Blood diamonds, stolen cars, sweatshops: Blockchain stops all that
The technology is poised to change how many companies operate.
Brian Behlendorf: Ginni Rometty, who's the CEO of IBM, said she believed that blockchain technology will be to transactions what the Internet was to information, meaning it will be pervasive across all industries that touch transactions — which is all of them. They all deal with money, they all deal with tracking product and the handoffs of value from one party to another. So unless you're in a business that does nothing of value, at some point blockchain technology will touch what you're doing. And for some businesses it will radically transform who they are and what they do.
So one of the most intriguing use cases that really caught my attention when I first started to dive into this technology landscape was the use of distributed ledgers for supply chain provenance. Partly as a way to make that industry more efficient, more collaborative, more transparent, but also as a way to try to fight or track where objects came from and make sure they came from the right places, and a great example of this is the diamond industry. The diamond industry starting about 20 years ago has had a real serious political top-down commitment to prevent blood diamonds from entering circulation, blood diamonds being diamonds that came from mines that involve slave labor, that perhaps were used as payment for illicit products and services — like these are diamonds that had unclear provenance, and the whole goal was to enable somebody buying a diamond at the retail channel to know all the way back to the mine that it came from and that between points A and B it was in good hands.
Right now when you try to buy a diamond and see that provenance you maybe get a certificate with a bunch of stamps on it, but what does that mean to you? What does that mean to anybody? So the diamond industry has realized that they need to transform that process into something that is more of a distributed ledger, in fact is an implementation of a distributed ledger, as a way to allow all the parties involved in the diamond process to record a transaction every time that they transfer diamonds from the mine to the refinery to like the place where it's worked on to the distributer out to the retail channel, each of those parties would be a participant on that ledger, and when they handed diamonds off or they received a package of diamonds would confirm and write transaction saying "I sent this/I received this" so that we have this unbreakable chain going all the way back to the mine of where these diamonds came from. And we can deal with parties who themselves might not have a long history, a deep history of involvement, but if they have these digital signatures, which would be really difficult if not impossible to forge, then they could participate and be a part of this process.
And we might eventually get to a model that looks somewhat like when you buy a car you register that car in a title system that if your car gets stolen you can go and say, "Well no, actually, I own that," or if somebody tried to steal your car and sell it to somebody else without your consent that's tracked by the title system. We'll probably get to a point where your ability to sell a diamond of certain expense or quality or higher is based on being able to show that your ownership is recorded in this ledger, which would do a tremendous amount to try to keep bad product from entering the market.
That I think would do a lot to help reinforce the trust in that market. And by the way, it might create a marketplace for whistleblowing.
Some factories, for example, that employ a lot of human labor, they try to ensure that the temperature inside these factories remains at a certain temperature range. So if you had sensors collecting that data and tracking along with the product that comes through, so you understood: Okay, this is a product that was made in an environment that meets all of our criteria for the creation of these products.
A situation where a factory collapsed in Bangladesh that was being used to manufacture many of the brands that you see today at any major department store—and this was not only a true disaster in that hundreds of people perished, but also an economic disaster for the brands whose products were there and the suppliers who were bringing that product forward, because there was a clear sense that many of these brand like the Gap who did invest quite a bit in trying to upgrade their sources of supply to come from high-quality manufacturers, to come from people who cared about working conditions, who cared about raising the floor, raising the standards for labor in their industries. Many of them had no idea where their products actually were coming from. Many of these brands had very little idea.
So in the textile and clothing industry there's been a tremendous push to upgrade their supply chains to try to reward manufacturers in countries like Bangladesh or Thailand or India or even here in the U.S., reward them for improving their labor standards, improving the quality of manufacturing and paying them extra for it. The problem is when it's easy for somebody to slip in product into that supply chain without all of that quality control, without that extra concern, then it hurts everybody. It hurts those manufacturers who've invested more to create higher quality products and a better story behind the sourcing of that product. So there a distributed ledger would be really helpful to try to understand: where are these products coming from? Where are the sources coming from? That sort of thing.
The other use case that's really intriguing to me is seafood. There's plenty of international systems out there that track the quotas and the allowed catches and allowed regions for fish, different species of fish; there's practically an international organization for each species it seems. And there's rules that tell fisherman where they're allowed to catch and which countries are allowed to ingest those catches and then package them and ship them out. And no surprise, there's a tremendous amount of piracy, there's a tremendous amount of illegal fish catching, there's a tremendous amount of one kind of fish being passed off as another kind and then making its way through the supply chain, a tremendous amount of fraud that's added to it as it's handed off and finally ends up on your plate. If you ordered seabass, chances are it's not actually seabass in front of you, and chances are it was caught somewhere illegally rather than in the allowed areas.
So that industry is now starting to also take a look at: how do we use blockchain's distributed ledger technologies to make the provenance tracking of that system much more airtight so that we know where it comes from, we know who it's been handed off to? And more importantly how do we add sensor data from IoT devices that say tamperproof GPS tracking, data collection devices on the boats themselves to sensor data from ports that see when boats come in, to satellite data back that can track and see at high enough resolution when the boats are coming and going. All of this data put together to try to say "Here's the formal provenance record, and here's all the sensor data that corroborates all that, and by the way here's a place where all the data doesn't line up and we might want to look more closely at that and see if some fraud happened there." All of this for the purpose of making sure that we have sustainable fisheries in the ocean and to make sure that the product you buy when it says sustainably caught or wild salmon or whatever is actually the product that you think you're buying.
- Blockchain technology, as a digital ledger for economic transactions, is poised to "radically" impact companies across the board.
- It may help reinforce the trust in certain markets as sensors collect data throughout production.
- Blockchain might also create a marketplace for whistleblowing.
Northwell Health CEO Michael Dowling has an important favor to ask of the American people.
- Michael Dowling is president and CEO of Northwell Health, the largest health care system in New York state. In this PSA, speaking as someone whose company has seen more COVID-19 patients than any other in the country, Dowling implores Americans to wear masks—not only for their own health, but for the health of those around them.
- The CDC reports that there have been close to 7.9 million cases of coronavirus reported in the United States since January. Around 216,000 people have died from the virus so far with hundreds more added to the tally every day. Several labs around the world are working on solutions, but there is currently no vaccine for COVID-19.
- The most basic thing that everyone can do to help slow the spread is to practice social distancing, wash your hands, and to wear a mask. The CDC recommends that everyone ages two and up wear a mask that is two or more layers of material and that covers the nose, mouth, and chin. Gaiters and face shields have been shown to be less effective at blocking droplets. Homemade face coverings are acceptable, but wearers should make sure they are constructed out of the proper materials and that they are washed between uses. Wearing a mask is the most important thing you can do to save lives in your community.
Instead of looking forward, we should be consulting the past.
When will the pandemic end? All these months in, with over 37 million COVID-19 cases and more than 1 million deaths globally, you may be wondering, with increasing exasperation, how long this will continue.
New cancer-scanning technology reveals a previously unknown detail of human anatomy.
- Scientists using new scanning technology and hunting for prostate tumors get a surprise.
- Behind the nasopharynx is a set of salivary glands that no one knew about.
- Finding the glands may allow for more complication-free radiation therapies.
PSMA PET/CT technology<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="676e611b970c9b516cace0870447b325"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/RHAyoQF09X4?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>PSMA PET/CT is a new combination of <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/pet-scan/about/pac-20385078" target="_blank">PET scans</a> and <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/ct-scan/about/pac-20393675" target="_blank">CT scans</a> that is believed to offer a more reliable means of locating prostate cancer metastasis. A <a href="https://www.cancer.gov/news-events/cancer-currents-blog/2020/prostate-cancer-psma-pet-ct-metastasis" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">study</a> published last spring suggests it may be the most accurate way to diagnose prostate cancer metastasis than any method previously available.</p><p>Prior to PSMA PET/CT, the primary way to look for metastatic prostate cancer was to image the body using x-ray-based CT scans and to perform bone scans, since bone is where prostate cancer often spreads. CT scans, however, often miss small tumors, and bone scans can generate false positives as a result of other damage or abnormalities that have nothing to do with prostate cancer.</p><p>PSMA PET/CT scans track the travels of an intravenously administered radioactive glucose tracer throughout the body. For hunting down prostate cancer, this tracer contains a molecule that binds to the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1472940/" target="_blank">PSMA</a> protein that's present in large amounts in prostate tumors. The molecule is linked to a radioisotope, <a href="https://netrf.org/2018/11/13/gallium-68-scan-for-neuroendocrine-tumors/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">gallium-68</a> (Ga-68).</p><p>In last spring's research, PSAM PET/CT was shown to be 27 percent more accurate than previous methods at finding metastases (92 percent accuracy as opposed to 65 percent). In addition, it was found to be much less likely to produce false positives, and it was particularly good at detecting tumors far removed from the prostate.</p>
A good kind of avoidance behavior<p>"Radiation therapy can damage the salivary glands," says Vogel, "which may lead to complications. Patients may have trouble eating, swallowing, or speaking, which can be a real burden."</p><p>The researchers looked back through the cases of 723 patients who had undergone radiation treatment, interested in seeing if inadvertent radiation of the tubarial glands was associated with the complications experienced by the patients. It turned out that this <em>was</em> the case: In cases where more radiation had been delivered to this area, patients did indeed report more in the way of complications of the type one would expect when salivary glands are radiated.</p><p>Now that we know the tubarial salivary glands exist, therapists can stay out of their way. Vogel says, "For most patients, it should technically be possible to avoid delivering radiation to this newly discovered location of the salivary gland system in the same way we try to spare known glands."</p><p>He's hopeful that that things may be about to get at least a bit better for cancer patients: "Our next step is to find out how we can best spare these new glands and in which patients. If we can do this, patients may experience less side effects which will benefit their overall quality of life after treatment."</p>
Two massive clouds of dust in orbit around the Earth have been discussed for years and finally proven to exist.
- Hungarian astronomers have proven the existence of two "pseudo-satellites" in orbit around the earth.
- These dust clouds were first discovered in the sixties, but are so difficult to spot that scientists have debated their existence since then.
- The findings may be used to decide where to put satellites in the future and will have to be considered when interplanetary space missions are undertaken.
What are they?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODgyMDA0NC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNTM1ODc0Mn0.NH33LuauIo__sUBi4tvhwxDcsvhflDFD-Nhx9FjlSNk/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=148%2C0%2C149%2C0&height=700" id="cec96" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="acb78abe2ab46a17e419ad30906751d6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Artist's impression of the Kordylewski cloud in the night sky (with its brightness greatly enhanced) at the time of the observations.
G. Horváth<p>The<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kordylewski_cloud" target="_blank"> Kordylewski clouds</a> are two dust clouds first observed by Polish astronomer Kazimierz Kordylewski in 1961. They are situated at two of the <a href="https://www.space.com/30302-lagrange-points.html" target="_blank">Lagrange points</a> in Earth's orbit. These points are locations where the gravity of two objects, such as the Earth and the Moon or a planet and the Sun, equals the centripetal required to orbit the objects while staying in the same relative position. There are five of these spots between the Earth and Moon. The clouds rest at what are called points four and five, forming a triangle with the clouds and the Earth at the three corners.</p><p>The clouds are enormous, taking up the same space in the night sky as twenty lunar discs; covering an area of 45,000 miles. They are roughly 250,000 miles away, about the same distance from us as the Moon. They are entirely comprised of specks of dust which reflect the light of the sun so faintly most astronomers that looked for them were unable to see them at all. </p><p>The clouds themselves are probably ancient, but the model that the scientists created to learn about them suggests that the individual dust particles that comprise them can be blown away by solar wind and replaced by the dust from other cosmic sources like comet tails. This means that the clouds hardly move but are <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2018/11/news-earth-moon-dust-clouds-satellites-planets-space/" target="_blank">eternally changing</a>. </p>
How did they discover this?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODgyMDAzNi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1Nzc4MjQ4MX0.7uU9OqmQcWw5Ll1UXAav0PCu4nTg-GdJdAWADHanC7c/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C180%2C0%2C181&height=700" id="952fb" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a778280a20f1c54cd2c14c8313224be2" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
"In this picture the central region of the Kordylewski dust cloud is visible (bright red pixels). The straight tilted lines are traces of satellites."
J. Slíz-Balogh<p>In their study published in the <a href="https://academic.oup.com/mnras" target="_blank">Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society</a>, Hungarian astronomers Judit Slíz-Balogh, András Barta, and Gábor Horváth described how they were able to find the dust clouds using polarized lenses.</p><p>Since the clouds were expected to polarize the light that bounces off of them, by configuring the telescopes to look for this kind of light the clouds were much easier to spot. What the scientists observed, polarized light in patterns that extended outside the view of the telescope lens, was in line with the predictions of their mathematical model and ruled out other possible sources. </p>
Why are we just learning this now?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODgyMDAzOS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MjUyNDMyMH0.Zl8GmQ_rJHiL4b7hN0r_YBmgb6_ZqIRvqOVuko2ubpw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C141%2C0%2C185&height=700" id="87afe" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="dd4c0b5088e601d7279cc5eb226f8b7b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
"Mosaic pattern of the angle of polarization around the L5 point (white dot) of the Earth-Moon system. The five rectangular windows correspond to the imaging telescope with which the patterns of the Kordylewski cloud were measured."
J. Slíz-Balogh<p>The objects, being dust clouds, are very faint and hard to see. While Kordylewski observed them in 1961, other astronomers have looked there and given mixed reports over the following decades. This discouraged many astronomers from joining the search, as study co-author Judit Slíz-Balogh <a href="https://ras.ac.uk/news-and-press/research-highlights/earths-dust-cloud-satellites-confirmed" target="_blank">explained</a>, <em>"The Kordylewski clouds are two of the toughest objects to find, and though they are as close to Earth as the Moon are largely overlooked by researchers in astronomy. It is intriguing to confirm that our planet has dusty pseudo-satellites in orbit alongside our lunar neighbor."</em></p>
Will this have any impact on space travel?<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c3d797fff5430c64afcb5a49bddc3616"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Ou8N3v9SFPE?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Lagrange points have been put forward as excellent locations for a space station or satellites like the <a href="https://jwst.nasa.gov/about.html" target="_blank">James Webb Telescope</a> to be put into orbit, as they would require little fuel to stay in place. Knowing about a massive dust cloud that could damage sensitive equipment already being there could save money and lives in the future. While we only know about the clouds at Lagrange points four and five right now, the study's authors suggest there could be more at the other points.</p><p>While the discovery of a couple of dust clouds might not seem all that impressive, it is the result of a half-century of astronomical and mathematical work and reminds us that wonders are still hidden in our cosmic backyard. While you might never need to worry about these clouds again, there is nothing wrong with looking at the sky with wonder at the strange and fantastic things we can discover. </p>
A new survey found that 27 percent of millennials are saving more money due to the pandemic, but most can't stay within their budgets.