Australia has become the first country to permit psychiatrists to prescribe certain psychedelic substances for treating depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Effective July 1, Australian doctors can now prescribe MDMA (ecstasy) for PTSD and psilocybin, the psychoactive component in magic mushrooms, for treatment-resistant depression. The decision positions Australia at the forefront of research in this field, which has seen few significant advancements in the last 50 years. In the U.S., the FDA designated psilocybin as a “breakthrough therapy” in 2018 to expedite the development and review of drugs for serious conditions. However, some experts call for more research on the efficacy and risks of psychedelics, which can cause hallucinations. The cost of treatment in Australia will be approximately $6,600 per patient, prompting concerns about affordability. The move signals an opportunity for more tailored treatments without constraints of clinical trials. (Associated Press)
London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s plan to expand the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) to charge drivers of the most polluting vehicles is being met with opposition. The £12.50 ($16) per day charge, set to expand next month, would make the ULEZ one of the world’s largest air pollution tackling zones. Critics argue the expansion was not properly consulted and would place an economic burden on residents already facing rising living costs. Supporters point to the environmental benefits, noting that the original ULEZ restrictions resulted in a significant decrease in nitrogen dioxide levels. Khan proposes a £110 million scrappage scheme to offset the cost of cleaner vehicles, along with various exemptions. The issue illustrates the global struggle of balancing economic and environmental concerns, mirroring disputes in cities like Rome. The planned expansion has broad public support, according to a YouGov poll. (Reuters)
The International Seabed Authority (ISA), a United Nations body regulating the ocean floor, is nearing decisions on accepting deep sea mining permit applications. Deep sea mining involves extracting mineral deposits like nickel, rare earths, and cobalt from the ocean floor, which are critical for green technologies. The technology for this mining, which could include AI-based deep-sea robots, is still developing. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas currently governs mining, considering the seabed and its resources the “common heritage of mankind”. Over 30 exploration licenses have been issued, primarily in the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone. Pacific island nation Nauru’s mining application in 2021 pressured the ISA to complete regulations by July 2023. However, environmentalists are concerned about the potential irreversible damage to marine ecosystems. Companies like Google, Samsung, and BMW support a moratorium until environmental safeguards are in place. (Associated Press)
After a pandemic-induced hiatus, 70-year-old Chinese archaeologist Wang Jianxin has resumed his quest to unravel the mystery of the Greater Yuezhi Westward Migration, a massive 2nd-century BC movement of nomadic tribes from northwest China to Central Asia. This migration sent shockwaves across the region, triggering political upheaval and, notably, the establishment of Silk Road trade routes. The Yuezhi people, however, remain enigmatic due to a lack of archaeological evidence. Now, with support from China’s Belt and Road Initiative — aimed at strengthening ties across Eurasia — Wang and his team have been conducting major excavations in Central Asia. Having already discovered traces of former Yuezhi camps near China’s western frontier, they’re hopeful about finding similar evidence in Uzbekistan, which could significantly shed light on the ancient history of East-West exchanges. (Sixth Tone)
The €1.4-billion Euclid Universe-mapping telescope, the first mission of its kind since the discovery of the Universe’s accelerating expansion 25 years ago, is set to launch. The mission aims to investigate what drives this acceleration, potentially revolutionizing our understanding of dark energy and dark matter, which make up an estimated 95% of the Universe’s content. The 1,921-kilogram Euclid spacecraft, equipped with a 1.2-meter primary mirror, will map 1.5 billion galaxies to probe the distribution of dark matter. It will watch the sky with two cameras simultaneously: one in the visible spectrum and the other in the infrared, and over time, Euclid will explore one-third of the full sky. Data from Euclid’s two cameras will inform analyses such as identifying distortions in galaxies caused by gravitational lensing and investigating the distribution of galaxies. First results are expected in 2025, and its full map will be published in 2030. (Nature)
Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.
WORDS: The Biology Guy. (@thebiologyguy)