The outbreak of COVID-19 at a restaurant in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou was a puzzle.
The suspected index patient was a visitor from the coronavirus’s epicentre in Wuhan. But the eight other customers who later tested positive were not sitting close enough for droplet transmission, and most of the patrons and staff avoided infection altogether.
A team of local scientists eventually came to an eye-opening conclusion about the episode: tiny particles of virus had hitched a ride on currents created by the eatery’s air-conditioning.
For a group of civil engineers at the University of Alberta, the finding was no surprise. In their world, they say, it’s well known that building ventilation systems are efficient discriminators of virus and other pathogens, and believe the COVID-19 bug is no exception.
Aided by a $440,000 federal-government grant , they’re now working on ways that buildings could change their HVAC set-ups to curb the risk of infection, what the researchers call a “non-pharmaceutical” intervention against the disease.
We want to save lives, let’s cut right to the chase
“We want to save lives, let’s cut right to the chase,” said Prof. Brian Fleck, part of the project. “There are so many, many, many buildings … This effects absolutely everybody. Billions of people. If we are able to cut down the transmission rate by a per cent, that’s a lot of people.”
The engineers’ belief in the importance of building ventilation as a transmitter of the COVID-19 virus is not universally held.
The World Health Organization and other public-health bodies , citing the science to date, say the pathogen is spread almost entirely by droplets, heavier particles emitted mostly when infected people cough or sneeze, and which fall down within a short distance. Hence the two-metre rule for social distancing.
“The HVAC systems in most non-medical buildings play only a small role in infectious disease transmission, including COVID-19,” argued the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers last month.
But Chinese and Australian air-quality experts, citing in part the experience with SARS, another coronavirus, argued in a paper earlier this month that as droplets from an infected person start to evaporate, the resulting smaller particles can indeed become airborne.
They point to evidence that passengers confined to their cabins on cruise ships like the Diamond Princess were infected through the vessels’ air ducts.
“It is highly likely that the SARS-CoV-2 virus also spreads by air,” they conclude, urging “all possible” action in response, including modifications to ventilation systems. “We predict that … failure to immediately recognize and acknowledge the importance of airborne transmission and to take adequate actions against it will result in additional cases.”
Then there was the Guangzhou restaurant case, detailed in a U.S. Centers for Disease Control online journal recently. Researchers concluded flow from an air conditioner moved over three tables, carrying virus from the infected patron at the middle one to the far table, then back to the diners closest to the air conditioner.
Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) engineers have long known that tiny particles of pathogen can be carried in the air that is circulated, heated and cooled in modern buildings, said Fleck. He pointed to Legionnaires disease, a bacterial pneumonia first traced to a hotel’s air-conditioning system.
The particle can stay airborne long enough to go all the way through the system and then pop out in somebody else’s office
“This has been on people’s radar for quite a while,” he said. “Somebody on a different floor sneezes …The particle can stay airborne long enough to go all the way through the system and then pop out in somebody else’s office.”
There are various ways that risk can be lessened, including use of filters that catch a greater number of those particles, and drawing more fresh air into a system. It also is likely that higher levels of humidity – a factor that only some Canadian buildings can adjust – will help kill off the virus, said Fleck.
But each of those changes carries a cost. Adding more fresh air can require additional heat or air conditioning. Heavier filters means more energy is needed to push the air through them. And more humidity can lead to mould, he noted.
“This will make for difficult decision making.”
Funded by the Canadian Institute for Health Research, the University of Alberta project is led by engineering professor Lexuan Zhong and also involves pediatrics professor Lisa Hartling. It consists of three phases: systematically reviewing literature on air circulation and viruses, determining what strategies would be effective and then carrying out a detailed audit of all the buildings on the Edmonton campus to create a real-world model of what should be done.
The team hopes to have solid results by the summer of 2021, said Fleck.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020
SpaceX Sent NASA Astronauts Into Orbit Using Linux – Futurism
This past weekend, Elon Musk-led private space company SpaceX made history by launching a pair of NASA astronauts into orbit, an accomplishment that could upset the balance of the international space industry.
According to a terrific breakdown by ZDNet, the historic launch also contributed to a shift in power from proprietary software to open source — by running the Falcon 9 rocket on a version of the open source operating system Linux.
Kernel Space Program
The unspecified version of Linux, according to ZDNet, runs on three dual-core x86 processors — a redundancy system that keeps the astronauts safe by making sure all three units agree before executing each command.
ZDNet also pointed to a 2013 Reddit post in which SpaceX employees confirmed that Dragon and Falcon 9 both on Linux.
SpaceX isn’t the first group to bring open source software into orbit.
The International Space Station itself, where the NASA astronauts launched by SpaceX are now residing, reportedly switched to Linux from Microsoft’s proprietary Windows operating system in 2013.
READ MORE: From Earth to orbit with Linux and SpaceX [ZDNet]
More on Linux: Linux Creator: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter Are “A Disease”
How to watch the 'strawberry moon' eclipse from anywhere Friday – CNET
Get ready to look to the night sky on Friday. A full “strawberry moon” is on the calendar, and it will come with an understated partial eclipse for some parts of the world. While the moon will be at its absolute fullest on Friday around noon PT, you’ll have several opportunities to enjoy the view. The moon will still look full from early Thursday morning through early Sunday morning, NASA said Monday.
North America will miss the eclipse, but the Virtual Telescope Project will livestream the lunar event from Italy above a view of the Rome skyline. Mark your calendar for noon PT on Friday, June 5, and visit the project’s web TV page to join in.
A penumbral eclipse is much more subtle than a total eclipse. The moon slips through the Earth’s outer (penumbral) shadow, which can trigger a slight darkening of the moon. If you didn’t know it was happening, you might miss it. A partial penumbral eclipse like the one on Friday makes it even harder to spot a difference.
Denizens of the moon, however, would notice the effects. “For spacecraft at the Moon such as the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), the reduction in solar power is noticeable,” NASA said.
Unfortunately, the “strawberry” nickname for the June full moon doesn’t refer to a color, but seems to be an old reference to the strawberry harvest season. NASA’s Gordon Johnston rounded up a list of alternative names for this month’s moon, including mead moon, honey moon, hot moon and planting moon.
Even if the eclipse is too faint to detect, you can still take a moment to bask in the light of a lovely full moon this week.
What to expect from the ECB today [Video] – FXStreet
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