DAILY DOSE: More reports that lockdowns weren’t great for education; Meet your friendly neighborhood Neanderthal family.

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COSTLY TRADE-OFF.

More reporting on how the Covid-19 pandemic affected children’s education for the worse. The evidence is pretty clear. It wasn’t the greatest of trade-offs, but not locking down wasn’t the slam dunk revisionists claim it was. Per the Associated Press,

The COVID-19 pandemic spared no state or region as it caused historic learning setbacks for America’s children, erasing decades of academic progress and widening racial disparities, according to results of a national test that provide the sharpest look yet at the scale of the crisis.

Across the country, math scores saw their largest decreases ever. Reading scores dropped to 1992 levels. Nearly four in 10 eighth graders failed to grasp basic math concepts. Not a single state saw a notable improvement in their average test scores, with some simply treading water at best.

Those are the findings from the National Assessment of Educational Progress — known as the “nation’s report card” — which tested hundreds of thousands of fourth and eighth graders across the country this year. It was the first time the test had been given since 2019, and it’s seen as the first nationally representative study of the pandemic’s impact on learning.”

Critics with no skin in the game leave out how catastrophic getting it wrong could have been. https://bit.ly/3gBRgB0


MEASLES ON THE RISE IN AFRICA.

Childrens’ education isn’t the only thing to have suffered during the pandemic. It’s thrown typically reliable vaccination schedules off completely. This has become painfully evident in Africa. Per Reuters,

The COVID-19 pandemic interrupted measles vaccine campaigns globally in 2020 and 2021, leaving millions of children unprotected against one of the world's most contagious diseases, whose complications include blindness, pneumonia and death.

After what health experts call the biggest backslide in a generation, 26 large or disruptive measles outbreaks have sprung up worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. A devastating outbreak in Zimbabwe has killed more than 700 children this year, chiefly among religious sects that do not believe in vaccinations.

Now African health systems remain especially vulnerable due to a lack of funds and manpower, particularly in countries where conflict and malnutrition make children more vulnerable to deadly infection, according to Reuters interviews with more than a dozen disease experts, doctors and global health officials.

"We've never seen the number of unimmunised children that we're seeing now," said Dr Deblina Datta, head of the global measles elimination effort at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "I have stood at the bed of children dying from measles, and it's a shocking thing to see. And this is a preventable event."

Obviously, this is horrible news and is the last thing the continent needs. https://reut.rs/3gAh3tE


ONE DOWN…

Physics is filled with speculative mysteries that feel like they’re straight out of a sci-fi story. Quantum mechanics amplified the unknowns exponentially. Recent experiments have eliminated one possibility in one of the many mysteries. Per Quanta Magazine,

How does objective reality emerge from the palette of possibilities supplied by quantum mechanics? That question — the deepest and most vexed issue posed by the theory — is still the subject of arguments a century old. Possible explanations for how observations of the world yield definite, “classical” results, drawing on different interpretations of what quantum mechanics means, have only multiplied over those hundred or so years.

But now we may be ready to eliminate at least one set of proposals. Recent experiments have mobilized the extreme sensitivity of particle physics instruments to test the idea that the “collapse” of quantum possibilities into a single classical reality is not just a mathematical convenience but a real physical process — an idea called “physical collapse.” The experiments find no evidence of the effects predicted by at least the simplest varieties of these collapse models.

It’s still too early to say definitively that physical collapse does not occur. Some researchers believe that the models could yet be modified to escape the constraints placed on them by the experiments’ null results. But while “it is always possible to rescue any model,” said Sandro Donadi, a theoretical physicist at the National Institute for Nuclear Physics (INFN) in Trieste, Italy, who led one of the experiments, he doubts that “the community will keep modifying the models [indefinitely], since there will not be too much to learn by doing that.” The noose seems to be tightening on this attempt to resolve the biggest mystery of quantum theory.

One model down, who knows how many to go? https://bit.ly/3VTbZAB


GREENWASH CITY.

Speaking of reality. Sometimes, reality makes the case that fiction is redundant. Look no further than COP27. Per the AP,

This year’s United Nations climate summit is brought to you by Coke.

Soft drink giant Coca-Cola Co.’s sponsorship of the flagship U.N. climate conference, known as COP27, sparked an online backlash and highlighted broader concerns about corporate lobbying and influence.

The COP27 negotiations aimed at limiting global temperature increases are set to kick off next month in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh. The Egyptian organizers cited Coca-Cola’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and key focus on climate when they announced the sponsorship deal in September, which triggered immediate outrage on social media.

Activists slammed the company for its outsized role contributing to plastic pollution and pointed to the deal as an example of corporate “greenwash” — exaggerating climate credentials to mask polluting behaviors. An online petition calling for Coke to be removed as a sponsor has garnered more than 228,000 signatures, while hundreds of civil society groups signed an open letter demanding polluting companies be banned from bankrolling or being involved in climate talks.

This is just funny. COP27 seems plagued with accusations of greenwashing. https://bit.ly/3slL5E3


ALL IN THE FAMILY.

Ancient DNA continues to revolutionize our understanding of Neanderthal behavior and society. Per the Smithsonian Magazine,

For the first time, researchers have identified a Neanderthal family: a father and his teenage daughter, as well as several others who were close relatives. They lived in Siberian caves around 54,000 years ago. A team of scientists, which included Svante Pääbo, winner of this year’s Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, published the findings in Nature this week.

The researchers extracted ancient DNA from bones and teeth that once belonged to 11 Neanderthals living together at the Chagyrskaya Cave, as well as 2 others from a second cave nearby. Of the 13, eight were adults and five were children. Alongside these remains, the team also found stone tools and animal bones.

The researchers say that the individuals found at Chagyrskaya likely lived at the same time—an unusual finding at sites this old, where discoveries often span vast timelines.

“The fact that they were living at the same time is very exciting. This means that they likely came from the same social community,” says study coauthor Laurits Skov, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany, in a statement. “So, for the first time, we can use genetics to study the social organization of a Neandertal community.”

Researchers compared mitochondrial DNA (passed down maternally) with DNA from Y chromosomes (passed down paternally) and found that mitochondrial DNA contained more diversity, indicating that females moved between groups of Neanderthals more often than their male counterparts. https://bit.ly/3gDvOeX

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


ON SALE! Charles Darwin Signature T-shirt – “I think.” Two words that changed science and the world, scribbled tantalizingly in Darwin’s Transmutation Notebooks.

COPY II (PARAGRAPHS 4 – UNTIL END)

IMAGE CREDIT: NASA.


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