#63: Lean On Me

Before we get to the most topical news, a couple quick notes:

1. It was incredibly inspiring to spend time helping out in Houston. While I wouldn't describe the atmosphere as "happy", I would like to say that the resolve and community shown by the collective down there was a great reminder of what we're capable of as a people. There's more where Harvey came from, and we're gonna need that spirit going forward.

2. With regard to sources. A report from Motherboard says "There Are Now 8,000 Fake Science ‘Journals’ Worldwide". That's not ideal, obviously, in a world of fake news.

We just wanted to make sure YOU know that WE know what's real and what's not, and that we're always giving it to you vetted and straight. It's gonna get harder and harder to keep track of the truth, and that's why curation matters, and also you should get your friends to subscribe. k thanks.

This is a long one after last week's abbreviated special edition, so buckle in.

On to the news!


Almost immediately, people jumped on the "climate change did this" train. Most folks, even. Which is somewhat reassuring. At the very least, trusted sourcesanticipated this question and offered their own takes. The summary: In a world with relatively slow sea-level rise, more frequent and more violent hurricanes are theoretically much more telling examples of what we've wrought.

Of course, in a bizarre twist, this has led to institutions such as the ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY attacking climate scientists for "politicizing" the storms and damage. Which...sigh.

It's not so clean - Harvey, and now, Irma, and whomever follows them before hurricane season comes to a close - aren't exactly the direct result of ExxonMobil knowing about and internally discussing climate change 40 years ago and deciding to conduct a planet-killing cover-up. We've had hurricanes for-just-about-ever. There's a predictable season for a reason. If we'd never graced this sweet planet, hurricanes would still be happening.

So, where do we stand? Here's the facts. Climate change raises sea levels, and sea temperatures. And warmer sea temperatures fuels stronger hurricanes. And Irma's just about as strong as we've ever seen. 


With regards to Irma: historically, Category 5 storms are fairly rare, and notoriously fickle, requiring perfect conditions to sustain their power, and thus, usually, don't stay rated 5 for very long. Unless -- again -- the conditions are perfect. See above.

So climate change probably didn't cause Harvey, or Irma, or any of their dickhead cousins, but chances are, rising seas and temperatures made them that much more powerful. And certainly wetter. The wind is terrible, of course, but the exacerbated rainfall - that's the clincher. More here, and here.

So we know about the storms themselves, but what about the destruction? Well, humans have always lived near the coast, or near large fresh-water bodies. Water, fishing, travel, temperate. But in the last century, those numbers have grown exponentially, with little regard for future weather and climate implications.

Boomtown, Flood Town - ProPublica & The Texas Tribune

"Climate change will bring more frequent and fierce rainstorms to cities like Houston. But unchecked development remains a priority in the famously un-zoned city, creating short-term economic gains for some while increasing flood risks for everyone."

More on over-development and flooding here, and hereThere's very little you could do to convince me to invest in any coastal city at this point. But nobody's unbuilding these cities anytime soon, so I guess we'll just see what happens as the floods grow, and grow more frequent.

On the same page: Asia's underwater. Truly. 

And remember, it's not just office buildings and homes and cars underwater, punished by wind and rain. It's also incredibly dangerous and volatile petrochemical plants.

This is our new world:

The Strange Future Hurricane Harvey Portends - The Atlantic (honestly, this is a must read)

"Humans have begun an international project to move water around the world, far more ambitious than any network of aqueducts or hydroelectric dams ever constructed or conceived. The drivers of this global system are billowing vapors, which trap heat and propel the world’s water faster and farther around the globe. The first results of this project may already be seen in the outrageous rainfall totals of storms like Hurricane Harvey, or in landslides on remote mountain hillsides, and even in the changing saltiness of the oceans.

The Earth system is getting warmer. Water is evaporating faster. There’s more of it in the air. It’s moving through the system faster. As a result, the coming centuries will play out under a new atmospheric regime, one with more extreme rain, falling in patterns unfamiliar to those around which civilization has grown.

“Basically the idea is that as the climate warms there’s more energy in the atmosphere,” says Gabriel Bowen, a geochemist at the University of Utah. “That drives a more vigorous water cycle: Evaporation rates go up, precipitation rates go up—there’s just more water moving through that cycle faster and more intensely."

Finally, if you haven't yet, please consider donating to a worthy cause to help recovery efforts. Here's how do so most effectively.


CRISPR Therapeutics Joins Hospital For Cancer Treatment Tests - GlobalNewsWire

The FDA Just Approved the First 'Living' Therapy to Treat Childhood Leukemia- Gizmodo

How to Blow Up Cancer From the Inside - Medium

Scientists could use Zika to fight brain cancer in the future - engadget

+ This news is awesome and also basically the instigating event for I AM LEGEND

App detects pancreatic cancer from the whites of your eyes - engadget

What the actual fuck?!??! Pancreatic cancer is a NIGHTMARE diagnosis. The future is awesome!

On the other hand, sometimes we're promised flying cars, and the reality is much, much more complicated:

IBM pitched its Watson supercomputer as a revolution in cancer care. It’s nowhere close. - STAT

"t was an audacious undertaking, even for one of the most storied American companies: With a single machine, IBM would tackle humanity’s most vexing diseases and revolutionize medicine.
Breathlessly promoting its signature brand — Watson — IBM sought to capture the world’s imagination, and it quickly zeroed in on a high-profile target: cancer.

But three years after IBM began selling Watson to recommend the best cancer treatments to doctors around the world, a STAT investigation has found that the supercomputer isn’t living up to the lofty expectations IBM created for it. It is still struggling with the basic step of learning about different forms of cancer. Only a few dozen hospitals have adopted the system, which is a long way from IBM’s goal of establishing dominance in a multibillion-dollar market. And at foreign hospitals, physicians complained its advice is biased toward American patients and methods of care.

STAT examined Watson for Oncology’s use, marketing, and performance in hospitals across the world, from South Korea to Slovakia to South Florida. Reporters interviewed dozens of doctors, IBM executives, artificial intelligence experts, and others familiar with the system’s underlying technology and rollout.

The interviews suggest that IBM, in its rush to bolster flagging revenue, unleashed a product without fully assessing the challenges of deploying it in hospitals globally. While it has emphatically marketed Watson for cancer care, IBM hasn’t published any scientific papers demonstrating how the technology affects physicians and patients. As a result, its flaws are getting exposed on the front lines of care by doctors and researchers who say that the system, while promising in some respects, remains undeveloped."


Mercedes-Benz sees self-driving EVs as the future of car sharing - engadget

Scrapping the combustion engine: the metals critical to success of EVs - Hoffman Centre

Should California spend $3 billion to help people buy electric cars? - LA Times

EPA extends a waiver on motor fuel contents to apply nationwide, not just to Texas - Washington Post

+ Yes, this is helpful. But the skeptic in me can't wonder if Pruitt is salivating over this "timely and temporary" waiver.



Another US agency deletes references to climate change on government website - The Guardian

Danish Energy Company Is Turning the Page on Oil and Gas - WSJ

California governor traveling to Russia to discuss climate - AP News

The underestimated potential of solar energy to mitigate climate change - Nature

Four Radical Plans to Save Civilization From Climate Change (is our kind of click-bait!) - WIRED

Trump EPA cuts life-saving clean cookstove program because it mentions climate change - ThinkProgress

And finally, this goddamn hero:

Katharine Hayhoe is successfully convincing doubtful evangelicals about climate change - The Guardian

"Approximately one-quarter of Americans identify as evangelical Christians, and that group also tends to be more resistant to the reality of human-caused global warming. 

These findings appear to stem from two primary factors. First, evangelicals tend to be socially and politically conservative, and climate change is among the many issues that have become politically polarized in America. Second, there is sometimes a perceived conflict between science and religion, as Christians distrust what they perceive as scientists’ “moral agenda” on issues like evolution, stem cell research, and climate change.

Katharine Hayhoe’s lecture presented climate science information through the lens of an evangelical tradition. In addition to presenting scientific evidence, it included an introduction about the difference between faith and science (faith is based on things that are spiritually discerned, whereas science is based on observation). About six minutes of the 33- to 53-minute lectures were devoted to theology-based ethics.
Hayhoe lecture’s effectiveness

The participants filled out a survey before and after the lecture, detailing their acceptance that global warming is happening, its cause, whether there’s a scientific consensus, how high of a priority they consider it, how worried they are about it, and how much it will harm various groups. The results showed an increase in pro-climate beliefs for every single question after listening to Katharine Hayhoe’s lecture.
Acceptance that global warming is happening increased for 48% of participants, and that humans are causing it for 39%. Awareness of the expert scientific consensus increased among 27% of participants. 52% were more worried about climate change after watching the lecture, and 67% increased their responses about how much harm climate change will do. 55% of participants viewed addressing climate change a higher priority after attending Katharine Hayhoe’s lecture. For most of the remaining participants, there was no change in responses to these questions.

By testing three different lecture approaches, Webb and Hayhoe also concluded that the lecture was equally effective when presented in person or as a recorded video, and that adding material about common climate misconceptions didn’t make the lecture any more effective."



Craig Venter: DNA is going digital - Axios

Five myths about gene editing - Washington Post

New Mini-Antennae Could Pave the Way for Brain-Computer Interfaces - Futurism

Will AI Enable the Third Stage of Life on Earth? - Scientific American

+ Fingers crossed!


Pondering Voyagers’ Interstellar Journeys, and Our Own - NYTimes

Tiny, twisted carbon coils can capture ocean's energy - Axios

Antibiotic-brined chicken may kill us all - WIRED

UK scientists create world’s smallest surgical robot to start a hospital revolution- The Guardian

Debunking Hollywood's Portrayals of Human Hibernation - The Atlantic

Biological Teleporter Could Seed Life Through Galaxy - MIT

Artificial Intelligence Analyses Distortions In Spacetime A Whopping 10 Million Times Faster Than Us - Forbes

Do We Need A Speedometer for Artificial Intelligence? - WIRED

$100 Million E.T. Hunt Spots 15 Mysterious Light Flashes - Space.com

      + Related: Are Mysterious Fast Radio Bursts Propelling Alien Spacecraft?
      + MY NOTES: Let's fucking hope so!

New heart treatment is biggest breakthrough since statins, scientists say - The Guardian

Artificial Intelligence Could Predict Alzheimer’s Years Before Doctors - US News

Oh, and Hackers Have Reportedly Gained 'Operational Access' to US Power Grids



North Korea's trigger-happy big guy is up to all kinds of shenanigans, including this,which actually made another certain psychotic murderous dictator say:

“Ramping up military hysteria in such conditions is senseless; it’s a dead end,” Putin told reporters in China. “It could lead to a global, planetary catastrophe and a huge loss of human life. There is no other way to solve the North Korean nuclear issue, save that of peaceful dialogue.”

And on that note, I'm out.