Locust invasion in Ethiopia and Somalia: a huge swarm already contains more than 200 billion locusts

There are billions of locusts hitting an East African region divided between Ethiopia and Somalia, according to an AFP statement. This region, already battered by events such as droughts and floods, could therefore see its crops damaged in what is already one of the worst insect infestations in the region in recent decades.

The largest swarm has already been identified, as revealed by the UN organization in Kenya. It is a huge swarm, covering 2400 square kilometers (more than half of Molise). According to experts, this swarm alone contains 200 billion locusts, an animal known as a large food devourer (each specimen can consume an amount equal to its own weight every day).

According to the FAO, at the moment it is still a limited swarm. This means that if no action is taken, the swarm could still grow 500 times over by June. Insects could also spread to Uganda and South Sudan, becoming a scourge of historic proportions and destroying cultivated fields in several regions, as well as creating problems for grazing in one of the world’s poorest regions.

2019 was a terrible year for East Africa. The local people had to endure severe droughts that ended with one of the rainiest periods for several decades, rain that led to floods and floods that killed hundreds of people.

Scientists study Earth’s magnetic field – this is how it was formed and how it has lasted until today

How has the Earth’s magnetic field changed in the course of our planet’s history? How was it during the early stages? Why did this magnetic shield appear almost immediately after the formation of the Earth? These are the questions posed by some researchers at the University of Rochester who have published a scientific study on PNAS, a study that could also prove very important for understanding the future evolution of the Earth itself and similar planets.

The researchers came to the conclusion that the Earth’s magnetic field was even stronger during the early stages of Earth’s history than it is today. The magnetic shield that we see today owes its origin to the Earth’s outer core (the outermost part of the inner core) thanks to the immense heat of the Earth’s interior that makes the outer core itself swirl and shake. The latter, being composed of liquid iron, generates electric currents, currents that feed the Earth’s own magnetic field.

However, shortly after the formation of the Earth, things worked a little differently, according to this study. By analyzing with new techniques some samples of zirconium crystals, the oldest known terrestrial materials, researchers have obtained important information about the formation of the Earth’s magnetic field.

The analysis suggests the existence of a stronger magnetic field than previously calculated about 4 billion years ago. At that time, however, this field had to be powered by a different mechanism because the inner core has not yet formed (the inner core should have formed only 565 million years ago, according to another study).

According to the researchers, this mechanism is represented by the chemical precipitation of magnesium oxide inside the Earth, as explained by John Tarduno, professor of environmental earth sciences and one of the authors of the study. This magnesium oxide must have dissolved due to the immense heat caused in turn by the impact of the Earth with a very large body, which then led to the formation of the Moon.

As the Earth’s interior cooled, the magnesium oxide “precipitated” providing the mechanism needed to “feed” the Earth’s first magnetic field. Just about 565 million years ago, magnesium oxide would begin to wear out and the magnetic field would consequently begin to disappear.
But, according to the researchers, just in this period the inner core was forming, which provided a new source of power and allowed the magnetic shield that surrounds our planet to continue to exist.

Cyberbullying can aggravate depression and post-traumatic stress disorder in young people

The confirmation comes from a further study proposed in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry: cyberbullying can amplify the symptoms of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder in young people. This is affirmed by the research group led by the professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Miami Philip D. Harvey.

The researcher, together with colleagues, studied 50 young people hospitalized for psychiatric problems between the ages of 13 and 17, focusing in particular on cases of cyberbullying in relation to the use of social media and the Internet in general. The study included, among other things, the analysis of questionnaires filled in by the participants themselves concerning possible childhood trauma and cyberbullying itself.

20% of the children reported that they had been victims of at least one case of cyberbullying in the last two months prior to completing the questionnaire. Half of those who reported cases of bullying said they had been bullied by text messages on Facebook. Other cases saw the use of photos or videos, instant messages and chat room messages.

Researchers noted that those who had been bullied showed a higher level of severity than post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anger. The study also confirmed that boys who had been bullied in the past had a higher risk of being bullied again.

The research also confirmed that cyberbullying can cross all economic classes and ethnic origins and that the amount of time spent on the Internet and social media cannot be considered a risk factor for cyberbullying.

Too many young people are suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome without being diagnosed

There are too many young people living with a chronic fatigue syndrome that is not diagnosed according to a new study that appeared in the magazine Child & Youth Care Forum.

Researchers at De Paul University and Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago refer to the so-called chronic fatigue syndrome, more specifically known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, ME/CFS), a syndrome characterized by long-term fatigue that naturally precludes or makes difficult many daily activities.

Researcher and professor of psychology Leonard A. Jason used data from more than 10,000 children and adolescents from the Chicago area followed for seven years. The researchers found that only less than 5% of all young people in the study who tested positive for ME/CFS were diagnosed with the condition.

Among the children with the highest chance of living with this undiagnosed condition were African American and Latino children. The researchers also conducted telephone interviews and other analyses with more than 10,000 young people between the ages of 5 and 17 and found that of the 42 young people diagnosed with ME/CFS discovered among them only 4% (two of them) had been diagnosed with the disease.

The problem also lies in the fact that, as Jason himself explains, many doctors and professionals have not been prepared or are not able to cope with such a condition and in general the American health care system has never done a good job in this respect either. Even today, for example, there are still misunderstandings, among health professionals themselves, about the recognition of this condition whose causes are too often attributed to simple physical fatigue or listlessness.

According to researcher Ben Z. Katz, a specialist in pediatric infectious diseases, these results obtained with younger people could also be translated for older people and this shows that there is certainly a need for better ways to identify this condition in people and to develop effective therapies or interventions.

Robotic arm grabs objects without touching them with acoustic levitation

It looks like a sort of robotic arm, and in fact one of the main applications could be in this field, the one created by the researcher Marcel Schuck from ETH Zurich who proposed a system to grab objects without touching them. The new “arm” ends with two small half-spheres, similar to the pavilions of a pair of headphones, which allow an object to hover between them thanks to ultrasonic waves, a phenomenon also known as acoustic levitation, as the scientist himself explains.

Such a system would allow you to manipulate small objects without touching them, which is extremely useful in those cases where touching an object also means risking damaging it, as happens with traditional robotic pliers, or contaminating it in some way.

The project, called “No-Touch Robotics,” is therefore based on an effect that has been known for over eighty years but that has rarely been exploited in practical applications.

The field generated by ultrasonic waves cannot be seen or heard by humans but still generates a relatively strong pressure field thanks to the overlapping august waves. The objects, however small in size, seem to float in the air in a sort of “acoustic trap.”

Together with the arm, scientists have also created a relative software that can adjust the pliers according to the shape of the object and can assist the movement of the arm supporting the pliers themselves.

Such a robotic arm could be useful in the fields of watchmaking, micromechanics and in all those cases where you have to work with small or fragile components.

Extinctions of animals was caused by ancestors of humans as early as 4 million years ago

If you think that the impact on animal biodiversity by humans has basically only begun in the last few thousand years perhaps you should consider this new research. According to a new study in Ecology Letters, the process of limiting natural biodiversity, essentially extinction, caused by what can be considered our ancestors would have started millions of years ago.

According to researchers from various institutes in Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, some of the changes in biodiversity that have occurred in Africa over the last millions of years, changes of a lesser nature than, for example, those caused by climate change, are to be blamed on the first hominids. Specifically, researchers have found that several extinctions of large carnivores in East Africa would have been caused by our ancestors.

Analyzing various African fossils, researchers have in fact noticed drastic reductions in the number of different large carnivores, decreases that began about 4 million years ago. According to the researchers, just at this time, our ancestors would have begun to use new techniques to obtain food precisely to the detriment of large carnivores.

Among these techniques there was that of kleptoparasitism: Hominids simply stole the prey just killed by predators, which is not a novelty in the animal world (for example, lions can forcibly steal dead antelopes from cheetahs). With repeated actions of this kind, the great carnivores would have suffered consequences that over time would contribute to their extinction.

Among other things, it is for this reason that the great African carnivores have over time developed various techniques to defend their prey. Some, such as leopards, collect the prey and store it on the branches of trees.

Postpartum depression of mother linked to increased risk of atopic dermatitis of the child

A link between the mother’s depression during the postpartum period and an increased risk of atopic dermatitis in her son during childhood and adolescence was discovered by a team of researchers led by Jonathan Silverberg, professor of dermatology at George Washington University.

The scientific study, published in Dermatitis, considers atopic dermatitis, a chronic inflammatory skin disease that has been linked to some mental health disorders, including depression, suicidal ideation and anxiety, in other studies in the past. Other studies have also shown that emotional factors, family and other environmental factors can also have an impact on this disease.

For this study, researchers discovered a link between post-partum depression in the mother and an increased likelihood of atopic dermatitis developing in children.

“Our findings also suggest that postpartum depression is associated with atopic dermatitis even in older children and adolescents with more persistent diseases and increased sleep disorders,” Silverberg himself reports in the statement.

Entangled state transport between an atom and a photon has been conducted over a distance of 12 miles

A new record in the transport of an entanglement state between an atom and a photon on an optical fiber was achieved by physicists at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich. With the help of colleagues from the University of Saarland, the researchers were able to successfully transport this state over a distance of 12 miles.

Entanglement is a particular state that is shared between two different particles. The latter are irrevocably connected and the connection does not depend on how far apart the same particles are. It is the “spectral action at a distance” as it was called by Alberta Einstein who did not understand how it works. Among other things, even today the phenomenon is not really understood but it is thought that it can still be exploited in the context of communications.

For some time scientists have already discovered that this state of connection between an atom and a photon can be transmitted over optical fiber, the kind used for telecommunications. Previously scientists had succeeded but only a distance of 700 meters.

This new experiment, with its success over a distance of 12 miles, is, according to the researchers themselves, “a milestone, because the distance covered confirms that quantum information can be distributed on a large scale with few losses,” as Harald Weinfurter, one of the scientists who took part in the project, explains.

The loss during transport is also minimized by the fact that conventional telecommunications networks travel over a wavelength of 1550 nanometres.

Now the researchers are planning to generate entanglement between two atoms and new nodes could be added to a growing network.