The Daily Dose: Black hole scientists win the Nobel; Party of Lincoln now the Party of Denial.

The 2020 Nobel Prizes continue to roll in. This time, the big announcement comes from the realm of physics. Three scientists are splitting the honors for their work on those mysterious and ominous black holes. Per Nature, “British physicist Roger Penrose, 89, receives half the prize for theoretical work that in 1965 showed how Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity should result in the formation of black holes, regions with a gravitational pull so strong that not even light can escape. US astronomer Andrea Ghez, 55, and German astronomer Reinhard Genzel, 68, won the other half of the award for their discovery of what is considered the most famous black hole — the supermassive compact object at the centre of the Milky Way.” This reminds us of the wacky 1980s Disney movie titled The Black Hole and currently streaming on Disney+. Let’s just say, it didn’t age well.

President Trump has urged Americans not to fear SARS-CoV-2 and not to allow it to dominate their lives. That’s easy for someone to say who has access to any drugs— approved or experimental— and an army of physicians tending to him. The only thing he’s managed to prove is how much the average citizen is at a disadvantage during the pandemic. A recent article in STAT discusses the reality. “‘Covid is all about privilege. The more privilege you have, the more you can ignore some of the rules of Covid. Where one person would need to be in the hospital, another person can have the hospital come to them. That’s privilege,’ said Lakshman Swamy, an ICU physician at Cambridge Health Alliance in Massachusetts.” Since discussions about inequality in America tend to follow party lines, it’s clear who will fall where in this discussion. So it goes…

Scientists in Mexico are up in arms about cuts in funding by the government. According to Science, “Mexican scientists clad in lab coats and carrying handmade signs gathered here yesterday outside the Chamber of Deputies to protest a bill that would cut a lifeline for many Mexican research centers. The bill, which appears likely to pass, would terminate 109 trust funds run by public research centers and government institutes, one-third of them devoted to science and technology. The government plans to divert the roughly 68 billion pesos ($3 billion) in funds to help cope with the coronavirus pandemic.” Diverting money away from science seems to be a thing among governments looking to compensate for mismanagement in other areas.

Researchers analyzed genomic data from Mesolithic to Iron Age populations in France. They traced the changing frequency of genotypes associated with phenotypic traits. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, goes on to say, “Importantly, we also report the late persistence of Magdalenian-associated ancestry in hunter-gatherer populations, showing the presence of this ancestry beyond the Iberian Peninsula in the Late Paleolithic. This study complements the genomic history of western Europe for this broad period by supplying a large genetic transect of three regions of France.”

This week, Nature published an article mapping out the ways the Trump Administration has set back science in America, probably by decades. One major area crippled by Republican influence pertains to climate change (surprised?). A recent episode of the Gimlet/Spotify podcast How To Save a Planet takes a look at how the Party of Lincoln became the Party of Denial. “With the help of guests including historians Jay Turner and Drew Isenberg, former Congressman Bob Inglis, and self-identifying Young Republican Benji Backer, this episode explores several key moments in history. Starting with Reagan’s 1980 ad that introduced the idea that environmental regulation threatens economic progress, to Nasa scientist James Hansen first publicizing global warming when testifying before Congress in 1988, and finally to the Koch brothers and the fossil fuel industry’s involvement in climate policy during the 2008 financial crisis.” Ultimately, the podcast asks: Can both parties come together in time to enact meaningful climate change policies?

Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.

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