UNITED FRONT, LULA STYLE.
Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is seeking to unite rainforest nations for joint negotiations at international climate meetings, such as the upcoming COP28 in the United Arab Emirates. Building on an accord from a summit of Amazon nations in Belem, representatives from the eight Amazon countries will meet with leaders from Indonesia, Congo, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. These nations are home to the largest rainforests in the world after the Amazon. Lula, a proponent of multilateral alliances with less developed countries, has consistently urged wealthy, industrialized nations to fulfill financial commitments for climate action in poorer countries.
The Amazon Summit’s first day led to an agreement on cooperation in areas like combating organized crime and promoting scientific research. However, environmentalists criticized the agreement for lacking firm commitments on ending deforestation by 2030 and stopping oil drilling and illegal mining in the Amazon. The inclusion of the Republic of Congo marks an expansion of cooperation, and developed nations like Norway, Germany, and France are also participating in the summit. The combined effort aims to put pressure on rich countries to pay for conservation and address climate change collectively. (Reuters)
TRAGEDY IN BEIJING.
China has been struck by record-breaking rains, leading to devastating floods and landslides. In Beijing, 33 people have been confirmed dead and 18 are still missing following the city’s heaviest rains on record, which have damaged infrastructure and inundated suburbs and surrounding areas. The death toll is nearly three times the figure given last week. In addition to Beijing, floods killed seven in Sichuan province, and dozens have died or are missing in Heilongjiang, Hebei, and Jilin. State media reported rising water levels in numerous rivers, triggering warnings. A torrent in Sichuan swept away more than ten people near Chengdu, killing seven tourists. Local authorities continue search and rescue efforts. These extreme weather events, affecting millions globally, are seen by scientists as being exacerbated by climate change. Meteorological authorities are warning of further rain in certain regions, continuing the threat. (Channel News Asia)
AI TO THE RESCUE.
LabGenius, led by James Field, is leveraging AI and robotics to innovate the creation of medical antibodies, automating a traditionally slow and intricate process. Using machine learning algorithms, the company can design antibodies to target specific diseases, with robotic systems handling the building, growth, and testing. Unlike traditional methods, the model explores a vast range of possibilities, starting with over 700 options from a potential 100,000. It refines its search through automated testing and data feedback, often arriving at unexpected solutions in just six weeks. The approach contrasts with conventional human-led methods that may focus on minor adjustments. LabGenius has raised $28 million in funding and is forming partnerships with pharmaceutical companies. The process may expand to other drug discoveries, potentially leading to more effective treatments with reduced side effects. (Wired)
LOOKING BEYOND CLIMATE CHANGE.
Scientists are exploring additional factors contributing to this summer’s record-breaking heat beyond global warming and El Nino. The European climate agency, Copernicus, noted that July was significantly hotter than previous records, leading to consideration of other influences. One potential contributor is cleaner air resulting from new shipping rules. Historically, maritime shipping emissions had a cooling effect by reflecting sunlight. Since the adoption of regulations in 2020, cutting up to 80% of those cooling particles, there has been a warming effect, especially in high shipping areas. Additionally, the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai undersea volcano’s eruption in January 2022 released 165 million tons of heat-trapping water vapor into the atmosphere, but its climate impact is still under investigation. While some researchers point to these factors, others argue that human-caused climate change and El Nino are sufficient explanations for the recent temperature increase. (Associated Press)
AMAZON MAKES FIGHTING AI FRAUD DIFFICULT.
Author Jane Friedman found fraudulent books listed under her name on Amazon and Goodreads, filled with likely AI-generated or junk content. Both platforms initially resisted removing the faux titles until Friedman’s complaints went viral. She detailed her struggle in a blog post, expressing concern over how such fake books could impact her reputation. The process to remove falsely attributed books is complex, and Amazon even asked for “trademark registration numbers” before closing her case without action. Friedman’s situation is part of a wider issue where scammers exploit Amazon’s algorithm for quick profit, leading to an influx of AI-generated nonsense books. Other authors have faced similar impersonations, revealing a common problem on both platforms. Friedman’s case emphasizes the need for Amazon and Goodreads to create ways to verify authorship and enable authors to easily block fraudulent books attributed to them, ensuring protection against fraud and misattribution. (Ars Technica)
THAT’S A RELIEF.
NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter successfully completed its 54th flight on August 3, a 25-second hop that could provide data to explain why its previous flight was cut short. Flight 53, planned as a 136-second scouting mission for the Perseverance Mars rover, was terminated early after the helicopter flew 466 feet instead of the planned 666 feet. A flight-contingency program called “LAND_NOW” was triggered, leading to an automatic landing. This was caused by image frames from the helicopter’s navigation camera not syncing with its inertial measurement unit. A similar issue occurred in Flight 6, and a software patch fixed the problem for 46 flights until it recurred in Flight 53. The team sees the incident as a valuable case study for future off-Earth aircraft and is confident that Ingenuity is ready to continue its mission on Mars. (NASA)
DEATH BY DEATH CAP SUSPECTED.
Australian police are investigating the deaths of three people and the critical illness of a fourth after they apparently consumed wild mushrooms at a family lunch in the town of Leongatha, Victoria state. The woman who cooked the meal, who did not become ill herself, has been questioned by homicide detectives and remains a suspect, though no charges have been filed.
The victims were the woman’s in-laws, Gail and Don Patterson, both 70, and Gail Patterson’s sister, Heather Wilkinson, 66. Heather’s husband, Ian Wilkinson, 68, is in critical condition. Victoria Police Detective Inspector Dean Thomas said the symptoms were consistent with those caused by death cap mushrooms, a particularly deadly variety. However, the exact type of mushrooms and their origin remain unclear.
The woman, who was hosting the lunch, told media that she was devastated by the deaths but declined to provide further details about the meal or the mushrooms. Police have reported that her relationship with her husband was amicable, despite being separated, and that her children were present during the lunch but ate a different meal.
Detectives searched the woman’s home and took several items for investigation, including a food dehydrator found at a nearby landfill. The investigation is ongoing, and police are keeping an open mind about the case, acknowledging that the incident could be an innocent mistake. (Associated Press)
Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.
WORDS: The Biology Guy.
IMAGE CREDIT: Antônio Cruz/ABr.