China’s first deep-sea multi-functional scientific investigation and cultural relic archaeological vessel set to be completed in 2025

Construction on China's first deep-sea multi-functional scientific investigation and cultural relic archaeological vessel officially began in Nansha, Guangzhou, South China's Guangdong Province on Sunday. The ship is expected to be completed and put into operation in 2025, CCTV reported on Monday.

According to the report, the ship has a total design length of approximately 103 meters, a designed displacement of approximately 9,200 tons, a maximum speed of 29.63 kilometers per hour, a reach of 15,000 nautical miles, and can accommodate up to 80 crew members. 

The vessel is a new type of multi-functional scientific research vessel capable of conducting deep-sea scientific investigations and cultural relic excavations, as well as polar sea area investigations in summer. 

The ship has a number of iconic features, including unrestricted waterway navigation, manned diving, deep-sea detection and heavy-duty safety payload capabilities, providing the necessary sample and environmental data for forefront geological, environmental, and biological sciences research in the deep and remote ocean. 

It also provides related discipline guidance and underwater operations support for deep-sea archaeology, while supporting sea trial and use of core deep-sea equipment.

In the future, the vessel will become an open and shared maritime platform for multi-system integration, interdisciplinary crossover, and collaborative innovation in China, which is of great significance for strengthening China's substantial presence in the global deep-sea research, enhancing China's deep-sea archaeological capabilities, and realizing full-scale access to the global deep sea.

Song Jianzhong, a researcher at the National Centre for Archaeology, told the Global Times on Tuesday that the ship would provide solid support for Chinese deep-sea archaeology.

Two ancient ships carrying numerous cultural relics were discovered in October 2022 in the South China Sea at a depth of about 1,500 meters, and are currently undergoing excavation work. 

He Guangwei, deputy chief engineer at the Guangzhou Shipyard International Company Limited, stated that there is currently no ship in China capable of conducting manned deep-sea scientific investigations in polar regions. The construction of this vessel will fill this gap.

This ship is designed to conduct manned deep-sea scientific investigations in polar regions while also being able to carry out cultural relic archaeology and operations in the South China Sea. The ship has many key technologies, including icebreaking capabilities and anti-freezing materials for polar environments, and related operating and detecting equipment for scientific investigations in polar regions.

Update: 21 people die and 6 are missing due to mountain flooding and mudslides caused by heavy rainfall in Xi’an, NW China’s Shaanxi Province

Twenty-one people have died and another six are missing as of Sunday evening after heavy rainfall hit Xi’an, Northwest China’s Shaanxi Province, and caused mountain floods and mudslides on Friday evening. 

Due to the impact of short-duration heavy rain, mountain floods and mudslides struck a village in Chang’an district in Xi’an around 6 pm on Friday. The disaster has damaged two houses occupying a total area of 300 square meters, destroyed three sections and slightly damaged 21 sections on the National Highway 210, damaged three electric power supply infrastructures and left 900 households out of power, according to Xi’an Bureau of Emergency Management. 

Xi’an city immediately set up an on-site command center, organized a total of 14 rescue teams including firefighting and police departments with more than 980 personnel, and deployed over 1,100 units of equipment and tools including life detectors, satellite phones, excavators, and search and rescue dogs, working around the clock to carry out search and rescue as well as disaster relief operations.

As of Sunday evening, 186 residents have been relocated and resettled, three severely damaged sections of the National Highway 210 have been restored, 21 slightly damaged road sections are under reinforcement, communication services have been restored in 49 affected areas, and power supply has been restored to 855 households.

The city is making every effort to seize the critical period for rescue operations, continuing to search for missing individuals restlessly, as well as remove risks to prevent the occurrence of secondary disasters.  

Preliminary investigations showed that two houses in the village were washed away, a with nearby roads, bridges, power supplies and other infrastructures damaged, leaving local residents partially cut off with the outside world. 

Local media reported that as of Sunday Morning, four people had been confirmed dead, while 14 others remain missing. 

The Xi'an detachment of the armed police force in Shaanxi deployed more than 100 personnel to the impacted area. Preliminary search and rescue operations remain underway. 

As of Sunday morning, rescue forces have transferred 81 residents and 11 vehicles to safe locations, and are assisting with the search and recovery of four deceased villagers, with emergency workers scanning an area 65 kilometers in length along a nearby river.  

According to a local villager surnamed Li (pseudonym), flooding and mudslides began following one or two hours of heavy rain on Friday afternoon. Two dwellings swept away by flood waters operated agritourism business, but there was yet to be confirmation whether guests were inside during flooding. 

Local fire department, police and emergency management authorities are working to coordinate rescue efforts. 

Upon receiving the report, China's Ministry of Emergency Management has dispatched a working group to the disaster site to assist with rescue and response efforts and have also mobilized a local fire and rescue team consisting of 207 personnel to carry out rescue operations.

Local govts support state-owned enterprises expanding hiring of graduates, expected to help alleviate unemployment pressure

Many localities have issued policies to encourage state-owned enterprises to play an exemplary role in stabilizing employment and expand recruitment of college graduates, with some provinces and cities requiring no less than half of the hiring quota at state-owned enterprises be dedicated to college graduates.

The office of the Guangdong Provincial People's Government recently published a notice on optimizing and adjusting stable employment policies and measures to promote development and benefit people's livelihood. Showing clear support for state-owned enterprises expanding the scale of recruitment, the notice pointed out that the number of new college graduates recruited by state-owned enterprises in the province this year should be no lower than that of 2022.

Additionally, East China's Anhui Province also issued a notice requiring state-owned enterprises to recruit at least 50 percent of fresh graduates to ensure that the number of college graduates accepted by state-owned enterprises remains stable.

Besides this, the provinces of Hunan, Gansu and Jiangxi have made similar notices. Among them, Central China's Hunan Province requires that provincial state-owned enterprises accept more than 4,700 graduates, while Northwest China's Gansu requires provincial state-owned enterprises to recruit more than 5,000 college graduates in 2023. Meanwhile, provincial state-owned enterprises funded and supervised by the Jiangxi government are set to recruit no less than 5,000 college graduates this year.

The number of college graduates is expected to reach 11.58 million before the end of 2023, an increase of 820,000, according to estimates by China's Ministry of Education. 

South China's Hainan Province proposed in July that state-owned enterprises should play a role in attracting young employees and ensure that no less than 1,000 college graduates are recruited by the end of 2023, while East China's Fujian Province is requiring the implementation of a one-time increase at state-owned enterprises to ensure that the number of college graduates recruited exceeds that of 2022.

An employee at PetroChina's Beijing branch surnamed Li told the Global Times on Sunday that more than 80 percent of new hires at the branch office in 2023 have been graduates. Moreover, a staff member surnamed Zhao with the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China's research and development center in Beijing told the Global Times that the recruitment rate of graduates at the company in 2023 reached 90 percent.

The demand for state-owned enterprises to expand the scale of recruitment is in response to graduate demand and aims to alleviate the current problem of comparatively low youth employment, Xiong Bingqi, director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute in Beijing, told the Global Times on Sunday. 

According to Xinhua News Agency, as of August 11, the number of college graduates recruited by central enterprises and state-owned enterprises under the national asset supervision system has exceeded the same period in 2022. With the summer recruitment of state-owned enterprises gradually underway, it is expected that the recruitment volume will continue to increase in the future.

The State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council has also made arrangements for the recruitment of college graduates by state-owned enterprises in 2024 at a meeting held in July.

The meeting required central enterprises and local state-owned enterprises to strive to complete the recruitment plan for the 2024 college graduates by the end of August, and gradually provide a batch of high-quality positions in September and October, in order to identify a group of high-quality target candidates as early as possible.

According to the Xinhua News Agency, as of August 11, the number of college graduates recruited by state-owned enterprises under the national asset supervision system has exceeded the same period in 2022. With the summer recruitment of state-owned enterprises gradually underway, it is expected that recruitment volume will continue to increase in the future.

The State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council has made arrangements for the recruitment of college graduates by state-owned enterprises in 2024 at a meeting held in July.

The meeting required central and local state-owned enterprises to strive to complete recruitment plans for the 2024 college graduates by the end of August, and gradually provide a batch of high-quality positions in September and October, in order to identify a group of high-quality target candidates as early as possible.

Court sentences high-speed rail employees for illegally selling celebrity travel information

The local court in Foshan, South China's Guangdong Province, recently announced the verdict in a case involving railway station employees who exploited their positions for financial gain by illegally selling private travel details of celebrities, according to a CCTV report on Saturday.

The Nanhai District's People's Court condemned a total of eight defendants to sentences ranging from 9 months to 3 years and 8 months in prison, along with fines totaling over 560,000 yuan ($87,000). Besides, the eight were ordered to delete the illegally obtained information and issue public apologies through national-level media outlets.

The case dates back to January 2019 when the main defendant, Chen, and other four colleagues leveraged their roles as railway station customer service staff to profit from selling celebrity's information such as high-speed train travel times, seat assignments, station locations, and identification numbers. 

This information was sold to interested parties at prices ranging from 10 to 60 yuan per entry. When Chen was off duty, colleagues assisted in conducting searches, for which they were paid 5 to 10 yuan per request by Chen. He also promoted their services through multiple WeChat groups, advertising their ability to provide such information. While the other three people resold the information at higher prices to others after purchasing celebrity information from the aforementioned five staff members. 

The total illegal gains of the 8 individuals amounted to over 560,000 yuan, while Chen amassed approximately 190,000 yuan in profits. The court determined that Chen and other accomplices had committed the crime of infringing upon citizens' personal information, resulting in both criminal and civil liability.

After the first-instance verdict was announced, some defendants, including Chen, appealed the decision. Following a review by the Foshan Intermediate People's Court, the appeals were rejected, and the original verdict was upheld.

"The Criminal Law stipulates that individuals who sell or provide citizens' personal information obtained during their duties or service shall be heavily penalized," a Beijing-based lawyer told the Global Times.

According to Judge Zhong Qiwen from the Nanhai District People's Court, if citizens engage in the illicit sale, provision, or acquisition of communication content, credit information, financial data, and movement traces, exceeding 50 instances, criminal charges can be brought forth.

Zhong further clarified that as per judicial interpretations, criminal liability is triggered when illegal gains exceed 5,000 yuan. If these gains reach 50,000 yuan, the offense will be deemed especially severe. Specialized individuals handling personal information face stricter criteria; if more than half of their illegal gains surpass the thresholds, they face heightened penalties.

The court underscored the prevalence of personal information breaches in sectors like transportation, express delivery, accommodation, and intermediaries. Zhong reminded citizens that publicly available information still falls within the category of personal information and emphasized the need to protect such data.

In recent years, the media have frequently reported instances of congestion and disruptions in airports and railway stations caused by large-scale fan gatherings during celebrity arrivals. In 2019, at Shanghai Hongqiao Airport, the influx of fans resulted in glass breakage due to the crowd's intensity.

A 21-year-old woman, who declined to be named, told the Global Times that she had spent over 300 yuan purchasing a celebrity's travel information which proved to be the true later, from scalpers. However, she is unaware of the source's origin.

New tyrannosaur bridges gap from medium to monstrous

A fossil from a new species of dinosaur is helping to bridge a crucial 20-million-year gap in tyrannosaur evolution.

The key fossil is a 90-million-year-old, grapefruit-sized partial skull from Uzbekistan’s Bissekty Formation. This tyrannosaur braincase, the first well-preserved one found from the mid-Cretaceous period, shows that, although still small, tyrannosaurs of the time already had brain and ear features of later tyrannosaurs. Researchers have dubbed the in-betweener Timurlengia euotica, meaning “well-eared.” They describe the new species in a paper to appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The braincase sheds light on a long-standing mystery: how tyrannosaurs evolved in the gap from 100 million to 80 million years ago from an “average Joe” horse-sized predator in the Early Cretaceous to the huge apex predators they became in the Late Cretaceous. “Our study is the first to show that the sophisticated brain and hearing of big tyrannosaurs evolved in smaller-bodied species, long before tyrannosaurs got giant,” says study coauthor Stephen Brusatte, a paleontologist at the University of Edinburgh. These advantages, he adds, may have helped tyrannosaurs become such successful — and eventually enormous — predators.
Analyzed against a database of other tyrannosaur skulls, the braincase shows that Timurlengia’s brain and ear “are almost identical to T. rex, just smaller,” Brusatte says. In particular, the dinosaur’s long cochlea, a part of the inner ear, is a signature of bigger, badder Late Cretaceous tyrannosaurs. “The long cochlea would have meant better sensitivity to low-frequency sound,” Brusatte explains. That sensitivity would have enabled Timurlengia to detect very subtle or distant sounds, giving the dinosaur clear advantages over other predators.

“Timurlengia fills an important gap in both time and evolution,” says Lawrence Witmer, a paleontologist at Ohio University in Athens who was not involved in the study. “Charles Darwin couldn’t have scripted it any better.”

The next step is to determine if the braincase is typical of a mid-Cretaceous tyrannosaur, or just one oddball data point. “We’ve analyzed the heck out of each scrap of Bissekty tyrannosaur bone,” Brusatte says, “so the thing that could move us forward is the discovery of new specimens in other middle Cretaceous rock units in other parts of the world.”

Unknown species hide among Texas cave crickets

There’s no need to trek to the wilds of Borneo or the deepest Amazon if you want to discover a new species. There is at least one — and perhaps more — hiding among Ceuthophilus cave crickets in Texas, a new study finds.

Jason Weckstein of Drexel University in Philadelphia and colleagues weren’t looking for new species, and they haven’t definitively found any. But they have found some curious characteristics among the Texan crickets, as well as genetic evidence that there may be more species than science officially recognizes.

Ceuthophilus cave crickets have split into two groups. One subgenus — also named Ceuthophilus — is full of species that are trogloxenes, meaning they live in caves and venture out at night to find food. (If they get caught outdoors during the day, they hide under rocks.) The other subgenus, Geotettix, are troglobites that can only survive if they never venture out into the light.

Because crickets in the Ceuthophilus subgenus get out of the caves and perhaps even move between them, those crickets should be able to interbreed more, the researchers figured. Geotettix crickets would be stuck closer to home, and their populations would be more distinct from each other, the team predicted. And those differences should be detectable in the crickets’ DNA.

So the team collected 179 Ceuthophilus and 122 Geotettix crickets from 43 caves in 20 Texas counties, as well as a few caves in Mexico and New Mexico. The researchers then obtained the sequences of two genes found on the crickets’ mitochondria. Mitochondrial DNA evolves rapidly and can be useful for studying populations of organisms.

Crickets in the Ceuthophilus subgenus, the DNA analysis revealed, were not moving about nearly as much as the researchers had expected, they report March 3 in the Journal of Biogeography. The crickets might be limited by streams or other features of the landscape. Those in the Geotettix subgenus, meanwhile, are more homogeneous than expected. The genes from one population to the next are more similar than they should be if they were totally isolated from each other and couldn’t interbreed. Members of those populations may be able to travel underground between caves, the scientists suggest.

The DNA also showed that there might be multiple species lurking in the caves that have not yet been officially recognized and named. At least one, nicknamed “species B,” has been known to cave researchers in central Texas for years, but no one has yet formally described it in a scientific article. Nearly all the currently known species in the Ceuthophilus genus, the researchers note, were described more than 75 years ago, and no one has added any new species to the genus in more than 50 years.

So it looks like there is a good opportunity here for someone who loves caves and insects to make some discoveries — and perhaps name a cricket or two after themselves or someone they love. But more importantly, this shows how little we know about some of the species around us.

Five things to know about Zika

The mysteries of the Zika virus are slowly but surely succumbing to the scientific method. Last week, scientists revealed the virus’ structure, gleaned further insight into its ties to the birth defect microcephaly and found out just how little some people seem to know about Zika. Public health researchers at Harvard University released the results of a poll related to Zika awareness on March 29, and lots of respondents flunked. In a survey of 1,275 adults, 23 percent were unaware of Zika’s association with microcephaly and 42 percent did not know the virus could be transmitted sexually.

The survey highlights some general confusion about the facts of Zika, and the latest new tidbits show how quickly researchers are learning new things about this virus. So, let’s take a look at what people are saying about Zika and set the record straight .

Yes, in the case of microcephaly, Zika looks very, very guilty. No, pesticides and vaccines do not cause microcephaly.
A few different things, including viruses, can cause microcephaly, a birth defect in which babies have abnormally small heads and brain damage, as Meghan Rosen notes in the April 2 Science News. At the moment, there’s no smoking gun to convict Zika as the perpetrator behind Brazil’s uptick in microcephaly, but it’s not looking good for the virus. In Brazil, more microcephaly cases have appeared in places with more Zika cases. Zika has also been detected in the amniotic fluid, placenta and brain tissue of fetuses with microcephaly. It attacks specific cells related to fetal development. Zika infection during pregnancy has been linked to miscarriages and placental problems, plus other neurological conditions, including the rare autoimmune disease Guillain-Barré syndrome.

WHO officials noted in their March 31 situation report: “Based on observational, cohort and case-control studies there is strong scientific consensus that Zika virus is a cause of [Guillain-Barré syndrome], microcephaly and other neurological disorders.”

The evidence against other suspects is much less compelling. Still, a report by a group in Argentina calling themselves “Physicians Against Fumigated Towns” sent the Internet into a tizzy in February with the claim that the larvicide pyriproxyfen, not Zika, was to blame for microcephaly cases. The WHO has since reviewed toxicology studies and widespread use of the pesticide and found no evidence that the chemical interfered with human pregnancy or development. Similar rumors that vaccines or genetically modified mosquitoes caused Brazil’s microcephaly uptick simply lack any evidence, the WHO says.
Yes, you can get Zika by having sex with an infected person.
Though Aedes mosquitoes serve as the primary vector for Zika, researchers have had suspicions for a while that Zika could be sexually transmitted. In 2008, a U.S. researcher developed Zika infection symptoms after returning home from studying mosquitoes in Senegal and transmitted the virus to his wife through sex. This was the first documented sexually transmitted case of Zika.

Since then, more sexually transmitted cases have emerged in the U.S., as well as in Italy, France, Argentina, Chile and New Zealand. Thus far, only men have transmitted the virus, and whether women can also transmit the virus to their sexual partners is unknown. Researchers suspect that the virus may linger longer in semen than in blood — another potential source of transmission currently being investigated. (On March 30, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a screening test for Zika in blood donatons.) To prevent the spread of Zika between sexual partners, the CDC recommends the usual precautions.

No, there’s no vaccine for Zika, but people are working on it.
There is currently no vaccine against Zika, and vaccines against other viruses from the same family, like yellow fever, do not offer protection against Zika. That said, concern over Zika’s link to neurological disorders and growing case counts in the Americas has jump-started efforts to develop a vaccine. The idea of a chimeric vaccine that could combat Zika and other related viruses like dengue is an attractive research prospect. On March 31, a team reported the virus’ structure in Science, providing potential clues for vaccine development.

Sometimes Zika symptoms are obvious. Sometimes they’re not.
Only 20 percent of the people who get Zika actually notice symptoms. When they do, those symptoms include fever, rash, sore joints, pink eye and muscle pain. Sometimes Zika cases look a lot like dengue and chikungunya — meaning there’s potential for misdiagnosis.

No, sterilized mosquitoes do not increase the spread of Zika. In fact, they could help fight it.
There’s no evidence that sterilized mosquitoes aid and abet the spread of the virus. Some researchers would actually argue that they are our best chance of stopping it, Susan Milius notes in the April 2 Science News. Sterilization, by zapping males with radiation or genetically tweaking them, could reduce and theoretically wipe out a mosquito population. Meanwhile, gene drives likes CRISPR/Cas9 seem poised to make genetic sterilization methods a lot easier, too. Infecting mosquitoes with Wolbachia bacteria also cuts bloodsucker populations. If all else fails, El Salvador is using the tried and true method of deploying fish to eat all the larvae in mosquito breeding ponds. It goes without saying, but none of these control methods actually aid the spread of Zika.

Itty bitty engine puts a single atom to work

A team of scientists has built a heat engine out of a single atom.

Heat engines, like steam engines or internal combustion engines, convert heat into motion. To create the minuscule engine, physicist Johannes Roßnagel of University of Mainz and colleagues heated and cooled a calcium ion with an electric field and a laser, causing it to move and do a tiny amount of work. They report their results in the April 15 Science.

Read more about this and other scaled-down engines in “Ultrasmall engines bend second law of thermodynamics.”

Hubble telescope snaps stunning pic for its 26th birthday

Time to add another gorgeous space photo to the Hubble Space Telescope’s list of greatest hits. For the orbiting observatory’s 26th anniversary in space, astronomers snapped a picture of the Bubble Nebula, a seven-light-year-wide pocket of gas being blown away by a blazing massive star about 7,100 light-years away in the constellation Cassiopeia.

The star responsible for the bubble is young, just 4 million years old, and about 45 times as massive as our sun. It is so hot and bright that it launches its own gas into space at more than 6 million kilometers per hour. The vibrant colors in the nebula represent the elements oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen.

Hubble launched April 24, 1990, aboard the space shuttle Discovery. A series of visits by astronauts have kept the aging telescope’s suite of cameras, spectrometers and ancillary equipment up-to-date and operating well into its third decade.

Leptospirosis bacterium still haunts swimming holes

Danger in ‘swimming hole’  — As warm weather approaches, the old swimming hole will again beckon boys and girls in farm areas. But disease germs lurk in waters exposed to cattle and other animals…. One “swimming hole disease” called leptospirosis is caused by water-borne Leptospira pomona…. Warm summer temperatures are ideal for maintaining leptospiral organisms in water, and heavy rains may transport the organisms downstream.  — Science News, May 14, 1966

An estimated 100 to 200 people get leptospirosis annually in the United States. The disease, which can cause fever, headache and vomiting, is most common in tropical and rural regions worldwide. Summertime swimming is also haunted by another single-celled terror that thrives in warm freshwater: the so-called “brain-eating” amoeba, Naegleria fowleri. The amoeba caused 35 reported infections in the United States from 2005 to 2014. If N. fowleri enters a person’s nose, it can travel to the brain, where swelling triggered by the immune system kills most victims (SN: 8/22/15, p. 14).