China is planning to kick off work on a Moon base using bricks made of lunar soil within the next five years, state-run news outlet CGTN reports, a sign the country isn't wasting any time in putting boots on the ground and establishing a permanent presence on the lunar surface.
The news comes as Chinese scientists held the first conference in the country dedicated to discussing the construction of a crewed Moon base, the South China Morning Post reports. More than 100 researchers from across the country took part in the conference to discuss everything from building basic infrastructure for the Moon to the use of robots and simulating the lunar surface back on Earth.
"Eventually, building habitation beyond the earth is essential not only for all humanity’s quest for space exploration, but also for China’s strategic needs as a space power," Ding Lieyun, a scientist at the Huazhong University of Science and Technology, told state-run news outlet China Science Daily during the conference, as quoted by the SCMP.
Ding helped construct an egg-shaped habitat prototype, which is made up of 3D-printed bricks made from lunar soil. Ding's team had a robot called Chinese Super Mason lay these bricks on top of each other.
The idea is to reduce the amount of material needed to be sent from Earth, while making the construction process as straightforward as possible.
According to the SCMP, Ding and his team are hoping to construct the first bricks on the surface of the Moon in just five years' time as part of the country's Chang'e-8 mission.
Long before then, the country's space program is planning the first-ever sample return mission to the Moon's far-less-studied far side. That mission, dubbed Chang'e-6, is a collaboration with French scientists, according to state-owned news outlet China Daily, and is scheduled to kick off as soon as 2025.
More on China's space program: China Constructing Huge Megaconstellation in Orbit
The post China Announces Plans to Build Moon Base Using Lunar Soil appeared first on Futurism.
Hi, was reading an article that suggested memories are unreliable, and that our brains are not some perfect recorders of events but aim to help us survive and use memories for that purpose. In addition, that when we are anxious, we may bring to mind not only memories that are directly relevant but also ones that have similar level of arousal (which are not helpful). Finally, that memories are not kept in one particular part of the brain but are all over. I wanted to learn more about these different aspects of memory. Are there good pop sci memory books that are accurate (or textbooks written in an engaging fashion) that you would recommend?
P.S. misspelled recommendation in the flair, can't correct it now.
Mary Quant’s candy-colored fashions so successfully defined the “London Look” of the Swinging ’60s that it’s hard to believe the designer outlived her heyday by several decades, dying yesterday at the age of 93. Her passing—at a time when reproductive rights are being threatened across the U.S.—feels like not just a loss to the fashion world but also the final salvo of the sexual revolution, which she championed.
Quant is best remembered for the miniskirt, which she popularized, though she did not profess to be its inventor. The French couturier André Courrèges claimed that title after including miniskirts in a collection he showed in Paris in April 1964. But by that time, Quant was already wearing them and selling them in her boutique, Bazaar, which she’d opened in London’s bohemian Chelsea neighborhood in 1955. She always insisted that “it wasn’t me or Courrèges who invented the miniskirt anyway. It was the girls in the street who did it.” Quant likely coined the name, however; her favorite car was the Mini Cooper.
Although the miniskirt was certainly shocking, it was never intended to be sexy; the glamazon in high heels, a push-up bra, and a short, tight skirt is a relatively recent cliché. The miniskirt’s point was not to bare women’s legs but to liberate them from the long skirts, stockings, garters, girdles, and petticoats of the 1950s. As Quant put it, a woman should to be able to run to catch a bus. The mini was always paired with flats rather than heels, the wearer’s legs often covered by boots and colorful tights, which Quant sourced from theatrical costumers. With their simple A-line silhouettes and playful, almost juvenile styling—ruffles, bows, polka dots, Peter Pan collars—Quant’s minidresses looked like something you’d find in the children’s department.
The mini’s power—and danger—lay not in what it revealed but in what it represented: youth itself. The postwar Baby Boom had created a “youthquake”; by the mid-’60s, roughly 40 percent of Britons were under 25, and other countries experienced similarly seismic demographic shifts. After years of wartime austerity that dragged on long after the armistice, the British economy was finally booming too. With military service no longer compulsory, the younger generations had more time as well as more money than teenagers of the past. These social movements found expression in Quant’s far-out fashions. “There was a time when every girl under twenty yearned to look like an experienced, sophisticated thirty,” Quant wrote in her 1966 autobiography, Quant by Quant. Indeed, they had no choice. “Fashion in the late 1950s was definitely for thirty-year-olds and over,” Barbara Hulanicki—the owner of another seminal London boutique, Biba—complained in her own autobiography, From A to Biba. “To get yourself clad in something nice then seemed virtually impossible … There was little specially designed for the young.”
That was about to change. Quant’s clothes didn’t just look different; they challenged the very idea of fashion, making it more individual, upbeat, and democratic than French haute couture. In the anarchic spirit of the time, Quant broke all the rules, using formal fabrics for casual clothes, winter fabric for summer styles, menswear textiles for womenswear, and industrial elements such as vinyl, contrasting topstitching, and visible zipper pulls for streetwear. One red dress came with matching ruffled briefs; Quant’s iconic “skinny rib” sweater was inspired by an 8-year-old boy’s garment that she tried on for fun. The war had changed women’s priorities; although they enjoyed unprecedented opportunities and freedoms, they yearned for simpler times, even going back to childhood.
[Read: When American suffragists tried to ‘wear the pants’]
Among Quant’s many innovations, the mini cast the longest shadow. It was “the most self indulgent, optimistic ‘look at me, isn’t life wonderful’ fashion ever devised,” Quant wrote. “It expressed the sixties, the emancipation of women, the Pill and rock ‘n’ roll … It was the beginning of women’s lib.” The mini became the uniform of the sexual revolution. The actor Nichelle Nichols, who played the miniskirted chief communications officer Lieutenant Uhura on Star Trek, which premiered in 1966, remembered in her autobiography that “in later years, especially as the women’s movement took hold in the seventies, people began to ask me about my costume. Some thought it ‘demeaning’ for a woman in the command crew to be dressed so sexily.” Nichols found this surprising. “Contrary to what many may think today, no one really saw it as demeaning back then. In fact, the miniskirt was a symbol of sexual liberation.”
Like Coco Chanel, Quant designed for herself, and she was her own best advertisement. A young, opinionated working woman with an angular Vidal Sassoon five-point bob, she summed up her personal brand of feminism by declaring fashion to be “a tool to compete in life outside the home.” Quant studied art education, but instead of pursuing a teaching career as her parents had intended, she opened Bazaar, with the intent of selling other people’s clothing designs. But she became frustrated with the available options and began attending evening sewing classes so she could make her own merchandise. Whereas French couturiers such as Courrèges and Yves Saint Laurent used boutique as a synonym for ready-to-wear, British boutique culture was closer to today’s fast fashion. Bazaar’s stock was constantly refreshed, simply because the clothes sold as fast as Quant could make them.
[Read: The midiskirt, divider of nations]
The miniskirt had some notable detractors. Chanel hated it; so did Cecil Beaton and Norman Hartnell, Queen Elizabeth II’s dressmaker. By 1970, even Quant had embraced the maxi skirt, which appealed to her love of Victorian and Edwardian styles; she was a regular visitor to the Victoria and Albert Museum’s historic fashion galleries. Her fans grew up, grew out their Sassoon bobs, and began wearing a new, more down-to-earth “London Look”: flowing skirts in romantic floral textiles by designers such as Bill Gibb, Ossie Clark, Jean Muir, and Laura Ashley. But the miniskirt never truly went away, and it continues to serve as a barometer of social and sexual mores. Like its fans, Quant’s trademark had legs.
Nature, Published online: 14 April 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-01297-2Lack of diversity among elite group of investigators funded by US National Institutes of Health poses ‘substantial threat’ to biomedical research.
- For the first time, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a naloxone treatment – a drug called Narcan that rapidly reverses opioid overdoses – for use without a prescription.
Nature Communications, Published online: 14 April 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-37592-9There is increasing evidence of a functional interaction between
New research shows that kids who read a story that suggested prejudice could change—that it can be shaped by individual experiences—were more interested in interacting with children of another race.
The researchers conclude that their findings highlight a promising way of “sustaining positive interracial relationships during a critical developmental window—when the frequency of cross-race friendships typically declines.”
In middle childhood, kids begin to self-segregate by race. A common assumption is that this behavior coincides with them becoming more prejudiced and developing racist beliefs. But what if, instead of developing racist beliefs, children actually fear saying or doing the wrong thing and being labeled as racist?
For the past decade, Evan Apfelbaum, associate professor of management and organizations at Boston University Questrom School of Business, has been testing that theory.
Using a series of controlled interactions between kids of different races, he’s found that when children believe prejudice is a malleable concept—that “once a racist, always a racist” is not an immutable fact—it can make them more enthusiastic for interracial interactions. They lose their fear of being stuck for life with a shameful label.
He and his colleagues conclude that their new findings highlight a promising way of “sustaining positive interracial relationships during a critical developmental window—when the frequency of cross-race friendships typically declines.”
The findings appear in Developmental Science.
With some states restricting the discussion of race and racism in schools, and others firmly leaning into it, Apfelbaum talks about the racial and political climate in America and how he’s incorporating his research results into his own parenting:
The post How to talk to kids about race and foster interracial friendships appeared first on Futurity.
Nature, Published online: 14 April 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-01272-xDetailed analysis of the January 2022 event shows how underwater blasts generated huge waves that battered coastlines throughout the island nation.
Scientists calculate 2022 eruption of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano released 1,000 times more energy than Hiroshima bomb
A huge underwater volcanic event in Tonga last year was of a magnitude comparable with the most powerful nuclear detonation by the US, researchers have revealed.
Scientists have used eye and earwitnesses accounts, along with data from tide gauges, satellites, evidence of broken windows and other sources, to calculate that the eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano, which occurred on 15 January 2022 and was felt around the world, likely involved five blasts. The last of them released energy equivalent to about 15 megatonnes of TNT.Continue reading…
Cash App cofounder Bob Lee was found stabbed to death in a deserted part of downtown San Francisco in the early morning hours of April 4.
The incident, which received huge amounts of media attention, led Silicon Valley leaders to come out in force, decrying the state of violent crime in the city. Some tech execs started pointing fingers, arguing that homelessness had spiraled out of control and that the rich were being unfairly targeted.
"Many people I know have been severely assaulted," Twitter CEO Elon Musk, who has already made himself immensely unpopular in the city, chimed in.
Musk went as far as to blame law enforcement for not doing enough.
"Violent crime in SF is horrific and even if attackers are caught, they are often released immediately," he added.
But, as it turns out, Lee was likely not the victim of a random attack by a homeless person. In fact, the San Francisco Police Department arrested a suspect on Thursday, a man and fellow tech exec Lee not only knew personally but may have been in a car with just hours before his murder.
In other words, Musk was way out of line with his reaction, angering some authorities.
During the SFPD's announcement about their arrest on Thursday, District Attorney Brooke Jenkins didn't mince words.
Musk's "reckless and irresponsible statements," which "assumed incorrect circumstances about Mr. Lee's death," only "serve to mislead the world in their perceptions of San Francisco and also negatively impact the pursuit of justice for victims of crime as it spreads misinformation at a time when the police are trying to solve a very difficult case," she said.
In fact, she said, the Twitter CEO's unnecessary comments ended up hindering the police's operations.
"Since this incident happened, since waking up to Elon Musk's tweet, my office has worked hard to actually tell people not to make assumptions about this case," Jenkins said. "We knew nothing about the facts of this case immediately after it happened."
The topics of crime and homelessness in San Francisco have been particularly contentious as of late, with some startups starting to take an interest in local politics to address the issue.
Musk himself recently claimed in a rare live interview with the BBC earlier this week that "we tried to turn [Twitter HQ] into a homeless shelter and the building management, building owner rejected it."
When pressed about what those plans were, however, Musks didn't have much of an answer, indicating that perhaps not a lot of thought had gone into the initiative.
"I don’t know, we could just let people stay there," he told the BBC. "It's nice… They can bring their stuff, bring their tent, whatever."
More on the incident: Murdered Tech CEO May Have Been Stabbed to Death by Tech Exec He Knew
The post San Francisco District Attorney Takes Aim at Elon Musk Over Murder Allegations appeared first on Futurism.
This stuff is special.
Nature, Published online: 14 April 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-01263-yQuantum materials can host exotic phases of matter in which electrons form unusual collective states. Scientists have struggled to observe the quantization that these electronic states are expected to show, but this phenomenon has now been detected in heavy states at the surface of a superconducting quantum material.
The writer-director Ari Aster has set himself quite the challenge with his new film, Beau Is Afraid. The scale is ambitious, the running time lengthy (about three hours), and the plot difficult to summarize, but maybe the toughest sell is the personality of the main character, Beau Wassermann (played by Joaquin Phoenix). He is a paragon of passivity, a man whose worries follow him wherever he goes and make even simple tasks preternaturally impossible to execute. He is a cartoonish coward who mumbles and yelps every line of dialogue—not the kind of person who usually leads a picaresque adventure.
That dissonance is the point in Beau Is Afraid, which follows Beau’s dizzy journey back to his domineering mother, Mona (Patti LuPone). Although the comedy-thriller focuses on one man’s psychosexual dysfunction, it’s told with Dickensian sweep; everything about the title character is inflated to heroic proportions, including his abnormally large, floppy testicles. The film shares some of the unsettling horror of Aster’s first two films, Hereditary and Midsommar, but I’d call Beau Is Afraid a more straightforward comedy—as long as the idea of Looney Tunes crossed with Portnoy’s Complaint sounds funny to you.
[Read: What kind of movie Ari Aster wanted Midsommar to be]
I invoke Looney Tunes partly because of the antic energy of Beau’s first act, which is set in an unnamed city plagued with violence and chaos. When he ventures outside his crumbling apartment building, Beau has to dash across the street, dodging and weaving among out-of-control vehicles and aggressive passersby. When he tries to buy a bottle of water at his local bodega, the owner yells that he’ll call the cops if Beau doesn’t provide the exact change quickly enough. Aster has taken a situation that resembles normal life and doused it in thick anxiety; Beau essentially lives inside a fretful mother’s nightmare of the worst neighborhood imaginable, a predicament that practically requires her to phone him every day to ask if he’s okay.
Beau’s familial ties are their own source of stress. His therapist (Stephen McKinley Henderson) gently inquires about his upcoming cross-country trip to visit Mona: Has he ever fantasized about being rid of his mother? The film doesn’t divulge much about that tension straight away, but Beau is clearly physically burdened, often stooped over and shuffling. His pathetic postures are grimly hilarious; when Beau’s scary neighbors pass threatening notes under his door, he responds by sleeping on the floor, surrounded by mouse traps.
If you aren’t laughing yet, then the rest of Beau may not quite be for you. But if you can get on its strange wavelength, it’s one of the most fascinating films of recent years, a layered epic that delights in continually complicating the audience’s understanding of the main character. After missing his flight to see Mona, Beau goes on an odyssey. First, he contends with a cloying suburban couple (played by Nathan Lane and Amy Ryan) who seem intent on keeping him in their home forever; then he encounters a theater troupe in the woods that acts out a glorious vision of what his life might have been like had he taken a more active role in it.
That sequence, told with impressionistic animated visuals, is the sensitive core of the story Aster is trying to tell; it’s sweet and knowing where so much of Beau Is Afraid is disorienting and severe. Yes, the movie is a highbrow parody of Freudian angst, as indebted to the barbed comedies of Albert Brooks as it is to the cerebral hellscapes of Philip Roth, but it’s not without compassion for its prickly porcupine of a protagonist, who’s eager to roll into a ball anytime he’s confronted with the slightest obstacle. And the empathetic interlude in the woods ensures that the movie’s final chapter—when Beau finally makes it “home”—feels equal parts farcical and emotional. Aster has immersed the viewer in a deeply loopy, surreal world. He’s also managed to zoom in on the unassuming man who’s finding his way through it.
Beau Is Afraid is abrasive and dense, but that’s to be saluted. Aster is cashing in on the success of his first two films to create something daringly vulnerable for a wide audience. Phoenix, an actor who is more than capable of turning the intensity dial to extremes, is the perfect partner for Aster’s heightened storytelling and willingness to lay bare dark, embarrassing feelings. Together, they’ve made a challenging work that is sure to have its freaky imagery and even freakier humor pored over for years. The film’s most enduring message, however, is also its simplest: Beau Is Afraid is just about a guy trying to figure it all out. Who can’t relate?
Nature Communications, Published online: 14 April 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-37842-wFull network nonlocality, which certifies nonclassical behaviour in all sources of quantum networks, has so far only been demonstrated in the simplest scenarios. Here, the authors reach a complete experimental demonstration in a complex network involving three-qubit joint measurements.
A new way to study
virus in the lab sidesteps its typical replication process to allow for a much sharper view of its behaviors and characteristics during a crucial part of its life cycle.
For too long, this view has been obscured, preventing researchers from improving drug treatments, let alone finding a cure.
Hepatitis C and hepatitis B viruses both attack the liver, eventually causing deadly cirrhosis or cancer. But while antivirals can cure 95% of HCV
, its cousin HBV has long eluded effective therapeutics. As a result, nearly 1 million people die from HBV every year.
“It’s important to study the whole virus life cycle, because every step is important for how the virus spreads and infects new cells,” says Bill Schneider, a research associate in Charles M. Rice’s Laboratory of Virology and
at Rockefeller University and a coauthor of the paper in Science Advances. “Any one of those steps can potentially be exploited for vulnerabilities.”
Rice shared the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for pioneering novel methods to grow and study HCV. Just as the Rice lab’s work on HCV exposed that virus’s weaknesses, the hope is that this novel approach could do the same for HBV.
A candle flame in a bonfire
Despite sharing an affinity for the liver, HBV and HCV are quite different. They’re from different families, have different genetic compositions (HBV is a DNA virus, while HCV is an RNA virus), and HBV is only about one-third the size of HCV, with a unique genetic architecture that makes it more challenging to study.
But they do share some characteristics. They’re both easily transmittable and hard to shake once an infection has taken root. Some 296 million people live with a chronic HBV infection that is often asymptomatic until
has advanced so far that it is largely untreatable.
Unlike with HCV, current HBV therapies can cause intolerable side effects or have limited impact, leading to lifelong drug therapy. And while there’s an effective vaccine that can block new HBV infections, it’s helpless against existing ones.
Progress has been slow for a few reasons. One is that HBV is notoriously difficult to culture in the lab. “It’s not clear why, because it’s an extremely effective virus in nature,” Schneider says. With origins dating to 400 million years ago, HBV and its relatives are capable of infecting a variety of animals.
Another reason is that methods commonly used to study HBV in the lab are plagued by background noise from HBV DNA and plasmids. The result is a lot of genetic fuzziness that makes it hard to clearly see the virus’s properties.
“There’s just so much noise from the plasmids that it is difficult to distinguish something made from the replicating virus as opposed to the plasmid,” says first author Yingpu Yu, a research associate in the Rice lab. “It’s like throwing a lit candle into a bonfire and then trying to study the candle flame.”
Scientists have tried workarounds to tackle this problem, but Rice hit on a winning idea: spark the virus’s life cycle later in the process using RNA, which might allow them to avoid all the DNA noise.
More work ahead
Like other viruses, HBV hijacks a cell’s molecular machinery in order to reproduce, but its process is a bit unusual. Once inside the nucleus, it uses that machinery to first transcribe its DNA to RNA, and then converts that into a new viral genome called covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA). It’s these cccDNA genomes that are incredibly difficult to get rid of.
If they could start HBV’s life cycle before it produces cccDNA, that might give them an unobstructed view of the process at the heart of HBV’s ability to become a chronic, destructive tenant of the liver.
Thanks to HBV’s tiny size, it has few RNA transcripts involved in the replication process. One turned out to be key: pre-genomic RNA. Previous research had shown that pgRNA was able to instigate replication in a relative of HBV that infects ducks. They wondered if they could use it to spark the replication cycle in human HBV too.
It worked. First via cultured cells and then in mouse models, they were able to kickstart production of the virus’s cccDNA using its RNA, thereby silencing the background noise.
As they continued to exploit this strategy, they used a computational method called deep mutational scanning to look for HBV mutations that confer resistance to antivirals. They’ve already found several, some of which have been detected in infected patients, but never before in deliberately grown cell cultures, says Yu.
The new platform has great potential to play a role in the development of new therapies or a cure for HB—just as Rice’s method did with HCV. Still, much more research is needed.
“Anywhere you can impinge on that life cycle and prevent this virus from replicating and spreading to new cells could be a potential target for new drugs,” Schneider says. “It’s not clear yet what the right combination of therapies will look like. All we know at the moment is that the ones that we have aren’t doing the job.”
Source: Rockefeller University
The post Can a new view of hepatitis B pave way for a cure? appeared first on Futurity.
Stranger Than Fiction
Spycraft? More like Minecraft.
The story of how classified military documents ended up on a Minecraft Discord server is blowing our puny minds — and feels fit for the silver screen.
As the investigative journalism group Bellingcat reported, the leaked documents, which pertained to Russia's invasion of Ukraine and contained lots of militaristic intrigue, followed a unique path that ultimately ended up in the arrest of a 21-year-old National Guardsman.
Photographs of the classified documents, some labeled "Top Secret," first appeared on Discord in March, initially on a smaller and primarily American server before winding up on one for Minecraft and — weirdly enough — another for a Filipino YouTube personality.
Before making national news, the documents that pertained to everything from Ukrainian hotspot maps to a "CIA Operations Center Intelligence Update" then wound their way from Discord to 4chan and subsequently appeared on pro-Russian Telegram channels and Twitter.
Though Bellingcat found that early March seems to be when the ball really began rolling with these leaks, the firm noted that there are indications that some of the information they contained began making the rounds as early as January — though at this point, it's hard to verify its exact point or date of origin.
Nerdy as the leaker's venue choices may have been, the US intelligence community is taking it very seriously, with both the Pentagon and the FBI investigating the leak, ultimately identifying a 21-year-old Massachusetts National Guard airman named Jack Teixeira as a primary suspect in their probe.
As the BBC noted in its own reporting on the leaks, one of the weirder aspects of this story is that after spreading all over the gamersphere, a lot of the earlier posts that circulated the documents have vanished, and lots of the accounts that initially shared them have been wiped or deleted, though comments from people in the aforementioned forums seem to suggest that people did so willingly out of a sense of paranoia or proactive protection from federal investigators.
This whole debacle is, again, one for the ages — and although we can't condone the leaking of military secrets, we've gotta admit that it's wild as heck to watch this all unfold.
More on weird leak venues: Chinese Military Secrets Leaked on Video Game Forum
The post Classified Military Secrets Leaked on Minecraft Discord Server appeared first on Futurism.
Replacing all of the oldest school buses in the nation could lead to 1.3 million fewer daily absences annually, according to a new study.
The suspected cause of these preventable absences is exposure to high levels of diesel exhaust fumes, which can leak into school bus cabins or enter buses through open windows. Over time, exposure can exacerbate respiratory illnesses and other conditions and lead to missed school days, the researchers say.
“Even relatively short commutes on school buses can dominate students’ daily air pollution exposures,” says Meredith Pedde, an environmental epidemiology research fellow at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health and lead researcher for the study in Nature Sustainability.
Pedde conducted the research with senior author Sara Adar, associate professor and associate chair of epidemiology at the School of Public Health. Their study is the first to evaluate the effectiveness of the Environmental Protection Agency’s School Bus Rebate Program, which launched in 2012, Pedde says.
“It is well established that traffic-related pollutants can have harmful effects on the body such as inducing inflammation, reducing lung function. and increasing asthma attacks,” she says. “Given the EPA’s random allotment of its clean bus funding, we believe our research clearly establishes the link between upgrading school buses and student attendance. Moreover, it demonstrates the need for continued and increased support for school districts to replace or upgrade their buses.”
For the study, the researchers analyzed data from nearly 3,000 school districts that applied to the EPA’s school bus replacement funding program between 2012 and 2017 and compared changes in attendance rates in 383 school districts that received funding and 2,400 districts that did not.
On average, they found that districts with upgraded buses had a 0.06 percentage point higher attendance rate compared to districts not selected for the clean bus funding. In a district of 10,000 students, that change means six additional students attended school each day. In total, replacing older school buses with newer models prevented at least 350,000 absences in one year in schools across the country.
In districts with higher levels of estimated ridership on replaced buses and older fleets of buses, the numbers were higher, with 14 more students per day attending school in high ridership districts and 45 more students attending each day in districts that replaced buses built before 1990.
Applying their results nationwide, the researchers extrapolated that replacing all pre-2000 model school buses would lead to more than 1.3 million additional days of attendance a year.
Approximately 25 million children ride buses to school in the US each year. While it is considered the safest mode of transportation from a traffic accident perspective, concerns about levels of emissions are well documented.
The EPA set out to hasten the transition of school bus fleets to cleaner vehicles in 2012 with its School Bus Rebate Program. The program is ongoing. It provided an average of nearly $6 million annually to school districts to upgrade school buses with cleaner alternatives during the period covered by the study.
The cost of upgrading buses—about $10,000 to retrofit and between $100,000 and $300,000 to purchase new buses—puts districts in the position of using buses as long as possible.
“The average bus is on the road 16 years before it is decommissioned. That means millions of children are still riding older, highly polluting buses to school,” Adar says.
“These findings demonstrate the importance of continued funding for new, clean school buses since we saw measurable improvements in attendance when school districts update their buses,” she says. “Most importantly, we found that replacing the oldest buses will result in the largest benefits for children and their caregivers.”
Additional coauthors are from the University of Washington and the University of Michigan.
Source: University of Michigan
The post Newer school buses could cut student absences appeared first on Futurity.
Reports of new jabs being developed could fuel the perception that medicine can somehow eliminate death, says Dr Tabitha Winnifrith
The claim by Moderna’s chief medical officer that vaccines may save millions of lives is misleading and will only fuel the perception that somehow medicine can eliminate death (Cancer and heart disease vaccines ‘ready by end of the decade’, 7 April). This in turn leads to a disproportionate fear of death and a belief that dying is somehow a failure.
There will be instances in which vaccines could prevent young, active people with a good quality of life from developing cancer, which might be welcomed. But cancer is a disease that is much more prevalent in late middle age and in elderly people. In these cases, a vaccine, while preventing someone from dying from cancer, will enable them to live a little bit longer, by which time they will have developed other ailments. They are consigned to living out their latter years while enduring the many debilitating conditions of old age.Continue reading…
Scientific Reports, Published online: 14 April 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-32103-8Quantitative analysis of lacewing larvae over more than 100 million years reveals a complex pattern of loss of morphological diversity
The European Space Agency has successfully launched an exciting new deep space mission to visit Jupiter's icy moons, which are considered to be some of the best places to search for extraterrestrial life in our entire solar system.
The Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer, or JUICE for short, launched from the Guiana Space Center in French Guiana Friday morning, aboard an ESA Ariane 5 heavy-lift rocket.
The launch has been a resounding success so far, with the ESA confirming the deployment of JUICE's solar array soon afterward.
"We are on the way to Jupiter and its ocean worlds!" the mission's official Twitter account wrote. "With the critical milestone of solar array deployment completed, we have a mission!"
There are dozens of moons orbiting Jupiter, the largest planet orbiting the Sun. Some of them are pretty huge and, according to scientists, may feature massive subsurface oceans that could potentially harbor life beneath a thick, protective layer of ice.
The JUICE mission will be doing flybys of three of Jupiter's most fascinating moons — Callisto, Europa, and Ganymede — while collecting data with a variety of scientific instruments.
We'll have to be patient, however, until JUICE reaches its final destination. Its epic journey will take over eight long years, including several gravitational assist swings around Venus, Mars, and Earth. Once in the vicinity of Jupiter, the spacecraft will make a total of 35 planned flybys, probing the three moons' oceans for more data.
The ESA is hoping to get within just a couple of hundred miles of the surface of these moons, giving them the most detailed look yet.
"This is one of the most exciting missions we have ever flown in the solar system, by far the most complex," Josef Aschbacher, the head of ESA, told the New York Times.
But if everything goes according to plan, it might have the best shot yet at discovering the first extraterrestrial signs of life.
"For habitability, you need liquid water, a heat source, and organic materials," Michele Dougherty, principal investigator of one of the spacecraft's instruments, told the NYT. "If we confirm or deny those three things, we’ve done what we said we were going to do."
More on the mission: NASA's Hubble Finds Evidence of Water Vapor on One
The post Scientists Launch JUICE Mission to Distant Worlds appeared first on Futurism.
- In January, Republican Senator Josh Hawley introduced a bill to ban TikTok from the U.S., and last month, Democrat Mark Warner and Republican John Thune introduced another Senate bill, the RESTRICT Act, which would empower the president to impose tight restrictions on “technology from foreign adversaries”—very much including TikTok.
“An enormous threat.” “An unacceptable national security risk.” “A spy balloon in your phone.” These are descriptions—from members of Congress and American regulators—not of a hidden piece of malware or a computer virus, but of the Chinese social-media app
. Most U.S. citizens know TikTok as the place where they can watch people do stupid dances or post clips of themselves cooking. But many government officials view the app as a Trojan horse, a device that will enable the Chinese Communist Party to insinuate itself into American life and subvert national security. And that has led civil servants and elected representatives to call on the U.S. government to cut off Americans’ access to TikTok, the app’s enormous popularity with them notwithstanding.
The efforts to ban TikTok go back to the summer of 2020, when President Donald Trump, citing his powers under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, issued an executive order prohibiting any American from participating in any transaction with the app. That order was struck down in the courts. But the impulse behind it hasn’t gone away. In January, Republican Senator Josh Hawley introduced a bill to ban TikTok from the U.S., and last month, Democrat Mark Warner and Republican John Thune introduced another Senate bill, the RESTRICT Act, which would empower the president to impose tight restrictions on “technology from foreign adversaries”—very much including TikTok.
What has the video-sharing platform done to merit this treatment? Well, the concern is not so much what it’s done as what it might do—or, perhaps more accurately, what the Chinese government might make it do. The company’s critics accuse it of collecting hoards of private information about its users, including data not only from within the app but from other apps as well. This information might, in theory, involve compromising material that could be used to blackmail U.S. citizens. The critics also point to the possibility of the Chinese government’s using the site as a propaganda outlet, swaying opinions by feeding American viewers certain clips.
In fact, little if any evidence suggests that TikTok’s data-collection practices are meaningfully different from—or any more invasive than—those of other social-media companies. To the extent that those practices are problematic invasions of privacy, the logical remedy would surely be to impose industry-wide standards. But for TikTok’s critics, those similarities pale next to the key difference between TikTok and its competitors: It’s a Chinese company—which means it could be legally required to hand over data to the Chinese government. TikTok insists that it has moved all of its American-user data to U.S. servers, but no one seems to believe that this would really make a difference if Beijing applied serious pressure to TikTok’s parent company. And so national security, we’re told, demands that TikTok be shut down in the U.S.
If TikTok were just a technology company, banning U.S. customers from doing business with it would be well within the government’s powers, as well as in line with similar actions the government has taken in the past. But TikTok isn’t just, or even primarily, a technology company. It’s a media platform, so banning it would be far more consequential. Cutting off Americans’ access to one of their favorite sources of information and entertainment would be legally and constitutionally dubious. Worse still, it would be wrong on the merits.
Any TikTok ban would have to contend with the Berman amendments, a series of changes to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act that prohibit the president from using sanctions to restrict the exchange of “information or informational materials,” including via electronic media. And then there are First Amendment considerations. As a foreign-owned company, TikTok does not itself enjoy that constitutional protection, but the U.S. Supreme Court has long held that the First Amendment protects the right of Americans to “receive and consider” information and ideas, no matter their source. In 1965, for instance, the Court struck down a federal law that imposed controls on “Communist political propaganda” that was “printed or otherwise prepared in a foreign country,” declaring unconstitutional the government’s attempt to “control the flow of ideas to the public.”
[Read: Why America is afraid of TikTok]
On top of this, a TikTok ban would be more problematic than limiting the flow of communist propaganda from abroad, because most of the content Americans consume on TikTok is generated by, yes, other Americans. Even if you think it should be permissible for the government to prevent Americans from reading, say, The Pyongyang Times, domestic measures blocking access to Bernie Sanders clips or a video of a guy skateboarding to Fleetwood Mac would be a remarkably far-reaching intrusion into Americans’ lives. Although content creators could migrate to other platforms, and users would find ways to circumvent the ban, such government action would radically curtail Americans’ right to receive and consider information and ideas.
Congress has the power, of course, to adjust the Berman amendments to allow itself to shut TikTok down within the United States. And the Supreme Court could decide that a TikTok ban is justified on national-security grounds. The real issue, though, is not whether the government can shut down TikTok; it’s whether it should. The national-security concerns may be legitimate, but even given the government’s compelling interest in limiting the Chinese government’s access to Americans’ data, any regulations it puts in place should be narrowly tailored to achieve that goal alone. Preventing Americans from using TikTok entirely is the opposite of that—and doing so would put the government in the position of deciding what content Americans are allowed access to and what they’re not.
I grant that the Chinese government puts itself in exactly that position all the time. YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook are all banned inside the country. Internet search terms are censored. Text messages are monitored. Even TikTok doesn’t operate inside China. But what Beijing does is hardly an argument in favor of our banning TikTok, because emulating authoritarian censorship plays to China’s strengths, not our own.
Passing comprehensive user-privacy legislation on all social-media companies operating in the U.S. would be a good idea. Shutting down one of Americans’ favorite apps is not. We don’t need to become more like China. And we don’t need to become less like America.
What’s happened in Tennessee in recent weeks should be no surprise, coming from a party whose sensibilities and racial attitudes are embodied by Donald Trump.
Earlier this month, House Republicans in Tennessee, the state in which the Ku Klux Klan was founded, overwhelmingly voted to expel two young Black lawmakers, Justin Jones and Justin Pearson. Their offense? A breach of decorum and procedural rules. They led protest chants on the House floor following the mass shooting at the Covenant School in Nashville. Representative Gloria Johnson joined Jones and Pearson in the protests, but the vote to expel her fell short.
When she was asked why she had avoided expulsion when her two Black colleagues had not, Johnson, who is white, said, “It might have to do with the color of our skin.” Republican lawmakers denied the charge, calling it “disgusting, untrue, and highly offensive.”
[Read: The Tennessee expulsions are just the beginning]
That statement might be more credible if Trump, the leader of the Republican Party, who has a very troubled history when it comes to race, hadn’t had as his dinner guest a few months ago an outspoken anti-Semite and racist. Nor does it help the GOP case that in 2016, the then–chief of staff to former Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada sent explicitly racist texts.
What we do know is that expulsion is extremely rare, with only two lawmakers previously ousted from the House of Representatives in Tennessee in the past 157 years. One lawmaker had been convicted of accepting a bribe; the other faced allegations of sexual misconduct. No House member has ever been removed from elected office for simply violating the rules of decorum. So these expulsions were extraordinarily punitive, especially because lesser penalties could have been invoked.
Tennessee Republicans engaged in an act of political vengeance, but did so with comical ineptness. Both of the Democratic lawmakers have already been reappointed, but now they are prominent figures with a national following.
On Monday, after being sworn in, Jones returned to the legislature accompanied by Johnson. Pearson—whose reappointment came two days later—looked on from the balcony.
“No expulsion, no attempt to silence us will stop us, but it will only galvanize and strengthen our movement,” Jones said. “Power to the people!” he shouted, bringing cheers from the gallery.
But perhaps the most revealing statement during this manufactured crisis came from Republican House Speaker Cameron Sexton, who compared the incident to the insurrection and attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6.
“What they did today was equivalent, at least equivalent, maybe worse depending on how you look at it, to doing an insurrection in the state capitol,” Sexton said. When he was pressed about his statement, he said, “That quote did not say absolutely it was worse. It said it could be.”
No one, not even Republicans in the Tennessee state legislature, can watch what happened last week on the floor of the House and the January 6 attack on the Capitol and consider them remotely comparable.
[Tom Nichols: The January 6 attack is not over]
What happened in Tennessee wasn’t an “insurrection.” It was indecorous, a breaking of procedural rules, but it was also an event without violence or destruction, without assaults or deaths, without heavily armed mobs or nooses hanging from gallows. No one in Tennessee will be charged and convicted of seditious conspiracy against the United States. And what happened in Tennessee didn’t include peddling lies and embracing crazed conspiracy theories in order to overturn a free and fair election. So what’s going on here?
We’re watching Trump-induced idiocy. For more than seven years, Republicans have defended Trump’s cruel, unethical, and deranged behavior. They are constantly having to deny what they have become in service to him. It’s created cognitive dissonance. How can the party of “family values” defend a moral degenerate like Trump? How can law-and-order Republicans defend a violent insurrection and threats against judges and prosecutors? How can “constitutional conservatives” rally around a man who attempted to subvert the Constitution by overthrowing an election?
The human mind’s capacity to rationalize such things is extraordinary, but not limitless. Some Republicans have the sense, even if it’s only in their quiet moments, that they have acted not only hypocritically but dishonorably. And it gnaws at them. They know they would eviscerate any Democrat who did a fraction of what Trump did. They therefore have to expend enormous psychological energy to keep from becoming sick with themselves for what they have become. Shame is a toxic emotion, and it often causes people to direct hostility outward rather than inward.
Tired from choosing to defend the indefensible, enraged at being called out, Trump’s supporters lash out. They desperately want to make critics of Trump the focus, forcing them to answer for their sins. Pointing to the misdeeds of their political foes allows Republicans to tell themselves, one another, and the rest of the world, See, we’re not so bad after all. They also catastrophize the threats posed by Democrats, because people will tolerate an awful lot of misconduct from their leaders if they’ve convinced themselves that the threat posed by the other side is existential.
As we’ve seen in Tennessee, this frantic state of mind leads Republicans to preposterous places and to act in politically self-destructive ways. One of the two most important political parties in the world is dominated by people who are enraged, embittered, and anarchic.
I understand the temptation to look away and to move on, to become inured to what’s happening, to consider the MAGA takeover of the GOP “old news.” But unless that mania subsides, until there’s a clean break with Trumpism, our political and civic culture will become even more deformed, even more monstrous, even more violent. This is no time to grow weary in doing good, “for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”
different parts of the brain were responsible for different types of experiences, for example, x region is for the experience of sight and y region of the brain is for the experience of thoughts then if each experience was made by different parts of the brain how come it felt like it was being experienced by a single entity? Does the brain have a region where it experiences all experience universally?
- Visual GPT4: Unveiling 3 next generation AI abilities + new OpenAI model
Nature, Published online: 14 April 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-01266-9Facility will produce up to five billion bacteria-infected mosquitoes per year.
The Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer has blasted off on an eight-year voyage from a spaceport in French Guiana. The European Space Agency's mission to Jupiter will survey three moons that may have once hosted life. Europa, Callisto and Ganymede are frigid, ice-covered Jovian satellites three-quarters of a billion km from the sun, but they have vast liquid water oceans beneath their surfaces. If hydrothermal vents – found on ocean floors all over Earth – exist, they may provide enough warmth for life to thrive in the darkness
There's finally a smart gun on the market — but analysts warn that it's hard to say whether firearm enthusiasts will actually buy it.
As Bloomberg reports, the Biofire smart gun company's weapon, which only unlocks after scanning its owner's face or fingerprint, is hitting the market today after nearly a decade of research and development.
At only 26, Biofire's Coloradan founder Kai Kloepfer has been working on making a safer firearm since he was 15, when the mass shooting at a movie theater in the nearby town of Aurora, Colorado impressed upon him the need for gun violence solutions.
"These people just died right down the street, at the movie theater that I often went to," Kloepfer told Bloomberg. "I easily could have been there. It was a major shift for me. I felt like there was something I could do."
By 2013, the engineering-minded youngster submitted a prototype to a national science competition and won $3,000, and by the next year, he was awarded a $50,000 grant to keep working on what would become his company's smart gun.
While Kloepfer's $1,5000 smart gun indeed sounds ingenious, there remains one glaring issue: that many gun buyers, frankly, aren't looking for extra safety measures when purchasing firearms.
"You have to convince me that the kind of person who leaves a loaded gun out in the house will be the same person that selects a smart gun instead of a Glock," Jon Stokes, one of the co-founders of the gun rights organization Open Source Defense, told Bloomberg. "This is hard for me to buy."
All the same, Kloepfer's bet — and his backstory — make for a compelling argument for responsible firearm use, and he's hoping to be a test case.
"We want to prove that this market exists," he told Bloomberg. "If we can save one life, I think that’s the right thing to do. I think we can save tens of thousands of lives."
More on violence: Murdered Tech CEO May Have Been Stabbed to Death by Tech Exec He Knew
The post New Gun Won’t Fire Without Checking Owner’s Fingerprint appeared first on Futurism.
The biggest surprise in the latest major intelligence-leak case is the purported motive: The suspected leaker provided highly sensitive U.S. intelligence assessments, mostly about the war in Ukraine, to an online chat group in order to show off.
That would be funny if the consequences weren’t so serious. The information revealed could compromise the crucial flow of information about Russian decision making and has certainly harmed the prospects for Ukraine’s anticipated spring military offensive. Repairing the damage will require costly and time-consuming efforts to acquire information in new ways, as previous targets—having now been given clues about how the U.S. was collecting intelligence—change their communications and patterns to shield themselves from scrutiny. The leak has surely constricted information sharing, at least within the U.S. government, and perhaps also among allies. All of that harm occurred, news reports suggest, so someone could feel important in front of 20 to 30 people on the internet.
[Juliette Kayyem: I oversaw the Massachusetts Air National Guard. I cannot fathom how this happened.]
Unfortunately, preventing future leaks of a similar nature will be a challenge because the alleged motive is difficult for investigators to deal with. Stealing secrets for money creates lifestyle changes that become evident, which is how the CIA’s Aldrich Ames was found out. Identifying people whose ideology drives them to spread classified information is harder, but their attitudes tend to manifest in social and professional circumstances. But how can intelligence agencies sniff out the kind of emotional insecurity that friends of the suspect, Jack Teixeira, are attributing to him? How can experts determine which of the people with access to high-level intelligence also crave the affirmation that recklessly damaging the nation’s security may provide?
Past leaks of U.S. intelligence have pointed out a variety of problems with the way American military and intelligence agencies handle information. For example, the widespread practice of overclassifying information desensitizes people to the need to keep certain things secret. For the sake of ease, speed, or privacy, people with security clearances use classified email systems to communicate even when the text they’re sharing contains no real secrets. People classify documents in draft form to prevent disclosure of policy information, even if the ultimate policy will be a matter of public knowledge. And staff at government agencies often bump up the classification level of information because they fear the penalties of wrongly under-classifying it. When everything is classified, some people might have trouble identifying when information is genuinely sensitive.
But that dynamic does not apply to what’s in the recently discovered leak. It contained a lot of signals intelligence, which is generally among the U.S. government’s most highly classified information because the means by which it is collected and the identities of the people being eavesdropped upon are evident in many cases. Assessments of the war in Ukraine are incredibly sensitive and clearly marked. Anything originating in the CIA Operations Center or prepared for the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is by definition noteworthy, even among classified documents.
The leaker surely knew that making the documents in question public was a massive breach of duty. As the Pentagon’s spokesperson, Brigadier General Patrick Ryder, said yesterday, “It’s important to understand that we do have stringent guidelines in place. This was a deliberate criminal act.”
Although many observers have noted the suspect’s young age and junior position in the military, that shouldn’t come as a surprise. The American military, generally to its credit, gives enormous responsibility to young men and women; the average age on the flight deck of some aircraft carriers is 19. And the sources of all three of the major intelligence breaches in the past 15 years have been junior staffers: the Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in 2010, the defense contractor Edward Snowden in 2013, and the Air Force veteran and defense contractor Reality Winner in 2017. The intelligence profession is most vulnerable at its base, not its apex.
[Amy Zegart: Everything about the Ukraine leak is incredibly weird]
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced in a statement that the Pentagon is reviewing “intelligence access, accountability and control procedures within the Department to inform our efforts to prevent this kind of incident from happening again.” My guess is that this will do little to reduce the risk. The alleged leaker probably had justifiable access to the information, and supervision is difficult online, as every parent knows. Supervision is especially tough in an operational military unit, where both the level of trust and the tempo of work tend to be high.
In the book Divided Armies, the political scientist Jason Lyall demonstrates that inclusivity—fostering a sense of respect and belonging—is a crucial determinant of war-winning armies. That feeling is harder to create and sustain in Guard and Reserve units, which are together only intermittently. It’s also harder to create and sustain when a former president and members of Congress are castigating the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as a traitor and baiting officers with charges that “wokeness” is destroying the fighting power of our military.
When cynicism reigns, motives as seemingly empty as the thirst for online credibility might seem like sufficient reasons to give away national secrets. Simply tightening access to intelligence—or putting everyone with access under closer surveillance—could backfire. What would be the damage to fundamental political rights of policing the social lives and social media of everyone in military service? And what would be the effects on recruiting and retention if that intrusiveness were required? The best protection against destructive intelligence leaks is a spirit of shared purpose and a common recognition that, when lives are at stake, secrets should be kept.
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Striving to be a good person can be challenging—and there are so many ways to do it badly. In her third novel, Birnam Wood, Eleanor Catton follows an idealistic guerrilla gardening group in New Zealand. As Lily Meyer writes, Catton uses this collective’s not-always-pure pursuits to “poke, quite hard, at the dreams and pieties of people who believe they can change the world.” Many of Jonathan Franzen’s characters also believe they have a higher calling, but their antics can emphasize their flaws: In her review of Crossroads, Becca Rothfeld calls Russ Hildebrandt, the father at the center of the drama, “outwardly virtuous but inwardly self-pitying, progressive in principle but regressive in practice.” Franzen’s skepticism of these types comes through when Russ’s son Perry wonders whether humans “can ever escape our selfishness.”
Even when altruism has honest motives, it frequently reflects a distorted sense of an individual’s power to change the world. In his book Skinfolk, Matthew Pratt Guterl writes about his parents’ attempt to fight racism by raising two biological white children and four other children of different races together. They believed, as Nicole Chung writes in her review, that they could “change the world by example,” failing to recognize the fact that “transracial adoption has no intrinsic power to heal racial prejudice.” Contending with white privilege provides fertile ground for fiction as well. In Kiley Reid’s Such a Fun Age, a white mom named Alix becomes obsessed with Emira, the young Black woman she has hired to take care of her child. Her interest becomes, as Stephanie Hayes writes, “an exercise in narcissistic projection.” Through Alix’s efforts to prove her progressiveness to Emira, Reid criticizes white people’s “fumbling attempts to identify with black people—as much to burnish their own images as to genuinely connect with others.”
Well-intentioned actions might also downplay structural problems. Emi Nietfeld challenges the “fiction that anyone who works hard can have a better life.” When she was 17, she won a monetary award from the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, which promotes the virtues of hard work and individual achievement, celebrating those it deems to have overcome challenging odds. But in reality, as Nietfeld argues, the Alger Association’s “bootstrap” mentality perpetuates the dangerous myth that it’s up to each individual to “make it”—ignoring the policy failures that mean that few people succeed and many more are left in the dust.
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What We’re Reading
Illustration by Daniel Zender / The Atlantic; Getty.
A biting satire about the idealistic left
“Before long, though, the novel begins questioning the nature of do-gooding in a compromised and compromising world. It gradually transforms into a sincere interrogation of the relationship between morality and the ability to bring about positive change. Birnam Wood wants to know if a person has to be good to do good—and how to identify what goodness is in the first place.”
📚 Birnam Wood, by Eleanor Catton
Illustration by Paul Spella; source images: Roman Nerud / Alamy; Oleh Slobodeniuk / Getty; Bettmann / Getty
Jonathan Franzen’s best book yet
“Crossroads is a rejection of Purity’s empty expansiveness on almost every front. Its protagonists could not be less glamorous, its intrigues less international. Its action is concentrated within a crumbling community, its focus trained on a family’s everyday recriminations. Though its stakes are high, psychically speaking, its core predicament is modest and emotional. Here we wonder not whether a bird species will go extinct, but whether any of the Hildebrandts can shed their selfishness and muster some measure of goodness.”
📚 Crossroads, by Jonathan Franzen
Photo-illustration by Trevor Davis. Sources: Courtesy of Matthew Pratt Guterl; Phillip Spears / Getty.
The family who tried to end racism through adoption
“Transracial adoption will never empower adoptees of color or our white family members to sidestep the realities of privilege, bias, and racism; as Skinfolk shows, we will meet and experience these things in the most intimate of ways, within the microcosm of our own family.”
📚 Skinfolk: A Memoir, by Matthew Pratt Guterl
Such a Fun Age satirizes the white pursuit of wokeness
“The overarching joke of Such a Fun Age is that while the white characters fret over what black people think of them and their progressive values, the black characters are busy getting on with their lives and trying to keep up with one another.”
📚 Such a Fun Age, by Kiley Reid
Illustration by Adam Maida
“Bootstrapped urges readers to rethink their narratives of accomplishment. [Alissa] Quart encourages us to stop shaming others, and ourselves, for needing assistance and to acknowledge the ways we are all interdependent.”
📚 Bootstrapped: Liberating Ourselves from the American Dream, by Alissa Quart
About us: This week’s newsletter is written by Maya Chung. The book she’s reading next is Ordinary Notes, by Christina Sharpe.
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Scientific Reports, Published online: 14 April 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-32468-wPhotoexcitation of perovskite precursor solution to induce high-valent iodoplumbate species for wide bandgap perovskite solar cells with enhanced photocurrent
Nature Communications, Published online: 14 April 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-37847-5The authors show that robust analyses of high-impact compound weather and climate events require many samples. Thus, they argue that large ensemble climate model simulations should be used to provide the best available information on climate risks.
- Supreme Court Briefly Restores Broad Availability of Abortion Pill
Nature, Published online: 14 April 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-00899-0The social psychologist joins us to discuss his new book Foolproof.
Nature, Published online: 14 April 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-01292-7Cochlear implants allow deaf people to process sounds and speech. Could a similar device help those who can no longer smell?
- Twitter is partnering with social trading company eToro, CNBC reports, to provide financial services on the site, allowing users to buy and sell stocks, crypto, and other digital assets.
Elon Musk is moving forward with his plan to turn
into an "everything app" by introducing stock and crypto trading options on the social network — and tons of the platform's denizens are calling foul.
Twitter is partnering with social trading company eToro, CNBC reports, to provide financial services on the site, allowing users to buy and sell stocks, crypto, and other digital assets.
These new capabilities, along with expanded market information, will be accessible via the site's already-existing cashtag system, which Musk has reportedly been building towards since the beginning of 2023.
While lots of Musk fanboys and Bitcoin bros are unsurprisingly excited about the move, others are far more skeptical.
"What could possibly go wrong," the account for the Whiskey Hell podcast tweeted.
Given the direction both the crypto world and Twitter have gone as of late, it's hard not to see this as a controversial move. Besides, crypto scams have been a mainstay on the platform, with Musk impersonators claiming they are giving away Bitcoin.
Last year, Musk promised to drain Twitter's swamp of crypto scams ahead of buying the company, but the platform is clearly still riddled with them many months later.
Now, users are worried that by allowing users to directly trade crypto on the platform, Musk could potentially be inviting in even more of these scams.
"Oh you said you wanted them to *fix* the crypto spam?" journalist Jacob Silverman quipped. "That's cute."
Another user joked that the "Ponzi scheme is getting wider," a reference to the widespread belief that crypto is secretly a pyramid scheme.
Others accused the billionaire CEO of turning Twitter into a bloated mess.
"The saying used to be, every app expands until it can send email," another user mused. "Now every app expands until it’s DraftKings," referring to a popular sports betting app.
Whether Twitter is on its way to becoming a trashy online casino or not, the move could be seen as a last-ditch effort to stop the site from hemorrhaging money.
Then again, the "pivot to crypto" is a tried-and-true method for the desperate, right?
More on Elon's Twitter: Elon Musk Whines That Buying Twitter Has Been Emotionally "Painful"
The post Twitter Rips Into Elon Musk's New Crypto "Ponzi Scheme" appeared first on Futurism.
Finding ways to integrate electronics into living tissue could be crucial for everything from brain implants to new medical technologies. A new approach has shown that it’s possible to 3D print circuits into living worms.
There has been growing interest in finding ways to more closely integrate technology with the human body, in particular when it comes to interfacing electronics with the nervous system. This will be crucial for future brain-machine interfaces and could also be used to treat a host of neurological conditions.
But for the most part, it’s proven difficult to make these kinds of connections in ways that are non-invasive, long-lasting, and effective. The rigid nature of standard electronics means they don’t mix well with the squishy world of biology, and getting them inside the body in the first place can require risky surgical procedures.
A new approach relies instead on laser-based 3D printing to grow flexible, conductive wires inside the body. In a recent paper in Advanced Materials Technologies, researchers showed they could use the approach to produce star- and square-shaped structures inside the bodies of microscopic worms.
“Hypothetically, it will be possible to print quite deep inside the tissue,” John Hardy at Lancaster University, who led the study, told New Scientist. “So, in principle, with a human or other larger organism, you could print around 10 centimeters in.”
The researchers’ approach involves a high-resolution Nanoscribe 3D printer, which fires out an infrared laser that can cure a variety of light-sensitive materials with very high precision. They also created a bespoke ink that includes the conducting polymer polypyrrole, which previous research had shown could be used to electrically stimulate cells in living animals.
To prove the scheme could achieve the primary goal of interfacing with living cells, the researchers first printed circuits into a polymer scaffold and then placed the scaffold on top of a slice of mouse brain tissue being kept alive in a petri dish. They then passed a current through the flexible electronic circuit and showed that it produced the expected response in the mouse brain cells.
The team then decided to demonstrate the approach could be used to print conductive circuits inside a living creature, something that had so far not been achieved. The researchers decided to use the roundworm C. elegans due to its sensitivity to heat, injury, and drying out, which they said would make for a stringent test of how safe the approach is.
First, the team had to adjust their ink to make sure it wasn’t toxic to the animals. They then had to get it inside the worms by mixing it with the bacterial paste they’re fed on.
Once the animals had ingested the ink, they were placed under the Nanoscribe printer, which was used to create square and star shapes a few micrometers across on the worms’ skin and within their guts. The shapes didn’t come out properly in the moving gut though, the researchers admit, due to the fact it was constantly moving.
The shapes printed inside the worms’ bodies had no functionality. But Ivan Minev from the University of Sheffield told New Scientist the approach could one day make it possible to build electronics intertwined with living tissue, though it would still take considerable work before it was applicable in humans.
The authors also admit that adapting the approach for biomedical applications would require significant further research. But in the long run, they believe their work could enable tailor-made brain-machine interfaces for medical purposes, future neuromodulation implants, and virtual reality systems. It could also make it possible to easily repair bioelectronic implants within the body.
All that’s likely still a long way from being realized, but the approach shows the potential of combining 3D printing with flexible, biocompatible electronics to help interface the worlds of biology and technology.
Image Credit: Kbradnam/Wikimedia Commons
Scientific Reports, Published online: 14 April 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-33010-8A new stochastic diffusion model for influence maximization in social networks
Alex Jordan had just surfaced from a dive off the coast of Corsica when he called me back last summer. “We’ve put mirrors in the wild,” he said. “It’s always a bit of a nightmare.” With the help of his students, he’d set them in the sinuous green seagrass of an underwater meadow, where a diverse community of fishes live and breed. Shier species, he told me, tend to avoid their own reflections, but more aggressive ones lunge toward what they take to be a rival in the mirror. At times, their headbutts crack the glass.
Jordan’s mirrors were meant specifically for wrasses, one of the largest families of marine fish. His favorite Mediterranean species, the rainbow wrasse, certainly would have reason to admire its own ribbon-candy body with green and orange stripes. But when Jordan and his students started the experiment, a small and drab species called the black-tailed wrasse exhibited the most curious behavior. These fish relaxed their fins and spun repeatedly around their central axis before the mirror. “It looks like they’re doing a backflip, which is the most bizarre thing for them to do,” he said.
Jordan, an evolutionary biologist at the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior, has done extensive underwater fieldwork in Central Africa’s Lake Tanganyika and the Great Barrier Reef. Still, never once in his decade-long career had he observed a wild fish moving like the black-tailed wrasses. From the first time one of his students had shown him a video of the behavior, in 2019, Jordan had suspected that the fish were checking whether the movements of the mirror image matched their own activity. Perhaps they even recognized themselves.
Jordan would need to collect data for many months before drawing any firm conclusions. If indeed the black-tailed wrasses were showing signs of self-recognition—and not just in a laboratory tank, but while swimming freely in their habitat—then the study of animal minds would be headed for an unexpected turn.
Self-awareness is supposed to be one of the rarest mental faculties in nature, and one of the hardest to detect. To become the object of one’s own attention allows firsthand experience to be transformed into inferences about others, plans for the future, and maybe even the anticipation of death. But how can we look into the mind of an animal, to determine whether it has a sense of its own existence?
In 1970, a psychologist named Gordon G. Gallup Jr. unveiled a simple test: He placed mirrors in the cages of captive chimpanzees, and watched how they reacted. At first the chimps made threatening gestures and vocalizations, as if they were seeing social peers. After a few days, some started using the mirrors to examine parts of their bodies they could not normally see, like their anuses and teeth. Taking the experiment one step further, Gallup put the chimpanzees under anesthesia and marked their ears and eyebrows with red dye. When the chimps woke up and used the mirror to inspect their spots, Gallup called it “the first experimental demonstration of a self-concept in a subhuman form.” Animals without that quality, he would later write, are unable to experience many of the mental states we associate with being human, such as “gratitude, grudging, sympathy, empathy, attribution, intentional deception, and sorrow.”
[Read: A journey into the animal mind]
Gallup’s “mirror mark test” has since become a benchmark in studies of cognition. Animals that pass the test are sometimes granted special moral status. Last year, for instance, a federal court considered whether an elephant at the Bronx Zoo named Happy, which appeared to have recognized her own reflection, deserved legal personhood. In an amicus brief, the philosopher Martha Nussbaum described Happy’s mirror-test result as proof that the elephant “did indeed have a conception of the self.” But very few animals have managed this achievement. In the past half century, scientists have tried—and generally failed—to demonstrate self-recognition among monkeys, dolphins, elephants, dogs, parrots, horses, manta rays, pigeons, panda bears, and many other species. In the past few months alone, newly published work has suggested that common ravens, azure-winged magpies, and paper wasps belong on the ever-growing list of mirror busts.
For evolutionary biologists like Jordan, though—as for any other scientist with a broad-minded interest in the inner lives of animals—the mirror mark test can seem less like a gateway to the mind than a barricade, with Gordon Gallup stationed at its side. Have dolphins passed the test? Some researchers believe so—but Gallup deems their findings “highly impressionistic.” Horses, too, show limited signs of self-recognition, according to one study—but Gallup says the work was “rudimentary.” Magpies also seemed to hit the mark in a paper from 2008—but Gallup, as you might imagine, disagreed. The birds could have felt the marks on their feathers, he suggested, which “renders the test invalid.” Even Happy the elephant was just an “outlier” among her kind, Gallup told the journalist Lawrence Wright last year. “There are only three species for which we have compelling, reproducible evidence for mirror self-recognition,” he said: “chimpanzees, orangutans, and humans.”
Jordan and his colleagues have been building evidence that this is wrong. Their work began in earnest in 2012, when they began to study what happens when a tropical species called the bluestreak cleaner wrasse sees itself in a mirror. The fish initially behaved as though their reflections were social peers, but a few days later they were making oddball movements such as swimming upside down. When Jordan and his colleagues injected a brown spot of dye into the wrasses’ throats, the fish seemed to notice and then would scratch it in the sand. From Jordan’s perspective, the implications were apparent: The scientific community would have to either agree to induct a ray-finned fish with a brain weighing about as much as half a Cheerio into Gallup’s clever club or else rethink the meaning of the mirror mark test.
“For 50 years, for whatever reason, people just nodded along and said yes, that’s the test for self-consciousness,” he said, “but when a fish came knocking on the door, suddenly it blew up.” When Jordan and his colleagues submitted their results for anonymous peer review, they got back brutal comments. “People started to tell us we were doing bad science, that we didn’t understand our study system.” In the end, the work was published in 2019 in the journal PLOS Biology with an editor’s note saying that it had “received both positive and negative reviews by experts.” Gallup was especially scornful: “There is nothing in this paper that demonstrates cleaner wrasse are capable of realizing that their behavior is the source of the behavior being depicted in a mirror,” he wrote in an unpublished response to the study at the time, accusing Jordan and his co-authors of lacking the knowledge of “even second-year college students in an experimental psychology class.”
Jordan, who had trained to become a professional martial artist before turning to evolutionary biology, told me he was glad for the response: “They messed with the wrong guy, because I like this fight.” From the start, he had hoped his cleaner-wrasse research would enrich the general appreciation of fish intelligence. Now he felt that there were other lessons too—and other points to score. By placing mirrors in the seagrass meadow for his new experiments, he hopes to see how wild wrasses, living under natural conditions, interact with their own reflections. Perhaps his research could also hold a mirror up to science on the whole. His work with wrasses has opened a window “not only into the minds of fish,” he explained, “but also our minds as scientists.”
Growing up in Sydney, Australia, Jordan filled his bedroom with fish tanks. By high school, he was winning awards from the New South Wales Cichlid Society, for his success at getting his animals to reproduce. “I was failing in school because I was coming home early to breed fish,” he said. “The requirement to generate environments—not just physical environments, but social environments—in which they would be happy and willing to breed made me think about their behavior.”
For most of the 20th century, scientists approached animal behavior from just the opposite direction: They saw their subjects’ natural environments as a distraction to be controlled for or eliminated in sterile labs. Gallup kept his chimpanzees and monkeys alone in empty cages for two days before presenting them with mirrors so their responses wouldn’t be influenced by external factors. “There was a tendency for old-line laboratory psychologists to say things like, ‘Do they have mirror self-recognition?’ And not turn to the wild and ask, ‘Why do they need it?’” Robert Seyfarth, a primatologist focused on baboons, told me.
When Jordan got to grad school in the 2000s—after he’d moved on from full-time tae kwon do—he focused on the same subject that had interested him as a breeder. His early work examined how male cichlids, guppies, and damselfish adjusted their courtship strategies and social behavior depending on the abundance of sexual rivals and potential mates. Other biologists were making similar efforts to understand animal minds through their natural social behaviors—and they were discovering unexpected cognitive sophistication.
Scientists had long believed, for instance, that birds were less intelligent than mammals because their brains were structured differently. In particular, birds were said to lack higher cognitive skills such as “theory of mind,” and were thus unable to attribute mental states to others. But in the 1990s, a zoologist named Nicola Clayton began to study how corvid birds, like crows and jays, would hide their food from other birds. The jays she worked with seemed to draw on their own experiences to predict the behavior of their rivals, understand the food preferences of their mates, remember specific actions from the past, and plan carefully for the future. Gallup had claimed that these behaviors, and theory of mind in general, could not exist in the absence of mirror self-recognition; yet jays have consistently failed the mirror mark test. “‘Self-awareness’ might be multifaceted,” Clayton told me. “Just because you don’t have one aspect doesn’t mean you don’t have all the other ones too.”
Fish are usually credited with even less intelligence than birds. Jordan told me that he wanted to challenge that assumption. As a postdoc, he found that social cichlids from Lake Tanganyika paid more attention to images of other cichlids with unfamiliar facial patterns, suggesting that they were able to recognize one another individually. In another study, he showed that male cichlids could infer the dominance status of strangers by observing their interactions with familiar peers. “We suggest that advanced cognitive abilities might be widespread among highly social fishes, but have previously gone undetected,” Jordan and his mentor Masanori Kohda wrote in 2015.
[Read: The fish that makes other fish smarter]
It was becoming clear that many nonmammalian species—including brightly colored jays and tiny fish from Central Africa—were capable of complex cognition. Researchers like Clayton and Jordan were knocking at the door of Gallup’s exclusive club, but they were still missing one credential: The animals they studied had never convincingly passed the mirror mark test.
Jordan and Kohda thought their cichlids might, but when they injected dye into the fishes’ throats, nothing really happened. The cichlids reacted to their mirror image as if it were another animal at first and then ignored it. “At an emotional level, it would have been nice if my favorite species were in this club,” Jordan told me. “But they’re not.”
Still, he wondered whether this failure on the mirror test really showed a lack of self-awareness. It might just as well have been a lack of motivation: “Cichlids are not particularly interested in the fine details of appearance,” he said. “They’re not inspecting other fish closely and are not interested in strange marks on the skin of other fish.” A different kind of fish, he thought, might be more inclined to pay attention.
Cleaner wrasses—named for their practice of grooming (and eating) parasites off other fish—are, by their very nature, intensely interested in unusual marks on skin. They are also extremely smart. For more than 20 years, a Swiss biologist named Redouan Bshary has worked to demonstrate the social awareness and intelligence of bluestreak cleaner wrasses by studying their relationships with the many “clients” that visit their stations on coral reefs to have parasites removed. Jordan wondered: Would cleaner wrasses respond differently to mirrors than cichlids had?
[Read: Fish sticks make no sense]
Indeed they would. “The results we present here,” Kohda and Jordan wrote in their 2019 reveal, “will by their nature lead to controversy and dispute.” They stopped short of arguing that the bluestreak cleaner wrasses were self-aware. The wrasses may have learned to perceive the mirrored movements as extensions of their own bodies without the benefit of a self-concept or theory of mind, they wrote. “This ambiguity suggests the mark test needs urgent re-evaluation.”
It’s fair to say that Gordon Gallup is exhausted by these antics. Biologists are just trying to win special status for their favorite animals, he told me in a phone call. “If you read all these studies carefully, you’ll see that they’re based on preconceived ideas and intuition and not based on empirical evidence.” Gallup, whose own papers have been cited tens of thousands of times over the years, remains steadfast in his belief that self-awareness evolved once, and only once, in the common ancestor of great apes. (He says that gorillas, which have not convincingly passed the test, lost the ability through further evolution.)
The primatologist Frans de Waal—the author of Chimpanzee Politics and several other popular books, and one of the scientists who conducted the mirror mark test on Happy the elephant—has referred to Gallup’s notion as the “‘Big Bang’ theory” of animal self-awareness, whereby the trait appeared in full form in just a few species and is completely absent in all the rest. In a published response to Jordan’s cleaner-wrasse study, de Waal laid out an alternative idea: “What if self-awareness develops like an onion, building layer upon layer, rather than appearing all at once?”
Still, de Waal had his own doubts about Jordan’s bluestreak cleaner wrasses. Perhaps seeing the visual image of another fish in the mirror with a marked throat, when combined with the physical sensation of having been injected with dye themselves, was enough to make them scratch their throats in the sand. In other words, the wrasses may not have possessed a self-concept as thorough as a chimp’s. “My conclusion is that these fish seem to operate at the level of monkeys, not apes,” de Waal wrote.
Bshary, though, had spent hundreds of hours underwater with cleaner wrasses and he’d never once seen one swim upside down or scratch its throat against a rock or in the sand. “It was clear this was exploratory behavior that was really linked to self-recognition in the mirror,” he told me. To prove the point, Bshary helped Jordan and Kohda run six new experiments addressing the criticisms of Gallup, de Waal, and others. All 14 bluestreak cleaner wrasses in the new study passed the redesigned mirror mark test, giving them a higher success rate on the test than chimpanzees. Jordan and Kohda published the results, with Bshary joining as one of several co-authors, in PLOS Biology last year. “Our mirror test is the best replicated and best controlled mirror test in the history of the test,” Jordan told me.
That doesn’t make it meaningful, of course. Jordan still doesn’t know what, exactly, he has been measuring. “Taken in isolation, passing the mirror mark test is, in my opinion, pretty uninterpretable,” he said. Laboratory experiments can be useful for uncovering cognitive abilities, but ultimately, those abilities make sense only when they’re used in nature—in tropical rainforests and seagrass meadows. “If you can contextualize the behavior, then you can start to understand why something like a cleaner wrasse, which doesn’t interact with mirrors naturally, would be able to learn what to do in front of a mirror,” Jordan said. By placing mirrors in the field, and then observing the reactions of different species of wrasse—belligerent brown wrasses, flashy rainbow wrasses, inquisitive black-tailed wrasses—he aims to find the sources of self-recognition, in ecological and evolutionary terms.
Gallup sees no point to these kinds of experiments. As an old-school psychologist, he believes the best place to study self-awareness is in the laboratory. “Mirrors are few and far between in the natural environment,” he told me, so what’s the point of putting them there? He still thinks that cleaner wrasses have never passed the mirror mark test, because the fish scratched only at brown-colored marks that resembled ectoparasites. In one of the new experiments, Jordan and his co-authors injected blue or green marks instead, but the animals did not respond to them. The researchers included this control to make the point that animals less naturally curious and playful than chimpanzees might bother to investigate a mark only if it fits their natural motivations—if it has “high ecological relevance,” as they wrote in their follow-up paper. “We therefore encourage colleagues to think hard about which marks could be relevant for their study species in order to increase the likelihood of responses.”
Gallup may never be convinced, but other critics of the first cleaner-wrasse study have come around—if not on the matter of a fish’s capacity for self-awareness, then on the broader question of whether the mirror test itself has been given too much importance. De Waal told me via email that the wrasse experiments have helped change the field’s perspective on mirror self-recognition; and he said he’d like to see the development of “new paradigms, ones that don’t require a mirror, to get at the level of self-awareness of various species.”
At the very least, Jordan and his colleagues’ work—and reactions to it—hints at how the mirror-mark test, as it has traditionally been used, closes scientists’ minds to the richness of nonhuman experiences. Further deconstructions of the paradigm are now forthcoming. Already, Kohda and Bshary have published a follow-up showing that cleaner wrasses that passed the test can recognize photos of their own faces, which suggests they develop a private “mental image” of themselves, just like human beings. Jordan, meanwhile, is headed back to Corsica this spring to drop more mirrors in the sea. There’s plenty more to learn about how fish think—and how scientists do too.
- No FDA approval, no mifepristone.
Last Friday, Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk ordered an end to the sale of mifepristone, a drug approved by the FDA 23 years ago that’s used to induce abortions, anywhere in the United States. He’s just a single judge in a small courthouse in Amarillo, Texas. Does he really have the power to dictate national policy about drug safety? If so, should he have that power?
The answer to the first question is complicated—more on that in a moment—but the answer to the second is easy. Of course he shouldn’t.
[Mary Ziegler: The Texas abortion-pill ruling signals pro-lifers’ next push]
When I ask new law students what courts are for, I’m likely to hear that they’re for “holding government accountable” or “protecting our constitutional rights.” That’s a common lay understanding: We’ve grown accustomed to judges taking center stage in national debates over abortion, health care, immigration, and other headline-grabbing issues.
But the traditional role of the courts is not to superintend what the government does. It’s to resolve disputes between the parties who appear before them. By offering a neutral, state-sanctioned forum, courts reduce the risk that angry people will take matters into their own hands. That’s a crucial but limited role. Judges aren’t supposed to adjudicate abstract political disputes or to rule on the rights of parties who aren’t involved in a given case.
Over time, however, some federal judges have become comfortable with a more sweeping vision of their role. Especially in the past decade, as the partisan divide has hardened, judges on both sides have grown more willing to wade into divisive policy disputes and to extend their rulings not just to the parties before them, but across the whole country.
The resulting “nationwide injunctions” are pernicious, as the Notre Dame law professor Sam Bray and I argued five years ago in this magazine. For starters, they purport to settle a legal question for the entire country, even if cases presenting the same question are pending before other judges who might have disagreed. That cuts off the ability of smart judges to contribute to an ongoing legal debate.
Nationwide injunctions also create procedural train wrecks. The government usually has no choice but to race to an appeals court or, failing that, the U.S. Supreme Court, to get the injunction lifted. These rushed appeals don’t have the benefit of full, careful briefing and argument. That’s exactly what happened in the mifepristone case: The government scurried to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to ask it to pause the lower court’s decision, which the court did in part late Wednesday evening.
Finally, and of perhaps greatest concern, nationwide injunctions supercharge the incentives for ideologically motivated plaintiffs to hunt for like-minded judges to hear their cases, knowing they can win big if they can just find the right judge. That’s why the plaintiffs in the mifepristone case filed suit in Amarillo. They knew their case would be assigned to Judge Kacsmaryk, who in his short time on the bench had shown himself to be a reliable partisan warrior. It’s also why many of the highest-profile challenges to Trump-administration policies were filed in California, with its relatively high concentration of liberal judges.
The ideological pattern of nationwide injunctions is as predictable as it is striking. During the Biden administration, nationwide injunctions have been issued against its mask mandate on public transportation, its vaccine mandate for health-care workers, its extension of stimulus relief to Black farmers, its effort to set a price on the social cost of carbon, and its termination of former President Donald Trump’s “remain in Mexico” policy. Every one of these injunctions came from a judge appointed by a Republican president.
Likewise, nationwide injunctions were issued against the Trump administration for its travel bans, its public–charge rule, its exemptions from the contraception mandate, its changes to asylum policy, its abortion-related rules under Title X, and its elimination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Every one of these injunctions came from a judge appointed by a Democratic president.
This is a dismaying picture, and is all but guaranteed to breed cynicism about the courts. Still, nationwide injunctions have their defenders. Arguments in their favor were especially appealing to liberal lawyers during the Trump administration. But now that the shoe is on the other foot, patience may be wearing thin. If you look closely, a bipartisan consensus may slowly be emerging that nationwide injunctions are inappropriate.
Judge Kacsmaryk clearly didn’t get the memo. Now, in fairness, he didn’t say he was entering a nationwide injunction. Instead, he said he was wiping the FDA’s approval of mifepristone from the books under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), a bedrock 1946 statute allowing for court review of actions taken by federal agencies. No FDA approval, no mifepristone. (Actually, the judge said something stranger than that: He said he was postponing the effective date of mifepristone’s approval, even though the approval took effect 23 years ago. That’s bananas—the whole opinion, to be honest, is bananas—but for our purposes, it’s a distinction without a difference.)
[Patrick T. Brown: I’m pro-life. I worry that the abortion-pill ruling could backfire.]
Invoking the APA allowed the judge to rest his decision not on his discretionary power to issue injunctions, but on a supposedly clear legal command from Congress. That’s a growing trend in the lower courts. As nationwide injunctions get a bad odor, “universal vacatur” under the APA is taking its place. The APA says that courts shall “set aside” an agency’s unlawful action. The action is just gone, so it’s okay to prevent the government from relying on it. Hence, a nationwide injunction.
Just two weeks ago, for example, a different Texas judge used the APA to enter a “universal remedy” against agency rules requiring health insurers to cover certain preventive services free of charge under the Affordable Care Act. According to the judge, he had no choice in the matter.
Is that really what the “set aside” language means? Turns out that’s a lively topic of debate. Some judges on the D.C. Circuit, the influential appeals court in Washington, D.C., have concluded, without much analysis, that nationwide injunctions should typically accompany orders to “set aside” an agency action. At oral argument in a case last month, Chief Justice John Roberts suggested that he agreed: “With those of us who were on the D.C. Circuit, you know, five times before breakfast, that’s what you do in an APA case.” (Jonathan Adler at Case Western Law School has a good explanation for why the D.C. Circuit came to think this way.)
A narrower interpretation is available, however, and it’s a sounder one. According to the 1947 Attorney General’s Manual on the APA, the law was just “a general restatement of the principles of judicial review embodied in many statutes and judicial decisions.” One of those principles is that injunctions should be as narrow as possible while still providing complete relief to the injured party. Against that backdrop, it’d be odd to read words (i.e., set aside) that don’t mention injunctions as authorizing injunctions that are broader than necessary.
Recent work by John Harrison, a University of Virginia law professor, reinforces the point. When the APA was adopted, Harrison argues, Congress commonly used the words set aside to tell courts to ignore an unlawful action—to treat it as a nullity—in the case at hand. But that’s it. The APA didn’t confer the power to go further and enjoin or annul the action.
Say an employer, for example, files a lawsuit over an agency decision requiring businesses to cover certain preventive care for their workers, like in the other Texas case I mentioned. Under this narrower interpretation of the APA, the judge would ignore the agency decision—would set it aside—once it was found to be unlawful. Presto: The employer would no longer be subject to the obligation.
The underlying agency decision, however, would remain intact. No one except that employer’s workers would lose coverage. The agency that lost in court would then have to decide what to do in future cases. Maybe it would throw in the towel and let all employers off the hook. Maybe it would double down and fight in other courts. But that’s up to the agency, not the courts.
This debate over the APA hasn’t been conclusively resolved, and it may not be anytime soon. But the legal complexity shouldn’t be allowed to obscure a very simple point: It’s wildly improper in a democracy for a single judge to determine the rights of Americans everywhere. As I was reading Judge Kacsmaryk’s opinion, I couldn’t stop thinking of the satirist Alexandra Petri’s take on whether he might take the drug off the shelves:
Yes! This is a real possibility, because our legal system is working just the way it ought to work! In an ideal society, your rights and ability to access medicine and direct the course of your own life are guaranteed and unalterable—unless a Trump-appointed judge named Matt decides to say, “Nah.”
It doesn’t have to be like this. Judges such as Matt have assumed powers they were never given and that they ought not to have. The Supreme Court shouldn’t allow this, and should take its chance, whether in the mifepristone case or in another instance soon, to end nationwide injunctions.
|submitted by /u/SharpCartographer831
European Space Agency probe due to arrive in 2031 to scan icy moons and study Great Red Spot
The European Space Agency’s Juice probe has blasted off on a landmark mission to Jupiter’s moons, rising on a plume of white from its launchpad in Kourou, French Guiana, on the north-eastern shoulder of South America.
The mission, which was delayed for 24 hours after lightning threatened to strike on Thursday, intends to uncover the secrets of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, its enormous polar auroras, and how its mighty magnetic field shapes conditions on the gas giant’s nearby moons.Continue reading…
Scientific Reports, Published online: 14 April 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-33394-7Author Correction: Potential of low-enthalpy geothermal energy to degrade organic contaminants of emerging concern in urban groundwater
Scientific Reports, Published online: 14 April 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-32206-2The stability of transient relationships
Nature Communications, Published online: 14 April 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-37907-wDespite worldwide prevalence, post-agricultural landscapes remain one of the least constrained human-induced land carbon sinks. To appraise their role in rebuilding the planet’s natural carbon stocks through ecosystem restoration, we need to better understand their spatial and temporal legacies.
- America Has No Rules for Treating Adults With ADHD
In October, when the FDA first announced a shortage of Adderall in America, the agency expected it to resolve quickly. But five months in, the effects of the shortage are still making life tough for people with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder who rely on the drug. Stories abound of frustrated people going to dozens of pharmacies in search of medication each month, only to come up short every time. Without treatment, students have had a hard time in school, and adults have struggled to keep up at work and maintain relationships. The Adderall shortage has ended, but the widely used generic versions of the drug, known as amphetamine mixed salts, are still scarce.
A “perfect storm” of factors—manufacturing delays, labor shortages, tight regulations—is to blame for the shortage, David Goodman, an ADHD expert and a psychiatry professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, told me. And they have all been compounded by the fact that the pandemic produced a surge in Americans who want Adderall. The most dramatic changes occurred among adults, according to a recent CDC report on stimulant prescriptions, with increases in some age groups of more than 10 percent in just a single year, from 2020 to 2021. It’s the nature of the spike in demand for Adderall—among adults—that has some ADHD experts worried about “whether the demand is legitimate,” Goodman said. It’s possible that at least some of these new Adderall patients, he said, are getting prescriptions they do not need.
The problem is that America has no standard clinical guidelines for how doctors should diagnose and treat adults with ADHD—a gap the CDC has called a “public health concern.” When people come in wanting help for ADHD, providers have “a lot of choices about what to use and when to use it, and those parameters have implications for good care or bad care,” Craig Surman, a psychiatry professor and an ADHD expert at Harvard and the scientific coordinator of adult-ADHD research at Massachusetts General Hospital, told me. The stimulant shortage will end, but even then, adults with ADHD may not get the care they need.
For more than 200 years, symptoms related to ADHD—such as difficulty focusing, inability to sit still, and fidgeting—have largely been associated with children and teenagers. Doctors widely assumed that kids would grow out of it eventually. Although symptoms become “evident at a very early period of life,” one Scottish physician wrote in 1798, “what is very fortunate [is that] it is generally diminished with age.” For some people, ADHD symptoms really do get better as they enter adulthood, but for most, symptoms continue. The focus on children persists today in part because of parental pressure. Pediatricians have had to build a child-focused ADHD model, Surman said, because parents come in and say, “What are we going to do with our kid?” As a result, treating children ages 4 to 18 for ADHD is relatively straightforward: Clear-cut clinical guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics specify the need for rigorous psychiatric testing that rules out other causes and includes reports about the patient from parents and teachers. Treatment usually involves behavior management and, if necessary, medication.
But there is no equivalent playbook for adults with ADHD in the U.S.—unlike in other developed nations, including the U.K. and Canada. In fact, the disorder was only recently acknowledged within the field of adult psychiatry. One reason it went overlooked for so long is because ADHD can sometimes look different in kids compared with adults: Physical hyperactivity tends to decrease with age as opposed to, say, emotional or organizational problems. “The recognition that ADHD is a life-span disorder that persists into adulthood in most people has really only happened in the last 20 years,” Margaret Sibley, a psychiatry professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine, told me. And the field of adult psychiatry has been slow to catch up. Adult ADHD was directly addressed for the first time in DSM-5—the American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic bible—in 2013, but the criteria described there still haven’t been translated into practical instructions for clinicians.
Addressing adult ADHD isn’t as simple as adapting children’s standards for grown-ups. A key distinction is that the disorder impairs different aspects of an adult’s life: Whereas a pediatrician would investigate ADHD’s impact at school or at home, a provider evaluating an adult might delve into its effects at work or in romantic relationships. Sources of information differ too: Parents and teachers can shed light on a child’s situation, but “you wouldn’t call the parent of a 40-year-old to get their take on whether the person has ADHD,” Sibley said. Providers usually rely instead on self-reporting—which isn’t always accurate. Complicating matters, the symptoms of ADHD tend to be masked by other cognitive issues that arise in adulthood, such as those caused by depression, drug use, thyroid problems, or hormonal shifts, Sibley said: “It’s a tough disorder to diagnose, because there’s no objective test.” The best option is to perform a lengthy psychiatric evaluation, which usually involves reviewing symptoms, performing a medical exam, taking the patient’s history, and assessing the patient using rating scales or checklists, according to the APA.
Without clinical guidelines or an organizational body to enforce them, there is no pressure to uphold that standard. Virtual forms of ADHD care that proliferated during the pandemic, for example, were rarely conducive to lengthy evaluations. A major telehealth platform that dispensed ADHD prescriptions, Cerebral, has been investigated for sacrificing medical rigor for speedy treatment and customer satisfaction, potentially letting people without ADHD get Adderall for recreational use. In one survey, 97 percent of Cerebral users said they’d received a prescription of some kind. Initial consultations with providers lasted just half an hour, reported The Wall Street Journal; former employees feared that the company’s rampant stimulant-prescribing was fueling an addiction crisis. “It’s impossible to do a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation in 30 minutes,” Goodman said. (Cerebral previously denied wrongdoing and no longer prescribes Adderall or other stimulants.)
The bigger problem is that too few providers are equipped to do those evaluations in the first place. Because adult ADHD was only recently recognized, most psychiatrists working today received no formal training in treating the disorder. “There’s a shortage of expertise,” Surman said. “It’s a confusing space where, at this point, consumers often are educating providers.” The dearth of trained professionals means that many adults seeking help for ADHD are seen by providers, including primary-care doctors, social workers, and nurse practitioners, who lack the experience to offer it. “It’s a systemic issue,” Sibley said, “not that they’re being negligent.”
The lack of trained providers opens up the potential for inadequate or even dangerous care. Adderall is just one of many stimulants used to treat ADHD, and choosing the right one for a patient can be challenging—and not all people with ADHD need or want to take them. But even the most well-intentioned health-care professionals may be unprepared to evaluate patients properly. The federal government considers Adderall a highly addictive Schedule II drug, like oxycodone and fentanyl, and the risks of prescribing it unnecessarily are high: Apart from dependency, it can also cause issues such as heart problems, mood changes, anxiety, and depression. Some people with ADHD might be better off with behavioral therapy or drugs that aren’t stimulants. Unfortunately, it can be all too easy for inexperienced providers to start a patient on these drugs and continue treatment. “If I give stimulants to the average person, they’ll say their mood, their thinking, and their energy are better,” Goodman said. “It’s very important not to make a diagnosis based on the response to stimulant medication.” But the uptick in adults receiving prescriptions for those drugs since at least 2016 is a sign that this might be happening.
The fact that adult ADHD is surging may soon lead to change. Last year, the American Professional Society of ADHD and Related Disorders began drafting the long-needed guidelines. The organization’s goal is to standardize care and treatment for adult ADHD across the country, said Goodman, who is APSARD’s treasurer. Establishing standards could have “broad, sweeping implications” beyond patient care, he added: Their existence could compel more medical schools to teach about adult ADHD, persuade insurance companies to cover treatment, and pressure lawmakers to include it in workplace policies.
A way out of this mess, however long overdue, is only going to become even more necessary. Nearly 5 percent of adults are thought to have the disorder, but less than 20 percent of them have been diagnosed or have received treatment (compared with about 77 percent of children). “You have a much larger market of recognized and untreated adults, and that will continue to increase,” Goodman said. Women—who, like girls, are historically underdiagnosed—will likely make up a substantial share. Adults with ADHD may have suffered in silence in the past, but a growing awareness of the disorder, made possible by ongoing destigmatization, will continue to boost the ranks of people who want help. On social media, ADHD influencers abound, as do dedicated podcasts on Spotify.
Until guidelines are published—and embedded into medical practice—the adult-ADHD landscape will remain chaotic. Some people will continue to get Adderall prescriptions they don’t need, and others may be unable to get an Adderall prescription they do need. Rules alone couldn’t have prevented the shortage, and they won’t stop it now. But in more ways than one, their absence means that many people who need help for ADHD are unable to receive it.
I was listening to a podcast, and someone said there are cognitive tests not affected by practice effects. Is this true? If so what are they?
- A new law hopes to cull the scams plaguing social media platforms.
This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.
Bacteria can be engineered to fight
in mice. Human trials are coming.
The news: There are trillions of microbes living in and on our bodies—and we might be able to modify them to help us treat diseases. Scientists have altered the genomes of some of these bacteria, essentially engineering microbes that can prevent or treat cancer.
How they did it: The team chose a microbe that’s commonly found on human skin and modified it by inserting a new gene that codes for a protein that sits on the surface of some cancer cells. They applied it to heads of mice injected with skin cancer cells, and observed how the progression of the cancer was significantly slowed in mice that had been given the engineered microbe, compared to those who received a regular microbe.
What’s next: Although the team have to find a good candidate microbe they’re confident could trigger the same immune response in people, human trials are on the cards within the next few years. Read the full story.
Banning ChatGPT will do more harm than good
—Rohan Mehta is a high school senior at Moravian Academy in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
The release of ChatGPT has sent shock waves through the halls of education. Although universities have rushed to release guidelines on how it can be used, the notion of a measured response to the emergence of this powerful chatbot seems to have barely penetrated K–12 classrooms. Consequently, high schoolers across the country have been confronted with a silent coup of blocked AI websites.
That’s a shame. If educators actively engage with students about the technology’s capabilities and limitations—and work with them to define new academic standards—generative AI could both democratize and revitalize K–12 education on an unprecedented scale. Read the full story.
A test told me my brain and liver are older than they should be. Should I be worried?
Last year, our senior biotech writer Jessica Hamzelou took a test to find out her biological age. These tests, which involve assessing chemical markers on your DNA, aim to estimate how much wear and tear you’ve experienced so far—and, essentially, how many years of life are left in you.
Jessica’s results suggested that her biological age was 35, the same age she was when she took the test, indicating that she’s aging at a normal rate. But the company has since reanalyzed the results to give her an individual biological age for each of nine systems, including her brain, liver, heart, and blood.
Jessica was disappointed with their findings. But how much should we really read into results like this? Read the full story.
Jessica’s story is from The Checkup, her weekly newsletter giving you the inside track on all things biotech. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Thursday.
I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.
1 Amazon is jumping on the generative AI hype train
It’s hoping to cash in from its corporate web services customers. (WSJ $)
+ It’ll sell the tools businesses need to create their ChatGPT equivalent. (Wired $)
+ Generative AI is changing everything. But what’s left when the hype is gone? (MIT Technology Review)
2 The Discord channel leaker has been identified
The FBI arrested a 21-year old man in Massachusetts. (NYT $)
+ That doesn’t necessarily mean an end to the leaking, though. (Economist $)
+ Members of the Discord group have explained how the documents leaked. (WP $)
3 Intel wants to rise to the US’ chipmaking challenge
Now it’s up to the Biden administration to decide how much money to give it. (FT $)
+ The US is throwing cash at Taiwan chipmaking machines too. (Bloomberg $)
+ Chinese chips will keep powering your everyday life. (MIT Technology Review)
4 Children are vulnerable to abuse in the metaverse
Safety experts are urging Meta to pause plans to allow adolescents into virtual worlds. (Bloomberg $)
+ The metaverse has a groping problem already. (MIT Technology Review)
5 France is cracking down on shady influencers
A new law hopes to cull the scams plaguing social media platforms.(Motherboard)
6 Why ChatGPT isn’t as smart as it appears
Answering questions isn’t a true measure of intelligence, for one.(New Yorker $)
+ The model is an irresistible hacking target. (Wired $)
+ Cloning a group chat using AI is surprisingly easy. (The Verge)
+ The inside story of how ChatGPT was built from the people who made it. (MIT Technology Review)
7 Swatting services are available to hire on Telegram
They make bomb and shooting threats to the police using synthetic voices. (Motherboard)
+ AI voice cloning software is scarily convincing. (Slate $)
8 Latin America is reliant on WhatsApp to reach doctors
It means it’s not always clear what’s billable and what’s not. (Rest of World)
9 The rising price of childhood nostalgia
VHS tapes and pop culture memorabilia command big price tags online. (NYT $)
10 Those public phone charging points aren’t a security risk after all
’ isn’t the threat the FBI led us to believe. (Slate $)
Quote of the day
“They’ve fired everybody I know a couple of times. I operate as if I’ve already been fired.”
—Daniel Olayiwola, a gig worker for Amazon, explains what it’s like to work in an environment with exceedingly strict performance metrics to the New York Times.
The big story
Psychedelics are having a moment and women could be the ones to benefit
Psychedelics are having a moment. After decades of prohibition and vilification, they are increasingly being employed as therapeutics. Drugs like ketamine, MDMA, and psilocybin mushrooms are being studied in clinical trials to treat depression, substance abuse, and a range of other maladies.
And as these long-taboo drugs stage a comeback in the scientific community, it’s possible they could be especially promising for women.
Is this the beginning of a brighter future for women’s health? While psychiatrists are optimistic, they are rightly concerned about the potential for abuse. Read the full story.
We can still have nice things
A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these weird times. (Got any ideas? Drop me a line or tweet ’em at me.)
+ The Super Mario Bros theme tune has become the first bit of video game music to be included in the US Library of Congress.
+ If you’re a Picard fan, see what you think of this ranking of every starship Enterprise.
+ This Twitter account documenting the origins of iconic images is endlessly entertaining—and informative.
+ There’s a lot going on on Floor796 (thanks Stefan!)
+ Let’s go hunting for some authentic maple syrup.
Nature, Published online: 14 April 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-01028-7A panel of physicians and researchers discusses the reasons for the paucity of trials, the effect it has on patients and how the approval process for paediatric drugs could be streamlined.
Nature, Published online: 13 April 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-01290-9Ageing speeds up RNA ‘transcription’ — and slowing it down seems to make animals live longer. Plus, how octopuses taste with their arms and hidden life in the Arctic after dark.