Earth’s Crust Is Shaking Less After Coronavirus Lockdowns

CNN reports:
Around the world, seismologists are observing a lot less ambient seismic noise — meaning, the vibrations generated by cars, trains, buses and people going about their daily lives. And in the absence of that noise, Earth’s upper crust is moving just a little less.
Thomas Lecocq, a geologist and seismologist at the Royal Observatory in Belgium, first pointed out this phenomenon in Brussels. Brussels is seeing about a 30% to 50% reduction in ambient seismic noise since mid-March, around the time the country started implementing school and business closures and other social distancing measures, according to Lecocq. That noise level is on par with what seismologists would see on Christmas Day, he said. The reduction in noise has had a particularly interesting effect in Brussels: Lecocq and other seismologists are able to detect smaller earthquakes and other seismic events that certain seismic stations wouldn’t have registered….

Paula Koelemeijer posted a graph on Twitter showing how noise in West London has been affected, with drops in the period after schools and social venues in the United Kingdom closed and again after a government lockdown was announced. Celeste Labedz, a PhD student at the California Institute of Technology, posted a graph showing an especially stark drop in Los Angeles.
The Belgian seismologist told CNN that the results suggested an inspiring message for humankind. “You feel like you’re alone at home, but we can tell you that everyone is home. Everyone is doing the same. Everyone is respecting the rules.”

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Edge Overtakes Firefox To Become the Second-Most Popular Browser

Long-time Slashdot reader AmiMoJo quotes Softpedia:

It was probably just a matter of time, but the thing so many people, including everyone at Microsoft, expected finally happened: Microsoft Edge surpassed Mozilla Firefox to become the world’s second most-used desktop browser. Data provided by market analysis firm NetMarketShare reveals that the whole thing happened in March, when the adoption of the Chromium-powered Microsoft Edge improved to a level that allowed it to overtake Mozilla’s own browser.

So right now, Microsoft Edge is the second most-used desktop browser on the planet with a share of 7.59%, while Mozilla Firefox is now third with 7.19%.

As for who’s leading the pack, Google Chrome continues to be number one with a share of 68.50%.

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Stanford Begins America’s First Large-Scale Test For Coronavirus Antibodies

“Crowds flock to Santa Clara County test sites to learn if they have antibodies to COVID-19,” reports the Bay Area Newsgroup, citing long lines of cars forming at three Stanford research sites for the drive-through tests:
The 2,500 test slots on Friday and Saturday filled up within hours, as news of the project — the first large scale study of its type in the U.S. — spread quickly through the county. The test detects protective antibodies to the virus rather than the virus itself. This gives scientists a snapshot of how many people in the county have already been infected, but weren’t seriously sick and didn’t realize it. And it tells residents whether they carry potentially protective antibodies — so may be immune to future infection. “This is critical information,” said principal investigator Dr. Eran Bendavid, an infectious disease specialist and professor of medicine with Stanford Health Policy.
“We will show the country what to do and how to do it,” he said… It can guide public health measures and policies — showing where the epidemic is heading, when it is safe to lift shelter-in-place restrictions and how far away we are from “herd immunity,” when it becomes harder for a virus to spread…
This approach, called a “serological test,” remains a research tool and is not yet widely available in the United States. Stanford is working on a second test that will be deployed for more widespread use. U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval is imminent — “within hours, not days,” [California governor] Newsom said…. Meanwhile, a global effort to study antibodies is being coordinated by the World Health Organization. Called Solidarity II, more than a half dozen countries will pool their findings from large-scale testing…
It is not yet proven that these antibodies actually provide protection… But there are promising clues that COVID-19 might act like it’s closest cousin, the SARS virus, which triggers an immune response that persists for at least three years. In a Chinese study of rhesus monkeys, COVID-19 antibodies protected the animals from a second infection.
If protected, people could potentially return to work. There is also the prospect that the antibodies could be used as therapy against the disease. Dozens of companies are working to develop antibody tests, as are researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The article notes that United Biomedical Inc will “soon” also provide free antibody testing to all 8,000 residents in Telluride, Colorado, and in some countries in Asia.

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What It’s Like To Attend a Conference — in Person — in the Age of Covid-19?

What happens when no one shows up for a tech conference?
Fast Company’s technology editor harrymcc writes:
From Apple to Microsoft to Google, major tech companies have responded to the coronavirus crisis by either canceling their 2020 conference or making them purely virtual. But one well-established event — Vancouver’s CanSecWest — went ahead earlier this month, with streaming as an option but not mandatory. Only three attendees showed up in the flesh. But so did security reporter Seth Rosenblatt, who wrote about the eerie experience for Fast Company.

They were outnumbed by the six staffers at the event — “there to run the online component” — but the article notes that the conference’s organizer and founder promised all attendees “infrared body temperature checks, on-site coronavirus testing, ample supplies of disposable face masks and hand sanitizer, and restrictions on physical contact and interaction…”

“Empty hallways and escalators echoed with every footstep, and it smelled empty, the ventilation system circulating unused air. At the conference registration desk, I was offered a disposable surgical face mask and gloves.”

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Could Radioactivity Make Otherwise Frozen Planets Habitable?

sciencehabit writes: Not too close, but not too far. That’s long been the rule describing how distant a planet should be from its star in order to sustain life. But a new study challenges that adage: A planet can maintain water and other liquids on its surface if it’s heated, not by starlight, but by radioactive decay, researchers calculate. That opens up the possibility for many planets — even free-floating worlds untethered to stars — to host life, they speculate.

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How To Get To Net Zero Carbon Emissions: Cut Short-Lived Superpollutants

Dan Drollette writes: We absolutely, positively, must tackle climate change speedily. Or as the authors of this article put it: ‘By ‘speed,’ we mean measures — including regulatory ones — that can begin within two-to-three years, be substantially implemented in five-to-10 years, and produce a climate response within the next decade or two.’ (Quick aside: one of the authors, Mario Molina, won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1995, for his work on holes in the ozone layer.)

From the article:
Rapid warming over the near term threatens to accelerate self-reinforcing feedbacks in which the planet starts to warm itself in a Hothouse Earth scenario — vicious cycles which could lead to uncontrollable warming as these feedback mechanisms become the dominant force regulating the climate system. These feedbacks would then set off a domino-like cascade that triggers tipping points in the Arctic and elsewhere, many of them irreversible and potentially catastrophic.

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Why Taiwan’s Coronavirus Response Is Among The Best Globally

Why does Taiwan have less than 400 confirmed cases of Covid-19? Taiwan’s experience with the 2003 SARS outbreak “helped many parts of the region react faster to the current coronavirus outbreak and take the danger more seriously than in other parts of the world,” reports CNN, “both at a governmental and societal level, with border controls and the wearing of face masks quickly becoming routine as early as January in many areas.”

Their article also notes that Taiwan “has a world-class health care system, with universal coverage,” which drew praise in new report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association:
“Taiwan rapidly produced and implemented a list of at least 124 action items in the past five weeks to protect public health,” report co-author Jason Wang, a Taiwanese doctor and associate professor of pediatrics at Stanford Medicine, said in a statement. “The policies and actions go beyond border control because they recognized that that wasn’t enough.” This was while other countries were still debating whether to take action. In a study conducted in January, Johns Hopkins University said Taiwan was one of the most at-risk areas outside of mainland China — owing to its close proximity, ties and transport links.

Among those early decisive measures was the decision to ban travel from many parts of China, stop cruise ships docking at the island’s ports, and introduce strict punishments for anyone found breaching home quarantine orders. In addition, Taiwanese officials also moved to ramp up domestic face-mask production to ensure the local supply, rolled out island-wide testing for coronavirus — including re-testing people who had previously unexplained pneumonia — and announced new punishments for spreading disinformation about the virus.
“Given the continual spread of Covid-19 around the world, understanding the action items that were implemented quickly in Taiwan, and the effectiveness of these actions in preventing a large-scale epidemic, may be instructive for other countries,” Wang and his co-authors wrote…. Taiwan is in such a strong position now that, after weeks of banning the export of face masks in order to ensure the domestic supply, the government said Wednesday that it would donate 10 million masks to the United States, Italy, Spain and nine other European countries, as well as smaller nations who have diplomatic ties with the island.

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Coronavirus: Could Etsy Help Save the World?

Long-time Slashdot reader theodp writes: With the CDC now recommending wearing cloth face coverings in public settings, Etsy has called in the cavalry, encouraging additional sellers on its platform to start creating and offering face masks to help meet an already significant demand for fabric face masks. “We believe that the Etsy community is uniquely positioned to address this crucial need during a global health crisis,” Etsy CEO Josh Silverman said in a statement. “We hope that increasing the availability of fabric, non-medical grade face masks from Etsy sellers will allow more medical and surgical masks to reach the people who need them most: front-line health care workers.”

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Attack Campaign Hits Thousands of MS-SQL Servers For Two Years

“In December, security researchers noticed an uptick in brute-force attacks against publicly exposed Microsoft SQL servers,” reports CSOnline.

“It turns out the attacks go as far back as May 2018 and infect on average a couple thousand database servers every day with remote access Trojans and cryptominers.”

Slashdot reader itwbennett writes:
While the primary goal of the attack seems to be cryptocurrency mining, “what makes these database servers appealing for attackers apart from their valuable CPU power is the huge amount of data they hold,” say researchers from Guardicore who investigated the attacks. The researchers also note that most machines (60%) stay infected only briefly, but “almost 20% of all breached servers remained infected for more than a week and even longer than two weeks,” and 10% become reinfected…

[T]he attackers aggressively remove malware from competitors from targeted machines.
Many of the infected machines are located in America, India, South Korea, and Turkey, according to the article, which adds that the researchers traced the campaign back to China.
“The scans and attacks originate from Chinese IP addresses — likely associated with infected and hijacked machines — and the command-and-control servers are also hosted in China and use Chinese language for their web-based management interfaces.”

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The Story of The Doctor Who Ordered America’s First Covid-19 Lockdown

Long-time Slashdot reader bsharma shared the story of doctor/public health officer who “went first,” ordering America’s very first coronavirus lockdown in six counties on March 16th after the identification of only the 7th known case of Covid-19 in the United States.
The Bay Area Newsgroup reports that on January 31st, Cody’s cellphone rang at 6:49 a.m. “You’ve got your first positive,” the voice said.

Right then, Cody — Santa Clara County’s Public Health Officer since 2013 — was positive that even by Silicon Valley standards, life as we know it here was about to change….
Back in the early 2000s, with the country on edge after 9/11, Cody, Karen Smith and Marty Fenstersheib led the health department’s effort to build Santa Clara County’s model for a massive, coordinated emergency response to a bioterrorism attack or pandemic that included social distancing, shutting schools and the most extreme, mandating that people stay home. It’s the one they would turn to this month to slow the untraceable path of this new disease known as COVID-19. “None of us really believed we would do it,” Smith, 63, said in a recent interview. “I was slightly terrified to think we were putting in place stay-at-home orders, tools that we think work but don’t really know….”
Through the years, Cody has learned that public health officers never have all the information they need and are always operating with uncertainty. But the stakes are so much higher now. The second confirmed case of coronavirus in the county came 48 hours after the first; both were travelers from China. But the criteria for sending swabs for testing to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta was so stringent and the bottleneck for test results so long, that the county was left hamstrung trying to figure out how big of a problem it really had. Not until nearly a month later, on Feb. 28, two days after the county was finally given authorization to use its own lab and judgment for testing, was the third “positive” confirmed.

It would be a “sentinel case” — a turning point for the virus’ spread across the Bay Area — a woman in her 60s with other health conditions. Unlike the first two, this was a clear case of “community transmission,” meaning the woman had become infected somewhere in our community, with no clear connection to a traveler. “In very short order,” Cody said, “it became apparent we needed to start scaling up fast….” By March 9, the sick woman in her 60s — the sentinel case — had died, and 43 cases had been confirmed, the highest of any county in California. Santa Clara County would now be branded across the country as a coronavirus “hot zone….”
“It was clear to me already how quickly it was moving, and that’s what gave me a sense of urgency,” Cody said. “We just needed to embrace the risk and do it.”
“I recognize that this is unprecedented,” Cody said in announcing the lockdown. “But we must come together to do this and we know we need a regional response… We must all do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19.”
A professor of epidemiology at the University of California San Francisco has told the same newspaper “That’s going to turn out to be — if all goes well and I’m reading the tea leaves right — one of the major public health triumphs of modern times.” That article reports that while California had roughly the same number of cases as New York in the first week of March, “by the end of the month, New York had 75,795 cases while California had a tenth of that — 7,482.”
An infectious disease doctor (and associate executive director with Permanente Medical Group) also told Politico Tuesday that at Kaiser Permanente hospitals across Northern California, they’re “seeing a leveling off of Covid-19 cases in our hospitals.” And one writer even quoted an emergency room doctor at the UCSF hospital who said last weekend they’d seen less than half the normal number of emergency room patients, and “My colleagues at Stanford, as well as at other facilities in San Francisco report much of the same conditions in their hospitals…

“It seems very likely, that the ‘shelter in place’ policy has had a significant, positive effect on containing the spread of COVID-19 in the Bay Area.”

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