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

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

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


Sigh. Welp.

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

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

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

On to the news!


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

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

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

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

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


See below re: EPA appointments. Thanks.


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

+ More here.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Is this subtle enough for you?

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

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

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

+ More here.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

+ Head explodes.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

+ Related: Will Changing Cloud Cover Accelerate Global Warming?

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

Can carbon dioxide removal save the world?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

A "zombie gene" protects elephants from cancer

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

An Astonishing Video Shows CRISPR Editing DNA in Real Time

CRISPR Can Now Edit Genes Using Nanoparticles Instead of Viruses

And finally...

Inside the first church of artificial intelligence