Make a wish!
|submitted by /u/Gari_305
|submitted by /u/chrisdh79
I am excited to share the re-release of a research project that I am conducting for my undergraduate thesis. This web application utilizes ChatGPT to generate music compositions based on your input, which are then converted into MIDI format.
I want to emphasize that this is primarily a research project, and the quality of the output reflects the current abilities of ChatGPT. Keep in mind that some inputs will hard for the AI to interpret and might result in an error. Also, this is my first endeavor into web development, so I anticipate that there's room for improvement.
To get started, simply visit the link below and input a short description of the MIDI clip you would like to generate. The AI will process your request and deliver a MIDI clip for you.
I also invite you to provide feedback on the generated clips, which will greatly contribute to my research. I encourage you to test it out and share your thoughts! If you could help spread the word by upvoting, commenting, or sharing, it would be highly appreciated.
Visit the AI MIDI Generator here: https://ai-midi-generator.herokuapp.com/
Thank you for your participation and support!
|submitted by /u/ContentsMayVary
Scientific Reports, Published online: 11 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-34717-4The link between the sphingolipid rheostat and obstructive sleep apnea
- The news: Google is stuffing powerful new AI tools into tons of its existing products and launching a slew of new ones, including a coding assistant, it announced at its annual I/O conference on Wednesday.
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.
Google is throwing generative AI at everything
The news: Google is stuffing powerful new AI tools into tons of its existing products and launching a slew of new ones, including a coding assistant, it announced at its annual I/O conference on Wednesday.
What’s changing: Billions of users will soon see Google’s latest AI language mode, PaLM 2, integrated into over 25 products like Maps, Docs, Gmail, Sheets, and the company’s chatbot, Bard, which it’s opening up to a bigger pool of users. This is the company’s biggest push yet to integrate the latest wave of AI technology into a variety of products.
Why it matters: Because of safety and reputational risks, Google has been slower than competitors to launch AI-powered products. But fierce competition from competitors like Microsoft, OpenAI and others have left it feeling it has no choice but to push ahead. Experts warn that it’s a risky strategy that could backfire and run afoul of the regulators. Read the full story.
This new genome map tries to capture all human genetic variation
After more than 20 years of claiming they completed the human genome project, researchers have announced yet another version of the human genome map.
Whereas past versions of the project claimed to be a draft of the genetic blueprint for a human being, this update combines the complete DNA of 47 diverse individuals—Africans, Native Americans, and Asians, among other groups—into one giant genetic atlas that they say better captures the genetic diversity of our species.
The new map, called a “pangenome,” has been a decade in the making, and researchers say it will only get bigger. Crucially, it could hold exciting possibilities for diagnosing rare diseases. Read the full story.
How sodium could change the game for batteries
Although lithium-ion batteries power most EVs and devices like cell phones and laptops today, there’s a new contender on the horizon.
Sodium-ion batteries could squeeze their way into some corners of the battery market as soon as the end of this year, and they could be huge in cutting costs for EVs.
Casey Crownhart, our climate reporter, has dug into the chemistry behind sodium batteries, and what their wider adoption by automakers could mean for the future of EVs. Read the full story.
Casey’s story is from The Spark, her weekly newsletter covering all the latest climate and energy developments. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Wednesday.
I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.
1 US Congress is going to hear from OpenAI’s Sam Altman next week
It comes as AI starts to face growing scrutiny in Washington. (WP $)
+ European lawmakers are formalizing their requirements for AI makers. (TechCrunch)
+ China’s AI chatbots are lagging behind the US’ recent releases. (Economist $)
+ The EU wants to regulate your favorite AI tools. (MIT Technology Review)
2 We’re still working out covid’s mysterious new variants
The baffling ways its proteins fit together—and disappear—are confounding scientists. (The Atlantic $)
3 A shadowy hacking group is targeting both Russia and Ukraine
It’s gathered a surprising amount of unusual data, including microphone recordings. (Wired $)
+ The war in Ukraine has turned the defense industry on its head. (FT $)
+ Why business is booming for military AI startups. (MIT Technology Review)
4 Things are looking up for Chinese chipmakers
One of the industry’s leading companies won’t be hindered by US export controls after all. (FT $)
+ What’s next for the chip industry. (MIT Technology Review)
5 WhatsApp has a spam calls problem
Its users in India are contending with a deluge of unwanted phone calls. (BBC)
+ The people using humor to troll their spam texts. (MIT Technology Review)
6 Prison messaging apps are notoriously unreliable
Their glitches leave inmates cut off from the outside world. (Slate $)
7 Inside the wild plot to steal Coca-Cola’s secretive technology
It’s nothing to do with its drink formula. (Bloomberg $)
8 A scammer has been cashing in on AI-generated Frank Ocean tracks
The problem is, the buyers were convinced they were genuine leaks. (Motherboard)
9 Live shopping is coming to the US
But are shoppers really ready to embrace it? (NYT $)
+ This obscure shopping app is now America’s most downloaded. (MIT Technology Review)
10 How an innocent capybara sparked an online revolt
Brazilian authorities were concerned for the famous rodent’s welfare. (Rest of World)
Quote of the day
“We want it to be trustworthy for users… Today, we are not there.”
—Prabhakar Raghavan, a senior vice president at Google, admits that large language AI models cannot be relied upon to be factually accurate, despite the company’s decision to embed them across its products, Bloomberg reports.
The big story
California’s coming offshore wind boom faces big engineering hurdles
The state of California has an ambitious goal: building 25 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2045. That’s equivalent to nearly a third of the state’s total generating capacity today, or enough to power 25 million homes.
But the plans are facing a daunting geological challenge: the continental shelf drops steeply just a few miles off the California coast. They also face enormous engineering and regulatory obstacles. 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 internet is tying itself in knots trying to work out whether the sun is white or yellow.
+ This is a fun look at how The Legend of Zelda influenced so much of modern music.
+ The fascinating story behind how the electric guitar really came to be.
+ This collection of laughably awful metal album covers is the gift that keeps on giving.
+ Why hibernating in space is more possible than you may realize.
- Last month, the FDA proposed reducing sodium in certain foods using salt substitutes.
In March, the World Health Organization issued a dire warning that was also completely obvious: Nearly everyone on the planet consumes too much salt. And not just a sprinkle too much; on average, people consume more than double what is advisable every single day, raising the risk of common diseases such as heart attack and stroke. If governments intervene in such profligate salt intake, the WHO urged, they could save the lives of 7 million people by 2030.
Such warnings about salt are so ubiquitous that they are easy to tune out. In the United States, salt intake has been a public-health issue for more than half a century; since then, the initiatives launched to combat it have been deemed by health officials as “too numerous to describe,” but little has changed in terms of policy or appetite. The main reason salt has remained a problem is that it’s a major part of all processed food—and, well, it makes everything delicious. Persuading Americans to reduce their consumption would require a convincing dupe—something that would cut down on unhealthy sodium without making food any less tasty.
No perfect dupe exists. But the next best thing could be … MSG. Seriously. Last month, the FDA proposed reducing sodium in certain foods using salt substitutes. One candidate that has research behind it is monosodium glutamate, the white crystalline powder that has long been maligned in the West as an unhealthy food additive. A common seasoning in some Asian cuisines, MSG was linked in the late 1960s to ailments—headaches, numbness, dizziness, heart palpitations—that became known as Chinese Restaurant Syndrome. The health concerns around MSG have since been debunked, and the FDA considers it safe to eat. But it still has a bad rap: Many products are still proudly advertised as MSG free. Now the chemical may soon get its revenge. Given the chance to replace salt in some of our food, it could eventually come to represent something wholesome—perhaps even something close to healthy.
The concerns with MSG originated in 1968, when someone purporting to be a Chinese American physician, writing in The New England Journal of Medicine, described feeling generally ill after eating Chinese food, which he suggested could be because of MSG. Other researchers quickly produced studies that seemed to substantiate this claim, and MSG became a public-health villain. In the ’70s, the Chicago Tribune ran the headline “Chinese Food Make You Crazy? MSG Is No. 1 Suspect.” All the attention “renewed medical legitimacy [for] a number of long-held assumptions about the strangely ‘exotic’, ‘bizarre’ and ‘excessive’ practices associated with Chinese culture,” the historian Ian Mosby wrote in 2009. (The author of the NEJM letter was later revealed to be made up.) That’s not to say that all symptoms associated with MSG are bunk; people can be sensitive to MSG—like any food—and may experience broad symptoms such as headaches after eating it, Amanda Li, a dietary nutritionist at the University of Washington, told me. But “research has shown no clear evidence linking MSG consumption to any serious potential adverse reactions,” she said.
On the whole, MSG does seem better than salt itself, considering that excessive salt consumption poses so many chronic health risks. A relatively small amount of MSG could be used to rescue flavor in reduced-salt products without endangering health. Part of the reason this is possible is because of MSG’s molecular makeup. It satisfies the need for salt to a certain extent because it contains sodium (it’s right there in the name, after all)—but just a third of the amount, by weight, as salt. The rest of the molecule is made of the amino acid L-glutamate, which registers as the savory, “brothy” flavor known as umami.
MSG isn’t a one-to-one replacement for salt, but that’s what makes it such a promising alternative. It is a general flavor enhancer, meaning that it can amplify the perception of salt and other flavors that are already in a dish, as well as add an umami element, Soo-Yeun Lee, a sensory scientist and the director of Washington State University’s School of Food Science, told me. One secret to this effect is that unlike salt, which imparts a blast of flavor and then quickly dissipates, MSG stays on the tongue long after food is swallowed, producing a lasting savory sensation, Lee said. It may amplify saltiness by increasing salivation, letting sodium molecules wash over the tongue more freely, Aubrey Dunteman, a food scientist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, told me.
All of this gives MSG the potential to play into a salt-reduction strategy. A 2019 study in the journal Nutrients found that substituting MSG (or other similar but more obscure chemicals) for some of the salt in certain foods could have major impacts: Adults who eat cured meats could cut 40 percent of their intake; cheese eaters, 45 percent. Another study from researchers in Japan found that incorporating MSG and other umami substances into common Japanese condiments, such as soy sauce, seasoning salt, and miso paste, could cut salt intake by up to 22.3 percent. Doing the same in curry-chicken and chili-chicken soups, Malaysian scientists found, could be used to reduce the recipes’ salt content by 32.5 percent.
Take those findings with a grain of, uh, MSG. Recent studies have uniformly found that MSG is a safe, promising salt replacement, but many, including both the Nutrients study and the Japanese one, were funded at least in part by Ajinomoto Co.—the company that introduced the first commercial form of substance—or the International Glutamate Technical Committee, a trade group. Lee and Dunteman have also received funding from Ajinomoto for some of their MSG work, including a study showing that the substance could improve the flavor of reduced-sodium bread. Lee said she aimed to show that MSG substitution for salt is “feasible, so if any food companies want to take that up and try it on their own systems,” they have a basis for doing so. Her goal, she added, “is not to sell bread with MSG.” (The paper, along with the two others mentioned that received industry funding, were independently peer-reviewed.)
Clearly, more independent research is needed, but food companies have plenty of incentive to help find a better alternative to salt. More than 70 percent of Americans’ salt consumption comes from processed and manufactured food, and if the FDA decides to crack down on salt intake, its policies will largely target the food industry, Lee said. Already, some manufacturers of canned soup and fish are experimenting with salt substitutes.
Deploying MSG in a sweeping sodium-reduction campaign would not be straightforward. MSG is more expensive than salt, Dunteman noted. More crucially, in many foods, salt provides more than flavor; it can also act as a preservative and regulate texture by, say, adding juiciness to lean meat or stabilizing leavened dough. In their study on bread, Lee and Dunteman found that removing too much salt reduced chewiness and firmness, even when MSG made up for taste. Among common processed foods, bread is a prime target for future MSG research, because it is the biggest contributor to U.S. sodium intake—not only because of its salt content but also because of the sheer amount of it that Americans consume. When MSG is used instead of salt to enhance flavor, “foods can taste just as delicious but without affecting hypertension,” Katherine Burt, a professor of health promotion and nutrition sciences at Lehman College, whose writing on MSG was not industry funded, told me. It’s “a great way to make foods exciting and healthy.”
MSG can also be used to deliberately reduce salt intake at home. Adding a new ingredient to a home pantry can be daunting, but consider that MSG is already in most kitchens, occurring naturally in umami-rich items such as Parmesan cheese and mushrooms and added to processed foods such as Campbell’s Soup and Doritos. These days, it’s easy enough to find it online or in stores, sold in shakers or packets, much like salt. Li recommends that the MSG-curious start seasoning their food with a 50–50 mixture of MSG and table salt. When eating processed foods, choose low-sodium versions of products (not “reduced sodium” goods, which may not actually have low levels of salt). They’ll likely taste terrible, so add MSG in increments until they taste good, Lee said.
We still have much to learn about MSG as a salt substitute, but the biggest challenge to it taking off is cultural, not scientific. To a certain degree, tastes are changing: Celebrity chefs such as David Chang champion it, and one highly acclaimed New York restaurant now serves an MSG martini. But the perception that MSG is unhealthy still persists, despite evidence to the contrary. Words such as “sneaky,” “disguised,” and “nasty” are still used to describe it, and grocery stores such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s make a point of mentioning that their foods have no MSG. Nevertheless, as long as old misconceptions about MSG persist, they will continue to hamper the potential for a better salt substitute. America’s aversion toward MSG may be intended to promote better health, but at this point, it might just be doing precisely the opposite.
There are few ways of escape from the Taliban’s Afghanistan. One of them crosses the mountainous eastern border with Pakistan in a town called Torkham. Last September, Safia Noori; her husband, Fakhruddin Elham; and their
-month-old daughter, Victoria, traveled to Torkham and joined a throng of Afghans waiting to be allowed across by Taliban guards. The day was hot; the baby was crying; the crowd pressed in. Noori and Elham, in their early 20s, were carrying just two small bags, one with the baby’s clothes, the other with their own. They had sold everything else, including the furniture and handmade curtains and bedspread that made up Noori’s wedding dowry, to buy passports. They hadn’t seen their parents since the fall of Afghanistan a year before. As former special-forces soldiers who had fought alongside Americans, and as a mixed couple—he is Tajik, she Hazara, a persecuted Shia minority—they were prime targets for revenge killing by Afghanistan’s new rulers. They had spent the past year in flight from town to town, safe house to safe house. At times, Noori later told me, she’d considered suicide, even after she knew that she was pregnant. Only the baby’s birth gave her the strength to keep going.
Border guards searched their bags and examined their documents. “Why is a Hazara married to a Tajik?” a Talib demanded. “You should have married a Hazara, and you should have married a Tajik. Why did you crossbreed? Why does this family exist?”
“In our eyes, we don’t see black and white,” Noori replied. All that mattered was whether someone was a good human being. Noori’s answer didn’t please the guards. “Why are you leaving?” they asked. “Why aren’t you happy here in Afghanistan?”
Noori showed them hospital documents requiring medical treatment for her C-section. The baby’s name caught a guard’s eye.
“Why Victoria? Why didn’t you give her a proper Islamic name?”
Noori dodged the question. It would have been dangerous, maybe fatal, to tell the Talib that she had named her daughter after a United States Army reserve captain named Victoria Marshman. Marshman had served in Afghanistan, where she trained all-women Afghan special-forces units called Female Tactical Platoons, or FTPs, and joined them on dangerous combat missions with male Afghan and American commandos. Marshman became close to several members of the FTPs. In August 2021, just before the fall of the Afghan government, one of them, a female commando named Mahjabin, was murdered in Kabul. As the Taliban took over, Marshman, working with other American military women, and texting from her house in Honolulu, helped guide more than two dozen Afghan military women and their family members into the Kabul airport and out of Afghanistan, heading to the U.S. (In my account of those events in this magazine, she was given the pseudonym
Spence.) Scores more women were left behind, including 32 FTPs, all thoroughly vetted by the U.S. military.
Marshman never stopped trying to get them out. Through the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Slap, Dobbs v. Jackson, Queen Elizabeth, Elon Musk, Mahsa Amini, the midterm elections, Sam Bankman-Fried, ChatGPT, earthquakes, floods, fires, two Super Bowls, six Trump investigations, dozens of mass shootings, and the return of Biden versus Trump, Marshman, on her own time, has worked single-mindedly to keep her network of Afghans alive and bring them to safety. She gives priority to single women and mothers with young children, and her list keeps growing as other Afghans hear about her and send desperate WhatsApp texts. The list now includes 206 people—90 principals, mostly former military or police women, and 116 dependents.
“I have to triage all the time who should get what amount of money based on need,” Marshman told me. “Who is in really bad shape, who cannot feed their children, whose child is going to die if they don’t get medicine, who is going to be executed if I don’t move them into a safe house in Afghanistan, who can be linked together. And honestly, a lot of it is preventing suicide.” When one of the women runs out of food, Marshman sends cash from her own funds. When Noori spent two weeks alone in a Kabul hospital waiting to give birth—because of her military background, it was too risky for her family to visit her—Marshman sent encouraging texts and then money for the C-section. When the Taliban raided a woman’s house, Marshman stayed awake to advise her:
“Dear Victoria, I’m in danger. Talib came to our house for inspection.”
“Are you ok? Did they hurt you?”
“I ran away from home.”
“Ok. Are you safe now?”
“My family is in great danger. The Taliban are looking for me and want to arrest me.”
“I am so sorry and I am very worried. Are you in a safe place now?”
“I have no place to be safe.”
When a woman reaches an extreme state—when Talibs have discovered a safe house, when a relative has been kidnapped or killed, when money has run out, when suicide seems imminent—Marshman, working with the undercover Afghan staff of two American humanitarian organizations, pays for passports, visas, and the overland journey across the border. Then she takes responsibility for supporting the women and their family through the process, which could stretch years into the future, of applying for refugee
and admittance into the country at whose side they once fought in a two-decade war.
A mystery lies at the heart of any obsessive commitment to strangers. It’s hard but not impossible to understand why Marshman is spending every free moment trying to rescue these women. It’s harder to understand why she’s been joined in her efforts by four other Americans who have no direct experience of Afghanistan at all: her mother, Ann, retired from the corporate world, and three men working in law, business, and entertainment, scattered across the country, and connected to one another and to Marshman by ties so loose, they’re difficult to explain.
One of them, a lawyer named Tom Villalon, was so troubled by how the war ended that he quit his job at the white-shoe law firm Covington & Burling, cashed in his retirement fund, and devoted himself to rescuing a pro bono client’s family still trapped in Afghanistan. He even taught himself Dari, the country’s main language. Eventually, he found his way to Marshman and the others.
“I feel a deep, bizarre connection to this part of the world I never had any interest in,” Villalon, whose professional work had focused on Chinese investment in Latin America, told me. “And part of it is the mystery of this group. I’ve never been exposed to people acting this honorably and to this nobility of character, which you don’t see too much in our society. It changes you and makes you see it’s easier to sacrifice things than it might have seemed.”
The group calls itself Rescue Afghan Women Now. Its existence is entirely informal; the members constantly debate whether incorporation as a tax-exempt nonprofit organization would bring legal and financial advantages or simply result in time-consuming paperwork. It meets weekly by Zoom to discuss current emergencies, weigh difficult decisions, report back on meetings with U.S.-government officials, and worry about finances, which become more and more dire as RAWN incurs more expenses. The group raises almost all of its money through personal ties and at the moment has less than $20,000 on hand. In the past few months, RAWN has moved several threatened families across the border to Pakistan, where the group continues to support them, and its monthly costs now exceed $10,000.
In December, a family on Marshman’s list received a phone call from the Taliban. Khalid Wafa and Sediqa Tajla, who have four children, are another mixed marriage of former commandos. (I have given them pseudonyms because their oldest son remains in Afghanistan.) Tajla, like most women who served in the Afghan special forces, is Hazara; Wafa is Pashtun, which makes him unusual both as a former special-forces
and as the husband of a Hazara woman. He still carries a bullet in his shoulder from a combat mission with U.S. Marines. Like Safia Noori and Fakhruddin Elham, the couple went into hiding after the fall of Kabul, traveling the length of Afghanistan and back, running whenever their whereabouts became known. When the phone call came, Wafa told me, they were in Herat, in the far west.
“Are you Khalid?” the caller asked.
“Where are you at the moment?”
“Jalalabad,” Wafa lied—a city clear across the country, near his hometown.
“When will you come to Kabul?”
“Where in Kabul?”
“I’m calling from a military center.”
Wafa grew tense. He thought he recognized the voice, familiar from media appearances, of Abdul Haq Wasiq, the Taliban’s director of intelligence, a former Guantánamo Bay detainee. Wafa pretended not to understand, and the caller repeated himself several times.
“Why do you want to see me?” Wafa asked. “Is everything all right?”
“We all need to serve our homeland.” The caller made it clear that he knew Wafa’s home address, military record, and extended family’s whereabouts. He reminded him of the Taliban order for all former special-forces soldiers to return to duty—a trap that had cost a friend of Wafa’s his life. “We have received information that you are planning to leave the country. Is this true?”
Wafa denied it and claimed that he was about to start a new job with UNICEF. He said that he had debts to repay, or else he would happily report to Kabul and serve the new government. Before hanging up, the caller demanded that Wafa keep him informed of anyone he knew who had left Afghanistan or planned to leave.
Over the next two months, the family moved almost every night. At one point, Wafa considered fleeing through Iran and Turkey to Europe and earning enough money to get his family out. At another moment, he thought of killing himself. Tajla, his wife, wrote to Marshman: “Dear sister, we have many pains. We dare not even say it. Living among the enemy is not normal. We fought for 20 years. We are not ordinary people. We remain friends of America and NATO. We were fighting for the interests of America and NATO. America and NATO dominate the whole world. America and NATO can help in any way. Will the friendship be the same?”
Marshman now kept in daily contact with the couple, and RAWN paid undercover humanitarian workers in Afghanistan to provide a safe house in Kabul. But one night in late January, Taliban fighters were seen searching houses in the neighborhood. Wafa fled first, and Tajla afterward with the children. She spent hours wandering through the snow, unable to find a taxi that would
for them or a guesthouse that wouldn’t demand her ID. In the dead of night, her father-in-law arranged for her and the children to stay with an old family friend. The next day they traveled to Jalalabad, where her husband was waiting for them in yet another hideout.
This fugitive existence finally ended when Marshman and her group decided to spend scarce funds to exfiltrate the family to Pakistan. A six-month visa, never easy to obtain, now costs $1,700. But on the last day of February, Wafa, Tajla, and their three younger children were able to cross the border at Torkham to the relative safety of Pakistan (their oldest son is stuck waiting for a passport in Afghanistan). Since then, RAWN has brought two more families out.
On the last night of Ramadan, Wafa, Tajla, and their children traveled from Peshawar to Islamabad to celebrate the feast of Eid with Noori, Elham, Victoria, and another family of new RAWN evacuees. The Americans joined them over Zoom from Hawaii and Connecticut.
“After the fall of the state, this is the first place for us all to come together,” Tajla wrote to Marshman, her text accompanied by a picture of an American flag and the Statue of Liberty. “Thank you dear friend Victoria. All this is the blessing of you and your team.”
“Everyone lives for himself,” Wafa wrote. “But the good life is the one spent in the service of others.”
Last month, the White House released a 12-page report on the withdrawal from Afghanistan: key decisions, lessons learned. It’s an astonishingly self-congratulatory document. There’s no sign of an actual lesson learned, except that “we now prioritize earlier evacuations when faced with a degrading security situation.” This refers to the evacuation of American embassy personnel—who never faced any serious obstacle to their departure from Kabul—and not to the tens of thousands of Afghans who risked their lives as they tried to flee, and whose earlier evacuation would have done much to prevent the tragic scenes at the airport.
Meanwhile, the Republican-led House of Representatives, amid hearings that pile more blame on the Biden administration, refuses to take up a bill—the Afghan Adjustment Act—that would allow most of the 82,000 Afghans evacuated to this country to receive permanent status and begin living productive lives. Without such a bill, their presence here depends on a series of temporary presidential measures that can be revoked at any time. There is more than enough blame to go around.
The Afghans of this story are, in a sense, as mysterious as the Americans. One mystery is their abiding love for and loyalty to a country—this one—that abandoned them to their fate. Another is their belief in what Tajla called “equality.” She was referring to mixed marriage, but she might have been talking about gender. After all, the network is made up of women, and their survival depends on the strong bonds between them. The men seem to accept this, and during interviews they let their wives do most of the talking. These women and their families, including Victoria, who turned 1 a few days ago, should have been the future of their country. Instead, they’re fugitives with no home in sight.
Of the 206 Afghans on Marshman’s list, 23 are now in Pakistan, unable to work and dependent on RAWN for support. Nearly all of the others remain in Afghanistan under varying degrees of threat. Because they never worked directly for the U.S. government as interpreters, drivers, or other employees, they aren’t eligible for Special Immigrant Visas. (According to the State Department’s most recent report, more than half a million Afghan applicants and dependents are currently in the SIV line; the average wait time for a visa is almost three years.) Instead, the women must be referred—as Afghans who worked closely with American organizations in Afghanistan—to a U.S. program called P-1/P-2, which drops them into an immense pool of refugees around the world who stagnate there for years on
. Of the 50,000 Afghans who have been referred since August 2021, State Department officials told Villalon, not a single one has completed the process and been resettled in the U.S. (The State Department declined to confirm this to me.)
Even worse, U.S. policy requires them to leave Afghanistan for another country in order to be considered refugees. This is expensive, dangerous, and bureaucratically almost impossible anyway: None of Afghanistan’s neighbors, including Pakistan, currently allows the U.S. government to process refugee applications on its soil. The women are trapped whether they stay in Afghanistan or manage to escape across the border.
When I asked the State Department if Afghans like the women on Marshman’s list could be treated as emergency cases—evacuated from Afghanistan to, for example, Qatar, where they could wait in safety while their applications were processed—a spokesperson replied: “The most at-risk among Afghans who need urgent protection” and have been referred to the refugee program “may be considered for relocation.” At the moment this is no more than a notion. It’s hard to know whether the chief bureaucratic obstacle blocking the way for RAWN’s 206 Afghans, and so many others, is lack of staff, pointless rules, or sheer indifference. In the absence of official action, private U.S. citizens are spending their time and money to bring endangered Afghan women to safety.
There are ways to motivate bureaucracy, and RAWN has brought the plight of female Afghan commandos to the attention of officials at the Department of Defense. “There’s good movement from DOD, but blockage at State,” Villalon said at a recent meeting. “The women get their refugee numbers, but after that it gets stuck. The same randomness with which some of them got out in August 2021—it’s the same now for P-1 processing.”
“I actually think it’s some intern with her coffee making decisions,” Marshman joked.
“The timetable means death, and they don’t get that,” her mother said. “The bureaucratic slowness is killing people.”
Last month, Marshman was invited, with other U.S. military women and the 30 FTPs already evacuated to this country, to a meeting at the Pentagon with top Army officials, including General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Most of the Afghan women had expressed a desire to join the U.S. Army, but their asylum applications are stalled, and they asked for the Pentagon’s help. At one point Marshman spoke up: “Sir, there are still 32 FTPs stuck in Afghanistan.” This was news to Milley. The bureaucratic gears began to turn, and within a few days some of the women on her list received emails acknowledging their refugee applications and setting up interviews.
Afghanistan is a painful, shameful memory, and most Americans have stopped thinking about it. Even people who worked feverishly to help Afghans escape from the Taliban in August 2021 have mostly moved on. Who can blame them? The need of those left behind in Afghanistan remains overwhelming, and so does the sluggishness of the U.S. government. It goes against human nature that an Army captain, from her post in paradise, is still at it night and day.
“Sometimes being here in Hawaii, at the ends of the Earth, is hard because you are surrounded by so much beauty and peace,” Marshman said. “But nothing really lasts in the end, except kindness. So I just do what I can do for them.”
Before each decision to arm Ukraine with a new category of powerful arms, NATO partners progress through three stages of denial. First comes an outright dismissal of the country’s ability to effectively deploy the weapons in question against Russian invaders. Ukraine could never use these—the argument has been applied to multiple rocket-launch systems, anti-aircraft systems, and sophisticated tanks—because they are just too complex. Next comes a qualified dismissal. Ukrainian forces might be able to use these systems, but equipping and training them would take far too long. Then comes a desperate third stage. Yes, Ukraine can use these weapons, which could make a big difference in the war, but we worry about how Russia or China might respond. This view, though not always publicly voiced, almost certainly is the real reason the United States and other Western powers are holding back some arms.
On the question of whether the West will provide F-16s—a capable but relatively simple, lightweight fighter aircraft widely used by NATO members—the discussion is stuck somewhere between Stages 1 and 2. Ukraine clearly needs improved air-defense capabilities and so is constantly pleading for F-16s. The U.S. is rejecting these appeals primarily with technical and logistical arguments. Colin Kahl, the undersecretary of defense for policy, has repeatedly claimed in recent weeks that Ukraine would need 18 months to be able to deploy and operate F-16s. The suggestion is that people should
pressuring the U.S. to provide these planes, because they could never arrive in time to make a difference.
Yet Ukraine would not be educating F-16 pilots from scratch. It has a large number of experienced MiG-29 and Sukhoi Su-27 pilots, who have the added benefit of many months of combat flying. Comments by some current and former senior officers from NATO air forces suggest that qualified, experienced fighter pilots might need only a few months of training. (Ukrainian officials have described a similar timetable.) From the Ukrainian armed forces’ strong record of accomplishment, we can assume that Ukraine would not find it any more difficult to maintain F-16s than to learn how to fly them.
Retired U.S. Air Force General Phil Breedlove, a former supreme allied commander for Europe who has also worked closely with the Ukrainian air force, expresses confidence in its abilities. “There are very few absolutes in this Russian War on Ukraine,” Breedlove told us in an email. “But one thing that is absolutely consistent is that we always overestimate how long it will take Ukraine to assimilate and learn to employ the western weapons given to them.” In the past, Breedlove pointed out, Ukrainians have even had certain lessons for NATO. “In the case of weapons such as counter battery radars we supplied in the 2014 Russian Invasions of Ukraine, they have taught us how to better use them!”
Having F-16s would broaden Ukraine’s ability to shoot down incoming Russian missiles and drones. During last year’s campaigns, the Russians relied on a wide range of attack platforms: relatively simple and inexpensive Iranian Shahed drones, repurposed S-300 anti-aircraft missiles, more advanced Kalibr cruise missiles, and even Russia’s latest Kinzhal hypersonic missiles. To shoot down just some of this weapony, the Ukrainians had to rely overwhelmingly on ground-based anti-air systems—to such a degree that rumors spread that Ukraine was or would soon be running short. Without an airborne defense—something F-16s would help provide—Ukraine is, to use a sports metaphor, defending on its own goal line. Instead of a systematic defense of its skies, the Ukrainians are fending off attacks on targeted infrastructure point by point. Any defense that relies on last-ditch saves is a notably poor one.
Granted, Ukraine would face some challenges in using F-16s to maximum effect. Any F-16 fleet would require a regular resupply of Western air-to-air missiles. The real problem here may well be that NATO fears exhausting its collective arsenal of such weapons. If so, the West needs to ramp up production in its own interests—rather than nervously guarding existing supplies when they could be put to good use in Ukraine.
Even with F-16s, Ukraine would not be able to use air power according to NATO doctrine, in which mutually complementary types of aircraft protect one another. But in the limited confines of the Ukrainian battle space, such high-
, airborne capabilities, designed to operate at long range and in enemy airspace, would be less important. Still, Ukraine’s primary need is to keep one step ahead of the Russian air forces to maintain primacy over the battlefield—that is, over Ukrainian territory. It must keep Russian aircraft on the defensive and prevent it from affecting any coming Ukrainian offensive. Ukrainian air power doesn’t need to attain NATO standards to serve that goal.
To that more limited end, Western allies should also consider expanding Ukraine’s ground-based electronic-warfare systems; continuing to reinforce its surface-to-air-missile capacity; enhancing its proven ability in “prototype warfare,” the deployment of experimental military technology primarily to shoot down Russian surface-to-air missiles along the front line; and integrating its various defenses via a ground-based communications network. With these improvements, the F-16 could operate in relative safety, and it would pose enough of a threat to thwart many Russian offensive missions before they could prosecute their attacks on Ukraine. This would reduce the emerging threat posed by Russia’s new glide bombs, launched at high speed from aircraft remaining behind Russia’s own lines—a big win for Ukraine’s strategic aims.
[Read: How and when the war in Ukraine will end]
Skeptics who argue that preparing Ukrainian forces to deploy and maintain F-16s will take too long to do much good are creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. The longer they draw out the process of getting a beleaguered country the weapons it needs, the more trouble that country will have in repelling the invaders. The sooner Ukraine has access to F-16s, the sooner it can fight the war far more effectively.
Already these delaying tactics mean it is too late to have any F-16s
a role in an expected Ukrainian spring-and-summer offensive. However, if the West moves soon, Ukraine could have essential assistance in place by the fall. It will need the help. Last winter the Russians embarked on a well-publicized strategic campaign against power plants and other Ukrainian infrastructure. Though the campaign failed, the Russians are very likely to attempt something similar this year, having learned from their previous failures.
For all of the West’s technical objections to giving F-16s to Ukraine, the real objection is likely based in fears of escalation. Never mind that Russia’s bloodcurdling threats of escalation have proved hollow again and again, and that Ukraine has abided by limits that skittish Western powers have put on the use of the weapons they are supplying.
In the end, providing Ukraine with F-16s as soon as possible would make a major difference in Ukraine’s ability to both wage defensive war and go on the offensive to reclaim its territory. It would allow Ukrainians, finally, to conduct ground operations in a comprehensive manner and to defend their cities and power-generation systems. It would help them win this war as quickly as possible with the fewest losses.
- Among other things, the bill gives lawmakers the power to rescind federal regulations that have economic impacts, curtails domestic discretionary spending, and reforms permitting policies to foster energy and industrial development, all long-standing GOP policy priorities aimed at improving federal finances over the coming decade.
Can the GOP be both the party of the middle class and the party of small government? That is the central question facing Republican lawmakers in the Biden era, and a great deal hinges on how they decide to answer it.
Restraining the growth of government has for decades been a unifying cause for the GOP. Though elected Republicans have only rarely succeeded in halting the advance of welfare liberalism, they have at times managed to slow it down. But as Speaker Kevin McCarthy is learning the hard way, even that has become an arduous task.
Since the Obama presidency, Republicans in Congress have been trying—and mostly failing—to reconcile two conflicting imperatives. Recognizing that the party’s core constituency now consists of older, non-college-educated voters with a concrete interest in protecting Medicare and Social Security benefits, they’ve largely abandoned the pursuit of cost-saving entitlement reforms. At the same time, the GOP electorate remains opposed to the broad-based tax increases that would almost certainly be needed to finance Medicare and Social Security expenditures if the programs remain untouched.
[Reihan Salam: Searching for a conservatism of normalcy]
One way to address this dilemma is to ignore it. Under President Donald Trump, congressional Republicans chose to embrace deficit-increasing policies, such as the partisan Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and bipartisan COVID-relief measures. Political incentives undoubtedly played a role. Republican lawmakers are more likely to acquiesce to borrowing under Republican rather than Democratic presidents, both for reasons of political expediency and because they have more leverage over how borrowed dollars are spent when their party controls the executive branch. Deficit spending on the military, for example, tends to raise fewer objections from the congressional GOP than deficit spending on student-debt cancellation.
Critics might therefore dismiss renewed Republican calls for spending discipline under President Joe Biden as little more than partisan opportunism. The substantive case for fiscal consolidation, however, has grown much stronger in recent years. Before the COVID crisis, it briefly looked as though Trump’s cheap-money populism was the wave of the future. But the era of persistently low interest rates, which facilitated the Republican turn toward fiscal expansion, appears to be over, not least because of the sharp increase in inflation sparked by the American Rescue Plan. And as Greg Ip recently observed in The Wall Street Journal, “The combined effect of bills Mr. Biden has signed on infrastructure, veterans benefits, semiconductors and energy subsidies is to raise, not lower, budget deficits,” a policy approach that cuts against the Federal Reserve’s ongoing efforts to bring inflation under control.
Confronted with mounting federal deficits, McCarthy has rallied House Republicans around the Limit, Save, Grow Act both as an opening bid in their negotiations with Biden over a debt-ceiling increase and as an exercise in drawing distinctions. Among other things, the bill gives lawmakers the power to rescind federal regulations that have economic impacts, curtails domestic discretionary spending, and reforms permitting policies to foster energy and industrial development, all long-standing GOP policy priorities aimed at improving federal finances over the coming decade.
Passing the Limit, Save, Grow Act would trim federal spending by 0.6 percent of GDP, greatly alleviating inflation pressures and easing the burden on the Federal Reserve.
That said, no one expects Biden to sign anything like the Limit, Save, Grow Act into law. The White House and congressional Democrats have attacked the bill for its stringent limits on domestic discretionary spending, and they’ve characterized its tightening of work requirements for working-age, able-bodied beneficiaries of Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families as draconian. Assuming the latest round of budget brinkmanship ends in a debt-limit deal, it will entail much higher levels of deficit spending than what is outlined in the House-passed debt-ceiling bill.
It is therefore worth examining the Limit, Save, Grow Act less as the basis of a bipartisan legislative bargain and more for what it tells us about where GOP domestic policy is headed.
First and foremost, the House-passed bill is a marked departure from the Tea Party moment of the early Obama years. By punting on meaningful reforms to Medicare and Social Security, ring-fencing defense expenditures, and limiting revenue increases to rolling back tax expenditures included in the Inflation Reduction Act, House Republicans have abandoned the once-sacrosanct goal of balancing the federal budget, at least for the foreseeable future.
The Congressional Budget Office projects that the Limit, Save, Grow Act would slow future growth in federal debt, not halt it outright. Whereas debt is expected to rise from 98 to 118 percent of GDP in fiscal year 2033 under current law, the House-passed bill would reduce the increase to 106 percent. Not long ago, GOP fiscal purists would have rejected such a proposal, but even the most recalcitrant Republican lawmakers appear to have concluded that the confluence of rapid aging and the COVID fiscal overhang has dimmed the prospects for chipping away at the accumulated federal debt burden anytime soon. Speaker McCarthy deserves credit for moving his members toward a more realistic posture.
And yet House Republicans are still drawing the wrong lessons from budget battles of the past. The basic logic of the Limit, Save, Grow Act—declare Medicare and Social Security off-limits, focus deficit-cutting efforts on whatever is left of domestic spending—is plainly inadequate for addressing both the long-run fiscal challenge facing the federal government and the political challenge facing the right.
The broader context is that in recent decades, both parties have worked to lighten the fiscal burden on America’s middle-income families. From 1979 to 2016, middle-income families headed by non-elderly adults saw their average net fiscal contribution to the federal government—that is, the amount they paid in federal taxes less the amount they received in federal benefits—fall from 17 to 7 percent, according to a 2020 analysis by the economists Adam Looney, Jeff Larrimore, and David Splinter. Over that same interval, income per person in these households increased by 39 percent before taxes and transfers and by 57 percent after taxes and transfers.
Politicians who promise to offer middle-class families a better deal are running into the fact that it would be exceedingly difficult to raise enough revenue from high-income households to further subsidize the broad middle of the income distribution. The status quo has served middle-income families reasonably well, and this all-important constituency has good reason to fear that any changes will leave it worse off.
It follows, though, that the same loss aversion that makes voters resistant to reforming Medicare and Social Security also makes them resistant to tax increases—and this is especially true among Republican voters.
[Reihan Salam: Supply-side progressivism has a fatal flaw]
As the Democratic coalition grows more affluent and the Republican coalition grows less so, GOP voters remain more skeptical of wealth redistribution, less concerned about economic inequality, and more favorably disposed toward billionaires than their Democratic counterparts. Low-income Republicans are consistently more opposed to progressive economic policies than high-income Democrats, including raising taxes on the rich. This is not to suggest that there is no support for more progressive tax policies on the right, but the differences between the major parties are stark. In April, for example, the Pew Research Center found that 77 percent of Democrats supported raising taxes on households earning $400,000 against 46 percent of Republicans. When respondents were asked if they personally felt that they paid “more than their fair share” in federal taxes, the partisan divide remained significant: 50 percent of Democrats agreed against 63 percent of Republicans.
The durability of anti-tax sentiment among Republican voters represents a political opportunity for the party’s fiscal conservatives. Although voters often report that they’d prefer raising taxes on the rich to forestall an overhaul of Medicare and Social Security benefits, those sentiments are being expressed in the absence of a focused political debate. Even large, economically damaging tax increases on high-income households cannot close future budget deficits without addressing rising federal spending. One way or another, voters will have to choose between cost-saving reforms and higher taxes on the broad middle class—and among Republicans, that choice is clear.
The good news is that cost-saving reforms don’t have to be political losers.
Look no further than the Inflation Reduction Act, which trims future Medicare expenditures to cover more than half the cost of its grab bag of new spending initiatives. In a February op-ed in The Hill, my Manhattan Institute colleague Chris Pope notes that this use of Medicare savings to finance other priorities also formed the basis of the bipartisan 1997 Balanced Budget Act and the 2010 Affordable Care Act. “Policymakers of both parties agree that Medicare’s escalating expenditures need regular trimming,” Pope writes. “The real fight is over who gets to control the savings.”
Why, then, are congressional Republicans refusing to reform Medicare to finance their own priorities, including holding down middle-class taxes? Such a stance amounts to unilateral disarmament in the contest over how federal dollars are spent, and it will only grow more impractical over time. From 2022 to 2050, the Congressional Budget Office projects, the federal government’s primary budget deficit will increase by 3.9 percentage points. Roughly three points of this anticipated increase would stem from rising Medicare costs alone. Leaving Medicare untouched is not a serious option.
Fiscal conservatives would also do well to revisit their approach to Medicaid. For years, GOP budget-cutters have focused more on Medicaid than Medicare, in part because Medicaid’s rolls have grown so dramatically following the passage of the Affordable Care Act. They need to recognize, however, that Medicaid has many champions, including in deep-red states. Indeed, the fundamental problem with Medicaid is that because it is based on federal matching grants, affluent states, which can generate more revenue at a given level of taxation, are in a better position to maximize federal aid than poor states, which generate less. And it just so happens that affluent states are turning blue and poor states are turning red.
With this disparity in mind, Pope has proposed fully federalizing responsibility for mandatory Medicaid beneficiaries, a reform that would represent a fiscal boon to cash-strapped state governments, especially during economic downturns, and giving states the responsibility for covering optional beneficiaries if they choose to do so. One of the many virtues of this approach is that it obviates the case for imposing federal work requirements, because states would be able to decide eligibility rules for their portion of the program.
And finally, fiscal conservatives should do more than just impose arbitrary caps on domestic discretionary spending. They should endeavor to improve how the federal government invests in public goods, from the military expenditures that undergird U.S. global leadership to federal funding aimed at fostering scientific breakthroughs.
Infrastructure represents the most straightforward case. Conservative opponents of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 focused primarily on its overall cost, which was indeed prodigious. But the critics would have strengthened their case had they zeroed in on the dramatic cost inflation plaguing American public-infrastructure projects, which has greatly undermined public support for infrastructure investment. Going forward, conservatives in Congress ought to develop their own playbook for infrastructure spending, one that would emphasize reforming or rolling back “Buy America” provisions and other cost-increasing regulations while otherwise strictly limiting federal infrastructure investment to projects that will ultimately pay for themselves.
Republicans can move the federal government in the direction of fiscal sustainability without risking electoral doom. To do that, however, they’ll need to get over their fear of reforming the entitlement state and start addressing the practical concerns of their middle-class constituents.
The “business biopic” is Hollywood’s subgenre du jour, a way to sneak dramas for grown-ups into theaters by building them around brand-name products that everyone recognizes. Want to see a movie where character actors actually get to have whole conversations without a caped hero bursting through a wall? Well, here’s the origin story of a world-famous shoe or a best-selling video game. These films are usually about famed pioneers such as Facebook and Apple. BlackBerry instead tells the tale of a rise and fall: a technological revolution that ended up as a historical blip.
A small business ballooning into enormous success, being surprised by its own good fortune, and then struggling to outsmart the sharks around it is a very Canadian narrative: that of a well-liked underdog that nevertheless gets steamrolled. It’s fittingly told by the Canadian filmmaker Matt Johnson, one of the country’s finest indie bards, whose oeuvre includes the micro-budget thriller The Dirties and the conspiracy thriller Operation Avalanche. A similarly quirky sensibility is reflected in his portrayal of
, the Waterloo, Ontario, tech upstart that created the BlackBerry smartphone in the late ’90s and briefly crested to the top of the market before being swept under by the arrival of the iPhone and Android.
[Read: The iPhone was inevitable]
Johnson also plays RIM’s co-founder Douglas Fregin, an intermittently lovable goof who runs his company like a clubhouse for nerds, screening movies for employees while his business partner, Mike Lazaridis (played by Jay Baruchel), tinkers in the background. Mike, who sports a prematurely gray swoosh of hair and big chunky glasses, is an unimpressive pitchman for his own product. But when he and the more energetic Douglas finally get in front of a venture capitalist named Jim Balsillie (Glenn Howerton), they spew enough buzzwords about the future of handheld computing to attract his attention.
The story of BlackBerry is one of ingenuity mixed with perfect timing. Lazaridis was among the first people in the industry to realize the implications of wireless data networks, which allow users to communicate via the internet without incurring standard phone charges. In the film, his cerebral vision is balanced out by Jim, who has the carnivorous business instinct to elbow his partners to the front of the line. Although their wildly clashing personalities somehow cohere, the easygoing Douglas sees trouble ahead as Jim takes more and more control of RIM’s daily operations, transforming it from a charming tech shop in a strip mall into a corporate powerhouse on a sprawling campus.
Baruchel’s performance as Mike is naturalistic and awkward, his half-whispered interjections constantly trailing off before he’s even done explaining some complex new algorithm. Howerton, whom I know best for his work on the long-running sitcom It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, plays Jim with crass gusto, unleashing torrents of cold-blooded capitalistic fury at every meek techie in his path. The BlackBerry phone owed much of its popularity to its inventive features, such as a satisfying clicky keyboard and an encrypted messenger app, but Johnson’s film clarifies that it still needed a push from a bullheaded personality to get over the line.
The real can’t-look-away pleasure of BlackBerry, though, is in the movie’s final act, when Jim’s financial rule-bending and Mike’s insistence on expensive design elements start to drag the company into disaster. The fun of business biopics doesn’t usually lie in their ending—the viewer knows that Tetris and Air Jordan will eventually be a hit. But in this case, although the genesis of the BlackBerry is certainly interesting, the characters’ hubris, and their melancholy upon realizing that the product was simply a waypoint on a grander socio-technological journey, is what makes BlackBerry most compelling.
I was surprised by how deftly the film shifted my sympathy to Douglas by the end. At the start, he’s a malcontented impediment to growth, loudly complaining as Jim restructures the workplace and urges Mike to invent harder and faster. By the end, he’s a stand-in for the company’s last remnants of integrity, someone who firmly refuses to embrace the ruthless march to progress that all these narratives demand. BlackBerry is one of the best business biopics I’ve seen, because it’s fueled by that skepticism; it’s a roller coaster that viewers can enjoy riding all the way up, but it’s not afraid to question its own climax the whole way down.
The extent of the mental-health crisis in the United States today—especially among young adults—is undeniable. The problem started well before the coronavirus pandemic. A survey conducted from 2005 to 2018 of more than 86,000 adolescents found a startling increase in symptoms of depression after 2010. According to an analysis of Pew Research Center data, the most dramatic rise has been among young, liberal white women, more than 50 percent of whom reported having been told they have a mental-health condition.
Among the competing explanations for this pattern is the assertion that all the contentious issues around us—climate change, racism, gun violence—are leading young adults into depression and anxiety. But it may not be the crises themselves that are causing despair so much as young people’s typical responses to them. Protest and political activism have exploded among Gen Z and younger Millennials. Although these may seem like productive ways to address negative emotions from these social problems, activism itself can increase unhappiness. It can provoke anger and hatred toward others, and create a win-lose mentality that leads to disappointment.
The right conclusion is not to become apathetic about the world’s ills to protect one’s mental health and well-being. It is to change one’s perspective about how to help alleviate those ills.
The tendency of many Gen Z and younger Millennials—people born from the 1990s onward—to choose protest as a first resort has given rise to the label “activist generation.” A 2021 survey of some 10,000 Gen Zers showed that 70 percent are involved in a political or social cause; in another study that year, only 19 percent said they would work for a company that doesn’t share their values. This age cohort is also among those most likely to boycott a product or company.
Some would argue that today’s problems merit greater activism than those of previous generations, but my Gen Z daughter offered a different view: “We have been conscripted as child soldiers in the Baby Boomers’ culture war.” Touché.
Whatever accounts for the rise in activism, research shows that it’s connected to this generation’s psychological distress. Last year, scholars studying climate-change activists found an association between their activism and short-term depressive symptoms. Obviously, the causality could run in either direction: The activism may lead to depression, or the depression to activism. Or, in fact, they may be mutually reinforcing.
The best available answer comes from activists themselves. For a 2021 study in the Journal of Adolescent Research, researchers interviewed college students about the effects of their activism on their well-being. Although nearly a third of the students believed that their advocacy work improved their well-being, 60 percent reported harm to their mental health. “There’s been times that at the end of the day, I’ll come to bed and I’ll just cry,” one interviewee said, “because I really don’t know what I’ve gotten myself into.”
Several mechanisms may be at work here. One is that the nature of much activism involves anger and contempt for people on the “wrong side” of the issue; that sort of hostility toward others can be psychologically harmful for those who feel it. Today’s activism tends to encourage us to see people in a binary way: good or bad, right or wrong. Scholars have observed that this leads people to show disgust or moral condemnation toward opponents, or engage in othering behaviors.
Psychologists have demonstrated how these attitudes can lead to guilt, shame, and anxiety. And this is hardly a new idea: The fifth-century Indian Buddhist sage Buddhaghosa argued that one who hates is “like a man who wants to hit another and picks up a burning ember … and so first burns himself.”
Even for those who manage to disagree with others without hating them (and thus hurting themselves), political activism commonly leads to a sense of futility. Researchers studying prodemocracy demonstrators in Hong Kong found that during periods of protest, people involved had elevated states of psychological and social well-being. But a year later, after protesters had failed in their goals, their well-being was, on average, lower than that of their non-activist peers. A good deal of social and political activism is zero-sum, and admits only two possible outcomes: winning or losing. When these causes become an uphill battle, as commonly happens, losing is likely. Then the disappointment can be crushing.
None of this is to say that activism is a mistake; that is for each person to decide. But much of the data present a challenge for people who want to stay engaged without sacrificing their mental health—as well as for people in positions of political leadership and in academia, who often encourage young people to be involved in important causes.
A compromise might be available through minimizing activism’s most psychologically harmful elements: hatred and defeat. A shift in perspective—from winning to helping—can address both problems. This could mean a switch from protesting homelessness to providing services for people experiencing homelessness—for instance, by volunteering at a shelter or soup kitchen—or from marching against the president to giving people a ride to the polling station. Focus on what you can do to ameliorate a situation rather than simply demonstrating your opposition to it.
An enormous body of evidence shows that the right sort of volunteering leads unambiguously to greater happiness. A 2022 paper in the Journal of Happiness Studies found that older adults who volunteered reported greater life satisfaction—but with an important qualification that would certainly have a bearing on younger people’s mental health. These adults found that their morale improved after they performed more frequent nonpolitical volunteer work (such as helping with social services), but that it was lower after more frequent political activity (such as party work).
Another study of a 2004 Texas survey showed that participants who had volunteered even once to help others—again, in nonpolitical causes—experienced improvements in mental health, physical health, life satisfaction, and social well-being. The type of voluntary work can take many forms depending on one’s concerns: tutoring kids, helping build homes, visiting people in prison. The important thing to note is that the benefactor benefits too.
I’m not arguing that people should abandon politics and lapse into apathy. But at the very least, we need to balance fighting with loving, including loving more indiscriminately. In contrast to the way activism can divide “us” from “them” and allies from adversaries, volunteering tends to expand the allies by connecting us to those who need us, regardless of their views and beliefs. And by helping the people who are right in front of us, we succeed in the goal of helping make a better world. In the Mishnah Sanhedrin of the Jewish Talmud, it is written that “he who saves a single soul saves a whole world.” The profound truth of this for our lives is revealed when our actions affect another person in ways that show us how connected we are to one another, and perhaps even to the divine.
No amount of sharing rage at the state of the world can make us happy. But any amount of sharing love with someone who needs it may help us find the happiness we seek.
Photographs by Alex Majoli
At the Vatican Museums, the nightly ritual of the keys begins in Room 49A, a tight, windowless chamber, generally referred to as il bunker, which I entered one evening last November from a grassy courtyard as rain began to fall. The keeper of the keys—the clavigero—is a former member of the carabinieri named Gianni Crea. He has a staff of about a dozen, and keeps nearly 3,000 keys in the bunker. Can he match each one to a lock? At the Vatican, yes, he said; he has trouble at home. Some keys, like No. 401, which weighs a pound and opens the main interior door to the oldest of the museum buildings, were forged centuries ago; others resemble keys you’d find in a hardware store or a kitchen drawer. Many have plastic tags with handwritten labels. They open every utility box, every window, every gate and portal.
The heavy bronze doors at the museums’ main entrance are pulled shut every afternoon at 4 p.m. and locked with a key numbered 2,000. Over the next two hours, until the exit doors are also closed, the last visitors proceed through the hallways. Behind them, here and there, lights begin to dim. Metal detectors power down. At the glassed-in security station in the Atrium of the Four Gates, departing guards punch time cards. Behind the glass, alongside a crucifix and a photograph of Pope Francis, a flatscreen presents live images from security cameras. The screen gives the enclosure a quiet glow.
Each sector of the museum has its own large key ring, the kind carried by a jailer. On this night, when the last of the visitors had gone, Crea piled a tangle of keys on the counter of the security station, then handed out key rings to his staff. The lockdown got under way. He kept a larger set of keys for himself, so that he and I could make our way anywhere.
Before leaving the bunker, Crea had taken a key from an envelope. The flap, now torn, bore his signature and had been stamped with the papal coat of arms. He had picked up the key that morning from a command post at the Porta Sant’Anna, one of the Vatican gateways, and would return it shortly before midnight. He handed the key to me, gesturing to a tiny, unmarked vault in the wall of the bunker. I opened the vault and found another key. If Lewis Carroll had invented a nuclear-launch protocol for the Holy See, this might have been it. The key in the vault was the key to the Sistine Chapel.
I HAD COME OFTEN to the Vatican Museums ever since a first visit when I was in grade school. Over the years I had written about some of the museums’ activities, and on several occasions had met with the director, the art historian Barbara Jatta. But I had long wanted to experience the museums in a different way: to wander the four and a half miles of hallways after the doors close and to be there in the early hours before the doors open; to explore the collection—the 20,000 sculptures and paintings and other works on display—as night settles over Rome and the galleries adjust to a quieter state of being. A few months ago, I got my wish: The Vatican Museums agreed to let me spend most of a night inside and to go wherever I wanted. I would always be in the company of the clavigero and of another member of the staff, by turns Matteo Alessandrini, the head of the press office, and a colleague, Megan Eckley, both of whom I knew well. Not unusually, Matteo represents a second generation with a Vatican calling. His father, Costanzo, had served Pope John Paul II as a personal bodyguard.
The Vatican Museums—there are many separate units—occupy what is essentially a rectangle. To the north, the Belvedere Palace, which began life as a 15th-century papal villa, lies hard against Vatican City’s massive walls. To the south, near St. Peter’s Basilica, a quarter of a mile away, is the Sistine Chapel. Two long loggias link north to south and form the rectangle’s sides. The space these buildings enclose is divided into courtyards.
We decided to start the evening where the museums themselves had started, in the Belvedere Palace. The creators of what are now the Vatican Museums, half a millennium ago, were driven by a radical change in perspective. For centuries, the bountiful supply of ancient statuary unearthed in Rome had been burned for lime to make mortar. With the revival of classical learning, Renaissance popes began to preserve the marble instead, putting the best pieces on display in the Belvedere’s Octagonal Courtyard. The collection grew and the mission broadened. In time, visionaries such as Johann Joachim Winckelmann and Antonio Canova created something like a modern museum. It remains modern in its scholarship and expertise, and in many of its operations.
But it is also the world’s oldest major museum, and, as Jatta emphasizes, a spiritual dimension is part of its mission. Some precincts are consecrated space. The gift shops sell more rosaries than anything else. The original buildings were meant for the personal use of the pope, and in places encompass a confusing warren of small rooms and narrow staircases that were never intended to receive 7 million visitors a year. The scale of the Vatican Museums can be hard to comprehend—20 acres of wall space—and the task of renewal and conservation is perpetual. Masonry subsides and cracks. Frescoes fade. Roofs leak. Only four spaces have air-conditioning. The museum complex is not a static object. It is an organism, and life flows through it.
[Read: An American art critic’s 70-year love affair with Rome]
Earlier in the day, I had stopped in to see Marco Maggi, the head of the conservator’s office. His job comes with a pedigree—the first person to hold it was appointed in 1543. The office oversees the various restoration laboratories but its primary responsibility is to keep materials from deteriorating in the first place—statues and paintings, to be sure, but also mummy linens, Roman glass, medieval parchment, Renaissance tapestries, and items made of bronze or bone, feathers or sealskin. Reflecting on the biography of every object—the unique journey each has made to this place across miles and years— Maggi repeated an observation he’d once heard, and that stayed with me all night. “Time,” he said, “is an emotion.”
THE IDEA THAT A MUSEUM comes alive at night—that works of art themselves might relax and chat when people are not there—animates movies and novels and children’s books. And there is a sort of truth to the idea: After hours, life goes on. As we set out among the galleries, faint noises from the ceiling called attention to a skylight. Workers above could be heard talking as they washed the exterior, their movements backlit like those of puppets in a shadow play. Elsewhere, cleaners with soft brushes in their hands and vacuum cleaners strapped to their backs gently dusted imperial Roman statues—an animal’s claws, an athlete’s thighs, an emperor’s beard. In a conservation laboratory set among exhibits, technicians in white coats worked late, repairing the frayed edge of a woven artifact from Africa.
The museums at night can feel like an elaborate play structure: gilded corridors the length of a football field, rooms teeming with a stone zoo of lions and crocodiles and other marble creatures, darkened galleries and countless places to hide. Every door conceals a surprise. In the Belvedere Palace, the clavigero unlocked a gate that gave access to a tower encasing the Bramante staircase, a spiral ramp named for the chief architect of Pope Julius II. It is a double helix—people can ascend and descend without crossing paths—and large enough to accommodate a papal carriage, as it once had to do. The staircase links the lofty interior of the palace to an exterior private entrance far below. We stepped outside, at ground level, into a downpour. A fountain in the shape of a galleon sprayed jets of water from masts and cannons, as if trying to fight off the weather. Back upstairs, the Octagonal Courtyard was dimly lit and open to the sky. Rain glazed a ring of sarcophagi and pelted a central pool. Some of the Vatican’s original treasures are still here. One alcove frames the ancient statue known as Laocoön. I moved a velvet rope aside and walked behind the statue, and was surprised to find an object affixed to the base: a lone marble arm.
Laocoön was the man who tried to warn his fellow Trojans about that gift of a wooden horse. Angry, one of the gods sent serpents to strangle Laocoön and his sons—the moment captured in marble. The sculpture, from the first century B.C., had been unearthed in a vineyard near the Colosseum in 1506—Michelangelo was present for the excavation—and became the nucleus of the Vatican collection. But bits were missing, including the father’s right arm. Could the arm be restored?
Restoration was once standard practice; along with fig leaves, classical statues gained hands, noses, and entire limbs made from plaster or marble. As recently as a few decades ago, souvenir-seekers might snap off a plaster finger, leaving a trace of white dust on the floor.
To restore Laocoön, the pope’s architect held a competition, appointing Raphael as judge. Eventually an arm was added, slightly bent but reaching upward—the version preserved in countless copies. Michelangelo was skeptical; an experienced anatomist, he inferred that Laocoön’s arm must have been angled sharply behind his head. Four hundred years later, a big piece of the missing limb was discovered. Michelangelo had been right. The original arm was reattached. The discarded arm was left behind the statue, where on a rainy night the beam of a flashlight picked it out.
A museum loses something when visitors are gone: People are part of the display. But it gains something in return. In the emptiness of night, you become acutely aware of your physical senses. Eyes adjust to changing gradations of light. Black windows become mirrors. Shadows dance at light’s command: Projected on a wall, marble stallions pulling a Roman chariot seem to rear in anger; an unfinished angel by Bernini in clay and wire becomes even larger and hovers protectively over a Caravaggio. Faint smells come into their own. A whiff of paint lingers in a room that has been newly restored. A scent of candle wax pervades a papal chapel. The acoustic environment is unexpected. Every sound creates an echo—voices, footsteps, keys, raindrops. The high-low wail of a siren from the city outside seems impossibly remote. There is an urge to touch, to run a hand across surfaces like the underside of a Raphael tapestry, whose filaments of golden thread give the appearance of a circuit board.
Without the bustle, I was aware of another sense too, a kind of sixth sense: a consciousness of actual lives bound up with whatever I was looking at. In the Pinacoteca, the picture gallery, we passed Leonardo da Vinci’s Saint Jerome; Leonardo’s fingerprint was clearly visible in a patch of blue-green sky. A few rooms away, lit up and richly colored in an otherwise darkened space, Raphael’s The Transfiguration might have been a stained-glass window. It was easy to see why this place had been chosen for a memorial Mass, a few weeks earlier, recognizing staff members who had died or suffered loss in the previous year. On the same floor, in the older rooms of the Belvedere Palace, the presence of Michelangelo was inescapable: A visitor sees what he would have seen. Michelangelo came to this place to study the Belvedere Torso, a marble dating to the first century B.C. He thought of the torso—its arms missing, its legs cut off at the knees—as his “teacher” and used the taut anatomy in his portrayal of Adam on the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling. In an adjacent room stands a basin, carved from a single slab of imperial porphyry, that may once have graced Emperor Nero’s Golden House. It is said that Nero and his wife used to bathe in it, a detail I pass along understanding that It is said, a staple phrase in Rome, generally means “Don’t look too closely.” But ordinary people are also reflected in the basin’s history. The porphyry, weighing half a ton, had been quarried in Egypt. Hundreds of lives were invested in hauling and floating it to Rome. It would not have been an easy task.
There was not a living soul in the gleaming straightaway of the Chiaramonti loggia, which extends south from the Belvedere Palace, and yet it was full of life. Marble heads of ancient Romans are arranged side by side on tiers of shelves that stretch for 100 yards. Some are idealized renderings of gods and emperors. Some are busts of people one might actually have known. They capture receding hairlines, double chins, unfortunate fads in coiffure; they capture pride, love, vanity, sadness. The names of many of these men and women have been lost. In some cases, all that is certain is a place of origin and a date, along the lines of Syria, 1st Century B.C. or Dacia, 3rd Century A.D. But the individuality of the features, the imprint of personality, is too strong to ignore. I could imagine these people suddenly alive, marble becoming flesh, eyes blinking in surprise. Their expressive faces send a message that recalls an inscription in Rome’s Capuchin ossuary: What You Are Now, We Once Were.
Among the 1,000 pieces of sculpture in the loggia, two busts were gone, their absence as obvious as missing teeth; all that remained were ragged circles marking where the bases had been fixed to a shelf. A few weeks earlier, an American tourist had told a guard that he needed to see the pope. Informed that a meeting was not possible, he had knocked the two busts to the floor. One of them—Veiled Head of an Old Man—lost part of his nose and an ear. The bust is being repaired, but this old Roman, whoever he was, will forever bear the marks of an encounter in 2022.
[From the May 1996 issue: Backlogs of history]
The Vatican Museums employ undercover personnel known as volanti, who walk among the crowds. But incidents still occur. In August, climate protesters from an organization called Last Generation glued their hands to the base of Laocoön. (A few weeks earlier, the same group had splashed pea soup on Van Gogh’s The Sower, also in Rome.) The Vatican has a court system but few jail cells. The Laocoön perpetrators were remanded to Italy, a few yards away.
The American tourist who knocked over the busts likewise found himself in Italian custody. Word of the incident spread quickly. When Barbara Jatta saw Pope Francis at an event not long afterward, his first words to the museums’ director were “Who was that poor man?”
We left ancient Rome behind and headed for the newest part of the museums—the Anima Mundi gallery, devoted to works from beyond the Western world. The route to the gallery led past a terrace that looked out across the Vatican gardens to the dome of St. Peter’s and the misty silhouettes of umbrella pines. The dome was lit gently, except for the blazing lantern atop its crown. Antonio Paolucci, a former director of the museums, used to say that the best time to view the dome at night would have been centuries ago, when only the moon gave illumination. Electric lighting, he felt, made the lantern look like a birthday cake. Tonight, in the wet air, it wore a halo.
I was not prepared for the beauty of the Anima Mundi gallery—a sleek, modern space the size of a small warehouse. The gallery was dark but the collection was revealed in illuminated vitrines that arose like glass meeting rooms in an open-plan office. Many of the objects had been gifts to popes. Father Nicola Mapelli, the director of the gallery, walked among objects he especially loves: funerary poles and wandjina rock art from Australia; a ritual mask from Tierra del Fuego; a red-eyed, black-skinned Madonna and Child from New Guinea.
Museum officials sometimes speak of Anima Mundi as “the next Sistine Chapel,” and a big part of the museums’ future. Most of the Church’s growth is outside Europe and North America. Of course, the existing Sistine Chapel remains a big part of the future too. We made our way toward the chapel and the Raphael Rooms, at the far end of the rectangle. Pausing by a window, Matteo Alessandrini pointed to the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery, on the Vatican grounds. The time was about 10 o’clock, and a single room was lit—the salone of the pope emeritus, Benedict XVI. He had only a month to live.
A few moments later, Matteo indicated a small handle in a frescoed wall and pulled out a thin rectangle of masonry. Behind it was a pane of glass, embedded in the wall centuries ago as an early-warning system: Cracked glass would mean the building had begun to subside. I reached in with a finger. We were okay for now.
In the Raphael Rooms—four chambers that Raphael covered with frescoes in what were once a suite of papal apartments—heavy wooden shutters had been closed against the night, but an open window was still reflected in the polished shield of a figure on an opposite wall: a trompe l’oeil joke by the artist. Gouges in the walls are still visible, the work of soldiers with pikes during the Sack of Rome in 1527. Raphael had been painting the last of these four rooms, the Room of Constantine, when a fever carried him off. Graffiti, centuries old, has been scratched into its lower walls: fu fatto papa pio iv, someone wrote, noting the election of a new pontiff. That was in 1559.
From the Raphael Rooms, the Sistine Chapel was only a few staircases away. Its most striking aspect, when you enter alone and in weak light, is not the frescoed ceiling but the sheer expanse of floor. During the day, when the room is packed with people, all looking up, the floor disappears. Once, years ago, lifted toward the chapel’s ceiling in the basket of a cherry picker, I had the chance of a bird’s-eye view. But I naturally looked up, and not at the five-story drop.
Now, late in the evening, after Gianni Crea turned the key and pulled the knob, an expanding trapezoid of light from the hallway behind us illuminated the intricate marble inlay ahead.
An axis of braided circles ran down the length to the altar, the effect dynamic and yet placid. This is the tessellated floor that Michelangelo would have known—the one that received any droppings of paint that missed the scaffolding or his face. It’s the floor Raphael would have walked on when (it is said) he took advantage of Michelangelo’s absence from Rome to sneak a look at the work in progress. The chapel would not be cleaned until morning, but as lights came on I saw little in the way of litter—unusual in a room that as many as 25,000 people walk through every day. The explanation may simply be the power of this place, its sacral nature. People do leave prayers. I found a folded slip of paper on the masonry bench that runs along the walls, saw what it was, and put it back.
[From the June 1999 issue: The mirror of Dorian Gray]
Free of distraction, you have a chance to notice details—for instance, the spots high on the walls where Michelangelo was unable to paint, because his scaffolding got in the way. Or how the plane of The Last Judgment leans forward, as if to convey active urgency; the slant is obvious at the join, where the front wall meets the sidewalls. Digital sensors, visible once you look for them, collect data from all parts of the chapel. They monitor temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide, and particulates, as well as the size of the crowd. The data are tracked on screens in the conservator’s office; we likely produced a blip just by opening the door and turning on a light. The Sistine Chapel is one of those few air-conditioned spaces in the Vatican Museums. The air in the room can be exchanged as often as 60 times a day. If need be, the volume of traffic can be reduced by controllers upstream. They can close doors and loop throngs into a detour, or encourage exploration. People should know about Etruscan art anyway. But the chapel never fully shakes off its millions of annual visitors—their dust, their heat, their coughs and sneezes.
Those visitors arrive through a single entrance and leave through a single exit. But there are additional doors—another thing you notice when the room stands empty. The Sistine Chapel is part of the Apostolic Palace, the official papal residence, and some doors, usually locked, lead directly into private areas. Late in the evening, an elderly priest came through the double doors in the wall farthest from the altar, perhaps drawn by light seeping underneath them at an odd hour. We were invited into the Sala Regia, an ornate hall in the Apostolic Palace where popes once received royalty, and then into the Pauline Chapel, where cardinals celebrate Mass before a papal conclave begins. It is also a private chapel for the pope. There was to be a funeral here the next morning for a dignitary identified only as un diplomatico. Michelangelo’s last paintings dominate the sidewalls of the chapel—The Conversion of Saul and The Crucifixion of Saint Peter. Peter is shown being crucified upside down, as tradition says he was. But the head is torqued, lifting off the cross so that Peter can see into the room. His dark eyes followed me all the way down the center aisle, and all the way back.
Later, another door opened, near the Sistine Chapel’s altar, and a man stood silhouetted in a bright rectangle: He was standing at the entrance to the Room of Tears. Immediately upon election, a new pope takes refuge here in order to reflect on the weight thrust upon him, and to change into a white cassock. The man in the doorway, its custodian, allowed us in.
It is a suite, not a single room. The vestibule holds a red plush Victorian love seat. White cassocks in various sizes hang on a rack in the room beyond; one of them should fit any newly elected pontiff well enough. A final room contains a small wooden desk bearing a nameplate from the most recent conclave: Bergoglio, the surname of Pope Francis. On a shelf nearby sit boxes labeled bianca and nera—chemical additives used to produce white or black smoke during a conclave, after each vote. In the vestibule, the custodian pointed to an alcove sheltering a waist-high antique cabinet. Did we know what it was? With a flourish, he opened the cabinet to reveal a commode, the oval seat upholstered in rich red leather.
The Vatican Museums go dark for everyone before midnight. It was 11 p.m., and time to leave. The lights in the Sistine Chapel were extinguished, and the door swung shut. A quarter of a mile later, Crea returned the chapel’s key to its vault. Alarms were set. Outside, Crea locked the museums’ back entrance and put the key to the vault (in a freshly sealed envelope, signed and stamped) and the key to the back door into a zippered pouch. This he deposited at a command post on his way out of the city-state. Until about 5 a.m., no one would be inside.
I would see the Sistine Chapel once more. Two hours before dawn, as the rain tapered off, the gates of the Porta Sant’Anna swung open for Crea’s BMW. One of the Swiss guards at the gate saluted and then bent to the window. The guardsmen wore not the ceremonial uniform of red, blue, and yellow but the deep-blue service uniform, still with a Renaissance flair—breeches, knee socks, tunic, beret. Instead of swords, the guards carried sidearms. They were young and fit, and looked capable of a kinetic response to Stalin’s mocking question “How many divisions has the pope?” The car was waved through.
We stopped at the command post to pick up the pouch, then drove farther into Vatican City. The car crossed a courtyard, passed under a building, made some sharp turns, and came out amid the Vatican gardens alongside a road that leads to the back entrance of the museums. This is the route typically taken by guests of the Holy See’s secretary of state and by certain other visitors. French President Emmanuel Macron had recently come this way. A year earlier, Kim Kardashian, arriving with Kate Moss, had created a stir, wearing what appeared to be a spray-on white doily; she had to put on a long coat before being allowed to enter the Sistine Chapel. Members of the staff still spoke about that visit. (Moss, they said, had been lovely.)
When other guards arrived, Crea unlocked the entrance. Inside, switches were flicked. The security station glowed once more. Tutto okay? one of the men said into a phone—a routine call to the central office of the governatorato, the Vatican’s city hall, which manages the alarm system. Yes, everything was okay. Crea began handing out rings of keys. He himself took No. 401 and proceeded to the double doors that give entry to the Belvedere Palace. Using both arms, he pulled them open.
We meandered along the Gallery of the Tapestries. The hall was dark, but a flashlight framed the risen Christ in a bright circle. We arrived once more at the Sistine Chapel. The door to the Sala Regia opened briefly, revealing a flash of color: Swiss guards stood smartly in ceremonial uniforms, helmets catching the light—an honor guard for the diplomat’s funeral. The counterpoint in the chapel was a red-haired woman in a white smock, armed with a bucket, a broom, and a mop.
She worked with propulsive energy, first wiping down the altar and then sweeping 6,000 square feet of marble floor. I introduced myself; her name was Barbara and her grip was strong. She said she cleaned not only the chapel but also the stairs leading to and from it, and the toilets nearby and some of the laboratories. The chapel took her an hour; some of her supplies were kept behind the altar. She liked starting every day like this, and explained why with an arc of her arm that took in the ceiling. The contents of her dustpan confirmed the scarcity of litter: six small museum tickets, a handful of tissues, a couple of candy wrappers, a scrunchie. When her sweeping was done, Barbara opened a wooden cabinet against a wall and wheeled out a machine resembling a small Zamboni. Pushing it by hand, she polished the entire floor. The triumphant figure of Christ in The Last Judgment seemed protective, watching over Barbara as she worked. I knew that the figure’s torso had been based on that of Laocoön, but saw now that the right arm was angled over his head, as Michelangelo knew it should be, not raised above. He had made his point.
The museums’ doors would soon be opening. The hallways had begun to awaken. Guards passed by in twos and threes. Salespeople unloaded boxes from carts: fresh supplies of guidebooks and rosaries, key chains and plush toys. An aroma of espresso trailed from a break room. Near the gates, metal detectors blinked on. Outside, below the Vatican’s high walls, the colored flags of tour guides poked above the crowd.
We sought higher ground, climbing to a terrace that overlooks the Cortile della Pigna, the Pinecone Courtyard. The view, Barbara Jatta told me, had made this terrace a favorite spot: It offers a panorama of the Vatican and all of Rome. The storm had passed. A thin haze lay over the city, pierced by domes and towers. The sun, low above the Alban Hills, was on the verge of breaking through.
I was conscious of the way the various cogs of a museum’s life turn at different rates. The slow, unending process of accretion over centuries. The biography, sometimes tortuous, of every object. The cyclical flood of visitors. The start-and-stop progress through a gallery. And the sudden spark of provocation, when something you see triggers a thought or a memory—a long-ago visit here with a parent, a moment of love or friendship, an inexplicable vibration of the spirit. In that instant, a museum exists for the visitor alone. I had been carrying around Marco Maggi’s words like a riddle—“Time is an emotion”—even as the meaning fell into place.
This article appears in the June 2023 print edition with the headline “Night at the Vatican.”
Nature Communications, Published online: 11 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-38385-wThis study suggests that the observed shear-velocity reduction beneath the southern side of the Southwest Sub-basin (SWSB) of the South China Sea (SCS) may be due to the presence of 150–300 ppm of water and 5–10% of lower continental crust.
There are biases and gaps in both natural history collections and in biodiversity apps and digital tools, research finds.
In the race to document the species on Earth before they go extinct, researchers and citizen scientists have assembled billions of records. Most records either come from physical specimens in a museum or digital field observations, but both are useful for detecting shifts in the number and abundance of species in an area.
However, the new study finds that both record types are flawed, and the degree to which they are riddled with coverage gaps and biases depends on the kind of dataset.
Natural history collections
Back in Charles Darwin’s day, and up until relatively recently, naturalists recorded the species present in an area by collecting and preserving samples of the plants, insects, fish, birds, and other animals in a region for museums and educational collections. Today, most records of biodiversity are often in the form of photos, videos, GPS coordinates, and other digital records with no corresponding physical sample of the organism they represent in a museum or herbarium.
“I envision an app that you can use, kind of like Pokémon GO to search for rare species.”
“With the rise of technology it is easy for people to make observations of different species with the aid of a mobile application,” says Barnabas Daru, assistant professor of biology at Stanford University.
For example, if someone spots an attractive butterfly or plant, they can easily document it by taking a photo and uploading it to a biodiversity app with details such as the species’ name, location, date, and time. This information becomes a valuable field observation.
“These observations now outnumber the primary data that comes from physical specimens,” says Daru, who is lead author of the study in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution. “And since we are increasingly using observational data to investigate how species are responding to global change, I wanted to know: Are these data usable?”
While other studies have explored global coverage and biases in biodiversity data, this is the first known global assessment of coverage gaps and biases in specimen versus observational records across multiple dimensions.
Bias in the data
Using a global dataset of 1.9 billion records of terrestrial plants, butterflies, amphibians, birds, reptiles, and mammals, Daru and coauthor Jordan Rodriguez tested how well each type of data captures actual global biodiversity patterns across taxonomic, geographic, temporal, and functional trait axes.
“We were particularly interested in exploring the aspects of sampling that tend to bias data, like the greater likelihood of a citizen scientist to capture a flowering plant instead of the grass right next to it,” says Rodriguez, a University of Oregon graduate student.
For instance, to test coverage of actual biodiversity patterns in taxonomic space, they overlaid grids of different sizes (50, 100, 200, 400, 800, and 1600 km) across a digital map of the world. Within each grid cell, and for each family (e.g., ducks, geese, and waterfowl are one bird “family”), they assessed the number of documented species compared to the expected number of species for that region or family based on expert opinion.
They assessed biases in data collection by comparing the number of specimens and observations from a grid cell to the expected amount if each datapoint was collected randomly.
Their study reveals that the superabundance of observation-only records did not lead to better global coverage. Moreover, these data are biased and favor certain regions (North America and Europe), time periods, and organisms.
This makes sense because the people who capture observational biodiversity data on mobile devices are often citizen scientists recording serendipitous encounters with species in areas nearby, such as roadsides, hiking trails, community parks, and neighborhoods.
Observational data are also biased toward certain organisms with attractive or eye-catching features.
“People trample on ants all the time, but if an elephant were to stroll down the street, everyone would want to know what was going on,” says Daru.
In contrast, collectors of preserved specimens are often trained professionals who gather samples of plants, animals, and other organisms in remote and wilderness areas as part of their jobs.
Like Pokémon GO but real
What can we do with two flawed datasets of biodiversity? Quite a lot, Daru explains.
Understanding areas where specimen and observational datasets of biodiversity are deficient—and how they compare with one another—can help researchers and citizen scientists improve the biodiversity data collected in the future.
“Our maps of sampling biases and gaps can be incorporated into new biodiversity tools that are increasingly being developed, such as iNaturalist or eBird,” Daru says. “This can guide users so they don’t collect more records in areas that are oversampled and steer users to places—and even species—that are not well-sampled. So, I envision an app that you can use, kind of like Pokémon GO to search for rare species.”
To improve the quality of observational data, biodiversity apps can prompt collectors to have an expert verify the identification of their uploaded image, Daru explains.
Preserved specimens, on the other hand, are becoming scarce, and this study highlights their enduring value for biodiversity studies. To further emphasize the potential of this waning practice, the researchers also explain how such specimens are important for new lines of investigation that may arise, such as studying microbial symbionts and emerging diseases that require physical specimens from the past and present.
“It’s such a very useful resource that has been lying in the dark in cabinets across the globe,” Daru says. “It’s so exciting the possibility of things that can be done with these specimens.”
This research has support from the US National Science Foundation.
Source: Stanford University
The post Biodiversity collections and apps both have bias appeared first on Futurity.
Germany has been thrown around a lot as an example of both what to do and what not to do in terms of addressing global warming by embracing green energy technology. It’s possible to look back now and review the numbers, to see what the effect was of its decision to embrace renewable technology and actively shut down their nuclear power plants. The numbers, I think, tell a pretty clear story.
First, some history. Germany has long had an environmentalist anti-nuclear bent, going back to the 1980s. In 2000 the coalition Green Party and Democratic decided to phase out nuclear power in Germany by 2022, making it an even higher priority than phasing out fossil fuels. This policy was reversed by the Christian Democratic Union, extending the timeline until 2034. After the Fukushima accident, however, public opinion shifted and the 2022 timeline was reinstated. This was delayed by a year because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but now the last German nuclear power plants have been shuttered. At the same time, Germany invested heavily in wind and solar.
What did this mean for Germany’s energy production and carbon footprint? Did it makes sense to phase out nuclear while building lots of wind and solar? I would argue an emphatic, no. It demonstrates, quite nicely, (I know, I need to be careful of confirmation bias, but hear me out) what I have been saying for years. For now the choice is not really between nuclear and renewables, but nuclear and fossil fuel. A Washington Post article summarizes the relevant numbers. In 2010 Germany’s energy mix was 60% fossil fuel, 23% nuclear, and 17% renewables. In 2022 (before the final shutdowns) it was 51%, 6%, 43% respectively. If in 2000 Germany had decided to prioritize shutting down coal-fired plants and other fossil fuel sources and just kept their existing nuclear power plants open for as long as possible, their mix today would be 32% fossil fuel, 24% nuclear, and 43% renewable.
Either way, they would have 43% renewable. They were building it as fast as they could. The only difference is that today (now that the last nuclear plants have closed) we have something like 57% fossil fuel instead of 32%. It really was the choice between nuclear and fossil fuel. As a result of this policy Germany, despite investing heavily in renewables, has one of the dirtiest energy mixes in Europe, only behind Poland and the Czech Republic. Germany produces 385 gCO2 / kWh. Heavily nuclear France, by comparison, produces 85. This will also delay Germany’s ability to phase out coal, and it will be one of the last European countries to do so.
Because the world has mostly run out the clock on global warming, and now we are racing to minimize the damage (completely preventing it is essentially off the table), every choice we make has consequences. There are three main factors we need to consider in term of the ultimate climate consequences of further releasing greenhouse gases. The first is how close we can get to net zero carbon production. The second is how quickly we can get there. And the third is the path that we take to get there (we can’t assume a straight line, and the sooner we draw down fossil fuel use the better). Germany essentially chose the wrong path. They focused entirely on the first factor, imaging what they would like their future energy mix to look like (all renewable) and did not consider the best path to get there. As a result they will emit a lot more CO2 on their path to renewables, and this will matter.
There is general expert agreement that the #1 goal of minimizing climate change from CO2 release is to as quickly as possible phase out coal. Coal is by far the dirtiest source of energy, and it dominates our global energy carbon footprint. Moving from coal to anything else, even natural gas, is a good thing and will reduce our carbon footprint. Worlwide coal is still responsible for about 25% of energy production, with fossil fuel (including oil and gas) at about 75%. In absolute terms coal use is still increasing, even though it is dipping in terms of percentage of total energy. Let that sink in – the world is burning more coal than ever. Renewables are increasing, but so far are mostly covering the increase in total energy demand.
From a climate perspective it was absolute insanity to prioritize shutting down nuclear before coal and other fossil fuels. I understand that nuclear energy is a complicated option, mainly because of the high cost. But keeping existing nuclear power plants open as long as possible should be a no-brainer. That’s a win-win – you already spent the money on building the plants, keeping them open longer makes them more commercially viable. Keeping existing plants open for 10-20 years buys us time to build out more renewable, and allows us to prioritize shutting down coal plants. We can debate how much we should be investing in building new nuclear to replace existing plants in 10-20 years. I think we should, but I can see the argument for investing that money in renewables plus grid storage. That’s the debate we should be having.
But do not confuse the option of building new nuclear with keeping existing plants open. There was no rational reason to shut down nuclear plants and keep coal-fired plants open. Coal demonstrably kills more people, releases more radioactivity into the environment, and worsens global warming. Fukushima was a dramatic event, but it was caused by a tsunami and the bad decision not to follow recommendations in terms of putting backup generators on the roof where they would be safe from flooding. Neither of these factors had any relevance to Germany.
Germany really needs to be a cautionary tale. If we are serious about global warming, and we should be, getting rid of coal is job #1, then the rest of fossil fuels, then we can see what the best mix of low carbon footprint energy should and can be. Personally I think we need to hedge out bets with nuclear and keep pushing that technology forward. There are still unknowns when it comes to grid storage and the percentage of intermittent energy sources on the grid. Having some reliable on-demand energy in the mix seems like a good idea. For now we should be building what wind and solar we can, maximize hydroelectric and geothermal, keep nuclear plants open while planning their replacement, and explore grid storage options. Do it all, while phasing out fossil fuel as quickly as possible.
Also, keep in mind, over the next 20-30 years energy demand is going to dramatically increase, especially as we electrify our transportation and industrial sectors as much as possible. Energy demand will almost double between now and 2050. We need to decrease fossil fuel not just as a percentage of the energy mix but in absolute terms. We have not yet been able to do this. What this means is we can replace all existing energy production with renewables between now and 2050 and still not have any reduction in fossil fuel use in absolute terms, because we are just meeting new demand. Many experts doubt we can get rid of fossil fuels without nuclear, and I am not willing to bet that they are all wrong.
The post Germany and Nuclear Power first appeared on NeuroLogica Blog.
Scientific Reports, Published online: 11 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-34883-5Author Correction: The 8-bromobaicalein inhibited the replication of
Scientific Reports, Published online: 11 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-34881-7Author Correction: Structure and proteomic analysis of the crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster sp.) radial nerve cord
Scientific Reports, Published online: 11 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-33489-1Shallow shotgun sequencing reduces technical variation in microbiome analysis
Scientific Reports, Published online: 11 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-34693-9
Scientific Reports, Published online: 11 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-34819-zGenome-wide identification and comparative analysis of Dmrt genes in echinoderms
Nature, Published online: 10 May 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-01596-8An interlocked ring pattern of virtual exotic particles has been created in a quantum computer. Plus, an ambitious field trial to vaccinate wild koalas against chlamydia and what record ocean temperatures will mean for wildlife and weather.
Tornado outbreaks are moving from Texas and Oklahoma toward Tennessee and Kentucky, where people may not be prepared
Hints of water vapor on a world called GJ 486 b could just as well come from the planet’s host star
Patienter med neurodegenerativa sjukdomar går långsammare och ta kortare steg. Gångproblemen kopplas till kognitiv förmåga och kan påverka livskvaliteten, enligt en avhandling.
Inlägget Problem att gå kopplas till kognitiva svårigheter dök först upp på forskning.se.
Studenter i Sverige är positiva till AI-verktyg som Chat GPT i studierna. Men var går gränsen för fusk? Det är högst oklart, enligt studenterna.
Inlägget Studenter gillar AI och Chat GPT men undrar när det blir fusk dök först upp på forskning.se.
Nature Communications, Published online: 11 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-37870-6Zinc is an essential metal for many proteins. Here, the authors propose a model based on 3D convolutional networks to predict the location of zinc in experimental and computationally predicted structures within a framework readily extensible to other metals.
Nature Communications, Published online: 11 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-38418-4Corticospinal activity is temporally coded with precise movements in mice. Here the authors investigate the role of corticospinal neuron activity in motor cortex during the learning of either a precise or imprecise task.
Nature Communications, Published online: 11 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-38420-wElectron screening is crucial to interpret inelastic X-ray scattering experiments in materials. Here the authors use a combined analysis based on the Bethe-Salpeter equation and time-dependent density functional theory to calculate the dielectric function and obtain the band gap of
Nature Communications, Published online: 11 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-38272-4The regulatory mechanisms of alternative promoters remain to be investigated. Here, the authors explore the sequence and epigenetics landscape of alternative promoters and how they regulate gene expression in hepatocellular carcinoma.
Tornado outbreaks are moving from Texas and Oklahoma toward Tennessee and Kentucky, where people may not be prepared
Hints of water vapor on a world called GJ 486 b could just as well come from the planet’s host star
- Amazon Web Services charges about 2 cents per gigabyte monthly for its popular S3 cloud storage service, a price that adds up quickly on data-intensive projects, and doubles in some cases when factoring in bandwidth costs to transfer data.
Scientific Reports, Published online: 11 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-34937-8Non-invasive identification of combined salinity stress and stalk rot disease caused by Colletotrichum graminicola in maize using Raman spectroscopy
Scientific Reports, Published online: 11 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-34756-xLong-term effect of using hard contact lenses on corneal endothelial cell density and morphology in ophthalmologically healthy individuals in Japan
Scientific Reports, Published online: 11 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-33401-xEvaluation of administrative case definitions for
Scientific Reports, Published online: 11 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-34757-wPutative role of HLA polymorphism among a Brazilian HTLV-1-associated myelopathy/
Scientific Reports, Published online: 11 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-34498-wInvestigating the epidemiological and economic effects of a third-party certification policy for restaurants with COVID-19 prevention measures
The Atlantic has long been known as an ideas-driven magazine. Now we’re bringing that same ethos to audio. Today we’re introducing Radio Atlantic, The Atlantic’s flagship podcast, with a new host: senior editor Hanna Rosin.
Like the magazine, the show will “road test” the big ideas that both drive the news and shape our culture. Through conversations—and sometimes sharp debates—with the most insightful thinkers and writers on topics of the day, Radio Atlantic will complicate overly simplistic views. It will cut through the noise with clarifying, personal narratives. It will, hopefully, help listeners make up their own mind about certain ideas.
The national conversation right now can be chaotic, reckless, and stuck. Radio Atlantic aims to bring some order to our thinking—and encourage listeners to be purposeful about how they unstick their mind.
New episodes come out Thursdays, starting May 25, wherever you find your podcasts.
The following is a transcript:
Hanna Rosin: Hi, I’m Hanna Rosin, I’m the new host of Radio Atlantic, and I’m here to make trouble. But in a friendly way.
Jeffrey Goldberg: Hannah, honestly, I don’t know if you’re just playing devil’s advocate or you actually believe this, but I think you’re off on this. I just think you’re genuinely off.
Rosin: What do you mean I’m off? I’m just being genuinely realistic.
Rosin [in studio]: Okay, something to know about me: I’ve done a lot of competitive debating, so I know how to scrutinize an idea.
I want to do that on this podcast, in a way that helps you make up your own mind about what’s happening in the world.
I want us to look at the most interesting ideas, ideas out there we may not like so much, or we don’t understand, or even trust. Like AI medicine.
Charlie Warzel: The people who have the means and the power, they’re going to have the in-person doctor experience, right? Whereas the rest of us are going to get …
Amanda Mull: Doc bot.
Warzel: Doc bot, exactly.
Rosin: We’ll get to the real edge of things that we all need to figure out—about Ukraine, our courts, the elections, teens and social media.
Kaitlyn Tiffany: Another frustrating element of this conversation is how paternalistic it ends up sounding, like rescuing these tiny damsels in distress from the evil machine.
Rosin [in studio]: I already understand so much more than I did half an hour ago, when we started this conversation.
Rosin: There’s this phrase someone said to me recently: road testing ideas, like you would road test a car. You run them through the dirt; see if they can stand up to actual real-world conditions. And I’m totally okay being wrong!
Here’s my promise: I will approach every conversation thinking I could
up in a totally different place than I began, and I will create a space where we can think more calmly, openly, and freely. And mostly what I want is for you—and me—to sometimes change our minds. It’s not something we do that much anymore.
You’ll find episodes every Thursday, wherever you listen.
Goldberg: All right, Chomsky, what else you got?
Nature, Published online: 11 May 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-01568-yLight travelling through a fibre can impart a twist to glass spheres without if the light itself is not twisting.
Researchers say wipes common in schools and care homes exposing people to dangerous chemical group called ‘quats’
Since the pandemic’s outset, the global use of disinfectants has gone through the roof. Clorox dramatically boosted production of its wipe packs to 1.5m a day by mid-2021, and an industry trade group said 83% of consumers surveyed around the same time reported they had used a disinfectant wipe in the last week.
But as schools reopened, a group of toxic chemical researchers grew concerned as they heard reports of kids regularly using disinfectant wipes on their classroom desks, or teachers running disinfectant foggers.Continue reading…
This article is from The Spark, MIT Technology Review’s weekly climate newsletter. To receive it in your inbox every Wednesday, sign up here.
Buckle up, because this week, we’re talking about batteries.
Over the past couple of months, I’ve been noticing a lot of announcements about a new type of battery, one that could majorly shake things up if all the promises I’m hearing turn out to be true.
The new challenger? Sodium-ion batteries, which swap sodium for the lithium that powers most EVs and devices like cell phones and laptops today.
Sodium-ion batteries could squeeze their way into some corners of the battery market as soon as the end of this year, and they could be huge in cutting costs for EVs. I wrote a story about all the recent announcements, and you should give it a read if you’re curious about what companies are jumping in on this trend and what their plans are. But for the newsletter this week, let’s dig a little bit deeper into the chemistry and consider what the details could mean for the future of EV batteries.
One of the reasons that lithium dominates batteries today is absolutely, maddeningly simple: it’s small.
I mean that in the most literal, atomic sense. Lithium is the third-lightest element, heavier than only hydrogen and helium. When it comes down to it, it’s hard to beat the lightest metal in existence if you’re trying to make compact, lightweight batteries.
And cutting weight and size is the goal for making everything from iPhones to EVs: a lightweight, powerful battery means your phone can be smaller and your car can drive farther. So one of the primary ways we’ve measured progress for batteries is energy density—how much energy a battery can pack into a given size.
When you look at that chemical reality, it’s almost no wonder that lithium-ion batteries have exploded in popularity since their commercial debut in the 1990s. There are obviously other factors too, like lithium-ion’s ability to reach high voltages in order to deliver a lot of power, but the benefit of being lightweight and portable is hard to overstate.
Lithium-ion batteries have also benefited from being the incumbent. There are countless researchers scouring the world for new materials and new ways to build lithium-ion cells, and plenty of companies making them in greater numbers—all of which adds up to greater efficiencies. As a result, costs have come down basically every year for decades (with the notable exception of 2022).
And at the same time, energy density is ticking up, a trend I’m personally grateful for because I often forget to charge my phone for days at a time, and it typically works out much better when that happens now than it did a few years ago.
But just because lithium-ion dominates the battery world today doesn’t mean it’ll squash the competition forever.
I’ve written about the growing number of options in the battery industry before, mostly in the context of stationary storage on the electrical grid. This is especially important in the transition to intermittent renewable energy sources like wind and solar.
While backup systems tend to use lithium-ion batteries today since they’re what’s available, many companies are working to build batteries that could eventually be even cheaper and more robust. In other words, many researchers and companies want to design batteries specifically for stationary storage.
New batteries could be made with abundant materials like iron or plastic, for example, and they might use water instead of organic solvents to shuttle charge around, addressing lingering concerns about the safety of large-scale lithium-ion battery installations.
But compared to stationary storage, there are fewer candidates that could work in EV batteries, because of the steep demands we have for our vehicles. Today, most of the competition in the commercial market is between the different flavors of lithium-ion batteries, with some lower-cost versions that don’t contain cobalt and nickel gaining ground in the last couple of years.
That could change soon too, though, because just below lithium on the periodic table, a challenger lurks: sodium. Sodium is similar to lithium in some ways, and cells made with the material can reach similar voltages to lithium-ion cells (meaning the chemical reactions that power the battery will be nearly as powerful).
And crucially, sodium-based batteries have recently been cramming more energy into a smaller package. In 2022, the energy density of sodium-ion batteries was right around where some lower-end lithium-ion batteries were a decade ago—when early commercial EVs like the Tesla Roadster had already hit the road.
Projections from BNEF suggest that sodium-ion batteries could reach pack densities of nearly 150 watt-hours per kilogram by 2025. And some battery giants and automakers in China think the technology is already good enough for prime time. For more on those announcements and when we might see the first sodium-battery-powered cars on the road, check out my story from yesterday.
Here’s how sodium batteries could get their start in EVs.
I wrote about the potential for this sort of progress in a story from January about what we might see for batteries this year.
Sodium could be competing with low-cost lithium-ion batteries—these lithium iron phosphate batteries figure into a growing fraction of EV sales.
Take a tour of some other non-lithium-based batteries:
- Iron-based batteries could be a cheap way to store energy on the grid and assuage concerns about safety.
- What about using plastic instead?
- Some companies want to go beyond batteries entirely to store energy.
A startup says it’ll be ready to turn on the world’s first fusion power plant in five years. Yes, you read that right: five years.
Helion Energy, a fusion startup backed by OpenAI’s Sam Altman, announced today that it’s lined up an agreement to sell electricity to Microsoft. The company says its first plant will come online in 2028 and will reach full capacity (50 megawatts of output) within a year after that.
As you might remember, the energy world reached a huge milestone in December when a fusion reaction generated more energy than what was put in to start it. But for a lot of reasons, that symbolic moment doesn’t necessarily mean cheap fusion power is within our grasp. And some experts are pretty skeptical about Helion’s announcement. Read more about the details in this story from my colleague James Temple.
Keeping up with climate
Need a few extra miles of range on your EV? Might as well slap some solar panels on the roof. But don’t expect too much of a boost. (Bloomberg)
For the first time in my entire life, I seem to be experiencing seasonal allergies. And climate change might have something to do with it. (The Atlantic)
Companies might be overselling the potential for so-called “renewable natural gas.” While it can cut emissions relative to fossil sources, critics worry that putting too much stock in methane made from cow manure or food scraps will slow efforts to ditch fossil fuels. (Canary Media)
→ I wrote earlier this year about how the process to make and capture methane from food scraps works. (MIT Technology Review)
Aubrey Plaza is hilarious and a gift to this world, but some people aren’t so happy about a recent ad she did for the dairy industry that takes aim at plant-based milks. (Vox)
India might stop adding new coal power plants to the pipeline. While this wouldn’t stop all current construction, it could be a major boost to the country’s emissions cuts. (Reuters)
A lot of the work to improve battery performance has been basically focused on one half of the device: the cathode. But some companies are working hard to improve the often-overlooked anodes by using silicon. (IEEE Spectrum)
→ Silicon anodes from startup Sila made their debut in fitness trackers nearly two years ago. The next stop? EVs. (MIT Technology Review)
Support for nuclear power in the US just reached its highest level in over a decade, according to a new Gallup poll. (Grist)
Electric vehicles made up 80% of Norway’s new car sales last year. The country provides a picture of the potential future for electrified transport’s benefits (cleaner air!) and challenges (long charging lines). (New York Times)
Politiskt tal om att "värna barnen" gäller ofta bara vissa barn. Ryssland är ett tydligt exempel på det. Där talas om "barns bästa" – samtidigt som barn bombas, dödas och tas från sina föräldrar i grannlandet Ukraina. Det kan verka som en paradox men är det inte, enligt forskaren Maria Brock.
Inlägget Ryssland talar om barns bästa och dödar barn i Ukraina – så går det ihop dök först upp på forskning.se.
Scientific Reports, Published online: 11 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-34409-zFe3O4@SiO2@KIT-6@2-ATP@CuI as a catalyst for hydration of benzonitriles and reduction of nitroarenes
Scientific Reports, Published online: 11 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-34623-9Multiple donor–acceptor design for highly luminescent and stable thermally activated delayed fluorescence emitters
Scientific Reports, Published online: 11 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-34002-4Respiratory arousal threshold among patients with isolated
Scientific Reports, Published online: 11 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-32814-yMSRDL: Deep learning framework for service recommendation in mashup creation
Scientific Reports, Published online: 11 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-34830-4Exploring pharmaphylogeny from multiple perspectives: a case study on Lithospermeae
Scientific Reports, Published online: 11 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-34571-43D
Scientific Reports, Published online: 11 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-34376-5Quench dynamics of Fano-like resonances in the presence of the on-dot superconducting pairing
Scientific Reports, Published online: 11 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-34821-5H2O2 selectively damages the binuclear iron-sulfur cluster N1b of respiratory complex I
Nature Communications, Published online: 11 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-38265-3Genome sequencing has identified many recurrent mutations in
Nature Communications, Published online: 11 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-37824-yThe
Nature Communications, Published online: 11 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-38244-8Removing immunogenic uncapped mRNA from transcribed mRNA can be challenging, but is critical in mRNA research and clinical applications such as vaccines. Here, authors develop hydrophobic photocaged tag-modified cap analogs, which can be used to separate capped mRNA from uncapped mRNA, with subsequent tag removal using photo-irradiation.
Nature Communications, Published online: 11 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-38051-1
Nature Communications, Published online: 11 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-38188-zRecent Omicron
Nature Communications, Published online: 11 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-38266-2Proteins binding to DNA can locally alter DNA damage formation by UV light. Here, Elliott et al. generate high-resolution quantitative UV damage profiles for genomic regions of interest, revealing distinctive damage signatures for specific proteins and elevated UV damage at melanoma mutation hotspots.
Är det en människa eller en robot som svarar i telefonen? Det är inte helt lätt att avgöra när ai-system får allt mer mänskliga drag. Men utvecklingen kan påverka förtroendet för en samtalspartner, visar forskning.
Inlägget Mänskliga ai-röster gör oss misstänksamma dök först upp på forskning.se.
The course focuses on taming a ubiquitous emotion. But what about addressing its root causes?
There are six rules of anger management, says my anger workbook. The first rule: “STOP, think, take a look at the BIG picture.” Then, because why use lower-case when you’ve got capitals: “ANGER MANAGEMENT IS A THINKING PERSON’S GAME!”
But thinking, it turns out soon into the course, is discouraged. “I’m not here to psychoanalyze you,” says our group leader, a self-styled anger management guru. “I’m just here to help you follow the program. If you follow the program, you’ll see results.” Later, after one question too many, he tells me: “The problem with you, Olivia, is that you like to complicate things.”Continue reading…
Open access notables
The Intelligence Community Must Evolve To Meet the Reality of Arctic Change is a product of the Wilson Center's subject specalist center The Polar Institute. As its title suggests the report is squarely centered on nitty-gritty details of geopolitical adaptations forced by climate change as they're reflected in national security matters, here (unsurprisingly given the Wilson Institute's mission and purpose) specifically the security of the United States. Let alone what passport is in one's pocket, the report's provenance and urgency is a bellwether indicator of radical change in the Arctic thanks to our sudden climate accident. Recommendation #4 is rather striking but is based on a claimed track record of success in other arenas: "Prioritize Top Secret with Special Access clearances for
-IC Federal Interagency Arctic and climate experts." This report is included in this week's collection of government/NGO reports, which are not the product of formal academic research yet do include sharp minds working to high standards of practice— but with particular perspectives.
In Nature Commnications Earth & Environment Tiani Luo et al. bring us A framework to assess multi-hazard physical climate risk for power generation projects from publicly-accessible sources. Enthusiasts of being able to flip a light switch so as not to step on a piece of Lego (or operate a modern industrial economy) should need no more than this to fixate attention:
Here we introduce a scalable and transparent methodology that enables multi-hazard physical climate risk assessments for any thermal or hydro power generation project. The methodology relies on basic power plant type and geolocation data inputs, publicly-available climate datasets, and hazard- and technology-specific vulnerability factors, to translate hazard severity into generation losses. We apply the methodology to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development’s early 2021 thermal and hydro power generation portfolios of 80 assets. We show that under the Representative Concentration Pathway 4.5 scenario, those 80 power plants could experience a 4.0-10.9 TWh loss in annual generation (or 1.87-5.07% of total annual maximum generation) by 2030 compared to its baseline losses of 0.70–0.87 TWh (or 0.33–0.41%). One of the largest drivers of the increased risk is rising water temperatures, which is currently overlooked by mainstream climate risk disclosure guidelines.
The percentages don't sound scary but this degradation comes in the face of what's fully expected to be a sharp increase in demand as various transport and other systems are electrified. To get a sense of the size of this problem, in the US alone there are about 11,200 utility-scale thermal generation plants and about 1,450 hydroelectric plants. The authors found 4TWh in projected loss from a sample of only 80 plants, hence doing the full math on the entire global fleet ends up with breathtaking numbers. Notably, much of the generation capacity so affected is located not in such relatively robust places as the US but in economies ill-situated to afford any losses at all.
It's not necessarily obvious at first glance but floating in the background of The Increasing Role of Seasonal Rainfall in Western U.S. Summer Streamflow by Ban, Li and Lettenmaier is a question: if a stream or river has been a year 'round feature of an ecology (or culture for that matter), what happens if it stops flowing for a couple of months per year? Likened to economic wellbeing, snowpack might be the equivalent of a steady job and money in the bank, while loss of snowpack leaves a stream or river dependent on "gig income" from rainfall, and as with some gig work rainfall may be highly seasonal. It's not necessarily impossible for a stream and its dependents to survive in such a case, but as with a gig job there well may be too much uncertainty in the picture to feel secure. The authors suggest further work on the topic; there's too much important information missing from this picture.
153 articles in 65 journals by 903 contributing authors
Physical science of climate change, effects
Influence of changes in pH and temperature on the distribution of apparent
solubility in the oceans, Zhu et al., Global Biogeochemical Cycles 10.1029/2022gb007617
New insights into air-sea fluxes and their role in Subantarctic Mode Water formation, Tamsitt, Philosophical Transactions of the
Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences 10.1098/rsta.2022.0066
Observations of climate change, effects
An abrupt change of winter surface air temperature over the northern part of Korean Peninsula in the late 1980s and related atmospheric circulation variability, Jong et al., Atmospheric Research 10.1016/j.atmosres.2023.106803
Can Tibetan Plateau Snow Depth Influence the Interannual Association between Tropical Indian Ocean Sea Surface Temperatures and Rapidly Intensifying Typhoons?, Cai et al., Journal of Climate 10.1175/jcli-d-22-0697.1
Change of summer drought over China during 1961–2020 based on standardized precipitation evapotranspiration index, Wang et al., Theoretical and Applied Climatology 10.1007/s00704-023-04471-8
Changes in March mean snow water equivalent since the mid-20th century and the contributing factors in reanalyses and CMIP6 climate models, Räisänen, The Cryosphere Open Access 10.5194/tc-17-1913-2023
Changes of timing and duration of the ground surface freeze on the Tibetan Plateau in the highly wetting period from 1998 to 2021, Fang et al., Climatic Change 10.1007/s10584-023-03541-0
Energy budget diagnosis of changing climate feedback, Cael et al., Science Advances Open Access 10.1126/sciadv.adf9302
Exceptional stratospheric contribution to human fingerprints on atmospheric temperature, Santer et al., Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Open Access 10.1073/pnas.2300758120
How Does Tropical Cyclone Genesis Frequency Respond to a Changing Climate?, Zhao et al., Geophysical Research Letters Open Access 10.1029/2023gl102879
Impact of extremely warm Tibetan Plateau in spring on the rare rainfall anomaly pattern in the regions west and east to Plateau in late summer 2022, Li et al., Atmospheric Research 10.1016/j.atmosres.2023.106797
Increased likelihood of compound dry and hot extremes in India, Guntu et al., Atmospheric Research 10.1016/j.atmosres.2023.106789
Regionalisation of heat waves in southern South America, Suli et al., Weather and Climate Extremes Open Access 10.1016/j.wace.2023.100569
Weakened western Pacific teleconnection pattern caused a decrease in spring persistent rainfall in north of 26°N over Southeast China, Chen et al., International Journal of Climatology 10.1002/joc.8090
Instrumentation & observational methods of climate change, effects
A clearer view of Southern Ocean air–sea interaction using surface heat flux asymmetry, Josey et al., Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences Open Access 10.1098/rsta.2022.0067
Investigating the potential of social media and citizen science data to track changes in species' distributions, O'Neill et al., Ecology and Evolution Open Access 10.1002/ece3.10063
Mean value splines and their use for climatological time series, Steinacker, International Journal of Climatology Open Access 10.1002/joc.8089
Ship-based Observations and Climate Model Simulations of Cloud Phase over the Southern Ocean, Desai et al., Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres 10.1029/2023jd038581
Southern Ocean Acidification Revealed by Biogeochemical-Argo Floats, Mazloff et al., Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans 10.1029/2022jc019530
When don’t we need a new extreme event attribution study?, Clarke et al., Climatic Change Open Access 10.1007/s10584-023-03521-4
Modeling, simulation & projection of climate change, effects
Arctic Sea Ice Loss Weakens Northern Hemisphere Summertime Storminess but Not Until the Late 21st Century, Kang et al., Geophysical Research Letters Open Access 10.1029/2022gl102301
Average and extreme heatwaves in Europe at 0.5–2.0 °C global warming levels in CMIP6 model simulations, Ruosteenoja & Jylhä Jylhä, Climate Dynamics Open Access 10.1007/s00382-023-06798-4
Changes in convective and stratiform precipitation over the Tibetan Plateau projected by global and regional climate models, Zhang & Gao, International Journal of Climatology 10.1002/joc.8096
Lagged compound dry and wet spells in Northwest North America under 1.5?°C–4?°C global warming levels, Rezvani et al., Atmospheric Research 10.1016/j.atmosres.2023.106799
Modelling climate analogue regions for a central European city, Reuter et al., Climatic Change Open Access 10.1007/s10584-023-03531-2
Orographic Cirrus and Its Radiative Forcing in NCAR CAM6, Lyu et al., Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres 10.1029/2022jd038164
Advancement of climate & climate effects modeling, simulation & projection
Comparison of multimodel ensembles of global and regional climate models projections for extreme precipitation over four major river basins in southern Africa— assessment of the historical simulations, Samuel et al., Climatic Change Open Access 10.1007/s10584-023-03530-3
Investigation on potential and limitations of ERA5 Reanalysis downscaled on Italy by a convection-permitting model, Adinolfi et al., Climate Dynamics Open Access 10.1007/s00382-023-06803-w
Southern Ocean Surface Temperatures and Cloud Biases in Climate Models Connected to the Representation of Glacial Deep Ocean Circulation, Sherriff-Tadano et al., Journal of Climate 10.1175/jcli-d-22-0221.1
Subtropical Impact on the Tropical Double-ITCZ Bias in the GFDL CM2.1 Model, Liu et al., Journal of Climate Open Access pdf 10.1175/jcli-d-22-0432.1
-model spread of the projected changes in the Eurasian continent winter surface air temperature and large-scale circulations from the CMIP6 simulations, Liu et al., Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres 10.1029/2023jd038829
Cryosphere & climate change
Albedo change from snow algae blooms can contribute substantially to snow melt in the North Cascades, USA, Healy & Khan, Communications Earth & Environment Open Access 10.1038/s43247-023-00768-8
Heat transport across the Antarctic Slope Front controlled by cross-slope salinity gradients, Si et al., Science Advances Open Access 10.1126/sciadv.add7049
Melt rates in the kilometer-size grounding zone of Petermann Glacier, Greenland, before and during a retreat, Ciracì et al., Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Open Access 10.1073/pnas.2220924120
Melt rates in the kilometer-size grounding zone of Petermann Glacier, Greenland, before and during a retreat, Ciracì et al., Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Open Access 10.1073/pnas.2220924120
Tracing the impacts of recent rapid sea ice changes and the A68 megaberg on the surface freshwater balance of the Weddell and Scotia Seas, Meredith et al., Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences Open Access 10.1098/rsta.2022.0162
Sea level & climate change
Tidal Evolution and Predictable Tide-only Inundation Along the East Coast of the United States, Gao et al., Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans 10.1029/2022jc019410
Using EEMD mode decomposition in combination with machine learning models to improve the accuracy of monthly sea level predictions in the coastal area of China, Jin et al., Dynamics of Atmospheres and Oceans 10.1016/j.dynatmoce.2023.101370
Paleoclimate & paleogeochemistry
Last Glacial Maximum ITCZ Changes from PMIP3/4 Simulations, Wang et al., Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres 10.1029/2022jd038103
Strong Coupling Between Carbon Cycle, Climate, and Weathering During the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, Chen et al., Geophysical Research Letters Open Access 10.1029/2023gl102897
Biology & climate change, related geochemistry
Community theory: Testing environmental stress models, Menge, Ecology Letters 10.1111/ele.14240
Distribution of canopy-forming alga along the Western Atlantic Ocean under global warming: The importance of depth range, Carneiro et al., Marine Environmental Research 10.1016/j.marenvres.2023.106013
Diversification of refugia types needed to secure the future of coral reefs subject to climate change, McClanahan et al., Conservation Biology 10.1111/cobi.14108
Expanding range and role change, Morriën et al., Annals of Botany Open Access pdf 10.1093/aob/mcq064
Experimental warming leads to convergent succession of grassland archaeal community, Zhang et al., Nature Climate Change 10.1038/s41558-023-01664-x
Haemolymph pH of two important mollusc species is susceptible to seawater buffering capacity instead of pH or pCO2, Li et al., Marine Environmental Research 10.1016/j.marenvres.2023.106018
Impacts of climate extremes on autumn phenology in contrasting temperate and alpine grasslands in China, Zhao et al., Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 10.1016/j.agrformet.2023.109495
Latitudinal patterns of aquatic insect emergence driven by climate, Nash et al., Global Ecology and Biogeography Open Access 10.1111/geb.13700
Meteorological history of low-forest-greenness events in Europe in 2002–2022, Hermann et al., Biogeosciences Open Access pdf 10.5194/bg-20-1155-2023
depletion in Arctic lakes: Circumpolar trends, biogeochemical processes and implications of climate change, Klanten et al., Global Biogeochemical Cycles 10.1029/2022gb007616
Physiologically vulnerable or resilient? Tropical birds, global warming, and redistributions, Monge et al., Ecology and Evolution Open Access pdf 10.1002/ece3.9985
Recent exposure to environmental stochasticity does not determine the demographic resilience of natural populations, Cant et al., Ecology Letters Open Access 10.1111/ele.14234
Regional and global climate risks for reef corals: Incorporating species-specific vulnerability and exposure to climate hazards, Kim et al., Global Change Biology Open Access 10.1111/gcb.16739
GHG sources & sinks, flux, related geochemistry
A Continental-Scale Estimate of Soil Organic Carbon Change at NEON Sites and Their Environmental and Edaphic Controls, Hu et al., Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences 10.1029/2022jg006981
Carbon emissions from emerging glacier-fed Himalayan lakes, Shukla et al., Global and Planetary Change 10.1016/j.gloplacha.2023.104134
Carbon isotope fractionation by an ancestral rubisco suggests that biological proxies for CO2 through geologic time should be reevaluated, Wang et al., Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Open Access 10.1073/pnas.2300466120
Characterizing Uncertainty in Pan-Arctic Land-Ocean Dissolved Organic Carbon Flux: Insights from the Onega River, Russia, Starr et al., Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences 10.1029/2022jg007073
Climate-driven variability of the Southern Ocean CO2 sink, Mayot et al., Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences Open Access 10.1098/rsta.2022.0055
Energy budget diagnosis of changing climate feedback, Cael et al., Science Advances Open Access 10.1126/sciadv.adf9302
Environmental economy and greenhouse gas generation in a sanitary landfill in Mexico, Tavera-Cortés et al., International Journal of Environmental Science and Technology 10.1007/s13762-023-04954-1
Finale: impact of the ORCHESTRA/ENCORE programmes on Southern Ocean heat and carbon understanding, Meijers et al., Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences Open Access 10.1098/rsta.2022.0070
Financial liabilities and environmental implications of unplugged wells for the Gulf of Mexico and coastal waters, Agerton et al., Nature Energy 10.1038/s41560-023-01248-1
Mesoscale Eddies Enhance the Air-Sea CO2 Sink in the South Atlantic Ocean, Ford et al., Geophysical Research Letters Open Access 10.1029/2022gl102137
Methane emissions from Arctic landscapes during 2000–2015: An analysis with land and lake biogeochemistry models, Liu & Zhuang Zhuang, Biogeosciences Open Access pdf 10.5194/bg-20-1181-2023
On physical mechanisms enhancing air–sea CO2 exchange, Gutiérrez-Loza et al., Biogeosciences Open Access pdf 10.5194/bg-19-5645-2022
Regional and global impact of CO2 uptake in the Benguela Upwelling System through preformed nutrients, Siddiqui et al., Nature Communications Open Access 10.1038/s41467-023-38208-y
Sailing through the southern seas of air–sea CO2 flux uncertainty, Landschützer et al., Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences Open Access 10.1098/rsta.2022.0064
Soil organic carbon models need independent time-series validation for reliable prediction, Le Noë et al., Communications Earth & Environment Open Access 10.1038/s43247-023-00830-5
Southern ocean carbon and heat impact on climate, et al., Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences Open Access 10.1098/rsta.2022.0056
Southern Ocean phytoplankton dynamics and carbon export: insights from a seasonal cycle approach, Thomalla et al., Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences 10.1098/rsta.2022.0068
Sparse observations induce large biases in estimates of the global ocean CO2 sink: an ocean model subsampling experiment, Hauck et al., Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences Open Access 10.1098/rsta.2022.0063
Spatial and temporal variations of gross primary production simulated by land surface model BCC&AVIM2.0, Li et al., Advances in Climate Change Research Open Access 10.1016/j.accre.2023.02.001
CO2 capture, sequestration science & engineering
Carbon sequestration potential and the multiple functions of Nordic grasslands, Norderhaug et al., Climatic Change Open Access 10.1007/s10584-023-03537-w
Influences of CO2-cured cement powders on hydration of cement paste, Kong et al., Greenhouse Gases: Science and Technology 10.1002/ghg.2141
Vegetated coastal ecosystems in the Southwestern Atlantic Ocean are an unexploited opportunity for climate change mitigation, Hatje et al., Communications Earth & Environment Open Access 10.1038/s43247-023-00828-z
Collaboration and integration towards zero carbon refurbishment: A New Zealand case study, Bui et al., Energy for Sustainable Development 10.1016/j.esd.2023.04.005
-of-life solar photovoltaic panel waste management in India: forecasting and environmental impact assessment, Sharma et al., International Journal of Environmental Science and Technology Open Access pdf 10.1007/s13762-023-04953-2
Global green hydrogen-based steel opportunities surrounding high quality renewable energy and iron ore deposits, Devlin et al., Nature Communications Open Access 10.1038/s41467-023-38123-2
Improving dry anaerobic methane production from OFMSW by co-digestion with grass waste and pretreatment with white rot fungi, Franceschi et al., Energy for Sustainable Development 10.1016/j.esd.2023.04.015
Not All Light Spectra Were Created Equal: Can We Harvest Light for Optimum Food-Energy Co-Generation?, Camporese & Abou Najm, Earth's Future Open Access 10.1029/2022ef002900
Phase evolution under pressure, Javanbakht, Materialia Open Access 10.1016/j.mtla.2021.101199
Silicon heterojunction solar cells with up to 26.81% efficiency achieved by electrically optimized nanocrystalline-silicon hole contact layers, Lin et al., Nature Energy Open Access 10.1038/s41560-023-01255-2
State of the art and future prospects for TEG-PCM Systems: A review, Kandi et al., Energy for Sustainable Development 10.1016/j.esd.2023.04.012
Ultrahigh-rate and ultralong-life aqueous batteries enabled by special pair-dancing proton transfer, Wang et al., Science Advances Open Access 10.1126/sciadv.adf4589
African biomass burning affects aerosol cycling over the Amazon, Holanda et al., Communications Earth & Environment Open Access 10.1038/s43247-023-00795-5
Black carbon in contrasting environments in India: Temporal variability, source apportionment and radiative forcing, Romshoo et al., Atmospheric Environment 10.1016/j.atmosenv.2023.119734
Climate change communications & cognition
Are climate change policies politically costly?, Furceri et al., Energy Policy Open Access 10.1016/j.enpol.2023.113575
Climate Justice Communication: Strategies from U.S. Climate Activists, , Journal of Development and Social Sciences Open Access pdf 10.47205/jdss.2021(2-iv)74
COVID-19 Pandemic as an Opportunity or Challenge: Applying Psychological Distance Theory and the Co-Benefit Frame to Promote Public Support for Climate Change Mitigation on Social Media, Moore et al., Journal of Dental Education Open Access 10.1002/jdd.12344
COVID-19 and climate change: The social-psychological roots of conflict and conflict interventions during global crises, Burrows et al., WIREs Climate Change Open Access 10.1002/wcc.837
Multilevel intergroup conflict at the core of climate (in)justice: Psychological challenges and ways forward, Majumdar & Weber, WIREs Climate Change Open Access 10.1002/wcc.836
Agronomy, animal husbundry, food production & climate change
Carbon exchange of forest plantations: global patterns and biophysical drivers, Tong et al., Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 10.1016/j.agrformet.2023.109379
Climate change threat on socio-economic condition of agroforestry managers: A vulnerability study in Eastern Himalayan state of Mizoram, Northeast India, Thangjam et al., Climate Risk Management Open Access 10.1016/j.
Crop yield prediction via explainable AI and interpretable machine learning: Dangers of black box models for evaluating climate change impacts on crop yield, Hu et al., Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 10.1016/j.agrformet.2023.109458
Effects of defoliation and nitrogen on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and microbial communities in soils of cherry tree orchards, Wang et al., PeerJ Open Access 10.7717/peerj.15276
Extreme rainfall reduces one-twelfth of China’s rice yield over the last two decades, Fu et al., Nature Food 10.1038/s43016-023-00753-6
Hierarchy of value orientation and beliefs in climate change influencing the farmers’ extractive or non-extractive behavior on the farm, Karami, Environment, Development and Sustainability Open Access pdf 10.1007/s10668-023-03215-y
The effects of climate change on food production in India: evidence from the ARDL model, Ahmed et al., Environment, Development and Sustainability Open Access 10.1007/s10668-023-03209-w
Uncertainties in the effectiveness of biological control of stem borers under different climate change scenarios in Eastern Africa, Jendritzki et al., Climatic Change Open Access 10.1007/s10584-023-03514-3
Hydrology, hydrometeorology & climate change
Changes in extreme precipitation in Taiwan Mei-yu season, Henny et al., Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society 10.1002/qj.4483
Geomorphic response of low-gradient, meandering and braided alluvial river channels to increased sediment supply, Kemper et al., Earth 10.1016/j.earscirev.2023.104429
Increase in summer precipitation over the Sichuan
in recent decades and possible causes, Nie &
, International Journal of Climatology 10.1002/joc.8086
MOPREDAS¢ury database and precipitation trends in mainland Spain, 1916–2020, Gonzalez?Hidalgo et al., International Journal of Climatology Open Access pdf 10.1002/joc.8060
On the need for improved knowledge on the regional-to-local precipitation variability in eastern Spain under climate change, Benetó & Khodayar, Atmospheric Research 10.1016/j.atmosres.2023.106795
Propagation and Characteristics of Hydrometeorological Drought under Changing Climate in Irish Catchments, Meresa et al., Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres 10.1029/2022jd038025
The Increasing Role of Seasonal Rainfall in Western U.S. Summer Streamflow, Ban et al., Geophysical Research Letters Open Access 10.1029/2023gl102892
Climate change economics
A game theoretic approach to sustainable freight transportation: competition between green, non-green and semi-green transportation networks under government sustainable policies, Fallahi et al., Environment, Development and Sustainability 10.1007/s10668-023-03115-1
Alleviating role of energy innovation on resource curse: a case of OECD countries, Akram et al., Carbon Management Open Access 10.1080/17583004.2023.2205383
On the economics of rooftop solar PV adoption, Agdas & Barooah, Energy Policy 10.1016/j.enpol.2023.113611
Quantitative and dynamic scenario analysis of SDGs outcomes upon global sustainability 1990–2050, Phillips, The Anthropocene Review 10.1177/20530196231170367
The drivers and barriers of energy efficiency, Su, Energy Policy Open Access 10.1016/j.enpol.2023.113598
Climate change mitigation public policy research
A comprehensive and policy-oriented model of the hydrogen vehicle fleet composition, applied to the UK market, Gueniat & Maryam, Environment Systems and Decisions Open Access 10.1007/s10669-023-09911-4
Acquirers’ carbon risk, environmental regulation, and cross-border mergers and acquisitions: evidence from China, Guo & Cheng, Environment, Development and Sustainability 10.1007/s10668-023-03276-z
An assessment of energy system transformation pathways to achieve net-zero carbon dioxide emissions in Switzerland, Panos et al., Communications Earth & Environment Open Access 10.1038/s43247-023-00813-6
Are climate change policies politically costly?, Furceri et al., Energy Policy Open Access 10.1016/j.enpol.2023.113575
Carbon emission trading schemes induces technology transfer: Evidence from China, Cai et al., Energy Policy 10.1016/j.enpol.2023.113595
Climate ambition and respective capabilities: are England’s local emissions targets spatially just?, Garvey et al., Climate Policy Open Access 10.1080/14693062.2023.2208089
Climate policy costs of spatially unbalanced growth in electricity demand: the case of datacentres in Ireland, Fitiwi et al., Climate Policy 10.1080/14693062.2023.2208066
Current vehicle emission standards will not mitigate climate change or improve air quality, Herberger & Ulmer, CLEAN Open Access 10.1002/clen.201000286
Different outcomes of alternative approaches to forest carbon accounting at the local level, Sun et al., PLOS Climate Open Access 10.1371/journal.pclm.0000191
Effects of transport–carbon intensity, transportation, and economic complexity on environmental and health expenditures, Hussain et al., Environment, Development and Sustainability Open Access pdf 10.1007/s10668-023-03297-8
Emissions redistribution and environmental justice implications of California’s clean vehicle rebate project, Mejía-Duwan et al., PLOS Climate Open Access 10.1371/journal.pclm.0000183
Energy transition in Africa: The role of human capital, financial development, economic development, and carbon emissions, Wiredu et al., Environmental Science & Policy 10.1016/j.envsci.2023.04.021
Forecasting carbon emissions of China’s industrial sectors via time lag effect, Wang et al., Environment, Development and Sustainability 10.1007/s10668-023-03285-y
Heating choices and residential willingness to pay for clean heating: Evidence from a household survey in rural China, Bai et al., Energy Policy 10.1016/j.enpol.2023.113617
International carbon markets for carbon dioxide removal, Michaelowa et al., PLOS Climate Open Access 10.1371/journal.pclm.0000118
Multilevel intergroup conflict at the core of climate (in)justice: Psychological challenges and ways forward, Majumdar & Weber, WIREs Climate Change Open Access 10.1002/wcc.836
Parameter uncertainties in evaluating climate policies with dynamic integrated climate-economy model, Sütçü, Environment Systems and Decisions 10.1007/s10669-023-09914-1
Principles of decarbonization politics, Mattauch & Srivastav, Nature Climate Change 10.1038/s41558-023-01663-y
Solar business prosumers in Ukraine: Should we wait for them to appear?, Sotnyk et al., Energy Policy 10.1016/j.enpol.2023.113585
Sowing the seeds of change: Policy feedback and ratcheting up in South African energy policy, Schmid & Lumsden, Energy Policy 10.1016/j.enpol.2023.113597
Climate change adaptation & adaptation public policy research
A framework to assess multi-hazard physical climate risk for power generation projects from publicly-accessible sources, Luo et al., Communications Earth & Environment Open Access pdf 10.1038/s43247-023-00782-w
A global scoping review on sustainability, climate migration, and climate resilience of small and medium-sized cities (SMSC), Youngquist et al., Urban Climate 10.1016/j.uclim.2023.101546
A review of climatic impacts on water main deterioration, Ahmad et al., Urban Climate Open Access 10.1016/j.uclim.2023.101552
Centering equity in the development of a community resilience planning resource, Fry et al., Climate Risk Management Open Access 10.1016/j.crm.2023.100520
Exploring spatial feedbacks between adaptation policies and internal migration patterns due to sea-level rise, Reimann et al., Nature Communications Open Access 10.1038/s41467-023-38278-y
Geospatial Assessment of Intrinsic Resilience to the Climate Change for the Central Coast of Bangladesh, Mahmood et al., Climate Risk Management Open Access 10.1016/j.crm.2023.100521
Global transportation infrastructure exposure to the change of precipitation in a warmer world, Liu et al., Nature Communications Open Access 10.1038/s41467-023-38203-3
The hazard components of representative key risks The physical climate perspective, Tebaldi et al., Climate Risk Management Open Access 10.1016/j.crm.2023.100516
What drives local climate change adaptation? A qualitative comparative analysis, Braunschweiger & Ingold , Environmental Science & Policy Open Access 10.1016/j.envsci.2023.03.013
Climate change & geopolitics
When Climate Change Determines International Agreements: Evidence from Water Treaties, Candau & Gbandi , Environmental and Resource Economics Open Access 10.1007/s10640-023-00776-4
Challenging the values of the polluter elite: A global consequentialist response to Evensen and Graham's (2022) ‘The irreplaceable virtues of in-person conferences’, Whitmarsh & Kreil, Journal of Environmental Psychology 10.1016/j.jenvp.2022.101881
Growth and actual leaf temperature modulate CO2 responsiveness of monoterpene emissions from holm oak in opposite ways, Staudt et al., Biogeosciences Open Access pdf 10.5194/bg-19-4945-2022
Objectively combining climate sensitivity evidence, Lewis, Climate Dynamics Open Access pdf 10.1007/s00382-022-06468-x
Recent state transition of the Arctic Ocean’s Beaufort Gyre, Lin et al., Nature Geoscience 10.1038/s41561-023-01184-5
Informed opinion, nudges & major initiatives
Going beyond market-based mechanisms to finance nature-based solutions and foster sustainable futures, Chausson et al., PLOS Climate Open Access pdf 10.1371/journal.pclm.0000169
Heat and carbon uptake in the Southern Ocean: the state of the art and future priorities, Meijers et al., Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences Open Access 10.1098/rsta.2022.0071
How the Green Architecture of the 2023–2027 Common Agricultural Policy could have been greener, Guyomard et al., Ambio Open Access 10.1007/s13280-023-01861-0
Placing diverse knowledge systems at the core of transformative climate research, Orlove et al., Ambio Open Access 10.1007/s13280-023-01857-w
Put the money where the gaps are: Priority areas for climate resilience research in the Caribbean, Birthwright & Smith, PLOS Climate Open Access 10.1371/journal.pclm.0000211
Representation of adaptation in quantitative climate assessments, van Maanen et al., Nature Climate Change Open Access 10.1038/s41558-023-01644-1
Research needs for a food system transition, McDermid et al., Climatic Change Open Access pdf 10.1007/s10584-023-03507-2
Stepping up action, Editors, Nature Climate Change Open Access 10.1016/b978-155558327-9/50014-3
Trajectories of socio-ecological change in mountains, Lavorel et al., Regional Environmental Change Open Access pdf 10.1007/s10113-023-02063-w
America’s energy gamble: people, economy and planet, Boyle, Human Ecology 10.1007/s10745-022-00323-7
The pivotal generation: why we have a moral responsibility to slow climate change right now, Dent, International Journal of Environmental Studies Open Access 10.1080/00207233.2022.2099114
Articles/Reports from Agencies and Non-Governmental Organizations Addressing Aspects of Climate Change
Global Warming’s Four Indias, 2022: An Audience Segmentation Analysis, Leiserowitz et al, ale Program on Climate Change Communication
From October 21, 2021 to January 9, 2022, a research team from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication (YPCCC) and the Centre for Voting Opinion & Trends in Election Research (CVoter) conducted a nationally representative survey of 4,619 Indian adults (18+). The study was designed to investigate the Indian public’s climate change awareness, beliefs, policy support, and behavior, as well as perceptions of local weather and climate patterns and vulnerability to extreme weather events. The authors identify and describe differences among subgroups of the Indian public by conducting an audience segmentation analysis based on people’s global warming beliefs, risk perceptions, and behaviors. The authors identify four unique audiences within the Indian population – Global Warming’s Four Indias – that each respond to global warming in their own distinct way.
200 and counting: Global financial institutions are exiting coal, Saurabh Trivedi and Shantanu Srivastava, The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis
Over 200 globally significant financial institutions have established coal exclusion policies, with divestment momentum away from coal accelerating in the last two years despite record profits being enjoyed by coal companies on the back of the energycrisis. Europe leads the way with the highest number of financial institutions divesting from coal (114) and with more stringent exclusion policies compared to other regions. Asia has shown a significant increase in divestment, jumping from 10 financial institutions with coal exclusion policies between 2013 and April 2019 to 41 within the next three years. Momentum is also building in the number of policy upgrades in the last two years, these strengthened coal exit policies demonstrating that financial institutions are increasingly recognizing climate risk as a source of financial risk and ultimately systemic risk for the global financial system.
The Intelligence Community Must Evolve To Meet the Reality of Arctic Change, Marisol Maddox and Lyston Lea, Wilson Center and Polar Institute
U.S. strategies for the Arctic consistently reflect the desire for the region to be stable, peaceful, and governed by international law. The 2022 National Defense Strategy reflects an understanding of the region’s strategic importance but also that “U.S. activities and posture in the Arctic should be calibrated, as the Department preserves its focus on the Indo-Pacific region.” The targeted interventions recommended in the publication seek to enhance intelligence support to policy and military interests in the region, in such a calibrated way. By enhancing coordination and collaboration, tweaking bureaucratic structures, and strengthening engagement with allies, the U.S. will be able to grow intelligence community efficiency and effectiveness, thereby alleviating unnecessary effort or redundancy while better positioning our country for the complex challenges to come. The authors analyze three threats in the Arctic and provide six recommendations for the Intelligence community to consider.
Obtaining articles without journal subscriptions
We know it's frustrating that many articles we cite here are not free to read. One-off paid access fees are generally astronomically priced, suitable for such as "On a Heuristic Point of View Concerning the Production and Transformation of Light" but not as a gamble on unknowns. With a median world income of US$ 9,373, for most of us US$ 42 is significant money to wager on an article's relevance and importance.
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catchis checked against the Unpaywall database with accessible items being flagged. Especially for just-published articles this mechansim may fail. If you're interested in an article title and it is not listed here as "open access," be sure to check the link anyway.
How is New Research assembled?
Most articles appearing here are found via RSS feeds from journal publishers, filtered by search terms to produce raw output for assessment of relevance.
Relevant articles are then queried against the Unpaywall database, to identify open access articles and expose useful metadata for articles appearing in the database.
The objective of New Research isn't to cast a tinge on scientific results, to color readers' impressions. Hence candidate articles are assessed via two metrics only:
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Time to chill.
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Hunterian Museum collection amassed by 18th-century surgeon-anatomist John Hunter includes body parts of humans and animals
The relaunch of an extraordinary collection of human and animal specimens gathered in the 18th century by a medical pioneer has prompted the Royal College of Surgeons in England (RCS) to commission research into complex questions about provenance and consent.
The collection amassed by the surgeon-anatomist John Hunter includes human organs alongside the bodies and body parts of creatures ranging from bees to elephants. Human foetuses in glass jars, from nine weeks gestation to full term, pickled penises and female reproductive organs are preserved in carefully labelled glass jars.Continue reading…
The pioneering IVF procedure known as mitochondrial donation therapy (MDT) could prevent children from being born with devastating mitochondrial diseases. Madeleine Finlay speaks to Prof Darren Griffin, an expert in genetic diseases and reproduction, about how MDT works, the ethical considerations attached, and what techniques like it could mean for the future of reproduction
Read science editor Ian Sample’s exclusive coverage of this story here
Clip: Sky NewsContinue reading…
First came the virus …
This could be a lifesaver.
Not so average.
“Our country is being destroyed by stupid people,” former President Donald Trump declared during a CNN town hall tonight, shortly after he endorsed defaulting on the national debt.
Trump remains without shame. Neither impeachment nor indictment nor arraignment nor a barely day-old verdict against him in a civil suit can change the fact that he’s still leading the field of Republican presidential candidates—comfortably.
During tonight’s hour-plus live broadcast from New Hampshire, Trump steamrolled over the moderator, Kaitlan Collins, at one point calling her a “nasty” person—an echo of his 2016 campaign against Hillary Clinton. Collins did her best to fact-check the former president, but her efforts consistently fell short. Trump’s ability to disgorge words is unparalleled. She tried to cut him off, but he battled through it.
[Read: Trump begins the ‘retribution’ tour]
Tonight, Trump rattled off myriad conspiracy theories about voter fraud and claimed, as he had at CPAC, that he could end the war in Ukraine in a quick 24 hours. He painted the January 6 insurrectionist Ashli Babbitt as a martyr and called the Capitol Police officer who shot her a “thug.” He referred to former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi as a “crazy woman.” He repeatedly denigrated the writer E. Jean Carroll, who was just awarded $5 million in damages after a jury found that he defamed and sexually assaulted her. Trump repeated his earlier claims not to know her, calling her a “whack job.”
But will it matter? Has it ever mattered before?
Trump is currently leading both the incumbent, President Joe Biden, and the top Republican alternative, Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida, in the polls. Though the 2024 election is still a long way off, the campaign is officially under way—such was the network’s justification for tonight’s town hall. Many observers on social media objected to the fact that it happened at all.
On set in New Hampshire, Trump was speaking not just to the country, but to a roomful of undecided voters. Most of them seemed eager to applaud and giggle along with the former president, whom nearly everyone addressed as “Mr. President.” He’s still the star, the draw, the showman. When he theatrically pulled papers out of his breast pocket, the crowd hooted. He teased a few 2024 talking points: The economy? Stinks. Inflation? A disaster. Afghanistan? “The single most embarrassing moment in the history of this country.”
And then there’s the topic of January 6. The laughably big question going into the next election is whether a president who incited a violent mob and tried to stage a coup in lieu of orchestrating a peaceful transfer of power can once again be president. Has Trump taken the past two years to reflect on his actions? Has he been humbled? Chastened? Of course not.
Tonight, Trump doubled down on his claim that former Vice President Mike Pence should have overturned the results of the 2020 election. He said he was inclined to pardon “many” of the January 6 rioters, bemoaning that “they’re living in hell right now.” He referred to these insurrectionists as “great people,” a subtle callback to his comments in the aftermath of the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in which he claimed there were “very fine people” on both sides.
Next month marks eight years since Trump descended the golden escalator in Trump Tower and announced his candidacy for president. Hardly anyone in the media seemed to know how to properly cover him then. CNN was among the networks that used to carry his campaign rallies live. Tonight’s town hall, despite Collins’s admirable attempts at pushback, felt like a regression to that earlier era. Even some of Trump’s lines felt ominously familiar. “If I don’t win, this country is going to be in big trouble,” he said. Are we really about to do this all over again?