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Topics - Annita Tahsin

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There are public health tools that could slow down the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak, like washing hands with soap, not touching the face, staying away from patients etc. There are several other broad public health strategies used to put the brakes on a viral outbreak. The most important and sometimes confusing ones are isolation of sick patients and tracing their contacts, quarantine, and social distancing.

Isolation is separating those with confirmed infections from other people so that they can get better without infecting anyone else. Quarantine is restricting the movement of or isolating people who may have been exposed to the infection but not sick yet. Social distancing refers to an approach meant to restrict people from gathering in large crowds to slow the spread of an infection. All of these methods can be used to prevent an outbreak, to varying degrees of effectiveness, and result in varying degrees of hardship for individuals.

If you can identify everyone who is infected and safely isolate them from others while they are in treatment, the outbreak can be stopped. Isolation of the sick may help slow the spread of the current COVID-19 outbreak. People with COVID-19 may be spreading the virus before they even have symptoms.

A key to making isolation work is to pair it with contact tracing. While sick patients are in isolation, public health workers can figure out all the people those patients were in contact with. This way they can find a patient's source of the disease and potentially isolate them as well as identify people who are at risk of contracting the disease and place them under isolation or quarantine.

In quarantine, people who may have been exposed to an infection are asked to remain at home or in another place isolated from other people. Quarantines can target just individuals who have travelled to affected countries, or could end up involving large groups of people. Governments have the power to order mass quarantines who may have been exposed in order to prevent them from spreading the illness before they start experiencing symptoms.


Social distancing, isolation and quarantine depend on public health officials' ability to detect cases or possible exposure to infection. Unlike quarantine and isolation, social distancing orders typically apply to whole communities and not specific individuals. These measures include postponing or cancelling mass gatherings like sporting events, concerts, religious gatherings, mass meetings etc.

How fast and far COVID-19 will spread, how many people will get sick, are still unknown. We may expect a wave of coronavirus in Bangladesh with community transmissions likely to increase. No proven specific treatment or anti-viral drug for COVID-19 is currently available.

Ultimately, the government has the responsibility to ensure the health of its citizens and to control the spread of infectious diseases. This can only be done by having provisions or policies for adequate health and social measures.

source: https://www.thedailystar.net/health/news/why-quarantine-important-put-brakes-covid-19-outbreak-1881016

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With hand sanitizer and other disinfectants running low around the world, people are looking for more innovative ways to help protect themselves against the coronavirus. Cue the wellness gurus advertising a wealth of superfoods and supplements, often expensive, to help "boost" your immune system and protect against the virus.

While eating a healthy diet is still important in the midst of an epidemic, no single food or diet has been shown to cure or prevent disease, according to experts.

"We can't prevent getting coronavirus by taking vitamins and eating oranges. It's a very infectious disease," Dr. Caroline Apovian, Director of the Nutrition and Weight Management Center at Boston Medical Center, told Business Insider.

No food or supplement can prevent or cure the coronavirus if you've been exposed to it
Many nutritionists, wellness fanatics, and medical professionals tout the health benefits of a balanced diet. But while that's certainly important for overall health, particularly long-term, piling on the kale right now isn't going to help your odds against getting the coronavirus.

It is true that malnutrition can impair your ability to fight off illness and infection — research shows that a severe lack of calories or key vitamins and nutrients is linked to a increased risk of death from multiple causes, including infectious diseases. It can also prevent wounds from healing quickly.


However, that's not the case for most otherwise healthy adults with ample access to nutritious food. If you're not in the habit of eating a variety of fruits, veggies, and lean sources of protein, now is a good time to start. Following common-sense dietary advice is enough to keep your immune system in good shape, no superfoods required, according to Apovian. In particular, you want to make sure to get enough vitamin C, vitamin D, and zinc.

But there's little evidence that eating extraordinary amounts of veggies (or anything else) can "supercharge" your immune system.

"If you're in contact with coronavirus, it doesn't matter how many oranges you eat, you're going to get it," Apovian said.

Eating well can, however, make your recovery easier if you do get sick, from coronavirus or anything else, she added.

"The only thing that a healthy diet and being in shape will do is make sure if and when you get sick, it won't be as severe," Apovian said.

source: https://www.businessinsider.com/eating-clean-wont-cure-or-prevent-coronavirus-experts-2020-3

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Researchers at a Chinese university have designed a robot they say could help save lives on the frontline during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

The machine, developed by engineers at Tsinghua University in Beijing, consists of a robotic arm on wheels that can perform ultrasounds, take mouth swabs and listen to sounds made by a patient’s organs, usually done with a stethoscope.

Such tasks are normally carried out by doctors in person. But the researchers said that with this robot, which is fitted with cameras, medical personnel do not need to be in the same room as the patient, and could even be in a different city.

“Doctors are all very brave,” said Tsinghua University professor Zheng Gangtie, the robot’s chief designer. “But this virus is just too contagious... We can use robots to perform the most dangerous tasks.”

Full image of robot
According to Gangtie, the idea of developing a robot came to him around the turn of the Chinese New Year, where Wuhan had just been put on lockdown and the number of cases and deaths was rising rapidly every day.

With a background in engineering, Gangtie said that he wanted to take his expertise to contribute to the relief effort. On the first day of the Lunar New Year, he heard from his friend, Dong Jiahong, executive president at Beijing’s Tsinghua Changgung Hospital, that the biggest problem was that of frontline workers getting infected.

To prevent medical staff from getting the coronavirus, Gangtie and a team from the university converted two mechanised robotic arms with the same technology used on space stations and lunar explorers.

Coronavirus robot being demonstrated
Gangtie said the robots were almost entirely automated, and could even disinfect themselves after performing actions involving contact with infected patients. However, he added that “the feedback from doctors was that it would be better for there to be less automation, as a personal presence would comfort and calm the patient”.

The two newly developed robots have been trialled by doctors at hospitals in Beijing. And according to the researchers, one is still currently at the team’s lab at the university, but the other is at the Wuhan Union Hospital, where doctors started training to use it today (5 March).

If all goes to plan, the robot may be put to use on coronavirus patients in Wuhan from Sunday (8 March), Gangtie said, adding that it would be joined on its ward rounds by a nurse or other members of staff.


Coronavirus robot being demonstrated
Gangtie disclosed that he would like to build more robots to help the medical staff in the midst of the outbreak, but said funding from the university has run out. The robots cost RMB500,000 (£55,800) a piece to make. He added that he does not plan on commercialising the robot design, but hopes a company comes along to take that on.

According to state media, China has sent tens of thousands of medical workers to the epicentre of the outbreak, Hubei province. As a result, more than 3,000 medical workers had been infected by late last month, including Li Wenliang, a doctor who was among the first to warn publicly about the outbreak, whose death in early February sparked a brief and rare outpouring of grief and rage on Chinese social media.

Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, Mar 4, 2020
In related news, aerospace company Airbus is reportedly considering cutting production of its A330neo commercial aircraft as the coronavirus outbreak cuts into travel demand, causing large airlines to rethink their expansion plans for the year.

According to a Bloomberg report, the European plane manufacturer is reviewing production plans and could make a decision on the A330’s future as early as this month.

The decision is likely to be driven by a decision last month by Air Asia Group to postpone deliveries of new A330neos, with the report saying that Air Asia is responsible for about 25 per cent of outstanding orders for the plane.

According to report, Air Asia has a lot of its capacity tied to China and likely “felt the pinch” from coronavirus sooner than most western airlines – however, the impact is spreading along with the virus.

Although Airbus and competitors Boeing still enjoy substantial order backlogs for their narrow body A320 and 737 models, the market for widebody planes such as the A330 was expected to soften even before coronavirus concerns hit.

Google, Microsoft, Adobe and other digital companies have all cancelled their upcoming tech conferences over concerns about The virus’s transmission. Also, in February the 2020 Mobile World Congress (MWC) fell victim to the epidemic and was also cancelled.

In the world of aviation, British Airways (BA) warned that demand for its flights is down, while EasyJet has said it will be cancelling flights, especially those to and from Italy.

source: https://eandt.theiet.org/content/articles/2020/03/robotic-arm-could-save-lives-on-medical-frontline-amid-coronavirus-outbreak/

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A Chinese company says they have developed the country’s first facial-recognition system that can identify people even if they are wearing a mask, coinciding with the growing use of surgical masks in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak.

China employs some of the world’s most sophisticated systems of electronic surveillance, including facial recognition. Yet the coronavirus, which emerged in Hubei province late last year, has resulted in almost everyone wearing a surgical mask outdoors in the hope of warding off the virus, posing a particular problem for surveillance.

To challenge this issue, Hanwang Technology Ltd – which also goes by the English name Hanvon – said it has come up technology that can successfully recognise people even when they are wearing masks.

A software engineer works on a facial recognition program that identifies people when they wear a face mask at the development lab of Hanwang
A software engineer works on a facial recognition program that identifies people when they wear a face mask at the development lab of Hanwang (Hanvon) Technology in Beijing

Huang Lei, Hanwang’s vice president, said: “If connected to a temperature sensor, it can measure body temperature while identifying the person’s name and then the system would process the result, say, if it detects a temperature over 38°C”.

According to the Beijing-based firm, a team of 20 staff used core technology developed over the past 10 years, a sample database of about six million unmasked faces and a much smaller database of masked faces to develop the technology.

The team began work on the system in January this year, as the coronavirus outbreak gathered pace, and began rolling it out to the market after a month, the firm said.

A woman has her face scanned by a facial recognition device that identifies people when they wear masks to gain access to the Hanwang Technology office
A woman has her face scanned by a facial recognition device that identifies people when they wear masks to gain access to the Hanwang Technology office

The manufacturer sells two main types of products that use the technology. One performs ‘single-channel’ recognition that is best used, for example, at entrances to office buildings. The other product is a ‘multi-channel’ recognition system that uses “multiple surveillance cameras”.


According to Lei, the latter can identify everyone in a crowd of up to 30 people within a second. “When wearing a mask, the recognition rate can reach about 95 per cent, which can ensure that most people can be identified,” he said, adding that the success rate for people without masks is about 99.5 per cent.

REUTERS/Thomas Peter
A man has his face scanned by a facial recognition device that identifies people when they wear masks to gain access to the office of Hanwang (Hanvon) Technology

One of the organisations that use Hanwang’s technology is the Ministry of Public Security, which runs the police in China. The Ministry can cross-reference images with its own database of names and other information and then identify and track people as they move around.

“It can detect crime suspects, terrorists or make reports or warnings,” Lei said, but disclosed that the system struggles to identify people with both a mask and sunglasses. “In this situation, all of the key facial information is lost. In such cases, recognition is tough”.

Regarding other surveillance tools being used in the fight against the coronavirus, there has been criticism on social media about its use, although most people seem to be accepting the extra intrusion - even embracing it - as a means to deal with the health emergency, Lei explained.

Although domestic customers drive Hanwang’s business, Lei also said he expects more foreign interest, as the virus spreads around the world and more people wear face masks. “It not only benefits Chinese people but also when the technology is applied globally, it can benefit the world,” he said.

In news related to the coronavirus outbreak, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained how the company will handle posts about the novel coronavirus as the disease continues to spread.

source: https://eandt.theiet.org/content/articles/2020/03/facial-recognition-software-peers-behind-the-mask/

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The great white shark, one of the most fearsome predators in the world's oceans in both fact and fiction, is a formidable creature -- right down to its genes.

Scientists on Monday said they have decoded the genome of Earth's largest predatory fish, detecting numerous genetic traits that help explain its remarkable evolutionary success, including molecular adaptations to enhance wound healing as well as genomic stability such as DNA repair and DNA damage tolerance.



The great white shark, whose scientific name is Carcharodon carcharias, boasts a very large genome, 1-1/2 times bigger than the human genome.

In theory, large genomes with a lot of repeated DNA, like this shark possesses, and its large body size should promote a high incidence of genome instability, with much more DNA and many more cells seemingly vulnerable as targets for damage through an accumulation of routine mutations.


Just the opposite seems to be the case for this shark, thanks to adaptations in genes involved in preserving genome integrity.

"This knowledge, in addition to providing understanding into how sharks work at their most fundamental level -- their genes -- may also be useful in downstream applications to human medicine to combat cancers and age-related diseases that result from genome instability," said Mahmood Shivji, director of the Save Our Seas Foundation Shark Research Center and Guy Harvey Research Institute at Nova Southeastern University in Florida.

This species, star of the 1975 Hollywood blockbuster "Jaws" and its multiple sequels, roams the world's oceans, primarily in cool coastal waters.

Gray with a white underbelly and torpedo-shaped body, it can reach 20 feet (6 meters) long, weigh 7,000 pounds (3.18 tonnes) and dive to nearly 4,000 feet (1,200 meters) deep. It uses its mouthful of large, serrated teeth to rip into prey including fish, seals and dolphins, swallowing mouth-sized chunks of flesh whole.

Sharks are an evolutionary success story, thriving for more than 400 million years. Our species appeared roughly 300,000 years ago.

The great white shark also displayed genetic adaptations in several genes that play fundamental roles in wound healing. For example, a key gene involved in producing a major component of blood clots was found to have undergone adaptations.

"These adaptations and enrichments of essential wound-healing genes may underlie the ability of sharks to heal from wounds so efficiently," said Cornell University's Michael Stanhope, co-leader of the research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Video LINK: https://youtu.be/pgYmY6--DjI
Source: https://www.thedailystar.net/science/genetics/news/the-real-jaws-great-white-sharks-genetic-secrets-revealed-1704295

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With the first cases of coronavirus confirmed in the country, the government's preparation to contain its spread still appears to be inadequate.

Many countries have already taken drastic measures while battling to contain its spread.

As Bangladesh recorded three cases of coronavirus, the government yesterday urged people not to panic and to consult physicians if they have fever, throat ache, dry cough, breathing difficulties or any other symptoms of coronavirus infection, said a PID handout.

Two men and a woman -- aged between 20 and 35 -- tested positive for the virus on Saturday, Prof Meerjady Sabrina Flora, director of the Institute of Epidemiology, Diseases Control and Research (IEDCR), said yesterday. Two of them are from a family.

They are now undergoing treatment at a hospital in the capital, she said.


"Two of them returned to Bangladesh from Italy. The woman got infected from contact with one of them," Sabrina said.

"One had temperature of 99 degrees Fahrenheit, one had fever and cough and another had only cough. No special treatment is needed for them. They are being given treatment according to their symptoms. They will be kept in isolation until they recover fully."

Three more Bangladeshis who came in contact with them have been quarantined -- two in a hospital and one at home.

Italy placed up to 16 million people under quarantine as it battles to contain the spread of the virus.

THE GAPS
Although officials are claiming that measures taken are adequate, bureaucratic tangles and lack of coordination will be a major challenge.

Many hospitals are yet to receive personal protective equipment (PPE) and other things needed for treating coronavirus infected patients, according to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).

Sources said, the government has supplied around 2,000 PPE to several hospitals.

"The situation is not that bad. Officials in hospitals that have no PPE will manage it locally. Maybe they will wear two aprons," DG of DGHS Prof AK Azad told The Daily Star last night.

A local company has started supplying PPE to the government, he said.

Prof Azad, however, didn't say how many PPEs would be supplied.

Sources said the government has around 3,000 test kits and many more will be needed.

"Since we had no confirmed cases before, the WHO didn't provide us with the equipment. Today [yesterday], we have talked to the WHO officials. They would provide those soon," Prof Azad added.

RESPONSE PLAN HAS HOLES
"The main problem with this new virus is it is highly contagious. No patient should be taken to a general hospital; they should be treated in facilities, may be makeshift one, dedicated only for Covid-19 patients," Prof Muzaherul Huq, founder of Public Health Foundation of Bangladesh, told The Daily Star.

He added, "A single coronavirus patient will put other patients of the hospital at risk. It is a faulty and risky plan."

He added that a widespread awareness campaign should be launched immediately.

"Even the healthcare employees don't seem prepared," the former WHO regional director said.

He suggested that the government inform people about its response plans immediately so that people can prepare themselves.

"Even a single infection may pose a grave danger," added Prof Huq.

Prof Nazrul Islam, former vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University said, "The government has formed a national advisory committee, but it has no virologist. It seems like the government has taken half-hearted measures."

Every student should know the latest information on how to stay safe by maintaining proper hygiene, he added.

WHAT THE GOVERNMENT IS DOING
The government has prepared a four-tier emergency response plan. The country is at level-2 after the cases were confirmed.

If the situation deteriorates and the country has more than 10 confirmed cases with more local transmissions in multiple areas, the emergency would be raised to level-3 and level-4 would mean there is an epidemic.

At level 3 or 4, the administration would lock down areas having high numbers of patients and quarantine the suspected cases.

Local schools, colleges and public institutions would be used as quarantine centres, while the isolation units at hospitals would handle severe cases.

"We have engaged representatives from all departments of the government. The law enforcing agencies would help implementing the plan," Prof Azad said.

He added that it was not necessary to admit all patients to hospitals as 82 percent of the cases are mild and can be treated at home.

Source: https://www.thedailystar.net/frontpage/news/first-coronavirus-cases-confirmed-1878160

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China plans to build around 20 pilot zones for artificial intelligence innovation by 2023, in an effort to deeply integrate AI technology with economic and social development according to a guideline published by the Ministry of Science and Technology on Thursday.

The pilot zones will play a leading role in facilitating AI application, optimizing policy support and government management, and strengthening infrastructure for technology development, the guideline read, noting these zones are set to be laid out mainly in line with regional development strategies. These strategies include development of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, the Yangtze River Economic Belt, the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area and the integration of the Yangtze River Delta.

Cities with the resources and foundation for AI innovation will be encouraged to explore new models for promoting urban economies, improving governance and leading high-quality development; while counties, which have relatively strong development in AI application, will be selected to look for new ways to boost local economies and realize rural revitalization.

The ministry will give support to chosen pilot zones in terms of policies and resources as per the guideline, which also said local government should invest more into pilot zone construction, carry out well-designed policies and introduce enterprises and societal forces into the project.

source: https://www.thedailystar.net/science/news/ai-innovation-get-big-boost-pilot-zones-1796815

8
Scientists have discovered organic material preserved in 75-million-year-old dinosaur fossils, including cartilage cells, proteins, chromosomes, and DNA.

Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing and North Carolina University in the US published a paper on National Science Review detailing the discovery.

The organic material was found within the skull fragment of a Hypacrosaurus, a type of duckbill dinosaur.

The research took a close look at two juvenile skull bones from the plant-eating dinosaur that lived in what is now called Montana about 75 million years ago.

Inside the tiny fossils, researchers observed cells, some of which appeared to have frozen in the process of cell division, reports National Geographic quoting the study.


They have also observed what appeared to be darkened balls similar to nuclei, the cellular structures that store DNA.

And one cell even seems to contain dark, tangled coils that resemble chromosomes, the condensed strands of proteins and DNA that form during cell division.

"These exciting new results add to growing evidence that cells and some of their biomolecules can persist in deep-time," says Alida Bailleul, one of the lead authors of the paper.

"They suggest DNA can preserve for tens of millions of years, and we hope that this study will encourage scientists working on ancient DNA to push current limits and to use new methodology in order to reveal all the unknown molecular secrets that ancient tissues have."

Sadly, there were no reports on whether the DNA can be used to recreate dinosaurs for a dangerously contrived theme park.

source: https://www.thedailystar.net/science/news/dinosaur-dna-found-preserved-75-million-year-old-fossil-1876306

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Canadian-American cosmologist James Peebles and Swiss scientists Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz won the 2019 Nobel Prize for Physics today for shedding light on the evolution of the universe and discovering planets orbiting distant suns.

Peebles, of Princeton University in the United States, was awarded half the 9-million-Swedish-crown ($910,000) prize while Mayor and Queloz, from the University of Geneva in Switzerland, shared the other half.

"This year's Laureates have transformed our ideas about the cosmos," the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said in a statement accompanying the award.

Read More: Trio wins Nobel Medicine Prize

"While James Peebles' theoretical discoveries contributed to our understanding of how the universe evolved after the Big Bang, Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz explored our cosmic neighbourhoods in the hunt for unknown planets. Their discoveries have forever changed our conceptions of the world."


Physics is the second Nobel to be awarded this week; William Kaelin, Gregg Semenza and Peter shared the medicine prize on Monday for discoveries about how cells respond to oxygen levels.

Among the Nobels, physics has often taken centre stage with winners featuring some of the greatest names in science like Albert Einstein, Marie Curie and Niels Bohr, as well as ground-breaking inventors such as radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi.

Using theoretical tools and calculations, Peebles was able to interpret trace radiation from the infancy of the universe and so discover new physical processes, the academy said.

It said that Mayor and Queloz announced the first discovery of a planet outside our own solar system, a so-called "exoplanet", starting a revolution in astronomy. Over 4,000 exoplanets have since been found in the Milky Way.

"With numerous projects planned to start searching for exoplanets, we may eventually find an answer to the eternal question of whether other life is out there," it said.

Source: https://www.thedailystar.net/world/news/peebles-mayor-queloz-win-nobel-physics-prize-1810993

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Researchers in Germany have unearthed a new species of flying dinosaur that flapped its wings like a raven and could hold vital clues as to how modern-day birds evolved from their reptilian ancestors.

For more than a century and a half since its discovery in 1861, Archaeopteryx -- a small feathered dinosaur around the size of a crow that lived in marshland around 150 million years ago -- was widely considered to be the oldest flying bird.

Palaeontologists from Ludwig-Maximilians University (LMU) in Munich and the University of Fribourg examined rock formations in the German region of Bavaria, home to nearly all known Archaeopteryx specimens.

They came across a petrified wing, which the team initially assumed to be the same species. They soon found several differences, however.

"There are similarities, but after detailed comparisons with Archaeopteryx and other, geologically younger birds, its fossil remains suggested that we were dealing with a somewhat more derived bird," said lead study author Oliver Rauhut from LMU's Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences.


They called the new bird-like dinosaur Alcmonavis poeschli -- from the old Celtic word for a nearby river and the scientist who discovered the fossil, excavation leader Roland Poeschl.

The study, published in the journal eLife Sciences, said Alcmonavis poeschli was "the most bird-like bird discovered from the Jurassic".

As well as being significantly larger than Archaeopteryx, the new specimen had more notches in its wing bones that pointed to muscles which would have allowed it to actively flap its wings.

Significantly, this "flapping" trait found in Alcmonavis poeschli is present in more recent birds, but not in Archaeopteryx.

"This suggests that the diversity of birds in the late Jurassic era was greater than previously thought," Rauhut said.

The discovery is likely to fuel debate among dinosaur experts over whether birds and dinosaurs developed the ability to flap their wings from earlier gliding species.

"Its adaptation shows that the evolution of flight must have progressed relatively quickly," said Christian Foth, from the University of Fribourg, and a co-author of the research.

source: https://www.thedailystar.net/science/news/scientists-unearth-most-bird-dinosaur-ever-found-1743982

11
Science and Information / Goniter Monche: Learning math effectively
« on: March 02, 2020, 09:58:59 AM »
The book, Goniter Monche is written by three former medalists of International Mathematics Olympiad (IMO). It primarily discusses how mathematics can be taught in a fun way, and explains harder concepts through pictorial representations and puzzles. It also encourages readers to focus on one problem at a time and share their ideas to improve understanding. "We have tried to highlight the core message of IMO. Most students think that IMO is for people who love math, but it is actually a festival," shares Saifur Rahman Tashki, one of the authors of the book.


Ahsan Al Mahir Lazim, bronze medalist at IMO 2019. Photo: Courtesy
The first chapter, Char Bindu Dui Durotto, presents one easy problem which is just the origin of another major problem. "The main purpose of this chapter is to show how to spend hours on a problem, according to the authors.  Chapter 2, 'Ekti Udvhot Golpo', addresses logic puzzles. The third chapter, Shombhabona, discusses the concept of probabilities in great detail. Topics like independent events and exclusions are explained in this chapter, along with the conditional probabilities and the role of geometry in probabilities.

The fourth chapter, Alice and Bob revolves around two friends who are playing a combinatorial game. The next chapter, Chobi Jokhon Kotha Bole, presents mathematical proofs through pictures, while the sixth chapter, Ekti 'Dhara' Bahik Golpo explain the concepts of hierarchy and genre. In addition, parallel and multiplication curves, recursive sequences and telescoping are also talked about in the book.

The Chittagong Math Circle was an important chapter in my life. I discovered the joy of teaching mathematics during that," shares Zawad Ahmed Chowdhury, gold medalist at IMO 2018. He further said that the book is written to help students prepare for IMO. The content is similar to the topics taught in the math camps. Zawad is currently studying at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA.

Ahsan Al Mahir Lazim, bronze medalist at IMO 2019, added, "IMO has created a culture of learning, enjoying and sharing mathematics with everyone."


Saifur Rahman Tashki. Photo: Courtesy
Over the years, mathematics-based festivals have seen enthusiastic participation from students.  "The best way to understand the joy of mathematics is through mathematics clubs at different instituitions," shares Zawad. The last chapter of their book has ideas and suggestions for running math clubs.

The book, published by Adarsha Publications, and is priced at BDT 425.  It is currently available at  421-424 at the Ekushey Boi Mela.

Source: https://www.thedailystar.net/star-youth/news/goniter-monche-learning-math-effectively-1874179

12
Science and Information / Chamok Hasan on making mathematics fun
« on: March 02, 2020, 09:57:59 AM »
Acclaimed young writer and social media personality Chamok Hasan earned his PhD in Electrical Engineering from the University of South Carolina, USA, after graduating in the same subject from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology. He is currently an R&D engineer at Boston Scientific Corporation, a leading medical device manufacturing company located in California. We recently caught up with him to learn more about his work.

What sparked your interest towards writing?

I love to learn and teach new things. Whenever I learn something new or conceive an idea, I want to share the knowledge with others.  I also write lyrics and poetry to express my thoughts. 

How many books have you authored so far?

I have written 6 books, including Golpe Jolpe Genetics (Part 1 and 2), Goniter Ronge Hashikhushi Gonit, Onko Bhaia and Nimikh Pane (Part 1 and 2). Among these, the Golpe Jolpe Genetics series is a translation of the book, A Cartoon Guide To Genetics. This year, I have released Nimikh Pane – Part 2, a book that explains the concepts of integral calculus in interesting ways. It consists of stories about how the idea of integration was initially conceived and how it evolved over time. It is now available at the Ekushey Boi Mela. The first book, Nimikh Pane – Part 1, which came out last year, is about differential calculus.


What are some of the themes that you touch upon in your books?

I generally write about mathematics and science while fundamentally focusing on the idea of making learning fun. Generally, our textbooks and teaching system focus on 'how' to solve problems rather than understanding 'why' they are defined the way they are. Bombarding a student with rules to follow blindly leaves no room for imagination. The aim of my work is to let students explore and enjoy the learning experiences. I always incorporate humour in my books through cartoons, jokes, and anecdotes because I think humour is the secret to effective learning.

Could you elaborate on your journey as an author?

I have been writing for local magazines and newspapers from a young age. I started writing about mathematics and science after I got affiliated with the Bangladesh Mathematical Olympiad's Academic team in 2008. In addition, I wrote in the Gonit Ishkool page of Prothom Alo. I never imagined that my work on science would be so well received by people. I am thankful to my followers for their support.

How would you describe your experience as a young author at the Ekushey Boi Mela?

I am glad to see the emergence of so many young authors at the Ekushey Boi Mela. However, at the same time, I think some of the books needed better content. The quality of the books released at the fair should be accessed in a proper way.

What are your comments on the opportunities for young writers in Bangladesh?

These days, social media platforms let emerging writers engage with potential readers and advertise their work prior to the release. However, developing a literary career is still challenging, because we lack a healthy ecosystem of writers, readers, publishers and critics.

source: https://www.thedailystar.net/star-youth/news/chamok-hasan-making-mathematics-fun-1873225

13
Tiny 'xenobots' made up of living cells have been created by teams of scientists at the University of Vermont and Tufts University using a supercomputer to design them.

The millimetre-wide bots could move toward a target and automatically repair themselves and researchers hope they will  help clear human arteries, clean microplastics from the oceans and find radioactive waste

Link:  https://youtu.be/XLI7VtjgOyk

source: https://www.theguardian.com/science/video/2020/jan/13/first-living-robots-xenobots-designed-on-supercomputer-video

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Learning difficulties are not linked to differences in particular brain regions, but in how the brain is wired, research suggests.

According to figures from the Department for Education, 14.9% of all pupils in England – about 1.3 million children – had special educational needs in January 2019, with 271,200 having difficulties that required support beyond typical special needs provision. Dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism and dyspraxia are among conditions linked to learning difficulties.

Now experts say different learning difficulties are not specific to particular diagnoses, nor are they linked to particular regions of the brain – as has previously been thought. Instead the team, from the University of Cambridge, say learning difficulties appear to be associated with differences in the way connections in the brain are organised.

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Dr Roma Siugzdaite, a co-author of the study, said it was time to rethink how children with learning difficulties were labelled.

“We know that children with the same diagnoses can have very different profiles of problems, and our data suggest that this is because the labels we use do not map on to the reasons why children are struggling – in other words, diagnoses do not map on to underlying neural differences,” she said. “Labelling difficulties is useful for practical reasons, and can be helpful for parents, but the current system is too simple.”

Writing in the journal Current Biology, the team report how they made their discovery using a type of artificial intelligence called machine learning, which picks up on patterns within data.


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The team drew on data from 479 children, 337 of whom had learning difficulties regarding performance in areas such as vocabulary, listening skills and problem-solving.

These data were presented to a machine learning system, which produced six chief categories reflecting the children’s cognitive abilities. The team found only 31% of children in the category reflecting the best performance were those with learning difficulties, while 97% of children in the category reflecting the poorest performance had learning difficulties.

Further work showed the system accurately assigned children into a wide range of categories relating to their cognitive abilities. However, the team found no link between these categories and particular diagnoses such as dyslexia, autism or ADHD.

“Having particular diagnoses doesn’t tell you about the kind of cognitive profile the children have,” said Dr Duncan Astle, another author of the study.

“Whilst diagnoses might be important, interventions should look beyond the label,” he added, noting children with different diagnoses may benefit from similar interventions while those with the same diagnosis may need different forms of support.

The researchers then extracted information from brain scans of the children and fed it into a machine learning system. This generated 15 chief categories based on the structure of brain regions.

However, the team found that predictions of the cognitive abilities of a child were only about 4% better when based on their brain scans than by relying on guesswork alone.

“There is a whole literature … of people saying: ‘This brain structure is related to this cognitive difficulty in kids who struggle, and this brain structure related to that cognitive difficulty,’” said Astle. However, he added, the new study suggested that was not the case.

The team then turned to another feature of the brain: its wiring. Using data from 205 children, the team found all showed similar efficiency of communication across the brain, with certain areas, known as hubs, showing many connections.

However, the children with learning difficulties showed different levels of connections in these hubs than those without. To explore whether this was important, the team turned to computer modelling, revealing the better the children’s cognitive abilities, the greater the drop in brain efficiency if the hubs were lost.

“The ‘hubbiness’ of a child’s brain was a strong predictor of their cognitive profiles,” said Siugzdaite . “Children’s whose brains ‘used’ hubs had higher cognitive abilities. We observed that in the case of the children who are struggling at school, they don’t rely too much on these hubs.”

Siugzdaite said the study raised further questions, including what biological or environmental factors could affect the development of such hubs, and whether some hubs were more important for particular cognitive skills.

However, the study has limitations, including that the team did not look at other issues, such as social behaviour, which may be linked to different diagnoses and brain structure.

Dr Tomoki Arichi from the Centre for the Developing Brain at King’s College London, who was not involved in the research, said the study added to a growing body of evidence that learning difficulties are better understood by looking at the skills people struggle with, rather than focusing on particular diagnoses.

Arichi said the research offered good evidence that how connections in the brain are organised is important in learning difficulties, but added: “Understanding how this actually develops and then causes difficulties is still extremely complex, however. It is still possible that what they are seeing is a consequence rather than a cause, or is just a snapshot of an effect that is changing through childhood.”

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2020/feb/27/brain-wiring-could-be-behind-learning-difficulties-say-experts

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Time magazine’s list of Best Inventions of 2006 included an unusual creation. It wasn’t a gadget; it was a cat.

“Love cats but your nose doesn’t?” the magazine asked. “A San Diego company is breeding felines that are naturally hypoallergenic.” There was a 15-month waiting list for the “sniffle­-proof kitties,” which sold for $3,950 or more.

The company selling the cats, Allerca, had tapped into a tantalizing dream for allergy-prone cat lovers: the hypoallergenic cat. Given that just two genes are responsible for making cats a problem for many people, it seemed like a no-brainer to engineer cats that lacked those genes, or to simply breed cats with versions of the genes that made the animals less allergenic.

But so far, itchy-eyed cat lovers have been left disappointed.

By 2010, Allerca had stopped taking orders — and lawsuits were lining up. The sniffle-proof kitties never materialized. Some angry customers said they never received a kitten, others were sent a cat that triggered their allergies.

But for all those who haven’t given up hope, there may be new options around the corner. An allergic owner might pop open a can of allergy-fighting food — for the cat. Or maybe vaccinate the cat to produce fewer allergens. And allergy shots for owners might shift from burdensome weekly or monthly injections to a shot that offers immediate relief.

The new gene-editing technology called CRISPR/Cas9 might even come to the rescue, delivering the ultimate dream to those who can afford it: a cat that doesn’t produce allergens at all. One company has made some progress applying CRISPR/Cas9 to cats.

Success in taming cat allergies could bring good news for people whose allergies have nothing  to do with cats. If any of the cat allergy–fighting measures prove safe and effective, they could be deployed against other allergens, especially airborne ones like pollen, dog dander or dust mites. With up to 30 percent of the world’s population suffering from airborne allergens, that’s plenty of runny noses to dry up.

When it comes to cat allergies, the main culprit is Fel d1, a small protein produced primarily in cats’ salivary and sebaceous glands. Fel d1 is found in flakes of dead skin, or dander, and is spread to hair when a cat licks itself. Thus it’s not cat hair that people are allergic to, just hair coated in cat spit.

Source: https://www.sciencenews.org/article/scientists-work-tame-cat-allergies-crispr-vaccine-food-therapy

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