#71

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

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

On to the news!


HERO OF THE WEEK

It's a close race this week.

76 women on a glacier are changing the world

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


Extreme Athletes Are Braving the Harshest Environments on Earth For Science

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


CDC scientists pursue monkeypox deep in Congo

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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



FUCKWIT OF THE WEEK

Oh hello Congress.

Ageing satellites put crucial sea-ice climate record at ris

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

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

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

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

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




THE PROOF IS IN THE PUDDING

Change = time + monumental efforts. See below.

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

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

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


The Astounding Engineering Behind the World's Largest Optical Telescope

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



THE GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PRESENT

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


In some good news...

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

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

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

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


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

How Climate Change Is Already Affecting Health, Spreading Disease

Superbugs: The Fight for Our Lives

What Zombie Diseases Lurk in the Permafrost?

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

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

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



THE GHOST OF CHRISTMAS FUTURE

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

+ Interested.



I DON'T KNOW THIS FEELS QUESTIONABLE BUT WHAT ARE WE GONNA DO NOW?

Mail-Order CRISPR Kits Allow Absolutely Anyone to Hack DNA

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



TO GO WHERE NO MAN/WOMAN/OTHER HAS GONE BEFORE/I NEED MORE POWER!

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

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

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



Quark fusion makes ten times as much energy as nuclear fusion


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THE LEFTOVERS

New Zealand is going 100% renewable by 2035

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

Why This Fungus Has Over 20,000 Sexes

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

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

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

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