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Tesla and Toyota Driving Innovation Far Beyond Electric Cars
Nikhil (Nikki) Goel is the editor-in-chief of Cavs Nation and a writer for EcoWatch. He currently attends Case Western Reserve University and studies Chemical Engineering. He hopes to pursue Environmental Policy some day, making writing more than a hobby. Born and raised in Cleveland, his love for the Cavaliers is self-explanatory. Nikki is a passionate advocate for unisex nomenclature and a fruit connoisseur. If you need to pick out a ripe watermelon, find him.
Can the “Open Source” Agenda Lift Humanity above Globalization?
Brilliance doesn’t stem from success. It radiates from trendsetters who make change and bring our species closer to “tomorrow.” Innovators like Elon Musk, who’s achieved capitalistic success while refusing to compromise environmental standards. Musk’s pioneering electric automotive company, Tesla, is galvanizing a new economic movement: one with a manual gearshift in the market in order to supply a new demand. Continuing the trend is this year’s release of the Mirai, Toyota granted unrestricted use of thousands of hydrogen fuel cell patents (including pending patents), subsequently passing a torch that not only sympathizes with climate change activists but also empathizes with the realities of globalization.
These realities date back to the 18th century, when President George Washington signed a bill that laid out the framework for an inclusive and flexible American patent system. Since then, the ingenuity of Americans and avant-gardists around the world has been capitalized into an economic era with an ideal, optimistic lifestyle. Unfortunately, despite globalization’s spherical connotation, its steamrolling proliferation does not come to full circle. By sculpting the planet for its resources, man’s era of industrialization has left the carvings out to dry. Current civic culture supports a backwards relationship between the economy and environment, in which patents that liberated visionaries from past fiscal boundaries have now inadvertently ensnared the potential of smarter, more viable economic growth. And yet, with the imagination that crafted today comes the extrapolation that we can find a solution tomorrow.
Here’s the thing about most of tomorrow’s environmental solutions: we already have them, here, today. Environmental problems typically run parallel with this redundancy, in a situation that is just as politically and economically tangled. The fossil fuel industry is transparently saturated, perforated with ostensible controversies that reveal how colossally difficult it is to overcome humanity’s dependency. “Tomorrow” might be a bit more distant from the dark reality Musk believes our economy faces today, where “electric car programs at the major manufacturers are small to non-existent, constituting an average of far less than 1% of their total vehicle sales.” Tesla therefore cannot create substantial change in the economy, society or environment if they’re only impacting a fraction of one percent of the market. The situation has settled in between invention and implementation, where we cannot take the hydrogen-powered train until the ensuing tracks are in place.
By releasing royalty-free use of 5,680 fuel-cell patents vital to the construction of hydrogen-powered vehicles, Toyota is placing those tracks and growing that one percent. It’s not enough to get on board, however; to continue the movement, each piece needs to provide an extension—another piece—that can streamline humans as fast as industrialization has. So when Tesla supplied Toyota with battery packs for developing its fuel cell technology, Toyota then promised an additional 70 hydrogen-fueling station patents that can be used by any electric automotive product let alone for its production. This economic phalanx can carry society to tomorrow while bringing tomorrow a bit closer with each new extension made today.
Don’t mistake these extensions as hyper or heroic. From an ECON 101 perspective, relinquishing proprietary components of a business is economic suicide. Before telling these companies’ novel engineers to stick to science, the economic potential of this movement can put Tesla and Toyota’s hydrogen-electric tandem ahead of all other future competitors in a market that is sure to grow.
Toyota eluded to this part of the marketing strategy, as their senior vice president, Bob Carter, explains that companies who manufacture and sell hydrogen-fuel cell vehicles can free use the patents “through their initial market introduction period, which they anticipate is today to the end of 2020.” Hence after, companies still interested in using the patents must sign a licensing contract. However, by placing “good faith” in the industry as well as within themselves, Tesla and Toyota are looking to set a palpable bar for others to exceed with an appropriate mentality that they’ve got nothing to lose. Sounds radical? How could it, considering creative innovation and bold risk-taking is how “tomorrow” is perceived and eventually conceived.
This “tomorrow” has been teed up by Tesla and driven by Toyota’s latest swing. Now it’s time for the rest of the industry to follow through, completing a stroke that can put society on the green every time. All that’s left is putting people into a better future. Sinking that putt is a result of successfully rising above globalization by globalizing an environmental solution.
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A central player in the fight against the novel coronavirus is our immune system. It protects us against the invader and can even be helpful for its therapy. But sometimes it can turn against us.
How does our immune system react to the coronavirus?<p>The coronavirus is — like any other virus — not much more than a shell around genetic material and a few proteins. To replicate, it needs a host in the form of a living cell. Once infected, this cell does what the virus commands it to do: copy information, assemble it, release it.</p><p>But this does not go unnoticed. Within a few minutes, the body's immune defense system intervenes with its innate response: Granulocytes, scavenger cells and killer cells from the blood and lymphatic system stream in to fight the virus. They are supported by numerous plasma proteins that either act as messengers or help to destroy the virus.</p><p>For many viruses and bacteria, this initial activity of the immune system is already sufficient to fight an intruder. It often happens very quickly and efficiently. We often notice only small signs that the system is working: We have a cold, a fever. </p>
Is there an immunity? How long does it last?<p>The good news is that it is very likely there is an immunity. This is suggested by the proximity to other viruses, epidemiological data and animal experiments. Researchers <a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.03.13.990226v1" target="_blank">infected four rhesus monkeys,</a> a species close to humans, with SARS-CoV-2. The monkeys showed symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, developed neutralizing antibodies and recovered after a few days. When the recovered animals were reinfected with the virus, they no longer developed any symptoms: They were immune. </p><p>The bad news: It is not (yet) known how long the immunity will last. It depends on whether a patient has successfully developed neutralizing antibodies. Achim Hörauf estimates that the immunity should last at least one year. Within this year, every new contact with the virus acts as a kind of booster vaccination, which in turn might prolong the immunity.</p><p>"The virus is so new that nobody has a reasonable immune response," says the immunologist. He believes that lifelong immunity is unlikely. This "privilege" is reserved for viruses that remain in the body for a long time and give our immune system a virtually permanent opportunity to get to know it. Since the coronavirus is an RNA (and not a DNA) virus, it cannot permanently settle in the body, says Hörauf.</p><p>The Heidelberg immunologist <a href="https://www.klinikum.uni-heidelberg.de/immunologie/immunologie" target="_blank">Stefan Meuer</a> predicts that the novel coronavirus will also mutate like all viruses. He assumes that this could be the case in 10 to 15 years: "At some point, the acquired immunity will no longer be of any use to us because then another coronavirus will return, against which the protection that has now been formed will not help us because the virus has changed in such a way that the antibodies are no longer responsible. And then no vaccination will help either."</p>
How can we take advantage of the antibody response of the immune system?<p>Researchers are already collecting plasma from people who have successfully survived an infection with SARS-CoV-2 and are using it to treat a limited number of patients suffering from COVID-19. The underlying principle: <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/coronavirus-drugs-can-antibodies-from-survivors-help/a-52806428" target="_blank">passive immunization.</a> The studies carried out to date have shown positive results, but they have usually been carried out on only a few people.</p><p>At best, passive immunization is used only when the patient's own immune system has already started to work against the virus, says Achim Hörauf: "The longer you can leave the patients alone with the infection before you protect them with passive immunization, the better." Only through active immunization can one be protected in the long term. At the same time, it is difficult to recognize the right point in time.</p><p>PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests are currently used to find out whether a person is infected with the coronavirus. With the help of PCR, it is not possible to tell whether or not there is reproducible viral RNA; it is just a proof of whether the virus is still present, dead or alive. A PCR test cannot tell us whether our immune system has already intervened, i.e. whether we have had contact with the virus in the past, have formed antibodies and are now protected. Researchers are therefore working on tests that check our blood for the presence of antibodies. They are already in use in Singapore, for example, and are nearing completion in the USA. With the help of these tests, it would finally be possible to gain an overview <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/corona-confusion-how-to-make-sense-of-the-numbers-and-terminology/a-52825433" target="_blank">of the unclear case numbers.</a> In addition, people who have developed antibodies against the virus could be used at the forefront of health care, for example. An "immunity passport" is even under discussion.</p>
Is it possible to become infected and/or ill several times with the coronavirus?<p>"According to all we know, it is not possible with the same pathogen," says Achim Hörauf. It is possible to become infected with other coronaviruses or viruses from the SARS or MERS group if their spike proteins look different. "As far as the current epidemic is concerned, it can be assumed that people who have been through COVID-19 will not become ill from it for the time being and will not transmit the virus any further," he says.</p>
How long before you're no longer contagious?<p>A study <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-2196-x" target="_blank">carried out on the first coronavirus patients in Germany</a> showed that no viruses that are capable of replication can be found from day eight after the onset of symptoms, even though PCR can still detect up to 100,000 gene copies per sample. This could change the current quarantine recommendations in the future.</p><p>According to the Robert Koch Institute, patients can currently be discharged from hospital if they show two negative PCR samples from the throat within 24 hours. If they have had a severe case of the disease, they should remain in domestic isolation for another two weeks. For each discharge, whether from hospital or home isolation, they should have been symptom-free for at least 48 hours.</p>
Why do people react differently to the virus?<p>While some people get off with a mild cold, others are put on ventilators or even die of SARS-Cov-2. Especially people with <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/coronavirus-who-is-particularly-at-risk-and-why/a-52710881" target="_blank">pre-existing conditions</a> and older people seem to be worst-affected by the virus. Why? This is the hottest question at the moment.</p><p>It will still take a very, very long time to understand the mechanistic, biological basis for why some people are so much more severely affected than others, virologist Angela Rasmussen told <em>The Scientist</em>. "The virus is important, but the host response is at least as important, if not more important," her colleague Stanley Perlman told the magazine.</p><p>Stefan Meuer sees a fundamental survival principle of nature in the different equipment and activity of our immune systems: "If we were all the same, one and the same virus could wipe out the entire human species at once. Due to the genetic range, it is quite normal that some people die from a viral disease while others do not even notice it. "</p><p>Achim Hörauf also suspects immunological variants that could be genetically determined. Since interstitial pneumonia is observed with the coronavirus, the focus is probably on an overreaction of the immune system. However, it is also possible that each person affected may have been loaded with a different dose of the virus, which in turn leads to different outcomes. And finally, it makes a difference how robust the body and lungs are: Competitive athletes simply have more lung volume than long-time smokers. </p>
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