Researchers have created a gel out of ingredients that are safe to eat, including gelatine – which can be fully degraded by the body – citric acid to stop bacterial growth and glycerol for softness and to prevent dehydration. The gel was used to make a robot that mimics an elephant’s trunk and found that it could withstand more than 330,000 cycles of non-stop movements without drying out or cracking. They also added a pressure sensor to another robot made from the gel, a toy elephant, that allowed it to grip objects with its trunk. The biogel could be used for administering drugs to animals through the creation of a robot disguised as prey or food.
After testing a beta version in India, WhatsApp has launched in-app payments in Brazil. The payments are enabled through Facebook Pay, which parent company Facebook said it would be rolling out to Instagram, Messenger, Facebook, and eventually WhatsApp. WhatsApp says its digital payments are an open model that will allow it to add more partners in the future. There will be no fees for consumers to use the payments service, but merchants will pay a processing fee to receive payments. Users need to link a credit or debit card to their WhatsApp account, and transactions are secured with either fingerprint or a six-digit PIN.
Researchers have discovered that apple peel contains a chemical compound that could repair neurons and halt the disease process of multiple sclerosis (MS). Scientists say ursolic acid – which is found in fruit peels such as apples, pears, and prunes – could be made into the first drug capable of reversing the damages caused by the disease. The acid was introduced to paralysed mice with advanced stages of MS. Some of the mice were able to walk again suggesting that the worsening condition came to a halt. If the results were to be the same in humans, this would commensurate to patients walking with a stick instead of requiring a wheelchair.
Combination antiretroviral therapy, or cART, can significantly lower concentrations of the HIV virus in the body. However, if cART treatment pauses, the virus may re-emerge from hidden sanctuaries in the body. A new study suggests that one of these hideouts is in brain cells called astrocytes. Astrocytes constitute 60% of the total cells in the human brain and in an infected person, the study estimates that between 1% and 3% of these cells could harbour HIV. If the virus can exit the brain and trigger infection elsewhere, as the mouse study indicates, “we do need to figure out how to eliminate the virus from these compartments” to devise a successful cure.
Walmart has partnered with e-commerce giant Shopify to expand its third-party marketplace site and grab more of the pandemic-fuelled surge in online shopping. The world’s largest retailer aims to add 1,200 Shopify sellers this year. The company’s marketplace site grew at a faster pace than Walmart’s overall web business in the first quarter. Third-party sales are more profitable as the sellers pay a fee when a sale is made and often shoulder the delivery costs. The collaboration is Walmart’s attempt to expand the scale and profitability of its US$21.5 billion U.S. e-commerce business, which is gaining ground on market leader Amazon.com but continues to lose money.
AstraZeneca has signed a contract with European governments to supply the region with its potential vaccine against the coronavirus, the British drugmaker’s latest deal to pledge its drug to help combat the pandemic. The contract is for up to 400 million doses of the vaccine, developed by the University of Oxford,adding that it was looking to expand manufacturing of the vaccine, which it said it would provide for no profit during the pandemic. The vaccine is still in clinical trials. If the trial results convince regulators the vaccine is safe and effective, deliveries would be expected to start by the end of 2020.
According to new calculations, there could be more than 30 intelligent civilisations in our galaxy capable of communicating with others. This not only offers insights into the chances of life beyond Earth, but could shed light on our own future and place in the cosmos. “[If intelligent life forms] in a scientific way, not just a random way or just a very unique way, then you would expect at least this many civilisations within our galaxy.” There are likely between 4 and 211 civilisations in the Milky Way today capable of communicating with others, with 36 the most likely figure.
Women across Switzerland have let loose with screams demanding equal treatment and an end to violence at the hands of men. Thousands of marchers in Geneva and other Swiss cities screamed for a minute at 3.24pm – the time of day when women technically start working free given the wage gap. Switzerland has a high quality of life but lags other developed economies in women’s pay and workplace equality. Women earn roughly a fifth less than men. They also staged a flash mob and held a minute’s silence for women killed by husbands or boyfriends.