NO PAIN, NO GAIN.
America’s declining math scores are a threat to its global economic competitiveness and national security, potentially impacting the nation’s technological dominance. Many high school students, like Kevin Tran, recognize the importance of math in pursuing careers in science and technology. However, U.S. students score lower in international math assessments compared to 36 other educational systems, with students in China scoring the highest. The Defense Department advocates for increased emphasis on STEM education, noting the substantial lead of China and Russia in producing STEM graduates. Poor math performance is linked to lower salaries and hinders entry into STEM fields, which are crucial for national development. Programs like the Bridge to Calculus at Northeastern University aim to address this gap by engaging students in intensive math studies. While some argue that creativity is also crucial, the consensus emphasizes the urgent need for math proficiency for future prosperity. (Associated Press)
In about 250 million years, Earth’s major land masses are expected to converge into a supercontinent, potentially resulting in a climate largely uninhabitable for mammals. Tectonic movements drive the continents together approximately every 400 to 600 million years. Supercontinents create extreme and arid climates, leading to elevated CO2 levels due to increased volcanic activity and slowed carbon sequestration in minerals. Researchers, analyzing a possible future supercontinent, Pangaea Ultima, found that this could elevate global temperatures by up to 9.4°C above current levels, creating conditions lethal to mammals. Such extreme conditions would likely trigger a mass mammalian extinction over tens of millions of years, potentially reverting dominance to reptiles. The study primarily focuses on CO2 impacts, not considering the potential additional threats from sea level changes and interspecies competition arising from the convergence of previously isolated species. (Science)
COVID-19 VACCINES LINKED TO VAGINAL BLEEDING.
A study indicates that women who don’t menstruate, including those on contraceptives and postmenopausal women, experienced unexpected vaginal bleeding post COVID-19 vaccination. The study by Kristine Blix from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health analyzed over 21,000 responses and found that many women reported unexpected bleeding within four weeks after the vaccine doses. The risk of unexpected bleeding was three to five times higher for premenopausal and perimenopausal women after the vaccine. The European Medicines Agency has updated the side-effect information for mRNA vaccines to include heavy menstrual bleeding. While the cause is unclear, awareness of this side effect could aid physicians in evaluating postmenopausal bleeding, usually a concerning symptom. This research aligns with other studies and underscores the importance of including female bleeding patterns in clinical trials of new vaccines and possibly drug trials to better understand and inform patients and clinicians. (Nature)
MOVE OVER WECHAT…
Telegram, a global messenger platform with 800 million users, is developing an ecosystem akin to WeChat’s super app, with aspects being decentralized. It collaborates with TON Foundation for crypto and blockchain solutions and Tencent Cloud for supporting validators and offering dedicated cloud credits and product discounts. This ecosystem allows third-party developers to create versatile mini apps, aiming to serve a broad spectrum of users worldwide with a range of services and decentralized payment networks. Tencent Cloud’s partnership can aid Telegram’s endeavor by sharing insights from WeChat’s success and helping incorporate versatile payment solutions. While the adoption and development of apps for Telegram’s diverse international user base pose challenges, the integration of various payment solutions, including crypto wallets, can facilitate transactions in regions lacking centralized online payments, potentially making Telegram a formidable contender in the super app space. (TechCrunch)
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TACKLING A NIPAH OUTBREAK IN INDIA.
A recent Nipah virus outbreak in Kerala, India, raised concerns due to the virus’s high fatality rate and the potential for rapid spread. Doctors at Aster MIMS in Kozhikode identified a cluster of cases displaying severe respiratory and neurological symptoms, reminiscent of a 2018 Nipah outbreak in the region. Immediate isolation, rigorous testing, and strict lockdown measures were implemented, containing the outbreak effectively. However, the proximity of humans and fruit bats, the primary carriers of the Nipah virus, due to environmental stress and habitat degradation, escalates the risk of future spillover events. The convergence of climate change, urbanization, deforestation, and human migration intensifies these encounters, necessitating interdisciplinary scientific efforts to comprehend the ecology of viral infections and devise preventive strategies. If unaddressed, the frequency and extent of such zoonotic outbreaks are poised to escalate, posing global health threats. (Ars Technica)
NEW POLIO VACCINE, OLD PROBLEM.
Outbreaks of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus (cVDPV) can occur with prolonged circulation of oral poliovirus vaccine strains in under-vaccinated populations. A new vaccine, nOPV2, shown to be less likely to revert to paralytic variants, has been administered globally in response to cVDPV type 2 outbreaks. However, seven cVDPV2 emergences of nOPV2 origin were detected between August 2021 and July 2023 in Africa. The emergences were found early due to limited divergence from the original vaccine strain. While some emergences were localized, others spread within the originating country or to neighboring countries. The reversion rate for nOPV2 is substantially lower than its predecessor, mOPV2. The occurrence of cVDPV2 outbreaks is more likely when supplementary immunization activities (SIAs) fail to achieve high coverage in populations with low immunity against polioviruses, emphasizing the need for prompt SIAs to reach all targeted children and prevent future emergences. (MMWR)
FOSSILS UNDER THREAT.
Peru’s Pisco Basin, home to unique marine fossils including the heaviest animal, Perucetus colossus, faces threats from unplanned development, endangering its rich paleontological heritage. Rapid urbanization is encroaching upon ancient sites and fossil-rich territories, with real estate projects, squatter settlements, and lack of legal frameworks jeopardizing the preservation of pre-Columbian sites and marine vertebrate species found nowhere else. Although the region is being compared to UNESCO World Heritage sites due to its unparalleled fossil abundance, conflicting institutional authorities and lack of enforcement hinder conservation efforts. Paleontologists and locals fear irreversible loss of invaluable discoveries and cultural heritage, as land trafficking mafias exploit legislative loopholes and uncontrolled development overshadows the importance of preserving the remnants of ancient civilizations and evolutionary history. The ongoing conflict between preservation and development underlines the need for cohesive conservation strategies and legal frameworks to safeguard Peru’s unique and irreplaceable heritage. (New York Times)
RARE LEAD SARCOPHAGI DISCOERED IN GAZA STRIP.
In the Gaza Strip, workers have unearthed a Roman-era cemetery, dating back around 2000 years, containing dozens of ancient graves including unique lead sarcophagi, during the construction of an Egyptian-funded housing project. This site, comprising 2,700 square meters near Jabaliya, is the largest cemetery discovered in Gaza and offers significant insights into the region’s rich history, located on ancient trade routes between Egypt and the Levant. Researchers have studied over 100 graves, providing extensive information about cultural material, population health, and prevalent pathologies. The lead sarcophagi, indicative of Roman elites, mark exceptional finds, enhancing understanding of social structures. Despite Gaza’s archaeological potential, rapid urban development, political takeovers, and occupations pose considerable threats to its historical treasures, necessitating dedicated teams to oversee and preserve the archaeological wealth and stories inherent in the region. (El Pais)
Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.
WORDS: The Biology Guy.
IMAGE CREDIT: Yan Krukau.