Science

Science

Chinese scientists shoot sound waves at clouds to make rain
Can pointing giant loudspeakers to the sky help regions recover from a drought? The answer may be yes.  A new study out of Tsinghua University in Beijing found that sending powerful, low-frequency sound waves into the sky may have triggered an increase in rainfall on the Tibetan Plateau. The researchers said they recorded increases in rainfall of up to 17% by pointing a giant loudspeaker at the sky.  The sound waves also appear to be safe for the environment, but scientists said the experiment would need to be replicated many times to confirm if the technology works.  The team led by Professor Wang Guangqian from the university’s State Key Laboratory of Hydro-science and Engineering, said i
Environmentalists call to abandon proposed dam on China’s largest freshwater lake
More than 1,000 people in China have signed a petition calling for the cancellation of a plan to build a dam on Poyang Lake, the country’s largest freshwater lake.  The people said the dam would take a significant toll on endangered migratory birds and threaten the rare Yangtze finless porpoise.  In an open letter to authorities in the Jiangxi province last week, Let Birds Fly, a Hangzhou-based environmental group, said it would be “extremely irresponsible” of the government to approve Poyang Lake project. “It goes against China’s efforts of to conserve the environment … It would do irreversible [damage] to our ecosystem,” the signatories said in the letter. The letter came after the govern
Covid-19 face masks could cause lung problems: Chinese study
Wearing a face mask could cause lung problems due to the inhalation of plastic fibers, a new study has found. But the potential health risks of Covid masks are outweighed by their benefits. “It is a minor problem compared with protecting humans from Covid-19,” said the Chinese research team from Wuhan, the city where the coronavirus is believed to have originated. In the peer-reviewed paper, published in the Journal of Hazardous Materials earlier this week, a wide range of masks were tested for plastic fibers.  While this latest study offers food for thought, the one clear takeaway remains that masks are the most cost-effective way to fight the virus. A recent German study found masks helpe
Chinese sturgeon faces extinction because of low sex drive: study
Scientists are debating if China’s most ancient fish - the sturgeon - has lost its sex drive, putting the species at serious risk of extinction. Regarded as a “national treasure,” the wild Chinese sturgeon, which can only be found in the Yangtze River, is a species that has existed for 140 million years and can grow as big as a shark. Two recent studies have aimed to shed light on why the sturgeon is in danger. But their findings were markedly different – and spawned an unusual and ugly tit-for-tat among the academics.  A member of one study, Professor Liu Huanzhang, accused the other research team of being “narcissists” who “cherry-picked data ... used imagination, made up stories.” One t
Mount Everest just grew overnight (on paper at least)
The world’s tallest mountain just grew by either three or 14 feet, depending on if you ask Nepal or China.   Mount Everest’s overnight growth spurt occurred after China and Nepal finally settled a long-running disagreement over the precise dimensions of the mountain. Prior to this week, Nepal had measured Everest at 29,028ft from a 1954 survey, while China had recorded it in 2005 as about 29,017ft.  Neither could agree on the height, with Nepal insisting the snowcap should be included. China was adamant the calculations should be limited to the rock base.  The dispute was rekindled in 2015 when geologists suggested the snowcap may have shrunk by a few centimeters after a magnitude 8.1 earth
These 4 genes may be what make Han Chinese unique
A team of researchers in Shanghai have pinpointed four genes that shape the face of an ethnically Han Chinese person.  According to the new study, changes in these genes could make a chin narrower, eyebrows higher, nose longer and cheeks slimmer. Differences in the genes could also have the opposite effect.  The Journal of Genetics and Genomics published a peer-reviewed paper about the discovery was on Monday. Similar studies have been carried out on European, Latino, African and some Asian populations. The facial genes for ethnic Han, who make up most of China’s population, had previously remained unknown. According to the study, Han Chinese share one face-shaping gene with some people nat
These scientists hope to find the future of medicine in frozen bodies
The Shandong Yinfeng Life Science Research Institute provides a service straight out of science fiction: cryonic suspension, or preserving bodies at extremely low temperatures with the hope of one day “reviving” them.  It is the only cryonics research center in China and one of only four such institutes in the world. But Yinfeng’s research goes further than the rest and may eventually revolutionize organ transplant, body-part reattachment and other medical treatments. Cryonics in China started in 2015. Du Hong, an author from Chongqing and an editor of Liu Cixin’s world-renowned science-fiction title The Three-Body Problem, which revolves around cryonics, became the first person from China
China sets out its targets for Covid-19 vaccines
Covid-19 vaccines must protect at least half of those given the injection and provide at least six months’ immunity if they are to be approved for use in China, the country’s drug regulator has announced. According to a draft document released by the Chinese Center for Drug Evaluation (CCDE), 50% is the minimum efficacy rate allowable, although 70% is the target. The document said also that the regulator would consider allowing the emergency use of vaccines that have not yet completed their final phase of clinical trials. Chinese companies are among the frontrunners in the race to produce a vaccine for Covid-19, with four candidates undergoing final testing. A total of 29 products are under
Covid-19 vaccines may be ready in early 2021. That’s a start
With six Covid-19 vaccine candidates undergoing final clinical trials, initial data about whether they can protect people from the disease is expected to be available in the next two to three months, assuming all goes well. That gives hope to the possibility that a vaccine could hit the market by early next year. However, that does not necessarily mean the global community will be out of the woods.  One concern is that, while the possible candidates use different technologies, they have adopted a similar strategy for attacking the SARS-CoV-2 virus.   The worry is that if the one candidate proves to be effective, the chances of the others succeeding are high. But the opposite scenario also a
Potential Coronavirus vaccines head towards crucial third step
The race for a Covid-19 vaccine has taken on critical importance as the disease continues to charge through the global population, with almost 15 million confirmed cases and nearly 615,000 deaths. The world hopes a vaccine can be a silver bullet out of the crisis, and new results from some of the teams leading development are showing early promising signs. But the real test lies ahead in the final-phase trials, experts say. The new data out on Monday includes a vaccine candidate produced by a team at Oxford University, working in partnership with British firm AstraZeneca. The candidate was safe and induced strong immune responses in combined phase-one and phase-two trials, according to a st