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Coronavirus Live Updates: Chinese Premier Visits Hot Zone, as Anger Mounts

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An outbreak of a new coronavirus that began in the Chinese city of Wuhan has already killed 80 people in China. The virus has since spread around the world. But of the nearly 3,000 people who have so far contracted the virus, the vast majority live in China.

  • The death toll in China had risen to at least 80 by Monday. The majority of those deaths, 76 people, were in the central province of Hubei, the epicenter of the outbreak. Shanghai, a city of 24 million, recorded its first death on Saturday.

  • Across China there have been 2,744 confirmed cases, of which 1,423 cases were in Hubei.

  • The youngest confirmed case is a 9-month-old girl in Beijing.

  • The mayor of Wuhan, the provincial capital of Hubei, said there were about 3,000 patients in the city being treated for the virus. Half of those patients, he said, would eventually test positive for the disease.

  • Thailand and Hong Kong have each reported eight cases of infection; the United States, Taiwan, Australia and Macau have five each; Singapore, Japan, South Korea and Malaysia each have reported four; France has three; Vietnam has two, and Nepal has one.

In an effort to temporarily limit travel, the Chinese government extended the weeklong Lunar New Year holiday by three days, meaning it will go through next Sunday rather than ending on Thursday.

The holiday, China’s biggest annual celebration, began on Saturday. Workers will now get an additional three days off, returning to work on Feb. 3.

Hundreds of millions of Chinese people travel during the holiday, either for tourism or to visit family. The week, known in China as Spring Festival, typically includes large public events, but many festivities have been canceled this year.

Many tourist attractions have been shuttered including the Disney theme parks in Shanghai and Hong Kong, along with the Forbidden City and sections of the Great Wall in Beijing.

China’s second-highest ranking official, Premier Li Keqiang, on Monday visited Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, to inspect local efforts to contain the disease, the government said.

In pictures released by the state-run news media, Mr. Li is seen wearing a face mask and a blue protective gown while posing for photos with health workers. He was also seen speaking with a patient in an isolation ward via video conference.

The premier’s visit comes as the central government is under increasing pressure to prove it is adequately coping with the crisis. Videos circulating on Chinese social media, show doctors straining to handle the enormous workload and hospital corridors loaded with patients, some of whom appear to already be dead.

Rare signs of public anger have also percolated on social media, as Wuhan residents complained that an impromptu ban on cars in the city left many unable to get access to food and hospitals.

On Saturday, Xi Jinping, China’s leader, convened a meeting of the Politburo’s standing committee, the senior-most executive body of the Chinese Communist Party, as a demonstration of the government’s hands-on approach to the outbreak.

Hospitals in Wuhan have posted messages online urgently appealing for medical equipment. Mr. Li, who has been assigned to oversee the national response to the outbreak, pledged to provide Wuhan’s health centers with 20,000 pairs of safety goggles.

As health officials race to contain the deadly virus, social media users in China are responding to the outbreak with dashes of gallows humor.

On the messaging platform WeChat, people circulated images of improvised face masks made of plastic water jugs. One video on WeChat and the social platform Weibo showed a group of people playing mahjong, the popular tile-based game, while wearing what appeared to be plastic bags over their heads. Another photo featured people sitting around a mahjong table in motorcycle helmets.

One video on WeChat appeared to show a person emerging from an airport baggage claim clad in a full-body space alien costume, complete with green skin and bulging eyes.

Masks are a common motif in virus-related memes. They have been added to traditional greetings exchanged for the Lunar New Year. They have been photoshopped into classic paintings such as Vermeer’s “Girl With a Pearl Earring.” They appear in propaganda posters done in the style of the Mao era and updated to reflect the times.

A video on Twitter appeared to show a taxi driver wearing goggles and a hazmat suit while taking a woman to the airport.

The woman asks the driver whether his outfit might scare off potential fares. He replies serenely: “Safety first, right?”



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Send your kids to Wizarding World of Science Spring Break Camp

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Send your kids to Wizarding World of Science Spring Break Camp

Posted: 8:16 PM, Feb 23, 2020

Updated: 2020-02-23 21:28:14-05

The Wizarding World of Science Spring Break Camp.png

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A local museum has some magical fun planned over Spring Break.

The Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History is hosting the Wizarding World of Science Spring Break Camp.

“Your young wizard or witch will participate in a multitude of educational, scientific experiments that are sure to delight including potions, charms, wand making and many more,” their event page says.

The camp runs from March 9 to March 13 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with before and after care options.

Here is a breakdown of the pricing for members and non-members.

Camp Pricing

  • Non-Members (Full Week) – $200 for One Child & $180 Each Additional Sibling
  • Members (Full Week) – $180 per Child
  • Drop-In (Daily Rate) – $55 per Child / per Day

Child Care Pricing:

  • Full Week – $10 per Day
  • Drop-In (Daily Rate) – $15 per Day

You can sign up your children here. First 100 registrations get a free camp t-shirt.

The Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History is open today from Noon to 5pm!

Just a reminder, we are now enrolling for our Spring Break Camp!

www.ccmuseum.com

Posted by Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History on Sunday, February 23, 2020

Copyright 2020 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.





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Smart Polymer Lights Up Under Stress | Asian Scientist Magazine

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AsianScientist (Feb. 24, 2020) – A research group in Japan has created a stress-detecting ‘smart’ polymer that shines brighter when stretched. Their findings, published in Chemical Communications, could be used to track the wear and tear on materials used in engineering and construction industries.

By the time cracks or other visible defects appear in construction materials, the structural integrity of a building may already be compromised. In the present study, researchers led by Dr. Ayumu Karimata at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST), Japan, have created a copper-containing polymer that lights up proportionately to the amount of mechanical force exerted on it, paving the way for early detection of mechanical strain.

The scientists created their polymer by incorporating copper complexes—structures formed by linking copper atoms to carbon-containing molecules—with polybutylacrylate. The copper complexes, which hold the polybutylacrylate chains together, naturally glow when exposed to ultraviolet light, a property known as photoluminescence.

When the polymer is stretched, the copper complexes emit light at a greater intensity, leading to a brighter glow. The copper complexes therefore act as mechanophores—compounds which undergo a change when triggered by a mechanical force.

Most mechanophores are made from organic compounds which change color or emit light when mechanical stress breaks a weak chemical bond. However, Karimata noted that a relatively large force is required to break the chemical bond, so the mechanophore is not sensitive to small amounts of stress.

“Also, the process of breaking the bond is often irreversible, so these stress sensors can only be used once,” he said.

In contrast, the new copper mechanophores are sensitive to much smaller stresses and can respond quickly and reversibly. The scientists reported that their polymer film immediately brightened and dimmed in response to being stretched and released.

Karimata proposes that the acrylic polymer could eventually be adapted to create a stress-sensing acrylic paint for coating different structures, such as bridges or the frames of cars and aircraft.

“As we can see even from the direct visualization of the polymer, stress is applied across a material in a non-uniform way,” said Karimata. “A stress-sensing paint would allow hotspots of stress on a material to be detected and could help prevent a structure from failing.”

The article can be found at: Karimata et al. (2020) Highly Sensitive Mechano-controlled Luminescence in Polymer Films Modified by Dynamic Cui-based Cross-linkers.

———

Source: Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.





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The Fires Are Out, but Australia’s Climate Disasters Aren’t Over

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RAINBOW FLAT, Australia — Standing in thick mud between burned trees and a concrete slab where his house had been, Peter Ruprecht admitted that he was not sure how or when to rebuild.

He was still dizzied by what Australia’s increasingly volatile climate had already delivered: first a drought, then a devastating bush fire, then a foot of rain from a tropical storm.

“It’s unstoppable,” said Mr. Ruprecht, a former dairy farmer. “We speak about the warmth of Mother Nature, but nature can also be vicious and wild and unforgiving.”

“The trees are just falling across roads all over the place,” Ms. Couzins said. “I’ve just come back from a drive on the road. I saw a car with the front end all damaged; a tree fell on their car.”

The extremes have been especially severe north of Sydney, where Mr. Ruprecht and his wife are living in a converted metal shed, for now.

First came the drought, which wore on for years, leaving farms and forests dusty, brown and brittle. When the fires arrived in October and November, before summer had even officially started, anyone with knowledge of the bush knew there would be months of pain and struggle.

“It was a bomb ready to go off,” said Ian McMullen, 56, a third-generation timber owner, who estimates that he lost a half-million Australian dollars to the fires.

He was sitting on a bench near the shore in Hallidays Point, talking to a friend from childhood, Tim McNamara, who owns a nearby cattle farm. They said they had been discussing climate change even before I arrived, because they could not help it.

In front of them, huge waves rose like muddy mountains, the usually clean water full of ash and debris from the fires. Cyclone Uesi had weakened before drifting so far south, but its mere appearance pointed to yet another climate trend: the drift of tropical weather into areas where it had not been before.

Up the road, in a shop for local artists, 63-year-old Jenny Dayment said, “Change is certainly happening all around us.” She cited little things, like rising humidity and shifts in the bird population.

After so many years of people praying for rain, the recent downpours have been bittersweet, Mrs. Dayment said. Even as they have turned the ground green again, they have brought the ominous crack of falling trees.

“Maybe we’ll get some normalcy back in our day-to-day routines,” she said. “But people are going to be wary for a very long time. I don’t think we can ever be the same.”

Her daughter’s house had burned to the ground, she said. She pulled up a photo of what was left: a fireplace surrounded by crumpled chaos. Her daughter was not sure what to do next; she and her husband were thinking about buying temporary container housing.

The Ruprechts also cannot decide on the next step. Mr. Ruprecht said the biggest challenge had been “the absence of structure in government.”

“Most inhabitants of first-world countries view themselves as being quite resilient,” he said. “This has tested that.”

Like many others in areas affected by climate-induced extremes, the Ruprechts have listened carefully to federal and local officials, but they hear mixed signals. Sometimes there are hints of “don’t rebuild, it’s too dangerous”; at other times, moving quickly and keeping the economy humming seems to be the priority.

“It’s really affected our confidence to rebuild,” Mr. Ruprecht said. “Without some sort of vision and leadership, we’re not quite sure what to do.”

“It’s not a question of if we’re going to have another disaster,” she said. “It’s when, and how we’re going to deal with it then.”

Michelle Elias contributed reporting from Sydney.



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