Quantum drums, COVID patents and head injuries

A masked person in a car gets an injection.

Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 is given at a transit clinic in Marple, Pennsylvania.Credit: Pete Bannan / MediaNews Group / Daily Times via Getty

The US is in shock supporting the waiver of patents on COVID vaccines

As a historic step, the US government has announced its support waiver of patent protection for COVID-19 vaccines, measures to boost supplies so that people around the world can take pictures. “The extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures,” said Katherine Tai, a US sales representative.

The move came on 5 May, the first day of a two-day meeting of the General Council of the World Trade Organization based in Geneva, Switzerland. So far, the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom and Japan have blocked efforts by India and South Africa to legally produce generic versions of COVID-19 vaccines.

Former US presidents from both the Republican and Democratic parties have steadfastly defended intellectual property rights, so a move by President Joe Biden’s administration has shocked people on both sides of the debate.

“This represents a major shift in American politics in a public health manner,” said Matthew Kavanagh, a global health researcher at Georgetown University in Washington, DC.

Kavanagh is part of a growing body of researchers in the field of health policy and global health who are pushing for patent exemptions, as the gap between vaccinations in rich and poor countries is widening every day.

Less than 1% of people in low-income countries received COVID-19 vaccines. Researchers quickly noticed that relinquishing patents covering all aspects of COVID-19 vaccines would be just the first step in increasing vaccine supplies.

“It’s one-two-three,” explains Rachel Cohen, the American director of the nonprofit drug and neglected disease initiative in New York. “First we have to remove patent barriers, second we have to pass on knowledge about how to make them, and the third step is huge investments in production capacity.”

Drug makers and others who oppose the measure say it is giving up sabotage of companies’ enormous investment in drug and vaccine development, which is offset by their ability to price products they own.

Quantum drum equipment

Tiny aluminum membranes used by Kotler’s team to demonstrate quantum entanglement.Credit: Florent Lecoq and Shlomi Kotler / NIST

Tiny drums push the boundaries of quantum strangeness

The play on two small drums was provided by physicists the most direct example yet this quantum entanglement – a bizarre effect normally associated with subatomic particles – also works for larger objects.

In an experiment at the US National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colorado, physicist Shlomi Kotler and co-workers built a pair of vibrating aluminum membranes similar to two small drums, each about 10 micrometers long.

The team tickled microwave photons on the membranes to synchronize vibrations and in such a way that their motions were in a state of quantum entanglement. Whenever the drums swayed up and down, measurements of their displacement from the flat showed that they were in exactly the same position, and probing their speeds returned with exactly opposite values.

Although these structures are barely visible to the naked eye, they are huge by quantum standards and consist of about one trillion atoms.

The findings published on 6 May (S. Kotler et al., Science 372, 622–625; 2021) could help scientists build quantum computers that can perform calculations beyond the reach of any conventional computer.

The risk of head injuries is higher for women soccer players

Soccer players are almost twice as likely to suffer a concussion Like their male counterparts, the study found more than 80,000 teenage high school players in the United States.

The researchers analyzed survey data from approximately 43,000 male and 39,000 schoolchildren in Michigan over 3 academic years (see “Risk of concussion”). They found that girls’ chances of a head injury in sports were (1.88 times higher than boys), according to findings published on 27 April (AC Bretzin et al. JAMA Netw. Open 4, e218191; 2021).

The way players suffered injuries also varied between male and female adolescents: a boy’s most common way to shake was to beat up another player. The girls were most likely tremors after a collision with another object, such as a ball or goal post. Boys were also more likely to be eliminated immediately after suspicion of a head injury than girls.

Risk of concussion.  A survey of ~ 80,000 high school footballers found that girls were twice as likely to be shaken as boys.

Source: AC Bretzin et al. JAMA Netw. Open 4, e218191; 2021

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