Pinche Ciencia Loca!
First, in early April, JAXA (that's Japan's NASA, duh!) bombs the hell out of an asteroid, then on April 10 we all saw a black hole for the first time, and THEN that same day we found out that we have ANOTHER homo species to add to the bunch! So, yeah, all three of those stories happened last month. Let's cover each in a science lightning round!
SNOWBALLS IN HELL.
The Arctic is in big trouble. The region is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, with worrying consequences -- like the thawing of permafrost releasing huge amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and speeding up global warming even more. A major new study released in April -- this one surveying changes since 1971 -- put the situation quite bluntly:
The Arctic biophysical system is now clearly trending away from its 20th Century state and into an unprecedented state, with implications not only within but beyond the Arctic.
That's scientist talk for Shit Is Very Bad. So of course we shouldn't be the least bit surprised to learn that the Trump administration has been attempting to strip all mentions of climate change from an international statement that's supposed to be issued next week by the eight nations that make up the Arctic Council. While the rest of the countries with territory in the Arctic think science is real, Donald Trump's very good brain thinks otherwise, and don't you tell him different!
The Arctic Council nations meet every two years to discuss international policy at the top of the world, and they have always issued a unanimous statement about goals and principles like "Maybe we should try not to kill all the sea otters with crude oil" and "Indigenous People have rights, sure, we guess" and "Look! A Whale!" But not this year, reports the Washington Post:
But have we tried reasoning with the climate yet?
Beto O'Rourke went from pretty much zero concrete policy proposals to wow! yesterday with the release of an ambitious plan to leverage five trillion dollars toward getting America to net zero carbon emissions by 2050 -- the reduction in greenhouse gases needed to prevent the very worst outcomes of climate change. The plan aims to get us halfway to that goal by 2030.
It's not exactly the Green New Deal -- and in terms of actual policy proposals, it's actually more detailed than that resolution, which at this stage is more about setting goals than the actual mechanics of reaching them. O'Rourke's plan immediately became the most detailed 2020 Democratic candidate's plan for addressing climate, if only because others are still on the way. It also looks very very doable, although of course the Usual Suspects will proclaim it the end of America.
(This is not about Australia.)
Well, we've fucked up the planet enough and if some species has to take over, and it's not capybaras or dachshunds, then I guess cats are better than cockroaches. And now we have proof that the these purring pendejos have known what the hell's been going on all along. Well, maybe not proof that they get the jokes on "A Closer Look" and just choose to not laugh with us, but evidence that they know their fucking names and choose to not come when we call them. Where is this proof, Carlos? Glad you asked, gentle reader. In none other than Nature, one of the top science journals. Published a couple of weeks ago, I'll give you a summary of the experiment and findings. But first, some backstory!
It seems that scientists have mostly focused on dogs over cats when doing research into how our pets communicate with us. This is probably because dogs are awesome, and everyone loves dogs and cats are satanic vessels for the coming of the anti-Christ … or so I'm told. Don't start the hate-messaging like you all did when I dissed on baseball. This is just what my cat sources are telling me.
Te Gusta la Ciencia!
Hey! We talked to Don Beyer, US Representative from Virginia, about Everything Science Committee. IT WAS A GOOD TALK. Let's go!
Te Encanta La Pinche Ciencia!
Another day, another asinine funding cut decision by the Executive Branch that maybe thinks it's actually the Execution Branch. Not autism programs, not the Special Olympics ... this time. No, this time it's just what some think is the most important project at NASA! Space Force bullshit he wants. Actual beneficial science projects? Not so much.
So, what is the top, most important project at NASA? According to a 2010 survey of astronomers and astrophysicists it's NOT going back to the Moon, like Pence would have you think, or landing on Mars. It's the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), and it's pretty fucking important if you care about advancing our knowledge about space, particularly regarding exoplanets, dark energy, and finding a ton more galaxies out there. It's basically the Hubble on steroids. For all the Debbie Downers out there complaining that the freaking amazing first photo of a black hole is not impressive (DON'T be that asshole!), well this next-gen telescope would shut them up. Same fuckers that probably complain that the wifi on the airplane is too slow.
Anyhoo, how about some details on WFIRST? Yeah, we got you.
Man bites fucking dog.
Mother Jones brings us a truly surprising story about Ron DeSantis, the rightwing schmuck who rode a bunch of racist dog whistles into office over Andrew Gillum last fall. DeSantis had a shitty environmental voting record in Congress and refused during the campaign to even answer whether he accepts the scientific reality of climate change, instead saying he didn't think anyone should be an "alarmist" about it. But a whole three months and change into his gubernatorialship, DeSantis has so far failed to be an exploding crude oil hauling trainwreck on environmental issues. Already, DeSantis has done better than Rick Scott did in eight years. That bar is lower than the sub-basement of "Cheers," but DeSantis made it over!
Te Encanta la Pinche Ciencia!
Two weeks ago, yet ANOTHER huge Phase III study trying to find a treatment for Alzheimer's Disease (AD) tanked big time. Biogen and its partner Eisai let the world know that their experimental drug Aducanumab failed, and right away, Biogen lost almost twenty billion dollars in market value. This was a drug that had promising Phase II data, but that was going after the disease in the same way as many other drugs that had tried and failed before it. What went wrong? I'm not an expert in the field, but I really think it's the wrong target. More on that later.
Of all the diseases out there, Alzheimer's has to score pretty high in the fucked up rankings. It's a devastating illness, insidious in the gradual way it destroys a person's life. It steals your memories, it changes your personality, it destroys your independence, it shatters your relationships and eventually it also takes your life. It's not only devastating to the patient but also to their family, friends and caregivers in ways that few other diseases are. Unlike cancer or heart disease, there are no good options for Alzheimer's patients. The five approved drugs only help symptoms but don't treat the actual disease. Because of that and because with an aging population it's a potential goldmine for pharma companies, drug development money is thrown at it faster than the actual science we understand about the disease would dictate. Before we get back to the failed drug, let's go into a little Wonksplainer on what Alzheimer's disease is.
Well, we don't actually know!
Science, you do fucking love it?
First, NASA sent its last message to the Mars Opportunity rover! THEN scientists said that all the insects are dying but not the human-looking ones in the GOP. As if THAT wasn't enough, some brave pendejos with grandes cojones are going to try and get seafloor creatures from under a giant ice shelf in the ANTARCTIC!
So, yeah, all three of those stories happened last month. Let's cover each in a science lightning round.
Like, literally. He made them get chickenpox, because he is A IDIOT.
Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin explained on a radio talk show that he loves his kids so much he deliberately exposed them all to chickenpox, which has potentially deadly side effects. But hey, they lived, so he's the freakin' parent of the century. Bevin said that he'd taken all his kids to the home of a neighbor whose child had chickenpox so they'd all get the disease, instead of getting them vaccinated, and by golly, he's proud of his medically risky decision. And if his kids get shingles later in life, he may not be around to blame anymore, so it's all good!
Heck of a way to win adherents for a fringe position.
CNN is out today with a story on members of the anti-vaccination/pro-disease movement who have found a delightful new way to win converts to their side in the war on science: find parents (mothers, generally) who have recently lost a child to a preventable disease, and then harass them on social media, because after all, good people refuse vaccines and anyone who advocates for vaccines must be burned to the ground. As your lawyer (we are not a lawyer), we advise you to secure any hurlable heavy objects near you before reading.
You Fucking Love Science!
If you scanned the mainstream media (aka "Fake News!") last week, you might think the cure for AIDS had arrived. Well, I hate to be a Downer Debbie, but nopety nope, it has not. What DID happen is that at this year's annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (think ComiCon but with virus photos and EVERYONE'S costume is "hung over scientist in rumpled suit") it was announced that one more HIV-infected individual appears free of the virus. He's been with undetectable (notice I didn't say "virus free") HIV for 18 months which is the longest since Timothy Ray Brown, aka the "Berlin patient," now considered cured for over 10 years. So now, this patient is being called the "London patient" for reasons you can figure out on your own, you clever pendejos. He may well be cured, but 18 months is too short to know for sure. In the cancer world, we consider someone cured after five years. The analogy is a pretty good one because while you can wipe out the HIV virus to undetectable levels, you could have virus hiding out in very small numbers in some organ and not really venturing much into the blood stream (so the test wouldn't find it) until for some reason the virus explodes in numbers again and BOOM you detect a bunch of it. In cancer that's like removing the tumor, but some tumor cells remain that you can't detect until they regrow into a new tumor. After five years we figure they're gone. Same with HIV. Berlin patient IS cured (yay!) but it's too soon to tell for London dude. And before I get to why the approach that worked for them won't be used but for select few folks, let's do a quick history lesson on HIV and AIDS.
Come on, baby, you can trust Zuck!
Facebook has decided to pivot from being a "town square" to a "living room" after realizing nobody likes hanging out with an entire village full of idiots. Facebook still wants to be the de facto place for sharing ugly baby pictures and screaming half-baked political opinions, it just wants to limit its liability when some nut rants about murdering Jews and Muslims. Instead of being forced to become the cyber police, Mark Zuckerberg says Facebook will begin focusing on private chat systems to protect people -- even though he's spent the majority of his life as a man-child taking a dump all over other people's privacy.
In a lengthy, hypocritical, and jargon filled declaration, Zuckerberg says Facebook will (finally) embrace end-to-end encryption protocols. According to Zuckerberg, private messaging and small group communications are growing rapidly, and Facebook needs to stay hip. In a world where government officials are suddenly embarrassed by old photos of themselves dressed in black face at college parties, Zuckerberg feels like it's time for Facebook to evolve. So saith The Zuck:
Even the Republicans on the committee think he's a dick.
Rand Paul, the great libertarian and self-certified "eye doctor," had some very deep thoughts yesterday on Liberty and Freedom and the right of parents to let their kids and other people risk dying of communicable disease for the sake of Liberty. The Senate Health Education, Labor and Pensions Committee was holding an actual hearing -- yes, a US Senate hearing in the Trump era! -- on the threats posed to public health by recent measles outbreaks, and the Senator from Kentucky made a very important speech about health and freedom, and the dangers of evil government control. Why, if we mandate that children be vaccinated, aren't we really using VIOLENCE to make people conform, just for some alleged health benefits like "avoiding measles outbreaks" like the two currently hitting the USA?
Measles cannot be cured with antibiotics, or anything.
If we lived in a perfect world, there would be some kind of statute preventing stupid politicians from basing legislation on "science" they've made up themselves. Think of how much time we would all save on abortion issues! So much time! I, for one, would never again have to write another "Oh my god, no one is killing newborn babies" explainer, which would be pretty sweet.
Aside from abortion, the number one issue for people who don't know what the hell they are talking about is vaccines. People who don't know anything about vaccines feel very confident that they are the ones who should be going around enacting legislation based on shit they have made up themselves, which is rather inconvenient for the rest of us! Especially those who have immuno-compromised children who need to rely on herd immunity to stay alive. The entire gist of the anti-vaccine movement is "Other people need to die to protect my right to be stupid."
Texas is in the middle of a measles outbreak at the moment, so naturally a couple of Republican legislators have decided it is a great time to put out a bill making it easier for parents to get vaccine exemptions for their children, and prevent the state health department from tracking exemptions. This means that it will be more difficult for health officials to pinpoint where outbreaks are coming from and thus work to curb them, and that sane parents won't be able to use that information to decide where to send their kids to school. The bill is authored by Representative Matt Krause of the Freedom Caucus, because of course it is.
He's got nerdmentum!
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee today became the four billionth candidate to announce he's running for the Democratic nomination in 2020, although he joins the field with one distinction: He's actually the first governor to jump into the race. Heck, there's more mayors running than governors so far. Inslee positions himself as the candidate who'll fight climate change, and released a video that almost comically emphasizes the point. In the first 15 seconds, it hits us with a montage of Inslee saying variations on "We have got to stop global warming" and pounding on "climate change" over and over -- taken in isolation, it could almost look like a clip from an opposition ad complaining Inslee's too single-minded. But that's pretty much his point, as he said in a New Yorker profile published yesterday. It just doesn't make sense for Dems to say climate change is an existential threat but not center their campaigns on fighting it.
Yr Wonkette has watched a whole lot of campaign announcement videos this year. Inslee's is definitely one of them, but it's the first we've come across where the campaign has set it to not allow embedding. So we will try to recreate that opening montage through the magic of screenshots, which are like a video with a really slow frame rate. The ad kicks off a bit hokily, with Earnest Young Voter asking what Inslee has to say about climate. And then we get a quick recap (and trade) of Inslee's career as a congressman and governor, aging incrementally as the climate has gotten worser.
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