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DAILY DOSE: Defining Top Secret for the 21st Century; Google promises to purge data that may implicate some having abortions.


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In news that should surprise nobody, the U.S. is about to undergo a very important policy debate regarding what research should be considered Top Secret. Lawmakers are eyeing revisions to the status quo in light of what is viewed as China’s aggressive approach to procuring and implementing forward-looking technologies that could pose National Security risks. Per Science, “The U.S. academic community is gearing up for a new effort to convince national policymakers that the benefits of keeping government-funded basic research out in the open—and not stamping it classified—far outweigh any threat to national security from sharing scientific findings. The National Science Foundation (NSF) has asked the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) to hold a workshop on factors affecting the classification of federally funded research. Tentatively scheduled for the fall, the meeting is expected to revisit a Cold War-era policy that sets openness as the gold standard and says any classification of fundamental research should be kept to a minimum.”  Basic research areas that may fall under an information embargo include sensitive technologies, such as quantum computing, artificial intelligence, and biomedical techniques that could be used to produce bioweapons.


The ramifications of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade continues to crystalize every day. Even before the ruling, pro-choice activists had warned that a woman’s mobile phone data could be used to determine whether she is pregnant and whether she has an abortion. In light of that, Google will take action to ensure a woman’s privacy. Per the Associated Press, “Google will automatically purge information about users who visit abortion clinics or other places that could trigger legal problems now that the U.S. Supreme Court has opened the door for states to ban the termination of pregnancies… Besides automatically deleting visits to abortion clinics, Google also cited counseling centers, fertility centers, addiction treatment facilities, weight loss clinics, and cosmetic surgery clinics as other destinations that will be erased from users’ location histories. Users have always had the option edit their location histories on their own, but Google will proactively do it for them as an added level of protection.” It’s definitely dark times when something like this needs to be implemented.


Making a meaningful effort to setup a basecamp on the moon would be helped immensely by lowering the transit costs of shuttling astronauts to and from lunar orbit. A recent launch of a small satellite that is now on the way to the moon may be a considerable step in that direction. Per the AP, “A satellite the size of a microwave oven successfully broke free from its orbit around Earth on Monday and is headed toward the moon, the latest step in NASA’s plan to land astronauts on the lunar surface again. It’s been an unusual journey already for the Capstone satellite. It was launched six days ago from New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula by the company Rocket Lab in one of their small Electron rockets. It will take another four months for the satellite to reach the moon, as it cruises along using minimal energy.” The relatively low cost of the mission — NASA put it at $32.7 million — marked the beginning of a new era for space exploration.


When the Perseverance rover landed on Mars, it was carrying, among other instruments, a weather station dubbed Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA). It included two wind sensors that measure speed and direction, among several other sensors that provide weather metrics such as humidity, radiation and air temperature. A recent wind storm has damaged one of those sensors causing a bit of consternation in NASA. According to, “Pebbles carried aloft by strong Red Planet gusts recently damaged one of the wind sensors, but MEDA can still keep track of wind at its landing area in Jezero Crater, albeit with decreased sensitivity, José Antonio Rodriguez Manfredi, principal investigator of MEDA, told”


Before all the hype about Covid-19 vaccines, a long-time dream of vaccine developers was a shot that was able to protect against all versions of the influenza virus, a so-called universal flu vaccine. This would save companies and consumers from the tedious annual pilgrimage to primary caregivers around the world. Per Smithsonian, “Scientists are moving closer to creating a universal flu vaccine. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced on Tuesday that a universal flu vaccine has moved to phase I clinical trials, where scientists will test for human safety and appropriate dosage sizes. Researchers will administer the vaccine candidate in up to 100 healthy volunteers between 18 and 55 years old, reports Ed Cara for Gizmodo. Before moving to phase I, the shot was tested in mice and ferrets. Researchers found that the shot protected small mammals from lethal doses of six different flu strains, showing the promise of a universal vaccine against the flu. The study results from the mice were published in bioRxiv, a preprint server that has not received peer-review yet, in September 2021.” It’s very early days, so any excitement should be tempered.

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

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