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The Yunnan mine and its resident bats, 'The Seeker' knew, had been sampled by researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Pixabay

He prefers to be called ‘The Seeker’. To protect his anonymity, he communicates through Twitter handle ‘@TheSeeker268’, with the logo of a little-known tribal art of Bankura or Birbhum but this West Bengal man, who is in his late 20s and probably from Kolkata, has been responsible for challenging the conventional theory that SARS-Cov-2 was a spillover from animals and to show how it was a lab leak from Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).

A member of DRASTIC (Decentralised Radical Autonomous Search Team Investigating COVID-19), “The Seeker” is neither a scientist nor a scientific researcher but this former teacher of science is an avid internet data miner who managed to learn the weird but painstaking technique of searching the back alleys of the web, far beyond the well-lit places patrolled by Google, and there, stumbled upon some obscure documents that perhaps could become the biggest revelations of the 21st century.


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In a series of mails to IANS, ‘The Seeker’ explained what prompted him to look beyond the conventional Chinese “Animal-to-Human” theory that the world had started to believe.

It was in early 2020 when the “The Seeker” posted one paper on Canadian Yuri Deigin’s theory on Reddit, which promptly suspended his account permanently. This aroused his curiosity and led him to delve deep into the investigation.

“It was a Medium post by the Canadian longevity entrepreneur Yuri Deigin that discussed RaTG13, a virus Shi Zhengli had revealed to the world in a February 3 paper in the journal Nature. In that paper, Shi presented the first extensive analysis of SARS-CoV-2, which had seemed to come from nowhere – the virus was unlike any that had been seen before, including the first SARS, which had killed 774 people from 2002 to 2004. In her paper, however, Shi also introduced RaTG13, a virus that is similar in genetic makeup to SARS-CoV-2 but never mentioned where RaTG13 had come from.


In a series of mails to IANS, ‘The Seeker’ explained what prompted him to look beyond the conventional Chinese “Animal-to-Human” theory that the world had started to believe. Pixabay

“He (Design) wondered if SARS-CoV-2 might have emerged through some genetic mixing and matching from a lab working with RaTG13 or related viruses. His post was cogent and comprehensive and I posted the theory on Reddit after which my account was permanently suspended. This aroused my suspicion further,” ‘The Seeker’ wrote.

After a lot of trial and error, ‘The Seeker’ stumbled upon exactly what he was looking for: a master’s thesis written by a Chinese doctor. The document contained an account of six cases of “severe pneumonia caused by unknown viruses” in workers who had been cleaning an abandoned copper mine in Yunnan, China, in 2012. The patients’ symptoms seemed eerily similar to those of Covid-19. Three of the patients, it said, died from the mystery illness.

“It was a 60-page master’s thesis in 2013 titled ‘The Analysis of 6 Patients with Severe Pneumonia Caused by Unknown Viruses’. In exhaustive detail, it described the conditions and step-by-step treatment of the miners. It named the suspected culprit: ‘Caused by SARS-like (coronavirus) from the Chinese horseshoe bat or other bats,” he wrote.

“Finding it, at that moment, felt big… like a homicide detective solving a cold case,” ‘The Seeker’, who presently works with diverse elements like architecture, painting, and filmmaking, wrote.


The document contained an account of six cases of “severe pneumonia caused by unknown viruses” in workers who had been cleaning an abandoned copper mine in Yunnan, China, in 2012. Pixabay

‘The Seeker’ dropped the link, without fanfare, on May 18, 2020, then followed up with a second thesis from a Ph.D. student at the Chinese CDC, confirming much of the information in the first. Four of the miners had tested positive for antibodies from a SARS-like infection. And the WIV had been looped in to test samples from them all.

Shortly after ‘The Seeker’ posted the theses, China changed the access controls on CNKI so no one could do such a search again.

The Yunnan mine and its resident bats, ‘The Seeker’ knew, had been sampled by researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. He’d uncovered a missing puzzle piece: an association between the closest known relative of the coronavirus and research conducted at the institute in Wuhan, China.

Though a majority of scientists and experts agree that the coronavirus emerged after jumping from a wild animal to humans somewhere in or around Wuhan, where the first cases appeared in 2019 but an alternative theory posits that the pandemic began after SARS-CoV-2 leaked from a laboratory in Wuhan, potentially the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which needs further investigation.


Though a majority of scientists and experts agree that the coronavirus emerged after jumping from a wild animal to humans somewhere in or around Wuhan. Pixabay

ALSO READ: Did The US Pay $600K To China’s “Bat Woman”?

Though there are lots of grey areas regarding the origin of the virus thanks to DRASTIC and particularly ‘The Seeker’, from whom it is now known that the Wuhan Institute of Virology had an extensive collection of coronaviruses gathered over many years of foraging in the bat caves and that many of them — including the closest known relative to the pandemic virus, SARS-CoV-2 — came from a mineshaft where three men died from a suspected SARS-like disease in 2012.

It is now known that the WIV was actively working with these viruses, using inadequate safety protocols, in ways that could have triggered the pandemic, and that the lab and Chinese authorities have gone to great lengths to conceal these activities.

Asked whether he faced any pressure after these things came to light, ‘The Seeker’ only said: “I want you to focus on the facts, not me. It’s an article. Write about my findings.” (IANS/KB)


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Photo by Wikimedia Commons

An international team of astronomers has identified 366 new exoplanets

An international team of astronomers has identified 366 new exoplanets, using data from the NASA Kepler Space Telescope's K2 mission.

The findings, described in a paper published in the Astronomical Journal, showed a planetary system that comprises a star and at least two gas giant planets, each roughly the size of Saturn and located unusually close to one another.

The discovery is significant because it's rare to find gas giants -- like Saturn in the solar system -- as close to their host star as they were in this case.

The researchers cannot yet explain why it occurred there, but it makes the finding especially useful because it could help scientists form a more accurate understanding of the parameters for how planets and planetary systems develop.

"The discovery of each new world provides a unique glimpse into the physics that play a role in planet formation," said lead author Jon Zink, a UCLA postdoctoral scholar.

The findings could be a significant step toward helping astronomers understand which types of stars are most likely to have planets orbiting them and what that indicates about the building blocks needed for successful planet formation, acoording to the study.

"We need to look at a wide range of stars, not just ones like our sun, to understand that," Zink said.

The term "exoplanets" is used to describe planets outside of the solar system. The number of exoplanets that have been identified by astronomers numbers fewer than 5,000 in all, so the identification of hundreds of new ones is a significant advance.

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In the Indian atomic energy sector, the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE)

By Venkatachari Jagannathan

Officials of the Indian space sector, both serving and retired, are of the view that the space sector's organisational structure is expected to mirror that of India's atomic energy sector.

They also said that senior officials of the Indian space agency should address the employees on what is happening in the sector and how it will pan out so that uncertainty and confusion are addressed.

In the Indian atomic energy sector, the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) is at the top, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) is the sectoral regulator while the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL), the Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Ltd (both power companies), the Uranium Corporation of India Ltd, the Electronics Corporation of India Ltd, and IREL (India) Ltd are public sector units (PSU).

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The Bhabha Atomic Energy Centre (BARC), Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR) are the premier research and development (R&D) organizations and there are several DAE-aided organizations.

While the DAE is headed by a Secretary (normally from the R&D units) who is also the head of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), the R&D centres and PSUs are headed by different persons.

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The sector has two PSUs - Antrix Corporation Ltd and NewSpace India Ltd.

Unlike the atomic energy sector, the Secretary of the DOS and Chairman of the Space Commission is also the Chairman of the ISRO.

As part of the space sector reform measures, the government has set up IN-SPACe as a regulator for the private sector players.

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"Looking forward, there are possibilities of the government coming out with a voluntary retirement scheme for ISRO officials and merging its various production centres with NewSpace to synergise its operations," a former senior official of ISRO told IANS.

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"Sharing personal media, such as images or videos, can potentially violate a person's privacy, and may lead to emotional or physical harm," Twitter said in a blog post late on Tuesday.

"The misuse of private media can affect everyone, but can have a disproportionate effect on women, activists, dissidents, and members of minority communities. When we receive a report that a Tweet contains unauthorised private media, we will now take action in line with our range of enforcement options," the company informed.

Under the existing policy, publishing other people's private information, such as phone numbers, addresses, and IDs, is already not allowed on Twitter.

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"There are growing concerns about the misuse of media and information that is not available elsewhere online as a tool to harass, intimidate, and reveal the identities of individuals," Twitter said.

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