tldr: both, but for now everything is in our handsTranslated from a blog post by Derek Lowe, PhD in Organic Chemistry, Pharmaceutical Development Specialist, Columnist for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Chemistry World.
Cover picture: SARS-CoV-2 phylogenetic tree of genomes, circles indicate samples of the last two months, colors indicate different clades. A source: nextstrain.org
Headlines about all kinds of COVID-19 options have been proliferating lately. Some of these materials are simple reports on what is happening ("there was a variant of such and such, but here - here such and such"), but some of them give off an outright alarmism. And although I cannot say that in fact everything is in chocolate, but I am one of those who call for calmness.
Where do the options come from?The first thing to remember is that SARS-CoV-2 variants began to emerge from the very first days of the pandemic. To put it more, anyone who is infected with the coronavirus almost certainly serves as a laboratory for the production of many variants during the course of the disease. It's just that the vast majority of these options are less viable than the original ones that gave rise to them, so they will never make themselves felt. No sooner had we discovered them than they were already gone: and all because they do not have a reproductive advantage (or even obvious disadvantages) in comparison with the original. By the way, the situation is similar with the human body itself: the bulk of point mutations do not manifest themselves in any way, and of those that do appear, most make only worse, sometimes significantly. Beneficial mutations are rare.
Engineers hinted that they hid an encrypted message in a parachute, with which the Perseverance rover landed. It took enthusiasts several hours to solve this puzzle.
When NASA's Perseverance rover crossed the atmosphere of Mars last week , the video camera on the device recorded the dizzying deployment of the parachute, decorated with red-orange and white spots.
A secret message was encoded in these spots.
During a press conference on Monday, Allen Chen , the engineer in charge of the landing system spoke about what could be seen and learned from the slow-motion video.
He added, cryptically and nonchalantly, that his team hopes to inspire others. “Sometimes we leave messages in our work so others can find them and get a dose of motivation,” he said. "Therefore, we invite all of you to participate and show your work."
In the comments under the previous entry about the apocalypse in Iceland, the people did not mind if I told about the unique original - Easter Island. I'll tell you a little.
There is one beautiful and exotic place on our planet: Easter Island. Now it is a practically barren land triangle in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, slightly larger than Kostroma. But this was not always the case, and about 500 years ago, this wilderness was the center of one of the most unusual civilizations in the world.
This civilization created its own pantheon, unique writing and remarkable moai monuments, but then it actually self-destructed, and by the time the Europeans arrived, only a couple of thousand inhabitants remained on the island, diving back into the Stone Age.
What happened? If you read the history of the settlement of the island (the first settlers arrived there on giant rafts, which were so huge by those standards that even "hare passengers" were buried there), then they had to go through a lot. For example, the first detachment of scouts that set off BEFORE the main "wagon train" disappeared into the ocean and for this received one of the iconic compositions on the island of 7 statues.
This is where our hero is at the moment.
Representatives of NASA and JPL immediately after the successful arrival of the rover to Mars gave a press conference, and then shared additional information - about the future fate of the rover. "Seven minutes of horror" did not frighten anyone (although it made them worry), but now the most interesting part begins - the exploration of the Red Planet.
We know where the rover is, but we want to see what surrounds it with our own eyes. And soon such an opportunity will present itself. Plus a lot more interesting things.
There are many examples of a man-made nightmare created by man in the world. What is more amusing, the current example is revered today as an example of avaricious northern beauty, although a thousand years ago it could have claimed the status of “northern paradise”. What is this example?
Iceland before the settlement of the first people was, for a minute, for a THIRD occupied by the forest. Yes, this forest consisted of Icelandic birch, not the best tree. But he was, and the first settlers-Scandinavians, who arrived in the midst of the climatic optimum, liked the island hefty.
A lot of free land, optimum + Gulf Stream - it's not too hot outside, of course, but not too cold. Forests, fresh water ...
The "extra" forests were the first to go for firewood - after all, the sheep need to be grazed somewhere. When firewood was not needed, the forest was simply burned. Then they began to cut down for the sake of wood, since the fin forest did not provide the island for it, and it was expensive to transport logs from the continent.
Legislative initiatives, especially in the United States, have often become the subject of irrepressible controversy and sincere misunderstanding. So today I want to tell you about bill 246 - a legal act that was considered in the Senate of Indiana in 1897.
Three years earlier, rural physician Edward Goodwin (1825-1902), who considered himself a good mathematician, published an article in the American Mathematical Months in which he claimed to have solved the problem of squaring the circle.
A few days ago, researchers drilled the Antarctic shelf in order to take samples of sediments on the ocean floor. Instead, they found a colony of animals that couldn't be there. About their find tells Wired.
To study the history of the continental shelf, geologist James Smith and colleagues wanted to collect sediments on the seabed beneath Antarctica. To get there, they had to melt 20 tons of snow and create 20,000 liters of hot water. This water was pumped into a pipe lowered into a well. Which gradually melted the ice and sank lower and lower. It took them 20 hours to break through a kilometer of ice in this way.
After that, the geologists lowered a soil collection tool along with a GoPro camera into the borehole. But the manifold returned empty. They tried again. It's still empty. It was not possible to collect any soil.
You are at an altitude of ten kilometers, and you fall without a parachute. You have little chance, but a small number of people, finding themselves in a similar situation, managed to survive.
6:59:00, altitude 10,000 m
You went to bed early yesterday and you had an early flight today. You fall asleep shortly after takeoff. And suddenly you wake up abruptly - cold air whistles around you and a noise is heard. Terrible and loud. Where I am? - you think. Where is the plane?
You are at an altitude of 10 km. One. And you fall.
When humans settled in Central America (about 15,000 years ago), they didn't have to domesticate the avocado. Pick these wonderful fruits from the tree and eat. Save the bones and plant wherever you want. No fiddling around raising fruitful varieties from wild ancestors. These are not millennia-long attempts to domesticate corn.
But how did it turn out so well? The fact is that all the breeding work, even before people, was done by someone else, simple, but big. And people came to everything ready.
To understand how this happened, let's observe how natural selection works in plants. To win the competition, they have to come up with clever breeding methods. The task is to spread the seeds over a large area.
If your seeds just fell and rotted under the tree, there is little use. Part of it will certainly germinate, an even smaller part will survive to adulthood. But the population of such trees is at great risk, because the parent is competing with its own children in a small area. You need to spread in all directions and occupy free spaces, then the species will flourish.
Hello, Habr! It so happened that my colleague and I today published a scientific article in BioEssays magazine devoted to the analysis of conspiracy theory, which was originally formulated in the form of a post on Habré. It seemed logical to me to publish the analysis not only on my blog, but also here, especially since kind people invited me here.
In early February this year, WHO specialists who visited Wuhan said at a press conference that they exclude  the version of the artificial origin of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. The virus probably came from bats through an unknown intermediate host.
Indeed, during the epidemic, a lot of versions appeared in the media about the artificial origin of the coronavirus. Most of them suspected the Wuhan laboratory, but there were also accusations against the United States and even the Russian "Vector". It was argued that SARS-CoV-2 was made using the sequences of the HIV genome, human genes, that this is a coronavirus from a scientific publication in the journal Nature - all this was discussed in detail on the pages of my blog