HAMNET Report 20th October 2019

Adrian, YO3HJV, reporting to the IARU Region 1, says that last week, The Department for Emergency Situations (DSU) held a big exercise in two counties in Romania. The subject of this exercise was the cooperation between institutions and NGO’s to a forest fire situation.

The exercise took place in two remote areas in the West part of Romania in Hunedoara County and Caras Severin County.

More than 500 firemen, rescuers, Mountain Gendarmerie, Military forces, Aviation and Search and Rescue Dog organisations were involved.

We played an important role because the area was subject to intermittent mobile phone service and no TETRA network. Again, we used DMR in both sites and this helped us to provide both voice and GPS locations for the intervention forces.

In Hunedoara we used a single repeater for the whole area, and in Caras Severin we used two DMR repeaters linked via 3G, as the sites had some mobile signal.

The exercise was very useful both for us, to test our knowledge and technology, and for the IGSU to show them, directly at intervention forces level, how our systems work.

The short story is that we were extremely appreciated and we established a lot of useful contacts for future cooperation.

The network we used was based on SLR5500 repeaters, portable tripods with 5m telescopic masts and vertical antennas, DM4600 fixed radios and DP4801E portable radios. The software of choice was SmartPTT Enterprise.

Thank you to Adrian and Greg G0DUB for sharing that report.

Another report from Greg G0DUB, Emergency Communications Coordinator for IARU Region 1, says that the 44th HamRadio Exhibition at Friedrichshafen attracted 14300 visitors, among them around 27 Emergency Communicators from 14 countries who attended the IARU meeting for Emergency Communicators on Friday 21st June.

After the introduction and Region 1 report, there were interesting presentations followed by a good exchange of information in an Open Forum session which carried on beyond the official closing time of the meeting.

Mike SP9XWM and Cris SP7WME spoke about the use of new technology in exercises in Poland. There was then an Open Discussion on what use we could make of Satellites and other new modes for Emergency Communications, discussing Low Earth Orbit as well as Geostationary satellites, HF conditions and weak signal message modes (e.g. JS8call).

Alberto IK1YLO spoke about the NEIFLEX (North East Italian Flood Exercise) European Exercise of 5/9 June 2018 followed by an update on their national DMR project. Ron 4X1IG made a presentation on how emergency communications are being grown in Israel by using a ‘Contest as a drill’.

Oliver DL7TNY provided an introduction to AREDN data networks which got many attendees to look at the networks in practice on the DARC stand in the main hall.

An Open Forum was then followed by a short exercise on how we may respond to a power grid failure.

The next Ham Radio on the Bodensee is on June 26 – 28 2020 and will include another emergency communications meeting.

The third IARU Region 2 Emergency Communications Workshop (ECW) was held in Lima, Peru, earlier this month on the 3rd October, immediately following the 20th General Assembly of IARU Region 2. The Emergency Communications Workshop was sponsored by the Executive Committee of IARU Region 2, and hosted by Radio Club Peruano. Region 2 Emergency Coordinators and subject matter experts discussed recent incident responses with the goal of increasing the capacity of amateurs in IARU Region 2 to respond to large scale, multinational communication emergencies and disasters. The ECW provided an opportunity for leaders to network with the goal of increasing cooperation and collaboration for future responses. Twenty-three countries from around the globe were represented.

Among the many highlights of the workshop was a presentation on Winlink, the ever-growing hybrid Internet/Amateur Radio email network.

Thanks to the ARES e-Letter for this short report.

And the ever-willing Keith Lowes, ZS5WFD, of HAMNET KwaZulu Natal, reports that HAMNET KZN had a last minute request from Daan ZS6CD from Nelspruit to assist the judges from the Endurance Walking Association of SA at a two day event being held on the Bluff in Durban on Thursday 10th and Friday 11th October that coincided with their AGM.  The participants were members of the SANDF, SAPS and Correctional Services.  44 teams, comprising 6 walkers each, and 65 individuals entered, making a total of 329 participants.

Week day events are always a challenge, with the majority of our members unavailable due to work commitments.  Ben ZS5BN, Terry ZS5TX and Rob ZS5ROB offered to assist, and Keith was able to take leave to assist on the Friday.

As things turned out, the Metro Police did not grant approval for the event to take place on Thursday, although the organisers had submitted their application at the beginning of May.  The situation was eventually resolved and an additional 10Km was added to the route that was approved for Friday.  The event started at 07H00 at the old whaling station, along to Brighton Beach, then out towards Mondi in Isipingo and finishing at the Bluff Military Base at around 16H00, a total distance of some 45Km.

HAMNET’s main function was to complete sequence sheets recording team/walker number/time in case of any team lodging a dispute, and reporting any medical emergencies.  Communications were via 145.500 MHz simplex.

Keith was pleased to report that only one medical case was reported, involving a walker who collapsed after climbing the stairs from Brighton Beach leading up to Airlie Road, and was transported to hospital suffering from dehydration.

A sincere vote of thanks was received from the organisers for HAMNET’s assistance at such short notice.

Well done to you and your helpers, Keith!

Keith tells us that HAMNET KZN will also be assisting with next Sunday’s “Amashovashova Classic” Cycle Event from the Pietermaritzburg City Hall, following the route of the Comrades Marathon, and ending in Durban. There will be four different races, two starting in Pietermaritzburg, one at Cato Ridge, and one at Hillcrest.

The 145.750 Midlands repeater and the 145.625 Highway repeater will give good coverage of the race. 15 operators will be deployed, and about 10,000 entries for the race have been received.

Good luck for this event, Keith – we look forward to a report-back in coming weeks.

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

HAMNET Report 6th October 2019

An Amateur Radio Emergency Network activated as Hurricane Lorenzo approached the Azores — an autonomous region of Portugal in the Atlantic. Amateur Radio volunteers worked with the government and emergency response teams, using VHF and UHF repeaters, HF, and Amateur Radio satellite. A request was issued for stations to yield to any emergency traffic coming in and out of the Azores (CU, CQ8, CR8, CS8 and CT8 prefixes).

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) in the US reported that a hurricane warning was in effect for Flores, Corvo, Faial, Pico, Sao Jorge, Graciosa, and Terceira islands. Lorenzo, a Category 2 storm, was maintaining its strength as it headed toward the Azores, where it was expected to bring hurricane conditions to some areas early on Wednesday.

Lorenzo at one point was a Category 5 storm, the first ever recorded as far north and east in the Atlantic.

As of 18h00 UTC on Tuesday, Hurricane Lorenzo was some 385 miles southwest of Flores with maximum sustained winds of 160 kph, moving to the northeast at 40 kph.

Radio amateurs established HF inter-island links on 80, 40, and 20 meters — 3760, 3770, and 3750 kHz; 7110, 7100, and 7060 kHz; and 14 300, 14 310, and 14 320 kHz. The 20-meter frequencies were designated for communications with stations outside of the Azores.

Over the weekend, AMSAT-NA received a request from radio amateurs involved with emergency communications in the Azores to forgo operation of the AO-92 satellite this week. They asked that AO-92 remain in U/v to handle potential emergency traffic, with passes covering the Azores and Portugal the most critical.

Thanks to the ARRL News for this precis of their statement.

From Matt Hamblen, writing in FierceElectronics, comes the story of Pedro Cruz, who spent weeks after Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico in September 2017 helping bring food and water to people trapped in remote areas.

He quickly realized he could use an airborne drone to help, using its video connection to read dozens of messages painted on the ground asking rescue crews to bring water, food or medicine.

It wasn’t until nearly a year after the hurricane devastated the island territory in September 2017 that Cruz figured out a way to connect his drone to disaster aid through a computerized visual recognition tool.

Almost by luck, he said in an interview with FierceElectronics, he learned about an IBM Call for Code hackathon being held in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, in August 2018. Developers were asked to find tech solutions for natural disaster preparedness, and as a self-taught developer, Cruz decided to join up.

Cruz ended up winning first place at the hackathon for a tool he introduced and later developed into DroneAid.

It uses visual recognition to detect and count emergency icons like SOS on the ground from video streams overhead. Then, it automatically plots the emergency needs on a map for first responders.

Following the hackathon, Cruz further developed DroneAid and later became a full-time developer advocate for IBM. On Wednesday, IBM also made DroneAid an open source project as part of its Code and Response initiative, a $25 million program to encourage development of open source technology designed to address global problems like disaster relief.

“Our team decided to open source DroneAid because I feel it’s important to make this technology available to as many people as possible,” Cruz said in a blog posted on Wednesday.

As a freelance web developer, he couldn’t reach clients for weeks after Maria hit. Just afterwards, he used his drone to locate his grandmother who waved from outside her isolated home that she was doing OK. Two weeks after the storm passed, “we would go out to the mountains in the centre of island and it still looked like the hurricane had passed just two days earlier…That’s where the inspiration for DroneAid came from. With a tool like this we can make our response a lot faster and many organizations can go out and help.”

Weeks after the hurricane passed, Cruz’s grandmother was hospitalized with a respiratory condition and later died. He later dedicated DroneAid to her memory.

Cruz plans to work from the bottom-up to get more people trained on using drones for emergency response. He has also worked top-down and has reached out to San Juan officials and the Red Cross. He hopes to talk to leaders in other cities about drone responses for all kinds of natural disasters.

One discovery Cruz made early on was that artificial intelligence computer vision systems needed to read a standard set of icons asking for assistance instead of reading handwritten messages on the ground in various languages through optical character recognition. He settled on eight different icons – such as SOS, OK, food, water, medicine – drawn from a recognized set of icons used by the United Nations. They can be printed on mats that are distributed prior to a storm or spray-painted or drawn by hand.

Cruz explained that a drone can survey an area for the icons placed on the ground by people in need or community groups. As DroneAid detects and counts the images, they are plotted on a map in a Web dashboard to help first responders prioritize needs. The AI model has to be trained on the standard icons to be able to detect them in low light and faded conditions.

When the AI model is applied to the live stream of images coming from the drone, each video frame is analysed and, if any emergency icons are found, their location is captured and plotted on a map. Any drone that can capture a video stream can be used.

The Disasters Emergency Committee tells us they launched the Cyclone Idai Appeal on 21st March 2019, after the cyclone swept through Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe, leaving behind a trail of destruction. Across the three countries, at least 900 people were killed and around three million were left in desperate need of humanitarian assistance.

Just a few weeks later, Cyclone Kenneth followed, further weakening Mozambique’s ability to respond to the destruction. This was the first time in recorded history that two strong tropical cyclones hit Mozambique in the same season, further weakening the country’s ability to respond to the destruction caused by Idai.

Idai brought strong winds and widespread flooding, ripping apart roads, bridges, houses, schools, and health facilities and submerging vast swathes of agricultural land.

With the aid effort fully underway, DEC charities, working closely with national partners to support government-led relief efforts, are prioritising the delivery of clean water, and building toilets and handwashing facilities to tackle the outbreak of cholera. They are also delivering emergency shelter materials and blankets, foods such as pulses and maize flour, and urgent health assistance. Focusing on longer-term food security and rehabilitation of livelihoods is paramount and some members are already providing seeds and tools to communities.

The DEC fundraising appeal raised £43 million in all, a tidy sum indeed!

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

HAMNET Report 29th September 2019

Reporting in Psychcentral, Traci Pedersen notes that, when a natural disaster strikes, women are quicker to take cover or evacuate but often have trouble convincing the men in their lives to do so, according to new research led by the University of Colorado at Boulder.

The study, which focused on how gender influences natural disaster response, also found that traditional gender roles tend to resurface in the aftermath of disasters, with women relegated to the important but isolating role of homemaker while men focus on finances and lead community efforts.

“We found that there are many barriers that disadvantage women in the event of a disaster, leaving them behind when it comes to decision-making and potentially slowing down their recovery,” said lead author Melissa Villarreal, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Sociology and research assistant at the Natural Hazards Centre.

The findings, published in the journal Disasters, are the latest in a series of studies that have found that women tend to have a higher perception of risk, but because they are framed as “worriers,” they are sometimes not taken seriously.

“Women seemed to have a different risk perception and desire for protective action than the men in their lives, but men often determined when and what type of action families took,” Villareal wrote. “In some cases, this put women and their families in greater danger.”

For the study, the researchers analysed in-depth interviews with 33 women and 10 men across two Texas towns.

The participants were asked about their experiences in the midst of, and the year after, the disaster. While the circumstances surrounding the events were very different, common gender-influenced patterns emerged.

“We often assume that men and women are going to respond the same way to these kinds of external stimuli but we are finding that’s not really the case,” said co-author Dr Michelle Meyer, associate professor and director of the Hazard Reduction and Recovery Centre at Texas A&M University.

Female participants also reported that recovery organizations tended to call the men of the household to find out where to direct aid, even when women had filled out the forms requesting it.

“Eliminating the male head-of-household model is crucial for speeding overall household recovery,” the authors conclude.

During recovery, women were often charged with “private sphere” tasks like putting the house back together and caring for children while schools were closed, but they often felt excluded from leadership roles in community recovery projects.

“If your perspective is not taken into consideration and you feel isolated, that can impede your mental health recovery,” said Villareal.

Villareal recently embarked on a separate study, set in Houston, looking at the unique challenges Mexican immigrant populations are facing in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, which hit the region in 2017.

Ultimately, she would like to see government agencies consider gender differences when crafting disaster warnings, and prioritize providing childcare post-disaster so that women can play a greater role in community efforts.

“If we can put racial and gender forms of bias aside and listen to all the people tell their stories about what is affecting them, that could go a long way in helping communities recover,” said Villarreal.

This week’s follow-up on the vaping illness from the CDC says that they received complete sex and age data on 373 cases. It says two-thirds (67%) of cases have been identified in people aged 18 to 34 years, 16 per cent are younger than 18 years and only 17 per cent are 35 years or older. 72 per cent are males.

Authorities say they have still not identified a specific cause of the lung illnesses, but most patients have reported a history of using e-cigarette products containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), many patients have reported using THC and nicotine and some have reported the use of e-cigarette products containing only nicotine.

In a statement, CDC Director Robert R. Redfield encouraged people to consider refraining from using e-cigarette or vaping products, and said efforts are needed in particular to reduce the use of e-cigarettes in young people.

Please continue to think twice before you use these devices.

Dave Swartz, writing in North Forty News, talks of Radio Station WWV, one of the oldest radio stations in the world, celebrating its 100th anniversary on 1st October 2019.  The radio station is best known for the broadcast of the national time standard, the “Atomic Clock”, which is closely synchronized with Universal Coordinated Time, or UTC.  WWV also provides frequency standards for radio communications as well as other services.

Amateur Radio operators have used WWV as a standard for radio and frequency calibration since its inception in 1919.  To recognize the historical, cultural, and scientific importance of radio communications and the critical role WWV plays, the Northern Colorado Amateur Radio Club and the WWV Amateur Radio Club are sponsoring a special event amateur radio station, call sign WW0WWV (that’s W -W – zero – W – W – V).

The station will make as many amateur radio contacts as possible over a 5-day, 120-hour operating period, starting at 6pm Friday, September 27, and going through 6pm on Wednesday, October 2, 2019.  The special event station will operate from the WWV site.

WWV was licensed and broadcasting a full year before the first commercial radio station in the country, KDKA in Pittsburgh. Early broadcasts were experimental in nature, but also included the first announced broadcast of music to the citizens of Washington, DC.  As commercial radio emerged, there was a need for frequency standards across the radio spectrum, and WWV filled that roll.  In 1944, WWV added the national time standard and has provided that service for the past 75 years.

We take for granted the incredible world we live in, made of matter and energy.  It’s the energy that is continually spreading out throughout the Universe, moving away from its source via electromagnetic waves at the speed of light.  It was 1865 when these waves were first theorized, and radio one of the first waves to be studied and understood.  WWV ushered in electromagnetic waves for the people and the start of the Mass Communication and Technology as we know them today.  There are only two things in the Universe:  matter and energy.  WWV is all about harnessing energy to communicate to the masses.

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

HAMNET Report 22nd September 2019

Reporting in NPR on Thursday, Allison Aubrey says that, nationwide, people who vape continue to sicken with severe and unexplained lung illness, leaving doctors and patients concerned about both the acute and long-term effects of the injuries.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday that there are now 530 confirmed or probable cases of lung injury associated with vaping, a jump from 380 cases reported last week. Seven people have died.

“We at CDC are very concerned about the occurrence of life-threatening illness in otherwise healthy, young people,” said Dr Anne Schuchat, the CDC’s principal deputy director, during a call with reporters.

She said this is an ongoing outbreak: “States continue to get new cases reported.”

The CDC has ramped up its investigation, activating its Emergency Operations Centre this week in an effort to nail down the cause of the illnesses, which remains unclear. In addition, the Food and Drug Administration has enlisted the help of its office of criminal investigations, the law enforcement arm of FDA.

If you wish to read more about this alarming illness, google “Vaping Illness”, and watch the many videos posted there.

Kevin, VK2CE, notes that, since its inception in 1998 the International Lighthouse Lightship Weekend has been held on the 3rd full weekend in August. The founders selected this weekend as it was the most suitable for the European and UK stations that made up the bulk of entries for the event.

Next year the 3rd full weekend is host to the 75th anniversary of the cessation of hostilities in the Pacific region with the 15th August, VP (Victory in the Pacific) day, falling on the Saturday of that weekend.

The organisers of the event have decided it would be inappropriate to hold the ILLW event on the 3rd full weekend of August next year, as many stations will be involved in commemorating the important anniversary of VP day, especially those bordering and within the Pacific Rim.

We trust this temporary move to the following weekend, 22-23rd August, will not inconvenience anyone.

It has also come to our notice that some stations are treating the event as a contest, by attempting to work as many stations as possible with the usual 5/9 report and moving on to the next contact. This is totally at odds with the concept of the ILLW, which is intended to be a fun weekend promoting international goodwill, lighthouses and amateur radio. Please let us know if you have contact with this type of activity and we will take appropriate action.

The 22nd annual event held last month was again very successful and enjoyed by 426 stations in 50 countries plus all of those who participated but did not register their intentions. Several new countries and lighthouses were listed this year. Feedback and photos from entrants are on the ILLW web site.

Writing in Scientific American this week, Lucas Joppa says that, if environmental reports published this year were connected to an alarm system, the sound inside the United Nation’s Manhattan headquarters would be deafening—we are facing a five-alarm fire. Myriad reports warned us we must take immediate action to ensure a sustainable supply of clean food, water and air to a human population projected to rapidly grow to 10 billion, all while stemming a globally catastrophic loss of biodiversity and averting the worst economic impacts of a changing climate.

The news was devastating, but not unexpected. The specificity around the short window of time to act was, however. The world’s leading environmental scientists have spoken, and the message is clear: The best time to act was yesterday, so we better start today. The task is much bigger and time is way shorter than previously thought.

While the science says we very likely have no more than 420 gigatons of carbon left to spend, emissions steadily continue to rise every year. Just last year, over 42 gigatons was emitted. That gives us no more than 10 years before we must begin to operate as a carbon neutral planet. Unfortunately, discussions and commitments have yet to translate into measurable change.

And change we must. At stake is not only the health of our planet, but the incredible social and economic progress seen across the world for at least the past 150 years. It’s not surprising that many found themselves glumly nodding in agreement to Jonathan Franzen’s recent article in the New Yorker, titled “What If We Stopped Pretending?”

But fatalism never solved a problem. What does is a formula that has been repeated over centuries of human society—when faced with existential challenges, we have successfully and consistently tackled major societal problems through the simple summation of hard work, progressive governance and technological innovation.

This ideal is what we must embrace in the era of climate change. While people are mobilizing and governments are meeting, what is missing is the third leg of the stool. Investment in technology solutions aimed at environmental outcomes is sorely needed to accelerate the pace, scale and effectiveness of our response to climate change.

The epitome of the innovation we need is best understood as a “planetary computer.” A planetary computer will borrow from the approach of today’s internet search engines, and extend beyond them in the form of a geospatial decision engine that supports queries about the environmental status of the planet, programmed with algorithms to optimize its health. Think of this less as a giant computer in a stark white room and more of an approach to computing that is planetary in scale and allows us to query every aspect of environmental and nature-based solutions available in real time.

We currently lack that data, compute power and scalability to do so. Only when we have a massive amount of planetary data and compute at a similar scale, can we begin to answer one of the most complex questions ever posed—how do we manage the earth’s natural resources equitably and sustainably to ensure a prosperous and climate-stable future?

An imponderable question, which will indeed have to be answered.

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

HAMNET Report 15th September

Jon Excell, writing in The Engineer, says that LiFi, an emerging wireless technology that enables users to send and receive data in beams of LED light, will help overcome the limitations of radio frequency communications

In today’s connected world, wireless data has become a critical utility: an invisible element of our modern infrastructure that increasingly underpins many of the services upon which we rely.

And as we deploy connected devices in ever-greater numbers, and embrace emerging technologies such as autonomous systems, the internet of things and virtual reality (VR), the demand for wireless connectivity is expected to increase exponentially.

But there’s a problem. The radio spectrum upon which much of our connectivity depends is getting crowded and some fear that our insatiable appetite for data will ultimately lead to a ‘spectrum crunch’ that will soon crash our communications networks, rendering many of our fancy new technologies useless.

Against this backdrop, unlocking new levels of data and bandwidth is a priority, and one area of technology that looks set to play a major role in addressing this challenge is Li-Fi, an emerging wireless optical networking technology that enables data to be transmitted over short distances via the rapid and, to the human eye, imperceptible modulation of LED light bulbs.

Pioneered almost a decade ago by Edinburgh University’s Prof Harald Haas, the technology has some compelling advantages. For a start, the data spectrum for visible light is 1,000 times greater than the RF spectrum so there’s more capacity to drive bigger bandwidths and higher data rates. Li-Fi developers have already demonstrated speeds of 224Gbps in laboratory conditions and expect 1Gbps or above – around 100 times faster than conventional Wi-Fi – to become the norm.

What’s more, because data can be contained within a tight area of illumination, there’s little risk of interference and it’s also highly secure: while radio waves penetrate through walls and can be intercepted, a beam of light is confined.

Haas first caught the headlines with the technology following a 2011 TED talk in which he demonstrated how a standard LED lamp could be used to transmit high-resolution video directly to a receiver placed just beneath the bulb.

In the years following this jaw-dropping illustration of the technology in action, Li-Fi has begun making waves beyond the academic research space, with a number of organisations already commercialising the technology, and a growing number of companies supporting research into what is increasingly being viewed as a key emerging sector.

So, watch this space, if you’ll pardon the pun, for more detail and data!

In a follow up to the mention I made in the HAMNET Bulletin of 1st of September, about the dangerous lung disease occurring in persons using Vape Devices, the website univadis.co.za has noted that the FDA has issued a warning against purchase of all illegal (street) vaping products and urges consumers to refrain from using tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) oil or modifying/adding substances to purchased products.

New York State (NYS) public health officials have announced that laboratory testing links recent vaping-associated pulmonary illnesses to high levels of vitamin E acetate in cannabis-containing products.

The FDA also states that although there are not enough data to unequivocally implicate vitamin E acetate, it believes that prudence and avoidance of inhaling THC are warranted.

A second, and possibly third, death has been reported and linked to the use of unregulated substances in the vape devices.

So please heed these warnings, if you use such devices. I hope you don’t!

Spaceweather.com reports that another interstellar visitor appears to be passing through the solar system–and this time it’s definitely a comet. Ukrainian amateur astronomer Gennady Borisov discovered the object, now named C/2019 Q4 (Borisov), approaching from beyond the orbit of Mars on Aug. 30th.

Based on observations gathered since Borisov discovered the distant fuzzball, the comet seems to be following a hyperbolic orbit with an eccentricity greater than 3.5. This means the comet is unbound to the sun. Indeed, it is moving some 30.7 km/s (68,700 mph) too fast for the sun’s gravity to hang onto it. Comet Borisov is a first time visitor to the inner solar system, and after this flyby it will return to deep space.

Comet Borisov will make its closest approach to the sun (2 AU) around Dec. 7th. Three weeks later, near the end of December, it will make its closest approach to Earth (also 2 AU). At the moment the comet is very dim, around magnitude +18. How bright it may become by December is anyone’s guess.

The first known interstellar object to visit our solar system, ‘Oumuamua, caused a sensation when it was discovered racing away from the sun in late 2017. Speculation about its nature ranged from an alien spacecraft to a fossil exocomet. Astronomers still aren’t sure what it was. Comet Borisov, on the other hand, appears to have a fuzzy atmosphere (a “coma”) and perhaps a stubby tail — signs that it really is a comet.

Because Comet Borisov is still just entering the solar system, astronomers will have plenty of time to study it in the months ahead.

UK investigators have revealed that reluctance to use a cockpit cup-holder resulted in coffee being spilled over control panels on an Airbus A330, causing substantial radio communications problems and forcing a diversion.

The A330-200 had been operating from Frankfurt to Cancun on 6 February this year.

It had commenced the transatlantic crossing when the cockpit crew was served coffee in cups without lids. While Airbus recommends using the cup-holder, the size of cups used by the carrier on the route made lifting them from the holder difficult.

The crew naturally tended to place cups on the fold-out table in front of them – making them “vulnerable” to being knocked over.

The coffee on the A330 captain’s table was spilled, with a small amount falling on the left-hand audio control panel, which immediately malfunctioned and subsequently failed. Some 20min later the first officer’s corresponding control panel also became hot and failed – although the precise reason for this was not clear.

VHF radio transmissions and public-address announcements were affected by the malfunctions and the captain chose to divert to Shannon, with the precautionary use of cockpit oxygen masks owing to electrical smoke emanating from the panel.

None of the 326 passengers and 11 crew members on board the jet was injured.

But the carrier subsequently changed its procedures to ensure cup lids were provided on all routes, says the inquiry, and has sought to obtain “appropriately-sized” cups for cockpit cup-holders.

Thanks to FlightGlobal for this shortened report.

This is Dave Reece  ZS1DFR  cautiously moving his cup of coffee away from the face of his VHF/UHF dualbander, and reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

HAMNET Report 8th September 2019

Writing in USA TODAY on Friday, Doyle Rice noted that, as Hurricane Dorian moved away from the United States, it’s now certain that the storm’s lasting legacy will be its slow, torturous rampage as a Category 5 monster across the Bahamas over the Labour Day weekend, which left dozens dead and unimaginable destruction.

With sustained winds of 185 mph [296 kph], Dorian was the strongest hurricane on record to strike the Bahamas since records began in 1851.

It was also the first Category 5 to make landfall on Grand Bahama Island, and, at 185 mph [296 kph], was the strongest hurricane on record to hit Abaco Island.

What was even more stunning was its slow path across the Bahamas: According to Colorado State University meteorologist Phil Klotzbach, Dorian tracked only about 25 miles [40 km] in 24 hours – the shortest distance tracked by an Atlantic major hurricane in a 24-hour period since Hurricane Betsy in 1965.

Weather Underground meteorologist Jeff Masters said that “portions of (Dorian’s) eyewall lashed Great Abaco and Grand Bahama islands with Category 5 winds for a total of 22 hours before the great hurricane finally weakened to Category 4 strength.

“In records going back over a century, there are no cases where an Atlantic Category 5 hurricane has impacted a land area for as long as Dorian battered the Bahamas,” Masters said.

At least 30 people are reported dead in the Bahamas and the death toll is expected to rise significantly. Property losses in the Bahamas could hit $7 billion.

The storm also left its mark in the record books in other ways:

As of Friday, with its landfall in North Carolina, Dorian has been a hurricane for a total of nine days. This is longer than most Atlantic storms: Klotzbach said that only about 10% of all Atlantic hurricanes last longer than eight days.

While this may seem like a lot, it’s still a long way from the record of 19.5 days, which was set by Hurricane Ginger in 1971, according to Klotzbach. Ginger took a long and loopy path around the Atlantic before finally making landfall in North Carolina in late September 1971.

In addition, Dorian has been a named storm for 13 days, which includes its first few days as a tropical storm. That places it in a tie for 5th place for most storm days by an Atlantic hurricane that formed in August, Klotzbach said.

Because of the death and destruction caused by Dorian, the storm’s name will almost certainly be retired by the World Meteorological Organization; the United Nations’ group that determines which hurricane names will be used in upcoming years.

A nation hardest hit by a storm can request its name be removed because the storm was so deadly or costly that future use of the name would be insensitive. The names of two of last year’s most destructive storms – Florence and Michael – were retired by the WMO earlier this year.

Yesterday (Saturday) afternoon’s news was that the Hurricane Watch net suspended activities at 16h00 UTC on Friday, because Dorian had inched away from the North Carolina coast, and been downgraded to a Category One storm, with sustained windspeeds near 145 kph.

Here’s an encouraging report from univadis.co.za about the ongoing battle of misinformation, with regard to vaccinations of all kinds.

A major social media platform has announced that it will only display authoritative vaccine information to its users, as part of efforts to tackle health misinformation.

Last year, Pinterest stopped showing results for searches related to vaccines as a way to prevent people from encountering harmful health misinformation. Now, the social media platform has announced it is introducing a new experience so that when users search for terms such as vaccine safety or other related health terms, they will only receive reliable results about vaccination from leading public health organisations.

The move has been welcomed by the WHO, whose Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he hopes to see other social media platforms around the world following Pinterest’s lead.

“Misinformation about vaccination has spread far and fast on social media platforms in many different countries, including during critical vaccination campaigns like those for polio in Pakistan or yellow fever in South America.

“Social media platforms are the way many people get their information and they will likely be major sources of information for the next generations of parents. We see this as a critical issue and one that needs our collective effort to protect people’s health and lives,” Dr Tedros said.

Finally, Krugersdorp News reports that, if disaster strikes and the world finds itself on the brink of destruction, radio communication may be the only way of getting the message out when all other systems fail.

Okay, so maybe that’s the worst-case scenario and it probably won’t happen. Learning radio communication skills and writing the international exam can still be very important, however. The disaster scenario was one of the many reasons Geoff Levey, ZS6C, from the West Rand Amateur Radio Club (WRARC) brought up for why it’s important for people to take up the hobby of, as they name it, amateur radio.

Young Clarissa Clarke, ZS6LIS, who knows all about the important uses of the international radio system, most of all enjoys connecting to people from all over the world.

Although the ever-increasing ease of accessibility to cell-phones and the internet has put a damper on the widespread use of radio as a means of communication, there has recently been a relative explosion of interest among members of the community, who are taking this up as a hobby. Clarissa is one of the many young people who found an interest in radio communication when she joined WRARC three years ago, following in her father’s footsteps.

At 21, Clarissa can build a complex radio system from scratch, and fully understands how to connect to any radio system around the world. She enjoys spending her time talking to people from across the globe. Sometimes these friends establish a radio time and frequency beforehand, and sometimes she meets new and interesting people by randomly accessing channels.

Last year, Clarissa participated in the Youngsters On The Air (YOTA) conference when it was hosted in South Africa. This year, she was chosen as one of only two youngsters to travel to Bulgaria from 10th to 17th August to participate in this year’s YOTA conference.

YOTA, in IARU Region 1, is a shining example of what value amateur radio can add to the lives of tomorrow’s leaders of society.

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

HAMNET Report 1st SEPTEMBER 2019

Alister van Tonder, ZS1OK, has provided us with a summary of the activities of HAMNET members during a recent event. He writes:

A team of six HAMNET operators provided communications support at the Wildrunner Kogelberg event on Saturday, 10th of August.  The team consisted of: Matt ZS1MTF and Grant ZS1GRC as team 1, Ian ZS1OSK and Ann ZS1AMS as team 2 and Douw ZS1DGK and Alister ZS1OK at the base.

When things run smoothly during the event, and it is a brilliant spring day with hardly a breath of wind, compared to last year when the jumping castle ended up in the breakers due to strong winds and tents had to be taken down for safety reasons, this year ran smoothly and effective updates and feedback were provided.  As usual team 1 always have a bit of a runabout from their initial position to a site with a superb view over Kleinmond and the sea.

As before, cellular APRS was utilized to track the XL-route and Long route sweeps, who had the responsibility to ensure that no runners were left behind on the track. As a result, they were the last to return to the finish line.  Having this information on hand, and being able to track the other HAMNET operators via APRS ensured race control was always informed of vital movements of support staff.  Having the positions available and accessible on APRS ensured all operators were informed of all the activity relevant to the event.  While using an RF iGate/Digi would be possible, 95% of the route has good GSM coverage and would not warrant the risk of the iGate/Digi being stolen, or requiring an additional operator just to keep an eye on it.

The briefing session commenced at 06:45 in the morning and the team stood down at 14:35.  This was Grant ZS1GRC’s first opportunity to assist at one of these trail events, although he previously also assisted at the Two Oceans Marathon.

Thank you to all of you, and especially Alister, for keeping HAMNET’s flag flying high.

Now we move to the Caribbean, where ARRL news reports that the Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) has been closely watching the progress of Hurricane Dorian and activated on Saturday at 2100 UTC, and will remain in continuous operation on 14.325 MHz and 7.268 MHz.

Over the past 24 hours, the hurricane’s forecast track has shifted slightly, which will take the storm over the northern Bahamas before it strikes south-eastern Florida.

As of 1500 UTC on Friday, Dorian was some 760 km east of the north-western Bahamas and about 1000 km east of West Palm Beach, Florida. Maximum sustained winds were 176 kph (making it a Category 2 hurricane) and moving to the northwest at 16 kph.

“The new forecast track does not look good,” HWN Manager Bobby Graves, KB5HAV, observed. “The Bahamas are forecast for a direct hit late this (Sunday) afternoon when Dorian is a Category 4 hurricane. Next stop is currently forecast to be near West Palm Beach as a strong Category 3 hurricane.” Graves said that after it makes landfall, Dorian is expected to turn to the northwest and move up Florida’s east coast.

“No matter the location of landfall, suffice it to say that, unless something major changes, a huge area of Florida will be impacted by this storm,” Graves said.

According to the National Hurricane Centre:

  • Life-threatening storm surge and devastating hurricane-force winds are likely in portions of the north-western Bahamas, where a hurricane watch is in effect. Residents should execute their hurricane plans and heed advice from local emergency officials.
  • Life-threatening storm surge and devastating hurricane-force winds are likely along portions of the Florida east coast by early this coming week, but it is too soon to determine where the highest storm surge and winds will occur. Residents should have hurricane plans in place, know if they are in a hurricane evacuation zone, and listen to advice given by local emergency officials.
  • A prolonged period of storm surge, high winds, and rain is likely in portions of Florida into this week, including the possibility of hurricane-force winds over inland portions of the Florida peninsula.
  • Heavy rains are expected over portions of the Bahamas, Florida, and elsewhere in the south-eastern United States this weekend and into the middle of the coming week.

ARRL Headquarters remains in monitoring mode and has been in regular contact with ARRL’s partner agencies.  Thank you to ARRL News for this report.

Now, here’s bad news for those who use vapour inhaling devices in place of cigarettes.

Authorities in the United States are investigating around 150 cases of severe lung disease which they believe could be linked to e-cigarette use or vaping.

Between 28th June and 20th August this year, at least 149 possible cases of severe lung illness associated with e-cigarette product use were reported by 15 states, primarily among adolescents and young people.

According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in many of the cases, patients reported a gradual start of symptoms including breathing difficulty, shortness of breath and/or chest pain before hospitalization. Some cases additionally reported mild-to-moderate gastrointestinal illness and fatigue.

In a statement, the CDC said available evidence does not suggest that an infectious disease is the principle cause of the illness. While a cause has not yet been identified, all reported cases had used e-cigarette products or had been vaping.

It also noted that in many cases, patients acknowledged the recent use of tetrahydrocannabinol-containing products (marijuana); however, it said no specific product has been identified in all cases, nor has any product been conclusively linked to illnesses.

“Even though cases appear similar, it is not clear if these cases have a common cause or if they are different diseases with similar presentations,” the CDC said.

In a subsequent news release mentioned on the same website, Robert R Redford MD, Director of the CDC said:

“We are saddened to hear of the first death related to the outbreak of severe lung disease in those who use e-cigarette or “vaping” devices. CDC’s investigation is ongoing. We are working with state and local health departments and FDA to learn the cause or causes of this ongoing outbreak.

“This tragic death in Illinois reinforces the serious risks associated with e-cigarette products. Vaping exposes users to many different substances for which we have little information about related harms – including flavourings, nicotine, cannabinoids, and solvents. CDC has been warning about the identified and potential dangers of e-cigarettes and vaping since these devices first appeared. E-cigarettes are not safe for youth, young adults, pregnant women, or adults who do not currently use tobacco products.”

Thanks to Univadis.co.za for these notes of warning.

And, in late news just handed to me, Icom Japan has surprised the amateur fraternity with the announcement of a small HF/VHF/UHF SDR transceiver putting out 10 watts, and called the IC-705. Look out for it on YouTube channels and Icom announcements. And remember, you heard it here first.

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

HAMNET Report 25 August 2019

On 10th August 2019, members of HAMNET Gauteng South, Ground Search and Rescue, and the Off Road Rescue Unit (ORRU) met at the training facility of SA Emergency Care in Modderfontein to hold a workshop on Disaster Management. Unfortunately representatives from local Disaster Management and the Aeronautical Search and Rescue Coordination Centre were unable to attend.

The workshop kicked off at 09h00 and Leon ZS6LMG, Deputy Director of HAMNET Gauteng South, discussed various topics relating to disaster management, and in particular sharing some of the activities and experiences that HAMNET have been involved with during disasters.

Topics that were covered were amongst others, the differences between an emergency, a crisis or incident and a disaster, and the role of agencies other than Fire and Rescue, and EMS.

The objectives of disaster management were also discussed as well as what an exit strategy is, that is, when and how one withdraws and stops providing services.

Contingency and disaster plans were also discussed, including the elements of a good plan and the layout. Plans also need to be dynamic and there is no one plan that fits all scenarios.

The various resources were discussed, namely Metro, public and private line functions as well as NGOs and local informal resources, the deployment of personnel, when and where, and support for the personnel deployed, such as food, water and accommodation. Personnel are often exposed to horrific scenes, so stress monitoring and counselling were also discussed.

Logistics were discussed, around equipment, the line functions and maintenance of the resources utilised, and making sure that there is no duplication of resources.

The flow of information and communications between the supporting agencies, the JOC or VOC as well as the media, were also discussed. The type of information that needs to be communicated and stored was also discussed. Here the role of HAMNET was highlighted, as well as some of the capabilities that exist within HAMNET.

The control structure was discussed and who is in charge, as well as mandates, agreements, memorandums of understanding, standard operating procedures and the activation processes.

Disaster relief is expensive and so finances were also discussed, covering items such as budgets for various scenarios, with costs that need to be approved ahead of time, as there is no time for negotiations during a disaster.

Lastly, some of the role functions in disaster management were discussed.

HAMNET had on display a working QO-100 satellite station and the role and capability of this system and what it means for disaster management was described. The HAMNET Incident Control System Software was also demonstrated to show the functionality of the system and how it can be used effectively to manage resources and incidents.

The very informative morning was closed off with a delicious prego roll supplied by the Fireman’s Tavern.

In a second report, Brian ZS6YZ says that, on Wednesday 20th August 2019, HAMNET Gauteng, represented by Glynn Chamberlain ZS6GLN, Leon Lessing ZS6LMG and Brian Jacobs ZS6YZ, attended the quarterly Gauteng Provincial Disaster Management NGO’s Forum meeting, held in Midrand at the offices of the GPDM.

The meeting was chaired by Dr Elias Sithole, the Head of the Provincial Disaster Management Centre.

The various NGOs that were represented were given an opportunity to do a presentation about their organisations, who they are and what they do, as well as examples of events and incidents in which they have been involved.

The presentation on HAMNET that Leon ZS6LMG presented was very well received, and role players who have experience as first responders reiterated the importance of communications, and noted that they have experienced existing communications infrastructure failing during a disaster situation.

The meeting was very productive and Dr Sithole from Gauteng Provincial Disaster Management requested all the role players to come forward with ideas and projects, to start working together to ensure that in the event of a disaster, everyone knows what needs to be done, and all systems are fully operational. Dr Sithole also made it clear that Incident Command System (ICS) training was compulsory for everyone to ensure that they understood how the disaster management structures operate. A provincial disaster management exercise is being planned for the middle of next year to check the state of readiness of all the role players in disaster management in the province.

Thanks to Brian Jacobs ZS6YZ for these informative reports.

Now, here’s a good news story about a Russian aircraft that had to make an emergency landing last week. eTurboNews reports that Airbus A321 departed from Zhukovsky Airport outside Moscow to Simferopol, Crimea early on Thursday the 15th of August. During take-off, the jet, with 233 people aboard, ran into a flock of gulls, causing engine malfunction.

The pilots had to perform an emergency landing, successfully putting the jetliner down on its belly in a cornfield near the airport. When the aircraft was back on the ground, the crew professionally executed their duties, organizing a swift and safe evacuation of the passengers. Nobody died on the plane as a result of the miraculous landing – 76 people were given medical attention, but only one required hospitalization.

The pilots who carried out the successful emergency landing in the cornfield, saving the lives of all the passengers, have been awarded with Russia’s highest state honour – the ‘Hero of Russia’ title. The rest of the crew received “Orders of Courage”.

President Vladimir Putin signed a decree to decorate the pilots and flight attendants from Russia’s Ural Airlines on Friday. Putin praised the level of training in the company and expressed hope that such emergency situations will occur as rarely as possible in the future.

Those given the Hero of Russia titles are Captain Damir Yusupov, 41, and co-pilot Georgy Murzin, 23.

In passing, note that nowhere in this report does it say that the pilots jettisoned their fuel before performing the emergency landing, so the landing was probably all the more daring!

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

HAMNET Report 18 August 2019

Dave Higgs, ZS2DH, of HAMNET Eastern Cape has told us about the Transbaviaans Mountain Bike event, which is taking place this weekend and at which PEARS and HAMNET EC are assisting. We look forward to a report on this race from you in the future, Dave.

The scientific part of our HAMNET report today says that the Planetary Society reports that its crowdfunded LightSail 2 spacecraft is successfully raising its orbit solely on the power of sunlight. Since unfurling the spacecraft’s solar sail on July 23, mission managers have been optimizing the way the spacecraft orients itself during solar sailing. After a few tweaks, LightSail 2 began raising its orbital apogee, something the mission team said demonstrated the mission’s primary goal of “flight by light for CubeSats.” Continuing to sail on sunlight in Earth orbit, the spacecraft’s orbital apogee hit 729 kilometres as of August 5, an increase of 3.2 kilometres since sail deployment.

LightSail 2 launched on June 25, and it deployed on July 2 from Prox-1, a Georgia Tech student-built spacecraft the size of a small washing machine. Using the Experimental License call sign WM9XPA, LightSail 2 automatically transmits a beacon packet on 437.025 MHz at 9,600 bps FSK every few seconds, which can be decoded into 238 lines of text telemetry describing the spacecraft’s health and status — everything from battery status to solar sail deployment motor state. Every 45 seconds, the spacecraft transmits “LS2” in CW on 437.025 MHz.

Thanks to the ARRL Letter for this interesting insert.

Science News reports that shudders in the cosmos have revealed what’s likely the sad end of a neutron star — getting swallowed by a black hole.

If confirmed, it would be the first solid detection of this source of gravitational waves, revealing a type of cataclysm never before spotted. Researchers from the LIGO and Virgo gravitational wave observatories reported the candidate event, which was detected on August 14, in a public database used by astronomers.

Scientists are still analysing the data to verify what created the gravitational waves, which are tiny vibrations in spacetime caused by massive, accelerating objects. But one thing seems fairly certain: “Something has occurred out there in the sky,” says physicist Daniel Holz of the University of Chicago, a member of LIGO. “So far, it doesn’t obviously look like anything we’ve detected with high confidence before.”

LIGO and Virgo previously have picked up gravitational waves from pairs of merging black holes and from colliding neutron stars, which are extremely dense collapsed stars. In April, scientists saw tentative hints of a rendezvous between a black hole and neutron star, but the signal was weak and could have been a false one.

This new discovery offers much more solid evidence: The detection was so clear that it’s considered very unlikely to be a false alarm. The researchers estimate that the run-in between the two objects occurred around 900 million light-years away, and within an area about 23 square degrees across the sky. (For comparison, the moon is about half a degree across.) Astronomers have since been peering at that region with their telescopes, looking for any light that may have been emitted in the merger. Such light could have been released if the neutron star were torn apart by the black hole before being gulped within its depths.

Further study of the encounter could help reveal new secrets about some of the universe’s most mysterious objects. But the potential detection is exciting on its own, Holz says. “The first of anything is always really fascinating.”

Now for the medical news in today’s bulletin, an excerpt in Science News, written by Aimee Cunningham reports that an especially dangerous type of tuberculosis may have met its match.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced on August 14 that it has approved the antibiotic Pretomanid to help tackle what’s called extreme drug-resistant tuberculosis. This form of the disease is resistant to at least four of the main TB drugs, and treatment often fails. Only around 34 percent of infected patients typically survive, the World Health Organization says.

The current treatment requires patients to take as many as eight antibiotics orally, and sometimes by injection, for 18 months or more. By contrast, the new antibiotic is paired with two other previously approved drugs, Bedaquiline and Linezolid, in a six-month course of pills. Ninety-five of 107 patients who had the highly resistant disease and took this drug regimen recovered, according to the TB Alliance, the non-profit organization that developed Pretomanid. The drug is only the third since the 1960s to be approved for tuberculosis, which is caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

Tuberculosis sickened an estimated 10 million people in 2017. Around 558,000 cases were multidrug-resistant, unresponsive to the two most powerful TB drugs. Of those cases, about 8.5 percent, or roughly 47,000, were extensively drug-resistant, according to WHO.

Pretomanid has been tested only in patients with highly resistant TB. More research is needed to determine whether the drug could be useful for the vast majority of patients who have TB that’s more receptive to treatment, says William Bishai, a tuberculosis researcher at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, who was not involved in the drug’s development. Perhaps the standard regimen of multiple drugs taken for six months could be shortened by including the new antibiotic, he says. “We’re delighted to have this new drug Pretomanid, but there’s a lot more to do.”

And, in further medical news, Science News says that two Ebola treatments have proven to be effective in preventing death during a clinical trial conducted amid the ongoing Ebola outbreak in Congo, preliminary data suggest.

The trial began in November, with participants randomly given one of four experimental treatments. Data from 499 patients reviewed on August 9 suggest that those people taking one of two antibody treatments — mAb114 or REGN-EB3 — had a greater chance of survival than those on the antiviral drug Remdesivir or the antibody treatment ZMapp. Researchers reported the trial results in a news release on August 12th, but these findings have yet to be finalized.

“One thing that won’t change is that those two therapies are better than the other two — that’s for sure,” says Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. The trial now enters a phase with only the two most effective treatments in order to gather more data on their safety and the immune response to each drug. Researchers won’t study enough patients, however, to determine which drug works best.

The percentage of patients who died while taking one of the two treatments was in the region of 29 to 34 percent. That’s a big improvement over the current 67 percent mortality rate reported for Congo’s outbreak, which began on August 1, 2018.

The successful conclusion of this ground-breaking research will make a huge difference to the risks of Haemorrhagic Fevers in Central Africa.

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

HAMNET Report 11 August 2019

If you’re ever in a disaster and see a weird-looking aircraft flying overhead, don’t fret — it could be there to help you.

For two years, Chinese aircraft manufacturer OXAI Aircraft Co. has been developing MOZI 2, a fully solar-powered unmanned aircraft it hopes will one day help out in disaster relief situations.

On Saturday, the drone took its maiden flight at an airport in Deqing County — and it appears the test went off without a hitch.

OXAI Aircraft told Xinhua that MOZI 2 has a wingspan of 15 meters and is powered solely by solar cells. It can reach an altitude of 8,000 meters, with a maximum cruise time of 12 hours at night following eight hours of charging in sunlight.

In addition to contributing to disaster relief scenarios, the solar-powered drone could be useful for reconnaissance missions and communication efforts, OXAI Aircraft told Xinhua — and now that it knows the craft can fly, it can start working toward those applications.

Thanks to the website The Byte for this report.

We’ve all tried to kill a cockroach only to watch it scurry away at a super-fast pace.

One of nature’s creepiest insects, as it turns out, has inspired researchers to create a very tiny robot that could in theory burrow through natural disaster sites and relay information to rescue workers. The New York Post says that a team at the University of California, Berkeley have designed a robot that’s made out of a material known as polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) and is the size of a postage stamp.

Scientists involved in the project explained that it could have many applications.

“For example, if an earthquake happens, it’s very hard for the big machines, or the big dogs, to find life underneath debris, so that’s why we need a small-sized robot that is agile and robust,” said Yichuan Wu, first author of the paper, who completed the work as a graduate student in mechanical engineering at UC Berkeley, in a press statement.

It’s also almost as hardy as a real cockroach, as the researchers repeatedly applied pressure to it by stepping on it.

“Most of the robots at this particular small scale are very fragile. If you step on them, you pretty much destroy the robot,” Liwei Lin, senior author of a paper on the research, told New Atlas. “We found that if we put weight on our robot, it still functions, more or less.”

Although the robot doesn’t look like much, it can actually do a lot, according to researchers: It can move along the ground at a speed of 20 body lengths per second, which is comparable to that of a cockroach and apparently the fastest pace among insect-sized robots. It can also zoom through tubes, scurry up small slopes and carry tiny cargo loads, like a peanut.

ARRL member Eric Knight, KB1EHE, played a role in the development of an RF-based Alzheimer’s disease treatment that now shows great promise. A study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease following a months-long FDA clinical trial of the treatment protocol concluded that memory decline in most patients “appeared to have been reversed to cognitive levels equivalent to 12 months earlier” after 2 months of treatment. The clinical trial concluded last December 31 and focused on the initial efficacy of what NeuroEM Therapeutics, Inc. — the company developing the device — calls “transcranial electromagnetic treatment” (TEMT), using a non-invasive head-worn device called the MemorEM™.

“Results from the trial demonstrate that TEMT was safe in all eight participating patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease, and enhanced cognitive performance in seven of them, as measured by standard cognition scales,” said a news release from NeuroEM Therapeutics. Seven of the eight clinical trial patients agreed to take part in a 4-month extension study, based on the findings and the positive feedback from all participants.

“This pioneering study suggests that TEMT may be an entirely new therapeutic intervention against Alzheimer’s disease,” said NeuroEM CEO Dr. Gary Arendash. “Our bioengineering technology may be succeeding where drug therapy against this devastating disease has thus far failed. TEMT appears to be affecting the Alzheimer’s disease process through several actions directly inside neurons (brain cells), which is where we believe the disease process needs to be stopped and hopefully reversed.” Arendash has explained that TEMT in the 900 MHz range breaks down the small protein aggregates (amyloid oligomers) in brain cells that are thought to initiate Alzheimer’s development.

Knight, of Unionville, Connecticut, is the president of Remarkable Technologies. He has no medical background, but several years ago, he learned of experiments that Arendash had carried out on mice specially bred to have Alzheimer’s disease, in which the mice were exposed to low levels of RF for therapeutic purposes. The effects were dramatic, sometimes even reversing the disease’s effects. Borrowing some concepts from earlier experiments with small rockets and avionics, Knight set about developing — and later patenting — a wearable device that could deliver requisite low levels of RF to a human head. NeuroEM was also developing a device, which it patented as well, and NeuroEM has filed multiple patents since then, Knight explained to ARRL. NeuroEM has an exclusive license to Knight’s patent, and his contribution is now part of the overall mix of applied technology.

“As an inventor and entrepreneur, all you can hope for is to have a positive impact on society, and this is about as important as it gets,” Knight told ARRL News, whom we thank for this insert.

Finally, please be aware of Tropical Cyclone LEKIMA-19, which is currently 650km North-East of Taiwan, and bearing down on the Chinese mainland, with windspeeds of up to 190kph. 40000 homes in Taiwan are without power (as of Friday), and citizens in coastal areas are preparing to evacuate their homes. A RED typhoon warning has been issued for the coast of Taiwan and far Eastern tip of Chinese Mainland, while heavy rain, strong winds and storm surges are expected along the coast and Ryukyu Archipelago.

Please be mindful of emergency communications on HF frequencies over this weekend.

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