DAILY DOSE: Omicron chaos picks up speed; China’s Mars rover is beaming back tons of data.


Stéphane Bancel, the CEO of vaccine maker Moderna, sent global financial markets into a tailspin. In an interview with the Financial Times, he suggested that the company’s vaccine would be noticeably weakened against the new Covid-19 variant. Per Reuters, “The chief executive of drugmaker Moderna (MRNA.O) set off fresh alarm bells in financial markets on Tuesday with a warning that existing COVID-19 vaccines would be less effective against the new Omicron variant than they have been against Delta. Major European stock markets fell around 1.5% in early trade, Tokyo’s Nikkei index closed down 1.6%, crude oil futures shed more than 3%, and the Australian dollar hit a one-year low as Stephane Bancel’s comments spurred fears that vaccine resistance may prolong the pandemic.” The upcoming holiday season makes Bancel’s comments all the more worrying. https://reut.rs/3o7t0Z9


There’s two sides to every coin, as they say. For the time being, Pfizer is striking a slightly more optimistic tone than Moderna. Per STAT, “A top Pfizer executive says the company is hopeful that booster shots will provide sufficient protection against the Omicron variant — but has already envisioned a timeline for the development of a new vaccine if that’s not the case. Mikael Dolsten, Pfizer’s chief scientific officer, likened the company’s researchers to firefighters: They don’t know how serious the blaze will be, but need to prepare for the worst. And in this case, the worst would mean the need to develop new vaccines. ‘We do take the new variant of concern, Omicron, with seriousness,’ Dolsten told STAT. ‘It can indeed be a potential new threatening wave … although we don’t know that yet. But we always start with being prepared for the worst.’” So that’s kinda good to hear. That said, you do get the feeling Dolsten is holding back a bit. https://bit.ly/3d1ajQk

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Fossil fuels just have so many downsides to them. For the moment, forget the way they are wreaking havoc on the planet. If you punch in and look at it from a more micro- POV, you see individual families suffering because of our reliance on dirty energy. The Associated Press took a look at how drilling close to residential areas causes all sorts of illnesses. Per the article, “Uphill from the playground, peeking between trees, is a site where Total Energies is pumping for natural gas. The French energy giant wants to drill three new wells on the property next to Mother’s Heart Learning Center, which serves mainly Black and Latino children. The three wells, along with two existing ones, would lie about 600 feet from where the children planted a garden of sunflowers. For the families of the children and for others nearby, it’s a prospect fraught with fear and anxiety. Living too close to drilling sites has been linked to a range of health risks, especially to children, from asthma to neurological and developmental disorders. And while some states are requiring energy companies to drill farther from day cares, schools and homes, Texas has taken the opposite tack: It has made it exceedingly difficult for localities to fight back.” The solution may not be so close at hand since the electricity that powers EVs need to come from somewhere. https://bit.ly/3lhcgN9


Externalities. They’ll get you every time. Just ask the people trying to keep Venice from turning into the Atlantis of the Mediterranean. Apparently, the physical barriers they are relying on may be destroying the overall ecosystem there. Per Science, “To combat a growing flood risk, Venice, Italy, has spent billions of euros to build three barriers that can temporarily close off the lagoon surrounding the city from the Mediterranean Sea. Now, scientists are reporting that by blocking the stormwater that causes floods, the barriers also prevent salt marshes in the lagoon from receiving vital sediment, which ultimately may hinder their ability to stay above the rising sea level. The findings offer a cautionary tale about the unexpected impacts of flood protection and the need to maintain the natural dynamics of ecosystems, says Rusty Feagin, a coastal ecologist at Texas A&M University, College Station, who was not involved with the new research. ‘These engineering gate-barrier structures are multiplying around the world, and Venice is a great harbinger.’” https://bit.ly/3o8VWjs


China’s Mars Rover and its satellite orbiting the planet have been beaming tons of data back to Earth and now the results are beginning to be made public. Per Nature, “More than 30 scientists across mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau are rushing to process data collected by China’s Mars rover, Zhurong, and by the nation’s Tianwen-1 spacecraft, which is in orbit around the planet. Several studies have trickled out, but researchers say that more are coming in the next weeks and months, offering insights on the climate, geology and history of Mars’s northern hemisphere. Since September, the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (NAOC), which has been receiving the data from space, has released nearly 200 gigabytes of information that was collected from eight instruments on the rover and orbiter between February and June. These instruments include cameras, a radar system, climate sensors and a laser spectrometer.” It’s such an exciting time in interplanetary exploration and things will only get better as our technology develops. https://go.nature.com/3lmPnYC

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

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