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DAILY DOSE: Heaviest rainfall in 140 years hits Hong Kong; How to combat those time-sucking YouTube algorithms.


Hong Kong experienced its heaviest rainfall in 140 years due to typhoon Haikui, resulting in two deaths and injuring over 100 people. Despite weakening, the typhoon brought significant rainfall to already saturated areas. Hong Kong’s highest “black” rainstorm warning was issued, with more than 200 mm of rain recorded. Schools, the stock exchange, and parts of the transport network were closed or disrupted. Similarly, the neighboring Chinese city of Shenzhen registered record-breaking rainfall, leading to halts in transportation and school closures. This extreme weather severely impacted the vital Pearl River Delta region. (Reuters)


For the first time, researchers have successfully encouraged human stem cells to form early-stage kidneys in pigs, suggesting the possibility of growing human organs in animals for transplants. This breakthrough offers potential relief for many awaiting organ transplants. Juan Carlos Izpisúa Belmonte, a developmental biologist from Altos Labs, termed this as a significant advancement in stem cell research. The work aims to provide a solution to organ shortages by growing patient-specific organs in pigs, reducing the risk of immune rejection. However, these kidneys aren’t yet ready for transplantation; they were temporary and only functional for a few weeks in early development. The research also raised ethical concerns, such as human cells potentially integrating into the animals’ brains or reproductive systems. Some human-derived cells were found in the embryos’ brains, but none in the reproductive system. While some scientists express reservations about the approach and potential risks like cancer, the researchers are optimistic. They plan to continue their studies to see if an adult-stage kidney can form, hoping that transplant-ready organs could be a reality within a decade. (Science)

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Eight cases of locally transmitted Plasmodium vivax malaria were reported in Florida and Texas between May 18 and July 17, 2023, marking the first such cases in the U.S. since 2003. As of August 4, efforts for case surveillance, mosquito control, and public education persist in both states. Clinicians in the U.S. are advised to consider malaria diagnosis for patients with unexplained fever, particularly in areas with recent cases, despite the overall low risk. Early diagnosis and treatment are vital to prevent severe illness, death, and further transmission via local Anopheles mosquitoes. Public prevention measures include avoiding mosquito bites, mosquito control at home, and consultation with health care providers before traveling to malaria-endemic regions. Preventive steps might include taking malaria prophylaxis. As malaria is a nationally notifiable disease, consistent reporting will help maintain effective surveillance and counteract its spread in the U.S. (MMWR)


Researchers from Citizen Lab have identified a new flaw in Apple devices which they believe has been exploited by spyware from the Israeli firm, NSO. The discovery was made while examining an Apple device belonging to an employee from a Washington-based civil society group. They found that the device had been infected with NSO’s Pegasus spyware. John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher at Citizen Lab, emphasized that civil society often alerts to sophisticated cyber threats. The specifics of the affected individual or organization were not disclosed. This vulnerability could compromise iPhones with the latest iOS version (16.6) without any action needed from the device’s user. (Reuters)

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Spending excessive time on YouTube is not unusual, given that its homepage is meticulously designed to be highly addictive. Top data scientists, psychological researchers, and programmers have developed YouTube’s algorithm to keep users engaged continuously. However, for individuals wanting greater control over their viewing habits, there’s a solution: turning off the YouTube watch history. By doing this, recommended videos will disappear from the homepage. This can be achieved by visiting the My Google Activity page and pausing YouTube’s history. Although it eliminates impulsively watching recommended videos, users still have options. They can use the search function or delve into their subscriptions to view recent uploads from channels they follow. The issue with YouTube’s recommendation algorithm is that it bases suggestions on past behavior, not on evolving interests. By focusing on subscriptions, users can choose content more in line with their current interests, offering them greater agency over their viewing choices. (Wired)


The forests of the Italian Alps and Apennines are undergoing significant changes due to the climate crisis. While some tree species might experience a reduction in their growth ranges, others might expand. Maintaining these forests in the coming years may require a deep understanding of biodiversity modelling. Researchers, in a study published in Frontiers in Forests and Global Change, have modeled and mapped the future of these ecosystems across five vulnerable mountain regions in Italy. Dr. Sergio Noce of the CMCC states that mountain forests will undergo a profound species change, necessitating time for adaptation. Forests play a crucial role in the local economy, environment, and recreation. While one-third of Italy is forested, recent environmental threats have accelerated changes in these regions. Dr. Noce’s team used high-resolution climate data and species distribution models to predict future tree land suitability up to 2050. Their findings suggest potential tree line shifts, possible losses of specific tree species, and the encroachment of trees into current alpine meadows. The study emphasizes the need for informed decision-making in forest management and conservation to ensure future ecosystem sustainability. (Frontiers In)


A newly discovered comet is passing through our vicinity for the first time in over 400 years. Visible in the Northern Hemisphere, it is suggested that enthusiasts observe it soon since its next appearance will be after another 400 years. The comet will come closest to Earth on Sept. 12, at a distance of 78 million miles (125 million kilometers). To best view it, stargazers should look towards the northeastern horizon about 1 1/2 hours before dawn, near the constellation Leo. While the comet is visible to the naked eye, it’s very faint, so binoculars are recommended. Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies, mentioned that the comet would be closest to the sun around Sept. 17. Italian astronomer Gianluca Masi indicated that the following week offers the best viewing chances before the comet is lost in the sun’s glare. If the comet withstands its close proximity to the sun, it should be visible in the Southern Hemisphere by September’s end. Discovered by an amateur Japanese astronomer in mid-August, this rare green comet, named the Nishimura comet, is unique as most comets today are discovered by professionals using powerful telescopes. The comet’s last appearance was approximately 430 years ago. (Associated Press)

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

WORDS: The Biology Guy.

IMAGE CREDIT: Jacob Zatorsky.

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