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Science Policy Around the Web August 16th, 2019

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By Neetu M. Gulati PhD

Image by vegasita from Pixabay 

How Eating Less Meat Could Help Protect the Planet from Climate Change

A recent report by the United Nations climate science body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Science (IPCC), warns that now is a moment of reckoning for how humans use the planet. The report highlights how the planet has been impacted by land-use practices, deforestation, agriculture, and other activities. These threaten our ability to limit the global temperature increase as outlined by the 2015 Paris climate agreement. The report further outlines how humans can help stop the impacts of climate change by drastically changing what food we eat as well as how it is produced.

Explaining this logic, Debra Roberts, the co-chair of the IPCC Working Group II, commented, “some dietary choices require more land and water, and cause more emissions of heat-trapping gases than others.” If people eat more sustainably grown and produced foods, as well as more plant-based diets, this could provide opportunities to adapt and mitigate the potential climate issues. Meats like beef and lamb are particularly taxing on the environment for the amount of meat obtained, partially because such livestock require a large space to graze. Reducing the amount of land to produce meat and also using that land more efficiently through sustainable farming practice will be imperitive to ensure that land remains usable as the planet warms. 

While a lot of the world already eats majority plant-based diets, the countries that eat a lot of meat tend to be wealthier countries. As countries with lesser meat consumption gain wealth, there is a risk that they will eat more meat and put a greater strain on the environment. While not every country will stop eating meat, the recent popularity of meatless products is encouraging, and hopefully the public will begin to focus on the fact that food and agriculture are important in the fight against climate change.

(Abigail Abrams, Time)

“Qutrit” Experiments are a First in Quantum Teleportation

Many believe that quantum information science is a key avenue of research for future technologies. Now, for the first time, researchers have used this technology to teleport a qutrit, a tripartite unit of quantum information. This is an important advance for the field of quantum teleportation, previously limited to the quantum equivalent of binary bits of information known as qubits. The two research teams who independently achieved this feat first had to create qutrits from photons, a challenge in and of itself. Because qutrits can carry more information and have more resistance to noise than qubits, these experiments may mean that qutrits become an important part of future quantum networks.

In quantum science, the states of entangled particles have a connection. Thus, in quantum teleportation, the state of one entangled particle, for example the spin of an electron particle, influences the second particle instantaneously, even if far apart. While this sounds like something out of a science-fiction story, this milestone may have important real-world implications. Quantum teleportation may be important for secure communications in the future. In fact, much of the quantum teleportation research is funded because of its importance for the future of cybersecurity.

The qutrit teleportation experiments were independently performed by two research teams. One team, led by Guang-Can Guo at the University of Science and Technology of China (UTSC), reported their results in a preprint paper in April 2019. The other team, co-led by Anton Zeilinger of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and Jian-Wei Pan at the UTSC, reported their findings in a preprint paper in June 2019 that has been accepted for publication in Physical Review Letters. The two teams agree that each has successfully teleported a qutrit, and both have plans to go beyond qutrits, to at least ququarts (four level systems). Other researchers are less convinced, saying the methods used by the two teams are slow and inefficient, and therefore not suited for practical purposes. In response, one of the authors of the paper by Zeilinger and Pan’s team, Chao-Yang Lu, said, “science is step by step. First, you make the impossible thing possible. Then you work to make it more perfect.”

(Daniel Garisto, Scientific American

 

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Written by sciencepolicyforall

August 16, 2019 at 3:15 pm

Science Policy Around the Web – January 19, 2018

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By: Allison Dennis B.S.

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source: pixabay

Emergency Unpreparedness

IV bag shortage has hospitals scrambling to treat flu

While other hospital activities may put a predictable strain on medical supplies, the sudden onset of a particularly bad flu season has left hospitals strapped for the basic medical staple, IV bags. Intravenous (IV) therapy delivers liquids directly to the vein and is made possible by prepackaged sterile bags loaded with saline, a mix of water, salt, sugar, electrolytes, and vitamins that match what naturally exists in the body. By matching the natural composition of blood, these fluids are able to help the body rapidly return to normal after dehydration and can efficiently deliver drugs. Severe dehydration is a common side effect of flu, as one of the body’s first line of defense is to develop a fever, a process that expends a lot of water and oxygen. Additional symptoms may leave flu-sufferers uninterested or unable to drink the water they need. For patients ill enough to seek treatment at the hospital, IV therapy is often required to rapidly rehydrate their bodies and can be used simultaneously to deliver antivirals.

IV bags have been continuously in short supply in the US since 2014. Reasons for this shortage seem to stem from the complexities of safely manufacturing saline, a 10-day process that reportedly requires 29 steps, and the insatiable demand, 740 IV bags are estimated to be used each minute in the US. Production of IV drugs and saline is more tightly regulated by the FDA than other drugs because they are injected directly into the blood stream. Even the smallest contamination can result in a widespread blood infection.

In recent months, the shortage has been heightened by the coalescing of two closely monitored seasons, flu and hurricane. Half of the IV bags used in the US are manufactured in Puerto Rico, which was devastated by hurricane damage early this fall. IV bag producers are slowly returning to their pre-storm levels of production, but ongoing power outages are continuing to cause disruption. To try to alleviate this burden, the FDA has granted additional companies permission to begin manufacturing and selling the bags that are in short supply. To help hospitals struggling to meet the constant demand for IV bags, the FDA is temporarily permitting hospitals to import sterile saline from overseas.

In some cases, care providers are able to substitute pills for drugs usually administered intravenously. In others, providers may choose to administer drugs through an I.V. push, directly injecting them into the vein, a method that can be both painful and time consuming. But when it comes to treating the severe dehydration that can result when the body battle the flu, intravenous rehydration is often the only appropriate treatment.

(Linda Johnson, Associated Press)

Technology

After years of avoidance, Department of Energy joins quest to develop quantum computers

Quantum computing promises to revolutionize the way we solve complex problems through computation. While the hardware needed to make this a reality exists, software developers and thinkers are struggling to catch up. Conventional computers use bits, either 0 or 1, to create logic in a language the computer can understand. Quantum computers would expand this language to capture the ability of subatomic particles to exist in more than one state at a time. Instead of bits, these computers would use qubits, or quantum bits, allowing more information to be stored without using more energy.

But to think of quantum computing as just a more powerful conventional computer is off base. The types of problems these computers will solve will be fundamentally different. By using the properties of quantum interference, computer scientists are hoping to develop algorithms that would allow incorrect-solutions or redundant information to cancel each other out. These properties would allow quantum computers to perform incredibly complicated calculations while still delivering an interpretable result. These computers may prove an asset to modeling quantum processes themselves, a task conventional computers struggle with. On the to-do list are calculating molecular energies, modeling catalysis by enzymes, designing novel materials at the atomic level.

Overtime, programming languages evolved to allow developers to write code without constantly needing to know how computers would physically implement that code. However, learning how to use quantum hardware to perform what will be new types of computation is requiring physicists, computer scientists, and researchers to start from the beginning again. To foster collaboration, the Department of Energy has set up quantum computing testbeds, places where hardware designers and scientists can work together to simultaneously shape the computational revolution to come.

(Adrian Cho, Science)

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Written by sciencepolicyforall

January 19, 2018 at 7:11 pm