gray and white pigeon

DAILY DOSE: Scientist goes on trial; Humans have a direct impact on the evolution of wildlife.

While the United States government has put a hold on the so-called China Initiative Program, they are continuing to prosecute scientists who were caught in the program’s dragnet. Now, one of the first scientists to be detained is about to go to trial. According to an article in the journal Nature, “The trial comes just one month after the US government announced the end of this programme, the China Initiative, which was heavily criticized for allegedly being racially biased and for its criminalization of administrative errors on federal research grant applications. Its termination follows a string of high-profile cases, some of which ended in acquittal or in charges being dropped. Legal and academic experts say the trial of Tao, who is of Chinese descent, is a test case for how the US government will treat the civil liberties of researchers with Chinese heritage in a post-initiative era.” Rather than doing away with the China initiative altogether, Washington DC plans to expand the program to include Russians and the Iranians among other nationalities.

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way clinical trials are being conducted. That means, by extension, that there’s a lot of money to be made. According to an article in FierceBiotech, “Clinical trials are going virtual at a rapid clip after the COVID-19 pandemic, and Medi-Tech Insights says the market is now worth nearly $8 billion. The virtual trials industry is growing at a rate of more than 10% annually, according to Medi-Tech’s data, a figure that reflects the growing number of CROs announcing new partnerships, acquisitions and product offerings that help clients make clinical studies more accessible. Remote monitoring, improved patient enrollment, apps to track patient engagement, telemedicine, decentralization and other measures have all helped the pharmaceutical industry keep trials rolling when the pandemic disrupted research on an unprecedented scale. While pharmas suddenly had to shift, CROs had to match the pivot with products and services to ease the transition.”

There are times when it feels as if science only influences things in the physical world. When it comes to the social realm, things become a little less obvious. A recent case involving Native Americans is a rare example that highlights the way science can make a difference in society. Per Science, “In a new study, researchers have used ancient DNA from two archaeological excavations to identify the Ohlone’s genetic signature and link ancient individuals, some buried nearly 2000 years ago, to their modern-day descendants. ‘This is fascinating work,’ University of Kansas, Lawrence, paleogeneticist Jennifer Raff, who studies the early peopling of the Americas, wrote in an email. ‘If other tribes are interested in using genetics to investigate histories, they may be encouraged by the fact that some researchers are doing this work in a careful way.’”

It looks like Elon musk’s massive space rocket is inching closer to completion. According to an article in, “SpaceX’s huge Starship rocket for eventual trips to the moon and Mars could go orbital for the first time just two months from now, if all goes according to plan. SpaceX is developing Starship to take people and cargo to the moon, Mars and beyond. The vehicle consists of two elements: a first-stage booster called Super Heavy and an upper-stage spacecraft known as Starship. Starship and Super Heavy are both designed to be completely and rapidly reusable, and both will be powered by SpaceX’s new Raptor engine — 33 for Super Heavy and six for Starship. It’s a challenge to build so many engines, but SpaceX is on track to have enough for the first Starship orbital test flight soon, company founder and CEO Elon Musk said.” A successful launch would be huge news in the race to bring humans back to the moon and to Mars.

For all but the most ardent climate change deniers, it’s clear that human beings can have a significant influence on the planet, whether for better or worse. There is also mounting evidence that human beings are major drivers of wildlife evolution around the world. An article in Futurity, takes a look at a recent paper published. “The study in Science examines whether parallel evolution is occurring in cities all over the world. Researchers analyzed data collected by 287 scientists in 160 cities in 26 countries who sampled the white clover plant in their cities and nearby rural areas. What they found is the clearest evidence yet that humans in general, and cities specifically, are a dominant force driving the evolution of life globally. ‘We’ve long known that we’ve changed cities in pretty profound ways and we’ve dramatically altered the environment and ecosystems,’ says co-lead author James Santangelo, a doctoral student at the University of Toronto Mississauga. ‘But we just showed this happens, often in similar ways, on a global scale.’” just wait till we colonize new planets and galaxies. Fun. The universe will never be the same.

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

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