person in silver ring holding mans hand

DAILY DOSE: Scientists harassed for Covid-19 research; U.S. prison system is a dismal failure.

By now, the vitriol surrounding Covid-19 mitigation efforts is common knowledge. Less well known is the fact that the same people that come out against vaccines and facemasks are also targeting the scientists involved in Covid-19 research. According to Nature, “A survey by Nature of more than 300 scientists who have given media interviews about COVID-19 — many of whom had also commented about the pandemic on social media — has found wide experience of harassment or abuse; 15% said they had received death threats (see ‘Negative impacts’).” Yet another way the pandemic has revealed the disappointing aspects of modern society.

Sometimes, the difference between successfully promoting a cause and meeting abject failure comes down to something as simple as framing. A recent report from the White House is attempting to reframe the climate change debate from potential death and destruction of the planet to the death and destruction of people’s money. Per the Associated Press, “The Biden administration is taking steps to address the economic risks from climate change, issuing a 40-page report Friday on government-wide plans to protect the financial, insurance and housing markets and the savings of American families. The report lays out steps that could potentially alter the mortgage process, stock market disclosures, retirement plans, federal procurement and government budgeting.” Shrewd move perhaps. People connect much more with their bank accounts than the planet. Twisted, I know.

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Nature has always played a role in inspiring scientific advances. Researchers have a new muse. Blackworms. Per FrontiersIn, “Lumbriculus variegatus blackworms can aggregate into ‘blobs’ capable of collective movement. Researchers observed blackworms to model the behavior of individual worms, as well as the formation and movement of blobs. They showed that effective collective movement can only emerge when there is a balance between ‘clinginess’ and independent movement. These results may serve as a model to study other systems with emergent properties, such as nets of biopolymers.” The discovery may also have implications in robotics where swarms can play important roles.

America embarked on a social strategy specifically designed to combat crime a long time ago, much longer than most people can remember. It involved the use of prison incarcerations as punitive measures. As a result, mass incarcerations have become part of the country’s dystopian reality. A review in Science looked at how the phenomenon has affected the families of people in prisons. The authors came to a number of conclusions. “First, family member incarceration is now common for American families. Second, individuals who will eventually have a family member incarcerated are worse off than those who never will, even before the incarceration takes place. Third, family member incarceration has negative effects on families above and beyond these preexisting disadvantages. And finally, policy interventions that address the precursors to family member incarceration and seek to minimize family member incarceration would best enhance family well-being.” Long story short: It’s even more destructive than thought. A rethink is long over-due.

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

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