Black is the new black: Scientists create darkest-ever material by accident

Scientists have stumbled across the blackest material ever seen, which absorbs 99.995 percent of light and makes the previously known blackest black pale in comparison.

The ultra-black material is made from vertically aligned microscopic carbon strings called carbon nanotubes (CNTs). Researchers have no idea why it is so dark, but they are excited about its potential.

Before now, the blackest known material was Vantablack, which absorbs 99.96 percent of light, meaning the new, unnamed material “reflected 10 times less light than all other superblack materials, including Vantablack,” Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) explains.
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The dark discovery was made when MIT engineers were looking for ways to grow CNTs on electrically conductive materials. They noticed how black the CNTs were when they were growing on aluminium foil and decided to measure their “optical reflectance,” and soon found that the material soaked up almost all light directed at it.

The amazing new material could be used in telescopes and cameras to remove glare, and there has already been interest from the aerospace community. Nobel laureate astrophysicist John Mather is considering using it to make a massive black shade to shield a space telescope.

The dark matter is currently being shown as part of an art exhibition in New York. MIT artist-in-residence Diemut Strebe worked with the researchers to coat a $2 million 16.78-carat natural yellow diamond in the black material, turning the sparkling stone utterly black.

“Because of the extremely high light absorptive qualities of the CNTs, any object, in this case a large diamond coated with CNTs, becomes a kind of black hole absent of shadows,” Strebe said.

Belarus, Cuba to cooperate in science, technology

The State Committee on Science and Technology of Belarus and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment of Cuba have signed a memorandum of understanding. The document was inked by heads of the two ministries, Aleksandr Shumilin and Elba Rosa Perez Montoya, in Minsk on 24 June, BelTA has learned.

The memorandum envisages the exchange of information and technical consultations on issues related to the development of Hi-Tech parks, cooperation in technology transfer, assistance to knowledge-intensive industries in both the countries through joint companies, interaction or planning.

According to the minister of science, technology and environment of Cuba, the signing of the document will bring experience sharing between the two agencies onto a new level. “We have an absolute interest in strengthening cooperation between the countries in the field of science and technology. We are very optimistic about it and we hope there are many practical achievements ahead," she told the media.

In turn, Aleksandr Shumilin said that Belarus and Cuba have been successfully cooperating for years: “The first agreement between our agencies was signed in 2012. In 2016, we held the first joint meeting in Cuba, which gave a significant boost to bilateral cooperation. In 2017, a delegation of Cuba visited Belarus to sign an agreement on the protection of intellectual property." The implementation of a joint project in biotechnology began in 2019.

According to Aleksandr Shumilin, Cuba is most interested in Belarus' innovative infrastructure construction practices. “We are going to discuss the implementation of joint projects today and the setting up of joint ventures (eyeing the countries of Latin America as well),” he added. The parties are also expected to discuss the sci-tech cooperation program for 2019-2020 and for 2021 over the long term.

Cuba is reforming its scientific sector, the chairman of the State Committee on Science and Technology said. By the end of 2019, the country plans to open a center for nanomaterials and nanotechnologies.

The country is showing a big interest in Belarus' practices in the area. Cuba has recently made serious headway in healthcare and biotechnology. According to Aleksandr Shumilin, it would be reasonable to unite the efforts. “We have a number of chemical formulas for treating cancers.

Cuba has unique medications, too. Such medications are very expensive worldwide. Knowledge sharing and joint work on new medications can produce a very good result,” he said. As for joint companies, the matter pertains, first of all, to the processing of agricultural products and the joint assembly of machinery with the possibility of its supply not only to Cuba but also to the countries of Latin America.

In January-April 2019, Belarus' exports to Cuba exceeded $6.6 million, up 7% year-on-year. Belarus' exports comprise 83 commodity descriptions, mostly in automotive manufacturing and related industries.

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Cuba: 'Scientific Cooperation Can Overcome Climate Change'

Cuba's minister of Science, Technology and Environment spoke Friday on the importance of global scientific cooperation to build "resilient societies" to overcome climate change.

"It is impossible to advance in the adoption of adequate measures to make out societies more resilient to climate change without the support of science," Science Minister Elba Rosa Perez said.

She emphasized Cuba's will to cooperate and share scientific knowledge with its Caribbean neighbors and other countries in order to create the kind of international scientific cooperation necessary to tackle the problem.

The Caribbean, she said, faces among the highest risks from climate change of any region in the world, and so it is essential that scientific efforts are aware of the imminent risk faced and the necessity to work hard to achieve both mitigation and adaptation.

The remarks were made at the International Science School of the United Nations in Havana, a project of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco). It's a joint effort by Unesco and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment of the Republic of Cuba.

Havana's International Science School was held to "provide a space for collective learning in relation to environmental adaptation in the Caribbean," according to Unesco.

"This capacity-building event is conceived as a knowledge-brokering exercise that will bring together academics, public officials and representatives from civil society, prioritizing young participants and women."

Cuba Calls 15th International Meeting on Criminal Sciences

The 14th International Meeting on Criminal Sciences and the 2nd Event on Legality, Law and Society concluded in this capital with a call to a new edition of the event.

At the closing ceremony at Havana's Conference Center, the Attorney General of the Republic of Cuba invited the delegates to participate in the next meetings, scheduled for March 2020.

Both meetings will be co-sponsored by the National Association of Cuban Lawyers, the Law Faculty of the University of Havana, the People's Supreme Court, the National Organization of Collective Law Offices and the National Association of Economists and Accountants of Cuba.

The call is mainly addressed to prosecutors, attorneys, lawyers, judges, police officers, prison workers, criminal lawyers, criminologists, victimologists, experts in forensic medicine and forensic psychiatrists.

Officials who attend to minor who are victims of crimes or suffer from behavioral disorders, psychologists, sociologists, controllers, auditors, economists, legal advisors, professors and university students can also attend the meeting.

Among the main issues to be discussed are human trafficking, transnational crime, cybercrime, prevention and confrontation with drug and migrant traffickers, economic and civil servants' crimes, asset laundering, illegal trafficking in minors and sexual exploitation.

Other issues that will be analyzed are environmental crime, the fight against corruption, immigration laws, terrorism and the execution of sentences on persons deprived of their freedom.

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CUBA - U.S.: Lives waiting for a visa

Despite the restrictions and impact of the blockade, Cuba has developed world class scientific centers. Photo: Fonticoba Gener

CAR T-cell therapy, effective against several types of cancer, can make a life and death difference for patients in critical condition. The United States is a leader in the field, and only a few developed countries have the technology to provide it.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) awarded a fellowship to Darel Martínez, a specialist at Cuba's Center for Molecular Immunology (CIM), to learn about the treatment at an internationally recognized center in the United States.

"The objective was to begin a project to generate CAR T-cells in Cuba and establish collaboration with the leading groups in this arena," the 35 year-old PhD biologist, who studied at the University of Havana, told Granma.

Martínez was set to travel to the United States last October, but the suspension of U.S. consular services in Cuba has prevented him from obtaining the necessary scientific collaboration visa.

Based on an unfounded and scientifically implausible pretext, this past September the State Department withdrew the majority of its diplomatic staff in Cuba and almost completely suspended the issuing of visas, with the exception of those for officials or diplomats. At the same time, the U.S. demanded that 17 Cuban staff members at the Cuban mission in Washington leave the country.

After three months of investigations, U.S. authorities themselves acknowledged that there is no evidence to substantiate "sonic attacks" on diplomats in Havana, the alleged reason for these drastic steps.

Nevertheless, the unjustified, unilateral measures remain in place, negatively affecting academic, scientific, sports, cultural, and family exchanges.

"CAR T-cell therapy is one of the most novel and costly to fight cancer. Thus far, it has had great results in cases of leukemia," the Cuban scientist stated.

The benefits for Cuba, he explains, would be introducing the platform and with that the products, which have already been registered here, as well as the possibility of developing others based on the country's experience in treating cancer.

"While for the American side, they could benefit from the CIM's experience in the production of monoclonal antibodies, which are necessary for the generation of

CAR T-cells," he noted.

Martínez recalls that the Trump administration's decision to suspend the issuing of visas arrived precisely when he had just submitted his paperwork to the U.S. embassy in Havana, "Instead of starting in October, we're still struggling to get the collaboration going."

In accordance with the new procedure established by the United States, Cubans interested in applying for a non-immigrant visa - a J1 in the case of Martínez, for scientific collaboration - can be processed in any U.S. consulate anywhere in the world, except Havana.

The Cuban scientist was obliged to notify his U.S. counterparts of the situation, who were in turn forced to incur extra expenses to complete the visa process in another country. All this with no guarantee that the visa will in fact be granted.

"They were wiling to cover these costs, which, of course means spending money that could have been used to finance my work or that of other persons," Martínez commented.

His case is not unique and the impact has been felt in other sectors, including culture and sports.

Seven Cuban athletes were not able to attend the World Weightlifting Championship in Anaheim, held last year, as a result of the suspension of consular services here.

Likewise, the uncertainty generated by the U.S. government's unjustified warning on travel to Cuba, one of the safest countries in the world, has affected visits by collaborators to the island.

Several scientists were scheduled to visit the Pedro Kourí Institute of Tropical Medicine (IPK), one of Cuba's most prestigious scientific centers, but cancelled their plans under pressure from U.S. authorities.

The Trump administration has "probably closed the door" on many Cuba-U.S. joint projects, according to John Van Horn, a neuroscientist at the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles.

The scientists from the U.S. were interested in the IPK's research on arboviruses, pathogens transmitted by mosquitoes that include Zika, Chikungunya, and dengue.

The U.S. National Institute of Health had even approved, this past June, four grants of up to 50,000 USD each, to support these projects. Nevertheless, the new circumstances obliged them to cancel the financial help, because of "difficulties with getting the money to Cuba."

"By affecting the functioning of both (embassies), exchanges of all kinds between Cuba and the United States are being affected, be they cultural, sports-related, or scientific, but also family interactions and relations," said Cuban diplomat Josefina Vidal recently.

Despite the restrictions and impact of the blockade, Cuba has world class scientific centers and has produced its own medical treatments, largely unavailable in other undeveloped countries.

Among its most significant accomplishments, Cuba now cures 80% of children with leukemia, the most common form of childhood cancer. Likewise, it was the first country to be certified by the World Health Organization as having eliminated mother-infant transmission of HIV and syphilis.

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Cuba Contributes to Renewing Global Medicine, Said Neuro-Scientist

Cuban health system can make substantial contributions to new health trends worldwide, like precision medicine, said Professor Pedro Valdes, Deputy Director of the island''s Neuro Sciences Center.

Precision medicine represents a change of paradigm, as it is based on assessment, rules and algorithms to study the persons during all their lives and provide them with personalized care, the neuro-scientiest said at a presentation.

In his remarks, Valdes said that despite the trend gaining ground in the world, there's a big gap between rich and poor as in the developed nations it is exclusively benefiting high income people thus not turning into a major public health coverage.

However, Cuba is ideally located to serve as the intermediary between where the money is for research and those who need this kind of medicine, the doctor said.

Cuba has the experience of the family doctor and the prevention medicine approach centered on primary care, he explained, adding the island has been working for decades focused on precision medicine.

Therefore, the country has the experience to boost such medical trend and contribute to world public health, Valdes highlighted.

In his presentation, the doctor talked over Cuba's recent breakthroughs in international cooperation on connections of brain regions involved in cognitive and emotional functions and their repercussion in the diagnosis of degenerative, brain-vascular and psychiatric diseases.

He added the islands's main partners on this matter are China and Canada. The three nations are working to create a big data bases, which will contribute to boost precision medicine in a just manner.

Cloning, the Return of an Old Controversy

For the first time in the history of science, Chinese scientists managed to clone two primates, mammals that until now resisted such a technique.

The scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Neuroscience, in Shanghai, changed the technique used in Dolly the sheep to create a theoretically limitless number of clones, a method called somatic cell nuclear transfer, which allows the development of identical clones from a cell of a sole individual.

The researchers, who published the results in the journal Cell, said that using this technique to raise primates is a breakthrough for biomedical research, since it will provide accurate genetic copies of the same animal and reduce the variability in the results when new drugs or other therapies are tested, hence, researches as those on cancer, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's could benefit from the initiative, since primates are more genetically similar to humans than mice.

The team affirmed that the novel technique will not be used in humans, however, it triggered the fearful reaction of the scientific community and the opposition of organizations for animal protection.

Although a group of species have been already cloned, this new cloning arouses again the controversy on this issue, because even though the cloned monkeys are long-tailed macaques it raised the question of whether this represents a previous step to the cloning of humans.


Russian Airline Plane Crashes Killing All 71 on Board

A Saratov Airlines passenger plane crashed into a field a short time after it had taken off from the Domodedovo airport in Moscow. Officials say there are no survivors.

A major plane crash just outside of Moscow has left all 71 crew and passengers dead upon impact.

A Saratov Airlines passenger plane crashed into a field in Ramenski a short time after it had taken off from the Domodedovo airport in Moscow on its way to the city of Orsk some 1,500km from the capital. The pilot of the AN-148 short-haul aircraft lost contact with radio control two minutes before it hit the ground. The crew did not send out any distress signal prior to the accident.

The impact left human remains and debris scattered throughout the snow-covered field where the plane went down. The Russian Investigative Committee says there’s no chance of finding survivors.

Russian officials say they are investigating what caused the plane to fall, mainly taking into consideration human error, weather conditions, and the technical status of the eight-year-old craft. Outside temperatures hovered around negative 5 degrees Celsius at the time of the crash early this morning.

"The debris of the plane are spread over a radius of at least one kilometer. Investigators are using modern investigative equipment taking into consideration the large territory. They are using quadcopters to get a view from the air," Svetlana Petrenko of the investigatory committee told the press.

An emergency service official said the government is “verifying (eyewitness) testimonies” of the crash to help in the investigation.

The plane had carried 65 passengers and six Saratov Airlines crew members.

Cuba Hosts 6th Workshop of Basic Biomedical Sciences

The 6th Workshop on Basic Biomedical Sciences started today in this capital with a great international participation and the aim to continue raising the level of Cuban health professionals, recognized worldwide.

Today's agenda includes lectures on several issues such as genetics, nutrition, probiotics in medicine and preclinical and clinical data of the amniotic membrane, by renowned specialists from Spain, the United States and several Latin America nations.

This event welcomes doctors, stomatologists, nursing graduates and other specialists who are working or researching in the areas of the Basic Biomedical Sciences, the Cuban News Agency (ACN) stated.

Its objective is to raise the level of teachers and enrich the scientific production of medicine and biomedical science in the Caribbean country, the Head of Dissemination and Information at the University of Medical Sciences in Havana, Cosme More, said.

Courses, trainings and lectures related to the metabolic diseases, biomedical anthropology in vulnerable groups, experimental models in the basic science research, and neuro-protection in degenerative diseases are also included.

The event, which began on April 17th and will conclude tomorrow, is hosted at the 'Victoria de Giron' Institute of Basic and Preclinical Sciences, a leading center in Cuba to train highly qualified medical professionals, the organizing committee said.

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