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Vitalik donates $4M to Uni of NSW for pandemic detection tool

“Imagine if someone had detected COVID-19 before it spread around the world – that is our vision,” said professor Raina MacIntyre.



“Imagine if someone had detected COVID-19 before it spread around the world – that is our vision,” said professor Raina MacIntyre.

Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin has donated $4 million worth of USD Coin (USDC) to the University of New South Wales (UNSW) to support the development of a pandemic detection tool.

The capital, which equates to roughly $5.3 million Aussie dollars, is part of Buterin’s self-described “moonshot anti-COVID effort” dubbed Balvi Filantropic Fund in partnership with the Shiba Inu memecoin project (SHIB) and Crypto Relief.

The funds will further support the development of the OISNT-based EPIWATCH tool which utilizes artificial intelligence (AI) and open-source data to create early pandemic warning signs.

Created by Kirby Institute Professor and Biosecurity Research head Raina MacIntyre the tool scans millions of items of publicly available online data, including social media and news reports to detect any changes that could suggest increasing health concerns.

Buterin emphasized the importance of sharing data in a decentralized and open manner to speed up pandemic detection:

“Open analysis of public data is an excellent alternative to more intrusive forms of monitoring, which are also often only available to governments and other high bidders but closed to the public.”

“By contrast, an open-source and open-access approach that allows researchers, including members of the public, to work collaboratively across the world can be more easily improved and scaled to detect new pandemics wherever they begin,” he added.

The funding will be allocated to the freshly named Shiba Inu Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT) Initiative led by UNSW’s Kirby Institute.

Professor MacIntyre said the idea was to make the tool accessible at a “grassroots” level and make sure it covers enough languages to reach “villages and small towns around the world.”

“Imagine if someone had detected COVID-19 before it spread around the world — that is our vision. Using AI and real-time open-source data, EPIWATCH does not depend on people making reports. It is a great equalizer and can overcome weak health systems and censorship.”

Earlier this month, the Balvi Balvi Filantropic Fund announced its first round of financial support for various projects and organizations that are building COVID and pandemic prevention technology.

Related: Buterin: L2 transaction fees need to be under $0.05 to be ‘truly acceptable’

There were four recipients in total for the first round, including the open-source vaccine development RADVACproject, the Upper Room UVGI Project working on UV lamps that “zap viruses to death”, Active IAQ’s air filter initiative and Patient-Led’s long COVID symptom research.

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Spread & Containment

Computers calling time on isolation

Kyoto–Across the world, many people infected with Covid-19 have been made to completely isolate from others in order to avoid passing on the infection….



Kyoto–Across the world, many people infected with Covid-19 have been made to completely isolate from others in order to avoid passing on the infection. Some countries still recommend minimum isolation periods for as long as 10 days from when patients start to develop Covid-19 symptoms.

Credit: LAIMAN

Kyoto–Across the world, many people infected with Covid-19 have been made to completely isolate from others in order to avoid passing on the infection. Some countries still recommend minimum isolation periods for as long as 10 days from when patients start to develop Covid-19 symptoms.

Professor Shingo Iwami, affiliated with Kyoto University’s Mathematical Biology Laboratory at the Institute Advanced Study of Human Biology (WPI-ASHBi) says, “Although a long time for isolation reduces the overall risk of patients passing on the infection, there will always be patients who recover early and have to accept several days of redundant isolation while no longer posing an infection risk. We would like to calculate a way to reduce this unnecessary disruption in people’s lives as well as the broader losses for the economy.”

Writing in the journal Nature Communications, an international team of scientists, led by Iwami, has reported a simulation of the potential risks and benefits of ending an individual’s isolation early using antigen tests instead of isolating patients for a fixed time. They call for more sensitive and regular antigen testing to help reduce isolation periods for patients recovering from Covid-19.

The team decided to base their model on antigen rather than PCR testing, trading sensitivity for short turn-around time, low cost, and practicality. Iwami explains that although antigen tests do have a risk of generating “false-negatives” and fail to detect individuals who could still be infectious, there are clear benefits to getting results within an hour rather than waiting a day.

Their model accounts for the sensitivity of antigen tests as well as factors like the amount of virus in a patient that makes them infectious. These are then balanced against the acceptable risk of missing unrecovered and potentially infectious patients, by letting them out of isolation early.

Using their model, the team compared different scenarios to identify the best strategy. For example, the model projects that letting a recovering patient leave isolation after 2 consecutive negative results on 2 days in a row would spend 3.9 days of redundant isolation after their recovery. But under these conditions 1 in 40 patients would continue to pose an infection risk.

More conservative approaches might increase the burden on patients by requiring more than 2 consecutive negative test results of antigen tests.

Iwami says, “The epidemic has still not completely subsided, and we are living with a lot of uncertainty with regard to new variants of the virus. Antigen tests could help, but there is also a real need for worldwide systematic guidelines that simultaneously reduce risks and burdens. We hope this simulator will help doctors and policy makers meet those demands.”

Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Biology (ASHBi) was launched in October 2018 with funding from the World Premier International Research Center Initiative (WPI) Program of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT). The Institute inaugurated with 18 principal investigators (PIs) to create and promote human biology to elucidate key principles of human traits, including disease states. The Institute will perform interdisciplinary research between biology and mathematics (machine learning and topological data analysis) and between biology and humanities/social sciences (bioethics and philosophy on life), respectively. The Institute implements three research development cores for cutting-edge single-cell genome information analysis, primate genome editing, and non-human primate phenotype analysis, respectively. The Institute establishes a link with international institutions such as the EMBL, University of Cambridge, and Karolinska Institutet, creating a stratified organization for research promotion and strengthening its international profile.

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Building Bitcoin Communities From The Ground Up In The Philippines

A key to gaining adoption in local communities is having on the ground educational resources available to business owners and customers.



A key to gaining adoption in local communities is having on the ground educational resources available to business owners and customers.

This is an opinion editorial by Dustin Watchman, founder of the bitcoin community educational group Cloud 21 Siargo.

What if we could recreate the elements of a big city that we all love but on a much smaller scale? What would those elements be that we would seek to replicate? For much of history, cities have been places that provide opportunity, hope and connection to others. Cities hoped to bring together the best and the brightest to work hard and build things the world needs. Then, along came El Zonte, better known as Bitcoin Beach. A massive paradigm shift occurred and posed the question: “What if we could provide opportunity, hope, and connection to others by building education and knowledge around bitcoin in smaller communities?” And, just like that, the idea has spread across the globe.

El Zonte was not only the community that inspired President Nayib Bukele to envision the first bitcoin legal tender country, but they have inspired many smaller communities by their vision and success in execution. We can now see bitcoin inspired communities being built from the ground up with Bitcoin Ekasi in South Africa, BTC Beach Camp in Thailand, Bitcoin Lisboa in Portugal, Harlem Bitcoin in New York and many more! The common denominator in all these communities is the bitcoin educators willing to tirelessly dedicate their time to educating their surrounding communities. Because of the lockdowns and COVID-19 restrictions of the past few years, people have searched for a purpose and for many this purpose was found by building bitcoin communities in their own backyards. The hope for a better future derived from bitcoin has led many to make positive changes in their own lifestyles and to contribute more in giving back through community growth initiatives.

One such project is known as Cloud 21 Siargao on a small island on the southeastern side of the Philippines. It is a beautiful and up and coming island that for years secretly held a hidden gem of a surf spot named Cloud 9, hence the nod to this epic surf spot with the name Cloud 21 Siargao. In December of 2021, the island was ravaged by the massively destructive Super Typhoon Odette. For the first few months after the destruction, the rebuilding was slow. Supplies were hard to come by and there was debris everywhere. In short, opportunity and hope was near an all time low, and this is where bitcoin usually succeeds. Fast forward to about nine months after the storm and the local communities are buzzing with energy as businesses have reopened and tourism was quickly pouring back to the island. With this onslaught of growth and tourism, the knowledge of bitcoin began to quickly grow alongside it. Cloud 21 Siargao set out to assist local small businesses in learning how they can accept bitcoin as payments to drive further growth in tourism, similar to what El Zonte has done the past few years.

Through Twitter Spaces hosted by Paxful and Global Bitcoin Fest, we were able to collaborate on commonly found issues in regards to bitcoin adoption in Southeast Asia with bitcoiners in these regions . Through these talks, I shaped my approach to further educating about bitcoin to overcome some of these common hurdles. The largest hurdle is probably the gambling mentality that many people have in these regions. It’s sort of an all-or-nothing mentality that they just go all in rather than taking a more moderate approach of slowly incorporating bitcoin into their lives for long term wealth building strategies. Further obstacles to bitcoin adoption here is proper education on what sets bitcoin apart from the other 20,000-plus altcoins, and also just general brand recognition of bitcoin as a whole. These are the main points Cloud 21 Siargao has set out to work on.

For people that don’t often maintain much savings, going all in could potentially get them rekt, pushing them to never fully benefit from bitcoin. The greatest need for small businesses here is that they still need pesos for daily expenses, but are open to the added benefits of converting just a small amount into satoshis. Slowly dipping their toes into the bitcoin waters is more likely to get them to see the potential as we slowly shift from the 2022 bear market towards a bull market. Locally in the Philippines, they do have a digital cash app called G-cash that they are familiar with and the Pouch App (a Lightning app) has similar functions, but gives them the additional added benefit of converting some of their pesos into satoshis. Basically leveraging their previous knowledge of digital money apps, locals can now begin to safely further their education about bitcoin by actually holding some.

To tackle these issues of brand recognition, proper education about bitcoin’s unique qualities and how to properly use and secure bitcoin, Cloud 21 Siargao has launched a multi-prong campaign. Through social media, I reach out to all the local small businesses to let them know they can use Cloud 21 Siargao as their go-to for any bitcoin related education. Many business owners have asked great questions and are actively looking into accepting it soon. I have also embarked on community art projects that involve beautifying different concrete walls around the town with Bitcoin themed murals. In any small community, reputation is also quite important, therefore actually speaking with many of the owners and patrons in person often produces the greatest discussions and potential adoption. There are currently a handful of Bitcoiners living in Siargao, and they have provided great feedback on the localized issues to bitcoin adoption, as well. Volunteering with local NGOs has also provided fruitful results in helping organizations that revolve around a lot of fundraising understand how bitcoin can assist them in that drive. Lastly, talking with local government officials and opening discussions about how their social programs that often provide a small income for locals in need of financial assistance can also benefit from bitcoin payments.

Building a small bitcoin community from the ground up will only continue to grow if the proper resources are provided for further education. As Siargao continues its path towards being the next Bali and a digital nomad hub, locals and expats will continue to come and go. The key to maintaining sustainable development while building a bitcoin community is that the resources stay on island for all to access and use as needed far into the future. Passing the torch of knowledge on to locals is needed, so they themselves can stand up and be community leaders continuing to teach their neighbors and friends on bitcoin is what will ultimately push the bitcoin community beyond the locals and expats that come and go like the seasonal tides.

In response to this need I have written multiple books discussing how to use bitcoin within your family unit, on a community level and why small businesses should start sooner than later in offering bitcoin payments. The last book coming to publication is a community leaders guide book that new bitcoin educators can use as their go to resource for education others far into the future. These books can be found at the website.

Siargao has so much potential to be the perfect mix of Bali and El Zonte, and I personally look forward to welcoming much more bitcoin tourism here as bitcoin adoption grows! If you are a bitcoin tourist, put Siargao, Philippines, on your list of must-see destinations. You won’t be disappointed!

This is a guest post by Dustin Watchman. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.

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Scientists find link between fast-melting Arctic ice and ocean acidification

An international team of researchers have sounded new alarm bells about the changing chemistry of the western region of the Arctic Ocean after discovering acidity…



An international team of researchers have sounded new alarm bells about the changing chemistry of the western region of the Arctic Ocean after discovering acidity levels increasing three to four times faster than ocean waters elsewhere.

Credit: Photos courtesy of Zhangxian Ouyang, Wei-Jun Cai and Liza Wright-Fairbanks/ University of Delaware

An international team of researchers have sounded new alarm bells about the changing chemistry of the western region of the Arctic Ocean after discovering acidity levels increasing three to four times faster than ocean waters elsewhere.

The team, which includes University of Delaware marine chemistry expert Wei-Jun Cai, also identified a strong correlation between the accelerated rate of melting ice in the region and the rate of ocean acidification, a perilous combination that threatens the survival of plants, shellfish, coral reefs and other marine life and biological processes throughout the planet’s ecosystem.

The new study, published on Thursday, Sept. 30 in Science, the flagship journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, is the first analysis of Arctic acidification that includes data from more than two decades, spanning the period from 1994 to 2020.

Scientists have predicted that by 2050 — if not sooner — Arctic sea ice in this region will no longer survive the increasingly warm summer seasons. As a result of this sea-ice retreat each summer, the ocean’s chemistry will grow more acidic, with no persistent ice cover to slow or otherwise mitigate the advance.

That creates life-threatening problems for the enormously diverse population of sea creatures, plants and other living things that depend on a healthy ocean for survival. Crabs, for example, live in a crusty shell built from the calcium carbonate prevalent in ocean water. Polar bears rely on healthy fish populations for food, fish and sea birds rely on plankton and plants, and seafood is a key element of many humans’ diets.

That makes acidification of these distant waters a big deal for many of the planet’s inhabitants.

First, a quick refresher course on pH levels, which indicate how acidic or alkaline a given liquid is. Any liquid that contains water can be characterized by its pH level, which ranges from 0 to 14, with pure water considered neutral with a pH of 7. All levels lower than 7 are acidic, all levels greater than 7 are basic or alkaline, with each full step representing a tenfold difference in the hydrogen ion concentration. Examples on the acidic side include battery acid, which checks in at 0 pH, gastric acid (1), black coffee (5) and milk (6.5). Tilting toward basic are blood (7.4), baking soda (9.5), ammonia (11) and drain cleaner (14). Seawater is normally alkaline, with a pH value of around 8.1.

Cai, the Mary A.S. Lighthipe Professor in the School of Marine Science and Policy in UD’s College of Earth, Ocean and Environment, has published significant research on the changing chemistry of the planet’s oceans and this month completed a cruise from Nova Scotia to Florida, serving as chief scientist among 27 aboard the research vessel. The work, supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), includes four areas of study: The East Coast, the Gulf of Mexico, the Pacific Coast and the Alaska/Arctic region.

The new study in Science included UD postdoctoral researcher Zhangxian Ouyang, who participated in a recent voyage to collect data in the Chukchi Sea and Canada Basin in the Arctic Ocean.

The first author on the publication was Di Qi, who works with Chinese research institutes in Xiamen and Qingdao. Also collaborating on this publication were scientists from Seattle, Sweden, Russia and six other Chinese research sites.

“You can’t just go by yourself,” Cai said. “This international collaboration is very important for collecting long-term data over a large area in the remote ocean. In recent years, we have also collaborated with Japanese scientists as accessing the Arctic water was even harder in the past three years due to COVID-19. And we always have European scientists participating.”

Cai said he and Qi both were baffled when they first reviewed the Arctic data together during a conference in Shanghai. The acidity of the water was increasing three to four times faster than ocean waters elsewhere.

That was stunning indeed. But why was it happening?

Cai soon identified a prime suspect: the increased melt of sea ice during the Arctic’s summer season.

Historically, the Arctic’s sea ice has melted in shallow marginal regions during the  summer seasons. That started to change in the 1980s, Cai said, but waxed and waned periodically. In the past 15 years, the ice melt has accelerated, advancing into the deep basin in the north.

For a while, scientists thought the melting ice could provide a promising “carbon sink,” where carbon dioxide from the atmosphere would be sucked into the cold, carbon-hungry waters that had been hidden under the ice. That cold water would hold more carbon dioxide than warmer waters could and might help to offset the effects of increased carbon dioxide elsewhere in the atmosphere.

When Cai first studied the Arctic Ocean in 2008, he saw that the ice had melted beyond the Chukchi Sea in the northwest corner of the region, all the way to the Canada Basin — far beyond its typical range. He and his collaborators found that the fresh meltwater did not mix into deeper waters, which would have diluted the carbon dioxide. Instead, the surface water soaked up the carbon dioxide until it reached about the same levels as in the atmosphere and then stopped collecting it. They reported this result in a paper in Science in 2010.

That would also change the pH level of the Arctic waters, they knew, reducing the alkaline levels of the seawater and reducing its ability to resist acidification. But how much? And how soon? It took them another decade to collect enough data to derive a sound conclusion on the long-term acidification trend.

Analyzing data gathered from 1994 to 2020 – the first time such a long-term perspective was possible — Cai, Qi and their collaborators found an extraordinary increase in acidification and a strong correlation with the increasing rate of melting ice.

They point to sea-ice melt as the key mechanism to explain this rapid pH decrease, because it changes the physics and chemistry of the surface water in three primary ways:

  • The water under the sea ice, which had a deficit of carbon dioxide, now is exposed to the atmospheric carbon dioxide and can take up carbon dioxide freely.

  • The seawater mixed with meltwater is light and cannot mix easily into deeper waters, which means the carbon dioxide taken from the atmosphere is concentrated at the surface.

  • The meltwater dilutes the carbonate ion concentration in the seawater, weakening its ability to neutralize the carbon dioxide into bicarbonate and rapidly decreasing ocean pH.

Cai said more research is required to further refine the above mechanism and better predict future changes, but the data so far show again the far-reaching ripple effects of climate change.

“If all of the multiple-year ice is replaced by first-year ice, then there will be lower alkalinity and lower buffer capacity and acidification continues,” he said. “By 2050, we think all of the ice will be gone in the summer. Some papers predict that will happen by 2030. And if we follow the current trend for 20 more years, the summer acidification will be really, really strong.”

No one knows exactly what that will do to the creatures and plants and other living things that depend on healthy ocean waters.

“How will this affect the biology there?” Cai asked. “That is why this is important.”

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