Tag Archives: Omicron Variant

Morning News: Omicron Infections Soar, Maxwell Guilty, Russia-Ukraine

The Omicron variant is behind the new record for daily infections in the United States, but there are scientists who say it isn’t as bad as some may think.

A jury found British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell guilty of facilitating the abuse of underage girls at the hands of wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein. And, President Vladimir Putin has requested a phone call with President Joe Biden amid heightened tension on the Russian border with Ukraine.

Morning News: Pandemic To Endemic, Addictive Video Gaming, Bangladesh

The lightning-fast spread of a seemingly milder coronavirus variant may represent a shift from pandemic to endemic; we ask how that would change global responses. 

 Concern about video-game addictiveness is as old as video games themselves—but the business models of modern gaming may be magnifying the problem. And newly publicised photographs shed light on Bangladesh’s brutal war for independence.

Science: Brain Cells Wired To The Matrix, DeepMind Search Engine, Omicron

In a step towards creating intelligent cyborg brains, Cortical Labs in Melbourne have trained lab-grown brain organoids to play a classic 1970s video game. The team explains how the brain cells live in a Matrix-like, simulated world, where all they know is Pong. 

And there’s more AI news, as the team digs into DeepMind’s invention of a ‘search engine’ style supercomputer, one much smaller than its competitors. The team discusses sleep, and how manipulating the hypnagogic phase of sleep can lead to bursts of creativity. As the holiday season approaches, Omicron shows no signs of letting up, so the team brings you up to speed on what we know so far. And they bring two bird related stories, one about the superpowers of zebra finches and the other about the link between personality types and feather colours in turkeys. On the pod are Rowan Hooper, Penny Sarchet, Michael Le Page, Clare Wilson and Matt Sparkes. To read about these stories and much more, subscribe at newscientist.com/podcasts.

Analysis: Omicron & The Economy, Stablecoins & Russia’s Gulag Legacy

A selection of three essential articles read aloud from the latest issue of The Economist. This week: what the Omicron variant means for the world economy, what experiments with “free banking” in the 18th and 19th centuries reveal about the future of stablecoins (10:53) and how the legacy of Stalin’s gulag continues to shape Russian fortunes (18:16).

Morning News: Omicron & Africa, Philippines Voters, Office Parties In Japan

We discuss whether Omicron will exacerbate global vaccine inequality and the controversy surrounding a presidential contender in the Philippines. Plus: why are Japanese workers dreading the office Christmas party?

Morning News: Omicron Variant, Lebanon Unrest, Aviation & Entertainment

We get the latest on the global reaction to the Omicron variant and discuss the growing unrest over the economic situation in Lebanon. Plus: the latest aviation news and a record-breaking week in the entertainment industry.

Covid-19: Why Omicron Concerns Scientists (WSJ)

The B.1.1.529 variant was first reported to WHO from South Africa on 24 November 2021. The epidemiological situation in South Africa has been characterized by three distinct peaks in reported cases, the latest of which was predominantly the Delta variant. In recent weeks, infections have increased steeply, coinciding with the detection of B.1.1.529 variant. The first known confirmed B.1.1.529 infection was from a specimen collected on 9 November 2021.

This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning. Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other VOCs. The number of cases of this variant appears to be increasing in almost all provinces in South Africa. Current SARS-CoV-2 PCR diagnostics continue to detect this variant. Several labs have indicated that for one widely used PCR test, one of the three target genes is not detected (called S gene dropout or S gene target failure) and this test can therefore be used as marker for this variant, pending sequencing confirmation. Using this approach, this variant has been detected at faster rates than previous surges in infection, suggesting that this variant may have a growth advantage.