Dust Bowl 2.0? Rising Great Plains dust levels stir concerns

dust bowl 2.0? rising great plains dust levels stir concerns


A dust storm in the Texas panhandle. Fueled by drought and agriculture, dust levels in parts of the Great Plains have doubled in 20 years, researchers say.

KEITH LADZINSKI/National Geographic

By Roland PeaseOct. 20, 2020 , 10:50 AM

Earlier this month, a storm front swept across the Great Plains of the United States, plowing up a wall of dust that could be seen from space, stretching from eastern Colorado into Nebraska and Kansas. It was a scene straight from the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, when farmers regularly saw soil stripped from their fields and whipped up into choking blizzards of dust.

Better get used to it. According to a new study, dust storms on the Great Plains have become more common and more intense in the past 20 years, because of more frequent droughts in the region and an expansion of croplands. “Our results suggest a tipping point is approaching, where the conditions of the 1930s could return,” says Gannet Haller, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Utah who led the study.

The dust storms not only threaten to remove soil nutrients and decrease agricultural productivity, but also present a health hazard, says Andy Lambert, a co-author on the study and a meteorologist …



Stem cell research, clinical use of ‘magic mushrooms’ among issues on state ballots this year

stem cell research, clinical use of ‘magic mushrooms’ among issues on state ballots this year


Voters lined up last month in Fairfax, Virginia, to cast their ballots in this year’s elections.


By Rebekah Tuchscherer, Rasha AridiOct. 20, 2020 , 9:00 AM

Election Day is 3 November, but U.S. voters have already started to mail in or drop off their ballots. In addition to selecting candidates for local, state, and federal positions, voters in many states will be weighing in on more than 100 initiatives and referenda.

The measures often deal with mundane financial matters. But voters will also get to vote on a number of hot-button issues, including marijuana legalization, abortion, and health care.

There are also a few science-related initiatives that the research community is watching. Here are examples from four states: California, Colorado, Oregon, and Nevada.


Renewing stem cell research funding in California

In 2004, Californians voted in favor of Proposition 71, which established the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) to conduct work with human embryonic stem cells, and authorized the state to sell $3 billion in bonds to fund the institute. Now, CIRM’s bond funding has nearly expired, and Proposition 14 aims to renew the flow. It asks voters to approve issuing an additional $5.5 billion in bonds. The proposition is led …


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ASSA ABLOY commits to science-based sustainability targets

assa abloy commits to science-based sustainability targets


STOCKHOLM, Oct. 20, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — ASSA ABLOY, the global leader in access solutions, is committing to science-based targets to further substantially reduce its greenhouse gas emissions across the entire value chain. The Group will set targets that are aligned to the Paris Agreement, limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C, by halving emissions by 2030 and reaching net-zero by 2050.
“Sustainability will be vital to economic and industrial development in the coming decades. Our long-term commitment to science-based targets demonstrates our willingness to lead the industry towards a more sustainable future, and will further improve our competitiveness with sustainable products, solutions and operations.” says Nico Delvaux, President and CEO of the ASSA ABLOY Group.
The Group is also launching a new ambitious sustainability program with targets for 2025. The new program builds on the momentum and progress from ASSA ABLOY’s successive 5-year sustainability programs since 2010. The program focuses on improving employees’ health and safety, reducing energy, carbon and water consumption, increasing materials efficiency and reducing waste generated. 
The result from the 2015-2020 program will be presented in the Sustainability Report due in March 2021. For more information about ASSA ABLOY’s sustainability work, please visit:
About the Science Based Targets initiative
The Science …


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Could certain COVID-19 vaccines leave people more vulnerable to the AIDS virus?

could certain covid-19 vaccines leave people more vulnerable to the aids virus?


CanSino Biologics’s experimental COVID-19 vaccine is one of at least four using an adenovirus that some worry could increase HIV susceptibility.


By Jon CohenOct. 19, 2020 , 6:30 PM

Science’s COVID-19 reporting is supported by the Pulitzer Center and the Heising-Simons Foundation.

Certain COVID-19 vaccine candidates could increase susceptibility to HIV, warns a group of researchers who in 2007 learned that an experimental HIV vaccine had raised in some people the risk for infection with the AIDS virus. These concerns have percolated in the background of the race for a vaccine to stem the coronavirus pandemic, but now the researchers have gone public with a “cautionary tale,” in part because trials of those candidates may soon begin in locales that have pronounced HIV epidemics, such as South Africa.

Some approved and experimental vaccines have as a backbone a variety of adenoviruses, which can cause the common cold but are often harmless. The ill-fated HIV vaccine trial used an engineered strain known as adenovirus 5 (Ad5) to shuttle into the body the gene for the surface protein of the AIDS virus. In four candidate COVID-19 vaccines now in clinical trials in several countries, including the United States, Ad5 similarly serves as …


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Where Science and Social Justice Meet

where science and social justice meet


As communities across the country grapple with the legacy of institutional racism, many educators are evaluating the role they can play in addressing systemic racism. One way to begin doing this is by making a conscious effort to become educated about the history that has shaped this country — including the history of science — and acknowledging the ways in which racial inequities continue to exist and shape society. NOVA is committed to providing educators with resources to address the racial inequities that impact students. This fall, NOVA Education has organized a three-part webinar series dedicated to discussing the intersection of STEM education and social justice.Join NOVA Education on October 20th for the first science and social justice webinar led by Udodiri R. Okwandu, who will examine the histories of unethical medical and scientific practices used in America from the 19th century to the present. In tracing this history, we hope that this webinar will empower STEM educators to account for gaps in science education in order to engage in more equitable and anti-racist pedagogy.

The History of Scientific Racism (and Why it Matters for STEM Educators)

Tuesday, October 20, 20206PM ET / 3PM PTRegister for the webinar here

Historically, science has been …


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In new strategy, Wellcome Trust will take on global health challenges

in new strategy, wellcome trust will take on global health challenges


With an endowment worth £28 billion, the Wellcome Trust is taking on goal-oriented global health challenges.

Arcaid Images/Alamy Stock Photo

By Kai KupferschmidtOct. 19, 2020 , 7:01 PM

One of the world’s largest nongovernmental funders of science, the Wellcome Trust, is enlarging its focus to include goal-oriented, as well as basic research. The London-based philanthropy, which spends more than £1 billion per year, said today it will boost funding for research on infectious diseases, the health effects of global warming, and mental health. The new strategy moves it closer to philanthropies such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which focuses on public health challenges around the world. “It’s a big shift,” says Jeremy Farrar, an infectious disease expert who leads the charity. “It’s not just about discovering stuff, it’s also about making sure that changes come to peoples’ lives.”

Wellcome already supports significant research in infectious disease. But outbreaks are “becoming larger, more frequent, and more complex,” a Wellcome spokesperson says, and so it will spend more money on researching neglected tropical diseases and pushing for “clinical trials with greater participant diversity.” It also hopes to make an impact in new areas. The spokesperson argues that there has been “little scientific …


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Scientists map the human proteome

scientists map the human proteome


Twenty years after the release of the human genome, the genetic “blueprint” of human life, an international research team, including the University of British Columbia’s Chris Overall, has now mapped the first draft sequence of the human proteome.
Their work was published Oct. 16 in Nature Communications and announced today by the Human Proteome Organization (HUPO). Overall is the only Canadian scientist involved in the Nature Communications paper.
“Today marks a significant milestone in our overall understanding of human life,” says Overall, a professor in the faculty of dentistry and a member of the Centre for Blood Research at UBC. “Whereas the human genome provides a complete ‘blueprint’ of human genes, the human proteome identifies the individual building blocks of life encoded by this blueprint: proteins. “Proteins interact to shape everything from life-threatening diseases to cellular structure in our bodies.”
With 90 per cent of the proteins in the human body now mapped, Overall says scientists have a deeper understanding of how individual proteins interact to influence human health, providing insights into disease prevention and individualized medicine.
Their work may have implications for scientists studying potential treatments for COVID-19.
“In COVID-19, for instance, there are two proteomes involved, that of the SARS-CoV-2 …


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In a pandemic, the need for speed challenges old standards of the scientific process

in a pandemic, the need for speed challenges old standards of the scientific process


Stephanie Gaw, one of the co-principal investigators, said she was astonished by the response.“Within a week, we had raised $25,000,” she said. “In a month, $70,000.”The pandemic has upended norms of the scientific process, from the way studies are funded through the publication of findings. Researchers have been presenting their results online or sending them directly to media outlets rather than awaiting publication in prestigious academic journals. And the stodgy process of peer review has evolved into forthright — and sometimes acrimonious — assessments in the unbridled atmosphere of the Internet.“We are watching science in real time,” said Julie Schafer, chief technology officer of Flu Lab, a nonprofit organization dedicated to vanquishing influenza. “And it’s incredibly uncomfortable.”The need for speed has put a spotlight on the messiness of the scientific process, in which breakthroughs are rare and single studies are typically just starting points or contributions to an evolving body of knowledge. In today’s highly partisan atmosphere, those individual studies skip to the Twittersphere or the popular media where they can land like misguided missiles.In August, researchers at Duke University hustled to publish their findings on the development of a low-cost way to test the efficacy of …


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Trump’s Closing Pitch for Some Reason: Biden Will ‘Listen to the Scientists’

trump’s closing pitch for some reason: biden will ‘listen to the scientists’


President Donald Trump at a Nevada rally.Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP (Getty Images)It appears we’ve reached the throw-shit-at-a-wall-and-see-what-sticks phase of President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign messaging. On Sunday, somewhere between talking up the experimental drugs that supposedly cured his case of covid-19 and his toilet flushing bit, he attacked (????) Democratic nominee Joe Biden by saying, “He’ll listen to the scientists.”AdvertisementMore than 219,000 Americans are dead, hurricane season is still breaking records, and the West Coast is still on fire, all largely symptoms of ignoring the scientists. Drawing attention to the cause of your greatest failures seems like a pretty bad strategy to get people to vote for you. But the fact that Trump is trotting it out a little more than two weeks before the election’s final day of voting really does show the stakes and the descent of the Republican Party a little further toward death cult status.Trump’s riff on Biden turning to scientists was part of a longer riff on the coronavirus and arguing that states should be opening up more and more now, even as the third wave of the virus begins. Last week, 17 states hit daily records and 40 states …


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