- ‘A good day’: FDA approves world’s first RSV vaccine
Nature, Published online: 03 May 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-01529-5Green light from US regulatory agency for GSK’s jab caps off a decades-long quest.
Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak has some harsh words for Tesla. In a new interview, Wozniak argued that the Elon Musk-led company's self-driving efforts leave a lot to be desired — and are actively making
incredibly unsafe to drive.
"And boy, if you want a study of AI gone wrong and taking a lot of claims and trying to kill you every chance it can, get a Tesla," Wozniak told CNN earlier this week during a televised interview, as quoted by Electrek.
While comparing the current AI chatbot discourse to the dangers of self-driving cars might sound a touch disingenuous, the Apple cofounder does make a compelling point: There do appear to be very real risks involved in allowing your Tesla to take over the wheel.
Wozniak has long been a critic of Tesla's Autopilot software, arguing that the reality falls far short of Tesla's lofty claims.
Last year, Wozniak recalled the "phantom breaking" issues that were plaguing him while driving his Model S in an interview with Stephen "Steve-O" Glover, causing him to slow down significantly while driving on the interstate.
"This is so dangerous!" he told Glover at the time. "It’s happened to us a hundred times, at least, because we drive so much."
Musk reportedly convinced Wozniak to buy a Model S back in 2013. At the time, Musk told him that the car "would drive itself across the country by the end of 2016," Wozniak told CNN.
"I actually believed those things, and it’s not even close to reality," he added, arguing that the software could end up killing the occupant.
Wozniak's off-the-cuff remark does have some truth to it. We've seen numerous fatal collisions involving Tesla's Autopilot feature over the years.
Meanwhile, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced back in 2021 that it was investigating the EV maker over a series of accidents in which Teslas have smashed into pulled-over emergency response vehicles.
Then last year, news emerged that the Justice Department is also investigating more than a dozen crashes involving Autopilot, some fatal. The carmaker eventually confirmed the news to investors in January.
Despite Tesla's controversial marketing and Musk's repeated promises, its vehicles are not able to fully drive themselves in 2023 and require the driver to watch the road and take over at any time — and, as Wozniak has discovered first hand, there's a very good reason for that.
More on Wozniak: Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak Is Launching His Own Space Company
The post Steve Wozniak: If You Want to Learn About AI Killing People, "Get a Tesla" appeared first on Futurism.
A look at the science making the rounds in the headlines this week — from a new study on virtual reality sickness to whether there's any science behind the ever-trendy 10,000 step goal and ice baths.
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Late one recent night, I enlisted GPT-4 to fix my life. I began by soliciting broad-strokes summaries of my journalistic interests and an expedited five-step protocol for breaking in raw-denim jeans (if you know, you know). But after a few rounds, the asks became personal: “How can I tell if I’m overinvested in my career?” and “How do I sum up the volume of my work?” Before I knew it, I’d dredged my reserves of ennui into the early-morning hours, imploring the AI to supply me with maybe-consequential ways of doing—of becoming—better.
The answers were sensible enough, delivered in the stiffly efficient prose of a try-hard MBA student—if not quite visionary, just fine. My pursuit of lifestyle advice from a source with dubious qualifications certainly wasn’t earth-shattering either. Consider the success of Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop brand, the preponderance of self-help books on the best-sellers list, or the countless online-content creators who spin bullet-point-able dogma on subjects as wide-ranging as time management, parenting, and bowel emptying into audience fealty and riches. The human condition is inconvenient, and Americans appreciate a quick and tidy fix. We don’t need much to cure that which ails us; we just need it now. And no one’s faster than AI. Your next better-living sage could very well be a bot, and you might not even notice the difference.
[Read: Just wait until Trump is a chatbot]
The groundwork for an AI self-help future was laid long ago by cunning humans. A few years back, while I was working as an editor for a personal-development brand, I became aware of what I now recognize as the field’s natural compatibility with machine learning. In less diplomatic terms: I realized how much of the self-help ecosystem relied on the same regurgitated business-bro axioms. I worked alongside writers who had it down to a science: publish stories that target a specific work- or productivity-related challenge that virtually any white-collar worker might face, and provide a handful of precise, actionable tips toward solving it. Articles that followed this format—especially those with headlines that spoke directly to the reader, such as “7 Mindset Shifts That Will Make You Rich, Happy, and Not at All Lonely”—amassed far more clicks and shares than those that diverged.
It’s not lost on me that the prospect of practical advice I could apply to my own specific quandaries right away was precisely what sent me to OpenAI’s doorstep too. Never mind that I could have almost certainly arrived at the same information without paying the $21.74 monthly subscription fee for GPT-4; better-living manuals are practically the mortar holding the internet together. Social-media influencers and the crème de la news-outlet crème have both joined the self-help game, proffering solutions for a happier, healthier, more financially fruitful life. The answers to my minor vexations were never more than a search and a click away.
As such, personal-development content is easily replicable by clever machines such as ChatGPT and GPT-4. That’s because large language models work, in effect, as probabilistic collage artists. They respond to a user’s prompts by assembling word combinations that have a high likelihood of appearing together in relation to said prompt. The more formulaic a prompt’s associated content—or, charitably, the more frequent and consistent its related wisdom on the internet—the truer to life the response.
But I should emphasize that true to life doesn’t necessarily mean accurate, and it definitely doesn’t always mean useful. Despite the new model’s facility with language and problem solving, OpenAI has made clear that GPT-4 is also prone to “hallucinating,” or confidently putting forward false or misleading information. This might matter less in the realm of self-help, where so much is made up anyway. Three years ago, a college student named Liam Porr made headlines after prompting GPT-3 to write a productivity and self-help newsletter that duped tens of thousands of readers. As Porr told the MIT Technology Review, the AI model excels at “making pretty language” but struggles with logic and reason. He deliberately chose self-help for his AI experiment precisely because it’s a popular blog category that demands minimal logical rigor.
[Read: You should ask a chatbot to make you a drink]
This speaks to the nature of self-help, in general, and Americans’ relationship to it, in particular. In her 2021 book, Americanon, the literary journalist Jess McHugh cites 13 best-selling nonfiction books—from The Old Farmer’s Almanac and Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography to The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People—that she argues were instrumental in establishing a distinctly American ethos. Each presented a model of self-improvement that married the moment’s societal preoccupations with a life optimized in service of an internalized market rationale. From its infancy as a nation, the U.S. readily latched onto self-help as a capitalist blueprint for being human.
To this day, Americans remain prodigious sellers and consumers of personal-development materials, to the tune of approximately $11.5 billion, a total that accounts for more than a quarter of the global industry and is steadily growing. Echoes of self-help-speak ring throughout the nation’s political culture; lest anyone forget, Donald Trump’s trademark blend of off-kilter optimism and self-delusion is thought to be the legacy of the late Trump-family pastor Norman Vincent Peale, who authored the 1952 self-improvement juggernaut The Power of Positive Thinking.
The unyielding hunger for self-improvement advice, in the U.S. and beyond, can’t be boiled down to a quest for answers. If that were the case, there’d probably be a higher barrier to entry—or at least lower tolerance for the industry’s healthy supply of hacks. Instead, a seemingly bottomless well of viral self-help aphorisms and live, laugh, love placards suggests that the repetition and familiarity of personal-development concepts is, if not central to the genre’s appeal, then not discrediting either. Perhaps there’s an element of ritualistic reassurance in revisiting familiar concepts, with or without updated packaging. Or perhaps the allure is, for some people, in the implicit suggestion that with the right branding, they could become a lifestyle guru too. Maybe Americans’ self-help obsession points not to a nation of lost sheep, but to one of aspiring shepherds.
The extent of AI’s ongoing Goopification will depend on what people demand of the tools at hand. Regardless of whether AI models could or would supplant human oracles, it seems all but certain that they’ll play a role in shaping whatever the next crop of so-called thought leaders comes out with—that is, if they haven’t done so already. If anything’s safe to bet, it’s that as long as human needs continue to evolve in tandem with shifting societal norms, people will seek out actionable guidance for living better and crushing it harder. Why not get that guidance from a bot?
Rings of Power
Saturn's innermost rings are steadily disappearing as they're being sucked up into the planet's upper atmosphere — and scientists are still trying to figure out why, Space.com reports, using the mighty James Webb Space Telescope.
The planet's icy rings are collapsing into the planet as icy rain, succumbing to its intense gravity.
But there's a lot we still don't know about the cosmic vacuuming act. For instance, we have no idea how old the rings are — and it's even possible they're relatively young: some scientists believe Saturn's rings are a mere 100 million years old, meaning that they weren't in the picture while dinosaurs were still roaming the Earth.
Plenty of questions remain, with researchers trying to figure out how long these rings will exist and if they could ever come back.
"We’re still trying to figure out exactly how fast they are eroding," said James O’Donoghue, a JAXA researcher who is hoping to track the rings' demise using the Keck telescope in Hawaii and James Webb, in a statement. "Currently, research suggests the rings will only be part of Saturn for another few hundred million years."
"This may sound like a long time, but in the history of the universe this is a relatively quick death," he added. "We could be very lucky to be around at a time when the rings exist."
To find a more precise answer, O'Donoghue and his team are hoping to make long-term observations to monitor how the trend fluctuates over time.
In and Out
The team suspects the changing Sun's radiation during Saturn's 29.5-year orbit may be influencing how much icy material falls toward the planet's upper atmosphere.
"We suspect that when the rings are edge-on with the sun, the ring rain will slow down," O'Donoghue told Space.com. "And that when they are tilted to face the sun, the ring rain influx will increase."
It's a fascinating conundrum that has puzzled astronomers for years.
"I think it would be fascinating if the life time of the rings was only 100 million years or so and that their age was billions of years," O'Donoghue told Space.com. "Since it means we evolved just in time to see them before they vanished."
More on Saturn: Strange Lines Appear in Saturn's Rings
The post Saturn Is Sucking Up Its Rings appeared first on Futurism.
- Tribe signs pact with California to work together on efforts to save endangered salmon
- Researchers have developed a new tool that tracks the monthly changes in Wikipedia page views for thousands of species.
- Tribe signs pact with California to work together on efforts to save endangered salmon
- Crafted as a collaboration between a San Francisco water recycling company called Epic Cleantec and the Northern California-based beermaker Devil's Canyon Brewing Company, the Epic OneWater Brew was reportedly made from greywater — in short, wastewater from dishes, laundry, and bathroom shower and sinkwater — from a 40-story apartment complex in San Francisco.
If you want a refreshing, environmentally-friendly beverage — but don't necessarily want to go all the way to Bill Gates' fecal sludge water route — we might have just the thing.
It's called the Epic OneWater Brew, and it's a kölsch-style beer that, according to the Guardian, is made from recycled wastewater.
Crafted as a collaboration between a San Francisco water recycling company called Epic Cleantec and the Northern California-based beermaker Devil's Canyon Brewing Company, the Epic OneWater Brew was reportedly made from greywater — in short, wastewater from dishes, laundry, and bathroom shower and sinkwater — from a 40-story apartment complex in San Francisco.
"We wanted to do something fun that was going to be an engaging tool to talk to people, to get them excited, but also that showcased the untapped potential of water reuse," Aaron Tartakovsky, Epic Cleantec's co-founder and CEO, told the Guardian.
Apparently, the beverage is pretty tasty. Matthew Canton, the Guardian writer who tested the beer, described it as "pleasant," "crisp" and "drinkable," with "no notes of shower or laundry." That's already about ten steps above the might-as-well-be-dishwater that is Keystone Light, so it feels like a win for everyone.
"We wanted to choose a beer that was going to be sort of more universally liked versus some of the more craft beers, like an IPA, that some people like, some people don't," he added, speaking to the choice to create a crowd-pleasing kölsch-style beer.
"I think a lot of people… were skeptical about the project or were hesitant to try it," Tartakovsky told the Guardian, "but I would say 99 percent who came in feeling a little bit apprehensive, once they tried it, got really excited."
If you might be worried at all about the safety of drinking recycled water, Tartakovsky argues that Epic's product might actually be safer for consumers than other beers due to the rigorous testing process that they require.
"A lot of times at a brewery, you turn on the tap and whatever water you get, that's what you brew with," he continued. "In our case, we have so much control over the treatment process that we were actually able to treat to tweak some of the steps to give the brewers a blank canvas."
All in all, the Epic OneWater Brew sounds like a creative way to tackle our ever-worsening water crisis. And if we're all honest with ourselves, most of us could probably say that, when it comes to beer, we've likely had worse.
Environmentally Friendly Beer Made From Used Shower Water appeared first on Futurism.
- Researchers have developed a new tool that tracks the monthly changes in Wikipedia page views for thousands of species.
The number of people facing acute food insecurity shot up for the fourth year in a row in 2022
Nature Communications, Published online: 04 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-38304-zMulti-enzymatic cascades benefit from precise nanometric organization but achieving this using available scaffolds is challenging. Here the authors present strategy for organizing multienzymatic systems using a protein scaffold based on TRAP domains, and demonstrate improved catalytic output.
- The company says it will reveal more details about the device during the keynote address of Google IO, its annual developer conference which takes place in Mountain View, California on Wednesday, May 10.
Discovery of ‘anti-cannibalism’ pheromone raises possibility of spraying crops with similar chemical as non-toxic insecticide
Locusts are voracious eaters with appetites that extend to members of their own species. Now scientists have discovered an “anti-cannibalism” pheromone used by the insects to protect themselves in dense swarms, which could pave the way for novel pest control strategies.
Scientists said the discovery raises a host of possibilities, including spraying crops with something similar to the protective pheromone as a non-toxic insecticide, or finding a way to reduce its impact among locusts and make them turn on each other more.Continue reading…
Nature, Published online: 04 May 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-01557-1Garry Cooper’s sustainability business has grown to help thousands of people conduct more efficient research.
Nature, Published online: 04 May 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-01517-9The most popular repository for sharing SARS-CoV-2 sequence data has come under increasing scrutiny. Scientists and funders around the world must now consider what lies ahead for the open sharing of genome data.
In red and blue states, Democrats are consolidating their hold on the most economically productive places.
Metropolitan areas won by President Joe Biden in 2020 generated more of the total economic output than metros won by Donald Trump in 35 of the 50 states, according to new research by Brookings Metro provided exclusively to The Atlantic. Biden-won metros contributed the most to the GDP not only in all 25 states that he carried but also in 10 states won by Trump, including Texas, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, Utah, Ohio, and even Florida, Brookings found. Almost all of the states in which Trump-won metros accounted for the most economic output rank in the bottom half of all states for the total amount of national GDP produced within their borders.
[From the March 2017 issue: Red state, blue city]
Biden’s dominance was pronounced in the highest-output metro areas. Biden won 43 of the 50 metros, regardless of what state they were in, that generated the absolute most economic output; remarkably, he won every metro area that ranked No. 1 through 24 on that list of the most-productive places.
The Democrats’ ascendance in the most-prosperous metropolitan regions underscores how geographic and economic dynamics now reinforce the fundamental fault line in American politics between the people and places most comfortable with how the U.S. is changing and those who feel alienated or marginalized by those changes.
Just as Democrats now perform best among the voters most accepting of the demographic and cultural currents remaking 21st-century America, they have established a decisive advantage in diverse, well-educated metropolitan areas. Those places have become the locus of the emerging information economy in industries such as computing, communications, and advanced biotechnology.
And just as Republicans have relied primarily on the voters who feel most alienated and threatened by cultural and demographic change, their party has grown stronger in preponderantly white, blue-collar, midsize and smaller metro areas, as well as rural communities. Those are all places that generally have shared little in the transition to the information economy and remain much more reliant on the powerhouse industries of the 20th century: agriculture, fossil-fuel extraction, and manufacturing.
Neither party is entirely comfortable with this stark new political alignment. Much of Biden’s economic agenda, with its emphasis on creating jobs that do not require a college degree, is centered on courting working-class voters by channeling more investment and employment to communities that feel excluded from the information age’s opportunities. And some Republican strategists continue to worry about the party’s eroding position in the economically innovative white-collar suburbs of major metropolitan areas.
Yet the underlying economic forces widening this political divide will be difficult for either side to reverse, Mark Muro, a senior fellow at Brookings Metro, told me. The places benefiting from the new opportunities in information-based industries, he said, tend to be racially diverse, densely populated, well educated, cosmopolitan, supported by prestigious institutions of higher education, and tolerant of diverse lifestyles. And the information age’s tendency to concentrate its benefits in a relatively small circle of “superstar cities” that fit that profile has hardly peaked. From 2010 to 2020, Muro said, the share of the nation’s total economic output generated by the 50 most-productive metropolitan areas increased from 62 to 64 percent, a significant jump in such a short span. “We are still in the midst of that massive shift, though there’s plenty of uncertainty right now,” Muro told me. “These are long cycles of economic history.”
The trajectory is toward greater conflict between the diverse, big places that have transitioned the furthest toward the information-age economy and the usually less diverse and smaller places that have not. Across GOP-controlled states, Republicans are using statewide power rooted in their dominance of nonmetropolitan areas to pass an aggressive agenda preempting authority from their largest cities across a wide range of issues and imposing cultural values largely rejected in those big cities; several are also now targeting public universities with laws banning diversity, equity, and inclusion programs and proposals to eliminate tenure for professors.
This sweeping offensive is especially striking because, as the Brookings data show, even many red states now rely on blue-leaning metro areas as their principal drivers of economic growth. Texas, for instance, is one of the places where Republicans are pursuing the most aggressive preemption agenda, but the metros won by Biden there in 2020 account for nearly three-fourths of the state’s total economic output.
[Read: An unprecedented divide between red and blue America]
“State antagonism toward cities is not sustainable,” says Amy Liu, the interim president of the Brookings Institution. “By handicapping local problem solving or attacking local institutions and employers, state lawmakers are undermining the very actors they need to build a thriving regional economy.”
At The Atlantic’s request, Muro and the senior research assistant Yang You of the Brookings Metro program calculated the share of state GDP generated across the 50 states in the metropolitan areas won by Biden and Trump in 2020. (The calculation was based on 2020 data from the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis. In federal statistics, 46 metropolitan areas extend across state lines—for instance, the New York metropolitan area also includes parts of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Brookings disaggregated the economic and political results along state boundaries to ensure that each was apportioned to the correct total.)
The analysis showed that the metros Biden carried generated 50 percent or more of state economic output in 28 states, and a plurality of state output in seven others. States where Biden-won metros accounted for the highest share of economic output included reliably blue states: His metros generated at least 90 percent of state economic output in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Jersey, California, Connecticut, New York, and Maryland. But the Biden-won metros also generated at least 80 percent of the total economic output in Arizona, Nevada, and Georgia, as well as two-thirds in Michigan and almost exactly half in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania—all key swing states. And the metros he carried generated at least half of total output in several Republican states, including Texas, Iowa, and Missouri.
The metropolitan areas Trump carried accounted for the most economic output in only 15 states. Twelve of the states where Trump metros accounted for the most economic activity ranked in the bottom half of all states for total output; the only exceptions were Indiana, Tennessee, and Louisiana. By contrast, Biden dominated the most productive states: His metros generated more of the output than the Trump metros in 22 of the 25 highest-producing states. As striking: Biden metros generated at least half of total output in 12 of the 15 most productive states and 19 of the top 25.
All of these results reflect the emphatic blue tilt of the largest and most economically productive metro areas. In 37 states, Biden won the single metro that generated the largest economic output. The results in the 50 metros that contributed the most to the national GDP regardless of their state were even more decisive: Biden, as noted above, not only carried 43 of them—and won the two dozen largest—but carried more of the highest-performing metros in red states than Trump did. The list of high-performing red-state metro areas that Biden carried included all four of the largest in Texas—Houston, Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio.
“The states that are most invested in the knowledge economy are overwhelmingly Democratic; large metros [in almost every state] are essentially universally Democratic; and affluent voters in these large metro areas are now overwhelmingly Democratic too,” Jacob Hacker, a Yale political scientist, told me. “The basic story seems to be that where you are seeing rapid economic growth, where the nation’s GDP is produced, you are seeing an ongoing shift toward the Democratic Party.”
Biden also won 28 of the next 50 metros that generated the most economic output, giving him 71 of the 100 largest overall, Brookings found. After the top 100, the switch flipped: Trump won 62 of the next 100 metros ranked by their total output, and 143 of the final 184 metros with the smallest economic output.
To understand these patterns better, the Brookings Metro analysis took an especially close look at the demographic and economic characteristics of metro areas in eight of the most politically competitive states, as well as the two mega-states in each party’s column: California and New York for the Democrats, and Texas and Florida for the Republicans.
[Read: America is growing apart, possibly for good]
Those results fill in the picture of a broad-based separation between the Democratic- and Republican-leaning places. Across those 12 states, Biden won about three-fifths of the metros with a population of at least 250,000; Trump won about three-fourths of those that are smaller. In these states, Biden won about three-fourths of the metros with more college graduates than average and Trump won about two-thirds of those with fewer college grads than average. Biden likewise won almost two-thirds of these states’ metros that are more racially diverse than average, and Trump won two-thirds of those that are less diverse. Biden predominated in the metros with the largest share of workers participating in digital industries, and Trump won 17 of the 20 metros with the largest share of workers engaged in manufacturing.
Despite their economic success, many of the largest blue-leaning metros, especially since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, have faced undeniable turbulence in the form of high housing costs, widespread homelessness, persistent economic inequality, downtown business centers weakened by the rise of remote work, and, in many cases, increasing crime. Some of the very largest metros “may be seeing new headwinds,” Muro said, but if employers look beyond them, the beneficiaries are less likely to be the smaller Trump-leaning places than the blue cities just outside the highest rung of economic activity, such as Denver, Atlanta, and Phoenix. Brookings’s analysis has found that even amid all of the pandemic’s disruption, the elevated share of total national economic output generated by the 50 largest metros remained constant from 2019 through 2021. Though trends can always change, Muro said, “it is hard to imagine a massive unrolling” of the concentration of economic opportunity that has characterized the digital era.
Lower taxes and especially less-expensive housing costs have helped many red-state metros remain competitive with those in blue states as the economy evolves, but a sustained conservative attack on red states’ most prosperous places could threaten that record. “The biggest worry is that the culture wars, the attack on the urban core, the attack on the self-governing of cities can have the unintended effect of pitting urban areas against their suburbs and rural neighbors when the modern economy is regional and we need all of these actors to work together,” Amy Liu of Brookings said.
This economic configuration has big implications for national politics. Hacker believes that over time, ceding so much ground in the most economically vibrant places “is not a sustainable position for the Republican Party to be in.” While the party is “benefiting from the undertow” of backlash against the overlapping economic and social transformations reconfiguring U.S. society, he added, “the places that are becoming bluer are growing faster; they are bigger … and they are also, as Republicans lament, setting the tone” for the emphasis on diversity and cultural liberalism now embraced by most big public and private institutions.
Still, Hacker noted, the GOP’s “structural advantages” in the electoral system—particularly the bias in the Senate and Electoral College toward small states least affected by these changes—may allow the party to offset for years the advantages that Democrats are reaping from “economic and demographic change.” The result could be a sustained standoff between a Republican political coalition centered on the smaller places that reflect what America has been and a Democratic party grounded in the economically preeminent large metros forging the nation’s future.
At about 3 a.m. Moscow time on May 3, a pair of drones appeared to explode on or near a dome at
. The explosions were caught on camera from several angles and seemed to cause little damage. Videos of the strikes aired on Russian state television and rapidly made the rounds on the internet. Things only got weirder from there.
The Kremlin quickly put out a statement accusing Ukraine of attempting to assassinate President Vladimir Putin and vowing retaliation. Ukraine vehemently denied responsibility for the strikes, and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters to “take anything coming out of the Kremlin with a very large shaker of salt.” Online, some observers fretted that the strikes had crossed a potential nuclear red line. Others, such as retired General Mark Hertling at the Institute for the Study of War and the Atlantic staff writer Tom Nichols, concluded that the attack was most likely a false-flag operation. Still others speculated that the small drones could have been launched by Russian partisans or Ukrainian special-operations teams inside Russia.
False flag, special op, or fizzled attack—it may not be possible to get to the bottom of who launched the drones and why anytime soon. But the incident and the reactions it has elicited from the war’s major players reveal just how important long-range drones have become in this conflict.
The U.S. has supplied Ukraine with many weapons systems, but it has steadfastly refused to provide those with longer range, most notably the missiles known as ATACMs. There is reportedly concern over how Russia would react if U.S.- produced munitions were to land in Russia proper (though territories occupied by Russia are fair game). The Ukrainians, however, don’t want to allow Russian territory to be a haven from which to attack, but they need long-range munitions if they are to hold targets inside Russia at risk. Their solution has been to repurpose old military drones and cheap off-the-shelf commercial drones as long-range munitions, filling the role of conventional cruise missiles.
[Phillips Payson O’Brien: The West must give Ukraine the weapons it needs]
In 2022, Ukraine was already using off-the-shelf drones to attack Russian oil infrastructure hundreds of miles from the front. Ukraine managed to strike Russian airfields hosting the bombers that were attempting to take down the Ukrainian power grid over the winter using repurposed Cold War reconnaissance drones. The wreckage of several Ukrainian drones has reportedly been found in the vicinity of Moscow since the beginning of 2023.
More recently, Russia has accused Ukraine of using small, piston-engine propeller drones to strike at fuel-storage areas deep within Crimea and on the Russian side of the Kerch Strait, nearly 200 miles from the front lines. Ukraine did not deny that those explosions were caused by drones—rather, it stated that the resulting fires were part of its shaping operations prior to the expected spring offensive.
Using low-tech drones to hit and significantly damage targets far from the front lines and inside Russia allows Ukraine to thin out Russian air defenses. Russia’s large, modern surface-to-air missiles, such as the S-400, can weigh 5,000 pounds or more and travel at nearly 3,000 miles an hour. They aren’t meant for shooting down cheap drones that sound like passing lawn mowers. Using surface-to-air missiles for this purpose is a bad trade from a financial standpoint as well—akin to killing a fly by smashing it with a Fabergé egg.
Short- and medium-range systems (like the Pantsir) are better suited to the task but cover a much smaller area, meaning that Russia would need many of them to defend a large region. This is where the tyranny of mathematics kicks in: For every mile of additional range that Ukrainian drones have, the amount of Russian territory they threaten increases by roughly the square of the range. For Ukraine, a linear increase in drone capability means an exponential increase in difficulty for Russia in defending against it.
Russia has a finite number of defensive systems, and a finite number of people to crew them. The country can’t hope to defend all of its crucial assets if Ukraine has drones with the range and accuracy to hit them. The drones Ukraine is using now have a limited payload, meaning they are mainly good against targets that are relatively soft and susceptible to damage, such as fuel tanks, or aircraft parked in the open.
So why would Ukraine even hypothetically want to strike at a target like the Kremlin, causing little if any damage? Such an attack might induce Russia to move scarce air-defense resources around to better protect targets that Russia would be embarrassed to see hit. For example, in 1987, a German teenager in a Cessna penetrated Soviet airspace and landed in Red Square. The incident led to a mass reorganization of Soviet anti-air defenses. In World War II, the Doolittle Raid caused Japan to pull back some of its interceptor aircraft from the front lines to protect the home islands. Today, Ukraine could use long-range drones to try to get Russia to spread out its air defenses, which would in turn make it easier for other drones to get through.
[From the June 2023 issue: The counteroffensive]
For its part, Russia might be tempted to stage a false-flag drone attack to discourage the United States or NATO from trusting Ukraine with long-range missiles or the components to build them. The Russian theory of victory seems to revolve around persuading other countries to withhold military aid so that it can grind Ukraine down through attritional warfare until Ukraine sues for peace under terms favorable to the Kremlin. Convincing the West that Ukraine cannot be trusted with long-range weapons would support this effort.
What both parties know is that on the modern battlefield, range is of the essence. The war fundamentally changed when Ukraine acquired HIMARS that extended its reach to 50 miles. Cheap drones, such as the Ukrainian UJ-22 and the Iranian-made and Russian-operated Shahed-136, have played a major part in the conflict and will continue to do so.
The ability to reliably strike far behind the front lines will be crucial to Ukraine’s stated goal of retaking Crimea “without a fight.” Ukraine will need to sever Russia’s access to the peninsula by both land and sea. The former requires success in the spring ground offensive. The latter calls for Ukraine to reach Russian ships attempting to offload cargo in Crimean ports such as Sevastopol, and the most plausible way to achieve this reach of 200 miles and more is by means of cheap, disposable drones.
Ukraine has already used uncrewed surface vehicles to attack ships in and around the harbor. It may also be able to overwhelm Russian air defenses with large numbers of drones, or to approach from angles that limit the effectiveness of air defenses: Ukraine has already made several successful attacks with aerial drones into Sevastopol.
Ukraine doesn’t have the warheads to sink large ships, but it can use the drones it has to target those carrying fuel, or to attack dockside equipment (such as cranes, forklifts, and trains meant to carry cargo away from the docks) necessary for unloading ships and getting materials where they are needed. Just preventing the ships’ cargo from going ashore or leaving the docks would go a long way toward stymieing Russia’s efforts to defend Crimea.
The spring offensive is likely drawing near, and it could easily determine the outcome of the war. Ukraine doesn’t seem to be hiding its long-term goals regarding Crimea either, and those will require long-range weapons to systematically isolate the peninsula and make retaining it untenable. Without long-range munitions forthcoming from NATO, Ukraine seems to be relying on indigenously produced, cheap, plentiful, easily manufactured drones to set the conditions for victory. Russia’s reaction to the attack on the dome at the Kremlin may reflect its willingness to do whatever is necessary to prevent Ukraine from acquiring long-range capabilities. But cheap drones are available to almost any state actor—and if Ukraine can successfully use them to thwart some of the world’s most advanced ground-based air defenses, the implications will travel far beyond this war.
Betelgeuse is one of the most visible and iconic stars visible on Earth — and with scientists predicting that it'll go supernova sometime soon, astronomy Twitter naturally has jokes.
In 2019, Betelgeuse became noticeably dimmer, which led to stargazers and scientists alike wondering whether the old red giant was about to go supernova.
Last year, the Hubble Space Telescope — remember that guy? — heightened the drama when it captured unprecedented images of Betelgeuse blowing its top but not going full kaboom. Ever since, speculation about when the star will complete its journey to supernova has roiled scientific circles.
Overall, astronomers predict that the famous star, which is still super-bright in its spot as the shoulder of Orion, will go supernova within the next 100,000 years. That's a long time for us puny humans, but the blink of an eye in cosmic terms — especially because the operative word is "within," meaning it could technically blow up tomorrow.
Naturally, scientists on Twitter are cracking jokes about the situation.
"Betelgeuse better explode soon," University of Chicago astrophysicist Sanjana Curtis joked, "or I’ll blow it up myself."
NASA planetary scientist Daria Pidhorodetska, meanwhile, quipped that she's "checking the betelgeuse status account" — a very fun update account a la "Liza Minelli outlives" — "in the middle of a packed bar."
Betelgeuse's imminent demise is such a meme at this point that someone resurfaced a 2016 XKCD comic about it — and a quick perusal of the web comic's site found that it's far from the only one about the red giant.
While those itching to see the star explode represent the dominant class of astronomy Twitter, there are still some who aren't ready to say goodbye.
"Am I a bad astronomer for not wanting Betelgeuse to blow up because Orion is my favorite constellation due to its gorgeous symmetry and beauty?" Middlebury College physicist Eilat Glikman tweeted. "I don’t want it to change!"
More on stars: Grim Images Show Helpless Star Disappearing Into Black Hole
The post Scientists Are Breathlessly Waiting For Betelgeuse to Explode appeared first on Futurism.
- In frenzied vote, Mexico's lawmakers pass controversial science reform bill
This could aid diagnosis.
Twitter was in ablaze this week when in response to the ongoing Writer's Guild strike, a guy decided to let the people know that writing work doesn't matter anymore, actually. ChatGPT can just do it.
"Oh no. A writer's strike. Whatever shall we do," tweeted a user who goes by the moniker "powerbottomdad1." "If only there was some kind of machine that could endlessly pump out textual content so we didn't have to rely on these flaky humans."
Unsurprisingly, this unceremonious tweet from powerbottomdad1 — who's notably followed by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman — struck a chord with folks who value human labor and creative processes. (Also, asking to be compensated fairly for your work when it's purchased by and viewed on streaming platforms isn't really being "flaky," but we digress.)
"Based on this person's username I'm inclined to believe they're trolling *however* this opinion is mega common amongst ppl in tech," tweeted another. "I'm confused as to what type of ideal world this argument is fighting for."
"A lot of points to be made here," someone else chimed in. "But where the fuck do you people think bots like ChatGPT generate their content from? They're amalgamating thousands of human-written scripts into what is essentially a mad lib based on your prompt."
Gotta say: all of these angered netizens have a point.
On its face, of course, there's the sheer callousness of the comment, which doesn't exactly offer much sympathy to folks who might lose their jobs to automation. Even Goldman Sachs tried to soften the blow when they estimated that about 300 million jobs stand to go the way of the AI in the not-so-distant future.
Also, as another user suggested, referring to creative writing as "textual content" is wildly depressing.
Even if a robot can churn out a passable script — already a far-fetched assumption with today's tech — a lot of folks seem to have forgotten that humans aren't robots, and the creative process isn't just about making as much content as possible. Or it shouldn't be, at least. When it is, we get things like Netflix's "The Gray Man" and Amazon Studios' "Citadel." And given the fact that these machines are taught to mimic human stories by mixing and regurgitating machine-free human work, plagiarism is definitely a concern when it comes to replacing human scriptwriters, too.
Sadly, though, considering that the strikers' demands regarding protection from AI demands were struck down, the studios just may go down this road.
More on automation: IBM Replacing 7,800 Human Jobs with AI, Including Human Resources
The post Fury Erupts at Suggestion of Using ChatGPT to Replace Striking Writers appeared first on Futurism.
Nature, Published online: 04 May 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-01537-5Results suggest the amyloid-targeting drug candidate slows cognitive decline in some people, but questions remain over its potential side effects.
A thought experiment that’s dividing mathematicians can help illuminate how belief shapes rational decisions
What is long
? What are its symptoms? Can it be treated? Is it dangerous? Researchers have some answers, but it remains one of the pandemic’s great mysteries.
Three years in, scientists still aren’t quite sure why some people get stuck with the syndrome and its cluster of debilitating symptoms long after their COVID-19
has cleared, while others breeze through and quickly return to a normal life.
In part, that’s because long COVID is so hard to pin down. For some patients, the main symptom is fatigue; for others, heart and respiratory problems. Still others may have frequent headaches, trouble sleeping, loss of taste, stomach pain, rash, muscle aches, or changes in menstrual cycles—or maybe a mix of symptoms. One patient may have a few annoying complaints for a couple of weeks, a second seemingly permanent discomfort.
There’s no simple formula for diagnosing patients, no test to tie symptoms to COVID-19, no pill to pop to make everything go away. Scientists and the public can’t even agree on what to call it: take your pick from long COVID, post-COVID conditions, long-haul COVID, post-acute COVID-19, post-acute sequelae of SARS CoV-2 infection, and chronic COVID.
Because it’s so difficult to diagnose, it’s also tough to figure out how many people have had it, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests about 15% of all Americans have suffered from long COVID and that about 6% currently have it.
At the Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine and its primary teaching hospital, Boston Medical Center (BMC), researchers and clinicians are trying to decode long COVID.
As well as treating patients through the ReCOVer Long COVID Clinic, they’re leading the National Institutes of Health-funded RECOVER (Research COVID to Enhance Recovery) Long COVID Study, an effort to better understand the condition and pioneer new prevention and treatment approaches.
Here, Jai G. Marathe, assistant professor of medicine at Boston University and Boston Medical Center infectious diseases physician, and Fitzgerald Shepherd, assistant professor of general internal medicine and Boston Medical Center hospitalist, break down what they’ve learned about long COVID since starting the study last year:
The post What do we know about long COVID? appeared first on Futurity.
|submitted by /u/lughnasadh
|submitted by /u/izumi3682
|submitted by /u/altmorty
|submitted by /u/BousWakebo
Think tank CSIS just released a digital report on alternative proteins and it’s impacts on global food systems/US nat sec
|submitted by /u/SharpCartographer831
Death, Taxes, Crypto
The White House is proposing a 30 percent tax on crypto mining operations, to better reflect the effects they're having on the environment.
The "Digital Asset Mining Energy (DAME) excise tax" is meant to address the "economic and environmental costs of current practices for mining crypto assets," according to a new White House statement. "After a phase-in period, firms would face a tax equal to 30 percent of the cost of the electricity they use in crypto mining."
It's a notable move to address growing concerns over the considerable environmental footprint of crypto operations, which often draw from polluting sources of electricity — and the latest regulatory move to cast a shadow on the formerly red-hot digital currencies.
According to a 2022 report by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (WHOSTP), crypto mining used between 120 and 240 billion kilowatt-hours per year, more than the electricity usage of an entire country.
In the US alone, the WHOSTP estimates crypto consumes up to a staggering 1.7 percent of total electricity usage, the equivalent of all home computers or residential lighting, and between 0.4 and 0.8 percent of total US greenhouse gas emissions.
And on an infrastructure level, the New York Times reported last month that dozens of Bitcoin mines across the country are putting immense pressure on the power grid and raising electricity prices for nearby residents, despite them having nothing to do with crypto.
So what do we have to gain from all this mining? According to the White House, not an awful lot, apart from noise and pollution — especially when miners aren't making use of clean power.
"Cryptomining does not generate the local and national economic benefits typically associated with businesses using similar amounts of electricity," the White House wrote. "Instead, the energy is used to generate digital assets whose broader social benefits have yet to materialize."
Unsurprisingly, the news of a possible tax was met with outrage by the crypto community.
"So, apparently it doesn’t matter where the electricity comes from — coal, gas, 100 percent renewable, etc." tweeted head of policy at A16z Crypto Brian Quintenz. "If the government doesn’t like how you use the energy, you’ll be penalized."
In short, plans to tax crypto mining in the US will likely face plenty of opposition.
With analysts predicting that 2022's crypto winter could soon be over, the topic will be more relevant than ever as crypto miners could soon be looking for ways to re-enter the market.
More on crypto mining: Mining Crypto Is Even Worse for the Environment Than We Thought
The post White House Proposes 30 Percent Tax on Crypto Mining appeared first on Futurism.
May 4, 2023––The Atlantic has hired Tyler Watson as executive vice president of marketing. Tyler joins The Atlantic from Condé Nast, where he was most recently global VP of production and activation and led a team that delivered over 800 marketing campaigns annually across industries.
As EVP of marketing, Tyler will oversee commercial marketing at The Atlantic, including creative strategy, brand marketing, the award-winning creative studio Atlantic Re:think, and Atlantic Insights, its marketing research division.
Alice McKown, publisher & chief revenue officer of The Atlantic, says: “Tyler has worn many hats in his career and has tremendous experience across all aspects of our business, with an incredible track record of creating and delivering unique ideas at brands including Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, WIRED, GQ, Vogue, and Teen Vogue. Not only will he be critical to the continued transformation of our business, but an ideal leader for our talented and creative team.”
Under his leadership, his team at Condé Nast achieved a significant YOY increase in branded content revenue. Tyler collaborated with editorial teams across a diverse portfolio of the publisher’s titles to create bespoke sponsorship opportunities for editorial tentpoles, including the launch of Vogue World, a global theatrical experience and street fair.
Tyler previously served as vice president of branded content at Condé Nast, where he spearheaded the overhaul of branded content strategies for The New Yorker, Wired, and Teen Vogue. His creativity and innovation resulted in the formation of new in-house creative agencies focused on developing best-in-class, brand partnership initiatives aligned with rigorous editorial standards. Before joining Condé, Tyler held senior positions at Barneys New York and Hearst, where he developed and executed custom partnership programs for top fashion, beauty, and luxury brands.
In the past year, The Atlantic has paired journalistic excellence with growth across the company, including record subscriber growth for the third straight year. The magazine was recognized for the second year in a row with the industry’s most prestigious honor of general excellence in the 2023 National Magazine Awards; earned its first two Pulitzer Prizes in 2022 and 2021; and was named Digiday’s Publisher of the Year. Last year also marked the return of in-person events, including The Atlantic Festival in September in Washington, D.C.; the publication of the magazine’s entire archive, dating back to 1857, online for the first time; and the launch and publication of the first six books in a new imprint, Atlantic Editions, with the independent publisher Zando, collecting the work of Atlantic writers and editors.
Anna Bross and Paul Jackson | The Atlantic
Updated at 2:07 p.m. ET on May 4, 2023
The subway is a commons, and every kind of public behavior is visible there. On the train are, inter alia, teenagers listening to music on their phone, babies wailing, hungry people wolfing down sandwiches from fast-food containers, lovers kissing, lovers quarreling, children whirling around poles, adults trying to corral them, panhandlers asking for money, and occasionally very troubled individuals suffering some kind of crisis. Though people in acute psychological distress have always been a part of public life, and despite the fact that there has never been a time or place where people did not have periodic episodes in full view of others, we still have no real etiquette or protocol for meeting a fellow person who is struggling. For evidence of this, look not just to the killing of the Black man strangled by a fellow passenger on a New York City train on Monday, but to the valorization of his killer by cheerleaders online.
The killing, like so many acts of contemporary violence, was filmed. In the video, a 24-year-old man places 30-year-old Jordan Neely in a chokehold on the floor of the subway car. According to witness reports, Neely had been screaming that he had nothing to eat or drink and was ready to die or face life in prison, but he had not physically attacked any fellow travelers. In the chokehold, he kicks and flails and eventually goes limp. Other passengers help the 24-year-old, who also has not been officially identified, restrain the man until he lies motionless. They had been afraid, one witness later said in an interview, that Neely might have been armed.
[From the May 2023 issue: American madness]
Many people feel uncomfortable when confronted with someone in an acute crisis. But certain factors can turn an uncomfortable situation into an intolerable one, such as living in a society where anybody could have a gun, where any agitation can boil over into mass murder. An irate neighbor slaying five people with an AR-15-style rifle after a noise complaint in Texas; an unstable Coast Guard veteran killing one and injuring four while attending an appointment with his mother in an Atlanta hospital. The stakes in any given episode of public agitation or distress or even psychosis aren’t typically all that high; the majority of people having crises at any time represent no risk to anyone (save, perhaps, themselves), but the incessant rat-a-tat of bloody headlines makes people feel—viscerally—that the risks they do encounter are unbearably dangerous.
In common places, we meet one another with a particular disposition: We try to avoid friction, signal politeness, and keep the flow of society moving. This works well, so long as everyone participates. But we must also be disposed toward people in the world who cannot just get along—because of mental illness, acute emotional distress, or other reasons beyond or within their control—and how ought we meet them? With compassion, perhaps, or with concern, even worry, but tempered with fellow feeling. Fear, however, chases out these finer emotions, and fear is the disposition we’ve grown accustomed to. Presumably it’s the legitimacy of this fear that persuaded law enforcement to release the 24-year-old killer with no charges so far.
This process, through which mundane uncomfortable situations are transformed into terrifying ordeals by all the incidents of random gun violence that came before, is one means by which a healthy community becomes a violent society. Nobody looks forward to encountering people behaving erratically on the subway, and neither does anyone want to fall victim to an act of stochastic violence, but killing a mentally ill man on a train doesn’t represent much of an improvement upon either circumstance. It represents the loss of a peaceful commons, the absence of compassion, and the overwhelming fear we have come to accept in our culture of violence. This is the country we have become.
Midway through watching “Sunflowers,” a nearly feature-length episode of Ted Lasso that juggles five separate plotlines, I wondered aloud, “When exactly did this show turn into a prestige drama?” Yes, the script still has plenty of jokes—though few of them deserve more than a low chuckle, and many characters are little more than caricatures. But as it’s continued to draw viewers and accolades for Apple TV+, this Emmy-winning comedy has pivoted further and further away from the genre to which it supposedly belongs, devolving into ham-fisted, novelistic nonsense.
When Ted Lasso first emerged as a sleeper hit in the summer of 2020, it was the gentle hug audiences needed in the middle of pandemic lockdown, a familiar fish-out-of-water tale about a nice man infecting the cynical world around him with his niceness. Like most people, I was at first skeptical: The show expanded on a character—a cheery American football coach hired by a flailing U.K. soccer team—that its creator-star, Jason Sudeikis, had first portrayed for an NBC commercial. (“Based on a semi-well-known ad” is not exactly a compelling hook.) But Ted Lasso’s first season earned its massive hype; it was a well-crafted workplace sitcom that built out its central character’s leadership strengths step by step, methodically depicting how Ted’s emotional intelligence more than makes up for his lack of tactical acumen. The show’s propensity for “niceness” was radical and surprising, somehow allowing it to generate laughs while dodging conflict.
Every episode was also half an hour long, which is typical for sitcoms—something that Ted Lasso is, even if it isn’t shot on an overlit Hollywood soundstage in front of a live studio audience. One of the Season 1’s best episodes, “Biscuits,” is 29 minutes long. The big finale, “The Hope That Kills You,” is a roomy 33, but I forgave that, given the solid work that co-creators Sudeikis, Bill Lawrence, Brendan Hunt, and Joe Kelly had done in developing Ted’s world at the fictional club of AFC Richmond. The following season also won an Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series, but it showed signs of bloat, with episode lengths ballooning from 30 minutes to 49 by the end of the run. The plotlines themselves began to sprawl too, extending beyond the workplace of the team in order to give each character more screen time.
Season 3, which debuted on Apple TV+ in March and is rounding into what may or may not be a series finale, is a pure example of the excesses that can flourish on streaming television. The show has no time slot to worry about, and none of the formal or thematic constraints of network television. Perhaps that’s why its episodes have settled into such supersize lengths, with “Sunflowers” running an ungodly 63 minutes. Its storytelling feels similarly slack, with characters taking whole seasons to have the slimmest emotional realizations.
The initial pitch of Ted Lasso is genuinely intriguing: It’s Major League crossed with Paddington, a tale of a sports team trying to sabotage itself by bringing on someone who seems incompetent, but then experiencing surprising success through the power of his overwhelming friendliness. In the first season, Ted’s guileless charm is often mistaken for stupidity, and there was a real sense of discovery for the audience in seeing him win over his colleagues—including the egotistical star Jamie Tartt (played by Phil Dunster), the grumpy veteran Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein), the embittered owner Rebecca Welton (Hannah Waddingham), and the shy but secretly brilliant kit man Nate Shelley (Nick Mohammed).
Now, in Season 3, these supplementary characters have all become the stars of their own shows. Ted Lasso is no longer a workplace sitcom but a universe of workplace sitcoms, drifting from a football club to an upstart PR firm to another (more evil) football club to a pair of local restaurants. Scenes are devoid of jokes and filled with dopey, self-important monologuing on the issues of the day. Rather than have any conflict, characters offer endless hugs and wan smiles, all under the watchful mustache of Mr. Lasso, whose retinue of dad jokes feels noticeably phoned in.
[Read: Ted Lasso is no longer trying to feel good]
Part of the problem is that the show seems narratively frozen until it can give long-running plotlines their obvious resolutions. Ted has spent three seasons fretting over being separated from his son in America; surely a reunion is in the offing, once he’s achieved what he can at AFC Richmond. The end of Season 2 saw Nate betray his former boss and join a rival club owned by Rebecca’s villainous ex-husband—but every time the show checks in with him, it’s obvious that all he needs is a pat on the back from Ted. One of the most tiresome and misguided storylines of the previous season saw Keeley Jones (Juno Temple), the club’s former publicist, start her own PR firm and begin dating a venture capitalist who had invested in it—an obviously ill-advised decision that still took many hour-long episodes to work through and undo.
The question any workplace sitcom faces is how much to stray from the status quo; audiences need some sense that things can change, but not so much that the show’s formula is threatened. Lawrence, the show’s co-creator, is a veteran of this world, having worked on shows such as Spin City, Scrubs, and Cougar Town, all of which knew not to abandon their core settings and stars. But they were also all 30-minute network shows that had to pump out episode after episode. Ted Lasso might have debuted as a sitcom, but it now obeys the freewheeling standards of premium dramas, pushing its episode lengths to make grand social statements about depression, workplace dynamics, and the changing standards of 21st-century masculinity.
The show isn’t incapable of being insightful, even in its latest, most pretentious form; Roy Kent can still bust out a sharp monologue, especially about the limits of male egotism. But it has stopped being as funny, which for me was its primary reason for existing. Rumors abound that if Sudeikis departs the show after this season, it could remain at Apple in a new form focused on the football team and the remaining characters. Perhaps then it could return to its workplace-sitcom roots, mixing sports humor with some light interpersonal drama. Just one suggestion: Keep the running time to half an hour, please.
‘Fascinating’ discovery could prove a useful non-invasive diagnostic tool to apply to other species, say scientists
The vivid blue irises of northern gannets turn black if they survive
, according to a study which provides evidence that some wild birds are shaking off the deadly virus.
Avian flu has killed wild and domestic birds for decades but the current strain (H5N1) severely affected seabird populations across the North Atlantic last year, with particularly high death rates among gannets.Continue reading…
Deep sleep might help buffer against memory loss for older adults facing a heightened burden of Alzheimer’s disease, new research suggests.
Deep sleep, also known as non-REM slow-wave sleep, can act as a “cognitive reserve factor” that may increase resilience against a protein in the brain called beta-amyloid that is linked to memory loss caused by dementia. Disrupted sleep has previously been associated with faster accumulation of beta-amyloid protein in the brain.
“Think of deep sleep almost like a life raft that keeps memory afloat…”
However, the new research reveals that superior amounts of deep, slow-wave sleep can act as a protective factor against memory decline in those with existing high amounts of Alzheimer’s disease pathology—a potentially significant advance that experts say could help alleviate some of dementia’s most devastating outcomes.
“With a certain level of brain pathology, you’re not destined for cognitive symptoms or memory issues,” says Zsófia Zavecz, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Berkeley’s Center for Human Sleep Science. “People should be aware that, despite having a certain level of pathology, there are certain lifestyle factors that will help moderate and decrease the effects.
“One of those factors is sleep and, specifically, deep sleep.”
Cognitive reserve factors
The research in the journal BMC Medicine is the latest in a large body of work aimed at finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease and preventing it altogether.
As the most prevalent form of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease destroys memory pathways and, in advanced forms, interferes with a person’s ability to perform basic daily tasks. Roughly one in nine people over age 65 have the progressive disease—a proportion that is expected to grow rapidly as the baby boomer generation ages.
In recent years, scientists have probed the ways that deposits of beta-amyloid associate with Alzheimer’s disease and how such deposits also affect memory more generally. In addition to sleep being a foundational part of memory retention, the researchers previously discovered that the declining amount of a person’s deep sleep could act as a “crystal ball” to forecast a faster rate of future beta-amyloid buildup in the brain, after which dementia is more likely set in.
Years of education, physical activity, and social engagement are widely believed to shore up a person’s resilience to severe brain pathology—essentially keeping the mind sharp, despite the decreased brain health. These are called cognitive reserve factors. However, most of them, such as past years of education or the size of one’s social network, cannot be easily changed or modified retroactively.
That idea of cognitive reserve became a compelling target for sleep researchers, says Matthew Walker, a professor of neuroscience and psychology and senior author of the study.
“If we believe that sleep is so critical for memory,” Walker says, “could sleep be one of those missing pieces in the explanatory puzzle that would tell us exactly why two people with the same amounts of vicious, severe amyloid pathology have very different memory?”
“If the findings supported the hypothesis, it would be thrilling, because sleep is something we can change,” he adds. “It is a modifiable factor.”
Filling in a missing puzzle piece
To test that question, the researchers recruited 62 older adults from the Berkeley Aging Cohort Study. Participants, who were healthy adults and not diagnosed with dementia, slept in a lab while researchers monitored their sleep waves with an electroencephalography (EEG) machine. Researchers also used a positron emission tomography (PET) scan to measure the amount of beta-amyloid deposits in the participants’ brains. Half of the participants had high amounts of amyloid deposits; the other half did not.
After they slept, the participants completed a memory task involving matching names to faces.
Those with high amounts of beta-amyloid deposits in their brain who also experienced higher levels of deep sleep performed better on the memory test than those with the same amount of deposits but who slept worse. This compensatory boost was limited to the group with amyloid deposits. In the group without pathology, deep sleep had no additional supportive effect on memory, which was understandable as there was no demand for resilience factors in otherwise intact cognitive function.
In other words, deep sleep bent the arrow of cognition upward, blunting the otherwise detrimental effects of beta-amyloid pathology on memory.
In their analysis, the researchers went on to control for other cognitive reserve factors, including education and physical activity, and still sleep demonstrated a marked benefit. This suggests that sleep, independent of these other factors, contributes to salvaging memory function in the face of brain pathology. These new discoveries, they says, indicate the importance of non-REM slow-wave sleep in counteracting some of the memory-impairing effects of beta-amyloid deposits.
Walker likened deep sleep to a rescue effort.
“Think of deep sleep almost like a life raft that keeps memory afloat, rather than memory getting dragged down by the weight of Alzheimer’s disease pathology,” Walker says. “It now seems that deep NREM sleep may be a new, missing piece in the explanatory puzzle of cognitive reserve. This is especially exciting because we can do something about it. There are ways we can improve sleep, even in older adults.”
Chief among those areas for improvement? Stick to a regular sleep schedule, stay mentally and physically active during the day, create a cool and dark sleep environment and minimize things like coffee late in the day and screen time before bed. A warm shower before turning in for the night has also been shown to increase the quality of deep, slow-wave sleep, Zavecz says.
With a small sample size of healthy participants, the study is simply an early step in understanding the precise ways sleep may forestall memory loss and the advance of Alzheimer’s, Zavecz says.
Still, it opens the door for potential longer-term experiments examining sleep-enhancement treatments that could have far-reaching implications.
“One of the advantages of this result is the application to a huge population right above the age of 65,” Zavecz says. “By sleeping better and doing your best to practice good sleep hygiene, which is easy to research online, you can gain the benefit of this compensatory function against this type of Alzheimer’s pathology.”
Source: UC Berkeley
The post Deep sleep may buffer against Alzheimer’s memory loss appeared first on Futurity.
- There is already one amyloid-clearing antibody treatment for Alzheimer’s disease on the market: aducanumab, which was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2021.
A future with fewer people offers increased opportunity and a healthier environment
SpaceX’s Starship launch site in southern Texas is now the subject of a lawsuit after the vehicle’s first flight caused concerning damage
Nature, Published online: 04 May 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-01530-yUS space agency plans to shift the New Horizons planetary probe to studying heliophysics, and some scientists don’t agree.
On its surface, the unfolding debt-ceiling crisis looks a lot like the confrontation in 2011 between congressional Republicans and then-President Barack Obama. Once again, a new GOP majority in the House is using the threat of a national default as leverage to force a first-term Democratic president to agree to spending cuts in exchange for lifting the federal borrowing limit. A first-ever default could crash the markets and trigger a recession. But, as in 2011, the two parties remain far apart, with a deadline to act approaching rapidly.
Eric Cantor knows the feeling well. Twelve years ago, he was the House majority leader deputized by then-Speaker John Boehner to negotiate an agreement with Joe Biden, who was Obama’s vice president at the time. Cantor left Congress in 2014 after a stunning primary defeat that presaged the GOP’s anti-establishment, anti-immigration lurch toward Donald Trump two years later. He’s now a senior executive at a Wall Street investment bank.
I called him up this week to ask what he had learned from the 2011 negotiations and how he sees today’s fight going. He warned that the risks of failure—and with it, economic calamity—are significantly greater this time around.
[Read: The logic behind Biden’s refusal to negotiate the debt ceiling]
Cantor and Biden failed to strike a deal on their own in 2011; that task ultimately fell to Biden and Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell. But Cantor told me he was impressed with Biden’s willingness to bargain: “He was very much in the mode of negotiating, compromising.”
Not this time—Biden has rebuffed pleas from Speaker Kevin McCarthy for one-on-one negotiations. “President Biden is not the same person as Vice President Biden was,” Cantor said, a bit ruefully. Nor has Biden empowered anyone in his administration to bargain at all.
“They’ve not negotiated a darn thing,” Cantor said.
In 2011, Obama engaged with Republicans months in advance of the fiscal deadline, and the talks between Cantor and Biden, along with separate negotiations between Obama and Boehner, helped set parameters for the agreement that materialized when the nation was on the brink of default.
The present lack of negotiations is likely a direct result of how things went back in 2011. Though both sides came to an agreement eventually, the near miss still caused a stock-market slide and the downgrading of the U.S. credit rating. When the U.S. bumped up against the debt ceiling again later in the Obama presidency, the administration was less inclined to negotiate—and a chastened GOP allowed the limit to be lifted without a fight. The lesson Democrats drew from that experience was never again to concede to the Republican premise that increasing the borrowing limit should be subject to legislative haggling.
Biden’s no-negotiation stance, however, might not be sustainable. On Monday, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen informed congressional leaders that the country would run out of fiscal wiggle room—afforded by the use of “extraordinary measures” that stretch federal funds—as soon as June 1. That deadline is earlier than many people in Washington expected, and Yellen’s warning injected fresh urgency into the effort to find a way out of the crisis. In response, Biden summoned McCarthy, McConnell, and their Democratic counterparts to a White House meeting next week.
In 2011, McCarthy was one rung beneath Cantor in the House GOP hierarchy. Now, as speaker, he’s operating with a much thinner margin than Boehner and Cantor, who had more than 20 votes to spare. The GOP’s five-vote majority has less leverage, but it is more dug-in against the Democrats, and the speakership that McCarthy fought so hard to secure could be at risk if he were to allow the debt ceiling to be raised without extracting sufficient budget cuts or other concessions. The moderate dealmakers in the House Republican Conference have all but vanished. Boehner was ultimately forced out in 2015 by a conservative revolt, but he did not face the threat of an ouster that now hangs over McCarthy.
Although McCarthy was able to muster enough votes last week to pass an opening bid through the House—“a huge victory,” Cantor told me—he’s unlikely to secure the same level of budget cuts that Republicans did in 2011. Obama and Boehner had traded proposals for entitlement cuts and tax increases, and the deal Congress eventually passed triggered $1.2 trillion in spending reductions over a 10-year period. Under pressure from former President Donald Trump, McCarthy isn’t even pushing this time for cuts to Medicare or Social Security. The likeliest solution, according to potential congressional dealmakers, is an agreement that would merely slow the growth of federal spending, not reverse it. “You’re just not going to move the needle as far,” Cantor said.
Cantor remains in touch with McCarthy; the two, along with the Republican who succeeded Boehner as speaker, Paul Ryan, were once a conservative triumvirate known as the “Young Guns” (they were already in their 40s, but this is Congress), who rose quickly in the House GOP. When I asked him whether it was possible for McCarthy to emerge victorious in the eyes of his party, Cantor seemed doubtful. “Look, he’s got a very, very slim majority,” he said. “And given where conservative media and social media is on the issue, it’s just hard to be able to create a situation where you can declare a win and have everyone go along with it.”
[Annie Lowrey: The trillion-dollar coin might be the least bad option]
For now, Cantor said, McCarthy is doing what he needs to do to give himself space to negotiate. “Kevin has demonstrated a will to fight, and I think that’s the most important thing right now for members to see—he’s willing to go to bat for them and fight,” he said. “So he comes into this with a fair amount of capital to work with.”
Biden is also in fighting mode at the moment, in contrast to his bargaining mode in 2011. Cantor argued that “ironically,” Biden had more authority to hammer out a deal when he was Obama’s lieutenant than he does now. “He’s captive of the extreme left and the progressives in his party,” he said.
This is mostly spin from a Republican who remains, even in his political retirement, a party loyalist. And Biden would surely dispute the suggestion that he would cut a deal with Republicans if left to his own devices; he came away from the 2011 experience with the same determination as others in his party not to negotiate again over the debt ceiling. But Cantor’s point is that because progressives are more ascendant now than they were then, Biden has less room to maneuver, especially as he launches a reelection bid for which he’ll need the left’s enthusiastic support.
Cantor offered a couple of scenarios for how Biden and McCarthy could avert a default. The most likely involves Washington’s favorite fallback, the punt: Republicans would agree to a short-term increase in the debt ceiling in exchange for Biden committing to serious fiscal negotiations later in the year, when both sides would face a harder deadline. They could also reach a broader agreement in the next few weeks, but Cantor did not sound particularly hopeful. “I still don’t think we go into default,” the veteran of congressional brinkmanship told me, “but I think the path is certainly narrower, and the options available to either side are narrower.”
Make it Work, Designers
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg is pivoting once again. But this time, his next venture is a lot more unexpected.
Zuckerberg took to Instagram this week to reveal some dresses that he created for his daughters. According to the post, all he needed was a dream, some needle and thread, and — of course — a 3D printer.
"I love building things and recently started designing and 3D printing dresses with the girls," the billionaire wrote in the post's caption. "A few projects from the last month… (and yes, I had to learn to sew)."
And honestly? If we were to do a quick fashion review, these dresses rock. They're bright, they're fun, and they've got a very cool chainmail vibe — Joan of Arc meets Roblox meets Lisa Frank.
This isn't Zuckerberg's first foray into 3D-printed garments. Last summer, he posted a different picture of one of his daughters wearing a pink 3D-printed helmet.
Plus, the meat-smoking, boar-slaying Silicon Valley CEO is an extensively documented hobby guy. The dude just loves himself a project, whether he's building robots or nightlight alarm clocks for his wife.
Did we mention he's also very into mixed martial arts and sword fighting?
But as far as billionaire side projects go, Zuckerberg's obsessions are all pretty harmless. Other billionaires launch themselves into space inside dick-shaped rockets, or doomscroll on Twitter using multiple burner accounts.
With Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' atrocious Coachella outfit still seared into our minds, we're declaring Zuck as the unofficial winner of this season of Project Runway: Silicon Valley.
Maybe all of Meta's chaotic company pivots will ultimately make sense, and Zuckerberg will soon be 3D printing AI-generated fashion designs and selling them inside the company's dystopian Horizon Worlds.
Wouldn't that be something?
More on billionaire fashion: Jeff Bezos Was Reportedly Upset That His Spacesuit Didn't Make His Crotch Look Good
The post Zuckerberg Now 3D Printing Clothes for His Children appeared first on Futurism.