#89: Lighten up, Francis

Coming at you live from NYC where we'll be participating in the second March for Science tomorrow. Join us in Washington Square Park at 9 AM -- we'll have stickers!

Just a reminder that we're off next week because vacation


This week's guest was the excellent Dr. Sam Scarpino, who talked us through modeling infectious disease outbreaks and the importance of cross-disciplinary work. Check it out today.

Subscribe now to get Tuesday's episode with Mayor Serge Dedina of Imperial Beach, California. Why's the mayor of this tiny blue-collar town important? Because he was the first mayor to sue the fossil fuel companies, that's why. And righteous social justice runs in his veins. Get on board.


On to the news!

Biology 401 💉👾💊 

Scientists are thinking the unthinkable: CRISPR might one day reverse devastating brain diseases

"She cannot use her hands, and must be fed through a tube, all of which is tragically standard for girls with severe Rett syndrome, a brain disorder that usually strikes during toddlerhood and is caused by a genetic mutation.

It may seem unlikely, then, that such a devastating condition is near the front of the line of brain disorders that scientists believe might one day be treated with genome editing technologies such as CRISPR. By “treated,” they don’t mean just keeping a disease from getting worse. They mean reversing the damage and giving the brain a second chance: CRISPR would penetrate the brain of a patient who has lived with a disorder for years and repair the mutation that caused it, unleashing the brain’s capacity of neuroplasticity to weave new circuitry, grow new neurons, or otherwise do right what it did wrong when the mutant gene called the shots."


Climate Change 🔥🌊💨

Welcome to the dark place, Shell

"Internal company documents uncovered by a Dutch news organization show that the oil giant Shell had a deep understanding, dating at least to the 1980s, of the science and risks of global warming caused by fossil fuel emissions.

They show that as the company pondered its responsibility to act, Shell's scientists urged it to heed the early warnings, even if, as they said, it might take until the 2000s for the mounting evidence to prove greenhouse gases in the atmosphere were causing unnatural climate change.

"With the very long time scales involved, it would be tempting for society to wait until then before doing anything," company researchers wrote in a 1988 report based on studies completed in 1986. "The potential implications for the world are, however, so large that policy options need to be considered much earlier. And the energy industry needs to consider how it should play its part."

Otherwise, a team of Shell experts said, "it could be too late to take effective countermeasures to reduce the effects or even to stabilize the situation.""

+ More climate change, here:

      - How Lyme disease became the first epidemic of climate change

      - Carbon taxes (editor's note: or really, anything) could make a dent in climate change, study finds

      - Arctic melting could worsen future California droughts


This is just...well. "Global warming is now slowing down the circulation of the oceans — with potentially dire consequences"

"Last week, we learned about the possible destabilization of the Totten Glacier of East Antarctica, which could unleash over 11 feet of sea level rise in coming centuries.

And now this week brings news of another potential mega-scale perturbation. According to a new study just out in Nature Climate Change by Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and a group of co-authors, we’re now seeing a slowdown of the great ocean circulation that, among other planetary roles, helps to partly drive the Gulf Stream off the U.S. east coast. The consequences could be dire – including significant extra sea level rise for coastal cities like New York and Boston."

+ And more in the #raceagainsttime:

      - Solar power eclipsed fossil fuels in new 2017 generating capacity: U.N.

      - Poor countries are investing a lot more than rich countries in renewable energy


Fuck Cancer, Volume LXXXIX 🖕

Science is hard: Incyte’s cancer drug fails trial, marking major blow for immunotherapy combination treatment

"he first real clinical test of the cancer immunotherapy combination thesis has come back negative.
Incyte said Friday that its experimental drug epacadostat failed to improve the efficacy of Merck’s checkpoint inhibitor Keytruda when the two drugs were used together to treat patients with newly diagnosed melanoma.

The negative outcome of the Incyte Phase 3 clinical trial, known as ECHO-301, has far-ranging ramifications. It’s a big setback for Incyte and for melanoma patients. But the trial results could also ripple across the fledgling cancer immunotherapy field and the biotech stock sector."

+ More on cancer:

      - Scientists zoom in on why some respond to lymphoma treatments


Robots & AI 🤖🧠⚡️

The US military desperately wants to weaponize AI

"Michael Griffin, Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, signaled how keen the military is to make use of AI at the Future of War 2018 conference held in Washington, DC, yesterday.

“There might be an artificial intelligence arms race, but we’re not yet in it,” Griffin said. In reference to China and Russia, he added, “I think our adversaries—and they are our adversaries—understand very well the possible future utility of machine learning, and I think it’s time we did as well.”"

+ DARPA's doing crazy shit, too.


The Highlight Reel