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Researchers have all but obliterated populations of the world’s most invasive mosquito species — the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) — from two sites in the Chinese city of Guangzhou. Scientists combined two promising techniques for the first time to reduce the A. albopictus populations by up to 94%. They infected mosquitoes in the lab with three strains of a bacterium that hinders male’ ability to reproduce and transmit diseases. Infected females can interfere with the efficacy of the bacterial intervention, so researchers then irradiated the insects to make only the females sterile — removing the need for females to be painstakingly removed by hand.
Amid fears that the worsening Ebola outbreak could spread beyond the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared it a public-health emergency of international concern. It is the highest possible level of alarm, reserved for events that pose a risk to multiple countries and require a coordinated global response. “Now is the time for the international community to stand in solidarity with the people of Congo,” said WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
A result that promised to resolve a long-standing disagreement in the two most precise gauges of the Hubble constant — a measurement of the Universe’s rate of expansion — has spawned even more confusion. The technique, which measures the expansion using red-giant stars, came up with a speed measurement that falls halfway between the value gleaned from yardstick stars called Cepheids and the value based on the cosmic microwave background radiation. “The Universe is just messing with us at this point, right?” joked astronomer Mike Boylan-Kolchin.
FEATURES & OPINION
A technologist who has spent decades publishing copyrighted legal documents and then arguing that such texts should be legally within the public domain has turned his eye to paywalled scientific literature. Carl Malamud and his colleagues are building a cache of text and images extracted from 73 million journal articles dating from 1847. The goal is to allow researchers to pull insights from the papers using computerized analysis, without actually reading them — meaning that they won’t be breaching publishers’ copyright.
Soft, flexible skin sensors are beginning to transform health care: within a decade, many people will wear such sensors all the time, predict three researchers in the field. They outline the technical innovations, regulatory approvals and privacy safeguards that are needed to lay the path for the future of wearable sensors.
In the early 1960s, aviator Ed Dwight was the only black person in the group training to become the United States first astronauts. Then President John F Kennedy was killed, and Dwight’s dream of going into space seemed to die with him. Now a renowned sculptor specializing in African American themes, Dwight shares his perspective on being a trailblazer in space history.
Happy Nelson Mandela Day! From becoming an organ donor to giving a career talk, the Nelson Mandela Foundation has a handy list of suggestions should you wish to volunteer 67 minutes (or more!) of your time. Let me know what you come up with — plus any other feedback about this newsletter — at email@example.com.