Poncho, a yellow Labrador retriever, is training to detect the scent of the coronavirus as part of a University of Pennsylvania study. (Pat Nolan for Penn Vet)
Poncho, a yellow Labrador retriever, is training to detect the scent of the coronavirus as part of a University of Pennsylvania study. (Pat Nolan for Penn Vet)
April 29, 2020 at 7:38 a.m. PDT


As some states move to reopen after weeks of shutdowns, infectious disease experts say the prevention of future coronavirus outbreaks will require scaling up testing and identifying asymptomatic carriers.


Eight Labrador retrievers — and their powerful noses — have been enlisted to help.

The dogs are the first trainees in a University of Pennsylvania research project to determine whether canines can detect an odor associated with the virus that causes the disease covid-19. If so, they might eventually be used in a sort of “canine surveillance” corps, the university said — offering a noninvasive, four-legged method to screen people in airports, businesses or hospitals.

It would not be surprising if the dogs prove adept at detecting SARS-CoV-2. In addition to drugs, explosives and contraband food items, dogs are able to sniff out malaria, cancers and even a bacterium ravaging Florida’s citrus groves. Research has found viruses have specific odors, said Cynthia M. Otto, director of the Working Dog Center at Penn’s School of Veterinary Medicine.

“We don’t know that this will be the odor of the virus, per se, or the response to the virus, or a combination,” said Otto, who is leading the project. “But the dogs don’t care what the odor is. … What they learn is that there’s something different about this sample than there is about that sample.”


A similar effort is underway at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, where researchers previously demonstrated that dogs could identify malaria infections in humans. In a statement, James Logan, head of the school’s disease control department, called canines a “new diagnostic tool” that “could revolutionize our response to covid-19.”

Logan said Tuesday that his research team expects to begin collecting covid-19 samples “within a matter of weeks” and working with the charity Medical Detection Dogs to train canines soon after. The initial goal is to deploy six dogs to airports in the United Kingdom, he said.

“Each individual dog can screen up to 250 people per hour,” Logan said in an email. “We are simultaneously working on a model to scale it up so it can be deployed in other countries at ports of entry, including airports.”


The Working Dog Center typically trains dogs, which live with foster families, at its facility in Philadelphia, but the pandemic is forcing it to adjust. To minimize social contact, the project instead is working with Labs at a K-9 training firm in Maryland, Tactical Directional Canine, Otto said.

Miss M., Poncho and six other chocolate, yellow and black Labs began the first stage of training — learning to identify an odor for a food reward — this month, she said. Next, the dogs will train using urine and saliva samples collected from patients who tested positive and negative at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

The following step is trickier, Otto said: learning to detect the virus in a human.

“That’s going to be the next proof of concept: Can we train them to identify it when a person has it and that person’s moving? Or even standing still?” Otto said.

Cynthia M. Otto, director of Penn Vet's Working Dog Center, is leading the coronavirus project. (Sabina Louise Pierce for Penn Vet)
Cynthia M. Otto, director of Penn Vet’s Working Dog Center, is leading the coronavirus project. (Sabina Louise Pierce for Penn Vet)

Exactly how covid-19 detection dogs might be put to use in the United States would depend on demands, Otto said, though no one’s talking about stationing a dog in every hospital or testing site.

If the need is lots of tests, then Penn chemists and physicists might be able to use what they learn from the dogs to create an electronic “nose,” or sensor. The goal of the Working Dog Center’s research on ovarian-cancer-detection dogs, for example, is to produce “an electronic test where thousands and thousands of samples could be screened in a short period,” Otto said.

Other settings, such as fields where the center has trained dogs to detect the eggs of invasive spotted lantern flies, call for actual canines that can quickly roam and sniff, she said.


“The exciting area is the sort of convergence with what dogs are currently doing with [the Transportation Security Administration] and screening for explosives,” she said. “If we can do a similar approach for screening humans, then there will be a large interest” in using dogs to help flag people for testing, she added.

One potential complication: Explosives detection dogs are already in short supply.

“We don’t have enough detection dogs. And if now, all of a sudden, everyone wants a covid detection dog? It’s going to be a challenge to figure out where are the priorities,” Otto said. “But there’s a lot of opportunity.”

Headshot of Karin Brulliard

Karin Brulliard is a national reporter who writes about animals. Previously, she was an international news editor; a foreign correspondent in South Africa, Pakistan and Israel; and a local reporter. She joined The Post in 2003.

Intel unveils new 10th Gen Core desktop processors

By Jonathan Lamont@Jon_LamontAPR 30, 2020 9:00 AM

Intel is taking the wraps off its new 10th Gen Core S-series processors for desktop computers. The company says its new CPUs feature better performance, especially in gaming, as well as improved overclocking, new Turbo Boost technology and more. Codenamed ‘Comet Lake,’ the new CPUs offer up to 5.3GHz clock speeds on the highest-end Core i9-10900K, with 10 cores and 20 threads. Intel says that leads to some significant improvements in real-world performance.

In benchmarks run by Intel, the company says the new Comet Lake CPU saw up to 33 percent more FPS in Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord compared to the previous generation of the CPU. Likewise, the i9-10900K saw 13 percent more FPS in Monster Hunter World: Iceborne and 10 percent more in PUBG over last gen. Compared to a three-year-old PC set-up, Intel says the new i9 saw 81, 37 and 63 percent more FPS in those same titles respectively.

For non-gamers, the new i9 also saw up to 18 percent faster 4K video editing compared to the previous generation. While benchmarks can help visualize improvements in new CPU hardware, it’s important to remember that they often don’t tell the whole story.

Further, Intel’s new CPUs include a ton of new tech packed in to help achieve the higher performance. For example, Intel says it used a new thinner die in the chip to improve thermal performance. Additionally, these new CPUs include Intel’s Turbo Boost Max 3.0 technology, which automatically identifies the best-performing cores. When running single or dual-core operations, 10th Gen Intel Core desktop processors will use the two best performing cores to increase overall performance.

Intel notes that it doesn’t apply increased voltage to those cores. Other new additions include Intel’s hyperthreading tech across Core i3 to i9 CPUs, support for up to DDR4-2933, Up to 10 cores with 20M Intel Smart Cache, up to 40 platform PCIe lanes, Wi-Fi 6 support and more. Intel also refreshed its Extreme Tuning Utility and improved overclocking features for the new Comet Lake processors.

How To Finally Put A Stop To Those Quarantine Nightmares

Abby Moore
Upset Woman Waking Up In The Morning

If you’ve been experiencing vivid dreams or simply recalling your dreams more than normal lately, you’re not alone. Since people have been quarantined at home, the phenomenon of “pandemic dreams,” is starting to spread.

One study speculates dreams may be a way for people to process their daily experiences. “It is thought that meaningful experiences—particularly those that are threatening—are at the forefront of dream material,” the study writes.

“The amount of change, stress, and even anxiety that people are experiencing right now is certainly enough to carry over into sleep,” holistic psychologist Nicole Beurkens, Ph.D., CNS, says. Weird dreams are one thing, but if you’re having quarantine nightmares, there may be a few things we can do to stop them.

How can you prevent nightmares?

Though we can’t restore normalcy in everyday life, we can establish a set nightly ritual. “The routine will establish a buffer zone between work and sleep,” sleep psychologist and Fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine Lynelle Schneeberg, PsyD, says.

To help you stick to a schedule, integrative immunologist Heather Moday, M.D., suggests going to bed at about the same time and getting up at the same time each day.

If you’re having trouble falling asleep, “One great way to ease yourself into sleep is via calming adaptogens and magnesium supplements,” she says. “I particularly love magnesium+ by mindbodygreen that features magnesium glycinate, which may promote relaxation.*”

“For people who are experiencing distressing dreams nightly, it is typically a sign that stress and anxiety levels are too high,” Beurkens says. “They would benefit from strategies to support anxiety reduction so they can get good-quality uninterrupted sleep.” To help calm your mind, mbg’s magnesium+ also contains jujube, which is a fruit used in traditional Chinese medicine for stress management.*

Along with a magnesium supplement, physician and expert on stress and mind-body medicine Eva Selhub, M.D., recommends limiting your news consumption, practicing mindfulness, and meditating for at least 10 or 20 minutes every day. This can “help you shift away from fearful thoughts and elicit the relaxation response,” she explains.

Article continues below

How can you get past persistent nightmares?

As you adjust to your new relaxing bedtime ritual, it may help to have some nightmare coping-strategies at your disposal, too.

If your nightmare wakes you up in the middle of the night, Schneeberg says it’s important to change the scenery in order to leave the nightmare behind. Keeping things on your bedside table, like a book, a podcast, or a crossword puzzle, may help—just avoid doing work or grabbing for your phone.

“Use these relaxing activities until you have distracted and quieted your mind enough to feel relaxed and drowsy again,” she says. “If you think this might take more than 30 minutes, it’s best to move out of your bed and sit in a nearby chair or in another comfortable place in your home.”

Bottom line.

It’s completely normal to be experiencing bad dreams right now. While there’s no guaranteed way to nix your quarantine nightmares, these expert-backed tips are solid strategies to help you sleep more peacefully. While it may take some time to establish a healthier bedtime routine, remember that prioritizing sleep is crucial for your overall well-being.

11 Real Examples of Genetically Modified Organisms: Marvels or Monsters

Each of these organisms was genetically modified with a singular purpose in mind.

11 Real Examples of Genetically Modified Organisms: Marvels or Monsters


The Genetic modification of foods, organisms, and animals, is very controversial, for quite obvious reasons.

And yet, the practice has great potential for helping to cure diseases and battle hunger in poorer countries. We look at 11 examples of organisms that were genetically modified by scientists, and why.

1. Pigs that are resistant to respiratory diseases

11 Real Examples of Genetically Modified Organisms: Marvels or Monsters
Source: Christina Warner/Unsplash

In 2018, scientists from the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute announced they had successfully eradicated the section of DNA that leaves pigs vulnerable to porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome, the Guardian wrote at the time — sometimes genetic modification really sounds like computer programming.

The disease that the GM pigs were made resistant to is estimated to cost European farmers £1.5bn a year in loss of livestock and decreased productivity. Genetically modified animals are banned from the European Union food chain — some experts suggest this new technique might encourage a reevaluation.

2. Land mine-detecting plants

As an MIT statement put it in 2016, “spinach is no longer just a superfood.”

“By embedding leaves with carbon nanotubes,” the MIT piece explains, “MIT engineers have transformed spinach plants into sensors that can detect explosives and wirelessly relay that information to a handheld device similar to a smartphone.”

The approach, called “plant nanobionics” by the researchers, is one of the first demonstrations of engineering electronic systems into plants. It allows plants to detect chemical compounds known as nitroaromatics, which are often used in landmines. When the plant detects these compounds it emits a fluorescent signal that can be read with an infrared camera.

3. Genetically modified salmon that grow incredibly quickly

In 2017, the Canadian authorities allowed a genetically modified (GM) salmon, which had been designed by US company AquaBounty, to be sold in supermarkets. The salmon was designed to be market-ready in 18 months — half the time a salmon would take to grow to that size in the wild.

Controversially, the fish were not labeled as GM in the shops, prompting CBAN in Canada to write this article about how to avoid eating GM salmon in 2017.

4. Mosquitoes designed to birth weak offspring

11 Real Examples of Genetically Modified Organisms: Marvels or Monsters
Source: Wolfgang Hasselmann/Unsplash

A British company called Oxitec created genetically modified male mosquitoes that carry a “self-limiting gene”. This means that when they are released into the wild and procreate with female mosquitoes, their offspring die at a young age.

This method has shown great potential in battling diseases such as Zika and malaria, which are carried and spread by mosquitoes. Unfortunately, some scientists argue that releasing the genetically modified mosquitoes into the wild may have helped to create a more resilient hybrid species of mosquito.

5. Cows genetically modified to produce something resembling human milk

Scientists in China and Argentina have genetically modified cows to produce milk that is similar to that produced by human mothers. Researchers modified an embryo of an Argentinian cow to produce milk that contained proteins that are present in human milk, that are not typically present in cow milk.

As LiveScience points out, the researchers face many tests and hurdles before this type of milk is deemed as a safe replacement milk for human infants.

6. Ruppy, the glow-in-the-dark clone beagles

As NewScientist writes, the cloned beagle named Ruppy – short for Ruby Puppy – is the world’s first transgenic dog. She is one of five beagles that were engineered to produce a fluorescent protein that glows red under ultraviolet light.

A team that included Byeong-Chun Lee of Seoul National University in South Korea and stem cell researcher Woo Suk Hwang, created the dogs by cloning fibroblast cells that express a red fluorescent gene produced by sea anemones.

The proof-of-principle experiment was aimed at leading the way for transgenic dog models of human disease.

7. The glow-in-the-dark pet Glofish

11 Real Examples of Genetically Modified Organisms: Marvels or Monsters
Source: Glofish/Facebook

The Glofish goes down in history as the first-ever genetically created designer pet. It was first engineered as a proof of concept for gene splicing, by Dr. Zhiyuan Gong at the National University of Singapore. In 1999, Gong and his team extracted the green fluorescent protein (GFP) from a jellyfish and inserted it into a zebrafish.

The glow-in-the-dark, and now trademark branded, Glofish goldfish were actually inspired by real-life fish and marine life that glows for biological purposes, such as catching prey.

8. Featherless chickens

Featherless chickens were engineered to make the lives of farmers easier — de-feathering a chicken is no easy task.

Unfortunately, as New Scientist points out, many critics of the GM feather-free chickens say that they suffer more than normal birds. Males are unable to mate, as they cannot flap their wings, and “naked” chickens also lose a protective layer of plumage that helps keep away parasites, mosquito bites, and sunburn.

9. See-through frogs for more humane research

Scientists at Hiroshima University genetically engineered a see-through frog. The development paves the way for dissection-free research on animals, NBC reported in 2007.

At the time, Professor Masayuki Sumida of Hiroshima University said the new line of frogs were the world’s first transparent four-legged animals. Though it opens up a new intriguing line of research the scientists behind it to do stress that we won’t be seeing any see-through mammals any time soon, as mammals typically have a much thicker skin.

10. Monkey-pig chimera

11 Real Examples of Genetically Modified Organisms: Marvels or Monsters
Source: Tang Hai/State Key Laboratory of Stem Cell and Reproductive Biology

Just last year, scientists in China created pig-primate chimeras. The two piglets looked like normal baby pigs but had primate cells. They died within a week.

Ultimately, the research is being conducted with the ultimate goal of growing human organs in animals for transplantation. The death of the piglets is a reminder as to why genetic modification in animals is so controversial.

11. The Vacanti mouse

11 Real Examples of Genetically Modified Organisms: Marvels or Monsters
Source: Wikimedia Commons

In the late 90s, doctors Charles Vacanti, Joseph Vacanti, and Bob Langer started to create “biodegradable scaffoldings” of human body parts, including the human ear. Famously, they genetically engineered a mouse to grow a human ear on its body.

The creature, which looks like something out of a horror movie, was engineered to help scientists understand how to grow body parts in humans, using their own skin and cartilage cells.

The genetic modification of life forms is a controversial practice that will likely remain controversial for the unforeseeable future. Do the positives outweigh the negatives? Be sure to let us know what you think.

Hatch’s smart sleep light for adults will be available next week

It’s the company’s first product designed with adults in mind.
Mariella Moon@mariella_moon

April 29, 2020

Hatch isn’t letting the coronavirus pandemic affect the launch of its first product designed with adults in mind. The company, which is known for its baby-focused products, is releasing its new smart sleep light device called Restore next week. We first saw Restore with its Google Home-like aesthetic back at CES earlier this year. Hatch calls it an all-in-one sleep system designed to help people stick to a personalized sleep routine, since users can program their own schedule using its companion app.

The device’s sunrise alarm gradually fills the room with light 30 minutes before a user’s alarm sound. If they’re having difficulties sleeping, they can use it to play sounds that induce sleepiness, such as white noise or the sounds of water or the wind. They can also use Restore as a reading light, though, with reduced blue light for a more relaxing ambiance.


The Hatch Restore light with be available on the company’s site for $130.

Brain–spleen connection aids antibody production

Elucidating how the brain controls peripheral organs in the fight against infection is crucial for our understanding of brain–body interactions. A study in mice reveals one such pathway worthy of further investigation.

Interactions between the mind and the body have sparked the interest of scientists and philosophers for centuries. In ancient Greece, the physician Galen described the spleen as being the source of black bile, which was thought to cause melancholy when secreted in excess. Today, research is uncovering complex ways in which the brain and body interact to affect diverse aspects of health, from mood to immune function. The spleen aids immune defences by functioning as part of the lymphatic system; the organ is a major hub of activities needed to initiate responses in the adaptive branch of the immune system, which handles defences that are tailored to a specific disease-causing agent.

The spleen is a target of top-down control from the brain1Writing in Nature, Zhang et al.2 have taken our understanding of brain–spleen connections to the next level by revealing an aspect of top-down control that regulates the adaptive immune system.

The spleen’s contribution to immune responses occurs mainly in its white-pulp region, where immune cells that have arrived from elsewhere in the body present peptide fragments called antigens to immune cells called T cells. If a T cell binds to and recognizes such an antigen, which might indicate the presence of an abnormal cell or a foreign invader, this activates the T cell, which in turn activates immune cells called B cells. B cells differentiate to form plasma cells (Fig. 1) that secrete antibodies specific for the antigen presented, and these antibodies are released into the bloodstream to fight infection3.

Figure 1

Figure 1 | Brain control of antibody production. Zhang et al.2 describe a circuit between the brain and the spleen that aids immune defences. The authors injected animals with an antigen (a peptide fragment) that can be recognized by immune cells. Placing the animal on a high platform activated neurons that produce the molecule corticotropin. These neurons are located in brain regions that respond to stress, called the central amygdala (CeA) and the paraventricular nucleus (PVN) of the hypothalamus. A cellular circuit connects these activated neurons to the splenic nerve and drives it to release the molecule noradrenaline. An immune cell termed a CD4+ T cell is activated when its T-cell receptor (TCR) binds to antigen. When such a cell encounters the noradrenaline released in the spleen (which binds to what is termed an adrenergic receptor), this leads the T cell to secrete the molecule acetylcholine6. This molecule binds to a nicotinic receptor on an immune cell called a B cell, causing it to differentiate into a plasma cell. The plasma cell boosts immune defences by making antibodies that recognize the specific antigen that activated the T cell.

Spleen activity is controlled by the autonomic nervous system — a part of the nervous system that regulates organs. More specifically, the spleen is controlled mainly by the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system, which is associated with the ‘fight-or-flight’ response4. However, little was known previously about possible upstream brain regions that might connect to the autonomic nervous system in the spleen to control it and, by extension, adaptive immunity. An earlier study in mice5 revealed that stimulation of a brain region called the ventral tegmental area, a part of the brain’s reward circuit, boosts immune responses and protection against harmful bacteria.

Zhang and colleagues developed a surgical technique to remove nerves from the spleen in mice. This mainly removed inputs from the autonomic nervous system and prevented top-down control from the brain to the spleen. After surgery, the animals were injected with an antigen. Plasma cells that made antibodies targeting that antigen arose in abundance in control mice that had undergone a ‘sham’ operation that did not remove nerves. Such an increase did not occur in the denervated mice, indicating that splenic-nerve activity regulates the formation of plasma cells and thus adaptive immunity.

The authors investigated which molecular mechanisms might be needed for plasma-cell formation in this context. They studied the expression of various types of receptor that can bind the neurotransmitter molecule acetylcholine, which is a key signalling component of the autonomic nervous system. Zhang et al. report that B cells express a type of acetylcholine receptor called a nicotinic receptor, and the authors pinpointed protein subunits of this receptor, including one called Chrna9. To test the role of nicotinic receptors containing Chrna9 in plasma-cell formation, Zhang et al. transplanted haematopoietic stem cells, which can generate immune cells, into mice that had undergone a treatment to remove their own haematopoietic stem cells. When the transplanted stem cells came from mice engineered to lack the gene encoding Chrna9, these animals generated fewer plasma cells after an injection of antigens than did animals that received antigen injections and transplants of stem cells with the gene intact. This result indicates that plasma-cell formation requires the presence of nicotinic receptors.

When a type of T cell called a CD4+ T cell is activated by antigen recognition, it secretes acetylcholine in response to the hormone noradrenaline6. The authors reveal that such T cells serve as a ‘relay’ between the release of noradrenaline from the splenic nerve and the subsequent acetylcholine-dependent6 formation of plasma cells (Fig. 1).

To map the neural circuit that connects the spleen and brain, the authors used a method termed retrograde tracing, which relies on monitoring the expression of a fluorescent protein encoded by a virus that can ‘jump’ across the synapses that connect neurons. This enabled Zhang and colleagues to track all upstream inputs to a given nerve cell in the spleen. The authors thereby identified two key brain regions (the central nucleus of the amygdala and the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus) that contain neurons that connect to splenic nerves. These regions are major centres involved in the response to psychological stressors such as fear or threatening situations7, and they have essential roles in regulating the production of neuroendocrine hormones, for example, by a pathway called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis8.

One population of nerve cells in these two regions releases the hormone corticotropin, which is thought to have a key role in initiating the body’s response to stress9. To determine whether corticotropin-producing neurons affect the spleen, Zhang et al. stimulated these neurons using a technique called optogenetics, and assessed whether this affected the activation of splenic nerves by monitoring their firing using electrophysiological recording. This provided crucial functional evidence for a brain–spleen connection, because such stimulation increased the firing of splenic-nerve cells. The authors also report that the inhibition or ablation of corticotropin-producing neurons in either of the two brain regions impaired the formation of plasma cells after antigen injection. Conversely, activation of the neurons stimulated such plasma-cell formation.

Although these circuit-based experimental approaches provide key proof for the existence of the brain–spleen axis, the authors also needed to test their model using suitable interventions that activate the ‘stress centres’ in the brain. However, neurons in the central nucleus of the amygdala and the paraventricular nucleus function in a pathway that causes the adrenal gland to secrete the hormone glucocorticoid in response to stress, and glucocorticoids are potentially immunosuppressive10.

The authors therefore considered whether the concentration of glucocorticoids secreted by the adrenal gland might depend on the severity of the stress. To avoid possible glucocorticoid-driven immunosuppression that might interfere with their analysis of antibody production, Zhang et al. studied mice that had been placed on an elevated, transparent platform; this provided a behavioural situation that induced only moderate stress. Following antigen injection, this scenario, but not another set-up that caused more-severe stress, led to the generation of antigen-specific antibodies. The authors showed that this antibody production depends on corticotropin-producing neurons in the brain circuit that they had described.

There is growing evidence that dysregulation of the immune system has a bottom-up role in promoting several behaviours relevant to neuropsychiatric disorders11. Zhang and colleagues’ study provides insights in the other direction — how the brain exerts top-down control of immune-system function. Future research will be needed to investigate whether this particular brain–spleen circuit exists in humans. The authors’ work opens up the exciting possibility that activating certain brain regions (through behavioural interventions or by selective stimulation using neuromodulatory techniques such as transcranial magnetic stimulation) could modulate the immune system. To return to Galen, he was right that the spleen is a key site of connection between the brain and the body, but his ideas about how the spleen induces melancholy now give way to this new perspective on how the mind might modulate resilience-promoting antibodies.

doi: 10.1038/d41586-020-01168-0


  1. 1.

    Mebius, R. E. & Kraal, G. Nature Rev. Immunol. 5, 606–616 (2005).

Practice Social Quiet: It Keeps Your Relationship Healthy

You may be more susceptible to virus-like symptoms than you think.

Posted Apr 29, 2020

If you are like most people quarantined with their partner, chances are that you have had a tiff or two, and being a keen observer of the human rage, I’d wager the tiffs have not yet hit their apex. Here’s where I recommend a quarantine tactic that can help you flatten the argumentative curve so you can stay physically and emotionally healthy: Social quiet.

Scientists have determined that the act of speaking can discharge droplets that spread a virus. Using the same ground rules for physical distancing, social quiet means if you are within six feet of your partner, you keep your thoughts to yourself.

Makes sense, doesn’t it?  Do you really need your partner sitting next to you whining that they are going nuts or that it’s your turn to play with the kids? And for sure, hearing your partner lament his or her anxieties about the economy is sure to rub off on you.

Psychologists have long known about emotional contagion—that emotions are akin to a social virus, spreading from one individual to another. Whereas coronavirus is spread via coughing, sneezing, touching, and talking, emotions spread via emotional transmitters—facial expressions, sound, and behavioral gestures.

Someone smiles at you and you instinctively smile back—a common example of “catching” the emotions of others. It’s like the laugh track on a TV sitcom: It’s played to make you laugh, too, or more accurately, to “infect” you with laughter. Dozens of studies show that living with depressedanxious individuals can make their partners more likely to feel the same.

Yes, a voice that sounds anxious, angry, dejected, or depressed can infect you, in a sense. Social quiet allows you to ward off that infection for the sake of your health and emotional well-being. If your partner fails to adhere to the guideline, there is a good chance you will find your heartbeat increasing, feel as though you are boiling, and just want to nod out.

Dr. Anthony Fauci has repeatedly pointed out that we need to be mindful of the fact our behavior impacts the health of others. That means that, for the sake of your partner, you practice social quiet too. You’re already mindful of not touching your mouth. Now be mindful of not opening your mouth. Your partner will appreciate it.

Washing your hands vigorously, physical distancing, wearing a mask, and sanitizing your environment will all minimize your chances of getting the virus, but practicing social quiet can prevent you from getting a divorce and maybe even make you and your partner wish the quarantine was longer.

Note: While emotional contagion is real, these recommendations for “social quiet” are tongue-in-cheek. Talking about how you feel and keeping in contact with loved ones can be beneficial at this time. If you’re looking for a therapist who provides online sessions, consider searching the Psychology Today Therapy Directory. 

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Chiplets promise to help reinstate Moore’s Law
Jessie Shen, DIGITIMES, Taipei

Moore’s Law may not be dead, but at 55 years old, it’s certainly feeling its age, with the pace of semiconductor manufacturing advancement decelerating in recent years. However, a new approach to semiconductor design and integration has arrived: the chiplet, which promises to help restore the microchip industry to its historic rate of advancement.

The global market for processor microchips that utilize chiplets in their manufacturing process is set to expand to US$5.8 billion in 2024, rising by a factor of nine from US$645 million in 2018, according Omdia.

Moore’s Law states that the number of transistors that can be placed on a single silicon chip doubles every two years due to the continuous advancement of semiconductor manufacturing technology. However, in recent years, the pace of doubling has slowed to about two-and-a-half years as semiconductor production processes have encountered physical limitations at extremely small sizes.

Chiplets effectively bypass Moore’s Law by replacing a single silicon die with multiple smaller dice that work together in a unified packaged solution. This approach provides much more silicon to add transistors compared to a monolithic microchip. As a result, chiplets are expected to allow a return to the two-year doubling cycle that has underpinned the economics of the semiconductor business since 1965.

“When semiconductor pioneer Gordon Moore first published his theory about semiconductor advancement, he provided a key forecasting benchmark that set a development cycle for the entire tech industry,” said Tom Hackenberg, principal analyst, embedded processors, Omdia. “From software developers, to system designers, to tech investors, everyone for decades counted on the swift two-year schedule defined by Moore’s Law. With the arrival of chiplets, the semiconductor business and those that depend upon it now have the opportunity to return to the customary rate of progress that has driven so much economic value for the overall tech industry.”

Chiplets are experiencing adoption in more advanced and highly integrated semiconductor devices, i.e., microprocessors (MPU), system-on-chip (SoC) devices, graphics processing units (GPU) and programmable logic devices (PLD). The MPU segment represents the largest single market for chiplets among different microchip product types. The global market with chiplet-enabled MPUs is expected to expand to US$2.4 billion in 2024, up from US$452 million in 2018, according to Omdia.

“To remain competitive, MPU makers must always stick to the cutting edge of semiconductor manufacturing technologies,” Hackenberg said. “These companies have the most to lose from the slowdown in Moore’s Law. Because of this, these companies are among the earliest adopters of chiplets and are likely to be the primary contributors to chiplet standardization efforts.”

MPU suppliers such as Intel and AMD are the early innovators building proprietary advanced packaging chiplets. Intel is also a member of the Open Compute Project, Open Domain-Specific Architecture (OCP ODSA) foundation, which is promoting the development of standards and technologies that are helping to enable advanced packaging strategies.

With the early adoption in MPUs, the computing segment is expected to be the dominant application market for chiplets through 2024, Omdia noted. Computing will account for 96% of revenue in 2020 and 92% by 2024.

Over the longer term, Omdia expects chiplet revenue to continue to expand and reach US$57 billion in revenue by 2035. Much of this growth will be driven by chiplets that serve as heterogenous processors, i.e., chips that combine different processing elements, such as applications processors that integrate graphics, security engines, artificial intelligence (AI) acceleration, low-power internet of things (IoT) controllers and more.

“Chiplets may not single-handedly save Moore’s Law, but they do represent an innovative, emerging approach that help advance new packaging technologies, new design strategies and new materials,” Hackenberg said. “This exciting new approach also may enable a more competitive landscape with diverse contributors. Chiplets will bolster the cadence Moore conveyed in his original 1965 article. The import of that original statement was not really about how microprocessors grow in performance. Rather, it was about establishing an industry guideline for a cadence that system designers, software developers and investors could count on to drive the innovation engine. This is the aspect of Moore’s Law that will live on.”

UBC Forestry professor receives ‘Nobel Prize of Forest Research’


April 29, 2020

By University of British Columbia (UBC)

The Faculty of Forestry at UBC has announced faculty member and Canada Research Chair in Remote Sensing (I), Nicholas Coops, is the recipient of the world’s most prestigious forestry honour, the Marcus Wallenberg Prize. With this distinction, UBC is the top-ranking institution on the globe in terms the highest number of prizes received in the 40-year history of the Marcus Wallenberg Prize, and Canada is now tied with Sweden as the top two nations with the most prize winners.

Known as “the Nobel Prize of the forest sector,” Coops shares this year’s prize with colleagues Richard Waring of Oregon State University and Joseph Landsberg of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in Australia. The 2020 prize was awarded in recognition for their work in addressing one of the largest global challenges of our time.

The 3-PG (Physiological Principles Predicting Growth) model developed by Landsberg and Waring predicts forest growth and the ability of forests to store carbon. With Coops’ work on satellite imagery, it is now possible to make these predictions on a much larger scale. Together, their research may be used to understand forests’ response to climate change such as global warming, insect infestations and forest fires.

“One of the most exciting things about the honour of receiving the Marcus Wallenberg Prize is how it will inevitably further elevate the utilization of the 3-PG model,” notes Coops. “The 3-PG model is an open-source model, available from UBC, and can be easily used and accessed by graduate students and industry alike. Combining it with analyses from satellite images from space means that today, we can better answer questions such as the trends in the future growth of key forest species such as the Douglas fir in British Columbia.”

“3-PG is one of the world’s most widely used model for assessing forest growth. Before satellite imaging, it was applicable to forest plots. Now it can be used to make predictions on a global scale,” says MWP selection committee member, Daniel Binkley. “It is truly groundbreaking technology that can be used for so many different applications that include some of the most challenging issues of our time – namely climate change and its impact on Mother Earth.”

“The Marcus Wallenberg Prize is the most significant prize devoted to the forest sector, and what all forest researchers aspire to win, so I am absolutely delighted that a researcher at UBC is once again a winner,” remarked John Innes, dean of the faculty of forestry who, himself, was part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) team that shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore for its work on climate change. “This research has the potential to revolutionize how we manage our vast forests and the hugely significant role they play in mitigating climate change.”

“The Canadian forestry sector continues to be a global leader in innovation,” says the honourabe Seamus O’Regan, Canada’s minister of Natural Resources. “My sincere congratulations to Dr. Nicholas Coops for this well deserved recognition.”

The prize will be awarded to Coops, Waring and Landsberg by King Carl Gustaf XVI of Sweden in a ceremony set for October of this year.

‘Infecting our dreams’: Pandemic sabotages sleep worldwide

Published Tuesday, April 28, 2020 3:42AM EDT

For millions of people around the world dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, sleep brings no relief.

The horrors of COVID-19, and the surreal and frightening ways it has upended daily life, are infecting dreams and exposing feelings of fear, loss, isolation and grief that transcend culture, language and national boundaries.

Everyone from a college teacher in Pakistan to a mall cashier in Canada to an Episcopalian priest in Florida is confronting the same daytime demon. Each is waking up in a sweat in the dead of night.

Experts say humanity has rarely experienced “collective dreaming” on such a broad scale in recorded history — and certainly never while also being able to share those nightmares in real time.

“It’s that alarming feeling of when you wake up and think, ‘Thank heavens I woke up,”‘ said Holly Smith, an elementary school librarian in Detroit. “Once it hits your dreams, you think, ‘Great, now I can’t even escape there.”‘

The psychological toll is staggering, particularly for health care workers whose dreams show similarities to those of combat veterans and 9-11 responders, said Deirdre Barrett, a Harvard University professor who is surveying COVID dreamers worldwide. She has collected 6,000 dream samples from about 2,400 people.

So many people are sharing accounts of dreams online that there’s a Twitter account dedicated to gathering them in a virtual library under the handle “I Dream of COVID.”

“As far as I know, no one has dream samples from the flu pandemic of 1918 — and that would probably be the most comparable thing,” said Barrett, who has studied the dreams of 9-11 survivors and British prisoners of war in the Second World War. “Now we just all have our smartphones by our bed, so you can just reach over and speak it or type it down. Recording our dreams has never been easier.”

The dreams are also exposing what is bothering us the most about the pandemic. The themes seem universal.

Dreams of a safe place suddenly overtaken by the virus speak to contagion’s terrifying invisibility, says Cathy Caruth, a professor at Cornell University who has studied trauma for 30 years. Pandemic dreams, she says, are reminiscent of the experience of Hiroshima survivors, who worried about invisible radiation exposure, and also of some nightmares described by Vietnam veterans.

“They seem to be in part about things that are hard to grasp, what it means that anybody can be a threat and you can be a threat to everybody,” Caruth said.

Episcopalian priest Mary Alice Mathison dreamed 500 people showed up for a funeral in her church and wouldn’t go home. Other dreams underscore that no one knows how the pandemic will end. In those, the dreamer wakes with a start before learning how it turned out.

Ashley Trevino is still trying to process one terrifying dream. The 24-year-old barista is out of work due to the pandemic and was spooked when officials announced the first COVID-19 death in her central Texas county.

A few days later, she dreamed she and her girlfriend were in line to enter a dark, metal warehouse where they’d be injected with the new coronavirus by government workers wearing Hazmat suits. Fluorescent lights in the parking lot cast an eerie glow as she watched her partner get the shot and gasp for breath. Then she got the shot, too.

“I watched her kind of collapse against the wall and while I was trying to fight the effects of it and not pass out myself, I was like … `Is she dead now?”‘

Trevino woke up whimpering. She immediately felt an impulse to share her nightmare with someone — anyone — and tweeted it to the world from her bed.

In Pakistan’s Punjab province, a college literature teacher described dreaming she was one of only 100 people left on the planet who didn’t have COVID-19. The infected population had gained political control and was chasing the uninfected “so the world would become the same for everyone,” said Roha Rafiq, 28.

Rafiq is terrified for her elderly father, who insists on going to prayers every day despite a cough and a stay-at-home order. “I think,” she said in a Twitter direct message, “this anxiety has given me this dream.”

According to Barrett, many people dream they are sick with COVID-19 or of being overcome by what seem to be stand-ins for the virus: swarms of bugs, slithering worms, witches, grasshoppers with fangs. Others dream of being in crowded public places without a mask or proper social distancing.

Still others dream of losing control. In one such dream, the dreamer was held down by infected people who coughed on her. In another, the dreamer came across bands of people shooting at random strangers.

Most are lower-level anxiety dreams, not trauma-induced nightmares. But that changes dramatically for frontline health workers, Barrett says.

“The health care providers are the ones who look like a trauma population. They are having flat-out nightmares that reenact the things they’re experiencing and ΓǪ they all have the theme that `I am responsible for saving this person’s life and I’m not succeeding and this person is about to die,”‘ she said.

“And when they dream about their child or parent getting it, for the care providers there’s always the next step in the dream where they realize … `I gave it to them.”‘

Even the simple, unadorned dreams — far from the drama of the ICU — seem poignant right now. Some people dream of getting a hug, attending a party, getting a haircut, going to the library.

Lauren Nickols, 30, an avid reader, stocked up on library books before Ohio’s stay-at-home order. Now her supply is running low. She recently dreamed her dresser was piled with books. She found the dream reassuring, but a reminder of the mundane things that have been lost.

“I guess it’s a bit of a sense of shared community, but it’s also really sad that we’re all missing things. It really shows you all the things you do without realizing it,” she says. “And now that you can’t, it’s a shock to the system.”

  • SleepingA woman is pictured sleeping in this file image. (Pexels)