Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses whose origin is not yet known. In recent times they have acquired an enormous prominence in parallel to the epidemics they have caused in the 21st century. Among them are SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV and, of course, SARC-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19 disease. What do they cause? How are they transmitted? What danger do they pose?
We live in an age where objective and truthful, scientific information is more necessary than ever. In the face of the processes of disinformation and the fakes news that spread through social networks, scientific data are needed above all. From which authentic knowledge can be achieved.
In this dossier we approach the world of viruses and bacteria, microorganisms that have accompanied us since our origin as a species. And which will never stop doing so. We focus on those that are most harmful to us, and from a multidisciplinary perspective we address the most relevant questions in search of reliable answers. At a time – let us not forget – when we are more prepared than ever, thanks to scientific and medical advances, to combat and defeat them.
The dossier offers a complete range of articles that approach the problem from multiple perspectives and specialties: microbiology (Coronaviruses and Wuhan pneumonia), epidemiology (Is it possible to know the evolution of a pandemic? The case of COVID – Questions on the Frontier: The mathematics of contagion / Fractal kinetics of the COVID-19 pandemic / Predictions for COVID-19 based on artificial intelligence / Visual data analysis and simulation prediction for COVID-19), history of science (The fight against viruses and bacteria), virology (Latent threats), sociology (Epidemics and pandemics: the media and coverage of socio-health emergencies), history (The Black Death and other historical pandemics).
In addition, a comprehensive set of miscellaneous articles and sections, focusing on neuroscience (Neuromarketing in the digital age: how we become consumers), astronomy (Moons of the Solar System), engineering (3D prostheses for the Third World), psychology (Dialectical thinking. Crossing borders in the understanding our reality), mathematics (The day mathematics conquered space), archaeology (Questions about megalithism: seven challenges to decipher the megalithic phenomenon), etc. All this and more in Frontiers of Science magazine: Corononavirus.
DOSSIER: CORONAVIRUSES. ALL KEYS
Microbiology Coronavirus and Wuhan Pneumonia
Coronaviruses are one of the families of viruses responsible for colds and acute respiratory infections that have affected millions of people for thousands of years. Although they have been known since the 1960s, it is only at the beginning of this century that fatal outbreaks have occurred: SARS, MERS and, of course, the Wuhan coronavirus. In this article we focus on the latter, emphasizing its characteristics, how it develops, detects and treats the disease (COVID-19) that it produces and, in general, why it is different from the others.
Epidemiology Questions on the Frontier Is it possible to know the evolution of a pandemic? The case of COVID-19
The mathematics of contagion
In this article, the fundamentals of mathematical modelling applied to the study of pandemics are presented, taking as a guiding thread the simplest and most widely used model, the SIR model, which is now presented as an example in numerous texts on differential equations. Based on this model, we will introduce some variations that will allow us to apply it to real cases and increase its scope of application.
Fractal Kinetics of the COVID-19 Pandemic
The classic epidemiological approach in the study of a pandemic such as COVID-19 is to quantify the reproduction number of the disease and the infection time. However, this assumption leads to exponential growth and, despite the fact that in the indicated case the growth rate is high, it is found that it does not follow this pattern. This article notes growth as a power law, indicative of an underlying fractal, or a network of connections, between susceptible and infected individuals.
Forecasts for COVID-19 based on Artificial Intelligence
As an alternative to epidemiological models of COVID-19 transmission dynamics, the use of artificial intelligence-based methods is proposed for making real-time predictions about the extent and duration of the pandemic. To achieve this aim, a stacked and modified automatic encoder have been used to model transmission dynamics and applies to data provided by WHO, leading to predictions with errors of less than 3%.
Visual data analysis and simulation prediction for COVID-19
The epidemic of COVID-19 has become a global pandemic according to the WHO. China was initially the country most affected by the virus outbreak, which some experts date back to late November. On January 23, the Wuhan government recognized the severity of the epidemic and took the drastic step of shutting down all overseas transportation. This article attempts to answer several key questions: How did the virus spread from the epicenter of Wuhan city to the rest of the country? To what extent did the resolutions taken help control the situation? More importantly, is it possible to forecast the future development of the event under certain changes in conditions?
History of Science The fight against viruses and bacteria
Currently, a bloody fight is being waged against tiny enemies that have attacked human beings since the beginning of time: the war against pathogenic microorganisms. Taking advantage of the media noise that has originated a type of virus discovered a few decades ago, the Coronavirus, we will examine what our microscopic enemies are like, what the main advances in medicine have been, how hygiene and vaccines work, the success of antibiotics, the danger of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and the current situation of medicine in the face of new diseases.
Virology Latent threats
Even in times when there is not a spreading epidemic, there is daily baseline viral activity with public health consequences. Some countries are more protected from outbreaks and transmission of these pathogens, but there is no country that can safely certify that it is free of them. Knowledge of the latent threats in the world is therefore crucial for any health system, as it provides clues as to how to react when an alarm is triggered. This article looks at some of the most active viruses in the world today, either because of their infection rate or because of their virulence and mortality.
Sociology Epidemics and pandemics: the media and coverage of socio-health emergencies
The media serves important social purposes, typically: to inform, entertain, educate and form opinion. Research has yielded different models that explain the media’s treatment of news, which vary depending on different factors. As a special type of function, we can identify the case in which the media should alert and inform contemporary societies about risks, especially about catastrophes and social-health emergencies. In this context, rigour and ethics should take precedence over any other consideration or alignment, whether ideological or entrepreneurial. What problems does the communication of emergencies and social-health risks pose in the information society?
History The Black Death and other historical pandemics
The existence of epidemics -even pandemics- throughout history has been intrinsic to the evolution of human beings. They have always coexisted with us as a species. In times when there were no medical advances and current health conditions, it was relatively common for the outbreak of a bacterium or virus to be lethal to hundreds of thousands of people and even entire populations. One example of this, which is undoubtedly paradigmatic, was the terrible black plague of the 14th century, although there were others throughout history which, due to their virulence or intensity, did not lag behind. They had consequences of such magnitude that, together with their terrifying lethality, they modified economic, political, social and cultural patterns that undoubtedly conditioned the course of history.
Neuroscience Neuromarketing in the digital age: how we become consumers
Neuromarketing is a new research tool that arises from the convergence between traditional marketing and neuroscience, that is, the part of medicine that studies the brain and its reaction to different stimuli. Its objective is the total interpretation of the thoughts, feelings, needs and desires of the human being through the brain’s responses. This article describes how neuromarketing is now widely used to design, structure and confer visual identity on multiple advertising campaigns, relying on the use of ICT s to produce maximum impact on consumers.
Archaeology At the Frontier Seven challenges to decipher the megalithic phenomenon
This article presents seven challenges that must be met if we are to better understand megalitism. Further multidisciplinary studies, based on collaboration between archaeologists, astronomers, historians, computer scientists, architects, engineers, etc., are needed to decipher this phenomenon, one of the most unusual in antiquity. Why were these huge and complex stone monuments erected? They represented a huge effort for those who created them, at a time with great technological limitations for their construction and with a raw material, of tons of weight, often located in quarries hundreds of kilometers away. Today we know that they followed specific architectural and astronomical guidelines but we are still far from obtaining definitive answers.
Visual Frontier Moons of the Solar System
There are dozens of planetary satellites in the Solar System. Far away are the times when there was talk of a very limited number for each planet. Today the count is 185. In addition, there are dwarf planets and asteroid belt objects that also have their own satellites. Each of these moons is a world unto itself. There are huge ones, bigger even than planets. Others are very small objects years, only a few miles in diameter. Some orbit very close to the planet, and some orbit a huge distance away. Although most lack an atmosphere, there are those who do. They are, in short, a very varied and strange landscape, but in all cases extremely beautiful. In this section we present some of the most striking moons in the Solar System. And we offer some curious and sometimes not very well known data that inform us of the richness of our cosmic neighborhood and, above all, how much we still have to discover.
Science without Frontiers Prosthesis 3D for the Third World
Ayúdame3D project is a endeavour that provides 3D prosthesis (trédesis) to people from any nation who lack resources. The aim is that these people have quality of life using innovation and the many possibilities that allow us the newest technologies, such as 3D printers with the use of common plastic (PLA). There are more than 100 million people without limbs or with amputations, and 83% of them cannot afford assistive devices. As a result, most children in this situation are less likely to be in school, adults have great difficulty in finding employment and yet present a greater vulnerability factor that can lead to extreme poverty.
Guest Author Dialectical Thinking. Crossing borders in understanding our reality
Dialectical thinking is part of cross-cultural psychology, and its premise is to move from a static understanding of reality, in which everything is isolated, to the dialectical construction of reality, in which everything is related to everything. It also has a direct relationship with the concept of self, that is, the consciousness that each person has of himself, individuality, the feeling of identity, etc. The most recent cross-cultural studies have established that there are enormous divergences between the eastern (dialectic) and western (non-dialectic) worlds, which can be overcome in a process of integration. This article presents the need for dialectical thinking as a holistic and synthetic approach to cultural dialogue, to emphasize individual and collective stability and, on the whole, to seek coherence and the resolution of the contradictions that surround us.
Crossed Frontiers The day mathematics conquered space
When we say that mathematics conquered space, we do not mean those messages with scientific content that are sent to the stars in case some intelligent entity is capable of finding them. Nor do we refer to the mathematical, physical and engineering findings that have made it possible to send probes and rockets to faraway places. We are talking about women, specialists in mathematics, who, thanks to their tenacity and excellent professional skills, contributed decisively to making the space race possible and to human beings stepping on the moon.