Links (Oct 2021)

SARS-CoV-2

1. Merck claims its COVID-19 treatment molnupiravir cuts risk of hospitalizations and death in half

2. Leaked grant proposal details high-risk coronavirus research.

Obesity Epidemic

3. The future of weight loss – new drug semaglutide shows comparable efficacy to bariatric surgery.

4. The contaminant theory of the obesity epidemic.

5. The torpor (seed oil) theory of the obesity epidemic

Health

6. Better air quality is the easiest way not to die

7. Air filtration dramatically improves hospital outcomes.

8. Syphilis likely originated in Ohio around 0 BCE, and was ultimately brought back to Europe.

Politics

9. Can we attribute our problems to a monocausal event in 1970

10. Did social media enable the rise of Trump?

11. Decline in GOP support for childhood vaccine mandates.

12. Update on Havana Syndrome: it is probably caused by “directed, pulsed microwaves”. 

Anthropology

13. Ancient footprints (22.5 kya) in New Mexico comprise more evidence against Clovis-first settlement theory.

14. Dairying played a major role in the rise of the Yamnaya.

15. Was Henrich wrong about his Marriage and Family Program theory of WEIRD psychology?

Progress

16. Proof assistants makes the jump to big league math.

17. More on AlphaFold.

For decades, people have considered computational error to be the most likely source of error when a predicted structure and an experimental one don’t match, and quite rightly so. But now, if you have a big mismatch between the two, it is frankly more likely to be an experimental error, because the folding predictions are getting so solid. This is disorienting, to say the least.

Existential Risks

18. The Hanson Grabby Aliens model

19. Remnants from Theia (the collision that created the moon) forever interred in the deep Earth. Tree-like plumes emanating from these LLSVPs are likely responsible for Deccan Trap volcanism and the K-Pg extinction event. 

The team estimates that, in tens of millions of years, a blob of nightmarishly gargantuan proportions will pinch off from the central cusp and rise to meet what is now South Africa’s foundations. This, said Sigloch, would produce cataclysmic eruptions. The Deccan Traps were caused by what we would think of as a solitary mantle plume. This future mega-blob, though, would be capable of producing volcanism so prolific and extensive that the Deccan Traps would be a firecracker in comparison.”

20. Mirror DNA has been successfully engineered.

“If mirror cells acquired the ability to photosynthesize, we’d be screwed. “I suspect that all hell would break loose,” says Jim Kasting, a climate scientist at Penn State University and an expert on the global carbon cycle. All it would take would be a droplet of mirror cyanobacteria squirted into the ocean. After doing some rough calculations on the effects of a mirror cyanobacteria invasion, Jim Kasting isn’t sure which would kill us first—the global famine or the ice age.

Misc

21. Like us, non-human primates also choke under pressure

22. The Appalachian mountain chain also extends into Europe. This is possible because plate tectonics separated this mountain range. The Appalachian Mountains are older than the Atlantic Ocean.

23. How a coastline 100 million years ago influences modern election results in Alabama.

24. The evolution of homeothermy.

But why 98.6 specifically? Well, Casadevall has an answer for that too. In humans, 98.6 is the optimal tradeoff between our metabolism and protection from fungal infections. 

But recall global body temperature is declining; one explanation provided by the torpor theory of obesity (Link 5 above)

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