#100: How did you get in the building? Jumped off a super crane.

Holy shit -- it's Issue #100!

A #HonestTweet here, folks: I can't express deep enough thanks for those of you that have been with us since the beginning.

For those who are just joining us -- welcome to the Thunderdome!

What are we about here? We're laser-focused on the existential-ish news you (understandably) missed because you get a goddamn NY Times alert every 12 seconds as the US crashes out of yet another post-WWII global institution. 

These are the biggest stories of our time, or they should be.

We curate and deliver, often with a healthy dose of sass, the very good and very bad items affecting humans and the planet now, or, at most, in the next 20 years. This shit is going down.

What do we stand for? We don't debate science. But we do believe in finding common ground. We need everyone on board, like yesterday. We believe in questions, and action

What are we up against? No doubt, it's dark out there. We're in a race against time, a battle against moronic and dangerous short-sightedness, and depending on the day, it's not going so hot. But we've got our wands in the air and we're fighting like hell.  

There's amazing news out there that will transform our species. And there's the baaaad stuff, too. We bring you only what's most vital, and all we ask is you go out and spread the fucking gospel. There's so many more like you out there, people who give a shit

So thanks for joining. It's time to march, to vote, to fight. For the future. For your kids. For mine. 

Ready?



PODCAST UPDATE

This week's question was: Middle School Physics: Lame, or the First Step To Becoming A Superhero?

Our guest was the amazing Dianna Cowern -- otherwise known as The Physics Girl. We talked girls in STEM, ladies in STEM, the importance of humanities and asking questions, and fucking mirrors, man. Tune in!

Subscribe now to get next Tuesday's episode where we ask: Why Drives A Man To Give A Climate Speech Every Week on the Floor of Congress? 

Our guest: Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island. We Stirred. Shit. Up. 

 

 

 

On to the news!

Fuck Cancer, Volume C 🖕

Top oncologist to study effect of diet on cancer drugs

"The work, led by Siddhartha Mukherjee at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, will investigate whether a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet could improve outcomes for patients with lymphoma and endometrial cancer

The trial, which is initially recruiting 40 patients, is the first in a series of similar interventions being planned at other centres in the US and Europe by members of a new international working group focused on “rethinking human diets for cancer”, said Mukherjee, who is best known for writing the Pulitzer prize-winning book The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer."

+ More on cancer:

      - Biopharma has a new big idea for making cancer immunotherapy work better
 
      - Electric shock can deliver genes edited to fight cancer

 

Climate Change 🔥🌊💨

It was 90°F in Siberia this week. That's 40 goddamn degrees above normal.

"Climate change has sent temps skyrocketing in the far north of the planet over just the past 20 years. While that’s been quite reflected in the rapid rise in wintertime temperatures, it’s increasingly being reflected in summertime temperatures as more and more sea ice disappears earlier in the season,leaving more dark blue ocean to absorb more daytime sunlight.

...2018 has unfortunately been a prime example of global warming’s effect on the jet stream. And northern Siberia has been getting blowtorched by heat that refuses to quit because of an ongoing blocked pattern favorable for intense heat."


+ "Blowtorched". Great!

+ More climate:

      - Analysis: ‘Global’ warming varies greatly depending where you live -- this city in Oman had the hottest night on earth, which, no thanks

      - An Iceberg the Size of Lower Manhattan Just Broke off Greenland, J-E-T-S, JETS JETS JETS!

      - Air pollution strongly linked to diabetes, because why the hell not

 

 

California beats its 2020 goals for cutting greenhouse gases -- but it's not that simple.

"Gov. Jerry Brown and other state officials said the results proved the state’s portfolio of anti-carbon laws and regulations is succeeding — and showed California can fight climate change while still enjoying a significant economic boom. They pledged to continue to fight efforts by President Donald Trump’s administration to roll back strict emission rules imposed by the Obama administration.

Critics, however, said the California economy has paid a significant price — in the form of higher prices for gasoline, electricity and other goods — while achieving relatively little in terms of global environmental impact. Because California accounts for only 1 percent of global carbon emissions, “the notion that California is going to do anything unilateral that’s going to have an effect is statistically ludicrous,” said Jeremy Carl, an energy specialist at the conservative Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

Yet Colleen Kredell of Next 10, a Bay Area advocacy group that studies climate change and economics, said state leaders can use the results to inspire other countries to do more to fight global warming...

...Just how much California’s policies are succeeding is a matter of some debate. Severin Borenstein, an energy economist at UC Berkeley, said a key reason why carbon pollution has fallen is the Great Recession, which took a huge toll on economic activity in its early years."

+ Forgive the long excerpt -- but with California in the news quite a bit this week for climate-related reasons, I want to paint the fullest picture possible.

Here's more:

      - Why is heat illness growing in LA public schools?

      - Why California’s fire season is off to the worst start in 10 years

      - "Human fingerprint" on California's blistering heat wave

 

Biology 401 💉👾💊 

First attempt to get CRISPR gene editing working in sperm

"For the first time, biologists are trying to get the CRISPR gene-editing machinery directly into mature human sperm, rather than into fertilised embryos.The work is still at an early stage but could lead to a new way to prevent inherited diseases.

...Gene-editing could in theory be used to prevent fathers from passing on a wide range of genetic disorders."

+ More Bio 101:

      - This ‘smart’ antibiotic may target the most common bacterial infection contracted in US hospitals

      - Experiment wipes out over 80% of disease-carrying mosquitoes

 

The Final Frontier/Escape Hatch 🚀

New Analysis of Potentially Habitable Exoplanet Makes Us Hungry for Better Telescopes 

"Eleven light-years from Earth, orbiting a dim red star, there’s an exoplanet called Ross 128b that, as we recently reported, has some the best prospects for life of any known distant world. New results may help astronomers figure out what the planet is made of—and they offer more evidence that it might be inside its parent star’s habitable zone."

 

Clean Energy 💨☀️⚡️

Top Renewable Energy Financiers Reveal Pathway To $1 Trillion In U.S. Investment

"Spurred by wind and solar sector growth, investment in America’s renewable energy industry exceeded $40 billion in 2017 according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, and is tracking close to the same amount in 2018, showing surprising resilience despite policy headwinds."

 

Robots & AI 🤖🧠⚡️

Google’s artificial intelligence ethics won't curb war by algorithm, Sergey needs that $

"While the US army and CIA are secretive about how they select targets – a process known as the kill chain – metadata plays a role. Big data analytics, business intelligence and artificial intelligence systems are then used to spot the correlations that supposedly identify the target. “We kill people based on metadata,” said the former head of the CIA Michael Hayden in 2014.

Armies and secret services don’t do this work alone: they rely heavily on the research programmes of commercial companies, which in turn are keen to secure government business to recoup some of their research and development investments."

+ More AI:

      - This is How Artificial Intelligence Could Prevent Natural Disasters

 

The Highlight Reel

#99: Asps... very dangerous. You go first.

July 6, 2018

124 days to go

GREAT NEWS! EPA head and my own personal mortal enemy/snake Scott Pruitt resigned yesterday after 196 ethics scandals -- this all on top of making it his professional business to do exactly the opposite of what the EPA was intended to do.

LESS GREAT NEWS! The new head of the EPA is an actual coal lobbyist. That's right. A coal lobbyist.

So let's be thankful for a minute for all the excellent reporting that exposed Pruitt's bullshit, and then move on to the new fight. Wheeler won't be an ethics nightmare, which means we've got to focus on the actual anti-environmental work being done.

In other news -- newsletter #99! Holy cow. Thanks to everyone who got this baby off the ground, and everyone else who's joined along the way. 

We've got some fun stuff coming in the next couple weeks, and can't wait to share it.



PODCAST UPDATE

This week's question was: When Will San Francisco Be Underwater?

Our guest was peerless journalist Molly Peterson. We discussed what parts of San Francisco are threatened in the coming decades, what the city's doing to fight sea level rise, and how the Bay Area compares to other waterfront cities. Check it out!

Subscribe now to get Tuesday's episode where we ask: "Middle school physics class. Lame, or the first step to becoming a superhero?"

Our guest: The Physics Girl herself, Dianna Cowern!

 



 

On to the news!

Climate Change 🔥🌊💨

Global Warming in South Asia: 800 Million at Risk

"Climate change could sharply diminish living conditions for up to 800 million people in South Asia, a region that is already home to some of the world’s poorest and hungriest people, if nothing is done to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, the World Bank warned Thursday in an ominous new study.


In some cases, cities like Karachi, Pakistan, emerge as hot spots because higher temperatures are forecast to lower labor productivity and worsen public health. In others cases, like the central belt of India, hotter days and changes in rainfall patterns are expected to sharply increase stress on farmers."
 

+ Once the vanguard of the European welcoming committee, Germany's pressuring Merkel to close their borders to refugees. The migration "crisis" of 2015 will be a drop in the ocean compared to what's coming

+ More climate:

      - The Atlantic Ocean is invading the Arctic — and winning
 

      - Pope says "fuck it, I'll do it myself", huddles to confront oil execs
 

      - ‘The New Normal’: Wildfires Roar Across the West, Again
 

      - Hot Planet: Adapting to Climate Change Will Take More Than Just Seawalls and Levees
 

      - Problem: Building clean energy wind farms requires a fuckton of cement. Cement = one of worst climate catalysts. What gives?
 

      - This week in Trump killing the earth: reducing ozone regulationsweakening smog standards

 

 

 

Young Leftist Candidates Are Breathing New Life Into Climate Politics

 

"“We need a Marshall Plan for renewable energy in the United States,” (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said) last week, shortly before the election, suggesting that a massive $146 billion investment to rebuild Puerto Rico — per a proposal by Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. — could provide “an example for how we can approach the ravages of superstorms and climate change moving forward. … We can show the world what recovery in an era of extreme climate change looks like.”

Climate change hasn’t been a big part of the conversation about the blue wave. But if it’s successful, and the party finds itself with enough seats to push through ambitious legislation next January, what to date have been seen as minor differences between Democrats on climate could become the grounds for legislative battles. That is, if Ocasio-Cortez’s election marks a new era for the Democratic Party, what will that mean for its climate politics?"
 

+ More on Ocasio-Cortez's climate agenda here.

 

 

Fuck Cancer, Volume XCVIV 🖕

Blood test may predict cancer immunotherapy benefit

"Some cancers generate the seeds of their own destruction. Ten years ago, researchers discovered that certain random mutations that accumulate in rapidly dividing tumor cells can spur the immune system to attack the cancer. Lately, researchers have found that the extent of such mutations can predict whether a cancer will respond to new, powerful immune-based therapies. Cancer researchers can already gauge this tumor mutational burden (TMB) by sequencing a panel of select genes in biopsied tissue, an approach that recently demonstrated strong predictive power in a large lung cancer clinical trial. Some cancer physicians now even use tissue TMB tests in select cases. Now, a less-invasive blood test, which analyzes tumor DNA shed into a person's circulation, could reveal TMB in the many patients where tissue testing doesn't work."
 

+ This is big. Immunotherapy is incredible -- when it works. When it doesn't? It can kill. Screening candidates ahead of time (as we develop better treatments) will save lives, time, and money.

 

 

Biology 401 💉👾💊 

Measles case confirmed in Portland, about 500 people possibly exposed

"Of those 500 people, the Multnomah County Health Department Communicable Disease Services team is monitoring 40 people who were exposed and considered non-immune.

So far, no other cases have been identified.

Measles is an illness caused by a virus. It is spread through the air by coughing and sneezing and is highly contagious.

People with measles can spread the virus to others before they show symptoms. The virus can also linger in the air for minutes or hours after someone with measles leaves the area.

Measles is a serious disease that was basically eliminated in the United States thanks to routine childhood vaccination,’’ said Dr. Jennifer Vines, Multnomah County Deputy Health Officer. "
 

+ Remember measles? #MAGA
 

+ More on your body:
 

      - How Long Can We Live? The Limit Hasn’t Been Reached, Study Finds
 

      - How Will Trump Lead During the Next Global Pandemic? and 3 Reasons The US is Vulnerable During Big Disasters
 

      - Antibiotics before birth and in early life can affect long-term health
 

      - CRISPR vs. autism

 

 

The Final Frontier/Escape Hatch 🚀

Why haven’t we found aliens yet? (a no shit important update)

"In early June, Anders Sandberg, Eric Drexler, and Toby Ord of the Future of Humanity Institute (FHI) released a paper that may solve the Fermi paradox — the discrepancy between our expected existence of alien signals and the universe’s apparent lack of them — once and for all. 

Using fresh statistical methods, the paper re-asks the question “Are we alone?” and draws some groundbreaking conclusions: We Earthlings are not only likely to be the sole intelligence in the Milky Way, but there is about a 50 percent chance we are alone in the entire observable universe. 

While the findings are helpful for thinking about the likelihood of aliens, they may be even more important for reframing our approach to the risk of extinction that life on Earth may face in the near future."
 

+ Here's the original paper.
 

+ This should be a damn fine wake-up call that the preservation of what may be our, well, singularly unique species, should be paramount. And that means both saving this rock, and finding a second one on which to summer/winter/live forever.

 

 

Clean Energy 💨☀️⚡️

Self Driving Cars Are Headed Towards An AI Roadblock

"On its face, full autonomy seems closer than ever. Waymo is already testing cars on limited-but-public roads in Arizona. Tesla and a host of other imitators already sell a limited form of Autopilot, counting on drivers to intervene if anything unexpected happens. There have been a few crashes, some deadly, but as long as the systems keep improving, the logic goes, we can’t be that far from not having to intervene at all.

But the dream of a fully autonomous car may be further than we realize. There’s growing concern among AI experts that it may be years, if not decades, before self-driving systems can reliably avoid accidents. As self-trained systems grapple with the chaos of the real world, experts like NYU’s Gary Marcus are bracing for a painful recalibration in expectations, a correction sometimes called “AI winter.” That delay could have disastrous consequences for companies banking on self-driving technology, putting full autonomy out of reach for an entire generation."
 

+ More clean energy:

      - The worst polluting airlines, ranked

 

 

The Highlight Reel

#98: Jump (For My Love)

Ho ho ho another fine FINE week, friends. As always, we recommend you close Twitter, take a deep breath, let it back out, do some meditations, get some rest, and then get the hell back to work fighting for the soul of our country/species/planet.


131 days to go. And we need every one of them.



PODCAST UPDATE

This week's question was: Can We Predict the Next Big Earthquake? Josh Bashioum of Early Warning Labs joined us to give it to us straight. Note: despite my insistent claims, he is apparently, technically, not a "seer". I've still got doubts. Tune in!

Subscribe now to get Tuesday's episode where we ask: When Will San Francisco Be Underwater? Our guest: the totally baller journalist Molly Peterson. She's swell. 

 



 

On to the news!

Climate Change 🔥🌊💨

Judge Dismisses Suit Against Oil Companies Over Climate Change Costs

"A federal judge on Monday threw out a closely watched lawsuit brought by two California cities against fossil fuel companies over the costs of dealing with climate change. The decision is a stinging defeat for the plaintiffs, San Francisco and Oakland, and raises warning flags for other local governments around the United States that have filed similar suits, including New York City.

The judge, William Alsup of Federal District Court in San Francisco, acknowledged the science of global warming and the great risks to the planet, as did the oil and gas companies being sued. But in his ruling, Judge Alsup said the courts were not the proper place to deal with such global issues, and he rejected the legal theory put forth by the cities.

“The problem deserves a solution on a more vast scale than can be supplied by a district judge or jury in a public nuisance case,” Judge Alsup wrote in a 16-page opinion."

 

Methane leaks offset much of the climate change benefits of natural gas, study says

 

"The U.S. oil and gas industry emits 13 million metric tons of methane from its operations each year — nearly 60 percent more than current estimates and enough to offset much of the climate benefits of burning natural gas instead of coal, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Science.

The higher volumes of natural gas leaking from across the industry’s supply chain would be enough to fuel 10 million homes and would be worth an estimated $2 billion, the researchers said."
 

+ More climate:
 

      - New Bloomberg Energy prediction: 50% of energy comes from wind and solar by 2050. Bonkers. Is it soon enough?
 

      - Sea level rise: Jersey Shore town flooding predictions; $10B at risk
 

      - Nevada would pay health and regulatory price for Trump’s lax pollution standards, experts say
 

      - Rising ground under West Antarctica could prevent ice sheet collapse
 

      - NASA chief wants to be 'above the fray' on climate change (fun nugget: we're well past the moment to be objective/nice/polite/above the fray)
 

      - Are these old ass Republicans serious about their new carbon tax coalition? I WANT TO BELIEVE
 

      - I have questions: Team provides first plan for commercially viable, industrial-scale carbon removal plant

 

 

Fuck Cancer, Volume XCVIII 🖕

We need more answers about immunotherapy for the elderly

"We know that immunotherapy is tolerated by older individuals. But how well they respond to it and the side effects it causes them may be different from those observed in most clinical studies for two reasons. One is that clinical trials tend to include younger participants. The other is because of an aging process known as immunosenescence. It causes the immune system to change and become less effective over time. Since immunotherapy involves harnessing the immune system to fight cancer, there are questions about how well it works in patients whose immune systems are changing.

Since the first immunotherapy for cancer, ipilimumab (Yervoy), was approved in 2011, this approach has begun to transform cancer care. Today, immunotherapy is used to treat a number of cancers, from glioblastoma to advanced melanomaand lung cancer. According to the Cancer Research Institute, six types of immunotherapy clinical trials are taking aim at leukemia. It may also have the potential to help patients with breast cancer.

But we don’t know as much as we should about immunotherapy for older individuals as they are poorly represented in clinical trials. In 2013, individuals between the ages of 65 and 69 years made up 17 percent of clinical trial participants, those between the ages of 75 and 79 years made up 8 percent, and those who were 80 years and older made up only 4 percent."

 

Biology 401 💉👾💊 

How prepared is YOUR country for the next epidemic?

"An initiative led by Tom Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has developed a tool that spotlights gaps in preparedness, and actions that countries and organizations can take to close them. The new website, PreventEpidemics.org, gives an individual score to each country and uses color codes to rank the world by five levels of preparedness.

“What this does, it tells you where the gaps are and what needs to be done,” said Frieden, chief executive of Resolve to Save Lives, part of Vital Strategies, a New York-based public health nonprofit organization.

Infectious diseases can spread from one village to any country in the world in about 36 hours. On average, there are 100 outbreaks a day around the world. But the website shows that most countries have not yet taken the steps needed to prepare for this risk."

 

The Final Frontier/Escape Hatch 🚀

Federal Government Releases National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Plan

"A new multiagency report outlines how the U.S. could become better prepared for near-Earth objects—asteroids and comets whose orbits come within 30 million miles of Earth—otherwise known as NEOs. While no known NEOs currently pose significant risks of impact (editor's note: suuuuuuure), the report is a key step to addressing a nationwide response to any future risks.
 
NASA, along with the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and several other governmental agencies collaborated on this federal planning document for NEOs. 
 
The 20-page document is titled “The National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Strategy and Action Plan,” and organizes and coordinates efforts related to the NEO efforts within the federal government during the next 10 years to ensure the nation can more effectively respond in case this type of very low-probability but very high-consequence natural disaster should occur."
 

+ Laugh it up, but this is way overdue. Look at this impact projection.
 

+ More space: 
 

       - The Discovery of Complex Organic Molecules on Saturn’s Moon Enceladus Is a Huge Deal (read: SPACE DOLPHINS)

 

 

The Highlight Reel

#97: Nobody puts baby in the corner/in a cage

Good morning, friends.

Hell of a week, huh? I feel you. It really seems like the bigoted, evil asshats running our country (or declining to actually run it, or enforce checks and balances, etc) are hitting all the marks: climate, clean air, clean water, clean energy, oh, and now they're putting babies in cages. 

Exhausted? Feel like you're having to readjust your donations once a week to the cause of the moment, because they're attacking on every front?

Me too. Me, too.

But guess what?

The single focus that unites each of these issues is this: replacing the motherfuckers in charge.

Want America to start fighting climate change again? Want highways filled with electric car chargers? A carbon tax? Environmental justice? Fewer babies in FUCKING CAGES?

Donate to candidates in swing states, and then vote them the fuck out.

Money in politics is the root of all evil, but like steroids in sports, sometimes you gotta do the deed just to keep up. Just to be on the level.

So donateCall your reps. March. Knock on doors. Print signs. Get arrested. Fuel the revolution.

And then in 137 days, vote them the fuck out.





PODCAST UPDATE

This week's question was: how does your phone call become law? Our guest was Andres Jimenez, Senior Director of Government Affairs at the Citizens Climate Lobby. Check it out to find out what happens after you leave a voicemail for that scary Congressperson you've never called before.

Subscribe now to get Tuesday's episode where we ask: could we actually predict the next big earthquake? Sure hope so!

 



 

On to the news!

Climate Change 🔥🌊💨

Will your city be underwater by 2045?

"More than 300,000 of today's coastal homes, with a collective market value of about $117.5 billion today, are at risk of chronic inundation in 2045—a timeframe that falls within the lifespan of a 30-year mortgage issued today.
 

Approximately 14,000 coastal commercial properties, currently assessed at a value of roughly $18.5 billion, are also at risk during that timeframe.
 

This analysis looks at what's at risk for US coastal real estate from sea level rise—and the challenges and choices we face now and in the decades to come. "

+ Remember last week's bombshell about 3x accelerated ice sheet melting? Yeah. This tool gets into the nitty-gritty of who's gonna get hit worst.
 

If you live in one of these communities, take this information to your next city council meeting and asking what the plan is. Email us back at news@importantnotimportant.com to let us know how it goes.

+ More on coastal flooding:

      - Florida's in deep shit/water

      - And so's Norfolk. More to come on this one.

      - Further analysis by The Guardian

 

 

Deadly Tensions Rise as India’s Water Supply Runs Dangerously Low

 

"Tourism is the mainstay of the economy in this mountain city, which the British colonial authorities made their summer capital so they could escape the brutal heat of New Delhi. But the drought — accompanied by unusually high temperatures, above 90 degrees Fahrenheit — has been so severethat in May, some residents took to Twitter to ask tourists to stay away and leave the water for local residents. Many in Shimla call it the worst shortage they can remember."
 

+ Related: New Delhi's Air Pollution Went Off the Scale This Week
 

+ More climate:
 

      - Climate Change May Spark Global ‘Fish Wars’
 

      - Survivors Of Category 5 Hurricane Irma Want A Category 6
 

      - Experts: ‘Alarming’ drought conditions hit US Southwest and In a Warming West, the Rio Grande Is Drying Up

 

 

Fuck Cancer, Volume XCVII 🖕

China just approved its first cancer immunotherapy drug. Here’s what’s next.

"As more checkpoint inhibitors come to market in China, they’re expected to command far lower prices there compared to other global markets. The Goldman analysts surveyed the medical community in China and concluded that the consensus expectation for “reasonable” pricing of domestic checkpoint inhibitors ranged between $15,000 and $20,000 a year for treatment costs. That compares to $157,000 in the U.S., $135,000 in Japan, and $122,000 in the European Union."

 

Clean Energy 💨☀️⚡️

India energy minister flags massive 100GW solar tender

"India’s energy minister R K Singh has flagged a massive solar tender of 100GW (yes, that’s 100,000MW) – by far the biggest in the world, as the fastest growing energy consumer turns increasingly to renewables to satisfy its enormous needs.
 

Singh did not give a direct timetable for the new tender, and given its size it would likely the a few years, but he did say that India will over achieve its renewable energy target of 175GW by 2022.

According to the Economic Times, Singh said India has already installed 70GW of renewable energy capacity and had about 12.5GW under construction."
 

+ As noted above -- this sort of radical (but economically-viable!) action is absolutely necessary in the world's largest democracy.

+ More clean energy: 
 

      - New Group, With Conservative Credentials, Plans Push for a Carbon Tax
 

      - A "West-wide" Grid is Needed to Control Climate Change

 

 

Biology 401 💉👾💊 

The Next Plague Is Coming. Is America Ready?

"Unlike airborne viruses such as influenza, Ebola spreads only through contact with infected bodily fluids. Even so, it is capable of incredible devastation, as West Africa learned in 2014, when, in the largest outbreak to date, more than 28,000 people were infected and upwards of 11,000 died. Despite the relative difficulty of transmission, Ebola still shut down health systems, crushed economies, and fomented fear. With each outbreak, it reveals the vulnerabilities in our infrastructure and our psyches that a more contagious pathogen might one day exploit.

These include forgetfulness."
 

+ Related: Superbugs Are Going to Eat Us Alive, from Foreign Policy

 

 

The Highlight Reel

#96: AJ, I got just five words for you

Look. Sometimes we get news that we can react quickly to. Call your Congressperson, etc. But sometimes there's serious gut-punch news that, to be honest, is taking a minute to deal with. Existential, "this is happening already" news.

This week that news is about sea-level rise and it's no bueno, folks. Not unexpected, but shocking in scope. I urge you to read it, and process it, and then hopefully double down your efforts to make serious change on November 6th. Because our current leadership has turned their back on science.

Our efforts are making a difference -- we've made tremendous progress in clean energy -- but we need so much more. 

Let's go.


PODCAST UPDATE

This week's question was: what's the #1 thing you can do to affect climate change? Our guest was Peter Kalmus, climate scientist at JPL in Pasadena, California. We discuss his awesome book and also why Brian should get rid of his motorcycle. Tune in.

Subscribe now to get Tuesday's episode with Andres Jimenez at the Citizens Climate Lobby. Find out how your single phone call can become climate law. Exciting!

 



 

On to the news!

Climate Change 🔥🌊💨

Antarctic ice loss has tripled in a decade

"Antarctica’s ice sheet is melting at a rapidly increasing rate, now pouring more than 200 billion tons of ice into the ocean annually and raising sea levels a half-millimeter every year, a team of 80 scientists reported Wednesday.

The melt rate has tripled in the past decade, the study concluded. If the acceleration continues, some of scientists’ worst fears about rising oceans could be realized, leaving low-lying cities and communities with less time to prepare than they had hoped.

The result also reinforces that nations have a short window — perhaps no more than a decade — to cut greenhouse-gas emissions if they hope to avert some of the worst consequences of climate change."
 

+ The US-centric kicker, below.

 

 

West Antarctic ice melt poses unique threat to U.S.

"Rob DeConto, a climate scientist at the University of Massachusetts, says that as ice sheets melt, there's an elastic response from the Earth. "The Earth’s gravitational field changes because we’re redistributing mass around the planet,” he tells Axios.

When an ice sheet loses ice, it reduces its gravitational pull toward itself, which means the local sea level near the ice sheet — be it Greenland or Antarctica —is reduced.

It's the distant places that compensate for this loss in mass. “It’s totally flipped upside down for Antarctica," he says, as there is a "broad bullseye" around North America. “Sea level rise for the future, it’s not happening at the same rate in every part of the world… this gravity thing has a big impact,” DeConto says."
 

+ The US will pay a 25% penalty on West Antarctic sea level rise.

+ Timely: Like It Or Not, the Water Is Coming: Will the Bay Area Defend Against Rising Seas, or Embrace Them?
 

+ Too heavy? I get it. Consider talking to a professional about it
 

+ More climate:
 

      - Bill Gates and his billionaire friends are betting on energy storage
 

      - Controversial: Climate Change Can Be Stopped by Turning Air Into Gasoline

      - Researchers Argue Proposed EPA Changes Could Cause 80,000 More Deaths a Decade

 

 

 

Fuck Cancer, Volume XCVI 🖕

A serious new hurdle for CRISPR: Edited cells might cause cancer, two studies find

"Editing cells’ genomes with CRISPR-Cas9 might increase the risk that the altered cells, intended to treat disease, will trigger cancer, two studies published on Monday warn — a potential game-changer for the companies developing CRISPR-based therapies.

In the studies, published in Nature Medicine, scientists found that cells whose genomes are successfully edited by CRISPR-Cas9 have the potential to seed tumors inside a patient. That could make some CRISPR’d cells ticking time bombs, according to researchers from Sweden’s Karolinska Institute and, separately, Novartis."

+ Science is hard.

 

 

 

War 🚀🌎🔥

This Is What a Nuclear Bomb Looks Like

"If nuclear war is considered “unthinkable,” that is in no small part because of our refusal to think about it with any clarity or specificity. In the long run, the best deterrent to nuclear war may be to understand what a single nuclear bomb is capable of doing to, say, a city like New York — and to accept that the reality would be even worse than our fears."

 

+ More: The Nine Steps Required to Really Disarm North Korea

 

 

Clean Energy 💨☀️⚡️

Premature Birth Rates Drop in California After Coal and Oil Plants Shut Down

"Researchers scrutinized records of more than 57,000 births by mothers who lived close to eight coal- and oil-fired plants across California in the year before the facilities were shut down, and in the year after, when the air was cleaner.

The study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, found that the rate of premature births dropped from 7 to 5.1 percent after the plants were shuttered, between 2001 and 2011. The most significant declines came among African American and Asian women."

+ Related (no shit): Being Black in America Can Be Hazardous to Your Healt
 

+ More clean energy: 
 

      - New Jersey plans $3 billion in energy efficiency projects and 50,000 vehicle charging stations
 

      - Buying Into the Electric Vehicle Future? Maybe Try Leasing It
 

      - Wireless charging: the key to unlocking an electric vehicle revolution

 

 

The Final Frontier/Escape Hatch 🚀

An EPIC view of the Earth as an exoplanet

"Observing the Earth as an exoplanet is not a new idea – but DSCOVR has an advantage over many other Earth-observing missions in that the data span a long period of time. The authors analyse over two years’ worth of data from EPIC. By looking at how these images change with time, on periods from hours to years, they work out the kind of imaging we would need of distant exoplanets in order to deduce their rotation periods, seasonal changes, weather, and surface type."
 

+ Awesome sauce. Because our neighboring Alpha Centauri stars look friendly to life.

 

 

The Highlight Reel

#95: A secret hospital for criminals

Last week was off because of family travel but we're back this week with a doozy. Let's gooooooooo!



PODCAST UPDATE

This week's question was: how the hell are we gonna feed 10 billion people? Our guest was Fred Iutzi, whose new perennial wheat makes for a damn delicious beer, and almost might save the world. Crack one open and check it out!

Subscribe now to get Tuesday's episode where we ask: what's the single most effective thing you can do to personally fight climate change?Guest Peter Kalmus, climate scientist at JPL, takes us through his journey.
 



 

On to the news!

Fuck Cancer, Volume XCIII 🖕

Doctors hail world first as woman’s advanced breast cancer is eradicated

"A woman with advanced breast cancer which had spread around her body has been completely cleared of the disease by a groundbreaking therapy that harnessed the power of her immune system to fight the tumours.

It is the first time that a patient with late-stage breast cancer has been successfully treated by a form of immunotherapy that uses the patient’s own immune cells to find and destroy cancer cells that have formed in the body.

Judy Perkins, an engineer from Florida, was 49 when she was selected for the radical new therapy after several rounds of routine chemotherapy failed to stop a tumour in her right breast from growing and spreading to her liver and other areas. At the time, she was given three years to live.

Doctors who cared for the woman at the US National Cancer Institute in Maryland said Perkins’s response had been “remarkable”: the therapy wiped out cancer cells so effectively that she has now been free of the disease for two years."
 

+ 🖕🖕🖕🖕🖕🖕🖕🖕🖕🖕🖕🖕🖕🖕🖕🖕
 

+ Ok, amazing news. Groundbreaking news. Game-changing news. Now that that's said, however, let's remember: the fight is nowhere near over. It's more complicated than ever. Science is hard. But progress is fucking awesome.
 

      - When immunology makes patients worse, not better
 

      - Immunotherapy could stop prostate cancer spreading, trial shows
 

      - For Some Breast Cancer Patients, The Chemo Decision Just Got Easier
 

      - Antibiotics greatly reduce effectiveness of immunotherapy for cancer – study
 

      - For Some Hard-To-Find Tumors, Doctors See Promise In Artificial Intelligence

 

 

Climate Change 🔥🌊💨

'Carbon bubble' could spark global financial crisis, study warns

"Plunging prices for renewable energy and rapidly increasing investment in low-carbon technologies could leave fossil fuel companies with trillions in stranded assets and spark a global financial crisis, a new study has found.

A sudden drop in demand for fossil fuels before 2035 is likely, according to the study, given the current global investments and economic advantages in a low-carbon transition.

...that is because advances in technologies for energy efficiency and renewable power, and the accompanying drop in their price, have made low-carbon energy much more economically and technically attractive."

 

Hurricane Maria Killed 75 Times More Puerto Ricans Than the Government Has Admitted

"The new study was led by a team of scientists from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, which surveyed more than 3,000 randomly selected Puerto Rican households in January. They used their responses to extrapolate the number of deaths on the islands that were either direct results of the hurricane—say, being hit by flying debris—or that took place due to aftermath of the storm, primarily from interrupted medical care. The researchers arrived at a “likely to be conservative” estimate of 4,645 deaths from September 20 through December 31, 2017; other statistical adjustments by the researchers push their final estimate above 5,000. 

During an October visit to the island, President Donald Trump opined that the low official death toll (then just 16) meant that Puerto Rico had avoided “a real catastrophe like Katrina.”
 

FEMA eventually attributed 1,800 some deaths to that 2005 Gulf Coast storm."
 

+ The new hurricane season started seven days ago. Is America Ready for the Next Superstorm?

+ More on climate change:
 

      - Hurricanes Are Lingering Longer. That Makes Them More Dangerous.
 

      - Mapped: The world’s coal power plants (pretty incredible depth of research)
 

      - Coal lobby fights black-lung tax as disease rates surge

 

 

Biology 401 💉👾💊 

The Nipah virus has a mortality rate of up to 70 percent and has no vaccine or cure. It just hit South India.

"A little-known virus discovered 20 years ago could become the next global pandemic.
 

A recent outbreak in South India has renewed interest in Nipah virus, a disease that generally spreads from bats or pigs to humans and kills nearly three-quarters of those infected. It has no vaccine and no cure. The virus has so far killed 11 in the current outbreak, with 14 additional cases confirmed. It has many strains capable of spreading from person to person, which increases the chances of a strain emerging that rapidly spreads among South Asia’s densely populated communities and beyond."
 

+ More bio:
 

      - Vaccines Alone Won’t Beat Ebola
 

      - This mock pandemic killed 150 million people. Next time it might not be a drill.
 

      - Scientists Kick Off Synthetic Biology Project to Make Virus-Resistant Super Cells
 

      - Antibiotic resistance crisis worsening because of collapse in supply

 

 

War 🚀🌎🔥

The Growing Dangers of the New Nuclear-Arms Race

"Less than a decade after President Barack Obama called for the abolition of nuclear weapons, the nine countries that possess them are engaged in a new nuclear-arms race. North Korea has most likely developed a hydrogen bomb, and its Hwasong-15 missiles may be large enough to transport not only a warhead but also decoys, chaff, and other countermeasures that would thwart America’s Ground-Based Midcourse Defense anti-ballistic-missile system. India recently commissioned its second ballistic-missile submarine, launched an Agni-5 ballistic missile that can strike targets throughout Pakistan and China, and tested nuclear-capable BrahMos and Nirbhay cruise missiles. Pakistan now has the world’s fastest-growing nuclear stockpile, including low-yield warheads on Hatf-9 missiles for use against Indian troops and armored vehicles. Israel is expanding the range of its Jericho III ballistic missiles and deploying cruise missiles with nuclear weapons on submarines. France and the United Kingdom are developing replacements for their Vanguard and Triomphant ballistic-missile submarines. China is about to introduce Dongfeng-41 ballistic missiles that will be mounted on trucks, loaded with up to ten nuclear warheads, and capable of reaching anywhere in the United States. Russia is building a wide range of new missiles, bombers, and submarines that will carry nuclear weapons. The R-28 Sarmat missile, nicknamed Satan-2, will carry up to sixteen nuclear warheads—more than enough for a single missile to destroy every American city with a population larger than a million people. Russia plans to build forty to fifty of the Satan-2s. Three other countries—Iran, Japan, and South Korea—may soon try to obtain their own nuclear arsenals."

 

The Highlight Reel

#94: This is a rebellion, isn't it?

Good morning!

We're at the point where the National Park Service is dropping stealth climate change reports with zero publicity so they don't get, you know, shut down. But they're-out-there-hustling-every-day. The time to fight is now.

Remember: text "Vote4Science" to 662266 and the Union of Concerned Scientists will not only provide you with opportunities to inject science into your local elections, but also send you important reminders on how to register, when to vote, and help you find your closest polling station. Bang.


PODCAST UPDATE

This week's guest was the Bad Astronomer himselfPhil Plait. The topic: simultaneously supporting good science and undermining anti-science, with as many diverse voices as possible. It's a new era for science communications. Join us.

Subscribe now to get Tuesday's episode with Dr. Gauntam Dantas. We talk the future of antibiotics. Which might be...no antibiotics. Ruh roh.

 

On to the news!

Biology 401 💉👾💊 

The Thing Inside Your Cells That Might Determine How Long You Live

"“We think the nucleolus plays an important role in regulating the life span of animals,” said Adam Antebi, a cellular biologist at the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing in Germany. He’s an author of a new review published last week in Trends in Cell Biology that examines all the new ways that researchers have fallen in love with the nucleolus — especially its role in aging.
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/20/science/nucleolus-cells-aging.html
...“We think that the smaller nucleoli may be a cellular hallmark of longevity” in certain cells under certain conditions, he added. 

More research is needed to see if the size of these structures are just markers for longevity or aging or if they actually cause it. 

“We’ve spent lots of money on trying to find biomarkers of longevity or aging, and maybe it’s just sitting under the microscope for us to see,” said Dr. Antebi."
 

+ More bio:
 

      - CRISPR Eradicates Latent HIV-1, Offering Hope of "Functional Cures"

      - Measles makes alarming return to Europe and the Americas

 

 

Climate Change 🔥🌊💨

These are your elected officials: Republican lawmaker: Rocks tumbling into ocean causing sea level rise

"The Earth is not warming. The White Cliffs of Dover are tumbling into the sea and causing sea levels to rise. Global warming is helping grow the Antarctic ice sheet.

Those are some of the skeptical assertions echoed by Republicans on the U.S. House of Representatives Science, Space and Technology Committee yesterday. The lawmakers at times embraced research that questions mainstream climate science during a hearing on how technology can be used to address global warming.

A leading climate scientist testifying before the panel spent much of the two hours correcting misstatements.
 

...Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) said that erosion plays a significant role in sea-level rise, which is not an idea embraced by mainstream climate researchers."
 

+ VOTE VOTE VOTE VOTE VOTE VOTE VOTE VOTE VOTE

 

 

‘Impossible to Ignore’: Why Alaska Is Crafting a Plan to Fight Climate Change

"Alaska, a major oil and gas producer, is crafting its own plan to address climate change. Ideas under discussion include cuts in state emissions by 2025 and a tax on companies that emit carbon dioxide.

While many conservative-leaning states have resisted aggressive climate policies, Alaska is already seeing the dramatic effects of global warming firsthand, making the issue difficult for local politicians to avoid. The solid permafrost that sits beneath many roads, buildings and pipelines is starting to thaw, destabilizing the infrastructure above. At least 31 coastal towns and cities may need to relocate, at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars, as protective sea ice vanishes and fierce waves erode Alaska’s shores."
 

+ More climate:
 

      - Meeting Paris climate goals could save the world trillions of dollars
 

      - Investors overseeing $10.5 TRILLION in assets call for oil and gas industriestake responsibility for their emissions
 

      - Young climate activists have something to say -- but the GOP isn't listening

 

 

Fuck Cancer, Volume XCIII 🖕

How gut microbes are joining the fight against cancer

"Cancer has been a late bloomer in the microbiome revolution that has surged through biomedicine. Over the past few decades, scientists have linked the gut’s composition of microbes to dozens of seemingly unrelated conditions — from depression to obesity. Cancer has some provocative connections as well: inflammation is a contributing factor to some tumours and a few types of cancer have infectious origins. But with the explosive growth of a new class of drug — cancer immunotherapies — scientists have been taking a closer look at how the gut microbiome might interact with treatment and how these interactions might be harnessed.
 

Some of these microbes activate inflammatory responses and disrupt the mucus layers that protect the body from outside invaders, creating an environment that supports tumour growth. In other cases, they promote cancer survival by making cells resistant to anticancer drugs.

But gut bacteria can also help fight tumours."

+ It's very early, it's very iffy, but it's something
 

+ More cancer: 
 

       - New Cancer Treatments Lie Hidden Under Mountains of Paperwork (someone please please please please fix this incredibly complicated problem)

 

 

Clean Energy 💨☀️⚡️

Dismissive and deceptive car dealerships create barriers to electric vehicle adoption at the point of sale

"In 126 shopping experiences at 82 car dealerships across Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, we find that dealers were dismissive of EVs, misinformed shoppers on vehicle specifications, omitted EVs from the sales conversation and strongly oriented customers towards petrol and diesel vehicle options."
 

+ Not surprising, not helpful. Especially as electric SUVs roll out.
 

+ More clean energy: 
 

      - Massachusetts Gains Foothold in Offshore
Wind Power

 

      - Solar farm outside Joshua Tree National Park gets go-ahead from Trump administration 

 

 

The Highlight Reel

#93: I'll always be your dirty computer

Primaries are kicking into gear, kids. Too many new names out there? The Union of Concerned Scientists has your back:

Text "Vote4Science" to 662266 and they'll not only provide you with opportunities to inject science into your local elections, but also send you important reminders on how to register, when to vote, and help you find your closest polling station. Bang.



PODCAST UPDATE

This week's guest was Jason Friesen, and we discussed upgrading emergency response services in the age of climate change. He's already saved six lives today. Brian? Listen in!

Subscribe now to get Tuesday's episode with the only and only "Bad Astronomer", Phil Plait! We talked building a new science movement in America in 2018, as well as space, Oregon Trail, and Indiana Jones.
 



 

On to the news!

Biology 401 💉👾💊 

As D.I.Y. Gene Editing Gains Popularity, ‘Someone Is Going to Get Hurt’

"In a recent interview, Mr. Gandall, now 18 and a research fellow at Stanford, said he only wants to ensure open access to gene-editing technology, believing future biotech discoveries may come from the least expected minds.

But he is quick to acknowledge that the do-it-yourself genetics revolution one day may go catastrophically wrong.

“Even I would tell you, the level of DNA synthesis regulation, it simply isn’t good enough,” Mr. Gandall said. “These regulations aren’t going to work when everything is decentralized — when everybody has a DNA synthesizer on their smartphone.”

The most pressing worry is that someone somewhere will use the spreading technology to create a bioweapon.

Already a research team at the University of Alberta has recreated from scratch an extinct relative of smallpox, horsepox, by stitching together fragments of mail-order DNA in just six months for about $100,000 — without a glance from law enforcement officials."
 

+ I mean WHAT
 

+ More bio:
 

      - Vaccines Are Pushing Pathogens to Evolve (great perfect)
 

      - WHO prioritizes diagnostic tests for global health threats

 

 

Climate Change 🔥🌊💨

In the Arctic, the Old Ice Is Disappearing

"In the Arctic Ocean, some ice stays frozen year-round, lasting for many years before melting. But this winter, the region hit a record low for ice older than five years.

This, along with a near-record low for sea ice over all, supports predictions that by midcentury there will be no more ice in the Arctic Ocean in summer.

As darker, heat-absorbing water replaces reflective ice, it hastens warming in the region. Older ice is generally thicker than newer ice and thus more resilient to heat. But as the old ice disappears, the newer ice left behind is more vulnerable to rising temperatures."
 

+ Cue up those sea level rise predictions again.

 

 

These Badass Moms Are Raising Kids to Save the Planet

"Earther spoke with some moms behind the 21 youth plaintiffs who have launched a lawsuit against the U.S. government in 2015. Here are just a few of the women raising the climate warriors taking our government to court."
 

Here's just one quote:
 

"(My son) grew up in a community and family where concern for the world was just a part of everything we do.”

+ Nature vs. nurture (pun completely intentional) amiright???

+ More on climate change:

      - @DrVox David Roberts on why California's new mandate on solar panels isn't necessarily a good thing.

      - A detailed assessment of exactly how fucked Southern California isregarding, you know, drinking water

      - Much of the world doesn't have A/C. But they want it. That's bad.

      - First map of global freshwater trends shows "human fingerprint"(how's YOUR city fare?)

 

 

 

The Final Frontier/Escape Hatch 🚀

NASA hasn't funded the search for extraterrestrial intelligence for 25 years. That's about to change.

"In the last few years, several astronomical discoveries have permeated major news cycles and garnered considerable attention. There was Tabby’s Star, a distant star with a jumble of objects floating around it (that astronomers later determined was probably just dust.) There was TRAPPIST-1, a system of seven planets, with several orbiting in their star’s habitable zone. And there was ‘Oumuamua, the first known interstellar object that Milner instructed astronomers to check for signs of artificial technology. They didn’t detect any, but for a time, the thought of getting a positive result, however unlikely, was exhilarating.

Since its inception, SETI has suffered from a giggle factor. Today, after 25 years of discoveries and breakthroughs and progress, the suggestion that we might someday—and perhaps someday soon—stumble upon an alien civilization, even the remains of one, doesn’t seem quite so silly anymore."

 

Fuck Cancer, Volume XCIII 🖕

A frustrating setback for immunotherapy

"The companies say they aren't dropping the potential drugs, designed to unleash the immune system on cancer cells by blocking an enzyme called indoleamine (2,3)-dioxygenase. But the retrenching suggests that the frenzy to combine novel drugs with the wildly successful immune checkpoint inhibitors is outpacing the science."

 

The Highlight Reel

#92: This is my partner Detective Terrible Detective

Some ridiculous headlines this week. But as always, dig in for the full story. And then start a conversation.

Spread the word.

Save the world.



PODCAST UPDATE

This week's guest was Dr. Kate Marvel, research scientist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia University’s Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics.

We talked about exactly what goes into those mythical climate computer models, and how it's all Brian's fault. And clouds. CLOUDS, man. Listen up.

Subscribe now to get Tuesday's episode with Jason Friesen, founder and executive director of Trek Medics, as we discuss the current and future state of emergency medical systems in the age of climate change.
 



 

On to the news!

The Final Frontier/Escape Hatch 🚀

NASA pushes its Moon and Mars ambitions

"Between the lines: NASA funding is key to human exploration of Mars, and some worry a mission to the moon could divert resources needed to reach the Red Planet. The agency is looking for the commercial space industry to take on more low-Earth orbit and lunar activities.

When it comes to NASA resources for an eventual Mars mission, the moon is “the elephant in the room,” Artemis Westenberg, president of Explore Mars, said at the Humans to Mars Summit this week."

Related:

      - Will it cost a trillion dollars to get mankind to Mars? Is that cheap?

      - What the hell is the Deep Space Gateway and why is it so important (and so damn far away?)

      - And how the hell are we going to get there? Good news: NASA’s Orion spacecraft getting closer to finally flying again.

      - On the other hand: Simulated Moon Dust Kills Cells and Alters DNA, Signaling Trouble for Future Lunar Colonists

 

Biology 401 💉👾💊 

Two parter. You ready?

Part I: Pandemic flu is #1 health security concern: WH official

"The U.S. won't be ready to face a flu pandemic until it improves its vaccines, health care infrastructure, and coordination with other countries— all of which are top priorities for the White House, a National Security Council official said Monday.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Anthony Fauci, who was not part of the symposium, told Axios on Friday that, assuming funding continues and trials go well, "some version of the universal vaccine" should be ready in 4–5 years, with the goal of creating a fully functioning universal vaccine in 10 years."

 

Part II:

Top White House official in charge of pandemic response exits abruptly

"The top White House official responsible for leading the U.S. response in the event of a deadly pandemic has left the administration, and the global health security team he oversaw has been disbanded under a reorganization by national security adviser John Bolton.

The abrupt departure of Rear Adm. Timothy Ziemer from the National Security Council means no senior administration official is now focused solely on global health security. Ziemer’s departure, along with the breakup of his team, comes at a time when many experts say the country is already underprepared for the increasing risks of a pandemic or bioterrorism attack.

Ziemer’s last day was Tuesday, the same day a new Ebola outbreak was declared in Congo. He is not being replaced."

+ Happy Friday!

+ Related:

      - More on the Congo outbreaking, coming on the heels of Trump cutting funding

      - Re: saving the world. Why some bacteria eat antibiotics and what we can do about it

 

Climate Change 🔥🌊💨

Pentagon revised Obama-era report to remove risks from climate change

"Internal changes to a draft Defense Department report de-emphasized the threats climate change poses to military bases and installations, muting or removing references to climate-driven changes in the Arctic and potential risks from rising seas, an unpublished draft obtained by The Washington Post reveals.

The earlier version of the document, dated December 2016, contains numerous references to “climate change” that were omitted or altered to “extreme weather” or simply “climate” in the final report, which was submitted to Congress in January 2018. While the phrase “climate change” appears 23 separate times in the draft report, the final version used it just once."

 

What genuine, no-bullshit ambition on climate change would look like

"Americans can’t make much sense out of Celsius temperatures, and half a degree of temperature doesn’t sound like much regardless. But the difference between 1.5 and 2 degrees of global warming is a very big deal.(The IPCC is coming out with a science review on this in October.)

Another recent paper in Nature Climate Changemakes the point vividly: Bumping ambition up from 2 to 1.5 degrees would prevent 150 million premature deaths through 2100, 90 million through reduced exposure to particulates, 60 million due to reduced ozone.

There’s no time to waste. In fact, there may be, uh, negative time. Limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees is possible, even in theory, only if the “carbon budget” for that target is at the high end of current estimates. 
Again: 1.5 is only possible if we get started, with boosters on, immediately, and we get lucky. Time is not running out — it’s out."

+ An incredibly detailed and typically objectively-considered piece by David Roberts at Vox. Please (please) read the whole thing.

+ Related:

      - California Will Require Solar Power for New Homes (yes, you read that correctly)

      - Hawaii pledges to become carbon neutral by 2045—the most ambitious goal of any US state

      - Automakers Sought Looser Rules. Now They Hope to Stop Trump From Going Too Far.

            - And related to thatThe future of electrics is the pickup truck

 

Fuck Cancer, Volume XCII 🖕

Artificial Intelligence Takes Scientists Inside Living Human Cells

"By giving scientists a relatively easy and inexpensive way to compare the internal organization of healthy and unhealthy cells, he says, the model should speed efforts to figure out what goes wrong in diseases like cancer.

The model, known as the Allen Integrated Cell, was developed using artificial intelligence. A computer programmed to learn studied images of tens of thousands of live human stem cells. Some of the cells had been genetically altered to make visible internal structures such as mitochondria. Others were unaltered cells, viewed through a standard laboratory microscope.

Over time, the computer learned to look at an image of a typical cell and figure out its internal organization."

 

The Highlight Reel

#91: *Why* is Gamora?

Barreling towards issue #100! Let's dig in.



PODCAST UPDATE

This week's guest was Akshat Rathi, London-based journalist at Quartz who broke a number of stories in his excellent series on carbon capture last year. The future is here. Listen now.

Subscribe now to get Tuesday's episode with Dr. Kate Marvel, NASA scientist and "all-powerful climate seer" (our words, not hers). Will clouds save us, or screw us? Get nerdy with us.
 



 

On to the news!

Biology 401 💉👾💊 

Bill Gates calls on U.S. to lead fight against a pandemic that could kill 33 million

"Bill Gates says the U.S. government is falling short in preparing the nation and the world for the “significant probability of a large and lethal modern-day pandemic occurring in our lifetimes.”

In an interview this week, the billionaire philanthropist said he has raised the issue of pandemic preparedness with President Trump since the 2016 presidential election. In his most recent meeting last month, Gates said he laid out the increasing risk of a bioterrorism attack and stressed the importance of U.S. funding for advanced research on new therapeutics, including a universal flu vaccine, which would protect against all or most strains of influenza."

+ Fun! Related:

      - Inside the secret U.S. stockpile meant to save us all in a bioterror attack

 

The Hunt for Wonder Drugs at the North Pole

"To the 24 scientists on board the Helmer Hanssen, a 209-foot, navy-blue-hulled fishing-boat-turned-research-vessel, the scene was deeply familiar. Most of the members of the team are based in Norway, at the University of Tromsø—the northernmost university in the world—where they are part of a lab called Marbio; the Helmer Hanssen is their home during annual, and sometimes biannual, trips in search of undiscovered organisms. The group is looking for compounds that have novel effects on other living substances, hoping that some of their finds will lead to new, lifesaving treatments for cancer and drug-resistant infections in humans. Their type of mission—traveling deep into rain forests, or to the top of the world, to look for rare, microscopic life—is called bioprospecting."

+ More on the body:

      - Lyme disease is set to explode and we still don’t have a vaccine - or do we ?

      - Biology Will Be the Next Great Computing Platform

 

Climate Change 🔥🌊💨

California, 17 other states sue Trump administration to defend Obama-era climate rules for vehicles

"Twelve other states participating in the lawsuit — including New York — have followed California in setting more stringent emission standards. The total market involved is 36 percent of sales in the United States, according to Margo Oge, a former EPA official who helped the agency set auto regulations during the Obama years.

“If you are a car company, that is a pretty big deal. You have uncertainty how this thing is going to work out, and today you have to be investing in cars you’re going to build five years from now,” she said.

The current standards were created under a 2011 agreement reached among the Obama administration, California officials and automakers. If enacted, they would avert 6 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles sold between 2012 and 2025, according to the EPA.

Since the rules were issued, the transportation sector has outstripped electric power to become the top source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States."

+ More:

      - India Scores New Solar Record — 4.6 Gigawatts of New Large-Scale Solar Installations in Q1

      - UK's reliance on coal drops to almost 0 since 2012

      - California and rest of southwest (1 in 8 Americans) are facing massive water issues in coming century

 

Fuck Cancer, Volume XC 🖕

‘Desperation Oncology’: When Patients Are Dying, Some Cancer Doctors Turn to Immunotherapy

"Dr. Oliver Sartor has a provocative question for patients who are running out of time.

Most are dying of prostate cancer. They have tried every standard treatment, to no avail. New immunotherapy drugs, which can work miracles against a few types of cancer, are not known to work for this kind.

Still, Dr. Sartor, assistant dean for oncology at Tulane Medical School, asks a diplomatic version of this: Do you want to try an immunotherapy drug before you die?

The chance such a drug will help is vanishingly small — but not zero. “Under rules of desperation oncology, you engage in a different kind of oncology than the rational guideline thought,” Dr. Sartor said."

+ More:

      - GRAIL Announces Data from Prototype Blood Tests for Early Cancer Detection -- it's a start.

 

Robots & AI 🤖🧠⚡️

FDA chief moves to promote artificial intelligence in health care

"The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is moving to encourage the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in health care, the agency’s chief said Thursday. 

“AI holds enormous promise for the future of medicine,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in prepared remarks to the Health Datapalooza conference in Washington, D.C. 

He said the FDA is working on an updated “new regulatory framework” that will allow regulators to keep up with new technology and “promote innovation in this space.”"

+ Other (crossover) AI news:

      - Can AI find ET?

      - Putin's investing heavily in an AI war machine (just like us, and China). Good times.

 

The Highlight Reel

#90: By Grabthar's hammer...what a savings.

Welcome back!

We're at issue #90, which is kind of crazy. Almost two years in. Thanks to the OG's here since the beginning, and to everyone just tuning in. 

We're kind of at Important, Not Important 3.0. Where we started with a simple newsletter, we've now got...a newsletter, still, but also a kickass weekly podcast, and a full-blown website.

Speaking of the website, it's become a great resource for new readers or listeners, or those just wanting to dig deeper on specific issues. On that front, we've now got:

  • A full newsletter archive. Over 100,000 words, fully tagged for your browsing enjoyment.
     
  • A podcast episode directory with show notes, links to the episodes, and full transcripts you can either read on the site, or add to Pocket for reading on the toilet.
     
  • The website is now fully searchable!
     
  • And this week, we launched our real merchandise store! Check out our t-shirts featuring the iconic Important, Not Important badge, our "space" themed shirt, our awesome new hoodies, and co-branded Klean Kanteens for all your caffeine needs.
     
  • Every dollar you spend accomplishes two things:
     
    • 1. Rocking cool INI threads helps promote the mission
       
    • 2. You help keep the business humming. We've taken no funding, and given away no equity. Website production, web hosting, podcast hosting and production, recording gear, snacks, Brian's endless coffee needs...it ain't cheap. So thanks for keeping the lights on.



PODCAST UPDATE

This week's guest was Emily Cassidy, sustainability manager at the excellent California Academy of Sciences and PlanetVision. We talked the present and future of America's troubled food system. Dig in! (haha get it like at a dinner when someone says "dig in"? Because we talked about food)

Subscribe now to get Tuesday's episode with Akshat Rathi, the Quartz journalist who spent much of last year covering the emerging carbon capture industry, and how it could change the fight against climate change. 
 



 

On to the news!

Biology 401 💉👾💊 

Let's start with the good news: CRISPR Founder Wants to Use Crispr to Diagnose Disease -- in a kit.

"In a paper published in Science in February, Doudna and two other Mammoth co-founders, Janice Chen and Lucas Harrington, showcased how Cas12a could accurately identify different types of the human papillomavirus in human samples. Like Cas9, Cas12a latches on to a DNA strand when it reaches its genetic target, then slices. But then it does something Cas9 doesn’t: It starts shredding up any single-stranded DNA it finds.

So the researchers decided to hack that hunger for nucleotides. First they programmed Cas12a to chop two strains of HPV that can cause cancer.They added it, along with a “reporter molecule”—a piece of single-stranded DNA that releases a fluorescent signal when cut—to test tubes containing human cells. The samples that had been infected with HPV glowed; the healthy ones didn’t."

+ Bill Gates on the promise of CRISPR

 

How Much Are You 'Smoking' by Breathing Urban Air?

"“Here is the rule of thumb: one cigarette per day is the rough equivalent of a PM2.5 level of 22 μg/m3 (...) Of course, unlike cigarette smoking, the pollution reaches every age group,” the study reads. It finds that Beijing has on average a PM2.5 level of 85 μg/m3, which makes for four cigarettes; Los Angeles County registered an average of half a daily cigarette, or 12 μg/m3, in 2016.

Using the formula in the article, Coelho and Martiny designed an ad-free interface that uses live pollution data from hundreds of air quality stations in cities around the globe and converts the station’s PM2.5 number into the number of cigarettes being inhaled by a person in real time. The app launched on April 1 and can be downloaded for free through Google Playor App Store."

+ Related:
     
      - How’s the Air in London? ‘We Should Be Worried’
     
      - California has eight of 10 most polluted U.S. cities

+ More on disease:

      - New York mice are crawling with bacteria and viruses

      - The deadliest animal in the world is the mosquito

      - Infant Deaths Fall Sharply in Africa With Routine Antibiotics

 

Climate Change 🔥🌊💨

Who’s Most Responsible for Global Warming?

Answer: mostly us. And by "us", I mean the US. Though it's evening out. Image from the New York times, below.



+ More climate:

      - China's anti-pollution efforts might just pay for themselves -- in health benefits

      - Carbon capture tech + ethanol factories = save the planet? Yes?

      - Cars are "blue states" last obstacle/tool for fighting climate change
 

 

Can Dirt Save the Earth?

"The cows beat back the encroaching brush. Within weeks of their arrival, new and different kinds of grass began sprouting. Shallow-rooted annuals, which die once they’re chewed on, gave way to deep-rooted perennials, which can recover after moderate grazing. By summer’s end, the cows, which had arrived shaggy and wild-eyed after a winter spent near the sea, were fat with shiny coats. When Wick returned the herd to its owner that fall, collectively it had gained about 50,000 pounds. Wick needed to take an extra trip with his trailer to cart the cows away. That struck him as remarkable. The land seemed richer than before, the grass lusher. Meadowlarks and other animals were more abundant. Where had that additional truckload of animal flesh come from?

Creque had an answer for him. The carbohydrates that fattened the cows had come from the atmosphere, by way of the grass they ate. Grasses, he liked to say, were like straws sipping carbon from the air, bringing it back to earth. Creque’s quiet observation stuck with Wick and Rathmhttps://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/18/magazine/dirt-save-earth-carbon-farming-climate-change.htmlann. It clearly illustrated a concept that Creque had repeatedly tried to explain to them: Carbon, the building block of life, was constantly flowing from atmosphere to plants into animals and then back into the atmosphere. And it hinted at something that Wick and Rathmann had yet to consider: Plants could be deliberately used to pull carbon out of the sky."

 

Fuck Cancer, Volume XC 🖕

How Cancer Can Become Therapy-Resistant

"It is well established that cancer is a disease of our genes. However, resistance to therapy might go beyond cancer mutations that usually alter the function of genes. It may not be new mutations that are causing resistance to drugs. The DNA can stay the same, but cancer cells adapt to therapy and outsmart the drugs by switching their gene activity.

While such adaptations do not affect the DNA itself, a hidden layer of regulation controlling the activity of genes—epigenetic signals—is responsible for whether cancer cells survive or not, despite the drug a patient is taking. By targeting this hidden program, one can overcome deadly cancer resistance."

+ More on cancer:

      - Lung Cancer Patients Live Longer With Immune Therapy

      - The First “Cell-Free” CRISPR Tech Is Here To Personalize Cancer Treatment
 

 

The Final Frontier/Escape Hatch 🚀

Everything you need to know about TESS, NASA's planet-finding space observatory, by @badastronomer

"Kepler was designed to look deep into the galaxy, sensitive to faint stars to maximize the number of planets it could find. The question Kepler was tasked to answer is "How many and what kind of exoplanets are out there?"

TESS will answer a different but no less important question: "Where are the nearest rocky planets?"

To do this, it will scan a staggering 85% of the sky (an area 400 times larger than Kepler did) to look at the 200,000 or so of the brightest stars, measuring their brightness and seeking out transits. These stars are preferentially closer to the Earth (less than about 300 light-years or so), so it will find some of the nearest exoplanets in the galaxy."

+ MOAR SPACE:

      - About 17,000 Big Near-Earth Asteroids Remain Undetected: How NASA Could Spot Them

 

The Highlight Reel

#89: Lighten up, Francis

Coming at you live from NYC where we'll be participating in the second March for Science tomorrow. Join us in Washington Square Park at 9 AM -- we'll have stickers!


Just a reminder that we're off next week because vacation



PODCAST UPDATE

This week's guest was the excellent Dr. Sam Scarpino, who talked us through modeling infectious disease outbreaks and the importance of cross-disciplinary work. Check it out today.

Subscribe now to get Tuesday's episode with Mayor Serge Dedina of Imperial Beach, California. Why's the mayor of this tiny blue-collar town important? Because he was the first mayor to sue the fossil fuel companies, that's why. And righteous social justice runs in his veins. Get on board.
 



 

On to the news!

Biology 401 💉👾💊 

Scientists are thinking the unthinkable: CRISPR might one day reverse devastating brain diseases

"She cannot use her hands, and must be fed through a tube, all of which is tragically standard for girls with severe Rett syndrome, a brain disorder that usually strikes during toddlerhood and is caused by a genetic mutation.

It may seem unlikely, then, that such a devastating condition is near the front of the line of brain disorders that scientists believe might one day be treated with genome editing technologies such as CRISPR. By “treated,” they don’t mean just keeping a disease from getting worse. They mean reversing the damage and giving the brain a second chance: CRISPR would penetrate the brain of a patient who has lived with a disorder for years and repair the mutation that caused it, unleashing the brain’s capacity of neuroplasticity to weave new circuitry, grow new neurons, or otherwise do right what it did wrong when the mutant gene called the shots."

 

Climate Change 🔥🌊💨

Welcome to the dark place, Shell

"Internal company documents uncovered by a Dutch news organization show that the oil giant Shell had a deep understanding, dating at least to the 1980s, of the science and risks of global warming caused by fossil fuel emissions.

They show that as the company pondered its responsibility to act, Shell's scientists urged it to heed the early warnings, even if, as they said, it might take until the 2000s for the mounting evidence to prove greenhouse gases in the atmosphere were causing unnatural climate change.

"With the very long time scales involved, it would be tempting for society to wait until then before doing anything," company researchers wrote in a 1988 report based on studies completed in 1986. "The potential implications for the world are, however, so large that policy options need to be considered much earlier. And the energy industry needs to consider how it should play its part."

Otherwise, a team of Shell experts said, "it could be too late to take effective countermeasures to reduce the effects or even to stabilize the situation.""

+ More climate change, here:

      - How Lyme disease became the first epidemic of climate change

      - Carbon taxes (editor's note: or really, anything) could make a dent in climate change, study finds

      - Arctic melting could worsen future California droughts
 

 

This is just...well. "Global warming is now slowing down the circulation of the oceans — with potentially dire consequences"

"Last week, we learned about the possible destabilization of the Totten Glacier of East Antarctica, which could unleash over 11 feet of sea level rise in coming centuries.

And now this week brings news of another potential mega-scale perturbation. According to a new study just out in Nature Climate Change by Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and a group of co-authors, we’re now seeing a slowdown of the great ocean circulation that, among other planetary roles, helps to partly drive the Gulf Stream off the U.S. east coast. The consequences could be dire – including significant extra sea level rise for coastal cities like New York and Boston."

+ And more in the #raceagainsttime:

      - Solar power eclipsed fossil fuels in new 2017 generating capacity: U.N.

      - Poor countries are investing a lot more than rich countries in renewable energy

 

Fuck Cancer, Volume LXXXIX 🖕

Science is hard: Incyte’s cancer drug fails trial, marking major blow for immunotherapy combination treatment

"he first real clinical test of the cancer immunotherapy combination thesis has come back negative.
Incyte said Friday that its experimental drug epacadostat failed to improve the efficacy of Merck’s checkpoint inhibitor Keytruda when the two drugs were used together to treat patients with newly diagnosed melanoma.

The negative outcome of the Incyte Phase 3 clinical trial, known as ECHO-301, has far-ranging ramifications. It’s a big setback for Incyte and for melanoma patients. But the trial results could also ripple across the fledgling cancer immunotherapy field and the biotech stock sector."

+ More on cancer:

      - Scientists zoom in on why some respond to lymphoma treatments
 

 

Robots & AI 🤖🧠⚡️

The US military desperately wants to weaponize AI

"Michael Griffin, Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, signaled how keen the military is to make use of AI at the Future of War 2018 conference held in Washington, DC, yesterday.

“There might be an artificial intelligence arms race, but we’re not yet in it,” Griffin said. In reference to China and Russia, he added, “I think our adversaries—and they are our adversaries—understand very well the possible future utility of machine learning, and I think it’s time we did as well.”"

+ DARPA's doing crazy shit, too.

 

The Highlight Reel

#88: Great Scott!

Scott Pruitt is a super-villain sent from another dimension who, honestly, is so very corrupt, that, should I create a character exactly like him for a movie, I would be instructed to "dial it back".

Quick summary of the last two weeks for the man in the position most able to either save or murder the planet: rented a house for $50 a night from an energy lobbyist, dropped new car fuel standards, implemented draconian new rules on scientific studies at the EPA, and told EPA workers to lie about climate change.

He is, and will forever be, my archnemesis.


A BIT OF HOUSEKEEPING

We were unexpectedly off last week as this is basically a 1.5 man shop and we've got a bunch of big projects underway. Apologies. 

Here's our off-days for the rest of the year:

April 20
July 20
November 23
December 28



PODCAST UPDATE

This week's guest was David Hawkins, climate director for the National Resources Defense Council. We talked carbon capture and yodeling. Must listen.

Subscribe now to get Tuesday's episode with Dr. Sam Scarpino, when we talk forecasting and modeling infectious diseases. Yay!
 



 

On to the news!

Biology 401 💉👾💊 

At Hamburger Central, Antibiotics for Cattle That Aren’t Sick

"Dr. Holland is the director of research at Cactus Feeders, a feedlot giant. During a recent visit, I found myself surrounded by men with Ph.D.s and cowboy hats like Dr. Holland. Several wore jackets bearing drug company logos that were sure to smell of steamed corn and flatulent cattle by day’s end. 

Behind Dr. Holland, antibiotics were stacked in large bags rising to his shoulders. Every day, cattle here, whether sick or healthy, are given antibiotics in their feed. 

But it’s an increasingly debated practice on industrial farms. 

Bacteria resistant to antibiotics turn up in turkey, pork chops and ground beef in the United States; in grocery store chickens in Britain; and at poultry farms in China. Antibiotic residues are found in groundwater, drinking water and streams, and in feedlot manure used as fertilizer.

Some 70 percent to 80 percent of American antibiotic sales go to livestock. In addition to the emergence of resistant disease strains, some microbiologists worry that the proliferation of antibiotics, despite their miraculous health benefits, is having a chaotic impact on microbes in the human gut."

+ Lawmakers are continually getting pushed to do something about this, because eventually you get headlines like this: 

Unusual forms of 'nightmare' antibiotic-resistant bacteria detected in 27 states

+ For more, check out our podcast episode with Dr. Nahid Bhadelia.

 

Clean Energy 💨☀️⚡️

The good news: The Netherlands is building the world’s first subsidy-free offshore wind farms

"The Dutch government awarded contracts to Swedish energy firm Vattenfall to build two wind farms in the North Sea. The power they create will be sold on the open market and not subsidized by public funds.

But: It’s worth noting that the government will absorb some costs for the facility, such as the expense of connecting the farms to the grid, according to the Maritime Executive."

+ The not-great news we seriously need to do something about: at this rate, it’s going to take nearly 400 years to transform the energy system.

 

Climate Change 🔥🌊💨

Indiana lawmaker's proposed tax credit could save coal industry billions

There's so many items we could lead with for climate change, but this two-hander really seems to explain the shit we're up against: 

"A new bill introduced by U.S. Congressman Larry Bucshon could provide over $3 billion in tax breaks to owners of coal-fired power plants in its first year, according to an IndyStar analysis.

Rep. Bucshon, a Republican who represents Southwest Indiana, introduced the Electricity Reliability and Fuel Security Act earlier this month. The bill would give owners of coal-fired power plants a tax credit for 30 percent of their operation and maintenance costs or $13 multiplied by the nameplate capacity of the plant, whichever is lesser. Nameplate capacity is a measure of a plant's maximum output. The tax credit would be in place for five years."

+ Ok. So. Got it? These are the people and ideas we're dealing with. Ready for the turn?

 

New reports: Contaminants from coal ash at levels 40 times above safe drinking water standards

"Near many of Indiana's coal-fired power plants, the ground water is a toxic mix of arsenic, boron, cobalt, lead, molybdenum, radium and thallium, new Environmental Protection Agency data reveal.

Recently released reports, using data collected for the first time, raises questions about groundwater safety and is likely to prompt a debate about how the state with the nation's highest concentration of coal ash pits will react.

How far such pollutants have migrated from the power plants that created them, and the possible effects on neighboring residential wells have not been determined."

+ THIS REPORT IS FROM HIS HOME STATE. THESE PEOPLE DO NOT CARE ABOUT YOUR HEALTH. YOUR CHILDREN. YOUR BODIES. 

 

Fuck Cancer, Volume LXXXVII 🖕

Gradual release of immunotherapy at site of tumor surgery prevents tumors from returning

"A new study by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute scientists suggests it may be possible to prevent tumors from recurring and to eradicate metastatic growths by implanting a gel containing immunotherapy during surgical removal of a tumor."

 

War 🚀🌎🔥

Artificial intelligence is rapidly transforming the art of war

"Several months ago, Vladimir Putin said, “Artificial intelligence is the future, not only for Russia, but for all humankind ... whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.” Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its sister technologies will be the engine behind the fourth industrial revolution, which the World Economic Forum described as “unlike anything humankind has experienced before.”

These technologies are capturing people’s imagination. However, one area remains in the shadow of public discourse: AI’s implications for national security and future warfare.

AI’s promise, in the context of national security and armed conflicts, is rooted in three main fields: improving efficiency through automation and optimization; automation of human activities; and the ability to influence human behavior by personalizing information and changing the way information is shared."

 

Robots & AI 🤖🧠⚡️

A Cyberattack Hobbles Atlanta, and Security Experts Shudder

"Atlanta’s municipal government has been brought to its knees since Thursday morning by a ransomware attack — one of the most sustained and consequential cyberattacks ever mounted against a major American city.

The digital extortion aimed at Atlanta, which security experts have linked to a shadowy hacking crew known for its careful selection of targets, laid bare once again the vulnerabilities of governments as they rely on computer networks for day-to-day operations."

 

Waymo Isn’t Going to Slow Down Now

"For (John Krafcik, chief executive officer of Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo, the self-driving car company), the Uber crash video validated the philosophy Waymo had been following long before he joined, back when it was still part of Google: Never trust humans in cars."

+ Just a reminder that human drivers are averaging 1.3 million people dead in road crashes each year. That's 3,287 deaths a day.

+ More on AI: 

      - Artificial-intelligence tool that has digested nearly every reaction everperformed could transform chemistry

 

The Highlight Reel

#87: Harry, the clock on that nine-foot nuclear weapon is ticking.

Apologies for the delay. Sick kids. Rain in Los Angeles. Basically the apocalypse. 

We don't usually cover Trump's cabinet appointments here but you'll have to excuse the momentary lapse as it's not often a warmonger like John Bolton, once thought long dead, is appointed to a (non-confirmation - perfect!) post as #vital as National Security Advisor.

So. I don't know. Definitely a bit thrown off this morning. There's more below. Don't like it, either? Get out and march this weekend. Call your reps. Use your vote. Flip some seats.

Let's make some change.



PODCAST UPDATE

This week's guest was Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, Director of Infection Control and Medical Response at National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory. That's right -- zombies. Sort of. Check it out here.

Subscribe now to get Tuesday's episode with illustrator, author, mom, and Aussie Megan Herbert, co-author of The Tantrum That Saved The World, a remarkable new kids' book about a little girl who stares down the climate crisis and channels tantrum power into positive action to save the world. 
 



 

On to the news!

Biology 401 💉👾💊 

13-Year-Old Boy Is First Person in US to Receive Newly Approved Gene Therapy for Blindness

"On Tuesday, a 13-year-old boy from New Jersey was at the center of medical history as he became the first person in the US to receive an FDA-approved gene therapy for an inherited disease. The event marks the beginning of a new era of medicine, one in which devastating genetic conditions that we are born with can be simply edited out of our DNA with the help of modern biomedical technologies."

+ One hiccup: this particular ground-breaking treatment cost $425,000. An excellent recap from STAT, here.

+ In other bio news:

      - Pakistan Is Racing to Combat the World’s First Extensively Drug-Resistant Typhoid Outbreak

      - The Struggle to Build a Massive ‘Biobank’ of Patient Data

 

Climate Change 🔥🌊💨

Car makers are pieces of shit. 

"Last month, one of the largest lobbying groups argued in a regulatory filing that the basic science behind climate change is not to be trusted.

In the same filing, the lobbying group, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, also cast doubt on the negative effects of tailpipe pollution on human health."

+ But this shouldn't surprise you. This is the same alliance of almost every automaker you know who -- the DAY AFTER Trump was elected -- sent him a letter arguing Obama's new tailpipe standards, the ones they co-developed, were too stringent. And now they're arguing against basic science. Fuck you.

 

What you learn from giving 200 climate speeches to your fellow senators

"Every week the Senate has been in session since April 2012, one lonely Democratic senator from Rhode Island, Sheldon Whitehouse, has taken to the Senate floor to speak about global warming. On March 13, Senator Whitehouse gave his 200th “It’s Time to Wake Up” speech on climate change."

+ That's action, folks. 

+ More on climate and clean energy:

      - Fourth Wave Environmentalism Fully Embraces Business

      - Pruitt signals war with California over CAFE mileage standards

      - The Koch Brothers Vs. God: when the black churches fought back

      - The Arctic’s carbon bomb might be even more potent than we thought

      - China's clean energy hustle is getting some respect

+ It's easy to make fun of California, but remember: we feed you. And if climate change continues, we may not be able to do so.

Oh, but California? Come down off that pedestal. We have to do our part, which means we're going to need serious housing reform, and to basically stop driving our precious vehicles.

 

Fuck Cancer, Volume LXXXVII 🖕

What's next for immunotherapy?

"Cancer immunotherapies that trigger a person's own immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells have logged some success in certain patients and with certain types of cancers. "But overall that is a minority of cancer patients," says Antoni Ribas from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Now, researchers are looking to leverage their understanding of what's working and what's not in patients receiving this class of drugs."

+ That's Axios with a great rundown of the current and future states of immunotherapy's two main weapons. Here's a more in-depth review in Nature.

 

War 🚀🌎🔥

By new National Security Advisor John Bolton: "The Legal Case for Striking North Korea First"

"CIA Director Mike Pompeo said in January that Pyongyang was within “a handful of months” of being able to deliver nuclear warheads to the U.S. How long must America wait before it acts to eliminate that threat? 

Pre-emption opponents argue that action is not justified because Pyongyang does not constitute an “imminent threat.” They are wrong."

+ Related: I believe John Bolton may very well be our "Great Filter". Read more here.

+ More on war: Pentagon Wants Silicon Valley’s Help on A.I.

 

The Highlight Reel

#86: Look up at the stars and not down at your feet

We lost a good one this week, folks. As I'm sure you're aware, Stephen Hawking, famed ALS survivor and one of the greatest scientists, and science communicators of all-time, died, leaving behind a world indebted to his efforts.

PODCAST UPDATE

This week we dropped a fantastic episode with science educator Don Duggan-Haas, and teenage immigrant science activists Therese Etoka and Jai Bansal. They collectively saved climate science from the chopping block in Idaho, and have their sights set on the rest of the country. Check it out!

Coming up next week, Dr. Nahid Bhadelia takes us through America's (terrifying) infectious disease protocol and what we can do to get our hands basically cleaner than they've ever been. Subscribe now if you haven't already!
 



 

On to the news!

Biology 401 💉👾💊 

Deadly superbug just got scarier — it can mysteriously thwart last-resort drug

"For the first time, researchers have discovered strains of a deadly, multidrug-resistant bacterium that uses a cryptic method to also evade colistin, an antibiotic used as a last-resort treatment. That’s according to a study of US patients published this week by Emory University researchers in the open-access microbiology journal mBio.

The wily and dangerous bacteria involved are carbapenem-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae or CRKP, which are already known to resist almost all antibiotics available."

+ Related, because they concern the inside of your body:

      - RNA is the new hotness when it comes to CRISPR

      - 23andMe will now test for BRCA breast cancer gene

      - How One Child’s Sickle Cell Mutation - 7300 Years Ago -- Helped Protect the World From Malaria

 

Climate Change 🔥🌊💨

Hotter, Drier, Hungrier: How Global Warming Punishes the World’s Poorest

"Northern Kenya — like its arid neighbors in the Horn of Africa — has become measurably drier and hotter, and scientists are finding the fingerprints of global warming. According to recent research, the region dried faster in the 20th century than at any time over the last 2,000 years. Four severe droughts have walloped the area in the last two decades, a rapid succession that has pushed millions of the world’s poorest to the edge of survival."

+ Climate refugees, migration, and fights over dwindling resources are going to be the story of the next 50 years. Count it.

+ Climate tech news: 

      - We're 400 years off pace for rebuilding our energy systems, electric cars are getting even cleaner, oh and one of the last mass extinctions was probably caused by coal set on fire by magma good, good, good

+ News from abroad:

      - Every Day Seems Like 'Day Zero' To Some Cape Town Residents

+ News from the homeland:

      - Climate science goes to court next week, just as a new government climate report gets ready to drop, all these goddamn nor'easters are linked to warm Arctic temps, and here's how much each US state is powered by renewables

 

The Final Frontier/Escape Hatch 🚀

A legend, reprint: The Elusive Theory of Everything, by Stephen Hawking

"In a new book, The Grand Design, Hawking and Caltech physicist Leonard Mlodinow argue that the quest to discover a final theory may in fact never lead to a unique set of equations. Every scientific theory, they write, comes with its own model of reality, and it may not make sense to talk of what reality actually is. This essay is based on that book."

+ In more relatively recent news: Venus may have one been habitable. We need to find out what happened. Or, in the words of Jack Shephard, "WE HAVE TO GO BACK!"

 

Fuck Cancer, Volume LXXXVI 🖕

Slow-release hydrogel aids immunotherapy for cancer

"An immunotherapy drug embedded in a slow-release hydrogel invented at Rice University in collaboration with the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) appears to be highly effective at killing cancer cells.

STINGel combines a new class of immunotherapy drugs called stimulator of interferon gene (STING) agonists with an injectable hydrogel that releases the drug in a steady dose to activate the immune system to kill cancer cells."

Black Cancer Matters: the economic consequences of racial discrimination increase cancer risk. 

+ Surgeons target hidden cancer cells with help from glowing dyes

 

The Highlight Reel

#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

#82: I WOKE UP LIKE THIS

WHO'S LOOKING FLOSSY???

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!

Enjoy!

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