• A Utah Company Claims It Invented Contact Tracing Tech

    In the fight against Covid-19, contact tracing apps have so far largely been disappointments— in the United States, at least. Proposed in the spring as a way to help quickly stifle viral outbreaks by tracking down potential exposures using smartphones, they were stunted by technical glitches, concerns over privacy, and the US’s fragmented, haphazard pandemic response. Now, they may become mired in a fight over patents.

    The challenge comes from Blyncsy, a Salt Lake City–based maker of software that helps cities gather and analyze mobility data. In recent weeks, the company has sent claims seeking the equivalent of $1 per resident to states that have released or plan to release contact tracing apps, including Pennsylvania, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Virginia. The company holds three patents related to contact tracing. One of them, granted in February 2019, for “tracking proximity relationships and uses thereof,” describes methods of tracking

  • If You’ve Just Had Covid, Exercise Can Cause Serious Complications, Including Heart Disease

    From the images of cloudy chest scans and gasping patients hooked up to ventilators, we’ve been conditioned to think of Covid-19 as a respiratory disease. But it’s not just about the lungs. Even from the early days of the pandemic, doctors were finding that a novel coronavirus infection could ravage other parts of the body, including the brain, blood vessels, and heart. Data from initial outbreaks in China, New York City, and Washington state suggested that 20 to 30 percent of patients hospitalized with Covid-19 showed signs of cardiac injury.

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    That these patients tended to get sicker and died more often than patients without cardiac complications didn’t set off immediate alarm bells. These were, after all,

  • Antarctic Glaciers Are Growing Unstable Above and Below Water

    That study, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, concludes that understanding how the ice field ruptures as it moves across the bedrock is vital to understanding when this collapse might occur. In addition to identifying the weak points in the glacier, Lhermitte and colleagues created a computer model to predict how such cracking and buckling could affect other Antarctic glaciers in the future.

    Lhermitte says the goal of this model was not to predict the exact date when Thwaites will collapse. That’s next to impossible right now, because there are too many other unknown factors to consider, such as the pace of climate change that is warming both the air and water temperature around the glaciers, as well as the movement of ocean currents around Antarctica. (A 2014 study published in the journal Science by University of Washington scientists used satellite data and numerical

  • Mathematicians Open a New Front on an Ancient Number Problem

    As a high school student in the mid-1990s, Pace Nielsen encountered a mathematical question that he’s still struggling with to this day. But he doesn’t feel bad: The problem that captivated him, called the odd perfect number conjecture, has been around for more than 2,000 years, making it one of the oldest unsolved problems in mathematics.

    Original story reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine, an editorially independent publication of the Simons Foundation whose mission is to enhance public understanding of science by covering research develop­ments and trends in mathematics and the physical and life sciences.

    Part of this problem’s long-standing allure stems from the simplicity of the underlying concept: A number is perfect if it is a positive integer, n, whose divisors add up to exactly twice the number itself, 2n. The first and simplest example is 6, since its divisors—1, 2, 3, and 6—add up

  • Asbestos Removal Is a Hard Job, but Covid-19 Makes It Harder

    This story originally appeared on Grist and is part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

    It was just before dawn as seven bulky men in T-shirts and sweatpants gathered in front of a towering glass building on Lexington Avenue in New York City. Marcelo Crespo, a 41-year-old with gleaming green eyes and a goatee, beckoned the group over to a white company van, handing each man a pile of protective gear: face mask and respirators, full-body coveralls, shoe covers, hard hats, masking tape.

    Clutching their bundles, the men entered through the back door of the building, taking the utility elevator up 32 floors to the roof. The day before, they had sealed up the workspace like an enormous Ziploc bag, covering a large section of the roof with protective plastic structures to shield it from the open air. Before passing through the clear sheeting, Crespo rattled the scaffolding, checking its stability.

  • How Does a Sturgis Motorcycle Rally-Sized Crowd Affect Covid? It’s Complicated

    “Both policymakers and voters need to know that we still cannot answer most basic questions about this pandemic with the tools we have on hand,” says Douglass, who has been a vocal Twitter critic of the type of studies like the one published this week about Sturgis, and has coauthored a forthcoming paper on similar shortcomings in the rapidly ballooning Covid literature. And he’s not alone. Other scientists also worry that the rush to use bad or incomplete data to provide answers, any answers, on the effects of large gatherings will ultimately do little to bring an end to the pandemic. And, in fact, they think it may do more harm than having no answers at all.

    “Look, these are really pressing questions we need to sort out,” says Asish Jha, a physician, health researcher, and recently appointed dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. “We need