HOT HOT HEAT.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reported that this year had the hottest Northern Hemisphere summer on record, with August as the warmest month ever documented. Temperatures in August were about 1.5°C higher than pre-industrial averages. Global oceans also reached record temperatures for three consecutive months. The surge in temperatures is attributed to human-induced climate change, exacerbated by the El Nino phenomenon. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres emphasized the urgent impacts of climate change. Climatologist Andrew Weaver urged global leaders to address the issue more seriously. Historical data suggests that current temperatures might be the warmest in about 120,000 years. Meanwhile, Antarctica has been recording decreasing sea ice levels. (Associated Press)
CANCER RISING BUT WHY?
The global incidence of cancer in individuals under 50 has surged by almost 80% in three decades, as reported in the most comprehensive study of its kind. Cases rose from 1.82 million in 1990 to 3.26 million in 2019. Additionally, cancer fatalities in adults aged 49 and below increased by 27%. While researchers are still determining the exact causes, they suspect poor diets, tobacco and alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, and obesity play roles. The study, conducted by the University of Edinburgh and Zhejiang University School of Medicine, analyzed data from 204 countries, covering 29 types of cancer. Breast cancer constituted the highest number of cases and deaths. Notably, early onset windpipe and prostate cancers had the sharpest increase between 1990 and 2019. North America, Oceania, and western Europe recorded the highest early onset cancer rates in 2019. Projections based on these trends suggest that early onset cancer cases and deaths will rise by 31% and 21% respectively by 2030. Diet, alcohol, tobacco, physical inactivity, obesity, and high blood sugar were identified as primary risk factors. Dr. Claire Knight from Cancer Research UK emphasized that although the numbers are concerning, cancer mainly affects older individuals, and more research is needed. (The Guardian)
FLOODS IN CHINA.
Remnants of Typhoon Haikui have brought unprecedented rainfall to southeastern China, especially in Fujian province. The rain broke a 12-year record in the provincial capital, Fuzhou, leading to warnings that 49 reservoirs surpassed flood limits. Over 36,000 residents were evacuated, while damages to power and communication infrastructures and flooding of nearly 4,195 hectares of farmland resulted in estimated losses of 552.1 million yuan ($75m). Public services, including schools, metros, and trains, were suspended. Streets in Fuzhou and nearby Fuqing were submerged, leading to considerable property damage. Fuzhou recorded up to 554mm of rainfall on Tuesday, exceeding the impact of Typhoon Doksuri in July. Six cities, including Putian and Quanzhou, are on alert for potential flash floods and landslides. The heavy rain is forecasted to continue until Friday in certain parts of the province. After impacting Taiwan, Typhoon Haikui reached southern China and was subsequently downgraded to a tropical storm. (Al-Jazeera)
MORE INCLUSIVE VACCINE TRIALS.
The newly approved RSV vaccines have raised concerns among vaccine experts due to the underrepresentation of older adults in their trials. Despite RSV posing significant risks to older adults and those with certain preexisting health conditions, the trials predominantly included adults below 80, excluding those who are immunocompromised or in nursing homes. Experts Helen “Keipp” Talbot and Ruth Karron highlighted the importance of including older adults in vaccine trials because their immune responses differ from younger groups. While starting trials with healthy adults minimizes risks, it’s crucial to expand them to represent the target demographic. Enrolling frail older adults in trials presents challenges, such as logistical issues and the potential for health complications unrelated to the vaccine, which could delay approvals. However, both experts believe that a more inclusive approach to trials is feasible. Talbot suggests that the rapid development of Covid-19 vaccines may have set unrealistic expectations, emphasizing the importance of patience in vaccine research. (STAT)
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GAMING REAL LIFE HORROR.
The video game ‘Dirty Wars: September 11′ transports players to the era of Augusto Pinochet’s 17-year dictatorship in Chile, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the 1973 coup led by Pinochet against socialist President Salvador Allende. Jorge Olivares, the game’s Chilean sociologist creator, took six years to develop this espionage-themed game. The protagonists, Maximiliano and Abigail, who join a resistance group against the dictatorship, were inspired by Olivares’ parents’ own experiences. The game captures a crucial period in South American history marked by military rule, resulting in thousands killed, tortured, or exiled. Democracy returned to Chile in 1990, but memories of the dictatorship persist. Released on the Steam platform, Olivares emphasized that his game is not “Marxist propaganda” but seeks to represent the historical context surrounding the coup. (Reuters)
In 17th-century Poland, stories of revenants, or proto-zombies, were prevalent. They were said to torment the living, with tales of them drinking blood or causing disturbances in homes. As a result, various remedies were adopted to prevent the deceased from reanimating, such as staking, heart removal, and placing bricks in their jaws. In the village of Pień, near Bydgoszcz, researchers from Nicolaus Copernicus University discovered the remains of a “vampire child” believed to be around 6 years old. The child’s corpse was buried face down with a padlock to bind it to the grave. The discovery highlights practices used in that era to prevent the suspected revenants from rising. Polish legends mention two types of revenants: the “upiór” resembling the cinematic Dracula and the “strzyga”, akin to a malevolent witch. The Counter-Reformation in Poland intensified fear of the undead, and placing padlocks in graves became a tradition, symbolizing “locking the tomb forever.” The reasons for singling out individuals for these burial practices could be due to social stigmas or being the first to die in an epidemic. The lack of decomposition was seen as a sign that the deceased was a revenant. (New York Times)
INDIA’S SOLAR ASPIRATIONS.
On 2 September 2023, India launched its first solar spacecraft, Aditya-L1, soon after a successful Moon landing. Once its four-month, 1.5 million-kilometre journey concludes, it will orbit the Lagrange point 1 (L1), joining four other satellites. Aditya-L1 is distinct due to its seven instruments that address key challenges in solar physics, like understanding the Sun’s super-hot outer layer and the creation of violent solar storms. It will study the Sun’s corona to understand coronal mass ejections (CMEs) and their underlying physics. Noteworthy onboard technology includes the Visible Emission Line Coronagraph (VELC) for observing the inner corona and the Solar Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (SUIT) for capturing near-ultraviolet images of the Sun’s disk. The data will help safeguard technological assets against space weather disturbances and improve predictions of space weather impacts on Earth. (Nature)
Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.
WORDS: The Biology Guy.
IMAGE CREDIT: Mohamed Elshawry.