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Science Technology

Working together against COVID-19

This post was prepared by Anna Pellizzone, a science writer and an independent researcher at the Bassetti Foundation.

Makers

As many of us face lockdown and restricted movement, it is certainly worth thinking about what we ourselves might be able to do from our homes to help in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. There are plenty of initiatives around that are pushing technology into new fields, with 3D printing certainly one of the most prominent technologies.

News of respirator valves produced using 3D printers has spread across the world. Thanks to the meeting of three minds, a journalist (Nunzia Vallini, Giornale di Brescia), a Maker from Milan (Massimo Temporelli, FabLab Milano) and an entrepreneur (Cristian Fracassi from Isinnova), pieces required for the machines used in the Intensive Care Department of Chiari Hospital (Italy) are being produced in the hospital itself.

The “3D Printing Unite for COVID-19” forum is another interesting collaboration. Through the forum, makers from across the world share ideas aimed at responding to the emergency. You can read more about the Chiari story there. This is an open-source initiative headquartered in Ireland which aims to resolve the problem of the shortage of  ventilators, learn more here in Forbes.

And there is plenty more. João Nascimento runs the OpenAir project, with the aim of finding new, fast, open-source and accessible ways to produce much-needed medical equipment. Lots of interesting stuff here too.

If you are the competitive type (and well set up), the UBORA project, has launched the UBORA design competition 2020, with the title “Open source medical technologies for integral management of COVID-19 pandemia and infectious disease outbreaks”.

Play Your Part

You too can play a role though without technical expertise and home technology by participating in Coronaselfcheck, a platform that works to map data on the spread of COVID-19 through a personal self-check. Check out the privacy and descriptions of aims before you make a decision, but everything is anonymous and helps through mapping contagion.

And of course fold.it, a platform many of you will know, where users who play have been able to help researchers to discover new antiviral drugs that might be able to stop the coronavirus. The most promising solutions will be tested at the Institute for Protein Design of the University of Washington. We are all citizen scientists at heart.

Remaining in the area of protein folding, another contribution that we can all make is to offer our own PC’s computational capacity by downloading and running folding@home – similar to BOINC projects.

There is also a lot of open-source software available that allows the sharing of useful research data. Nextstrain is an open-source application that works to track the evolution of viruses and bacteria, while GISAID is a free open-access platform that promotes the sharing of the genetic sequences of virus genomes such as influenza, bird flu and COVID-19.

And finally check out this article from Wired and you will be in self-isolation heaven.

Keep us informed if you find any others please: anticovid19(at)fondazionebassetti.org
Replace the (at) with an @

Let’s all push and show them what we can do if we all work together.

Categories
Festive Media Science Updates

Year End Update

As the year ends I would like to look at some of my post over the last year or so to give an update about what has unfolded since I wrote them.

2012 Ending
The End is Near

I will start with Citizen Science. In 2011 I wrote an article about online gamers as scientists, and this year a couple of posts touched upon the issue of citizen science.

Recently the UK press has carried a story about a WW2 carrier pigeon whose remains were found in a chimney. The bird had a capsule on its leg that contained a message in code. Experts were unable to understand the message so they released the data into the public domain in the hope that somebody would be able to decode it. A perfect example of citizen science, the use of the Internet to access millions of brains.

A gentleman in Ontario responded with what he believes is the meaning of the note, although debate is rife around the issue of verification. He claims that the code is from WW1 and nothing more than a series of acronyms. Read this BBC article for more.

Still way back in 2011 I wrote a post about prosthetic limb technology and the fact that someone had opted to amputate a hand in order to have a robotic replacement fitted. Recently doctors have reported great improvements in prosthetic control, including controlling the artificial limbs through thought.

This experimental science has been going on for some time now, with implants in the brain interpreting neuron activity in order to make the limb move. As sensors get better movement improves and so control is greater. This week researchers in the US have released video of a woman operating a robot hand through thought. Watch it here on the Independent newspaper site.

One thing that isn’t addressed in the press coverage that I feel is important is that the person does not have to be attached to the arm, they can operate it remotely. This must have implications for how research and the handling of dangerous materials may be treated in the future.

If you want to see where this technology might take us just have a look at this video reportedly of someone controlling a remote control quadcopter using only thought waves. Incredible stuff!

More recently I wrote a piece about the compulsory tagging of students in a Texas school district. The project has run into problems as one of the students was withdrawn and moved to another school for refusing to wear the tag on religious grounds. Read the report here.

Andrea Hernandez refused to wear the tag saying that the bar code it contained could be the mark of the beast, an interpretation she takes from the book of Revelation. When they removed the mark from the tag she continued to refuse to wear it however so was effectively expelled. She is taking the school to court over the matter presenting problems to all those involved in the project.

I also wrote about the MOSE project to protect Venice from the rising seawater that floods the city ever more frequently. Recent news (in Italian) states that the project will no longer be ready in 2014 (2012 was the original date set for completion) but will possibly be finished in 2016.

The major problem seems to be lack of money. The project budget has increased massively, and the economic crisis has meant that money is found piecemeal so that the work can continue.

I do not want to be too critical of the land that bore my wife and children, but unfinished engineering projects are not uncommon in Italy, let’s hope this one does not end like many others.

Next week I will be taking a self enforced holiday, so no post on Thursday. Happy winter solstice to all, enjoy the festivities, thanks to everyone who has read and/or commented over the last year and I will be back in the new year (presuming that the Mayans were mistaken).