The Daily Dose: Anatomy of an anti-vaxx campaign; Grief in the time of COVID-19.

Anti-vaccination conspiracy theorists will jump at any opportunity to point out the dangers of being vaccinated. Unfortunately, veracity isn’t very high on their list of priorities. That turned out to be true when a woman involved in a COVID-19 vaccine trial posted an unrelated image of an infection on her foot. The only morsel of truth was that she was involved in the clinical trial. Per the BBC, “But this is also true: Patricia never received the actual vaccine. Medical records show that she received a placebo, a small injection of salt water. (Researchers do this as a matter of routine, to compare groups that receive a drug or a vaccine with those who receive the placebo.) Her illness had nothing to do with injections. But that didn’t stop activists twisting her story to advance their own agendas. And on top of the physical pain caused by her condition, Patricia received a wave of online abuse.” Of course, social media trolls don’t need to be honest. That isn’t their concern. Neither are the lives of the people a safe COVID-19 vaccine would save. http://bbc.in/2K5n94P


The mental health aspects of the extended on-again-off-again COVID-19 lockdowns are a growing area of concern. Much of the focus goes to depression brought on by isolation. However, there are also serious questions being asked about how the inability to grieve may be affecting people. In particular, the loss of established rituals — mostly religious — are cuasing problems. Per STAT, “All these — and other rites of faith and community across the globe — have been brutally curtailed by the Covid-19 pandemic, with effects on the mental and physical health of those left behind that have yet to be grasped.” http://bit.ly/3n5kDKo


Today, there’s a trifecta of headlines from Science dealing with the political side of research that are worth mentioning. The first deals with how scientists hope that European Union defense funding will offer more resources for research. (http://bit.ly/2VVtItg) The second reports how American fusion scientists (normally a very fragmented bunch) are coming together to rally around the construction of a new fusion power plant (http://bit.ly/2VVtItg). The final headline reports that Iran now determined to build two new nuclear facilities and people are starting to worry (http://bit.ly/2VWYXEp)


An article in Nature disucusses how a bizarre bird fossil from the Mesozoic era is prompting scientists to reconsider the evolution of birds (considered living dinosaurs). Per Nature, “This striking addition to the aviary of the Mesozoic era is between 72 million and 66 million years old (corresponding to the latest stage of the Cretaceous period). It comes from Madagascar, and is named Falcatakely forsterae, which roughly translates as Forster’s small scythe beak. The name references the distinctive shape of the fossil’s bill and honours Catherine Forster’s numerous contributions to vertebrate palaeontology in Madagascar. The specimen is small (less than 9 centimetres long) and delicate (paper thin in places), yet the stunning bone preservation provides a spectacular look at this ancient creature’s anatomy.” http://go.nature.com/2VZyCpn


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