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Best Lenovo Black Friday 2018 deals: ThinkPad laptops and more

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Lenovo 2018 Black Friday ad

The world’s biggest PC maker has elaborate plans for its online store come Black Friday, with Lenovo promising laptop doorbusters nearly each hour from early on Thanksgiving morning through the end of Black Friday itself. Here’s a breakdown of those deals — highlighted by a $99 IdeaPad 130s special — along with Black Friday specials on Lenovo laptops from other retailers.

Thanksgiving

10 a.m.
ThinkPad X1 Yoga (Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD, 14-inch touchscreen): $1,499.99

11 a.m.
Thinkpad X1 Carbon (Core i7-7500U, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD, 14-inch full HD display): $1,139.99

1:00 p.m.
IdeaPad 130 (Core i3, 4GB RAM, 500GB hard drive, 15.6-inch display): $299.99

3:00 p.m.
Flex 2-in-1 (Intel Pentium, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD, 14.1-inch display): $399.99

4:00 p.m.
IdeaPad 330 (Core i5, 8GB RAM, 1TB hard drive, 15.6-inch display): $599.99

6:00 p.m.
IdeaPad 130 (Core i7, 8GB RAM, 1TB, 15.6-inch display): $529.99

7:00 p.m.
ThinkPad E575 (AMD A10-9600P, 8GB RAM, 500GB, 15.6-inch display): $399.99

8:00 p.m.
ThinkPad T480 (Core i5, 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD, 14-inch display): $779.99

9:00 p.m.
IdeaPad 530 (Core i7, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, 15.6-inch display): $699.99

11:00 p.m.
IdeaPad 330 (Core i7, 16GB RAM, 128GB SSD, 15.6-inch display): $879.99

Midnight
IdeaPad 130s (Intel Celeron N4000, 2GB, 32GB SSD): $99
IdeaPad 330 (Core i5, 8GB RAM, 1TB hard drive, 15.6-inch display): $399.99

Black Friday

8 a.m.
ThinkPad X1 Yoga (Core i7 processor, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD, 14-inch touchscreen): $1,2499.99

9 a.m.
Thinkpad X1 Carbon (Core i7-7500U, 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD, 14-inch full HD display): $899.99

1:00 p.m.
Yoga 720 2-in-1 (Core i3, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD, 12-inch full HD touchscreen): $599.99

4:00 p.m.
ThinkPad L380 Yoga (Core i5, 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD, 13.3-inch touchscreen): $779.99

6:00 p.m.
Flex 6 2-in-1 (Core i5, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, 14.1-inch touchscreen): $649.99

Lenovo’s website isn’t the only place to find deals on its laptops. Here are a selection from other retailers if you’re shopping elsewhere on Black Friday.

Best Buy

130-15AST (AMD A6, 4GB, 500GB hard drive, 15.6-inch display): $199.99
Chromebook MT8173c 2-in-1 (MediaTek processor, 4GB RAM, 32GB SSD, 11.6-inch touchscreen): $179.99

Costco

IdeaPad 330 (Core i5, 12GB, 1TB hard drive, 15.6-inch touchscreen): $449.99

Microsoft Store

Flex 2-in-1 (Core i5, 8GB, 128GB SSD, 14-inch full HD touchscreen): $499

Office Depot and OfficeMax

Flex 5 2-in-1 (Core i5, 8GB, 1TB hard drive, 15.6-inch full HD touchscreen): $499.99

Staples

330s (AMD Ryzen 7, 8GB, 1TB hard drive, 15.6-inch full HD display): $469.99

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MIT scientists study spider web structure by translating it into music

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Now you can walk through a virtual spider web, using VR headset and controllers to interact with a web sonification model.

A spider weaving its intricate web is a bit like a person composing a song, at least in the eyes of MIT materials engineer Markus Buehler, whose research involves translating web structure into musical melodies. Together with his collaborators, he has devised a way for humans to “enter” a 3D spider web and explore its structure both visually and aurally via a virtual reality setup. Buehler described the ongoing project during a talk at the (virtual) meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) this week.

The work may one day lead to a means of rudimentary communication with spiders in their own “language” of web vibrations, such as when they stretch a strand of silk while building a web or when the strands vibrate in response to a gust of wind or to the presence of trapped prey. “The spider lives in an environment of vibrating strings,” Buehler said during an online press conference. “They don’t see very well, so they sense their world through vibrations, which have different frequencies.”

As we’ve reported previously, several years ago, Buehler led a team of MIT scientists that mapped the molecular structure of proteins in spider silk threads onto musical theory to produce the “sound” of silk in hopes of establishing a radical new way to create designer proteins. The hierarchical elements of music composition (pitch, range, dynamics, tempo) are analogous to the hierarchical elements of a protein structure. Much like how music has a limited number of notes and chords and uses different combinations to compose music, proteins have a limited number of building blocks (20 amino acids) that can combine in any number of ways to create novel protein structures with unique properties.

That work inspired a sonification art exhibit, “Spider’s Canvas,” in Paris in 2018. Artist Tomas Saraceno worked with MIT engineers to create an interactive harp-like instrument inspired by the web of a Cyrtophora citricola spider, with each strand in the “web” tuned to a different note. To create the harp, the team scanned a spider web with a laser to capture the 2D cross-sections and then reconstructed that 3D network with computer algorithms. Next they assigned specific frequencies to the web strands to serve as musical notes. Combine those notes in various patterns in the web’s 3D structure and you can generate melodies.

“The sounds are very complex, and they don’t sound like conventionally tuned instruments, because of course a spider does not use the same tuning system we do in musical creation,” said Buehler. “Rather, the spider has tuned the web to their own idea of how the web should be tuned as the optimal sensor, an optimal prey-catching apparatus. It’s quite haunting in its sounds—unusual, but quite beautiful.”

In 2019, Buehler’s team subsequently developed an even more advanced system of making music out of a protein structure—and then converting it back to create novel proteins never before seen in nature. They assigned each amino acid a tone based on its natural resonant frequency—actually more akin to a chord, since amino acids vibrate at several overlapping frequencies. The different 3D structures of the molecules determined the duration of each tone.

Enlarge / Cross-sectional images (shown in different colors) of a spider web were combined into this 3D image and translated into music.

Isabelle Su and Markus Buehler

Since there are 20 amino acids, this produced a 20-tone scale. The team also developed a free Android app, called the Amino Acid Synthesizer, so users can create their own protein “compositions” from the sounds of amino acids. And last year, Buehler’s lab applied the same approach to model the vibrational properties of the spike protein responsible for the high contagion rate of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.

Buehler’s presentation at the ACS meeting focused primarily on the virtual reality environment that allows the user to enter a virtual spider web and wander through its structure The idea is that one might be able to pick up more interesting structural features by combining both vision and hearing, since it gives the user a much richer sensory experience of the spider web.

While most people are familiar with two-dimensional spider webs, according to Buehler, most spiders actually build three-dimensional cobwebs, and it was those structures he was most interested in exploring through sound. He thinks of spiders as “autonomous 3D printers,” constructing their webs without any supportive scaffolding, unlike manmade 3D printing processes. “So we have a material that is created or spun by the spider in real time with a very low energy consumption, creating these very complex structures in three-dimensional space,” Buehler said.

Some of the MIT experiments involved scanning a spider web as it was being constructed, translating each stage into music so the team could study the process in audible form. “We can create a harp for each construction state, so you can begin to see how the spider harp actually changes during the construction, almost like a living musical instrument,” said Buehler. The researchers were also able to virtually study how the web’s sound changes in response to different mechanical forces, such as stretching a particular strand and increasing the tension until the strand breaks, producing a snapping sound.

The ultimate aim is to learn to create similar synthetic spiderwebs and other structures that mimic the spider’s process. “We’re interested in changing the overall paradigm of how we think about materials,” said Buehler. “A spider is able to sense the integrity of the web through the vibrations. If it’s damaged, they can repair it. They have a whole different relationship to the structure they built; they are actually a part of it.” He imagines future manmade structures, such as bridges, designed with a similar built-in repair mechanism. “You wouldn’t build something and wait for it to break, but continuously repair it,” he said. “It would become a living organism.”

Spiders use their webs to catch prey, but they also use them to collect sensory information via the vibrations of the various strand and as a means of communication, tapping the web to produce vibrational patterns. In other experiments, Buehler et al. recorded the various web vibrations as the spiders went about different activities: constructing their webs or sending courtship signals, for example. They designed a special machine-learning algorithm to distinguish between the various sounds, since the frequencies pretty much all sound alike to human ears.

“Now we’re trying to generate synthetic signals to basically speak the language of the spider,” Buehler said. “If we expose them to certain patterns of rhythms or vibrations, can we affect what they do, and can we begin to communicate with them? Those are really exciting ideas.”

Spider web sonification during construction, first premiered at Saraceno’s OnAir exhibition, Paris, 2018.

Listing image by Isabelle Su and Markus Buehler

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99.992% of fully vaccinated people have dodged COVID, CDC data shows

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Enlarge / Residents wait in an observation area after receiving Covid-19 vaccines at a vaccination site in Richmond, California on Thursday, April 15, 2021.

Cases of COVID-19 are extremely rare among people who are fully vaccinated, according to a new data analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Among more than 75 million fully vaccinated people in the US, just around 5,800 people reported a “breakthrough” infection, in which they became infected with the pandemic coronavirus despite being fully vaccinated.

The numbers suggest that breakthroughs occur at the teeny rate of less than 0.008 percent of fully vaccinated people—and that over 99.992 percent of those vaccinated have not contracted a SARS-CoV-2 infection.

The figures come from a nationwide database that the CDC set up to keep track of breakthrough infections and monitor for any concerning signs that the breakthroughs may be clustering by patient demographics, geographic location, time since vaccination, vaccine type, or vaccine lot number. The agency will also be keeping a close eye on any breakthrough infections that are caused by SARS-CoV-2 variants, some of which have been shown to knock back vaccine efficacy.

So far, the vaccines appear to be highly effective and working as expected, according to the CDC’s analysis—which the agency provided to Ars via email.

The vast majority of people in the US have been vaccinated with one of the mRNA vaccines, made by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, which both had around 95 percent efficacy in Phase III clinical trials. Less than five percent of people in the US have received the Johnson & Johnson adenovirus-based vaccine, which had a slightly lower efficacy of 72 percent in the US.

The extraordinary calculation that 99.992 percent of vaccinated people have not contracted the virus may reflect that they all simply have not been exposed to the virus since being vaccinated. Also, there’s likely cases missed in reporting. Still, the data is a heartening sign.

“COVID-19 vaccines are effective and are a critical tool to bring the pandemic under control,” the agency said in its email. “To date, no unexpected patterns have been identified in case demographics or vaccine characteristics.”

Keep masking up for now

Many of the breakthroughs occurred in older people, who are well-known to be more vulnerable to COVID-19. More than 40 percent were in people ages 60 and above. However, the agency noted that there were breakthrough infections scattered through every age group that is currently eligible for vaccination.

“We see [breakthroughs] with all vaccines,” top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said in a press briefing earlier this week. “No vaccine is 100 percent efficacious or effective, which means that you will always see breakthrough infections regardless of the efficacy of your vaccine.”

Vaccines can fail in some people because of a variety of factors, including immune status, health status, age, and medications they’re on. There’s also the possibility that something went wrong with the vaccines themselves, such as improper storage, delivery, or composition, Fauci explained.

“However,” Fauci added, “even if a vaccine fails to protect against infection, it often protects against serious disease.” He highlighted the case of the 2019-2020 flu vaccine, which was only bout 39 percent effective. Despite this, and the fact that only about 52 percent of people got their immunization, the vaccine was estimated to have prevented 105,000 flu hospitalizations and 6,300 flu deaths.

In the CDC’s data on breakthrough COVID-19 infections, the agency found that 29 percent of the infections were asymptomatic. Only seven percent of the 5,800 breakthrough cases resulted in hospitalization and there were only 74 deaths. That suggests the death rate among breakthrough cases is around one percent and, among all fully vaccinated people, around 0.0001 percent.

Though the risk is small, there is still risk. The CDC emphasized that everyone should get vaccinated when its their turn and, once vaccinated, should continue following health precautions for now, such as “wearing a mask, staying at least 6 feet apart from others, avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, and washing their hands often.”

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CDC expert panel punts on deciding fate of J&J COVID vaccine

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Enlarge / Boxes of Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination site in Florida.

An advisory committee for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declined to vote on the fate of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday, likely leaving in place a pause on the vaccine’s use until the committee reconvenes in seven to 10 days.

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, or ACIP, expects that the coming week or so will provide additional data and analyses on the vaccine’s potential risks. Until it has more information, ACIP opted to provide no new recommendations on the use of the vaccine.

On the table, however, was everything from recommending against use of the vaccine altogether; recommending that only certain groups receive the vaccine, such as only men or only people over a certain age; or recommending that the pause be lifted and use continue in all adults as before.

In a hearty discussion Wednesday afternoon, ACIP members said they simply didn’t feel they had enough information on updated vaccine risks to vote one way or the other on any of the possible usage recommendations.

Emergency pause

ACIP gathered for the emergency meeting Wednesday after the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration abruptly announced on Tuesday that they were pausing use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The agencies linked the vaccine to six illnesses involving an unusual combination of dangerous blood clots and low platelet levels. One person died from their condition and another is in critical condition.

The cases are extremely rare, with the six occurring among more than 6.8 million people vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. However, the cases closely resemble a very rare side effect seen in some people who have received AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, which uses a similar adenovirus-based vaccine design.

With both vaccines, authorities noted unusual cases of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST), coupled with low blood levels of blood platelets (thrombocytopenia). CVST is a rare type of stroke in which a clot prevents blood from draining out of the brain. Platelets are the cell fragments in blood that stick together to form clots. Typically, low levels of platelets lead to bleeding, not clotting conditions, like CVST. In fact, it’s such an unusual combination that it’s unclear how often CVST even occurs in combination with thrombocytopenia in the absence of the vaccines. As such, researchers and public health experts have struggled to estimate the potential increased risk of developing this combination after taking either of the vaccines.

However, there’s a clear pattern emerging in these extremely rare, vaccine-linked cases—and researchers speculate that the vaccines may be triggering an aberrant immune response. A similar condition is seen rarely in patients given the blood thinner heparin. For reasons researchers don’t entirely understand, a small number of patients given heparin produce antibodies that attack a common platelet protein called Platelet Factor 4, or PF4. These antibodies activate platelets, leading to a hyperclotting state, while also promoting platelet clearance, dragging down platelet levels.

Case details

So far, many of the people who developed blood clots and thrombocytopenia after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine also tested positive for antibodies against PF4, even though they were not given heparin. In the ACIP meeting today, CDC researchers noted that five of the six people with clotting cases linked to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine also tested positive for antibodies against PF4. The sixth case wasn’t tested.

There were other intriguing details revealed in the meeting as well. All six of the cases reviewed by the CDC and FDA were in white women between the ages of 18 and 48. This has led some people to speculate that for these women in the child-bearing age range, the blood clots could be related to the use of birth control pills, which carry their own risk for clotting. However, according to the data discussed in the ACIP meeting, only one of the six affected women was taking birth control pills.

Moreover, an analysis by scientists at Johnson & Johnson found a seventh case of CVST with thrombocytopenia in one of their clinical trial participants—a male participant. The previously healthy 25-year-old man developed CVST, low blood platelets, and tested positive for anti-PF4 antibodies after taking the vaccine.

To date, CDC researchers and other scientists have found no obvious pattern of risk factors for developing the life-threatening blood clots and low platelet levels.

Outlook

But, CDC researchers and ACIP members expect they may see more cases emerge in the coming days. As noted in today’s meeting, the combination of CVST and thrombocytopenia tends to occur six to 13 days after vaccination. However, a little more than half of all doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine that have been administered in the US to date were administered in the past two weeks. Specifically, prior to March 30, there were 3.47 million Johnson & Johnson doses administered in the US, or 48 percent of all doses administered to date. Between March 30 and April 13, there were 3.77 million doses administered, or 52 percent of all doses administered. That suggests that, despite the pause in vaccine use, there may be more cases detected in the coming weeks, particularly with lags in clinical reporting.

With the sparse data analysis so far and the potential for more cases and data to arise shortly, the ACIP opted to hold out a little longer before making any recommendations. Their position is a difficult one. They’re trying to balance safety concerns with the urge to vaccinate people as quickly as possible against the deadly pandemic coronavirus, particularly as virus variants emerge and spread. They were also sensitive to the reality that the adenovirus-based vaccines (made by Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, and others) are more likely to be used in vulnerable populations and developing countries. The pauses and drama around these vaccines in places like the US and EU could increase vaccine hesitancy in populations with few other vaccine options.

For the US population overall, however, CDC researchers noted in the meeting today that the country’s vaccine supply is still strong. Even with the extended Johnson & Johnson pause, the US has steady supplies of mRNA vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech.

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