#74: We Have, For the Most Part, Brought Sexy Back

Uh oh! Is that fire? Is that smoke? Look at those eyes! It's getting sexy in here! 

Just kidding. He's great, but LOOK AT US!

Hope everyone digs our new redesign. Still working out some kinks, but we're liking it--

...what's that?

The fire and smoke are from climate-induced wildfires burning down America's largest and most environmentally progressive state? 

Oh. Well. Fuck.

Ok.

Let's find out what that's all about, shall we?

On to the news!

 

Do You Smell Something Burning?

California's on fire: here's why

An abnormally wet winter last year = exponential brush growth
+ hottest October on record
October rainfall at 5% of average
+ Santa Ana winds
= the apocalyptic shit you're seeing on TV.

Or, if you live in California, on your commute home.

+ A handy FAQ on what's going down, courtesy of Mother Jones.

+ Here's some satellite shots of the fire, from space.

 

Is this the new normal?

"Using complex new modeling, scientists have found that rapidly melting Arctic sea ice now threatens to diminish precipitation over California by as much as 15% within 20 to 30 years. Such a change would have profound economic impacts in a state where the most recent drought drained several billion dollars out of the economy, severely stressed infrastructure and highlighted how even the state most proactively confronting global warming is not prepared for its fallout."

+ Survey says: you're next.

+ 54 degrees above normal in Greenland this week. 

Ask Sivendra how his house is doing, thanks to climate change.

 

Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? No!

45 American mayors say "Eat shit, Trump"

"45 American mayors committed their cities to uphold the emissions standards laid out in the Paris agreement, (which) was the latest display of hostility by some of the nation’s Democratic mayors toward Mr. Trump’s policies.

Barack Obama (editor's note: swoon), who was president when the Paris accord was negotiated, also appeared, calling the mayors’ newly signed agreement “a powerful symbol to the world” and saying that local governments were part of “the new face of American leadership on climate change.”

...Under the agreement, which is not legally enforceable, city leaders committed to reducing their own localities’ greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, the national goal negotiated by Mr. Obama’s administration. The pact also called for cities to publish quarterly emissions data; to consider climate change when building infrastructure; and to take an active role in advocating climate-friendly policies."

+ The world might be laughing at us/terrified, but game recognizes game, and respect the work local governments are putting in.

+ No more ocean plastic. Or, at least, less of it. Theoretically.

+ Is money driving many of these cities to step up? Maybe. Who cares?

+ Call me when any US city builds something like this.

 

How a scientist covers her/his ass

""In the scientific community, we're very cautious people," says Katharine Hayhoe, the director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech. "We tend to be quite averse to notoriety and conflict, so I absolutely have seen self-censorship among my colleagues. [They'll say] 'Well, maybe I shouldn't say it that way, because whatever funding organization or politician or agency won't appreciate it.'"

The NSF data appears to bear out the change in language. While the number of grants with the term "climate change" in the public summary has dropped, the number of grants with the terms "environmental change" or "extreme weather" has increased slightly. That suggests that, even if research topics remain the same, the words scientists use to describe them may change.

"Scientists I know are increasingly using terms like 'global change', 'environmental change', and 'extreme weather', rather than explicitly saying 'climate change'," Jonathan Thompson, the senior ecologist at the Harvard Forest, wrote in an email to NPR. Thompson has been the lead investigator on multiple research projects funded by the NSF in recent years. "This seems to be born out of an abundance of caution to limit their exposure to any political landmines in what is already an extremely competitive process," he wrote."

+ Good work, everybody.

 

The climate Holy Grail/Golden Fleece/Fountain of Youth/Infinity Stone

"In other words, Hellisheidi is now a zero-emissions plant that turns a greenhouse gas to stone.

This October, it went a step further, partnering with Climeworks, a Switzerland-based startup, to install a machine that sucks carbon dioxide out of the air. That gas is also sent underground, where it, too, eventually turns to rock. The result is a “negative emissions” power plant that literally subtracts carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. As of this writing, the Climeworks machine has already pulled out more than 5 metric tons of carbon dioxide from the air and injected it underground, the equivalent of burying the annual carbon footprint of a household in India.

Critics laughed at those pursuing a moonshot in “direct-air capture” only a decade ago. Now Climeworks is one of three startups—along with Carbon Engineering in Canada and Global Thermostat in the US—to have shown the technology is feasible. The Hellisheidi carbon-sucking machine is the second Climeworks has installed in 2017. If it continues to find the money, the startup hopes its installations will capture as much as 1% of annual global emissions by 2025, sequestering about 400 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year."

 

Fuck Cancer, Volume IXVIIX

"Smart people hunt down diseases that kill innocent kids" is a headline I'll write every goddamn day

"Neuroblastoma is the most common solid tumor cancer in children and is challenging to treat regardless of existing therapies that are available. Dr. Andras Heczey, assistant professor of pediatrics - hematology and oncology, and Dr. Leonid Metelitsa, professor of pediatrics - oncology at Baylor College of Medicine, have received a $1.5 million grant from Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation to conduct a Phase 1, first-in-human clinical trial of a new form of immunotherapy to treat neuroblastoma using native and engineered properties of natural killer T-cells (NKTs).

“Our goal is to find a safe option to effectively treat neuroblastoma, one of the most prevalent and deadly types of cancer in children. NKTs can naturally traffic to the tumor site and suppress tumor growth indirectly by attacking tumor-supportive macrophages. In addition, we armed NKTs with a genetically engineered protein called chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) that enables them to directly kill neuroblastoma cells,” Heczey said. “Thus, CAR NKTs can eliminate tumors by targeting both tumor cells and tumor-supportive macrophages. There is tremendous promise in this therapy, but we need to determine how to best implement it for patients.”"

+ Disclosure: I am a fundraiser and semi-advisor (their loss) for Alex's Lemonade Stand. Deal with it.

 

Who doesn't want more of "smart people dedicating their lives to saving kids"?

"Children with an extremely deadly form of brain cancer might benefit from a new treatment that aims to direct an immune response against a mutant form of a protein found exclusively on cancer cells, according to a new study led by UC San Francisco researchers.

The focus of the study, published online Dec. 4 in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, is diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), an aggressive pediatric brain cancer. DIPG is rare — estimates suggest that about 300 new cases occur in the United States each year — but almost always fatal.

Because DIPG occurs in a difficult-to-access area of the brain stem that controls vital functions such as breathing, blood pressure, and heart rate, these tumors are almost impossible to remove surgically. Radiation therapy is the current standard treatment, but is rarely effective for long, according to Hideho Okada, MD, PhD, professor of neurological surgery and director of the Brain Tumor Immunotherapy Center at UCSF, and the senior author of the study.
Hideho Okada, MD, PhD

“It is important to develop more innovative treatment approaches for childhood brain cancers, which now are the leading cause of cancer death in children. DIPG is a very deadly type of brain cancer, and not many children survive beyond 12 months from the time of diagnosis.” said Okada."

+ Hey Hideho? You're the fucking man.

+ Let's not forget how complicated cancer is, despite all our progress.

+ Four ways to cut down your chance of getting cancer: never smoke, don't drink too much, don't get fat, get out and exercise. Forget the fancy science, let's start with the basics, people.

 

Do these genes make me look fat?

Why DARPA Is investing big in gene drives

"A powerful and controversial new genetic engineering technology called a gene drive offers the potential to drastically reshape our world by overriding natural selection. And the US military’s research arm is one of the technology’s biggest research funders.


...The involvement of the US military in such a technology has understandably raised concerns. A gene drive works by overriding natural selection’s typical 50-50 mix, ensuring that a desired trait introduced by genetic engineering more efficiently spreads through a wild population. Among other things, this technique might be used to engineer invasive pests to breed themselves out of existence. Earlier this year, New Zealand signaled it was interested in the gene drives as a potential solution to its problem with invasive species (pending much, much more research of course). If it works outside of lab environments, the gene drive could eventually become a massively powerful technology, allowing for the potential of genetically altering an entire species."

+ Allllllrighty then.

+ We talk about gene editing and CRISPR a lot here, mostly because it may very well change the fundamental dynamics of life on planet Earth (and anywhere else we go, should we ever get off this fucking rock). Here's a primer on what the hell we're talking about.

 

Semi-synthetic life form now fully armed and operational*

"Every living thing on Earth stores the instructions for life as DNA, using the four genetic bases A, G, C, and T.

All except one, that is.

In the San Diego laboratory of Floyd Romesberg—and at a startup he founded—grow bacteria with an expanded genetic code. They have two more letters, an “unnatural” pair he calls X and Y.

Romesberg, head of a laboratory at the Scripps Research Institute, first amended the genes of the bacterium E. Coli to harbor the new DNA components in 2014. Now, for the first time, the germs are using their expanded code to manufacture proteins with equally unusual components.
“We wanted to prove the concept that every step of information storage and retrieval could be mediated by an unnatural base pair,” he says. “It’s not a curiosity anymore.”"

*This headline is timely and perfect and I didn't even write it!

+ Also we're gonna die

 

The surgeon who wants to connect you to the internet with a brain implant

My first instinct was "please god no" but then I read on.

"“What I think is so interesting is that the future is always flying cars,” Leuthardt says, handing the resident his Sharpie and picking up a scalpel. “They captured the dystopian component: they talk about biology, the replicants. But they missed big chunks of the future. Where were the neural prosthetics?”

It’s a topic that Leuthardt, a 44-year-old scientist and brain surgeon, has spent a lot of time imagining. In addition to his duties as a neurosurgeon at Washington University in St. Louis, he has published two novels and written an award-winning play aimed at “preparing society for the changes ahead.” In his first novel, a techno-thriller called RedDevil 4, 90 percent of human beings have elected to get computer hardware implanted directly into their brains. This allows a seamless connection between people and computers, and a wide array of sensory experiences without leaving home. Leuthardt believes that in the next several decades such implants will be like plastic surgery or tattoos, undertaken with hardly a second thought.

“I cut people open for a job,” he notes. “So it’s not hard to imagine.”"

 

Go Boom

If North Korea fires a nuclear missile at the U.S., how could it be stopped?

Hey look it's the question every American asks themselves every ten seconds.

"North Korea can make a nuclear bomb and has an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. If it launches such a missile, the United States has a $40 billion system designed to destroy the bomb in space.

What’s unknown is whether it will succeed.

The system, called Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD), is a work in progress. It has failed to destroy dummy warheads in six of 10 tests since becoming operational in 2004, but the two most recents tests succeeded. Here’s how it works."

+ The straight truth on NK's nuke abilities. It's no bueno.

+ Oh and hey let's not forget China is straight crushing the US in the military artificial intelligence race so have a nice weekend everybody

 

The Leftovers