#108: We could grow up together, E.T.

September 14th, 2018

53 days to go

Register to Vote -- Take Action -- Burn It Down

First things first -- it's Friday morning, which means Florence is probably, finally laying waste to a good part of the southeastern US coast. Sending so much love your way, folks. 

For reference, here's the other east coast cities most at threat in coming years, and also the crazy-ass people who fly into these monsters to study them. I'm sure they think climate change is a hoax, too.


This week's topic was Electrocuting the Shit Out of Cancer!

Our guest was Theo Roth, of UCSF, who has figured out how to -- yes, it's true -- electrocute the shit out of cancer. Brian asks a LOT of questions (you're welcome), and we find out what the future of immunotherapy really looks like. Listen now to find out how you, too, can zap cancer right where it counts.

Subscribe now to get next Tuesday's episode: Can These Scientists Really Save Congress?

Our guest: Shaughnessy Naughton, founder of 314 Action, the advocacy group committed to electing more STEM candidates to office, advocating for evidence-based policy solutions to issues like climate change, and fighting the Trump administration's attacks on science. FUCK YEAH.


On to the news!

Food & Water 🍌🥑🥕🔬💊👩‍🌾🚰

Cape Town Is an Omen

"In its march to slash water consumption drastically, this metropolis of 4 million people also became a harbinger of how water will constrain global cities in the future, and how climate change will bring turmoil and a new slate of challenges to places where class and racial divides are deep. Day Zero is still hypothetical, but Cape Town’s reality will soon impact many global cities, where water will become a constant concern, and democracy will become contingent upon the taps."

+ More Food & Water:

      - Probiotics labelled 'quite useless'

Clean Energy 💨☀️⚡️

California passes 100% clean energy bill, but punts on several plans for getting there

"...this includes a plan backed by Gov. Jerry Brown to connect the power grids of as many as 14 western states, as well as a bill that would have promoted geothermal energy development at the Salton Sea. The geothermal bill might have passed, if not for last-minute opposition from state Sen. Jeff Stone, a Republican who represents the Coachella Valley."

+ More Clean Energy:

      - Jerry Brown's curtain call includes a massive climate conference this week in San Francisco. Is it enough?

      - Arizona voters will decide renewable-energy rules in November

      - Trump Administration Wants to Make It Easier to Release Methane Into Air, which is really just fucking incredible, isn't it? I mean. They really just give zero fucks about you. Or me. Or anyone. Not even themselves! Do you think they have a rocket ship we don't know about? To blow this joint once it gets real bad? Who's gonna fly it? Anyways.

      - New York and London mayors call on all cities to divest from fossil fuels

      - From Rooftops to Algae Pools: Orlando’s Vision for Carbon-Free Energy

Climate Change 🔥🌊💨

A Climate Agenda Without A Housing Agenda Is Incomplete

"In short, unless and until we allow more housing — including more housing density — near job centers and public transportation, we will continue to rely on sprawl development, forcing people to drive everywhere and to drive very long commutes."

+ Do better, California

North Carolina didn't like science on sea levels, so they passed a law against it

"In 2012, the state now in the path of Hurricane Florence reacted to a prediction by its Coastal Resources Commission that sea levels could rise by 39in over the next century by passing a law that banned policies based on such forecasts.

The legislation drew ridicule, including a mocking segment by comedian Stephen Colbert, who said: “If your science gives you a result you don’t like, pass a law saying the result is illegal. Problem solved.”"

+ How's that working out for you? Vote vote vote vote vote vote

+ More Climate:

      - US pension funds ‘must consider climate-related risks’

      - Young voters and voters of color are key to climate policy, by the amazing Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson

      - Exxon REALLY doesn't want you to see what they're hiding, appeals to Supreme Court

Biology 401 💉👾💊 

If AI is going to be the world’s doctor, it needs better textbooks

"Imagine there was a simple test to see whether you were developing Alzheimer’s disease. You would look at a picture and describe it, software would assess the way you spoke, and based on your answer, tell you whether or not you had early-stage Alzheimer’s. It would be quick, easy, and over 90% accurate—except for you, it doesn’t work.

That might be because you’re from Africa. Or because you’re from India, or China, or Michigan. Imagine most of the world is getting healthier because of some new technology, but you’re getting left behind."

+ More Bio:

       - For the first time, researchers will release genetically engineered mosquitoes in Africa

       - Why the U.S. faces a growing risk of epidemics

       - There’s A New Antibiotic In Town, And We Can Create It In The Lab

Fuck Cancer, Volume CVIII 🖕

There's a goddamn homing system targeting therapeutic T cells at brain cancer

"Successful T cell immunotherapy for brain cancer requires that the T cells can access tumour tissues, but this has been difficult to achieve...

We have therefore developed a molecule that targets the delivery of T cells to brain cancer."

The Highlight Reel

#107: You Can't Handle The Truth!

September 7th, 2018

60 days to go

Register to Vote -- Take Action -- Burn It Down

Thing we're loving this week that's not a certain Supreme Court candidate getting railed by Senators Harris and Booker: This Place Will Be Water. An excellent tool to get knowledgeable and organized around sea level rise in your hometown. Was happy to support their recent Kickstarter. Check it out and make some noise in your area!


This week's topic was: This Is Zero Hour - So What The Hell Are You Doing?

Our guests were Elsa Mengistu & Emelly Villa, teenage ballers behind the This Is Zero Hour Movement (don't call it a march). We talk the march, the future of the movement, and of course why old people have ruined everything, but for real this time. Check it out now.

Subscribe now to get next Tuesday's episode: Electrocuting the Shit Out of Cancer!

Our guest: Theo Roth, of UCSF, who has figured out how to -- yes, it's true -- electrocute the shit out of cancer. Brian asks a LOT of questions (you're welcome), and we find out what the future of immunotherapy really looks like.


On to the news!

Food 🍌🥑🥕🔬💊👩‍🌾

3 Lessons From Cape Town Running Out of Water

"My doctoral and post-doctoral research focused on climate adaptation decision making and governance in southern African cities. In other words, how are people organising to reduce the risks that higher temperatures, intense rainfall and dry periods pose to city residents?

My research suggests three lessons for any city looking to prepare for and manage climate extremes. These centre on preparation, leadership and an understanding that adaptation requires both big and small changes."


Clean Energy 💨☀️⚡️

How China's giant solar farms are transforming world energy

"China has more solar energy capacity than any other country in the world, at a gargantuan 130 gigawatts. If it were all generating electricity at once, it could power the whole of the UK several times over. China is home to many sizeable solar farms – including the huge 850-megawatt Longyangxia Dam facility on the Tibetan Plateau, with its four million panels. And the largest solar plant in the world at the moment is in China’s Tengger Desert – its capacity exceeds 1,500 megawatts.

These projects have cost many millions of dollars to build – but have they been worth it? And will enough of these sprawling farms ever be constructed to meet its green energy targets?"


California's Going 100% Green -- but When Will Their Vehicles?

"It took Norway about a decade to reach six percent electric vehicle sales but then only five years to go from 6 percent to 47 percent. Norway is a special case, given that the country has generous incentives that aren’t replicated elsewhere. It does show, though, that inflection points occur, and when they do, markets can change quickly."


Climate Change 🔥🌊💨

How Much Hotter Is Your Hometown Than When You Were Born?

"As the world warms because of human-induced climate change, most of us can expect to see more days when temperatures hit 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius) or higher. See how your hometown has changed so far and how much hotter it may get."

+ More climate:

      - The limits of local/regional/state fights against climate change

      - Dire Climate Change Warnings Cut From Trump Power-Plant Proposal

      - Poorer neighborhoods are hotter than wealthy ones, surprises fucking no one who's paying attention


Biology 401 💉👾💊 

Italy's anti-vaccine push could spread around the world

"Last week, Italy's upper house of parliament voted to suspend the mandatory inoculation of schoolchildren against 10 diseases. In addition to the influence of Wakefield's study, the anti-vaxx politics are in part driven by a 2012 Italian court ruling that a child’s autism was caused by the MMR vaccine (the ruling was later overturned)."


+ The scientific community is floored

+ More bio: 

      - Crispr Halted Muscular Dystrophy in Dogs. Are Humans Next?

      - Sentences your grandparents could never comprehend: Can artificial cells be tiny bacteria fighters?

      - Hunting for humanity's antibiotic savior


Fuck Cancer, Volume CVII 🖕

This tech startup wants to connect cancer patients to treatments -- but is it unaffordable?

"How it works: A patient downloads the Driver app and gives consent for the company to collect medical records and tumor tissue. The technology then finds cancer treatments or clinical trials that are available and hospitals they can go to, which can lead to a video conference with an oncologist about next steps and future appointments. 

A "patient support team" will evaluate people's health insurance, and that may limit their options, Driver co-founder Petros Giannikopoulos said.
Driver's first product, called Hyperdrive, is targeted for cancer patients. It costs $3,000 upfront and then $20 per month as a subscription.

The second product, called Everdrive, is targeted for cancer survivors and other presumably healthy people. It costs $500 upfront with a $20-per-month subscription."

+ Health care is broken as shit


The Highlight Reel

#106: Throw me the idol, I'll throw you the whip!

August 31st, 2018

67 days to go

New hero: Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, Shiloh Baptist Church, North Carolina.

“Jesus said love your neighbor,” Dr. Barber told the crowd. “I don’t care how many times you tell me you love me, if you put coal ash in my water you don’t love me. Because if there was nothing wrong with the coal ash, then put it in the wealthy communities.”

Preach, Reverend. Preach.


This week's question was: Are You Ready for Some Radical Environmental Justice?

Our guest was Shantha Ready Alonso, Executive Director for Creation Justice Ministries, where she busts her ass on the reg to help empower minorities affected by this well-rounded environmental shitshow we've created.

We raged against the machine, discussed The New Jim Crow, Chicago, pissed off moms, Virginia, and more.

Subscribe now to get next Tuesday's episode: The Revolution Is Upon Us.

Our guests: Elsa Mengistu & Emelly Villa, teenage ballers behind the This Is Zero Hour Movement (don't call it a march). We talk the march, the future of the movement, and of course why old people have ruined everything, but for real this time.


On to the news!

Food 🍌🥑🥕🔬💊👩‍🌾

Climate change will make hundreds of millions more people nutrient deficient

"Experts say that by the middle of the century about 175 million more people develop a zinc deficiency, while 122 million people who are not currently protein deficient could become so.

In addition, about 1.4 billion women of childbearing age and infants under five years old will be living in regions where there will be the highest risk of iron deficiency.

Among other problems, zinc deficiencies are linked to troubles with wound healing, infections and diarrhoea; protein deficiencies are linked to stunted growth; and iron deficiencies are tied to complications in pregnancy and childbirth."

+ Related: Stop. Wasting. Food.


Clean Energy 💨☀️⚡️

California's Going Carbon-Free by 2045 -- Will It Be In Time?

"California joins Hawaii, which passed legislation in 2015 calling for 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2045. Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Washington, D.C., are also considering such a mandate, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Maryland and Colorado had considered bills but have not passed the requirement."

+ Here's the kick in the pants: Climate change will be deadlier, more destructive and costlier for California than previously believed. Semi-related: How California Can Save the Amazon

+ More clean energy:

      - The U.S. is on the verge of an offshore wind revolution


Climate Change 🔥🌊💨

The Global Rightward Shift on Climate Change (this is not the headline you were hoping for in 2018)

"Last Thursday, Malcolm Turnbull was the prime minister of Australia. By the end of this week, he’ll be just another guy in Sydney.

Turnbull was felled by climate-change policy. His attempt at a moderate, even milquetoast energy bill—which included some mild cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions—proved too aggressive for his co-partisans. On Friday, members of Australia’s center-right Liberal Party voted him out of office."

+ Editor's note: Fuck Trump

+ More climate:

      - Lowering air pollution just *a bit* would increase life expectancy as much as eradicating lung and breast cancer

      - Permafrost not frosting faster than expected and I don't have a good feeling about this


Biology 401 💉👾💊 

Anti-vax fears drive a measles outbreak in Europe

"In the past decade, measles-vaccination rates in some European countries have often fallen below those in parts of Africa. Italy, France and Serbia, for example, have lower child-vaccinations rates than Burundi, Rwanda and Senegal.

Two-fifths of people in France—a country whose people pop antibiotics like sweets—believe that vaccines are unsafe. A quarter of Greeks and Ukrainians are also hostile... A survey of French doctors in 2014, for example, found that nearly a quarter believed that some of the officially recommended vaccines were not useful."

Here's why Islam can't make up its mine on vaccines

+ More Bio:

      - Inside the slimy underground hunt for humanity's antibiotic saviour

      - Ebola outbreak in Congo could be slowing down, maybe due to experimental vaccine

      - China Has Withheld Samples of a Dangerous Flu Virus

      - The Future of Medicine May Land Within Five to 10 Years, Crispr Inventor Says


The Final Frontier/Escape Hatch 🚀

How NASA Built a Shark Tank for Space Inventions

"Here at NASA's iTech competition, the cofounder of PharmaJet is vying for access to expert advice from the space agency. She and 14 other researchers are pitching diverse terrestrial technologies that they hope to level up to space. Each team has three minutes each—after which “shark music,” an off-brand Jaws theme, plays them out like a shepherd’s crook—to convince a panel of judges (not including Barbara Corcoran or Mark Cuban) they are worthy of the agency's wisdom. Tonight's winner will become one of 10 finalists chosen from similar events across the country, who will then compete for just three mentorship slots."


Fuck Cancer, Volume CV 🖕

A malaria protein may be the key to a universal blood test for cancer

"The new research reveals that a particular protein produced by malaria parasites is attracted to a very specific sugar molecule found on more than 95 percent of cancer cells. Called VAR2CSA, the protein essentially acts like a tumor cell magnet, gripping onto any cell found to harbor the target sugar molecule. 

The experiments have already yielded some exciting early results. One test placed ten single cancer cells into five millilitres of blood. Using the malaria protein the researchers were able to successfully retrieve 9 of those cells."

+ More cancer:

      - Immunotherapy Drugs Slow Skin Cancer That Has Spread to the Brain

      - Here's the new test for melanoma immunotherapy potential


War 🚀🌎🔥

The Untold Story of NotPetya, the Most Devastating Cyberattack in History

"Jensen walked out of the building and into the warm air of a late June afternoon. Like the vast majority of Maersk staffers, he had no idea when he might return to work. The maritime giant that employed him, responsible for 76 ports on all sides of the earth and nearly 800 seafaring vessels, including container ships carrying tens of millions of tons of cargo, representing close to a fifth of the entire world’s shipping capacity, was dead in the water."

+ More war:

      - With Ships and Missiles, China Is Ready to Challenge U.S. Navy in Pacific


The Highlight Reel

#105: Was the little car your idea?

August 24th, 2018

74 days to go

While we all celebrate everyone Trump has ever trusted turning against him, in no uncertain words, let's keep in mind he's still busy sweeping away clean energy statutes left and right.

Register to vote. Then get everyone you know to register to vote. Then support organizations that are getting out the vote with people you've never met. Then, in 74 days, pick up your most popular friend, on your cool scooter, and take them to vote, so they'll tell all their friends to vote.

And then we win. 


This week's question was: Can Texas go (clean energy) independent?

Our guest was candidate for Texas district 21, Joseph Kopser. He's a military vet, and a clean energy entrepreneur.

This is the first conversation in our partnership with 314Action.org to introduce you to the scientists, doctors, etc running for office on November 6th.

Subscribe now to get next Tuesday's episode: It's time for radical environmental justice.

Our guest: Shantha Ready Alonso, Executive Director for Creation Justice Ministries, where she busts her ass on the reg to help empower minorities affected by this well-rounded environmental shitshow we've created.


On to the news!

Food 🍌🥑🥕🔬💊👩‍🌾

Scientists Finally Crack Wheat’s Absurdly Complex Genome

"While the genome of Arabidopsis—the first plant to be sequenced—contains 135 million DNA letters, and the human genome contains 3 billion, bread wheat has 16 billion...

Researchers estimate that the world will need to grow 60 percent more wheat by 2050 to feed its booming population.

“Whatever your views on a wheat-based diet, there is no escaping its importance in global food security."

+ More food:

      - Geoengineering to avert global warming could reduce crop yields


Clean Energy 💨☀️⚡️

The Yellowstone Supervolcano Could Power the Entire Continental US with Clean Energy. But Should It?

"In 2017, NASA scientists ran a thought experiment to see if they might be able to halt a future supereruption. It suggested drilling a series of wells around the perimeter of the park and pumping cold water down into the hot rock. The hypothetical solution would cool down Yellowstone’s magma chamber and prevent calamity.

As a bonus, the system would provide enough geothermal energy to power the entire country.

...But Yellowstone and other national parks have long been protected from commercial energy development to ensure that these regions remain pristine. The 1970 Geothermal Steam Act, which prohibited the placement of geothermal plants in national parks, even lists Yellowstone by name."

+ More clean energy: 

      - Electric cars: the race to replace cobalt

      - The US is losing the high stakes battery war

      - Stacking concrete blocks is a surprisingly efficient way to store energy


Climate Change 🔥🌊💨

Arctic’s strongest sea ice breaks up for first time on record

"This phenomenon – which has never been recorded before – has occurred twice this year due to warm winds and a climate-change driven heatwave in the northern hemisphere.

One meteorologist described the loss of ice as “scary”. Others said it could force scientists to revise their theories about which part of the Arctic will withstand warming the longest."

+ More climate:

      - Big oil asks government to protect its Texas facilities from climate change, can kindly go fuck themselves

      - This carbon-sucking mineral could help slow down climate change, let's go already

      - Germany Has Proven the Modern Automobile Must Die

      - BREATHE: London's air is now as bad as Beijing and Seattle's is like smoking 7 cigarettes


Biology 401 💉👾💊 

China's killing it in the "how to edit a human" game

"A team of scientists in China have used a cutting-edge Crispr technique, known as base editing, to repair a disease-causing mutation in viable human embryos.

Published last week in the journal Molecular Therapy, and reported first by Stat, the study represents significant progress over previous attempts to remodel the DNA of human embryos. That’s in part because the editing worked so well, and in part because that editing took place in embryos created by a standard in-vitro fertilization technique."

+ More bio:

      - New CRISPR technique skips over portions of genes that can cause disease

      - Ebola's back in the Congo. This is the experimental vaccine they're trying that might just get approved in the US

      - Why the hell isn't there a Lyme disease vaccine?


The Final Frontier/Escape Hatch 🚀

The Genetics (and Ethics) of Making Humans Fit for Mars

"As George Church, a Harvard geneticist and leading synthetic biologist, argues: “One likely path for risk reduction in space does seem to involve biological engineering of adult would-be astronauts.” He has identified 40-some genes that might be advantageous for long-term spaceflight (and would benefit those who stayed behind, too). His list includes CTNNBI, which confers radiation resistance, LRP5, which builds adamantine bones, ESPA1 (common in Tibetans), which allows people to live with less oxygen, as well as a host of genes that might make us smarter, more memorious, or less anxious.

The menu even includes a gene, ABC11, which endows its possessors with “low-odor production,” a friendly trait in a confined space."


Fuck Cancer, Volume CV 🖕

'Undruggable' cancers slowed by targeting growth signals

"As many as 50 percent of human cancer cases -- across a wide variety of tissues -- involve defects in a common cellular growth signaling pathway. These defects have so far defied most attempts to develop targeted therapies, leading some in the field to conclude that they may be "undruggable."

Now researchers at UC San Francisco and Redwood City-based Revolution Medicines, Inc, have identified a new strategy for potentially treating a subset of such intractable cancers by decoupling the entire RAS / MAP Kinase (MAPK) signaling pathway from external growth signals ...dramatically slowing cancer growth in lung, skin, colon and pancreatic cancer cell lines as well as human lung cancers grown in animal models."

+ More cancer: 

       - Researchers artificially generate immune cells integral to creating cancer vaccines


The Highlight Reel

#104: Who's Galoka?

August 17th, 2018

81 days to go

Yuval Harari says humans are a post-truth species. No shit. Ever wonder why folks ignore the truth? Here's one thought, and here's another. Regardless, let's keep working on meeting people where they are, and finding a way forward, so we can turn this ship around on the quick step. 


This week's question was: what's the (real) business incentive for clean energy?

Our guest was Will Hackman. Will’s an expert and author on various energy, environmental, and climate change topics. He also bolted immediately after the call to go to Alaska and potentially never come back. Check it out anyways!

Subscribe now to get next Tuesday's episode: can Texas go (clean energy) independent?

Our guest: candidate for Texas district 21, Joseph Kopser. He's a military vet, and a clean energy entrepreneur. This is the first in our partnership with 314action.org to introduce you to the scientists, doctors, etc running for office on November 6th.


On to the news!

Food 🍌🥑🥕🔬💊👩‍🌾

The Wonder Plant That Could Slash Fertilizer Use

"A team of researchers has shown that the secret of this Mexican corn’s success lies in its aerial roots—necklaces of finger-sized, rhubarb-red tubes that encircle the stem. These roots drip with a thick, clear, glistening mucus that’s loaded with bacteria. Thanks to these microbes, the corn can fertilize itself by pulling nitrogen directly from the surrounding air.

The Sierra Mixe corn takes eight months to mature—too long to make it commercially useful. But if its remarkable ability could be bred into conventional corn, which matures in just three months, it would be an agricultural game changer."

+ More food:

      - European Ruling Could Slow Africa’s Push for CRISPR Crops

      - Ravenous for Meat, China Faces a Climate Quandary

      - Livestock treatment may offer solution to antibiotics crisis

      - Global dimming may mitigate warming, but could hurt crop yields


Climate Change 🔥🌊💨

Jakarta, the fastest-sinking city in the world

"The Indonesian capital of Jakarta is home to 10 million people but it is also one of the fastest-sinking cities in the world. If this goes unchecked, parts of the megacity could be entirely submerged by 2050, say researchers. Is it too late?

It sits on swampy land, the Java Sea lapping against it, and 13 rivers running through it. So it shouldn't be a surprise that flooding is frequent in Jakarta and, according to experts, it is getting worse. But it's not just about freak floods, this massive city is literally disappearing into the ground."

+ More climate around the world: 

      - China could face deadly heat waves due to climate change

      - Emerging economies will slow down as temperatures rise

      - Scorching Summer in Europe Signals Long-Term Climate Changes

      - Water is running out in Jordan


The Earth Ablaze

"While we naturally focus on the immediate loss of lives, the full toll may not be so immediate. Recent epidemiological research following the enormous fires in Indonesia in the past few years suggests that lung disease from smoke and particulate matter inhalation may have caused over 100,000 additional premature deaths across Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

A dangerous, large-scale feedback loop that promotes wildfires has emerged. Forests, woodlands and grasslands hold much of Earth’s terrestrial carbon. When they burn, more carbon dioxide is released, increasing concentrations in the atmosphere and causing land and sea surface temperatures to rise. This warming increases the likelihood of even more widespread and intense fires and exacerbates the severe weather and sea level rise we are now beginning to experience.

What has been particularly worrisome in recent years is that the world’s largest forests, the taiga of Russia and its boreal forest cousins that ring the Arctic and store much of the world’s carbon, experienced wildfires at a rate and scale not seen in at least 10,000 years."


Biology 401 💉👾💊 

She discovered how to edit a human. Is that good?

"The speed of CRISPR’s dissemination represents a threat as well as a breakthrough. Anxious about the lack of control, Doudna convened a conference of 500 ethicists, scientists and lawyers in 2015 to consider all the apparently fantastical futures ushered in by the ability to tinker with the code of life. She wanted to set out rules and protocols before the technology was applied to humans."

+ More bio:

      - The $250 Biohack That’s Revolutionizing Life With Diabetes

      - Artificial intelligence tool 'as good as experts' at detecting eye problems

      - Goddammit. Hospital bacteria are starting to tolerate hand sanitizer

      - Crazy new antibiotics found in these leaves

      - Alzheimer's research takes a step...back (science is hard)


The Final Frontier/Escape Hatch 🚀

New NASA Planet Hunter May Find 10,000 Alien Worlds in Just Two Years

"As eye-catching as 10,000 planets are, the particularly important number here is the 3,500 sub-Neptune worlds, Christiansen said. Those planets will be TESS' proving grounds in terms of its formal requirements and will help scientists understand how small rocky planets are formed."

+ More space:

       - Are We Alone? Maybe. The Better Question Is, Can We Survive? 

       - SETI Researchers Want to End the Alien-Detection Hype (well, not "end", but temper)

       - NASA Is Trying To Save Us From The Sun


Fuck Cancer, Volume CIV 🖕

Tumor cells can unleash tiny weapons to ward off immune system attacks, oh come on

"Scientists have discovered that cancer cells can release tiny weapons called exosomes that target immune cells before they have a chance to reach a tumor."

+ Quick note: fuck cancer

+ More cancer: 

      - After 30 years, an immunotherapy to rival CAR-T finally nears the clinic

      - IBM Has a Watson Dilemma (science is hard)

      - Johns Hopkins wants to predict whether immunology will work


Robots & AI 🤖🧠⚡️

Should Artificial Intelligence Copy the Human Brain?

"To understand artificial neural networks, picture a bunch of points in space connected to one another like the neurons in our brains. Adjusting the strength of the connections between these points is a rough analog for what happens when a brain learns. The result is a neural wiring diagram, with favorable pathways to desired results, such as correctly identifying an image.

Today’s deep-learning systems don’t resemble our brains. At best, they look like the outer portion of the retina, where a scant few layers of neurons do initial processing of an image."


War 🚀🌎🔥

Inside Russia's invasion of the U.S. electric grid

"In the Cold War, the U.S. and Russia deterred any major attack by the other with existentially dangerous arsenals of nuclear-tipped missiles. Now, Russia has what it views as a potent new deterrent, experts say — cyber implants in the U.S. electric grid.

Over the last year, Russian hackers have infiltrated power stations and other points on the U.S. grid — and now are inside hundreds, empowering them to create chaos with massive blackouts, U.S. officials say."


The Highlight Reel

#103: Never Gonna Give You Up

August 3rd, 2018

95 days to go

As I was type-type-typing away at this little newsletter, President Dipshit just proposed rolling back the country's fuel-efficiency standards, so I had to change my intro from a delightful poem to a(nother) battle cry.

What does this mean? It means adding the equivalent of adding 30 coal-fired power plants to the grid. 

Friendly reminders: transportation is now America's number one carbon-emitter. Also, we can tabulate climate-related deaths now

If you feel like all of this doesn't add up, you're not crazy. They don't care about you. Or your kids.

No one said this was going to be easy. We're in it. We're fucking in it. You're fighting, I'm fighting, it's hot as Satan's shit out there, and there's 95 days to go before we go up against incalculable dark money and Russian meddling and racists all over this great country to try to take the goddamn place back.

It has always been, and will always be, a perilous fight.

So take a deep breath. Read this awesome optimist's guide to fighting climate change. Register to vote.

Get back to it.


We're off next week because of travel. 


This week's question was: Why the Hell Is Space Exploration Important When the Planet is Literally On Fire?

Our guest was the uber-popular and hard-working Space Gal, Emily CalandrelliTune in!

Subscribe now to get next Tuesday's episode where we discuss: The Pope Has Said "F*ck It, I'll Solve Climate Change With My Own Bare Hands". And we are INTO it.

Our guest: Jose Aguto, associate director of the Catholic Climate Covenant. More to come!



On to the news!

Climate Change 🔥🌊💨

Take 1: Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change

"With support from the Pulitzer Center, this two-part article is based on 18 months of reporting and well over a hundred interviews. It tracks the efforts of a small group of American scientists, activists and politicians to raise the alarm and stave off catastrophe. It will come as a revelation to many readers — an agonizing revelation — to understand how thoroughly they grasped the problem and how close they came to solving it."

+ Take 2: There's (much, much) more to the story. Who's really at fault?

Here's another one.

+ More climate: 

       - How Record Heat Wreaked Havoc on Four Continents

       - A one minute-read on how climate bullshit in the US compares to the smoking battle of the 80's/90's

       - In India, Summer Heat May Soon Be Literally Unbearable

       - Here's the Republicans who believe in climate change 


The Carr Fire is a terrifying glimpse into California’s future

"On Thursday evening, the wind-driven Carr Fire rushed into residential neighborhoods in Redding, bringing a one-two punch of thick smoke and unpredictable “firenados” that overwhelmed firefighters. At least two people were killed trying to beat back the blaze and, within hours, dozens of homes had burned to the ground. 

“There was literally a wall of flames coming into the city,” California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Battalion Chief Jonathan Cox said Friday as firefighters tried to make a stand in triple-digit heat and gusting wind...

...That means not only figuring out whether PG&E will be liable for the billions of dollars in property damage from wildfires along the path of its utility equipment, but also fundamentally changing the way we live, and the way we prepare for and recover from natural disasters.

Many in Redding, for example, weren’t ready for a wildfire capable of creating its own weather system in their neighborhoods. They thought flames could never jump the Sacramento River and get into the city, in large part, because it’s never happened.

But old rules no longer apply."

+ More on the fires:

      - From the firefighters: "Fatigue is starting to set in", job is "twice as violent" as ever before, two die

      - California Is Burning Before Our Eyes

      - Heatwave made more than twice as likely by climate change, scientists find

      - Wildfires In The U.S. Are Getting Bigger

      - Experts say urban sprawl, climate change hike wildfire risk (which is interesting because aren't 30 million folks supposed to move to cities in the next 20 years? Asking for a friend)


Biology 401 💉👾💊 

Malaria’s ticking time bomb

"Throngs of men and women ventured into the forests of northeastern Cambodia in April, lured by a bumper crop of a rare tropical treat called samrong. After days of hiking through the wilderness, some of the travellers returned to their homes with a bounty of the wrinkled seeds, which fetch a high price as a special dessert or an ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine.

But many soon fell ill. Khong Chhoem, a 56-year-old rice farmer, says the fevers hit him a few days after the expedition. His muscles hurt. His eyes hurt. He had unbearable nightmares. A health worker told Chhoem that he had tested positive for Plasmodium falciparum, the deadliest kind of malaria-causing parasite. But because a wave of malaria was sweeping through the region, medicine was in short supply. Chhoem eventually found a shop that carried the drugs he needed, and he recovered. But in the intervening days, mosquitoes probably sucked up the parasites in his blood and spread them to other people."


The Final Frontier/Escape Hatch 🚀

This Solar System Catalog Could Be Key to Finding an Earth-Like Exoplanet

"A pair of scientists has released a detailed catalog of the colors, brightness, and spectral lines of the bodies in our Solar System. They hope to use the catalog as a comparison, so when they spot the blip of an exoplanet, they’ll have a better idea of how it actually looks.

“This is what an alien observer would see if they looked at our Solar System,” study coauthor Lisa Kaltenegger, director of the Carl Sagan Institute at Cornell, told Gizmodo. With this data, astronomers might guess whether an exoplanet is Earth-like, Mars-like, Jupiter-like, or something else entirely."

+ Who doesn't get AMPED by the line "something else entirely"?

+ More space:

      - A Breakthrough Way to See Distant Planets


Fuck Cancer, Volume CIII 🖕

Could your gut microbes hinder your cancer treatment?

"What does cancer have to do with poop? In the past few years, researchers around the world, including us, have realized that the gut bacteria – what we call the gut microbiome – of cancer patients may hold the key to improving cancer therapies for patients. Exactly how this happens is unclear, but may be linked to the ability of gut bacteria to boost our natural immune responses.

The gut microbiome comprises the entire collection of microorganisms dwelling in the gastrointestinal tract. But recent research suggests that the microbes in the gut might not be idle bystanders. Rather, they may be critical for helping patients respond to new drugs called “immune checkpoint inhibitors” that help immune cells recognize tumor cells and attack them."

+ More cancer:

      - The Case Against Screening For Thyroid Cancer


Robots & AI 🤖🧠⚡️

Here’s How the Russian Military Is Organizing to Develop AI

"The Russian Ministry of Defense is pursuing artificial intelligence with an urgency that has only grown since Vladimir Putin’s “rule the world” speech in September. But after several years of watching American and Chinese researchers accumulate breakthroughs and funding, while Russia continues to lack a relevant high-tech culture, Ministry leaders have decided that if they can’t outspend their global competitors, perhaps they can out-organize them.

So in March, the MOD — along with the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation, or MES; and the Russian Academy of Sciences — gathered domestic and international developers and users at a conference intended to take stock of the world’s AI prowess, and develop plans to focus Russia’s academic, scientific, and commercial communities to compete."

+ More AI, robots, and war

      - What's the newest on AI cyberattacks?


The Highlight Reel

#102: We The Best Music (Another One)

July 27th, 2018

103 days to go

Good afternoon!

Toasty enough for you?

Great/not great news: you are not alone. 

This is the face of climate change, but the battle has just begun (finally). This is the best news yet -- these are the young faces fighting against it.

Want to help them? Share this newsletter with everyone you know. Not only will you help save the world, we'll send you some very cool free shit


This week's question was: What Happens When the Atlantic Ocean Invades the Arctic Ocean?

If that sounds insane to you, you're in good company.

Short answer: not good things.

Long answer: that's why we made the podcast. Tune in!

Our guest was Julia Roberson of the Ocean Conservancy, who overcame truly tremendous technical difficulties (j/k) to get on the line.

Subscribe now to get next Tuesday's episode where we ask: Why the Hell Is Space Exploration Important When the Planet is Literally On Fire?

Our guest: The Space Gal, Emily Calandrelli. More to come!



On to the news!

Clean Energy 💨☀️⚡️

Next-Gen Nuclear Is Coming — If Society Wants It

"At a conference in 2011, Simon Irish met an engineer with an innovative design for a nuclear reactor cooled by molten salt. If it worked, Irish figured, it could not only solve the problems with aging nuclear power, but also provide a realistic path to dropping fossil fuels.

“The question was, ‘Can we do better than the conventional reactors that were commercialized 60 years ago?” Irish recalled. “And the answer was, ‘Absolutely.’”

+ More clean energy:

      - California Wants to Reinvent the Power Grid. So What Could Go Wrong?


Climate Change 🔥🌊💨

Pakistan is ground zero for global warming consequences

"Pakistan contributes less than 1 percent of the world's greenhouse gases blamed for causing global warming, yet its 200 million people are among the world's most vulnerable victims of the growing consequences of climate change.

The nation is facing ever-rising temperatures, drought and flooding that threaten health, agriculture, water supplies and hopes for development of a society that ranks in the bottom quarter of nations, based on income per person.

Pakistan is among 10 countries affected most by climate change, according to the 2018 Global Climate Risk Index released by the public policy group Germanwatch."

+ More Climate:

      - Trump to Seek Repeal of California’s Smog-Fighting Power, remains huge piece of shit

      - America’s Pledge: Bottom-up climate solutions to America’s low-carbon future for every city and state

      - The lawsuits against fossil fuel companies are failing. Here's what's next

      - Climate Change May Cause 26,000 More U.S. Suicides by 2050


Biology 401 💉👾💊 

Scientists explore a new kind of immunotherapy to treat autoimmune diseases

"In CAR-T therapies, T cells are extracted from a patient’s blood, reprogrammed to attack cancer cells, and then re-infused into the bloodstream to carry out their new assignment.

Scientists – including those at Caladrius Biosciences and TxCell – are now engineering a subgroup of these immune cells, called T regulatory cells, or Tregs, in hopes of tamping down the wayward parts of the immune system responsible for autoimmune diseases and organ rejection."

+ More Bio:

      - Two sides of a coin: For Scientists Racing to Cure Alzheimer’s, the Math Is Getting Ugly and New Alzheimer’s Drug Slows Memory Loss in Early Trial Results

      - Filed under WTF: Some viruses weaken their hosts’ immune systems by sacrificing themselves in kamikaze fashion, paving the way for successful infections later, defeating CRISPR


The Final Frontier/Escape Hatch 🚀

A Large Body of Water on Mars Is Detected, Raising the Potential for Alien Life

"Italian scientists working on the European Space Agency’s Mars Express mission announced on Wednesday that a 12-mile-wide underground liquid pool — not just the momentary damp spots seen in the past — had been detected by radar measurements near the Martian south pole.

“Water is there,” Enrico Flamini, the former chief scientist of the Italian Space Agency who oversaw the research, said during a news conference.

“It is liquid, and it’s salty, and it’s in contact with rocks,” he added. “There are all the ingredients for thinking that life can be there, or can be maintained there if life once existed on Mars.”"

+ More space:

      - SpaceX Preps for Three Block 5 Launches in Just Two Weeks

      - NASA, SETI seek to harness AI tools

      - Life on Europa Could Be Just Beyond Our Reach


Food 🍌🥑🥕🔬💊👩‍🌾

“If you look at food waste globally, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases after the United States and China”

"Each year, the average family of four in America throws $1,800 in the garbage.

Not in cash. In moldy vegetables. In uneaten hamburgers. In leftovers from the local pub.

A scourge besets the United States: the rampant waste of food. 

In this country, we throw out more than 1,250 calories a day per person — or more than 400 pounds of food for each person every year, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council."

+ More food:

      - The public doesn’t trust GMOs. Will it trust CRISPR?


Robots & AI 🤖🧠⚡️

AI beats human doctors in neuroimaging recognition contest

"An artificial intelligence (AI) system scored 2:0 against elite human physicians Saturday in two rounds of competitions in diagnosing brain tumors and predicting hematoma expansion in Beijing.

The BioMind AI system, developed by the Artificial Intelligence Research Centre for Neurological Disorders at the Beijing Tiantan Hospital and a research team from the Capital Medical University, made correct diagnoses in 87 percent of 225 cases in about 15 minutes, while a team of 15 senior doctors only achieved 66-percent accuracy."


The Highlight Reel

#101: We all have our little faults. Mine's in California.

July 20th, 2018

110 days to go

Greetings from the Outer Banks in North Carolina, home to the Graveyard of the Atlantic, the Lost Colony of Roanoke, the site of the Wright Brothers' first flight, 200 miles of  beautiful beaches, my childhood (and now adult) vacation spot. 

Will these great barrier islands still be here in 50 years? It's unclear, but the actions we take today could make a difference. 

I've spent much of the past couple years fighting for climate change action -- and not just because of places like this, or our amazing national parks (now featuring shitty air quality like our fabulous/unbreathable big cities). But also for the minority communities punished worse than all the rest, for our youth, for my and your children. They deserve better. 

Let's show them we give a shit.


This week's question was: He's Given 200 Climate Speeches to Congress. What's Next?

Our guest was esteemed Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of the great state of Rhode Island. We talked real talk, suing fossil fuel companies, our amazing and infinitely more capable wives, and calling out bullshit. Check it out!

Subscribe now to get next Tuesday's episode where we ask: What Happens When the Atlantic Ocean Invades the Arctic Ocean?

Our guest: Julia Roberson of the Ocean Conservancy. More to come!



On to the news!

Clean Energy 💨☀️⚡️

Mini-grids may be the best way to illuminate the “bottom billion”

"Many utilities are short of cash, if not bankrupt. The cost of taking power to those least able to afford it adds to their debts. China and Thailand took 20 years to improve electrification rates from about 30-40% to 85-90%. Reaching the remaining sliver took a further 20 years; China managed it only in 2015. And universal electrification, a slogan beloved of politicians, is frequently less than it seems. In April India celebrated the electrification of its last village, yet about 240m people remain without power and connections are often unreliable.

Enter mini-grids, which can operate independently of national grids, and are a way for private companies to offer services more quickly and reliably than frequently state-owned incumbents. Mini-grids are banks of batteries often charged by solar arrays. Unlike “rooftop” solar systems, which are increasingly common in parts of Africa but provide little juice, mini-grids provide round-the-clock electricity capable of powering machinery, irrigation systems and freezers, as well as lighting. Although they are expensive, mini-grids are likely to become cheaper as they grow more common. In the interim, providers are using specialists in rural development and microfinance to teach people how to set up businesses that benefit from a lot of power. They find that if people learn how to make money from electricity, they willingly pay for it."


A daughter of Detroit defies odds, takes car industry into the future

"Denise Gray arrived at Buca di Beppo Italian Restaurant in Livonia, along with nearly three dozen clients and employees, for her business dinner. A well-dressed man she didn't know took her aside and expressed concern about the evening's corporate host, a Korean battery company that recently made leadership changes. 

Minutes later, she noticed a horrified look on the customer's face when she introduced herself as the company's president. The man realized Gray was the leadership of LG Chem's Michigan Inc. tech center.

"It's just being a female in a male-dominated industry," Gray said. "People expect the CEO to be male or Korean or I don't know. Just not me."

The little girl raised at Shady Grove Missionary Baptist Church on the corner of McDougall and Charlevoix in Detroit, grew up to be one of the world’s most respected electrical engineers who is helping guide the auto industry into the future."

+ More clean energy:

      - State ratepayers will pick up tab for $2.1B offshore wind plan, but not the energy

      - This could be the first emissions-reductions project (inadvertently) supported by Trump



Fuck Cancer, Volume CI 🖕

Cancer cells engineered with CRISPR slay their own kin

"Cancer cells circulating in the bloodstream have something of a homing instinct, able to find and return to the tumor where they originated. To capitalize on that ability, researchers engineered these roving tumor cells to secrete a protein that triggers a death switch in resident tumor cells they encounter. The cancer-fighting cancer cells also have a built-in suicide switch — so the weaponized cells self-destruct before they can start tumors of their own, the team reports in the July 11 Science Translational Medicine."


Climate Change 🔥🌊💨

Brett Kavanaugh: ‘The Earth Is Warming’ (and why this might not be a good thing)

"“The earth is warming. Humans are contributing,” (Judge Brett Kavanaugh, recent nominee to the Supreme Court) told a federal courtroom two years ago, during a hearing about a major Barack Obama climate policy. “There is a moral imperative. There is a huge policy imperative. The pope’s involved.”

He’s even inscribed this view in his judicial opinions. “The task of dealing with global warming is urgent and important at the national and international level,” he wrote in 2013.

Yet this is not necessarily good news for liberals. Kavanaugh has sometimes sympathized with the need for environmental protection. But because he considers global warming to be charged with a “huge policy imperative,” he’s skeptical that the Environment Protection Agency (or the executive branch) should be fighting it alone. And as a future justice, he’s likely to block the agency from doing so."

+ More climate:

      - Nobel-Winning Economist to Testify in Children’s Climate Lawsuit

      - Giant sea gate proposed by feds for New Jersey and New York is slammed by environmentalists

      - Here's what climate change looks like now. The future: Scientists from 17 countries say sea-level rise could be "unstoppable for millennia" -- happy Friday!


Biology 401 💉👾💊 

Urgent care clinics are prescribing too many unnecessary antibiotics, study says

"Nearly half of patients who go to urgent care clinics seeking treatment for a flu, cold or other conditions that do not require antibiotics received a prescription for one anyway. That is three times as often as antibiotics are prescribed to patients with the same illnesses in traditional doctors’ offices, according to a study published Monday.

Patients who get unnecessary antibiotics are at risk for severe side effects, even with just one dose of the medicine, doctors say. Inappropriate use of these lifesaving drugs also puts everyone else at risk because overuse accelerates the emergence of resistant bacteria, or “superbugs,” that cannot be stopped with drugs."

+ More Bio:

      - Pushback against immunization laws leaves some California schools vulnerable to outbreaks

      - Potential DNA Damage from CRISPR “Seriously Underestimated,” Study Finds

      - New Effort for Lyme Disease Vaccine Draws Early Fire

      - The Strange and Curious Case of the Deadly Superbug Yeast


The Final Frontier/Escape Hatch 🚀

Turning water into oxygen in zero gravity could mean easier trips to Mars

"One of the main challenges with long-distance space flight is transporting enough oxygen for astronauts to breathe and enough fuel to power complex electronics. Sadly, there’s only little oxygen available in space and the great distances make it hard to do quick refills.

But now a new study, published in Nature Communications, shows that it is possible to produce hydrogen (for fuel) and oxygen (for life) from water alone using a semiconductor material and sunlight (or star light) in zero gravity—making sustained space travel a real possibility."


Food 🍌🥑🥕🔬💊👩‍🌾

Your produce is less healthy than it was 70 years ago. These farmers might change that

"70 years ago, (broccoli) contained twice the calcium on average and more than five times the amount of Vitamin A. The same could be said for a lot of our fruits and vegetables.   

Why? How?  

The answers lie in the soil and how Americans farm it."

+ More food: 

      - Crispr Can Speed Up Nature—and Change How We Grow Food


The Highlight Reel

#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. 



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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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.
...“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."




‘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.


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.


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."


      - 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.


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.


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."


      - 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


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