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Shooting stars are a neat freak’s nightmare. Although a breathtaking sight, every year heaps of their dying ashes—tiny dust grains known as micrometeorites—litter our planet. But until recently, researchers couldn’t exactly quantify how messy things were.
Now, a team of cosmochemists finally have an answer, after digging up thousands of micrometeorites in the middle of Antarctica.
Where does all this space dust come from, anyway? Our solar system is home to what’s called the zodiacal cloud—a shroud of cosmic dust suffused between the inner planets. As the Earth ploughs through this dusty curtain, it catches (literally) tons of tiny particles, which gravity pulls to our planet’s surface. Some of them catch fire as they hurtle through our atmosphere, creating those lucky wish-makers.
But all the activity on Earth generates plenty of dust, too, making the measurement of just space dust pretty difficult. That’s why researchers went to Antarctica.
“Central Antarctica is a desert. So it’s totally isolated,” says Jean Duprat, a cosmochemist at the Sorbonne University in France. This means there’s very little normal or “terrestrial” dust to cause confusion. The frozen wasteland is flat and white, with no color and no smells, he says. A strange place, but excellent for looking for ancient extraterrestrial dust, which could reveal clues about the early formation of the solar system.
Left: Location of the CONCORDIA station (Dome C, Antarctica). Right: View of a trench where micrometeorites were harvested. Via Science Direct. J.Rojasa, J.Duprat, et. al.
Duprat and Cecile Engrand, another cosmochemist from the Paris-Saclay University, first went to Antarctica almost two decades ago to search for this cosmic detritus. Together, they recently published a new study which estimates that over 5,000 metric tons of micrometeorites make it to Earth each year.
That’s the equivalent of about 25 to 30 blue whales, the largest animals to ever have lived. The amount isn’t too surprising, but until now scientists have had a hard time getting a precise measurement.
[Related: Baked meteorite dust can simulate alien atmospheres]
In most parts of the world, dirt, rain, and other factors make it hard to find micrometeorites, and next to impossible to figure out how many fell in a specific amount of time. Thankfully, the pristinely barren, icy stretches of inland Antarctica are the perfect place to look.
The temperature never gets above freezing, so micrometeorites get trapped in progressive layers of snowfall. When researchers dig beneath the surface, then, they’re looking back in time—like examining the rings of a tree. By scooping out successive layers of frozen micrometeorites, they can figure out how many fell in a given amount of time.
“This is a very nice systematic piece of science, and it’s an important result. It’s really helping us better understand what’s hitting us,” says Larry Nittler, a cosmochemist who studies meteorites and space dust at the Carnegie Science Institute, who was not involved in the study.
On the expeditions, researchers dug several meters down in snow and ice near the French and Italian CONCORDIA station in Antarctica. They put the snow in big plastic barrels which they hauled back to base, then melted the snow and strained out the cosmic dust, making sure to remove any occasional contaminants. Finally, they brought the filtered space dustbins back to a lab to analyze their catch.
They found more than 2,000 individual micrometeorites of different varieties. The two broad types they found were unmelted meteorites, which are wonky shaped and kind of fuzzy looking, and “cosmic spherules” which get hot enough to melt while blazing through the Earth’s atmosphere at high speed.
Cosmic spherules and unmelted micrometeorites from CONCORDIA collection. From left to right: glassy cosmic spherule, stony cosmic spherule, partially melted (scoriaceous) micrometeorite, unmelted fine-grained micrometeorite. Via Science Direct. J.Rojasa, J.Duprat, et. al.
“The ones that are going faster get completely melted,” Nittler says. Researchers still can’t fully predict why some particles melt while others are barely heated at all by their passage through the atmosphere, Engrand says, though larger particles tend to go faster.
The authors think that most of the micrometeorites came from icy comets originating in the Kuiper belt, not rocky asteroids—which seems to support the idea that the zodiacal cloud is continually restocked from passing comets. Unless, Nittler says, new weird data from the Juno space probe pans out, suggesting that zodiacal dust may be from Mars’ direction instead, which, he says, “makes no sense.”
You're reading 5,000 Tons Of Ancient ‘Extraterrestrial Dust’ Fall On Earth Each Year
Usually, I avoid making predictions. However, increasingly, I believe that the sleeper trend of 2014 will be free-licensed hardware — and that its availability could transform free and open source software (FOSS) as well as hardware manufacturing.
Meanwhile, the newly founded MakePlayLive is developing the KDE-based Vivaldi tablet, and has released the Improv engineering board to help small developers bring their product to market. Almost certainly, others are flying under the radar.
Having FOSS on commercial devices is hardly new, of course. As Jim Zemlin, the executive director of The Linux Foundation, is fond of pointing out, Linux increasingly runs the hardware of our daily lives.
What makes these efforts different is that they are not simply cases of corporations using FOSS to speed development and shorten time to market. Instead, to varying degrees, they represent the new trend of community projects starting to manufacture hardware and entering the commercial market.
For some, the trend is a small step. Ubuntu has always been dominated by its commercial arm Canonical, while the size of Mozilla has often made it seem as much a corporation as a community.
But for others, the trend means combining the community and the commercial in a way unimagined since the idealistic days of The Cluetrain Manifesto. It not only means making devices that are as free-licensed as possible, but also attempting to graft FOSS ethics on to business. Make PlayLive, for example, sees itself as a “cooperative brand” much like a FOSS project, consisting of a group of individuals who pool their skills to accomplish what they could never do by themselves.Transformative Works
Many of these efforts are going to fail — not necessarily because they are flawed, but because most new manufacturing ventures fail. Manufacturers and distributors of computerized hardware are intensely conservative, and newcomers without a record of success have trouble gaining footholds. Even when they do strike deals, their products are often not promoted with the same enthusiasm as products that are the clones of popular devices.
Many, too, are entering saturated markets. Often, one effort at free hardware will be competing against others.
All the same, the very effort to create free hardware is likely to reverberate through the FOSS community. For one thing, the effort means that pockets of the community are going to have a knowledge of manufacturing that, right now, very few have. Simply by trying to market their devices, participants are going to shed the naive suspicion of business that is still a feature of many parts of FOSS community and replace it with practical, firsthand experience.
Such experience can hardly help but change the way participants interact with companies like Google or IBM, for whom FOSS is primarily one strategy among many. The community will gain negotiating strength simply by being better informed and better able to assess announcements and events. It will be able to look after its own interests better.
Furthermore, if some of this community-based capitalism succeeds, the effects will be even greater. As the number of people involved simultaneously with the community and commercial efforts increases, new roles and relationships emerge. It already sounds, for instance, as though MakePlayLive is reinventing the idea of the cooperative.
But what happens if free hardware becomes a priority for dozens of small manufacturers over the next decade? Then, slowly, free hardware gains a voice in the industry, and perhaps manufacturers rethink proprietary firmware, and completely free devices become a market choice.
Yes, the idea is quixotic, even absurd. But so was free software once, and now it is a serious alternative.
The way events are shaping, 2014 could become the start of all these changes, to say nothing of others that we can’t foresee. Win or lose, these efforts at open hardware promise to renew the idealism and plans for world domination that are FOSS at its best.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
Ancient Egyptian architecture is characterized by the use of massive stone structures, such as pyramids and temples, that were built for religious and funerary purposes. The most famous examples of ancient Egyptian architecture are the pyramids of Giza, which were built during the Fourth Dynasty.
The pyramid’s internal structure and layout were also highly symbolic and were designed to protect the pharaoh’s body and help his soul ascend to the afterlife. The ancient Egyptians were skilled engineers and used complex techniques to build their monumental structures and transport and place massive stone blocks.
Statue of Pharaoh KhafreHow Did the Egyptian Pyramid Architecture Evolve and Develop?
The first pyramids were built during the Third Dynasty of Egypt, around 2600 BCE. These early pyramids were called mastabas and were flat-roofed, rectangular structures built of mud brick.
The most famous pyramids, such as the Great Pyramid of Giza, were built during the Fourth Dynasty. These pyramids were constructed of limestone and granite and had smooth, angled sides, forming a true pyramid shape.
The pyramid shape was thought to symbolize the sun, with the pointed top representing the sun’s rays, and the shape of the pyramid itself representing the sun’s rays shining down on the earth.
The pyramid was believed to be a place of rebirth for the pharaoh, who would rise from the dead and ascend to the heavens to live among the gods.
The pyramid was also a symbol of the pharaoh’s god-like status, and was believed to be a place where the pharaoh would be united with the gods in the afterlife.What innovations were made in Ancient Egypt?
Ancient Egyptians developed a writing system known as hieroglyphics, which was used for religious texts and monumental inscriptions.
They also developed a system of mathematics, including the concept of a fraction and the use of a decimal system.
They were skilled engineers and built monumental structures such as the pyramids, using complex techniques to quarry, transport and place massive stone blocks.
They had a complex system of medicine and were able to perform simple surgeries, such as removing tumors and setting broken bones.
They had a complex system of irrigation and used it to cultivate crops in the desert.
They also developed a system of mummification to preserve the bodies of the dead for the afterlife.
They used a sundial to measure time and a water clock to measure the passage of hours.Characteristics of ancient Egyptian sculpture and painting?
Ancient Egyptian sculptures were highly stylized and symbolic, often depicting gods and pharaohs in a formal, idealized manner.
They used a technique called frontalism, which emphasized the front of the figure, and profile views were avoided.
They used hieroglyphs in their painting and sculptures.
They used a wide range of materials, including stone, wood, metal, and faience (a type of glazed ceramic).
They often used bright colors in their paintings, such as blue, red, gold, and black.
They often used symbolism in their art, such as the ankh (symbol of life) and the scarab (symbol of regeneration).
They had a deep understanding of balance and proportion and often used it in their sculptures.What are examples of Egyptian Sculpture?
The Great Sphinx at Giza: a massive limestone statue of a lion with a human head, thought to represent the pharaoh Khafre.
The statue of Khafre: a granite statue depicting the pharaoh Khafre seated on a throne. This statue is considered one of the most realistic and detailed sculptures from ancient Egypt and it shows the pharaoh in a traditional pose.
The statue of Ramses II: a granite statue depicting the pharaoh Ramses II standing, wearing the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt.
The statue of Hatshepsut: a granite statue depicting the pharaoh Hatshepsut, the first female pharaoh, standing in a traditional pharaonic pose.
The statue of Akhenaten: a limestone statue depicting the pharaoh Akhenaten, who introduced a new religious doctrine that centered on the worship of the sun god Aten.
The statue of Anubis: a wooden statue depicting the god Anubis, the god of mummification and the afterlife. This statue is considered an important representation of the god Anubis.
The statue of Bastet: a bronze statue depicting the goddess Bastet, the goddess of cats, music, and dance. This statue is considered an important representation of the goddess Bastet.Conclusion
In conclusion, ancient Egyptian art, architecture, and technology were heavily influenced by their religious beliefs and practices. The art produced during this time period, was highly stylized and symbolic, with a focus on religious and funerary themes. The Egyptian pyramids are one of the most iconic examples of their architectural achievements, serving as both a symbol of the pharaohs’ power and prestige and as a place of rebirth for the pharaohs in the afterlife. Their art, architecture, and technology greatly influenced the art and architecture of other cultures and continue to be studied and admired today.FAQs
Q1. What was the purpose of hieroglyphics in ancient Egypt?
Ans. Hieroglyphics was the writing system used in ancient Egypt, primarily for religious texts and monumental inscriptions. The system was used to record historical events, religious texts, and to commemorate the pharaohs and their achievements.
Q2. What materials were commonly used in ancient Egyptian sculpture?
Ans. The ancient Egyptians commonly used materials such as stone, wood, metal, and faience (a type of glazed ceramic) in their sculptures. Stone was the most commonly used material for monumental sculptures, while wood, metal, and faience were used for smaller, more portable works.
Q3. How were the ancient Egyptians able to quarry and transport massive stone blocks for the construction of their monumental structures?
Ans. The ancient Egyptians were skilled engineers and used a combination of techniques such as ramps, pulleys, and levers to quarry and transport the massive stone blocks used in their monumental structures. The blocks were transported on barges down the Nile River to the construction site.
Move-in Street Smarts
On Monday, August 24, and from Wednesday, August 26, through Sunday, August 30, West Campus students moving into Claflin, Sleeper, and Rich Halls will be directed to park in the Langsam Garage and lot (formerly known as the Babcock Street garage and lot). Students moving into 1019 Commonwealth Ave. can park in the garage or in metered spaces.
On Monday, August 24, and from Wednesday, August 26, through Sunday, August 30, Student Village residents moving into 10 Buick St. or 33 Harry Agganis Way will be directed to park in the Agganis Arena garage.
On Sunday, August 30, Harry Agganis Way and Buick Street will be closed from 1 to 4 p.m.
On Monday, August 24, and from Wednesday, August 26, through Sunday, August 30, there will be no unloading of vehicles in front of Warren Towers. Access will be through the Warren Towers garage.
On Monday, August 24, and from Wednesday, August 26, through Sunday, August 30, Buswell Street will be converted to a one-way street going west, from Park Drive to St. Mary’s Street, and going east, from Park Drive to Mountfort Street, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Wednesday, August 26, through Sunday, August 30, Bay State Road will be closed to through traffic from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Only residents, delivery trucks, and students moving into BU will be allowed access.
On Sunday, August 30, the BU Bridge will be closed for approximately 30 minutes, from 1:15 to 1:45 p.m.
It’s officially here: Move-in 2024, the annual onslaught of undergraduates arriving on the Charles River Campus. In anticipation, several BU offices, including Housing, Dining, Parking, Orientation, and the BU Police Department, have spent much of the summer strategizing over details to make it go as smoothly as possible.
An estimated 1,600 students were expected Monday, among them 700 freshmen and transfers participating in this year’s First-Year Student Outreach Project (FYSOP), which brings new students to campus a week early to perform community service at sites across the Boston area. Others arriving Monday were orientation leaders and athletes gearing up for their fall seasons, says Marc Robillard, executive director of housing and dining.
No move-in was scheduled for Tuesday, August 25, but Wednesday, August 26, was expected to be the week’s busiest day, with as many as 2,600 students arriving. It also happened to be the first day of the final freshman orientation session, attended largely by international students and those from far-flung corners of the United States. Scarlet Squad members, the red-shirted upperclassmen who assist first-year students during Move-in, also arrived Wednesday to be ready for the freshmen and their families needing help Saturday and Sunday lugging gear into their new digs.
There will be a lull on Thursday and Friday, August 27 and 28, with only 1,000 students expected each day. Traffic will pick up again on Saturday, August 29, when most of the remaining freshmen arrive ahead of the Matriculation ceremony on Sunday, August 30, where the 3,625 members of the Class of 2023 will gather together in Agganis Arena at 2 p.m.
New students can move in on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and on Sunday from 9 a.m. to noon. Continuing students can move in Sunday from noon to 5:30 p.m. and on Monday, August 31, from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Resident assistants will check students in and parking lot attendants will help direct traffic.
A special Move-in weekend shuttle will run up and down Commonwealth Avenue on Saturday, August 29, and Sunday, August 30, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. The shuttle will stop at 13 locations between Kenmore Square and Agganis Arena. This is in addition to the regular BU Shuttle (BUS), which travels between the Charles River and Medical Campuses.
During Move-in week, the BUPD will reroute traffic at specific spots across campus, and officers will be on hand to direct drivers during the following changes:Bay State Road
Wednesday, August 26, through Sunday, August 30, Bay State Road will be closed to through traffic from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Only residents, delivery trucks, and students moving in to BU will be allowed access.700 Commonwealth Avenue (Warren Towers)
On Monday, August 24, and from Wednesday, August 26, through Sunday, August 30, no vehicles will be allowed to unload in front of Warren Towers. Access will be through the Warren Towers garage only.South Campus
On Monday, August 24, and from Wednesday, August 26, through Sunday, August 30, Buswell Street will be converted to a one-way street going west from Park Drive to St. Mary’s Street, and going east from Park Drive to Mountfort Street, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.BU Bridge
On Sunday, August 30, the BU Bridge will be closed for approximately 30 minutes, from 1:15 to 1:45 p.m., as thousands of freshmen join Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore (SED’87) in the annual procession along Commonwealth Avenue from East Campus to Agganis Arena, for Matriculation.Harry Agganis Way and Buick Street
On Monday, August 24, and from Wednesday, August 26, through Sunday, August 30, Student Village residents moving into 10 Buick St. or 33 Harry Agganis Way will be directed to park in the Agganis Arena garage.
On Sunday, August 30, Harry Agganis Way and Buick Street will be closed from 1 to 4 p.m. for Matriculation.
The Agganis Arena lot (the lower outdoor service lot) will be closed to faculty and staff parking permit holders Monday, August 24, through Sunday, August 30.Babcock Street
On Monday, August 24, and from Wednesday, August 26, through Sunday, August 30, West Campus students moving into Claflin, Sleeper, and Rich Halls will be directed to park in the Langsam Garage and lot (formerly known as the Babcock Street garage and lot); the garage entrance is on Gardner Street. Students moving into 1019 Commonwealth Ave. can park in the garage or in metered spaces.
The Langsam Garage and lot (formerly known as the Babcock Street garage and lot) will have limited spaces for faculty and staff parking permit holders from Monday, August 24, through Sunday, August 30; the garage entrance is on Gardner Street.
Have a question about Move-in week? Leave it in the Comment section below.
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While all large and successful organizations have already gone through significant digital transformation, 2023 may be the year that small and medium-sized businesses dive in headfirst. Are you ready to join the fold by embracing the next iteration of the business world?What is Digital Transformation?
Digital transformation has been called a lot of things over the years. And while some would argue that it’s nothing more than a buzzword, those who are involved with it know that it’s more than conceptual. When executed with vision and precision, it can revolutionize a business from the inside out.
Greater efficiency. Think about the bottlenecks in your business – the things that slow down processes, frustrate employees, and prevent you from reaching your full potential. In many cases, technology is involved. And if we dig a layer deeper, we’ll find that these technologies are outdated and/or being improperly leveraged. The beauty of digital transformation is that it allows you to fight through these bottlenecks and speed up your business through greater efficiency and output.
Better decision-making. It’s not enough to have data. You need to know what to do with that data. Digital transformation ensures you’re collecting and interpreting data correctly, which allows you to improve decision-making and guide your company in a better direction.
Enhanced customer satisfaction. Research from Gartner shows that more than 81 percent of companies are competing primarily on customer experience. And as we said on the front end of this piece, digital transformation is ultimately about the customer. By enhancing customer satisfaction, businesses can cultivate loyalty and squash the competition.
Increased profitability. An impressive 56 percent of CEOs say digital improvements have helped them increase revenue in the past. And as we move forward into a world where digital transformation becomes even more integral to the health and well-being of organizations, we’ll see this number grow even more.
Superior company culture. While customers may be the focal point, digital transformation has a positive impact on employees as well. Over time, this emphasis on digital transformation fosters a superior company culture that reduces turnover by elevating retention.6 Strategies for Seamless Digital Transformation
Digital transformation does not happen overnight. It takes years and months of appropriate planning and careful implementation. But, you may start experiencing positive results almost instantly. Here are a Couple of Pointers to Help you Do Precisely That:1. Gain Top-Down Buy-In
There’s not any digital transformation with no comprehensive buy-in from most organizational stakeholders. And more especially, you have to start the procedure with buy in the C-suite.2. Assign a Point Person
Do not be tricked into believing you could roll out a whole digital transformation approach using a hodgepodge group of men and women who have their hands in a dozen additional duties and obligations. If you would like to be effective with your strategy, you ought to find somebody who can guide the way. This may seem like employing a new man for your occupation or reassigning a person. In any situation, make certain to practice discernment.
There are a couple of important features to search for, such as an extensive comprehension of the digital market, in addition to a character that is conducive to building rapport and transferring others to action.
“They need to comprehend the effects of a brand new business model.
Also read: 10 Best Saas Marketing Tools And Platforms For 20233. Establish Clear Vision
Your”point person” will be responsible for helping to explain and communicate the vision to your electronic transformation strategy. It is more important your eyesight is comprehensive than tricky. It ought to be a holistic however specific notion that believes every part of the business.
Budget and operational costs
Your eyesight basically amounts to an electronic roadmap for your future. It clarifies where you are going and which elements of your company the plan will touch. (Which ought to wind up being each section, component, and strength.)4. Evaluate Current Gaps
Have a look at your present tech stack/processes and contrast this within which you wish to be in six months, annually, or 3 years from today. Consider where you will find chances to pivot and enhance, in addition to where you are coming up short. These are your own gaps.
Technological and process-based openings are where the chances for important digital transformation exist. You have to rethink your strategy to specific regions of your plan — such as sales and marketing — and envision what these regions could seem like in a perfect universe.
Also read: 9 Best Cybersecurity Companies in the World5. Set the Appropriate KPIs
Setting KPIs starts with figuring out what you would like to quantify and then building out there. If by way of instance, you’re trying to assess the achievement of a new program that you are presenting to a user base, very good KPIs would comprise daily busy customers, the ratio of replicate to new customers, conversion prices, abandon rates, and average time spent on an app.
Is your wish to rate customer experience according to a brand new onboarding process or customer loyalty program? Metrics like client satisfaction (CSAT), client attempt score (CES), client loyalty index (CLI), and opinion analytics are enlightening.
User participation is really a fun one to monitor. You’ve got choices like net promoter score (NPS), traffic resources, client satisfaction indicator, bounce rate, and departure speed.
Other large-scale KPIs that touch different facets include worker performance, innovation, operational functionality, and financial performance.6. Beware of the Shine
Also read: Top 6 Tips to Stay Focused on Your Financial GoalsWhere is Your Focus?
Every digital transformation strategy will have a unique flavor. And while it’ll look a bit different in execution and application, many of the same underlying principles are present across the board. For best results, study what others are doing and view their approaches through the lens of your customer and your business. Your roadmap lies somewhere inside these lines.
Since the winter of 2023, new coronavirus variants have shaped the COVID-19 pandemic, each of which led to sharp increases in case counts, and eventually, deaths, in the United States.
“A significant fraction, almost half and rising, have died after the ancestral strain” of SARS-CoV-2 was replaced by variants, says Jo Walker, a graduate student at Yale and the report’s lead author. Of the more than a million Americans who had died of COVID-19 as of early May, variants killed 460,000.
While most deaths from each variant occur during a wave’s peak, the challenge is in sorting out the moment when one variant sweeps another out of the way. When Omicron first arrived in the US this past fall, the upper Midwest was deep into a wave driven by Delta. “Those transitions are going to take place at different times and at different speeds from state to state,” says Walker.
By lining up known death tolls with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates of variant prevalence in different parts of the country, the researchers could estimate what fraction of people had died from a given COVID strain. “There’s not actually a lot of complicated math going on here,” says Walker. “It’s really just that there’s a lot of data covering different locations and time periods.”
Walker says that two elements of the findings jump out. The first is the toll from Omicron: Researchers estimate this currently dominant variant has killed 110,000 people so far. That’s despite the widespread misconception that Omicron is a mild variant. Two years ago, after 100,000 Americans had died in the first spring waves, Walker points out, the New York Times ran a front page headline calling the toll “an incalculable loss.” Now, Walker says, “we see a new variant come around and it’s caused a very similar death toll in the matter of a few months,” even with vaccines widely available. The 2023 death toll has fallen most heavily on older Americans, particularly those in nursing homes.
The second is the shifting geography of the pandemic. The Northeast experienced 215 deaths per 100,000 residents before the emergence of variants. Later, variants killed a disproportionate number of people in the South—158 per 100,000 residents. That’s something epidemiologists have understood in other ways; New York City experienced the highest per-capita death tolls of the entire pandemic in April 2023, while southern states experienced prolonged outbreaks over 2023. The new analysis, though, could put specific numbers to the trend.
[Related: A deep dive on the evolution of COVID.]
But Susan Hassig, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Tulane University in New Orleans, says that this finding also illustrates serious limitations of the analysis. “The variant isn’t the only thing that drives mortality,” says Hassig, who wasn’t involved with this paper. “If we were in lockdown during Delta, far fewer people would have died.” And she attributes regional differences to those policy differences—New York City, for example, required masks in indoor settings during variant-driven waves, while many southern states didn’t.
“They didn’t really discuss one of the most interesting findings—explaining why the Northeast’s [death toll] was high[est] in the non-variant environment, and lowest in the variant environment,” Hassig says. “They left so many things on the table.” She acknowledges that incorporating data on policies like school closures or mask mandates is challenging, but says that she would like to see at least vaccination status included in the analysis.
The authors write in the report that the analysis was intended to observe deaths, rather than explain their causes. But categorizing deaths by variant without incorporating other explanations, Hassig says, risks overemphasizing the role of variants in each wave. Deaths over the last six months are as much a product of undervaccination—among other policy outcomes—as they are of Omicron.
It’s a point that Walker acknowledged in an interview with Popular Science. “The fact that we do see a shift in burden [from the Northeast to South] implies that there’s something going on that isn’t just the variants,” Walker says.
A focus on variants alone may not explain why a million Americans have died. But this approach demonstrates the continued toll of failing to control the pandemic globally. The deadliest variants in the United States emerged overseas, although Walker says “there’s nothing about the US which means that variants don’t emerge here.”
Variants are both “cause and effect,” Walker says. More infectious strains can drive outbreaks—but they’re also a symptom of uncontrolled global spread, which creates the runway for SARS-CoV-2 to accumulate new mutations.
The point of focusing on variants, says Zain Rizvi, research director at Public Citizen, and a co-author on the report, “is it gets us to the connection between the global and local. It establishes that what happens in Lahore really matters for what happens in Louisiana.” That’s a message epidemiologists have yelled before, but it’s increasingly urgent as Congress’ appetite for pandemic funding dries up.
“We see the staggering cost imposed on the US population,” Rizvi says, “and yet we still are waiting for governmental action to help reduce the risk of new variants emerging globally and to protect the lives of Americans at home.”
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