Antibiotic resistance poses health threat


The world is dependent on antibiotics, however the efficiency of antibiotics in modern medicine is quickly decaying.

As bacteria mutates and changes, antibiotic treatment will no longer be efficient in treating illnesses. This means going back to a reality where people died from common illness like sinus infections or a scrape to the knee.

Dr. Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organization, spoke in a conference in April about one of the greatest global crises.

“The world is heading towards a post-antibiotic era in which common infections will once again kill. If current trends continue, sophisticated interventions, like organ transplantation, joint replacements, cancer chemotherapy and care of pre-term infants, will become more difficult or even too dangerous to undertake. This may even bring the end of modern medicine as we know it.”

The problem lies with mutation of the bacteria. In some cases, when people use antibiotics to treat an infection, bacteria will mutate and become antibiotic resistant. They then will pass on their DNA to other bacteria in a process called “conjugation.”

According to statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that in U.S. there are approximately 23,000 people who die every year from antibiotic-resistant infections.

With the number expected to rise health organizations around the world are looking into ways to prevent this from spreading.

One of the ways for prevention is to limit the use of antibiotics and not prescribe it as often. Another way is to track it. The CDC now have a system called the National Antimicrobial Monitoring System (NARMS).

“Surveillance for antibiotic resistant bacteria is a big part of our mission,” said Dr. Jean Patel, deputy director of the office of Antimicrobial Resistance at the CDC. “We do this to measure the burden of infection and also characterize the types of resistance we see. This helps us strategize how best to prevent resistance.”

Diseases and bacteria don’t know any borders. They aren’t concerned with politics. Prevention and treatment for antibiotic resistance is a global issue and every nations problem.

Is there a future for nuclear energy?


In the 1950s, nuclear energy was all the rage, promising to supply the world all of it’s energy. With the passing of time however, nuclear energy has faded from innovative to cumbersome.

Nuclear energy is costly, dangerous, and powerful. As the world looks to cleaner sources of energy, what does this hold for the future of nuclear energy?

Several large-scale incidents have paved the way for nuclear energy way out, including the incident at Chernobyl in 1986 and more recently Fukushima’s nuclear accident in 2011.

Mostly likely as a result of the disaster in Fukushima, Germany decided to phase out nuclear power altogether by 2022.

Also, South Korea, which invested many years into its nuclear energy technology will be scaling back in their nuclear energy consumption and released a plan called the “One Less Nuclear Power Plant” initiative one year after the incident in Fukushima.

Public opinion about the reliability of nuclear energy has tanked, putting politicians and world leaders in the midst to figure out what to do next. But it’s more than just public opinion, keeping nuclear energy around has a lot to do with economics.

While nuclear energy in the United States does offer some benefits, it’s too expensive to maintain when you take into account all of the money spent in making sure it’s done safely.

“You can make it go fast, and you can make it be cheap — but not if you adhere to the standard of care that we do,” said Mark Cooper of the Institute for Energy and the Environment at Vermont Law School, referring to the United States regulatory body. “Nuclear safety always undermines nuclear economics. Inherently, it’s a technology whose time never comes.”

Yemen’s cholera crisis may worsen


In the midst of Yemen’s civil war, thousands are dying. Not because of airstrikes or bombs, but because of cholera.

Yemen is one of the Arab world’s poorest countries and its civil war is centered around Houthi rebel forces and those who are loyal to the government system of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi.

According to The cholera outbreak has infected more than 200,000 people across Yemen, and it appears that 500,000 could eventually become sick. More than 1,300 people have already died.”

With the knowledge of modern medicine preventing cholera should be an easy task. But in a war torn country whose sewer system stopped working on April 17, clean water is hard to come by.

“Clean water in Yemen is a luxury. Municipal workers in Sanaa have not been paid in months. And so we have no electricity, rubbish piling high in the street, and a crippled water system,” Bruwer wrote.

The cholera crisis in Yemen is centered to be the largest outbreak in modern times. With no end to the war in sight, Yemen faces is facing more than just a health crisis. Because of the economic collapse due to the war, cholera will continue to spread without the proper access to food, clean water and health care.

In a statement released by senior UN official in Yemen, Jamie McGoldrick, spoke about the lack of international response.

“The politics of the situation has overcome the humanity,” Goldrick said.

“The humanity doesn’t work anymore here. The world has turned a blind eye to what’s happening in Yemen … right now we are so under-resourced for this crisis, it’s extraordinary.”

Scientists look to colonize Mars


The era of interplanetary civilizations is close to becoming a reality for mankind with the scientific world looking to colonize Mars. But with the possibility of leaving comes grim predictions from scientists of Earth’s future.

Professor Stephen Hawking issued a statement last November saying that humans would need to find a new planet to populate within the next 1,000 years, however he recently revised his previous statement to say that it would have to happen in the next 100 years for the survival of the human race.

Hawking talks about his predictions in  BBC’s new science series Tomorrow’s World, where he believes that climate change, asteroid strikes, epidemics and population growth will force humans into extinction.

In a conference at the Royal Society of London, Hawking issued a statement about his predictions.

“I strongly believe we should start seeking alternative planets for possible habitation,” Hawking said. “We are running out of space on earth and we need to break through technological limitations preventing us living elsewhere in the universe.”

“I am not alone in this view and many of my colleagues will make further comments at the Starmus next month,” he said.

And the scientific community seems to be in agreement. Programs to colonize Mars are already underway. Some major companies looking into this are NASA, SpaceX and China’s space program.

According to information on NASA’s website, the goal is to send humans to the “Red Planet” by 2030.

In an official statement found on NASA’s website they go talk about past and future endeavors,

“For decades, the agency and its partners have sent orbiters, landers and rovers, dramatically increasing our knowledge about the Red Planet and paving the way for future human explorers. The Curiosity rover has gathered radiation data to help us protect future astronauts, and the upcoming Mars 2020 rover will study the availability of Martian resources, including oxygen.”

Planets that may sustain life identified


NASA’s Kepler spacecraft has been able to locate 219 new planets outside our solar system.

Out of those located, 10 have the potential for hosting life, scientists announced Monday.

Kepler, which began its journey in 2009 by orbiting the sun, was tasked to find planets by looking for stars in the Cygnus constellation that dimmed.

Dimming occurs when a planet passes over the face of a star, however, some planet candidates identified by Kepler have turned out to be stars or other phenomena.

So, in order to be considered suitable for life, they await a rigorous confirmation process, which may eliminate some of the potential candidates.

However, since its beginnings, Kepler has located “2,335 confirmed planets orbiting a star other than the Sun – more than 80 percent of the total found by all the world’s observatories combined,” according to Traci Watson, reporter for USA Today.

The spacecraft won’t be there long though. Kepler suffered a mechanical failure back in 2013 that put a stop to its planet-finding mission, but it still continues to turn in and go over data.

Monday’s announcement at the NASA briefing when Kepler’s newest batch of information was divulged will probably be its last, according to scientists.

“Yeah, it feels a bit like the end of an era but, actually, I see it as a new beginning,” Susan Thompson, of the SETI Institute, said at a NASA briefing Monday. “It’s amazing the things Kepler has found … I’m really excited to see what people are going to do with this catalog.”

With space travel at its peak, the development of “candidate” planets that hold the environment for life is an exciting prospect.

Space exploration is more than just discovering new things, it’s about explaining things back home as well.

Ransomware attacks Apple products


New software designed to attack Mac operating systems is being spread around the “dark Web” leaving Apple products vulnerable.

According to BBC technology correspondent Mark Ward, there are two different types of software that are being given out for free to anyone who can access the program. “One is ransomware that encrypts data and demands payment before files are released. The other is spyware that watches what users do and scoops up valuable information,” he wrote.

This information was gathering by security firms Fortinet and AlienVault when they found a web portal hosted on a TOR network that advertised malware and spyware software for Mac products.

The authors of the malicious software are advertising their product as “sophisticated malware for Mac users” and calling it MacSpy.

In order to access the software you need to contact the developers and have it set up by them.

The concept is to split the profits 70/30 percent of the amount of bitcoin the person using the program wants to retrieve from the person’s computer they’ve attacked.

However the program only works if the person trying to attack your files has access to your Mac or if you open an unknown file from unknown developers.

Aamir Lakhani from Fortinet said, “Mac users should make sure their machines were kept up to date with the latest software patches and be wary of messages they receive via email.”

While Mac computers are not often heard about in cyber attacks that is because most personal computers run windows.

However according to stats from MacAfee there are 450,000 malicious programs aimed at Macs and 23 million targeting Windows users.

As the market continues to expand and include Mac systems the demand for malicious software targeting these operating systems will grow as well.

Hackers threaten car computers


With technology embedded into cars, it opens the door for hackers to join the ride as well.

Cyber security is becoming an increasing issue with the automatization and implementation of tech in everyday life. Essentially anything that communicates to the outside world has the possibility of being hacked.

With the fast-approaching reality of driverless cars, problems are mounting on how to prevent hackers from accessing the car’s computer area network (CAN).

Some automakers now install gateways as a buffer between the driver system and the cars CAN network.

According Techopedia, an online resource for technology, “Gateways serve as the entry and exit point of a network; all data routed inward or outward must first pass through and communicate with the gateway in order to use routing paths.”

But it can still be hacked. And it’s been done multiple times with Teslas and Jeeps.

Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek, two security researchers, were able to successfully hack a Jeep Cherokee remotely through a wireless internet connection. They were able to control the brakes, stop the transmission and ultimately paralyze the vehicle on the highway.

But a car’s CAN network is only the beginning. According to The New York Times, “The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has proposed that V2V equipment be installed in all cars in the future. But that channel, and all the equipment involved, open millions more access points for would-be attackers.”

The future of cyber security and cars is uncertain, but research continues to move forward. Uber and Didi are two companies investing in the technology of fully automated driverless cars. But with their investment comes a lot of concern on government regulations and how to prevent physical passengers from hacking vehicles.

It’s time to start considering solutions now, before the mass production of these vehicles enter society at large.

The future of AI in cargo ships


Technology is rapidly expanding and will again be making its way to the high seas.

Japan is set to launch self-navigating cargo ships by 2025.

Nicknamed “smart ships” this artificial intelligence (AI) will be used to navigate the shortest, fastest and most fuel efficient sea routes. It will also be programmed to calculate malfunctions and other problems that could arise at sea.

Mitsui OSK Lines and Nippon Yusen, two Japanese shipping firms, are working with Japan Marine Unitedplan “to split costs and share expertise. Developing the technology is expected to cost tens of billions of yen, or hundreds of millions of dollars, at a minimum,” according to the Nikkei Asian Review.

It is planned that the first few ships will have a small crew on-board to man the vessel in case of any incidents, but the goal is to create completely autonomous ships.

But Japan isn’t the only country investing into autonomous technology for ships. Rolls-Royce which also develops ship engines announced in 2016 that by 2020 there would be unmanned cargo ships.

While the use of this technology is impressive, it’s important to consider what will happen to the many jobs that will be lost due to the complete automation of cargo ships once this AI is shared and implemented to systems all around the world.

A future led by technological innovation is our current reality. So it’s time to start considering how humans will be able to compete with machines.

Trump withdraws U.S. from accord


On Thursday, President Donald Trump announced plans to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord, which weakens global efforts in combating climate change.

Trump stated that the deal imposed unfair restrictions to American businesses and workers and he vowed to take a stance against the “draconian” agreement.

However, because of the lengthy withdrawal process, which takes about four years, the decision falls in 2020, election time. This means that the fate of the deal could be up to the voters.

The withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement is unprecedented and has been a topic of discussion around the world.

The Chinese news media outlet China Daily has labeled Trump selfish and irresponsible,’ crippling U.S. leadership.

And shortly after issuing his withdrawal, a joint statement from the leaders of France, Italy, and Germany noted that the Paris climate accord was “irreversible” and unable to be renegotiated.

Elon Musk who was part of two business-related councils set up by Trump has said he would leave those panels in a statement on Twitter.

“Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world,” he said.

Through the Paris climate accord signed by 195 other countries, the United States had agreed to cut its greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025 and give up to $3 billion in aid for poorer countries by 2020.

The choice to withdraw from this agreement is irresponsible not just for the American people but to the continuing prosperity and health of the global environment.

In a statement that highlights the thoughts of many, former President Obama argued, “Even in the absence of American leadership; even as this administration joins a small handful of nations that reject the future; I’m confident that our states, cities, and businesses will step up and do even more to lead the way, and help protect for future generations the one planet we’ve got.”

NASA plans to send probe to sun


NASA has plans to announce a mission to “touch the sun.”

The Solar Probe Plus is scheduled to launch in 2018, making it 50 years since the idea was first proposed as an initiative to study the sun more closely.

The probe will not initially be launched into the sun’s atmosphere. It is scheduled to fly past in December of 2024, after circling Venus and gathering data.

“Placed in orbit within four million miles of the sun’s surface and facing heat and radiation unlike any spacecraft in history, the spacecraft will explore the sun’s outer atmosphere and make critical observations that will answer decades-old questions about the physics of how stars work,” NASA said in a statement. “The resulting data will improve forecasts of major space weather events that impact life on Earth, as well as satellites and astronauts in space.”

The Solar Probe Plus is planned to operate for seven years, pursuing an orbit that will allow it to reach the sun’s atmosphere 24 times.

The series of elliptical orbits is designed to gradually decrease over time, which will leave the probe only four million miles from the surface of the sun.

In order to achieve this the spacecraft have to travel at a speed of 450,000 miles per hour.
The heat and radiation will be equally immense. To withstand these harsh conditions the probe was fishnets with a 4.5 inch carbon composite shield.

“At its closest point to the sun, the spacecraft will have to survive solar intensity almost 500 times what it would experience orbiting Earth,” said Hannah Osborne, tech and science writer for Newsweek.

The advancement of technology has progressed far enough that space travel like this is possible, but there are still people who do not believe that humans have ever gone into space.

However the more persistent argument is why bother going into space at all?

CNN published an article a few years back that mimics this idea called, “Mars can wait. Oceans can’t.”

The idea is that humans need to focus on their direct environment instead of going out and spending money exploring an unknown system.

I think the major flaw in this viewpoint is the disregard to all the advancements in technology that were produced thanks to space travel. A major one is the internet.

It is equally important to protect our environment as it is to explore new ones.

The Sun Probe Plus is necessary in gathering data because its research will help scientists understand space weather events caused by the sun, and how they impact life on Earth.

So the question is, should we focus on space or earth?

I think the answer is both.