DAILY DOSE: Deadly Arctic blast hits East Coast of U.S.; Tools discovered in Idaho may be 16,000 years old.


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A massive winter storm hit the East Coast of the United States over the weekend sending temperatures plummeting to 0 degrees and lower. It has caused havoc and taken lives. Per the Associated Press,

Millions of people hunkered down against a deep freeze Sunday to ride out the winter storm that has killed at least 34 people across the United States and is expected to claim more lives after trapping some residents inside houses with heaping snow drifts and knocking out power to tens of thousands of homes and businesses.

The scope of the storm has been nearly unprecedented, stretching from the Great Lakes near Canada to the Rio Grande along the border with Mexico. About 60% of the U.S. population faced some sort of winter weather advisory or warning, and temperatures plummeted drastically below normal from east of the Rocky Mountains to the Appalachians, the National Weather Service said.

Travelers’ weather woes are likely to continue, with hundreds of flight cancellations already and more expected after a bomb cyclone — when atmospheric pressure drops very quickly in a strong storm — developed near the Great Lakes, stirring up blizzard conditions, including heavy winds and snow. Some 1,707 domestic and international flights were canceled on Sunday as of about 2 p.m. EDT, according to the tracking site FlightAware.

The storm was the deadliest to hit parts of New York in decades. https://bit.ly/3GgqAjR

Regardless of what Covid-19 skeptics suggest, Long Covid is real and has debilitating symptoms in many people. Scientists believe they may have a clue as to why it can be so damaging. According to the AP,

Many studies and anecdotal evidence suggest that women are more likely than men to develop long COVID.

There could be biological reasons.

Women’s immune systems generally mount stronger reactions to viruses, bacteria, parasites and other germs, noted Sabra Klein, a Johns Hopkins professor who studies immunity.

Women are also much more likely than men to have autoimmune diseases, where the body mistakenly attacks its own healthy cells. Some scientists believe long COVID could result from an autoimmune response triggered by the virus.

Women’s bodies also tend to have more fat tissue and emerging research suggests the coronavirus may hide in fat after infection. Scientists also are studying whether women’s fluctuating hormone levels may increase the risks.

Another possible factor: Women are more likely than men to seek health care and often more attuned to changes in their bodies, Klein noted.

“I don’t think we should ignore that,” she said. Biology and behavior are probably both at play, Klein said.

Up to this point, it’s been difficult to pin-point the root causes of Long Covid, especially since scientists are still trying to pin down the causes. https://bit.ly/3WAcNdg

A discovery in Idaho has the potential to revise the scientific community’s understanding of evolution in the Americas, especially in terms of the discovery and application of new technologies. Per Science,

Lethally sharp projectile points found along the banks of a river in southwestern Idaho, dated to nearly 16,000 years ago according to a study published today, could represent the oldest evidence of the first tool technology brought to the Americas.

Apparently deposited into a series of shallow pits by an ancient group of hunter-gatherers, the points are examples of “stemmed point technology,” which allowed people back then to fashion spear tips from a wide range of available materials. Based on the objects’ similarities to earlier artifacts, their discoverers argue, the blueprint for making them may have come from East Asia.

A lot more work will need to be done to prove that point, as it were, notes Heather Smith, an archaeologist at Texas State University who wasn’t involved in the study. But “at face value,” she says, “it looks like a really interesting agenda to pursue.”

North America is looking less like a backwater as most archaeologists maintain. Evidence is mounting that early inhabitants had a good control of advanced technologies as this discovery explains. https://bit.ly/3GlE0LC

How are scientists reacting to Elon Musk’s first few weeks as Twitter’s head twit? With a log of resignation. An article in Nature looked at how they have adjusted to the change. Spoiler alert: An increasing amount of them are jumping ship.

In November, Vince Knight decided he’d had enough of Twitter. After more than a decade on the social-media platform, Knight — a mathematician at Cardiff University, UK — was concerned about the site’s direction under its new owner, entrepreneur Elon Musk, who began laying off vast numbers of staff shortly after he acquired it. “Twitter is getting uncomfortable,” wrote Knight on the platform; he then jumped ship to Mastodon, a competing service. He says he simply didn’t want to support Musk’s Twitter any more.

The past few weeks have been tumultuous for Twitter. After Musk laid off staff, the site has repeatedly malfunctioned as the remaining engineers have struggled to keep on top of issues. Musk has also said he wants to take the platform in a new direction, encouraging accounts that were previously banned to return. Some reports, including one from researchers at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, say abuse is rising on the platform (see go.nature.com/3vcgpfw).

On 11 December, Musk tweeted that his “pronouns are Prosecute/Fauci” in an apparent attempt both to mock the transgender and gender-nonconforming rights movements and to malign the departing director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Anthony Fauci, who has faced abuse and death threats for his role in advising the US government response to COVID-19.

Musk’s erratic and confrontational management of Twitter has worried many users, including researchers such as Knight. For hundreds of thousands of scientists, Twitter is a sounding board, megaphone and common room: a place to broadcast research findings, debate issues in academia and interact with people who they wouldn’t normally meet up with.

It must be said, getting the information you want from networks still in the process of building is painful. https://bit.ly/3YOrPhq

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

IMAGE CREDIT: Andre Carrotflower.

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