#78: I have a proposition for you, Magnum.

Trying something different this week -- by some accounts, you guys dig the news, just not six pages of it. So we're gonna try to tighten things up a bit to approximately "one subway ride" length (j/k New York we know your 4 train's been stuck underground for two years).

Also -- very exciting, and kind of nuts:

Our podcast has launched!!!

Sort of.

A quick explainer: if this newsletter is The News Most Vital to Our Survival As A Species, curated from the week's most vital headlines...well, the podcast is The Conversations Most Vital to Our Survival As A Species.

How are they different? Thanks for asking.

The podcast is our chance to host a more evergreen conversation (not an interview -- as hosts, we represent ourselves, and you, in this grand debacle, and will be actively commenting/reacting/questioning/groveling along the way) and take on one question or topic a week, with a featured scientist/engineer/politician/journalist.

It's fun. You'll learn a lot about them and their work, but also, and most importantly, some steps you can take to support their cause. Which. Just. Might. Save. Us. All.


Remember last weekend when that alert went out that told everyone on Hawaii a missile was coming to kill them? Like right now? Yeah. "They" said it was an "error", but hey, it was still shit-your-pants terrifying, and basically the exact alert everyone on the west coast has been expecting for the last year.

Conveniently, a good friend and his fiancé were there, so we had a quick conversation in the hours after to find out what those minutes -- the ones we've all been fearing -- really felt like.

This is our "soft launch", but we're still a few weeks away from starting our run. We've got a bunch of great conversations already recorded and more on the way. Subscribe right here, and if you like us, rate us on Apple Podcasts -- every little bit helps!

(...and of course, please subscribe anywhere else you happen to get your podcasts. We're there!)

On to the news!

Hacking Us

You May Already Be Immune to CRISPR

"2018 is supposed to be the year of CRISPR in humans. The first U.S. and European clinical trials that test the gene-editing tool's ability to treat diseases—such as sickle-cell anemia, beta thalassemia, and a type of inherited blindness—are slated to begin this year.

But the year has begun on a cautionary note. On Friday, Stanford researchers posted a preprint (which has not been peer reviewed) to the website biorXiv highlighting a potential obstacle to using CRISPR in humans: Many of us may already be immune to it. That’s because CRISPR actually comes from bacteriathat often live on or infect humans, and we have built up immunity to the proteins from these bacteria over our lives."

+ Two steps forward, one step back.

+ More here.


The Rise of Citizen Bioscience

"This is not science fiction. Biotechnologies have progressed to a point where it is now possible for high school students to be taught how to use gene-editing techniques, which aim to modify the genetic code underlying cells and proteins. Advances could be unprecedented with the next generation learning how to turn their own ideas and know-how into new bio-constructs. Just like algorithms in software engineering, our cells have become intelligent-design material."

+ The next generation of garage startups could be really weird.


Fuck Cancer, Volume LXXVIII 🖕

Inside the Global Relay Race to Deliver Moly-99

"Nuclear medicine imaging, a staple of American health care since the 1970s, runs almost entirely on Molybdenum-99, a radioisotope produced by nuclear fission of enriched uranium that decays so rapidly it becomes worthless within days. But moly-99, as it’s called, is created in just six government-owned nuclear research reactors — none in North America — raising concerns about the reliability of the supply and even prompting federal scientists to warn of the possibility of severe shortages.

Some 50,000 Americans each day depend on a strange and precarious supply chain easily disrupted by a variety of menaces: shipments grounded by fog in Dubai, skittish commercial airline pilots who refuse to carry radioactive material and unplanned nuclear reactor shutdowns, including one in South Africa when a mischievous baboon sneaked into a reactor hall.

Delays that pose an inconvenience for other commercial goods are existential threats in the daily global relay race of medical isotopes that disappear hour by hour. “It’s like running through the desert with an ice cream cone,” said Ira N. Goldman, senior director of global strategic supply at Lantheus Medical Imaging in North Billerica, Mass."


Immunotherapy highly effective in treatment of rare skin cancer, study finds

"In a UCLA-led study, more than two-thirds of people with a rare type of melanoma responded positively to treatment with anti-PD-1 immunotherapies. The findings, which counter the conventional wisdom that a cancer which is highly fibrotic could not respond to immunotherapy, have the potential to help scientists identify those patients most likely to benefit from treatment."

+ One step back, two steps forward. Such is the race to the future.


Early testing of new blood cancer screening shows some promise

"Scientists announced Thursday in the journal Science that they've developed a highly specific blood test that screens for 8 common cancer types, helps identify the location of the cancer, and is expected to cost about $500.

The study was conducted in a relatively small number of cancer patients. Some scientists believe the high specificity and sensitivity rates of the CancerSEEK test may drop in a larger patient group and say they will be watching the results from a larger trial expected in about 18 months."

+ Reasonable skepticism here. Medicine is hard.


Cough, cough, world ends

A severe flu season is stretching hospitals thin. That is a very bad omen.

"A tsunami of sick people has swamped hospitals in many parts of the country in recent weeks as a severe flu season has taken hold. In Rhode Island, hospitals diverted ambulances for a period because they were overcome with patients. In San Diego, a hospital erected a tent outside its emergency room to manage an influx of people with flu symptoms.

Wait times at scores of hospitals have gotten longer.

But if something as foreseeable as a flu season — albeit one that is pretty severe — is stretching health care to its limits, what does that tell us about the ability of hospitals to handle the next flu pandemic?"

+ California's having a gnarly time handling a "war zone" of patients.

+ From Foreign Affairs, Ready for a Global Pandemic? The Trump Administration May Be Woefully Underprepared

+ Also, in case it isn't obvious, fake news and distrust of science could lead to global epidemics

+ 'Smart thermometers' tracking the flu in real time


How Dirt Could Save Humanity From an Infectious Apocalypse

"Sean Brady is creating drugs from dirt. He’s certain that the world’s topsoils contain incredible, practically inexhaustible reservoirs of undiscovered antibiotics, the chemical weapons bacteria use to fend off other microorganisms. He’s not alone in this thinking, but the problem is that the vast majority of bacteria cannot be grown in the lab—a necessary step in cultivating antibiotics."


Fighting Climate Change

Congrats to 2017 on an entirely expected win as the second hottest year on record!

"Continuing the planet's long-term warming trend, globally averaged temperatures in 2017 were 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit (0.90 degrees Celsius) warmer than the 1951 to 1980 mean, according to scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York. That is second only to global temperatures in 2016.

In a separate, independent analysis, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) concluded that 2017 was the third-warmest year in their record. The minor difference in rankings is due to the different methods used by the two agencies to analyze global temperatures, although over the long-term the agencies’ records remain in strong agreement. Both analyses show that the five warmest years on record all have taken place since 2010."

+ More on the cities that want some 💰from the companies behind mess.


China builds ‘world’s biggest air purifier’ (and it seems to be working)

"An experimental tower over 100 metres (328 feet) high in northern China – dubbed the world’s biggest air purifier by its operators – has brought a noticeable improvement in air quality, according to the scientist leading the project, as authorities seek ways to tackle the nation’s chronic smog problem."


This is insane: Cape Town Is 90 Days Away From Running Out of Water

"After three years of unprecedented drought, the South African city of Cape Town has less than 90 days worth of water in its reservoirs, putting it on track to be the first major city in the world to run out of water. Unless residents drastically cut down on daily use, warns Cape Town Mayor Patricia De Lille, taps in the seaside metropolis of four million will soon run dry. On April 22, to be exact."

+ Here's looking at you, Los Angeles.


The Leftovers