#85: It was a dark and stormy night.

Lots to discuss today. Thanks to everyone who ordered our first round of gear!

Incredible podcast this week with Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, "the most influential marine biologist of our time". Subject: how do we use the ocean without using it up? 

Tune in to find out more.

On to the news!

Biology 401 💉👾💊 

A hundred years later, we're still not sure why the Spanish flu killed so many people

"One hundred years ago, a novel pandemic influenza virus spread rapidly around the world. It killed about 1 to 2 percent of the human population, primarily young and often healthy adults.

The centennial of the 1918 pandemic is a good time to take stock of how far the world has come since this historic health disaster—and to face the sobering fact that several key mysteries have yet to be resolved."

+ We've made so many advances (CRISPR and blood tests), and still have so far to go (synthetics). Antibiotics were the story of the 20th century -- and they may be the story of the 21st. The CDC is trying to get ready.


Climate Change 🔥🌊💨

More of the Bay Area Could Be Underwater in 2100 Than Previously Expected

"The ground around San Francisco Bay is sinking to meet the rising sea, another reason for Bay Area residents to worry about the impact of climate change on their region.

Under the new projections, San Francisco International Airport could see half of its runways submerged by the year 2100."

+ And they're not the only ones.

+ Here's what else:

      - An important carbon-tax proposal dies in the Washington statehouse

      - Plus: China's building coal plants in Africacrop shortages in California, trees are in trouble. And yet, the US could get 80% of our power from renewables.


The Final Frontier/Escape Hatch 🚀

Proxima B May Not Be Such a Great Second Home For Humanity After All

"Research led by Meredith MacGregor, an astronomer at the Carnegie Institution for Science, confirms a detection of a colossal flare from Proxima Centauri that occurred on March 24, 2017. 

Though this blast of radiation did not exceed two minutes, MacGregor’s team found it caused Proxima Centauri to shine 1,000 times brighter at its peak than during its periods of “quiescent emission,” meaning its normal, dormant phases."

+ Well, fuckaroni.


Fuck Cancer, Volume LXXXV 🖕

Delivering the Next Generation of Cancer Therapies

"Refrigerated trucks and shipping containers work just fine for South American produce and farm-raised frozen seafood from Asia. But cells require a more specialized solution. They’ve got to be kept cold enough to suspend all metabolic processes. We’re talking cryogenically cold; -240 degrees Fahrenheit."

+ Here's more on immunology: designer therapies and combination drugs.


Robots & AI 🤖🧠⚡️

The incredible changes -- and questions - that come with autonomous cars

"AVs could greatly reduce deaths and injuries from road accidents. Globally, around 1.25m people die in such accidents each year, according to the WHO; it is the leading cause of death among those aged 15-29. Another 20m-50m people are injured. Most accidents occur in developing countries, where the arrival of autonomous vehicles is still some way off. But if the switch to AVs can be advanced even by a single year, “that’s 1.25m people who don’t die,” says Chris Urmson of Aurora, an AV startup. In recent decades cars have become much safer thanks to features such as seat belts and airbags, but in America road deaths have risen since 2014, apparently because of distraction by smartphones."

      - On the other hand...there's a dark side to everything.

      - How a Computer Could Help Us Make the Right Decisions When Facing an Asteroid Threat

      - MIT's new AI gambit


The Highlight Reel

#84: Ghostbusters! What do you want?!

Hey kids! Do you feel like the elected officials making our laws should have a grasp of basic science? Or maybe even a little more than that?

Well good news! There's a bunch of scientists and doctors running for office in 2018, and here's how some of them are doing.

Want to support them? Donate right here to 314action.org.

We checked in on one of our favorites, Jess Phoenix, who's running for CA-25 (just north of Los Angeles) against the monstrous Steve Knight. She's a volcanologist, and she's awesome. Listen to our conversation with her below.

On to the news!

Biology 401 💉👾💊 

Why America Could Become Vulnerable to the Next Major Pandemic

"On top of the human toll, disease outbreaks can be hugely disruptive economically. The global economic impact of the 2003 SARS epidemic totaled approximately $40 billion, and according to the World Bank, a worldwide flu epidemic would reduce global wealth by $3 trillion."

+ The CDC's funding might be under threat, but the world isn't standing still. Is this is the end of the pandemic era
+ Deep learning in biology is -- hard.
+ Measles is back in Europe.
+ Scientists put human cells in a sheep embryo. Here's what that means.

+ On CRISPR: It could end sickle cell disease, but signing up black patients for clinical trials will be a hard sell


Climate Change 🔥🌊💨

Should your city be suing Big Oil over climate change?

"If the current volley of lawsuits over adaptation costs are successful, they will likely be followed by others: Phoenix might sue over deadly heat, Boulder over its shrinking ski season, or Houston over torrential rain. The list of disasters exacerbated by climate change keeps getting longer. Recent attribution studies have found that climate change played a major role in everything from violent avalanches in Tibet to the bleaching of coral reefs in Australia. 

Plaintiffs compare their cases to the pivotal tobacco litigation of the 1990s, hoping for a similar outcome but foreseeing similarly daunting obstacles. Like the states that brought the tobacco lawsuits, they face fantastically well-funded opponents and must convince courts of the causal link between major companies and widespread harm. No climate lawsuit has made it to trial in the US before. 

Vic Sher, a partner at the firm Sher Edling LLP, which is leading several of the California lawsuits, says that one reason he believes the cities have a shot now is the science. “All of these earlier cases didn’t have the benefit of current attribution science, in terms of drawing the link between emissions and impacts, and emissions during a particular period, and attribution to particular corporations,” Sher says. “We have all that information now.”"

+ Had a hell of a time picking a lead story for climate change this week. But we always err on the side of action, and there you go. Paris might be nextShouldn't California be? Time isn't on our side -- and here's a bunch of reasons why.

      - Climate change could decimate California’s major crops, and that should concern everyone
      - We have entered the age of climate migration
      - Sea level rise is accelerating, 224 million are undernourished in Africa, and (highlighted by some tremendous reporting) New Orleans is fighting a losing battle.

But most vitally -- the ice caps are melting, and faster than anyone expected. We are *repeatedly* blowing by our predictions.

If you haven't taken action with your city council, your state legislature, your Congressperson or Senator -- now is the time.

Call them.
March on them.
Vote them in or out of office.

You have the power but you have to show up. 


Fuck Cancer, Volume LXXXIV 🖕

All-star team of synthetic biologists raise $53 million for cancer therapy startup Senti

"Here’s how Lu described a potential cancer treatment using Senti’s technology to me. “We take a cell derived from humans that we can insert our genetic circuits into… we insert the DNA and encoding and deliver those cells via an IV infusion. We have engineered the cells to locate where the tumors are… What we’ve been doing is engineering those cells to selectively trigger an immune response against the tumor.”"

+ Related: Mini lab-created organs successfully check cancer treatments


The Highlight Reel

#83: I'll pistol whip the next guy who says "shenanigans"

It's important that despite the seemingly endless waves of shitty news permeating your every waking moment, we retain a sense of positivity and confidence -- if not in the news, in our own abilities to shape the future.

We can't wander around half-ass trying to fix our myriad existential issues, thinking and saying and tweeting, "Hey maybe if we do this it won't all be so bad-ish". We need to take some attitude lessons from some real heroes and emulate the incredible Parkland survivors. "Fuck me? Fuck you. If you're not gonna fix it, I will."

But it's not easy, is it?

So this is why, ok in maybe a slightly less uncouth manner, I appreciate Bill and Melinda Gates -- endlessly and sometimes annoyingly-so optimists who have saved, I don't know, a bajillion lives already -- taking themselves to task on the 10 toughest questions they get asked. It's an important read, and it's right here

On a related note, if you think it's hard being you, try being Bob Inglis, former GOP congressman, voted out of office for, at least in large part, his support of climate action. But he's still a conservative, and he's still fighting for climate action, and we talked to him on this week's podcast. Check it right me-ow, at one of the handy links below.

On to the news!

Biology 401 💉👾💊 

A Biohacker Regrets Publicly Injecting Himself With CRISPR

"When Josiah Zayner watched a biotech CEO drop his pants at a biohacking conference and inject himself with an untested herpes treatment, he realized things had gone off the rails.

Zayner is no stranger to stunts in biohacking—loosely defined as experiments, often on the self, that take place outside of traditional lab spaces. You might say he invented their latest incarnation: He’s sterilized his body to “transplant” his entire microbiome in front of a reporter. He’s squabbled with the FDA about selling a kit to make glow-in-the-dark beer. He’s extensively documented attempts to genetically engineer the color of his skin. And most notoriously, he injected his arm with DNA encoding for CRISPR that could theoretically enhance his muscles—in between taking swigs of Scotch at a live-streamed event during an October conference."

+ More on your body, here:

      - Peter Diamandis Is the Latest Tech Futurist Betting on Anti-Aging Stem Cells

      - DETECTR, CAMERA, and SHERLOCK are just a few of the latest uses for CRISPR. But what do they mean/do?


Climate Change 🔥🌊💨

The next five years will shape sea level rise for the next 300, study says

"The world is far off course from its goals in cutting greenhouse gas emissions — and research published Tuesday illustrates one of the most striking implications of this.

Namely, it finds that for every five years in the present that we continue to put off strong action on climate change, the ocean could rise an additional eight inches by the year 2300 — a dramatic illustration of just how much decisions in the present will affect distant future generations.

“One important point was to reveal that sea level [rise] is not in the far future, it’s now, and because the system is so slow, we just can’t see it at the moment,” said Matthias Mengel of Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, the lead author of the study, which was published in Nature Communications. “But we cause it now.”"

+ Related: Sea-level rise is accelerating, and its rate could double in next century

+ More climate change:

      - Permafrost Experiments Mimic Alaska’s Climate-Changed Future

      - World’s first floating wind farm performing better than expected

      - Renewables are about to become our cheapest form of energy


Fuck Cancer, Volume LXXXIII 🖕

Doctors Said Immunotherapy Would Not Cure Her Cancer. They Were Wrong.

"No one expected the four young women to live much longer. They had an extremely rare, aggressive and fatal form of ovarian cancer. There was no standard treatment.

The women, strangers to one another living in different countries, asked their doctors to try new immunotherapy drugs that had revolutionized treatment of cancer. At first, they were told the drugs were out of the question — they would not work against ovarian cancer.

Now it looks as if the doctors were wrong. The women managed to get immunotherapy, and their cancers went into remission. They returned to work; their lives returned to normalcy.

The tale has befuddled scientists, who are struggling to understand why the drugs worked when they should not have. If researchers can figure out what happened here, they may open the door to new treatments for a wide variety of other cancers thought not to respond to immunotherapy.

“What we are seeing here is that we have not yet learned the whole story of what it takes for tumors to be recognized by the immune system,” said Dr. Jedd Wolchok, chief of the melanoma and immunotherapeutics service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York."

+ This is a really great read. A gentle reminder: immunology is very, very new. Sometimes it works spectacularly well, much of the time, it doesn't work at all -- or worse. And sometimes, like this, it works when we don't expect it to. But this is why we fund basic science.


Robots & AI 🤖🧠⚡️

FOMO is driving massive national investments in AI, led by China. What's next?

"China is racing ahead in AI. Deep learning is getting a make over. AI is coming to Cannabis tech. Artificial intelligence is changing the fundamental structure of every industry in areas ranging from agriculture to cybersecurity to commerce to healthcare, and more. Here's a look at A look at 13 AI trends reshaping the world."

+ Download the report here.


The Highlight Reel



We are! And we're loving it. Massive thanks to Harvest Creative for the brand overhaul. You can find our new colors just about everywhere you follow/read/listen to us, and coming (very very) soon, on merchandise, too! STAY TUNED.

I'm technically on vacation but I didn't exactly mention that, and this is technically a day late, so -- my apologies. Plane wifi sucks and I knew that already but I gambled, and to no one's surprise, I blew it.

Thanks to everyone who's listening to the podcast. We LOVE our guests so far, and have some truly awesome people coming up soon. Episode 5 drops Tuesday, so tune in!


On to the news!


Space: The Final Frontier/Escape Hatch 🚀👩‍🚀👽

We found the first planets outside the Milky Way

"Previously, planets have been detected only in the Milky Way galaxy. Here, we show that quasar microlensing provides a means to probe extragalactic planets in the lens galaxy, by studying the microlensing properties of emission close to the event horizon of the supermassive black hole of the background quasar, using the current generation telescopes."

+ Say THAT three times fast, amiright? But also NASA should start funding SETI again. Life. Is. Out. There.


Biology 401 💉👾💊 

The Flu is Killing Up to 4,000 Americans a Week

"The amount of influenza ravaging the U.S. this year rivals levels normally seen when an altogether new virus emerges, decimating a vulnerable population that hasn’t had a chance to develop any defenses.

It’s an unexpected phenomenon that public health experts are still trying to decode.

The levels of influenza-like illnesses being reported now are as high as the peak of the swine flu epidemic in 2009, and exceed the last severe seasonal flu outbreak in 2003 when a new strain started circulating, said Anne Schuchat, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s acting director. "

+ But we're not calling it a pandemic. Yet.


Scientists Unearth Hope for New Antibiotics

"In a bag of backyard dirt, scientists have discovered a powerful new group of antibiotics they say can wipe out many infections in lab and animal tests, including some microbes that are resistant to most traditional antibiotics.

Researchers at Rockefeller University in New York reported the discovery of the new antibiotics, called malacidins, on Monday in the journal Nature Microbiology." 

+ More on your body here:

Bacteria Get Antibiotic Resistance Genes From Rivals They Prey On

Can gene therapy be harnessed to fight the AIDS virus?

CRISPR Isn't Just for Gene Editing Anymore


Climate Change 🔥🌊💨

Enemy #1: The Mercers, Trump’s Billionaire Megadonors, Ramp Up Climate Change Denial Funding

"Robert Mercer and his daughter, Rebekah Mercer, are best known as the secretive billionaire megadonors who bankrolled and organized President Donald Trump’s campaign, poured at least $10 million into Breitbart News, and showered millions on a network of right-wing websites and think tanks. The family has spent $36.6 million on Republican races and super PACs since 2010.

The Mercers are less well known as patrons of the climate change denial movement, yet their spending has been equally generous and appears to be increasing, according to new, previously unreleased tax filings reviewed by HuffPost."

+ No one said this fight would be easy. Here's some more insidious bullshit.


Volatile chemical products emerging as largest petrochemical source of urban organic emissions

"A detailed mass balance demonstrates that the use of volatile chemical products (VCPs)—including pesticides, coatings, printing inks, adhesives, cleaning agents, and personal care products—now constitutes half of fossil fuel VOC emissions in industrialized cities."


Robots & AI 🤖🧠⚡️

China’s massive investment in artificial intelligence has an insidious downside

"China's advantages in AI go beyond government commitment. Because of its sheer size, vibrant online commerce and social networks, and scant privacy protections, the country is awash in data, the lifeblood of deep learning systems. The fact that AI is a young field also works in China's favor, argues Chen Yunji, by encouraging a burgeoning academic effort that has put China within striking distance of the United States, long the leader in AI research.

In a more insidious downside, nations are seeking to harness AI advances for surveillance and censorship, and for military purposes. China's military "is funding the development of new AI-driven capabilities" in battlefield decision-making and autonomous weaponry, says Elsa Kania, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, D.C. In the field of AI in China, she warned in a recent report, "The boundaries between civilian and military research and development tend to become blurred.""

+ A great piece on the man most AI leaders learned from.


The Highlight Reel

#81: In space, anything is possible

This week is a little longer than usual. But I think it's getting better organized, so you can either read the whole thing, skim the whole thing, or just find what you're looking for. There's a hell of a lot going on, especially this week, and our goal is #vital first.

Podcast news: thanks to everyone who's downloaded, subscribed, shared, rated, and reviewed the show. It's going great, and we couldn't be more appreciative or proud of the reception.

Because you've been so patient and supportive, we're dropping Episode 3 TODAY, and Episode 4 on our regularly scheduled Tuesday morning. Check it out, and if you love it, leave us a review!

On to the news!


Space: The Final Frontier/Escape Hatch 🚀👩‍🚀👽

SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy launch was (mostly) a success

"Then, there it was, surrounded by a cloud of vented oxygen. The weather held. No technical errors arose. It was five minutes to launch, then 30 seconds, then, 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1... flame and fire roared along with the crowd, and the most powerful rocket in operation today was on its way up, burning its path in the sky.

The scene was breathtaking, but could the rocket stick the landing? The Falcon Heavy approached the darkness at the edge of our atmosphere, and cheers arose once again as two Falcon cores on the sides broke cleanly away from the center core, pivoting back towards two landing pads on Cape Canaveral. Shortly afterwards, the last segment of the first stage separated, and headed back towards a drone ship. Landing the rockets carefully (instead of smashing them into the ocean) makes it more likely that they can be reused on another flight.

The two side cores were already veterans, having launched and landed in previous missions. They touched down in unison, a dramatic flourish to cap off a successful launch. It was, according to Popular Science gathered around their computers, “strangely beautiful,” and “like watching synchronized swimmers, but rockets.” In the words of the jubilant SpaceX flight engineer, “The Falcons have landed.”"

+ If you missed the launch that changed human space travel forever (again), I'm really, really sorry. It was a tremendous collective moment for humanity and progress in an age of strife, distraction, and regression. It was pure joy.

+ If we want to push even farther (further? both?), we've gotta be ok with more risk.

+ Here's the best pics and video from the launch.

+ To celebrate, here's every Space Shuttle launch ever, in order.


Biology 401 💉👾💊 

A CRISPR trick in blind mice points the way to possible treatments for inherited diseases

"In genome-editing, the challenge for CRISPR-wielding scientists is to edit only one of the two copies, or alleles, of every gene that people have, repairing the ever-so-slightly broken one and leaving the healthy one alone.

Now, in one of the first research papers scheduled for publication in the first journal dedicated to research on CRISPR, scientists in Boston report “allele specific” editing of a gene that, when mutated, destroys the eye’s photoreceptors and causes the form of blindness called retinitis pigmentosa.

The achievement might one day help people with retinitis pigmentosa, which affects about 100,000 people in the U.S. But its greater significance is as a proof-of-concept. The hope is that the same trick might work in the hundreds of diseases, including Huntington’s disease and Marfan syndrome, where inheriting a single mutated gene (from mom or dad) is enough to cause problems despite the presence of a healthy copy, too."

+ Related: China might be winning the CRISPR race, but we have the FDA

+ More body hacking: Biopunks are pushing the limits with implants and DIY drugs which sounds both amazing and I don't know, completely terrifying


The CDC Is About to Fall Off a Funding Cliff

"In December 2014, Congress appropriated $5.4 billion to fight the historic Ebola epidemic that was raging in West Africa. Most of that money went to quashing the epidemic directly, but around $1 billion was allocated to help developing countries improve their ability to detect and respond to infectious diseases. The logic is sound: It is far more efficient to invest money in helping countries contain diseases at the source, than to risk small outbreaks flaring up into large international disasters.

But the $1 billion pot, which was mostly divided between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and USAID, runs out in 2019—a fiscal cliff with disaster at its foot."

+ It seems insane that this is allowed to happen, yes? People: this is why voting matters. We have to fund the CDC. We have to fund basic science. We have to vote for scientists-turned-politicians like Jess Phoenix who will restore sanity to the House.


Climate Change 🔥🌊💨

Idaho Stripped Climate Change From School Guidelines. Now, It’s a Battle.

"The political fight over global warming has extended to science education in recent years as several states have attempted to weaken or block new teaching standards that included information about climate science. But only in Idaho has the state legislature stripped all mentions of human-caused climate change from statewide science guidelines while leaving the rest of the standards intact.

Now teachers, parents and students are pushing back, hoping to convince the Republican-controlled Idaho Legislature to approve revised standards, which science proponents say are watered down but would still represent a victory for climate-change education in the state. The Idaho House education committee could vote as soon as Wednesday on whether to allow the revised language into the state’s curriculum.

[Update: The committee voted to approve the revised standards but removed supporting content that contained multiple references to human-driven warming.]"

+ These fucking people. 


Companies are realizing that renewable energy is good for business

"The conservative city of Georgetown, Texas, runs on renewable energy. After all, wind and solar power are more predictable and easier to budget than oil and gas. Clean power pushes may be associated with more left-leaning cities, but Republican mayor Dale Ross called the switch to renewables a no-brainer.

On November 14, Joe Brown, editor in chief of Popular Science, and Ali Velshi, anchor at MSNBC, teamed up to discuss why going green is often more than the best ecological decision. It's often the best business decision, too."

Why Xcel Energy, a utility company with millions of electric customers in the middle of the country, from Texas to Michigan, is going renewable.


Fuck Cancer, Volume LXXXI 🖕

Goddammit, asparagus. I knew it.

"Breast cancer patients could be encouraged to cut asparagus and other foods from their diets in the future to reduce the risk of the disease spreading, scientists say.

Researchers are investigating whether a change in diet could help patients with breast tumours after studies in mice showed that asparagine, a compound first identified in asparagus but present in many other foods, drives the spread of the disease to other organs.

When scientists reduced asparagine in animals with breast cancer, they found that the number of secondary tumours in other tissues fell dramatically. The spread of malignant cells, often to the bones, lungs and brain, is the main cause of death among patients who are diagnosed with breast cancer.

...While suppressing levels of asparagine reduced the spread of breast cancer around the body, it did nothing to prevent breast tumours forming in the first place."

+ More about cancer research in mice, which doesn't always translate to humans, but it's about the best we've got:

Local Immunotherapy Shrinks Tumors Near and Far

‘Vaccine’ kills cancer in mice, is also the plot of I AM LEGEND, I think, so, you know, keep your expectations in check


War 💣💀

Here's what war with North Korea would look like

"What follows is a guide to what a conflict with North Korea might look like. War is inherently unpredictable: It’s possible Kim would use every type of weapon of mass destruction he possesses, and it’s possible he wouldn’t use any of them. 

But many leading experts fear the worst. And if all of this sounds frightening, it should. A new war on the Korean Peninsula wouldn’t be as bad as you think. It would be much, much worse."

+ Read it, protest, and vote. Share it, and encourage people to vote. Vote, vote, vote.


The Highlight Reel


Happy February! On a related note, how the hell is it February already?

If you haven't listened to Episode 1 of our podcast, do it now! Episode 2 drops NEXT WEEK, with new conversations coming every week thereafter until this baby goes nuclear or I need a vacation -- so subscribe today and get all of those straight to your device!

The alternative: Brian comes to your house, probably when you're having dinner or something else inconvenient, asks for your phone, fails at your Face ID, awkwardly asks you to stare into the red dot thing, then fumbles through your apps until he finds your podcasts and then subscribes for you. 

Just...do the right thing.

On to the news!


Space: The Final Frontier/Escape Hatch 🚀👩‍🚀👽

The search for life on other planets could get a boost from biosignatures

"By studying the atmospheric contents of ancient and present-day Earth, scientists say they've discovered specific chemical combinations that could reveal the presence of biological activity on other planets.

These biosignatures, described in the journal Science Advances, could offer a key tool in the search for extraterrestrial life.

"There's a direct path from the conclusions of our work to the possible discovery, which would be an historic one, of life elsewhere," said senior author David Catling, a planetary scientist and astrobiologist at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Thousands of planets beyond our solar system, known as exoplanets, have been discovered in the last several years, a small number of which appear to be rocky, Earth-sized planets at the right distance from their star to hold liquid water. Studying the ones with detectable atmospheres could provide crucial clues as to whether they host life."


Biology 401 💉👾💊 

After a Debacle, How California Became a Role Model on Measles

"The leading theory is that measles was introduced in Disneyland by a foreign tourist. That could happen anywhere. Medical experts generally agree that the fact that it took off was probably a result of California’s low vaccination rates, which in turn was a result of an inability to persuade a significant share of Californians that vaccines were important. 

The episode made national news, but in the next few years, another development was striking but attracted less national attention: Because of a policy change, California was able to turn it around. Data from a county-by county analysis shows that in many schools with the lowest vaccination rates, there was an increase of 20 to 30 percentage points in the share of kindergartners vaccinated between 2014 and 2016. One law changed the behavior of impassioned resisters more effectively than a thousand public service announcements might have."

+ Disease fights back. "Berserk leprosy bacteria are wildly mutating to become extremely drug resistant" and "Drug-resistant malaria will spread without urgent action, experts warn"

+ Want to know what horrific disease is coming your way? Here's a map.


Climate Change 🔥🌊💨

White House seeks 72 percent cut to clean energy research

"The Trump administration is poised to ask Congress for deep budget cuts to the Energy Department’s renewable energy and energy efficiency programs, slashing them by 72 percent overall in fiscal 2019, according to draft budget documents obtained by The Washington Post. 

Many of the sharp cuts would probably be restored by Congress, but President Trump’s budget, due out in February, will mark a starting point for negotiations and offer a statement of intent and policy priorities. 

The document underscores the administration’s continued focus on the exploitation of fossil fuel resources — or, as Trump put it in his State of the Union address, “beautiful clean coal” — over newer renewable technologies seen as a central solution to the problem of climate change."

+ This is your friendly reminder that these people are short-sighted idiots, and that a president's budget is not law. It is merely a starting point for negotiations with Congress. And that last year, they asked for similar measures, and got none of them. 

+ But to be sure, Trump's assault on clean energy isn't just all talk. Here's the state of solar installers after the tariffs.

+ And here's how he's going after the transportation sector.

+ But...BUT...momentum is a motherfucker, isn't it, Donald? And that's where we find ourselves:

"On a Q4 earnings conference call on Friday, Jim Robo, CEO of NextEra Energy -- a giant energy company with subsidiariesthat include Florida Power & Light (America’s third-largest utility, with 4.8 million customers) and NextEra Energy Resources, which boasts of being “the world’s largest generator of renewable energy from the wind and sun" -- predicted that by the early 2020s, it will be cheaper to build new renewables than to continue running existing coal and nuclear plants."

Incentives are helpful, but one day soon, they won't even be necessary.

+ Here's the New York Times' excellent updated list of Trump's attack on environmental rules.



Climate updates from around the globe:

The Ghost of Christmas Future: Warming, Water Crisis, Then Unrest: How Iran Fits an Alarming Pattern

South Africa in the spotlight again: How to Wreck the World’s Fastest-Growing Renewables Program

Climate change could ravage Indian farmers

And close to home, another story about the evacuation of Louisiana.


Fuck Cancer, Volume LXXX 🖕

Chemotherapy, a Trusty Weapon Against Cancer, Falls Out of Favor

"Doctors are at odds over whether some women with breast cancer should have chemotherapy—one treatment among the arsenal long seen as crucial to fighting the disease, along with surgery and radiation.

Many oncologists are shunning chemo as risky and ineffective at combating some early-stage breast tumors. Traditionally, the majority of women with invasive breast cancer were treated with some combination of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.

A shift to less chemotherapy or none at all, called “de-escalation,” is being hailed by some as revolutionary, following what some doctors see as years of overtreatment with drugs that may have harmed more than helped. Proponents of de-escalation say chemotherapy—the use of chemical agents to treat the disease—should be used only when it appears likely to reduce the chances of the cancer spreading."


AI & Robots 🧠⚡️🤖

Counterpoint: Why AI will not replace radiologists

"In late 2016 Prof Geoffrey Hinton, the godfather of neural networks, said that it’s “quite obvious that we should stop training radiologists” as image perception algorithms are very soon going to be demonstrably better than humans. Radiologists are, he said, “the coyote already over the edge of the cliff who hasn’t yet looked down”.

This kick-started a hype-wave of biblical proportions that is still rolling to this day, and shows no signs of breaking just yet. In my opinion, although this wave of enthusiasm and optimism has successfully brought radiology artificial intelligence to the forefront of people’s imaginations, and immense amounts of funding with it, it has also done untold harm by over-inflating the expectations of policy and decision makers, and is having tangible knock-on effects on recruitment as disillusioned junior doctors start believing that machines are indeed replacing humans and so they shouldn’t bother applying to become radiologists. It is hard to imagine a more damaging statement occurring at a time when the crisis in radiology staffing, especially acute in the UK, is threatening to destabilise entire hospital systems."


The Highlight Reel

#79: I dreamed that I went back in time...

This is a real screen-grab of the Weather Channel's homepage last night and provides in glorious detail every one of the zero fucks given by said organization.

Not the first time they've stepped to folks, evidently won't be the last. Respect. Even more props for their new in-depth series, The United States of Climate Change. Please dig in.

In other news, you guys are loving the first episode of our new podcast, and for that, we're proud, and thankful, and giggling -- a lot. If you haven't checked it out yet, please do. It's the story of Hawaii's accidental, shared, near-death experience, and it's tremendous. If you live on the west coast, it's everything you've feared for the last year, without the blood and gore that usually comes with a ballistic missile impact.

If you leave us a rating and review, Brian will come to your house and hug you.

But I can't promise he'll leave.

On to the news!


Listen, goddammit. There was a lot of good news in 2017. 💪🤟

Nine ways the world got better in 2017

"Across 26 countries that are home to the considerable majority of the world’s population, an average of six out of 10 people thought their country was on the wrong track (as of the middle of 2017). That’s more surprising than the US result because, despite the threats posed by the world’s sole superpower going rogue — admittedly no small problem — the planet as a whole had a pretty good year.

Before 2017 recedes entirely into the rearview mirror, let’s take note of some of the good news."

+ Famine, war deaths, pestilence, all down. Green energy, democracy, life expectancy all up. These are all things that contribute to keeping folks from rioting, going to war, and/or electing unqualified populist dipshits to the most powerful office in the world, with four thousand nukes at their disposal. We've had some serious hiccups, but these factors -- on top of the incredible science happening in areas like bio-tech -- mean if we can win this #raceagainsttime, we're gonna come out pretty good. 


However. The ⏰'s ticking.

Two minutes to midnight

"The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists advanced the symbolic Doomsday Clock a notch closer to the end of humanity Thursday, moving it ahead by 30 seconds after what the organization called a “grim assessment” of the state of geopolitical affairs.

“As of today,” Bulletin president Rachel Bronson told reporters, “it is two minutes to midnight” — as close as the world has ever been to the hour of apocalypse.

In moving the clock forward, the group cited “the failure of President Trump and other world leaders to deal with looming threats of nuclear war and climate change.”"

+ A few things:

1. This isn't really new news. Don't freak out. This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone, least of all our readers. It's just an allegorical recognition of all of the news from, say, the past twelve months. Shit's not good, and we've still got a chance to salvage ourselves, but it's going to take a hell of a lot of work, and so for right now, we're not in a good way. 

2. Here's the op-ed from the scientists, which includes 12 Nobel laureates, which I guess is just a thing they're giving out now?

3. It's not just climate change. In fact, as harrowing as +2° is, nuclear war is a much more immediate, and swift acting threat. 


Climate Change 🔥🌊💨

Things got warmer in your hometown this year. How much warmer?

"Last year was the second hottest year on record. In a database
of more than 3,800 cities compiled by AccuWeather, about 88
percent recorded annual mean temperatures higher than normal.
Enter your city here to see how much warmer or cooler it was."

+ Remember, science isn't going to change people's minds. When arguing for radical climate action, we've got to apply to people's values. What they can feel. Right at home. So -- bookmark this page. Call it up as needed.

+ Here's a bunch of other #vital climate headlines:

U.S. and India underperform in major environmental assessment (TLDR: we're basically last)

We’re about to kill a massive, accidental experiment in reducing global warming

Once We Start Geoengineering, We Won't Be Able To Stop

A Running List of How Trump Is Changing the Environment

Danish Wind Power Breaks Record… Again

Can Gov. Inslee deliver America's first carbon tax?



Is a carbon tax around the corner?

"If elected officials get their way, the entire West Coast of North America could be putting a price on pollution by the end of this year. 
As state legislature sessions opened this month, Washington state Governor Jay Inslee called for a carbon tax and Oregon legislators proposed a “cap and invest” system. 

Both policies are designed to make industrial emitters of carbon dioxide pay some of the costs of damage caused by growing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and to create incentives for them to reduce emissions."

+ More on Inslee going HAM on carbon


Fuck Cancer, Volume LXXIX 🖕

U.S. doctors plan to treat cancer patients using CRISPR

"The first human test in the U.S. involving the gene-editing tool CRISPR could begin at any time and will employ the DNA cutting technique in a bid to battle deadly cancers

Doctors at the University of Pennsylvania say they will use CRISPR to modify human immune cells so that they become expert cancer killers, according to plans posted this week to a directory of ongoing clinical trials."

+ More on the startups desperately searching/experimenting on early blood tests for cancer. And more here. It's VERY early days. But we'll get you one day, you bastard. One day.


False alarm! 🚨 ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

False Missile Warning in Hawaii Adds to Scrutiny of Emergency Alert System

Why, yes, this is a repeat post, and yes, is a shameless plug for our new podcast! Thanks for noticing. You're the best.

In Episode 1, we explore the thirty-eight minutes when everyone on Hawaii, including one of my boyhood friends, were told, and so believed, that they were going to die -- by ballistic missile. Listen to his very personal story, now. Subscribe, share, review, and rate us! 🙏🙏🙏


Undersea quake sends Alaskans fleeing from feared tsunami

"A powerful undersea earthquake sent Alaskans fumbling for suitcases and racing to evacuation centers in the middle of the night after a cellphone alert warned a tsunami could hit communities along the state’s southern coast and parts of British Columbia.

The monster waves never materialized, but people who fled endured hours of tense waiting at shelters before they were cleared to return home."

+ This warning wasn't an accident. This is what they were expecting


The Leftovers

#78: I have a proposition for you, Magnum.

Trying something different this week -- by some accounts, you guys dig the news, just not six pages of it. So we're gonna try to tighten things up a bit to approximately "one subway ride" length (j/k New York we know your 4 train's been stuck underground for two years).

Also -- very exciting, and kind of nuts:

Our podcast has launched!!!

Sort of.

A quick explainer: if this newsletter is The News Most Vital to Our Survival As A Species, curated from the week's most vital headlines...well, the podcast is The Conversations Most Vital to Our Survival As A Species.

How are they different? Thanks for asking.

The podcast is our chance to host a more evergreen conversation (not an interview -- as hosts, we represent ourselves, and you, in this grand debacle, and will be actively commenting/reacting/questioning/groveling along the way) and take on one question or topic a week, with a featured scientist/engineer/politician/journalist.

It's fun. You'll learn a lot about them and their work, but also, and most importantly, some steps you can take to support their cause. Which. Just. Might. Save. Us. All.


Remember last weekend when that alert went out that told everyone on Hawaii a missile was coming to kill them? Like right now? Yeah. "They" said it was an "error", but hey, it was still shit-your-pants terrifying, and basically the exact alert everyone on the west coast has been expecting for the last year.

Conveniently, a good friend and his fiancé were there, so we had a quick conversation in the hours after to find out what those minutes -- the ones we've all been fearing -- really felt like.

This is our "soft launch", but we're still a few weeks away from starting our run. We've got a bunch of great conversations already recorded and more on the way. Subscribe right here, and if you like us, rate us on Apple Podcasts -- every little bit helps!

(...and of course, please subscribe anywhere else you happen to get your podcasts. We're there!)

On to the news!

Hacking Us

You May Already Be Immune to CRISPR

"2018 is supposed to be the year of CRISPR in humans. The first U.S. and European clinical trials that test the gene-editing tool's ability to treat diseases—such as sickle-cell anemia, beta thalassemia, and a type of inherited blindness—are slated to begin this year.

But the year has begun on a cautionary note. On Friday, Stanford researchers posted a preprint (which has not been peer reviewed) to the website biorXiv highlighting a potential obstacle to using CRISPR in humans: Many of us may already be immune to it. That’s because CRISPR actually comes from bacteriathat often live on or infect humans, and we have built up immunity to the proteins from these bacteria over our lives."

+ Two steps forward, one step back.

+ More here.


The Rise of Citizen Bioscience

"This is not science fiction. Biotechnologies have progressed to a point where it is now possible for high school students to be taught how to use gene-editing techniques, which aim to modify the genetic code underlying cells and proteins. Advances could be unprecedented with the next generation learning how to turn their own ideas and know-how into new bio-constructs. Just like algorithms in software engineering, our cells have become intelligent-design material."

+ The next generation of garage startups could be really weird.


Fuck Cancer, Volume LXXVIII 🖕

Inside the Global Relay Race to Deliver Moly-99

"Nuclear medicine imaging, a staple of American health care since the 1970s, runs almost entirely on Molybdenum-99, a radioisotope produced by nuclear fission of enriched uranium that decays so rapidly it becomes worthless within days. But moly-99, as it’s called, is created in just six government-owned nuclear research reactors — none in North America — raising concerns about the reliability of the supply and even prompting federal scientists to warn of the possibility of severe shortages.

Some 50,000 Americans each day depend on a strange and precarious supply chain easily disrupted by a variety of menaces: shipments grounded by fog in Dubai, skittish commercial airline pilots who refuse to carry radioactive material and unplanned nuclear reactor shutdowns, including one in South Africa when a mischievous baboon sneaked into a reactor hall.

Delays that pose an inconvenience for other commercial goods are existential threats in the daily global relay race of medical isotopes that disappear hour by hour. “It’s like running through the desert with an ice cream cone,” said Ira N. Goldman, senior director of global strategic supply at Lantheus Medical Imaging in North Billerica, Mass."


Immunotherapy highly effective in treatment of rare skin cancer, study finds

"In a UCLA-led study, more than two-thirds of people with a rare type of melanoma responded positively to treatment with anti-PD-1 immunotherapies. The findings, which counter the conventional wisdom that a cancer which is highly fibrotic could not respond to immunotherapy, have the potential to help scientists identify those patients most likely to benefit from treatment."

+ One step back, two steps forward. Such is the race to the future.


Early testing of new blood cancer screening shows some promise

"Scientists announced Thursday in the journal Science that they've developed a highly specific blood test that screens for 8 common cancer types, helps identify the location of the cancer, and is expected to cost about $500.

The study was conducted in a relatively small number of cancer patients. Some scientists believe the high specificity and sensitivity rates of the CancerSEEK test may drop in a larger patient group and say they will be watching the results from a larger trial expected in about 18 months."

+ Reasonable skepticism here. Medicine is hard.


Cough, cough, world ends

A severe flu season is stretching hospitals thin. That is a very bad omen.

"A tsunami of sick people has swamped hospitals in many parts of the country in recent weeks as a severe flu season has taken hold. In Rhode Island, hospitals diverted ambulances for a period because they were overcome with patients. In San Diego, a hospital erected a tent outside its emergency room to manage an influx of people with flu symptoms.

Wait times at scores of hospitals have gotten longer.

But if something as foreseeable as a flu season — albeit one that is pretty severe — is stretching health care to its limits, what does that tell us about the ability of hospitals to handle the next flu pandemic?"

+ California's having a gnarly time handling a "war zone" of patients.

+ From Foreign Affairs, Ready for a Global Pandemic? The Trump Administration May Be Woefully Underprepared

+ Also, in case it isn't obvious, fake news and distrust of science could lead to global epidemics

+ 'Smart thermometers' tracking the flu in real time


How Dirt Could Save Humanity From an Infectious Apocalypse

"Sean Brady is creating drugs from dirt. He’s certain that the world’s topsoils contain incredible, practically inexhaustible reservoirs of undiscovered antibiotics, the chemical weapons bacteria use to fend off other microorganisms. He’s not alone in this thinking, but the problem is that the vast majority of bacteria cannot be grown in the lab—a necessary step in cultivating antibiotics."


Fighting Climate Change

Congrats to 2017 on an entirely expected win as the second hottest year on record!

"Continuing the planet's long-term warming trend, globally averaged temperatures in 2017 were 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit (0.90 degrees Celsius) warmer than the 1951 to 1980 mean, according to scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York. That is second only to global temperatures in 2016.

In a separate, independent analysis, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) concluded that 2017 was the third-warmest year in their record. The minor difference in rankings is due to the different methods used by the two agencies to analyze global temperatures, although over the long-term the agencies’ records remain in strong agreement. Both analyses show that the five warmest years on record all have taken place since 2010."

+ More on the cities that want some 💰from the companies behind mess.


China builds ‘world’s biggest air purifier’ (and it seems to be working)

"An experimental tower over 100 metres (328 feet) high in northern China – dubbed the world’s biggest air purifier by its operators – has brought a noticeable improvement in air quality, according to the scientist leading the project, as authorities seek ways to tackle the nation’s chronic smog problem."


This is insane: Cape Town Is 90 Days Away From Running Out of Water

"After three years of unprecedented drought, the South African city of Cape Town has less than 90 days worth of water in its reservoirs, putting it on track to be the first major city in the world to run out of water. Unless residents drastically cut down on daily use, warns Cape Town Mayor Patricia De Lille, taps in the seaside metropolis of four million will soon run dry. On April 22, to be exact."

+ Here's looking at you, Los Angeles.


The Leftovers

#77: If you support evil, you are evil

We've all heard the news by now, but still: New York proposing to withdraw its many many pension 💰 from fossil fuels and simultaneously suing the lying bastards who fueled this little 🔥💦⛈❄️ nightmare is glorious. Just glorious. 

That's one reason why our little gif is doing double-time today. Every empire comes a crashing down, even if your hats and sweaters are super rad, and also we're on the forefront of some amazing bio-tech/medicinal advances and might all live forever. One day. Not yet. But one day.

In the meantime, we can dream of water on Mars

On to the news!


Let's talk about drugs. 💉😷

New York Plans New, $400 Million Public-Health Lab for Harlem Site

"The lab annually tests more than 200,000 clinical and environmental samples, a department spokesman said. That is for everything from anthrax, HIV, rabies and Zika to food-borne illnesses, along with processing other tests conducted at the city’s public hospitals and sexual-health clinics."

+ Sounds moderately helpful.


Drug makers feel burned by string of vaccine pleas

"Every few years an alarming disease launches a furious, out-of-the-blue attack on people, triggering a high-level emergency response. SARS. The H1N1 flu pandemic. West Nile and Zika. The nightmarish West African Ebola epidemic.

In nearly each case, major vaccine producers have risen to the challenge, setting aside their day-to-day profit-making activities to try to meet a pressing societal need. With each successive crisis, they have done so despite mounting concerns that the threat will dissipate and with it the demand for the vaccine they are racing to develop.

Now, manufacturers are expressing concern about their ability to afford these costly disruptions to their profit-seeking operations. As a result, when the bat-signal next flares against the night sky, there may not be anyone to respond.

GSK has made a corporate decision that while it wants to help in public health emergencies, it cannot continue to do so in the way it has in the past. Sanofi Pasteur has said its attempt to respond to Zika has served only to mar the company’s reputation. Merck has said while it is committed to getting its Ebola vaccine across the finish line it will not try to develop a vaccine that protects against other strains of Ebola and the related Marburg virus."

+ This feels less helpful. But on the other hand...

"Hatchett said the sacrifices of pharmaceutical companies in outbreak response work are still underappreciated.

“If you look at the performance of the vaccine companies, it’s hard to think of an example going back 30 or 40 or 50 years where they haven’t stepped up to the plate. I think their record of corporate social responsibility is a story that they don’t get nearly enough credit for, given the risks and what they take on and how little they get out of responding,” he said.

Even if governments help fund vaccine work, money can dry up and costs can add up. Scientists reassigned to work on emergency vaccines have to put aside other work that their company — and its shareholders — hope will earn profits.

“There are opportunity costs, especially if you’re trying to do something fast. I mean, we put the equivalent of a couple of programs worth of people on Zika,” Shiver said. “They were all working on high-priority projects for us and we switched them off those projects. … And those programs slowed down or stopped.”


Viruses are the antibiotics of the future

"When Motherboard met Guillonneau earlier this year, he had traveled from France to the Eliava Institute in Tbilisi, Georgia to try an alternative to antibiotic drugs called phage therapy. This form of treatment uses a special kind of virus called a bacteriophage to destroy bacteria and treat infections. This method of treating bacterial infections has been known for about a century, but it has only been approved for therapeutic use in Russia, Georgia, and, recently, Poland due to concerns about using a replicating biological agent to treat infections. 

Guillonneau's genetic disorder is exceedingly rare, but phage therapy is his last hope for treatment. Yet even for people who don't suffer from Netherton Syndrome, phage therapy may be one of the few technologies preventing deaths from antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections."


How the immune system could stymie some CRISPR gene therapies

"A team of researchers led by paediatric haematologists Matthew Porteus and Kenneth Weinberg of Stanford University in California analysed blood samples from 22 babies and 12 healthy adults for immune responses to the two most commonly used forms of the Cas9 enzyme.

They found that 79% of study participants made antibodies against Cas9 from the bacterium Staphlococcus aureus, and 65% of them made antibodies against the enzyme from Streptococcus pyogenes.

In a related experiment, 46% of 13 adult participants produced immune cells called T cells that target Cas9 from S. aureus. No T-cell responses were found against the other form of Cas9 tested, although the researchers acknowledge that their test may not have been sensitive enough to detect them. 

Why does that matter? 

The body’s immune responses can sabotage a gene therapy — and pose a health risk to the person receiving the treatment. Antibodies against Cas9 can bind to the enzyme in the bloodstream, before it has had a chance to act. And T cells that target Cas9 could destroy cells in which the protein is expressed, wiping out ‘corrected’ cells and potentially triggering a dangerous widespread attack on the body’s own tissues."


How a wildlife biologist became a plague-chaser in the American Southwest

"Usually, the corpses are already underground, not because they’ve been buried, but because they are prairie dogs. In the throes of plague, they crawl down into their burrows to die at home. David Wagner isn’t there for their bodies. He’s more interested in the fleas that transmitted plague in the first place.

Sometimes, like their dead hosts, they too are beneath the earth, and he needs to coax them out. At other times — when he’s investigating what he’d call a “hot site” —  the blood is gone from the corpses, the fleas have begun to starve, and they’ve jumped their way to the surface to wait for another mammal to pass by. “You can just see them popping around looking for something to feed on,” Wagner said. “It’s pretty creepy.”

The creepiness stems in part from the fact that a bite, left untreated, could give Wagner lumps the size of chicken eggs; make him bleed from his mouth, nose, and rectum; turn his extremities a gangrenous black; and kill him within days. The prospect doesn’t worry him much. He carries prophylactic antibiotics, which he’ll take if he starts to feel his muscles aching or his throat getting sore. He wears latex gloves. And really, more than a liability, his access to fleas full of plague is an opportunity."


Fuck Cancer, Volume LXXVII 🖕

Immune boosting virus could be used to treat brain tumors

"A trial of a potential new brain cancer treatment has shown that a virus injected directly into the bloodstream can reach tumors deep inside the brain and switch on the body’s own defense system to attack them. 

The trial involved just nine patients, but scientists said that if the results could be replicated in larger studies, the naturally occurring ‘reovirus’ could be developed into an effective immunotherapy for people with aggressive brain tumors."


Mechanism for resistance to immunotherapy treatment discovered

"An urgent question for cancer scientists is why immunotherapy achieves dramatic results in some cases but doesn't help most patients. Now, two research groups from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have independently discovered a genetic mechanism in cancer cells that influences whether they resist or respond to immunotherapy drugs known as checkpoint inhibitors.

The scientists say the findings reveal potential new drug targets and might aid efforts to extend the benefits of immunotherapy treatment to more patients and additional types of cancer."


All that talk about drugs is a nice segue into...🚀

Trump’s tweets cause sales of anti-radiation drug to skyrocket

"Troy Jones, who runs the website www.nukepills.com, said demand for potassium iodide soared last week, after Trump tweeted that he had a “much bigger & more powerful” button than Kim — a statement that raised new fears about an escalating threat of nuclear war.

“On Jan. 2, I basically got in a month’s supply of potassium iodide and I sold out in 48 hours,” said Jones, 53, who is a top distributor of the drug in the United States. His Mooresville, N.C., firm sells all three types of the product approved by the Food and Drug Administration. No prescription is required.

In that two-day period, Jones said, he shipped about 140,000 doses of potassium iodide, also known as KI, which blocks the thyroid from absorbing radioactive iodine and protects against the risk of cancer. Without the tweet, he typically would have sent out about 8,400 doses to private individuals, he said.
Jones also sells to government agencies, hospitals and universities, which aren’t included in that count.

Alan Morris, president of the Williamsburg, Va.-based pharmaceutical firm Anbex Inc., which distributes potassium iodide, said he’s seen a bump in demand, too.

“We are a wonderful barometer of the level of anxiety in the country,” said Morris."

+ VERY proud to see good old Colonial Williamsburg still relevant in the end days!


The CDC wants to gently prepare people for (an unlikely) nuclear war

"The CDC is holding a session January 16 to discuss personal safety measures and the training of response teams "on a federal, state, and local level to prepare for nuclear detonation."

The meeting, part of the agency's monthly Public Health Grand Rounds, will include presentations like "Preparing for the Unthinkable" and "Roadmap to Radiation Preparedness," and it will be held at the CDC's headquarters in Atlanta. "Grand rounds" are a type of meeting or symposium in which members of a public health community come together to discuss topics of interest or public importance."

+ Here's the official invite. Got security clearance? You're in!


Trump could destroy the entire human species, says Yale psychiatrist who warned Congress members

"If it were possible, Dr. Bandy Lee said, "we would be declaring a public health emergency that needs to be responded to as quickly as possible.”

“As more time passes, we come closer to the greatest risk of danger, one that could even mean the extinction of the human species,” she said. “This is not hyperbole. This is the reality.”

After a series of tweets from Trump that appeared to threaten North Korea with nuclear war, Lee and hundreds of her colleagues at the National Coalition of Concerned Mental Health Experts issued a statement calling into question his mental health and psychological fitness for the presidency."



Lies, and the liars who tell them (and other fun new stories about climate change) 🤯🌊⚡️

Trump’s Coal Bailout Is Dead

"The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission unanimously rejected a proposal to subsidize coal-burning and nuclear power plants on Monday. Its defeat hands a victory to the motley coalition—of environmental groups, natural-gas companies, free-market advocates, and Democratic state attorneys general—who had opposed the rule and promised to fight it in court.

The 5-0 rejection was all the bitterer for the administration because four of the five commissioners who lead the agency were appointed by President Trump, and three are Republicans."

+ Damn that feels good.


Three Ways Fox News Misleads its Readers on Sea Level Rise

"First, a bit of backstory.

Early last Tuesday morning, a reporter from Fox News contacted the Union of Concerned Scientists  about a piece he was planning to write. The piece was to feature a new study about sea level rise published in the journal Earth Systems and Environment, and the reporter wanted to “get a general response from you as to whether you see the paper in question as credible and whether you think its claim that sea level rise has been exaggerated is plausible.” “The authors say [their results] call into question the broader claim that sea levels are rising rapidly,” he wrote. 

Astrid Caldas and I both read the paper then decided I would respond within the reporter’s deadline in about 90 minutes. The email I sent to the reporter made four main points: 1. Sea level rise is extremely well-established; 2. One cannot use any one tide gauge record (or any one region) to infer a global trend; 3. It is difficult to determine long-term trends from tide gauges with large data gaps; 4. The paper in question had some telltale signs of a suspicious peer-review process.

The reporter clearly took this information with more than a few grains of salt."


All of these points are #vital, because we're not fighting against some fantastical, dark future. Climate change is here.

"Coastal communities all over the world are already facing the double whammy of sea level rise and extreme weather events that in some cases are threatening the very existence of entire island states. Now a new study adds weight to the argument that for the sake of these communities we need to ramp up efforts and achieve what many think almost impossible, keeping global warming below 1.5° C (2.7° F).

A team from Tufts University, Rutgers University, and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany found that if countries managed to stabilize global temperatures within this threshold by 2150, the impact of sea level rise would be significantly reduced. The global average sea level would be about 17.7 centimeters (7 inches) less than under a 2° C scenario (3.6° F), which is conventionally considered more achievable. The paper is published in the journal Environmental Research Letters and will be included in the landmark special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on the 1.5° C goal, which will collate the available literature on the topic."


Three Months After Maria, Roughly Half of Puerto Ricans Still Without Power

"For the first time in the 100 days since Hurricane Maria slammed Puerto Rico, the government finally knows how many people still don’t have power: about half.

The figure released Friday by the island’s governor and power utility company indicates that more than 1.5 million people on the island are still in the dark. Experts say some parts of the island are not expected to get power back until next spring.

“We understand how difficult it has been for the people for Puerto Rico who have been without power for so long,” said Ricardo Rosselló, the governor of Puerto Rico, as he announced a request for up to 1,500 more restoration workers from the mainland’s electric industry.

In its statement on Friday, the authorities said power restoration has been slow because of the sheer scale and complexity of the damage. Much of the island’s 2,400 miles of transmission lines, 30,000 miles of distribution lines and 342 substations were damaged in the storm, they said. Carlos D. Torres, the system’s restoration coordinator, said workers were finding “unexpected damage” in some areas even as they make repairs in others."

+ An American travesty. Now imagine these sentences, written about New York, or Miami, or New Orleans (again), or D.C. Climate change is here.


And it's not just for the coastal "elite".

"A study out Wednesday from Science Advances highlights the growing flood risk regions around the world will see in the next 25 years, primarily driven by greenhouse gases already emitted into the atmosphere. Significant numbers of people on every continent are threatened by river flooding, with the need for adaptation greatest in the U.S., parts of India and Africa, Indonesia, and in Central Europe."

+ Here's just one quote from the study:

"For the United States (Figs. 2A and 3A), 42 of the 50 states, and the District of Columbia, will experience an increased flood risk if no additional protection measures are taken."

Live in China? Here's another one.

"China will observe an increased high-end flood risk from 24M [18M; 34M] to 55M [46M; 69M] affected people. All but Shanghai show an increase in high-end risk of at least 20%; 14 of 31 provinces will have more than a million people each under high-end risk."


Risks & Consequences ✊🛰🐢👽

We must accept more risks if we want space travel to take off

"But if we want to do more than just joy rides – colonising Mars, for example – should we be prepared for more fatalities?

Of course, in an ideal world no one would die during a space mission, but pushing the boundaries of human endeavour requires risk-taking, almost by definition. Is it worth it, or would deaths turn the public off space flight all together?

To answer these questions, we must first look at who is taking the risks, and who stands to gain from them. Like other expensive and dangerous activities, space flight is governed by calculations of risk versus reward."


Climate change is turning 99 percent of these baby sea turtles female

Green sea turtles do not develop into males or females due to sex chromosomes, like humans and most other mammals do. Instead, the temperature outside a turtle egg influences the sex of the growing embryo. And this unusual biological quirk, scientists say, endangers their future in a warmer world.

Already, some sea turtle populations are so skewed by heat that the young reptiles are almost entirely female, according to a new report in the journal Current Biology.

“This is one of the most important conservation papers of the decade,” said biologist David Owens, a professor emeritus at the College of Charleston who was not a part of this research. It will not be long, perhaps within a few decades to a century, until “there will not be enough males in sea turtle populations,” he warned.

+ Raise your hand if you like sea turtles


Climate Change May Have Helped Spark Iran’s Protests

"A severe drought, mismanaged water resources and dust storms diminished Iran's economy in recent years, according to experts who study the region. While the protests are largely driven by resistance to the country's hardline conservative government, such environmental factors might have contributed to the largest protests inside Iran in years.

Former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad understood that climate change and water mismanagement was ravaging family farms, and his government provided subsidies to families who struggled to put food on the table, said Amir Handjani, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council's South Asia Center. When the current president, Hassan Rouhani, signaled that he would reduce those benefits, enraged Iranians across the nation's arid countryside joined the wave of protests.

"You have climate change, shortage of water, they can't grow their crops, and now they're getting their cash handouts taken away," said Handjani. "It's a panoply of issues coming together at once.""


Do you like food? I do. So much. So very much. Especially food born in SPACE.

"Some years ago, NASA bred wheat in space with the goal of providing an unending food supply for astronauts. To help the plant along, astronauts shined light on the plant continuously. As far as the crop was concerned, the sun never set. It was always noon on a cloudless day. The extra light fueled its rapid growth.

Researchers are now using the same technique here on Earth to quickly grow several successive generations of wheat in an effort to breed a crop that can stand up to persistent drought, severe heat, or heavy rainfall driven by climate change. Their experiments created a wheat cycle from seed to seed in just eight weeks, making it possible to grow as many as six generations of wheat in a single year.

Scientists believe that the process can make more food in a shorter period of time to feed an ever-growing hungry world; at the same time, the ability to produce more crops more quickly will facilitate researchers’ ability to experiment with different genetic combinations to develop more climate resistant strains."


The Leftovers

#76: I can't feel my body

Welcome back!

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season, and that you were kept warm by the toasty fires and strongly beating hearts of your loved ones, and by a couple freshly brewed, flat white, non-fat presidential nuclear dick tweets.

This was our longest layoff since kicking off so many issues ago, so thanks for your patience as we took a little time off/tried not to just go ahead and let our kids electrocute themselves, we've told you six goddamn times not to touch the tree lights, Johnny. The break was much needed.

In the meantime, we've somehow been brewing up even more fun stuff. We're very excited to announce we've got a brand new podcast in the works (yay! we're just like everyone else!), bringing you The Conversations Most Vital to Our Survival As A Species. Less "topical" and "newsy", more "tell us how it's gonna end". We think you'll love it. More to come on that, soon!


Climate change is happening faster than we thought, surpassing expectations provided just three years ago. The boat is sinking. 

While our fucking president thinks one snowstorm equals no global warming (my man Dr. Michael Mann has WORDS), many of the world's "great" cities are already facing down the enormous financial, structural, and social costs of climate change (not least in part, let's remember, because most human development has occurred near a source of water for fishing and/or drinking, and well, the water's a rising).

And the fun's just begun. Here's a cartoon

On to the news!


Abandon Ship!

Let's check in with those cities already dealing (or not dealing) with effects.

Rising pollution levels in Delhi and the National Capital Region of India (NCR) could soon see residents walking around carrying oxygen cylinders on their backs to counter it, experts warn. If the situation in Delhi-NCR remains the same, experts believe that citizens would soon need at least five oxygen cylinders in a day.

In Delhi, the rising pollution levels has become the cause of several ailments, including premature birth, strokes, decrease in lung immunity, heart and lung disease, allergies or aggravation of existing allergies, cancer and other acute respiratory diseases.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) also said that the 92 per cent of the world’s population, including those living in India, lives in areas where air quality is below acceptable standards. The report further says that about 88 per cent of premature deaths that takes place in middle-income countries is due to severe air pollution or where the air pollution is escalating.

+ India's made a lot of climate related moves, many more aggressive than our own. But sticking with coal doesn't help. Of course, this was always going to be the shitty tradeoff. Twentieth century empires built on coal, climate goes bad, we tell new rising nations they can't rely on it like we did. It's a tough one.


Next up: Hawaii

The Hawai‘i Climate Change Mitigation & Adaptation Commission has accepted its first major report since its formation last fall. The Sea Level Rise Vulnerability & Adaptation Report is a comprehensive 304-page-long description of where Hawai‘i is today and where we will be in the future as sea level rise increases with global warming.

With 3.2 feet of sea level rise, more than 11 miles of major coastal roads would become impassible jeopardizing critical access to and from many communities.


Down on the Bayou, but not for much longer: Louisiana.

Louisiana is finalizing a plan to move thousands of people from areas threatened by the rising Gulf of Mexico, effectively declaring uninhabitable a coastal area larger than Delaware.

A draft of the plan, the most aggressive response to climate-linked flooding in the U.S., calls for prohibitions on building new homes in high-risk areas, buyouts of homeowners who live there now and hikes in taxes on those who won’t leave. Commercial development would still be allowed, but developers would need to put up bonds to pay for those buildings’ eventual demolition.

Not everybody is going to live where they are now and continue their way of life,” said Mathew Sanders, the state official in charge of the program, which has the backing of Governor John Bel Edwards. “And that is an emotional, and terrible, reality to face.”


Jakarta Is Sinking So Fast, It Could End Up Underwater

Rasdiono remembers when the sea was a good distance from his doorstep, down a hill. Back then he opened the cramped, gaily painted bayside shack he named the Blessed Bodega, where he and his family sell catfish heads, spiced eggs and fried chicken.

It was strange, Rasdiono said. Year by year, the water crept closer. The hill gradually disappeared. Now the sea loomed high over the shop, just steps away, held back only by a leaky wall.

With climate change, the Java Sea is rising and weather here is becoming more extreme. Earlier this month another freakish storm briefly turned Jakarta’s streets into rivers and brought this vast area of nearly 30 million residents to a virtual halt.


New York, New York

New York City was not built to withstand an onslaught of floodwater.

Much of the city is protected only by sand dunes, vegetation, or low walls. New York’s flood zones are packed with more than 400,000 residents and $129 billion worth of real estate. The aging sewer system handles both storm water and waste and is easily overwhelmed; Hurricane Sandy sent 1.6 billion gallons of raw sewage spilling into nearby waterways.

Even the city’s position works against it. “New York City is vulnerable to storm surge because of its special location at the junction of the New Jersey coast and Long Island,” says Ning Lin, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Princeton University. “If a storm comes, then the water would be pushed into that angle without any other place to go.”

Lin has spent years studying how water could inundate New York. She’s finding that flood damage will take a punishing toll on the city in coming years, and no single strategy to stem the tide will work for every neighborhood.


The many ways Indiana is not prepared to handle disasters

Indiana scores in the bottom fifth of states when it comes to being prepared to handle a public health emergency, such as either of these natural disasters or an infectious disease outbreak.

Scoring just three out of 10 indicators of preparedness, Indiana was among the worst states in the nation, according to the annual study released Tuesday by the Trust for America’s Health. Only Alaska, with a mere two out of 10, performed worse.

+ I could go on, but you get the point. We have to act now, or it only gets much, much worse. 


Report: Tennessee scores 50 percent on public health emergency preparedness

How prepared is Tennessee for a public health emergency?

More prepared than Alaska, Ohio or Texas; nowhere near as prepared as tiny Massachusetts or Rhode Island.

"Ready or Not? Protecting the Public's Health from Diseases, Disasters and Bioterrorism," a December report by the nonpartisan nonprofit policy organization Trust for America's Health, puts Tennessee squarely in the middle of states, saying it's achieved five of 10 preparedness indicators.


Report: More Than 30 Million People Live in U.S. Floodplains

Two-thirds of the population living in the nation’s combined floodplain lived in one of five states: California, Florida, Arizona, Texas, and New York. An average of 15 million people nationwide (nearly 5% of the U.S. population) lived in the 100-year floodplain in 2015.

Contrary to popular conception that floodplains are mostly a problem for coastal areas, Arizona had the largest share of the population living in the combined floodplain (64%), followed by Florida (26%), North Dakota (20%), and Louisiana (17%). In the vast majority of states, less than 10% of the state’s population lived in the combined floodplain in 2015.

Nearly one-third of households in the 100-year floodplain include children and/or seniors. Of the households in the combined floodplain, 33% include children and 28% include seniors. 

Compared to the U.S. population as a whole, a higher share of the population living in areas vulnerable to flooding identified as Hispanic (25% in floodplain vs 17% nationally), and a lower share of the population in the combined floodplain was white (55% in floodplain vs 62% nationally). 

+ Here's a map.
+ Important to know, because we're getting much more capable of pinning extreme weather events on climate change.


What We're Already Doing About It

Fighting Climate Change, One Laundry Load at a Time

A Danish biotechnology company is trying to fight climate change — one laundry load at a time. Its secret weapon: mushrooms like those in a dormant forest outside Copenhagen.

In the quest for a more environmentally friendly detergent, two scientists at the company, Novozymes, regularly trudge through the mud, hunting for oyster mushrooms that protrude from a fallen beech or bracken fungi that feast on tough plant fibers. They are studying the enzymes in mushrooms that speed up chemical reactions or natural processes like decay.

“There is a lot going on here, if you know what to look for,” said Mikako Sasa, one of the Novozymes scientists.

Their work is helping the company develop enzymes for laundry and dishwasher detergents that would require less water, or that would work just as effectively at lower temperatures. The energy savings could be significant. Washing machines, for instance, account for over 6 percent of household electricity use in the European Union.


Planning the fight (and adaptations) against climate change

In short: Change, but also adapt. Fire season in the West is now a permanent condition; don’t build buildings that burn so easily in places that burn every year. Hurricanes and storm surges are going to continue to walk up the Caribbean and onto the Gulf Coast, or maybe along the seaboard. Don’t put houses on top of the wetlands that absorb those storms. Don’t insure the people who do. Build ways for people to get around without cars. Create a power grid that pulls everything it can from renewable sources like wind and solar. Keep funding public health research, surveillance, and ways to deal with mosquito-borne diseases that thrive in a hotter world.

And the next time someone in a city planning meeting says that new housing shouldn’t get built in a residential area because it’s not in keeping with the sense of the community and might disrupt parking, tell them what that means: that they want young people to have lesser lives, that they don’t want poor people and people of color to have the same opportunities they did, and that they’d rather the planet’s environment get crushed by letting bad buildings spread to inhospitable places than increasing density in cities.

+ And more:

Kentucky coal company plans to build the state’s largest solar farm

Mining giant to leave coal group over climate change stance

China Unveils an Ambitious Plan to Curb Climate Change Emissions

+ Here's more of what you can do, today.


Fuck Cancer, Volume LXXVI

Blood test spots ovarian cancer years before it is usually found

Ovarian cancer is known as the “silent killer” because most patients don’t know they have it until it spreads to other organs and causes symptoms, at which point it is usually too late to treat.

Now, Martin Widschwendter at University College London and his colleagues have shown that the disease can be detected years earlier by looking for tell-tale DNA fragments that ovarian tumours leak into the bloodstream.

By analysing DNA fragments in 648 blood samples from healthy women and ovarian cancer patients, they were able to pinpoint 3 fragments that marked the presence of the disease.

In a follow-up study of 250 women, they showed they could identify those with ovarian cancer with 91 per cent accuracy by measuring these 3 DNA fragments in their blood.

Finally, they showed that the new blood test could detect ovarian cancer 1 to 2 years before it is usually diagnosed in 88 per cent of cases. They did this by retrospectively analysing blood samples collected from over 100,000 women in a previous study, 43 of whom were diagnosed with ovarian cancer over the next 2 years.

The blood test has the potential to be used in population-wide screening for ovarian cancer, says Widschwendter. This may help prevent premature deaths, since ovarian cancer has a 90 per cent cure rate if it is found early and removed before it spreads.


Improving Vaccine and Immunotherapy Design Using Biomaterials

Polymers, lipids, scaffolds, microneedles, and other biomaterials are rapidly emerging as technologies to improve the efficacy of vaccines against infectious disease and immunotherapies for cancer, autoimmunity, and transplantation. New studies are also providing insight into the interactions between these materials and the immune system. This insight can be exploited for more efficient design of vaccines and immunotherapies.


Deep Learning vs. Pathologists

Question  What is the discriminative accuracy of deep learning algorithms compared with the diagnoses of pathologists in detecting lymph node metastases in tissue sections of women with breast cancer?

Finding  In cross-sectional analyses that evaluated 32 algorithms submitted as part of a challenge competition, 7 deep learning algorithms showed greater discrimination than a panel of 11 pathologists in a simulated time-constrained diagnostic setting, with an area under the curve of 0.994 (best algorithm) vs 0.884 (best pathologist).

Meaning  These findings suggest the potential utility of deep learning algorithms for pathological diagnosis, but require assessment in a clinical setting.

+ AKA it's very early days, but the future we've been promised is looking more and more...promising. Dammit.


Other Tiny Things That May Save or Kill You/Me/All of Us at Once

US lifts ban on funding research for gene-modified super viruses

For the past 3 years, the US has maintained a moratorium on backing research that involves genetically modifying viruses to make them more potent, whether it's their ability to spread or their lethality. You can kiss that de facto ban goodbye, however: the government has lifted the restriction in favor of a new review step. Scientists who want to engineer these super viruses will be subject to scrutiny by a "multidisciplinary group" that will consider the intentions and risks, such as whether or not it's "ethically justifiable" and whether or not there are safer methods of accomplishing the same goal.


Life expectancy in the U.S. is falling — and drug overdose deaths are soaring

Life expectancy in the U.S. has fallen for the second year in a row, the first time it’s dropped for two consecutive years in more than half a century.

People born in the U.S. in 2016 could expect to live 78.6 years on average, down from 78.7 the year before, according to a new report released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The most common cause of death: heart disease.

The report also found death rates — calculated from the number of deaths per 100,000 people — actually rose among young adults between 2015 and 2016. And while the authors didn’t draw a direct link, another report also released Thursday by the CDC found an estimated 63,600 people died of drug overdoses in 2016. Two-thirds of those deaths were caused by opioids. Adults between the ages of 25 and 54 had the highest rate of drug overdose death.

+ Life expectancy is dropping, in 2017, in the richest country in the world, with the most expensive health care in the world. 


CRISPR in 2018: Coming to a Human Near You

In just the past few years, advances in CRISPR have been happening at a breakneck speed—and companies have sprung up to commercialize the technology. Now, patients in Europe and the U.S. could be treated with CRISPR-based therapies as soon as 2018.

The hope is that CRISPR could be used in a one-time procedure to cure some of the most devastating inherited disorders and cancers, some of which have no or few current treatment options. Scientists want to deploy the technology to fix genetic errors in a person’s DNA, getting at the root of disease.

That might be the dream, but the reality is far different.


An Update on Earth v2

First up: a reminder that space travel/exploration changed forever this year. This is something to fucking celebrate.

For the first time, a used SpaceX rocket booster has flown again.
On March 30, the first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket sent its second payload into space, after having launched and landed in April 2016.
The achievement is an important milestone in the company's road to creating a reusable launch system—and a feat that's 15 years in the making. The launch and subsequent landing on a drone ship proves, as SpaceX CEO Elon Musk noted, "you can fly and re-fly an orbit-class booster."

The private spaceflight company estimates that by reusing its liftoff boosters rather than tossing them away in the sea, it can slash launch costs by about 30 percent, providing cheap(er) access to the final frontier.

+ Dated March 30. They've recovered 14 of 14 boosters launched this year, reusing them for five launches. Shit. Is. Real.


That looks...familiar. Google + Kepler = SearchRank, but for other places we can live.

NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope was designed to determine the frequency of Earth-sized planets orbiting Sun-like stars, but these planets are on the very edge of the mission’s detection sensitivity. Accurately determining the occurrence rate of these planets will require automatically and accurately assessing the likelihood that individual candidates are indeed planets, even at low signal-to-noise ratios.

We present a method for classifying potential planet signals using deep learning, a class of machine learning algorithms that have recently become state-of-the-art in a wide variety of tasks. We train a deep convolutional neural network to predict whether a given signal is a transiting exoplanet or a false positive caused by astrophysical or instrumental phenomena. Our model is highly effective at ranking individual candidates by the likelihood that they are indeed planets: 98.8% of the time it ranks plausible planet signals higher than false positive signals in our test set. We apply our model to a new set of candidate signals that we identified in a search of known Kepler multi-planet systems.

We statistically validate two new planets that are identified with high confidence by our model. One of these planets is part of a five-planet resonant chain around Kepler-80, with an orbital period closely matching the prediction by three-body Laplace relations. The other planet orbits Kepler-90, a star which was previously known to host seven transiting planets. Our discovery of an eighth planet brings Kepler-90 into a tie with our Sun as the star known to host the most planets. 

+ More here.


NASA takes their shot at Alpha Centauri

NASA scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory are now working on what could become one of the most ambitious undertakings of mankind-sending a probe on a 40-year mission to Alpha Centauri, our solar system’s nearest neighbor, according to a JPL manager.

At the recent fall conference of the American Geophysical Union in New Orleans, Anthony Freeman, manager of the Innovation Foundry at JPL, presented the concept paper titled “The First Interstellar Explorer,” revealing that a 2016 NASA funding bill has sped up a project to study what kind of propulsion technology could send the probe Alpha Centauri.

With the technology to enable that speed still non-existent, the project has not been named yet, but Freeman says there is enough time to work on the technicalities since it would be about 50 years before such a mission could be launched.

As Freeman explained, the mission will be divided into six stages, the first of which is the simplest: traveling outside the solar system, a feat that the Voyager 1 spacecraft has already accomplished.

The other five stages include surviving the journey to Proxima Centauri, lowering the speed on approach, making a trajectory adjustment for a near encounter, getting data, and relaying the information collected back to Earth.

+ Here's five questions regarding, for example, how the hell they'll get there. No questions regarding competition with Breakthrough Starshot.

+ I know you all opted in to this newsletter. But there's probably times your eyes glaze over and you think: yeah yeah, that's crazy, far-out, sci-fi shit, and not #vital. In that case, I'd encourage you to re-read the entries above, regarding this planet, our planet, going (quickly) down the shitter, and remember: we have nowhere to go. We don't have a backup plan. For the species. Why WOULDN'T news like this be #vital?


The Leftovers

#75: Go web! Fly! Up, up, and away web! Shazaam!

Coming to you from the world's slowest wifi 30,000 feet above the U.S. of A.!

We might be off the next two weeks, or one of the next two weeks, or not at all, thanks to the holidays, but honestly I haven't decided yet. Kind of depends on how insane my kids are being, and/or whether the world is (more) on fire. Those two things may be related.

On to the news!

"With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility*", said Uncle Ben, who was inexplicably murdered

2017 Arctic Report Card: Sea ice melting unprecedented in at least 1,500 years

Look. It's not great out there. On the iceIn the skyIn the water

So -- fixing this nightmare (as much as we can) is going to require big moves. Huge moves. Unprecedented moves. Previously unimaginable moves. Because otherwise, that's game over, right?

Imagine you get a diabetes scare. Doctor tells you it's bad. Lose the carbs, or lose a foot. The conundrum is you love bagels like nobody's business. But a foot is useful, yes? So, of course, you choose the foot. 

What I'm trying to say is in this situation, carbs = all the cheap fossil-fuel power sources, extravagant living, and industrialized meat we've been marinating in for a century now. And if we ditch those fucking delicious bagels for sunlight and wind, we just might leave 20-30 inches of sea level rise on the table

And what are just a few of those potential moves? Thanks for asking:


#1: Sucking the existing pollution right out of the air

Hugely enjoying this on-going carbon-capture technology series, "The Race to Zero Emissions", by Akshat Rathi at Quartz. Hell of a reporting job on the tech that might be our make or break.

"Remarkably, the material that built the first modern civilization remains key to building today’s global economy. The cement we use in 2017 is not so different from the stuff used to build the concrete dome of the Roman Pantheon in 125 AD.

What has changed is that today we use vastly greater quantities of the grey powder: more than 4.2 trillion kg annually. To put that in perspective, you could build 1,000 Hoover Dams each year with the amount of concrete that much cement would make.

That’d be all well and good except for the fact that 1 kg of cement releases more than than 0.5 kg of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. As a result, the cement industry is currently responsible for about 5% of global CO2 emissions—more than double the aviation industry. Worse still, unlike the electricity industry, which one day might be comprisedof entirely clean, renewable energy, the chemistry of conventional cement dictates that the process will continue to produce huge amounts of carbon dioxide.

Unless, that is, Nicholas DeCristofaro’s plans work out. Since 2008, Solidia Technologies, where DeCristofaro is chief technology officer, has been quietly developing a new cement-making process that produces up to 70% fewer CO2 emissions at a cost that DeCristofaro claims is on par with or better than conventional cement."



#2: Taxing meat

"“Sin taxes” on meat to reduce its huge impact on climate change and human health look inevitable, according to analysts for investors managing more than $4tn of assets.

The global livestock industry causes 15% of all global greenhouse gas emissions and meat consumption is rising around the world, but dangerous climate change cannot be avoided unless this is radically curbed. Furthermore, many people already eat far too much meat, seriously damaging their health and incurring huge costs. Livestock also drive other problems, such as water pollution and antibiotic resistance.

A new analysis from the investor network Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return (Fairr) Initiative argues that meat is therefore now following the same path as tobacco, carbon emissions and sugar towards a sin tax, a levy on harmful products to cut consumption. Meat taxes have already been discussed in parliaments in Germany, Denmark and Sweden, the analysis points out, and China’s government has cut its recommended maximum meat consumption by 45% in 2016."


#3: Stop funding new oil, gas, and coal projects

"The World Bank will stop financing oil and gas exploration and extraction from 2019, it announced Tuesday at a climate summit seeking to boost the global economy's shift to cleaner energy.

"The World Bank Group will no longer finance upstream oil and gas, after 2019," it said in a statement in Paris, where world leaders sought to unlock more money for the shift away from Earth-warming fossil fuels.

The move, it said, was meant to help countries meet the greenhouse gas-curbing pledges they had made in support of the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit global warming.

...The World Bank's mandate is to provide finance and other assistance to aid the economic advancement of developing countries."

+ Per the WB's mission, this will obviously affect developing countries more than developed. But hey maybe then we can avoid situations like this one.


#4: Entertain geoengineering aka Snowpiercer which worked out fine

"So a growing chorus of scientists have been mumbling about geoengineering. Doing things like spraying sulfur in the stratosphere or whitening clouds to bounce light back into space to help cool things down. And last week, Congressman Jerry McNerney joined them, introducing a bill that would ask the National Academies of Science to explore technologies to geoengineer Earth. In two reports, they'd explore research avenues and oversight of that research—that is, if the bill gets past McNerney's colleagues and then the only world leader to shun the Paris Climate Agreement.

To be clear, McNerney would love nothing more than for the US to cut emissions. But the climate situation has become so dire that he thinks geoengineering is now something the US is obligated to explore. Not, like, initiating a full-scale manipulation of the stratosphere next week, but at least looking into the idea. “It's very important that we understand what our tools are,” he says. “What options do we have? How much risk is there?”"

+ It's weird how odd this level of forward-thinking feels. 


Because our current methods might be in deep shit.

Climate change could take the air out of wind farms

"Big offshore wind farms power Europe’s drive for a carbon-free society, while rows of spinning turbines across America’s heartland churn enough energy to power 25 million US homes. But a new study predicts that a changing climate will weaken winds that blow across much of the Northern hemisphere, possibly leading to big drops in clean wind energy.

That’s because the temperature difference between the North Pole and the equator, which drives atmospheric energy in the form of winds and storm systems, is shrinking as the Arctic warms. A warmer Arctic means less of a temperature difference and therefore weaker winds across the central United States, the United Kingdom, the northern Middle East, and parts of Asia."


More climate change news:

Renewable Energy Is Surging. The G.O.P. Tax Bill Could Curtail That.

Six Ways We Can Adapt to Climate Change

Macron trolls Trump, lures US climate scientists to France

Air quality in Beijing is up 41% this year. That's great news. But it's crushing energy market worldwide. Note: transitions are often painful, expensive, and absolutely necessary.


And finally, because it's insane:

"Cryptocurrencies like bitcoin provide a unique service: Financial transactions that don’t require governments to issue currency or banks to process payments. Writing in the Atlantic, Derek Thompson calls bitcoin an “ingenious and potentially transformative technology” that the entire economy could be built on — the currency equivalent of the internet. Some are even speculating that bitcoin could someday make the U.S. dollar obsolete.

But the rise of bitcoin is also happening at a specific moment in history: Humanity is decades behind schedule on counteracting climate change, and every action in this era should be evaluated on its net impact on the climate. Increasingly, bitcoin is failing the test.

Digital financial transactions come with a real-world price: The tremendous growth of cryptocurrencies has created an exponential demand for computing power. As bitcoin grows, the math problems computers must solve to make more bitcoin (a process called “mining”) get more and more difficult — a wrinkle designed to control the currency’s supply.

Today, each bitcoin transaction requires the same amount of energy used to power nine homes in the U.S. for one day. And miners are constantly installing more and faster computers. Already, the aggregate computing power of the bitcoin network is nearly 100,000 times larger than the world’s 500 fastest supercomputers combined.

The total energy use of this web of hardware is huge — an estimated 31 terawatt-hours per year. More than 150 individual countries in the world consume less energy annually. And that power-hungry network is currently increasing its energy use every day by about 450 gigawatt-hours, roughly the same amount of electricity the entire country of Haiti uses in a year."

+ Emphasis mine because what the fuck is happening


Fuck Cancer, Volume LXXV

Faster, more accurate cancer detection using nanoparticles

"Using light-emitting nanoparticles, Rutgers University-New Brunswick scientists have invented a highly effective method to detect tiny tumors and track their spread, potentially leading to earlier cancer detection and more precise treatment.

The technology, announced today, could improve patient cure rates and survival times.

"We've always had this dream that we can track the progression of cancer in real time, and that's what we've done here," said Prabhas V. Moghe, a corresponding author of the study and distinguished professor of biomedical engineering and chemical and biochemical engineering at Rutgers-New Brunswick. "We've tracked the disease in its very incipient stages."

The study, published online today in Nature Biomedical Engineering, shows that the new method is better than magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and other cancer surveillance technologies."


New trials show cancer immunotherapy can be incredibly effective—and incredibly dangerous

"When the treatment works, it seems like an almost ideal therapy. Unlike chemotherapy and radiation, it’s a one-time procedure, and does away with many of the worst side effects associated with cancer treatment. And in theory, it should fight off cancer for the rest of a patient’s life.

Unfortunately, few things in life are ever perfect, and CAR T is no exception. In its attempt to kill cancer cells, the treatment effectively sends the immune system into overdrive. That jacked-up immune response can often cause something called cytokine-release syndrome. The cells that the engineered T cells target release a group of proteins known as cytokines, triggering a massive inflammatory response."


Got cancer? Sign up here.

Cancer treatment progress stunted by lack of volunteers (VIDEO)


A New You

Scientists use CRISPR to turn genes on without editing their DNA

"For the first time, researchers at the Salk Institute in San Diego were able to use CRISPR to activate beneficial genes in live mice suffering from muscular dystrophy, Type 1 diabetes and acute kidney injury.

In more than 50% of test cases, the animal’s health improved after the CRISPR intervention, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Cell.

Previous work already had demonstrated that CRISPR could be used to alter gene expression in cells in a petri dish, but the new study represents the first time the technique has worked in a live animal, the scientists said.
The feat is significant.

“We moved this technique one big step toward human therapy,” said Hsin-Kai Liao, a postdoctoral researcher at Salk and co-first author on the paper."


Scientists ‘Inject’ Information Into Monkeys’ Brains


"(It) may sound like an outtake from “The Matrix.” But now two neuroscientists at the University of Rochester say they have managed to introduce information directly into the premotor cortex of monkeys. The researchers published the results of the experiment on Thursday in the journal Neuron.

Although the research is preliminary, carried out in just two monkeys, the researchers speculated that further research might lead to brain implants for people with strokes.

“You could potentially bypass the damaged areas and deliver stimulation to the premotor cortex,” said Kevin A. Mazurek, a co-author of the study. “That could be a way to bridge parts of the brain that can no longer communicate.”


To Go Where No (Interstellar Object) Has Gone Before (Here)

Please please please please please

"Yuri Milner, the Russian billionaire behind Breakthrough Listen, a $100 million search for intelligent extraterrestrial life, had already heard about the peculiar object. ‘Oumuamua barreled into view in October, the first interstellar objectseen in our solar system.

Astronomers around the world chased after the mysterious space rock with their telescopes, collecting as much data as they could as it sped away. Their observations revealed a truly unusual object with puzzling properties. Scientists have long predicted an interstellar visitor would someday coast into our corner of the universe, but not something like this.

“The more I study this object, the more unusual it appears, making me wonder whether it might be an artificially made probe which was sent by an alien civilization,” Avi Loeb, the chair of Harvard’s astronomy department and one of Milner’s advisers on Breakthrough Listen, wrote in the email to Milner.

A day later, Milner’s assistant summoned Loeb to Milner’s home in Palo Alto. They met there this past Saturday to talk about ‘Oumuamua, a Hawaiian word for “messenger.” Loeb ran through the space rock’s peculiarities, particularly its elongated shape, which looks like a cigar or needle—an odd shape for a common space rock.

For Milner, the object was becoming too intriguing to ignore. So he’s decided to take a closer look."


NASA’s plan to save Earth from a giant asteroid

"Between 1988 and 2017, NASA recorded over 700 fireballs created by foreign objects entering our atmosphere. While the odds of a direct hit are extremely low, the sheer number of occurrences is enough to make us wonder: could another strike occur? If so, how dangerous would it be? After all, dinosaur extinction was likely caused by a major asteroid colliding with Earth near present-day Chicxulub, Mexico.

Hoping to avoid a similar fate for humanity, NASA scientists are currently developing techniques to detect and prepare for a significant asteroid collision. As part of their efforts, they have developed three different plans for how humans could deflect an asteroid and steer it away from impacting Earth."


Let's check in with our new masters, shall we?

New robots can see into their future

"University of California, Berkeley, researchers have developed a robotic learning technology that enables robots to imagine the future of their actions so they can figure out how to manipulate objects they have never encountered before. In the future, this technology could help self-driving cars anticipate future events on the road and produce more intelligent robotic assistants in homes, but the initial prototype focuses on learning simple manual skills entirely from autonomous play."


+ More on robots and AI, here:

Inside Baidu's bid to lead the AI revolution

Alpha Zero’s “Alien” Chess Shows the Power, and the Peculiarity, of AI

Robots are fueling the quiet ascendance of the electric motor


This feels like a rational question to ask

"Is there a limit to (human) scientific understanding?

There are two reasons why this might (be the case).

The optimistic one is that we clean up and codify certain areas (such as atomic physics) to the point that there’s no more to say.

A second, more worrying possibility is that we’ll reach the limits of what our brains can grasp. There might be concepts, crucial to a full understanding of physical reality, that we aren’t aware of, any more than a monkey comprehends Darwinism or meteorology. Some insights might have to await a post-human intelligence."


The Leftovers

#74: We Have, For the Most Part, Brought Sexy Back

Uh oh! Is that fire? Is that smoke? Look at those eyes! It's getting sexy in here! 

Just kidding. He's great, but LOOK AT US!

Hope everyone digs our new redesign. Still working out some kinks, but we're liking it--

...what's that?

The fire and smoke are from climate-induced wildfires burning down America's largest and most environmentally progressive state? 

Oh. Well. Fuck.


Let's find out what that's all about, shall we?

On to the news!


Do You Smell Something Burning?

California's on fire: here's why

An abnormally wet winter last year = exponential brush growth
+ hottest October on record
October rainfall at 5% of average
+ Santa Ana winds
= the apocalyptic shit you're seeing on TV.

Or, if you live in California, on your commute home.

+ A handy FAQ on what's going down, courtesy of Mother Jones.

+ Here's some satellite shots of the fire, from space.


Is this the new normal?

"Using complex new modeling, scientists have found that rapidly melting Arctic sea ice now threatens to diminish precipitation over California by as much as 15% within 20 to 30 years. Such a change would have profound economic impacts in a state where the most recent drought drained several billion dollars out of the economy, severely stressed infrastructure and highlighted how even the state most proactively confronting global warming is not prepared for its fallout."

+ Survey says: you're next.

+ 54 degrees above normal in Greenland this week. 

Ask Sivendra how his house is doing, thanks to climate change.


Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? No!

45 American mayors say "Eat shit, Trump"

"45 American mayors committed their cities to uphold the emissions standards laid out in the Paris agreement, (which) was the latest display of hostility by some of the nation’s Democratic mayors toward Mr. Trump’s policies.

Barack Obama (editor's note: swoon), who was president when the Paris accord was negotiated, also appeared, calling the mayors’ newly signed agreement “a powerful symbol to the world” and saying that local governments were part of “the new face of American leadership on climate change.”

...Under the agreement, which is not legally enforceable, city leaders committed to reducing their own localities’ greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, the national goal negotiated by Mr. Obama’s administration. The pact also called for cities to publish quarterly emissions data; to consider climate change when building infrastructure; and to take an active role in advocating climate-friendly policies."

+ The world might be laughing at us/terrified, but game recognizes game, and respect the work local governments are putting in.

+ No more ocean plastic. Or, at least, less of it. Theoretically.

+ Is money driving many of these cities to step up? Maybe. Who cares?

+ Call me when any US city builds something like this.


How a scientist covers her/his ass

""In the scientific community, we're very cautious people," says Katharine Hayhoe, the director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech. "We tend to be quite averse to notoriety and conflict, so I absolutely have seen self-censorship among my colleagues. [They'll say] 'Well, maybe I shouldn't say it that way, because whatever funding organization or politician or agency won't appreciate it.'"

The NSF data appears to bear out the change in language. While the number of grants with the term "climate change" in the public summary has dropped, the number of grants with the terms "environmental change" or "extreme weather" has increased slightly. That suggests that, even if research topics remain the same, the words scientists use to describe them may change.

"Scientists I know are increasingly using terms like 'global change', 'environmental change', and 'extreme weather', rather than explicitly saying 'climate change'," Jonathan Thompson, the senior ecologist at the Harvard Forest, wrote in an email to NPR. Thompson has been the lead investigator on multiple research projects funded by the NSF in recent years. "This seems to be born out of an abundance of caution to limit their exposure to any political landmines in what is already an extremely competitive process," he wrote."

+ Good work, everybody.


The climate Holy Grail/Golden Fleece/Fountain of Youth/Infinity Stone

"In other words, Hellisheidi is now a zero-emissions plant that turns a greenhouse gas to stone.

This October, it went a step further, partnering with Climeworks, a Switzerland-based startup, to install a machine that sucks carbon dioxide out of the air. That gas is also sent underground, where it, too, eventually turns to rock. The result is a “negative emissions” power plant that literally subtracts carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. As of this writing, the Climeworks machine has already pulled out more than 5 metric tons of carbon dioxide from the air and injected it underground, the equivalent of burying the annual carbon footprint of a household in India.

Critics laughed at those pursuing a moonshot in “direct-air capture” only a decade ago. Now Climeworks is one of three startups—along with Carbon Engineering in Canada and Global Thermostat in the US—to have shown the technology is feasible. The Hellisheidi carbon-sucking machine is the second Climeworks has installed in 2017. If it continues to find the money, the startup hopes its installations will capture as much as 1% of annual global emissions by 2025, sequestering about 400 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year."


Fuck Cancer, Volume IXVIIX

"Smart people hunt down diseases that kill innocent kids" is a headline I'll write every goddamn day

"Neuroblastoma is the most common solid tumor cancer in children and is challenging to treat regardless of existing therapies that are available. Dr. Andras Heczey, assistant professor of pediatrics - hematology and oncology, and Dr. Leonid Metelitsa, professor of pediatrics - oncology at Baylor College of Medicine, have received a $1.5 million grant from Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation to conduct a Phase 1, first-in-human clinical trial of a new form of immunotherapy to treat neuroblastoma using native and engineered properties of natural killer T-cells (NKTs).

“Our goal is to find a safe option to effectively treat neuroblastoma, one of the most prevalent and deadly types of cancer in children. NKTs can naturally traffic to the tumor site and suppress tumor growth indirectly by attacking tumor-supportive macrophages. In addition, we armed NKTs with a genetically engineered protein called chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) that enables them to directly kill neuroblastoma cells,” Heczey said. “Thus, CAR NKTs can eliminate tumors by targeting both tumor cells and tumor-supportive macrophages. There is tremendous promise in this therapy, but we need to determine how to best implement it for patients.”"

+ Disclosure: I am a fundraiser and semi-advisor (their loss) for Alex's Lemonade Stand. Deal with it.


Who doesn't want more of "smart people dedicating their lives to saving kids"?

"Children with an extremely deadly form of brain cancer might benefit from a new treatment that aims to direct an immune response against a mutant form of a protein found exclusively on cancer cells, according to a new study led by UC San Francisco researchers.

The focus of the study, published online Dec. 4 in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, is diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), an aggressive pediatric brain cancer. DIPG is rare — estimates suggest that about 300 new cases occur in the United States each year — but almost always fatal.

Because DIPG occurs in a difficult-to-access area of the brain stem that controls vital functions such as breathing, blood pressure, and heart rate, these tumors are almost impossible to remove surgically. Radiation therapy is the current standard treatment, but is rarely effective for long, according to Hideho Okada, MD, PhD, professor of neurological surgery and director of the Brain Tumor Immunotherapy Center at UCSF, and the senior author of the study.
Hideho Okada, MD, PhD

“It is important to develop more innovative treatment approaches for childhood brain cancers, which now are the leading cause of cancer death in children. DIPG is a very deadly type of brain cancer, and not many children survive beyond 12 months from the time of diagnosis.” said Okada."

+ Hey Hideho? You're the fucking man.

+ Let's not forget how complicated cancer is, despite all our progress.

+ Four ways to cut down your chance of getting cancer: never smoke, don't drink too much, don't get fat, get out and exercise. Forget the fancy science, let's start with the basics, people.


Do these genes make me look fat?

Why DARPA Is investing big in gene drives

"A powerful and controversial new genetic engineering technology called a gene drive offers the potential to drastically reshape our world by overriding natural selection. And the US military’s research arm is one of the technology’s biggest research funders.

...The involvement of the US military in such a technology has understandably raised concerns. A gene drive works by overriding natural selection’s typical 50-50 mix, ensuring that a desired trait introduced by genetic engineering more efficiently spreads through a wild population. Among other things, this technique might be used to engineer invasive pests to breed themselves out of existence. Earlier this year, New Zealand signaled it was interested in the gene drives as a potential solution to its problem with invasive species (pending much, much more research of course). If it works outside of lab environments, the gene drive could eventually become a massively powerful technology, allowing for the potential of genetically altering an entire species."

+ Allllllrighty then.

+ We talk about gene editing and CRISPR a lot here, mostly because it may very well change the fundamental dynamics of life on planet Earth (and anywhere else we go, should we ever get off this fucking rock). Here's a primer on what the hell we're talking about.


Semi-synthetic life form now fully armed and operational*

"Every living thing on Earth stores the instructions for life as DNA, using the four genetic bases A, G, C, and T.

All except one, that is.

In the San Diego laboratory of Floyd Romesberg—and at a startup he founded—grow bacteria with an expanded genetic code. They have two more letters, an “unnatural” pair he calls X and Y.

Romesberg, head of a laboratory at the Scripps Research Institute, first amended the genes of the bacterium E. Coli to harbor the new DNA components in 2014. Now, for the first time, the germs are using their expanded code to manufacture proteins with equally unusual components.
“We wanted to prove the concept that every step of information storage and retrieval could be mediated by an unnatural base pair,” he says. “It’s not a curiosity anymore.”"

*This headline is timely and perfect and I didn't even write it!

+ Also we're gonna die


The surgeon who wants to connect you to the internet with a brain implant

My first instinct was "please god no" but then I read on.

"“What I think is so interesting is that the future is always flying cars,” Leuthardt says, handing the resident his Sharpie and picking up a scalpel. “They captured the dystopian component: they talk about biology, the replicants. But they missed big chunks of the future. Where were the neural prosthetics?”

It’s a topic that Leuthardt, a 44-year-old scientist and brain surgeon, has spent a lot of time imagining. In addition to his duties as a neurosurgeon at Washington University in St. Louis, he has published two novels and written an award-winning play aimed at “preparing society for the changes ahead.” In his first novel, a techno-thriller called RedDevil 4, 90 percent of human beings have elected to get computer hardware implanted directly into their brains. This allows a seamless connection between people and computers, and a wide array of sensory experiences without leaving home. Leuthardt believes that in the next several decades such implants will be like plastic surgery or tattoos, undertaken with hardly a second thought.

“I cut people open for a job,” he notes. “So it’s not hard to imagine.”"


Go Boom

If North Korea fires a nuclear missile at the U.S., how could it be stopped?

Hey look it's the question every American asks themselves every ten seconds.

"North Korea can make a nuclear bomb and has an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. If it launches such a missile, the United States has a $40 billion system designed to destroy the bomb in space.

What’s unknown is whether it will succeed.

The system, called Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD), is a work in progress. It has failed to destroy dummy warheads in six of 10 tests since becoming operational in 2004, but the two most recents tests succeeded. Here’s how it works."

+ The straight truth on NK's nuke abilities. It's no bueno.

+ Oh and hey let's not forget China is straight crushing the US in the military artificial intelligence race so have a nice weekend everybody


The Leftovers

#73: Call it, Captain!

Lots to cover today after the holiday. Hope everyone enjoyed some nice time with their family while Trump dismantled everything you've ever cared about.

On to the news!


Florida boy, 10, part of climate change lawsuit filed by kids against federal government

"At age 10, Levi Draheim hates math and loves reading Harry Potter books. He plays the violin but dislikes practicing. What he really enjoys is paddling a kayak or going swimming. It helps that he lives just a five-minute walk from the beach in the town of Indialantic on Florida’s east coast.

"I’m the kind of kid who likes to be outside," he said.

He’s also one of 21 children across America who are suing the federal government for its failure to combat climate change.
Levi, an only child who is homeschooled by his mom, is the youngest plaintiff involved in the case known as Juliana vs. the United States. He’s also the only one from Florida, the state scientists say is most vulnerable to rising sea levels."

+ We've discussed this lawsuit before. Good on you, Levi. Keep kicking ass.


I can't even start with this shit. fucckkkkkkjasdjoasdoasdoasdnasdoijasdij

Rolling coal

"Rolling coal is the practice of modifying a diesel engine to increase the amount of fuel entering the engine in order to emit large amounts of black or grey sooty exhaust fumes into the air. It also may include the intentional removal of the particulate filter. Practitioners often additionally modify their vehicles by installing smoke switches and smoke stacks. Modifications to a vehicle to enable rolling coal may cost from $200 to $5,000.

Rolling coal is a form of conspicuous air pollution, for entertainment or for protest. Some drivers intentionally trigger coal rolling in the presence of hybrid vehicles (when it is nicknamed "Priusrepellent") to taunt their drivers, who are perceived as being environmentally motivated in their vehicle choice. Coal rolling may also be directed at foreign cars, bicyclists, protesters, and pedestrians. Practitioners cite "American freedom" and "a stand against rampant environmentalism" as reasons for coal rolling.

Health risks associated with rolling coal include respiratory issues. The American Cancer Society has linked exposure to diesel exhaust to lung cancer. A more actionable concern is road traffic safety violations, as the black smoke can intentionally impair visibility, risking motor vehicle crashes."


Genetically Engineering Yourself Sounds Like a Horrible Idea—But This Guy Is Doing It Anyway

"A computer nerd turned NASA scientist turned establishment-science cynic, Josiah Zayner is something like the self-appointed leader of a small but burgeoning biohacking movement. He presides over a loose coterie of professional and self-taught scientists who believe that ground-breaking science does not require either a fancy lab or degree. 

Zayner was about to talk about his attempts to genetically modify his own body, an endeavor likely to raise at least a couple eyebrows, including the federal government’s.

But first, he was going to talk about his soul and the sanctity of science. The audience listened with rapt attention."
More on CRISPR:

Researchers use CRISPR to create the world’s tiniest tape recorder

Watch CRISPR Edit DNA in Real Time
More about my insides, just for you:

Custom Bacteria Make New Molecules On Demand

Here's a New Reason You Should Worry About Antibiotics

Enhanced understanding of the microbiome is helping medicine

Genetic kill switches keep engineered microbes from going AWOL

Medical microrobots have potential in surgery, therapy, imaging, and diagnostics

Picture this, but us: How the Zombie Fungus Takes Over Ants’ Bodies to Control Their Minds

The Secret to Long Life? It May Lurk in the DNA of the Oldest Among Us

What if You Knew Alzheimer’s Was Coming for You?

And finally, the most mind-blowingly (amazing, thank god) read of the week:

Inseparable: Ten Years Joined At The Head

"Tatiana and Krista Hogan are extraordinary little girls.  Conjoined twins are a rarity, but those joined at the head,  craniopagus twins, are the rarest of all - one in 2.5 million.  But it is the structure of their brains that makes them unique in the world.  They have the astonishing ability to see through each others’ eyes, feel what the other experiences, perhaps even know what the other is thinking."


Tumor Cells Get Hooked on Cancer Drugs, Meet Their Demise

"Cancerous tumor cells get addicted to the very drugs meant to eradicate them.

It’s an ironic twist in the field of cancer treatment. A small percentage of tumor cells can possess a resistance to cancer-fighting drugs, rendering treatments ineffective. These few cells usually possess a mutation that renders them immune, but the protection comes at a cost. To withstand the drug regimen, the cells must alter their metabolisms to adapt to the new environment. This effectively makes them reliant on the cancer drugs for survival, and when the treatment is cut off, they will die."
Tiny robot designed to fight cancer could be inserted into human body

"Scientists have developed tiny, remote-controlled “microrobots” with the ability to release cancer-targeting drugs, which they hope will one day be used to diagnose disease and administer drugs inside the human body.

Known as “biohybrids”, they are biological cells with useful engineered features added on, namely magnetic particles that allow them to be guided around the body.

But despite their highly technical capability, the robots are made from spirulina algae, a product more recognisable as a health food product than a construction material.

“Rather than fabricate a functional microrobot from scratch using intricate laboratory techniques and processes, we set out to directly engineer smart materials in nature,” said Professor Li Zhang, an engineer at the Chinese University of Hong Kong who contributed to the Science Robotics study.

As a result they were able to make use of the algae’s intrinsic properties. 

“For instance, because these biohybrid bots have a naturally fluorescent biological interior and magnetic iron-oxide exterior, we can track and actuate a swarm of those agents inside the body quite easily using fluorescence imaging and magnetic resonance imaging,” said Professor Zhang."
More on cancer:

Growing tiny tumours in the lab could help treat cancer

Seattle Children’s launches $1 billion campaign to build new immunotherapy research center


McKinsey: automation may wipe out 1/3 of America’s workforce by 2030

"In a new study that is optimistic about automation yet stark in its appraisal of the challenge ahead, McKinsey says massive government intervention will be required to hold societies together against the ravages of labor disruption over the next 13 years. Up to 800 million people—including a third of the work force in the U.S. and Germany—will be made jobless by 2030, the study says."

+ Yeah, so, for the fiftieth time, this is #vital, because (sigh) massive unemployment generally = massive unrest = populist dictators = nukes. Bye bye.

+ So weird if only there was some potential solution that could offset all of this.

Here's an incredibly compelling visual of America post-tax bill, the destruction of health care and the safety net, and monumental job losses.


Do machines actually beat doctors? A survival guide: How to read the medical AI reports with a critical eye, and see the truth through the hype.

"There are three major ways these articles get it wrong. They either don’t understand medicine, they don’t understand AI, or they don’t actually compare doctors and machines."

+ An (opinionated, but legit) warning shot to keep watch for clickbait as we slobber all over our future overlords. Note: we do our best to cite only the most reputable sources, but hey -- sometimes we get excited too. 


How Intelligent Drones Are Shaping the Future of Warfare

"...Perdix drones, on the other hand, communicate autonomously with each other and use collective decision making to coordinate movements, finding the best way to get to a target, even flying in formation and healing themselves – all without a human telling them how. While a single person gives them a task – for example, "go to the local hospital" or "encircle the blue pickup truck" – the drones decide autonomously what the best way to carry it out is, without human direction."

+ Posted this one back in March, but as more info comes around, it's good to re-evaluate: we're gonna die.


Mapping the development of autonomy in weapon systems

Slaughterbots (VIDEO)

+ TLDR: Still terrifying!


You make the call: good ideas or horrendous ideas?

Should we seed life through the cosmos using laser-driven ships?

"Our galaxy may contain billions of habitable worlds that don’t host any life. Should we attempt to change that?

Claudius Gros at the Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany, thinks we should. He believes in directed panspermia: deliberately seeding life throughout the cosmos. And to do that, he proposes we use a laser propulsion system that may not be technically out of reach."

+ Kind of like PROMETHEUS. Which I loved. Come at me, haters.

Was It a Good Idea to Beam Our Best Techno to an Alien World?

"In the year 2030, a powerful radio transmission originating from Earth will arrive at a potentially habitable exoplanet located approximately 12.4 light years away. Should any alien intelligence be there to receive it, they’re in for quite a treat: This binary stream of data contains short musical clips from some of the world’s best electronic musicians. It’s part art, part science—but considering we know virtually nothing about extraterrestrials, should we really be calling attention to ourselves?"
More on space:

NASA announces next rover

Traces of life on nearest exoplanets may be hidden in equatorial trap

Will Mars colonists snooze their way to the Red Planet?

How NASA will defend the Earth against plagues from outer space

The new hobby of the super-rich: Hunting aliens

"For a while, the federal government, via NASA, was funding efforts to listen for potential signals from extraterrestrials. Yet in 1993, Nevada Senator Richard Bryan slipped an amendment into a NASA appropriations bill that stripped NASA's SETI efforts of any funding, despite their minuscule costs compared to NASA’s budget overall. The most extensive search for extraterrestrial intelligence efforts moved to a privately funded, donation-based model; thus, the nonprofit SETI Institute was born."


Green finance for dirty ships

"Shipping may seem like a clean form of transport. Carrying more than 90% of the world’s trade, ocean-going vessels produce just 3% of its greenhouse-gas emissions. But the industry is dirtier than that makes it sound. By burning heavy fuel oil, just 15 of the biggest ships emit more of the noxious oxides of nitrogen and sulphur than all the world’s cars put together."
To Africans, America’s pledge is about more than pollution

"Climate finance, which the rich world has acknowledged it owes to the poor for causing climate change, isn’t simply a justice issue. It’s also preventative.

By the end of this century, if all Africans have the carbon footprint of South Africans (who currently have the highest emissions on the continent) it would add 1C to the global temperature. How Africa’s cities grow will make a huge difference to all of us.

Yet under Donald Trump, the US has said it will renege on $2bn it has promised to the Green Climate Fund – the UN’s major conduit for climate funding. That money is the glue that holds the Paris deal together, yet it features little in the fine words offered by the US dissenters in Bonn. The mayors and governors are preoccupied with how much they can do to cut their own emissions without federal help."
(Lots) more on climate change:

Will Washington State Pass the Nation’s First Carbon Tax?

"Trump Should Fire the E.P.A.’s Scott Pruitt", by Thomas H. Kean, the Republican governor of New Jersey from 1982 to 1990, and the vice chairman of the Environmental Defense Fund

Lake Chad: The World’s Most Complex Humanitarian Disaster

(I can't believe we have to write fucking articles like this) How to persuade people that climate change is real

Using Forests to Fight Climate Change

Norway's $1 trillion wealth fund proposes to drop oil, gas stocks from index

Danone focuses climate efforts on regenerative agriculture

Kernza! Next To A Georgia Highway, This Plant Is Helping Fight Climate Change

Report: Impact of climate change on humans "potentially irreversible"

Scientists aim to fight climate change with super plants

The Sea Level Threat To Cities Depends On Where The Ice Melts — Not Just How Fast

What Bali’s Volcanic Eruptions Could Mean for the Climate

And maybe my favorite headline of the past two weeks:

Democrats Are Shockingly Unprepared to Fight Climate Change



The Trump administration is making it harder to find government information about climate change on the web


Why Lost Ice Means Lost Hope for an Inuit Village


Trump races to pick judges who oversee environment cases

and obviously the elephant in the room

When will the Earth try to kill us again?


Inside Trump's Cruel Campaign Against the U.S.D.A.'s Scientists

This article is so #vital to the actual health of our populace that I don't really know what to quote. There's so many options. 

Here's one:

"If you had asked Ali, before he went to New Orleans, what he thought of people who didn’t help themselves, he would have said, “My parents had to start all over again. What’s the big deal? Just suck it up.” The sight of little kids post-Katrina jolted him. “It kind of blew my mind: if you are in kindergarten you should at least get a fair shot. It was just eye-opening: to see how much your geography could determine the opportunities available to you.”

Now he sensed that poverty came in many flavors. He’d been lucky to have his particular parents and his particular community. He was reminded of the first time he’d run on a track with spikes. “You just fly on the track.” The poor kids he saw in New Orleans were trying to run the same race in life that he was. But he was wearing spikes and they weren’t. “There’s a real idealism that you have to indulge to think that people in New Orleans were now going to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. There were no bootstraps.”"

Here's another:

"In his job at U.S.D.A., Kevin Concannon had overseen for eight years the nation’s school-lunch program; the program that ensures that pregnant women, new mothers, and young children receive proper nutrition; and a dozen or so smaller programs designed to alleviate hunger. Together these accounted for approximately 70 percent of the U.S.D.A.’s budget—he’d spent the better part of a trillion dollars feeding people with taxpayer money while somehow remaining virtually anonymous.

...What’s striking about Kevin Concannon is what he decided, for whatever reason, he didn’t need. He could have named his price with the drug- and food-company lobbies, and yet he’d never taken a job in the private sector. He claims never to have felt the slightest interest in that kind of work. “I’ve done all right,” he says when I ask him, more or less, why he’s not rich. “I’ve always had enough. I’ve never felt the need to go over to the other side and make three times the amount of money. If you like what you do, you just keep doing it.”

On my way out the door he stops me. “You didn’t ask me what else I was worried about (besides food stamps and school nutrition). But if you asked me,” he said, “I’d say Science.”"



Time between world-changing volcanic super-eruptions less than previously thought

Facebook trains artificial intelligence to spot suicidal signs

The 10 Greatest Living Scientists in the World Today

That ‘harmless’ radioactive cloud over Europe probably did come from Russia after all

New Zealand’s War on Rats Could Change the World: The nation wants to eradicate all invasive mammal predators by 2050. Gene-editing technology could help—or it could trigger an ecological disaster of global proportions.

#72: Why didn't you write me?? It wasn't over for me!

GREAT NEWS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We don't have to worry about climate change anymore! Because this guy is going to kill us all first (QUICK VIDEO). Seriously. Click it. I'll wait.


Sigh. Welp.

Anywho -- today's theme is "communication". The stories we tell ourselves about who we are and what we're capable of. The stories others tell us, some of which are true, some of which definitely aren't (look, I recently rewatched both Unforgiven and The Notebook and believe it or not there's some serious overlap there, so eat me).

Here's one: thousands of scientists have been pleading with humans to stop destroying the planet. This week, they penned another desperate missive

Forward this email to five people and help spread the word. The truth is out there. 

On to the news!


Like he needs the hardware, but this week's award goes to the world's richest man, Bill Gates:

"In every part of the world, people are living longer than they used to. Thanks to scientific advancements, fewer people die young from heart disease, cancer, and infectious diseases. It’s no longer unusual for a person to live well into their 80s and beyond. My dad will celebrate his 92nd birthday in a couple weeks, a milestone that was practically unimaginable when he was born.

This fact—that people are living longer than ever before—should always be a wonderful thing. But what happens when it’s not?

...You have a nearly 50 percent chance of developing Alzheimer's if you live into your mid-80s. In the United States, it is the only cause of death in the top 10 without any meaningful treatments that becomes more prevalent each year. That trend will likely continue as baby boomers age, which means that more families will watch their loved ones suffer from cognitive decline and slowly disappear. Despite this growing burden, scientists have yet to figure out what exactly causes Alzheimer’s or how to stop the disease from destroying the brain."
In a close finish, these Northwest communities come in 2nd:

"All it took to spark one of the most progressive climate policies in the entire country was a few hundred feet of proposed pipe meant to stretch from the banks of the Columbia River to a floating dock near Portland, Oregon.
Through that short stretch of pipe, Pembina Pipeline Corporation — a Canadian energy company with considerable assets in the carbon-intensive tar sands — planned to pump enough propane to fill between 36,000 and 72,000 barrels a day onto floating storage tanks before transferring those tanks to ships bound for markets overseas. The pipe was just a small detail in a huge plan, one that involved bringing mile-long trains loaded with propane into a $500-million dollar terminal that would be constructed at the Port of Portland."


See below re: EPA appointments. Thanks.


Straight from the European Southern Observatory: "A temperate Earth-sized planet has been discovered only 11 light-years from the Solar System by a team using ESO’s unique planet-hunting HARPS instrument. The new world has the designation Ross 128 b and is now the second-closest temperate planet to be detected after Proxima b. It is also the closest planet to be discovered orbiting an inactive red dwarf star, which may increase the likelihood that this planet could potentially sustain life. Ross 128 b will be a prime target for ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope, which will be able to search for biomarkers in the planet's atmosphere."

+ More here.

+ Just days before, this report dropped about more potentially habitable jointsnear Proxima b.

In other space exploration news, the bonkers rich Russian investor Yuri Milner (the man behind Breakthrough Starshot) wants to be the first to hunt for life on Enceladus

And lastly, what happens if China makes "first contact"?

"Last January, the Chinese Academy of Sciences invited Liu Cixin, China’s preeminent science-fiction writer, to visit its new state-of-the-art radio dish in the country’s southwest. Almost twice as wide as the dish at America’s Arecibo Observatory, in the Puerto Rican jungle, the new Chinese dish is the largest in the world, if not the universe. Though it is sensitive enough to detect spy satellites even when they’re not broadcasting, its main uses will be scientific, including an unusual one: The dish is Earth’s first flagship observatory custom-built to listen for a message from an extraterrestrial intelligence. If such a sign comes down from the heavens during the next decade, China may well hear it first.

In some ways, it’s no surprise that Liu was invited to see the dish. He has an outsize voice on cosmic affairs in China, and the government’s aerospace agency sometimes asks him to consult on science missions. Liu is the patriarch of the country’s science-fiction scene. Other Chinese writers I met attached the honorific Da, meaning “Big,” to his surname. In years past, the academy’s engineers sent Liu illustrated updates on the dish’s construction, along with notes saying how he’d inspired their work.

But in other ways Liu is a strange choice to visit the dish. He has written a great deal about the risks of first contact. He has warned that the “appearance of this Other” might be imminent, and that it might result in our extinction. “Perhaps in ten thousand years, the starry sky that humankind gazes upon will remain empty and silent,” he writes in the postscript to one of his books. “But perhaps tomorrow we’ll wake up and find an alien spaceship the size of the Moon parked in orbit.”


Is this subtle enough for you?

Study: Black People Are 75 Percent More Likely to Live Near Toxic Oil and Gas Facilities

"Environmentalists have long contended that communities of color are disproportionately affected by pollution from the oil and gas industry, and a study released on Tuesday details the extent of the harm.
According to Fumes Across the Fence-Line, a report from the NAACP and the Clean Air Task Force—an advocacy group dedicated to reducing air pollution—black people are 75 percent more likely to live in so-called “fence-line” communities that are next to industrial facilities. These facilities release a toxic stew of pollutants—including formaldehyde, which has been linked to cancer, and benzene, which has been linked to brain damage, birth defects, and cancer. Using the data on how many Americans are affected by toxic air pollution that CATF compiled for their Fossil Fumes and Gasping for Breath reports, the new study focuses on the specific impact of pollutants in the air on black Americans. 

Most fence-line community residents are low-income and predominantly of color. The study reports that more than 1 million black people live within just half a mile of an oil or gas facility and face serious health risks such as cancer, asthma, and other respiratory diseases as well."

+ More here.

+ Climate scientist James Hansen's solution? Sue the shit out of the polluters.
On the other hand: The World’s Largest Solar-Powered Refugee Camp Just Booted Up


Here's what we've learned about hurricanes since Sandy.

"One reason why the conversation has changed is that the science has become much more advanced, especially in the field of attribution science—a relatively new discipline within climate science that looks at how climate change factors into individual weather events. During Hurricane Katrina in 2005, attribution science was in its “infancy,” one scientist told the Post, and even when Sandy hit, the dominant narrative was that climate change doesn’t necessarily affect individual extreme weather events. But today, both the computer models and how scientists have learned to communicate the lessons of climate science have become more sophisticated, and there is a growing body of peer-reviewed published literature on the subject, though not without some controversy...

...Using Sandy’s weather models, which were very accurate, the researchers could alter the heat and the moisture levels of those models to account for climate change. The conclusion? “We find that indeed Superstorm Sandy is more intense, it is bigger, the rainfall is heavier, and so there’s a climate change component to the strength of that storm,” Trenberth tells Mother Jones. “The environment in which all these storms, including Superstorm Sandy, is occurring is fundamentally different than it used to be.”"

+ More here.
CO2 Emissions Were Flat for Three Years. Now They’re Rising Again.
China wants to lead climate efforts, but is having a hard time shaking coal. Here's why.
Other things we definitely know: these fucking people aren't the ones to be chairing our environmental efforts.

"Andrew R. Wheeler, a lobbyist for Murray Energy, which is owned by Robert E. Murray, an Appalachian coal mining magnate and prominent backer of President Trump, has been nominated to be the deputy administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Kathleen Hartnett White, a former Texas environmental regulator who has described belief in global warming as “a kind of paganism,” has been tapped to lead the White House Council on Environmental Quality."

+ Head explodes.


We’re heading for a male fertility crisis and we’re not prepared

"In recent months, a number of studies have been building a picture of a looming male fertility crisis. Sperm counts are dropping, and it turns out that for men – far from having all the time in the world to become dads – the clock is ticking too.

In a society where couples are choosing to conceive later in life, we are heading towards a perfect storm. “If the decline in sperm counts is real, then the combination of this and our general desire to have our children later in life is a total disaster,” says Allan Pacey at the University of Sheffield, UK."

+ Somewhere, my wife is cheering.
The seven megatrends that could beat global warming: 'There is reason for hope'
3 dangerous ideas from Ray Kurzweil

+ I love this one: “longevity escape velocity” — the point at which, for every year that you’re alive, science is able to extend your life for more than a year.
Artificial intelligence is now an arms race. What if the bad guys win?
Geoengineering the planet might be...well...not great.

"In a study published today in the journal Nature, researchers examine a bunch of other ways a blast of sulfur could do more harm than good.

Specifically, the group looked at how sulfur seeding could impact storms in the North Atlantic. They built models showing what would happen if they were to inject sulfur dioxide into the lower stratosphere above either the Northern or Southern Hemisphere, at a rate of 5 million metric tons per year.

...The potentially good news is that models like these make solar geoengineering a bit more predictable than a volcano eruption. The bad news is not everyone would win. Solar geoengineering in the north would cut precipitation in the semi-arid Sahel in north-central Africa."

+ Related: Will Changing Cloud Cover Accelerate Global Warming?

      + Hoooooo boy that's high-risk, high-reward.

Can carbon dioxide removal save the world?

How climate change could lead to more wars in the 21st century
Have we already had our Skynet moment?
Is immunotherapy the best weapon we've ever had against cancer?

+ Joe Biden: the fight against cancer is the one single bipartisan issue we can all agree on. Right?
Here’s a road map for solving 3 of the world’s biggest problems. All at once.

“Increasingly,” the agency writes, “energy sector development pathways are required to move hand-in-hand with economic development and prosperity, social priorities, and environmental needs, supporting policy objectives in all those areas.” Focusing solely on carbon may distort what’s needed to meet those other priorities.

With that in mind, rather target a single goal (reducing carbon emissions), the SDS models the least-cost pathway to achieving three goals simultaneously — namely, the three energy-related goals in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which UN nations adopted in 2015. 

They are: “to achieve universal energy access to modern energy by 2030; to take urgent action to combat climate change; and to dramatically reduce the pollutant emissions that cause poor air quality.”

+ Imagine a world where our leaders said "Fuck it, let's do it live" and committed everything we had to making these happen?
The Top 10 Emerging Technologies of 2017

+ Most #vital: Just kidding, they're all game-changers. And real. Really really real. Dig in.



How Andy Weir scienced a lunar colony in his new book Artmeis (out now). #vital because, you know, a colony would be a super great idea. At some point. Thirty years ago.

Stephen Hawking: Humans will turn Earth into a giant ball of fire by 2600

Here's a NASA animation of this year's hellish weather. It's beautiful.

First Digital Pill Approved to Worries About Biomedical ‘Big Brother’

A "zombie gene" protects elephants from cancer

Two stars slammed into each other and solved half of astronomy's problems. OR: Why can't science always be this easy? 

An Astonishing Video Shows CRISPR Editing DNA in Real Time

CRISPR Can Now Edit Genes Using Nanoparticles Instead of Viruses

And finally...

Inside the first church of artificial intelligence


Remember how the president and his minions are trying to dismantle the future of the human race? And then they signed off on a massive new report that refutes their own positions? Are you confused yet? 

All that matters is -- actions speak louder than words. Let's get to it.

On to the news!


It's a close race this week.

76 women on a glacier are changing the world

"Steltzer’s colleagues were more knowledgeable than your average gaggle of tourists. The travelers on her trip were all scientists, and several of them focus specifically on climate change. What’s more, her 75 companions on the three-week trip were all women, bound together on the largest-ever, all-female expedition to Antarctica. The trip was the focal point of a year-long leadership development program called Homeward Bound, which aims to groom 1,000 women with science backgrounds over the next ten years to influence public policy and dialogue."

Extreme Athletes Are Braving the Harshest Environments on Earth For Science

"Adventure Scientists (is) a company that pairs researchers with extreme athletes and outdoor enthusiasts on citizen science projects (Jones was also recently hired as the company’s part-time intern). The Gallatin River project was part of an international campaign to measure microplastics, which are exactly what they sound like—tiny bits of plastic polluting water sources around the globe.

Citizen scientists with a knack for the outdoors are researchers’ new best friends. Gathering rare samples and data points can be expensive, time-consuming, and physically demanding. Thrill-seekers who are already venturing into remote and inaccessible sites might as well pick up a few samples, install a camera trap, or log some data while they’re at it.

“You’re already doing this, so collect some water samples while you’re out there and help out,” Jones, 22, explains."

The US's Eco-Warriors Represent at the Climate Conference

"In a year where U.S. climate action has been stuck in reverse, there is real delight seeing what some of the badass names with the U.S. People’s Delegationand It Takes Roots Delegation are up to—especially since the U.S.’s official delegation, under the direction of President Donald Trump, is more focused on promoting fossil fuels than addressing the crisis at hand.

The delegations, which have some overlap in representation, include groups like the Indigenous Environmental Network, one of the few indigenous-led environmental groups in the U.S.; Our Children’s Trust, which is showing youth how to use the law to fight climate change; and Grassroots Global Justice and the Climate Justice Alliance, which connects groups nationwide to help the most vulnerable find local solutions.

Some of these delegates spent months camped out in North Dakota in protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline last year. Others are suing the federal government for its inaction on climate change. Now, in Germany, delegates are marching alongside local organizers, like they did over the weekend  to protest coal. They’ve got more actions planned, too, like the No Climate Change March scheduled for Saturday.

The delegation announced its platform Tuesday. They’re demanding the usual stuff: y’know, an equitable transition to 100 percent renewable energy, an end to the fossil fuel industry, and an increase in the goals set forth in the Paris Agreement."

CDC scientists pursue monkeypox deep in Congo

"Along a narrow, winding river, a team of American scientists is traveling deep into the Congo rain forest to a village that can be reached only by boat.

The scientists are from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and they have embarked on this watery journey to solve a decades-old mystery about a rare and fatal disease: monkeypox.

A cousin to the deadly smallpox virus, the monkeypox virus initially infects people through contact with wild animals and can then spread from person to person. The disease produces fever and a rash that often turns into painful lesions that can feel like cigarette burns. It kills up to 1 in 10 of its victims, similar to pneumonic plague, and is particularly dangerous in children. Monkeypox is on the U.S. government list of pathogens such as anthrax and Ebola with the greatest potential to threaten human health. There is no cure."

He Was a Professional Climate Denier. Then He Switched Sides.

"Jerry Taylor, a leading libertarian voice on energy policy and a former Cato Institute fellow, used to be one of those skeptics. In fact, from 1991 to 2000, Taylor was what he describes as a “warrior” for climate skepticism. He got paid to go on television to decry the science behind global warming and wrote talking points for conservatives and Republicans to attack those who advocate taking action to mitigate the effects of climate change.

“As long as you’re telling Republicans and conservatives what they want to hear and you say it with a healthy dose of snarling about Susie Cream Cheese and tree huggers,” said Taylor, “you’re probably just fine.”

Many Republicans today are invested in denying climate science. President Donald Trump once called global warming a Chinese hoax. Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt doesn’t agree that CO2 is a major contributor to climate change, and Rick Perry, who leads the Department of Energy, doesn’t think humans are the main factor behind the warming planet.

Gradually, Taylor realized he was wrong—not immediately, and only after grappling with his own arguments for years. But eventually, he became a believer. Can other climate deniers go through the same process?"


Oh hello Congress.

Ageing satellites put crucial sea-ice climate record at ris

One of the most important continuous records of climate change — nearly four decades of satellite measurements of Arctic and Antarctic sea ice — might soon be interrupted.

Scientists all over the world rely on the sea-ice record compiled by the US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado. But the US military satellites that collect the data, by measuring ice extent using microwave sensors, are approaching the end of their lives. Three are still working but ageing, and their intended successor started experiencing glitches in 2016, before conking out for good this month. The next possible replacement won't launch until at least the early 2020s.

That means the most complete and most scientifically significant sea-ice record is at risk of breaking. Any gap in satellite coverage is not just a short-term problem: it would compromise future research, because scientists would not be able to accurately compare observations made before the gap with those from afterward.

...Today, the centre uses data from three DMSP satellites that are more than 8, 11 and 14 years old — and designed to last five. A newer satellite, known as F-19, was launched in 2014 but experienced sensor problems in 2016. It became inoperable this month after tumbling out of control. The final probe in the series, the unlaunched F-20, was dismantled last year after Congress stopped funding the programme.

+ Yes. It was dismantled, after it was already built. Good work. Good. Work.


Change = time + monumental efforts. See below.

The ozone hole is at its smallest size since 1988, thanks to hot air and a massive international effort

"One of the layers of atmosphere that protects all life on our planet is the width of two pennies, and hangs out six to ten miles above the Earth’s in an environment that human activity made extremely hostile. Every year when winter ends and warmer weather returns to Antarctica, chemicals that we put into the air rip a hole in the layer. But this year, that hole is smaller than usual.

This week, NASA and NOAA announced that 2017’s ozone hole, at 7.6 million square miles, was the smallest since 1988."

The Astounding Engineering Behind the World's Largest Optical Telescope

"The disc of glass below me is one of seven mirrors that will eventually comprise the Giant Magellan Telescope. When it turns on in full force in 2025, at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile's Atacama Desert, the GMT will be the largest optical observatory in the world. Its mirrors, each of which weighs roughly 17 tons, will be arranged in a flower-petal configuration, with six asymmetrical mirrors surrounding a central, symmetrical segment. Together, they will span some 80 feet (twice the diameter of existing optical telescopes) and possess a total area of 4,000 square feet (about the area of two singles tennis courts). With a resolving power 10 times that of the Hubble Space Telescope, the GMT is designed to capture and focus photons emanating from galaxies and black holes at the fringes of the universe, study the formation of stars and the worlds that orbit them, and search for traces of life in the atmospheres of habitable-zone planets."


Algae Are Making Greenland Darker, and That's Probably a Bad Thing

"The Greenland ice sheet is getting darker, and that’s bad news for the Arctic thermostat, since darker surfaces absorb more heat. Now, a pair of scientists have concluded that in at least one section of Greenland, tiny algae play an outsized role in giving the ice its surprising shade."

Severe Air Pollution Has Transformed Delhi Into a 'Gas Chamber'

"That’s the reality right now for people in Delhi, India. Schools have closed, flights and trains have been delayed, and people are being cautioned to stay inside. All because of outdoor air pollution.

Chief Minister of Delhi Arvind Kejriwal started tweeting about the situation’s severity in the wee hours Tuesday morning, writing that “Delhi has become a gas chamber.

...The territory’s air becomes especially polluted every year about this time due to crop burning in nearby states Punjab and Haryana that ends up in Delhi. The cold temperatures and slow winds allow the pollution—primarily particulate matter, which can damage the heart and lungs—to stick around and become especially hazardous.

Farmers conduct this practice so that they can prepare to grow their winter harvest. Many of them are poor and can’t afford newer technologies that aren’t as dangerous—like a tractor-mounted seeder that can plant new crops without having to destroy what’s left of the previous season’s. ”

In some good news...

China’s dreadful air pollution seems to have got a bit better

"In 2013, horrendous Beijing smogs prompted a national outcry and the launch of a comprehensive air pollution control plan. According to a new study, this plan has had some success – despite the ongoing smogs.

The study used satellite measurements to estimate pollution concentrations. It claims that PM2.5 levels fell nationally by 21 per cent between 2013 and 2015, going from 60.5 to 47.5 micrograms of PM2.5 per cubic metre of air. That is still way higher than the World Health Organization’s recommended limit of 10 micrograms per cubic metre. Average levels in Europe mostly remain below 25 micrograms.

Nevertheless, the reduction should have cut the number of associated deaths from heart attacks and strokes by nine per cent, from 1.22 to 1.10 million."

Why aren’t we curing the world’s most curable diseases?

How Climate Change Is Already Affecting Health, Spreading Disease

Superbugs: The Fight for Our Lives

What Zombie Diseases Lurk in the Permafrost?

"Lately, as summers have lengthened and winters have warmed, this seasonal transformation has lost its symmetry. What biologists call the permafrost’s “active layer”—the part of the dirt where microbes and other forms of life can live—now reaches farther underground, and further north, than it has for tens of thousands of years.

The newly active permafrost is packed with old stuff: dead plants, dead animals, mosses buried and reburied by dust and snow. This matter, long protected from decomposition by the cold, is finally rotting, and releasing gases into the atmosphere that could quicken the rate of global warming.
This matter is also full of pathogens: bacteria and viruses long immobilized by the frost. Many of these pathogens may be able to survive a gentle thaw—and if they do, researchers warn, they could reinfect humanity.

Climate change, in other words, could awaken Earth’s forgotten pathogens. It is one of the most bizarre symptoms of global warming. And it has already begun to happen."


Falling Walls: The Past, Present and Future of Artificial Intelligence

"Today's largest LSTMs (Long Short-Term Memory networks) have a billion connections or so. Extrapolating this trend, in 25 years we should have rather cheap, human-cortex-sized LSTMs with more than 100,000 billion electronic connections, which are much faster than biological connections. A few decades later, we may have cheap computers with the raw computational power of all of the planet’s 10 billion human brains together, which collectively probably cannot execute more than 1030 meaningful elementary operations per second. And Bremermann’s physical limit (1982) for 1 kilogram of computational substrate is still over 1020 times bigger than that. The trend above won't approach this limit before the next century, which is still "soon" though—a century is just 1 percent of the 10,000 years human civilization has existed.

LSTM by itself, however, is a supervised method and therefore not sufficient for a true AI that learns without a teacher to solve all kinds of problems in initially unknown environments."

Humans Used to Live Here. Then Sandy Happened. Now it Is Being Reclaimed by Nature.

What we’re doing now will make the ocean completely unliveable

Human brains and bodies could be hacked to create life in hostile environments, experts argue

"Humans of the future could have enormous lungs to live in underwater kingdoms, or biohacked brains where memories can be bought and sold for a fee. 

That’s according to two experts in pushing the human body to its limits discussing what “humans 2.0” will look like.

Speaking at Lisbon’s Web Summit on Tuesday, Kernel founder Bryan Johnson said unlocking the potential of our brains is the “single greatest thing” humanity can strive for.

The former door-to-door salesman who founded payment company Braintree and sold it to eBay in 2013 for $800 million has now invested $100 million of his own cash in Kernel, an LA based start-up making microchips inserted in brains to read and write neural code. The plan is to use them to fight disease first before progressing to unlocking human superpowers.

“I would expect in around 15-20 years we will have a sufficiently robust set of tools for the brain that we could pose any question we wanted. For example, could I have a perfect memory? Could I delete my memories? Could I increase my rate of learning, could I have brain to brain communication?” he told the audience."

+ Interested.


Mail-Order CRISPR Kits Allow Absolutely Anyone to Hack DNA

"I am not a DIY scientist, much less a professional scientist. You won’t find me swabbing my cheek cells for DNA or tinkering with yeast in a lab on the weekend. But I wondered: Is CRISPR so easy that even amateurs like me can make meaningful contributions to science? And also, does this new technique make gene editing so accessible that we need to worry about DIY scientists cooking up pandemic viruses in their basements? If you Google ‘DIY CRISPR,’ stories such as “What Happens If Someone Uses this DIY Gene Hacking Kit to Make Mutant Bacteria?” pop up.
I attempted to find answers to all these questions myself, starting with the plate of bacteria in the kitchen of my San Francisco apartment."


Theoretical physicists get closer to explaining how NASA’s ‘impossible’ EmDrive works

"A tentative theoretical explanation for the mysterious, "impossible" EmDrive propulsion system was published in the "Journal of Applied Physical Science International" in August. First proposed by British engineer Roger Shawyer, the EmDrive is an asymmetric box that looks like a truncated cone, with a standing microwave field inside that -- apparently violating known physical laws -- seems able to generate thrust and propel the device.

Meanwhile, China's state media says that the country's scientists have perfected a working EmDrive prototype and are preparing to test it in space. NASA is also funding a feasibility study for an interstellar mission powered by a related exotic propulsion method."

Quark fusion makes ten times as much energy as nuclear fusion



New Zealand is going 100% renewable by 2035

Does this fake spaceship look comfortable enough to live in for 45 days?

Why This Fungus Has Over 20,000 Sexes

Watch this robot snake try to kill a man and then have sweet dreams

Puerto Rico and the USVI are going all-in on solar

New Brain Technologies Could Lead to Terrifying Invasions of Privacy, Warn Scientists

The Port of Los Angeles is trying to go clean, too