#19: And Then a Hero Comes Along

If there's one thing you learn in story-telling, it's that your hero isn't shit without a proper villain. That villain could be a bank robber-posing-as-Eastern European terrorist, or alien queen, or a devastating earthquake -- regardless, heroes don't have shit to do without somebody to take down, or rescue us from, or do all of the above while sacrificing themselves for us, often in front of us, sometimes in a pool of lava.

So let's all do science a big favor and next time you read about (cough, cough, below) somebody or a group of folks doing something awesome to stop or fix something terrible, take a minute and hop on social media and send some thanks. It sounds crazy! I know. But while the rest of us write dick jokes all day, or figure out how to get more millennials to buy more gems, they're out there saving your ass. So just -- say thanks. It goes a long way.

On to the news!


1. A hopeful reality check on artificial intelligence. No, we're not obsolete. Yet. - The New Yorker

"If the hype leaves you asking “What is A.I., really?,” don’t worry, you’re not alone. I asked various experts to define the term and got different answers. The only thing they all seem to agree on is that artificial intelligence is a set of technologies that try to imitate or augment human intelligence. To me, the emphasis is on augmentation, in which intelligent software helps us interact and deal with the increasingly digital world we live in."

+ MY NOTES: If you think searching "dog" in your Photos app is cool, just wait for Stage 3 AI, when your hyper-intelligent robot dog is the one holding the phone while you're tethered to a tree out back.


2. 20 big questions (and answers) on the future of humanity from people who actually know what the fuck they're talking about - Scientific American

"8. Will sex become obsolescent?

“No, but having sex to conceive babies is likely to become at least much less common. In 20 to 40 years we’ll be able to derive eggs and sperm from stem cells, probably the parents’ skin cells. This will allow easy preimplantation genetic diagnosis on a large number of embryos—or easy genome modification for those who want edited embryos instead of just selected ones.”

—Henry Greely, director of the Center for Law and the Biosciences at Stanford University"

+ MY NOTES: Mr. Greely is also a highly regarded professional buzzkill.


3. It's the side deals in Paris that are going to make or break this planet. Who's on the hook? - Foreign Affairs (REGISTRATION/LOGIN REQUIRED, but free!)

"Bill Gates unveiled the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, a group of more than two dozen wealthy sponsors that plan to pool investments in early stage clean energy technology companies. And U.S. President Barack Obama announced Mission Innovation, an agreement among 20 countries—including the world’s top three emitters, China, the United States, and India—to double public funding for clean energy R & D to $20 billion annually by 2020. Washington will make or break this pledge, since over half of the target will come from doubling the U.S. government’s current $6.4 billion yearly budget."

+ MY NOTES: Us, that's who.


4. Immunotherapy's coming after triple-negative breast cancer, the Demogorgon of cancers - ScienceDaily

"Previous studies at the University of Colorado Cancer Center show that the experimental drug AMPI-109 potently kills triple-negative breast cancer cells. But even the most compelling evidence of cell death in a dish isn't enough to push a drug into human clinical trials, even for triple-negative breast cancer, which has a high mortality rate and remains largely without targeted treatment options. Clinical trials are commonly guided by the knowledge of how a drug works -- an understanding that can allow researchers to tweak a drug's effectiveness or explore rational combinations of multiple drugs to maximize antitumor responses. Now a study published in the journal Oncogenesis offers compelling evidence that AMPI-109 works by flipping the switch on an enzyme called PRL-3 that initially puts cancer cells to "sleep" or senescence, and shortly thereafter leads to their death, or apoptosis."

+ MY NOTES: Have you guys read about organs on a chip? You should really read about organs on a chip


5. Yet another way for CRISPR to save the world: preventing the antibiotic apocalypse - Genetic Literacy Project

"The “therapy”, is not sent into the infected patient or animal model, however. Rather, a CRISPR-Cas system is released into the environment, consisting of a Cas to remove antibiotic resistance genes such as mcr-1 and an RNA sequence that locates those genes. Rather than drawing the editing system to a particular bacterial species, the system goes after the resistance genes in nature.”

+ MY NOTES: Please baby jesus I know I'm gonna go someday but The Black Death isn't the way I want to go


6. An astronaut and scientist on perspective, and theory - The New Yorker

"Fundamentally, a theory in science is not just a whim or an opinion; it is a logical construct of how we think something works, generally agreed upon by scientists and always in agreement with the available observations. A good example is Isaac Newton’s theory of gravitation, which says that every physical object in the universe exerts a gravity force field around itself, with the strength of that field depending on its mass. The theory—one simple equation—does a superb job of explaining our observations of how planets orbit around the sun, and was more than good enough to make the calculations we needed to send spacecraft to the moon and elsewhere. Einstein improved on Newton’s theory when it comes to large-scale astronomical phenomena, but, for everyday engineering use, Newton’s physics works perfectly well, even though it is more than three hundred years old."

+ MY NOTES: Things that were or are currently also theories: gravity, general relativity, quantum theory, Heliocentrism, why Barb had to die like that tho.