Wednesday, 30 January 2019


12 Alarm Clock Apps That Will Get Your Butt Out of Bed
By Eric Griffith,
PCMag, 23 January 2019.

There was a time when many items littered my nightstand. There was a lamp, a stack of books and comics I had every intention of reading, a point-and-shoot camera in case my dog climbed into the covers and did something adorable, and even a landline phone for those late-night calls that wake one with dread. Also, a back scratcher.

Today those items are gone, save for the lamp so I don't stub my toe, and the back scratcher, because I still have a back. They've been replaced by my iPhone and its plethora of apps to keep me busy, including those that turn my smartphone into a kick-ass futuristic alarm clock.

Amid this collection for iOS and Android, whether phone or tablet-sized, features can vary wildly. But they all tell the time and get your butt out of bed in the morning. Or after a nap. Some do it gently, some do it harshly, some do it with new-age special effects, and some make you work to wake. Whatever you're waking needs, you'll find them here.

1. Rise Alarm Clock

Rise isn't about making you feel jangled in the morning. The multi-lingual app bills itself as a "work of art that wakes you up." The lovely, minimalist settings require swiping up and down and left and right, but it's filled with soothing alarm sounds with names like Grandma's Clock, Gentle Chimes, and Jungle Morning. You can also wake to any song stored in iTunes. Setting multiple alarms for all different (or repeating) days and times is a breeze - though that feature requires a $0.99 in-app purchase. You can set the colorful clock option to monochrome and dim it down with a swipe. Snooze it with a shake. (Price: $1.99 for iOS)

2. Alarm Clock Xtreme & Timer

Have you heard of those apps that won't let you drunk-text someone until you do some math problems to prove you're sober? That's one option of Alarm Clock Xtreme, which aims to stop excessive use of the snooze option. It'll even decrease the time between snoozes, so it's not always that magic default 9 minutes. It can wake you gently with gradually growing volume. Hitting snooze can involve a shake, the side buttons, pushing the screen, or the previously mentioned math. It all comes with a sleep tracker, stopwatch, and timer option as well. If you don't mind advertising in your clock, you can get a free version. (Price: $2.99 for Android)

3. Alarm Clock for Me

Alarm Clock for Me believes in customization, offering themes for the look of the digital digits, with names like Ultrasonic, Retro, Digital, Worky, Odometer, and C-Motion Clock. On start it'll ask for Location services to be turned on, so it can also offer you weather updates. Inside the app is the full set of alarm options like using your own music and various snooze options, plus a sleep timer for cutting off music as you start to snooze, a timer, and a shake-to-turn-on-flashlight option. Unlike some other alarm clock apps, this one supports background alerts so you'll get an alarm even if it isn't running all night. The app comes with very annoying advertising, though - you'll need to make a $3.99 purchase on iOS or $1.99 on Android to be rid of them. (Price: Free for iOS or Android)

4. Timely

Google liked this Android alarm clock app so much that it acquired its Zurich-based developer, Bitspin. Where it's different is in using a cloud sync (via your Google account, naturally) so all your devices have the same alarms. It's a beautiful clock app suitable for tablets, using gestures to set alarms, color schemes for the clock to suit you, challenges to ensure you're up, a flip-to-snooze, and the option to quiet an alarm when the handset is picked up. (Price: Free for Android)

5. Sleep Cycle

Sleep Cycle is all about rest. This sleep analyzer app uses the phone's or tablet's microphone and accelerometer to track your snoozing and finds the best time (during your lightest sleep period) and method to wake you up. It'll show how your sleep quality compares to the rest of the users of the app. If you're still asleep, pick up the phone or tap it to snooze, but each snooze gets shorter if you use the Intelligent Snooze feature. iPhone users can sync the data into the Apple Health app, and it will talk to Philips Hue smart bulbs to come on at wake time, in simulation of sunrise. (Price: Free on iOS or Android)

6. Loud Alarm Clock

Is there much mystery around what makes this alarm clock app stand out? As long as you leave the app on-screen all night, it will play - nay, blare - a sound at a preset time to wake even the soundest sleeper. While you can use your own music from iTunes, the app comes loaded with annoying noises like nails on a chalkboard and a fire alarm. The alarms can be randomized so you don't get lulled into sleeping through a sound to which you've grown accustomed. (Price: Free for iOS)

7. Alarmy (Sleep If U Can)

Is Alarmy the most annoying alarm ever? You'll probably think so if you set it up for its best feature: you have to get out of bed and take a picture with your Android phone of a pre-set location in the house that matches a previously taken shot. Naturally, that place should be far from your bedroom. If that's not enough, the alarm can also go into a shake-to-wake or calculations mode before you are allowed to turn it off. (Price: Free with ads on Android or iOS / $8.99 Pro edition on Android or $7.99 on iOS)

8. I Can't Wake Up!

If you absolutely can't wake up, you need more tasks while the alarm is running. I Can't Wake Up! is the alarm app with ALL the tasks. Memory puzzles, tile ordering, barcode scanning (put the barcode somewhere else in the house so you have to get up), rewriting text, shaking, math problems, and more. The app will play music during the snooze interval, which you may need to calm down after all that task completion. There is a free version with lots of ads. (Price: $2.99 on Android)

9. AMdroid Alarm Clock

From one-time alarms to recurring to countdowns, each alarm in the AMdroid app has its own settings. That can include challenges for waking, setting alarms that only work in specific locations, even setting it up so alarms do NOT go off during major holidays so you can sleep in. The app integrates with Android Wear smartwatches, so you can use voice commands to the wrist to set new alarms. (Price: Free on Android)

10. Sleep as Android

Sleep as Android has your back, from notifying you the night before about your optimal time to go to sleep to the next morning's alarm. It offers up white noise like ocean waves, crackling fires, and chants. Put the phone in the bed with you and the accelerometer measures how fitful or restful you are, then attempts to wake you at the best moment. It works with smart bulbs to wake you naturally at day break. Then come the alarms, with task options like shakes, math problems, scanning QR codes, entering Captcha codes, even counting sheep (which seems counterproductive). (Price: Free on Android)

11. Uhp Alarm Clock Pro

Like many others, Uhp has features like showing you the weather, playing music from Apple Music to wake you, etc. And it has a requirement to get you out of bed by making you walk somewhere as the alarm goes off and confirm it. The difference is, Uhp will post to your Facebook or Twitter account to embarrass you if you don't get going. (Price: $1.99 on iOS)

12. Walk Me Up Alarm Clock

If all you need to do is walk a little to get the waking juices flowing, Walk Me Up uses your phone's accelerometer to make sure you actually walk a certain number of steps so you can't just cheat it with a few shakes. There's also an "evil mode" for disabling the snooze, among all the usual stuff. The app has ads, but you can ditch them for $1.99. (Price: Free on Android  or iOS or $1.99 Pro version on Android)

How to Wake Up to Your Favorite Music

Wish you could wake up to something more soothing than an alarm clock? Here's how to set your alarm to play music from Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, TuneIn, and more.

Top image credit: geralt/Pixabay.

[Source: PCMag. Top image added.]

Monday, 28 January 2019


10 Times A Meteor Fell To Earth And Flew Back Into Space
By Brian Molinar,
Listverse, 27 January 2019.

A meteor is the fireball that occurs when a space rock (called a meteoroid) burns during its entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.[1] For this reason, every space rock that falls naturally to Earth inevitably becomes a meteor, be it of greater or lesser intensity. This concept serves as a starting point for the following list.

But it happens that sometimes an alien rock falls to Earth, becomes a meteor, and then, for some reason, decides to leave our atmosphere to continue its journey through space. Below, we will see ten examples of meteors that exhibited this behavior, some of which even became awe-inspiring spectacles.

10. Japan Earth-Grazer (2006)

Photo credit: Abe et al.

As stated in the introduction, meteors generally occur when space rocks burn and disintegrate upon entering the Earth’s atmosphere. But on some occasions, such meteoroids fall to Earth in a trajectory almost parallel to its surface and “bounce” in the upper atmosphere. So after becoming bright meteors for a moment, these rocks just keep going and return to outer space. We call these meteors “Earth-grazers.”

An Earth-grazer event occurred in Japan on March 29, 2006. A bright fireball crossed the sky over several Japanese cities, allowing several stations to accurately measure its trajectory and characteristics. The cause of the fireball was a meteoroid of approximately 100 kilograms (220 lb) that entered the atmosphere at a height of 87 kilometers (54 mi). From there, the meteor traveled about 1,000 kilometers (621 mi) over Japan, lasting 35 seconds before leaving Earth.[2]

This was the third Earth-grazing meteor scientifically observed and measured accurately. Photographs, recordings by TV cameras, telescopic observations, and a special software were used to determine its characteristics. Even with all this equipment available, there are very few documented cases of Earth-grazers around the world, although most of the items on this list fit the category.

9. Fast-Moving Fireball (1990)

On October 13, 1990, two astronomical stations detected the passage of an Earth-grazer meteor over Czechoslovakia and Poland. Three other independent observers in Czechoslovakia and a fourth person in Denmark also confirmed the sighting. The fireball was caused by a 44-kilogram (97 lb) meteoroid, which descended into the Earth’s atmosphere to a minimum height of 98 kilometers (61 mi). It was moving at a speed of around 42 kilometers per second (26 miles per second), about 20 times faster than the fastest manned aircraft in the world.

For the nearly ten seconds it was visible in the night sky, the Earth-grazer traveled a distance of 409 kilometers (254 mi).[3] After that, the meteor left the atmosphere and returned to space, now with a reduced speed. Its mass was also reduced; after burning a little in the atmosphere, it lost 350 grams (0.77 lb) of material. To verify the object’s trajectory, NASA ran computer simulations, whose results were similar to direct observations and confirmed that the meteor left the Earth. A Czech camera station that is part of the “European Fireball Network” program photographed the Earth-grazer in mid-flight. The image shows the bright object moving across the visible sky near its highest point.

8. The Great Meteor (1860)

Photo credit: Frederic Edwin Church

On some occasions, an Earth-grazer meteor can fall low enough into the atmosphere to end up breaking into pieces. When that happens, the Earth-grazer becomes multiple, smaller fireballs that travel horizontally across the sky in the same direction. Some fragments disintegrate in the atmosphere, while others return to space. Because the lights move in a seemingly organized way and at a lower speed, this phenomenon is known as a “meteor procession.” This type of Earth-grazer is even stranger, with only four known cases to date.

One of these cases occurred on July 20, 1860. It was 9:49 PM when the American painter Frederic Church and his wife (who were on their honeymoon in Catskill, New York) saw a row of bright orange meteors that crossed the entire sky. Not far from there, the famous writer Walt Whitman also saw the same lights. In his poem “Year of Meteors (1859–60),” he described them as “the strange huge meteor-procession dazzling and clear shooting over our heads.” Hundreds of people across the United States witnessed the fireballs, and numerous newspapers of the time also described the event.

What all these people saw was a rare meteor procession involving several meteors that crossed the North American sky from west to east.[4] The fragmented Earth-grazer descended on the Great Lakes between the United States and Canada, reached its minimum height above the Hudson River in New York, and continued moving toward the Atlantic Ocean. After a journey of more than 1,600 kilometers (994 mi), the meteors escaped the atmosphere and left Earth behind.

7. Cometary Fragment (2012)

20,000 years ago, a large comet in our solar system shattered and gave birth to Comet Encke (officially called 2P/Encke), famous for approaching Earth frequently. On June 10, 2012, a meteoroid from this comet came to visit our planet and then resumed its journey through space. The rock weighed 16 kilograms (35 lb) and entered our atmosphere about 100 kilometers (62 mi) above the east of Spain.

The Earth-grazer moved at an astounding speed of 105,000 kilometers per hour (65,244 mph) while advancing toward the southwest of the Iberian Peninsula. After descending to around 98 kilometers (61 mi) above sea level, the meteor began to regain altitude. While still being over Spain and 32 kilometers (20 mi) away from the Atlantic Ocean, the fireball said goodbye to us and went into space again, with only a minimal change of speed. However, our planet did leave marks on it. The scorched meteoroid lost 260 grams (0.57 lb) in the atmosphere and returned to its orbit with a fusion crust, the external layer of melted rock typical of meteorites.

In total, the fireball traveled 510 kilometers (317 mi) in the atmosphere for 17 seconds. This former meteor has several particular characteristics that differentiate it from the rest. On the one hand, it is the faintest Earth-grazer meteor scientifically observed, with a brightness similar to that of the planet Venus. And in addition, it is the first of such events that comes from a meteor shower. It came specifically from the Zeta Perseid meteor shower that occurs in June each year, which, in turn, comes from the same space debris field as Comet Encke.[5]

6. Christmas Eve Meteor (2014)

On the night of December 24, 2014, while everyone was busy on Christmas Eve, a meteor decided to come to Earth to observe us. Then, for some reason, it left. A total of 13 observation stations in Spain and Portugal detected an Earth-grazing fireball moving slowly - for a meteor - from southeast to northwest over Europe. The object was a rock of 100 kilograms (220 lb) and 1 meter (3.3 ft) in diameter, flying at a speed of 68,400 kilometers per hour (42,500 mph).

The meteor entered the atmosphere over North Africa, beginning to glow 105 kilometers (65 mi) high. Then, the Earth-grazer continued to move and descend down to a height of 75 kilometers (47 mi) over Spain. There, the fireball was moving so slowly that some drivers had time to park to get out and see it pass. The meteor continued its journey, now over Portugal, as it began to ascend again. Finally, the Earth-grazer reached the Atlantic Ocean, and about 100 kilometers (62 mi) away from the coast of Galicia (Spain), it returned to space.

The meteoroid, whose code name is SPMN241214, is a rock that came from the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. After its close encounter with the Earth, the rock had its trajectory modified, although it still orbits around the Sun as before. Footage from the University of Huelva shows that the object was very bright, leaving a short and thin trail behind. Another recording from the Spanish province of Guadalajara (shown above) reaffirms the slowness of the meteor. Although in this video, the light lasts about half a minute before leaving the camera’s field of view, the total duration of the fireball was one minute.[6]

5. Zagami Meteorite (1996)

Not all shooting stars return to space on their own. Some rocks that were once meteors have flown back into outer space thanks to human intervention. In October 1962, a farmer was working in his fields in Zagami, Nigeria, when he suddenly heard a loud explosion. When he looked up at the sky, he saw a meteor fall and hit the ground only 3 meters (10 ft) away from him. The farmer noticed that now there was a crater 0.6 meters (2 ft) deep, with a black rock inside. This rock was nothing less than an 18-kilogram (40 lb) meteorite from Mars. The rock was ejected from the Martian surface after a comet impact 2.5 million years ago.

In November 1996, NASA began its first successful mission to the Red Planet after two decades - the Mars Global Surveyor. This mission consisted of launching a spacecraft destined to orbit Mars and photograph its surface for several years. But it turns out that the space probe did not fly alone: Inside, it was carrying a small piece of the Zagami meteorite, covered by a resin bubble. In September 1997, the NASA spacecraft began its orbit around Mars, thus returning the Zagami meteorite to where it belongs. That’s right, the rock left Mars millions of years ago, fell to us like a shooting star almost 60 years ago, and then finally returned to its home planet. Although Mars Global Surveyor is currently inactive, it is still orbiting our neighboring planet and is expected to collide with the Martian surface in the future.[7] So the Zagami meteorite will become a meteor for the second time, now in its own world.

4. Unconfirmed Earth-Grazers (1996/2012)

Meteors are so brief and unpredictable that it is difficult to determine where the next one will occur. And it is even more difficult to know if some particular sightings really were meteors that fell and returned to space. On October 3, 1996, an unusual shooting star crossed the night sky of New Mexico, after which it vanished. But 100 minutes later, the same fireball flew over California and exploded. It is believed that the meteor was a rock that bounced in the atmosphere and almost completed a full orbit before falling back over Southern California. However, the reports remain unconfirmed.

Meanwhile, at 11:00 PM on September 21, 2012, thousands of people across England, Scotland, and Ireland witnessed a fireball (shown above) flying through the skies. The light moved slowly and lasted about 40 seconds before disappearing. Two and a half hours later, another shooting star with the same characteristics crossed the sky over Canada and the United States.[8] In several countries, the emergency lines were saturated with hundreds of phone calls from people frightened by the fireball they had just seen.

Soon, mathematician Esko Lyytinen, a member of the Ursa Astronomical Association (Finland), entered the scene and stated that the meteors of September 21 were related. Both were the result of a single space rock that began to burn in the sky over Ireland at a height of 53 kilometers (33 mi) but had enough speed to fly back into space. However, that entry into the atmosphere caused the rock to lose speed. So, 155 minutes and a full orbit around the Earth later, the remnants of the meteoroid reentered the atmosphere over North America and ended their crazy flight there. With limited information about the speed and angle of the meteors, some experts doubted this claim, but the possibility of a new Earth-grazer is still there.

3. Rare Aten Asteroid (2007)

Information about the following Earth-grazer meteor, called EN070807, is scarce. All available references to it come from a single public access article from the Ondrejov Observatory, which is part of the European Fireball Network in the Czech Republic. Since the European Fireball Network names meteoric events with an abbreviation of the date they occurred, the code name of this Earth-grazer indicates that it visited Earth on August 7, 2007.

EN070807 is actually an Aten-type asteroid. Aten asteroids are rocky fragments that orbit the Sun at short distances, and it is believed that most of them come from the main asteroid belt. Many Aten asteroids occasionally intersect Earth’s orbit, which makes them a possible danger to our planet. In the case of EN070807, although its initial orbit was of the Aten type, its encounter with the Earth could have changed its trajectory.

While EN070807 was descending over the European sky, several stations in the Czech Republic photographed the event. This allowed the European Fireball Network to include the Earth-grazer in the aforementioned biannual report, along with 44 other conventional fireballs.[9] Like the other meteors on this list, EN070807 lost material during its brief passage through the Earth’s atmosphere, but the rest of its body is still floating out there.

2. Campo Del Cielo Meteorite (2014)

Photo credit: ESA/NASA

The Zagami meteorite is not the only alien rock that humans have sent back to space. For 4.5 billion years, a large iron body roamed outer space until it collided with Earth 4,000 years ago. The meteorite fell in Argentina, and locals call the impact zone “Campo del Cielo” (Field of the Sky).

In 2012, Scottish artist Katie Paterson acquired a small meteorite from Campo del Cielo, melted it at 1,700 degrees Celsius (3,092 °F), and reshaped it to its original form. The old-new meteorite, weighing 680 grams (1.5 lb), was then transferred to a European Space Agency facility in the Netherlands. And in July 2014, it was launched to the International Space Station, aboard the spacecraft Georges Lemaitre.

The meteorite was unpacked and prepared for its return to Earth in the same spacecraft that took it up there. Finally, in February 2015, the meteorite had a destructive reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere.[10] So it differs from the Zagami meteorite in at least two things. First, the Campo del Cielo meteorite was a meteor twice. And second, it was a meteor twice in our own atmosphere. This is why Paterson’s work was internationally recognized, and it proved that a meteor which falls to Earth does not have to do it only once.

1. The Great Daylight Fireball (1972)

Photo credit: James M. Baker

While all the other Earth-grazing meteors we have seen on this list occurred at night or under poorly studied conditions, the following case occurred in broad daylight and in front of thousands of people. For this reason, it is the best-known Earth-grazer, and it is widely remembered as the Great Daylight Fireball. It was 2:30 PM on August 10, 1972, when a space rock entered the atmosphere above the state of Utah. And for more than a minute and a half, it crossed the sky in a northward direction. The meteor ended up leaving Earth over Alberta (Canada).

The Earth-grazer generated enough heat during its passage through the atmosphere for a US Air Force satellite to be able to detect it, obtaining data on its speed and trajectory. After several investigations, it was determined that the object entered our planet at a speed of approximately 54,100 kilometers per hour (33,616 mph). The meteoroid would have had a maximum mass of 570 tons and a length of 14 meters (46 ft) - roughly the size of a truck (but much heavier). When the object escaped the atmosphere at a height of approximately 102 kilometers (63 mi), its size became 10 meters (33 ft) at the most.

Its closest approach to the Earth’s surface occurred 58 kilometers (36 mi) above Montana. Due to its low altitude, people near the site could hear sonic booms coming from the meteor in the sky. There are multiple recordings of the fireball, such as a 20-second video showing its path or a photograph in which the Earth-grazer flies over the Teton Mountains in the state of Wyoming. Now, we all know the outcome of this story, but it is estimated that if the object had impacted the Earth, it would have had the destructive force of an atomic bomb.[11] So we can thank the meteor for being in a good mood that day.

Top image: Painting of the 1913 Great Meteor Procession in Toronto. Credit: Gustav Hahn/Wikimedia Commons.

[Source: Listverse. Top image added.]

Wednesday, 23 January 2019


10 Deadly Viruses And Bacteria Created In Labs
By Oliver Taylor,
Listverse, 23 January 2019.

Scientists are at it again. This time, they are creating new viruses and bacteria in their laboratories. Scientists usually prefer altering already-existing or extinct bacteria and viruses to produce new strains that will defeat our immunity, vaccines, and drugs.

Sometimes, they prefer creating new viruses and bacteria from scratch. However, these strains are not always dangerous to humans even though they could be deadly to animals like mice and even to other bacteria.

10. Horsepox

Photo credit:

Scientists at the University of Alberta have created horsepox, a lethal virus closely related to the equally deadly smallpox. Unlike smallpox, horsepox does not affect humans and is only fatal to horses.

The scientists created the virus during a six-month study sponsored by pharmaceutical company Tonix. The researchers purchased DNA pieces via mail order and arranged them to form the virus. The entire project was not expensive. The DNA pieces used to create the virus cost just $100,000.

The study caused a dilemma at the time it was revealed. Other scientists were concerned that governments or even terrorists could use the knowledge to create smallpox virus for biological weapons. A smallpox epidemic could become deadly for us today. We no longer get vaccinated for it because we eradicated the disease in 1980.

The researchers clarified that they created the virus because they wanted to develop improved smallpox vaccines. Tonix later revealed that it had produced a smallpox vaccine with the horsepox virus.

Other scientists say that the researchers could have extracted horsepox from wild horse populations instead of creating it from scratch. Tonix said they would have done just that if they had known they had natural access to the virus.

However, lead researcher David Evans said they recreated the virus because Tonix would have been unable to commercialize the horsepox virus taken from the wild.

9. Black Death

Photo credit: BBC

Between 1347 and 1351, millions of Europeans were afflicted with a mysterious disease that killed over 50 million people. Today, we know this disease is the Black Death, which is caused by the Yersinia pestis bacteria. Although the Black Death is still around, it is not as potent as it used to be.

A few years ago, researchers from several schools, including the University of Tubingen in Germany and McMaster University in Canada, recreated the deadly bacteria from DNA samples extracted from the teeth of a victim who died during the plague. They got only 30 milligrams of the bacteria from the teeth, but that was enough to recreate it.

As a result, researchers confirmed the original bacteria’s relationship to the Black Death around today. Some scientists had claimed that the bacteria were of different strains, but they are now confirmed to be the same. The one we have around today only became less deadly after it mutated.

8. Polio

Like their counterparts at the University of Alberta, scientists at the State University of New York have created a deadly artificial virus by buying DNA pieces via mail order. This time, it is polio - and it is as potent as the natural one. Mice exposed to the artificial polio got sick just as they would have if exposed to natural polio.

The laboratory-created polio was controversial among scientists. The researchers who produced it had taken its code from databases available to almost anybody. Other researchers fear that people with ulterior motives could develop their own artificial polio, which is much easier to make than other dangerous viruses like smallpox.

Smallpox’s genetic code is 185,000 letters long while polio’s is just 7,741 letters long. Although we are already at the brink of eradicating polio, scientists fear that we will still need to be vaccinated against the disease because it could be recreated.

7. Mousepox

A few years ago, researchers at the Australian National University and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) produced a deadly mutated strain of mousepox by mistake. Mousepox is another lethal virus that belongs to the same family as horsepox and smallpox.

The researchers were trying to develop birth control for mice at the time that they mistakenly created the virus. They inserted a gene that promoted the creation of interleukin 4 (IL-4) into mousepox, which they injected into some mice. The mice were vaccinated and were not supposed to be harmed by the mousepox.

Instead of making the mice infertile as researchers had expected, the weakened virus turned lethal and destroyed the immune systems of the mice, killing them in nine days. The new mousepox was so dangerous that it was resistant to vaccination. Half of the other vaccinated mice exposed to the mutated mousepox also died.

The researchers were so scared by their invention that they did not want to publish their findings. They even met with the Australian military to confirm if it was safe to publish.

Scientists fear that human smallpox could also mutate and become deadlier if injected with IL-4. However, they are unsure because no one has tried it yet. We know it’s only a matter of time before some scientist does.

6. SARS 2.0

Photo credit:

Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is a lethal virus. More than 700 people were killed during a SARS epidemic that infected 8,000 people in 29 countries between 2002 and 2003. Now, scientists have made it deadlier.

The new mutant SARS virus was created by a group of researchers led by Dr. Ralph Baric of the University of North Carolina. They call it SARS 2.0. The researchers developed the virus by adding some protein to the naturally occurring SARS. SARS 2.0 is immune to vaccines and treatments used to cure the naturally occurring SARS virus.

The team said that the research was necessary because the natural SARS virus could mutate and become immune to our vaccines. By creating a deadlier and mutated virus, we could develop stronger vaccines that will save us from a more lethal SARS epidemic - that is, if the natural SARS ever mutates.

However, other scientists are concerned because the SARS 2.0 that is supposed to save us from a deadly SARS epidemic could start that epidemic if it ever escapes from the lab.

5. MERS-Rabies Virus Hybrid

Photo credit:

Scientists have created a MERS-rabies hybrid virus. The idea is to use the virus to develop a vaccine that will protect us from both viruses. Rabies is a deadly disease that can be transmitted to humans through the bites of infected dogs that usually have the virus in their saliva.

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is a new virus that appeared in Saudi Arabia a few years ago. It is closely related to SARS and is spread from bats to camels and, finally, to humans. MERS infected 1,800 people at the time of its first epidemic and killed over 630. Its fatality rate is around 35 percent.

As we mentioned in the previous entry, SARS infected over 8,000 people during a 2003 epidemic but killed just over 700. Although SARS caused more deaths in absolute terms, it has a lower fatality rate than MERS. Only about 10 percent of SARS victims died. And for now, we do not have any vaccine for MERS.

To create the MERS-rabies hybrid, researchers took some proteins from the MERS virus and added it to rabies. They used the new virus to develop a new vaccine that made mice resistant to rabies and MERS. They believe that the vaccine can also be used for humans and camels at risk of getting MERS.

4. Phi-X174

Photo credit: Fdardel

Phi-X174 is another artificial virus we have produced in laboratories. It was created by researchers at the Institute of Biological Energy Alternatives in Rockville, Maryland. The researchers modeled the artificial virus after the natural phiX virus. PhiX is a bacteriophage, a category of viruses that infect and kill bacteria. However, it has no effect on humans.

The researchers created the artificial virus in 14 days, yet it resembles the natural virus so much that it is impossible to tell them apart. The researchers hope that the new virus is the first step in developing mutant and artificial bacteria that can be used for the benefit of man.

3. Unnamed Virus

Photo credit:

Researchers from University College London and the National Physical Laboratory have created an unnamed virus that kills bacteria and behaves like a real virus. Like phi-X174, it is a bacteriophage but deadlier.

The unnamed virus attacks any bacteria around it. Within seconds, it breaks into smaller parts that attach and create holes on the bodies of the bacteria. The holes quickly become larger, forcing the bacteria to leak their contents. The bacteria die soon after.

Despite its scary potency, the unnamed virus is not dangerous to humans and did not attack human cells during tests. However, it could enter human cells just like natural viruses. Researchers hope the results will be used to treat and study bacterial diseases in humans. The virus could also be used to alter the human gene.

2. Bird Flu

Photo credit:

Some Dutch scientists have created a mutant and deadlier version of the already-lethal bird flu. Natural bird flu is not easily transmitted among humans. However, the researchers altered it so that it could be. To test their new virus, the researchers exposed some ferrets to it. Ferrets were chosen because they had similar bird flu symptoms to humans.

Ten generations later, the already-changed virus mutated again and became airborne. Natural bird flu is not an airborne disease. The study was controversial in the science community. It became even more so when the Dutch researchers attempted to publish the process to create the deadly virus.

Although scientists fear that terrorists could use the study to produce a deadly biological weapon that could kill half the people in the world, the researchers involved say that the study was necessary to allow us prepare for a mutated bird flu epidemic.

1. H1N1 Virus

Photo credit: National Geographic

In 1918, the world witnessed the arrival of a deadly flu epidemic. This was the H1N1 virus. By the time it was over, up to 100 million people were dead. The flu caused blood to seep into the lungs of victims. They released blood from their noses and mouths before drowning in the blood inside their lungs.

The flu returned in 2009. But it was less lethal even though it was mutated and deadlier than it should have been. Scientist Yoshihiro Kawaoka took samples of the mutated strain that caused the 2009 epidemic and used it to create a deadlier strain that was resistant to vaccines. This strain was similar to the one that caused the 1918 epidemic.

Kawaoka was not planning to produce a more lethal version of the flu at the time. He only wanted to create the original version of the flu so that he could study how it mutated and was able to bypass our immunity. The deadly virus is stored in a lab and could become fatal if ever released.

Top image: H1N1 virus. Credit: Manu5/Wikimedia Commons.

[Source: Listverse. Top image added.]