HAMNET Report 24 March 2019

Summarizing the many reports that have come out of Southern Africa’s eastern countries after last week’s cyclone, The Guardian notes that the devastating cyclone that hit south-eastern Africa may be the worst ever disaster to strike the southern hemisphere, according to the UN.

Cyclone Idai has swept through Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe over the past few days, destroying almost everything in its path, causing devastating floods, killing and injuring thousands of people and ruining crops. More than 2.6 million people could be affected across the three countries, and the port city of Beira, which was hit on Friday the 16th and is home to 500,000 people, is now an “island in the ocean”, almost completely cut off.

The official death tolls in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi are 200, 98 and 56 respectively. But these totals only scratch the surface; the real toll may not be known for many months as the countries deal with a still unfolding disaster.

Houses, roads and telegraph poles are completely submerged. The Mozambican and South African military and other organisations are working to rescue people from the air, though many are struggling to get supplies and teams to the region because roads and bridges have been ripped up or have huge sinkholes in them.

The Red Cross managed to get one truck containing chlorine tablets and 1,500 tarpaulins and tools to make shelters into Beira before it was cut off. Another was diverted to Manica, while the Red Cross is also trying to bring in more supplies from the island of Réunion by boat. The World Food Programme managed to get food supplies in and is doing airdrops to stranded people.

Thank you to The Guardian for those excerpts from their report.

Today, the 24th March is World TB Day. Tuberculosis (TB) is the world’s top infectious disease killer, claiming 4 500 lives each day. Since 2000, 54 million lives have been saved, and TB deaths fell by one-third. But 10 million people still fall ill with TB each year, with too many missing out on vital care.

The World Health Organisation has issued new guidance to improve treatment of multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB). WHO is recommending shifting to fully oral regimens to treat people with MDR-TB. The recommendations are part of a larger package of actions designed to help countries increase the pace of progress to end  TB.

“The theme of this year’s World TB Day is: It’s time to end TB,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “We’re highlighting the urgent need to translate commitments made at the 2018 UN High Level Meeting on TB into actions that ensure everyone who needs TB care can get it.”

There’s never a good time to bring up child mortality. Statistics SA explains in a recently released report presenting the Under Five Mortality Rate, that reporting on child mortality is crucial for planning and developing health strategies, policies and interventions to ensure the safety and protection of all children.

To see how South Africa is fairing for the period 2006-2016, and in the hope of getting ever closer to these targets, we present the key findings from the report:

  • A higher proportion of deaths for children under 5 were that of males (53%), compared to females (46%). [Male babies are more vulnerable than Females]
  • 48% of deaths were from urban areas and 45% were from rural areas.
  • By population group in South Africa, the under 5 mortality rate (U5MR) was lowest among White (14,8/1000) and Indian/Asian groups (21,8/1000), followed by Coloureds (30,2/1000) and Black Africans (52.4/1000).
  • Provincially, Western Cape (24,5/1000) and Gauteng (34,3/1000) had the lowest U5MR per 1 000 live births, while Free State (68,4/1000) and KwaZulu-Natal (62,6/1000) had the highest.
  • In total 54 580 deaths for children under 5 were reported by households.
  • KwaZulu-Natal reported the highest (15 843), followed by Gauteng (8 591), however, the absolute number of deaths cannot be compared due to differing population sizes.
  • 80% of deaths for children under 5 were as a result of natural causes, the most of which include intestinal infectious diseases, as well as respiratory and cardiovascular disorders specific to the perinatal period. Significantly, influenza and pneumonia – both preventable – were also mentioned and ranked third responsible for the countless deaths.
  • The most significant finding, however, is the downward trend in U5MR nationally from 75 deaths per 1000 live births in 2006 to 34 deaths in 2016.

The report highlights that the mortality rate for younger children is high globally as a result of causes such as pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria, as well as malnutrition, unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene, all of which can either be prevented or controlled.

In the light of the ongoing energy crisis we are experiencing in this country, it may interest Emcomm Operators to note the revolutionary changes that are taking place in the way we produce and consume power for our homes, transportation, and the technology that we use every day. A new book, Energy Choices for the Radio Amateur by Bob Bruninga, WB4APR, who developed the Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS), explores ongoing changes in the world of power and energy and takes a careful look at the choices we can make. Concepts in the book can help prepare for emergency and backup power at home and in the field.

Energy Choices for the Radio Amateur is available from the ARRL bookstore.

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

HAMNET Report 10 March 2019

The World Health Organisation issued a statement on Friday, referring specifically to women in Health Sciences, but able to be projected to all aspects of life.

On International Women’s Day, we celebrate all the women who have had a pioneering role in advancing science and health: Florence Nightingale, Fe del Mundo, Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and many others.

In 2019, however women still struggle to rise up the ranks of both health and science. Gender discrimination, implicit bias, sexual harassment, and assault have been found to be systemic barriers to women’s advancement in global health careers.

Female health workers comprise 70% of the health workforce worldwide yet women occupy only 25% of leadership positions in health and just 12% of the membership of national science academies worldwide.

There are positive signs that things are changing, even if slowly, and evidence shows that implementing flexible working arrangements, providing mentorship programmes, and instituting formal polices on gender discrimination and harassment, and gender-specific leadership training can break down the barriers for women to lead in global health.

On 8 March 2019, it’s a moment to recall that principles of human rights and social equity require that women play just as significant roles in science and health as men.

For those of you wanting to listen to signals in extraordinarily small quanta, researchers at Delft University of Technology have created a quantum circuit to listen to the weakest radio signal allowed by quantum mechanics. This new quantum circuit opens the door to possible future applications in areas such as radio astronomy and medicine. It also enables experiments to shed light on the interplay between quantum mechanics and gravity. The results have been published in Science.

The usual solution to a weak radio signal is to find a bigger signal, for instance, by picking a different radio station or by moving to the other side of the room. However, what if we could just listen more carefully?

Weak radio signals are not just a challenge for people trying to find their favourite radio station, but also for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners at hospitals, as well as for the telescopes scientists use to peer into space. In a quantum leap in radio frequency detection, researchers in the group of Prof. Gary Steele in Delft demonstrated the detection of photons or quanta of energy, the weakest signals allowed by the theory of quantum mechanics.

One of the strange predictions of quantum mechanics is that energy comes in tiny little chunks called quanta. What does this mean? “Say I am pushing a kid on a swing,” says lead researcher Mario Gely. “In the classical theory of physics, if I want the kid to go a little bit faster I can give them a small push, giving them more speed and more energy. Quantum mechanics says something different: I can only increase the kid’s energy one ‘quantum step’ at a time. Pushing by half of that amount is not possible.”

For a kid on a swing, these quantum steps are so tiny that they are too small to notice. Until recently, the same was true for radio waves. However, the research team in Delft developed a circuit that can actually detect these chunks of energy in radio frequency signals, opening up the potential for sensing radio waves at the quantum level.

Beyond applications in quantum sensing, the group in Delft is interested in taking quantum mechanics to the next level, which is mass. While the theory of quantum electromagnetism was developed nearly 100 years ago, physicists are still puzzled today on how to fit gravity into quantum mechanics.

“Using our quantum radio, we want to try to listen to and control the quantum vibrations of heavy objects, and explore experimentally what happens when you mix quantum mechanics and gravity,” Gely said. “Such experiments are hard, but if successful we would be able to test if we can make a quantum superposition of space-time itself, a new concept that would test our understanding of both quantum mechanics and general relativity.”

Thank you to Phys.org for that news.

And from Medical X-press comes a discussion on how music has the ability to captivate us. When listeners engage with music, they follow its sounds closely, connecting to what they hear in an affective and invested way. But what is it about music that keeps the audience engaged? A study by researchers from The City College of New York and the University of Arkansas charts new ground in understanding the neural responses to music.

Despite the importance, it has been difficult to study engagement with music given the limits of self-report. This led Jens Madsen and Lucas Parra, from CCNY’s Grove School of Engineering, to measure the synchronization of brainwaves in an audience. When a listener is engaged with music, his neural responses are in sync with that of other listeners. Thus inter-subject correlation of brainwaves is a measure of engagement.

According to their findings, published in the latest issue of Scientific Reports, a listener’s engagement decreases with repetition of music, but only for familiar music pieces. However, unfamiliar musical styles can sustain an audience’s interest, in particular for individuals with some musical training.

“Across repeated exposures to instrumental music, inter-subject correlation decreased for music written in a familiar style,” Parra and his collaborators write in Scientific Reports.

In addition, participants with formal musical training showed more inter-subject correlation, and sustained it across exposures to music in an unfamiliar style. This distinguishes music from other domains, where interest drops with repetition.

“What is so cool about this, is that by measuring people’s brainwaves we can study how people feel about music and what makes it so special.” says Madsen.

Your writer has noted that music can “capture” his thought processes, and prevent him from being able to form a coherent sentence, or concentrate on another subject. Perhaps those minute quanta of detected sound mentioned in the previous article can cause a resonance in sound interpretation in my temporal lobes, where sound is appreciated, thereby causing synchronised neural responses which overwhelm my ability to concentrate on anything else. It might also be the reason why fellow musicians can enjoy a “jam-session”, creating music and resonance together in a way which satisfies those feel-good brain hormones.

This is Dave Reece  ZS1DFR  reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

HAMNET Report 3 March 2019

Inside a small, rectangular room at the University of Washington is a series of shelves filled with more than 300 high-tech tools. There’s a collection of drones, cameras, and tablets, and even a mobile EEG kit, able to measure a brain’s electrical activity and detect stress levels in disaster victims. Each one has been meticulously organized, labelled, and packed away in a protective case, ready to be sent hundreds or even thousands of miles to the next natural disaster.

This is one of the three rooms that make up the RAPID Facility in Seattle, a first-of-its-kind centre pushing the boundaries on natural disaster research, along with the world’s ability to mitigate the potentially catastrophic effects of these hazards.

At a time when extreme weather, such as hurricanes and wildfires, is having a major impact on our daily lives, gaining this type of information is becoming especially vital, says Joseph Wartman, director of the RAPID Facility and geologic hazards professor at the University of Washington. In 2018, these types of hazards resulted in 247 deaths and almost $100 billion in damage in the U.S. Globally, natural hazards resulted in $330 billion in global losses in 2017, up from $200 billion in 2014. Wartman said there does appear to be a trend toward more frequent weather-related disasters, as well as an uptick in their intensity, so it’s very important to understand these hazards better.

Launched in September through a National Science Foundation grant, the centre–officially called the Natural Hazards Reconnaissance Experimental Facility–acts as a type of natural disaster research hub. Entities across the world reach out when hazards strike (occasionally right before, if there’s any type of warning), and the small team ships them equipment to use temporarily, travels out to the site to operate the tools themselves, or actually collects and processes the data for them.

The facility has already been instrumental in research following hurricanes Michael and Florence, earthquakes in Japan and Indonesia, and large landslides in Alaska and Oregon. In each case, the team of about a dozen researchers has facilitated the collection of huge swaths of data of the disaster zone during the crucial period before serious clean-up begins. They then organize this evidence into comprehensive tables or transform it into point clouds, 3D visualizations of a scene made up of a large number of individual points, or even Google-type streetview images.

But no matter how they process this data, they make a point of always sharing it online.

“Whatever we collect goes up to a public repository very quickly, and then researchers from around the world can use that,” said Wartman. “Let people not only use it, but let them dream up new uses for this data. It’s a public asset after we use it.”

With this type of data and sharing, the entire scientific community has already started to gain extremely precise information about what actually takes place when these hazards strike. That can be very helpful when it comes to reworking or building new predictive models that help anticipate the type of damage and effects on communities resulting from each natural disaster.

“What we’re trying to do is anticipate and ultimately be able better to forecast hazards, because if we can do that then we can begin to understand where our weak points are and take measures to reduce the risk and increase resilience,” said Wartman.

The facility is expected to continue to help boost natural disaster research for at least a few more years. It’s running on a five-year contract from the National Science Foundation, along with about $5 million in funding from the agency.

Thank you to Fast Company for these extracts from their article.

An insert in  the Weekly ARRL Letter for 28 February says that Alex Schwarz, VE7DXW, in British Columbia, Canada, is exploring the possibility that “RF signatures” detected by the RF Seismograph propagation tool could also be indicating earthquakes, and may even be able to predict them shortly before they occur. A real-time HF propagation-monitoring tool developed by Schwarz and the MDSR team, the RF Seismograph shows both band noise and activity or band activity alone on six HF bands. It’s a project of the North Shore Amateur Radio Club (NSARC).

“We had been doing the solar eclipse experiment, and we developed the RF Seismograph software to look for changes in propagation during the eclipse,” Schwarz explained. “After the eclipse, we decided to leave the RF Seismograph running, and we have now collected 4 years of data.”

The system uses an omnidirectional multiband antenna to monitor JT-65 frequencies (±10 kHz) on 80, 40, 30, 20, 15, and 10 meters. Recorders monitor the background noise and display the result in six colour-coded, long-duration graphs displaying 6 hours of scans. When signals are present on a band, its graph trace starts to resemble a series of vertical bars.

Most recently, the RF Seismograph recorded the magnitude 7.5 earthquake in Ecuador on February 22. Schwarz recounted that noise on 15 meters began to be visible about 1 hour before the quake; then, 2 hours after the quake released, 15 meters started to recover. The US Geological Survey said the quake was about 82 miles below ground. It did not affect 80 meters. Schwarz speculated that the quake was easy to see on the RF Seismograph because 15 meters typically is not open during hours of darkness — especially when the solar flux is only 70.

Following a magnitude 5.0 earthquake off the coast of Vancouver Island, his RF Seismograph picked up changes. Canada’s government-run Earthquakes Canada was able to provide Schwarz with a list of magnitude 6.0 or greater events since the RF Seismograph went into operation, and the two teams have been collaborating to find a correlation between HF propagation anomalies and earthquakes. With the measurements, Schwarz has been attempting to find a correlation between the list of past geological events and what his RF Seismograph may have sensed on those occasions.

“The earthquakes show up as RF noise because of the electric field lines, now scientifically confirmed to change the way the ionosphere reflects RF,” Schwarz said.

Schwarz said 171 earthquakes — all magnitude 6.0 events or greater — were studied, and only 15 of them had no RF noise associated with them. In 26 cases, the time of the disturbance detected by the RF Seismograph failed to match the USGS-reported time of the quake. Schwarz said that in 72% of the earthquake studies, the RF Seismograph was able to detect an increase in noise on 80 meters, typically before and after the event.

One would certainly not expect earthquakes to show up in RF band noise and activity charts!

This is Dave Reece  ZS1DFR  reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.