yard the rest of the year. Only a few times did the animals escape and terrorize the neighbors. Losos worked summers at the zoo until partway through college, eventually donating his caimans to a zookeeper. “Jonathan started off as a little kid loving nature, endlessly pestering staff at his local zoo, catching lizards on family vacations, and he's never lost that spark,” says Harry Greene, herpetologist emeritus at Cornell University and Losos's graduate school adviser. As an undergraduate at Harvard University, Losos fell under the tutelage of herpetologist Ernest Williams. Sometimes referred to as the father of anole biology, Williams had recognized that anoles on different Caribbean islands evolved independently. Yet on each island he'd found a similar set of body types or “ecomorphs”—one specialized for living in the brush, another for gripping twigs, and still others for life high in the trees. These parallels suggested that where circumstances were similar, evolution would converge on the same set of traits and form communities with similar sets of species. Williams's lab had already produced several leading evolutionary biologists, and Losos figured the field of anole research was getting too crowded. But no other species both captured his interest and was easy to study. “I went through a dozen failed Ph.D. projects,” he recalls. At a low point, he seriously considered law school, but his dad convinced him that the world needed herpetologists more than lawyers. Losos eventually realized that anoles were perfect for applying new tools in evolutionary biology. Researchers were just beginning to build family trees and trace evolution based on protein variations among species. For his Ph.D., Losos compared proteins in Caribbean anoles and verified that Williams's ecomorphs had indeed evolved independently to form similar communities on different islands ( Science , 27 March 1998, p. [2115][1]). That insight alone—support for an idea called convergent evolution—“was a really important breakthrough,” says Frank Burbrink, a herpetologist at the American Museum of Natural History. Meanwhile, other researchers were calling for more rigor in evolution studies by requiring evidence that supposedly adaptive traits really give an organism an advantage. So Losos began to study different anole ecomorphs, with legs and toepads of varying sizes (see graphic, p. 499). In the lab, he ran them down miniature racetracks and assessed how well they clung to smooth, vertical surfaces. He found that lizards living near the ground, close to predators, had longer legs that made them fast, whereas those living higher in brush and trees had bigger toepads to stick to leaves and smooth bark. By combining these data with his family tree studies, he got a clearer sense of the lizards' evolutionary history. He “was really one of the first people to move the field into doing evolution by integrating ecology and morphology and getting the bigger picture,” Burbrink says. Inspired by experiments in which researchers monitored evolutionary changes in guppies in Trinidad after relocating them to different streams ( Science , 24 August 2012, p. [904][2]), Losos began to wonder whether similar studies could be done in Caribbean anoles. And he realized that Thomas Schoener, one of Williams's protégés, had already laid the groundwork. In the 1980s, Thomas and Amy Schoener (they were once married) introduced local lizards to tiny lizardless islands in the Bahamas to investigate how different vegetation affected the reptiles' ability to thrive. A decade later, Losos teamed up with Thomas Schoener, by then a renowned ecologist at the University of California (UC), Davis, to revisit those sites. Consistent with Williams's and Losos's earlier findings, lizards living in scrubby vegetation had shorter legs and larger toepads than their ancestors, which had lived in tall, broad trees. These adaptations enabled them to cling to tiny twigs as they chased down insects to eat, and the changes had taken just a few generations. “Evolution can happen very quickly when natural selection is very strong,” Losos says. The idea is now well-accepted, but at the time it went against the entrenched belief that evolution was a slow process. “This is one of the few things that [Charles] Darwin got wrong,” Losos says. He decided to make anoles his life's work. HE SOON HAD TO RECKON with hurricanes. Losos and Spiller, now retired from UC Davis, had chosen the islets off Great Exuma to study the effects of competition. On some, they introduced two local species, the green and brown anoles, and on others, just a single species. In the first 3 years, they noticed that on islands with both kinds, the brown lizards were driving the green anoles higher into the bushes, where they were struggling. That's when Lili hit, ruining the experiment before they could see whether the green anoles would go extinct. “It would have been so easy, I'm sure, to pack it all in and give up,” says Luke Harmon, one of Losos's former students and now an evolutionary biologist at the University of Idaho. Instead, Losos and Spiller used the disaster to their advantage. They documented Lili's great, but also patchy, impact. Islands southwest of Great Exuma felt the brunt of the storm surge and were devoid of lizards and vegetation. Life there would have to start over. On islands to the north, the wind and rain snapped twigs and ripped off leaves but a few lizards remained, they reported in the first of several papers about hurricanes ( Science , 31 July 1998, p. [695][3]). The work challenged a widespread assumption that extreme events such as hurricanes do not drive evolution because they are rare and have random, unpredictable impacts on plants and animals. The Losos group discovered instead that storms can be agents of natural selection. For example, in 2017 Losos's postdoc Colin Donihue; functional morphologist Anthony Herrel, now with the French national research agency CNRS at the National Museum of Natural History; and colleagues visited two cays in the Turks and Caicos to measure the body proportions of the anoles living there. Four days after they left, two almost back-to-back hurricanes hit the area with winds of more than 200 kilometers per hour. When the team returned a few weeks later and remeasured the lizards, they found that the survivors tended to have bigger toepads, longer forelimbs, and shorter hindlimbs. Back in the lab, the researchers tested how these traits affect the lizards' ability to hold onto a perch. In a strong wind, anoles hang on with their forelimbs, but they lose their grip with the hind legs. Cranking up an air-blower, the researchers found that those with longer hind legs (and more surface area for the wind to catch) got blown off their perches onto a padded surface more readily. Conversely, animals with shorter hind limbs and bigger toepads hung on. The hurricanes had apparently selected for those traits, the team reported in 2018. The following year, they found that offspring of the survivors also had big toepads, suggesting the adaptation was genetic and not just a reaction to holding on tight. The team has since measured toepad size in 188 lizard species across the Caribbean. The more hurricanes an island has experienced, the bigger the toepads of the lizards living there, they reported on 27 April in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences . Hurricanes seem to have had a long-term evolutionary effect. LOSOS HAD BEEN A PROFESSOR at WashU for 13 years when Harvard came calling in 2005, seeking to recruit him to its evolutionary biology department. A St. Louis native and a hardcore St. Louis Cardinals baseball fan, he hesitated. He even did a yearlong sabbatical at Harvard before finally accepting, in large part because the position included a curatorship at the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology. “That was the one thing St. Louis didn't have,” he recalls. There, he continued to build on a reputation for being a kind, enthusiastic mentor. “I have seen him give high school students the same attention and respect that he gives his closest colleagues,” says Melissa Kemp, a former postdoc now at the University of Texas, Austin. “He seems to always be focused on his work, but he also has a whimsical sense of fun at the same time,” says Michele Johnson, a former student and an evolutionary biologist at Trinity University. Losos sports a watch with an anole he photographed as its face and is not above lecturing undergraduates while dressed as a platypus—one of his favorite animals since childhood. Those traits and a firm belief that “there is no one-size-fits-all in terms of how to interact with and mentor students” have helped Losos launch the careers of 59 graduate students and postdocs. They include at least eight Black, Latino, and Native American scholars, in a field that lacks diversity. (Although 3% of U.S. biologists are African American or Black, for example, only 0.3% of evolutionary biologists are.) Ambika Kamath, now a postdoctoral researcher at UC Berkeley, says Losos backed her completely when her studies challenged the long-held idea that male lizards hold territories to corral their mates. She argued instead that females move around and play a role in mate choice. “It would have been much harder for me to do that work without his excitement,” she recalls. Losos worked hard with her to get the paper just right and was eager to be a co-author. “Otherwise it would have just been the work of this young brown woman who could have easily been dismissed as an angry feminist.” Kamath and other students praise Losos for pushing them intellectually without undermining their confidence. Harmon jokes that Losos would never dismiss an idea from his students, no matter how wacky. Instead, he would just pause and say “interesting.” “Eventually I figured out that maybe I should think things through a bit more, if Jonathan thought they were ‘interesting,’” Harmon says. LOSOS AND HIS TEAM keep testing their ideas about ecology and evolution on Caribbean islands. In one recent project, Robert Pringle, now at Princeton University, and Losos tested a key principle in ecology—that introducing a top predator tends to increase biodiversity. The researchers added a predatory ground-dwelling lizard to islands with brown and green anoles. To escape this new threat, the brown anoles began to hang out higher in the foliage, displacing the green anoles that normally lived there and driving them toward extinction. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the predator appeared to be pushing the islands toward lower biodiversity, they reported on 5 June in Nature . Another recent study, led by one of Losos's former postdocs, examined the impacts of an invasive anole species on Dominica. Until 20 years ago, the island was home to a single anole species. Then a lumber shipment introduced a second species that is gradually spreading. To study how the native and invader species interact, behavioral ecologist Claire Dufour, now at the University of Montpellier, used robotic lizards as stand-ins for the invader. The robots did pushups and extended a flap of fake skin under the chin, mimicking the aggressive displays of real lizards. In response, native lizards familiar with the invaders postured more aggressively, suggesting the invaders are forcing the natives to expend more energy defending their territory, the group reported on 27 March in the Journal of Animal Ecology . “Our biggest conclusion is that the species do compete and have negative consequences on each other,” Losos says. ![Figure][4] Evolution's stamp on island-dwelling lizards On islands in and around the Caribbean, 173 species of anole lizards face an array of different environments, predators, and competitors, along with periodic storms. The result is a laboratory of evolution, where scientists have been able to track the speed and course of adaptation. GRAPHIC: V. ALTOUNIAN/ SCIENCE Even as his group continues to churn out papers, Losos is assessing what he has learned so far. In his book Improbable Destinies: Fate, Chance, and the Future of Evolution , published in 2017, he challenged a major contention of one of the field's great thinkers, Stephen Jay Gould, the Harvard paleontologist who argued that chance plays such a big role in determining nature's course that evolution would never take the same path twice. Anoles offer evidence to the contrary, Losos wrote: In similar habitats, they have repeatedly evolved similar body shapes, sizes, and behavior. The book was written for the general public, but it made an impression even on his peers. “I've been studying evolution for 30-plus years, and this book made me rethink some things I thought I knew about biology and evolution,” says Christopher Austin, an evolutionary biologist and herpetology curator at the Louisiana State University Museum of Natural Science. Losos left Harvard in 2018, lured by a new job at WashU and the prospect of returning to his hometown, his cats, and his wife, who has a successful real estate career and did not follow him to Massachusetts. He now heads the Living Earth Collaborative, a biodiversity research initiative that unites experts at the Missouri Botanical Garden, the St. Louis Zoo, and WashU. He is working on a book about evolution in the house cat, another of his favorite species. And he is still dodging hurricanes. Losos and colleagues have been trying to assess the long-term evolutionary impacts of predatory lizards they've introduced to some islands in the Bahamas. “I don't know if we will ever get there,” he says. Every few years a hurricane comes through and blows the evolving lizards away. [1]: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/279/5359/2115 [2]: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/337/6097/904 [3]: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/281/5377/695 [4]: pending:yes


LI artificial intelligence startup predicts where COVID-19 will spike – IAM Network

#artificialintelligence

A Long Island artificial intelligence startup has built software aimed at pinpointing U.S. counties where the COVID-19 outbreak is likely to be most deadly. In a June report, the data-mining company, Akai Kaeru LLC, forecast spiking COVID-19 mortality with the heaviest concentrations in counties of the Southeast, including Mississippi, Georgia and Louisiana, said co-founder and chief executive Klaus Mueller. Nationwide, the software found 985 out of all 3,007 U.S. counties are at risk. "These patterns identify groups of counties that have a steeper increase in the death-rate trajectory," he said. Closer to home, the software found Nassau and Suffolk counties are likely to be relatively stable, but Westchester and Rockland counties are potential tinderboxes that could tip into crisis, said Mueller, a computer science professor on leave from Stony Brook University.


'Deadly Premonition 2' is a fantastic mystery wrapped up in an ugly game

Mashable

Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in Disguise is a conflicting experience. On one hand, the game's narrative revolving around the mysterious murder of a young woman in a small Louisiana town is deeply intriguing with its constant twists and surprises that spin an ever-widening web of sadism, death, and terror until the very end. On the other hand, the game looks and plays like shit. As the sequel to perhaps the most critically polarizing game of all time, 2010's Deadly Premonition, this duality fits like a glove and developer SWERY somehow manages to fulfill this game's unique expectations. Both games center around mysteries with similar beginnings that only get more interesting as they go on, but just like its sequel, the first game is also pretty awful to look at, even for 10 years ago. That earlier game follows FBI Special Agent Francis York Morgan as he works to solve a murder mystery in the small, rural town Greenvale, Wash. in the mid-2000s. Morgan runs into paranormal threats and wild characters as he divines answers from cups of coffee and frequently converses and consults with a voice in his head named Zach.


News from a postpandemic world

Science

We asked young scientists to imagine this scenario: You are a science writer in the year 2040 working on a news story that answers this question: What do you hope or fear will be the long-term effects of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic? A selection of their responses, arranged as a newpaper, is below. Follow NextGen Voices on Twitter with hashtag #NextGenSci. Read previous NextGen Voices survey results at . —Jennifer Sills Today, scientists confirm that 1000 previously endangered species have been removed from the Vulnerable list. Biodiversity renewal has been under way since the COVID-19 pandemic 20 years ago led many governments to reevaluate their priorities. Hunting practices and bushmeat consumption were constrained to limit the transmission of new pathogens through human contact with the meat and biofluids of wild animals. Deforestation was restricted worldwide when it became clear that land-use modifications and climate change were important drivers of vector-borne diseases. COVID-19 claimed many lives, but the political and environmental changes the pandemic inspired have likely saved many more by protecting the world's biodiversity. Joel Henrique Ellwanger Department of Genetics, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, 91501-970, Brazil. Email: joel.ellwanger{at}gmail.com Science and technology research budgets, now classified as an arm of the national defense force, could rival traditional military spending in a few years' time. This newfound prioritization of science was shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic, which made clear that the previous conception of military force is impractical when the enemy is invisible and formidable. The unprecedented redirection of financial resources to scientific communities to help find a cure and vaccines, along with the increased demand for scientific experts, expanded technological frontiers and gave science a well-deserved space in governance. Mpho Diphago Stanley Lekgoathi The South African Nuclear Energy Corporation, Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa. Email: mpho.lekgoathi{at}necsa.co.za In response to the 50th wave of COVID-19, which hit New York City last month, the U.S. government has announced that the first spaceship designated for in-orbit medical treatment of COVID-19 patients will soon transport 10,000 residents from high-risk zones to Space. Scientists say that prolonged stay in Space colonies with exposure to controlled gamma radiation from cosmic dust may help weaken the virus's strong affinity to lung tissue. “We will do all we can to protect our residents on Earth. Unlike 2019, we are prepared for this challenge,” said the President in a Capitol Hill address. The Senate has voted to fund the treatment expenses for everyone on the flight. Kartik Nemani Layered Materials and Structures Lab, Department of Mechanical and Energy Engineering, Purdue School of Engineering and Technology, Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis, Indianapolis, IN 46202, USA. Email: snemani{at}purdue.edu Workers at major corporations staged a walk-out today, the 20th anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic, to protest what some have deemed invasive monitoring. Many fears subsided when the first SARS-CoV-2 vaccine was broadly distributed in 2023, but subsequent zoonotic viruses emerged faster than society could prepare for them. With the world economy precariously weak, a cautious arrangement was reached: Workers could return to their jobs if they submitted to routine infection checks. At first, these were relatively innocuous temperature probes and cough tracking. However, with the 2029 advent of low-cost RNA wastewater screening by smart toilets and ubiquitous wall-mounted infrared heat sensors, infected employees could be pinpointed before displaying acute symptoms. Later, an eCommerce/fitness-tracking consortium released artificial intelligence algorithms that combined smartwatch health metrics and recent online search history. Corporate Wellness Boards used the results to justify mandatory quarantines. Employees cried foul. The debate rages on in our courts and on the Giganet about whether the public good is served by exposing the “viral status” of the few. Michael A. Tarselli Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening, Oak Brook, IL 60523, USA. Email: mtarselli{at}slas.org Earlier this month, 21 individuals were quarantined in Kampala, Uganda, after a man was diagnosed with Marburg hemorrhagic fever by the local laboratory of the International Center for Disease Prevention (ICDP). The patient, who has now fully recovered, may have been infected at the veterinary clinic where he worked in close contact with possible animal carriers. “This is a virus that spreads easily through bodily fluids and historically has been transmitted to caregivers,” said Dr. Icuaf, director of the ICDP. Once again, the localized presence of centers with efficient testing capabilities made it possible to identify patient zero and contain the outbreak at its inception. As a result, “no deaths occurred, and everyone who might have been exposed has been quarantined while we monitor their health,” added Dr. Icuaf. The ICDP was instituted in 2021 as a global response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which marked a revolution in public awareness of science-based policy. The cost of crisis prevention is now routinely compared with the predicted price of managing such a crisis after it has occurred. Ahmed Al Harraq Cain Department of Chemical Engineering, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70803, USA. Email: aahme22{at}lsu.edu One of the world's leading universities is launching a large-scale screen of potential antiviral and antibacterial drugs on human volunteers. The substances show promising results in vitro but have not been tested on animals. To compensate for the risk of side effects, all volunteers will receive generous payment. “Drugs showing promising effects on mice could be ineffective on humans, making drug development expensive and slow,” explained the leading scientist of the drug screen. Human rights experts warned against granting permission to conduct the study. “Offering payment for causing physical harm targets the economically vulnerable and violates basic human rights,” they argued. However, doctors and politicians praise the idea, referring to the COVID-19 epidemic. “Developing a new drug through the traditional process can take years. Testing multiple potential candidates on coronavirus-infected people saved thousands of lives before basic research had a chance to catch up. Next time, we want to be prepared,” explained the health minister. Anna Uzonyi Department of Molecular Genetics, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, 7610001, Israel. Email: anna.uzonyi{at}weizmann.ac.il Results published today from a 20-year experiment show that a “lottery” grant funding scheme is superior to traditional peer-review assessment panels. For decades, researchers have debated the effectiveness and cost-efficiency of selecting grant recipients through a peer-review process, given the documented biases that hinder diversity and equitable decision-making. “It was a controversial move at the time, but the results are clear,” said the lead author of the study. The funding experiment, which began in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, was introduced to preserve the workforce employed on short-term contracts. During that year, pandemic-related budget cuts and social restrictions impeded the traditional peer-review process. “The lottery not only reduced peer-review bias but also added millions of dollars per year to the sector in hours saved by academics no longer devoting time to peer review,” said the lead author. “That time was spent on doing more experiments, mentoring colleagues, or achieving a healthier work-life balance.” Ken Dutton-Regester Department of Genetics and Computational Biology, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, Brisbane, QLD 4006, Australia. Twitter: @stemventurist As the debate continues on the efficacy of educational methods, most universities now use a combination of in-person, remote, and technology-enhanced classrooms. The rapid expansion of evidence-based strategies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, audio and video tools, three-dimensional environments, and simulations across disciplines began during the COVID-19 pandemic. The decision to move education to a computer-based environment to protect the health and safety of students and staff transformed the educational conversation. In the increasingly technology-enhanced world, discussions about how to teach a science class online, how to facilitate lab experiences, and how to conduct experiments with new constraints swept the research community. A nuanced understanding emerged about true online pedagogy versus synchronous, remote meetings. Two decades later, we see the results of this transformation. Rachel Yoho Department of Environmental and Global Health, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32603, USA. Twitter: @rachel_yoho A stunning 200,000 people attended the grand opening ceremony of the 2040 Olympics yesterday in New Delhi, India. It has been 20 years since such a public event could take place safely. Only with the recent release of clothing and shoes made of technologically advanced materials that instantly kill viruses could the social distancing that began with the COVID-19 pandemic be relaxed. For added peace of mind, all attendees at the ceremony consented to the skin implantation of Viroclean, a new chip-based device that sounds an alarm when it detects viruses in the air. Sudhakar Srivastava Institute of Environment and Sustainable Development, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, 221005, India. Email: sudhakar.srivastava{at}gmail.com This weekend, at the Coachella 2040 music festival, three aerosol biosurveillance sensors detected a SARS-like virus in the air. Smartphone tracing, using the opt-in U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) geospatial health app developed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, identified two potential index cases. The CDC outbreak prevention team mobilized regional contact tracers to intercept and test both individuals within an hour of first detection. One individual tested positive for a variant of the 2019 SARS-CoV-2 strain, previously thought to be eradicated, and is undergoing treatment in quarantine. Michael Strong Center for Genes, Environment, and Health, National Jewish Health and University of Colorado, Anschutz Medical Campus, Denver, CO 80206, USA. Email: strongm{at}njhealth.org Last week's 15th annual Pan-global Remote Integrated Sciences Meeting (PRISM) attracted more than 100,000 attendees from more than 160 countries. Scientists, educators, students, entrepreneurs, policymakers, and industry experts from fields spanning the physical, biological, and social sciences logged on to the online venue, enabled by virtual reality. Advanced machine learning algorithms provided recommendations for presentations relevant to each participant based on both their expertise and potential for interdisciplinary collaboration. As usual, the highlight of the meeting was the virtual poster sessions, driven by interactivity and streamlined to optimize small-group scientific conversation across fields. Many junior scientist attendees were surprised to learn that such events were nearly unheard of before PRISM grew from the increasing move toward virtual conferences during the coronavirus pandemic over 20 years ago. “My adviser told me that when she was a grad student, big conferences were all held in person,” writes one anonymous Ph.D. student. “Can you imagine having a giant conference like this in some random convention center, with tens of thousands of scientists spending hundreds of dollars on fuel-inefficient flights and hotel booking, lugging around printed posters and just milling around for a week trying to find the optimal talks to attend? Insane.” Yifan Li Department of Chemistry, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA. Twitter: @iWonderWhyly Today, cell-based meat consumption has surpassed farm-produced meat for the first time. The transition began with the meat shortages and near collapse of the meat supply chain during the COVID-19 outbreak. With thousands of workers packed into poorly ventilated and unhygienic facilities, meat processing plants were hotspots for the SARS-CoV-2 virus. A global meat shortage emerged as production rates were slashed. Most people turned to the plant-based meat alternatives available at the time. The meat industry's demise was sealed when cell-based meat entered the mainstream market the following year. Clean meat eliminated the negative effects of the meat industry, from pollution caused by runoff and antibiotics, to worker and animal cruelty, to the carbon footprint of livestock, which contributed 18% of greenhouse gas emissions at the time. Cell-based meat has been growing in popularity ever since, as traditional meat became ethically and environmentally unpalatable. JiaJia Fu Whittle School and Studios, Washington, DC 20008, USA. Email: jjnaturalist{at}gmail.com Global seafood supply now relies entirely on aquaculture. The turning point came when researchers optimized the breeding techniques for edible crabs, enabling high-valued crab species such as mud crabs and blue crabs to be mass-produced in full aquaculture settings. The prioritization of aquaculture was made possible by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. A 12-month closure of fisheries during the wave of global stay-at-home orders led to the rejuvenation of overexploited species such as sardines and mackerels, which had been on the verge of extinction, and made people recognize the fragility of the supply chain. Full investment in aquaculture research began the following year. Khor Waiho Institute of Tropical Aquaculture and Fisheries, Universiti Malaysia Terengganu, Kuala Nerus, Terengganu, 21030, Malaysia. Email: waiho{at}umt.edu.my Next week, the United Nations will meet to assess whether the goals of the 2040 Agenda for Sustainable Development have been achieved. Unfortunately, reasons for optimism are scarce. Overexploitation of natural resources, CO2 emissions, and plastic waste continue to soar. The wealthiest sector of the population consumes 80% of the resources, and the poorest people increasingly suffer from extreme weather events, famines, and freshwater scarcity. We were already heading in this direction early in the century, when the short-term vision of corporations and policy-makers prioritized economic benefits over human and environmental health. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the negative trends. Since 2020, an array of wasteful practices increased, including the proliferation of single-use products and travel in private vehicles to avoid physical contact. After reviewing the past decade, the UN countries will discuss commitments to decrease inequality and pollution by 2050. Isabel Marín Beltrán Laboratory of Environmental Technologies, Centro de Ciências do Mar do Algarve, Universidade do Algarve, Campus de Gambelas, Faro, 8005-139, Portugal. Email: imbeltran{at}ualg.pt For the first time, global average air temperature is more than 2°C higher than the 20th-century global average. Scientists suggest that decisions made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic led to today's disastrous climate consequences. After the Paris Climate Agreement in 2016, scientists were hopeful. National governments were implementing increasingly ambitious measures to meet their commitments. But the economic fallout of the pandemic led growing economies such as India to relax environmental clearance guidelines for industries and infrastructure projects and cut funding allocated to environmental reforms. First-world countries such as the United States and China, instead of shifting toward renewable energy, boosted investment in fossil fuels, which in turn increased greenhouse gas emissions. Even after multiple warnings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, G20 nations neglected to follow the advice of scientists. Akash Mukherjee Department of Physics, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pune, Pune, Maharashtra, 411008, India. Twitter: @aghori_AM A government report released yesterday warns of a potential spike in counterfeit immunity passports entering the market this coronavirus season. According to Jane London, the U.K. health minister, “There is a substantial increase in the number of illegal immunigrants crossing provincial and municipal borders. The public should be aware that just scanning someone's immunity passport is not enough anymore.” This report comes just 6 months after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first released notice that the “NextGen Immunity Passport” brand had been hacked, allowing scammers and tech-savvy citizens to falsify the immunity data they carry with them by law. Asked how businesses and town-guards were detecting falsified immunity passports at checkpoints, minister of national movement John Petersfield told journalists, “This is a police matter. Any further information about detection at this time will only help counterfeiters.” Widespread counterfeiting, as well as last year's false-negative scandal, has generated substantial public distrust in the use of the immunity passport system in movement legislation, now 19 years old. “We learned our lesson about free movement back in 2020,” said one government official who wished to remain anonymous, “but the immunity passport system is cracking, and we don't see a fix yet.” Tyler D. P. Brunet Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, CB2 3RH, UK. Email: tdpb2{at}cam.ac.uk


Tracking coronavirus cases proves difficult amid new surge

Boston Herald

Health departments around the U.S. that are using contact tracers to contain coronavirus outbreaks are scrambling to bolster their ranks amid a surge of cases and resistance to cooperation from those infected or exposed. With too few trained contact tracers to handle soaring caseloads, one hard-hit Arizona county is relying on National Guard members to pitch in. In Louisiana, people who have tested positive typically wait more than two days to respond to health officials -- giving the disease crucial time to spread. Many tracers are finding it hard to break through suspicion and apathy to convince people that compliance is crucial. Contact tracing -- tracking people who test positive and anyone they've come in contact with -- was challenging even when stay-at-home orders were in place.


Identifying light sources using machine learning

AIHub

The identification of light sources is very important for the development of photonic technologies such as light detection and ranging (LiDAR), and microscopy. Typically, a large number of measurements are needed to classify light sources such as sunlight, laser radiation, and molecule fluorescence. The identification has required collection of photon statistics or quantum state tomography. In recently published work, researchers have used a neural network to dramatically reduce the number of measurements required to discriminate thermal light from coherent light at the single-photon level. In their paper, authors from Louisiana State University, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México and Max-Born-Institut describe their experimental and theoretical techniques.


Shell reskills workers in AI as part of huge energy transition - erpecnews live

#artificialintelligence

Working at Shell's Deepwater division in New Orleans gives Barbara Waelde a front-row seat to how the right data can unlock crucial information for the oil giant. So when her supervisor asked her last year if she was interested in a program that could sharpen her digital and data science capabilities, Waelde, 55, jumped at the chance. Since she began her online coursework, the seven-year Shell veteran has learned Python programming, supervised learning algorithms and data modeling, among other skills. Shell began making these online courses available to U.S. employees long before COVID-19 upended daily life. And according to the oil giant, there are no plans to halt or cancel any of them, despite the fact that on March 23 it announced plans to slash operating costs by $9 billion.