Hangzhou, June 23 (Xinhua/UNB) -- Traditional ways of sewing that rely on human hands or sewing machines may see a drastic change, as researchers in eastern China's Zhejiang Province have created a 3D sewing robotic arm.
The robotic arm, about the size of a human, can quickly scan pieces of cloth with a laser scanner, sew them together based on programmed patterns and cut threads. The whole process only takes a few minutes.
Jointly developed by Ningbo Cixing Co. Ltd. and a research institute of the China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation, the 3D robotic arms are currently applied to the sewing of automotive interiors.
According to Fu Lei, general manager of Cixing Robotics, automobile manufacturing is a highly automatic industry, but this is not the case in making automotive interiors, which relies on many human workers. The 3D robotic arm could increase production efficiency without lowering the quality of products.
The 3D sewing robotic arms, installed with different heads, will be used in many more fields including aerospace.
San Francisco, June 23 (Xinhua/UNB) -- A company created by Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan on Friday announced the awarding of 68 million U.S. dollars to fund a global project to map all cells in the human body.
The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), a limited liability firm based in the Redwood City, California, said the fund will support the ongoing global project the Human Cell Atlas (HCA) and its selection of 38 collaborative science teams to map the human body cell by cell.
The three-year grant will be shared by the 38 teams from 20 countries and multiple disciplines that cover medicine, software engineering and computational biology.
The participants will focus on mapping specific tissues, such as the heart, eye, or liver, in the healthy human body, said the CZI.
"The global Human Cell Atlas effort is a beacon for what can be accomplished when experts across scientific fields and time zones work together towards a common goal," said CZI Head of Science Cori Bargmann.
The result of the research and tools created from it will be shared freely among other researchers and research institutes, said the CZI, which is also working with the European Bioinformatics Institute, the Broad Institute, as well as the University of California, Santa Cruz.
The CZI has previously funded 85 projects to create collaborative computational tools in support of building the HCA, as well as 38 pilot projects to help establish best practices and data analysis technologies for constructing the atlas.
The interdisciplinary collaborations will accelerate progress toward a first draft of the Human Cell Atlas, Bargmann said.
San Francisco, June 23 (Xinhua/UNB) -- Antibiotic-resistant bacteria could be transmitted to humans through consumption of plant foods, which may pose health risks for the general public, according to a study unveiled on Saturday.
Researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) discovered how plant foods serve as vehicles for spreading antibiotic resistance to the gut microbiome, said a study presented to ASM Microbe 2019, an annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) being held here from June 20 to 24.
During a mouse experiment, the scientists observed antibiotic bacteria or "superbugs" successfully hid in the intestines of the mice fed with lettuce contaminated with the antibiotic-resistant bacteria of E. coli.
"We found differences in the ability of bacteria to silently colonize the gut after ingestion, depending on a variety of host and bacterial factors," said Marlene Maeusli, a USC researcher and lead author on the study.
Unlike the outbreaks of diarrheal illnesses caused immediately after humans eat contaminated vegetables, the antibiotic-resistant bacteria can hide in the human intestines for months or even years before they cause an illness such as a urinary infection, said the study.
"Our findings highlight the importance of tackling foodborne antibiotic-resistance from a complete food chain perspective that includes plant-foods in addition to meat," Maeusli said.
About 2 million cases of antibiotic-resistant infections occur every year in the United States and 20 percent of them are linked to agriculture, according to the estimates of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Taipei, Jun 23 (AP/UNB) — The chairman of Foxconn, the world's largest contract assembler of consumer electronics for companies such as Apple, is stepping down amid speculation he could be planning a presidential run in Taiwan next year.
Terry Gou, 68, made the announcement Friday at the company's annual shareholders meeting, where he was surrounded by an enthusiastic crowd while exiting the meeting room.
Foxconn board members elected Young Liu, the head of the Foxconn's semiconductor division, as Gou's successor.
Gou has yet to formally announce his candidacy and he did not mention it at the meeting.
His resignation, effective July 1, is the latest challenge for Foxconn, which has been caught up in the U.S.-China trade war and a U.S. ban on supplying technology components to Chinese tech giant Huawei over security concerns.
Gou told journalists he had urged Apple to move its assembly line from mainland China to high-tech Taiwan, after The Wall Street Journal and other media reported that Apple has discussed shifting some of its production from China with its largest suppliers, including Foxconn. Apple didn't respond to requests for comment about those reports.
"Taiwan holds a very important position in this current U.S.-China trade dispute, in this global economy reform," Gou said. "Taiwan is important for its technologies, geographical location, protection on intellectual property and application of new technologies."
But most analysts believe it would take Apple at least two years to pivot completely away from China because its supply chain for assembling iPhones, iPads and other devices is so complicated.
Investors have been worrying that the next round of China tariffs being threatened by U.S. President Donald Trump will hurt Apple's sales and profit margins. That's the main reason the company's stock price is hovering about 14 percent below its peak reached last October.
Apple is still hoping for a resolution between the U.S. and China that would avert a 25 percent tariff hitting the iPhone and all its other major products.
In a recent letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Apple warned the tariffs would hurt the U.S. economy and hinder its ability to compete against its rivals from China that don't sell their products in the U.S. Those rivals include Huawei and Xiaomi, which already have been gaining ground in the global smartphone market.
Gou recently has seemed to shift his focus toward a presidential bid, most likely for the opposition, China-friendly Nationalist Party. He would be bringing a pro-business and pro-China stance to what is expected to be a crowded field.
Gou ranks among Taiwan's richest people with a fortune estimated by Forbes at $7.8 billion. He says the Nationalists should hold debates to select their candidate.
His candidacy would be the first for a Taiwan business mogul and may appeal to Taiwanese dissatisfied with stagnating incomes who would like to see a different, more business-oriented style of leadership.
Incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen has been hampered by low public approval ratings and a diplomatic embargo imposed by China, which claims the island as its own territory.
However, Gou is likely to face criticism from China skeptics in Taiwan over Foxconn's 12 factories in nine Chinese cities and his close ties to the Chinese government.
Foxconn announced in 2017, to much fanfare, that it planned to invest $10 billion in the U.S. state of Wisconsin and hire 13,000 people to build an LCD factory that could make screens for televisions and a variety of other devices. After waffling earlier this year on the company's intentions, Gou recommitted to the project in February after a meeting with President Donald Trump.
Portland, Jun 22 (AP/UNB) — So many gray whales are dying off the U.S. West Coast that scientists and volunteers dealing with the putrid carcasses have an urgent request for coastal residents: Lend us your private beaches so these ocean giants can rot in peace.
The number of dead whales washing ashore in Washington state alone — 29 as of this week — means almost every isolated public beach has been used. Authorities are now scrambling to find remote stretches of sand that are privately owned, with proprietors who don't mind hosting a rotting creature that's bigger than a school bus and has a stench to match its size.
"The preferred option is, at all times, that they just be allowed to decompose naturally," said John Calambokidis, a research biologist with the Olympia, Washington-based Cascadia Research. "But it gets harder and harder to find locations where they can rot without creating a problem. This is a new wrinkle."
At least 81 gray whale corpses have washed ashore in California, Oregon, Washington and Alaska since Jan. 1. If tallies from Mexico and Canada are added, the number of stranded gray whales reaches about 160 and counting, said Michael Milstein, spokesman for NOAA Fisheries.
U.S. scientists last month declared the die-off an "unusual mortality event," a designation that triggered additional resources to respond to the deaths and launch an investigation.
The first private-beach owners to respond, a Washington state couple, received their carcass earlier this month. Volunteers with the so-called "stranding network" — a coalition of nonprofits, research institutions and government agencies — attached a rope to the dead whale's tail and used a motorboat to tow it 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) along the coast to the couple's beach, where they anchored it to tree stumps.
Mario Rivera and his veterinarian wife, Stefanie Worwag, asked their neighbor's permission first and are using copious amounts of lime to speed decomposition and reduce the stench. They visit the carcass daily and consider it a scientific opportunity.
"It's decomposing nicely. There've been a couple of days this week when I was out there mowing and I was like, 'Oooph,'" Rivera said of smell from the 40-foot (12-meter) adult male whale sitting 150 yards (137 meters) from his house.
"But it's only temporary. It's only going to be smelling for about a month — and after that, the smell's gone."
Since the Port Townsend, Washington, couple welcomed the carcass, 15 more private individuals have signed on to do the same, mostly in remote areas around the Salish Sea in far northwest Washington state, Milstein said.
The number of dead whales found in Washington state this year has already surpassed the tally for 2000, when the last significant die-off of gray whales occurred on the West Coast. In Oregon, five dead gray whales have been documented as of this week, more than in all of last year. California has seen 37, and 10 have come ashore in Alaska.
Experts estimate the washed-up whales represent just 10 percent of the total number of the dead, with the rest sinking into the sea unnoticed by humans.
In past years, the majority of stranded whales were left to rot in place after necropsies were done. A few were buried, hauled to a landfill or sunk at sea. Towing them back out to sea isn't the preferred method because the bodies could wash up again or could cause problems if they float into shipping channels and collide with boats.
Officials have learned how not to dispose of whale carcasses from experience, including a 1970 attempt to blow up a dead sperm whale with dynamite in Oregon. The blast sent chunks of burning, rotting blubber raining down on spectators, and several cars in a nearby parking lot were crushed by blobs of putrid flesh.
Now, it's about "getting people to step up and say, 'Yeah, we can take these animals and have them on our beach,'" said Betsy Carlson, the citizen science coordinator for the Port Townsend Marine Science Center.
"There's such sadness in them just washing up on the shores and seeing these big, majestic animals there."
It's a disappointing twist in what is otherwise considered a success story for species recovery.
The eastern North Pacific gray whales were removed from the endangered species list in 1994, after rebounding from the whaling era. The population has grown significantly in the past decade and is now estimated at 27,000 — the highest since surveys began in 1967.
But that has raised questions about whether their population has reached the limit of what the environment can sustain, causing a rash of starvation. Another theory cites the loss of Arctic sea ice due to global warming.
The whales spend their summers in the Arctic feeding on tiny shrimp-like, bottom-dwelling creatures called amphipods before migrating 10,000 miles (16,090 kilometers) to winter off Mexico, where the females give birth. Though they eat all along their route, they are typically thinning by the time they return north along the West Coast each spring.
Although scientists are far from an answer about the die-off, whale expert Calambokidis wonders if fluctuations in the food supply because of global warming are having an outsized impact on the whales because their population has increased.
"It isn't like there are twice as many gray whales this year as there were last year," he said. "The increases (in numbers) are small, so why would you expect this huge jump in deaths? There has to be some other variable."
The whales that have washed up this year are emaciated, and scientists have also noted that whales migrating north are showing up in places they wouldn't normally venture, such as the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, California, or San Francisco Bay. That leads researchers to wonder if the gigantic mammals are veering off course in a desperate bid to find food far south of where they usually fatten up in the late summer months.
The dead whale Rivera and Worwag have on their beach had a stomach full of eel grass, far from its normal diet. A necropsy showed the adult male starved to death.
"This whale was desperation feeding," said Rivera. "It's like a starving human eating grass to stay alive. It just can't."