Monday, May 31, 2021

New subset of immune system dendritic cells discovered; starfish-shaped cells are considered the “first responders” of the immune system

When pathogens invade or tumor cells emerge, the immune system is alerted by danger signals that summon a key battalion of first responders, the unsung heroes of the immune system, a population of starfish-shaped sentinels called dendritic cells. After a groundbreaking series of studies, a team of researchers from throughout Germany has discovered why a unique population of dendritic cells doesn’t die after antigen presentation. The sub-population continues to stimulate parts of the immune system to aid the fight against invasive viruses, bacteria or potentially deadly tumor cells. The finding is likely to be viewed as welcome news in a world beset by a pandemic virus and a slew of worrisome variants. All have stoked concerns about the longevity of immunity triggered by COVID-19 vaccines. Another major role of dendritic cells, as it turns out, is marshaling immune forces in response to vaccination. (Medical Xpress)


Stephen Hawking’s archive will be digitized and made freely available to researchers, students, and members of the public across the world

From Hawking’s seminal works on theoretical physics to scripts from episodes of The Simpsons, a treasure trove of papers and personal objects will be divided across Cambridge University’s library and the British Science Museum. The archive allows us to step inside Stephen’s mind and to travel with him around the cosmos to, as he said, ‘better understand our place in the universe.’ (University of Cambridge)


Sony plans to release one-of-a-kind experiences for its future PS5 VR headset that are “synonymous” with PlayStation, which could suggest VR versions of existing titles

In an Investor Day presentation, the company cited next-generation VR as one of its growth vectors. The soonest Sony could release the PS5 VR headset (which doesn’t technically have a name yet) is in 2022. In the presentation, Sony cited plans to enhance resolution, field of view, tracking, and input for the second-gen headset. We know that the headset will have an improved resolution of 4000×2040 pixels, or 4.1 megapixels (2000×2040) per eye. Its eye-tracking will be capable of foveated rendering. This is when the headset renders a sharper view of where the user is looking, while peripheral vision remains blurrier. It will have a single USB-C tether to the PS5 and orb-shaped controllers, which boast haptic feedback, finger tracking, adaptive triggers, and more. (Upload)


A species of pygmy hog once thought extinct is now thriving in the wild after decades of conservation efforts

The 10-inch tall animal, native to South Asia, is the smallest pig in the world. It was thought to have been lost forever with the ecological devastation of its natural habitat, but was rediscovered in 1971, with breeding in captivity beginning in the 1990s. Today, there are more than 300 pygmy hogs living in the wild in grasslands at the base of the Himalayas, with another 74 soon to be released from captivity. (National Geographic)


New South Wales, a state on the east coast of Australia, is experiencing a mouse plague that is devastating wheat, barley, and other crops

The government of New South Wales calls the plague “absolutely unprecedented” and an industry group believes losses from crops could total $775 Million Dollars. New South Wales is asking for emergency approval to import the banned poison Bromadiolone from India. Some local groups fear the poison will also unintentionally kill local wildlife and family pets. Many farmers in the state now spend hours every morning removing hundreds of dead mice that they’ve managed to kill through drowning traps or poison. One farmer said he’s had trouble sleeping because “you can hear them in your walls and your roof.” The mice are not native to Australia and are believed to have been introduced by European colonists in the 18th century. (The Guardian)


Bill Cosby has been denied parole, partially over his failure to take part in a sex offender treatment program in prison

Bill Cosby will not be released from prison anytime soon. The 83-year-old actor, who is currently serving three to 10 years in Pennsylvania state prison after being convicted of sexual assault in 2018, has been denied parole nearly three years into his sentence. The Pennsylvania State Parole Board declined Cosby’s parole request on May 11 partly over his need to participate in “a treatment program for sex offenders and violence prevention,” and “failure to develop a parole release plan,” according to a state board. The board also cited a “negative recommendation” from the Department of Corrections. His representative said that the decision “is not a surprise” to the disgraced TV star because the board explicitly stated he would be denied parole “if he did not participate in SVP (Sexually Violent Predator) courses.” Bill Cosby, who has maintained his innocence, has no plans to attend the therapy programs. “The Cosby Show” star has previously said he expects to serve his full 10-year sentence and vowed to show no remorse for crimes he said he didn’t commit. (USA Today)


The CDC says campers and staff at summer camps do not need to wear masks or physically distance if they have been vaccinated for the coronavirus

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has dropped masking and physical distancing guidance for campers and staffers who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19. “Staff and campers who are fully vaccinated do not need to wear masks at camp, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance,” the CDC said in an update to its website. “Although fully vaccinated persons do not need to wear masks, camps can be supportive of staff or campers who choose to continue to wear a mask.” In the guidance, the CDC encouraged everyone 12 years and older to get vaccinated for Covid-19, and underscored that the vaccines are safe and effective. The agency said people who are fully vaccinated to not need to undergo routine Covid-19 testing, and do not need to be tested, even if they are exposed to someone with a known Covid-19 infection, “unless they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.” (ABC News)


A passenger has been banned from Southwest Airlines after allegedly punching a flight attendant and knocking out two of her teeth

A 28-year-old female Southwest passenger accused of punching a flight attendant and causing her to lose two teeth has been banned from flying with the airline. A Southwest spokesman said that the man is now “restricted from ever flying on Southwest Airlines again.” Witnesses on Sunday’s flight from Sacramento to San Diego told police that the man hit a flight attendant during a confrontation. A statement from Southwest said she had “repeatedly ignored standard inflight instructions and became verbally and physically abusive upon landing.” Paramedics took the flight attendant to Scripps Memorial Hospital for treatment. The president of the Transport Workers Union of America Local 556, wrote in a letter that the flight attendant was “seriously assaulted, resulting in injuries to the face and a loss of two teeth.” Southwest has not released her name or her condition. Police met the plane and the female suspect at the gate. She was arrested on a charge of battery causing serious bodily injury and taken to the Las Colinas Detention Facility, according to a statement from the Port of San Diego Harbor Police Department. In a typical year, the agency sees 100 to 150 formal cases of bad passenger behavior. Since the start of this year, that number has jumped to 2,500, including about 1,900 passengers who refused to comply with the federal mask mandate, according to the FAA. (NBC News)


As a general trend, the use of robots increases after pandemics

The stats show this is true now, and may be exacerbated by trade wars and supply bottlenecks that are prompting employers to find safety, cost savings, and greater productivity in innovation. The U.S. continues to produce the same amount of goods and services as pre-pandemic levels, but with 8.2 million fewer workers. In North America, orders for robots grew 20% in Q1 2021 compared to the year before. In Q4 2020, nearly 10,000 robots were ordered, which was the second-best quarter in history. Half of the employers polled last fall told the World Economic Forum they plan to increase automation at their organizations. Three-quarters of companies expect their investments in new tech to accelerate through 2024. During Q1, businesses spent 16.7% more on equipment at a seasonally adjusted annual rate, which is more 2x faster than the economy as a whole. Examples include robotics for warehouses, such as autonomous forklifts. Paradoxically, many businesses, especially in e-commerce, can’t fill human warehouse jobs fast enough and are turning to robots and automation to fill the gap. (The Washington Post)


A most entertaining space race

Russia and the United States are once again locked into an epic extraterrestrial rivalry, but this time there’s a major plot twist: Both are vying to be the first to shoot a movie in space. This month, Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, selected an actor and director to head to space in October to film a movie provisionally titled “Challenge.” Russia’s plans will launch alongside a rival plan by NASA, SpaceX and Tom Cruise, who will also be filming a movie in space the same month on the International Space Station. (NBC News)


The pandemic’s cost for women

The time spent out of the workforce due to the coronavirus pandemic will cost the average American woman nearly $600,000 in lifetime income, according to a report out in Newsweek with data from the Center for American Progress. Collectively, that means women in the U.S. who left the workforce in 2020 could lose out on $885 billion for two years out of work. More than 4.5 million fewer women are employed now than at the beginning of the pandemic, bringing the labor participation rate for women to its lowest levels since 1988. Some 44% of women who were unemployed in April had been out of work for longer than six months. (Newsweek)


Coercing workers back to the office

Decisions are now being made that will define or redefine working people’s lives the world over: whether to return back to the commute, the office and pre-pandemic work life. Many workers have the freedom to choose less scheduled, more family-flexible lifestyles in locations they’ve always wanted to live. Some CEOs and managers are skeptical. Others won’t give the choice, but Industrious CEO’s argues that coercing employees back won’t work in the long run, and higher productivity is likely found through more freedom to choose. (The New York Times)


Turkmen Officials Ordered To Shave Heads After Death Of President’s Father

Senior male Turkmen officials and managers of major private companies have been ordered to shave their heads and wear a traditional Turkmen skullcap as signs of mourning following the death last month of their President’s father, who was a retired police lieutenant colonel who held positions in the Turkmen government during Soviet times that died on April 18 at the age of 88. Women working in state agencies must wear mourning shawls trimmed in black. The order lasts for 40 days. (Radio Free Europe)


Monday Is Special With These Reasons:

  • Autonomous Vehicle Day
  • Hamburger Day (Always Memorial Day)
  • Macaroon Day
  • Memorial Day (Observed)
  • Necrotizing Fasciitis Awareness Day
  • Prayer for Peace Memorial Day
  • Save Your Hearing Day
  • Smile Day
  • Speak in Sentences Day
  • Utah Day
  • What You Think Upon Grows Day
  • World No-Tobacco Day


Historical Events

  • 1669 – Citing poor eyesight, Samuel Pepys records the last event in his diary.
  • 1790 – The United States enacts its first copyright statute, the Copyright Act of 1790.
  • 1864 – American Civil War Overland Campaign: Battle of Cold Harbor – The Army of Northern Virginia under Robert E. Lee engages the Army of the Potomac under Ulysses S. Grant & George G. Meade.
  • 1884 – Arrival at Plymouth of Tawhiao, King of Maoris, to claim protection of Queen Victoria
  • 1889 – Johnstown Flood: Over 2,200 people die after a dam break sends a 60-foot (18-meter) wall of water over the town of Johnstown, Pennsylvania.
  • 1916 – World War I: Battle of Jutland – The British Grand Fleet under the command of Sir John Jellicoe & Sir David Beatty engage the Kaiserliche Marine under the command of Reinhard Scheer & Franz von Hipper in the largest naval battle of the war, which proves indecisive.
  • 1929 – The first talking cartoon of Mickey Mouse, “The Karnival Kid”, is released.
  • 1935 – A 7.7 Mw earthquake destroys Quetta in modern-day Pakistan: 40,000 dead.
  • 1941 – Anglo-Iraqi War: The United Kingdom completes the re-occupation of Iraq and returns ‘Abd al-Ilah to power as regent for Faisal II.
  • 2005 Vanity Fair reveals that Mark Felt was Deep Throat.