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CanSino: Beijing rolls out inhaled vaccine during its biggest Covid surge ever | Society

Amid the worst Covid surge to hit Beijing since the start of the pandemic, the city is offering residents a new inhaled vaccine, the first of its kind according to local press reports. Chinese public health authorities approved the booster drug in September for emergency use by adults over the age of 18. It has been available in Shanghai since the end of October, and is also used in a handful of other Chinese cities. The inhaled vaccine was rolled out in Beijing last week, where the daily number of infections continues to climb since the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party ended in late October. Many housing blocks have been locked down, and schools, stores and restaurants have been closed in some city districts.

The whitish vaccine mist is contained in a plastic cylinder with a straw through which it is inhaled and held in the lungs for five seconds. “The taste is quite good,” said one Beijing resident interviewed by the state-owned CCTV television broadcaster. “It’s a little sweet and fragrant. It doesn’t make you gag” he added. Another recent user told Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post: “It’s like drinking a cup of milk.”

The drug was developed by CanSino Biologics, a Chinese company based in Tianjin that developed one of the injected coronavirus vaccines already in use. The inhaled drug is similar to the injected form of the vaccine in that it uses a common cold adenovirus vector to introduce coronavirus genetic information into human cells. Unreviewed studies published in The Lancet in January indicate that Convidecia AirTM, as the vaccine is called, may be effective as a booster. CanSino’s Condvidecia injectable has been approved for use in more than a dozen countries, including Hungary, Argentina, Mexico and Pakistan, according to the Associated Press news agency. The inhaled vaccine will only be administered to adults who have received two injections of an inactivated vaccine or one injection of CanSino’s adenovirus vector-based vaccine, according to China’s official Global Times daily newspaper.

Beijing is hoping the inhaled vaccine rollout will help revive stagnant booster numbers amid a surge of coronavirus infections that recently reached 28,000 new cases. Covid boosters have been available in China since mid-2021, and 890 million have been administered to 63% of the population, according to official data from early November. Despite being the most vulnerable population, only 40% of people over 80 in China have received a booster, compared to 84.5% of those over 60 in the European Union.

China does not offer any messenger RNA vaccines, considered more effective than inactivated virus or adenovirus vaccines. During German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s controversial visit to Beijing in early November, he managed to extract a tepid commitment from Chinese authorities to evaluate the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for expatriates living in China. Scholtz said he was confident that this was a first step towards wider approval, although other European diplomatic sources remain skeptical.

China is one of the few countries in the world and the only major power still clinging to a strict zero Covid strategy that involves mass testing, total or partial lockdowns of cities when the first few cases are detected, and rigorous technology-driven case and contact tracing that seem like something out of a science fiction movie.

People line up to get a nucleic acid test at a mass testing site following a Covid-19 outbreak in Beijing.
People line up to get a nucleic acid test at a mass testing site following a Covid-19 outbreak in Beijing. THOMAS PETER (Reuters)

Beijing records first China Covid deaths in six months

A dark cloud hangs over Beijing these days – all anyone talks about is Covid and its daily toll. The megacity of 21 million people now has more than 1,400 new cases every day, the highest daily number ever, and just reported China’s first three Covid-related deaths in the last six months. Before that, the most recent fatality occurred on May 26 in Shanghai during a surge that ripped through the financial metropolis and closed it down for more than two months. Chinese press reports say that the three who recently died in Beijing were between 87 and 91 years old and all suffered from pre-existing conditions.

“The city is facing the most complex and serious prevention and control challenge since the initial coronavirus outbreak,” said Liu Xiaofeng, deputy director of the Beijing Municipal Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in a public statement reported by Reuters. The outbreak is concentrated in Chaoyang, a district with many foreign embassies and office buildings, and home to about 3.5 million people.

China seems to travelling through uncharted territory as it tries to balance its “dynamic” zero Covid policy and the progressive easing of restrictions it euphemistically calls “optimization.” In mid-November, the government approved a number of Covid-related measures including relaxing quarantine requirements for international travelers and those who have had close contact with an infected person. During the presentation of these new measures, Chang Jile, deputy director of the National Administration for Disease Control and Prevention, stressed the need to “accelerate” immunization and booster shots, especially among the elderly. “They are the ones who need it the most,” he said, and called on them to get vaccinated and disregard “internet rumors and disinformation.”

It’s not clear how this Covid balancing act will be influenced by President Xi Jinping’s attendance of the G-20 summit in Bali and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Bangkok, where he met with dozens of world leaders without wearing a mask. John Lee, head of the Hong Kong government, tested positive for Covid after attending the summit in Bangkok, where he was seated next to Xi. Neither one was wearing a mask. The Chinese leader didn’t leave the country throughout most of the pandemic and only recently began to travel abroad. His attendance at the two summits followed a September visit to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan where he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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Chemistry Problems & Quantum Computing

The researchers compared the results of a conventional and quantum computer to minimise error calculations, which could eventually be scaled up to solve more complicated problems.

Scientists in Sweden have successfully managed to use a quantum computer to solve simple chemistry problems, as a proof-of-concept for more advanced calculations.

Currently, conventional supercomputers are used in quantum chemistry to help scientists learn more about chemical reactions, which materials can be developed and the characteristics they have.

But these conventional computers have a limit to the calculations they can handle. It is believed quantum computers will eventually be able to handle extremely complicated simulations, which could lead to new pharmaceutical discoveries or the creation of new materials.

However, these quantum machines are so sensitive that their calculations suffer from errors. Imperfect control signals, interference from the environment and unwanted interactions between quantum bits – qubits – can lead to “noise” that disrupts calculations.

The risk of errors grows as more qubits are added to a quantum computer, which complicates attempts to create more powerful machines or solve more complicated problems.

Comparing conventional and quantum results

In the new study by Chalmers University, scientists aimed to resolve this noise issue through a method called reference-state error mitigation.

This method involves finding a “reference state” by describing and solving the same problem on both a conventional and a quantum computer.

The reference state is a simpler description of a molecule that can be solved by a normal computer. By comparing the results from both computers, the scientists were able to estimate the scale of error the quantum computer had in its calculation.

The difference between the two computers’ results for the simpler reference problem was then applied to correct the quantum computer’s solution for the original, more complex problem.

This method allowed the scientists to calculate the intrinsic energy of small example molecules such as hydrogen on the university’s quantum computer.

Associate professor Martin Rahm – who led the study – believes the result is an important step forward that can be used to improve future quantum-chemical calculations.

“We see good possibilities for further development of the method to allow calculations of larger and more complex molecules, when the next generation of quantum computers are ready,” Rahm said.

Research is happening around the world to fix the problems limiting the development of more advanced quantum computers.

Earlier this month, Tyndall’s Prof Peter O’Brien told about his group’s work in addressing a key challenge in quantum technology and how quantum communications will make eavesdropping ‘impossible’.

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A Chilling Resurgence Of The “Vampire Fish” In The Great Lakes

The notorious sea lamprey, a creepy parasitic fish, resurges in the Great Lakes, wreaking havoc on native species.

The Creepy Invader Emerges

In the eerie waters of the Great Lakes, a parasitic fish has emerged from the depths, thriving on a bloodsucking mission. Meet the sea lamprey, a creature with a haunting circular row of teeth, a serrated tongue, and an eel-like shape. Native to the northern and western Atlantic Ocean, this nightmarish creature invaded the Great Lakes in the early 19th century through the Welland Canal, which links Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. Once it infiltrated the pristine waters, the lamprey set about its insidious predation on commercially important fish, including trout, whitefish, perch, and sturgeon. The consequences were catastrophic.

A Century of Devastation

Within a mere decade, the sea lamprey gained access to all five Great Lakes, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. Its unchecked proliferation led to the collapse of the once-thriving trout fishery within a century. By the 1960s, the lamprey had inflicted such damage that the annual commercial catch of lake trout in the upper Great Lakes plummeted from around 15 million pounds to a meager half a million pounds.

A Battle Against the Vampire Fish

Recognizing the urgency of the situation, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, alongside the US Fish and Wildlife Service and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, took up arms against this highly invasive species. With ardent determination, they sought to manage and reduce the sea lamprey population, and their efforts yielded significant success. The fishery commission proudly boasts on its website that sea lamprey populations have been diminished by a staggering 90 percent in most areas of the Great Lakes.

The “vampire fish” sea lamprey makes a chilling comeback, threatening the delicate balance of the Great Lakes’ aquatic life.

The Pandemic’s Interruption

However, as the world grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic, the agencies’ crucial operations to control the lamprey’s resurgence suffered a chilling interruption. With travel restrictions in place and resources stretched thin, fishery managers faced daunting challenges. The pandemic’s insidious impact reached the heart of the Great Lakes, allowing the parasitic fish to take advantage of the hiatus.

The Reemergence

As restrictions eased and operations resumed, a grim revelation awaited the fishery managers. The parasitic fish had cunningly exploited the opportunity, and their population began to creep back across the Great Lakes. Reports from the Wall Street Journal indicated that the sea lamprey population had resurged, sending shivers down the spines of those who witnessed its wrath in the past.

Lampreys belong to the superclass Cyclostomata and represent the most ancient group of vertebrates. Existing for over 360 million years, they are known as living fossils due to their many evolutionally conserved features

A Fragile Balance

Exact figures of the resurgence remain uncertain, but the implications are undeniably ominous. According to a 2022 report by Undark Magazine, crews responsible for population control were only able to treat about 25 percent of the target streams in 2020, leaving the lamprey unchecked. The following year saw a partial recovery, as the teams reached 75% of their targets. Nevertheless, the challenge remains enormous, and the careful application of pesticides called lampricides is essential to reduce the lamprey population.

After pandemic disruptions, the sea lamprey population surges, posing a formidable challenge for conservationists in the Great Lakes.

The Cost of Confrontation

The battle against the lamprey is not merely a spooky tale—it comes with a substantial price tag. Controlling this aquatic menace is estimated to cost around $15 to $20 million annually, reflecting the magnitude of the threat it poses to the Great Lakes ecosystem.

Joining the Fight

As the resurgence of the “vampire fish” casts a shadow over the Great Lakes, the need for decisive action becomes evident. Stakeholders must unite in their mission to protect the delicate balance of this vital ecosystem. The battle against the sea lamprey requires collective effort and resources, with innovative approaches to safeguarding the region’s rich biodiversity.

A Race Against Time

With the sinister sea lamprey gaining ground, time is of the essence. As this dark chapter unfolds, the eyes of the world are on the Great Lakes, waiting to witness the outcome of this gripping struggle. The clock is ticking, and the stakes have never been higher.

Seizing the Opportunity

For environmental advocates, researchers, and those invested in the well-being of the Great Lakes, the resurgence of the “vampire fish” serves as a chilling reminder of the fragility of our ecosystems.

Embracing sustainable practices, collaborative efforts, and innovative solutions, there is hope that the Great Lakes can once again emerge victorious against this formidable foe.

A Battle for the Ages

As the lamprey saga continues, it will be a tale of resilience, perseverance, and the relentless pursuit of balance. The world holds its breath, awaiting the final chapter in this eerie narrative—a chapter that will determine the fate of one of North America’s most treasured aquatic ecosystems.

Contact us now to learn how you can support the battle against the “vampire fish” and join the ranks of those committed to preserving the Great Lakes for generations to come. Let your voice be heard in this harrowing tale of nature’s tenacity and mankind’s dedication.

We Can’t Thank You Enough For Your Support!

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The Implications Of Controlling High-Level Artificial Super Intelligence (ASI)

Artificial Super Intelligence (ASI)

By Clint Bailey | ‘The Voice of EU’

The notion of artificial intelligence surpassing humanity has long been a topic of discussion, and recent advancements in programs have reignited concerns. But can we truly control super-intelligence? A closer examination by scientists reveals that the answer is highly unlikely.

Unraveling The Challenge:

Controlling a super-intelligence that surpasses human comprehension necessitates the ability to simulate and analyze its behavior. However, if we are unable to comprehend it, creating such a simulation becomes an impossible task. This lack of understanding hinders our ability to establish rules, such as “cause no harm to humans,” as we cannot anticipate the scenarios that an AI might generate.

The Complexity Of Super-Intelligence:

Super-intelligence presents a distinct challenge compared to conventional robot ethics. Its multifaceted nature allows it to mobilize diverse resources, potentially pursuing objectives that are incomprehensible and uncontrollable to humans. This fundamental disparity further complicates the task of governing and setting limits on super-intelligent systems.

Drawing Insights From The Halting Problem:

Alan Turing’s halting problem, introduced in 1936, provides insights into the limitations of predicting program outcomes. While we can determine halting behavior for specific programs, there is no universal method capable of evaluating every potential program ever written. In the realm of artificial super-intelligence, which could theoretically store all possible computer programs in its memory simultaneously, the challenge of containment intensifies.

The Uncontainable Dilemma:

When attempting to prevent super-intelligence from causing harm, the unpredictability of outcomes poses a significant challenge. Determining whether a program will reach a conclusion or continue indefinitely becomes mathematically impossible for all scenarios. This renders traditional containment algorithms unusable and raises concerns about the reliability of teaching AI ethics to prevent catastrophic consequences.

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The Limitation Conundrum:

An alternative approach suggested by some is to limit the capabilities of super-intelligence, such as restricting its access to certain parts of the internet or networks. However, this raises questions about the purpose of creating super-intelligence if its potential is artificially curtailed. The argument arises: if we do not intend to use it to tackle challenges beyond human capabilities, why create it in the first place?


Urgent Reflection – The Direction Of Artificial Intelligence:

As we push forward with artificial intelligence, we must confront the possibility of a super-intelligence beyond our control. Its incomprehensibility makes it difficult to discern its arrival, emphasizing the need for critical introspection regarding the path we are treading. Prominent figures in the tech industry, such as Elon Musk and Steve Wozniak, have even called for a pause in AI experiments to evaluate safety and potential risks to society.

The potential consequences of controlling high-level artificial super-intelligence are far-reaching and demand meticulous consideration. As we strive for progress, we must strike a balance between pushing the boundaries of technology and ensuring responsible development. Only through thorough exploration and understanding can we ensure that AI systems benefit humanity while effectively managing their risks.

We Can’t Thank You Enough For Your Support!

By Clint Bailey, Team ‘THE VOICE OF EU

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