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China has reached an unwanted milestone. Per the New York Times,
The world’s most populous country has reached a pivotal moment: China’s population has begun to shrink, after a steady, yearslong decline in its birthrate that experts say is irreversible. The government said on Tuesday that 9.56 million people were born in China last year, while 10.41 million people died. It was the first time deaths had outnumbered births in China since the Great Leap Forward, Mao Zedong’s failed economic experiment that led to widespread famine and death in the 1960s. Chinese officials have tried for years to slow down the arrival of this moment, loosening a one-child policy and offering incentives to encourage families to have children. None of those policies worked. Now, facing a population decline, coupled with a long-running rise in life expectancy, the country is being thrust into a demographic crisis that will have consequences not just for China and its economy but for the world. Indeed, data released on Tuesday showed that the Chinese economy last year had one of its worst performances since 1976, the year Mao died.
Anecdotal reporting suggests couples don’t even want to entertain having a second child for the most part. On top of that, women are increasingly okay with the idea of not having children at all. None of that will move the needle in the right direction for Beijing. http://bit.ly/3iJ9stZ
But population decline be damned! China has been hitting a welcome milestone scientifically. Per The Wire India,
By at least one measure, China now leads the world in producing high-quality science. My research shows that Chinese scholars now publish a larger fraction of the top 1% most cited scientific papers globally than scientists from any other country. I am a policy expert and analyst who studies how governmental investment in science, technology and innovation improves social welfare. While a country’s scientific prowess is somewhat difficult to quantify, I’d argue that the amount of money spent on scientific research, the number of scholarly papers published and the quality of those papers are good stand-in measures. China is not the only nation to drastically improve its science capacity in recent years, but China’s rise has been particularly dramatic. This has left US policy experts and government officials worried about how China’s scientific supremacy will shift the global balance of power. China’s recent ascendancy results from years of governmental policy aiming to be tops in science and technology. The country has taken explicit steps to get where it is today, and the US now has a choice to make about how to respond to a scientifically competitive China.
So it’s not all unwanted news in the Middle Kingdom. http://bit.ly/3ZMrlJk
A new study suggests scientists may have been inadvertently underreporting how much the planet has been warming due to atmospheric dust. According to The Guardian,
Dust that billows up from desert storms and arid landscapes has helped cool the planet for the past several decades, and its presence in the atmosphere may have obscured the true extent of global heating caused by fossil fuel emissions. Atmospheric dust has increased by about 55% since the mid-1800s, an analysis suggests. And that increasing dust may have hidden up to 8% of warming from carbon emissions. The analysis by atmospheric scientists and climate researchers in the US and Europe attempts to tally the varied, complex ways in which dust has affected global climate patterns, concluding that overall, it has worked to somewhat counteract the warming effects of greenhouse gasses. The study, published in Nature Reviews Earth and Environment, warns that current climate models fail to take into account the effect of atmospheric dust.
It’s always something, isn’t it? http://bit.ly/3iRL9Kp
Ending on a positive note… Sundance Film Festival is back! By that I mean back in person. For the past couple of year, the festival has been doing the virtual thing. Not any more. Per the Associated Press,
If the past two years have proved anything, it’s that Sundance doesn’t need its picturesque mountainside location to thrive. After all, it was at a virtual edition that the festival hosted the premiere of “ CODA,” which would become the first Sundance movie to win best picture at the Oscars. “Summer of Soul,” another virtual Sundance premiere, also won best documentary last year, and both are getting encore, in-person screenings this year. But even so, the independent film community — from the newcomers to the veterans — has felt the lack of the real thing. There is, after all, a certain magic about seeing a new film from an unknown in the dead of winter at 7,000 feet elevation wondering, as the lights go down in a cinema overflowing with puffy coats if you might just be among the first to witness the debut of the next Ryan Coogler or Kelly Reichardt. Erik Feig, the founder and CEO of Picturestart, joked that he’s been going to the festival for “a billion years.” It’s where he saw “Thirteen” and hired Catherine Hardwicke to direct “Twilight,” and, years later, “Whiplash,” beginning a relationship with Damien Chazelle that would lead to “La La Land.” Sundance also is where he saw “Napoleon Dynamite” and “Little Miss Sunshine” for the first time, too, and others that “feel iconic and have been part of the cultural zeitgeist forever. That moment of discovery was at Sundance.”
Slowly but surely, things are transitioning to a new version of how things once were. http://bit.ly/3QKg6wO
Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.
IMAGE CREDIT: NASA.