April 19 – 26 Weekly News


   April 19, 2020  

   April 26, 2020


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   April 19, 2020  

   April 26, 2020


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US Military Seeks Nuclear Space Flight Test by 2025

The U.S. military has chosen three companies to develop nuclear thermal propulsionor NTP systems to be tested in space by 2025. The goal is to test the space travel technology in cislunar space – the area between Earth and the moon. The U.S. Department of Energy describes on its website how an NTP system works. It needs a radioactive material such as uranium and another element, such as hydrogen, in liquid form. The liquid propellant is pumped through a reactor core. This causes uranium atoms to break apart inside the core and release heat. The heat turns the propellant into gas, which expands through an opening to produce thrust.

Scientists say NTP engines have far higher energy density and are twice as efficient as rocket engines. The contracts to produce a flight demonstration of NTP technology were awarded by the military’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA. The winning contractors were General Atomics, Blue Origin and Lockheed Martin. DARPA did not announce how much the contracts were worth.


Investors Are Buying Land in Virtual Worlds

Last month, a Singapore investor bought a digital artwork for $69 million. Since the art does not have a physical form, it cannot appear in a usual museum. The artwork is "Everydays: The First 5000 Days," by the American artist Beeple. It is a non-fungible token, or NFT. It only exists in digital form. It is based on a technology called blockchain, which is also used with digital money systems known as cryptocurrency.

The investor is Metakovan, whose real name is Vignesh Sundaresan. He plans to show the artwork in four virtual world environments. He is working with professionals to design structures where people can enter using computers or virtual reality technology. As a whole, the name given to virtual worlds and the internet is “the metaverse.” But art is just one part of a new economy of virtual worlds based on blockchain in the metaverse. In these worlds, there are NFTs representing land, buildings, images and even names. They often sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars. There, people can walk around with friends, visit virtual buildings and attend virtual events.


Tokyo Motor Show cancelled for first time ever 

Tokyo's motor show has been cancelled for the first time ever. This is because of an increase in coronavirus cases in Japan. The Tokyo Motor Show is being cancelled, not delayed. It is difficult to hold the event in a way that people can have a good experience in a safe environment. Tokyo is under a two-week state of emergency. Japan is worried the pandemic might cancel the Tokyo Olympics in July. A lot of Japanese people do not want the Olympics.

The Tokyo Motor Show first took place in 1954. It is one of the world's top motor shows. It attracts many car fans. The show is different from other motor shows because it focuses on design. There are many futuristic cars and fewer production cars in the show. We can look at what cars might look like in the future. The Tokyo Motor Show works with many industries to work on the future of driving.


Scientists make biodegradable plastic

Plastic has polluted the countryside and endangered wildlife for decades. Environmentalists told us to cut the amount we use or switch to biodegradable alternatives. Scientists have now made a biodegradable plastic, so the billions of plastic bags, cups, straws, etc. that we throw away each day could be "compostable". They could break down like organic waste. The plastic breaks down within weeks, rather than centuries, using just heat and water.

This new plastic has enzymes inside it. When these enzymes are exposed to heat and water, they eat away at the plastic and turn it into nutrients for the soil. A professor said 98 per cent of the plastic her team made degraded. She said: "We are...saying that we are on the right track. We can solve this continuing problem of single-use plastics." She added: "Look at all the wasted stuff we throw away - clothing, shoes, electronics....We are taking things from the earth at a faster rate than we can return them."


Football fan fury over European Super League 

Europe's top football clubs created a breakaway super league but it fell apart less than 48 hours after it launched. A group of 12 of the richest teams in Europe announced they would take part in the European Super League (ESL) starting in August. This made fans, players and managers furious. Even the British Prime Minister and Britain's Prince William were angry. They said the new league would destroy football. There has been so much anger that the clubs pulled out of the ESL. This was because of protests by fans, who said the ESL was created by greedy club owners.

Six of England's richest teams agreed to join the breakaway ESL, including Manchester United and Liverpool. Top teams from Spain, like Barcelona, and Italy also signed up. No teams from Germany and France joined. This made it less European. In Germany, teams are 51-per-cent owned by fans, so fan power is big. The UK government said it would take whatever action is necessary, including legal action, to stop the ESL. Premier League clubs want to expel the six English clubs from their league. FIFA said players who played in the ESL could be banned from the World Cup.


Scientists create human-monkey chimera 

Today we are seeing more examples of science fiction rapidly becoming science fact. A team of scientists has created the world's first part-human, part-monkey embryo. The result of this fusion of genetic tissue is called a chimera. It could pave the way for lifesaving medical advances. Bio-scientist Henry Greely explained the importance of this breakthrough for organ transplants. He said: "The long-term goal of this research...is to grow human organs in pigs - kidneys, livers, hearts, etc." He added: "Tens of thousands of people on a transplant list die every year waiting for a transplant."

The groundbreaking research involved injecting human cells into the embryos of macaque monkeys. Scientists studied the development of the embryos for 19 days. Many people are worried about this and believe it is the stuff of horror movies. Professor Greely understood that there are ethical concerns around the creation of chimera. He said: "Every time a person gets an organ transplant, the result is an intra-species chimera - an organism made up of cells from two members of the same species....When a human gets a pig heart valve, she becomes an inter-species chimera."



Woman Helps Children 'Beat the Heck' out of Coronavirus
When the coronavirus pandemic began last year, Carolina Tolladay Vidal’s party business suffered immediately. People cancelled parties and no one was buying piñatas from her business in the American state of Alaska. A piñata is a container usually filled with small treats -- like candies, fruits, or gifts. It is hung up at parties or celebrations. A person, likely a child, with eyes covered would hit a piñata with a stick. And the objects inside would fall to the ground for everyone.

Tolladay Vidal told Alaska Public Media recently that many of her projects were moved to other dates. “Many,” she added, “were canceled.” She had to find new ideas to bring back her business. So, Tolladay Vidal decided to make large, red piñatas shaped like the coronavirus. After she shared an image of her handmade coronavirus piñata on social media, she said the orders started pouring in. She explained why so many people want to beat up a coronavirus-shaped piñata. “I think you really smash them and break them and hit them with meaning,” she said, “because it has been tough for everybody.”


'How Many of Us Will be Left?’ Catholic Nuns Face Loss, Pain

The daily lives of female religious workers in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, changed quickly in 2020. Increasingly, emails arrived with reports of new coronavirus infections among nuns of their Roman Catholic order Felician Sisters around the country. Emergency medical vehicles arrived at the Greensburg center, or convent, where they lived. Long-time friends died. Prayers seemed to go unanswered. “How many of us,” thought Sister Mary Jeanine Morozowich, “will be left?”

The nuns do much unpaid work in the community. In Greensburg, they teach, nurse and care for children in their quiet convent. The Felician order in America has lost 21 nuns to COVID-19. Vaccines provide hope for an end to those dark days. But the sadness created by the loss of so many fellow sisters is difficult. The sisters were forced to stay in their small rooms all the time. Five sisters died the first week, five more the second week. Each death was filled with sadness. Some sisters lost someone they had known since they were very young women, or with whom they had shared a home for tens of years.


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