Category : Science & Technology

(NYT) Why Australia Bet the House on Lasting American Power in Asia

When Scott Morrison became Australia’s prime minister three years ago, he insisted that the country could maintain close ties with China, its largest trading partner, while working with the United States, its main security ally.

“Australia doesn’t have to choose,” he said in one of his first foreign policy speeches.

On Thursday, Australia effectively chose. Following years of sharply deteriorating relations with Beijing, Australia announced a new defense agreement in which the United States and Britain would help it deploy nuclear-powered submarines, a major advance in Australian military strength.

With its move to acquire heavy weaponry and top-secret technology, Australia has thrown in its lot with the United States for generations to come — a “forever partnership,” in Mr. Morrison’s words. The agreement will open the way to deeper military ties and higher expectations that Australia would join any military conflict with Beijing.

It’s a big strategic bet that America will prevail in its great-power competition with China and continue to be a dominant and stabilizing force in the Pacific even as the costs increase.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Australia / NZ, Defense, National Security, Military, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, France, Politics in General, Science & Technology

(WSJ front page) Facebook Knows Instagram Is Toxic for Teen Girls, Company Documents Show

Eva Behrens, a 17-year-old student at Redwood High School in Marin County, Calif., said she estimates half the girls in her grade struggle with body-image concerns tied to Instagram. “Every time I feel good about myself, I go over to Instagram, and then it all goes away,” she said.

When her classmate Molly Pitts, 17, arrived at high school, she found her peers using Instagram as a tool to measure their relative popularity. Students referred to the number of followers their peers had as if the number was stamped on their foreheads, she said.

Now, she said, when she looks at her number of followers on Instagram, it is most often a “kick in the gut.”

For years, there has been little debate among medical doctors that for some patients, Instagram and other social media exacerbate their conditions. Angela Guarda, director for the eating-disorders program at Johns Hopkins Hospital and an associate professor of psychiatry in the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, said it is common for her patients to say they learned from social media tips for how to restrict food intake or purge. She estimates that Instagram and other social-media apps play a role in the disorders of about half her patients.

“It’s the ones who are most vulnerable or are already developing a problem—the use of Instagram and other social media can escalate it,” she said.

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Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Science & Technology, Teens / Youth, Women

(Guardian) Four in 10 young people fear having children due to climate crisis

Four in 10 young people around the world are hesitant to have children as a result of the climate crisis, and fear that governments are doing too little to prevent climate catastrophe, a poll in 10 countries has found.

Nearly six in 10 young people, aged 16 to 25, were very or extremely worried about climate change, according to the biggest scientific study yet on climate anxiety and young people, published on Tuesday. A similar number said governments were not protecting them, the planet, or future generations, and felt betrayed by the older generation and governments.

Three-quarters agreed with the statement “the future is frightening”, and more than half felt they would have fewer opportunities than their parents. Nearly half reported feeling distressed or anxious about the climate in a way that was affecting their daily lives and functioning.

The poll of about 10,000 young people covered Australia, Brazil, Finland, France, India, Nigeria, the Philippines, Portugal, the UK and the US. It was paid for by the campaigning organisation Avaaz.

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Posted in Children, Climate Change, Weather, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Marriage & Family, Teens / Youth, Young Adults

(CC) Bethany Sollereder–Climate change is here: How will we adapt?

For humans, we need to begin to create policies that open up our borders to climate refugees, to come up with new technologies that can grow more food on less land, and to help populations migrate away from coastal cities at risk of permanent flooding. For other life, we need to have frank discussions about human population levels (given expected lifestyles and lifespans) and ask what can be done to reduce human impact without imposing unrealistic or draconian measures. More generally, we need to change our views of environmental action from conserving what was to adapting to what is to be. If we instead continue with life as usual, the results will be devastating, especially for those who are already the poorest and most marginal in our world.

If we do give up thinking of ourselves as the masters over crea­tion and climate and see ourselves instead as part of God’s community of creatures on Earth, we again encounter the question of how we should understand our role and our responsibilities toward other life. A thoroughly Christian position might maintain that it is our duty to take up a self-sacrificial stance toward other life—like Jesus, who laid down his life for others, or like John the Baptist, who said of Jesus, “He must increase, I must decrease.” The central importance of humans in the Bible does not mean that humans should live like kings on the back of the rest of creation, looking always and only toward their own flourishing. The Christian model of rulership is just the opposite: the greatest is the one who serves and gives themself up for others.

For now, there is some good news: for the most part, we don’t have to fight over what we should do. The activities we should pursue if we are going to adapt well to climate change are largely the same as what we would do if we were trying to prevent climate change. The urgency of cutting down on carbon emissions remains. We should still plant more trees, use less stuff, eat less meat, and create less carbon dioxide. These actions will slow the rate of climate change, giving all creatures a chance to migrate and adapt to a new normal—and giving us time to invent new technologies that can help all other creatures live well in a new climate.

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Posted in Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Stewardship

(FT) Climate change risks triggering catastrophic earthquakes and tsunamis, scientist Bill McGuire warns

The world is underestimating the geological consequences of global warming, which could trigger catastrophic earthquakes and tsunamis as the melting of ice sheets reduces the weight on the crust below and unleashes intense seismic activity, a leading earth scientist has warned.

The biggest threat in the north Atlantic comes from the thinning of Greenland’s ice cap, Bill McGuire, professor of earth sciences at University College London, told the British Science Festival in the UK town of Chelmsford on Thursday. Within decades, that could spark huge submarine earthquakes off the coast of Greenland, causing tsunamis with disastrous consequences for North America and probably Europe, he said.

A possible precedent was the “great Storegga tsunami” that devastated the coasts of Scandinavia and the British Isles 8,200 years ago. An offshore earthquake, triggered by the release of pressure after northern Europe’s ice sheets had melted, set off a vast landslide of submarine sediments under the Norwegian Sea. Geological evidence shows the resulting tsunami wave reached 15 to 20 metres high in the Shetland islands and 3 to 6 metres high further down the North Sea.

“As the Greenland ice cap melts, the uplift in the crust is going to trigger earthquakes,” said McGuire. “We don’t know enough about the sediments off the Greenland coast to predict confidently what might happen there, but it is certainly possible that within decades there could be a tsunami right across the north Atlantic.”

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Posted in Climate Change, Weather, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Science & Technology

(Unherd) Giles Fraser–Our spending on longevity research belies our faulty understanding of death

Death was once — potentially, at least — an expression of some ultimate triumph. Now it is the bitter failure of our technology. And whatever we spend on it, no amount of money will overcome this gap.

Death, then, is the political issue we are not talking about. Even after the pandemic, when the daily death figures were broadcast on every news broadcast, we continue to say little about death other than making the uncritical assumption it is always to be avoided.

And so we are sleepwalking into a state of affairs in which the young will resent the elderly for the burden they place upon them. Of course, we should support the generous funding for social care. What we ought to be challenging is whether the medical technologies that are keeping us alive for ever longer complement our understanding of what human existence is for.

But I see little appetite for that. In a secular society, we have few intellectual or cultural resources to challenge the pervasiveness of more-ism. And to live deeper, more meaningful lives is not the same as living longer ones.

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Posted in Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Death / Burial / Funerals, Economy, Eschatology, Science & Technology, Secularism

(Science News) Predicting possible Alzheimer’s with nearly 100 percent accuracy

Researchers from Kaunas universities, Lithuania developed a deep learning-based method that can predict the possible onset of Alzheimer’s disease from brain images with an accuracy of over 99 per cent. The method was developed while analysing functional MRI images obtained from 138 subjects and performed better in terms of accuracy, sensitivity and specificity than previously developed methods.

According to World Health Organisation, Alzheimer’s disease is the most frequent cause of dementia, contributing to up to 70 per cent of dementia cases. Worldwide, approximately 24 million people are affected, and this number is expected to double every 20 years. Owing to societal ageing, the disease will become a costly public health burden in the years to come.

“Medical professionals all over the world attempt to raise awareness of an early Alzheimer’s diagnosis, which provides the affected with a better chance of benefiting from treatment. This was one of the most important issues for choosing a topic for Modupe Odusami, a PhD student from Nigeria,” says Rytis Maskelinas, a researcher at the Department of Multimedia Engineering, Faculty of Informatics, Kaunas University of Technology (KTU), Odusami’s PhD supervisor.

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Posted in Health & Medicine, Science & Technology

Joint statement on climate change by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch

In a joint statement, the Christian leaders have called on people to pray, in this Christian season of Creation, for world leaders ahead of COP26 this November. The statement reads: ‘We call on everyone, whatever their belief or worldview, to endeavour to listen to the cry of the earth and of people who are poor, examining their behaviour and pledging meaningful sacrifices for the sake of the earth which God has given us.’

The joint declaration strikes a clear warning – ‘Today, we are paying the price…Tomorrow could be worse’ and concludes that: ‘This is a critical moment. Our children’s future and the future of our common home depend on it.’

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Posted in Ecology, Ecumenical Relations, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Stewardship

(MIT Tech Review) Meet Altos Labs, Silicon Valley’s latest wild bet on living forever

Last October, a large group of scientists made their way to Yuri Milner’s super-mansion in the Los Altos Hills above Palo Alto. They were tested for covid-19 and wore masks as they assembled in a theater on the property for a two-day scientific conference. Others joined by teleconference. The topic: how biotechnology might be used to make people younger.

Milner is a Russian-born billionaire who made a fortune on Facebook and Mail.ru and previously started the glitzy black-tie Breakthrough Prizes, $3 million awards given each year to outstanding physicists, biologists, and mathematicians. But Milner’s enthusiasm for science was taking a provocative and specific new direction. As the scientific sessions progressed, experts took the stage to describe radical attempts at “rejuvenating” animals.

That meeting has now led to the formation of an ambitious new anti-aging company called Altos Labs, according to people familiar with the plans. Altos is pursuing biological reprogramming technology, a way to rejuvenate cells in the lab that some scientists think could be extended to revitalize entire animal bodies, ultimately prolonging human life.

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Posted in Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Science & Technology

(CT) Why the UN’s Dire Climate Change Report Is Dedicated to an Evangelical Christian

His concerns about greenhouse gases, rising temperature averages, dying coral reefs, blistering heat waves, and increasingly extreme weather were informed by his training at as atmospheric physicist and his commitment to science. They also come out of his evangelical understanding of God, the biblical accounts of humanity’s relationship to creation, and what it means for a Christian to follow Christ.

“We haven’t lived up to the call to holiness,” Houghton’s granddaughter Hannah Malcolm explained to CT. “We’ve been conformed to the patterns of this world, with the desire for wealth accumulation and the desire to increase our comforts, and that’s not the demand that is placed upon us as followers of Christ.”

Houghton was born in a Baptist family in Wales in 1931. As a young man he realized he needed to make a personal decision for Christ, and he did. To the end of his life, Houghton described it as the most important choice he’d ever made.

His love for God fueled his love for science. He saw it as a way to worship.

“The biggest thing that can ever happen to anybody is to get a relationship with the one who has created the universe,” Houghton told a Welsh newspaper in 2007. “We discover the laws of nature when we do our science. So we discover what’s behind the universe and if there’s an intelligence and a creator behind it. What we’re doing as Christians is exploring our relationship with the person who is the creator of the universe. Now that’s something that is absolutely wonderful.”

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Posted in Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

(NYT) Big Tech Has Outgrown This Planet

The already bonkers dollars of Big Tech have become even bonkers-er.

My colleagues and I have written a lot about the unreal sales, profits and oomph of America’s five technology titans — Apple, Microsoft, Google, Amazon and Facebook. This might feel like old news. Tech’s Titanic 5 have been big and rich for a long time, and they’ve gotten even more so as people and organizations have needed their products during the coronavirus pandemic. Yadda, yadda, yadda. We get it.

But no, we really don’t get it. American’s technology superstars have launched into a completely different stratosphere than even other wildly successful companies in tech and beyond.

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Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Science & Technology

Martyn Minns–Pittsburgh ad clerum on anti-social media

Today we are living with instant messaging in which many people document their every thought – almost in real time – on various social media platforms. There is no time to reflect on the impact of their words on the unsuspecting world. When they are feeling angry or hurt, social media is ready 24 hours a day to pass along the pain-filled sentiments to everyone. This is already generating unprecedented levels of depression and self-harming behavior among teenagers – both boys and girls. I have witnessed the potential for serious damage with our own grandchildren.

When I was a child – light years ago – we had a childhood chant: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words shall never hurt me!” It was intended to increase resiliency and avoid physical retaliation, but, sadly, it is simply not true. Hurtful words – uttered in person or via social media – can leave deep wounds long after physical scars might have healed. By way of response to this reality, our son and his wife have not only restricted the hours that social media is available in their home but also denied their 15-year-old son his own mobile phone – over considerable protestations!

I readily admit that the social media explosion has produced remarkable benefits. We are able to communicate with friends and family in ways that we never imagined. Angela serves as our family social media queen and stays in regular contact with our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and our rapidly growing global extended family. She passes along photographs, family news, and prayer needs, and because of her good efforts, we have stayed well connected throughout the pandemic lock down. We have even located high school friends with whom we had lost contact. I am also able to learn a great deal about the various clergy and churches that I now serve as interim bishop, because I can read through their websites and social media posts. But there is a dark side to all of this.

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Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Language, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Science & Technology, Theology

(New Atlantis) Kent Anhari–Bot Anxiety: What happens to public discourse when everyone fails the Turing Test?

How many people in our country go about their lives burdened with the well-founded suspicion that their human-looking fellow citizens are not true humans at all, but partisan automata? We are a nation of human beings who constantly, conspicuously fail the Turing Test. The possibility conceived in that test — of a world in which human and machine behaviors are effectively indistinguishable — was inherent in the project of creating lifelike machines from the outset. But it goes back further. Thomas Hobbes, who proposed that mechanical automata “have an artificial life,” also treated them as the paradigm for human life. And we’re familiar with the descendants of this anxiety in the work of Philip K. Dick. For the most part, we have imagined that it would be machines whose behavior would become indistinguishable from humans, not the other way around.

Perhaps the first work of art to take the latter tack — unsurprisingly, a product of the MySpace era — was Basshunter’s 2006 Eurodance hit “Boten Anna,” which tells the story of a young woman mistaken for a chatroom bot. Something similar is at work in the popular “pitchbot” Twitter accounts — New York Times Pitchbot, Federalist PitchBot, and so on — which mock those publications for their rote predictability. These are instances of art-imitating-life-imitating-art: people pretending to be bots imitating human writers who write like bots.

More seriously, Will Arbery’s play Heroes of the Fourth Turning, the finest work of art to come out of 2019, offers an explicitly demonological presentation of media-saturation. Each of the play’s young conservatives is possessed: veteran and Catholic convert Justin is possessed by his complicity in violence, Simone Weil–like Emily by the world-embracing sympathy engendered by her own chronic illness, developmentally-arrested Kevin by something like sexual pathology, and far-right media influencer Teresa by her inner pitchbot. While the other forms of possession on display are more spectacular, finding at times somewhat Exorcist-like modes of expression, Teresa’s is perhaps the most profound. Her friends all have inner lives, albeit vexed and fraught. Teresa, by all appearances, has none. She’s been hollowed out. This is horror as harrowing as anything supernatural, courtesy of our decade’s own peculiar demons.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Science & Technology

(BBC) ‘Most powerful’ tidal turbine starts generating electricity off Orkney

A tidal-powered turbine, which its makers say is the most powerful in the world, has started to generate electricity via the grid in Orkney.

The Orbital O2 has the capacity to meet the annual electricity demand of 2,000 homes for the next 15 years.

In May, it was sailed out of Dundee, where it was assembled over 18 months.

The 680-tonne turbine is now anchored in the Fall of Warness where a subsea cable connects the 2MW offshore unit to the local onshore electricity network.

Orbital Marine Power said its first commercial turbine, which will be powered by the fast-flowing waters, is a “major milestone”.

It is also providing power to an onshore electrolyser to generate green hydrogen.

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Posted in --Scotland, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Science & Technology

(Goulburn Post) Anglican Bishop of Canberra/Goulburn speaks up on Jerrara Power plan

The Reverend Davies was one of 15 members of the community, many of them from Bungonia, to speak during open forum.

He said he wasn’t from Bungonia but “breathed the same air.” In addition, parishioners in the area were “very distressed about the proposal to process up to 330,000 tonnes annually of Sydney’s waste in the rural zone. The Reverend Davies took the matter to Dr Short, who wrote that he had become keenly aware of the importance of environment and air quality, particularly to Goulburn Mulwaree residents.

“This was highlighted in the lead-up to Christmas, 2019 when we were unable to go ahead with an outdoors carols program because of the impact of smoke from the bushfires,” he wrote.

Dr Short noted Jerrara Power’s scoping report had mentioned residents’ concerns about air quality, health and drinking water impacts associated with industry, including quarries in Goulburn Mulwaree.

“Noting the concerns that are acknowledged here and the fact that the vast majority of waste to be processed at the facility would come from outside the local government area, I support any process that would allow the interests and concerns of local residents to be fully heard and evaluated,” the letter stated.

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Posted in Anglican Church of Australia, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(C of E) Alan Smith announced as next First Church Estates Commissioner

Alan Smith, Senior Advisor – ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) Risk and Inclusion, and former Global Head of Risk Strategy at HSBC, is to be the next First Church Estates Commissioner, Downing Street announced today. Alan has also been a Church Commissioner since 2018.
The First Church Estates Commissioner chairs the Church Commissioners’ Assets Committee, a statutory committee responsible for the strategic management of the Church Commissioners’ £9.2 billion investment portfolio.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, Chair of the Commissioners’ Board of Governors, said: “I am delighted that Alan has chosen to use his skills and experience to serve the Church and greatly look forward to working with him. Climate change is the most urgent challenge we face, and Alan’s knowledge of environmental issues and risk management will be critically important for the Commissioners’ work. I’d also like to thank Loretta Minghella for her hard work and leadership during her time at the Church Commissioners.”

The Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, said: “We are pleased that Alan will succeed Loretta. Alan’s experience as a Commissioner and his role on the Commissioners’ Audit & Risk Committee means he’s extremely well suited for this leadership role.”

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), Corporations/Corporate Life, Ecology, Economy, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Religion & Culture, Stock Market

(LA Times front page) Dire Climate Predications Are Becoming Real Around Globe

More unprecedented heat waves also could be in store, like those experienced this month in the Pacific Northwest, where hundreds of people are believed to have died from the extreme temperatures, and Russia’s Siberia, where nearly 200 separate forest fires have choked the region in smoke that has since drifted to Alaska.

“All of this was predicted in climate science decades ago,” said John P. Holdren, a professor of environmental policy at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. “We only had to wait for the actual emergence in the last 15 to 20 years. Everything we worried about is happening, and it’s all happening at the high end of projections, even faster than the previous most pessimistic estimates.”

Scientists and environmental activists are in a race to persuade the world to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by enough to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels. Failure to do so could result in massive disruptions such as famine and widespread coastal flooding. Time is short: Global temperatures have already risen on average by 2.16 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880.

Last week, the European Union proposed sweeping legislation aimed at cutting emissions by more than half of 1990 levels by 2030 through the phasing out of gasoline and diesel cars and the imposition of tariffs on imports from polluting countries. The plan poses formidable challenges for the 27-country bloc, including trade tensions and a political backlash from those who deny climate change is happening.

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Posted in Climate Change, Weather, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Politics in General, Science & Technology

(Nature) How the Covid19 Delta variant achieves its ultrafast spread

Since first appearing in India in late 2020, the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 has become the predominant strain in much of the world. Researchers might now know why Delta has been so successful: people infected with it produce far more virus than do those infected with the original version of SARS-CoV-2, making it very easy to spread.

According to current estimates, the Delta variant could be more than twice as transmissible as the original strain of SARS-CoV-2. To find out why, epidemiologist Jing Lu at the Guangdong Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Guangzhou, China, and his colleagues tracked 62 people who were quarantined after exposure to COVID-19 and who were some of the first people in mainland China to become infected with the Delta strain.

The team tested study participants’ ‘viral load’ — a measure of the density of viral particles in the body — every day throughout the course of infection to see how it changed over time. Researchers then compared participants’ infection patterns with those of 63 people who contracted the original SARS-CoV-2 strain in 2020.

In a preprint posted 12 July1, the researchers report that virus was first detectable in people with the Delta variant four days after exposure,compared with an average of six days among people with the original strain, suggesting that Delta replicates much faster. Individuals infected with Delta also had viral loads up to 1,260 times higher than those in people infected with the original strain.

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Posted in Health & Medicine, Science & Technology

(MIT News) A noninvasive test to detect cancer cells and pinpoint their location

Most of the tests that doctors use to diagnose cancer — such as mammography, colonoscopy, and CT scans — are based on imaging. More recently, researchers have also developed molecular diagnostics that can detect specific cancer-associated molecules that circulate in bodily fluids like blood or urine.

MIT engineers have now created a new diagnostic nanoparticle that combines both of these features: It can reveal the presence of cancerous proteins through a urine test, and it functions as an imaging agent, pinpointing the tumor location. In principle, this diagnostic could be used to detect cancer anywhere in the body, including tumors that have metastasized from their original locations.

“This is a really broad sensor intended to respond to both primary tumors and their metastases. It can trigger a urinary signal and also allow us to visualize where the tumors are,” says Sangeeta Bhatia, the John and Dorothy Wilson Professor of Health Sciences and Technology and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT and a member of MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and Institute for Medical Engineering and Science.

In a new study, Bhatia and her colleagues showed that the diagnostic could be used to monitor the progression of colon cancer, including the spread of metastatic tumors to the lung and the liver. Eventually, they hope it could be developed into a routine cancer test that could be performed annually.

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Posted in Health & Medicine, Science & Technology

(Deseret News) These churches are done with buildings. Here’s why

In September 2020, the Rev. Mike Whang and his wife, Lisa, sat in their home in Houston wrestling with one of the most important decisions of their lives. As she cradled their 1-month-old baby and their 3-year-old daughter slept in another room, they debated leaving the safety net of their large, wealthy church to strike out on their own.

At the time, the Rev. Whang led an ethnically and racially diverse small group ministry for the church. It was going well enough that other pastors wanted to absorb the group’s members into the main worship service.

The Rev. Whang, who is Korean American, felt torn about the consolidation plan. Part of the dilemma boiled down to a question of “Do we want to raise our two daughters in a community where they would be the only nonwhite (children) or do we want to create a new community?” he said.

The alternative — using the ministry group as the starting point for a new church — seemed crazy, especially with a baby, especially in the middle of a pandemic, especially when they had no church building to call their own.

But that’s what the Rev. Whang and his wife decided to do. With the blessing of the area bishop, Oikon United Methodist Church was born.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Ecclesiology, Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(New Scientist) World’s first 3D-printed steel bridge opens in Amsterdam

The first ever 3D-printed steel bridge has opened in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. It was created by robotic arms using welding torches to deposit the structure of the bridge layer by layer, and is made of 4500 kilograms of stainless steel.

The 12-metre-long MX3D Bridge was built by four commercially available industrial robots and took six months to print. The structure was transported to its location over the Oudezijds Achterburgwal canal in central Amsterdam last week and is now open to pedestrians and cyclists.

More than a dozen sensors attached to the bridge after the printing was completed will monitor strain, movement, vibration and temperature across the structure as people pass over it and the weather changes. This data will be fed into a digital model of the bridge.

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Posted in Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market, Science & Technology, The Netherlands, Travel, Urban/City Life and Issues

(Neolife) A Portrait of a professional baby maker

When it comes to stories about prolific gamete donors, it’s typically sperm donors and sperm banks who get the attention for producing donor siblings families in the dozens—and sometimes in the hundreds. In recent years, stories have surfaced about donor siblings connecting through private Facebook groups, and often finding their donors through DNA tests. Who can forget the 2013 Vince Vaughn comedy, Delivery Man, about a childless man having a midlife crisis who discovers that he had fathered over 500 kids conceived with sperm he donated in his youth. These are the extreme consequences of the age of “collaborative reproduction,” a term coined by the late John Robertson, a law professor and bioethicist at the University of Texas at Austin, to describe the expanded array of civil rights for LGBTQ+ families, lifestyle choices, and medically assisted methods of reproduction available to 21st century families. A large and growing component of collaborative reproduction is the increasingly open roles that surrogates and gamete donors often play in these modern families.

It’s less common, however, to hear stories of such prolific egg donors like Tyra. At a time when so many Millennials like her have become less interested in marriage and children and are also delaying having children for their careers, she is a new kind of female fertility archetype: nurturing and distant at the same time. She fulfills her sense of altruism and her desire to procreate, but in a directly transactional way, selling access to her body and body parts for her own financial gain and freedom. “I’d say it’s 50 percent business, 50 percent having a purpose,” she says. “I never fall into a career. I always thought I’d be a professional athlete between volleyball and golf. And I got my pilot’s license at a young age, but I never fell into my niche. I feel like maybe procreating for others is it.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Life Ethics, Science & Technology

(NYT) Tapping Into the Brain to Help a Paralyzed Man Speak

He has not been able to speak since 2003, when he was paralyzed at age 20 by a severe stroke after a terrible car crash.

Now, in a scientific milestone, researchers have tapped into the speech areas of his brain — allowing him to produce comprehensible words and sentences simply by trying to say them. When the man, known by his nickname, Pancho, tries to speak, electrodes implanted in his brain transmit signals to a computer that displays his intended words on the screen.

His first recognizable sentence, researchers said, was, “My family is outside.”

The achievement, published on Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, could eventually help many patients with conditions that steal their ability to talk.

“This is farther than we’ve ever imagined we could go,” said Melanie Fried-Oken, a professor of neurology and pediatrics at Oregon Health & Science University, who was not involved in the project.

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Posted in Anthropology, Health & Medicine, Science & Technology

(Local Paper) NOAA projections and a NASA study show Charleston, South carolina is in for more tidal flooding

At the same time, a new study led by scientists at NOAA, the University of Hawaii and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration showed that Charleston will hit an inflection point in 2025, ushering in a decade of even more tidal events because of the compounding effects of sea-level rise on top of the quirks of the moon’s orbit around the Earth.

On a call with reporters on July 14, NOAA oceanographer William Sweet said that the Southeastern United States, in particular, has consistently outstripped tidal flooding projections of late. In 2019, for example, persistently swollen oceans swamped the coast from Florida through the mid-Atlantic. Charleston’s flooding tally from 2020 to 2021 was also double what federal scientists had forecast the year before.

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Posted in * South Carolina, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Urban/City Life and Issues

(Stat News) Study highlights need for full Covid19 vaccination to protect against Delta variant

In the welter of news about the Delta variant spreading around the world, one theme has emerged: This form of the virus that causes Covid-19 is challenging, but vaccination works to protect people against it.

A new study published Thursday in Nature adds new detail about the dominant variant, analyzing how well Delta, in a lab dish, was able to evade monoclonal antibody drugs such as bamlamivimab and natural antibodies made in our bodies after infection or vaccination. Looking at both kinds of antibodies in blood drawn from 162 patients and how they reacted to Delta, researchers from the Institut Pasteur in France found lower protection against the variant than against three other variants also notable for how easily they spread from person to person.

“This is an important study for confirming the immune evasiveness property of Delta, which is a feature that adds to its enhanced transmissibility, making it the most formidable version of the virus to date,” Eric Topol, director and founder of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, told STAT. “No surprises, but further characterization of the variant, which reinforces why it is so challenging.”

The findings underscore the effectiveness of vaccines against the Delta variant if people get the recommended two doses. They also highlight the added immunity a single dose of vaccine provides people previously infected with another Covid variant.

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Posted in Health & Medicine, Science & Technology

(Local Paper front page) Researchers detail findings of rare, white-skinned alligator hatchlings in Lowcountry

For decades, there were few detailed accounts or photos of rare, white-skinned alligators in coastal South Carolina.

But a Clemson University researcher who found six such American alligator hatchlings in the Lowcountry in 2014 has published what is believed to be the most detailed account of such a discovery to date.

Thomas Rainwater was working as a wildlife toxicologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Charleston when he and other biologists found the six rare hatchlings in an undisclosed location in the Lowcountry.

Someone had notified Rainwater and the other researchers after stumbling across them by accident.

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Posted in * South Carolina, Animals, Energy, Natural Resources, Science & Technology

(Eurekaalert) Researchers discover unique ‘spider web’ mechanism that traps, kills viruses

Immunologists at McMaster University have discovered a previously unknown mechanism which acts like a spider web, trapping and killing pathogens such as influenza or SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19.

The researchers have found that neutrophils, the most abundant white blood cells in the human body, explode when they bind to such pathogens coated in antibodies and release DNA outside of the cell, creating a sticky tangle which acts as a trap.

The findings, published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, are significant because little is understood about how antibodies neutralize viruses in the respiratory tract.

The discovery has implications for vaccine design and delivery, including aerosol and nasal spray technologies that could help the body head off infections before they have a chance to take hold.

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Posted in Health & Medicine, Science & Technology

(C Of E) The church that grew out of a lockdown WhatsApp group

“Within a couple of days we had received lots of messages from people – mainly young adults,” Venessa said.

“We started engaging via WhatsApp on questions of spirituality and faith and out of that we began meeting on Zoom for social activities and to talk about faith. Gradually that transformed into something more formal and into an inter cultural worshipping community that we call Roots.”

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Posted in --Social Networking, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(NYT) Three Studies, One Result: Vaccines Point the Way Out of the Pandemic

Three scientific studies released on Monday offered fresh evidence that widely used vaccines will continue to protect people against the coronavirus for long periods, possibly for years, and can be adapted to fortify the immune system still further if needed.

Most people immunized with the mRNA vaccines may not need boosters, one study found, so long as the virus and its variants do not evolve much beyond their current forms — which is not guaranteed. Mix-and-match vaccination shows promise, a second study found, and booster shots of one widely used vaccine, if they are required, greatly enhance immunity, according to a third report.

Scientists had worried that the immunity conferred by vaccines might quickly wane or that they might somehow be outrun by a rapidly evolving virus. Together, the findings renew optimism that the tools needed to end the pandemic are already at hand, despite the rise of contagious new variants now setting off surges around the globe.

“It’s nice to see that the vaccines are recapitulating what we’ve also seen with natural infection,” said Marion Pepper, an immunologist at the University of Washington in Seattle.

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Posted in Health & Medicine, Science & Technology

([London] Times) Pupils face total ban on mobile phone use

Schools will become mobile phone-free zones, Gavin Williamson announced yesterday as he set out plans for a nationwide classroom ban.

Under a new regime backed by the education secretary, heads would be told to stop pupils using their phones at any point during the school day.

Williamson said that the ban would end the “damaging effect” that overuse of mobile phones could have on children’s mental health and wellbeing.

The move pits him against teachers’ leaders who have criticised it as a “distraction” from the pressing problems of helping pupils to catch up on learning lost during the pandemic.

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Posted in Children, Education, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Science & Technology