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A team of researchers at the University of Manchester's Centre for Audiology and Deafness, has found that musicians tend to listen to music at louder volume than non-musicians. Antonia Olivia Dolan, Emanuele Perugia and Karolina Kluk asked volunteers to listen to music at sound levels they found enjoyable and then noted the difference in volume levels between musicians and non-musicians. The findings are published in the journal PLOS ONE.


In the northern hemisphere five planets can be seen by the naked eye, and Uranus and Neptune with a telescope or binoculars

Every planet in the solar system was visible in the night sky simultaneously on Wednesday, which is regarded by experts as a rare astronomical event.

Venus, Mercury, Saturn, Jupiter and Mars could all be seen in that order in the northern hemisphere with the naked eye, starting from the south-western horizon and moving east.

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Nature Communications, Published online: 28 December 2022; doi:10.1038/s41467-022-35351-w

Bacteria and their viruses coexist and coevolve in nature, but maintaining them together in the lab is challenging. Here, a spatially structured environment allowed prolonged coevolution, with bacteria and phage diversifying into multiple ecotypes, uncovering gene mechanisms affecting phage-bacteria interactions.

This year's Nobel Prize in Physics celebrated the fundamental interest of quantum entanglement, and also envisioned the potential applications in "the second quantum revolution"—a new age when we are able to manipulate the weirdness of quantum mechanics, including quantum superposition and entanglement. A large-scale and fully functional quantum network is the holy grail of quantum information sciences. It will open a new frontier of physics, with new possibilities for quantum computation, communication, and metrology.


(Photo: Bjørn Christian Tørrissen/Wikimedia Commons)
Most people who take a sledgehammer to one of their walls end up finding nothing more than some shoddy plumbing. But for one man in Turkey, a renovation attempt in 1963 led to the discovery of a lifetime. Knocking down a basement wall revealed a multi-layered underground city, which researchers are now understanding to have housed up to 20,000 people.

The man—whose name remains under wraps even after several decades—resided in the Turkish providence of Cappadocia. He's said to have been working on an interior home upgrade when he demolished the one barrier dividing his residence from that of people from as far back as the 8th or 7th centuries BCE. The hole in his wall opened up to a tunnel, which gave way to more tunnels, allowing archaeologists at the Turkish Department of Culture to inspect the newly-discovered city firsthand.

Now referred to as Derinkuyu, the city is believed to have housed early Christians who fled from the Romans, plus Muslim Arabs seeking refuge from the Arab-Byzantine wars. Compared with other hideouts, Derinkuyu offered a decent level of security: Many people didn't know about the underground labyrinth at all, and if residents were found out, they could use the city's many intricate escape routes to avoid harm. They even used stone "doors" to block passageways, sealing themselves and their families inside with select livestock and other supplies until intruders gave up and left.

A "ventilation well" in Derinkuyu. (Photo: Nevit Dilmen/Wikimedia Commons)

Certain features suggest that even non-refugees who lived in Derinkuyu resided there exclusively. Ventilation shafts, water channels, and wells as deep as 180 feet helped facilitate survival without requiring residents to venture above ground. Those who lived in Derinkuyu—temporarily or long-term—used torches to see in the city's perpetual darkness. Though much of Derinkuyu is made up of corridors, its total 172 square miles include many living quarters complete with bedrooms and kitchens, making for a relatively comfortable home.

Derinkuyu's 18 floors also made for quite the lively city. The Phrygians, a group of ancient Indo-European people known for their impressive building skills, are believed to have constructed Derinkuyu with multiple functionalities in mind. Areas not used as dwellings were made into markets, meeting areas, schools, and houses of worship. Residents largely kept livestock in chambers close to the city's surface to avoid odor and gas buildup, while underground churches were often accompanied by individual study chambers.

Researchers believe Derinkuyu was abandoned centuries (at minimum) before the Cappadocia resident stumbled upon it. Though the city was first found 60 years ago, archaeologists are still working to uncover all of the labyrinth's secrets, with fragments of Darinkuyu's history having been discovered just this year.

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Building tissues and organs is one of the most complex and essential tasks that cells must accomplish during embryogenesis. In this collective task, cells communicate through a variety of communication methods, including biochemical signals—similar to a cell's sense of smell—and mechanical cues—the cell's sense of touch.

Researchers have found that antigen-specific killer T cells (CD8+ T cells) rapidly expand in the lungs when primed by antigen-presenting lung-resident alveolar macrophages (AMs). This interaction helps protect against viral infection and could form the basis for developing 'cell transplant'-type vaccines in the future.

Taking Hong Kong's famous Peak Tram up to Victoria Peak offers stunning views of its central business district, Victoria Harbor, and the surrounding islands. But a team of international scientists has recently discovered that the trams winding journey provides a previously unrecognized situation where our vertical perception gets distorted.

SpaceX Launches First Gen2 Starlink Satellites

SpaceX recently asked for FCC approval to begin its Starlink Gen2 deployments before the end of 2022, and it followed through. Today, the company launched 54 new Starlink satellites to orbit that will form the first element of the firm's Gen2 network. However, SpaceX hasn't discussed what, if anything, is different about these satellites — they were launched aboard a Falcon 9, and the true next-gen Starlink hardware will require Starship, which has yet to reach orbit.

The Falcon 9 rocket blasted off in the early hours of Wednesday on the Starlink 5-1 mission. It was the 60th Starlink mission for 2022 with just one more on the schedule. The mission itself was the kind of textbook perfection we've come to expect from the Falcon 9. After sending the second stage on its way, the first-stage booster came down for a landing on the company's A Shortfall of Gravitas drone ship. The satellites were released in the planned orbit, making them the first to count toward the company's 7,500 allotment from the FCC.

Although SpaceX did not offer details on the satellites, the hardware is visible in the video stream after the payload faring was jettisoned. The 54 satellites are stacked inside, very much like all the past Starlink launches, but the Gen2 satellites are supposed to be much larger and more capable. So what makes this a "Gen2" mission? The satellites were deployed in a new orbital shell authorized by federal regulators for the enhanced Starlink network. It's possible these satellites will be used to test features of the true Gen2 hardware, or perhaps they will be used to beef up connectivity until Starship is ready.

SpaceX says the Gen2 expansion will alleviate the congestion issues that have plagued Starlink throughout 2022. At launch in 2020, Starlink provided speeds around 100Mbps, which was several times higher than traditional satellite internet, while also offering latency not that far off from wired broadband. However, the demand for Starlink access has caused speeds to slow, and the company is planning to institute residential data caps in the coming months.

Previously, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said he hoped to complete the first orbital test of Starship in 2022, but that didn't happen. The company's new megarocket hasn't flown in months, but SpaceX has been conducting static fire tests with the Super Heavy first stage, which is required to boost Starship into orbit. When complete, Starship will be capable of deploying the more powerful Gen2 Starlink satellites, but that's just the start. SpaceX also plans to use Starship to support NASA's Artemis lunar landings, perform sub-orbital surface-to-surface transport on Earth, and reach distant destinations like Mars. And Musk still insists he wants to colonize the red planet.

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2022 Seen Through the Lens of Emilio Morenatti

Emilio Morenatti, the Associated Press's chief photographer for Spain and Portugal, has spent the past year documenting important news stories across Europe. Morenatti, who is based in Barcelona, covered drought conditions in Spain, made several trips to Ukraine before and during the Russian invasion, documented the aftermath of wildfires in Catalonia, photographed mourners paying tribute to Queen Elizabeth II, and much more. Below, in roughly chronological order, is a look at some of the stories brought to us through Morenatti's lens in 2022.


Nature Communications, Published online: 28 December 2022; doi:10.1038/s41467-022-35723-2

Convolutional operation is a very efficient way to handle tensor analytics, but it consumes a large quantity of additional memory. Here, the authors demonstrate an integrated photonic tensor processor which directly handles high-order tensors without tensor-matrix transformation.

Is this article about Tech & Scientific Innovation?

Scientific Reports, Published online: 28 December 2022; doi:10.1038/s41598-022-27115-9

Analysis of clinical presentations, lip transepidermal water loss and associated dermatological conditions in patients with chronic

Drone graffiti

It occurred to me this morning that more and more graffiti artists might use drones as they become more complex, more available and can be programmed for flight patterns. We might start seeing graffiti high on the sides of buildings and unreachable places.

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ChatGPT impact on read/write balance

Hey everyone, I wanted to share a thought that's been on my mind lately. Have you ever stopped to think about the fact that we're living in a time where the effort required to write is finally on par with the effort required to read?

When the internet was first created, it was technically difficult to write on it. Social media helped make it easier for users to create their own content, but the ratio of effort required to write compared to read was still relatively high (around 1:5 or 1:10).

That's where ChatGPT and similar technologies come in. They've significantly reduced the effort required to write, possibly to as low as 1:2 or even 1:0.5. This is a major milestone for humanity and it got me wondering: what kind of consequences might this have for society?

I'm really curious to hear what others think about this. Have you given any thought to the impact of ChatGPT and similar technologies on society from this perspective?

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Most people think democracy is something that adults do and regard the prospect of children voting as too silly to even contemplate. In the early 20th century, many democracies began (ostensibly) operating with universal suffrage, ensuring voting rights were no longer withheld from adults on the basis of wealth or sex or race. But age thresholds have endured, and children continue to be excluded from democracy—an exclusion based on what they are (young), and adults' assumptions about what it means to be young.

Research at the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (IMBB) of the Foundation for Research and Technology-Hellas (FORTH), published today in the journal Nature Aging, reveals a fundamental quality control mechanism that operates in cells to safeguard the integrity and function of the nucleus. By maintaining nuclear homeostasis, this molecular mechanism contributes critically to promote longevity and fertility.

Research at the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (IMBB) of the Foundation for Research and Technology-Hellas (FORTH), published today in the journal Nature Aging, reveals a fundamental quality control mechanism that operates in cells to safeguard the integrity and function of the nucleus. By maintaining nuclear homeostasis, this molecular mechanism contributes critically to promote longevity and fertility.


Nature Communications, Published online: 28 December 2022; doi:10.1038/s41467-022-35733-0

A 3D wide-field fluorescence microscopy method is introduced based on optical astigmatism combined with fluorescence source localization. It enables transcranial cortical microcirculation mapping in murine brain with high spatiotemporal resolution.

Health care costs increasingly outpace employee insurance
Is this article about Global Health?
hand holds big pink calculator by side of body

Health care is growing less affordable for American adults—particularly women—with employer-sponsored health insurance, research finds.

"In recent years, employer-sponsored health insurance has become less adequate in providing financial protection for all kinds of health care services," says Avni Gupta, a PhD student in the department of public health policy and management at the New York University School of Global Public Health and the lead author of the analysis in JAMA.

The majority of working-age adults in the United States (61% as of 2019) obtain health insurance coverage through their employers. Despite improvements in employer-sponsored insurance by the Affordable Care Act—including extending parents' coverage to uninsured young adults, eliminating copays and deductibles for preventive services, and implementing maternal care coverage—health care costs and out-of-pocket expenses have continued to rise.

Using the National Health Interview Survey, a nationally representative annual survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the researchers analyzed data from 2000 to 2020 for more than 238,000 adults aged 19 to 64 years who obtained their health care coverage through an employer or union.

Women with employer-sponsored insurance found all types of health care services to be less affordable than men. On average, 3.9% of women and 2.7% of men reported that medical care was unaffordable, 8.1% of women and 5.4% of men said dental care was unaffordable, 5.2% of women and 2.7% of men said prescription medications were unaffordable, and 2.1% of women and 0.8% of men reported that mental health care was unaffordable.

"Lower incomes and higher health care needs among women could be driving these differences in reported affordability," says Gupta. "Employer-sponsored insurance plans need to redesign their benefit packages to reduce sex-based disparities."

Over the two decades studied, both women and men found nearly all health care services to be less affordable in recent years compared to the early 2000s (although affordability for some services improved in certain years). For instance, approximately 6% of women found medical care unaffordable in 2020 compared to 3% in 2000, and roughly 3% of men said medical care was unaffordable in 2020 compared to 2% in 2000.

"People with health insurance coverage provided by employers generally think they are protected, but our findings show that health-related benefits have been eroding over time," says José A. Pagán, professor and chair of the department of public health policy and management and coauthor of the paper.

Mental health and dental services showed particularly troubling trends in affordability. Women's inability to afford mental health care sharply increased in the last few years included in the study—tripling from around 2% to more than 6%—while both men's and women's inability to afford dental services persistently remained the highest of all services every year from 2000 through 2020.

Source: NYU

The post Health care costs increasingly outpace employee insurance appeared first on Futurity.

Is this article about Gardening?
For many people, holidays in the snow are as much a part of the end of the year as Christmas trees and fireworks. As global warming progresses, however, white slopes are becoming increasingly rare. Researchers at the University of Basel have calculated how well one of Switzerland's largest ski resorts will remain snow reliable with technical snowmaking by the year 2100, and how much water this snow will consume.

A researcher from The Pennsylvania State University published a commentary in the Journal of Public Policy and Marketing that examines four key contemporary "drivers" of political violence in the United States: "toxic" political polarization; "toxic" identity-based ideologies; assaults on democratic norms; and disinformation and conspiracy theories. The article also discusses some ideas about how to curb the influence of these drivers and reduce political violence.

A team of researchers affiliated with multiple institutions in the U.S. has found that placing labels on foods sold at fast food restaurants informing consumers of the negative impact of the production of such foods on the planet can alter consumer buying habits. In their paper published on JAMA Network Open, the group describes conducting an online survey using a fictional restaurant to learn more about consumer food buying choices.

DIY filters curb phthalate and PFAS air pollution
two people assemble filter box

Cheap, easy-to-assemble Corsi-Rosenthal boxes can help reduce exposure to indoor air pollutants, research finds.

The study, which analyzes the effectiveness of Corsi-Rosenthal boxes installed at the Brown University School of Public Health to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, is the first peer-reviewed study of the efficacy of the boxes on indoor pollutants, according to the authors.

Lowering indoor air concentrations of commonly found chemicals known to pose a risk to human health is a way to improve occupant health, according to lead author Joseph Braun, an associate professor of epidemiology.

"The findings show that an inexpensive, easy-to-construct air filter can protect against illness caused not only by viruses but also by chemical pollutants," Braun says. "This type of highly-accessible public health intervention can empower community groups to take steps to improve their air quality and therefore, their health."

Corsi-Rosenthal boxes, or cubes, can be constructed from materials found at hardware stores: four MERV-13 filters, duct tape, a 20-inch box fan, and a cardboard box. As part of a school-wide project, boxes were assembled by students and campus community members and installed in the School of Public Health as well as other buildings on campus.

To assess the cubes' efficacy at removing chemicals from the air, Braun and his team compared a room's concentrations of semi-volatile organic compounds before and during the box's operation.

The results, published in Environmental Science & Technology, shows that Corsi-Rosenthal boxes significantly decreased the concentrations of several


and phthalates in 17 rooms at the School of Public Health during the period they were used (February to March 2022). PFAS, a type of synthetic chemical found in a range of products including cleaners, textiles, and wire insulation, decreased by 40% to 60%; phthalates, commonly found in building materials and personal care products, were reduced by 30% to 60%.

PFAS and phthalates have been linked to various health problems, including asthma, reduced vaccine response, decreased birth weight, altered brain development in children, altered metabolism, and some cancers, says Braun, who studies the effect of these chemicals on human health. They are also considered to be endocrine-disrupting chemicals that may mimic or interfere with the body's hormones. What's more, PFAS have been associated with reduced vaccine response in children and also may increase the severity of and susceptibility to COVID-19 in adults.

"The reduction of PFAS and phthalate levels is a wonderful co-benefit to the Corsi-Rosenthal boxes," says study coauthor Robin Dodson, a research scientist at the Silent Spring Institute and expert in chemical exposures in the indoor environment. "These boxes are accessible, easy to make, and relatively inexpensive, and they're currently being used in universities and homes across the country."

"The Corsi-Rosenthal box was designed to be a simple, cost-effective tool to promote accessible and effective air cleaning during the COVID-19 pandemic; the fact that the boxes are also effective at filtering out air pollutants is a fantastic discovery," says Richard Corsi, one of the inventors of the boxes and dean of the College of Engineering at the University of California, Davis.

The researchers also found that the Corsi-Rosenthal boxes increase sound levels by an average of 5 decibels during the day and 10 decibels at night, which could be considered distracting in certain settings, such as classrooms. However, Braun says, the health benefits of the box likely outweigh the audio side effects.

"The box filters do make some noise," Braun says. "But you can construct them quickly for about $100 per unit, with materials from the hardware store. They are not only highly effective but also scalable."

The National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences supported the work.

Source: Brown University

The post DIY filters curb phthalate and PFAS air pollution appeared first on Futurity.

New biomarker test can detect Alzheimer's neurodegeneration in blood
Is this article about Medical Devices?
The biomarker, called 'brain-derived tau,' or BD-tau, outperforms current blood diagnostic tests used to detect Alzheimer's-related neurodegeneration clinically. It is specific to Alzheimer's disease and correlates well with Alzheimer's neurodegeneration biomarkers in the cerebrospinal fluid. Scientists hope that monitoring blood levels of BD-tau could facilitate screening and enrollment of patients from populations that historically haven't been included in research cohorts.

Is this article about Gardening?
For many people, holidays in the snow are as much a part of the end of the year as Christmas trees and fireworks. As global warming progresses, however, white slopes are becoming increasingly rare. Researchers have calculated how well one of Switzerland's largest ski resorts will remain snow reliable with technical snow-making by the year 2100, and how much water this snow will consume.

General Introductory Textbook for Cogsci

Hello everyone, I hope you are having a good day.

I am looking for an intro textbook-like resource which would allow me to gain a basic yet broad understading on the basic concepts of Cogsci.

I am planning to go with this one(but am very much open to other suggestions):

My college library features the 2005 version of F.Silverman's Cognitive Science textbook, but am not sure how well it holds up today considering how dynamical the field is (literally and figuratively.)

Basically, when it comes to cost benefit analysis, I am wondering if it is worth to go with the Silverman's on the side. I worry it will potentially skew my schemas in ways which I will have to correct later on with info that is more up to date.

It is difficult to compare them side by side despite availability of contents layout on the web.

Would be very much grateful for any insights.

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From Wild to Weird: The Top 5 Biotech Trends of 2022
Leo has found 1 Regulatory Changes mention in this article
  • With a failing heart and no chance at a human heart transplant, a patient was granted compassionate use by the FDA.

It's that time of year again! As 2022 comes to a close, I've been reflecting on the biotech and life science stories from the year that are living rent-free in my head. Here are the ones at the top of the list.

Brain Implants Had a Great Run

In a first, a paralyzed man simultaneously operated two robotic arms with his mind, allowing him to feed himself for the first time in years. (And it was cake!) Implants helped a man with locked-in syndrome—with a sharp mind but paralyzed body—translate his thoughts into sentences, opening a gateway to finally communicate with his loved ones. Memory prosthetics—a blue-sky idea to boost memory with an implant—scored their first success in people. A spinal cord stimulator, based on a new algorithm that mimics the natural electrical pulses the brain uses to control lower body movement, helped completely paralyzed people stand and walk with assistance in just one day. Within a few months, they cruised city streets on Segway-like wheels, swam, and kayaked, using an off-the-shelf tablet to control their movements.

We Know Much More About Aging—Partly Thanks to Puppies

The Dog Aging Project is following 60,000 dogs as they age at home, tracking genetics, metabolism, and microbiome factors that accelerate (or derail) healthy aging. The goal is to gain insight into their aging process, which could also inform our own. In a first, a controlled human trial strengthened previous findings in flies, worms, and mice that cutting calories increases healthy lifespan (not the best news for indulging in that year-end feast).

Partial cellular reprogramming, a technology that dramatically reduces a cell's age while still allowing it to retain its identity—as opposed to transforming into stem cells—garnered attention from Silicon Valley giants as a longevity breakthrough. "Aging clocks," based on epigenetics, tag-teamed with AI to gauge a person's biological age and associated health status with hopes of finding age-related diseases and nipping them in the bud.

Blockbuster, Jaw-Dropping, Mega-Scale Studies

In a mind-blowing feat, one team used CRISPR to comprehensively map nearly every gene—the genotype—to its function. In another, genetic sequencing of over 12,000 tumors built a database of DNA mutations that lead to multiple types of cancers. The brain also got the big-data treatment, with a study using nearly 125,000 scans across the lifespan to chart an atlas of changes as we age.

The size of these studies isn't the point—rather, the databases provide unprecedented views of human biology, including multiple genetic backgrounds and ethnicities. All open-access, the resources are a wealth of information for scientists to mine for individual projects. For example, can a familiar trend of different cancers be explained by specific genetic mutations? Or can we detect factors contributing to early signs of dementia or Alzheimer's by referencing the longevity brain atlas?

Xenotransplantation Makes It to Humans

There's a drastic shortage of available transplant organs—so much so that there's an ethically-fraught but regulated market for organ donation.

One solution is to commandeer organs from another species—specifically, pigs. Their organs are similar in size and functionality as ours, making them potentially valuable donors. While plagued by violent immune rejections, the blue-sky idea has increasingly gained steam in the past few years.

Back in 2017, several teams found that kidneys from pigs, genetically engineered to dampen their ability to trigger immune responses in the host, sustained a rhesus macaque monkey for more than 400 days before the organ was rejected. In 2021 and early this year, kidneys from heavily genetically-edited pigs were transplanted into brain-dead humans, maintaining function for at least 50 days.

Part of the success comes from CRISPR. Pig organs can carry a family of viruses called PERVs, or porcine endogenous retrovirus, inside their genome. While benign to pigs, they're deadly to humans. Using CRISPR, in 2015 scientists edited over 60 porcine genes responsible for immune rejection and viral infections, allowing a transplanted pig heart to survive for over half a year inside a baboon.

Earlier this year, pig-to-human heart transplant went from moonshot to reality. With a failing heart and no chance at a human heart transplant, a patient was granted compassionate use by the FDA. The pig heart, with 10 genetic edits, was designed to limit immune responses. Two weeks after implant, all looked well; the patient survived on the pig heart, and his immune system seemingly accepted the heart.

But roughly a month later, he took a turn for the worst. Two months post-transplant, he died. The transplanted heart carried a porcine virus, a common—but treatable—infection if caught early to potentially keep the heart going.

It's a devastating loss, especially for the volunteer David Bennett Sr.'s family. The perilous trial has bioethicists wondering where to draw the line for pig-to-human transplants. Yet Bennett's bravery provided invaluable insight into xenotransplantation in humans—such as better ways to tackle porcine viruses and keep the host's immune system in check. With multiple companies racing to bring xenotransplants safely to market, we could see more trials in the coming year.

New Tech for Predicting and Combating Viral Infections

Yes, I know. We're all sick from and tired of Covid-19. But with the flu, RSV, and new Covid variants surging in a triple threat, there's an increasing need to keep ahead as these viruses evolve. One idea is to profile antibodies triggered by a virus, say, SARS-CoV-2, which causes Covid, as a therapeutic. Yet with the Omicron variant and its subvariants rampaging across the globe, antibodies rapidly lose their efficiency.

Viral mutations—be they SARS-CoV-2, HIV, or flu viruses—occur rapidly. Creating therapies based on antibodies is basically a game of whack-a-mole. Rather than chasing the next variant, what about finding antibodies that are resilient to viral changes?

Multiple teams can now analyze—or even predict—new viral variant soups. One study tracked how the Covid-19 virus evades thousands of antibodies, pinpointing mutations that help them dodge immunity. A similar approach predicted variants based on antibodies from people earlier diagnosed with Covid-19: for example, the team realized that even people who had previously recovered from an early Omicron variant could be bulldozed by the BA.5 variant that's now responsible for most infections.

While just half a step in front of viral mutations, the team, led by Dr. Richard Cao, is on the bleeding edge of generating data for new variants and sharing it with the world. The data could help find antibody treatments that become more resilient to viral mutations. Covid-19 is just the start; a universal flu vaccine or one for HIV—both notorious for their ability to mutate—could also benefit from the insights.

Awesomely Weird Studies

A unique type of material exploiting metasurfaces opened the door to human telepathy. Freeze-dried skin cells from mice birthed healthy pups. Hundreds of thousands of isolated neurons in a dish learned to play Pong in minutes.

In synthetic biology, an artificial womb kept mouse embryos alive for over eight days, unleashing the next chapter of artificial reproduction. A little mouse called Xiao Zhu pushed the field's boundaries, alive and thriving while harboring an artificially fused chromosome, one number short of a mouse's usual chromosomal count.

2022 was a great year of scientific exploration. These are just the stories that resonated with me. I'm eager to see what the new year has to offer, and share with you intriguing, profound, and utterly weird new research that goes where no one has gone before.

Image Credit: Maximiliano D'Angelo and Martin Hetzer, Salk Institute

Whether India—the world's second-largest producer of staples like rice and wheat as well as fruits and vegetables—finally switches to genetically modified (GM) food crops hinges on litigation currently being fought in the country's supreme court to prevent the commercial release of GM mustard.

Spontaneous baby movements have purpose
Is this article about Animals?
Spontaneous, random baby movements aid development of their sensorimotor system, according to new research. Detailed motion capture of newborns and infants was combined with a musculoskeletal computer model, to enable researchers to analyze communication among muscles and sensation across the whole body. Researchers found patterns of muscle interaction developing based on the babies' random exploratory behavior, that would later enable them to perform sequential movements as infants. Better understanding how our sensorimotor system develops could help us gain insight into the origin of human movement as well as earlier diagnosis of developmental disorders.

Is this article about Climate?
A new study that reconstructs the history of sea level at the Bering Strait shows that the Bering Land Bridge connecting Asia to North America did not emerge until around 35,700 years ago, less than 10,000 years before the height of the last ice age (known as the Last Glacial Maximum). The findings indicate that the growth of the ice sheets — and the resulting drop in sea level — occurred surprisingly quickly and much later in the glacial cycle than previous studies had suggested.

The moonseed family (Menispermaceae) consists mainly of vines, rare shrubs or trees with unisexual flowers, and drupaceous fruits. Up to now, six species and three unidentified species in morphogenus Palaeosinomenium have been reported. However, more fossil evidence is required to detect the morphological evolution between the morphogenus and the living genera.

Is this article about Animals?
The moonseed family (Menispermaceae) consists mainly of vines, rare shrubs or trees with unisexual flowers, and drupaceous fruits. Up to now, six species and three unidentified species in morphogenus Palaeosinomenium have been reported. However, more fossil evidence is required to detect the morphological evolution between the morphogenus and the living genera.

Dolphin wearable could find cost of habitat disturbance
Is this article about Animals?
small black objected attached to dolphin's back with suction cups

New wearable sensors for dolphins could reveal the cost of human disturbances in marine habitats, say researchers.

Human disturbances in dolphin habitat include climate change, overfishing, and noise pollution from construction, oil exploration, and navy sonar activity. These disturbances can interrupt important animal behavior like foraging for fish and socializing, but measuring disturbance is difficult under water.

Devices very similar to fitness trackers used by humans—known as biologging tags—are used in biology research but estimating the energetic cost of swimming has been challenging. With custom biologging tags, the engineers now are able to measure animal movement during thousands of strokes as they swim.

"Our goal is to use tag data to estimate foraging events, how many fish were consumed during a day, and connect that to estimates of how much energy dolphins use during the movement required to catch those fish," says Alex Shorter, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Michigan and senior author of a paper in the Journal of Experimental Biology on the work.

"This is important for conservation because we can then use our approach to estimate energetic costs when these animals are disturbed."

In the new work, the researchers developed estimates of energetic cost from tag data by working with their human and animal collaborators at Dolphin Quest Oahu. In that environment, the researchers could conduct repeatable swimming trials over a range of speeds from multiple animals to generate the data they needed to estimate how much energy the animals used as they swam. Marine mammal specialists trained the dolphins to wear the tracker during lap trials and periods of free swimming.

The tag sits between the blowhole and dorsal fin of the dolphin, attached with suction cups, where it noninvasively measures speed, temperature, pressure, and movement. Six dolphins participated in the work, and just as in data collection with humans, the animals were free to decline to participate in the work at any time.

During the prescribed lap trials, the animals started from rest at a floating dock and swam an 80-meter lap underwater around one of the marine mammal specialists and back to the dock at speeds of up to 21 kilometers per hour (13 miles per hour). During free swimming, in which the dolphins received no instructions, tags tracked movement for periods that ranged from 9.5 to 24 hours. One of the dolphins tracked for a 24-hour period swam over 70 kilometers (43.5 miles), and these data were used for a case study of daily activity and energetic cost for a bottlenose dolphin. Importantly, these findings can extend to tag data from animals in the wild.

"Our tag-based method is universally applicable to both animals in managed and wild settings, and can lead to a host of new research in monitoring the physical well-being of dolphin populations, which in turn will inform how we as humans are affecting their travel patterns, feeding requirements and lives in general," says Joaquin Gabaldon, a postdoctoral researcher in robotics and first author of the study.

"From a technological perspective, it is our hope that other researchers see the potential of dedicated on-tag speed sensing, and pursue the development of more adaptable speed sensors to enable energetics monitoring for a wider variety of marine animals," Gabaldon says.

Collaborators at Loggerhead Instruments, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, and Aarhus University in Denmark contributed to making the sensors.

The study had support from the Office of Naval Research, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and the University of Michigan.

Source: Makenzie Schlessman for University of Michigan

The post Dolphin wearable could find cost of habitat disturbance appeared first on Futurity.

Will Climate Change Make Real Animals Into Fairy Tales?

The other night, as I began the expansive and continually growing routine of putting my 11-month-old son to bed, we sat together on the rocking chair in his room and read The Tiger Who Came to Tea, by Judith Kerr, and met a tiger who just would not stop eating. My son wasn't yet ready for sleep and made that clear, so we read Chicken Soup With Rice, by Maurice Sendak. We encountered an elephant and a whale, and traveled through all the months of the year, braving the sliding ice of January and the gusty gales of November. Then we turned, as we always do, to Goodnight Moon, and met more bears, rabbits, a little mouse, a cow, some fresh air, and the stars.

As I slid the books back onto the shelf, they rejoined the long parade of animals around his bedroom: the moose and his muffin, Peter Rabbit, Elmer the patchwork elephant, Lars the polar bear, Lyle the crocodile, stuffed kangaroos and octopi and lions and turtles. Every night, I sing "Baby Beluga" to him as a lullaby: "Goodnight, little whale, goodnight."

That evening, my mind jumped to a book I'd had when I was little that I recently bought for my son. It's called Physty: The True Story of a Young Whale's Rescue, by Richard Ellis. The book tells a slightly embellished but true tale of a sperm whale that ended up beached on the shore of Fire Island in 1981 and was nursed back to health by a group of scientists and vets. I loved learning that young whales gleefully dive and splash just like I did, and that they jump out of the water simply because it's fun.

But lately, I have started to worry that I am populating my son's imagination with species that could go extinct before he has a chance to understand that they're real. We read about Physty the same way we do about Custard the dragon. To him, they are equally delightful and fantastical, neither real nor unreal. He sees fossils of dinosaurs, and I tell him that they disappeared millions of years ago. Even if whales or tigers don't vanish entirely in the next several decades, in our age of accelerated environmental damage—climate change and what some scientists are calling the sixth mass extinction—I'm concerned that many of these books about the incredible, unlikely diversity of animal life on this planet will feel like fairy tales too.

I am a climate-change and environmental journalist, and thinking about whales now means considering the multiplying threats they face: warming waters, ocean noise, pollution, disappearing food sources, ship collisions, overfishing. Although many species' populations have rebounded since the moratorium on commercial whaling in 1986, the outlook for others is not good: Of the 13 kinds of great whales, six are endangered or vulnerable.

[Read: How I talk to my daughter about climate change]

Whales aren't the only threatened storybook animals. "We are going to lose Gorilla and Brown Bear, Brown Bear," says Hillary Young, a community ecologist and professor at UC Santa Barbara who studies our biodiversity crisis and is a mother of three. "But we're also losing Frog and Toad and the Very Hungry Caterpillar, because our loss of animal life is so deep and pervasive."

Scientists predict that as many as 1 million plant and animal species are at risk of going extinct, "many within decades," according to the United Nations. This era of "biological annihilation" is already under way: In ecosystems spanning the globe, the average amount of plant and animal life has fallen by about a fifth—mostly since the beginning of the last century. Climate change is driving these dynamics by limiting or shifting species' geographical ranges, which alters and removes the food, water, and habitat that they require.

In some ways, the current crisis is a new version of what has been happening from the age of colonization onward. It has become more intense in the centuries since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, when humanity entered a new phase of exploitation and extraction of natural resources. The decline of animals and their habitats, and of the cultures that followed and relied on them, has long been colonialism's destructive legacy, and Indigenous communities have warned for generations about its effects on their identity and survival. But given the quickening pace and severity of change, different forms of this phenomenon may come to pass in every community.

I'm relatively insulated from many of the worst effects of global warming thus far, but some parents don't have the chance to worry about how to break the bad news about the planet to their kids, because their homes were destroyed in hurricanes or fires or floods. Despite having been born in 2022—one of the warmest recorded years in human history, which by October had marked 29 billion-dollar disasters, and which began with a North Atlantic right whale population of about 340, the lowest number in 20 years—my child is one of the lucky ones.

Plenty of difficult subjects lurk in the margins of children's books but don't evoke dread or guilt for me. When I read The Story of Ferdinand to my son, I don't worry so deeply about the day he finds out from me, or elsewhere, what the banderilleros and picadors and matador want to do to the bull hero. But climate change feels different—it seems to foreclose the future. Scientists can study to what degree seas will rise and ice caps will melt and heat waves will bake the Earth. For the first time, we have a plausible model for what is to come, and we know that it will bring a diminished version of the world we were born into, a more chaotic and difficult one.

[Read: How extinction shaped the Australian outback]

Still, Young reminded me, for kids, this understanding is an example of a shifting baseline, a phenomenon that Daniel Pauly explored in 1995 in a paper about the attempt to establish sustainable commercial-catch levels for various fish species. Now the term is used to describe "new normals" more generally: Once we become aware of a set of conditions, we understand them as "normal," and they become the standard against which we compare any aberrance. Our books' meanings have changed already, Young said. If Are You My Mother? were written today, the story might feel much more bleak, and the hatchling might not be able to find his mom: Since 1970, nearly 60 percent of the bird species in North America have seen population declines, a net loss of about 3 billion birds.

Perhaps it's a delusion to think that I will have much control over what my son learns about the natural world. I also don't want to keep stories from him because they have become artifacts instead of portals to discovery. It seems possible, instead, to teach him about the world as it was while not shielding him from what is happening. Lauren Oakes, a conservation scientist and an author, also has a young son, and she says she is hesitant to introduce him to narratives of loss, though she also knows that she can't shut out the reality of climate change entirely. Her son recently came home from a trip to the planetarium and barged into her office shouting, "The planet is changing!"

"Part of our job as parents is to foster wonder," she told me. "I think our children are born into some innate reverence for nature, and that sometimes gets taken out of us."

In a 1956 essay for Woman's Home Companion, Rachel Carson, the marine biologist and author of Silent Spring, wrote about a child's inborn sense of wonder. It can falter in adulthood, she warns, withered by disenchantment, preoccupation with the artificial, and "alienation from our sources of strength." Carson urges her adult readers to encourage children's capacity for exploration and connection.

She also suggests that the adults will get something out of it too, as we do with most acts of empathy. "Exploring nature with your child is largely a matter of becoming receptive to what lies all around you," she wrote. "For most of us, knowledge of our world comes largely through sight, yet we look about with such unseeing eyes that we are partially blind … One way to open your eyes to unnoticed beauty is to ask yourself, 'What if I had never seen this before? What if I knew I would never see it again?'"

[Read: Boston is losing its snow wicked fast]

We, or our children, may reach a day when there will be no more really snowy days in New York City, or no more monarch butterflies. I don't entirely know what to do with Physty and Frog and Toad and the Very Hungry Caterpillar and Gorilla and the red fish and the blue fish. But abandoning these stories because the animals might go extinct feels like the worst kind of indulgence—it presumes that we can't do anything to save the species we love. Of course we can, but it will mean changing our behavior and inhabiting this Earth in a way that is more compatible with different kinds of life. Addressing the climate and biodiversity crises requires collective action: voting; getting involved in civil society and advocating for environmental protection within our communities; asking questions and demanding transparency of the companies we work for and shop from; talking with our friends, families, and co-workers about the challenges we face together. No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.

If I knew that no one would ever see a sperm whale again, would I read my son the story of Physty at bedtime? I don't know, but I'd rather teach him about the possibility of a world where people worked to make sure that cataclysmic future didn't come to pass—one where he and I and his dad were part of that project. There is a flip side to the ability to imagine a future without these animals: imagining one with them.

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Poverty Is Violent

We are all products of our environments. This familiar phrase assumes that most of us spent our youth in one neighborhood, one delimited world. But I came of age in between spaces—a white kid with a single mother who filled my life with books and worried about making her salary last the month, and a father with severe mental illness in and out of institutions, I spent my adolescent nights on a rented floor of a two-family house and my days at the private junior high school that had waived my tuition. This boyhood geometry meant that I saw more of my city than I might have otherwise, which caused confusion, and eventually disbelief.

I grew up in late-1970s New Haven, Connecticut, a small, remarkably diverse city with a reputation for being a "representative" American urban setting. One way to think about childhood is as a succession of awakenings—moments of sudden, luminous clarity that say This is how the world is. I played a lot of baseball, which meant that as I progressed through the leagues, I roamed the city on my bicycle. In seventh grade at my new private school, many children had braces on their teeth. In the ensuing summer, I played shortstop near the projects in working-class Fair Haven, and one day, by second base, when a kid with a long Italian surname, whom we called "Rap," showed glittering evidence of having visited the orthodontist, it occurred to me that here, among us, he was the only one.

Another year I played in Newhallville, a Black neighborhood not far from the failing Winchester gun factory, where I had teammates and opponents whose battered apartments and worn clothing suggested families struggling to meet their basic needs. One day I stood on the dusty field thinking about how right there, just up that hill and across a street named Prospect, the green lawns were kept lushly groomed for Yale University's almost entirely white student body. It wasn't just the divergent extremes I was absorbing, but their in-your-face proximity. The juxtaposition was bewildering enough to me then that I can still hear the strangely formal interior locution in which, my preadolescent voice not yet changed, I asked myself, Why should this be?

Newhallville is named for George Newhall, the owner of a carriage factory who needed expert hands so badly to keep up with his high volume of orders, he built housing for his workers. Eventually, the neighborhood industry shifted to the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. The Model 1873 was not "The Gun That Won the West," as Winchester proclaimed, but a profusion of New Haven–assembled ordnance did help American soldiers prevail in two world wars, while providing a decent wage for people without a higher education. Factory labor was often tedious and physically draining, but members of every large European immigration wave lived in Newhallville, bought homes, and saw their children move out and up. Each arriving generation displaced or coexisted with the one that came before—Irish, Italian, German, Eastern European.

Picture of New Haven in the 1970s
Intersection near Winchester, New Haven. 1975 (Courtesy of the New Haven Museum)

Then thousands of Black southerners came to New Haven during the Great Migration, turning the neighborhood into a thriving southern community in a northern city, notable for its churches, shops, and gardens, where people grew okra and peaches and roses on arbors. Farmers from the Carolinas filled their pickup beds with greens and then drove through the night to Newhallville, where they traversed the neighborhood calling, "Come get your vegetables!" You could tell just by walking down the sidewalk, people said, who baked the best pineapple upside-down cake. Nobody locked their doors.

It was a "risen, solid Black neighborhood," as one local woman described it to me. But during the last third of the 20th century, the quality of Winchester's products was in bad decline, more and more of its work was done in other states and countries, and thousands of New Haven jobs were disappearing. By the early '80s, New Haven had become the country's seventh-poorest city and, the woman said, Newhallville had "fallen to the depths." Everybody locked up, and some would describe sleeping on the floor to avoid stray bullets. As an adult then living in New York, I could see from newspapers and demographic studies that my home city was emblematic of our country's intensifying economic inequality. One of the most troubling social ironies I can fathom is the demise of a gun factory leading to an epidemic of neighborhood gun violence.

[Read: America's gun-culture problem]

New Haven really is representative of what remains a persistent American problem, from Trenton to Philadelphia to Baltimore and on across the heartland: fully formed working-class neighborhoods without any well-paying work. In all the years since I was a kid playing baseball, while well-endowed universities in places like New Haven—and their graduates—have become wealthier than ever, their straitened next-door neighbors have suffered a generational lack of opportunity and all the dangers that come with it. The universities have conceived no postindustrial solution, and neither has anybody else.

A church in Newhallville, New Haven. 2022 (Andrew Wertz for The Atlantic)
Bassett Street in Newhallville, New Haven
Bassett Street in Newhallville, New Haven. 2022 (Andrew Wertz for The Atlantic)

Although much of the country experienced sharp declines in gun violence after the early 1990s, isolated, impoverished neighborhoods like Newhallville remained relatively dangerous. In recent years, they've gotten more so. Last month, JAMA Network Open published a study evaluating the well over 1 million gun-violence fatalities in the United States since 1990, which found that from 2004 to 2021, deaths by firearms increased by 45.5 percent. This is a catastrophic amount of mayhem. Black men are the disproportionate victims, dying of firearm homicide at a rate 22.5 times higher than other Americans. (Older white men use guns to commit suicide much more commonly than anybody else.) During the first year of the pandemic, American homicides increased by 30 percent.

The political right tends to describe gun violence as part of a cultural apocalypse arising from liberal tolerance for criminals in the post–George Floyd years. The left prefers to avoid talking about it at all. Both the desire to exaggerate crime and the impulse to downplay it undermine constructive attention to a horrific problem.

I moved back to New Haven in 2012, to begin work on a book about the neighborhood consequences of structural disparity, including violence. Not long after, I got to know a gray-bearded systems engineer named Ivan Kuzyk who was working for the state of Connecticut, running a research unit thinking about how to reduce the surfeit of young men who were dying on the streets of New Haven, Hartford, and Bridgeport. Seeking a deeper understanding of the relationship between violence and poverty in the most marginalized communities in one of the country's wealthiest states had become Kuzyk's professional preoccupation—and would remain so until his recent retirement.

He often talked about how data relevant to murder, the most personal of crimes, were rarely given a personal dimension. Even this new JAMA study, he told me, he found "frustrating," because it was limited to an analysis of gender, race, and locality, without mentioning class. Instead, "urbanicity" was used as a class proxy, which Kuzyk said did not account for shifting pockets of residential poverty. In these pockets, fear of gunfire is part of daily life for people who can't afford to live anywhere else. Thinking back across his career, Kurzyk said that the failure to fully acknowledge the relationship between murder and generational Black poverty, and the history of discrimination that has contributed to it, was like "analyzing black lung disease in America without really noticing miners."

A study he conducted for internal state use in 2018 of people arrested for serious crimes as juveniles found that 30 percent suffered from fetal drug or alcohol syndrome, and another 30 percent had been removed from their families because of abuse or neglect. Kuzyk was surprised only by the high percentages of his unhappy discoveries. He well knew that such traumatic childhood experiences, along with exposure to violence, indicated an increased likelihood of being a victim or a perpetrator of gun violence. "What I came to appreciate," he told me, "dealing with a lot of people who committed murder, was that they weren't sociopaths. They had empathy. But for them, it was kill or be killed."

[From the September 2015 issue: A matter of Black lives]

Scholars such as Yale's Tracey Meares and Northwestern University's Andrew Papachristos have found that most of the violence plaguing New Haven and other afflicted American cities takes place in poorer neighborhoods among small groups of people who know one another. From January 2015 to November 2021, there were 634 shootings in New Haven; fewer than 100 have been solved. Fatal gunfire might be statistically rare even in such beleaguered places, but the effect resembles that of shark attacks in beach towns. After a couple of incidents, everyone is terrified. But staying out of the water is more difficult when you're poor. Under a new chief committed to progressive community policing, New Haven's murder rate has fallen this year, but young men remain at serious risk. On December 9, two people were shot in Newhallville, one fatally. "I've lived here for 40 years," a passerby told the New Haven Independent. "This ain't nothing new." Another pedestrian said, "It makes me scared. Makes me think that could be me too." On December 20, a teenager known for mowing his elderly neighbors' lawns was riding his bicycle when a car slowed, a handgun was raised, and he was killed.

The Dixwell neighborhood photographed in 1958, showing Yale in the lower right corner.
An aerial photograph of Dixwell Avenue shot in 1958, showing Yale in the bottom right corner and the Winchester gun factory in the further right. (Courtesy of New Haven Museum)

After moving back to New Haven, I found that I was far from the only person dismayed by the city's abrupt demarcations. In Newhallville, I encountered many older people who described the embittering, helpless feeling of watching a neighborhood they remembered as "beautiful" decline to the extent that they were now living in "a forgotten community." They wistfully recalled the days when everyone had jobs and the angriest people solved disputes with "a fair one"—with fists rather than guns. The pipeline from Newhallville to Connecticut's prisons was so well established that, as of 2015, only three neighborhood streets did not have a formerly incarcerated person living on them. When I spoke with people who'd been to prison for committing a violent crime about what had sent them there, many brought up the hopelessness they saw around themselves as kids, their exposure to violence at a young age—they described themselves as "a product of my environment."

If you believe that your own future is doomed, and of no concern to those with the apparent resources to do something about it, your resentment might be acute. Seeing that opportunity exists for those next door, but not for you, can inspire stoic acceptance, humiliation, shame, rage, or despair. People who commit violent crimes, Ivan Kuzyk said, were typically driven by alienation, by the feeling that they lived far outside the perceived norms of American existence. One young person told Kuzyk that he put on a bulletproof vest every day with his underwear.

In agreement with Kuzyk's general views on violence was a leading Black New Haven criminal-defense and civil-rights lawyer, Michael Jefferson, who told me that among his clients, a lack of sources of meaning, and a persistent sense of being endangered, wore on people, pounding at them until they valued neither their own life nor the lives of others. Their interactions with the only official city representatives they saw on a regular basis, the police, could deepen this anomie. "They think, Cops don't care about us the way they care about life on the other side of Prospect Street," Jefferson said. For evidence, you had only to notice that the blue emergency "panic phones" installed along Prospect and elsewhere on Yale's campus were conspicuously absent in neighborhoods like Newhallville, where there was much more frequent reason for alarm. Instead of panic phones, what Jefferson's clients reached for in order to protect themselves was a gun.

Anthony Campbell, Yale's chief of police, has spent his life thinking about inequality and its depleting consequences. Campbell considers it crucial that his Harlem childhood took place far enough from Columbia University that he didn't have to confront the educational opportunity he would have assumed was not for him. His mother was a corrections officer at Rikers Island; his father was in and out of prison. When Campbell became the first member of his family to attend college, he joined the Yale class of 1995. He later received a master's degree from Yale Divinity School. He joined the New Haven Police Department and eventually became its second Black chief, before returning to Yale. One day, when he was still the city's chief, Campbell talked with me about the potent implications for young people living close by an elite college and yet a world away. "When you can walk three minutes," he said, "make a right, and see nothing but wealth and security and well-being, happiness, people with future outlooks hopeful and bright, and you're looking over your shoulder because you might be harmed—you worry about eating, rent—that wealth becomes a magnifying glass that takes any light and turns it into a laser beam that cuts you to the core." Young people, he said, are forced to think to themselves, "They don't care. They're right there, they have to notice, and they don't care." And that becomes: "I got to do what I got to do."

Picture of Dixwell Avenue, New Haven. 2022
Dixwell Avenue in Newhallville, New Haven. 2022 (Andrew Wertz for The Atlantic)
Picture of a cafe on Winchester Avenue, Newhallville. New Haven. 2022
A cafe on Winchester Avenue, Newhallville. New Haven. 2022 (Andrew Wertz for The Atlantic)

I asked people from New Haven serving time in Connecticut prisons about one intelligent, academically motivated Newhallville teenager who'd become neighborhood-famous for shooting people before being murdered himself. The explanation a young man who knew him offered was: "Where he came from, they glorify violence. People want recognition. It goes from carrying a gun to shooting at people to shooting people to killing people. There's a [feeling of] you don't give a fuck anymore. Shoot somebody. It's nothing." A police officer in whom the teenager had confided told me that, when he urged him to change his life before he ended up dead or imprisoned, the boy responded, "What else is there?" Another person who knew him said, "Violence is normalized in his world because poverty is violent. [He's] only the extreme version."

Yet only after I was introduced to a young Black man from Newhallville named Bobby, who asked me to use just his first name, did I begin to fully appreciate how severe the consequences of this kind of social separation could be for children. As a boy, Bobby's neighborhood reputation was for being "just around," uninvolved in "the game" (selling drugs) or "the violence." He described himself as "a traveler," the rare New Haven kid who rode his bicycle throughout the city, including across Prospect Hill. "Taking everything in," he said. "That's what's different about me." To him, there was agency in being a traveler, and also revelation: "Come over that hill, it's a whole different reality." One year, in fourth grade, Bobby ended up in a classroom with white students. His belief that an integrated classroom was "way better" for everyone matches the findings about exposure to different neighborhoods and people by scholars such as Raj Chetty and Rucker Johnson. But in fifth grade, Bobby was back to sharing a classroom with only other students of color.

Growing up in his neighborhood, Bobby said, "You feel the harm." He was referring to the kids he knew who were hungry on a regular basis, whose (working) mothers were getting repeatedly evicted. When Bobby tried remembering how many kids he grew up with who'd been shot, he lost count. All of this, he said, meant childhoods riven by fear. One reason Bobby bicycled up and across Prospect Street was for respite from danger: "On Prospect, nothing happens."

It might be natural to wonder why, if there's a causal relationship between inequality and shootings, aggrieved young people wouldn't shoot those who conspicuously have more. But, like opportunity, violence stays in its own neighborhood, where frustration festers. Bobby believed that when someone did have a conspicuous success, other people could take it amiss, wanting to pull the person down for emphasizing their own failures by prospering. Bobby described how inequality could contribute to homicidal rage: "You're living in the rusty, dirty neighborhood, and then [you see] mansions, and we're struggling—it adds a level of anger." Both scholars and locals I spoke with agreed that in neighborhoods where economic opportunity, and hence agency, is severely limited, a gun is a source of power and prestige.

When I met Bobby, he was in prison, serving a 38-year sentence for a murder he hadn't committed. At 16, Bobby was arrested after an elderly man was killed not far from his home. Forensic evidence and local people suggested that the likely shooter was, in fact, the neighborhood-famous teenage shooter. This is another way of saying how much place matters in America. Innocent kids on the Newhallville side of the hill are more vulnerable to dangers that include overzealous police officers mistaking them for killers. After serving nine years, Bobby's conviction was overturned, and he was set free. His new challenge became trying to find a well-paying job with a résumé that said only prison.

[Read: The myth of American universities as inequality-fighters]

The problems of America's isolated city neighborhoods are not new, nor are they original to the United States. After Anton Chekhov visited a Russian penal colony in the 1890s, he reflected, "Our intellectual classes have been repeating the phrase that every criminal is a product of society, but how indifferent they are to this product!" Indifference is such a crushing word. As children, whatever we observed about other kids' struggles, we never discussed. As grown-ups, we usually do the same, in part because race- and class-segregated cities shield people from others' experiences. Such distance and detachment from the plight of the poor allow you to believe that it's all their problem, their fault. "New Haven is an angry city," people here say. There's a lot of that feeling in this country right now.

Bobby left prison without marketable skills and, though innocent, found himself treated like any other former prisoner. He eventually got some compensation from the state, but in the meantime, he searched for a job. He was rejected over and over, even for a position as the person responsible for collecting the scattered, empty shopping carts in a Home Depot parking lot. Many people leave prison with the best intentions but eventually resort to crime because they can't get hired. Bobby didn't do that. Instead, unable to find fulfilling work, eventually he just left town.

Let's Go to Mars. Let's Not Live There
Is this article about Tech?
Space agencies and companies aim to send people to the Red Planet. But settling there would be hell on—well, you know what we mean.


As a spate of nasty winter weather has buffeted much of the US in the past week, NASA is reminding us how much worse it could be. You could be living on Mars, which some people inexplicably want to do. Temperatures on the red planet can drop as low as -189 degrees Fahrenheit (-123 degrees Celsius), producing cubic snowflakes in the depth of winter and geysers of carbon dioxide as springtime approaches. Sounds lovely, right?

Scientists believe that Mars had a more temperate climate billions of years ago, but today it's a frigid wasteland with a thin atmosphere composed mostly of carbon dioxide. However, there's enough atmosphere that it does snow during winter. According to NASA, there are two kinds of snow on Mars: water ice and dry (carbon dioxide) ice. You'll never find a patch of water ice snow as it sublimates (transitions from solid to gas) before it can reach the surface. Dry ice snow, on the other hand, falls in great enough quantities that you could snowshoe across it. If you found the right crater rim shielded from sunlight, you might even be able to ski down it.

The shape of snowflakes is a reflection of the conformation of molecules when they freeze. Water forms a hexagonal crystal, so the snowflakes on Earth have six sides. However, the snow on Mars is cubic in shape. That's a result of the shape of carbon dioxide crystals, which have four sides. Dry ice snowflakes are very small, though. Data from the Mars Climate Sounder suggests Martian snowflakes are smaller than the width of a human hair.

Mars has a longer year than Earth does — about 687 Earth days. The planet's last winter happened in the summer of 2022, and it's currently smack in the middle of spring. The transition from winter to spring on Earth means rain showers and blooming plants, but not so on Mars. As dry ice builds up on the surface of Mars, it will coat large swaths of the surface, but it doesn't block light like water ice. At the end of winter, the sheet of translucent dry ice begins to crack to form a patchwork pattern (see top), and gaseous carbon dioxide under the surface warms in the sunlight. The gas eventually bursts through as a geyser, blasting dust and debris upward. Scientists are beginning to focus more on these "spring fans" to study winds on Mars.

According to NASA's Curiosity rover, the daily high temperature on Mars is currently hovering between 0 and 20 degrees Fahrenheit (about -17 to -6 Celsius). That's warmer than it's been in some parts of the US lately. But come next summer, we'll be basking in the heat on Earth while it snows carbon dioxide on Mars.

Now read:

How George Santos Defrauded My Old Congressional District
Is this article about Political Science?

How did George Santos, a Republican newly elected to New York's Third Congressional District, on Long Island, get away with running for office with an almost completely fictitious résumé? The answer is a combination of Democratic complacency, Republican extremism, and media decline in a House district that I know intimately.

On Election Night, Republicans swept all four of Long Island's House seats. Democrats didn't realize the severity of the loss, however, until The New York Times revealed that Santos had lied about his education, work experience, philanthropic pursuits, and finances, among other things. This was no familiar case of a politician embellishing around the edges: Santos appeared to have made himself up. On Monday, he admitted that he'd engaged in serial falsehoods, but said that he intended to join the House majority anyway.

I represented parts of Long Island in Congress from 2001 to 2017, including, in my final two terms, most of the current NY-3 (gerrymandering has carved up the district three times since 2000). I also chaired the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from 2011 to 2015. I've shaken a lot of hands in NY-3.

[Ross Barkan: Why the red wave hit New York]

The district has a bit of glamour, here and there, if you look closely enough. Sean Hannity and Billy Joel are neighbors on Centre Island, which juts like a fishhook into the Long Island Sound and can be reached only by bridge (or, if you're those two, helicopter). Their disparate political attitudes reflect the ideological diversity of the area, which swings gently from red to blue and back again.

But by and large, the district is as normal as Santos is extreme. It's a place of strip malls and nail salons, good pizza and chain restaurants, white picket fences and PTA meetings. It begins at the outer edges of Queens, crosses the upper-middle-class communities of North Hempstead and Oyster Bay, and finally plunges down to contain America's first suburb: Levittown. The district is about 66 percent white, 19 percent Asian, 11 percent Latino, and 3 percent Black.

In every poll in every election I ran in, voters were left-of-center on social issues, right-of-center on taxes and spending, and concerned about preserving their quality of life. They hovered quietly near the center, and they were more likely to watch the local-news affiliates to check weather and traffic than to be glued to Fox News or MSNBC. The people I represented did not treat partisanship like a sport or an essential aspect of their personalities.

That seemed healthy, but their mellowness could sometimes border on apathy. My town-hall meetings were always sparsely attended. Typically, fewer than a dozen constituents would show up, despite my staff's best efforts to get the word out.

Voter disconnection must be part of the explanation for why Santos won. Voters in NY-3 say they value integrity and honesty, and I believe they do. But they weren't on the lookout for a huckster politician; they didn't think that could happen here, because it hadn't before.

Moderate Democratic candidates have fared well in the region since 2000. Had Joe Biden run in the redrawn NY-3 map in 2020, he would have won by 8.5 points instead of 10.5, according to Politico. This year, most political observers viewed the district as naturally Democratic, especially against a Republican who'd lost his last election. That's what I mean by Democratic complacency: the complacency of the establishment.

[Luke Savage: If democracy is dying, why are Democrats so complacent?]

When he ran against Tom Suozzi, my successor, in 2020, Santos was a complete unknown. I asked Suozzi if he'd found anything of note in his opposition research, but Suozzi said he hadn't bothered to do much. "It was the middle of COVID," he said. Santos "had only $40,000 in his campaign account, and he was a nut. We ignored him and won by 12 points."

Santos ran again in 2022, maybe because he understood that being ignored was a strategic advantage. This time around, the DCCC prepared an initial research document that raised plenty of red flags. The committee turned that document over to the Democratic candidate, Robert Zimmerman, who says his campaign "was unrelenting in getting people's attention." But, according to Zimmerman, the prevailing response was along the lines of This guy isn't going to win, so he's not a story.

Only after Santos defied expectations did that dynamic change. And by that time, it was too late for voters to react to Santos's long con. Here's where media decline enters the story.

The media's failure to dig into Santos shows the predicament that local newsrooms face in 2022. Newsday dominates the media landscape on Long Island. And its reporters do quality work—they turned out an important investigation just a few years ago that exposed racism in the local real-estate industry. But they don't have the resources to cover everything—not even everything in their political backyard—and they appear to have written off NY-3 as low priority given the district's Democratic tilt. So did all the other once-mighty New York–area media operations.

Some observers have also criticized Zimmerman's campaign for not fully investing in opposition research based on the initial DCCC project. Perhaps that criticism is justified, but we shouldn't let the Republican Party off the hook. Republicans accepted Santos's narrative without due diligence because they prioritized extreme ideology over actual qualifications. Santos was at the Ellipse on January 6, 2021, and has even claimed that he helped arrested insurrectionists with their legal fees.

[Grant Tudor: January 6 is a dangerous shorthand]

NY-3 voters should have had an honest choice between two candidates—not a choice between Zimmerman and Santos's fan-fiction version of himself. Politicians embellish résumés; if that were a crime, every candidate in America would be in prison. But Santos's lies are an assault on democratic norms. The Republicans should have vetted Santos. The Democrats should have checked him out more thoroughly. The media should have as well.

But now, barring a surprise Santos resignation or action following investigations by the House Ethics Committee and the Department of Justice, Long Islanders—and the nation—are stuck with a congressman who is a figment of his own imagination. The caucus of unhinged representatives—the Marjorie Taylor Greenes, the Lauren Boeberts, the Matt Gaetzes—has just increased by one.

It's a shame for my old district. But it's more than that for the country. This should be a warning. There were failures on multiple levels in this election, leading someone unfit for office to attain it through willful deception. The chief casualty of this election was the truth.

Crispr's Quest to Slay Donegal Amy
A trial using the gene-editing tool inside the body hints at treating, or even curing, a rare fatal disease—and is changing a community in the process.

How to Set Up Your Kid's 'Smart' Toy
Is this article about Parenting?
Is it your child's new best friend, or a surveillance nightmare waiting to happen? Here's how to tell the difference.

Leo has found 1 Regulatory Changes mention in this article
  • At the beginning of December, Russian president Vladimir Putin signed a law "completely banning propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations, gender reassignment and pedophilia," the state news agency TASS wrote .

A Russian philosophy journal has retracted a paper about lesbian fashion magazines, citing a newly passed law that bans "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations and (or) preferences."

The journal Logos, which describes itself as "the leading Russian-language journal in the fields of philosophy, social sciences, humanities and cultural studies" and counts the philosopher Slavoj Žižek as a member of its editorial council, earlier this month retracted a paper titled "Looking good: The lesbian gaze and fashion imagery."

The paper, by Reina Lewis of the London College of Fashion, still appears online, but an entry on the Russian database eLIBRARY indicates it was retracted for being "in violation of standards." The notice continued:

The retraction was issued by the decision of the editorial board due to the presence of signs that fall under the scope of Law No. 217471-8 "On Amendments to the Federal Law "On Information, Information Technologies and Information Protection" and certain legislative acts of the Russian Federation (regarding the prohibition of propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations and (or) preferences)".

The abstract of the paper stated:

This paper is concerned with the different forms of pleasure and identification activated in the consumption of dominant and subcultural print media. It centers on an analysis of the lesbian visual pleasures available in reading fashion articles in the new lesbian and gay lifestyle magazines. This consideration of the lesbian gaze is contrasted with the lesbian visual pleasures obtained from an against-the-grain reading of mainstream women's fashion magazines. The rise of lesbian and gay lifestyle magazines fueled by the pink pound (the commercial potential of appealing to non-heterosexual consumers) has turned eroticized lesbian visual pleasure into the overt purpose of these magazine, rather than a clandestine pleasure obtained through a transgressive reading of dominant cultural imagery.

In contrast to the polysemic free-play of fashion fantasy through which readers derive lesbian pleasure in the consumption of mainstream magazines, responses to the fashion content in the lesbian magazine Diva suggest that readers in a subcultural context deploy a realist mode of reading that demands a monosemic positive iconography. To consider the different ways in which lesbians read mainstream and subcultural print media the author uses the concept of subcultural competency and suggests that the conflict over Diva's fashion spreads may be linked to changing patterns of identification and the use of dress for recognizability.

At the beginning of December, Russian president Vladimir Putin signed a law "completely banning propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations, gender reassignment and pedophilia," the state news agency TASS wrote. According to TASS:

The country's mass media watchdog will be authorized to put websites with the propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations, pedophilia, and gender reassignment on the register of prohibited resources subject to blocking. It will also be authorized to determine the procedure of internet monitoring to spot such sites.

Reuters reported that individuals could be fined up to 400,000 roubles (about $5,800) and organizations up to 5 million roubles (about $72,400) for violating the law, and foreigners could be arrested for 15 days and deported from the country.

We emailed Lewis for comment and got an out of office reply.

We asked Valery Anashvili, editor in chief of Logos, whether the journal had received any indication from the government that the paper violated the law, and didn't receive any response. Anashvili is also editor-in-chief of the Gaidar Institute Publishing House and the Delo Publishing House of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration.

Like Retraction Watch? You can make a tax-deductible contribution to support our work, follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, add us to your RSS reader, or subscribe to our daily digest. If you find a retraction that's not in our database, you can let us know here. For comments or feedback, email us at


Scientific Reports, Published online: 28 December 2022; doi:10.1038/s41598-022-26551-x

Coumarin biosynthesis genes are required after foliar pathogen
for the creation of a microbial soil-borne legacy that primes plants for SA-dependent defenses

The newest crop found on the farm? Solar panels.
Is this article about Gardening?

On a recent cool, sunny morning, Meg Caley could be found at Jack's Solar Garden showing visitors a bed of kale plants. As executive director of Sprout City Farms, Caley has more than a decade of experience farming in unlikely urban spaces in the Denver area. Today, about an hour north of the city, she works alongside researchers on an experimental agricultural method called agrivoltaics.

Agrivoltaics is pretty low-tech. Instead of being placed 18 to 36 inches off the ground, as in traditional solar farms, the solar panels are raised significantly higher to accommodate grazing animals and to allow more sunlight to reach plants growing beneath them.

The approach could be a boon for both energy generation and crop production. Less direct sunlight helps keep plants cooler during the day, allowing them to retain more moisture and thus require less watering. Having plants underneath the solar panels also reduces the amount of heat reflected by the ground, which keeps the panels cooler and makes them more efficient. Farm workers tending the crops also benefit from cooler temperatures, as do grazing animals.

three cows standing next to an array of solar panels
Agrivoltaics can help reduce heat stress in dairy cows

Wide-scale adoption of the practice could help reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the United States by 330,000 tons a year and add more than 100,000 rural jobs without affecting crop yield very much. A 2019 study in the journal Scientific Reports predicted that the world's energy needs could be met by solar panels if less than 1% of cropland were converted to agrivoltaic systems.

Combining agriculture and energy generation has multiple benefits, says Joshua Pearce, a solar energy expert at Western University in London, Ontario. "The solar energy and the increased land-use efficiency is worth money, and thus increases revenue for a given acre for the farmer," he says. "The local community also benefits from protecting access to fresh food and renewable energy."

But researchers are still sorting out the best ways to implement agrivoltaic systems. One variable is height: at Jack's Solar Garden, for example, scientists are experimenting with panels raised either six feet or eight feet from the ground. There is also the question of which types of plants respond best to the additional shade from solar panels.

Until these questions are resolved, agrivoltaics will remain an experiment. "Farmers aren't known to be risk takers," says Allison Jackson, education director of the Colorado Agrivoltaic Learning Center, which conducts tours at Jack's Solar Garden.

It's also expensive. While agrivoltaics could save farmers money on irrigation and electricity, or provide an extra source of cash if they sell electricity to the grid, installing solar panels is a significant upfront cost.

Despite the challenges, agrivoltaics projects are being installed around the world. According to the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE, electricity production capacity from agrivoltaics projects grew from about five megawatts in 2012 to more than 14 gigawatts last year, amid the rise of national funding programs in Japan, China, Korea, France, and the United States.

"More research is needed for dual-use solar practices to scale," says Peter Perrault, head of circular economy at the renewable energy developer Enel North America. "But we already know the fundamentals are viable."


Question because I've been on a Cyberpunk 2077 kick and it got me thinking. Will modifications with technology become a common thing in our future, similar to how tattoos and body modification are now? What about DNA modification and designer babies becoming commonplace? Will undesirable characteristics eventually be phased out among the rich, and underground cybernetics will override the limitations of the poor? Will humanity split eventually?

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Messengers aren't safe.

Over the past 3 years, I have become extremely conscious about the data collected by companies. The moment that started it all was when I went to my instagram settings and downloaded my data out of curiosity.. Have any of you tried doing that? I promise you would completely quit instagram (that's what I ended up doing). The only problem is that data is also collected inside of messengers. I really don't want anyone to have access to my data so I'd rather use something that can't collect my and my loved ones' information. Do you know any secure messengers that can help me safely communicate with my friends and family?

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Is this article about Agriculture?

There are 2.5m of these tiny creatures for each human and they play a big role as ecosystem engineers, as well as providing insights on everything from the climate to ageing

To most of us, they are small, uninteresting and sometimes annoying, but 2022 revealed just how ubiquitous ants are and how indispensable they are to the planet. Scientists revealed in September that there are an estimated 20 quadrillion (or 20 million billion) ants globally – that's 2.5 million for every person on the planet.

More than 12,000 known species of ant live in all sorts of habitats, from the Arctic to the tropics and they represent one of the most diverse, abundant and specialist groups of animals on the planet. Leafcutter ants are fungus farmers, slave-making ants capture broods to increase their work force, while wood ants herd aphids to the juiciest parts of a plant to harvest their honeydew sap.

Continue reading…


Study shows sea level rise on Amalfi coast over last 20 years is twice that on Costa del Sol

Over the last 20 years, there has been twice as much sea level rise on Italy's Amalfi coast as on Spain's Costa del Sol, a study shows.

Researchers combined data from tide gauges and satellites with ice melt measurements to model sea level change across the Mediterranean basin since 1960. To their surprise, they found that sea level fell by about 9mm between 1960 and 1989, owing to increased atmospheric pressure over the basin.

Continue reading…

The monster storm that killed dozens in the United States over the Christmas weekend continued to inflict misery on New York state and air travelers nationwide Tuesday, as stories emerged of families trapped for days during the "blizzard of the century."

Race and the American Museum of Natural History
Is this article about Art?
In New York's acclaimed facility, the Hall of African Mammals is across the corridor from the Hall of African Peoples. Likewise, the Hall of Asian Mammals leads to the Hall of Asian Peoples. The Hall of South American Peoples is located on the same floor. But the museum has no Hall of European Peoples.

The Most Memorable Advice of 2022

In a year during which people tried to adopt a new normal, Atlantic writers and other experts explored the challenges and rewards of trying new things, the meaning of true optimism, and how to find joy even in difficult times.

The stories in our pages—print and digital—explored what it means to be human and provided advice for navigating parenthood and relationships, friendships and the workforce, and more.

As 2023 approaches, we're looking back on some of the most memorable advice shared this year. If this guidance resonates with you, feel free to carry it into the new year.

'The Cure for Burnout Is Not Self-Care'
Amelia Nagoski discusses quiet quitting.

The Shame Deficit
"If we don't want to live in a nepotistic society, we have to stop practicing nepotism. And by 'we,' I mean you," Richard Reeves writes.

All the Personal-Finance Books Are Wrong
They tend to treat their readers like fools without willpower. So you could argue that they're wrong for the right reasons.

The Most Haunting Truth of Parenthood
What my father learned working in a nuclear bomb shelter is what every parent knows deep down: We can't protect the ones we love forever.

A Toast to All the Rejects
What a shared rejection spreadsheet taught Rhaina Cohen about success

The Age of Social Media Is Ending
Now that we've washed up on this unexpected shore, we can look back at the shipwreck that left us here with fresh eyes. Perhaps we can find some relief: Social media was never a natural way to work, play, and socialize, though it did become second nature, Ian Bogost wrote in November.

What It's Like to Get Worse at Something
I had been skiing since childhood. Why was I suddenly bad at it? Olga Khazan explores.

Your Feelings Are No Excuse
Emotions may explain why people overreact, but they don't justify it, Margaret Atwood writes.

True optimism involves

The Year of Practical Thinking
After so much uncertainty and loss, many Americans are abandoning the unbridled optimism of a new year and adopting a more pragmatic outlook.


Russian invasion of Ukraine and subsequent shortages of fossil fuel supply have really supercharged the growth of Wind and Solar energy and the

electric vehicles

. The European Union was forced to realize that they can no longer rely on imported fossil fuels.

This has also affected other countries around the world. The United States were not dependent on Fossil Fuel imports, but even there Renewable electricity projects received a big boost this year.

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What would food look like if we could scale up lab grown meat?
Is this article about Food Industry?

A lot of food uses bones, off cuts, etc. For example, soup. Many cultures also commonly make use of things like chicken hearts, feet, pigs intestines etc. I once ate lamb brains at a Michelin stared Spanish restaurant.

If lab grown meats become more prevalent (you could include plant-based meat here too), where would we get the bones and off-cuts for these things? I'm guessing that companies would want to grow the highest profit stuff like steaks and not off-cuts which will not make any money for them. Will we still grow animals? Will we have other sources to get flavor for broths? How will I be able to get teriyaki chicken hearts at the Japanese Yakitori restaurant down the road?

EDIT: Yes I get that it would be theroatically possible to grow anything we want. The issue to me would be the economics of it. Chicken hearts are essentially cheap waste products, that's why people eat them. I could see them bring niche products in the lab grown meat industry but this would make them expensive and most regular folk would never eat them. The effort to grow them would probably be similar to steak and it will never be grown in the same quantities as the good stuff. It's just not an attractive enough product to be highly desired outside of the convenience of just being there every time you have a chicken. Outside of your premium cuts, I really don't see liver, stomach and intestines being all that popular.

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I'm 18 currently, and I've had multiple conversations with my father, who is 43, about how technology has changed since he was in his 20's.

And that just got me thinking, by the time I'm 40, what advances or changes in technology could we realistically expect to see?

I'd love to hear if anyone has speculations or ideas, and possibly even some evidence to back them up.

Edit: spelling

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2nd Biggest purchase! What will it be. My postulation is.

Homes being considered the biggest purchase amongst people, and cars/vehicles being second. With the landscape of transportation and vehicle ownership slowing. What will become the new 2nd biggest purchase in people's life. Cause let's be honest they're gonna just find a new way to take your money. My personal guess based on timeline transition at 20-30yrs is… in home robotics.

Thoughts, would love to hear everyone's thoughts.

This is of course provided any of us have money then. 🤷

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I'd say crypto, as I still believe it's in the beginning stages of adoption.

Also, I'd love to see solar powered building materials be more main stream – like a building's roof, walls, windows etc are all solar panels.

EDIT: This has been a great discussion. These seem to be the most common answers:

Psychedelics – this is probably my favorite answer, the use of psychedelics to help treat trauma and provide mental health. I am most hopeful this is true!!!

AI – whether for automation purposes, advances in medical treatments, or in robots for daily assistance or sexual gratification (fingers crossed 😂)

3D Printing – for personal entertainment, medical advancements, or building homes, 3D printing seems to be a popular response.

Energy – people believe we will take a big step forward when it comes to energy; be it solar, nuclear, water, etc. and I hope you are right!

Crypto – seems to be the most polarizing concept. IMO, it is naive to think cyrpto will not have a role in our financial systems in 10 years. Adaption is not only growing for retail investors, but by institutions and governmental agencies as well. I wouldn't be upset having full transparency into how my government is spending my tax dollars. If you only think of crypto as fake money, you are missing the point. Blockchain technology has applications that could impact nearly every aspect of our lives.

EDIT x2 – Forgot to mention Virtual Reality!!!! That seems like a no brainer.

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Victor Venema 1971 – 2022
Is this article about Climate?

Victor Venema PhD was born in Groningen in the Netherlands. He attended Groningen University, where he was awarded his PhD in Physics for research on the measurement of cloud structure.Victor Venema

Since joining the Meteorological Institute, University of Bonn, his main scientific interest was variability of data in complex systems. His particular focus was variability in weather data and homogenization of weather records. Homogenization is the removal of non-climatic changes in historical records of weather data, which allows better measurement of longer term trends in climate. Examples include the relocation of weather stations and the introduction of the Stevenson screen. Stevenson screens were invented by Thomas Stevenson, a 19th century Scottish civil engineer, who also designed lighthouses. Victor was looking for a photograph of Thomas Stevenson's grave, so one of the authors (Ken) spent an afternoon walking around a burial ground in Edinburgh.

Dr Venema also took on roles outside the university. He worked with the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) in various capacities over many years. He was Chair of the Parallel Observations Science Team (POST) of the International Surface Temperature Initiative (ISTI) and a member of the ISTI Benchmarking and Assessment working group.

Victor was a staunch advocate for open science, inclusivity in science, scientific communication and bringing science to the general public. He was very keen to overcome language and other barriers including through his GrassRoots Journals and the Translate Science initiatives. He also contributed to internet information services such as Climate Feedback and Hypothesis, to inform the general public and correct misrepresentations about climate science.

He was an excellent science communicator and was active on social media. He was a frequent contributor to Reddit, Twitter and various climate science blogs. Two years ago, together with Frank Sonntag, Victor set up an instance for scientists at Mastodon, (He observed that Twitter had become "toxic".)

Victor published on his own blog, Variable Variability. Writing longer articles there, he was able to explain otherwise difficult concepts in ways that everyone, scientist or not, could understand. One of his classic blog publications was "A short introduction to the time of observation bias and its correction." In that piece, he explained why weather station records, particularly in the USA, needed to be adjusted to correct for differences in the time of day measurements were recorded.

Victor Venema was a great friend and support to both of us. He commented frequently on our blogs. He was very generous with his time and expertise and immensely supportive over the years. We shared his sense of humour and agreed with his disdain for climate science denial.

His death is a great loss to all of his many friends, to climate science, to science in general, and to the world at large. Our condolences to his family and all his friends.

Tributes may be posted to a condolence website set up by his family.

Is this article about ESG?

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections by Samantha Harrington

Winter's snow and cold temperatures often arrive alongside skyrocketing energy bills. Whether you rent or own your home, there are many ways to save money this winter — from increasing energy efficiency to applying for financial assistance.

In addition, clean energy tax credits to help you weatherize your home, purchase more efficient appliances, buy a heat pump water heater, and more go into effect in 2023.

How to reduce heating bills with energy efficiency

Energy efficiency can help keep homes warm while decreasing energy use, reducing bills and pollution.

To increase a home's energy efficiency, start by looking for leaks. "Just feel," said Ryan Meres, programs director at the Residential Energy Services Network, a nonprofit that helps set standards for energy efficiency. "Especially when it's very cold out, you can feel where air is coming through."

Places where homes commonly lose heat are windows, doors, and anything else that opens to the outside, like plumbing pipes and vents. These leaks can be a major problem in older homes, particularly those built before 2009.

Homeowners can seal these external openings and increase insulation throughout their homes. For renters, it may be more difficult to make improvements, but widely available kits will enable you to temporarily seal windows by placing a plastic film around them. You can also verify that windows are properly closed and locked and check weatherstripping around doors. Rolling up a towel and putting it along the interior base of doors to the outdoors can also stop some leakage.

Read: Tips: How to weatherize your home

In addition, turn down the thermostat when asleep or away from home, said Carmen Carruthers, an outreach director for the Citizens Utility Board of Minnesota. Keep thermostats at 68 degrees Fahrenheit when at home and then reduce them by as much as 10 degrees when asleep or away. But in cold areas, avoid setting thermostats below 55, because colder temperatures can lead to pipes freezing, Carruthers said.

She added that some people might find 68 degrees feels too chilly, especially if they live in a drafty home. "We encourage them to adjust it a degree or two at a time and kind of find that sweet spot where they're comfortable but not using more energy than they need to."

Avoid space heaters, as they are a very cost-inefficient way to heat a home. "Those are really deceiving," Meres said.

Assistance paying for energy bills

If you're worried about affording heating bills this winter, a first stop is the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP.

In some states, citizens' utility boards can help people to navigate the process and make recommendations if a family doesn't qualify for federal aid. Find out if there is one in your state by searching online for "Citizens Utility Board" and the name of your state. You can also reach out to your state's LIHEAP office for other resource recommendations.

Carruthers recommended checking in with your utility providers to see what services they offer to reduce expenses. Ratepayers help pay for those programs, she said. "As a ratepayer, these programs are designed to be for you."

Save on your electric bill with renewables

Another way to reduce expenses, if you heat your home with an electric system, is to make use of renewable sources like solar power. Federal and state tax credits are available for residential solar systems.

Read: Three common myths about solar energy, demystified

For those who are renters or otherwise unable to add solar panels to their residence, joining community solar projects can help. These programs allow you to pay into solar projects located nearby. In many cases, like when your utility's electricity prices are high, this strategy can help reduce expenses.

Community solar projects can be found in over 39 states and Washington, D.C. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has a list of community solar projects. Additionally, private companies can help customers in certain states to connect with renewable energy providers and save money on bills.

Switching home heat sources to renewable energy also helps fight climate change by reducing the amount of fossil fuels burned.

Longer-term solutions to reduce heating costs

Looking toward future winters, some bigger projects like replacing older water heaters can also save money on heating bills. Meres recommends hiring a local company to evaluate your home for energy efficiency improvements before making any big purchases or decisions.

As a result of the 2022 passage of the federal Inflation Reduction Act, new federal tax credits are available for clean energy appliances like heat pumps, electric stoves, and more.

Local utilities may also offer rebates for new energy-efficient appliances. "Where I am in New York, I replaced my old oil-fired water heater with a heat pump water heater about two years ago and got a $750 rebate from my electric utility, which covered about half the cost of the new unit," Meres said.

For renters, tenant legal aid organizations like HOME Line in Minnesota are working to better understand and use legal codes that could be used to require landlords to make energy efficiency improvements. HOME Line is also part of a larger coalition that is pushing for legislation and public policies that would give low-income renters more control over their heating bills. When they spend less money on heating bills, people can invest those funds into other aspects of their life.

"Weatherization is being seen as sort of wealth-building," said Michael Dahl, HOME Line public policy director. "It's making sure that the tenants have control of more of their resources."

In the meantime, it's important that people reach out for help early when struggling with heating bills, as exposure to cold temperatures can be dangerous and even deadly.

"There is a lot of help out there right now, and I think it's really important that people take advantage of it," Carruthers said.

Is this article about Political Science?

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections by Erika Street Hopman

It's that time again.

An influx of Arctic air is blasting across the U.S., sending temperatures plunging, dropping snow, disrupting Christmas travel plans, and setting social media atwitter about the polar vortex.

But what exactly is the polar vortex? Where does the cold air come from? And is global warming making cold snaps like this one more likely? Yale Climate Connections meteorologist Bob Henson has answers.

This interview has been lightly edited.

Yale Climate Connections: Could you start by defining the polar vortex?

Bob Henson: When you hear the phrase "polar vortex," it's usually referring to the North Pole and we're talking about Northern Hemisphere winter weather.

So this is an area of low pressure up in the stratosphere, usually centered near the North Pole. It can slosh around, it can stretch, and it can break into two pieces.

There is also often a vortex near the North Pole lower down, in the first few miles of the atmosphere, which we call the "weather layer," or the troposphere. That's where systems hustle around the globe, come and go, cold fronts and warm fronts. Above that, in the stratosphere, is the much more defined vortex over the North Pole, and that one can have effects that percolate down to the surface.

So meteorologists are watching both of those layers, the stratosphere and the troposphere, but when you hear "polar vortex," it's usually referring to that well defined area of low pressure that's typically over or near the North Pole, about 10 to 30 miles above the surface in the stratosphere.

Yale Climate Connections: How can the polar vortex influence temperatures all the way down here in the United States?

Henson: When it's dark 24 hours a day, in and near the North Pole, you can build up a lot of cold air really easily. Now, at times, that cold air stays near the poles, and we can have relatively mild weather in the United States, for example. But every so often, the jet stream will dip southward and yank some of that cold air down toward the U.S. Typically, that's when the stratospheric polar vortex is either stretched downward from the poles toward lower latitudes, or a piece of the vortex breaks off and moves bodily toward the United States. So those are the circumstances where the polar vortex can help bring colder air to the US.

On the left, the polar vortex is stable and cold air is confined to the Arctic. On the right, a wavy jet stream is allowing cold air to move south into the mid latitudes.

Yale Climate Connections: Do we have a sense of why that happens and roughly how often it typically happens?

Henson: In the course of a typical winter, you might get an episode or two where the stratospheric polar vortex is dramatically distorted. Some winters go by without it happening much at all. In other winters it might happen several times. But usually, there's an episode or two in a winter, and that often corresponds to what we think of a cold wave in the U.S. when we get a few days where a large part of the country gets very, very cold.

Yale Climate Connections: Can you give some examples of times when there has been cold weather in the continental U.S. due to this stretching?

Henson: Sure. In February 2021, Texas had its highest-impact winter storm on record. In fact, it was the most extensive winter storm in U.S. history — tens of billions of dollars in damage and more than 200 people killed either directly or indirectly by this week of frigid temperatures, well below freezing over large parts of Texas, affecting millions and millions of people.

The polar vortex stretched pretty dramatically, and that allowed cold air to be funneled from the Arctic down into the United States, well into Texas. And part of the problem was that the cold air was persistent, so you had as much as a week or more below freezing in some of the biggest cities in the state.

Yale Climate Connections: Some people have suggested that Arctic warming as a result of climate change is making some extreme cold snaps in the mid-latitudes more likely. To many people, that hypothesis might sound counterintuitive at first. So, before we get into the evidence for and against this, why did some scientists suspect that this might be the case?

Henson: In the early 2010s, a couple of scientists including Jennifer Francis, then at Rutgers, and Stephen Vavrus at the University of Wisconsin, collaborated on work that was pretty groundbreaking — looking at the about 30 years up to that point and finding that unusual behavior in the wintertime jet stream seemed to correspond to a warming Arctic. And at around the same time, Judah Cohen at a private company, Atmospheric and Environmental Research, Inc., was looking at how some of these processes seemed to be connected to early season snowfall in Russia and lack of sea ice north of Europe. So those factors tended to cause snow and high pressure to build up in Russia. That disrupted the jet stream, and in turn, that disruption percolated up to the stratospheric polar vortex and then percolated back down to cause the disrupted vortex to affect winter weather. So that's one chain of events, and there's certainly cases where that chain of events seemed to be a solid correlation and a forcing mechanism.

Now the big question is: Is this a regular feature of our changing climate and the way climate and weather operate now? Or was it something that happened a lot for about 30 years but maybe was just a point in time? And I think that's the crux of the debate.

When you stretch out the period that was looked at beyond those 30 years, the connections are a little less solid. So that tends to argue for what we call natural variability. Sometimes climate and weather can behave in a certain way for several decades, based on what's happening in the oceans and warm and cold patches in the oceans that can persist for a few years. And sometimes there are aspects of climate change that may crop up as the Earth warms and then perhaps fade or change as the Earth warms even more.

We know that winters in general are getting warmer in mid-latitude places like the United States. Overall, there's less snowfall consistently around the country. But that doesn't mean that we can't have occasional extremes. And I think the Texas event in 2021 is a great example. That was a bitter, intense, cold wave. And it was exacerbated by how the energy grid is managed there. But it wasn't unprecedented meteorologically. There have been cold waves on par with that every 30 or 40 years.

So it's important to factor out: What are the kinds of natural variations that can happen? And what's happening to occasional extreme events, versus just the overall lumbering changes in winter that we see happening, which is basically warmer and less snowy — but mixed in with that, occasionally the really bad snowstorm or the really bad cold wave?

So there has been quite a lively and vigorous debate in the research community, largely centered around the group of folks who pioneered this research in the early 2010s, of the idea that the jet stream might be torquing more in the winter, and what we call "weather weirding" might be producing more intense winter extremes.

At the same time, we have other researchers showing that, in fact, winters have generally been getting milder in the United States and less snowy. And long-term global computer models indicate we can expect them to continue doing so going forward.

Occasionally there are these extremes that do show up in what we're observing. It's just not clear whether those are really being caused by climate change or whether they're just variations that happen at times.

a man in a snowy yard holds a square board just above the surface of the snowA demonstration of how to properly reposition a snow board after snow has been measured and cleared from it. (Photo credit: CoCoRaHS and NOAA.)

Snow itself is a difficult thing to measure. And sometimes there have been changes in how we measure snow that are tossed into the mix. Many decades ago, official snow measurements were typically done just once a day. Today, snowfall is generally measured on what we call a snowboard every six hours. This is how the National Weather Service officially measures snow. Every six hours, you check the depth of the snow, then you clear the snowboard off, and then you add the six-hour totals to give you a 24-hour total. Now if you measure snow every hour, like an enthusiastic volunteer observer might do, you're going to get a higher daily snow total because it doesn't have time to compact and do the things that happen to snow as it sits there a while. This ends up giving you daily totals that are unrealistically high, and typically such reports need to be filtered out during official reviews of extreme events.

Another complication is that you might say, "Well, the atmosphere is getting more moist as it warms up, so you can produce more rain and more snow." But snow is a threshold phenomenon. You can get more snow as the temperatures warm up into the twenties Fahrenheit and get close to 32. But that snowfall amount is not going to keep increasing. Eventually, you get above freezing, and the snowfall instead of increasing goes to near zero

And I think how all this intersects with the Arctic is still an outstanding research question.

Yale Climate Connections: So the jury is still out. But for readers who have folks in their lives who, when it gets very cold or when there is heavy snow, say "Climate change? Yeah, right," how should they respond to those folks?

Henson: I would say that regardless of whether or how much climate change is involved, it's still wintertime. Nobody ever said global warming would eliminate winter. We're still in the mid-latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere. We're far enough north to get really cold and snowy winter weather. So it may not be climate change so much as just the continuation of the climate variability we've always had, perhaps intensified in a few cases by this jet stream weirding being associated with the Arctic warming.

I think what's much more important in terms of climate change is what happens to our summers and what happens to heavy rainfall. The bigger trend is toward heat in the summer. And we know that intense precipitation is getting more intense, and those kinds of events are definitely climate-change-driven.

A lot of people have referred to "preparing for weather" as the clothes you wear, and "preparing for climate" as what's in your clothes closet. And we still have to keep those parkas in our coat closet for a while.


Some background:

I am a man, early 30s. Was a high school drop-out/burnout loser till I was about 23, reformed, and sort of entered university on a whim ended up studying something that is programming/mathematic adjacent, ended up with a masters. Got pretty good at it and enjoyed it a lot, have been working for Microsoft now for a while as a SDE.

Now that the future is here I am seeing that everything digital/pure knowledge-based will soon be practically worthless. Therefore I am thinking of pivoting to something new, which probably has to have a physical component. So I guess maybe something within electrician or something? You guys have any cool electrician based jobs you know of that sort of uses programming/math knowledge in some way?

Also feel kind of done with programming etc after the whole AI thing, makes the entire exercise meaningless to me. No point without the struggle.

What would you guys advice me to do?

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Is this article about Energy Industry?

We talk a lot about solar and nuclear energy for the future, but every substance, not just nuclear reactive material is capable of undergoing some kind of chemical reaction that produces heat, which can be used to heat water and subsequently produce steam.

I understand the vast majority of these just aren't viable or downright dangerous, but can we think of any major chemical reactions that are "cheap", like with raw sodium?

Is this done regularly today? I don't seem to hear about it, but tha tdoesn't mean it isn't happening

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