water droplets in flowing water

DAILY DOSE: Floods follow fire in Europe; The scourge of ultra-processed food.


Torrential downpours from Storm Daniel have caused severe flooding in parts of Greece, leading to the tragic death of a man when a wall collapsed, possibly due to the adverse weather conditions. The incident took place near Volos city, where the victim, a cattle breeder, was reportedly trying to access his animals. Moreover, in Volos, a port city on the Pagasetic Gulf, cars were seen being swept into muddy terrains because of the overwhelming rain. Another incident in Volos involved a man being reported missing after his car was submerged by the storm; while his son managed to escape the vehicle, the father was unfortunately carried away by the water. A search operation is currently underway for the missing individual. Given the severity of the situation, traffic restrictions have been imposed in the wider Volos area. This disaster comes on the heels of a devastating wildfire in the north that was only recently contained. Notably, in 2017, Greece experienced fatal flash floods that resulted in the loss of 25 lives and left many homeless. (Reuters)


In a study at the University of Oxford during the late 1980s, entomologists Stephen Simpson and David Raubenheimer discovered that migratory locusts would consume more food when it was low in protein in order to meet their protein requirements, resulting in an internal fat accumulation. This led to questions about human nutrition. As fats and carbohydrates in human diets increased, protein consumption remained relatively constant. Simpson and Raubenheimer theorized that humans might be overeating due to low-protein, ultraprocessed foods, similar to locusts. In their book “Eat Like the Animals,” they suggest that modern foods designed to subvert our natural appetites cause this issue. They highlight that in an environment where protein is diluted, individuals eat more to satisfy their protein cravings, leading to calorie overconsumption. This protein-driven appetite, combined with a metabolism disrupted by being overweight, creates a cycle of increased protein craving and weight gain. Studies in animals, from locusts to mice, have shown the strong influence of protein in regulating food intake and body weight. Notably, diets that are low in protein but high in healthy carbs and fats, such as the Mediterranean and traditional Okinawan diets, are linked with longevity in humans. These diets are rich in fiber, which fills the stomach without adding excessive calories. (El Pais)

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“Dust: The Modern World in a Trillion Particles” by Jay Owens delves into the profound impact of tiny particles on human history and the environment. The book starts with the 1960s nuclear weapons tests by the French government in Algeria, spreading radioactive fallout across northern Africa, affecting countless lives. Owens takes a fresh perspective on the history of global pollution, connecting events such as the smog in 17th-century London to the pollutants accelerating Greenland’s ice cap melting today. The extensive nuclear testing of the 1950s and 1960s by major nations, which led to an estimated 2.4 million casualties due to radioactive dust, reveals the hazardous legacy of dust. Often, those most vulnerable faced the harshest consequences, like Native Americans affected by uranium mining. Owens also discusses the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, a catastrophic event resulting from seized and ploughed Native American lands, leading to the largest migration in US history. Another focus is dried lake beds, like California’s Owens Valley, turned into dusty wastelands due to water diversions, impacting public health and environmental justice. The diminishing Aral Sea in Central Asia is another highlighted tragedy. Although Owens does not discuss every environmental calamity, her work offers a comprehensive understanding of dust’s pivotal role in global history, climate, and health. (Nature)


In the remote, high-altitude desert region of Ladakh, India, a unique “climate-friendly” football tournament is being held. Known as the “climate cup”, this event in Leh is Asia’s first football tournament at an altitude exceeding 11,000 feet (3,350 meters), aiming to maintain a minimal carbon footprint. The environment makes it challenging for players, who took days to acclimatize to the thin oxygen levels. Promotion is primarily through social media, with games live-streamed on YouTube. To reinforce their commitment to the environment, electric buses transport players, plastics are banned, and players use reusable aluminum sippers. Water is sourced from local springs and food is traditional, organic Ladakhi cuisine. The tournament aims to raise awareness of climate change’s impact on Ladakh. Ladakh, historically part of the Silk Road, now confronts climate change effects like altered weather patterns and receding glaciers. Recent military tensions between India and China have also increased local pollution. The region’s climate patterns are changing, with July witnessing its highest rainfall in 30 years. This soccer event, with its organic ethos, is Ladakh’s unique approach to address these environmental challenges. (Associated Press)

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The UK is witnessing an alarming increase in Asian hornet sightings, posing a significant threat to its bee populations. These invasive insects, which feed on native bees and wasps, have been spotted in East Sussex, Kent, Devon, and Dorset, raising concerns about their potentially devastating impact on biodiversity. A recent global report by leading scientists highlighted that invasive species contribute to 60% of animal and plant extinctions and have economic implications of over £300bn ($380bn) annually. The Asian hornet is one such invasive species on the brink of establishing a permanent presence in the UK. In Kent, beekeepers have already experienced significant losses. The National Bee Unit is actively trying to locate and eliminate these hornet nests. While Asian hornets pose no extra threat to humans compared to other wasps, they can severely damage honey bee colonies. The public is urged to report any sightings immediately. In 2023, there have been 22 confirmed Asian hornet sightings, a stark rise compared to previous years. The increase in invasive species, partly due to global trade and travel, combined with climate change, is escalating biodiversity loss. Preventative measures, as seen with the Asian hornet, are crucial. (BBC)


After OpenAI’s GPT-3 release in 2020, AI researcher Shawn Presser and his team aimed to recreate the model. They used the “shadow library” Bibliotik to compile “Books3”, containing about 196,000 books. Although Presser viewed Books3 as democratizing data access, it sparked controversy due to its inclusion of copyrighted texts. The dataset became popular for training large language models, drawing interest from companies like Meta and Bloomberg. The Rights Alliance, a Danish anti-piracy group, targeted Books3, leading to partial removal efforts. The Authors Guild, representing over 10,000 writers, sought compensation for copyrighted material usage. This tension underscores broader debates about AI’s role in copyright and data access. (Wired)

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

WORDS: The Biology Guy.


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