More U.S. coronavirus patients are recovering

Health officials have documented 15 known cases of patients successfully recuperating from the virus in the last few weeks.

While the death toll from Coronavirus reportedly reached double digits this week, researchers are pointing with hope to another number that has outpaced it: recoveries. Health officials have documented 15 known cases of patients successfully recuperating from the virus in the last few weeks.

The cases include one patient in Wisconsin, six in California, four in Nebraska, two in Illinois, one in Arizona, and one in Washington state. By comparison, 14 U.S. patients were reported to have died from the virus.

The Wisconsin patient had to recuperate at home for several weeks, according to the patient’s doctor, Nasia Safdar. Safdar told NBC News that the majority of patients will just need some down time to get over the infection.

“For most people, this will be the course. It will be like a cold,” Safdar said.

The death toll has climbed to 3,3387worldwide, out of nearly 97,000 cases. But more than 53,638 have already recovered, according to the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering

Dr. Vincent Bonagura, an infectious-disease expert at the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research at Norwell Health in New York, cautioned that patients with chronic health problems, such as diabetes or heart disease, are more at risk of not surviving the infection. These patients tend to “do poorly when then get pneumonia or an infection of the lung,” he said.

People who smoke or who have chronic lung conditions are also more at risk, said Terry Mason, chief operating officer at Illinois’ Cook County Department of Public Health. Mason explained that these conditions cause long-term lung damage that makes a recovery from Coronavirus more difficult.

Ancient algae offers clues about where plants came from

These prehistoric algae specimens exhibit many traits seen today in green seaweeds.

How the first plants emerged on dry land on the prehistoric Earth has long been a mystery: They, like all life, existed only underwater billions of years ago, according to researchers. But some recent studies of molecular biology and an ancient algae fossil suggest a few clues.

According to researchers, the first plant life to transition out of water and onto land may have evolved from some form of seaweed and most likely had soft, mossy textures and shallow roots. Such plants don’t preserve well in fossils.

However, one recent find is an exception: an algae specimen in China that appears to be a billion years old, making it the oldest known specimen of green algae on Earth. It is 200 million years older than the previously oldest known algae fossil, which researchers had dated back to 800 million years ago.

“It’s very daunting. A billion years—that’s at least five times older than the oldest dinosaurs,” said Shuhai Xiao, a Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University geobiology professor and senior author of a paper announcing the discovery. “It’s before any animals. The world is very, very different from what we know today.”

These prehistoric algae specimens exhibit many traits seen today in green seaweeds: They were photosynthetic, multicellular, and had leaves and branches.

But the transition to dry land may have come even earlier, suggests another recent paper in Cell. University of Alberta biologist Gane Ka-Shu Wong and coauthors present evidence that the closest living relatives to land plants are a mossy freshwater species, Zygnematophyceae, which is single-celled. The adaptations plants need for dry land may have come about before the ancient algae specimens, the authors conclude.

Europe stalls on developing energy storage

Energy storage systems store energy incoming from solar panels and other renewable-energy technologies.

Growth in Europe’s new energy-storage industry slowed substantially last year, and a study by the European Association for Storage of Energy (Ease) energy blames a lack of government support. The group voiced concern that if the industry does not resume growing, then the rollout of new renewable-energy systems that could reduce greenhouse-gas emissions will in turn suffer.

Energy storage systems store energy incoming from solar panels and other renewable-energy technologies. Europe’s energy-storage capacity made a substantial growth of 1.47 gigawatt-hours in 2018, defying expectations, according to Ease. But in the newly published report, consultants for Ease noted that the industry grew only 1 gigawatt-hour last year.

The slowdown was especially sharp among large-scale storage projects that connect directly to energy grids. These large systems can help grids more effectively use renewable energy by storing it and making it available during times when there is not enough sun for solar panels to generate power, or not enough wind for wind turbines to run.

These systems government financial support and regulatory action to move forward, according to Ease. In its report, it cites a clean-energy policy that the EU has enacted for supporting clean-energy technologies, and it anticipates this policy being key to creating a framework  for investing in energy storage.

“The message is clear: even if energy storage is a key enabler of the energy transition and clearly seen as a major tool to achieve the emissions targets linked to the Paris agreement, more support is needed,” said Patrick Clerens, Ease secretary general.

Other energy analyses have found that the coronavirus pandemic is likely to slow renewable-energy development worldwide this year. A report by BloombergNEF forecasts that 2020 will be the first year since the 1980s that global solar energy capacity falls.

Space Force Ensure U.S. Control of the ‘High Ground,’ Says Trump

Space Force is to be the sixth branch of the U.S. military. It will focus on protecting U.S. military satellites and other U.S.

President Trump praised the newly forming Space Force as a means to “deter aggression and control the ultimate high ground” in a speech Friday at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. Trump made these remarks while signing the National Defense Authorization Act 2020, whose funding provisions include funds to start the new space-based military division within the U.S. Air Force.

Space Force is to be the sixth branch of the U.S. military. It will focus on protecting U.S. military satellites and other U.S. assets in space from enemy attacks, and it comes amid increasing space activity by Russia and China.

“Because space is the world’s newest warfighting domain. Amid grave threats to our national security, American superiority in space is absolutely vital. And we’re leading, but we’re not leading by enough. But very shortly, we’ll be leading by a lot,” Trump added.

Trump went on to say in his speech that the U.S. military as a whole was “very depleted” and suffering “devastating budget cuts” before he came into office, and he described this latest funding measure as a “watershed event.” The U.S. military budget has actually been increasing continuously since the last two years of the Obama administration, in which it rose from $736 billion in 2015 and $767 billion in 2016 to an estimated $956 billion this year.

Officials said that Space Force is necessary since adversary nations have “turned space into a warfighting domain” and troops need to be prepared to counter future threats from space. Currently, the Air Force operates multiple space satellites within its existing U.S. Space Command division, and other military branches have their own space-satellite programs.

Violent video games don’t cause real-life violence, says APA

The APA’s latest statement calls for continuing study into the effects of video game violence, particularly its effects over time.

When kids bring firearms to school and go on murdering sprees, grownups are often quick to pin some of the blame on violence in video games. But the American Psychological Association officially disagrees with this: In a statement this week, the APA said that there is “insufficient evidence to support a causal link” between video-game violence and actual violent behavior.

“Violence is a complex social problem that likely stems from many factors that warrant attention from researchers, policy makers and the public. Attributing violence to violent video gaming is not scientifically sound and draws attention away from other factors,” the group said in the statement.

The APA’s statement is a clarification to the position it took in 2015, when it passed a resolution stating that research “confirms the link between violent video games and aggression.” This aggression could take the form of “insults, threats, hitting, pushing, hair pulling,” and even “biting,” according to the APA.

The group stands by the 2015 assessment, but it distinguishes these aggressive behaviors from criminal-level “lethal violence”–i.e., school shootings or homicides. These more extreme violent acts have many potential causal factors, said APA President Sandra Shullman, adding that focusing on video game violence is a “distraction” from examining more important root causes.

The APA’s latest statement calls for continuing study into the effects of video game violence, particularly its effects over time. The group also suggests further research into whether kids’ gender, ethnicity, cultural background, and social class affect the degree to which violence in video games influences their behavior.

Coronavirus cuts into Coca-Cola Production

Coca-Cola said that it is taking precautionary measures with its China-based employees to reduce the threat of infections.

The coronavirus outbreak may cause supplies of Coke to dip, Coca-Cola said in an report it released this week. The company said that virus-related disruptions to its supply lines in China threaten to cause shortages of certain key ingredients, resulting in an estimated cut of 2-3 percentage points to its case volume and a 1- or 2-cent reduction to its first-quarter earnings-per-share.

“We have initiated contingency supply plans,” the report states. It added that while these backup plans may prevent production cuts in the short term, “We may see tighter supplies of some of these ingredients in the longer term should production or export operations in China deteriorate.”

Sweeteners that are at risk of production shortages include aspartame, acesulfame potassium, sucralose, saccharin, cyclamate, and steviol glycosides. These are used in a variety of diet and non-diet Coke beverages.

Mainland China has reported 78,500 incidents of coronavirus as of Thursday, with 2,641 deaths in the Hubei province where the virus first emerged. Infections continue throughout China and worldwide, with nearly 2,800 dead across the globe so far—including 44 new deaths in China as of Friday—and fears of contracting the virus have caused widespread reductions in manufacturing and economic productivity within China, including at the facilities where Coca-Cola’s sweeteners are produced.

Coca-Cola said that it is taking precautionary measures with its China-based employees to reduce the threat of infections. The company said that it plans to distribute face masks, hand sanitizers, and health-monitoring systems throughout its Chinese factories.

The company released a statement expressing “deepest sympathies” for those who have been affected by the virus, and said that it is also “donating to organizations that are working diligently to support patients and contain the virus.”

Vermont-based company building a rest stop for future flying cars

The company is calling the hypothetical cars electric air “taxis,” and it envisions them using the station along with pilotless drone aircraft.

We don’t have flying cars yet like those Back To The Future movies predicted, but Vermont-based company Beta Technologies thinks that they might yet appear in years to come. The company is preparing for them by building a 20-feet-high platform station that could serve as a landing pad and future charging station for many types of electric aircraft, including flying cars.

“It can charge the aircraft, providing accommodations to ‘recharge’ the flight crews, as well, or it can serve as a handoff point for cargo or medical supplies,” said Kyle Clark, Beta’s founder.

The company is calling the hypothetical cars electric air “taxis,” and it envisions them using the station along with pilotless drone aircraft. It is additionally developing a vertical-lift electric airplane, which would be capable to landing on or taking off from a structure like this one.

This station will have an adjacent sleeping quarters and lounge areas for the human crews to rest, relax, and wait while their aircraft charge. Clark suggested that platforms like this one could be built at low-volume airports, and that lounges and sleeping quarters could be added to them if there aren’t hotels and other services nearby.

Clark also foresees stand-alone stations being built in congested urban areas. All types of aircraft, from air taxis to small delivery drones, could safely approach them and depart from them as need. Wherever they are situated, Clark added, some could be custom-configured be landing pads for conventional helicopters, as well. Some could also serve as way stations for delivering medical supplies and other cargo via drones to areas suffering from emergencies, such as the current coronavirus epidemic.

‘Recycled’ plastic is piling up in U.S. landfills

Recycling-industry leaders acknowledged that U.S. recycling capacity needs to rebuild.

Much of the plastic that Americans are placing in recycling bins is not being recycled at all, according to a survey of nearly 400 recycling facilities released earlier this month. The survey, conducted by Greenpeace, adds to a body of studies that suggest that the U.S. recycling industry is unable to make any meaningful dent in Americans’ production of garbage waste.

Of 367 recycling facilities that Greenpeace surveyed, only 15% could process plastic “clamshell” package material, and fewer still could accept plastic plates, cups, bags, or trays. And none surveyed could process coffee pods.

The facilities instead frequently send these plastic items to the landfills, according to the report, which added that a wide variety of plastics known as “mixed plastics” are also difficult for the facilities’ systems and end up in the landfills. Citing federal data, the report concluded that less than 5% of mixed plastics that go into recycling bins are ever recycled.

“This report shows that one of the best things to do to save recycling is to stop claiming that everything is recyclable,” said John Hocevar, director of Greenpeace’s Oceans Campaign. “We have to talk to companies about not producing so much throw-away plastic that ends up in the ocean or in incinerators.”

The U.S. recycling industry was caught off-guard in 2018 when China, which the United States had been shipping most of its recyclable material to for processing, announced that it would cease most recycling of U.S. waste. Dozens of U.S. cities lack adequate facilities of their own for repurposing plastic waste and simply throw it away.

Recycling-industry leaders acknowledged that U.S. recycling capacity needs to rebuild. Kelly Cramer of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, an industry group, said that her organization advises consumers to get to know their local recycling programs and verify which types of plastics they can recycle.

Earth has a second (tiny) moon, astronomers say

The asteroid, dubbed 2020 CD3, measures just 6 feet across and 11 feet long.

Our planet got a new moon in the last few years, albeit a very small one, according to astronomers at the University of Arizona. The researchers said that they caught sight earlier this month of an asteroid circling the Earth and that it appears to have been orbiting Earth continuously since brushing by our planet three years ago.

The asteroid, dubbed 2020 CD3, measures just 6 feet across and 11 feet long. Kacper Wierzchos, a researcher with the university’s Catalina Sky Survey, tweeted that he and Catalina Sky Survey teammate Teddy Pruyne spotted the asteroid the night of Feb. 15

While the asteroid may not sound like much size-wise, Wierzchos said that the discovery is a “big deal” in astronomy history: This is “just the second asteroid known to orbit Earth.”

The first asteroid to get caught in Earth’s orbit is 2006 RH120, also discovered by the Catalina Sky Survey. This asteroid passes by Earth every few decades but drew close enough to be captured by Earth’s gravitational field in June 2006. It stayed in orbit until September 2007, when it resumed its orbital path through the solar system.

The International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center, which collects data on asteroids, comets, and moons in our solar system, officially catalogued the asteroid and said that observations “indicate that this object is temporarily bound to Earth.”

There are no firm estimates of how long this new asteroid will be in Earth’s grasp, but more observations of it will continue in the coming weeks and months, the Catalina Sky Survey announced. The survey is funded by NASA and aims to search space in order to track near-Earth objects, particularly those that could pose a threat to Earth.

New York hospitals will try treating coronavirus patients with plasma from survivors

Plasma injections have been successful against other infectious diseases in the last few decades.

The blood of people who had coronavirus and recovered from it could provide an antidote for people who are still sick, researchers at several New York City hospitals suggest. The researchers are conducting a clinical trial of a procedure that injects coronavirus survivors’ plasma into patients who are currently infected.

According to the researchers, all human blood—and the plasma, which is the main liquid ingredient of our blood—creates proteins called antibodies whenever the body detects viruses or other invaders present in the blood. These antibodies latch onto the unwanted germs and attack them, before white blood cells come and finish the germs off.

Coronavirus survivors must have had antibodies that successfully attacked the virus, the researchers said. They hope that these antibodies are still present in the donated plasma and may work as well after being injected into their recipients’ bloodstreams.

Plasma injections have been successful against other infectious diseases in the last few decades, including Ebola and the flu. But researchers do not yet know how well it will work against coronavirus.

“It’s kind of difficult scientifically to know how valuable it is in any disease until you try,” Dr. David L. Reich, president and chief operating officer of the Mount Sinai Hospital, which will be using the treatment, told the New York Times. “It’s not exactly a shot in the dark, but it’s not tried and true.”

Reich said that an email Mount Sinai sent seeking volunteers to donate plasma got around 2,000 responses, all of whom the hospital carefully screened before withdrawing their plasma. He said that the clinical trials will use the plasma on patients who have a “moderate” case of the illness and have difficulty breathing but are not in the more severe “advanced” stages.

The FDA approved the trials last Tuesday.