February 2020

Freeman Dyson in 2007

The physicist and mathematician Freeman Dyson passed away yesterday, February 28. His daughter Mia confirmed the news explaining that her father got injured after falling in his office in Princeton last Wednesday and complications led to his death.

In addition to theoretical studies, Freeman Dyson pursued various technological projects starting with the Orion Project, which aimed to build a nuclear-powered rocket, and subsequently to a class of nuclear reactors called TRIGA (Training, Research, Isotopes, General Atomics) for the production of isotopes for medical use.

Over the years, Freeman Dyson wrote articles that proposed ideas and projects such as the Dyson sphere, a structure built to completely surround a star to use all the energy it emits, and the Dyson tree, a plant created by engineering genetics to grow on a comet useful to create space habitats in which it would generate oxygen. Recently he proposed a variant of this project with the idea of ​​creating plants that absorbed more carbon dioxide.

Hugh (Jonathan Del Arco) and Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) in The Impossible Box (Image courtesy CBS All Access / Amazon Prime Video)

“The Impossible Box” is the sixth episode of the TV show “Star Trek: Picard” and follows “Stardust City Rag”. It’s available in the USA on the CBS All Access streaming platform and in many other countries on Amazon Prime Video.

Soji (Isa Briones) is having strange dreams and Narek (Harry Treadaway) is pursuing his strategy to enter her mind by showing her his willingness to help her understand their meaning. Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) reaches the Borg cube to find Soji and faces old terrors helped by Hugh (Jonathan Del Arco).

Pseudomonas aeruginosa (Image CDC/ Janice Haney Carr)

An article published in the journal “Nature” reports a study concerning bacterial immune defenses of the CRISPR-Cas type, which could turn out to be a disadvantage against some types of viruses. A team of researchers analyzed the immune systems present in the genome of over 170,000 bacteria to try to understand the reactions against bacteriophage viruses. The conclusion that CRISPR antiviral systems are sometimes a disadvantage offers an explanation of why only a minority of bacteria have them in their DNA. It also offers new information on bacteria’s defense strategies viruses’ attack strategies with a sort of arms race between them.

Bay of the Dead by Mark Morris

The novel “Bay of the Dead” by Mark Morris was published for the first time in 2009.

Joe and Jackie Hargreaves are on the road when they come across a fog bank and find themselves miles away, on the outskirts of Cardiff, where they’re attacked by what appear to be zombies. At Cardiff University, some students go out to sea on a yacht but come across a fog bank and find themselves near the shores of Cardiff, where a group of zombies come out of the sea and attack them. Gwen and Rhys are awakened by strange screams and, when they go to investigate, they discover what looks like a tramp who is eating a cat. PC Andy Davidson answers a call with his partner Dawn Stratton and they find out that a man broke into a party.

The situation is confusing across Cardiff and Gwen contacts Jack Harkness to alert the Torchwood team. In turn, Andy contacts his ex-colleague Gwen for help in a situation that looks eerily like a zombie apocalypse. The fact that a scan of possible Rift activities indicates that Cardiff is sealed by some kind of barrier is another problem.

Evolutionary tree showing interbreedings between hominins

An article published in the journal “Science Advances” reports the traces of an interbreeding between the ancestors of Neanderthals and Denisovans with a population belonging to another species of hominins called superarchaics because they probably separated from other humans about 2 million years ago. A team of researchers led by anthropologist Alan Rogers studied the ways in which mutations are shared between various populations of Homo sapiens, Neanderthals and Denisovans, concluding that certain sharing patterns indicate that there were five episodes of interbreeding between species including the one occurred over 700,000 years ago between superarchaic hominins and ancestors of Neanderthals and Denisovans.