• PLANETARY SECURITYAstronomers Seek Your Help in Hunting for Asteroids

    By Kylianne Chadwick

    Anyone with an internet connection can become an asteroid hunter and join University of Arizona researchers as they work to discover asteroids hurtling through our solar system.

  • OUTBREAKSWhy Scientists Have a Hard Time Getting Money to Study the Root Causes of Outbreaks

    By Caroline Chen

    Government and nonprofit groups that award grants to scientists favor research that’s high tech and treatment oriented rather than studies that seek to understand why contagions leap from animals to people in the first place.

  • ARGUMENT: SAFER VIROLOGICAL RESEARCHWe Could Easily Make Risky Virological Research Safer

    Lab Accidents happen, and they aren’t especially rare. A new book — appropriately titled Pandora’s Gamble — offers a shocking accounting of the problem, identifying more than a thousand accidents reported to federal regulators from 2008 to 2012. David Wallace-Wells, referring to the recommendations from the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity on how to minimize the risks from research biolabs, writes: “These suggestions would not eliminate the risk of lab accidents, but they would reduce the risk — and fairly simply.”

  • SUPERBUGSOutsmarting Superbugs, One Germ at a Time

    It’s an old story: Pathogen sickens humans. Humans create medicine. Pathogen evolves a way around the medicine. Humans are back to square one.

  • CONSPIRACY THEORYMost Existing Methods to Tackle Conspiracy Beliefs Are Ineffective

    New study finds that traditional fact-based counterarguments to conspiracy beliefs don’t work. Approaches to fostering critical thinking and an analytical mindset are more promising.

  • VACCINATIONVaccine Could Improve Herd Immunity Around the World

    By Emily Moskal

    A low-cost, protein-based COVID-19 vaccine tested in rhesus monkeys offered immunity against known variants for at least one year. Researchers hope the vaccine, which can remain unrefrigerated for up to two weeks and may be especially beneficial for infants, will help alleviate the need for boosters while improving herd immunity around the world.

  • BIOSECURITYWarning: Prospecting for Unknown Viruses Risks a Deadly Outbreak

    The coronavirus pandemic which swept the globe offered a scary case study in how a single virus of uncertain origin can spread exponentially. The pandemic has also challenged conventional thinking about biosafety and risks, casting a critical light on widely accepted practices such as prospecting for unknown viruses.

  • EMERGING BIOTHREATSFighting Biological Threats

    Modeling the emergence and spread of biological threats isn’t as routine as forecasting the weather, but scientists in two of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) national laboratories were awarded funding to try to make it so. The scientists will work together to advance computational tools and solutions for known and unknown diseases.

  • CHINA WATCHWhy China Has Edge on AI, What Ancient Emperors Tell Us About Xi Jinping

    By Christy DeSmith

    Dictatorships and authoritarian regimes tend to trail more democratic and inclusive nations in fostering cutting-edge, innovative technologies, such as robotics and clean energy. Artificial intelligence may prove an exception, at least in China.

  • COVID ORIGINSCOVID-19 Origins: New Evidence, and More Politics

    Last week, researchers released a report linking SARS-CoV-2 to six near-complete samples of raccoon-dog mitochondrial DNA sold at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan. The report says that “These results provide potential leads to identifying intermediate hosts of SARS-CoV-2 and potential sources of human infections in the market.”

  • ARGUMENT: COVID’S ORIGINSA Major Clue to COVID’s Origins Is Just Out of Reach

    Last week, the ongoing debate about COVID-19’s origins had yet another plot twist added to it. A French evolutionary biologist stumbled across a trove of genetic sequences extracted from swabs collected from surfaces at a wet market in Wuhan, China, shortly after the pandemic began. Katherine J. Wu writes that the sequences bolster the case for the pandemic having purely natural roots. “But what might otherwise have been a straightforward story on new evidence has rapidly morphed into a mystery centered on the origins debate’s data gaps.” Wu says that public access to the sequences was locked, and, as a result, a key set of data which could have shored up the case for a purely animal origin became unavailable to scientists.

  • PLANETARY SECURITYWill Machine Learning Help Us Find Extraterrestrial Life?

    When pondering the probability of discovering technologically advanced extraterrestrial life, the question that often arises is, “if they’re out there, why haven’t we found them yet?” And often, the response is that we have only searched a tiny portion of the galaxy. Researchers have applied a deep learning technique to a previously studied dataset of nearby stars and uncovered eight previously unidentified signals of interest.

  • TECHNOLOGICAL TRANSFORMATIONNew Accelerator for Data Science and Emerging AI Startups

    Data science and AI are two of the most transformative technologies this century, with the potential to revolutionize virtually every industry and field of study. The University of Chicago is at the heart of these scientific innovations. The New Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation program provides support to early-stage companies built on data science and AI technologies.

  • IMMIGRATIONU.S. Immigration Has Become an Elaborate Bait and Switch

    By Edward Alden

    The United States is relying on its engineering and science talent to stay ahead of China in what has become an existential struggle to lead in the industries of the future. At U.S. universities, international students make up 74 percent of graduate electrical engineering students, 72 percent of computer and information science students, and half or more students in pharmaceutical sciences, mathematics, and statistics. Yet, the U.S. Congress has not revised immigration quotas since 1965, when the U.S. population was almost 140 million people smaller. Nor has Congress revisited the rules for highly educated immigrants since 1990—which was before the U.S. information technology sector created millions of new jobs in technical fields that have attracted so many immigrant scientists and engineers.

  • NORTH KOREAGermany Did Research with North Korea -- Despite UN Sanctions

    By Esther Felden

    Kim Jong Un wants to modernize his nuclear weapons. To stop him, the UN has banned research collaboration with North Korea. One Berlin institute continued to collaborate with North Korea on research projects — without flagging the risks.