#40: Penguins = Spring Breakers

I want to start this week off by thanking you guys for being the best readers ever. EVER. We're growing like crazy and you guys are sharing us over email, social media, carrier pigeons, "ancient, dormant torches on snowy mountain tops that, when used, and accompanied by a powerful and haunting fog horn, typically portend the coming of a dragon or invading army"...you name it. So thank you. Let's keep it going and break through the bullshit.

On to the news!

1. You thought this was going to be about the beach day on Antartica, but you were wrong, because it's about genetically-engineered pigs making disease-resistant bacon. - GenEngNews

"Homer J. Simpson once referred—unknowingly of course—to the pig as a “magical, mystical creature,” and for many, culinarily speaking, this is right on the mark. Yet, public health officials and farmers view the “enchanted” porcine much differently. In addition to the animals being a haven for zoonotic diseases that often spread to humans, viral infections in pigs cost the swine industry billions of dollars in lost product every year. Creating animals that are genetically resistant to various viruses would not only save money, but could also provide a greater means to protect the population from potentially epidemic diseases such as influenza.

Now, a team of investigators from the University of Edinburgh and the biotech company Genus have used the genome-editing tool CRISPR/Cas9 to engineer pigs that are potentially resistant to porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS), which causes severe breathing problems in young pigs and breeding failures in pregnant females."

+ MY NOTES: The most important news, first, always!

2. But yes the next great Spring Break destination party-town, Antarctica, is getting way hot, and that's no bueno. - Reuters

""Verification of maximum and minimum temperatures help us to build up a picture of the weather and climate in one of Earth’s final frontiers," said Michael Sparrow, a polar expert with the WMO co-sponsored World Climate Research Programme.

Antarctica locks up 90 percent of the world's fresh water as ice and would raise sea levels by about 60 meters (200 ft) if it were all to melt, meaning scientists are concerned to know even about extremes around the fringes.

The heat record for the broader Antarctic region, defined as anywhere south of 60 degrees latitude, was 19.8°C (67.6°F) on Jan. 30, 1982 on Signy Island in the South Atlantic, it said.
And the warmest temperature recorded on the Antarctic plateau, above 2,500 meters (8,202 feet), was -7.0°C (19.4°F) on Dec. 28, 1980, it said.

Wednesday's WMO report only examined the highs."

+ MY NOTES: "...would raise sea levels by about 60 meters (200 ft) if it were all to melt." Think about that number when you're reading the next article. #perspective

3. Is is okay to enjoy the warm winters of climate change? - The Atlantic

"If these feelings take the form of a question, it is something like: How much should we really be enjoying weather so unseasonal, so suggestive of the consequences of climate change, when we’re doing so little to combat the larger phenomenon? If we think the future consequences of climate change will be very bad, are we allowed to savor them now?

There is, of course, no single right answer to this query, and it is an ethical or existential concern as much as a scientific one. But when I posed it to the scientists who encounter climate change’s consequences first-hand—in the planet’s expanding deserts, deluged coasts, and bleached coral reefs—they said that it was fine to take the good with the bad when it came to upheavals in Earth’s longterm climate.

Katherine Hayhoe, an atmospheric scientist at Texas Tech University, told me that people shouldn’t hesitate to enjoy unseasonably warm days, whether or not they are caused by climate change.

“It’s a good example of how all of the symptoms of a changing climate are not negative. And if there is something good, then enjoying it doesn’t make [climate change] any better or worse than it would be otherwise,” she said.

Rather, the warm days might prepare people to notice other shifts in how they experience the weather. “As it gets warmer, the negative impacts outweigh the positive impacts,” she said. “This will first look like hotter summers, pests moving northward, and our air-conditioning and water bill going up. Having these unusual days that we really notice, it makes us more aware of how other things are changing, too.”

For the climate-concerned, this is an encouraging theory of change—and it fits with a body of research that suggests people experiencing unusual warmth are more likely to tell pollsters they believe in global warming."

+ MY NOTES: And there's the twist -- maybe, just maybe, everyone who's not feeling, you know, debilitating anxiety about these spring-like days, and just enjoying them, and yet simultaneously noticing that, well, something's a bit off, will be more likely to discuss the greater issues of climate change with one another, increasing discourse, and maybe helping to save the world. What's the thing about there's no such thing as bad PR?

4. It's gonna be a battle for the ages. It may very well come down to the final bell. In the far corner, please welcome our challenger: deadly, drug-resistant superbugs, that may get us before climate change even gets a chance to warm up! - NYTimes

"The World Health Organization warned on Monday that a dozen antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” pose an enormous threat to human health, and urged hospital infection-control experts and pharmaceutical researchers to focus on fighting the most dangerous pathogens first.

The rate at which new strains of drug-resistant bacteria have emerged in recent years, prompted by overuse of antibiotics in humans and livestock, terrifies public health experts. Many consider the new strains just as dangerous as emerging viruses like Zika or Ebola.

“We are fast running out of treatment options,” said Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, the W.H.O. assistant director general who released the list. “If we leave it to market forces alone, the new antibiotics we most urgently need are not going to be developed in time.”"

+ MY NOTES: If it feels like they've been waving this warning flag for a while, you'd be correct.

5. And in the near corner, the "top of the food chain" title holder for 200,000 years, #1 in your hearts and minds, our reigning champ: human ingenuityyyyyyyyyyy! - Gizmodo

"Cas9 is in vogue for good reason: It’s a small enzyme that is really good at precisely targeting specific sequences of DNA, making engineering a genome much easier than ever before. Cas3 is terrible at those things. It shreds up the DNA it targets to a point far beyond repair, causing the cell to die. If CRISPR-Cas9 is a genetic scalpel, Cas3 is a chainsaw. Which is exactly why researchers think it might be just the thing to attack the sort of super-tough bacteria that can resist antibiotics. 

“What we’re trying to do is kill bacteria,” Rodolphe Barrangou, a molecular biologist at North Carolina State University, told Gizmodo. “It’s like a Pac-Man that’s going to chew up DNA rather than make a clean cut. It chews it up beyond repair. It’s lethal.”"


6. Filed under "science is hard", MD Anderson ditches Watson. - Forbes

"The partnership between IBM and one of the world’s top cancer research institutions is falling apart. The project is on hold, MD Anderson confirms, and has been since late last year. MD Anderson is actively requesting bids from other contractors who might replace IBM in future efforts. And a scathing report from auditors at the University of Texas says the project cost MD Anderson more than $62 million and yet did not meet its goals. The report, however, states: "Results stated herein should not be interpreted as an opinion on the scientific basis or functional capabilities of the system in its current state."

But IBM defended the MD Anderson product, known as the Oncology Expert Advisor or OEA. It says the OEA’s recommendations were accurate, agreeing with experts 90% of the time. “The OEA R&D project was a success, and likely could have been deployed had MD Anderson chosen to take it forward,” says an IBM spokesperson."

+ MY NOTES: Here's hoping it's just a hiccup. Not a deadly hiccup. Just a regular one. Like babies have. A baby hiccup. They're cute.


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SETI has been listening to those 7 new exoplanets for a while tho

Let's use robots to help grow new human organs -- because that's exactly what robots signed up for, amiright

Market for adorable cleaning robots is exploding -- you think this is cute, but is actually just a sign of things to come vis a via the economy going bye-bye

Electric car range anxiety might be a thing of the past

More on CRISPR and immunotherapy here