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‘Zebra’ tribal bodypaint cuts fly bites 10-fold: study

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Traditional white-striped bodypainting practiced by indigenous communities mimics zebra stripes to reduce the number of potentially harmful horsefly bites a person receives by up to 10-fold, according to new research published Wednesday.

Tribes in Africa, Australia and southeast Asia have practiced bodypainting in cultural ceremonies for generations.

Traditionally mixed from clay, chalk, ash and cattle dung, the white or grey paint is widely thought to help individuals moderate body heat in soaring bush and savanna temperatures.

But scientists now believe that the striking striped patterns also slash the amount of biting insects attracted to the naked flesh of people living in Nature.

It is known that zebras get bitten far less than animals with a single fur colour, so a team of researchers decided to see if the light stripes painted on humans would have a similar deterrent effect.

They used three shop mannequins — one with dark skin, one with lighter skin, and a dark-skinned model painted with white stripes — and coated each with a thin layer of adhesive to capture creepy crawlies.

They then stuck them in the middle of a meadow for eight weeks in summer, and counted the number of horseflies and other biting insects each one attracted.

The results were startling: the dark-skinned mannequin was 10 times more attractive to horseflies than the striped model and twice as attractive than the light-skinned dummy.

The team behind the study believe that the stripes disrupt the polarisation of light reflected off human bodies, making them less delicious-looking to horseflies and other bugs.

“Traditional bodypaintings with their typical white-striped patterns on a brown body surface have the advantage of deterring blood-sucking horseflies as these patterns are unattractive to these parasitic insects,” the authors wrote in the journal Royal Society Open Science.

Bites from horseflies and other pests can be dangerous as well as irritating, as they suck a host’s blood, transmitting diseases such as the potentially deadly swamp fever.

Because of their need to lay their larvae in ponds and lakes, they often come into contact with indigenous people seeking reliable water sources.

Gabor Horvath, from the Department of Biological Physics at Hungary’s Eotvos Lorand University, told AFP that the fly-repellant effect was a happy by-product of the cultural significance of bodypainting: the purpose of the paint is not to stop fly bites, it just happens to be good at doing so.

“We are however convinced that these people know well the horsefly-repelling characteristic of their bodypaintings,” he told AFP.

“Essentially, the use of white-striped bodypaintings can be considered as an example for behavioural evolution/ecology and an adaptation to the environment.”

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More groups join in support of women in STEM program at Carleton

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OTTAWA — Major companies and government partners are lending their support to Carleton University’s newly established Women in Engineering and Information Technology Program.

The list of supporters includes Mississauga-based construction company EllisDon.

The latest to announce their support for the program also include BlackBerry QNX, CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority), Ericsson, Nokia, Solace, Trend Micro, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, CGI, Gastops, Leonardo DRS, Lockheed Martin Canada, Amdocs and Ross.

The program is officially set to launch this September.

It is being led by Carleton’s Faculty of Engineering and Design with the goal of establishing meaningful partnerships in support of women in STEM.  

The program will host events for women students to build relationships with industry and government partners, create mentorship opportunities, as well as establish a special fund to support allies at Carleton in meeting equity, diversity and inclusion goals.

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VR tech to revolutionize commercial driver training

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Serious Labs seems to have found a way from tragedy to triumph? The Edmonton-based firm designs and manufactures virtual reality simulators to standardize training programs for operators of heavy equipment such as aerial lifts, cranes, forklifts, and commercial trucks. These simulators enable operators to acquire and practice operational skills for the job safety and efficiency in a risk-free virtual environment so they can work more safely and efficiently.

The 2018 Humboldt bus catastrophe sent shock waves across the industry. The tragedy highlighted the need for standardized commercial driver training and testing. It also contributed to the acceleration of the federal government implementing a Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) program for Class 1 & 2 drivers currently being adopted across Canada. MELT is a much more rigorous standard that promotes safety and in-depth practice for new drivers.

Enter Serious Labs. By proposing to harness the power of virtual reality (VR), Serious Labs has earned considerable funding to develop a VR commercial truck driving simulator.

The Government of Alberta has awarded $1 million, and Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) is contributing an additional $2 million for the simulator development. Commercial deployment is estimated to begin in 2024, with the simulator to be made available across Canada and the United States, and with the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) helping to provide simulator tests to certify that driver trainees have attained the appropriate standard. West Tech Report recently took the opportunity to chat with Serious Labs CEO, Jim Colvin, about the environmental and labour benefits of VR Driver Training, as well as the unique way that Colvin went from angel investor to CEO of the company.

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Next-Gen Tech Company Pops on New Cover Detection Test

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While the world comes out of the initial stages of the pandemic, COVID-19 will be continue to be a threat for some time to come. Companies, such as Zen Graphene, are working on ways to detect the virus and its variants and are on the forefronts of technology.

Nanotechnology firm ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd. (TSX-Venture:ZEN) (OTCPK:ZENYF), is working to develop technology to help detect the COVID-19 virus and its variants. The firm signed an exclusive agreement with McMaster University to be the global commercializing partner for a newly developed aptamer-based, SARS-CoV-2 rapid detection technology.

This patent-pending technology uses clinical samples from patients and was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The test is considered extremely accurate, scalable, saliva-based, affordable, and provides results in under 10 minutes.

Shares were trading up over 5% to $3.07 in early afternoon trade.

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