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The Algorithm That's Hunting Ebola

Can machine-learning techniques identify disease-carrying species and predict epidemics?

12 min read
The Algorithm That's Hunting Ebola
Culprit Creature: Humans catch zoonotic diseases through contact with infected animals. This fruit bat is a known carrier of Nipah virus, a potentially deadly disease first identified in Malaysia in 1999.
Photo: Joe McDonald/Getty Images

In April 2014, just after world health officials identified a series of suspicious deaths in Guinea as an outbreak of Ebola, 10 ecologists, 4 veterinarians, and an anthropologist traveled to a Guinean village named Meliandou. Theirs was a detective mission to determine how this outbreak began. How had “patient zero,” a 2-year-old boy named Emile, contracted the Ebola virus?

Because we believe people catch Ebola through contact with infected animals, ecologists have long sought the animal “reservoirs” that harbor the virus and pass it along (often without getting sick themselves). With every new outbreak of a zoonotic disease like Ebola, scientists race to identify the reservoirs so that public health officials can determine the method of transmission and perhaps prevent more “spillover events,” in which the disease flows from animal reservoirs to people. Such is today’s post hoc, reactive model of dealing with outbreaks.

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Video Friday: Build a Chair

2 min read
A humanoid robot assembles an Ikea chair next to a human controlling that robot using a hardware system that duplicates limb motions

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos.

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your friends at IEEE Spectrum robotics. We also post a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months. Please send us your events for inclusion.

IEEE CASE 2022: 20–24 August 2022, MEXICO CITY
CLAWAR 2022: 12–14 September 2022, AZORES, PORTUGAL
ANA Avatar XPRIZE Finals: 4–5 November 2022, LOS ANGELES
CoRL 2022: 14–18 December 2022, AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND

Enjoy today's videos!

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Who Actually Owns Tesla’s Data?

The company, says the company—but other interpretations persist

4 min read
Nighttime photograph of a man in a car at an outdoor Tesla charging lot.

A Tesla user charges his Model S in Burbank, California.

Philip Cheung/The New York Times

On 29 September 2020, a masked man entered a branch of Wells Fargo bank in Washington, D.C., and handed the teller a note: “This is a robbery. Act calm give me all hundreds.” The teller complied. The man then fled the bank and jumped into a gray Tesla Model S. This was one of three bank robberies the man attempted the same day.

When FBI agents began investigating, they reviewed Washington, D.C.'s District Department of Transportation camera footage, and spotted a Tesla matching the getaway vehicle’s description. The license plate on that car showed that it was registered to Exelorate Enterprises LLC, the parent company of Steer EV—a DC-based monthly vehicle subscription service.

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Modeling Microfluidic Organ-on-a-Chip Devices

Register for this webinar to enhance your modeling and design processes for microfluidic organ-on-a-chip devices using COMSOL Multiphysics

1 min read
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Comsol

If you want to enhance your modeling and design processes for microfluidic organ-on-a-chip devices, tune into this webinar.

You will learn methods for simulating the performance and behavior of microfluidic organ-on-a-chip devices and microphysiological systems in COMSOL Multiphysics. Additionally, you will see how to couple multiple physical effects in your model, including chemical transport, particle tracing, and fluid–structure interaction. You will also learn how to distill simulation output to find key design parameters and obtain a high-level description of system performance and behavior.

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