#51: Terminator + Jerry Brown + Bad Jokes = Save The Planet

Good morning, readers! Lots of great stuff this week that (as always) isn't directly related to our totally fairly and legitimately democratically-elected leader stirring up trouble where he goes. You get enough of that literally everywhere else. 

Because we Cut.Through.The.Bullshit.

For example, maybe you've already read how our doomsday vault of seeds got breached by a water leak thanks to soaring Arctic temps. Good times. But there's so much more!

On to the news!

1. Ah yes. Solar flares. Those things that sound super sci-fi, but in reality our entire 21st century society depends on a big one not happening. What's that? One already almost caused WWIII? But it was in 1967 before we depended on connectivity? - Forbes

"On May 23, 1967, international political tensions and a natural event took us to brink of World War III. American surveillance radar experienced a jamming signal, which they believed came from the Soviets. Fearing the prelude of an attack or large-scale invasion, the U.S. Air Force got ready, with preparations including bombers equipped with nuclear weapons. In the nick of time, the military was informed that the jamming wasn't caused by the Soviets, but rather by an unusual solar storm, one strong enough to disrupt temporarily radio communication and radar on Earth. "

+ MY NOTES: Even if we don't nuke each other, all of our communications/GPS/smart ovens going down would be juuuuuuust a little bit of an issue.

2. Here's a fun piece by the Financial Times (my old stomping grounds!) on why renewables progress is irreversible. - FT

Global renewable power generation capacity rose by 9 per cent last year — a fourfold increase from the start of this century — buoyed by the growth of newer sources such as solar power that shot up by more than 30 per cent. For the second year in a row, renewable energy accounted for more than half the new power generation capacity added worldwide. Sales of plug-in electric vehicles last year were 42 per cent higher than in 2015, growing eight times faster than the overall market. The storage capacity of big lithium ion battery systems more than doubled last year.

These advances have become too significant for the oil and gas industry to ignore. In the first three months of this year, the heads of some of the world’s largest oil companies have spoken of a “global transformation” (Saudi Aramco) that is “unstoppable” (Royal Dutch Shell) and “reshaping the energy industry” (Statoil). Isabelle Kocher, chief executive of French power and gas group Engie, calls it a new “industrial revolution” that will “bring about a profound change in the way we behave”."

+ MY NOTES: This one requires a paywall. If you don't have it, here's a free summary (but seriously pay for good journalism).

3. China's epic race to prevent a global food crisis - Bloomberg

"So how can China produce enough safe food for its growing population if they all start eating like Americans?

The simple answer is it can’t.

It takes about 1 acre (half a hectare) to feed the average U.S. consumer. China only has about 0.2 acres of arable land per citizen, including fields degraded by pollution.

So China’s Communist government has increasingly shifted its focus to reforming agriculture, and its approach divides into four parts: market controls; improving farm efficiency; curbing land loss; and imports."

+ MY NOTES: Of course we all know this isn't just on China. Population growth has slowed, but it's nowhere near stopping. "Ballooning populations in Asia, Africa and South America will add another 2 billion people within a generation and they too will need more food."

4. Scott Pruitt thinks global warming is "leveling off". Safe to say, this newsletter would have a lot less to say if that was the case. Can you imagine how we'd fill the space? We could talk about puppies (#important). Or cats! Ugh. No. Not cats. Birds maybe. Anyways. It's not leveling off. - Popular Science

"Has climate change leveled off, leaving us to adjust to a new, warmer normal? Not according to satellitemeasurements, say the authors of a paper published yesterday in the journal Scientific Reports.
The eight researchers—who together hail from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of Seattle—analyzed temperature data from three different satellite groups over a twenty-year period from January 1979 to December 2016.

Specifically, they used satellite estimates of global changes in the temperature of the mid-to upper troposphere made available from the Remote Sensing Systems (RSS), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s (NOAA) Center for Satellite Applications and Research (STAR) and the University of Alabama at Huntsville(UAH).

According to their data, the atmosphere has warmed unnaturally quickly over the past 20 years—and it doesn't seem to be tapering off."

+ MY NOTES: Extra coverage of the paper here in the WaPo. Love these super nerds taking the time to publish something in the dorkiest of journals that isn't really breaking news, but clearly (sigh) needs repeating.

5. Here's the former Chief Data Scientist for the US talking about how Trump's health plan will screw us long term vis a vis the imminent genomic medical era, personalized medicine, etc. - NewCo Shift

"bringing back preexisting conditions will derail us in three ways if the American Health Care Act (AHCA) — also known as Trumpcare, goes forward.

1. Missing out on the era of genomic + big data/AI Medicine

2. Slowing down the pace of science and the fight against cancer

3. Organ donations "

+ MY NOTES: Click through for the supporting text. We haven't covered the health bill bullshit much here because, while it's incredibly important (it saved my dad's life), we're pretty firm believers that this is a temporary blip and the arc of progress will continue to bend towards universal coverage (5calls.org).

6. Here's a great example of an area where we'd fall behind. You want to Make America Great Again? Make us the undisputed leader in immunotherapy and personalized medicine. - Science Daily

"Researchers from Wake Forest School of Medicine and Zhejiang University in China developed a novel mathematical model to explore the interactions between prostate tumors and common immunotherapy approaches, individually and in combination. In a study published in February 2016 in Nature Scientific Reports, they used their model to predict how prostate cancer would react to four common immunotherapies.

To study the systematic effects of these four treatments, the researchers incorporated data from animal studies into their complex mathematical models and simulated tumor responses to the treatments using the Stampede supercomputer at the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC).

"We do a lot of modeling which relies on millions of simulations," said Jing Su, a researcher at the Center for Bioinformatics and Systems Biology at Wake Forest School of Medicine and assistant professor in the Department of Diagnostic Radiology. "To get a reliable result, we have to repeat each computation at least 100 times. We want to explore the combinations and effects and different conditions and their results.""

+ MY NOTES: #thefuture

7. California says fuck it, will deal with climate change on their own. Even the (Republican) Terminator is (adorably) getting in on it. - NYTimes

"“Saying you’ll bring coal plants back is the past,” Mr. Schwarzenegger said. “It’s like saying you’ll bring Blockbuster back, which is the past. Horses and buggies, which is the past. Pagers back, which is the past.”

California is preparing for a legal challenge. “You have to be concerned when anybody talks about going backward,” said Xavier Becerra, the state attorney general. “In this case we think we have a strong case to be made based on the facts and the history.”"

MY NOTES: Pagers! Appreciating T2 and old man Jerry Brown more every day (though the fracking stuff is killing us, J-Dog).


Careers of 2030 - check this list. 

An (awesome) brief history of SETI@Home

Volvo goes all in on EV's

We needed 106 TB store the 100,000 neurons of the fruit fly. Your brain's got about 100 billion. We're not getting uploaded anytime soon.

Can bitcoin save the environment/planet/galaxy?

8 million Americans in danger thanks to shitty nuclear waste management

TIME magazine: we're not ready for the next pandemic (how many times have we said that here?)

Should taxpayers pay for university labs and basic science?

Here's a new personalized cancer drug

Climate change is turning Antarctica green. Good, good.

CRISPR founder/godmother of future genetically modified superhumans Jennifer Doudna on the good and bad of her little invention

Preparing for a pandemic: the differences between the East and West