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Sci, Volume 2, Issue 3 (September 2020) – 9 articles

Cover Story (view full-size image): Our manuscript addresses factors influencing patients’ choice for a herbal or orthodox remedy against malaria in Ghana. Although the modern pharmaceutical industry provides scientifically scrutinized medications, most patients in Ghana, regardless of age or educational level, prefer locally produced herbal remedies because of factors such as trust and recommendations, and despite considerable side-effects. It is obvious that such subjective and less scientific factors influencing the choice for medications have to be accounted for, probably not only for malaria and not only in Ghana. We therefore propose a dual strategy of increasing public awareness of the benefits of modern medicine on one side and better control on the quality of herbal remedies on the other to account for these factors and to raise the standard for treatment of diseases. View this paper.
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Perspective
Global Significance of Mangrove Blue Carbon in Climate Change Mitigation
Sci 2020, 2(3), 67; https://doi.org/10.3390/sci2030067 - 21 Aug 2020
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 3541
Abstract
Mangrove forests store and sequester large area-specific quantities of blue carbon (Corg). Except for tundra and peatlands, mangroves store more Corg per unit area than any other ecosystem. Mean mangrove Corg stock is 738.9 Mg Corg ha−1 [...] Read more.
Mangrove forests store and sequester large area-specific quantities of blue carbon (Corg). Except for tundra and peatlands, mangroves store more Corg per unit area than any other ecosystem. Mean mangrove Corg stock is 738.9 Mg Corg ha−1 and mean global stock is 6.17 Pg Corg, which equates to only 0.4–7% of terrestrial ecosystem Corg stocks but 17% of total tropical marine Corg stocks. Per unit area, mangroves sequester 179.6 g Corg m−2a−1 and globally about 15 Tg Corg a−1. Mangroves sequester only 4% (range 1.3–8%) of Corg sequestered by terrestrial ecosystems, indicating that mangroves are a minor contributor to global C storage and sequestration. CO2 emissions from mangrove losses equate to 0.036 Pg CO2-equivalents a−1 based on rates of C sequestration but 0.088 Pg CO2-equivalents a−1 based on complete destruction for conversion to aquaculture and agriculture. Mangrove CO2 emissions account for only 0.2% of total global CO2 emissions but 18% of CO2 emissions from the tropical coastal ocean. Despite significant data limitations, the role of mangrove ecosystems in climate change mitigation is small at the global scale but more significant in the tropical coastal ocean and effective at the national and regional scale, especially in areas with high rates of deforestation and destruction. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Climate Change Impacts on Mangrove Ecosystems)
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Article
Portable XRF Quick-Scan Mapping for Potential Toxic Elements Pollutants in Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems: A Methodological Approach
Sci 2020, 2(3), 64; https://doi.org/10.3390/sci2030064 - 14 Aug 2020
Viewed by 2057
Abstract
Sustainable urban drainage systems (SuDS) such as swales are designed to collect, store and infiltrate a large amount of surface runoff water during heavy rainfall. Stormwater is known to transport pollutants, such as particle-bound Potential Toxic Elements (PTE), which are known to often [...] Read more.
Sustainable urban drainage systems (SuDS) such as swales are designed to collect, store and infiltrate a large amount of surface runoff water during heavy rainfall. Stormwater is known to transport pollutants, such as particle-bound Potential Toxic Elements (PTE), which are known to often accumulate in the topsoil. A portable XRF instrument (pXRF) is used to provide in situ spatial characterization of soil pollutants, specifically lead (Pb), zink (Zn) and copper (Cu). The method uses pXRF measurements of PTE along profiles with set intervals (1 m) to cover the swale with cross-sections, across the inlet, the deepest point and the outlet. Soil samples are collected, and the In-Situ measurements are verified by the results from laboratory analyses. Stormwater is here shown to be the transporting media for the pollutants, so it is of importance to investigate areas most prone to flooding and infiltration. This quick scan method is time and cost-efficient, easy to execute and the results are comparable to any known (inter)national threshold criteria for polluted soils. The results are of great importance for all stakeholders in cities that are involved in climate adaptation and implementing green infrastructure in urban areas. However, too little is still known about the long-term functioning of the soil-based SuDS facilities. Full article
(This article belongs to the Section Open Innovation)
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Brief Report
Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19): Handling Challenges in Kuwait
Sci 2020, 2(3), 63; https://doi.org/10.3390/sci2030063 - 11 Aug 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 2959
Abstract
The world is currently facing a serious pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) which started in Wuhan, China, and was then transmitted rapidly to other countries. Countries applied different methods and procedures in an attempt to prevent or reduce and/or control the incidence [...] Read more.
The world is currently facing a serious pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) which started in Wuhan, China, and was then transmitted rapidly to other countries. Countries applied different methods and procedures in an attempt to prevent or reduce and/or control the incidence of cases and manage existing ones. This paper discusses the methods and procedures applied by Kuwait to control this epidemic, and how effective they have been. The State of Kuwait followed WHO, European CDC, US CDC, and/or other countries’ institutional guidelines, and is still working on containing the disease, given the rising number of cases among Kuwaitis returning from affected areas such as the UK and USA, and migrant workers who share the burden, given their living conditions. Full article
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Article
Organic Molecules: Is It Possible to Distinguish Aromatics from Aliphatics Collected by Space Missions in High-Speed Impacts?
Sci 2020, 2(3), 56; https://doi.org/10.3390/sci2030056 - 04 Aug 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1849
Abstract
A prime site of astrobiological interest within the Solar System is the interior ocean of Enceladus. This ocean has already been shown to contain organic molecules, and is thought to have the conditions necessary for more complex organic biomolecules to emerge and potentially [...] Read more.
A prime site of astrobiological interest within the Solar System is the interior ocean of Enceladus. This ocean has already been shown to contain organic molecules, and is thought to have the conditions necessary for more complex organic biomolecules to emerge and potentially even life itself. This sub-surface ocean has been accessed by Cassini, an unmanned spacecraft that interacted with the water plumes ejected naturally from Enceladus. The encounter speed with these plumes and their contents, was between 5 and 15 km s−1. Encounters at such speeds allow analysis of vapourised material from submicron-sized particles within the plume, but sampling micron-sized particles remains an open question. The latter particles can impact metal targets exposed on the exterior of future spacecraft, producing impact craters lined with impactor residue, which can then be analysed. Although there is considerable literature on how mineral grains behave in such high-speed impacts, and also on the relationship between the crater residue and the original grain composition, far less is known regarding the behaviour of organic particles. Here we consider a deceptively simple yet fundamental scientific question: for impacts at speeds of around 5−6 kms−1 would the impactor residue alone be sufficient to enable us to recognise the signature conferred by organic particles? Furthermore, would it be possible to identify the organic molecules involved, or at least distinguish between aromatic and aliphatic chemical structures? For polystyrene (aromatic-rich) and polymethylmethacrylate (solely aliphatic) latex particles impinging at around 5 km s−1 onto metal targets, we find that sufficient residue is retained at the impact site to permit identification of a carbon-rich projectile, but not of the particular molecules involved, nor is it currently possible to discriminate between aromatic-rich and solely aliphatic particles. This suggests that an alternative analytical method to simple impacts on metal targets is required to enable successful collection of organic samples in a fly-by Enceladus mission, or, alternatively, a lower encounter speed is required. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Molecules to Microbes)
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Article
Automatic Detection of Dynamic and Static Activities of the Older Adults Using a Wearable Sensor and Support Vector Machines
Sci 2020, 2(3), 62; https://doi.org/10.3390/sci2030062 - 03 Aug 2020
Viewed by 1750
Abstract
Although Support Vector Machines (SVM) are widely used for classifying human motion patterns, their application in the automatic recognition of dynamic and static activities of daily life in the healthy older adults is limited. Using a body mounted wireless inertial measurement unit (IMU), [...] Read more.
Although Support Vector Machines (SVM) are widely used for classifying human motion patterns, their application in the automatic recognition of dynamic and static activities of daily life in the healthy older adults is limited. Using a body mounted wireless inertial measurement unit (IMU), this paper explores the use of SVM approach for classifying dynamic (walking) and static (sitting, standing and lying) activities of the older adults. Specifically, data formatting and feature extraction methods associated with IMU signals are discussed. To evaluate the performance of the SVM algorithm, the effects of two parameters involved in SVM algorithm—the soft margin constant C and the kernel function parameter γ—are investigated. The changes associated with adding white-noise and pink-noise on these two parameters along with adding different sources of movement variations (i.e., localized muscle fatigue and mixed activities) are further discussed. The results indicate that the SVM algorithm is capable of keeping high overall accuracy by adjusting the two parameters for dynamic as well as static activities, and may be applied as a tool for automatically identifying dynamic and static activities of daily life in the older adults. Full article
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Article
Process Controls of the Live Root Zone and Carbon Sequestration Capacity of the Sundarbans Mangrove Forest, Bangladesh
Sci 2020, 2(3), 54; https://doi.org/10.3390/sci2030054 - 15 Jul 2020
Viewed by 2134
Abstract
The conservation of coastal wetland ecosystems, like mangrove forests and salt marshes, represents a critical strategy for mitigating atmospheric emissions and climate change in the 21st century. Yet the existence of these environments is threatened by human-induced disturbances, namely deforestation and accelerated sea-level [...] Read more.
The conservation of coastal wetland ecosystems, like mangrove forests and salt marshes, represents a critical strategy for mitigating atmospheric emissions and climate change in the 21st century. Yet the existence of these environments is threatened by human-induced disturbances, namely deforestation and accelerated sea-level rise. Coastal systems maintain surface elevation in response to sea-level rise through a combination of physical and biological processes both above and below the ground surface. The quantification and relative contribution of belowground process controls (e.g., seasonal water content, organic matter decomposition) on surface elevation change is largely unexplored but crucial for informing coastal ecosystem sustainability. To address this knowledge deficit, we integrated measurements of surface elevation change of the live root zone (0.5 to 1 m depth) with geotechnical data from co-located sediment cores in the Sundarbans mangrove forest (SMF) of southwest Bangladesh. Core data reveal that the primary belowground controls on surface elevation change include seasonal fluctuations in pore-water content and the relative abundance of fine-grained sediments capable of volumetric expansion and contraction, supporting an elevation gain of ~2.42 ± 0.26 cm year−1. In contrast to many mangrove environments, the soils of the SMF contain little organic matter and are dominantly composed (>90%) of inorganic clastic sediments. The mineral-rich soil texture likely leads to less compaction-induced subsidence as compared to organic-rich substrates and facilitates surface equilibrium in response to sea level rise. Despite a relatively high soil bulk density, soil carbon (C) density of the SMF is very low owing to the dearth of preserved organic content. However, rates of C accumulation are balanced out by locally high accretion rates, rendering the SMF a greater sink of terrestrial C than the worldwide mangrove average. The findings of this study demonstrate that C accumulation in the SMF, and possibly other alluvial mangrove forests, is highly dependent on the continued delivery of sediment to the mangrove platform and associated settings. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Climate Change Impacts on Mangrove Ecosystems)
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Article
A Comparison of Denoising Methods in Onset Determination in Medial Gastrocnemius Muscle Activations during Stance
Sci 2020, 2(3), 53; https://doi.org/10.3390/sci2030053 - 07 Jul 2020
Viewed by 1802
Abstract
One of the most basic pieces of information gained from dynamic electromyography is accurately defining muscle action and phase timing within the gait cycle. The human gait relies on selective timing and the intensity of appropriate muscle activations for stability, loading, and progression [...] Read more.
One of the most basic pieces of information gained from dynamic electromyography is accurately defining muscle action and phase timing within the gait cycle. The human gait relies on selective timing and the intensity of appropriate muscle activations for stability, loading, and progression over the supporting foot during stance, and further to advance the limb in the swing phase. A common clinical practice is utilizing a low-pass filter to denoise integrated electromyogram (EMG) signals and to determine onset and cessation events using a predefined threshold. However, the accuracy of the defining period of significant muscle activations via EMG varies with the temporal shift involved in filtering the signals; thus, the low-pass filtering method with a fixed order and cut-off frequency will introduce a time delay depending on the frequency of the signal. In order to precisely identify muscle activation and to determine the onset and cessation times of the muscles, we have explored here onset and cessation epochs with denoised EMG signals using different filter banks: the wavelet method, empirical mode decomposition (EMD) method, and ensemble empirical mode decomposition (EEMD) method. In this study, gastrocnemius muscle onset and cessation were determined in sixteen participants within two different age groups and under two different walking conditions. Low-pass filtering of integrated EMG (iEMG) signals resulted in premature onset (28% stance duration) in younger and delayed onset (38% stance duration) in older participants, showing the time-delay problem involved in this filtering method. Comparatively, the wavelet denoising approach detected onset for normal walking events most precisely, whereas the EEMD method showed the smallest onset deviation. In addition, EEMD denoised signals could further detect pre-activation onsets during a fast walking condition. A comprehensive comparison is discussed on denoising EMG signals using EMD, EEMD, and wavelet denoising in order to accurately define an onset of muscle under different walking conditions. Full article
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Article
Visual Reconstruction of Ancient Coins Using Cycle-Consistent Generative Adversarial Networks
Sci 2020, 2(3), 52; https://doi.org/10.3390/sci2030052 - 07 Jul 2020
Viewed by 2393
Abstract
In this paper, our goal is to perform a virtual restoration of an ancient coin from its image. The present work is the first one to propose this problem, and it is motivated by two key promising applications. The first of these emerges [...] Read more.
In this paper, our goal is to perform a virtual restoration of an ancient coin from its image. The present work is the first one to propose this problem, and it is motivated by two key promising applications. The first of these emerges from the recently recognised dependence of automatic image based coin type matching on the condition of the imaged coins; the algorithm introduced herein could be used as a pre-processing step, aimed at overcoming the aforementioned weakness. The second application concerns the utility both to professional and hobby numismatists of being able to visualise and study an ancient coin in a state closer to its original (minted) appearance. To address the conceptual problem at hand, we introduce a framework which comprises a deep learning based method using Generative Adversarial Networks, capable of learning the range of appearance variation of different semantic elements artistically depicted on coins, and a complementary algorithm used to collect, correctly label, and prepare for processing a large numbers of images (here 100,000) of ancient coins needed to facilitate the training of the aforementioned learning method. Empirical evaluation performed on a withheld subset of the data demonstrates extremely promising performance of the proposed methodology and shows that our algorithm correctly learns the spectra of appearance variation across different semantic elements, and despite the enormous variability present reconstructs the missing (damaged) detail while matching the surrounding semantic content and artistic style. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Machine Learning and Vision for Cultural Heritage)
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Article
Antimalarial Drugs in Ghana: A Case Study on Personal Preferences
Sci 2020, 2(3), 49; https://doi.org/10.3390/sci2030049 - 03 Jul 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2380
Abstract
Malaria is a serious infection affecting millions of people in Africa. Our study investigated the personal preferences and applications of antimalarial medicines in Ghana. Based on over 1000 questionnaires distributed in Ghana from January to May 2019, we noticed that although Western medications [...] Read more.
Malaria is a serious infection affecting millions of people in Africa. Our study investigated the personal preferences and applications of antimalarial medicines in Ghana. Based on over 1000 questionnaires distributed in Ghana from January to May 2019, we noticed that although Western medications to fight this disease are widely available, most patients in Ghana prefer treatment with locally produced herbal remedies. This preference appears to be due to a combination of traditional venues for obtaining medicines “on the street” rather than in licensed pharmacies, trust in local and “green” products, extensive advertisement of such local products, and an inherent distrust of imported and synthetic or orthodox medicines. Going local and natural is a trend also observed in other countries across the globe and adds to the acceptance or rejection of drugs regardless of their activity or toxicity. In fact, adverse side effects associated with herbal remedies, such as general weakness, swelling and sore mouth, do not seem to deter the respondents of this study in Ghana. We propose a combination of (a) increasing public awareness of the benefits of modern medicine and (b) an improvement and control of the quality of herbal remedies to raise the standard for the treatment of malaria in countries such as Ghana. Full article
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