Can the brain map ‘non-conventional’ geometries (and abstract spaces)?

Grid cells, space-mapping neurons of the entorhinal cortex of rodents, could also work for hyperbolic surfaces. A SISSA study just published in Interface, the journal of the Royal Society, tests a model (a computer simulation) based on mathematical principles, that explains how maps emerge in the brain and shows how these maps adapt to the environment in which the individual develops.

“It took human culture millennia to arrive at a mathematical formulation of non-Euclidean spaces”, comments SISSA neuroscientist Alessandro Treves, “but it’s very likely that our brains could get there long before. In fact, it’s likely that the brain of rodents gets there very naturally every day”.

Treves coordinated a study just published in the journal Interface. Euclidean geometry is the kind of geometry we normally study at school, whereas non-Euclidean geometries are all those that reject one or more of Euclid’s five postulates. A geometry that unfolds on a curved surface is an example. Recent research has investigated how the brain encodes flat spaces. In 2005, Edvard and May-Britt Moser discovered grid cells, neurons of the of rodents that fire in a characteristic way when the animal moves in an arena. The discovery has recently been awarded the Nobel Prize, but all experiments conducted to date have involved flat (Euclidean) surfaces. So what happens with other types of surface?

The starting point is the formation of these brain “maps”. “There are two main classes of theoretical models that attempt to explain it, but both of them assume that our brain contains some kind of “engineer” that has prepared things appropriately” says Treves. “These models take for granted that the system originates with substantial prior knowledge, and they closely reproduce the behaviour of the biological system under known conditions, since they are constructed precisely on its observation. But what happens in conditions that have yet to be explored experimentally? Are these models able to ‘generalize’, that is, to make a genuine prediction to be then confirmed by other experiments? A correct theory should tell us more than what we already know”.

Treves and colleagues have been developing a new, radically different model since 2005, and in their recent paper they have indeed attempted a broad generalization. “Ours is a self-organizing model, which simulates the behaviour of ‘artificial’ grid cells capable of learning by exploring the environment”.

More in detail

The model is based on mathematical rules and its final characteristics are determined by the environment in which it “learns from experience”. In previous studies, the model was tested on flat surfaces: “in these settings our artificial grid cell shows the same hexagonal symmetrical firing pattern seen in biological cells”.

“To apply it to a new situation, we thought of having our model move in a non-Euclidean space, and we chose the simplest setting: a space with a constant curvature, in other words a sphere or pseudosphere”. The recently published study shows the results achieved with the pseudospherical surface, which demonstrate that in this case the firing pattern has a heptagonal, seven-point, symmetry. This finding can now easily be compared with the firing of real grid cells, in rodents raised on a pseudospherical surface. “We’re waiting for the experimental results of our Nobel Prize-winning colleagues from Trondheim” explains Treves. “If our results are confirmed, then new theoretical considerations will ensue that will open up new lines of research”.

In addition to demonstrating that maps adapt to the environment in which the individual develops (and so are not genetically predetermined), the observation of a heptagonal symmetry in new experimental conditions – which would show that the brain is able to encode a non-Euclidean space – would also suggest that grid cells might play a role in mapping many other types of space, “including abstract spaces”, adds Treves. “Try to imagine what we might define as the space of movements, or the space of the different expressions of the human face, or shapes of a specific object, like a car: these are continuous spaces that could be mapped by cells that are not the same but are similar to , cells that could somehow represent the graph paper on which to measure these spaces”.


Astronomers unveil the farthest galaxy

An international team of astronomers led by Yale University and the University of California-Santa Cruz have pushed back the cosmic frontier of galaxy exploration to a time when the universe was only 5% of its present age.

The team discovered an exceptionally luminous galaxy more than 13 billion years in the past and determined its exact distance from Earth using the powerful MOSFIRE instrument on the W.M. Keck Observatory’s 10-meter telescope, in Hawaii. It is the most distant galaxy currently measured.

The galaxy, EGS-zs8-1, was originally identified based on its particular colors in images from NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes. It is one of the brightest and most massive objects in the early universe.

Age and distance are vitally connected in any discussion of the universe. The light we see from our Sun takes just eight minutes to reach us, while the light from distant we see via today’s advanced telescopes travels for billions of years before it reaches us—so we’re seeing what those galaxies looked like billions of years ago.

“It has already built more than 15% of the mass of our own Milky Way today,” said Pascal Oesch, a Yale astronomer and lead author of a study published online May 5 in Astrophysical Journal Letters. “But it had only 670 million years to do so. The universe was still very young then.” The new distance measurement also enabled the astronomers to determine that EGS-zs8-1 is still forming stars rapidly, about 80 times faster than our galaxy.

Only a handful of galaxies currently have accurate distances measured in this very early universe. “Every confirmation adds another piece to the puzzle of how the first generations of galaxies formed in the early universe,” said Pieter van Dokkum, the Sol Goldman Family Professor of Astronomy and chair of Yale’s Department of Astronomy, who is second author of the study. “Only the largest telescopes are powerful enough to reach to these large distances.”

The MOSFIRE instrument allows astronomers to efficiently study several galaxies at the same time. Measuring galaxies at extreme distances and characterizing their properties will be a major goal of astronomy over the next decade, the researchers said.

The new observations establish EGS-zs8-1 at a when the universe was undergoing an important change: The hydrogen between galaxies was transitioning from a neutral state to an ionized state. “It appears that the young stars in the early galaxies like EGS-zs8-1 were the main drivers for this transition, called reionization,” said Rychard Bouwens of the Leiden Observatory, co-author of the study.

Taken together, the new Keck Observatory, Hubble, and Spitzer observations also pose new questions. They confirm that massive galaxies already existed early in the history of the , but they also show that those galaxies had very different physical properties from what is seen around us today. Astronomers now have strong evidence that the peculiar colors of early galaxies—seen in the Spitzer images—originate from a rapid formation of massive, young stars, which interacted with the primordial gas in these galaxies.

The observations underscore the exciting discoveries that are possible when NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is launched in 2018, note the researchers. In addition to pushing the cosmic frontier to even earlier times, the telescope will be able to dissect the galaxy light of EGS-zs8-1 seen with the Spitzer telescope and provide with more detailed insights into its gas properties.

“Our current observations indicate that it will be very easy to measure accurate distances to these distant galaxies in the future with the James Webb Space Telescope,” said co-author Garth Illingworth of the University of California-Santa Cruz. “The result of JWST’s upcoming measurements will provide a much more complete picture of the formation of galaxies at the cosmic dawn.”

Two-dimensional material seems to disappear, but doesn’t

When exposed to air, a luminescent 2D material called molybdenum telluride (MoTe2) appears to decompose within a couple days, losing its optical contrast and becoming virtually transparent. But when scientists probed further, they found that the disappearance is an illusion: the material remains structurally stable, and only its material properties change. The results reveal insight into the environmental stability and unusual properties of a newer class of 2D materials called transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs).

The researchers, led by Sefaattin Tongay, Assistant Professor at Arizona State University, have published a paper on the changing luminescence in a recent issue of ACS Nano.

“Currently, many researchers throughout the world are demonstrating very impressive and promising proof-of-concept applications using 2D material systems, but we still do not know their material stability over long periods of time,” Tongay told “This research presents the unique case of MoTe2, the only infrared-range TMD, where monolayers visually disappear but are physically still there.”

Like other TMDs, MoTe2 stands out for its interesting optical properties. In bulk form, TMDs are not luminescent, but when one-atom-layer-thick flakes are exfoliated from the bulk, the 2D flakes become semiconductors and emit light rather strongly. For this reason, 2D semiconducting TMDs could have applications in optoelectronics and technologies. As the only TMD that has an infrared-range band gap, MoTe2 is particularly suitable for infrared detectors and tunnel field-effect transistors.

Because 2D have a large surface-to-volume ratio, their properties can be affected by interactions between their surface and the environment. Noting that tellurium compounds are particularly sensitive to oxygen, the researchers here wanted to investigate what happens when monolayer MoTe2 is exposed to oxygen for several days.

The researchers began by observing the material under an optical microscope with an infrared lens. They found that MoTe2 flakes that were highly luminescent to begin with maintained their brightness over the 8-day observation period. On the other hand, weakly luminescent flakes unexpectedly appeared to fade within 1-3 days, and parts of them disappeared altogether.

However, when viewing the “vanishing” flakes using an atomic force microscope (AFM), which scans samples mechanically rather than optically, the researchers saw the flakes “reappear.” The flakes had never disappeared in the first place, but their optical properties had changed while their chemical structure was maintained.

The researchers propose that the reason why the weakly luminescent flakes seem to disappear is that they have a large number of defects, particularly vacancies due to missing atoms. These vacancies are why the flakes have a low starting luminescence, and also explain why they lose their luminescence when exposed to oxygen. Oxygen molecules (O2) from the air become embedded in these defects and bind to Mo and Te, forming “deep states” that basically trap electrons and holes, effectively prohibiting luminescence. On the other hand, flakes that are highly luminescent to begin with have a small number of defects, so they don’t absorb nearly as many oxygen molecules, don’t suffer loss of , and their optical properties remain close to their properties under vacuum conditions.

“This work shows that a slim amount of defects in MoTe2 can have a great impact on their , such as optical, electrical, and vibrational, and these changes occur gradually over time similar to aging wine: depending on the defect concentration, MoTe2 monolayers can spoil over time (or might get better),” Tongay explained.

The results here show that the defects play a significant role in the optical properties and stability of MoTe2, and could also reveal insight into the environmental stability of other 2D materials, such as silicene (2D silicon), phosphorene (2D phosphorous), and other TMDs. It could also lead to ways to control these materials’ properties.

(Left to right) Postdoc Aslihan Suslu, PhD student Bin Chen, and Assistant Professor Sefaattin Tongay have investigated the material stability and optical properties of 2D transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs), which have potential applications in optoelectronics and other areas. Credit: Sefaattin Tongay

“This is an important discovery in that it practically implies that we are able to tune the of 2D MoTe2 by manipulating the defect density in the material and preventing the material from losing its intrinsic attributes by improving the quality of crystal,” said Bin Chen, PhD student at Arizona State University and lead author of the paper.

In the future, the researchers plan to explore and establish the stability of other 2D material systems, as well as boost their properties by molecular functionalization through existing or intentionally created defect points.

“Despite encouraging results and impressive applications, our results point toward environmental instability over a time period of a month,” Chen said. “We hope to understand this and ideally overcome these challenges using our knowledge and expertise in materials science and engineering.”

US moves step closer to commercial drone use

Drones will take to the skies to inspect crops and infrastructure as US civil aviation authorities moved a step closer Wednesday to allowing their widespread commercial use.

But at a drone industry conference in Atlanta, Georgia, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) failed to set out long-awaited rules for their use, amid criticism that regulatory foot-dragging is eroding US competitiveness in a .

“Government has some of the best and brightest minds in aviation, but we can’t operate in a vacuum,” FAA chief Michael Huerta told the Unmanned Systems 2015 gathering, announcing an FAA-industry partnership.

“This is a big job and we’ll get to our goal of safe, widespread UAS (, or ) integration more quickly by leveraging the resources and expertise of the industry.”

Under the Pathfinder initiative, the CNN cable network will experiment with drones in urban areas for newsgathering, Huerta said.

BNSF Railway, part of investor Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway group, will use drones to inspect its vast , and UAS manufacturer PrecisionHawk will do likewise for crop monitoring.

While CNN drones will be restricted to flying within the sight of their pilots, BNSF and PrecisionHawk will experiment with flying beyond direct line-of-vision.

Missing from the list are Amazon and Google, which have publicly voiced frustration with current restrictions on flying drones in US skies—with both going abroad to conduct their own test flights.

The two tech giants are particularly keen to use drones for parcel deliveries.

Free press violation?

Last year, more than a dozen US news organizations—CNN not among them—argued in a legal brief that FAA policy represented a violation of the Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of the press.

Citing safety concerns, the FAA has been moving slowly—some say too slowly—towards finalizing a clear set of regulations for operating small drones in busy American airspace.

In the interim, it says drones under 55 pounds (25 kilograms) must fly no higher than 400 feet (122 meters), well away from airports or large crowds and within their pilots’ line of sight at all times, and never for commercial purposes.

A handful of companies have been granted so-called Section 333 exemptions to operate drones in a specific place for a specific purpose, such as filming motion pictures.

“Integrating unmanned aircraft in the National Airspace System is a big job (and) we’re determined to get it right,” the FAA said in its defense on its Twitter feed Wednesday.

The rules are nevertheless flouted, with real estate agents using drones to film properties for sale and reality TV shows putting them to use to get unique photo angles in remote locations.

The Pathfinder initiative goes beyond a research agreement that the FAA struck with CNN in January and a Section 333 exemption that it granted to BNSF in March, an FAA spokesman told AFP.

“It involves research that will help the companies develop technology for their future operations and give the FAA data to foster integration of UAS into the nation’s airspace beyond what can be approved in a 333 exemption or through the small UAS rule,” he said.

This Clear Solar Cell Could Turn Every Window Into A Power Source.

Researchers from Michigan State University have developed a transparent solar cell capable of being used as a replacement for windows!

This Clear Solar Cell Could Turn Every Window Into A Power Source

This concept was once deemed impossible, due to the fact traditional solar panels absorb light and convert it into energy. Transparent surfaces are not capable of absorbing light. Researchers accomplished this feat by developing a system called transparent luminescent solar concentrator (TLSC), which is composed of organic salts which absorb non-visible wavelengths of infrared and ultraviolet light. This light is then focused towards a traditional solar cell which is capable of trapping the energy and turning it into electricity. This material has unbelievable potential. Not only can it be utilized for windows, but it could revolutionize displays on electronic devices, giving them a significantly longer battery life.

Boeing 787s Can Lose Control While Flying Due To Software Bug

A warning has been issued by the FAA regarding the software glitch in the system of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner — This glitch can abruptly shut-off all electrical power of the plane during mid-air causing the flyers to lose control of the flight.

Federal Aviation Administration/FAA revealed that the internal electrical supply system of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner has a software glitch. This can potentially cause pilots to lose control of the flight in mid-air. FAA officials stated:


The glitch was identified during laboratory tests involving the aircraft’s electrical generators’ dipping into a fail safe mode after passage of every 248 days/eight months.

After supplying continuous power for as many days, all four main generator control units of the plane will fail simultaneously. If this happens while the flight is in mid-air, taking-off or landing, it can result into a disaster.


Boeing thankfully has come up with a temporary solution for periodically halting the power systems.

According to the manufacturer’s records, all the jets in the fleet have been routinely tested for power-off and turning back on operations therefore, no imminent danger of plane losing power should be expected. Boeing, nonetheless, is working to fix the bug.

Metformin Rarely Prescribed to Prevent Diabetes

Although metformin can help prevent diabetes onset in those at high risk, the medication is rarely prescribed for this purpose.

A new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine evaluated the use of metformin in 17,352 patients aged 19 to 58 years with prediabetes, a health state indicated by abnormally high blood sugar levels. The analysis revealed only 3.7% of these patients were prescribed metformin between 2010 and 2012.

In an exclusive interview with Pharmacy Times, lead study author Tannaz Moin, MD, MBA, MSHS, described several possible culprits behind low metformin use among prediabetics, including poor provider and patient awareness of evidence surrounding diabetes prevention, a reluctance to “medicalize” prediabetes, and the drug’s lack of FDA approval for use in diabetes prevention.

“It is likely that many factors contribute simultaneously and this is going to be an important area of needed future study,” Dr. Moin told Pharmacy Times.

Given their medication knowledge and relationships with both prescribers and patients, pharmacists can play an important role in increasing the use of metformin in patients with prediabetes, Dr. Moin noted.

“Pharmacists have expertise in metformin prescription data, including existing safety considerations,” she said. “This expertise can help both providers and patients make more informed decisions surrounding metformin use.”

Dr. Moin recommended that pharmacists educate patients about evidence-based treatment options for diabetes prevention and provide them with an overview of the relative risks and benefits of preventative metformin therapy to help them make appropriate treatment decisions.

“Patients with prediabetes have varying levels of risk, and there are trade-offs with every treatment choice, so it is critical that we engage patients in a fully informed and shared decision-making process,” Dr. Moin toldPharmacy Times.

Her research team also found:

  • 4.8% of prediabetic women were prescribed metformin, compared with 2.8% of prediabetic men.
  • 6.6% of obese patients with prediabetes were prescribed metformin, compared with 3.5% of prediabetics who were not obese.
  • 4.2% of prediabetics with at least 2 other chronic diseases received prescriptions for metformin, compared with 2.8% of prediabetics with no other chronic diseases.

The authors acknowledged a number of potential study limitations, including a lack of access to data on participation in lifestyle programs, possible misclassification of prediabetes and metformin use, and their inability to independently verify patients’ eligibility to receive metformin.


Despite its popularity, using a weak electric current to boost brainpower doesn’t live up to the hype. A new study shows that the most common form of the treatment actually has a statistically significant detrimental effect on IQ scores.

Published in the journal Behavioural Brain Research, the study adds to the increasing amount of literature showing that transcranial direct current stimulation—tDCS—has mixed results when it comes to cognitive enhancement.

“It would be wonderful if we could use tDCS to enhance cognition because then we could potentially use it to treat cognitive impairment in psychiatric illnesses,” says Flavio Frohlich, study senior author and assistant professor of psychiatry, cell biology and physiology, biomedical engineering, and neurology at the UNC School of Medicine.

“So, this study is bad news. Yet, the finding makes sense. It means that some of the most sophisticated things the brain can do, in terms of cognition, can’t necessarily be altered with just a constant electric current.”


Frohlich, though, says that using less common alternating current stimulation—so-called tACS—could be a better approach, one that he has been investigating. Earlier this year, Frohlich’s lab found that tACS significantly boosted creativity, likely because he used it to target the brain’s natural electrical alpha oscillations, which have been implicated in creative thought.

With tDCS, scientists don’t target these brain waves, which represent neuronal patterns of communication throughout regions of the brain. Instead, they use tDCS to target brain structures, such particular regions of the cortex.

“All of our brain structures look more or less the same, but the reason why we’re all so different is that the electrical brain activities in our brains are very different,” Frohlich says. “We have to better understand this and target specific brain activity patterns.”


Using a weak electrical current to boost the brain’s natural abilities has been around for decades, but the current boom within the science community started in 2000, when German scientists published a paper showing that tDCS could change the excitability of neurons in the motor cortex—the brain region that controls voluntary body movement.

Since then, there’s been an explosion of tDCS studies to try to make neurons more active or less active and therefore change outcomes for a variety of brain functions, such as working memory and cognitive acuity, and for illnesses, such as depression and schizophrenia.

But Frohlich says that scientists still don’t know exactly what the direct current does to neural activity. He also says some of the studies that have made waves were poorly designed. Some studies were not properly double-blinded or properly placebo controlled. Other studies were very small—fewer than 10 people.

A recent meta-analysis of a large number of tDCS papers showed that tDCS is far from a magic pill for cognitive enhancement or brain-related health conditions.

“Aside from stimulating the motor cortex, which has very exciting implications for stroke rehabilitation, I think the jury is still out on tDCS,” says Frohlich, who is a member of the UNC Neuroscience Center.


In the new, Frohlich’s team—including graduate student Kristin Sellers, the paper’s first author—recruited 40 healthy adults, each of whom took the standard WAIS-IV intelligence test—the most common and well-validated test of IQ, which includes tests for verbal comprehension, perceptional reasoning, working memory, and processing speed.

A week later, Frohlich’s team divided the participants into two groups. Electrodes were placed on each side of each participant’s scalp, under which sat the frontal cortex. A third electrode, which sent electricity back to the device that that produced the electric current, was placed on top of the scalp.

Duke University collaborator and coauthor Angel Peterchev created imaging simulations to ensure Frohlich’s team targeted the same parts of the cortex that previous tDCS studies had targeted.

Then the placebo group received sham stimulation—a brief electrical current, which led participants to think they had been receiving the full tDCS. The other participants received the standard tDCS for twenty minutes—a weak electrical current of 2 millioamperes.

All participants then retook the IQ tests. Frohlich expected that most, if not all, IQ scores would improve, but that the participants who received tDCS would not improve their scores any more than would the people who did not undergo tDCS


Frohlich’s team did find that all scores improved—most likely because of the “practice effect” of previously taking the test. Surprisingly, the participants who did not receive tDCS saw their IQ scores increase by ten points, whereas participants who received tDCS saw their IQ scores increase by just shy of six points, on average.

When Frohlich and colleagues analyzed the test scores, they saw that the scores for three of the four kinds of cognitive tests were very similar between the two groups of participants. But the scores for perceptual reasoning were much lower among people who underwent tDCS.

Perceptual reasoning tests fluid intelligence, which is defined as the ability to think logically and apply innovative problem solving to new problems.

Within the category of perceptual reasoning, the researchers saw the biggest differences in the subcategory of matrix reasoning—when participants viewed two groups of symbols and had to find the one symbol missing from the other group.

“This is one of the classical assays of fluid intelligence,” Frohlich says, “where you have to identify hidden rules and apply logic to find a missing element.”


Frohlich emphasizes, “Our findings do not preclude the possibility that other tDCS paradigms may be less harmful or even beneficial. However it is time to make sure that everybody uses gold standard, placebo-controlled, double-blind study designs. Also, our study demonstrates the importance of more research on how stimulation interacts with brain activity.”

Frohlich stresses that the scientific community should be careful not to create simplistic storylines about tDCS being a “magic pill” for many brain-related conditions.

“There could be dangerous consequences, especially if tDCS is used daily,” he says. “Ours was an acute study. We don’t know what the long-term effects are. There is so much more we need to understand before tDCS is ready for home use without medical supervision”

Frohlich adds, “I think our study demonstrates that we need to think of smarter ways to engage the brain to really target the specific brain dynamics involved in what we want to improve, such as cognition for people with depression or schizophrenia. I think tACS is an option, as well as more sophisticated modalities we’ve yet to develop.”

Chinese hospitals introduce hands-free automatic sperm extractor

Chinese hospitals are introducing a new machine which can extract sperm for donors.

According to China’s Weibo social platform the automatic sperm extractors are being introduced in a Nanjing hospital, capital of Jiangsu province.

The pink, grey and white machine has a massage pipe at the front which apparently can be adjusted according to the height of its user.

Watch the video. URL:

Ebola – This Is What You Are NOT Being Told.

There is something very, very important that the corporate media and public health officials are not telling you regarding the Ebola outbreak in west Africa.

The information I’m about to present here is frightening. There’s really no way around that. However, I request that you do your very best to maintain a calm state of mind. Right now in West Africa the worst Ebola outbreak in history is in full swing and is jumping borders at an alarming rate. Already it has spread to four countries, Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and now Nigeria.

This latest jump into Nigeria is particularly serious since the infected individual carried the virus by plane to Lagos Nigeria, a city with a population of over 21 million. Doctors without borders has referred to the outbreak as “out of control”.

To make matters worse, there is something very, very important that the corporate media and public health officials are not telling you regarding this crisis. You’ll notice if you read virtually any mainstream article on the topic that they make a point of insisting that Ebola is only transferred by physical contact with bodily fluids.

This is not true, at all. A study conducted in 2012 showed that Ebola was able to travel between pigs and monkeys that were in separate cages and were never placed in direct contact. Though the method of transmission in the study was not officially determined, one of the scientists involved, Dr. Gary Kobinger, from the National Microbiology Laboratory at the Public Health Agency of Canada, told BBC News that he believed that the infection was spread through large droplets that were suspended in the air.

“What we suspect is happening is large droplets; they can stay in the air, but not long; they don’t go far,” he explained. “But they can be absorbed in the airway, and this is how the infection starts, and this is what we think, because we saw a lot of evidence in the lungs of the non-human primates that the virus got in that way.”

Someone pointed out that in medical terms, if the virus is transferred through tiny droplets in the air this would technically not be called an “airborne virus”. Airborne, in medical terms would mean that the virus has the ability to stay alive without a liquid carrier. On one hand this is a question of semantics, and the point is well taken, but keep in mind that the study did not officially determine how the virus traveled through the air, it merely established that it does travel through the air. Doctor Kobinger’s hypothesis regarding droplets of liquid is just that, a hypothesis. For the average person however what needs to be understood is very simple: if you are in a room with someone infected with Ebola, you are not safe, even if you never touch them or their bodily fluids, and this is not what you are being told by the mainstream media. Essentially I am using the word “airborne” as a layman term.

Now I’m not going to speculate as to whether these so called “journalist” and public health agencies who keep repeating the official line regarding the means of transmission are lying, or are just participating in some massive display of synchronized incompetence, but what I will say, is that this shoddy reporting is most likely getting people killed right now, and may in fact put all of humanity in danger.

How so? By convincing people that the virus cannot travel through air, important precautions that could reduce the spread of the virus are not being taken. For example the other passengers on the plane that traveled to Lagos, Nigeria were not quarantined.

According to the AP and the BBC, Patrick Sawyer, the Ebola infected man who traveled to Lagos Nigeria by plane, passed the disease on to eight health workers before being properly isolated. Nigerian health authorities acknowledged Tuesday that they did not immediately quarantine a sick airline passenger who later died of Ebola, announcing that eight health workers who had direct contact with him were now in isolation with symptoms of the disease. In spite of the seriousness of this disease, and in spite of the fact the fact that the BBC itself covered a study in 2012 that demonstrated that Ebola can spread through the air, no one in the corporate media has budged from the official line regarding transmission.

The AP’s spin on it: Experts say people infected with Ebola can spread the disease only through their bodily fluids and after they show symptoms. From CNN: Ebola spreads through contact with organs and bodily fluids such as blood, saliva, urine and other secretions of infected people. And from the BBC itself in their article describing the second confirmed case in Nigeria: The virus spreads by contact with infected blood and bodily fluids – and touching the body of someone who has died of Ebola is particularly dangerous. To put this into context, Ebola kills between 50% and 90% of its victims, so the stakes are very, very high here.

We have reported on the fact that Ebola can spread through the air in three separate articles since March of 2014, here, here and here, however the corporate media has continued to misrepresent the vectors of transmission.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: August 13th: The CDC has admitted that the Ebola virus can travel through air, but they made that admission in a very sneaky and hard to find manner. The following statement is added as a footnote at the very bottom of the page: Casual contact is defined as a) being within approximately 3 feet or within the room or care area for a prolonged period of time while not wearing recommended personal protective equipment or having direct brief contact (e.g., shaking hands) with an EVD case while not wearing recommended personal protective equipment. The implication of this statement is very, very clear: Ebola DOES in fact travel through the air. This is critical information and it should be highlighted in large letters on every page, but instead it is tucked away in fine print where many won’t look. Given the fact that the CDC previously was running infographic campaigns claiming that Ebola does not travel through the air (see image below) this is highly irresponsible on their part. Hat tip to the Pontiac Tribune for making us aware of this information in their article on the topic. Note we saved a cached version of the CDC page just in case they decide to alter the text in the future. Furthermore, if the official vectors of transmission are accurate, please have them explain how 170 of their aid workers have been infected in spite of being covered from head to foot with protective gear? This particular strain of Ebola is not Ebola Zaire. This is a new strain, and it may in fact be more dangerous than the Zaire variety. Not because of any difference in the symptoms (the symptoms are identical), but because this new virus seems to be harder to contain. Whether this is due to some characteristic of the virus itself or merely dumb luck is uncertain at this time, but the rate at which this outbreak has extended its range is unprecedented. According to the CDC this virus is genetically 97% similar to the Zaire strain. However if you are interested in this virus’ phylogenetic relationship (genetic lineage) to the Zaire strain you should look read “Phylogenetic Analysis of Guinea 2014 EBOV Ebolavirus Outbreak” on Another study by the New England Journal of medicine (this was the one referenced by the CDC) specifically names the parts of the genetic code which differ: The three sequences, each 18,959 nucleotides in length, were identical with the exception of a few polymorphisms at positions 2124 (G→A, synonymous), 2185 (A→G, NP552 glycine→glutamic acid), 2931 (A→G, synonymous), 4340 (C→T, synonymous), 6909 (A→T, sGP291 arginine→tryptophan), and 9923 (T→C, synonymous). Note that there doesn’t yet seem to be a consensus as to what this new strain is called. One study referred to it as “Guinean EBOV”, another as “Guinea 2014 EBOV Ebolavirus” and others are still referring to it as Zaire. Given that we can specifically name the points where the virus has mutated, using the old name is misleading. Right now the question on everyone’s minds is whether this virus will spread outside of Africa. Considering the fact that Ebola has a three week incubation period, can travel through the air, and has already hitchhiked onto an international flight, this is a very real possibility. There are some that are downplaying the probability of this outcome, and to be honest, I hope that they are right, but the simple fact of the matter is that these people are basing their assessment on the faulty premise that Ebola is not an airborne virus. Now the first thing you might be feeling when looking at this situation is a sense of fear and helplessness, and while that’s a perfectly normal reaction it’s really not helpful. Instead we should be thinking in terms of practical steps we can take to influence the outcome. One thing we can all do is to start confronting journalists and public officials who keep making false statements regarding the way Ebola spreads. Use the links to the original study, the BBC report from 2012 and this video to put them in their place. We also need to confront the fact that there isn’t a full out, coordinated, international effort to contain this. This is being treated like a sideshow but it has the very real potential to become a main event. The doctors on the ground in West Africa don’t have enough staff or resources to deal with this situation. It is absolutely inexcusable for the U.S. and the E.U. to be investing billions of tax payer dollars into their little power games in Ukraine and Syria (which are both in the process of escalating right now by the way) while Ebola is getting a foothold in Africa. Every available resource should be shifted to West Africa in order to contain and extinguish this epidemic right now. This is serious. Call them, write them, heckle them in the streets if you have to, but don’t allow them to ignore this issue. Make it impossible for them to pretend later that they didn’t know. Now whether or not official policy towards the Ebola crisis changes there are some precautions that you should take right now for yourself and your family. 1. Know where you would go if you needed to leave your home on short notice. If Ebola escapes Africa the last place you want to be is in a densely populated metropolitan area. It may be that the most practical destination for your family would be a rural area near your current home, but if you already have concerns about the government you are living under, and how they may handle a crisis like this, then you might want to start looking at alternatives. Finding an alternative location that suits your family’s needs is something that requires a lot of time and research, so don’t put this off. The primary characteristics you should be examining in an alternative destination are geography , political environment, climate, population density and visa terms and requirements. Ideally you would want to end up somewhere that is geographically isolated to some degree. 2. If you don’t have passports for yourself and each of your dependents, get them now. This is not to say that you should leave your country, but you should have the means to do so. In countries where the Ebola outbreak is underway it is getting harder and harder to exit. Borders are being closed down. Flights are being cut off. This didn’t happen right away, but you definitely don’t want to be waiting for your passport to show up if Ebola arrives in your city. 3. Know what you would carry with you if you had to leave on short notice. Have those items ready, and have the luggage to carry them. It would be wise to consider buying a pack of surgical masks as part of this. Now if you think about it, these preparations are wise steps to take regardless of whether the Ebola situation deteriorates or not. Knowing where you would go in an emergency, and having the means to get there on short notice is important for a wide variety of situations. The civilian population of Iraq, Syria, east Ukraine, and Gaza can attest to that. Whatever you do don’t let fear take control of your mind. Take the steps you can take now, monitor the situation calmly, and be prepared to adapt if necessary. [UPDATE July 31st]: A number of people have requested that I comment on the fact that the Americans infected by Ebola are right now being flown into the U.S. My personal opinion is that this particular move will not lead to the virus getting out. This event is going to be highly scrutinized, and the isolation security should be at max. The real danger isn’t in these highly controlled transfers and quarantines, but rather in the ongoing flow of air travel from these regions. Thirty five countries are merely one flight away from an Ebola zone right now. Why is this random air travel more dangerous? Because if it gets in when people aren’t looking, it can spread before containment measures are put into place.

[Update September 30th] The U.S. just had its first confirmed case of Ebola in Dallas today. You should definitely keep an eye on the situation. Ebola is spreading exponentially at this point in west Africa. The number of cases are doubling every three weeks. As the number of infected increases in the hot zone the odds of new cases arriving in the U.S. or Europe increase as well. |

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