DAILY DOSE: Electricity wires suspected in Maui wildfires; Scientists are quitting the social media site formerly known as Twitter.


Shane Treu, a resident of Maui, witnessed the beginning of what became the deadliest U.S. wildfire in over a century when a power line broke and ignited a fire. His footage, along with others, has become crucial evidence suggesting that fallen utility lines were the likely cause. Hawaiian Electric Co. faces criticism and a class-action lawsuit for not preemptively shutting off the power amidst high wind warnings, a move that might have prevented the fire. The lawsuit highlights the company’s knowledge of power shutoffs as a successful strategy in wildfire prevention, a strategy that was never implemented. Michael Wara, a wildfire expert at Stanford University, stressed the importance of power shut-offs in areas with significant wildfire risk. However, shutting off power is controversial and can affect those relying on medical equipment and firefighters needing electricity. Initial evidence indicates multiple fire sources, and sensors throughout Maui detected numerous faults in the electrical grid during the fire’s onset. Following a similar incident in California in 2018, procedures were put in place to shut off electricity during high-risk conditions. Although warned of high-risk conditions, Maui had no such procedure. Investigations are underway to determine the factors leading up to the devastating fire. (Associated Press)


Josef Aschbacher, director general of the European Space Agency (ESA), has warned about the urgent need to address climate change, citing recent record heatwaves and wildfires in Europe. The World Meteorological Organization noted that July recorded the highest global average temperature for any month. Aschbacher emphasized that the evidence is “crystal clear” and that acting immediately would be more cost-effective than addressing the resultant damage later on. Prior to his current role, Aschbacher led the ESA’s Earth observation satellite activities, including the Copernicus program, the world’s most extensive environmental monitoring initiative. Funding challenges have emerged for the Copernicus program due to a €721 million gap, primarily resulting from the UK’s reduced contributions post-Brexit. The ESA emphasizes the need for funding by June 2024 to ensure uninterrupted satellite development and to maintain Europe’s commitment to addressing climate change. (Reuters)

Stand with science in our “Science NOT Silence” tee! This isn’t just fashion, it’s a bold statement for facts and progress. Comfortable, perfect for science lovers. Make noise for science!🌍🔬


Emilia Jarochowska left Twitter, now named ‘X’, due to its growing misinformation and controversial discourse. A Nature survey indicated many scientists share her concerns. Since Elon Musk’s 2022 takeover, several changes to the platform have caused dissatisfaction among users. Over half of surveyed scientists reduced their time on X, 7% left, and about 46% switched to platforms like Mastodon, Bluesky, and TikTok. There are concerns that these changes might dilute academic diversity and visibility that Twitter previously supported. The rise in trolls, fake accounts, and hate speech under Musk’s management is pushing researchers to alternatives. Mastodon has become a favored option for its community moderation. The future of ‘X’ is uncertain, but the scientific community is likely to find new networking avenues. (Nature)


The U.S. faces dual health challenges: the persistence of Covid-19, with a new strain EG.5 emerging, and a 10% budget cut to the CDC, equating to $1.5 billion. This cut has prompted a CDC reorganization under new leadership, Mandy Cohen. Although job losses have been downplayed, the scale of cuts makes this outcome likely, especially at state and local levels, critically affecting public health services. Over 75% of the CDC’s funds support state and research entities tackling various diseases. Notably, the rise in congenital syphilis in Mississippi signals an urgent need for increased public health efforts. The CDC also relies on approximately 6,000 contractors, who might face early cuts, impacting healthcare services. Diminished CDC funding could also deter private healthcare investment, stalling research and development. Furthermore, the CDC’s crucial role in data collection faces challenges from outdated reporting systems. Reduced funding for essential health surveillance and response programs could imperil national health security. (STAT)


Philips, following its Q2 earnings report, revealed that it had manufactured nearly 99% of the necessary repair kits and replacement devices for its extensive recall of respiratory devices since spring 2021, impacting 5.5 million units worldwide. As this effort concludes, Philips faces a new Class I recall involving several of its Trilogy ventilators, models like the Evo, Evo O2, EV300, and Evo Universal. These models were not part of the previous recall, which primarily included CPAP and BiPAP machines. The latest recall affects over 120,000 Trilogy ventilators, distributed globally from March 2019 to March 2023, with the majority sold in the U.S. These devices, used predominantly in clinical settings, offer mechanical respiratory support. The recall was initiated due to the discovery of dust and dirt in the devices’ air pathways, which could compromise ventilation. The FDA notice mentioned 542 related complaints, including two injuries and a fatality. Philips has undergone multiple recalls in recent times, emphasizing the importance of vigilance in device manufacturing and quality assurance. (Fierce Biotech)


Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh found that children living closer to natural gas wells in western Pennsylvania were more likely to develop lymphoma, a relatively rare cancer, and residents of all ages near these wells had an increased risk of severe asthma reactions. The studies did not conclusively state that drilling caused these health issues but aimed to determine possible associations based on proximity to gas wells. Critics highlighted potential study weaknesses and data limitations. The findings were discussed at a public meeting, where community members urged for more protective measures. For children living within a mile of a well, the chances of developing lymphoma were 5 to 7 times higher than those living 5 miles away. However, no connection was found between drilling and certain other childhood cancers. The $2.5 million, four-year study was initiated due to concerns from families in a heavily-drilled region of Pennsylvania. Recent studies elsewhere also suggest links between drilling proximity and health concerns. (Associated Press)


At the annual Defcon hackers conference in Las Vegas, 2,200 participants engaged in a competition to expose the vulnerabilities of artificial intelligence (A.I.) programs, simulating the tactics of real-world attackers. This practice, known as “red-teaming,” revealed a range of issues, including political misinformation and demographic stereotypes. Major tech companies such as Google, OpenAI, and Meta provided anonymized versions of their A.I. models for this examination, supporting the event’s aim to highlight A.I.’s pitfalls and potential solutions.

Dr. Avijit Ghosh, an A.I. ethics lecturer from Northeastern University, was among the participants. Through his prompts, he demonstrated that while some A.I. models resisted unethical requests, like racially biased hiring, they complied with others, such as caste-based discrimination.

Growing concerns surround the power of generative A.I. to cause harm, such as influencing elections or spreading misinformation. A recent report revealed that certain A.I. systems could be manipulated using specific prompts, prompting several major A.I. companies to commit to new safety and security standards.

Red-teaming has traditionally been used in cybersecurity. However, its application to A.I. has been limited. The Defcon competition, by broadening the pool of testers, aimed to identify a more comprehensive range of potential issues.

Some hackers were skeptical about collaborating with big tech but acknowledged the importance of industry involvement for transparency and security. Cody Ho, a Stanford University student, emerged as a top scorer, showcasing some of the A.I.’s more peculiar vulnerabilities. (New York Times)

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

WORDS: The Biology Guy.


Success! You're on the list.

THE ABSTRACT: “Nothing Special” skillfully deconstructs the shimmering veneer of the iconic art world.
In the shadowy realms of 1960s New York City, Nicole Flattery introduces …
DAILY DOSE: Nobels in Physics and Medicine handed out; Stoneman Willie gets his due.
NOBEL PRIZE IN PHYSICS AWARDED. The 2023 Nobel Prize in Physics was …

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: