#39: The Benjamin Sisko Edition

Hey, so this is a few days late and that sucks. I forgot to tell you I was going on vacation, and so I left you hanging. And we have a bunch of new subscribers (yay) and they deserve better, even if you're used to my bullshit shenanigans.

To be fair... I only promised to cut through the bullshit to bring you The News Most Relevant to Our Survival As A Species. Not to do it right on time, every single goddamn week.

So anyways here's last week's issue, and then we'll be back to regularly scheduled programming.

On to the news!


1. Despite Trump's shameful ban on actual aliens, NASA has gone ahead and discovered 7 new exo-planets, three of which might be habitable - Popular Science

"Scientists have hit the jackpot, discovering seven Earth-size exoplanets orbiting a single star just 39 light-years away.

The star, named TRAPPIST-1, was thought to be home to three exoplanets. But with the help of a variety of observatories—including the Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope (a.k.a. TRAPPIST, the star's namesake), the Very Large Telescope in Chile, and NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope—researchers found four more planets in the system. The planets were discovered as they passed in front of the star, blocking some of its light from Earth's point-of-view.

"It's the first time we've found so many Earth-sized planets in a single system," says Emmanual Jehin, a co-author on the study."

+ MY NOTES: Still need a wormhole to get there. But it's progress! #science #rogue



2. Tracy Van Houten, a FREAKING ROCKET SCIENTIST, is quitting her job at NASA to run for Congress, because that's what it's come to. - The Atlantic

"A few Fridays ago, Tracy Van Houten drove to a registrar’s office to pick up the paperwork she would need to run for Congress. Doing so would mean giving up her role as an aerospace engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory—a dream job that she had held for 13 years. Her plan was to pick up the papers, think about them over the weekend, and make a decision afterwards.

Sitting outside the building, she wavered, and decided to call her senators to voice her opposition against Betsy DeVos—the since-confirmed nominee for Secretary of Education. She got a busy tone. She tried again. Another busy tone. “It was at the fifth one that I thought: Okay, I need to get to Washington and get a seat at the table,” she says. “That motivated me to get into the building and get on with it.

(Van Houten): "It’s been several years in the making. I love my job at the JPL, but I’ve been feeling this calling, that something bigger was needed from me. I was hoping to make a run for the California state legislature in 2018 or 2020—and then Trump was elected. And his first weeks in office brought executive order after executive order, and horrendous cabinet nominee after horrendous cabinet nominee. When this special election opened up, I thought I must accelerate my plans and do this now. I’ve been very involved with my community and the Society of Women Engineers and public schools here. I realized that everything I’ve been doing in my life has been leading to this point.”"

+ MY NOTES: She's running against -- wait for it 27 other folks in a special election in April -- but fingers are very much crossed.



3. These adorable, mostly immigrant goddamn tweens are trying to cure cancer and find out if we're in a simulated universe while you brunch and binge The OA, never once questioning how you spend your weekends. - Washington Post

"Prathik Naidu’s project, developed during a summer internship at MIT, examines the genes of cancer cells in a three-dimensional way with software he built himself. 

“This gives us an unprecedented insight into the inner working of cancer cells, something that we haven’t be able to see before using normal techniques,” Naidu said.

His passion for computational biology has taken him to an international conference in Dublin, where he was the only high school student to present research. It also led him to establish a computational biology conference, hoping to get middle and high school students excited about real-world applications of computer science."

+ MY NOTES: Quick question, Prathik -- can you please explain the OA? Please.



4. Climate change isn't just about sea level rise, or nasty storms, or #sadpolarbears. It's about insane droughts, and how Mexico City is sinking up to 9 inches a year. - NYTimes

"When the Grand Canal was completed, at the end of the 1800s, it was Mexico City’s Brooklyn Bridge, a major feat of engineering and a symbol of civic pride: 29 miles long, with the ability to move tens of thousands of gallons of wastewater per second. It promised to solve the flooding and sewage problems that had plagued the city for centuries.

Only it didn’t, pretty much from the start. The canal was based on gravity. And Mexico City, a mile and a half above sea level, was sinking, collapsing in on itself.

It still is, faster and faster, and the canal is just one victim of what has become a vicious cycle. Always short of water, Mexico City keeps drilling deeper for more, weakening the ancient clay lake beds on which the Aztecs first built much of the city, causing it to crumble even further.
 
It is a cycle made worse by climate change. More heat and drought mean more evaporation and yet more demand for water, adding pressure to tap distant reservoirs at staggering costs or further drain underground aquifers and hasten the city’s collapse.

In the immense neighborhood of Iztapalapa — where nearly two million people live, many of them unable to count on water from their taps — a teenager was swallowed up where a crack in the brittle ground split open a street. Sidewalks resemble broken china, and 15 elementary schools have crumbled or caved in."

+ MY NOTES: One more time: "A teenager was swallowed up where a crack in the brittle ground split open a street." 



5. I feel like I definitely mistyped this or one of you is punking me, but here goes: Bi-partisan Congressional leaders are taking a stand against anti-vaxxers. - Gizmodo

"“As Members of Congress, we have a critical role to play in supporting the availability and use of vaccines to protect Americans from deadly diseases,” they wrote in a letter released Tuesday and signed by six key legislative voices on public health issues, including Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, and Democratic Senator Patty Murray.

The letter doesn’t call out Trump by name, but it does clearly paint the growing movement against vaccines as dangerous.

“Already this year, states and communities around the country have reported outbreaks of measles, mumps and whooping cough,” they wrote. “The reason for these outbreaks vary, but we know there are increasing trends around the country that have led to lower vaccination rates in some communities, allowing outbreaks of infectious diseases to take hold with increasing frequency.”"

+ MY NOTES: Look nobody's perfect, but let's give these people some credit, shall we? Lamar Alexander, Patty Murray, Greg Walden, Frank Pallone Jr, Michael C. Burgess, and Gene Green. Gold stars all around. Here's the letter in full.





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SHIT I DIDN'T HAVE TIME TO POST BUT YOU SHOULD STILL READ

A brief interview with one of my favorite thinkers Yuval Harari on his new book Homo Deus and how we're all going cyborg -- or are we?

If you feel like certain politicians or business leaders are fucking with the discourse to a disturbing degree of success, you'd be correct, and here are reasons one and two why that's true

The future of space travel rides on the gentle hands of this space gynecologist #seveneves

Scott Pruitt confirms he's a dick

San Diego is installing sensors, cameras and microphones on 3200 streetlights. Super creepy, or super helpful, or probably just both?

This is a little bit hippyish, but this crazy asshole thinks we should come together to focus on solving big problems.

80% of new CRISPR users -- folks just out there cutting up DNA like Walter White in an RV -- are basically neophytes, which is mostly terrifying but also exciting

We already posted about this one, but it's worth linking to again, because it sucks: to your great surprise, California is very much in the hands of Big Oil