#96: AJ, I got just five words for you

Look. Sometimes we get news that we can react quickly to. Call your Congressperson, etc. But sometimes there's serious gut-punch news that, to be honest, is taking a minute to deal with. Existential, "this is happening already" news.

This week that news is about sea-level rise and it's no bueno, folks. Not unexpected, but shocking in scope. I urge you to read it, and process it, and then hopefully double down your efforts to make serious change on November 6th. Because our current leadership has turned their back on science.

Our efforts are making a difference -- we've made tremendous progress in clean energy -- but we need so much more. 

Let's go.


This week's question was: what's the #1 thing you can do to affect climate change? Our guest was Peter Kalmus, climate scientist at JPL in Pasadena, California. We discuss his awesome book and also why Brian should get rid of his motorcycle. Tune in.

Subscribe now to get Tuesday's episode with Andres Jimenez at the Citizens Climate Lobby. Find out how your single phone call can become climate law. Exciting!



On to the news!

Climate Change 🔥🌊💨

Antarctic ice loss has tripled in a decade

"Antarctica’s ice sheet is melting at a rapidly increasing rate, now pouring more than 200 billion tons of ice into the ocean annually and raising sea levels a half-millimeter every year, a team of 80 scientists reported Wednesday.

The melt rate has tripled in the past decade, the study concluded. If the acceleration continues, some of scientists’ worst fears about rising oceans could be realized, leaving low-lying cities and communities with less time to prepare than they had hoped.

The result also reinforces that nations have a short window — perhaps no more than a decade — to cut greenhouse-gas emissions if they hope to avert some of the worst consequences of climate change."

+ The US-centric kicker, below.



West Antarctic ice melt poses unique threat to U.S.

"Rob DeConto, a climate scientist at the University of Massachusetts, says that as ice sheets melt, there's an elastic response from the Earth. "The Earth’s gravitational field changes because we’re redistributing mass around the planet,” he tells Axios.

When an ice sheet loses ice, it reduces its gravitational pull toward itself, which means the local sea level near the ice sheet — be it Greenland or Antarctica —is reduced.

It's the distant places that compensate for this loss in mass. “It’s totally flipped upside down for Antarctica," he says, as there is a "broad bullseye" around North America. “Sea level rise for the future, it’s not happening at the same rate in every part of the world… this gravity thing has a big impact,” DeConto says."

+ The US will pay a 25% penalty on West Antarctic sea level rise.

+ Timely: Like It Or Not, the Water Is Coming: Will the Bay Area Defend Against Rising Seas, or Embrace Them?

+ Too heavy? I get it. Consider talking to a professional about it

+ More climate:

      - Bill Gates and his billionaire friends are betting on energy storage

      - Controversial: Climate Change Can Be Stopped by Turning Air Into Gasoline

      - Researchers Argue Proposed EPA Changes Could Cause 80,000 More Deaths a Decade




Fuck Cancer, Volume XCVI 🖕

A serious new hurdle for CRISPR: Edited cells might cause cancer, two studies find

"Editing cells’ genomes with CRISPR-Cas9 might increase the risk that the altered cells, intended to treat disease, will trigger cancer, two studies published on Monday warn — a potential game-changer for the companies developing CRISPR-based therapies.

In the studies, published in Nature Medicine, scientists found that cells whose genomes are successfully edited by CRISPR-Cas9 have the potential to seed tumors inside a patient. That could make some CRISPR’d cells ticking time bombs, according to researchers from Sweden’s Karolinska Institute and, separately, Novartis."

+ Science is hard.




War 🚀🌎🔥

This Is What a Nuclear Bomb Looks Like

"If nuclear war is considered “unthinkable,” that is in no small part because of our refusal to think about it with any clarity or specificity. In the long run, the best deterrent to nuclear war may be to understand what a single nuclear bomb is capable of doing to, say, a city like New York — and to accept that the reality would be even worse than our fears."


+ More: The Nine Steps Required to Really Disarm North Korea



Clean Energy 💨☀️⚡️

Premature Birth Rates Drop in California After Coal and Oil Plants Shut Down

"Researchers scrutinized records of more than 57,000 births by mothers who lived close to eight coal- and oil-fired plants across California in the year before the facilities were shut down, and in the year after, when the air was cleaner.

The study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, found that the rate of premature births dropped from 7 to 5.1 percent after the plants were shuttered, between 2001 and 2011. The most significant declines came among African American and Asian women."

+ Related (no shit): Being Black in America Can Be Hazardous to Your Healt

+ More clean energy: 

      - New Jersey plans $3 billion in energy efficiency projects and 50,000 vehicle charging stations

      - Buying Into the Electric Vehicle Future? Maybe Try Leasing It

      - Wireless charging: the key to unlocking an electric vehicle revolution



The Final Frontier/Escape Hatch 🚀

An EPIC view of the Earth as an exoplanet

"Observing the Earth as an exoplanet is not a new idea – but DSCOVR has an advantage over many other Earth-observing missions in that the data span a long period of time. The authors analyse over two years’ worth of data from EPIC. By looking at how these images change with time, on periods from hours to years, they work out the kind of imaging we would need of distant exoplanets in order to deduce their rotation periods, seasonal changes, weather, and surface type."

+ Awesome sauce. Because our neighboring Alpha Centauri stars look friendly to life.



The Highlight Reel

#95: A secret hospital for criminals

Last week was off because of family travel but we're back this week with a doozy. Let's gooooooooo!


This week's question was: how the hell are we gonna feed 10 billion people? Our guest was Fred Iutzi, whose new perennial wheat makes for a damn delicious beer, and almost might save the world. Crack one open and check it out!

Subscribe now to get Tuesday's episode where we ask: what's the single most effective thing you can do to personally fight climate change?Guest Peter Kalmus, climate scientist at JPL, takes us through his journey.


On to the news!

Fuck Cancer, Volume XCIII 🖕

Doctors hail world first as woman’s advanced breast cancer is eradicated

"A woman with advanced breast cancer which had spread around her body has been completely cleared of the disease by a groundbreaking therapy that harnessed the power of her immune system to fight the tumours.

It is the first time that a patient with late-stage breast cancer has been successfully treated by a form of immunotherapy that uses the patient’s own immune cells to find and destroy cancer cells that have formed in the body.

Judy Perkins, an engineer from Florida, was 49 when she was selected for the radical new therapy after several rounds of routine chemotherapy failed to stop a tumour in her right breast from growing and spreading to her liver and other areas. At the time, she was given three years to live.

Doctors who cared for the woman at the US National Cancer Institute in Maryland said Perkins’s response had been “remarkable”: the therapy wiped out cancer cells so effectively that she has now been free of the disease for two years."

+ 🖕🖕🖕🖕🖕🖕🖕🖕🖕🖕🖕🖕🖕🖕🖕🖕

+ Ok, amazing news. Groundbreaking news. Game-changing news. Now that that's said, however, let's remember: the fight is nowhere near over. It's more complicated than ever. Science is hard. But progress is fucking awesome.

      - When immunology makes patients worse, not better

      - Immunotherapy could stop prostate cancer spreading, trial shows

      - For Some Breast Cancer Patients, The Chemo Decision Just Got Easier

      - Antibiotics greatly reduce effectiveness of immunotherapy for cancer – study

      - For Some Hard-To-Find Tumors, Doctors See Promise In Artificial Intelligence



Climate Change 🔥🌊💨

'Carbon bubble' could spark global financial crisis, study warns

"Plunging prices for renewable energy and rapidly increasing investment in low-carbon technologies could leave fossil fuel companies with trillions in stranded assets and spark a global financial crisis, a new study has found.

A sudden drop in demand for fossil fuels before 2035 is likely, according to the study, given the current global investments and economic advantages in a low-carbon transition.

...that is because advances in technologies for energy efficiency and renewable power, and the accompanying drop in their price, have made low-carbon energy much more economically and technically attractive."


Hurricane Maria Killed 75 Times More Puerto Ricans Than the Government Has Admitted

"The new study was led by a team of scientists from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, which surveyed more than 3,000 randomly selected Puerto Rican households in January. They used their responses to extrapolate the number of deaths on the islands that were either direct results of the hurricane—say, being hit by flying debris—or that took place due to aftermath of the storm, primarily from interrupted medical care. The researchers arrived at a “likely to be conservative” estimate of 4,645 deaths from September 20 through December 31, 2017; other statistical adjustments by the researchers push their final estimate above 5,000. 

During an October visit to the island, President Donald Trump opined that the low official death toll (then just 16) meant that Puerto Rico had avoided “a real catastrophe like Katrina.”

FEMA eventually attributed 1,800 some deaths to that 2005 Gulf Coast storm."

+ The new hurricane season started seven days ago. Is America Ready for the Next Superstorm?

+ More on climate change:

      - Hurricanes Are Lingering Longer. That Makes Them More Dangerous.

      - Mapped: The world’s coal power plants (pretty incredible depth of research)

      - Coal lobby fights black-lung tax as disease rates surge



Biology 401 💉👾💊 

The Nipah virus has a mortality rate of up to 70 percent and has no vaccine or cure. It just hit South India.

"A little-known virus discovered 20 years ago could become the next global pandemic.

A recent outbreak in South India has renewed interest in Nipah virus, a disease that generally spreads from bats or pigs to humans and kills nearly three-quarters of those infected. It has no vaccine and no cure. The virus has so far killed 11 in the current outbreak, with 14 additional cases confirmed. It has many strains capable of spreading from person to person, which increases the chances of a strain emerging that rapidly spreads among South Asia’s densely populated communities and beyond."

+ More bio:

      - Vaccines Alone Won’t Beat Ebola

      - This mock pandemic killed 150 million people. Next time it might not be a drill.

      - Scientists Kick Off Synthetic Biology Project to Make Virus-Resistant Super Cells

      - Antibiotic resistance crisis worsening because of collapse in supply



War 🚀🌎🔥

The Growing Dangers of the New Nuclear-Arms Race

"Less than a decade after President Barack Obama called for the abolition of nuclear weapons, the nine countries that possess them are engaged in a new nuclear-arms race. North Korea has most likely developed a hydrogen bomb, and its Hwasong-15 missiles may be large enough to transport not only a warhead but also decoys, chaff, and other countermeasures that would thwart America’s Ground-Based Midcourse Defense anti-ballistic-missile system. India recently commissioned its second ballistic-missile submarine, launched an Agni-5 ballistic missile that can strike targets throughout Pakistan and China, and tested nuclear-capable BrahMos and Nirbhay cruise missiles. Pakistan now has the world’s fastest-growing nuclear stockpile, including low-yield warheads on Hatf-9 missiles for use against Indian troops and armored vehicles. Israel is expanding the range of its Jericho III ballistic missiles and deploying cruise missiles with nuclear weapons on submarines. France and the United Kingdom are developing replacements for their Vanguard and Triomphant ballistic-missile submarines. China is about to introduce Dongfeng-41 ballistic missiles that will be mounted on trucks, loaded with up to ten nuclear warheads, and capable of reaching anywhere in the United States. Russia is building a wide range of new missiles, bombers, and submarines that will carry nuclear weapons. The R-28 Sarmat missile, nicknamed Satan-2, will carry up to sixteen nuclear warheads—more than enough for a single missile to destroy every American city with a population larger than a million people. Russia plans to build forty to fifty of the Satan-2s. Three other countries—Iran, Japan, and South Korea—may soon try to obtain their own nuclear arsenals."


The Highlight Reel

#94: This is a rebellion, isn't it?

Good morning!

We're at the point where the National Park Service is dropping stealth climate change reports with zero publicity so they don't get, you know, shut down. But they're-out-there-hustling-every-day. The time to fight is now.

Remember: text "Vote4Science" to 662266 and the Union of Concerned Scientists will not only provide you with opportunities to inject science into your local elections, but also send you important reminders on how to register, when to vote, and help you find your closest polling station. Bang.


This week's guest was the Bad Astronomer himselfPhil Plait. The topic: simultaneously supporting good science and undermining anti-science, with as many diverse voices as possible. It's a new era for science communications. Join us.

Subscribe now to get Tuesday's episode with Dr. Gauntam Dantas. We talk the future of antibiotics. Which might be...no antibiotics. Ruh roh.


On to the news!

Biology 401 💉👾💊 

The Thing Inside Your Cells That Might Determine How Long You Live

"“We think the nucleolus plays an important role in regulating the life span of animals,” said Adam Antebi, a cellular biologist at the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing in Germany. He’s an author of a new review published last week in Trends in Cell Biology that examines all the new ways that researchers have fallen in love with the nucleolus — especially its role in aging.
...“We think that the smaller nucleoli may be a cellular hallmark of longevity” in certain cells under certain conditions, he added. 

More research is needed to see if the size of these structures are just markers for longevity or aging or if they actually cause it. 

“We’ve spent lots of money on trying to find biomarkers of longevity or aging, and maybe it’s just sitting under the microscope for us to see,” said Dr. Antebi."

+ More bio:

      - CRISPR Eradicates Latent HIV-1, Offering Hope of "Functional Cures"

      - Measles makes alarming return to Europe and the Americas



Climate Change 🔥🌊💨

These are your elected officials: Republican lawmaker: Rocks tumbling into ocean causing sea level rise

"The Earth is not warming. The White Cliffs of Dover are tumbling into the sea and causing sea levels to rise. Global warming is helping grow the Antarctic ice sheet.

Those are some of the skeptical assertions echoed by Republicans on the U.S. House of Representatives Science, Space and Technology Committee yesterday. The lawmakers at times embraced research that questions mainstream climate science during a hearing on how technology can be used to address global warming.

A leading climate scientist testifying before the panel spent much of the two hours correcting misstatements.

...Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) said that erosion plays a significant role in sea-level rise, which is not an idea embraced by mainstream climate researchers."




‘Impossible to Ignore’: Why Alaska Is Crafting a Plan to Fight Climate Change

"Alaska, a major oil and gas producer, is crafting its own plan to address climate change. Ideas under discussion include cuts in state emissions by 2025 and a tax on companies that emit carbon dioxide.

While many conservative-leaning states have resisted aggressive climate policies, Alaska is already seeing the dramatic effects of global warming firsthand, making the issue difficult for local politicians to avoid. The solid permafrost that sits beneath many roads, buildings and pipelines is starting to thaw, destabilizing the infrastructure above. At least 31 coastal towns and cities may need to relocate, at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars, as protective sea ice vanishes and fierce waves erode Alaska’s shores."

+ More climate:

      - Meeting Paris climate goals could save the world trillions of dollars

      - Investors overseeing $10.5 TRILLION in assets call for oil and gas industriestake responsibility for their emissions

      - Young climate activists have something to say -- but the GOP isn't listening



Fuck Cancer, Volume XCIII 🖕

How gut microbes are joining the fight against cancer

"Cancer has been a late bloomer in the microbiome revolution that has surged through biomedicine. Over the past few decades, scientists have linked the gut’s composition of microbes to dozens of seemingly unrelated conditions — from depression to obesity. Cancer has some provocative connections as well: inflammation is a contributing factor to some tumours and a few types of cancer have infectious origins. But with the explosive growth of a new class of drug — cancer immunotherapies — scientists have been taking a closer look at how the gut microbiome might interact with treatment and how these interactions might be harnessed.

Some of these microbes activate inflammatory responses and disrupt the mucus layers that protect the body from outside invaders, creating an environment that supports tumour growth. In other cases, they promote cancer survival by making cells resistant to anticancer drugs.

But gut bacteria can also help fight tumours."

+ It's very early, it's very iffy, but it's something

+ More cancer: 

       - New Cancer Treatments Lie Hidden Under Mountains of Paperwork (someone please please please please fix this incredibly complicated problem)



Clean Energy 💨☀️⚡️

Dismissive and deceptive car dealerships create barriers to electric vehicle adoption at the point of sale

"In 126 shopping experiences at 82 car dealerships across Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, we find that dealers were dismissive of EVs, misinformed shoppers on vehicle specifications, omitted EVs from the sales conversation and strongly oriented customers towards petrol and diesel vehicle options."

+ Not surprising, not helpful. Especially as electric SUVs roll out.

+ More clean energy: 

      - Massachusetts Gains Foothold in Offshore
Wind Power


      - Solar farm outside Joshua Tree National Park gets go-ahead from Trump administration 



The Highlight Reel

#93: I'll always be your dirty computer

Primaries are kicking into gear, kids. Too many new names out there? The Union of Concerned Scientists has your back:

Text "Vote4Science" to 662266 and they'll not only provide you with opportunities to inject science into your local elections, but also send you important reminders on how to register, when to vote, and help you find your closest polling station. Bang.


This week's guest was Jason Friesen, and we discussed upgrading emergency response services in the age of climate change. He's already saved six lives today. Brian? Listen in!

Subscribe now to get Tuesday's episode with the only and only "Bad Astronomer", Phil Plait! We talked building a new science movement in America in 2018, as well as space, Oregon Trail, and Indiana Jones.


On to the news!

Biology 401 💉👾💊 

As D.I.Y. Gene Editing Gains Popularity, ‘Someone Is Going to Get Hurt’

"In a recent interview, Mr. Gandall, now 18 and a research fellow at Stanford, said he only wants to ensure open access to gene-editing technology, believing future biotech discoveries may come from the least expected minds.

But he is quick to acknowledge that the do-it-yourself genetics revolution one day may go catastrophically wrong.

“Even I would tell you, the level of DNA synthesis regulation, it simply isn’t good enough,” Mr. Gandall said. “These regulations aren’t going to work when everything is decentralized — when everybody has a DNA synthesizer on their smartphone.”

The most pressing worry is that someone somewhere will use the spreading technology to create a bioweapon.

Already a research team at the University of Alberta has recreated from scratch an extinct relative of smallpox, horsepox, by stitching together fragments of mail-order DNA in just six months for about $100,000 — without a glance from law enforcement officials."

+ I mean WHAT

+ More bio:

      - Vaccines Are Pushing Pathogens to Evolve (great perfect)

      - WHO prioritizes diagnostic tests for global health threats



Climate Change 🔥🌊💨

In the Arctic, the Old Ice Is Disappearing

"In the Arctic Ocean, some ice stays frozen year-round, lasting for many years before melting. But this winter, the region hit a record low for ice older than five years.

This, along with a near-record low for sea ice over all, supports predictions that by midcentury there will be no more ice in the Arctic Ocean in summer.

As darker, heat-absorbing water replaces reflective ice, it hastens warming in the region. Older ice is generally thicker than newer ice and thus more resilient to heat. But as the old ice disappears, the newer ice left behind is more vulnerable to rising temperatures."

+ Cue up those sea level rise predictions again.



These Badass Moms Are Raising Kids to Save the Planet

"Earther spoke with some moms behind the 21 youth plaintiffs who have launched a lawsuit against the U.S. government in 2015. Here are just a few of the women raising the climate warriors taking our government to court."

Here's just one quote:

"(My son) grew up in a community and family where concern for the world was just a part of everything we do.”

+ Nature vs. nurture (pun completely intentional) amiright???

+ More on climate change:

      - @DrVox David Roberts on why California's new mandate on solar panels isn't necessarily a good thing.

      - A detailed assessment of exactly how fucked Southern California isregarding, you know, drinking water

      - Much of the world doesn't have A/C. But they want it. That's bad.

      - First map of global freshwater trends shows "human fingerprint"(how's YOUR city fare?)




The Final Frontier/Escape Hatch 🚀

NASA hasn't funded the search for extraterrestrial intelligence for 25 years. That's about to change.

"In the last few years, several astronomical discoveries have permeated major news cycles and garnered considerable attention. There was Tabby’s Star, a distant star with a jumble of objects floating around it (that astronomers later determined was probably just dust.) There was TRAPPIST-1, a system of seven planets, with several orbiting in their star’s habitable zone. And there was ‘Oumuamua, the first known interstellar object that Milner instructed astronomers to check for signs of artificial technology. They didn’t detect any, but for a time, the thought of getting a positive result, however unlikely, was exhilarating.

Since its inception, SETI has suffered from a giggle factor. Today, after 25 years of discoveries and breakthroughs and progress, the suggestion that we might someday—and perhaps someday soon—stumble upon an alien civilization, even the remains of one, doesn’t seem quite so silly anymore."


Fuck Cancer, Volume XCIII 🖕

A frustrating setback for immunotherapy

"The companies say they aren't dropping the potential drugs, designed to unleash the immune system on cancer cells by blocking an enzyme called indoleamine (2,3)-dioxygenase. But the retrenching suggests that the frenzy to combine novel drugs with the wildly successful immune checkpoint inhibitors is outpacing the science."


The Highlight Reel

#92: This is my partner Detective Terrible Detective

Some ridiculous headlines this week. But as always, dig in for the full story. And then start a conversation.

Spread the word.

Save the world.


This week's guest was Dr. Kate Marvel, research scientist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia University’s Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics.

We talked about exactly what goes into those mythical climate computer models, and how it's all Brian's fault. And clouds. CLOUDS, man. Listen up.

Subscribe now to get Tuesday's episode with Jason Friesen, founder and executive director of Trek Medics, as we discuss the current and future state of emergency medical systems in the age of climate change.


On to the news!

The Final Frontier/Escape Hatch 🚀

NASA pushes its Moon and Mars ambitions

"Between the lines: NASA funding is key to human exploration of Mars, and some worry a mission to the moon could divert resources needed to reach the Red Planet. The agency is looking for the commercial space industry to take on more low-Earth orbit and lunar activities.

When it comes to NASA resources for an eventual Mars mission, the moon is “the elephant in the room,” Artemis Westenberg, president of Explore Mars, said at the Humans to Mars Summit this week."


      - Will it cost a trillion dollars to get mankind to Mars? Is that cheap?

      - What the hell is the Deep Space Gateway and why is it so important (and so damn far away?)

      - And how the hell are we going to get there? Good news: NASA’s Orion spacecraft getting closer to finally flying again.

      - On the other hand: Simulated Moon Dust Kills Cells and Alters DNA, Signaling Trouble for Future Lunar Colonists


Biology 401 💉👾💊 

Two parter. You ready?

Part I: Pandemic flu is #1 health security concern: WH official

"The U.S. won't be ready to face a flu pandemic until it improves its vaccines, health care infrastructure, and coordination with other countries— all of which are top priorities for the White House, a National Security Council official said Monday.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Anthony Fauci, who was not part of the symposium, told Axios on Friday that, assuming funding continues and trials go well, "some version of the universal vaccine" should be ready in 4–5 years, with the goal of creating a fully functioning universal vaccine in 10 years."


Part II:

Top White House official in charge of pandemic response exits abruptly

"The top White House official responsible for leading the U.S. response in the event of a deadly pandemic has left the administration, and the global health security team he oversaw has been disbanded under a reorganization by national security adviser John Bolton.

The abrupt departure of Rear Adm. Timothy Ziemer from the National Security Council means no senior administration official is now focused solely on global health security. Ziemer’s departure, along with the breakup of his team, comes at a time when many experts say the country is already underprepared for the increasing risks of a pandemic or bioterrorism attack.

Ziemer’s last day was Tuesday, the same day a new Ebola outbreak was declared in Congo. He is not being replaced."

+ Happy Friday!

+ Related:

      - More on the Congo outbreaking, coming on the heels of Trump cutting funding

      - Re: saving the world. Why some bacteria eat antibiotics and what we can do about it


Climate Change 🔥🌊💨

Pentagon revised Obama-era report to remove risks from climate change

"Internal changes to a draft Defense Department report de-emphasized the threats climate change poses to military bases and installations, muting or removing references to climate-driven changes in the Arctic and potential risks from rising seas, an unpublished draft obtained by The Washington Post reveals.

The earlier version of the document, dated December 2016, contains numerous references to “climate change” that were omitted or altered to “extreme weather” or simply “climate” in the final report, which was submitted to Congress in January 2018. While the phrase “climate change” appears 23 separate times in the draft report, the final version used it just once."


What genuine, no-bullshit ambition on climate change would look like

"Americans can’t make much sense out of Celsius temperatures, and half a degree of temperature doesn’t sound like much regardless. But the difference between 1.5 and 2 degrees of global warming is a very big deal.(The IPCC is coming out with a science review on this in October.)

Another recent paper in Nature Climate Changemakes the point vividly: Bumping ambition up from 2 to 1.5 degrees would prevent 150 million premature deaths through 2100, 90 million through reduced exposure to particulates, 60 million due to reduced ozone.

There’s no time to waste. In fact, there may be, uh, negative time. Limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees is possible, even in theory, only if the “carbon budget” for that target is at the high end of current estimates. 
Again: 1.5 is only possible if we get started, with boosters on, immediately, and we get lucky. Time is not running out — it’s out."

+ An incredibly detailed and typically objectively-considered piece by David Roberts at Vox. Please (please) read the whole thing.

+ Related:

      - California Will Require Solar Power for New Homes (yes, you read that correctly)

      - Hawaii pledges to become carbon neutral by 2045—the most ambitious goal of any US state

      - Automakers Sought Looser Rules. Now They Hope to Stop Trump From Going Too Far.

            - And related to thatThe future of electrics is the pickup truck


Fuck Cancer, Volume XCII 🖕

Artificial Intelligence Takes Scientists Inside Living Human Cells

"By giving scientists a relatively easy and inexpensive way to compare the internal organization of healthy and unhealthy cells, he says, the model should speed efforts to figure out what goes wrong in diseases like cancer.

The model, known as the Allen Integrated Cell, was developed using artificial intelligence. A computer programmed to learn studied images of tens of thousands of live human stem cells. Some of the cells had been genetically altered to make visible internal structures such as mitochondria. Others were unaltered cells, viewed through a standard laboratory microscope.

Over time, the computer learned to look at an image of a typical cell and figure out its internal organization."


The Highlight Reel

#91: *Why* is Gamora?

Barreling towards issue #100! Let's dig in.


This week's guest was Akshat Rathi, London-based journalist at Quartz who broke a number of stories in his excellent series on carbon capture last year. The future is here. Listen now.

Subscribe now to get Tuesday's episode with Dr. Kate Marvel, NASA scientist and "all-powerful climate seer" (our words, not hers). Will clouds save us, or screw us? Get nerdy with us.


On to the news!

Biology 401 💉👾💊 

Bill Gates calls on U.S. to lead fight against a pandemic that could kill 33 million

"Bill Gates says the U.S. government is falling short in preparing the nation and the world for the “significant probability of a large and lethal modern-day pandemic occurring in our lifetimes.”

In an interview this week, the billionaire philanthropist said he has raised the issue of pandemic preparedness with President Trump since the 2016 presidential election. In his most recent meeting last month, Gates said he laid out the increasing risk of a bioterrorism attack and stressed the importance of U.S. funding for advanced research on new therapeutics, including a universal flu vaccine, which would protect against all or most strains of influenza."

+ Fun! Related:

      - Inside the secret U.S. stockpile meant to save us all in a bioterror attack


The Hunt for Wonder Drugs at the North Pole

"To the 24 scientists on board the Helmer Hanssen, a 209-foot, navy-blue-hulled fishing-boat-turned-research-vessel, the scene was deeply familiar. Most of the members of the team are based in Norway, at the University of Tromsø—the northernmost university in the world—where they are part of a lab called Marbio; the Helmer Hanssen is their home during annual, and sometimes biannual, trips in search of undiscovered organisms. The group is looking for compounds that have novel effects on other living substances, hoping that some of their finds will lead to new, lifesaving treatments for cancer and drug-resistant infections in humans. Their type of mission—traveling deep into rain forests, or to the top of the world, to look for rare, microscopic life—is called bioprospecting."

+ More on the body:

      - Lyme disease is set to explode and we still don’t have a vaccine - or do we ?

      - Biology Will Be the Next Great Computing Platform


Climate Change 🔥🌊💨

California, 17 other states sue Trump administration to defend Obama-era climate rules for vehicles

"Twelve other states participating in the lawsuit — including New York — have followed California in setting more stringent emission standards. The total market involved is 36 percent of sales in the United States, according to Margo Oge, a former EPA official who helped the agency set auto regulations during the Obama years.

“If you are a car company, that is a pretty big deal. You have uncertainty how this thing is going to work out, and today you have to be investing in cars you’re going to build five years from now,” she said.

The current standards were created under a 2011 agreement reached among the Obama administration, California officials and automakers. If enacted, they would avert 6 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles sold between 2012 and 2025, according to the EPA.

Since the rules were issued, the transportation sector has outstripped electric power to become the top source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States."

+ More:

      - India Scores New Solar Record — 4.6 Gigawatts of New Large-Scale Solar Installations in Q1

      - UK's reliance on coal drops to almost 0 since 2012

      - California and rest of southwest (1 in 8 Americans) are facing massive water issues in coming century


Fuck Cancer, Volume XC 🖕

‘Desperation Oncology’: When Patients Are Dying, Some Cancer Doctors Turn to Immunotherapy

"Dr. Oliver Sartor has a provocative question for patients who are running out of time.

Most are dying of prostate cancer. They have tried every standard treatment, to no avail. New immunotherapy drugs, which can work miracles against a few types of cancer, are not known to work for this kind.

Still, Dr. Sartor, assistant dean for oncology at Tulane Medical School, asks a diplomatic version of this: Do you want to try an immunotherapy drug before you die?

The chance such a drug will help is vanishingly small — but not zero. “Under rules of desperation oncology, you engage in a different kind of oncology than the rational guideline thought,” Dr. Sartor said."

+ More:

      - GRAIL Announces Data from Prototype Blood Tests for Early Cancer Detection -- it's a start.


Robots & AI 🤖🧠⚡️

FDA chief moves to promote artificial intelligence in health care

"The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is moving to encourage the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in health care, the agency’s chief said Thursday. 

“AI holds enormous promise for the future of medicine,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in prepared remarks to the Health Datapalooza conference in Washington, D.C. 

He said the FDA is working on an updated “new regulatory framework” that will allow regulators to keep up with new technology and “promote innovation in this space.”"

+ Other (crossover) AI news:

      - Can AI find ET?

      - Putin's investing heavily in an AI war machine (just like us, and China). Good times.


The Highlight Reel

#90: By Grabthar's hammer...what a savings.

Welcome back!

We're at issue #90, which is kind of crazy. Almost two years in. Thanks to the OG's here since the beginning, and to everyone just tuning in. 

We're kind of at Important, Not Important 3.0. Where we started with a simple newsletter, we've now got...a newsletter, still, but also a kickass weekly podcast, and a full-blown website.

Speaking of the website, it's become a great resource for new readers or listeners, or those just wanting to dig deeper on specific issues. On that front, we've now got:

  • A full newsletter archive. Over 100,000 words, fully tagged for your browsing enjoyment.
  • A podcast episode directory with show notes, links to the episodes, and full transcripts you can either read on the site, or add to Pocket for reading on the toilet.
  • The website is now fully searchable!
  • And this week, we launched our real merchandise store! Check out our t-shirts featuring the iconic Important, Not Important badge, our "space" themed shirt, our awesome new hoodies, and co-branded Klean Kanteens for all your caffeine needs.
  • Every dollar you spend accomplishes two things:
    • 1. Rocking cool INI threads helps promote the mission
    • 2. You help keep the business humming. We've taken no funding, and given away no equity. Website production, web hosting, podcast hosting and production, recording gear, snacks, Brian's endless coffee needs...it ain't cheap. So thanks for keeping the lights on.


This week's guest was Emily Cassidy, sustainability manager at the excellent California Academy of Sciences and PlanetVision. We talked the present and future of America's troubled food system. Dig in! (haha get it like at a dinner when someone says "dig in"? Because we talked about food)

Subscribe now to get Tuesday's episode with Akshat Rathi, the Quartz journalist who spent much of last year covering the emerging carbon capture industry, and how it could change the fight against climate change. 


On to the news!

Biology 401 💉👾💊 

Let's start with the good news: CRISPR Founder Wants to Use Crispr to Diagnose Disease -- in a kit.

"In a paper published in Science in February, Doudna and two other Mammoth co-founders, Janice Chen and Lucas Harrington, showcased how Cas12a could accurately identify different types of the human papillomavirus in human samples. Like Cas9, Cas12a latches on to a DNA strand when it reaches its genetic target, then slices. But then it does something Cas9 doesn’t: It starts shredding up any single-stranded DNA it finds.

So the researchers decided to hack that hunger for nucleotides. First they programmed Cas12a to chop two strains of HPV that can cause cancer.They added it, along with a “reporter molecule”—a piece of single-stranded DNA that releases a fluorescent signal when cut—to test tubes containing human cells. The samples that had been infected with HPV glowed; the healthy ones didn’t."

+ Bill Gates on the promise of CRISPR


How Much Are You 'Smoking' by Breathing Urban Air?

"“Here is the rule of thumb: one cigarette per day is the rough equivalent of a PM2.5 level of 22 μg/m3 (...) Of course, unlike cigarette smoking, the pollution reaches every age group,” the study reads. It finds that Beijing has on average a PM2.5 level of 85 μg/m3, which makes for four cigarettes; Los Angeles County registered an average of half a daily cigarette, or 12 μg/m3, in 2016.

Using the formula in the article, Coelho and Martiny designed an ad-free interface that uses live pollution data from hundreds of air quality stations in cities around the globe and converts the station’s PM2.5 number into the number of cigarettes being inhaled by a person in real time. The app launched on April 1 and can be downloaded for free through Google Playor App Store."

+ Related:
      - How’s the Air in London? ‘We Should Be Worried’
      - California has eight of 10 most polluted U.S. cities

+ More on disease:

      - New York mice are crawling with bacteria and viruses

      - The deadliest animal in the world is the mosquito

      - Infant Deaths Fall Sharply in Africa With Routine Antibiotics


Climate Change 🔥🌊💨

Who’s Most Responsible for Global Warming?

Answer: mostly us. And by "us", I mean the US. Though it's evening out. Image from the New York times, below.

+ More climate:

      - China's anti-pollution efforts might just pay for themselves -- in health benefits

      - Carbon capture tech + ethanol factories = save the planet? Yes?

      - Cars are "blue states" last obstacle/tool for fighting climate change


Can Dirt Save the Earth?

"The cows beat back the encroaching brush. Within weeks of their arrival, new and different kinds of grass began sprouting. Shallow-rooted annuals, which die once they’re chewed on, gave way to deep-rooted perennials, which can recover after moderate grazing. By summer’s end, the cows, which had arrived shaggy and wild-eyed after a winter spent near the sea, were fat with shiny coats. When Wick returned the herd to its owner that fall, collectively it had gained about 50,000 pounds. Wick needed to take an extra trip with his trailer to cart the cows away. That struck him as remarkable. The land seemed richer than before, the grass lusher. Meadowlarks and other animals were more abundant. Where had that additional truckload of animal flesh come from?

Creque had an answer for him. The carbohydrates that fattened the cows had come from the atmosphere, by way of the grass they ate. Grasses, he liked to say, were like straws sipping carbon from the air, bringing it back to earth. Creque’s quiet observation stuck with Wick and Rathmhttps://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/18/magazine/dirt-save-earth-carbon-farming-climate-change.htmlann. It clearly illustrated a concept that Creque had repeatedly tried to explain to them: Carbon, the building block of life, was constantly flowing from atmosphere to plants into animals and then back into the atmosphere. And it hinted at something that Wick and Rathmann had yet to consider: Plants could be deliberately used to pull carbon out of the sky."


Fuck Cancer, Volume XC 🖕

How Cancer Can Become Therapy-Resistant

"It is well established that cancer is a disease of our genes. However, resistance to therapy might go beyond cancer mutations that usually alter the function of genes. It may not be new mutations that are causing resistance to drugs. The DNA can stay the same, but cancer cells adapt to therapy and outsmart the drugs by switching their gene activity.

While such adaptations do not affect the DNA itself, a hidden layer of regulation controlling the activity of genes—epigenetic signals—is responsible for whether cancer cells survive or not, despite the drug a patient is taking. By targeting this hidden program, one can overcome deadly cancer resistance."

+ More on cancer:

      - Lung Cancer Patients Live Longer With Immune Therapy

      - The First “Cell-Free” CRISPR Tech Is Here To Personalize Cancer Treatment


The Final Frontier/Escape Hatch 🚀

Everything you need to know about TESS, NASA's planet-finding space observatory, by @badastronomer

"Kepler was designed to look deep into the galaxy, sensitive to faint stars to maximize the number of planets it could find. The question Kepler was tasked to answer is "How many and what kind of exoplanets are out there?"

TESS will answer a different but no less important question: "Where are the nearest rocky planets?"

To do this, it will scan a staggering 85% of the sky (an area 400 times larger than Kepler did) to look at the 200,000 or so of the brightest stars, measuring their brightness and seeking out transits. These stars are preferentially closer to the Earth (less than about 300 light-years or so), so it will find some of the nearest exoplanets in the galaxy."


      - About 17,000 Big Near-Earth Asteroids Remain Undetected: How NASA Could Spot Them


The Highlight Reel

#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

#88: Great Scott!

Scott Pruitt is a super-villain sent from another dimension who, honestly, is so very corrupt, that, should I create a character exactly like him for a movie, I would be instructed to "dial it back".

Quick summary of the last two weeks for the man in the position most able to either save or murder the planet: rented a house for $50 a night from an energy lobbyist, dropped new car fuel standards, implemented draconian new rules on scientific studies at the EPA, and told EPA workers to lie about climate change.

He is, and will forever be, my archnemesis.


We were unexpectedly off last week as this is basically a 1.5 man shop and we've got a bunch of big projects underway. Apologies. 

Here's our off-days for the rest of the year:

April 20
July 20
November 23
December 28


This week's guest was David Hawkins, climate director for the National Resources Defense Council. We talked carbon capture and yodeling. Must listen.

Subscribe now to get Tuesday's episode with Dr. Sam Scarpino, when we talk forecasting and modeling infectious diseases. Yay!


On to the news!

Biology 401 💉👾💊 

At Hamburger Central, Antibiotics for Cattle That Aren’t Sick

"Dr. Holland is the director of research at Cactus Feeders, a feedlot giant. During a recent visit, I found myself surrounded by men with Ph.D.s and cowboy hats like Dr. Holland. Several wore jackets bearing drug company logos that were sure to smell of steamed corn and flatulent cattle by day’s end. 

Behind Dr. Holland, antibiotics were stacked in large bags rising to his shoulders. Every day, cattle here, whether sick or healthy, are given antibiotics in their feed. 

But it’s an increasingly debated practice on industrial farms. 

Bacteria resistant to antibiotics turn up in turkey, pork chops and ground beef in the United States; in grocery store chickens in Britain; and at poultry farms in China. Antibiotic residues are found in groundwater, drinking water and streams, and in feedlot manure used as fertilizer.

Some 70 percent to 80 percent of American antibiotic sales go to livestock. In addition to the emergence of resistant disease strains, some microbiologists worry that the proliferation of antibiotics, despite their miraculous health benefits, is having a chaotic impact on microbes in the human gut."

+ Lawmakers are continually getting pushed to do something about this, because eventually you get headlines like this: 

Unusual forms of 'nightmare' antibiotic-resistant bacteria detected in 27 states

+ For more, check out our podcast episode with Dr. Nahid Bhadelia.


Clean Energy 💨☀️⚡️

The good news: The Netherlands is building the world’s first subsidy-free offshore wind farms

"The Dutch government awarded contracts to Swedish energy firm Vattenfall to build two wind farms in the North Sea. The power they create will be sold on the open market and not subsidized by public funds.

But: It’s worth noting that the government will absorb some costs for the facility, such as the expense of connecting the farms to the grid, according to the Maritime Executive."

+ The not-great news we seriously need to do something about: at this rate, it’s going to take nearly 400 years to transform the energy system.


Climate Change 🔥🌊💨

Indiana lawmaker's proposed tax credit could save coal industry billions

There's so many items we could lead with for climate change, but this two-hander really seems to explain the shit we're up against: 

"A new bill introduced by U.S. Congressman Larry Bucshon could provide over $3 billion in tax breaks to owners of coal-fired power plants in its first year, according to an IndyStar analysis.

Rep. Bucshon, a Republican who represents Southwest Indiana, introduced the Electricity Reliability and Fuel Security Act earlier this month. The bill would give owners of coal-fired power plants a tax credit for 30 percent of their operation and maintenance costs or $13 multiplied by the nameplate capacity of the plant, whichever is lesser. Nameplate capacity is a measure of a plant's maximum output. The tax credit would be in place for five years."

+ Ok. So. Got it? These are the people and ideas we're dealing with. Ready for the turn?


New reports: Contaminants from coal ash at levels 40 times above safe drinking water standards

"Near many of Indiana's coal-fired power plants, the ground water is a toxic mix of arsenic, boron, cobalt, lead, molybdenum, radium and thallium, new Environmental Protection Agency data reveal.

Recently released reports, using data collected for the first time, raises questions about groundwater safety and is likely to prompt a debate about how the state with the nation's highest concentration of coal ash pits will react.

How far such pollutants have migrated from the power plants that created them, and the possible effects on neighboring residential wells have not been determined."



Fuck Cancer, Volume LXXXVII 🖕

Gradual release of immunotherapy at site of tumor surgery prevents tumors from returning

"A new study by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute scientists suggests it may be possible to prevent tumors from recurring and to eradicate metastatic growths by implanting a gel containing immunotherapy during surgical removal of a tumor."


War 🚀🌎🔥

Artificial intelligence is rapidly transforming the art of war

"Several months ago, Vladimir Putin said, “Artificial intelligence is the future, not only for Russia, but for all humankind ... whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.” Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its sister technologies will be the engine behind the fourth industrial revolution, which the World Economic Forum described as “unlike anything humankind has experienced before.”

These technologies are capturing people’s imagination. However, one area remains in the shadow of public discourse: AI’s implications for national security and future warfare.

AI’s promise, in the context of national security and armed conflicts, is rooted in three main fields: improving efficiency through automation and optimization; automation of human activities; and the ability to influence human behavior by personalizing information and changing the way information is shared."


Robots & AI 🤖🧠⚡️

A Cyberattack Hobbles Atlanta, and Security Experts Shudder

"Atlanta’s municipal government has been brought to its knees since Thursday morning by a ransomware attack — one of the most sustained and consequential cyberattacks ever mounted against a major American city.

The digital extortion aimed at Atlanta, which security experts have linked to a shadowy hacking crew known for its careful selection of targets, laid bare once again the vulnerabilities of governments as they rely on computer networks for day-to-day operations."


Waymo Isn’t Going to Slow Down Now

"For (John Krafcik, chief executive officer of Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo, the self-driving car company), the Uber crash video validated the philosophy Waymo had been following long before he joined, back when it was still part of Google: Never trust humans in cars."

+ Just a reminder that human drivers are averaging 1.3 million people dead in road crashes each year. That's 3,287 deaths a day.

+ More on AI: 

      - Artificial-intelligence tool that has digested nearly every reaction everperformed could transform chemistry


The Highlight Reel

#87: Harry, the clock on that nine-foot nuclear weapon is ticking.

Apologies for the delay. Sick kids. Rain in Los Angeles. Basically the apocalypse. 

We don't usually cover Trump's cabinet appointments here but you'll have to excuse the momentary lapse as it's not often a warmonger like John Bolton, once thought long dead, is appointed to a (non-confirmation - perfect!) post as #vital as National Security Advisor.

So. I don't know. Definitely a bit thrown off this morning. There's more below. Don't like it, either? Get out and march this weekend. Call your reps. Use your vote. Flip some seats.

Let's make some change.


This week's guest was Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, Director of Infection Control and Medical Response at National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory. That's right -- zombies. Sort of. Check it out here.

Subscribe now to get Tuesday's episode with illustrator, author, mom, and Aussie Megan Herbert, co-author of The Tantrum That Saved The World, a remarkable new kids' book about a little girl who stares down the climate crisis and channels tantrum power into positive action to save the world. 


On to the news!

Biology 401 💉👾💊 

13-Year-Old Boy Is First Person in US to Receive Newly Approved Gene Therapy for Blindness

"On Tuesday, a 13-year-old boy from New Jersey was at the center of medical history as he became the first person in the US to receive an FDA-approved gene therapy for an inherited disease. The event marks the beginning of a new era of medicine, one in which devastating genetic conditions that we are born with can be simply edited out of our DNA with the help of modern biomedical technologies."

+ One hiccup: this particular ground-breaking treatment cost $425,000. An excellent recap from STAT, here.

+ In other bio news:

      - Pakistan Is Racing to Combat the World’s First Extensively Drug-Resistant Typhoid Outbreak

      - The Struggle to Build a Massive ‘Biobank’ of Patient Data


Climate Change 🔥🌊💨

Car makers are pieces of shit. 

"Last month, one of the largest lobbying groups argued in a regulatory filing that the basic science behind climate change is not to be trusted.

In the same filing, the lobbying group, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, also cast doubt on the negative effects of tailpipe pollution on human health."

+ But this shouldn't surprise you. This is the same alliance of almost every automaker you know who -- the DAY AFTER Trump was elected -- sent him a letter arguing Obama's new tailpipe standards, the ones they co-developed, were too stringent. And now they're arguing against basic science. Fuck you.


What you learn from giving 200 climate speeches to your fellow senators

"Every week the Senate has been in session since April 2012, one lonely Democratic senator from Rhode Island, Sheldon Whitehouse, has taken to the Senate floor to speak about global warming. On March 13, Senator Whitehouse gave his 200th “It’s Time to Wake Up” speech on climate change."

+ That's action, folks. 

+ More on climate and clean energy:

      - Fourth Wave Environmentalism Fully Embraces Business

      - Pruitt signals war with California over CAFE mileage standards

      - The Koch Brothers Vs. God: when the black churches fought back

      - The Arctic’s carbon bomb might be even more potent than we thought

      - China's clean energy hustle is getting some respect

+ It's easy to make fun of California, but remember: we feed you. And if climate change continues, we may not be able to do so.

Oh, but California? Come down off that pedestal. We have to do our part, which means we're going to need serious housing reform, and to basically stop driving our precious vehicles.


Fuck Cancer, Volume LXXXVII 🖕

What's next for immunotherapy?

"Cancer immunotherapies that trigger a person's own immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells have logged some success in certain patients and with certain types of cancers. "But overall that is a minority of cancer patients," says Antoni Ribas from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Now, researchers are looking to leverage their understanding of what's working and what's not in patients receiving this class of drugs."

+ That's Axios with a great rundown of the current and future states of immunotherapy's two main weapons. Here's a more in-depth review in Nature.


War 🚀🌎🔥

By new National Security Advisor John Bolton: "The Legal Case for Striking North Korea First"

"CIA Director Mike Pompeo said in January that Pyongyang was within “a handful of months” of being able to deliver nuclear warheads to the U.S. How long must America wait before it acts to eliminate that threat? 

Pre-emption opponents argue that action is not justified because Pyongyang does not constitute an “imminent threat.” They are wrong."

+ Related: I believe John Bolton may very well be our "Great Filter". Read more here.

+ More on war: Pentagon Wants Silicon Valley’s Help on A.I.


The Highlight Reel

#86: Look up at the stars and not down at your feet

We lost a good one this week, folks. As I'm sure you're aware, Stephen Hawking, famed ALS survivor and one of the greatest scientists, and science communicators of all-time, died, leaving behind a world indebted to his efforts.


This week we dropped a fantastic episode with science educator Don Duggan-Haas, and teenage immigrant science activists Therese Etoka and Jai Bansal. They collectively saved climate science from the chopping block in Idaho, and have their sights set on the rest of the country. Check it out!

Coming up next week, Dr. Nahid Bhadelia takes us through America's (terrifying) infectious disease protocol and what we can do to get our hands basically cleaner than they've ever been. Subscribe now if you haven't already!


On to the news!

Biology 401 💉👾💊 

Deadly superbug just got scarier — it can mysteriously thwart last-resort drug

"For the first time, researchers have discovered strains of a deadly, multidrug-resistant bacterium that uses a cryptic method to also evade colistin, an antibiotic used as a last-resort treatment. That’s according to a study of US patients published this week by Emory University researchers in the open-access microbiology journal mBio.

The wily and dangerous bacteria involved are carbapenem-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae or CRKP, which are already known to resist almost all antibiotics available."

+ Related, because they concern the inside of your body:

      - RNA is the new hotness when it comes to CRISPR

      - 23andMe will now test for BRCA breast cancer gene

      - How One Child’s Sickle Cell Mutation - 7300 Years Ago -- Helped Protect the World From Malaria


Climate Change 🔥🌊💨

Hotter, Drier, Hungrier: How Global Warming Punishes the World’s Poorest

"Northern Kenya — like its arid neighbors in the Horn of Africa — has become measurably drier and hotter, and scientists are finding the fingerprints of global warming. According to recent research, the region dried faster in the 20th century than at any time over the last 2,000 years. Four severe droughts have walloped the area in the last two decades, a rapid succession that has pushed millions of the world’s poorest to the edge of survival."

+ Climate refugees, migration, and fights over dwindling resources are going to be the story of the next 50 years. Count it.

+ Climate tech news: 

      - We're 400 years off pace for rebuilding our energy systems, electric cars are getting even cleaner, oh and one of the last mass extinctions was probably caused by coal set on fire by magma good, good, good

+ News from abroad:

      - Every Day Seems Like 'Day Zero' To Some Cape Town Residents

+ News from the homeland:

      - Climate science goes to court next week, just as a new government climate report gets ready to drop, all these goddamn nor'easters are linked to warm Arctic temps, and here's how much each US state is powered by renewables


The Final Frontier/Escape Hatch 🚀

A legend, reprint: The Elusive Theory of Everything, by Stephen Hawking

"In a new book, The Grand Design, Hawking and Caltech physicist Leonard Mlodinow argue that the quest to discover a final theory may in fact never lead to a unique set of equations. Every scientific theory, they write, comes with its own model of reality, and it may not make sense to talk of what reality actually is. This essay is based on that book."

+ In more relatively recent news: Venus may have one been habitable. We need to find out what happened. Or, in the words of Jack Shephard, "WE HAVE TO GO BACK!"


Fuck Cancer, Volume LXXXVI 🖕

Slow-release hydrogel aids immunotherapy for cancer

"An immunotherapy drug embedded in a slow-release hydrogel invented at Rice University in collaboration with the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) appears to be highly effective at killing cancer cells.

STINGel combines a new class of immunotherapy drugs called stimulator of interferon gene (STING) agonists with an injectable hydrogel that releases the drug in a steady dose to activate the immune system to kill cancer cells."

Black Cancer Matters: the economic consequences of racial discrimination increase cancer risk. 

+ Surgeons target hidden cancer cells with help from glowing dyes


The Highlight Reel

#85: It was a dark and stormy night.

Lots to discuss today. Thanks to everyone who ordered our first round of gear!

Incredible podcast this week with Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, "the most influential marine biologist of our time". Subject: how do we use the ocean without using it up? 

Tune in to find out more.

On to the news!

Biology 401 💉👾💊 

A hundred years later, we're still not sure why the Spanish flu killed so many people

"One hundred years ago, a novel pandemic influenza virus spread rapidly around the world. It killed about 1 to 2 percent of the human population, primarily young and often healthy adults.

The centennial of the 1918 pandemic is a good time to take stock of how far the world has come since this historic health disaster—and to face the sobering fact that several key mysteries have yet to be resolved."

+ We've made so many advances (CRISPR and blood tests), and still have so far to go (synthetics). Antibiotics were the story of the 20th century -- and they may be the story of the 21st. The CDC is trying to get ready.


Climate Change 🔥🌊💨

More of the Bay Area Could Be Underwater in 2100 Than Previously Expected

"The ground around San Francisco Bay is sinking to meet the rising sea, another reason for Bay Area residents to worry about the impact of climate change on their region.

Under the new projections, San Francisco International Airport could see half of its runways submerged by the year 2100."

+ And they're not the only ones.

+ Here's what else:

      - An important carbon-tax proposal dies in the Washington statehouse

      - Plus: China's building coal plants in Africacrop shortages in California, trees are in trouble. And yet, the US could get 80% of our power from renewables.


The Final Frontier/Escape Hatch 🚀

Proxima B May Not Be Such a Great Second Home For Humanity After All

"Research led by Meredith MacGregor, an astronomer at the Carnegie Institution for Science, confirms a detection of a colossal flare from Proxima Centauri that occurred on March 24, 2017. 

Though this blast of radiation did not exceed two minutes, MacGregor’s team found it caused Proxima Centauri to shine 1,000 times brighter at its peak than during its periods of “quiescent emission,” meaning its normal, dormant phases."

+ Well, fuckaroni.


Fuck Cancer, Volume LXXXV 🖕

Delivering the Next Generation of Cancer Therapies

"Refrigerated trucks and shipping containers work just fine for South American produce and farm-raised frozen seafood from Asia. But cells require a more specialized solution. They’ve got to be kept cold enough to suspend all metabolic processes. We’re talking cryogenically cold; -240 degrees Fahrenheit."

+ Here's more on immunology: designer therapies and combination drugs.


Robots & AI 🤖🧠⚡️

The incredible changes -- and questions - that come with autonomous cars

"AVs could greatly reduce deaths and injuries from road accidents. Globally, around 1.25m people die in such accidents each year, according to the WHO; it is the leading cause of death among those aged 15-29. Another 20m-50m people are injured. Most accidents occur in developing countries, where the arrival of autonomous vehicles is still some way off. But if the switch to AVs can be advanced even by a single year, “that’s 1.25m people who don’t die,” says Chris Urmson of Aurora, an AV startup. In recent decades cars have become much safer thanks to features such as seat belts and airbags, but in America road deaths have risen since 2014, apparently because of distraction by smartphones."

      - On the other hand...there's a dark side to everything.

      - How a Computer Could Help Us Make the Right Decisions When Facing an Asteroid Threat

      - MIT's new AI gambit


The Highlight Reel

#84: Ghostbusters! What do you want?!

Hey kids! Do you feel like the elected officials making our laws should have a grasp of basic science? Or maybe even a little more than that?

Well good news! There's a bunch of scientists and doctors running for office in 2018, and here's how some of them are doing.

Want to support them? Donate right here to 314action.org.

We checked in on one of our favorites, Jess Phoenix, who's running for CA-25 (just north of Los Angeles) against the monstrous Steve Knight. She's a volcanologist, and she's awesome. Listen to our conversation with her below.

On to the news!

Biology 401 💉👾💊 

Why America Could Become Vulnerable to the Next Major Pandemic

"On top of the human toll, disease outbreaks can be hugely disruptive economically. The global economic impact of the 2003 SARS epidemic totaled approximately $40 billion, and according to the World Bank, a worldwide flu epidemic would reduce global wealth by $3 trillion."

+ The CDC's funding might be under threat, but the world isn't standing still. Is this is the end of the pandemic era
+ Deep learning in biology is -- hard.
+ Measles is back in Europe.
+ Scientists put human cells in a sheep embryo. Here's what that means.

+ On CRISPR: It could end sickle cell disease, but signing up black patients for clinical trials will be a hard sell


Climate Change 🔥🌊💨

Should your city be suing Big Oil over climate change?

"If the current volley of lawsuits over adaptation costs are successful, they will likely be followed by others: Phoenix might sue over deadly heat, Boulder over its shrinking ski season, or Houston over torrential rain. The list of disasters exacerbated by climate change keeps getting longer. Recent attribution studies have found that climate change played a major role in everything from violent avalanches in Tibet to the bleaching of coral reefs in Australia. 

Plaintiffs compare their cases to the pivotal tobacco litigation of the 1990s, hoping for a similar outcome but foreseeing similarly daunting obstacles. Like the states that brought the tobacco lawsuits, they face fantastically well-funded opponents and must convince courts of the causal link between major companies and widespread harm. No climate lawsuit has made it to trial in the US before. 

Vic Sher, a partner at the firm Sher Edling LLP, which is leading several of the California lawsuits, says that one reason he believes the cities have a shot now is the science. “All of these earlier cases didn’t have the benefit of current attribution science, in terms of drawing the link between emissions and impacts, and emissions during a particular period, and attribution to particular corporations,” Sher says. “We have all that information now.”"

+ Had a hell of a time picking a lead story for climate change this week. But we always err on the side of action, and there you go. Paris might be nextShouldn't California be? Time isn't on our side -- and here's a bunch of reasons why.

      - Climate change could decimate California’s major crops, and that should concern everyone
      - We have entered the age of climate migration
      - Sea level rise is accelerating, 224 million are undernourished in Africa, and (highlighted by some tremendous reporting) New Orleans is fighting a losing battle.

But most vitally -- the ice caps are melting, and faster than anyone expected. We are *repeatedly* blowing by our predictions.

If you haven't taken action with your city council, your state legislature, your Congressperson or Senator -- now is the time.

Call them.
March on them.
Vote them in or out of office.

You have the power but you have to show up. 


Fuck Cancer, Volume LXXXIV 🖕

All-star team of synthetic biologists raise $53 million for cancer therapy startup Senti

"Here’s how Lu described a potential cancer treatment using Senti’s technology to me. “We take a cell derived from humans that we can insert our genetic circuits into… we insert the DNA and encoding and deliver those cells via an IV infusion. We have engineered the cells to locate where the tumors are… What we’ve been doing is engineering those cells to selectively trigger an immune response against the tumor.”"

+ Related: Mini lab-created organs successfully check cancer treatments


The Highlight Reel

#83: I'll pistol whip the next guy who says "shenanigans"

It's important that despite the seemingly endless waves of shitty news permeating your every waking moment, we retain a sense of positivity and confidence -- if not in the news, in our own abilities to shape the future.

We can't wander around half-ass trying to fix our myriad existential issues, thinking and saying and tweeting, "Hey maybe if we do this it won't all be so bad-ish". We need to take some attitude lessons from some real heroes and emulate the incredible Parkland survivors. "Fuck me? Fuck you. If you're not gonna fix it, I will."

But it's not easy, is it?

So this is why, ok in maybe a slightly less uncouth manner, I appreciate Bill and Melinda Gates -- endlessly and sometimes annoyingly-so optimists who have saved, I don't know, a bajillion lives already -- taking themselves to task on the 10 toughest questions they get asked. It's an important read, and it's right here

On a related note, if you think it's hard being you, try being Bob Inglis, former GOP congressman, voted out of office for, at least in large part, his support of climate action. But he's still a conservative, and he's still fighting for climate action, and we talked to him on this week's podcast. Check it right me-ow, at one of the handy links below.

On to the news!

Biology 401 💉👾💊 

A Biohacker Regrets Publicly Injecting Himself With CRISPR

"When Josiah Zayner watched a biotech CEO drop his pants at a biohacking conference and inject himself with an untested herpes treatment, he realized things had gone off the rails.

Zayner is no stranger to stunts in biohacking—loosely defined as experiments, often on the self, that take place outside of traditional lab spaces. You might say he invented their latest incarnation: He’s sterilized his body to “transplant” his entire microbiome in front of a reporter. He’s squabbled with the FDA about selling a kit to make glow-in-the-dark beer. He’s extensively documented attempts to genetically engineer the color of his skin. And most notoriously, he injected his arm with DNA encoding for CRISPR that could theoretically enhance his muscles—in between taking swigs of Scotch at a live-streamed event during an October conference."

+ More on your body, here:

      - Peter Diamandis Is the Latest Tech Futurist Betting on Anti-Aging Stem Cells

      - DETECTR, CAMERA, and SHERLOCK are just a few of the latest uses for CRISPR. But what do they mean/do?


Climate Change 🔥🌊💨

The next five years will shape sea level rise for the next 300, study says

"The world is far off course from its goals in cutting greenhouse gas emissions — and research published Tuesday illustrates one of the most striking implications of this.

Namely, it finds that for every five years in the present that we continue to put off strong action on climate change, the ocean could rise an additional eight inches by the year 2300 — a dramatic illustration of just how much decisions in the present will affect distant future generations.

“One important point was to reveal that sea level [rise] is not in the far future, it’s now, and because the system is so slow, we just can’t see it at the moment,” said Matthias Mengel of Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, the lead author of the study, which was published in Nature Communications. “But we cause it now.”"

+ Related: Sea-level rise is accelerating, and its rate could double in next century

+ More climate change:

      - Permafrost Experiments Mimic Alaska’s Climate-Changed Future

      - World’s first floating wind farm performing better than expected

      - Renewables are about to become our cheapest form of energy


Fuck Cancer, Volume LXXXIII 🖕

Doctors Said Immunotherapy Would Not Cure Her Cancer. They Were Wrong.

"No one expected the four young women to live much longer. They had an extremely rare, aggressive and fatal form of ovarian cancer. There was no standard treatment.

The women, strangers to one another living in different countries, asked their doctors to try new immunotherapy drugs that had revolutionized treatment of cancer. At first, they were told the drugs were out of the question — they would not work against ovarian cancer.

Now it looks as if the doctors were wrong. The women managed to get immunotherapy, and their cancers went into remission. They returned to work; their lives returned to normalcy.

The tale has befuddled scientists, who are struggling to understand why the drugs worked when they should not have. If researchers can figure out what happened here, they may open the door to new treatments for a wide variety of other cancers thought not to respond to immunotherapy.

“What we are seeing here is that we have not yet learned the whole story of what it takes for tumors to be recognized by the immune system,” said Dr. Jedd Wolchok, chief of the melanoma and immunotherapeutics service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York."

+ This is a really great read. A gentle reminder: immunology is very, very new. Sometimes it works spectacularly well, much of the time, it doesn't work at all -- or worse. And sometimes, like this, it works when we don't expect it to. But this is why we fund basic science.


Robots & AI 🤖🧠⚡️

FOMO is driving massive national investments in AI, led by China. What's next?

"China is racing ahead in AI. Deep learning is getting a make over. AI is coming to Cannabis tech. Artificial intelligence is changing the fundamental structure of every industry in areas ranging from agriculture to cybersecurity to commerce to healthcare, and more. Here's a look at A look at 13 AI trends reshaping the world."

+ Download the report here.


The Highlight Reel



We are! And we're loving it. Massive thanks to Harvest Creative for the brand overhaul. You can find our new colors just about everywhere you follow/read/listen to us, and coming (very very) soon, on merchandise, too! STAY TUNED.

I'm technically on vacation but I didn't exactly mention that, and this is technically a day late, so -- my apologies. Plane wifi sucks and I knew that already but I gambled, and to no one's surprise, I blew it.

Thanks to everyone who's listening to the podcast. We LOVE our guests so far, and have some truly awesome people coming up soon. Episode 5 drops Tuesday, so tune in!


On to the news!


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

We found the first planets outside the Milky Way

"Previously, planets have been detected only in the Milky Way galaxy. Here, we show that quasar microlensing provides a means to probe extragalactic planets in the lens galaxy, by studying the microlensing properties of emission close to the event horizon of the supermassive black hole of the background quasar, using the current generation telescopes."

+ Say THAT three times fast, amiright? But also NASA should start funding SETI again. Life. Is. Out. There.


Biology 401 💉👾💊 

The Flu is Killing Up to 4,000 Americans a Week

"The amount of influenza ravaging the U.S. this year rivals levels normally seen when an altogether new virus emerges, decimating a vulnerable population that hasn’t had a chance to develop any defenses.

It’s an unexpected phenomenon that public health experts are still trying to decode.

The levels of influenza-like illnesses being reported now are as high as the peak of the swine flu epidemic in 2009, and exceed the last severe seasonal flu outbreak in 2003 when a new strain started circulating, said Anne Schuchat, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s acting director. "

+ But we're not calling it a pandemic. Yet.


Scientists Unearth Hope for New Antibiotics

"In a bag of backyard dirt, scientists have discovered a powerful new group of antibiotics they say can wipe out many infections in lab and animal tests, including some microbes that are resistant to most traditional antibiotics.

Researchers at Rockefeller University in New York reported the discovery of the new antibiotics, called malacidins, on Monday in the journal Nature Microbiology." 

+ More on your body here:

Bacteria Get Antibiotic Resistance Genes From Rivals They Prey On

Can gene therapy be harnessed to fight the AIDS virus?

CRISPR Isn't Just for Gene Editing Anymore


Climate Change 🔥🌊💨

Enemy #1: The Mercers, Trump’s Billionaire Megadonors, Ramp Up Climate Change Denial Funding

"Robert Mercer and his daughter, Rebekah Mercer, are best known as the secretive billionaire megadonors who bankrolled and organized President Donald Trump’s campaign, poured at least $10 million into Breitbart News, and showered millions on a network of right-wing websites and think tanks. The family has spent $36.6 million on Republican races and super PACs since 2010.

The Mercers are less well known as patrons of the climate change denial movement, yet their spending has been equally generous and appears to be increasing, according to new, previously unreleased tax filings reviewed by HuffPost."

+ No one said this fight would be easy. Here's some more insidious bullshit.


Volatile chemical products emerging as largest petrochemical source of urban organic emissions

"A detailed mass balance demonstrates that the use of volatile chemical products (VCPs)—including pesticides, coatings, printing inks, adhesives, cleaning agents, and personal care products—now constitutes half of fossil fuel VOC emissions in industrialized cities."


Robots & AI 🤖🧠⚡️

China’s massive investment in artificial intelligence has an insidious downside

"China's advantages in AI go beyond government commitment. Because of its sheer size, vibrant online commerce and social networks, and scant privacy protections, the country is awash in data, the lifeblood of deep learning systems. The fact that AI is a young field also works in China's favor, argues Chen Yunji, by encouraging a burgeoning academic effort that has put China within striking distance of the United States, long the leader in AI research.

In a more insidious downside, nations are seeking to harness AI advances for surveillance and censorship, and for military purposes. China's military "is funding the development of new AI-driven capabilities" in battlefield decision-making and autonomous weaponry, says Elsa Kania, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, D.C. In the field of AI in China, she warned in a recent report, "The boundaries between civilian and military research and development tend to become blurred.""

+ A great piece on the man most AI leaders learned from.


The Highlight Reel

#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


Happy February! On a related note, how the hell is it February already?

If you haven't listened to Episode 1 of our podcast, do it now! Episode 2 drops NEXT WEEK, with new conversations coming every week thereafter until this baby goes nuclear or I need a vacation -- so subscribe today and get all of those straight to your device!

The alternative: Brian comes to your house, probably when you're having dinner or something else inconvenient, asks for your phone, fails at your Face ID, awkwardly asks you to stare into the red dot thing, then fumbles through your apps until he finds your podcasts and then subscribes for you. 

Just...do the right thing.

On to the news!


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

The search for life on other planets could get a boost from biosignatures

"By studying the atmospheric contents of ancient and present-day Earth, scientists say they've discovered specific chemical combinations that could reveal the presence of biological activity on other planets.

These biosignatures, described in the journal Science Advances, could offer a key tool in the search for extraterrestrial life.

"There's a direct path from the conclusions of our work to the possible discovery, which would be an historic one, of life elsewhere," said senior author David Catling, a planetary scientist and astrobiologist at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Thousands of planets beyond our solar system, known as exoplanets, have been discovered in the last several years, a small number of which appear to be rocky, Earth-sized planets at the right distance from their star to hold liquid water. Studying the ones with detectable atmospheres could provide crucial clues as to whether they host life."


Biology 401 💉👾💊 

After a Debacle, How California Became a Role Model on Measles

"The leading theory is that measles was introduced in Disneyland by a foreign tourist. That could happen anywhere. Medical experts generally agree that the fact that it took off was probably a result of California’s low vaccination rates, which in turn was a result of an inability to persuade a significant share of Californians that vaccines were important. 

The episode made national news, but in the next few years, another development was striking but attracted less national attention: Because of a policy change, California was able to turn it around. Data from a county-by county analysis shows that in many schools with the lowest vaccination rates, there was an increase of 20 to 30 percentage points in the share of kindergartners vaccinated between 2014 and 2016. One law changed the behavior of impassioned resisters more effectively than a thousand public service announcements might have."

+ Disease fights back. "Berserk leprosy bacteria are wildly mutating to become extremely drug resistant" and "Drug-resistant malaria will spread without urgent action, experts warn"

+ Want to know what horrific disease is coming your way? Here's a map.


Climate Change 🔥🌊💨

White House seeks 72 percent cut to clean energy research

"The Trump administration is poised to ask Congress for deep budget cuts to the Energy Department’s renewable energy and energy efficiency programs, slashing them by 72 percent overall in fiscal 2019, according to draft budget documents obtained by The Washington Post. 

Many of the sharp cuts would probably be restored by Congress, but President Trump’s budget, due out in February, will mark a starting point for negotiations and offer a statement of intent and policy priorities. 

The document underscores the administration’s continued focus on the exploitation of fossil fuel resources — or, as Trump put it in his State of the Union address, “beautiful clean coal” — over newer renewable technologies seen as a central solution to the problem of climate change."

+ This is your friendly reminder that these people are short-sighted idiots, and that a president's budget is not law. It is merely a starting point for negotiations with Congress. And that last year, they asked for similar measures, and got none of them. 

+ But to be sure, Trump's assault on clean energy isn't just all talk. Here's the state of solar installers after the tariffs.

+ And here's how he's going after the transportation sector.

+ But...BUT...momentum is a motherfucker, isn't it, Donald? And that's where we find ourselves:

"On a Q4 earnings conference call on Friday, Jim Robo, CEO of NextEra Energy -- a giant energy company with subsidiariesthat include Florida Power & Light (America’s third-largest utility, with 4.8 million customers) and NextEra Energy Resources, which boasts of being “the world’s largest generator of renewable energy from the wind and sun" -- predicted that by the early 2020s, it will be cheaper to build new renewables than to continue running existing coal and nuclear plants."

Incentives are helpful, but one day soon, they won't even be necessary.

+ Here's the New York Times' excellent updated list of Trump's attack on environmental rules.



Climate updates from around the globe:

The Ghost of Christmas Future: Warming, Water Crisis, Then Unrest: How Iran Fits an Alarming Pattern

South Africa in the spotlight again: How to Wreck the World’s Fastest-Growing Renewables Program

Climate change could ravage Indian farmers

And close to home, another story about the evacuation of Louisiana.


Fuck Cancer, Volume LXXX 🖕

Chemotherapy, a Trusty Weapon Against Cancer, Falls Out of Favor

"Doctors are at odds over whether some women with breast cancer should have chemotherapy—one treatment among the arsenal long seen as crucial to fighting the disease, along with surgery and radiation.

Many oncologists are shunning chemo as risky and ineffective at combating some early-stage breast tumors. Traditionally, the majority of women with invasive breast cancer were treated with some combination of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.

A shift to less chemotherapy or none at all, called “de-escalation,” is being hailed by some as revolutionary, following what some doctors see as years of overtreatment with drugs that may have harmed more than helped. Proponents of de-escalation say chemotherapy—the use of chemical agents to treat the disease—should be used only when it appears likely to reduce the chances of the cancer spreading."


AI & Robots 🧠⚡️🤖

Counterpoint: Why AI will not replace radiologists

"In late 2016 Prof Geoffrey Hinton, the godfather of neural networks, said that it’s “quite obvious that we should stop training radiologists” as image perception algorithms are very soon going to be demonstrably better than humans. Radiologists are, he said, “the coyote already over the edge of the cliff who hasn’t yet looked down”.

This kick-started a hype-wave of biblical proportions that is still rolling to this day, and shows no signs of breaking just yet. In my opinion, although this wave of enthusiasm and optimism has successfully brought radiology artificial intelligence to the forefront of people’s imaginations, and immense amounts of funding with it, it has also done untold harm by over-inflating the expectations of policy and decision makers, and is having tangible knock-on effects on recruitment as disillusioned junior doctors start believing that machines are indeed replacing humans and so they shouldn’t bother applying to become radiologists. It is hard to imagine a more damaging statement occurring at a time when the crisis in radiology staffing, especially acute in the UK, is threatening to destabilise entire hospital systems."


The Highlight Reel

#79: I dreamed that I went back in time...

This is a real screen-grab of the Weather Channel's homepage last night and provides in glorious detail every one of the zero fucks given by said organization.

Not the first time they've stepped to folks, evidently won't be the last. Respect. Even more props for their new in-depth series, The United States of Climate Change. Please dig in.

In other news, you guys are loving the first episode of our new podcast, and for that, we're proud, and thankful, and giggling -- a lot. If you haven't checked it out yet, please do. It's the story of Hawaii's accidental, shared, near-death experience, and it's tremendous. If you live on the west coast, it's everything you've feared for the last year, without the blood and gore that usually comes with a ballistic missile impact.

If you leave us a rating and review, Brian will come to your house and hug you.

But I can't promise he'll leave.

On to the news!


Listen, goddammit. There was a lot of good news in 2017. 💪🤟

Nine ways the world got better in 2017

"Across 26 countries that are home to the considerable majority of the world’s population, an average of six out of 10 people thought their country was on the wrong track (as of the middle of 2017). That’s more surprising than the US result because, despite the threats posed by the world’s sole superpower going rogue — admittedly no small problem — the planet as a whole had a pretty good year.

Before 2017 recedes entirely into the rearview mirror, let’s take note of some of the good news."

+ Famine, war deaths, pestilence, all down. Green energy, democracy, life expectancy all up. These are all things that contribute to keeping folks from rioting, going to war, and/or electing unqualified populist dipshits to the most powerful office in the world, with four thousand nukes at their disposal. We've had some serious hiccups, but these factors -- on top of the incredible science happening in areas like bio-tech -- mean if we can win this #raceagainsttime, we're gonna come out pretty good. 


However. The ⏰'s ticking.

Two minutes to midnight

"The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists advanced the symbolic Doomsday Clock a notch closer to the end of humanity Thursday, moving it ahead by 30 seconds after what the organization called a “grim assessment” of the state of geopolitical affairs.

“As of today,” Bulletin president Rachel Bronson told reporters, “it is two minutes to midnight” — as close as the world has ever been to the hour of apocalypse.

In moving the clock forward, the group cited “the failure of President Trump and other world leaders to deal with looming threats of nuclear war and climate change.”"

+ A few things:

1. This isn't really new news. Don't freak out. This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone, least of all our readers. It's just an allegorical recognition of all of the news from, say, the past twelve months. Shit's not good, and we've still got a chance to salvage ourselves, but it's going to take a hell of a lot of work, and so for right now, we're not in a good way. 

2. Here's the op-ed from the scientists, which includes 12 Nobel laureates, which I guess is just a thing they're giving out now?

3. It's not just climate change. In fact, as harrowing as +2° is, nuclear war is a much more immediate, and swift acting threat. 


Climate Change 🔥🌊💨

Things got warmer in your hometown this year. How much warmer?

"Last year was the second hottest year on record. In a database
of more than 3,800 cities compiled by AccuWeather, about 88
percent recorded annual mean temperatures higher than normal.
Enter your city here to see how much warmer or cooler it was."

+ Remember, science isn't going to change people's minds. When arguing for radical climate action, we've got to apply to people's values. What they can feel. Right at home. So -- bookmark this page. Call it up as needed.

+ Here's a bunch of other #vital climate headlines:

U.S. and India underperform in major environmental assessment (TLDR: we're basically last)

We’re about to kill a massive, accidental experiment in reducing global warming

Once We Start Geoengineering, We Won't Be Able To Stop

A Running List of How Trump Is Changing the Environment

Danish Wind Power Breaks Record… Again

Can Gov. Inslee deliver America's first carbon tax?



Is a carbon tax around the corner?

"If elected officials get their way, the entire West Coast of North America could be putting a price on pollution by the end of this year. 
As state legislature sessions opened this month, Washington state Governor Jay Inslee called for a carbon tax and Oregon legislators proposed a “cap and invest” system. 

Both policies are designed to make industrial emitters of carbon dioxide pay some of the costs of damage caused by growing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and to create incentives for them to reduce emissions."

+ More on Inslee going HAM on carbon


Fuck Cancer, Volume LXXIX 🖕

U.S. doctors plan to treat cancer patients using CRISPR

"The first human test in the U.S. involving the gene-editing tool CRISPR could begin at any time and will employ the DNA cutting technique in a bid to battle deadly cancers

Doctors at the University of Pennsylvania say they will use CRISPR to modify human immune cells so that they become expert cancer killers, according to plans posted this week to a directory of ongoing clinical trials."

+ More on the startups desperately searching/experimenting on early blood tests for cancer. And more here. It's VERY early days. But we'll get you one day, you bastard. One day.


False alarm! 🚨 ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

False Missile Warning in Hawaii Adds to Scrutiny of Emergency Alert System

Why, yes, this is a repeat post, and yes, is a shameless plug for our new podcast! Thanks for noticing. You're the best.

In Episode 1, we explore the thirty-eight minutes when everyone on Hawaii, including one of my boyhood friends, were told, and so believed, that they were going to die -- by ballistic missile. Listen to his very personal story, now. Subscribe, share, review, and rate us! 🙏🙏🙏


Undersea quake sends Alaskans fleeing from feared tsunami

"A powerful undersea earthquake sent Alaskans fumbling for suitcases and racing to evacuation centers in the middle of the night after a cellphone alert warned a tsunami could hit communities along the state’s southern coast and parts of British Columbia.

The monster waves never materialized, but people who fled endured hours of tense waiting at shelters before they were cleared to return home."

+ This warning wasn't an accident. This is what they were expecting


The Leftovers

#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

#77: If you support evil, you are evil

We've all heard the news by now, but still: New York proposing to withdraw its many many pension 💰 from fossil fuels and simultaneously suing the lying bastards who fueled this little 🔥💦⛈❄️ nightmare is glorious. Just glorious. 

That's one reason why our little gif is doing double-time today. Every empire comes a crashing down, even if your hats and sweaters are super rad, and also we're on the forefront of some amazing bio-tech/medicinal advances and might all live forever. One day. Not yet. But one day.

In the meantime, we can dream of water on Mars

On to the news!


Let's talk about drugs. 💉😷

New York Plans New, $400 Million Public-Health Lab for Harlem Site

"The lab annually tests more than 200,000 clinical and environmental samples, a department spokesman said. That is for everything from anthrax, HIV, rabies and Zika to food-borne illnesses, along with processing other tests conducted at the city’s public hospitals and sexual-health clinics."

+ Sounds moderately helpful.


Drug makers feel burned by string of vaccine pleas

"Every few years an alarming disease launches a furious, out-of-the-blue attack on people, triggering a high-level emergency response. SARS. The H1N1 flu pandemic. West Nile and Zika. The nightmarish West African Ebola epidemic.

In nearly each case, major vaccine producers have risen to the challenge, setting aside their day-to-day profit-making activities to try to meet a pressing societal need. With each successive crisis, they have done so despite mounting concerns that the threat will dissipate and with it the demand for the vaccine they are racing to develop.

Now, manufacturers are expressing concern about their ability to afford these costly disruptions to their profit-seeking operations. As a result, when the bat-signal next flares against the night sky, there may not be anyone to respond.

GSK has made a corporate decision that while it wants to help in public health emergencies, it cannot continue to do so in the way it has in the past. Sanofi Pasteur has said its attempt to respond to Zika has served only to mar the company’s reputation. Merck has said while it is committed to getting its Ebola vaccine across the finish line it will not try to develop a vaccine that protects against other strains of Ebola and the related Marburg virus."

+ This feels less helpful. But on the other hand...

"Hatchett said the sacrifices of pharmaceutical companies in outbreak response work are still underappreciated.

“If you look at the performance of the vaccine companies, it’s hard to think of an example going back 30 or 40 or 50 years where they haven’t stepped up to the plate. I think their record of corporate social responsibility is a story that they don’t get nearly enough credit for, given the risks and what they take on and how little they get out of responding,” he said.

Even if governments help fund vaccine work, money can dry up and costs can add up. Scientists reassigned to work on emergency vaccines have to put aside other work that their company — and its shareholders — hope will earn profits.

“There are opportunity costs, especially if you’re trying to do something fast. I mean, we put the equivalent of a couple of programs worth of people on Zika,” Shiver said. “They were all working on high-priority projects for us and we switched them off those projects. … And those programs slowed down or stopped.”


Viruses are the antibiotics of the future

"When Motherboard met Guillonneau earlier this year, he had traveled from France to the Eliava Institute in Tbilisi, Georgia to try an alternative to antibiotic drugs called phage therapy. This form of treatment uses a special kind of virus called a bacteriophage to destroy bacteria and treat infections. This method of treating bacterial infections has been known for about a century, but it has only been approved for therapeutic use in Russia, Georgia, and, recently, Poland due to concerns about using a replicating biological agent to treat infections. 

Guillonneau's genetic disorder is exceedingly rare, but phage therapy is his last hope for treatment. Yet even for people who don't suffer from Netherton Syndrome, phage therapy may be one of the few technologies preventing deaths from antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections."


How the immune system could stymie some CRISPR gene therapies

"A team of researchers led by paediatric haematologists Matthew Porteus and Kenneth Weinberg of Stanford University in California analysed blood samples from 22 babies and 12 healthy adults for immune responses to the two most commonly used forms of the Cas9 enzyme.

They found that 79% of study participants made antibodies against Cas9 from the bacterium Staphlococcus aureus, and 65% of them made antibodies against the enzyme from Streptococcus pyogenes.

In a related experiment, 46% of 13 adult participants produced immune cells called T cells that target Cas9 from S. aureus. No T-cell responses were found against the other form of Cas9 tested, although the researchers acknowledge that their test may not have been sensitive enough to detect them. 

Why does that matter? 

The body’s immune responses can sabotage a gene therapy — and pose a health risk to the person receiving the treatment. Antibodies against Cas9 can bind to the enzyme in the bloodstream, before it has had a chance to act. And T cells that target Cas9 could destroy cells in which the protein is expressed, wiping out ‘corrected’ cells and potentially triggering a dangerous widespread attack on the body’s own tissues."


How a wildlife biologist became a plague-chaser in the American Southwest

"Usually, the corpses are already underground, not because they’ve been buried, but because they are prairie dogs. In the throes of plague, they crawl down into their burrows to die at home. David Wagner isn’t there for their bodies. He’s more interested in the fleas that transmitted plague in the first place.

Sometimes, like their dead hosts, they too are beneath the earth, and he needs to coax them out. At other times — when he’s investigating what he’d call a “hot site” —  the blood is gone from the corpses, the fleas have begun to starve, and they’ve jumped their way to the surface to wait for another mammal to pass by. “You can just see them popping around looking for something to feed on,” Wagner said. “It’s pretty creepy.”

The creepiness stems in part from the fact that a bite, left untreated, could give Wagner lumps the size of chicken eggs; make him bleed from his mouth, nose, and rectum; turn his extremities a gangrenous black; and kill him within days. The prospect doesn’t worry him much. He carries prophylactic antibiotics, which he’ll take if he starts to feel his muscles aching or his throat getting sore. He wears latex gloves. And really, more than a liability, his access to fleas full of plague is an opportunity."


Fuck Cancer, Volume LXXVII 🖕

Immune boosting virus could be used to treat brain tumors

"A trial of a potential new brain cancer treatment has shown that a virus injected directly into the bloodstream can reach tumors deep inside the brain and switch on the body’s own defense system to attack them. 

The trial involved just nine patients, but scientists said that if the results could be replicated in larger studies, the naturally occurring ‘reovirus’ could be developed into an effective immunotherapy for people with aggressive brain tumors."


Mechanism for resistance to immunotherapy treatment discovered

"An urgent question for cancer scientists is why immunotherapy achieves dramatic results in some cases but doesn't help most patients. Now, two research groups from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have independently discovered a genetic mechanism in cancer cells that influences whether they resist or respond to immunotherapy drugs known as checkpoint inhibitors.

The scientists say the findings reveal potential new drug targets and might aid efforts to extend the benefits of immunotherapy treatment to more patients and additional types of cancer."


All that talk about drugs is a nice segue into...🚀

Trump’s tweets cause sales of anti-radiation drug to skyrocket

"Troy Jones, who runs the website www.nukepills.com, said demand for potassium iodide soared last week, after Trump tweeted that he had a “much bigger & more powerful” button than Kim — a statement that raised new fears about an escalating threat of nuclear war.

“On Jan. 2, I basically got in a month’s supply of potassium iodide and I sold out in 48 hours,” said Jones, 53, who is a top distributor of the drug in the United States. His Mooresville, N.C., firm sells all three types of the product approved by the Food and Drug Administration. No prescription is required.

In that two-day period, Jones said, he shipped about 140,000 doses of potassium iodide, also known as KI, which blocks the thyroid from absorbing radioactive iodine and protects against the risk of cancer. Without the tweet, he typically would have sent out about 8,400 doses to private individuals, he said.
Jones also sells to government agencies, hospitals and universities, which aren’t included in that count.

Alan Morris, president of the Williamsburg, Va.-based pharmaceutical firm Anbex Inc., which distributes potassium iodide, said he’s seen a bump in demand, too.

“We are a wonderful barometer of the level of anxiety in the country,” said Morris."

+ VERY proud to see good old Colonial Williamsburg still relevant in the end days!


The CDC wants to gently prepare people for (an unlikely) nuclear war

"The CDC is holding a session January 16 to discuss personal safety measures and the training of response teams "on a federal, state, and local level to prepare for nuclear detonation."

The meeting, part of the agency's monthly Public Health Grand Rounds, will include presentations like "Preparing for the Unthinkable" and "Roadmap to Radiation Preparedness," and it will be held at the CDC's headquarters in Atlanta. "Grand rounds" are a type of meeting or symposium in which members of a public health community come together to discuss topics of interest or public importance."

+ Here's the official invite. Got security clearance? You're in!


Trump could destroy the entire human species, says Yale psychiatrist who warned Congress members

"If it were possible, Dr. Bandy Lee said, "we would be declaring a public health emergency that needs to be responded to as quickly as possible.”

“As more time passes, we come closer to the greatest risk of danger, one that could even mean the extinction of the human species,” she said. “This is not hyperbole. This is the reality.”

After a series of tweets from Trump that appeared to threaten North Korea with nuclear war, Lee and hundreds of her colleagues at the National Coalition of Concerned Mental Health Experts issued a statement calling into question his mental health and psychological fitness for the presidency."



Lies, and the liars who tell them (and other fun new stories about climate change) 🤯🌊⚡️

Trump’s Coal Bailout Is Dead

"The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission unanimously rejected a proposal to subsidize coal-burning and nuclear power plants on Monday. Its defeat hands a victory to the motley coalition—of environmental groups, natural-gas companies, free-market advocates, and Democratic state attorneys general—who had opposed the rule and promised to fight it in court.

The 5-0 rejection was all the bitterer for the administration because four of the five commissioners who lead the agency were appointed by President Trump, and three are Republicans."

+ Damn that feels good.


Three Ways Fox News Misleads its Readers on Sea Level Rise

"First, a bit of backstory.

Early last Tuesday morning, a reporter from Fox News contacted the Union of Concerned Scientists  about a piece he was planning to write. The piece was to feature a new study about sea level rise published in the journal Earth Systems and Environment, and the reporter wanted to “get a general response from you as to whether you see the paper in question as credible and whether you think its claim that sea level rise has been exaggerated is plausible.” “The authors say [their results] call into question the broader claim that sea levels are rising rapidly,” he wrote. 

Astrid Caldas and I both read the paper then decided I would respond within the reporter’s deadline in about 90 minutes. The email I sent to the reporter made four main points: 1. Sea level rise is extremely well-established; 2. One cannot use any one tide gauge record (or any one region) to infer a global trend; 3. It is difficult to determine long-term trends from tide gauges with large data gaps; 4. The paper in question had some telltale signs of a suspicious peer-review process.

The reporter clearly took this information with more than a few grains of salt."


All of these points are #vital, because we're not fighting against some fantastical, dark future. Climate change is here.

"Coastal communities all over the world are already facing the double whammy of sea level rise and extreme weather events that in some cases are threatening the very existence of entire island states. Now a new study adds weight to the argument that for the sake of these communities we need to ramp up efforts and achieve what many think almost impossible, keeping global warming below 1.5° C (2.7° F).

A team from Tufts University, Rutgers University, and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany found that if countries managed to stabilize global temperatures within this threshold by 2150, the impact of sea level rise would be significantly reduced. The global average sea level would be about 17.7 centimeters (7 inches) less than under a 2° C scenario (3.6° F), which is conventionally considered more achievable. The paper is published in the journal Environmental Research Letters and will be included in the landmark special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on the 1.5° C goal, which will collate the available literature on the topic."


Three Months After Maria, Roughly Half of Puerto Ricans Still Without Power

"For the first time in the 100 days since Hurricane Maria slammed Puerto Rico, the government finally knows how many people still don’t have power: about half.

The figure released Friday by the island’s governor and power utility company indicates that more than 1.5 million people on the island are still in the dark. Experts say some parts of the island are not expected to get power back until next spring.

“We understand how difficult it has been for the people for Puerto Rico who have been without power for so long,” said Ricardo Rosselló, the governor of Puerto Rico, as he announced a request for up to 1,500 more restoration workers from the mainland’s electric industry.

In its statement on Friday, the authorities said power restoration has been slow because of the sheer scale and complexity of the damage. Much of the island’s 2,400 miles of transmission lines, 30,000 miles of distribution lines and 342 substations were damaged in the storm, they said. Carlos D. Torres, the system’s restoration coordinator, said workers were finding “unexpected damage” in some areas even as they make repairs in others."

+ An American travesty. Now imagine these sentences, written about New York, or Miami, or New Orleans (again), or D.C. Climate change is here.


And it's not just for the coastal "elite".

"A study out Wednesday from Science Advances highlights the growing flood risk regions around the world will see in the next 25 years, primarily driven by greenhouse gases already emitted into the atmosphere. Significant numbers of people on every continent are threatened by river flooding, with the need for adaptation greatest in the U.S., parts of India and Africa, Indonesia, and in Central Europe."

+ Here's just one quote from the study:

"For the United States (Figs. 2A and 3A), 42 of the 50 states, and the District of Columbia, will experience an increased flood risk if no additional protection measures are taken."

Live in China? Here's another one.

"China will observe an increased high-end flood risk from 24M [18M; 34M] to 55M [46M; 69M] affected people. All but Shanghai show an increase in high-end risk of at least 20%; 14 of 31 provinces will have more than a million people each under high-end risk."


Risks & Consequences ✊🛰🐢👽

We must accept more risks if we want space travel to take off

"But if we want to do more than just joy rides – colonising Mars, for example – should we be prepared for more fatalities?

Of course, in an ideal world no one would die during a space mission, but pushing the boundaries of human endeavour requires risk-taking, almost by definition. Is it worth it, or would deaths turn the public off space flight all together?

To answer these questions, we must first look at who is taking the risks, and who stands to gain from them. Like other expensive and dangerous activities, space flight is governed by calculations of risk versus reward."


Climate change is turning 99 percent of these baby sea turtles female

Green sea turtles do not develop into males or females due to sex chromosomes, like humans and most other mammals do. Instead, the temperature outside a turtle egg influences the sex of the growing embryo. And this unusual biological quirk, scientists say, endangers their future in a warmer world.

Already, some sea turtle populations are so skewed by heat that the young reptiles are almost entirely female, according to a new report in the journal Current Biology.

“This is one of the most important conservation papers of the decade,” said biologist David Owens, a professor emeritus at the College of Charleston who was not a part of this research. It will not be long, perhaps within a few decades to a century, until “there will not be enough males in sea turtle populations,” he warned.

+ Raise your hand if you like sea turtles


Climate Change May Have Helped Spark Iran’s Protests

"A severe drought, mismanaged water resources and dust storms diminished Iran's economy in recent years, according to experts who study the region. While the protests are largely driven by resistance to the country's hardline conservative government, such environmental factors might have contributed to the largest protests inside Iran in years.

Former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad understood that climate change and water mismanagement was ravaging family farms, and his government provided subsidies to families who struggled to put food on the table, said Amir Handjani, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council's South Asia Center. When the current president, Hassan Rouhani, signaled that he would reduce those benefits, enraged Iranians across the nation's arid countryside joined the wave of protests.

"You have climate change, shortage of water, they can't grow their crops, and now they're getting their cash handouts taken away," said Handjani. "It's a panoply of issues coming together at once.""


Do you like food? I do. So much. So very much. Especially food born in SPACE.

"Some years ago, NASA bred wheat in space with the goal of providing an unending food supply for astronauts. To help the plant along, astronauts shined light on the plant continuously. As far as the crop was concerned, the sun never set. It was always noon on a cloudless day. The extra light fueled its rapid growth.

Researchers are now using the same technique here on Earth to quickly grow several successive generations of wheat in an effort to breed a crop that can stand up to persistent drought, severe heat, or heavy rainfall driven by climate change. Their experiments created a wheat cycle from seed to seed in just eight weeks, making it possible to grow as many as six generations of wheat in a single year.

Scientists believe that the process can make more food in a shorter period of time to feed an ever-growing hungry world; at the same time, the ability to produce more crops more quickly will facilitate researchers’ ability to experiment with different genetic combinations to develop more climate resistant strains."


The Leftovers