DAILY DOSE: Nobel Prize in Medicine awarded to touch scientists; Questions about an oil spill in California waters.

It’s that time of the year, when all eyes turn toward Scandinavia and bookies take bets on who will be awarded the prestigious Nobel Prize in their fields. The awards announcements have begun their annual slow drip. First up, Nobel Prize in Medicine. Per the Associated Press, “Two scientists won the Nobel Prize in medicine on Monday for their discoveries into how the human body perceives temperature and touch, revelations that could lead to new ways of treating pain or even heart disease. Americans David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian identified receptors in the skin that respond to heat and pressure. Their work is focused on the field of somatosensation, which explores the ability of specialized organs such as eyes, ears and skin to see, hear and feel.” Prof. Julius, who works at the University of California at San Francisco, used capsaicin, the active component in chili peppers, to identify the nerve sensors that allow the skin to respond to heat. Patapoutian, who works at Scripps Research Institute at La Jolla, California, found separate pressure-sensitive sensors in cells that respond to mechanical stimulation. https://bit.ly/3l5S9ll

Thank the Covid-19 pandemic for highlighting yet another aspect of modern society that flew under the radar (to a degree) but became anecdotally obvious during the long months of lockdown. Working mothers, who often bear the brunt of household and work responsibilities, suffer burnout at a greater rate than their male counterparts. Per the BBC, “Though the mental strain of mastering this balancing act has been apparent for decades, Covid-19 has cast a particularly harsh light on the problem. Statistics show that stress and burnout are affecting more women than men, and particularly more working mothers than working fathers. This could have multiple impacts for the post-pandemic world of work, making it important that both companies and wider society find ways to reduce this imbalance.” https://bbc.in/3iw1dhs

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Yet another country has thrown in the towel with regards to its zero-Covid strategy. Per Deutsche Welle, “New Zealand has abandoned its long-standing COVID-19 elimination strategy in the face of a challenging delta outbreak, authorities announced on Monday. Instead, the country will focus on increasing vaccination rates and learning to live with the virus. ‘With this outbreak and delta the return to zero is incredibly difficult,’ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a major policy shift.” According to Adern, the country was always going to make the transition over time but the process has been accelerated by the Delta variant. The severity of lockdowns necessary in zero-Covid strategies have decimated economies around the world. https://bit.ly/3ir95kz

On Friday, a massive oil spill took place off the coast of California. News about the catastrophic event was slow to develop, thanks to a confluence of missteps. Questions are beginning to be asked about what went wrong. Per the Los Angeles Times, “The Newport Beach Police Department’s phones started ringing with residents throughout the city reporting the smell of gas. Police received enough inquiries that the department sent out a community advisory about 7:45 p.m. saying authorities were checking it out. But it was not until 24 hours later that authorities raised alarms that the Orange County coast was dealing with a massive oil spill with potentially catastrophic consequences.” Reportedly, the leak is linked to a pipeline connected to Elly, a 41-year-old platform 8.6 miles offshore. The potential source is about 4.5 miles off the coast, somewhere along the 17.5-mile pipeline to shore, where crude is eventually delivered to a local refinery. Regardless of the reasons, it’s a disaster for the environment. https://lat.ms/3D8udnw

As long as we’re discussing depressing environmental news, it really feels like no matter how much noise activists and concerned citizens make about the state of the Amazon, nothing really happens. The logging and environmental destruction goes on unabated. A recent study does nothing to dispel that notion. If anything, it reinforces the sense of futility. Per Nature, “Indigenous territories, long a bulwark against deforestation in the Amazon, are under increasing threat in Brazil, according to an analysis of 36 years’ worth of satellite imagery. The data show that illicit mining operations on Indigenous lands and in other areas formally protected by law have hit a record high in the past few years, under the administration of President Jair Bolsonaro, underscoring fears that his policies and rhetoric are undermining both human rights and environmental protection across the world’s largest rainforest. These operations strip the land of vegetation and pollute waterways with mercury.” https://go.nature.com/3ixFLJ3

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

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