Science

Scientists calculated how many T. Rexes lived on Earth — here's how

The Tyrannosaurus rex is perhaps the most iconic of all the dinosaurs, immortalized in film, children's toys and silly Halloween costumes. Its name translates into "king of the tyrant lizards," and its fearsome profile makes it clear why: T. Rex had a massive head, powerful jaws, razor-sharp teeth and a whip-like tail. (Although its puny arms are a comic contrast to the rest of its visage.) The T. Rex is believed to have been one of the largest land carnivores of all time, more than 40 feet long and 12 feet tall at the hips.

But like many extinct animals, it is hard to know just how much of a threat the T. Rex was during its reign. (Notably, for years there was debate over whether T. Rex was a predator or scavenger, though recently the scientific consensus tilts towards predator.) Were they as common as rabbits, or highly dispersed predators like snow leopards?

A group of scientists led by University of California Museum of Paleontology director Charles R. Marshall set out to answer just that. They believe they can now roughly estimate how many T. Rexes roamed the planet.

Their estimate is roughly 2.5 billion specimens that roamed Earth collectively during their existence, which lasted a few million years. (They would likely have lived more generations if not for the extinction event likely caused by either a meteor or comet 66 million years ago.)

The researchers, who published their findings in Science Magazine, estimate that the abundances of T. Rexes at any given period was roughly 20,000 individuals, and that they lived for roughly 127,000 generations. To put that in context with today's predator populations, that 20,000 number is comparable to today's African lion population, which conservationists estimate at 25,000.

The scientists arrived at their estimate using a wide range of data. For one thing, they took into account a principle known as Damuth's Law, which holds that species with larger body sizes will usually have lower average population densities. Because this formula includes individuals in a species that had not reached their maximum size, the scientists used an estimate for "postjuvenile individuals" — the T. Rex equivalent of an angsty teenager. (Now there is a sobering thought.) Once they had that information, they multiplied it by the estimated geographic area where paleontologists believe the monstrous beasts once roamed. They then incorporated what we know about when the T. Rex lived, although the scientists acknowledge that this figure is particularly unclear "because of the poor temporal control on most T. rex fossil localities and because there is a substantial dinosaur preservational gap below the oldest T. rex fossils."

Since experts believe based on fossil evidence that they lived for anywhere from 1.2 million years to 3.6 million years, the team settled on the mean figure of 2.4 million years. From there, they plugged in other numbers until they eventually arrived at their estimates.

Despite their short reign over the planet — one regrettably cut short by the Cretaceous-Triassic Boundary Extinction Event — the fact that another bipedal predator would perform a census of them 66 million years later speaks to their cultural immortality.

New study finds undisclosed ingredients in Roundup is lethal to bumblebees

Commonly used herbicides across the U.S. contain highly toxic undisclosed "inert" ingredients that are lethal to bumblebees, according to a new study published Friday in the Journal of Applied Ecology.

The study reviewed several herbicide products and found that most contained glyphosate, an ingredient best recognized from Roundup products and the most widely used herbicide in the U.S. and worldwide.

While the devastating impacts of glyphosate on bee populations are more broadly recognized, the toxicity levels of inert ingredients are less understood because they are not subjected to the same mandatory testing by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

"Pesticides are manufactured and sold as formulations that contain a mixture of compounds, including one or more active ingredients and, potentially, many inert ingredients," explained the Center for Food Safety in a statement. "The inert ingredients are added to pesticides to aid in mixing and to enhance the products' ability to stick to plant leaves, among other purposes."

The study found that these inert substances can be highly toxic and even block bees' breathing capacity, essentially causing them to drown. While researchers found that some of the combinations of inert ingredients had no negative impacts on the bees, one of the herbicide formulations killed 96% of the bees within 24 hours.

According to the abstract of the study:

Bees exhibited 94% mortality with Roundup® Ready‐To‐Use® and 30% mortality with Roundup® ProActive®, over 24 hr. Weedol® did not cause significant mortality, demonstrating that the active ingredient, glyphosate, is not the cause of the mortality. The 96% mortality caused by Roundup® No Glyphosate supports this conclusion.

"This important new study exposes a fatal flaw in how pesticide products are regulated here in the U.S.," said Jess Tyler, a staff scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. "Now the question is, will the Biden administration fix this problem, or will it allow the EPA to continue its past practice of ignoring the real-world harms of pesticides?"

According to the Center for Food Safety, there are currently 1,102 registered formulations that contain the active ingredient glyphosate, each with a proprietary mixture of inert ingredients. In 2017, the group filed a legal petition calling for the EPA to force companies to provide safety data on pesticide formulations that include inert ingredients.

"The EPA must begin requiring tests of every pesticide formulation for bee toxicity, divulge the identity of 'secret' formulation additives so scientists can study them, and prohibit application of Roundup herbicides to flowering plants when bees might be present and killed," said Bill Freese, science director at the Center for Food Safety. "Our legal petition gave the EPA a blueprint for acting on this issue of whole formulations. Now they need to take that blueprint and turn it into action, before it's too late for pollinators."

Roundup—also linked to cancer in humans—was originally produced by agrochemical giant Monsanto, which was acquired by the German pharmaceutical and biotech company Bayer in 2018.

The merger of the two companies was condemned by environmentalists and food safety groups who warned it would cultivate the greatest purveyor of genetically modified seeds and toxic pesticides in the world.

The problem with 'deprogramming' QAnon supporters

by Paul Thomas, Radford University

Recent calls to deprogram QAnon conspiracy followers are steeped in discredited notions about brainwashing. As popularly imagined, brainwashing is a coercive procedure that programs new long-term personality changes. Deprogramming, also coercive, is thought to undo brainwashing.

As a professor of religious studies who has written and taught about alternative religious movements, I believe such deprogramming conversations do little to help us understand why people adopt QAnon beliefs. A deprogramming discourse fails to understand religious recruitment and conversion and excuses those spreading QAnon beliefs from accountability.

A brief brainwashing history

Deprogramming, a method thought to reverse extreme psychological manipulation, can't be understood apart from the concept of brainwashing.

The modern concept of brainwashing has its origin in Chinese experiments with American prisoners of war during the Korean War. Coercive physical and psychological methods were employed in an attempt to plant Communist beliefs in the minds of American POWs. To determine whether brainwashing was possible, the CIA then launched its own secret mind-control program in the 1950s called MK-ULTRA.

By the late 1950s researchers were already casting doubt on brainwashing theory. The anti-American behavior of captured Americans was best explained by temporary compliance owing to torture. This is akin to false confessions made under extreme duress.

Still, books like “The Manchurian Candidate," released in 1959, and “A Clockwork Orange," released in 1962 – both of which were turned into movies and heavily featured themes of brainwashing – reinforced the concept in popular culture. To this day, the language of brainwashing and deprogramming is applied to groups holding controversial beliefs – from fundamentalist Mormons to passionate Trump supporters.

In the 1970s and 1980s, brainwashing was used to explain why people would join new religious movements like Jim Jones' Peoples Temple or the Unification Church.

Seeking guardianship of adult children in these groups, parents cited the belief that members were brainwashed to justify court-ordered conservatorship. With guardianship orders in hand, they sought help from cult deprogrammers like Ted Patrick. Deprogrammers were notorious for kidnapping, isolating and harassing adults in an effort to reverse perceived cult brainwashing.

For a time, U.S. courts accepted brainwashing testimony despite the pseudo-scientific nature of the theory. It turns out that research on coercive conversion failed to support brainwashing theory. Several professional organizations, including the American Psychological Association, have filed legal briefs against brainwashing testimony. Others argued that deprogramming practices violated civil rights.

In 1995 the coercive deprogramming method was litigated again in Scott vs. Ross. The jury awarded the plaintiff nearly US$5 million in total damages. This bankrupted the co-defending Cult Awareness Network, a popular resource at the time for those seeking deprogramming services.

'Exit counseling'

Given this tarnished history, coercive deprogramming evolved into “exit counseling." Unlike deprogramming, exit counseling is voluntary and resembles an intervention or talk therapy.

One of the most visible self-styled exit counselors is former deprogrammer Rick Alan Ross, the executive director of the Cult Education Institute and defendant in Scott v. Ross. Through frequent media appearances, people including Ross and Steve Hassan, founder of the Freedom of Mind Resource Center, continue to contribute to the mind-control and deprogramming discourse in popular culture.

These “cult-recovery experts," some of whom were involved with the old deprogramming model, are now being used for QAnon deprogramming advice. Some, like Ross advocate for a more aggressive intervention approach. Others, like Hassan, offer a gentler approach that includes active listening. Cult specialist Pat Ryan says he only recommends intervention after a thorough assessment in conjunction with a mental health professional.

Choice vs. coercion

Despite the pivot to exit counseling, the language of deprogramming persists. The concept of deprogramming rests on the idea that people do not choose alternative beliefs. Instead, beliefs that are deemed too deviant for mainstream culture are thought to result from coercive manipulation by nefarious entities like cult leaders. When people call for QAnon believers to be deprogrammed, they are implicitly denying that followers exercised choice in accepting QAnon beliefs.

This denies the personal agency and free will of those who became QAnon enthusiasts, and shifts the focus to the programmer. It can also relieve followers of responsibility for perpetuating QAnon beliefs.

As I suggested in an earlier article, and as evident in the QAnon influence on the Jan. 6, 2021, capital insurrection, QAnon beliefs can be dangerous. I believe those who adopt and perpetuate these beliefs ought to be held responsible for the consequences.

This isn't to say that people are not subject to social influence. However, social influence is a far cry from the systematic, mind-swiping, coercive, robotic imagery conjured up by brainwashing.

Admittedly, what we choose to believe is constrained by the types of influences we face. Those restraints emerge from our social and economic circumstances. In the age of social media, we are also constrained by algorithms that influence the media we consume. Further examination of these issues in relation to the development of QAnon would prove fruitful.

But applying a brainwashing and deprogramming discourse limits our potential to understand the grievances of the QAnon community. To suggest “they were temporarily out of their minds" relieves followers of the conspiracy of responsibility and shelters the rest of society from grappling with uncomfortable social realities.

To understand the QAnon phenomenon, I believe analysts must dig deeply into the social, economic and political factors that influence the adoption of QAnon beliefs.

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Paul Thomas, Chair and Professor of Religious Studies, Radford University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Editor's note: This article was amended on April 16 to clarify Pat Ryan's approach to intervention

The discovery of a lost city offers vital clues about the mysteries of Ancient Egypt

by Anna M. Kotarba-Morley, Flinders University

An almost 3,400-year-old industrial, royal metropolis, “the Dazzling Aten", has been found on the west bank of the Nile near the modern day city of Luxor.

Announced last week by the famed Egyptian archaeologist Dr Zahi Hawass, the find has been compared in importance to the discovery of Tutankhamen's tomb almost a century earlier.

Built by Amenhotep III and then used by his grandson Tutankhamen, the ruins of the city were an accidental discovery. In September last year, Hawass and his team were searching for a mortuary temple of Tutankhamen.

Instead, hidden under the sands for almost three and a half millennia, they found the Dazzling Aten, believed to be the largest city discovered in Egypt and, importantly, dated to the height of Egyptian civilisation. So far, Hawass' excavations have unearthed rooms filled with tools and objects of daily life such as pottery and jewellery, a large bakery, kitchens and a cemetery.

The city also includes workshops and industrial, administrative and residential areas, as well as, to date, three palaces.

Ancient Egypt has been called the “civilisation without cities". What we know about it comes mostly from tombs and temples, whilst other great civilisations of the Bronze Age, such as Mesopotamia, are famous for their great cities.

The Dazzling Aten is extraordinary not only for its size and level of prosperity but also its excellent state of preservation, leading many to call it the “Pompeii of Ancient Egypt".

The rule of Amenhotep III was one of the wealthiest periods in Egyptian history. This city will be of immeasurable importance to the scholarship of archaeologists and Egyptologists, who for centuries have struggled with understanding the specifics of urban, domestic life in the Pharaonic period.

Foundations of urban life

I teach a university subject on the foundations of urban life, and it always comes as a surprise to my students how little we know about urbanism in ancient Egypt.

The first great cities, and with them the first great civilisations, emerged along the fertile valleys of great rivers in Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq), the Indus Valley (modern day India and Pakistan) and China at the beginning of the Bronze Age, at least 5,000 years ago.

Just like cities today, they provided public infrastructure and roads, and often access to sanitation, education, health care and welfare. Their residents specialised in particular professions, paid taxes and had to obey laws.

But the Nile did not support the urban lifestyle in the same way as the rivers of other great civilisations. It had a reliable flood pattern and thus the second longest river in the world could be easily tamed, allowing for simple methods of irrigation that did not require complex engineering and large groups of workers to maintain. This meant the population didn't necessarily need to cluster in organised cities.

Excavations of Early Dynastic (c. 3150-2680 BCE) Egyptian cities such as Nagada and Hierakonpolis have provided us with a plethora of information regarding urban life in the early Bronze Age . But they are separated from the Dazzling Aten by some 1,600 years — as long as separates us from the Huns of Attila attacking ancient Rome.

One city closer in age to the Dazzling Aten we do know a little more about is the short-lived capital of Amenhotep's III son, Akhenaten, known as the “Horizon of the Aten", or Tell el-Amarna. Amarna was functional for only 14 years (1346-1332 BCE) before being abandoned forever. It was first described by a travelling Jesuit monk in 1714 and has been excavated on and off for the last 100 years.

Very few other Egyptian cities from the Early Dynastic Period (3150 BCE) to the Hellenistic period (following Alexander the Great's conquest of Egypt in 332 BCE), have been excavated. This means that domestic urban life and urban planning have long been contentious research areas in the study of Pharaonic Egypt.

The scientific community is impatiently waiting for more information to draw comparisons between Akhenaten's city and the newly discovered capital founded by his father.

The magnificent pharaoh

Amenhotep III, also known as Amenhotep the Magnificent, ruled between 1386 and 1349 BCE and was one of the most prosperous rulers in the Egyptian history.

During his reign as the ninth pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty, Egypt achieved the height of its international power, climbing to an unprecedented level of economic prosperity and artistic splendour. His vision of greatness was immortalised in his great capital, which is believed to have been later used by at least Tutankhamen and Ay.

In 2008, for the first time in history, the majority of world's inhabitants lived in the cities. Yet, with globalisation, the differences between the “liveability" of modern cities are striking.

As a society we need to understand where cities come from, how have they formed and how they shaped the development of past urban communities to learn lessons for the future. We look forward to research and findings being published from the ancient city of Amenhotep III to enlighten us about the daily lives of ancient Egyptians at their height.The Conversation

Anna M. Kotarba-Morley, Lecturer, Archaeology, Flinders University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Here are the facts about the decision to 'pause' the Johnson & Johnson vaccine

by William Petri, University of Virginia

A panel of experts met on April 14, 2021, to review evidence on blood clots that have been reported in seven people after they received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. The panel, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, or ACIP, advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on immunization. It delayed voting on a recommendation to the CDC so that members can further evaluate risk and data. The clotting, which resulted in one woman's death, led the CDC and FDA on April 13, 2021, to pause use of the J&J vaccine. Dr. William Petri, an infectious disease physician and immunologist at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, answers questions to help put this development in context.

What is this potential side effect of the J&J vaccine for COVID-19?

The potential side effect is a blood clot in the veins that drain blood from the brain. This is called central venous sinus thrombosis. In the vaccine-associated cases of this, platelets in blood, which are important for making clots, have been lower than normal. While researchers do not know for certain why this is so, platelet counts could be lower perhaps because they have been used up making these clots.

How many people have experienced this possible reaction?

As of April 13, 2021, about one in a million: Six cases out of the 6.8 million doses of the J&J vaccine administered in the U.S. These six cases all occurred in women ages 18-48, and from 6 to 13 days after vaccination. That's about half as likely as getting struck by lightning in a year. A seventh case was included in the ACIP review on April 14.

What do I do if I got the J&J shot?

The CDC and FDA are recommending that people who have received the J&J vaccine within the last 3 weeks who develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath should contact their health care provider.

Fortunately this type of blood clot is treatable with the use of blood thinners or anticoagulants. If a patient has low platelets, however, a doctor would not prescribe the widely used anticoagulant heparin but instead another kind of blood thinner. Untreated, these blood clots can be fatal.

CDC and FDA officials explain the reasons for halting the vaccine in a media call.

What are the CDC and FDA specifically recommending for the J&J vaccine?

Because of this rare occurrence, even though it has not been shown to be due to the vaccine, the CDC and FDA have recommended a pause in use of the J&J vaccine until these cases can be further reviewed.

What are the next steps?

The CDC convened a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices on April 14, 2021. The ACIP is an independent board of 15 scientific and medical experts selected by the health and human services secretary that advises the CDC on vaccines for children and adults. People with ties to vaccine manufacturers are excluded from the ACIP membership because of potential conflict of interest.

On April 14, ACIP reviewed the available evidence but did not vote on recommendations because panel members expressed concern that the panel needs more time to evaluate data and risks. The vaccine has been given to 3.8 million people in the past two weeks. Therefore, not enough time has passed to see whether other people might also experience these serious clots. The panel is expected to meet again within a week to 10 days.

Is this similar to what happened with the AstraZeneca vaccine in Europe?

A similar rare problem of blood clotting with low platelets in the cerebral venous sinus and also in the abdominal veins and arteries has been seen in connection with the use of theAstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine used in Europe. There, 182 cases were reported in 190 million doses – again, roughly 1 in 1 million people vaccinated. The European Medicines Agency investigated this and concluded that central venous sinus thrombosis with low platelets should be listed as a possible “very rare side effect" of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

On April 13, 2021, Johnson & Johnson announced it is delaying the rollout of its vaccine in Europe in response to the U.S. review.

What is the take-home message?

The U.S. has a total of three vaccines authorized under emergency use authorization for COVID-19, and this side effect has not been observed in the other two vaccines, developed by Moderna and Pfizer. The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines do not use the same technology used in the J&J and AstraZeneca vaccines. So vaccination against COVID-19 can continue, while efforts are made to determine if the clotting disorder is related by chance or a true, but extremely rare, side effect of the J&J vaccine.

I believe it is a testament to the emphasis by the CDC and FDA on vaccine safety that J&J vaccinations have been paused while this is studied by independent scientists and medical experts.

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William Petri, Professor of Medicine, University of Virginia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

A mysterious experiment hinted at an unknown force in physics — but the real answer may be simpler

by Zoltan Fodor, Penn State

When the results of an experiment don't match predictions made by the best theory of the day, something is off.

Fifteen years ago, physicists at Brookhaven National Laboratory discovered something perplexing. Muons – a type of subatomic particle – were moving in unexpected ways that didn't match theoretical predictions. Was the theory wrong? Was the experiment off? Or, tantalizingly, was this evidence of new physics?

Physicists have been trying to solve this mystery every since.

One group from Fermilab tackled the experimental side and on April 7, 2021, released results confirming the original measurement. But my colleagues and I took a different approach.

I am a theoretical physicist and the spokesperson and one of two coordinators of the Budapest-Marseille-Wuppertal collaboration. This is a large-scale collaboration of physicists who have been trying to see if the older theoretical prediction was incorrect. We used a new method to calculate how muons interact with magnetic fields.

My team's theoretical prediction is different from the original theory and matches both the old experimental evidence and the new Fermilab data. If our calculation is correct, it resolves the discrepancy between theory and experiment and would suggest that there is not an undiscovered force of nature.

Our result was published in the journal Nature on April 7, 2021, the same day as the new experimental results.

All of the particles and forces of the Standard Model of physics.

The Standard Model of physics is the most accurate theory of the universe to date. Cush/Wikimedia Commons

The muon and the Standard Model

The muon is a heavier, unstable sister of the electron. Muons are all around us and are, for example, created when cosmic rays collide with particles in the Earth's atmosphere. They are able to pass through matter, and researchers have used them to probe the inaccessible interiors of structures from giant volcanoes to the Egyptian pyramids.

Muons, like electrons, have an electric charge and generate tiny magnetic fields. The strength and orientation of this magnetic field is called the magnetic moment.

Almost everything in the universe – from how atoms are built to how your cellphone works to how galaxies move – can be described by four interactions. You are probably familiar with the first two: gravity and electromagnetism. The third is the weak interaction, which is responsible for radioactive decay. Last is the strong interaction, the force that holds the protons and neutrons in an atom's nucleus together. Physicists call this framework – minus gravity – the Standard Model of particle physics.

All interactions of the Standard Model contribute to the muon's magnetic moment and each do so in multiple different ways. Physicists very precisely know how electromagnetism and the weak interaction do so, but determining how the strong interaction contributes to the muon's magnetic field has proven to be incredibly hard to do.

Iron filings showing the magnetic field lines of a magnet.

The magnetic field of the muon has proven incredibly hard to predict. Newton Henry Black/Wikimedia Commons

A magnetic mystery

Of all of the effects that the strong interaction has on the muon's magnetic moment, the largest and also hardest to calculate with the necessary precision is called the Leading Order Hadronic Vacuum Polarization.

In the past, to calculate this effect, physicists used a mixed theoretical–experimental approach. They would collect data from collisions between electrons and positrons – the opposite of electrons – and use it to calculate the strong interaction's contribution to the muon's magnetic moment. Physicists have been using this approach to further refine the estimate for decades. The latest results are from 2020 and produced a very precise estimate.

This calculation of the magnetic moment is what experimental physicists have been testing for decades. Until April 7, 2021, the most precise experimental result was 15 years old. For this measurement, at Brookhaven National Laboratory, researchers created muons in a particle accelerator and then watched how they moved through a magnetic field using a giant, 50-foot-wide (15-meter) electromagnet. By measuring how muons moved and decayed, they were able to directly measure the muon's magnetic moment. It came as quite the surprise when Broohaven's 2006 direct measurement of the muon's magnetic moment was larger than it should have been according to theory.

Faced with this discrepancy, there were three options: Either the theoretical prediction was incorrect, the experiment was incorrect or, as many physicists believed, this was a sign of an unknown force of nature.

So which was it?

New theories

My colleagues and I chose to pursue the first option: The theory might be off in some way. So, we decided to try to find a better way to calculate the prediction. Our team of physicists took the most basic underlying equations of the strong interaction, put the equations on an space-time grid and solved as many of them as possible at once.

The technique is kind of like making a weather forecast. As commercial aircrafts fly their routes, they measure pressure, temperature and the speed of wind at given points on Earth. Similarly, we placed the strong interaction equation on a space-time grid. The weather data at individual points are then put into a supercomputer that combines all of the data to predict the evolution of the weather. Our team put the strong interaction forces on a grid and looked for the evolution of these fields. The more planes collecting data, the better the prediction. In this metaphor, we used billions of airplanes to calculate the most precise magnetic moment we could using millions of computer processing hours at multiple supercomputer centers in Europe.

Our new approach produces an estimate of the strength of the muon's magnetic field that closely matches the experimental value measured by the Brookhaven scientists. It essentially closes the gap between theory and experimental measurements and, if true, confirms the Standard Model that has guided particle physics for decades.

New experiments

But my colleagues and I have not been the only ones pursuing this mystery. Other scientists, like the ones at Fermilab, a particle accelerator close to Chicago, have chosen to test the second option: that the experiment was off.

At Fermilab, physicists have been continuing the experiment that was done at Brookhaven to get a more precise experimental measurement of the muon's magnetic moment. They used a more intense muon source that gave them a more precise result. It matched the old measurement almost perfectly.

The Fermilab results strongly suggest that the experimental measurements are correct. The new theoretical prediction made by my colleagues and me matches with these experimental results. While it may have been exciting to discover hints of new physics, our new theory seems to say that this time, the Standard Model is holding up.

One mystery remains though: the gap between the original prediction and our new theoretical result. My team and I believe that ours is correct, but our result is the very first of its sort. As always in science, other calculations need to be done to confirm or refute it.

Zoltan Fodor, Professor of Physics, Penn State

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

At what age are people usually happiest? New research offers surprising clues

Clare Mehta, Emmanuel College

If you could be one age for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Would you choose to be nine years old, absolved of life's most tedious responsibilities, and instead able to spend your days playing with friends and practicing your times tables?

Or would you choose your early 20s, when time feels endless and the world is your oyster – with friends, travel, pubs and clubs beckoning?

Western culture idealizes youth, so it may come as a surprise to learn that in a recent poll asking this question, the most popular answer wasn't 9 or 23, but 36.

Yet as a developmental psychologist, I thought that response made a lot of sense.

For the last four years, I've been studying people's experiences of their 30s and early 40s, and my research has led me to believe that this stage of life – while full of challenges – is much more rewarding than most might think.

The career and care crunch

When I was a researcher in my late 30s, I wanted to read more about the age period I was in. That was when I realized that no one was doing research on people in their 30s and early 40s, which puzzled me. So much often happens during this time: Buying homes, getting married or getting divorced; building careers, changing careers, having children or choosing not to have children.

To study something, it helps to name it. So my colleagues and I named the period from ages 30 to 45 “established adulthood," and then set out to try to understand it better. While we are still collecting data, we have currently interviewed over 100 people in this age cohort, and have collected survey data from more than 600 additional people.

We went into this large-scale project expecting to find that established adults were happy but struggling. We thought there would be rewards during this period of life – perhaps being settled in career, family and friendships, or peaking physically and cognitively – but also some significant challenges.

The main challenge we anticipated was what we called “the career and care crunch."

This refers to the collision of workplace demands and demands of caring for others that takes place in your 30s and early 40s. Trying to climb a ladder in a chosen career while also being increasingly expected to care for kids, tend to the needs of partners and perhaps care for aging parents can create a lot of stress and work.

Yet when we started to look at our data, what we found surprised us.

Yes, people were feeling overwhelmed and talked about having too much to do in too little time. But they also talked about feeling profoundly satisfied. All of these things that were bringing them stress were also bringing them joy.

For example, Yuying, 44, said “even though there are complicated points of this time period, I feel very solidly happy in this space right now." Nina, 39, simply described herself as being “wildly happy." (The names used in this piece are pseudonyms, as required by research protocol.)

When we took an even closer look at our data, it started to become clear why people might wish to remain age 36 over any other age. People talked about being in the prime of their lives and feeling at their peak. After years of working to develop careers and relationships, people reported feeling as though they had finally arrived.

Mark, 36, shared that, at least for him, “things feel more in place." “I've put together a machine that's finally got all the parts it needs," he said.

A sigh of relief after the tumultuous 20s

As well as feeling as though they had accumulated the careers, relationships and general life skills they had been working toward since their 20s, people also said they had greater self-confidence and understood themselves better.

Jodie, 36, appreciated the wisdom she had gained as she reflected on life beyond her 20s:

“Now you've got a solid decade of life experience. And what you discover about yourself in your 20s isn't necessarily that what you wanted was wrong. It's just you have the opportunity to figure out what you don't want and what's not going to work for you. … So you go into your 30s, and you don't waste a bunch of time going on half dozen dates with somebody that's probably not really going to work out, because you've dated before and you have that confidence and that self-assuredness to be like, 'hey, thanks but no thanks.' Your friend circle becomes a lot closer because you weed out the people that you just don't need in your life that bring drama."

Most established adults we interviewed seemed to recognize that they were happier in their 30s than they were in their 20s, and this impacted how they thought about some of the signs of physical aging that they were starting to encounter. For example, Lisa, 37, said, “If I could go back physically but I had to also go back emotionally and mentally … no way. I would take flabby skin lines every day."

Not ideal for everyone

Our research should be viewed with some caveats.

The interviews were primarily conducted with middle-class North Americans, and many of the participants are white. For those who are working class, or for those who have had to reckon with decades of systemic racism, established adulthood may not be so rosy.

It is also worth noting that the career and care crunch has been exacerbated, especially for women, by the COVID-19 pandemic. For this reason, the pandemic may be leading to a decrease in life satisfaction, especially for established adults who are parents trying to navigate full-time careers and full-time child care.

At the same time, that people think of their 30s – and not their 20s or their teens – as the sweet spot in their lives to which they'd like to return suggests that this is a period of life that we should pay more attention to.

And this is slowly happening. Along with my own work is an excellent book recently written by Kayleen Shaefer, “But You're Still So Young," that explores people navigating their 30s. In her book she tells stories of changing career paths, navigating relationships and dealing with fertility.

My colleagues and I hope that our work and Shaefer's book are just the beginning. Having a better understanding of the challenges and rewards of established adulthood will give society more tools to support people during that period, ensuring that this golden age provides not only memories that we will fondly look back upon, but also a solid foundation for the rest of our lives. The Conversation

'Established adulthood' is an emerging area of study.

Clare Mehta, Associate Professor of Psychology, Emmanuel College

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How Cuba beat the pandemic: From developing new vaccines to sending doctors overseas to help others

Since last year, approximately 440 Cubans have died from COVID-19, giving Cuba one of the lowest death rates per capita in the world. Cuba is also developing five COVID-19 vaccines, including two which have entered stage 3 trials. Cuba has heavily invested in its medical and pharmaceutical system for decades, in part because of the six-decade U.S. embargo that has made it harder for Cuba to import equipment and raw materials from other countries. That investment, coupled with the country's free, universal healthcare system, has helped Cuba keep the virus under control and quickly develop vaccines against it, says Dr. Rolando Pérez Rodríguez, the director of science and innovation at BioCubaFarma, which oversees Cuba's medicine development. "We have long experience with these kinds of technologies," he says. We also speak with Reed Lindsay, journalist and founder of the independent, Cuba-focused media organization Belly of the Beast, who says U.S. sanctions on Cuba continue to cripple the country. "Cuba is going through an unbelievable economic crisis, and the sanctions have been absolutely devastating," says Lindsay.




This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: As the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 tops 560,000 and Brazil records over 4,200 deaths in a single day, we begin today's show looking at how Cuba has successfully fought the pandemic. Since last year, only about 440 Cubans have died from COVID-19, giving the island one of the lowest death rates per capita in the world. Cuba is also developing five COVID-19 vaccines, including two which have entered stage 3 trials. Martinez is the president of BioCubaFarma..

EDUARDO MARTÍNEZ DÍAZ: [translated] We are very confident that our vaccines will be effective, the vaccines that are being developed. The results that we have had to date point to satisfactory results. And we maintain that before the end of 2021, our population will be immunized with the vaccines that we're developing. … Given the blockade that we are subjected to and the situation in the country, it would have been very difficult for us to get the results that we are getting in the fight against the pandemic, if we had not developed this industry more than 35 years ago in our country.

AMY GOODMAN: For decades, Cuba has heavily invested in its medical and pharmaceutical system, in part because of the six-decade-old U.S. embargo that's made it harder for Cuba to import equipment and raw materials from other countries. In the 1980s, Cuba developed the world's first meningitis B vaccine. It's also developed important cancer drugs that are now being used in the United States and elsewhere.

In a moment, we'll go to Havana, but first I want to turn to an excerpt from the recent online documentary series The War on Cuba, produced by Belly of the Beast, an independent media group in Cuba. One episode looks at Cuba's efforts to fight COVID-19 at home and abroad. It's narrated by the Cuban journalist Liz Oliva Fernández.

LIZ OLIVA FERNÁNDEZ: Every morning, tens of thousands of doctors, nurses and medical students take to the streets across Cuba. They are on the frontlines of our fight against COVID. Talía Ruíz is a first-year medical student.
TALÍA RUÍZ: [translated] I don't feel afraid. If we are careful and take the necessary measures, we won't get infected. There are doctors who have faced the disease head on, and they haven't gotten sick. For example, my dad. Hi, Dad.
LIZ OLIVA FERNÁNDEZ: Talía's father, Juan Jesús, is a family doctor who works at a small clinic next to their home. In March, he joined a group of Cuban doctors on a medical mission to Lombardy, Italy. At the time, Lombardy was the global epicenter of the pandemic.
DR. JUAN JESÚS RUIZ ALEMÁN: [translated] The number of cases overwhelmed the health system there. We helped the medical personnel who could no longer handle so many cases. And we saved some lives. As we walked to the farewell ceremony, from every home, people came out and applauded us. It was the best feeling I've had in my life. That's why you go on missions.
LIZ OLIVA FERNÁNDEZ: It wasn't the first time Juan Jesús risked his life far from home. He's part of the Henry Reeve Brigade, Cuba's medical special forces.
DR. JUAN JESÚS RUIZ ALEMÁN: [translated] Henry Reeve was a soldier from the United States who fought for Cuba against the Spanish in the 1868 war. The brigade was formed in 2005. A hurricane called Katrina destroyed New Orleans. There was a huge number of deaths. Cuba offered to send 100 doctors to work alongside U.S. doctors. We were ready to go.
LIZ OLIVA FERNÁNDEZ: George W. Bush rejected Cuba's offer to help New Orleans. Since then, Juan Jesús has treated survivors of natural disasters and epidemics around the world.

AMY GOODMAN: That's an excerpt from the video series The War on Cuba, which was produced by Belly of the Beast, an independent media organization in Cuba founded by journalist Reed Lindsay, who joins us from Havana, where we're also joined by Dr. Rolando Pérez Rodríguez, the director of science and innovation at BioCubaFarma, which oversees Cuba's medicine development, including the development of COVID-19 vaccines. He's also the founder of Cuba's Molecular Immunology Center and a member of the Cuban Academy of Science.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Dr. Rolando Pérez Rodríguez, why don't you talk about the latest vaccines, two of which are in trial three? Soberana-2 is one of them.

DR. ROLANDO PÉREZ RODRÍGUEZ: Good morning. I would like to thank you for this invitation to share with you our experience in facing COVID-19 pandemics.

I have to say that we had the first case of COVID-19 in Cuba, was reported on March 11, [ 2020 ]. And in April this [last] year, we decided to start this COVID vaccine project, different several vaccine — a COVID-19 vaccine project. And in August 13, we already got the first approval to start a Phase 1 clinical trial with the first vaccine candidate. So, in a very short time, we succeeded to get to clinical development of this candidate vaccine.

Today, we have, as you said, five different vaccine candidates in clinical development, two of them in Phase 3 clinical trials. Three of these, in all of the — sorry. All of these candidate vaccines use as anti the receptor-binding domain of the S5 protein, which bind to the surface receptor, so this anti is expressed in different technology platforms. Three of the vaccines use the recombinant protein produced in mammalian cells, and the other two in geese. But all of these vaccines we are developing now, we use a platform technology that are very safe, are [inaudible] vaccines. All the formulation also benefit from all the technology we have used in Cuba for a previous prophylactic vaccine, so are very safe. We have long experience with these kind of technologies. And that's the reason we can really go so far through a clinical development.

AMY GOODMAN: Cuba will be the first country in Latin America to develop vaccines, this despite the U.S. embargo. Can you talk about how these — why you think Cuba is so far ahead?

DR. ROLANDO PÉREZ RODRÍGUEZ: No, maybe I have to say that we — in Cuba, we made a huge investment, you know, in biotechnology last century. By the '80s of last century, we had started developing a biotech industry, so early maybe. And then, in combination with a healthcare system that, you know, is free, is universal, full coverage, and this combination of a biotech industry and a good health primary care system, I think that that combination made possible to assimilate or have impact of all these biotech products in the healthcare and provide us the experience and the capacity to make so fast the development of these vaccine projects and to introduce in the healthcare system.

AMY GOODMAN: Why do you think Cuba has far surpassed the United States when it comes to COVID-19 and people surviving? I mean, the U.S. — I mean, per capita, I think Cuba has something like, over the year, between 40 and 60 times less the death toll per capita than the United States. How is this possible, with the U.S. being the wealthiest country in the world and the U.S. imposing this massive embargo against Cuba, which is not only stopping U.S. support for Cuba, but countries around the world?

DR. ROLANDO PÉREZ RODRÍGUEZ: You know, it's what I tried to explain before. There is a combination of a national pharmaceutical — biopharmaceutical industry, but also how we organize the healthcare system in Cuba, that is free, universal, full coverage, with access to all the population, and also this health primary care system that is looking for people with disease. So, we are not expecting that people come to the healthcare system; we are looking for the people, so it's a very active and preventive approach to the healthcare. And I think that this kind of organization made possible that with not so much resources, you can have a big impact on healthcare. That is the reason maybe, the way we organize all this healthcare system.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to bring journalist Reed Lindsay into this conversation, who has put out this series, founder of Belly of the Beast, called The War on Cuba. If you can talk about, overall, during the time of COVID, even beyond the vaccines, what Cuba has done, what you document in your film series, like sending doctors to places like Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador and beyond?

REED LINDSAY: Thanks a lot, Amy.

You know, I was in Haiti for five years, and that was my first direct experience with Cuban doctors. And I found it remarkable. What the Cuban program in Haiti was doing wasn't only bringing Cuban doctors to work in the poorest areas of Haiti, it was also training Haitian doctors in Cuba. And Cuba, at that time, was graduating more doctors than the public universities in Haiti, and they were returning to Haiti and working there. And, in a sense, it was brain drain in reverse.

And living here in Cuba, you know, my doctor is just a block or two away. If I have any problem, I walk down there. It's free. I don't have to show any papers. And that's what it's like for healthcare here. It can be a little shocking not having to go in and fill out forms and showing your insurance and anything.

And, of course, when COVID hit, I knew that Cuba would be prepared. And I felt safer here, frankly, a lot safer, than I did if I had been in the United States. I remember telling my mom, who has often been worried about different places I've been around the world — I told her now I was more worried about her than she was about me.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to another excerpt from your film, The War on Cuba, about Brazil's far-right President Jair Bolsonaro expelling thousands of Cuban doctors in 2018.

DR. MARIO DÍAZ: [translated] Bolsonaro has always followed the U.S. president. They call him the Latino Trump. The U.S. wants to cut off the income to choke the Cuban economy, to try to bring about a political change here on the island. When Cuba left the program, around 1,700 municipalities were suddenly left without doctors. I had a patient in Brazil, a 70-year-old man, illiterate. He made an appointment so he could say goodbye. He cried right here on my shoulder.
LIZ OLIVA FERNÁNDEZ: Millions of Brazilians in poor communities were left without healthcare. It was just the beginning. Ecuador's president became a Trump ally, and then, in November 2019, he expelled hundreds of Cuban doctors. That same month, a U.S.-supported coup ousted Bolivian President Evo Morales. Bolivia's de facto government immediately took aim at the Cuban doctors.
INTERIM PRESIDENT JEANINE ÁÑEZ: [translated] The false Cuban doctors …
DR. YOANDRA MURO VALLE: [translated] They said we weren't doctors. They accused us of being criminals.
LIZ OLIVA FERNÁNDEZ: Yoandra Muro was head of the Cuban medical mission in Bolivia.
DR. YOANDRA MURO VALLE: [translated] They threatened to burn down the Cuban doctors' homes. They took others to Interpol. They pointed guns at two brigade members. They strip-searched some of our women.

AMY GOODMAN: That, an excerpt from The War on Cuba, Reed Lindsay, a founder of the Belly of the Beast production that made this series. Now, this is very interesting, what's happening in Brazil. And if you can talk about the effects of this? I mean, we just reported that 4,200 people died in Brazil just yesterday. That's over 10 times the number of Cubans who have died during the entire pandemic.

REED LINDSAY: Yeah, you know, and in doing the series, we spoke with numerous doctors who were part of — Cuban doctors who were in Brazil. And they were hurting, because they knew that these communities that they were helping, they weren't able to help, and that they were suffering. People were dying of COVID.

You know, what that is was part of Trump's policies to crush the Cuban economy, because Cuba sends doctors to other parts of the world, and, like Haiti, there are many cases where there's really no evidence it's anything but altruistic, but it also sends doctors to places like Brazil, and Cuba receives some money for that, and they use that money to subsidize healthcare in Cuba. And so, the Trump administration went after these programs to try to basically hurt the Cuban economy. And it wasn't the only thing they've done.

What's really remarkable about the vaccines and what Cuba has achieved in the last year is that Cuba right now is undergoing a severe economic crisis, and in part it's because of COVID. Obviously, there's no more tourism, and Cuba depended greatly on tourism for its economy. But even before then, there were people who were comparing the economic situation in Cuba to the Special Period after the fall of the Soviet Union, which was considered worse than the Great Depression. And the reason was because of the U.S. sanctions. Now, the embargo has been around for decades, but Trump — under Trump, those sanctions became far, far worse.

And, you know, that's really the story we were trying to tell with The War on Cuba. And I feel it's important to point out that this is a project — what's really unique about Belly of the Beast — and I'm very proud of being a part of it — is that it is a collaboration between U.S. journalists and filmmakers and Cuban journalists and filmmakers. Most of the people in Belly of the Beast are young Cuban journalists and filmmakers. They're telling stories about U.S. intervention in Cuba for a young audience in the United States. And we feel that's really important because people in the United States are at the forefront of pushing for change in policy in the U.S., but they don't always get information about the impact of U.S. policy in other parts of the world, such as Cuba, not only how that policy is affecting Cubans, but also how that policy affects people in the U.S. And you cited an example earlier. Cuba produces life-saving drugs that cannot be obtained in the United States because of the U.S. embargo.

AMY GOODMAN: Let me go back to Dr. Rolando Pérez Rodríguez. What plans does Cuba have for your vaccines, like Soberana? How do you plan to use it? And as with doctors, do you plan to export this vaccine? And how many people have participated in trials in Cuba?

DR. ROLANDO PÉREZ RODRÍGUEZ: OK, you know, we are expecting to get the result of the first three clinical trials by June. So, if we have ready the clinical data for the efficacy of these vaccines, we should get an authorization for emergency use from the Cuban regulatory agency. And then we can start a massive immunization program in our country.

But, in parallel, you know, with these first three clinical trials, that involve more than 80,000 people — because Soberana candidate vaccine, or vaccine candidate, has a clinical trial that should include more than 44,000 people, and the other vaccine, candidate vaccine, Abdala, has a clinical trial that should include 48,000 volunteers. But in parallel to these first three clinical trials, we are also making clinical histories of population scale in risk groups, population groups, for example, the healthcare workers, all people that are facing the disease directly. And then, in this personnel — medical doctors, nurses and employees — we are also now making a clinical history. All this data from Phase 3 and the clinical data in this population, a clinical history, that is like real work, because in that kind of history, you will not only the efficacy, but also how effective will be the vaccine in somehow stop the viral transmission, not just preventing the disease. We should have an update up by June to have this emergency use authorization from the Cuban regulatory agency.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to the U.S. — I want to go to the U.S. administration approach to Cuba. During his campaign, President Biden promised to lift current restrictions on remittances and travel to Cuba. But it remains unclear if he's going to pursue resetting relationships with the island. Last month, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said a shift in U.S. policy on Cuba is not a priority for Biden, adding his administration is reviewing Trump's designation of Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism. This is Biden speaking to a crowd in Broward County, Florida, just days before the 2020 presidential election.

JOE BIDEN: We have to vote for a new Cuba policy, as well. This administration's approach isn't working. Cuba is no closer to freedom and democracy today than it was four years ago. In fact, there are more political prisoners, and secret police are as brutal as ever. And Russia once again is a major presence in Havana.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that was Biden right before the election. Of course, during the Obama-Biden years, they were normalizing relations with Cuba. Reed Brody [sic], we're going to end with you — Reed Lindsay, we're going to end with you. If you can talk about what the effect of these U.S. sanctions has been on Cuba, and what it would mean if those sanctions were lifted?

REED LINDSAY: As you mentioned, Cuba is going through an unbelievable economic crisis. And the sanctions have been absolutely devastating, and they've taken on every part of the Cuban economy. They've blocked oil shipments from Venezuela. There was an energy crisis in Cuba. They've blocked remittances. If you wanted to send me some money in Cuba, you wouldn't be able to do so. You no longer can send money via Western Union. They've basically stopped all investment. They've called Cuba a state sponsor of terror. They've stopped all U.S. tourism. Even if there wasn't COVID, there would be no U.S. tourists coming here.

And basically, Biden, although he said that he was going to implement a new Cuban policy, has not shown that he will. And just yesterday, Juan Gonzalez, who is the — basically, for the National Security Council that runs point on Latin American policy, told CNN, quote, "Biden is not Obama in Cuba policy." And he said that Biden would — that the administration would not invest the political capital necessary to change policy towards Cuba. The Biden administration is being pressured by powerful Cuban Americans. Two Cuban Americans are the chairs of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. They're getting a lot of pressure, and they're just not interested in changing policy. At least so far, they've shown they're not. So, so far, it's status quo as far as policy towards Cuba.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you both for being with us, Reed Lindsay, journalist and founder of Belly of the Beast, independent media organization that covers Cuba and U.S.-Cuba relations, also the director of The War on Cuba series, which is executive produced by Danny Glover and Oliver Stone; and Dr. Rolando Pérez Rodríguez, the director of science and innovation at BioCubaFarma. He's also the founder of Cuba's Molecular Immunology Center, a member of the Cuban Academy of Science.


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Antarctica's ice shelves are trembling as global temperatures rise

by Ella Gilbert, University of Reading

Images of colossal chunks of ice plunging into the sea accompany almost every news story about climate change. It can often make the problem seem remote, as if the effects of rising global temperatures are playing out elsewhere. But the break-up of the world's vast reservoirs of frozen water – and, in particular, Antarctic ice shelves – will have consequences for all of us.

Before we can appreciate how, we need to understand what's driving this process.

Ice shelves are gigantic floating platforms of ice that form where continental ice meets the sea. They're found in Greenland, northern Canada and the Russian Arctic, but the largest loom around the edges of Antarctica. They are fed by frozen rivers of ice called glaciers, which flow down from the steep Antarctic ice sheet.

Ice shelves act as a barrier to glaciers, so when they disappear, it's like pulling the plug in a sink, allowing glaciers to flow freely into the ocean, where they contribute to sea level rise.

If you cast your mind back to 2002, you may remember the sudden demise of Larsen B, an ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula – the tail-like landmass which stretches out from the West Antarctic mainland – which splintered over just six weeks.

A map of Antarctica with the peninsula highlighted by a red box.

The Antarctic Peninsula, highlighted in red, is the northernmost part of the continent. (Anna Frodesiak/Wikipedia)

Before Larsen B broke up, satellite images showed meltwater collecting in huge ponds on the surface, the precursor to a process called “hydrofracturing", which literally means “cracking by water".

Ice shelves are not solid blocks of ice: they're made up of layers with fresh snow at the top, which contains lots of air gaps. Over many seasons, layers of snow build up and become compacted, with the bottom of the shelf containing the densest ice. In the middle, there is a porous medium called firn, which contains air pockets that soak up meltwater every summer like a sponge.

In the Antarctic summer, ice shelves get warm enough to melt at the surface. That meltwater trickles into the firn layer, where it refreezes when temperatures dip below freezing again. If the rate of melting every year is greater than the rate at which that firn can be replenished by fresh snow, then those air pockets eventually fill up, causing the ice shelf to become one solid chunk.

If that happens, then the following summer when melting occurs, the water has nowhere to go and so collects in ponds on the surface. That is what we can see in the satellite images of Larsen B before it collapsed.

At this stage, meltwater begins to flow into crevasses and cracks within the ice shelf. The weight of water filling these rifts causes them to widen and deepen, until suddenly, all at once, the cracks reach the bottom of the shelf and the whole thing disintegrates.

Scientists believe the collapse of Larsen B was caused by a combination of persistently warm weather and a background of ongoing atmospheric warming, which drove unusually high melt rates.

After its collapse, the glaciers that previously fed Larsen B sped up, spitting more ice into the ocean than before. Currently, the Antarctic Peninsula, an area that has seen more than half its ice shelves lose mass, is responsible for around 25% of all ice loss from Antarctica. It holds enough ice to raise global sea levels by around 24cm.

Three future outcomes

But what might happen to the rest of Antarctica's ice shelves in the future is still uncertain. As the climate warms, ice shelves are more likely to collapse and accelerate global sea level rise, but by how much? This is something myself and a colleague have explored in a new study.

We used the latest modelling techniques to predict the susceptibility of ice shelves to hydrofracturing at 1.5°C, 2°C and 4°C of global warming – scenarios that are all still plausible. Like with Larsen B, the presence of liquid water on the surface of an ice shelf indicates that it is becoming less stable, and so vulnerable to collapse by hydrofracturing.

In our paper, we identified four ice shelves – including two on the Antarctic Peninsula – which are at risk of collapse if global temperatures rise 4°C above the pre-industrial average. If both were to disintegrate, the glaciers they hold back could account for tens of cm of sea level rise – 10-20% of what's predicted this century.

But limiting global warming to 2°C would halve the amount of ice shelf area at risk of collapse around Antarctica. At 1.5°C, just 14% of Antarctica's ice shelf area would be at risk. Cutting that risk reduces the likelihood of this vast and remote continent significantly contributing to sea level rise.

Clearly, reducing climate change will be better not just for Antarctica, but for the world.The Conversation

Ella Gilbert, Postdoctoral Research Associate in Climate Science, University of Reading

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

CDC director warns that racism is a 'serious threat' to public health in America

Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), warned that racism is a "serious threat" to public health in the United States as the pandemic rages on.

According to Talking Points Memo, Walensky noted how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted communities where people of color have suffered disproportionately higher case rates, death rates, and economic consequences.

On Thursday, April 8, Walensky expressed concern about how racism has contributed to the disparaging impacts of the pandemic on Black and Brown people. "Yet, the disparities seen over the past year were not a result of COVID-19," Walensky said. "Instead, the pandemic illuminated inequities that have existed for generations and revealed for all of America a known, but often unaddressed, epidemic impacting public health: racism."

She added, "What we know is this: racism is a serious public health threat that directly affects the well-being of millions of Americans."

The public health agency chief also explained how structural inequities and barriers "impact racial and ethnic groups differently to influence where a person lives, where they work, where their children play, and where they worship and gather in community."

"These social determinants of health have life-long negative effects on the mental and physical health of individuals in communities of color," Walenksy said.

Walensky's remarks come months after the American Medical Association (AMA) expressed similar concerns about the long-term effects of racism during the pandemic. Susan Bailey, AMA president, also applauded the CDC chief in a new statement released on Thursday.

"As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disproportionately plague Black and Brown communities, it's clear that collective action from all stakeholders is needed to dismantle systemic racism and confront, embed, and advance equity across our health care system," Bailey said.

She continued, "The AMA applauds the CDC for formally recognizing racism as a public health threat, and elevating and sharing the work of the AMA through its new Racism and Health initiative. The AMA's House of Delegates recognized racism as a public health threat in 2020, and will continue pushing for anti-racist policies and practices so that all people have the power, resources, and opportunities to reach their full health potential.""

Dr. Fauci says we're 'racing' to stop another COVID-19 surge

In an interview, President Joe Biden's chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci issued a dire warning to the American people: Don't celebrate the end of the COVID-19 pandemic just yet. Another surge could happen if we're not careful.

Speaking with CNN's Anderson Cooper on Wednesday, Fauci expressed concern about the fact that public health officials have not seen a continued and significant decrease in infections, with Johns Hopkins University reporting more than 61,000 new cases on that day alone. (COVID-19 was also the third leading cause of death in the United States in 2020.)

Fauci characterized the state of the COVID-19 pandemic as "a race between getting people vaccinated and this surge that seems to want to increase." He particularly noted a rise in cases among young people, which he attributed to a number of factors — including that elderly Americans are more likely to have been vaccinated; the reopening of facilities like daycares and school sporting events; and the prevalence of one particular coronavirus variant in the United States.

That variant, known as B.1.1.7, originated in the United Kingdom, is known to be more transmissible than other coronavirus strains and is suspected of also being more deadly. That strain is now the most common coronavirus variant in the United States, which makes it all the more urgent for as many Americans to get vaccinated as possible. Fauci is not alone among American public health officials who have expressed concern that if the rate of vaccinations does not keep up with the spread of mutant viruses, some of the progress we've made in fighting the pandemic could be reversed.

"I'm going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom," Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told reporters at a press conference last month. "We have so much to look forward to. So much promise and potential of where we are and so much reason for hope. But right now I'm scared."

Walensky added that she was alarmed at how Republican governors in states like Texas, Mississippi and Alabama have been rolling back or entirely doing away with COVID-19 restrictions. Earlier this month, after the CDC announced that COVID-19 was the third main cause of US deaths in 2020, Walensky told journalists that "the data should serve again as a catalyst for each of us to continue to do our part to drive down cases and reduce the spread of COVID-19 and get people vaccinated as quickly as possible."

Fauci made a similar observation to Cooper on Wednesday, arguing that Americans should "hang in there a bit longer" and adding that "now is not the time, as I've said so many times, to declare victory prematurely."

The public health official's recent comments were similar to those that he made about the possibility of a surge during an interview with MSNBC's Joe Scarborough on Tuesday.

"As long as we keep vaccinating people efficiently and effectively, I don't think that's gonna happen," Fauci said at the time. "That doesn't mean that we're not going to still see an increase in cases."

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