#81: In space, anything is possible

This week is a little longer than usual. But I think it's getting better organized, so you can either read the whole thing, skim the whole thing, or just find what you're looking for. There's a hell of a lot going on, especially this week, and our goal is #vital first.

Podcast news: thanks to everyone who's downloaded, subscribed, shared, rated, and reviewed the show. It's going great, and we couldn't be more appreciative or proud of the reception.

Because you've been so patient and supportive, we're dropping Episode 3 TODAY, and Episode 4 on our regularly scheduled Tuesday morning. Check it out, and if you love it, leave us a review!

On to the news!


Space: The Final Frontier/Escape Hatch 🚀👩‍🚀👽

SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy launch was (mostly) a success

"Then, there it was, surrounded by a cloud of vented oxygen. The weather held. No technical errors arose. It was five minutes to launch, then 30 seconds, then, 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1... flame and fire roared along with the crowd, and the most powerful rocket in operation today was on its way up, burning its path in the sky.

The scene was breathtaking, but could the rocket stick the landing? The Falcon Heavy approached the darkness at the edge of our atmosphere, and cheers arose once again as two Falcon cores on the sides broke cleanly away from the center core, pivoting back towards two landing pads on Cape Canaveral. Shortly afterwards, the last segment of the first stage separated, and headed back towards a drone ship. Landing the rockets carefully (instead of smashing them into the ocean) makes it more likely that they can be reused on another flight.

The two side cores were already veterans, having launched and landed in previous missions. They touched down in unison, a dramatic flourish to cap off a successful launch. It was, according to Popular Science gathered around their computers, “strangely beautiful,” and “like watching synchronized swimmers, but rockets.” In the words of the jubilant SpaceX flight engineer, “The Falcons have landed.”"

+ If you missed the launch that changed human space travel forever (again), I'm really, really sorry. It was a tremendous collective moment for humanity and progress in an age of strife, distraction, and regression. It was pure joy.

+ If we want to push even farther (further? both?), we've gotta be ok with more risk.

+ Here's the best pics and video from the launch.

+ To celebrate, here's every Space Shuttle launch ever, in order.


Biology 401 💉👾💊 

A CRISPR trick in blind mice points the way to possible treatments for inherited diseases

"In genome-editing, the challenge for CRISPR-wielding scientists is to edit only one of the two copies, or alleles, of every gene that people have, repairing the ever-so-slightly broken one and leaving the healthy one alone.

Now, in one of the first research papers scheduled for publication in the first journal dedicated to research on CRISPR, scientists in Boston report “allele specific” editing of a gene that, when mutated, destroys the eye’s photoreceptors and causes the form of blindness called retinitis pigmentosa.

The achievement might one day help people with retinitis pigmentosa, which affects about 100,000 people in the U.S. But its greater significance is as a proof-of-concept. The hope is that the same trick might work in the hundreds of diseases, including Huntington’s disease and Marfan syndrome, where inheriting a single mutated gene (from mom or dad) is enough to cause problems despite the presence of a healthy copy, too."

+ Related: China might be winning the CRISPR race, but we have the FDA

+ More body hacking: Biopunks are pushing the limits with implants and DIY drugs which sounds both amazing and I don't know, completely terrifying


The CDC Is About to Fall Off a Funding Cliff

"In December 2014, Congress appropriated $5.4 billion to fight the historic Ebola epidemic that was raging in West Africa. Most of that money went to quashing the epidemic directly, but around $1 billion was allocated to help developing countries improve their ability to detect and respond to infectious diseases. The logic is sound: It is far more efficient to invest money in helping countries contain diseases at the source, than to risk small outbreaks flaring up into large international disasters.

But the $1 billion pot, which was mostly divided between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and USAID, runs out in 2019—a fiscal cliff with disaster at its foot."

+ It seems insane that this is allowed to happen, yes? People: this is why voting matters. We have to fund the CDC. We have to fund basic science. We have to vote for scientists-turned-politicians like Jess Phoenix who will restore sanity to the House.


Climate Change 🔥🌊💨

Idaho Stripped Climate Change From School Guidelines. Now, It’s a Battle.

"The political fight over global warming has extended to science education in recent years as several states have attempted to weaken or block new teaching standards that included information about climate science. But only in Idaho has the state legislature stripped all mentions of human-caused climate change from statewide science guidelines while leaving the rest of the standards intact.

Now teachers, parents and students are pushing back, hoping to convince the Republican-controlled Idaho Legislature to approve revised standards, which science proponents say are watered down but would still represent a victory for climate-change education in the state. The Idaho House education committee could vote as soon as Wednesday on whether to allow the revised language into the state’s curriculum.

[Update: The committee voted to approve the revised standards but removed supporting content that contained multiple references to human-driven warming.]"

+ These fucking people. 


Companies are realizing that renewable energy is good for business

"The conservative city of Georgetown, Texas, runs on renewable energy. After all, wind and solar power are more predictable and easier to budget than oil and gas. Clean power pushes may be associated with more left-leaning cities, but Republican mayor Dale Ross called the switch to renewables a no-brainer.

On November 14, Joe Brown, editor in chief of Popular Science, and Ali Velshi, anchor at MSNBC, teamed up to discuss why going green is often more than the best ecological decision. It's often the best business decision, too."

Why Xcel Energy, a utility company with millions of electric customers in the middle of the country, from Texas to Michigan, is going renewable.


Fuck Cancer, Volume LXXXI 🖕

Goddammit, asparagus. I knew it.

"Breast cancer patients could be encouraged to cut asparagus and other foods from their diets in the future to reduce the risk of the disease spreading, scientists say.

Researchers are investigating whether a change in diet could help patients with breast tumours after studies in mice showed that asparagine, a compound first identified in asparagus but present in many other foods, drives the spread of the disease to other organs.

When scientists reduced asparagine in animals with breast cancer, they found that the number of secondary tumours in other tissues fell dramatically. The spread of malignant cells, often to the bones, lungs and brain, is the main cause of death among patients who are diagnosed with breast cancer.

...While suppressing levels of asparagine reduced the spread of breast cancer around the body, it did nothing to prevent breast tumours forming in the first place."

+ More about cancer research in mice, which doesn't always translate to humans, but it's about the best we've got:

Local Immunotherapy Shrinks Tumors Near and Far

‘Vaccine’ kills cancer in mice, is also the plot of I AM LEGEND, I think, so, you know, keep your expectations in check


War 💣💀

Here's what war with North Korea would look like

"What follows is a guide to what a conflict with North Korea might look like. War is inherently unpredictable: It’s possible Kim would use every type of weapon of mass destruction he possesses, and it’s possible he wouldn’t use any of them. 

But many leading experts fear the worst. And if all of this sounds frightening, it should. A new war on the Korean Peninsula wouldn’t be as bad as you think. It would be much, much worse."

+ Read it, protest, and vote. Share it, and encourage people to vote. Vote, vote, vote.


The Highlight Reel