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  • richardmitnick 8:44 am on April 9, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "CryoSat still cool at 10", Applied Research & Technology, CryoSat has been instrumental in mapping changes in the thickness and volume of Arctic sea ice., CryoSat records changes in ice height., , , Greenland and Antarctica are losing ice six times faster than in the 1990s.   

    From European Space Agency – United space in Europe: “CryoSat still cool at 10” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    From European Space Agency – United space in Europe

    4.8.20

    1

    Today marks 10 years since a Dnepr rocket blasted off from an underground silo in the remote desert steppe of Kazakhstan, launching one of ESA’s most remarkable Earth-observing satellites into orbit. Tucked safely within the rocket fairing, CryoSat had a tough job ahead: to measure variations in the height of Earth’s ice and reveal how climate change is affecting the polar regions. Carrying novel technology, this extraordinary mission has led to a wealth of scientific discoveries that go far beyond its primary objectives to measure polar ice. And, even at 10 years old, this incredible mission continues to surpass expectations.

    The launch of a satellite is always a time to hold your breath, but CryoSat’s liftoff on 8 April 2010 was arguably more tense than most as it came less than five years after the original satellite was lost owing to a rocket malfunction.

    So important was the need to understand what was happening to Earth’s ice, the decision to rebuild was taken quickly – and thankfully, this day 10 years ago heralded the beginning of a mission that was set to advance polar science like no other.

    While other satellite missions can measure changes in the extent of Earth’s ice, CryoSat completes the picture by recording changes in ice height, which are used to work out changes in thickness and volume – key to understanding the total amount of ice loss.

    CryoSat was designed to observe two types of ice: the vast ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland that rest on land, and the sea ice floating in the polar oceans.

    Not only do these two forms of ice have different consequences for our planet and climate, but they also pose different challenges when trying to measure their thickness.

    To do this, CryoSat carries the first spaceborne synthetic aperture interferometric radar altimeter, a sensor optimised to detect sea-ice floes as they drift in the ocean and to study the rugged glaciers that drain the polar ice sheets.

    In addition, CryoSat’s orbit reaches latitudes of 88° North and South, which takes it closer to the poles than all previous polar-orbiting altimetry satellites.

    ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programmes, Josef Aschbacher, said, “CryoSat is the epitome of an ESA Earth Explorer. It uses completely new technology to fill gaps in our scientific knowledge. The issue of diminishing ice linked to climate change is a real concern, and over the last 10 years this mission has been a game changer.

    3.11.20 Antarctica and Greenland’s contribution to sea level change

    According to a new report, Greenland and Antarctica are losing ice six times faster than in the 1990s – currently on track with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s worst-case climate warming scenario.
    The findings, published in two articles in Nature, show that Greenland and Antarctica lost 6.4 trillion tonnes of ice between 1992 and 2017 – pushing global sea levels up by 17.8 millimetres.
    Of the total sea level rise, around 60% (10.6 millimetres) was due to Greenland ice losses and 40% was due to Antarctica (7.2 millimetres).

    “For example, CryoSat has contributed to the recent worrying findings that Greenland and Antarctica are losing ice six times faster than in the 1990s, which has clear implications for future sea-level rise. Information such as this is vital for international policy making in responding to climate change.”

    Andrew Shepherd from the University of Leeds, UK, added, “CryoSat’s contribution to polar science is truly astonishing. Not only do we now have a clear picture of how much ice Earth is losing, but its measurements have helped to improve the models we use to predict future climate change – information that is critical for society to adapt.”

    CryoSat has also revealed how the world’s 200 000 mountain glaciers have succumbed to climate change, thanks to advanced swath processing of its radar measurements, which allows small regions to be mapped in fine detail. This new technique takes the mission beyond its brief to study polar ice alone.

    2
    2011–16 November Arctic sea-ice thickness

    Although changes in sea ice do not affect sea level directly because it is afloat, it plays a central role in the global climate system as it reflects solar radiation back into space, and because it moderates ocean heat transport around the planet by insulating the relatively warm water from the cold polar air. CryoSat has been instrumental in mapping changes in the thickness and volume of Arctic sea ice.

    Prof. Shepherd added, “Despite the long-term decline in the extent of Arctic sea ice, there have been significant year-to-year fluctuations in its thickness, and its volume has fallen in only seven of the past 10 years. But even with a decade of CryoSat measurements, the seasonal cycle of sea-ice growth and decay is still too large to confidently detect a long-term trend in volume, and so continued observation is essential.

    As well as fulfilling its primary role as a polar ice mission, CryoSat’s measurements have been put to good use in a wide range of alternative and innovative applications. During the winter, CryoSat has been able to record changes in the thickness of ice on lakes, and in the summer it has been used to monitor lake and river water levels across the globe – information that is important for travel and fishing, for example.

    CryoSat’s measurements are now an important reference of global sea level in the polar regions and beyond, thanks to its high-inclination orbit and long-repeat cycle, allowing scientists to refine the long-term trend and to detect short-term fluctuations associated with ocean dynamics.

    3
    Gravity reveals seafloor

    And, it has even revealed what lies beneath the ocean surface thanks to its ability to detect tiny changes in marine gravity, which reflect the shape of the sea bed. CryoSat’s bathymetric charts are now an important tool for studying ocean dynamics, currents and tides, as well as for ship safety.

    ESA’s CryoSat Mission Manager, Tommaso Parrinello, said, “These are just some of CryoSat’s outstanding results and the mission is still going strong, but we will focus more on this at the CryoSat anniversary conference, which we’ve had to postpone until October because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the meantime, however, I cannot praise the mission and all the people who have worked on it enough.”

    ESA’s Mark Drinkwater added, “Indeed, CryoSat is still giving us incredible data to advance science, and with its new synthetic aperture radar and interferometric capabilities it has also laid the foundation for the Copernicus Polar Ice and Snow Topography Altimeter (CRISTAL) operational mission, which we are now developing on behalf of the ESA Member States and the European Commission.”

    CRISTAL will fill the recognised gap in sustained long-term monitoring of polar ice variability for the Copernicus Climate Change Service and Copernicus Marine Environment Monitoring Service, maritime security and international ice charting, and in support of the EU Integrated Arctic Policy and commitments to the Paris Agreement and Green New Deal.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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  • richardmitnick 5:14 pm on April 7, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Applied Research & Technology, , ,   

    From Symmetry: “Dark matter decoys” 

    Symmetry Mag
    From Symmetry<

    04/07/20
    Evelyn Lamb

    Inside the ADMX experiment hall at the University of Washington Credit Mark Stone U. of Washington. Axion Dark Matter Experiment

    The ADMX experiment trains scientists to deal with real signals—by creating fake ones.

    The Axion Dark Matter Experiment searches for dark matter the way you might search for a radio station in an unfamiliar location. In a process that takes quite a bit longer than simply turning the dial, it scans across frequency bands that correspond to the possible masses of the particle they’re looking for. If they get a hint on their first pass—metaphorically, a few notes that sound like the kind of music they’d like to hear—they conduct a more thorough analysis of that frequency.

    They usually do get a few hints on each pass, says University of Washington physicist Gray Rybka, co-spokesperson of ADMX. Some of this is due to random signal fluctuation. Some of it is due to leaky radio signals. (At one point it was a local religious broadcaster. “We received a message from God,” Rybka jokes.)

    And some of it is actually a test: A small subset of ADMX scientists are responsible for injecting synthetic signals into the data.

    A tricky signal

    Dark matter, so called because it does not interact with light or other electromagnetic radiation, explains many observations about the distribution and movements of stars and galaxies. Astrophysicists estimate that it makes up 85% of the total matter of the universe, but they don’t know what it is. “Everything in our zoo of particle physics—every particle we know of—does not fit the bill,” Rybka says

    The axion is one of several dark matter candidates. The particle was originally proposed in the 1970s as a potential solution to the strong CP problem in particle physics. Later, researchers saw that the particle could also explain dark matter.

    “This is two for one,” says ADMX analysis team member Leanne Duffy of the US Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory. “Not only do you solve this existing problem with the Standard Model, but you also get an excellent dark matter candidate out of it.”

    Assuming dark matter axions exist, the Earth and everyone on it is traveling through a “galactic halo” that is thick with them. To touch an axion, we don’t need to do anything.

    ADMX is the only one of DOE’s flagship dark matter searches looking for axions. The question is how to detect them. ADMX scientists hope to do it by converting them into particles that are much easier to detect: photons, quanta of light.

    In the presence of a strong magnetic field, axions should convert into photons. ADMX creates a magnetic field and isolates waves of specific frequencies in a microwave cavity where they can record any axions-turned-photons they come across.

    Passing the test

    Keeping the experiment cold (less than 100 millikelvins above absolute 0) helps separate the signal from the noise by decreasing the number of background photons coming from other sources. But some still do sneak in.

    To make sure the scientists are up to the task of eliminating those background signals, ADMX scientists do something that other experiments do as well—they regularly inject false signals into their data.

    “There is always a part of us that is excited to see a signal because you don’t know if it’s an axion signal or an injected signal.” says Rakshya Khatiwada, a physicist at Fermilab.

    When they inject synthetic signals, the team members responsible for injecting them usually reveal them after the second pass. One time in late 2018, the test proceeded further than that. Only Noah Oblath, a researcher at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and one other colleague knew. “It was a little bit strange,” Oblath says. “I like generally being honest with people.”

    The team proceeded with the next steps of the analysis. When the signal persisted, they had a meeting to discuss how to proceed. “Fortunately this was a teleconference, and I didn’t have any video on, so I didn’t have to worry about covering my grin or anything,” Oblath says.

    They kept up the ruse this time in order to test the scientists’ reactions.

    Rybka says he was doubtful. “There was nothing strange about it,” he says.

    And that was the problem. The signal had been perfectly clear, and its shape was exactly what they had predicted. “When I looked at it, I said, ‘This might be too good to be true.’”

    Duffy had her suspicions as well. And unlike Rybka, she had the tools to test them.

    The high-resolution analysis would have exposed the injections as false immediately. But going to the high-resolution channel wasn’t part of the analysis protocol. Still, she admits, “If I hadn’t been so busy, I probably would have gone and looked at it and just not told anyone.”

    On the call, the doubtful scientists couldn’t let their suspicions guide their actions. If it was a test, it was a test of their process. They began to discuss the next step: Turning the detector’s magnet off to see whether changing the magnetic field affected the signal, as they would expect if it came from a real axion.

    “At that point, Gray paused and gave me a chance to reveal whether it was an injection or not,” Oblath says.

    Powering the magnet down would delay the rest of the experiment, so it was time for Oblath to confess. The test had gone according to plan.

    “It was a great way to test that our axion detection procedure works,” Duffy says. “But it would be nice to actually detect a real axion at some point.”

    See the full article here .

    Dark Matter Research

    Universe map Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) 2dF Galaxy Redshift Survey

    Scientists studying the cosmic microwave background hope to learn about more than just how the universe grew—it could also offer insight into dark matter, dark energy and the mass of the neutrino.

    Dark matter cosmic web and the large-scale structure it forms The Millenium Simulation, V. Springel et al

    Dark Matter Particle Explorer China

    DEAP Dark Matter detector, The DEAP-3600, suspended in the SNOLAB deep in Sudbury’s Creighton Mine

    LBNL LZ Dark Matter project at SURF, Lead, SD, USA

    Dark Matter Background

    Fritz Zwicky discovered Dark Matter in the 1930s when observing the movement of the Coma Cluster., Vera Rubin a Woman in STEM denied the Nobel, did most of the work on Dark Matter.

    Fritz Zwicky from http:// palomarskies.blogspot.com

    Coma cluster via NASA/ESA Hubble

    In modern times, it was astronomer Fritz Zwicky, in the 1930s, who made the first observations of what we now call dark matter. His 1933 observations of the Coma Cluster of galaxies seemed to indicated it has a mass 500 times more than that previously calculated by Edwin Hubble. Furthermore, this extra mass seemed to be completely invisible. Although Zwicky’s observations were initially met with much skepticism, they were later confirmed by other groups of astronomers.

    Thirty years later, astronomer Vera Rubin provided a huge piece of evidence for the existence of dark matter. She discovered that the centers of galaxies rotate at the same speed as their extremities, whereas, of course, they should rotate faster. Think of a vinyl LP on a record deck: its center rotates faster than its edge. That’s what logic dictates we should see in galaxies too. But we do not. The only way to explain this is if the whole galaxy is only the center of some much larger structure, as if it is only the label on the LP so to speak, causing the galaxy to have a consistent rotation speed from center to edge.

    Vera Rubin, following Zwicky, postulated that the missing structure in galaxies is dark matter. Her ideas were met with much resistance from the astronomical community, but her observations have been confirmed and are seen today as pivotal proof of the existence of dark matter.

    Astronomer Vera Rubin at the Lowell Observatory in 1965, worked on Dark Matter (The Carnegie Institution for Science)


    Vera Rubin measuring spectra, worked on Dark Matter (Emilio Segre Visual Archives AIP SPL)


    Vera Rubin, with Department of Terrestrial Magnetism (DTM) image tube spectrograph attached to the Kitt Peak 84-inch telescope, 1970. https://home.dtm.ciw.edu

    The Vera C. Rubin Observatory currently under construction on the El Peñón peak at Cerro Pachón Chile, a 2,682-meter-high mountain in Coquimbo Region, in northern Chile, alongside the existing Gemini South and Southern Astrophysical Research Telescopes.

    LSST Data Journey, Illustration by Sandbox Studio, Chicago with Ana Kova


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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.


    Stem Education Coalition

    Symmetry is a joint Fermilab/SLAC publication.


     
  • richardmitnick 8:23 am on April 7, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Unusual ozone hole opens over the Arctic", Applied Research & Technology, Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite, ,   

    From European Space Agency – United space in Europe: “Unusual ozone hole opens over the Arctic” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    From European Space Agency – United space in Europe

    4.6.20

    1

    Scientists using data from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite have noticed a strong reduction of ozone concentrations over the Arctic. Unusual atmospheric conditions, including freezing temperatures in the stratosphere, have led ozone levels to plummet – causing a ‘mini-hole’ in the ozone layer.

    ESA Copernicus Sentinel-5P

    The ozone layer is a natural, protective layer of gas in the stratosphere that shields life from the Sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation – which is associated with skin cancer and cataracts, as well as other environmental issues.

    The ‘ozone hole’ most commonly referenced is the hole over Antarctica, forming each year during autumn.

    In the past weeks, scientists from the German Aerospace Center (DLR) have noticed the unusually strong depletion of ozone over the northern polar regions. Using data from the Tropomi instrument on the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite, they were able to monitor this Arctic ozone hole form in the atmosphere.


    Ozone hole over the Arctic. Scientists from the German Aereospace Center (DLR), using data from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite, have noticed an unusual ozone hole form over the Arctic. This animation shows the daily ozone levels over the Arctic from 9 March 2020 until 1 April 2020.

    Scientists using data from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite have noticed a strong reduction of ozone concentrations over the Arctic. Unusual atmospheric conditions, including freezing temperatures in the stratosphere, have led ozone levels to plummet – causing a ‘mini-hole’ in the ozone layer.

    The ozone layer is a natural, protective layer of gas in the stratosphere that shields life from the Sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation – which is associated with skin cancer and cataracts, as well as other environmental issues.

    The ‘ozone hole’ most commonly referenced is the hole over Antarctica, forming each year during autumn.

    In the past weeks, scientists from the German Aerospace Center (DLR) have noticed the unusually strong depletion of ozone over the northern polar regions. Using data from the Tropomi instrument on the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite, they were able to monitor this Arctic ozone hole form in the atmosphere.

    In the past, mini ozone holes have occasionally been spotted over the North Pole, but the depletion over the Arctic this year is much larger compared to previous years.

    Diego Loyola, from the German Aerospace Center, comments, “The ozone hole we observe over the Arctic this year has a maximum extension of less than 1 million sq km. This is small compared to the Antarctic hole, which can reach a size of around 20 to 25 million sq km with a normal duration of around 3 to 4 months.”

    Even though both poles endure ozone losses during winter, the Arctic’s ozone depletion tends to be significantly less than Antarctica. The ozone hole is driven by extremely cold temperatures (below -80°C), sunlight, wind fields and substances such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

    Arctic temperatures do not usually plummet as low as in Antarctica. However, this year, powerful winds flowing around the North Pole trapped cold air within what is known as the ‘polar vortex’ – a circling whirlpool of stratospheric winds.

    By the end of the polar winter, the first sunlight over the North Pole initiated this unusually strong ozone depletion – causing the hole to form. However, its size is still small compared to what can usually be observed in the southern hemisphere.

    Diego says, “Since 14 March, the ozone columns over the Arctic have decreased to what is normally considered ‘ozone hole levels,’ which are less than 220 Dobson Units. We expect the hole to close again during mid-April 2020.”

    Claus Zehner, ESA’s Copernicus Sentinel-5P mission manager, adds, “The Tropomi total ozone measurements are extending Europe’s capability of the continuous global ozone monitoring from space since 1995. In this time, we have not witnessed an ozone hole formation of this size over the Arctic.”

    In the 2018 Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion, data shows that the ozone layer in parts of the stratosphere has recovered at a rate of 1-3% per decade since 2000. At these projected rates, the Northern Hemisphere and mid-latitude ozone is predicted to recover by around 2030, followed by the Southern Hemisphere around 2050, and polar regions by 2060.

    The Tropomi instrument on the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite measures a number of trace gases, including aerosol and cloud properties with a global coverage on a daily basis. Given the importance of monitoring air quality and global ozone distribution, the upcoming Copernicus Sentinel-4 and Sentinel-5 missions will monitor key air quality trace gases, stratospheric ozone, and aerosols. As part of the EU’s Copernicus programme, the missions will provide information on air quality, solar radiation and climate monitoring.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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  • richardmitnick 12:41 pm on April 3, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Applied Research & Technology, , , , , University of Illinois, UTe2-Uranium ditelluride-an unconventional superconductor   

    From University of Illinois via phys.org: “New measurements reveal evidence of elusive particles in a newly-discovered superconductor” 

    U Illinois bloc

    From University of Illinois

    via


    phys.org

    April 3, 2020
    Emily Edwards

    1
    New measurements show evidence for the presence of exotic Majorana particles on the surface of an unconventional superconductor, Uranium ditelluride. Credit: Dr. E. Edwards, Managing Director of Illinois Quantum Information Science and Technology Center (IQUIST).

    Particle chasing—it’s a game that so many physicists play. Sometimes the hunt takes place inside large supercolliders, where spectacular collisions are necessary to find hidden particles and new physics. For physicists studying solids, the game occurs in a much different environment and the sought-after particles don’t come from furious collisions. Instead, particle-like entities, called quasiparticles, emerge from complicated electronic interactions that happen deep within a material. Sometimes the quasiparticles are easy to probe, but others are more difficult to spot, lurking just out of reach.

    New measurements show evidence for the presence of exotic Majorana particles on the surface of an unconventional superconductor, Uranium ditelluride. Graphic provided by Dr. E. Edwards, Managing Director of Illinois Quantum Information Science and Technology Center (IQUIST).

    Now a team of researchers at the University of Illinois, led by physicist Vidya Madhavan, in collaboration with researchers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the University of Maryland, Boston College, and ETH Zürich, have used high-resolution microscopy tools to peer at the inner-workings of an unusual type of superconductor, uranium ditelluride (UTe2). Their measurements reveal strong evidence that this material may be a natural home to an exotic quasiparticle that’s been hiding from physicists for decades. The study is published in the March 26 issue of Nature.

    The particles in question were theorized back in 1937 by an Italian physicist named Ettore Majorana, and since then, physicists have been trying to prove that they can exist. Scientists think a particular class of materials called chiral unconventional superconductors may naturally host Majoranas. UTe2 may have all of the right properties to spawn these elusive quasiparticles.

    “We know the physics of conventional superconductors and understand how they can conduct electricity or transport electrons from one end of a wire to the other with no resistance,” said Madhavan. “Chiral unconventional superconductors are much rarer, and the physics is less well known. Understanding them is important for fundamental physics and has potential applications in quantum computing,” she said.

    Inside of a normal superconductor, the electrons pair up in a way that enables the lossless, persistent currents. This is in contrast to a normal conductor, like copper wire, which heats up as current passes through it. Part of the theory behind superconductivity was formulated decades ago by three scientists at the U of I who earned a Nobel prize in physics for their work. For this conventional kind of superconductivity, magnetic fields are the enemy and break up the pairs, returning the material back to normal. Over the last year, researchers showed that uranium ditelluride behaves differently.

    In 2019, Sheng Ran, Nicholas Butch (both co-authors on this study) and their collaborators announced that UTe2 remains superconducting in the presence of magnetic fields up to 65 Tesla, which is about 10,000 times stronger than a refrigerator magnet. This unconventional behavior, combined with other measurements, led the authors of that paper to surmise that the electrons were pairing up in an unusual way that enabled them to resist break-ups. The pairing is important because superconductors with this property could very likely have Majorana particles on the surface. The new study from Madhavan and collaborators strengthens the case for this.

    The team used a high-resolution microscope called a scanning tunneling microscope to look for evidence of the unusual electron pairing and Majorana particles. This microscope can not only map out the surface of uranium ditelluride down to the level of atoms but also probe what’s happening with the electrons. The material itself is silvery with steps jutting up from the surface. These step features are where evidence for Majorana quasiparticles is best seen. They provide a clean edge that, if predictions are correct, should show signatures of a continuous current that moves in one direction, even without the application of a voltage. The team scanned opposite sides of the step and saw a signal with a peak. But the peak was different, depending on which side of the step was scanned.

    “Looking at both sides of the step, you see a signal that is a mirror image of each other. In a normal superconductor, you cannot find that,” said Madhavan. “The best explanation for seeing the mirror images is that we are directly measuring the presence of moving Majorana particles,” said Madhavan. The team says that the measurements indicate that free-moving Majorana quasiparticles are circulating together in one direction, giving rise to mirrored, or chiral, signals.

    Madhavan says the next step is to make measurements that would confirm that the material has broken time-reversal symmetry. This means that the particles should move differently if the arrow of time were theoretically reversed. Such a study would provide additional evidence for the chiral nature of UTe2.

    If confirmed, uranium ditelluride would be the only material, other than superfluid He-3, proven to be a chiral unconventional superconductor. “This is a huge discovery that will allow us to understand this rare kind of superconductivity, and maybe, in time, we could even manipulate Majorana quasiparticles in a useful way for quantum information science.”

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Illinois campus

    The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign community of students, scholars, and alumni is changing the world.

    With our land-grant heritage as a foundation, we pioneer innovative research that tackles global problems and expands the human experience. Our transformative learning experiences, in and out of the classroom, are designed to produce alumni who desire to make a significant, societal impact.

    The University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) is a public research university in Chicago, Illinois. Its campus is in the Near West Side community area, adjacent to the Chicago Loop. The second campus established under the University of Illinois system, UIC is also the largest university in the Chicago area, having approximately 30,000 students[9] enrolled in 15 colleges.

    UIC operates the largest medical school in the United States with research expenditures exceeding $412 million and consistently ranks in the top 50 U.S. institutions for research expenditures.[10][11][12] In the 2019 U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of colleges and universities, UIC ranked as the 129th best in the “national universities” category.[13] The 2015 Times Higher Education World University Rankings ranked UIC as the 18th best in the world among universities less than 50 years old.[14]

    UIC competes in NCAA Division I Horizon League as the UIC Flames in sports. The Credit Union 1 Arena (formerly UIC Pavilion) is the Flames’ venue for home games.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:53 am on April 3, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "BESSY II: Ultra-fast switching of helicity of circularly polarized light pulses", Applied Research & Technology, At the BESSY II storage ring a joint team have shown how the helicity of circularly polarized synchrotron radiation can be switched faster—up to a million times faster than before., , , , Synchrotron radiation sources   

    From Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres via phys.org: “BESSY II: Ultra-fast switching of helicity of circularly polarized light pulses” 

    From Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres

    via


    phys.org

    BESSE II Storage, Ring Berlin

    2
    Electrons on different orbits during the three revolutions (blue, red and green) pass through different magnetic field arrangements and thus emit differently polarized X-ray pulses. In comparison the regular orbit (black). Credit: F. Armborst/K. Holldack

    At the BESSY II storage ring, a joint team of accelerator physicists, undulator experts and experimenters have shown how the helicity of circularly polarized synchrotron radiation can be switched faster—up to a million times faster than before. They used an elliptical double-undulator developed at HZB and operated the storage ring in the so-called two-orbit mode. This is a special mode of operation that was only recently developed at BESSY II and provides the basis for fast switching. The ultra-fast change of light helicity is particularly interesting to observe processes in magnetic materials and has long been expected by a large user community.

    In synchrotron radiation sources such as BESSY II, electron bunches orbit the storage ring at almost the speed of light. They are forced to emit extremely bright light pulses with special properties by periodic magnetic structures (undulators).

    Elliptical undulators can also be used to generate circularly polarized light pulses, which display a feature called helicity: the polarisation goes either clockwise or counterclockwise. Magnetic structures in materials react differently to circularly polarized light: Depending on the helicity of the X-ray pulses, they more or less absorb this radiation.

    Since the 1980s, this has been exploited in so-called XMCD (X-ray Circular Dichroism) experiments to investigate static and dynamic changes in magnetic materials or to image magnetic nanostructures on surfaces.

    Especially for such imaging techniques, the user community at synchrotron radiation sources has long wished for the possibility to quickly switch the helicity of the light, mainly because this directly results in a magnetic image contrast that makes bits in magnetic data storage devices visible and quantifiable.

    In the elliptical undulators typical for BESSY II (APPLE II), developed by the group around Johannes Bahrdt, the helicity of light is switched by a mechanical displacement of meter-long arrangements of strong permanent magnets, a process that sometimes takes up to minutes.

    The new method, however, is based on the combination of such undulators with a special orbit of the electron beam in the storage ring—generated by the so-called TRIBs (transverse resonance island buckets). TRIBs have been experimentally explored by the accelerator expert Dr. Paul Goslawski at BESSY II. While the path of the electrons in the storage ring normally closes after one orbit, in the TRIBs mode the electrons run on different orbits during successive orbits and can thus emit X-ray pulses from different magnetic field configurations, suggested Dr. Karsten Holldack and Dr. Johannes Bahrdt.

    They were recently able to show that their idea actually works with the help of the existing double undulator UE56-2 at BESSY II in a pilot experiment: When passing through a specially prepared magnet arrangement of this double undulator, the electron bunches from different orbits in TRIBs mode emitted X-ray photons with the same wavelength but opposite circular polarization.

    Thus, in principle, XMCD signals from magnetic samples can now be studied at intervals of only 1 microsecond with right- and then left-circularly polarized light pulses. In the pilot experiment the XMCD signals from a magnetic sample (nickel in permalloy) were detected from revolution to revolution and the fast (MHz) helicity change could be clearly demonstrated. With new undulators tailored for this purpose, special beamlines with ultrafast helicity change could be offered at BESSY II in TRIBs mode. Ultimately switching times could shrink to nanoseconds.

    “We are really delighted that the Two-Orbit/TRIBs development allows now already new experiments at BESSY II”, Goslawski says. This would also be an attractive option for BESSY III. The results have now been published in Nature Communications Physics.

    See the full article here.

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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The Helmholtz Association

    The Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers was created in 1995 to formalise existing relationships between several globally-renowned independent research centres. The Helmholtz Association distributes core funding from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) to its, now, 19 autonomous research centers and evaluates their effectiveness against the highest international standards.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:37 pm on April 2, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Applied Research & Technology, “We managed to introduce online teaching in five days. Under normal circumstances this would have been a five-​year project.” Sebastian Huber., , Doctoral students in particular cannot continue with the experiments they have spent so much time preparing and depending on the status of their work will not be able to conclude them as planned., , Research has come to a sudden standstill for the most part regardless of what stage the measurements and experiments were at., The coronavirus crisis forced ETH Zürich to suspend its experimental research activity and switch to virtual teaching at short notice.   

    From ETH Zürich: “The new reality at ETH” 

    From ETH Zürich

    02.04.2020
    Gina Moser
    Felix Würsten

    The coronavirus crisis forced ETH Zürich to suspend its experimental research activity and switch to virtual teaching at short notice. A report from the Department of Physics reveals the impact of the seismic switch on a practical level.

    1
    The deserted Hönggerberg campus at lunchtime on 20 March. (Photograph: Gina Moser / ETH Zürich)

    Manfred Sigrist, Professor of Theoretical Physics, has been lecturing at ETH Zürich since 1995. He regards the huge blackboards in the lecture halls as key teaching aids. How is he getting on, now that students have not been allowed on campus since 16 March?

    Remarkably well, actually. “With a great deal of improvisational skill and hastily purchased equipment, we were able to make the lecture halls suitable for video streaming,” says Marius Simon from Teaching Services at the Department of Physics. The empty seats now accommodate cables and cameras. A fascinating combination of physical and virtual presence is emerging during the lectures. A camera shows the large blackboard, in front of which Sigrist stands alone, chalk in hand, addressing his virtual audience. For experimental physics, Simon’s team still physically sets up the experiments in the lecture hall so they can be integrated seamlessly into the lecture.

    The rapid switch

    This requires unusual ideas. Depending on students’ bandwidth, the blackboards can appear pixelated, so Sigrist takes a photo during the break and uploads it to the Moodle learning platform before wiping the board for the second half. He answers any questions at the end of the lecture. To do so, he stands in front of his laptop where he can read his students’ electronic messages, unlike when he is at the blackboard. In the meantime, an assistant ensures that he is connected to the virtual world.

    The practical courses also take place via the video conferencing tool. The teaching assistants do not work with blackboard and chalk, however, but use electronic pens and tablets instead. “It works surprisingly well. I’m amazed at how quickly ETH implemented the switch,” says junior mathematics assistant Anna Knörr, currently also working from home. “We use the tool’s joint whiteboard function for our practical courses, which is great when the internet connection is good. I encourage everyone to turn on their camera and ask questions orally.”

    The search for a new normal

    The students are very grateful for the swift response of both ETH and the department, particularly when they compare their situation to that of students in other countries. They find it interesting to see how differently the professors use the tools, with some even enjoying developing new methods. Knörr is confident that “an evaluation over the coming weeks is likely to offer great potential for optimising all of ETH.”

    She continues, “The most frustrating moment in the last few days was when my internet connection crashed.” She is not the only one under pressure. Many colleagues are also struggling with network problems at their temporary workstations at home, located as far as possible from other family members. Although many things are running more smoothly in the second week of working from home, the initial enthusiasm for the novel situation is wearing thin and a certain fatigue has begun to show. The objective now is to bring the fast pace back down to normal levels and establish a sound structure for the new day-​to-day routine.

    Communication is key

    When struggling with technical problems at home, it is all the more important to stay well informed. Communication is vital, therefore, not just at university level but also within the department. As well as publishing information on the coronavirus crisis in a prominent position on its website, the Department of Physics has set up a wiki to facilitate discussion between the teaching staff and researchers. Feedback has been very positive, meaning that the major effort has paid off.

    The department’s IT Service Group had its own challenges to contend with, patiently helping with support to maintain the information flow in the new home office environment, ensuring that hardware was working and that the tools provided, some of which were new, could quickly be put to use. Solutions have also been found for informal networking: the Quantum Science and Technology lunch seminar is about to go online, which involves the approximately 30 participants eating together at their workstations. Some groups have already introduced virtual coffee breaks.

    Practical course@Home

    As regards practical courses, the department is striking out in new directions to ensure that courses can continue without interruption. Almost half of the 120 physics students took part in the first “Practical course@Home” on 23 March. Teaching Services are now working at full speed to develop new experiments that can be conducted at home. The goal is to offer students the best possible substitute for customary onsite practical experience.

    Experiments that focus on data analysis are especially suitable for study from home. These experiments had already been planned before the lockdown and are now to be implemented without delay. Students can also easily carry out electronic experiments at home using simulation software. However, those in charge of the practical courses want to do more than just make measurement data available; they want to make the virtual hands-​on exercises more exciting. The assistants are also contributing by suggesting ideas. Six to eight new experiments are now being developed that will enable students to use the sensors in their smartphones as measuring devices. At some point in the future, when things are back to normal, these experiments will be reused at busy times.

    Five days instead of five years

    Department coordinator Sebastian Huber, who has been in office for just three months, puts it in a nutshell: “We managed to introduce online teaching in five days. Under normal circumstances, this would have been a five-​year project.” Seeing a complex organisation pooling its efforts, despite the emergency, to prevent students from losing the semester is also a huge motivation for him. “We have accelerated the decision-​making process enormously – in the knowledge that our proactive behaviour has sometimes exposed us somewhat. But with a healthy error culture, we have found a good solution for most problems,” Huber reports.

    A new culture of error tolerance has taken root in these turbulent times, from which all parties will benefit in the future. After all, anyone embarking on a new venture must be allowed to make mistakes. An extreme scenario such as this suddenly opens up new horizons and eases existing structures. “Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that the tough measures we have been forced to adopt would be received with such goodwill and energy or be accepted so readily,” says department head Jérôme Faist, continuing: “We can truly be proud of how our department is handling this crisis.”

    Far-​reaching consequences

    Needless to say, there has also been some criticism. If they had had their way, not everyone in the department would have taken these drastic measures as proactively and systematically as those in charge did. Shutting down the department has far-​reaching consequences for many. Research has come to a sudden standstill for the most part, regardless of what stage the measurements and experiments were at. This affects doctoral students in particular: they cannot continue with the experiments they have spent so much time preparing and, depending on the status of their work, will not be able to conclude them as planned. They now need solutions that are tailored to their particular situation.

    The workshops are also closed. Their staff are at home and the 13 apprentices who are about to take their final examination have to interrupt their practical work. Nobody knows when the exams for the around fifty apprentices at ETH will take place.

    Maintaining emergency service

    Although most experimental research in the labs has currently been stopped to protect the staff, not all devices and experiments can simply be switched off. The expensive NMR devices that would be damaged without continuous cooling with liquefied gas are still running, for example. As the Department of Physics also supplies liquefied gases to other departments, an emergency service has been set up to safeguard valuable, long-​term biological samples. A skeleton staff is now on duty on a rotating basis, ensuring that central tasks and backups can be performed in an emergency.

    The crisis is also having unexpectedly positive effects. The refurbishment of the physics buildings and labs, which had been severely hampering research work to some extent since the beginning of the year, can now continue without restriction. Since only a small team of tradesmen can work throughout the entire building, it can meet the hygiene requirements. Provided construction work is still possible, the refurbishment can now be completed more quickly than originally planned

    See the full article here .

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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    ETH Zurich campus
    ETH Zürich is one of the leading international universities for technology and the natural sciences. It is well known for its excellent education, ground-breaking fundamental research and for implementing its results directly into practice.

    Founded in 1855, ETH Zürich today has more than 18,500 students from over 110 countries, including 4,000 doctoral students. To researchers, it offers an inspiring working environment, to students, a comprehensive education.

    Twenty-one Nobel Laureates have studied, taught or conducted research at ETH Zürich, underlining the excellent reputation of the university.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:46 am on April 2, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "How we can restore marine life by 2050", Applied Research & Technology, , , Fishing below an ocean's maximum yield allows faster recovery of fish stocks.   

    From COSMOS: “How we can restore marine life by 2050” 

    Cosmos Magazine bloc

    From COSMOS

    02 April 2020
    Natalie Parletta

    1
    Fishing below an ocean’s maximum yield allows faster recovery of fish stocks.
    Manu San Felix, National Geographic

    An international team of scientists has painstakingly mapped out positive actions that could return the planet’s marine life to its abundant glory over the next three decades.

    Writing in the journal Nature, they warn that the ocean’s capacity to sustain human wellbeing – by mitigating climate change and providing food, water and oxygen – is at a critical junction.

    “We are at a point where we can choose between a legacy of a resilient and vibrant ocean or an irreversibly disrupted ocean,” says lead author Carlos Duarte from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Saudi Arabia.

    Indeed, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 14 recognises the urgent need to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development”.

    And it is achievable, the authors say. “Rebuilding marine life represents a doable grand challenge for humanity, an ethical obligation and a smart economic objective to achieve a sustainable future.”

    Although human activities have had devastating impacts on marine life over the 20th century, the team drew on resilient responses of sea creatures, habitats and ecosystems to conservation efforts to demonstrate how they can be revived.

    These include the spectacular recovery of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) in Australia, sea otters (Enhudra lutris) in West Canada and Baltic Sea grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) from the brink of extinction.

    Other examples include large-scale habitat restoration of mangroves, reduction of organic pollutants and efforts to manage and recover fish stocks.

    Through success stories of ocean conservation and recovery trends, the researchers identify nine factors central to reviving marine life, salt marshes, mangroves, seagrasses, coral reefs, kelp, oyster reefs, fisheries, megafauna and the deep sea.

    They outline six complementary interventions called “recovery wedges” that include a suite of strategies under the themes of protecting species and spaces, harvesting prudently, restoring habitats, reducing pollution and mitigating climate change.

    Recommended actions include opportunities, benefits, possible roadblocks and remedial initiatives, providing a tangible roadmap to deliver a healthy ocean. But it’s not a smorgasbord that can be picked at selectively or passively.

    The authors stress that the goals need to be adopted across the board, and that the focus should be not just conservation but actively reviving dwindling species and ecosystems to sustainably feed and support the growing human population.

    Importantly, rebuilding marine life abundance can only succeed if the most ambitious goals within the Paris Agreement are met; impacts from climate change already limit the scope for rebuilding tropical corals to a partial recovery.

    Success relies heavily on a committed, global partnership of governments and societies aligned with the goal, as well as a significant financial investment. But the researchers report that the ecological, economic and social gains will be far-reaching.

    The review is well-timed for this year’s G20 summit in Saudi Arabia, where nations will consider their actions to conserve biodiversity beyond 2020.

    “We have a narrow window of opportunity to deliver a healthy ocean to our grandchildren’s generation, and we have the knowledge and tools to do so,” says Duarte.

    “Failing to embrace this challenge – and in so doing condemning our grandchildren to a broken ocean unable to support high-quality livelihoods – is not an option.”

    See the full article here
    .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

     
  • richardmitnick 8:51 am on April 2, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "MIT initiates mass manufacture of disposable face shields for Covid-19 response", Applied Research & Technology, ,   

    From MIT News: “MIT initiates mass manufacture of disposable face shields for Covid-19 response” 

    MIT News

    From MIT News

    March 31, 2020
    Mary Beth Gallagher | Department of Mechanical Engineering

    1
    Robyn Goodner, who serves as a maker technical specialist for Project Manus, models the face shield design in the Metropolis Makerspace. Image: Project Manus

    2
    Elazer Edelman, the Edward J. Poitras Professor in Medical Engineering and Science at MIT, wears a face shield developed through a collaborative effort involving groups across MIT, while holding an electronic, Bluetooth-enabled stethoscope. In this photo, Edelman is wearing the shield in the snapped up position health care workers also have the option to use. Image: Elazer Edelman

    A team from MIT has designed disposable face shields that can be mass produced quickly to address hospitals’ needs nationwide.

    The shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) available to health care professionals has become increasingly problematic as Covid-19 cases continue to surge. The sheer volume of PPE needed to keep doctors, nurses, and their patients safe in this crisis is daunting — for example, tens of millions of disposable face shields will be needed nationwide each month. This week, a team from MIT launched mass manufacturing of a new technique to meet the high demand for disposable face shields.

    The single piece face shield design will be made using a process known as die cutting. Machines will cut the design from thousands of flat sheets per hour. Once boxes of these flat sheets arrive at hospitals, health care professionals can quickly fold them into three-dimensional face shields before adjusting for their faces.

    “These face shields have to be made rapidly and at low cost because they need to be disposable,” explains Martin Culpepper, professor of mechanical engineering, director of Project Manus, and a member of MIT’s governance team on manufacturing opportunities for Covid-19. “Our technique combines low-cost materials with a high-rate manufacturing that has the potential of meeting the need for face shields nationwide.”

    Culpepper and his team at Project Manus spearheaded the development of the technique in collaboration with a number of partners from MIT, local-area hospitals, and industry. The team has been working closely with the MIT Medical Outreach team and the Crisis Management Unit established by Vice President for Research Maria Zuber and directed by Elazer R. Edelman, the Edward J. Poitras Professor in Medical Engineering and Science at MIT.

    Extending the life of face masks

    When used correctly, face masks should be changed every time a doctor or nurse treats a new patient. However, over the past month, many health care professionals have been asked to wear one face mask per day. That one mask could carry virus particles — potentially contributing to the spread of Covid-19 within hospitals and endangering health care professionals.

    “The lack of adequate protective equipment or the idea of reusing potentially contaminated equipment is especially frightening to health care workers who are putting their lives, and by extension the lives and well-being of their families, on the line every day,” explains Edelman, who is also the director of MIT’s Institute for Medical Engineering and Science (IMES) and leader of MIT’s PPE task force.

    Face shields can address this problem by providing another layer of protection that covers masks and entire faces while extending the life of PPE. The shields are made of clear materials and have a shape similar to a welder’s mask. They protect the health care professional and their face mask from coming in direct contact with virus particles spread through coughing or sneezing.

    “If we can slow down the rate at which health care professionals use face masks with a disposable face shield, we can make a real difference in protecting their health and safety,” explains Culpepper.

    Culpepper and his team at Project Manus set out to design a face shield that could be rapidly produced at a scale large enough to meet the growing demand. They landed on a flat design that people could quickly fold into a three dimensional structure when the shield was ready for use. Their design also includes extra protection with flaps that fold under the neck and over the forehead.

    As much of MIT’s campus came to a halt in light of social distancing measures being put in place, Culpepper started prototyping using a laser cutter he had in his house. Along with some design input from his children, he tested different materials and made the first 10 prototypes at home.

    “When you’re thinking of materials, you have to keep supply chains in mind. You can’t choose a material that could evaporate from the supply chain. That is a challenging problem in this crisis,” explains Culpepper. After testing a few materials that cracked and broke when bent, the team chose polycarbonate and polyethylene terephthalate glycol – known more commonly as PETG – as the shield’s material.

    In addition to making more prototypes at the Project Manus Metropolis Makerspace using a laser cutter, Culpepper worked with Professor Neil Gershenfeld and his team at MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms (CBA) on rapid-prototyping designs for testing using a Zund large-format cutter.

    Gershenfeld’s team at CBA is working on a number of projects for coronavirus response using its digital fabrication facility at MIT as well as the global Fab Lab network it launched. “The coronavirus response site is a great resource for those that are interested in working on solutions for PPE and devices for the Covid-19 pandemic,” Culpepper adds.

    “It’s been a pleasure in this difficult time collaborating with such an impressive group, drawing on all of the Institute’s strengths to quickly define and refine a solution to an urgent need,” says Gershenfeld. “The work at MIT will be valuable beyond its immediate local impact, as a best-practices reference for the many other face shield projects emerging around the world.”

    Testing the shield at local hospitals

    With a number of working prototypes built, Culpepper and his team moved to the testing phase after consultation with, and practical feedback from, Edelman, who is also a physician.

    “The single greatest insecurity of a health care provider is the thought that we will become infected and in doing so be unable to perform our duties or infect others,” adds Edelman.

    Edelman demonstrated how to store, assemble, and use the face shields for nurses and physicians at a number of area hospitals. Participants were then asked to use them in real-life situations and provide feedback using a one-page survey.

    The feedback was overwhelmingly positive — participants found that in addition to being easy to assemble and use, the MIT-designed shields provided good protection against coming in contact with virus particles through splashes or aerosolized particles.

    Armed with this feedback, Culpepper’s team made a few minor adjustments to the design to maximize coverage around the sides and neck of users. With the design finalized, the project has this week shifted to high-rate mass manufacturing.

    High-rate mass manufacturing

    The die cutter machines used in mass manufacturing will produce the flat face shields at a rate of 50,000 shields per day in a few weeks. The manufacturer will continue to ramp up and increase the rate of manufacturing further with the ability to fabricate in more than 80 facilities nationwide.

    “This process has been designed in such a way that there is the potential to ramp up to millions of face shields produced per day,” explains Culpepper. “This could very quickly become a nationwide solution for face shield shortages.”

    MIT plans on purchasing the first 40,000 face shields to donate to local Boston-area hospitals this week and the fabrication facilities will donate 60,000.

    “Having an adequate and perhaps even endless supply of PPE is absolutely critical to ensuring the safety of the entire population, especially those who care for Covid-19 patients,” adds Edelman.

    Throughout the process, Culpepper’s team received help from a number of colleagues and departments across MIT. This includes MIT’s Office of the Vice President for Research, Professor Elazer Edelman, Tolga Durak, managing director of the MIT Environment, Health and Safety Office, the Center for Bits and Atoms, MIT Procurement Operations, MIT’s Office of the General Counsel, MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, and colleagues from MIT Lincoln Laboratory, who helped source material to build the face shields and supported design iterations. They also received advice from MIT colleagues working with the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, which is helping organize manufacturers for Covid-19 response.

    “This project was a great example of collaboration across MIT and the employment of mind-heart-hand. When we reached out to others, they dropped everything to put their minds and hands to work helping us make this happen quickly,” says Culpepper. “It is also a great example for others to look to safely and rapidly innovate PPE for Covid-19.”

    See the full article here .


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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.


    Stem Education Coalition

    MIT Seal

    The mission of MIT is to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the twenty-first century. We seek to develop in each member of the MIT community the ability and passion to work wisely, creatively, and effectively for the betterment of humankind.

    MIT Campus

     
  • richardmitnick 9:53 am on April 1, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "From the lab to COVID front lines", Aldatu Biosciences, Applied Research & Technology, ,   

    From Harvard Gazette: “From the lab to COVID front lines” 

    Harvard University

    From Harvard Gazette

    March 31, 2020
    Alvin Powell

    1
    Technology developed at Harvard provides early boost to Mass. COVID testing

    As Massachusetts rapidly ramps up COVID-19 testing, a technology born in the lab of Harvard AIDS pioneer Max Essex and nurtured by entrepreneurship resources on campus has played an important role in providing the needed reagents and kits that are driving a surge in testing.

    At Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, which by Tuesday had conducted more than 3,000 tests, the first kits that fed the hospital’s rapid increase in diagnostic results since it started doing them in mid-March came from Watertown-based Aldatu Biosciences. [The Broad Institute also has made rapid, large advances in testing.] The nine-employee company was formed to commercialize this diagnostic technology developed at Harvard and was based at the Pagliuca Harvard Life Lab in Allston until January 2019.

    Jeffrey Saffitz, chief of pathology at BIDMC and Mallinckrodt Professor of Pathology at Harvard Medical School, said the hospital’s lab has four high-volume testing machines, but had a shortage — as did other labs in the state — of the customized reagents needed to detect SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

    While BIDMC awaited additional supplies from its regular commercial vendors, Aldatu worked with the hospital’s pathology staff to develop diagnostic kits and get them to the hospital. Saffitz said the rapid increase in COVID testing — as of Tuesday, they’d found 487 positives — was in part thanks to Aldatu’s nimbleness and to the efforts of hospital staff, including clinical microbiologists, laboratory technicians, lab managers, and others. By late last week, Saffitz said the hospital was ready to perform as many as 1,500 tests per day — an amount equal to an entire season’s worth of flu tests.

    2
    Test kits from Aldatu Biosciences in Watertown went to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, which by Sunday afternoon had conducted almost 2,500 tests, the most by a hospital-based lab in the state.

    “Our machines were able to accommodate the Aldatu test kits. When this happened there was an incredibly effective partnership between our clinical microbiology teams and the Aldatu folks,” Saffitz said. “We worked together to advise them in terms of what they needed to do to make the test kits usable on our machinery. … We did all the validation studies of the test kit to prove that it actually worked, and it worked beautifully. And we were able to run the Aldatu test kits initially at a time before we had received test kits from the major supplier.”

    Aldatu’s roots lie in Essex’s long-running Botswana-Harvard Partnership, established in 1996 to fight AIDS. In 2008, infectious diseases physician Christopher Rowley, then a research associate at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, was joined there by a postdoctoral fellow, Iain MacLeod. Rowley was working on HIV drug resistance, a continual problem in treating patients with antiretroviral drugs. Frustrated by the cumbersome existing process to determine whether a patient harbored resistant HIV strains, the two developed the PANDAA genotyping platform (Pan Degenerate Amplification and Adaptation), which provided rapid, low-cost HIV genotyping.

    “Iain and Chris developed the PANDAA platform for PCR testing of drug resistance for HIV,” Essex said. “The goal was to develop a test that would be cheap enough for widespread use in low- and middle-income countries, where drug resistance testing was often not available.”

    Rowley went on to a clinical post at BIDMC, where today he is an assistant professor of medicine and an infectious diseases physician, while MacLeod, interested in developing the technology further, went to Harvard’s Innovation Lab (i-lab).

    Founded in 2000 as a way to support student entrepreneurs, the i-lab offers students working space, an entrepreneurial-minded community, and expert advice. At an i-lab workshop, MacLeod met David Raiser, a doctoral student in genetics and a technology assessment fellow at Harvard’s Office of Technology Development (OTD), where he was learning commercialization and marketing strategies for emerging innovations. The two first talked about PANDAA’s potential while waiting outside the i-lab for the shuttle to Harvard’s Longwood campus.

    3
    David Raiser (pictured) and Iain MacLeod met at a Harvard i-lab workshop. They later set up Aldatu, which went into full-time operation in 2015. “We were well-positioned to move quickly on the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Raiser.

    “David had an intuitive sense that this was a valuable technology with great potential to benefit the public,” said Grant Zimmermann, OTD’s managing director of business development, who worked with Raiser and MacLeod to set up Aldatu. “This was never just a money-making goal for David. He has a genuine desire to help people.”

    The two created a business development strategy for Aldatu in 2014 and worked with Zimmermann to develop a license structure to support the company — a step that became official two years later.

    “I’m immensely proud of the Aldatu team for being among the first to step up to make testing broadly available,” said Isaac Kohlberg, Harvard’s chief technology development officer and senior associate provost. “The ultimate impact of a new discovery may be difficult to fathom at the outset, but the Aldatu example shows why it’s so important to get promising technologies into the hands of passionate entrepreneurs who can advance and scale up an innovation for the public’s broadest benefit.”

    In 2014, Aldatu received additional financial support in the form of the $40,000 Bertarelli Foundation Grand Prize in the Harvard Deans’ Health and Life Sciences Challenge. The team also won a $1.5 million small-business grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which let them begin full-time operation in 2015. The two moved to Kendall Square’s LabCentral in 2016, then returned to Allston to become an early tenant in Harvard’s Life Lab. In January 2019, the company moved into its own facility in Watertown.

    “I’ve said for a few years now, Aldatu is a true i-lab story,” Raiser said. “We built very strong and meaningful and valuable relationships out of our time at the i-lab and the Life Lab.”

    Aldatu was established as a public benefit corporation — which puts public benefit on a par with profits in the corporate mission — with the aim of providing easy-to-use, low-cost diagnostics for resource-poor areas.

    They distributed tests for HIV in Botswana and developed a diagnostic for Lassa fever, another viral disease. In early March, as the lack of COVID-19 testing became acute, Rowley contacted MacLeod and asked whether PANDAA could be used for the disease. They developed the diagnostic in a matter of days and, by the time regulatory guidelines changed on March 16 to let private labs begin testing, they had already begun working with BIDMC to validate the test using blinded patient samples provided by the state.

    “We had already, over the last six years, developed experience with assay development and applying that test development to infectious disease and working with viruses in outbreak concern areas,” Raiser said. “We were well-positioned to move quickly on the COVID-19 pandemic.”

    A week later, Aldatu was not just providing kits to BIDMC, its officers were in conversation with other hospitals about doing the same and preparing to provide COVID-19 testing to partners in sub-Saharan Africa with whom they had been working.

    “We’re trying to cast a wide net and fill gaps in testing access and capacity quickly wherever we can do so,” Raiser said.

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Harvard University campus
    Harvard University is the oldest institution of higher education in the United States, established in 1636 by vote of the Great and General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. It was named after the College’s first benefactor, the young minister John Harvard of Charlestown, who upon his death in 1638 left his library and half his estate to the institution. A statue of John Harvard stands today in front of University Hall in Harvard Yard, and is perhaps the University’s best known landmark.

    Harvard University has 12 degree-granting Schools in addition to the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. The University has grown from nine students with a single master to an enrollment of more than 20,000 degree candidates including undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. There are more than 360,000 living alumni in the U.S. and over 190 other countries.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:01 am on April 1, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Eight U of T researchers receive federal grants for COVID-19 projects", Applied Research & Technology, Darrell Tan a clinician-scientist at St. Michael’s Hospital and an associate professor in U of T’s Faculty of Medicine., , , Vijaya Kumar Murty a professor in U of T's department of mathematics.   

    From University of Toronto: “Eight U of T researchers receive federal grants for COVID-19 projects” 

    U Toronto Bloc

    From University of Toronto

    March 31, 2020
    Rahul Kalvapalle

    1
    Vijaya Kumar Murty, a professor in U of T’s department of mathematics, is setting up a COVID-19 task force to predict outbreak trajectories, measure public health interventions and provide real-time advice to policy-makers (photo by Johnny Guatto)

    When it comes to assessing the risk of transmission of an infectious disease like COVID-19 and evaluating the effectiveness of measures like physical distancing, mathematics and mathematical modelling are crucial.

    “How does the virus spread? How quickly does it multiply? What’s the impact of interventions like social distancing? Mathematical modelling looks at these kinds of questions,” says Vijaya Kumar Murty, a professor in the department of mathematics in the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Arts & Science.

    To address such questions, mathematicians like Murty take into account numerous variables involved in the spread of a disease, including the age, occupation or pre-existing health conditions of an individual.

    “So what you do is try to build a mathematical quantitative model – taking these factors into account – of what’s going to happen in terms of the propagation dynamics,” says Murty, who is also the director of the Fields Institute for Research in Mathematical Sciences at U of T.

    Murty is the recipient of a $666,667 grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) that will go towards setting up the COVID-19 Mathematical Modelling Rapid Response Task Force, a network of experts who will work to predict outbreak trajectories for the disease, measure public health interventions and provide real-time advice to policy-makers.

    It’s one of eight COVID-19 research projects at U of T to receive support from a recent $25.8-million funding package announced by the Government of Canada, building on an earlier investment of $27 million on March 6 – nearly $6 million of which went to researchers who are based at U of T or one of its affiliated hospitals.

    Both rounds of funding are part of the federal government’s larger $275-million investment in research on COVID-19 counter-measures.

    “From developing low-cost diagnostic tools to modelling disease transmission and exploring potential drug interventions, researchers at the University of Toronto are attacking the problems posed by COVID-19 from numerous angles,” says Vivek Goel, U of T’s vice-president, research and innovation, and strategic initiatives.

    “This latest round of funding from the federal government will help our experts across several disciplines to accelerate research projects that could have a crucial impact in the global fight against this potentially deadly illness.”

    Murty’s mathematical modelling task force was inspired by a similar network set up by Mitacs – a national non-profit that designs and delivers research and training programs in partnership with universities, governments and companies – during the 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). It will comprise 14 academics from across the country as well as other partners, including the Public Health Agency of Canada and research institutes in China.

    In addition to addressing the pressing issue of the coronavirus epidemic, Murty says mathematical modelling can be applied to the analysis of other infectious diseases as well as the study of social pathogens like opioid abuse.

    “It explores the propagation of a pathogen in society or, in general, propagation in networks,” he says. “How something moves from node to node – or person to person – and what interventions will produce what effect on that transmission.”

    “This work is of course time-sensitive and critically important right now because of the health situation we find ourselves in. But thinking beyond that, I’m envisaging that this task force will grow so that we can continue to analyze and model public health and disease from a mathematics point of view.”

    3
    Darrell Tan, a clinician-scientist at St. Michael’s Hospital and an associate professor in U of T’s Faculty of Medicine and the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, will look at whether the HIV drug Kaletra could be useful against COVID-19 (photo courtesy of Darell Tan)

    While Murty and his collaborators crunch the numbers, Darrell Tan is preparing to run clinical trials to explore whether a popular anti-HIV drug could help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

    Tan is an associate professor at the Faculty of Medicine and the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, and is a clinician-scientist in the infectious diseases division of St. Michael’s Hospital. He secured a $1-million CIHR grant for the trials, which will look at whether Kaletra – a drug that has been used in HIV treatment as well as for uninfected people with high risk of exposure – could be useful against COVID-19.

    “In general, whenever we’re trying to actively find new therapies for any medical condition, one of the most efficient ways of doing that is to find existing available drugs that could potentially be re-purposed,” says Tan.

    “Because obviously it saves all the steps in drug development and safety assessments if we already have a drug available that we understand the characteristics of very well.”

    Tan says that in-vitro studies and animal experiments have suggested Kaletra may have an effect on COVID-19 and other types of coronaviruses such as SARS and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome), but that there’s a dearth of quality evidence from human studies.

    His trial will deploy what’s known as a “ring design,” where “rings” of people who came into close contact with COVID-19 patients will be identified.

    “Once we identify a case, one could draw a ring of close contacts surrounding that ‘index case,’ and, of course, those people would be the individuals who would be at greatest risk and therefore the ones we would most immediately want to intervene on in order to prevent transmission from happening,” says Tan.

    Individuals selected for the study will be randomly assigned to a 14-day course of either Kaletra or a placebo and will be tested periodically to see if they develop COVID-19.

    “If you have an intervention that does turn out to work, you can imagine effectively drawing a ring around a person and intervening on that ring of exposed contacts to create a buffer between the infection we already know about and the rest of the population,” said Tan.

    The trials could begin as early as the first week of April, in what Tan said is a testament to the seriousness and speed of Canada’s regulatory authorities in supporting COVID-19 research projects.

    “The process of having a clinical trial approved by Health Canada can usually take up to 30 days,” says Tan. “In this case, Health Canada received our application, reviewed it and issued approval within less than 24 hours over a weekend, which is quite remarkable.”

    In a statement, federal Minister of Health Patty Hajdu emphasized the importance of research in tackling COVID-19 in Canada and around the world.

    “The outbreak of COVID-19 evolves quickly, and protecting the health of Canadians is our priority. The additional teams of researchers receiving funding today will help Canada quickly generate the evidence we need to contribute to the global understanding of the COVID-19 illness,” Hajdu said.

    “Their essential work will contribute to the development of effective vaccines, diagnostics, treatments, and public health responses.”

    See the full article here .


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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Founded in 1827, the University of Toronto has evolved into Canada’s leading institution of learning, discovery and knowledge creation. We are proud to be one of the world’s top research-intensive universities, driven to invent and innovate.

    Our students have the opportunity to learn from and work with preeminent thought leaders through our multidisciplinary network of teaching and research faculty, alumni and partners.

    The ideas, innovations and actions of more than 560,000 graduates continue to have a positive impact on the world.

     
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