DAILY DOSE: NASA appoints head of UAP research; Tech titans in D.C. address Congress on AI.


NASA held a news briefing after a lengthy study into hundreds of reports on UFOs – or UAPs, as it called them. It said it had studied “events in the sky that could not be identified as aircraft or known natural phenomena from a scientific perspective.” The organization stated it wanted to create a “roadmap” for future studies of what it termed Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena. It emphasized the importance of the study for national security and air safety, noting that 16 of the world’s leading data and AI scientists had worked on the study.


At the A.I. Insight Forum in Washington, top tech leaders discussed the implications and future of artificial intelligence (A.I.). Organized by Senate leader Chuck Schumer, the forum was attended by executives like Elon Musk, Sundar Pichai, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Sam Altman, Satya Nadella, and Jensen Huang. Musk emphasized the civilizational risks of A.I., Pichai accentuated its potential in solving health and energy challenges, while Zuckerberg underlined the need for open-source A.I. systems. The meeting was a significant congregation of tech influencers, signifying the industry’s drive to lead and shape A.I.’s future. The event followed the rapid advancement in A.I. technology, with tools like ChatGPT gaining immense popularity. With Europe drafting A.I. regulations, the U.S. has been playing catch-up. To address this, the White House is set to release an A.I. executive order, and some companies have already agreed to voluntary A.I. safety standards. The U.S. Senate is also considering A.I. legislation. However, some differences arose during the forum, especially regarding open-source A.I., with concerns about security risks. Musk, known for his cautionary stance on A.I., alluded to its potential existential threat to civilizations. The session’s closed-door nature was criticized by some lawmakers, urging transparency in such crucial discussions. (New York Times)


The Libyan city of Derna has been severely impacted by catastrophic flooding from Storm Daniel, with thousands dead and many swept out to sea. Current estimates suggest up to 20,000 may have perished. There’s a dire need for resources, especially body bags, with concerns about potential epidemics due to the number of deceased under rubble and in the water. The sea has washed up many bodies, with recovery efforts ongoing. To counteract disease spread, multiple bodies are being buried together in mass graves. The city’s two hospitals are overwhelmed, serving as makeshift morgues, prompting calls for a new field hospital. International assistance has been dispatched from several nations, with Turkey setting up field hospitals and the UK pledging an aid package. The UN-acknowledged government reported aid from 12 countries. Given the flood’s magnitude, the death toll might reach between 18,000 to 20,000. Many victims were migrants, and aid efforts are challenged by infrastructure destruction, requiring helicopters for transport. (The Guardian)

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Retraction Watch, a leading website tracking retractions in scholarly literature, has partnered with publishing nonprofit Crossref. The collaboration will integrate information from Retraction Watch’s database, containing 42,000 retractions, with Crossref’s digital object identifier system. Crossref will invest $775,000 over 5 years for this initiative. Jodi Schneider, an information scientist, considers this partnership pivotal for addressing the challenge of “zombie papers” that continue being cited post-retraction. The Retraction Watch database, established in 2018 by two biomedical reporters, provides detailed reasons for retractions and covers a wide spectrum of disciplines. Until this partnership, Retraction Watch’s operations were funded by licensing fees, which will no longer be collected. Crossref’s investment will fund an additional staff member for Retraction Watch’s parent entity, the Center for Scientific Integrity. This deal does not affect Retraction Watch’s journalism activities, though it is anticipated that these operations might expand in the future. The new funding arrangement also removes potential conflicts of interest. (Science)


On June 9, 2022, NASA declared its intention to study unidentified anomalous phenomena (UAPs) which are unexplained observations in the sky. This announcement led to a flood of feedback from the public and scientists, ranging from researched UAP histories to biblical interpretations and speculative entities. This indicates the broad public interest in UAPs and the diverse theories surrounding them. NASA’s UAP Independent Study Team, led by Princeton astrophysicist David Spergel, examined mostly unclassified UAP data. Their initial findings, shared in May, revealed unusual footage, like unexplained metallic spheres, but found no evidence of extraterrestrial origin. The documents highlight the various hypotheses people have about UAPs, including eccentric claims and personal sighting reports. The venture has the potential to spark more public interest in astronomy. As a NASA scientist remarked, it might lead people to spend more time observing the sky, highlighting the intrigue around the UAP mystery. (Vice)

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During the coldest full moon in February, Tibetan monks showcase their ability to withstand freezing temperatures on a Himalayan ledge, drawing the attention of Harvard’s Herbert Benson in 1985. Their metabolic regulation resembles “biostasis” – a suspended metabolic state. DARPA, aiming to harness this for medical and military advantages, funded research into drug-induced biostasis. Harvard’s Wyss Institute developed SNC80, a drug that showed promising results in slowing tadpole metabolism. While nature offers examples of biostasis, like hibernating bears and the spiny desert mouse, the challenge is creating a universally effective human drug. The monks’ meditation offers clues to understanding and achieving this altered state of metabolism. (Nautilus)


In a unique session in Mexico’s Congress, individuals from Mexico, the U.S., Japan, and Brazil presented testimonies suggesting the existence of extraterrestrials. This follows a similar session in the U.S. Congress where an ex-U.S. Air Force officer alleged knowledge of “non-human” activity since the 1930s. Mexican journalist, JosĂ© Jaime Maussan, showcased mummies from Peru believed to be “non-human beings.” Found in Nazca, an area famous for massive geoglyphs, these bodies had previously been declared by Peru’s prosecutor’s office in 2017 as fabricated dolls, though it’s uncertain if these are the same specimens. Julieta Fierro from the National Autonomous University of Mexico expressed skepticism, highlighting the lack of technology used in examining the bodies. She also refuted claims that the university endorsed the discovery. Congressman Sergio GutiĂ©rrez Luna emphasized that while Congress hasn’t taken a stance, open dialogue on extraterrestrials is positive. Meanwhile, in the U.S., debates continue on unidentified aerial phenomena (UAPs) as potential national security threats. (Associated Press)


Virgin Galactic’s recent spaceflight carrying the remains of two ancient human relatives has sparked controversy. The VSS Unity spacecraft flew 88 kilometres above Earth carrying two pilots, an instructor, three passengers, and fossils of the Australopithecus sediba and Homo naledi. Although all onboard returned safely, many archaeologists and researchers criticized the move, viewing it as an unethical publicity stunt that endangered valuable fossils. They raised concerns about South Africa’s commitment to cultural heritage protection, especially since the South African Heritage Resources Agency approved the transport. The flight is also seen by some as echoing past colonial research practices. The fossils’ significance is profound, with the A. sediba shoulder bone being the species-defining type specimen. While some argue that the fossils were extensively documented and thus can be risked, opponents assert that such a mindset can endanger cultural heritage. This move, permitted by regulators, indicates a possible shift in the nation’s stance on heritage protection. (Nature)


In the mountains of western Namibia, an ancient rock art gallery showcases detailed engravings of human and animal footprints created by prehistoric hunter-gatherers. These engravings are so intricate that modern Indigenous trackers can identify the species, sex, and age of the depicted creatures. While carvings of footprints are common in Stone Age sites worldwide, their purpose remains unclear. German archaeologists, collaborating with Ju/’hoansi tracking experts from Namibia, investigated the Doro! Nawas site. The trackers discerned tracks from 39 animal species, some of which don’t inhabit the current arid region, suggesting past environmental differences or memories of other regions. Over 90% of the engravings were detailed enough for the trackers to pinpoint specific attributes. The depicted animals and their demographics have led to hypotheses that the carvings were educational tools. However, the site’s peculiarities raise questions about its function, suggesting deeper, possibly individual motivations behind the engravings. (Science)

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

WORDS: The Biology Guy.

IMAGE CREDIT: Andrew Bossi.

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