DAILY DOSE: Earth has already been pushed past established safety limits; NASA dips its toes into the UFO waters.

When it comes to climate change and the health of the planet, there are dire pronouncements and there are DIRE pronouncements. A recent study by Earth Commission makes the case for the latter. Per the Associated Press,

Earth has pushed past seven out of eight scientifically established safety limits and into “the danger zone,” not just for an overheating planet that’s losing its natural areas, but for the well-being of people living on it, according to a new study.

The study looks not just at guardrails for the planetary ecosystem but for the first time it includes measures of “justice,” which is mostly about preventing harm for countries, ethnicities and genders.

The study by the international scientist group Earth Commission published in Wednesday’s journal Nature looks at climate, air pollution, phosphorus and nitrogen contamination of water from fertilizer overuse, groundwater supplies, fresh surface water, the unbuilt natural environment and the overall natural and human-built environment. Only air pollution wasn’t quite at the danger point globally.

It makes for pretty grim reading, even by environmentalist standards. https://bit.ly/43hPYyM

As if to drive the point home that our stressed planet is passing on some of that stress to its inhabitants, news out of Asia indicates that it is currently withering under some intense temperatures as they continent waits for typhoons which should have arrived already. Per Channel News Asia,

Countries across Asia have been hit by another round of extreme heat that has toppled seasonal temperature records throughout the region, raising concerns about their ability to adapt to a rapidly changing climate.

After punishing heatwaves struck large parts of the continent in April, temperatures spiked again in late May, normally the start of the cooler monsoon season.

Seasonal highs were registered in China, Southeast Asia and elsewhere, and experts warned that there was more to come.

"We can't say that these are events that we need to get used to, and adapt to, and mitigate against, because they are only going to get worse as climate change progresses," said Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick, a climate scientist with the University of New South Wales in Australia.

Ignore the signs at your peril. https://bit.ly/3N9r12Z

UFOs or UAPs (whichever term you prefer) are clearly having a much-welcomed moment in the mainstream. The latest indicator that the phenomenon are being taken more seriously comes in the form of a panel sponsored and assembled by NASA. Per Science,

The truth may be out there about UFOs, or what the government currently calls “unidentified anomalous phenomena” (UAPs). But finding it will require collecting data that are more rigorous than the anecdotal reports that typically fuel the controversial sightings, according to a panel of scientists, appointed by NASA to advise the agency on the topic, that held its first public meeting today.

The 16-person panel, created last year at the behest of NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, is not itself evaluating UFO claims. Instead, it is advising NASA on how the agency can contribute to federal investigations that have been led by the Department of Defense (DOD) and intelligence agencies, says panel chair David Spergel, an astrophysicist and president of the Simons Foundation, who spoke to Science ahead of the meeting. “NASA is a public agency, an open agency, that encourages the use of the scientific method for looking at results.” But science can only be done when there are data to work on, he adds. “You’re not going to learn much from fuzzy pictures from the 1950s.”

So far, most “unidentified” phenomena flagged by the military have ended up being weather balloons, drones, camera glitches, or undisclosed military aircraft, Spergel says. “It’s very unlikely there are space aliens that travel through space and use technology that looks remarkably like what we have right now.”

Baby steps, right? https://bit.ly/43zziT9

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So-called paper mills that churn out endless supplies of bogus research have been a serious problem even before the advent of ChatGPT. As you might guess, things have taken a decided turn for the worse with said cheats being able to spit out scientific nonsense at a furious clip. Per Nature,

Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) are complicating publishers’ efforts to tackle the growing problem of paper mills — companies that produce fake scientific papers to order. Generative AI tools, including chatbots such as ChatGPT and image-generating software, provide new ways of producing paper-mill content, which could prove particularly difficult to detect. These were among the challenges discussed by research-integrity experts at a summit on 24 May, which focused on the paper-mill problem.

The capacity of paper mills to generate increasingly plausible raw data is just going to be skyrocketing with AI,” says Jennifer Byrne, a molecular biologist and publication-integrity researcher at New South Wales Health Pathology and the University of Sydney in Australia.

“I have seen fake microscopy images that were just generated by AI,” says Jana Christopher, an image-data-integrity analyst at the publisher Federation of European Biological Societies Press in Heidelberg, Germany. But being able to prove beyond suspicion that images are AI-generated remains a challenge, she says.

Language-generating AI tools such as ChatGPT pose a similar problem. “As soon as you have something that can show that something’s generated by ChatGPT, there’ll be some other tool to scramble that,” says Christopher.

The whole cat-and-mouse dynamic is reminiscent of sports doping. https://bit.ly/3IPFVsq

Child births in America were essentially unchanged compared to the previous year. While this is slightly better than the drops that had been the norm, but isn’t quite an increase (obviously). Per STAT,

U.S. births were flat last year, as the nation saw fewer babies born than it did before the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday.

Births to moms 35 and older continued to rise, with the highest rates in that age group since the 1960s. But those gains were offset by record-low birth rates to moms in their teens and early 20s, the CDC found. Its report is based on a review of more than 99% of birth certificates issued last year.

A little under 3.7 million babies were born in the U.S. last year, about 3,000 fewer than the year before. Because the numbers are provisional and the change was small, officials consider births to have been “kind of level from the previous year,” said the CDC’s Brady Hamilton, the lead author of the report.

U.S. births were declining for more than a decade before COVID-19 hit, then dropped a whopping 4% from 2019 to 2020. They ticked up about 1% in 2021, an increase experts attributed to pregnancies that couples had put off amid the early days of the pandemic.

All said, fewer teenagers having babies is a good thing, right? https://bit.ly/3C54ca7

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


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