Vague strategies lead the race for COVID vaccine

Vaccines are dummies that work by tricking your immune system into thinking that it’s being attacked by a virus. The immune system then churns out antibodies that are honed to that virus. That way, if someone is exposed to that virus in the future, the body can quickly squash it out before it makes them sick. Triggering such immune response takes two main components: a bit of the virus so the body knows what it’s looking for and some kind of irritant to stir the immune system into action against that viral bit. If someone just put purified protein under your skin, nothing would happen. You have to get the immune system kicked up that’s where irritants come into play. Some basic approaches scientists are throwing at the virus are:

  • GENE-BASED VACCINES- Gene-based vaccines are the much-hyped underdog in the race to create a coronavirus vaccine. Most of the vaccine candidates that grabbed headlines or sent the stock market soaring are gene-based. Gene-based vaccines instead of directly delivering bits of the virus to the immune system for target practice, give the body tools to make them on its own. The vaccines are made up of pieces of genetic material, either mRNA or DNA, that encode the instructions for making the protein which when enters cells, read the instructions and churn out copies of the protein for the immune system to rally against. These types of vaccines are relatively easy for companies to make once they know the genetic sequence they’re targeting But despite their simplicity and decades of work, gene-based viruses are still largely experimental, at least for people. Moderna and Pfizer have gene based vaccine.
  • INACTIVATED VIRUS- Scientists take a virus and kill it with heat or radiation thereby rendering it harmless, but still recognizable by the immune system. A handful of Chinese companies are developing coronavirus vaccines using this method. One company, Sinovac, showed that its vaccine could protect monkeys from COVID-19. Human trials are ongoing. Because these types of vaccines have been around for decades, therefore scientists understand them well. Because these vaccines contain the whole (but non-replicating) virus, they’re good irritants for the immune system. Unlike gene-based vaccines, though, inactivated virus vaccines are hard to make. Manufacturers have experience with them, but they have to grow and then zap massive amounts of virus. Therefore it’s a slow process.
  • ADENOVIRUS VECTOR VACCINES- A whole, live vaccine is one of the best ways to create long-lasting immunity. That’s the strategy used to make vaccines for the measles and the chickenpox. They’re made from live but heavily weakened versions of the viruses. The viruses are so weak that they don’t make you sick, but they still make your body think it’s infected and set off the immune system. But it takes a long time to alter a virus so that it becomes weak and safe enough to be used as a vaccine, therefore to speed things up, vaccine developers aren’t even attempting to do that with the entire coronavirus. Instead, some teams are inserting sections of the coronavirus gene into weakened, live versions of other viruses. These viruses are called adenoviruses, Because this vaccine is based on a weakened, but a living virus, the immune system mounts a strong response against it. Even though live virus vaccines are regularly used, the adenovirus platforms are still experimental. Also, some people might have seen the adenovirus before so the vaccine wouldn’t work for them. University of Oxford is working on Adenovirus vector.
  • PROTEIN SUBUNIT VACCINES- Protein subunit vaccines directly deliver the specific bit of the virus scientists want people to develop antibodies against (rather than the gene for the protein). For the coronavirus, in most cases, that’s the spike protein. These vaccines contain copies of the spike protein and a bit of something to stimulate the immune system. Scientists are familiar with this approach, and it’s worked well for other diseases. Because these vaccines only use a piece of a virus, they sometimes aren’t able to push the body to generate a strong enough immune response, even with a good irritant built-in. Therefore people often need multiple shots to build up enough immunity to the disease which is a challenge during this pandemic. Because creating enough vaccines to give each person one-shot is already a challenge.

There’s a long history in vaccinology of trying multiple approaches to the same end goal because no one knows which strategy or which vaccine candidate will work best. You can’t speed that the process of testing vaccines. Because tests have to be conducted on a large group of people and researchers have to wait to see if someone actually develops immunity to disease after they’re given a trial vaccine They also have to watch for any safety concerns, either short-term side effects or long term. Speeding up the authorization process of a vaccine is a dangerous task because there are no guinea pigs to experiment on. It is a gamble with too much on stake. Rather we should cross our fingers and hope for the best.

Exoplanets

Exoplanets are planets that orbit a star other than our sun. The prefix “Exo” comes from the Greek and means outside; these worlds are far, far outside our own solar system. For long they have existed only in fiction and theory. It was thought it is impossible to detect planets light-years away since the relatively tiny worlds would appear billions of times fainter than their parent stars. But with the advent of newer technology and some scientist who were ready to take risks the searches for exoplanets began in the 90s and thereafter the pace of discoveries has been excessively fast. In 1992 astronomers reported the first planet-size masses around a dead star, the pulsar PSR1257+12, which sits 2,000 light-years away. Three years later came news of the first known exoplanet, a Jupiter-like gas giant orbiting its star closer than Mercury circles our sun. That world was detected around the sunlike star 51 Pegasi, a mere 50 light-years from Earth. As of 2020, more than 4000 exoplanets have been discovered and the number of known exoplanets has doubled every 27months. Looking for exoplanets directly into a planet seems implausible because of the luminosity of the parent star. The star is so bright makes it impossible to look for the planet directly. It is like observing an ant on a glowing bulb. A Jupiter-like planet would make a dip of 1%, i.e. blocks 1% of the light coming from its parent star. Also, the distance between the planet and the star also affects the fraction of light getting obstructed by the planet. In the visible range, it is impossible to observe any planet. Also, the planet must be located near the Earth and should be far away from its star in order to distinguish light from the planet and glare of its star. Thus it has many limitations, capable of holding back many discoveries. Almost 10-30 planets have been discovered using Direct imaging out of 4000 discovered.
There are two ways to observe exoplanets, direct, and indirect further there are two ways to indirectly observe exoplanets namely, Doppler and Transit. The Doppler method is a good method for discovering exoplanets. It uses the Doppler effect to analyze the motion and properties of the star and planet. Both the planet and the star are orbiting a common center of mass. This means that the star and the planet gravitationally attract one another, causing them to orbit around a point of mass central to both bodies. It is so because planets don’t revolve around its star rather the center of mass of the binary (planet-star). The transit method, another popular technique, looks for periodic dips in a star’s brightness as an orbiting planet passes in front of—or transits—its star, as seen from Earth. By measuring the amount and frequency of a star’s dimming, astronomers can estimate the orbits and masses of its planets. Additionally, researchers can calculate a planet’s surface temperature from the world’s orbital period and its star’s temperature. Another efficient method is that of Gravitational microlensing, it occurs when one star passes directly in front of a background star, as seen from Earth. The gravitational field of the foreground star acts like a lens, magnifying the light of the background star. If the “lens” star has an orbiting planet, the extra mass amplifies the magnification in a telltale way. AI has become a wonderful partner in finding exoplanets, miraculously confirming 50 exoplanets by sifting through the old data sets that too in the first attempt. With the advent of technology, things have certainly become easier and efficient. The search for exoplanets also helps satisfy the quest for Earth-like planet that could sustain life thus relieving earth from the burden and improving living standards.

Free Press?

Democracy is a system of the government in which the people of the state or the citizens have the power to directly select their representatives amongst themselves and form a governing body such as a parliament, senate, or a body that can be called by other names. It is a system where eligible members of the state elect the government. Although it is flawed still it is the most preferred form of government because it assures that government caters to every person’s need unlike autocracy and if the government fails to do so, it can be changed after completing its tenure or even before if people would like to. India, the world’s largest democracy adopted it in 1947 after gaining independence from the British regime. Like every other thing, democracy lies on some foundation namely,  legislative, executive, judiciary, and most importantly media. But media is independent unlike the rest of the three pillars. It functions outside the government ensuring the ruling body has no control over it.  Because the Press is the voice of people, it is considered to be the voice of the voiceless. The Press existed even before independence and it certainly proves that any sort of media or press is by the people of the state not by the ruling body.  Democracy may be very powerful in its own terms and conditions but is not fully efficient in working without media, especially the free press. The media acts as a bridge between the government and the people as it tends to inform people about the functions performed by the government. It also informs the government officials about the problems faced by people in their respective constituencies. Hence, the democratic system is only fully efficient when the state enjoys a free press. It stands for the civic rights, political rights, and religious rights of the people. Media plays a vital role in forming opinions and influencing decision making by the people, comparing present and past experiences, actions, works, etc. done by different governing bodies. It also helps in giving feedback, exposure, and conduit mechanisms by the people to the government, so that the representatives can work according to their needs and requirements. Citizens receive the information about the new policies, projects, schemes, laws, amendments, etc. through media, by which they can assess the working of the government and analyze if the deeds are beneficial for them or not. The Press also acts as a crucial instrument for accounting. A person can forget the promises made by their leaders but a printed newspaper, video, or audio recording will act as a piece of reminding evidence for both citizens and the government after all the elected government is accountable to the citizens of the state. The people who work in the press must be unafraid. Some brave journalists do perform string operations, do investigations, and find out the reality. It tends to fight against corruption, unfulfilled promises, disloyal behavior, or misuse of power in public or private life. But due to its immense power several times it was hindered from functioning. History tells about many circumstances when the press was not allowed to function smoothly. Indira Gandhi during emergency choked the print media by not giving them advertisements cutting off their revenue. Also, electronic media was controlled by the government and therefore it easily hid that emergency has been declared. Even the British did not spare the Indian media. Press worked so vigorously during the regime in promoting the idea of freedom that they had to bring the Indian Press Act 1910. Today Indian Press has been ranked 140 out of 180 countries which participated in the index. This is extremely saddening and frightening since India being the world’s largest “democracy” is now trying to undermine its own foundation. The audacity with which many Indian news channels spread hate is deeply terrifying, people should gain consciousness because a lie told a hundred times becomes the truth. We should ask ourselves, “Is our Press really free?”

Telescopes

Telescopes are to astronomers what weapons to defense personnel and the lens size are comparable to ammo size. Larger the telescope better is the capability to capture light and make images. Galileo used the telescope which was small but still was able to spot the phases of the moon, moons of Jupiter, as those were the days, without digital imaging; therefore he drew whatever he saw. But today telescopes store whatever they capture and as the sizes of lenses grow, amount of data also increases posing a threat to the storage of data as no data can be marked bogus since the universe is not known to us, thus we can’t discard or forget whatever we see cause they are pieces of a bigger puzzle. Galileo made the first telescope just 400 years earlier. Galileo’s telescope had a major drawback that it was small thus images were not clear due to low angular resolution (low clarity). Increasing the size of the lens increased the size of the telescope and thus the possibility of bending due to self-load. The greatest Galilean telescope is Palomar 200inch, in fact, it was the biggest for 6 or so decades. But with the advancement in technology and the constraint that manufacturing, transporting, installation, maintenance of too big lenses would be cumbersome or near impossible and also would be uneconomical, innovative ideas were thought about like making clusters of lenses that would act as one. It is still expensive but easy to manage. Ground-based telescopes have seen drastic advancements in the last 2-3 decades but Larger telescopes have good resolution capacity as well as range. Owing to the large lens they are able to capture more light and produce more clear images. But ground-based telescopes aren’t feasible to install due to their large size and heavy maintenance. A slight error could lead millions of taxpayer’s money to go down the drain. Space-based telescopes have seen further fewer advancements since putting a telescope in space is a too risky and expensive task, thus one needs a good reason to do so despite all these astronomers to want to put telescopes in space despite their budgets being humongous because ground-based telescopes have some major drawbacks that no amount of money or technology can overcome. One is the blurring or twinkling of starlight due to turbulent motions in the atmosphere high above. The turbulence in the atmosphere leads to a distorted view of the objects, this turbulence is the reason for the twinkling of lights. Although this twinkling can be reduced by installing a secondary mirror that can fluctuate dozens time per second but still this doesn’t lead to that much clarification that can be observed through space telescopes. The primary mirror can’t be fluctuated due to its enormous size and money invested. And another is the opaqueness of the earth’s atmosphere to many of the wavelengths. Only some wavelengths like visible spectrum and a large part of radio waves and some of the infrared radiation are able to penetrate the earth’s environment. And since the light coming from distant heavenly bodies does not necessarily fall in one of the spectrums due to doppler’s effect that can penetrate the earth’s atmosphere, therefore, it is possible that much of the data we are just losing due the opaque atmosphere present. Also installing a large telescope on the ground requires structure to contain it, and those structures also have initial cost and maintenance cost thus resulting in the cost curve. The universe at every moment leaks loads of data in the form of X-rays, Gamma rays, and Infrared rays just we have to study it that is only possible through space-based telescopes. Thus the curiosity to understand how the universe works, the curiosity to know our origin leads to astronomers putting heavy telescopes in space.  

WFH… A curse or boon?

For many of us, the coronavirus has been the most significant, and perhaps the most traumatic, experience of our lives. It will have a huge impact on us as individuals, as a society, and as a workforce. It might be hard to imagine right now, but the coronavirus crisis will end, and things will get back to normal. Well, some things will go back to the way as they were. For others, there will be a new normal. History has shown that whenever a major event happens that poses an existential threat, many of the norms of life change, some in the short term and some for the long term. In the future, entire treatises may be written on how the COVID-19 pandemic transformed the nature of work. Millions of people have already relocated to the living rooms and kitchen tables, pundits are already touting the death of the office, a new era of flexible timetables and mass exoduses from industrial cities. Whether these sweeping predictions prove true remains to be seen. Take those staples of modern office routine: meetings, emails, and time spent at work. According to a recent study by researchers at Harvard Business School, employees have been attending more meetings by video conference, rather than in-person sending more emails and putting in more hours since the widespread shift to work from home in March. Compared with pre-lockdown levels, the number of meetings an average worker attends has risen by 13%. The number of people in the average meeting has risen too, by 13.5%, perhaps because video conferences, unlike office-bound ones, are not constrained by space. One ray of hope is that meetings are shorter, by about 20%, or 12 minutes, on average. Surely, the lack of a commute at least should mean workers have more time to themselves? Alas, no, the researchers find. In a modern variant of Parkinson’s Law, working hours have expanded to soak up the extra minutes, and more. On average, people have clocked up an extra 48.5 minutes a day, more than the average commuting time. This is mainly because of a rise of 8% in the number of emails sent after normal business hours. Internal emailing during normal hours has risen too, along with the average number of recipients, presumably as a substitute for talking face to face. 
Although WFH could boost employee satisfaction, but only if a balance between work lives and personal lives could be found. With kids at home, people often find it difficult to manage both lives. Therefore employees need to be trained for work for home, Also man people like to work within the office campus. Since working from home needs a lot of discipline which is hard to find at home. Some employees operate better in a structured environment. Despite studies which show that work from home employees perform better, are more productive. but it doesn’t necessarily mean that all employees perform better. Also, office environment is structured to boost a sense of comradery with co-workers can be extremely difficult for full-time work from home employees.remote workers can make it difficult for management to monitor overtime. With the flexibility, many problems also arise due to WFH. We’ve have to make sure that we can get out most out of what is available. With such unprecedented and uncertain times, things ought to change and we should accept the change with positive attitude.

Testosterone

Testosterone… the holy grail of hormones for men. It is the reason why men are men. Often referred to as “male sex hormone” testosterone has a variety of functions to perform. It helps in a gain in muscle mass, bone density, body hair, and the change of voice during puberty. It also drives sex drive, muscle mass, fat distribution, red blood cell production, and development of male reproductive tissues like testes and prostate. It is biosynthesized in several steps from cholesterol and is converted in the liver to inactive metabolites. In humans and most other vertebrates, testosterone is secreted primarily by the testicles of males and, to a lesser extent, the ovaries of females. On average, in adult males, levels of testosterone are about seven to eight times as great as in adult females. In addition to its role as a natural hormone, testosterone is used as a medication in the treatment of low testosterone levels in men, transgender hormone therapy for transgender men, and breast cancer in women. Since testosterone levels decrease as men age, testosterone is sometimes used in older men to counteract this deficiency. It is also used illicitly to enhance physique and performance, for instance in athletes since athletes who crave for better performance and bodybuilders are constantly on the hunt to find easy ways to boost testosterone. Testosterone can lead to serious problems with the heart, brain, liver, endocrine, and mental health systems. Stopping testosterone may also lead to unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Testosterone injections have also been linked to a condition called Pulmonary Oil Microembolism (POME), or a blood clot in the lung that can be fatal. Misuse of testosterone can cause dangerous or irreversible effects, such as enlarged breasts, small testicles, infertility, high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, liver disease, bone growth problems, addiction, and mental effects such as aggression and violence. But besides taking potentially dangerous drugs or getting a prescription to inject testosterone to build up flagging levels, the only foolproof techniques to increase and maintain healthy levels are lifting weights and eating the right foods.

There are several exercises also that can help maintain your T-levels some are enumerated below:

  • squat
  • deadlift
  • bench press
  • row
  • pullups/ chinups
  • overhead press
  • pushup

These help to increase T-levels since they recruit a significant amount of muscle mass and the amount of muscle mass recruited during an exercise has been shown to be an important factor in the release of testosterone.
Maintaining a healthy and balanced diet has been proven to increase T-levels. Constant dieting or overeating may disrupt your testosterone levels. Eating enough protein can help maintain healthy levels and aid in fat loss, which is also associated with your testosterone.

Carb intake also plays a role, with research showing carbs can help optimize testosterone levels during resistance training. However, research demonstrates that sufficient healthy fats are also beneficial for testosterone and health.
Research has always highlighted the dangers of long-term stress, which can elevate levels of the hormone cortisol. Unnatural elevations in cortisol can quickly reduce testosterone. These hormones work in a seesaw-like manner: as one goes up, the other comes down.
Research has shown Vitamin D has various health benefits, and may also work as a natural testosterone booster. A 12-month study found that supplementing with around 3,000 IU of vitamin D3 per day increased testosterone levels by around 25%. 

Getting good sleep is just as important for your health as diet and exercise. It may also have major effects on your testosterone levels.

Image by rawpixel.com

Diabetes

Diabetes is the most common word spoken across the globe. Fatal and contagious than any of the disease ever to be seen by humanity. It doesn’t affect directly but surely undermines the body such that various other diseases get a free pass. It is a major public health problem that is approaching epidemic proportions globally. Worldwide, the prevalence of chronic, non-communicable diseases is increasing at an alarming rate. About 18 million people die every year from cardiovascular disease, for which diabetes and hypertension are major predisposing factors. Diabetes is a number of diseases that involve problems with the hormone insulin, which occurs when your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high. Blood glucose is your main source of energy and comes from the food you eat. Normally, the pancreas (an organ behind the stomach) releases insulin to help your body store and use the sugar and fat from the food you eat. Diabetes can occur when the pancreas produces very little or no insulin, or when the body does not respond appropriately to insulin. Glucose then stays in your blood and doesn’t reach your cells. Therefore weakness, dizziness are prevalent among the diabetic. As of yet, there is no cure. People with diabetes need to manage their disease to stay healthy. Different kinds of diabetes can occur, and managing the condition depends on the type. Not all forms of diabetes stem from a person being overweight or leading an inactive lifestyle. In fact, some are present from childhood.
Three major diabetes types can develop, Type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes.

  • Type I diabetes: Also known as juvenile diabetes, this type occurs when the body fails to produce insulin. People with type I diabetes are insulin-dependent, which means they must take artificial insulin daily to stay alive.
  • Type 2 diabetes: Type 2 diabetes affects the way the body uses insulin. While the body still makes insulin, unlike in type I, the cells in the body do not respond to it as effectively as they once did. This is the most common type of diabetes, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, and it has strong links with obesity.
  • Gestational diabetes: This type occurs in women during pregnancy when the body can become less sensitive to insulin. Gestational diabetes does not occur in all women and usually resolves after giving birth.

Less common types of diabetes include monogenic diabetes and cystic fibrosis-related diabetes.
Since there is no cure, it doesn’t mean that you can’t live your life up to the fullest. Just a tight schedule can prove propitious. Some snacks to include in your diet to keep a close watch on the glucometer are-

  • Fresh fruit and cheese- There’s a reason why the French are known for their fantastic fruit and cheese boards! Cheese is an excellent source of protein and pairs well with carbohydrate-rich fruit to provide energy without spiking blood sugars. Good pairings include apples with cheddar, Gouda and pears, or fresh mozzarella with peaches.
  • Crunchy chickpeas- Gone are the days when chickpeas were only useful for making hummus! Chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans) are an excellent source of fiber and protein and make for a nutrient-rich, mid-day snack. When roasted long enough, chickpeas become light and crunchy and make for a great replacement for potato chips.
  • Hardboiled eggs- Eggs are a low-calorie snack packed with valuable nutrients, such as B vitamins, zinc, calcium, and protein. Hardboiled eggs make for a healthy, portable snack that will keep you full between meals. Pair with a small piece of fresh fruit if blood sugars are dipping low.
  • Popcorn- Most popular for movie nights, popcorn is full of fiber and an excellent snack that won’t send blood sugars surge. However, not all popcorn is made with the same ingredients. Traditionally, microwaved popcorn can contain a ton of added sugars or partially-hydrogenated oils that take a toll on heart health. Look for brands that air pop their popcorn or use avocado oil, which is a source of heart-healthy unsaturated fat. Save the buttery topping or kettle corn varieties for special occasions.

There are several tips to fight diabetes. You can’t overcome this disease but surely could make peace with it. Diabetes is like an arduous trainer. He makes you do things that you should do to stay healthy and have a prolonged life.

  • Get moving – Exercise helps build muscle and lower blood sugars. If going to a gym seems infeasible then you can consider purchasing a few weights since the best way to control your sugars and your scale is to do both aerobic and anaerobic exercise. Besides, adding a 15- to 20-minute post-meal stroll can help fight sugar spikes.  
  • Embrace your blood sugars, good and bad – No one likes to have high blood sugar. But even if you’ve had a few highs, don’t act crestfallen and abandon tracking your glucose readings. Along with helping your doctor determine if your diet plan and medications are working, a record of blood sugar readings will help you to assess how food, activities, and stress impact your body. Do you need to add five minutes to your walk after eating pepperoni pizza? Are your bedtime snacks keeping you from morning lows? Only your blood glucose knows.
  • Take a break – Consider yoga or meditation. Stress heavily affects blood sugars. Take time to read a book, take a nap, or talk to friends.  
  • Maintain cholesterol-  You have two kinds of cholesterol in your blood: LDL and HDL. LDL or “bad” cholesterol can build up and clog your blood vessels. Too much bad cholesterol can cause a heart attack or stroke. HDL or “good” cholesterol helps remove the “bad” cholesterol from your blood vessels.
  • Refrain from smoking-  No smoking is especially important for people with diabetes because of both smoking and diabetes narrow blood vessels. Blood vessel narrowing makes your heart work harder. E-cigarettes aren’t a safe option either.

Blue holes

Black holes… sounds pretty cool, and scary. They have baffled scientists for long. But there are many places beneath the ocean that are still baffling scientists and researchers since we have not explored even 5% of the oceans. One of these places is the “blue hole”. Sounds descriptive and uncreative as well but they got this same because apparently, they are blue. Blue holes are basically sinkholes or caverns in the ocean. They are a geological phenomenon that occurs when carbonate bedrock is composed of limestone erodes and collapses below the level of surrounding rock. Many researchers believe that blue holes are formed when water floods a previously cavernous region. At the end of the Ice Age, for instance, rising sea levels flooded caves that had been carved out by environmental factors like acidic rain, Discovery reports. The process can take more than 100,000 years. And since the water in the hole is so much deeper than the surrounding water, it looks like a much deeper blue. Hence the descriptive if a bit uncreative name.  Blue holes take the mysteries of the deep sea even deeper. The massive holes can be hundreds of feet deep, which causes them to appear a darker blue, compared to more shallow surroundings. A blue hole is an oasis in an otherwise barren seafloor. The natural phenomena are biodiversity hotspots teeming with plants and animals, including sea turtles, sharks, corals, mollusks, and sponges. Analyses of water samples taken during the Amberjack Hole exploration have shown that isotopes of radium and radon are present in the water. Their water circulation is poor, and they are commonly anoxic below a certain depth; this environment is unfavorable for most sea life, but nonetheless can support large numbers of bacteria. Most blue holes contain freshwater and saltwater. The halocline is the point in these blue holes where the freshwater meets the saltwater and where a corrosive reaction takes place that eats away at the rock. Over time this can create side passages, or horizontal “arms”, that extend from the vertical cave. These side passages can be quite long e.g., over 600 meters (2,000 ft) in the case of the Sawmill Sink in the Bahamas. Well-known examples can be found in the South China Sea (Dragon Hole), Belize (Great Blue Hole), the Bahamas (Dean’s Blue Hole), Guam, Australia (in the Great Barrier Reef), Egypt (in the Red Sea), and Florida (Green Banana). Exploring blue holes requires an extremely high level of expertise in the diving field, hence the fact that very few divers have ever attempted it. In 2009, however, a team of scientists set out to study seven of these blue holes in the Bahamas.   Through over 150 dives, the scientists, led by Keith Tinker, investigated bacteria able to live in anoxic environments. This allowed them to make connections to fields such as astrobiology where organisms thrive without oxygen or sunlight. In 2018, another group of scientists set out to explore the Great Blue Hole of Belize using two submarines of the latest technology. One of the major scientific contributions to the result of this expedition was the first 3-D map of its interior. The researchers captured features such as stalactites, the hydrogen sulfide layer, and other details that cannot usually be seen by the naked human eye.
Nature is filled with surprises, but we must be careful with what we play. Last time someone ate a bat, and the whole world is now repaying now.

World’s Overshoot day!!

Happy World’s Overshoot day!! Today we’ve exhausted all the natural resources generated by Mother Earth last year and as economists say, we are in a deficit, although not financial, but ecological. This could be quite shocking news to many, but interestingly this year World’s Overshoot day has been pushed by 3 weeks. In 2019, World’s Overshoot day was marked on July 29 as opposed to August 22 in 2020. In fact, this day has never been pushed so far since 2005. So, is it an achievement worth celebrating? Apparently not, cause it is not done by design, rather by the disaster. The World’s Overshoot day is calculated by GFN (Global footprint network), an independent think tank established in 2003 with its headquarters located in California, United States. Overshoot is calculated by ecological footprint, which is a measure of how much area of biologically productive land and water an individual, population or activity requires to produce all the resources it consumes and to absorb the waste it generates, using prevailing technology and resource management practices. Researchers estimate that the planet equivalent has grown from 1.5 in 2008 to 1.6 in 2020, i.e. now humans require 1.6 planet Earth to sustain themselves and this doesn’t account for all other species in the world. However, this doesn’t mean that all countries contribute equally to the spectrum. Overshoot day varies from country to country due to the prevailing technologies in different countries. For e.g. a world would be enough for Indonesians to survive, but it would require approximately two worlds to sustain ourselves if we were to live like Qataris. The worst country to perform in this index is Luxembourg, which consumed all its resources by February 16. Even Australia, the biocapacity giant is seeing deficit for the first time in its history due to the devastating fires of 2019-20. This shows how fragile biocapacity can be.
But this year is not an achievement, all though the COVID lockdowns brought down the Ecological Footprint by 9.3% reduction as compared to the same period last year and put a remarkable dent on the global economy. Since this pushed date is a reflection of a lot of sufferings and the reflection of imposed changes to our lives. The irony is that these vast reductions that scientists had always been craving but through sustainable developments rather than sufferings. Now it would be foolish to presume that in order to reduce our carbon footprints and planet equivalent we require such sufferings since such reductions are discriminatory, they disproportionately affect people of color and caste economically. Climate skeptics have used the situation to say that lockdown is what “green campaigners want” and they cannot enjoy things like international travel and economic growth in the future. But it is foolish to fall for such beliefs. The goal should be having better economies and social outcomes with lower emissions.
Researchers reiterate that balance of humanities consumption and Earth”s produce needs to be restored. It would be wise to make such balance intentionally rather than facing such disasters that comes at such high and terrible human cost.

COVID spared South-East?

The Buddhist majority countries in South-East Asia, namely Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam, saw rather small-scale outbreaks during this coronavirus pandemic. Despite these countries sharing borders with the origin of the deadly virus, China and India, country with most number of daily cases how have these neighboring countries managed to contain the spread of the coronavirus?
The wonder case in this region has to be Vietnam. A country with a population of approximately 97 million people, the authorities claim no deaths from Covid-19. Thailand, with 70 million people, has seen just 58 deaths and no cases of local transmission have been reported in over 40 days. Myanmar claims just six fatalities from 317 cases. Cambodia reported 141 cases and the tiny country Laos only saw 19 cases. Both these countries claimed no deaths and no local transmission since April. Geographically speaking, they have it far better than their other neighbors such as Indonesia with some 68,100 cases and 3,400 deaths, and the Philippines with 50,400 cases and 1,300 deaths, India with some 2.91million cases and 54,849 deaths. It is almost as if the pandemic has spared these Buddhist majority nations. But does it have anything to do with religion though? It would not seem so, because, Vietnam’s communist dictatorship is an atheist. Meanwhile, China, the original epicenter of the virus, also has a majority Buddhist population although it is also a communist state. Vietnam’s handling of the crisis so far is commendable. Centuries of mistrust in its great northern neighbor, China, prepared Vietnam to be extra cautious of all the information China gave about the virus at the beginning of this year. Vietnam even initiated cyber-attacks to get more knowledge about the path of the outbreak. The country closed its borders and used repressive forces to keep the population locked. They monitored and separated any affected patients. That is kind of similar to what China’s communist regime was doing. In terms of having a powerful government that can make the people follow protocols, as well as having a strong medical sector, Thailand also makes the list. The country led by generals in the name of democracy has an incredible healthcare system which makes Thailand a popular medical tourist destination. Besides, the government was swift to create a robust task force for fighting Covid-19. Initially, more contact with the Chinese people must have been a prerequisite for transmission. Yet this didn’t happen in Laos, which is too low to withstand the flattery of China, Myanmar, which is awash with Chinese traders and traffickers, or Cambodia, whose strongman, Hun Sen, is China’s greatest supporter in the region. Such countries are being reshaped by Chinese development thanks to BRI, and all came under pressure not to close borders with China as the pandemic spread. In February, at the height of the Chinese outbreak, Hun Sen traveled to Beijing. Thailand is also quite closely knit to China, it seems, as the country welcomed Chinese tourists even in March. And Myanmar’s China border seriously lacks guard. Then, why did all these visitors from China not cause a bigger outbreak in South-East Asia? Many suspects that they have done so, but these have not been revealed. Tests in Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar are extremely restricted. But, Frank Smithuis of Medical Action Myanmar, a charity with many clinics around the country, says that his organization would have found out if there had been a large-scale transmission since a COVID-19 epidemic cannot be covered especially in Myanmar, the ” number one gossip country” in the world. Also, researchers in Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam do not see signs of large transmission, like people rushing to the hospitals with symptoms. Even the poorest countries have taken steps which may have helped to control coronavirus spread. Researchers in Bangkok said that migrant workers coming back from Thailand to their Myanmar villages had to quarantine in a shack outside their village for 14 days. According to health experts, many factors may have come in helpful, like large numbers of people living in the countryside rather than cities; the region’s relative youth; and a pre-existing tendency to wear masks in public which could have been trivial in pre-COVID times. Many of these countries are third world countries, non-industrialized thus people live in rooms with open windows rather than relying on air conditioning. Also, there could have been a religious element to it too. Since the Buddhist way of greeting is called the wai, where they press their palms together, unlike the handshake or hugs or cheek kisses in other parts of the world, the wai is a way of physical distancing. The question now is whether the Buddhist achievements in South-East Asia will survive second or third waves. Researchers say, perhaps low transmission from China wasn’t quite a miraculous blessing. After all, the giant neighbor soon got on top of its outbreak. Now, China is not the only problem anymore, the whole world is. The outbreak has changed its course and is still changing. Infections from across the world are being introduced across Asia, seeding local transmission, most recently in Hong Kong.

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