Volcanoes are erupting in The Philippines, but on-fire Australia received some welcome rain. The Iran war cries have been called off and The Donald’s military powers are about to be hamstrung by the Senate. Meanwhile, his impeachment trial is starting, and we’re all on Twitter for a front-row seat.
The oximeter problem
Remember when the entire world shut down with the introduction of a novel coronavirus, and the lay public suddenly learned about the importance of pulse oximeters? I remember a period when a friend’s father got sick—this was pre-vaccine, OG Covid-19 times—and the discussion around how to get her hands on one. She did, and her father made it through some nerve wracking nights when his oxygen levels were close to warranting a trip to the hospital.
The shortage problem has been solved in the intervening years, but another one remains in regard to oximeters: current ones don’t work as well on darker skin, because the melanin “can interfere with the absorption of light the clip-on devices use,” as reported in STAT. This means that an oximeter may not catch when a non-white patient has dangerously low levels of oxygen in their body tissues. For black patients, the risk of an inaccurate reading, as one study found, is exacerbated by a third.
The oximeter problem is not one of science or engineering but of funding. Pre-pandemic, there simply wasn’t enough attention being paid to it. Now, though, a handful of Black engineers and researchers are on the case, testing new light variations so the sensors on oximeters would work just as well on any skin type. Thanks to new urgency around the work, what usually might take a decade to become available to consumers will hopefully move much faster, Kimani Toussaint, who runs one of the labs looking into this, at Brown University, told STAT.
In another move toward medical parity, scientists are trying to shorten the waiting time for kidney transplants in minority communities in England, who “often wait a year longer” than Caucasian patients, reports Euronews. You probably know that O is the universal donor blood type. So what do you do when you have lots of patients with blood type B and not enough B-type kidneys for everyone? Figure out how to convert the kidneys to type O, of course. The work is in its early stages, but scientists at Cambridge University have successfully changed the blood type of three deceased kidneys.
A quick state tour
Earlier this month we implored our readers to follow politics and policy on more than just a national level, as especially in the United States, the state and the local are where the cake gets baked. In that spirit, a quick state tour of some changes:
Texas is ready to go electric! The state is putting in charging stations for electric vehicles every 50 miles on the interstates, and within 70 miles in most parts of the state. A charge to about 80 percent battery will take half an hour. The initiative is being paid for solely with federal funds.
Mid-game: More than half of states in the US restrict LQBTQ conversion therapy, Pennsylvania the latest at state number 27. It’s not illegal there, but now “discouraged,” and state funds cannot be used for it.
Final innings: Most states now have “right to try” laws on their books that guarantee direct access between terminally ill patients and pharmaceutical companies with early-stage therapies and treatments, skipping approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Whether or not this is a good idea is debatable, but we generally believe patients should be free to pursue all available options to them.
Arizona has recently expanded their law, and Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky and Cory Booker of New Jersey are trying to amend the federal Right to Try Act—which doesn’t prevent states from creating their own laws around right to try—to include patient access to MDMA and psilocybin, the active compounds in ecstasy and magic mushrooms, respectively.
One more bit of news about the FDA. They have just approved a new drug for depression that begins to work within one week and is not based on serotonin levels. Current drugs can take a month or longer to take effect.
Before we go
Phoenix and Paris are two more cities prepping for the heat, the latter expanding a system that already keeps the Louvre’s artwork cool in summer. The former is America’s hottest city, and even has a “dedicated heat team.”
And we’d like to recommend two excellent articles (whether you read them on a beach is up to you). The first is on the limits of the crisis mindset to solve chronic problems. “The cost of alarmist talk,” Taylor Dotson writes in The New Atlantis, “is that it demands an emergency response, and this blinds us to the often slow and subtle changes to our infrastructure that could severely reduce risk over the long term.”
The second is on our surprisingly productive Congress. While one piece of legislation after another gets passed, we’re all cawing about Mar-a-Gate vs. Water-a-Lago. “It’s early yet,” writes James Sutton for Wisdom of Crowds, “but the evidence indicates that Congress may be regaining some of its basic competence.” Perhaps the painful fluctuations we’ve lived through since Obama’s second term, he says, are the country “moving further away from the postwar era of consensus, reverting to the historical norm of large, diverse democracies being, well, large and diverse. Our political institutions might just be adjusting and learning how to function in the face of a bitterly divided population.” For what it’s worth, he’s not the only one noting Congress’ functionality.
Below in the links section, wind turbines’ gummy-bear afterlife, Switzerland’s underground water battery, Singapore’s pandemic-proof airport, and more.
Other good stuff in the news 🐺
- The number of wolf packs in the Alps has jumped by over 25% in one year | DW
- Puffins and terns are having a good year on a remote island in Maine despite climate change | EcoWatch
- Malaysia’s largest electricity provider plans to close its coal plants early | pv magazine
- Scotland’s largest offshore wind farm has started producing power | The Guardian
- Wind turbine blades could be recycled into gummy bears one day | CNET
- Here’s how some species will survive climate change | Scientific American
- World’s smallest and most endangered sea turtle found nesting on Louisiana islands for first time in 75 years | CBS News
- Brazil is set to build the world’s biggest urban garden by 2024 | Bloomberg
- This giant ‘water battery’ under the Alps could be a game-changer for renewable energy in Europe | CNN
Science & Tech:
- Adidas will now sell you a pair of solar-powered headphones | The Verge
- Scientists unveil method to destroy certain ‘forever chemicals’ | The Hill
- Google is training its robots to be more like humans | The Washington Post
Politics & Policy:
- Singapore to repeal law that criminalizes sex between men | The Guardian
- What the US climate bill does for the nuclear industry | CNBC
- Zambia has pledged to abolish the death penalty | UN News
Covid & Public Health:
- Singapore wants to make its airport pandemic proof | Bloomberg
- Rwanda could become one of the first countries to wipe out cervical cancer | The Guardian
- Cognitive rehab may help older adults clear Covid-related brain fog | The Washington Post
Society & Culture:
- A NASA astronaut will soon make history as the first Native woman to fly into space | Indian Country Today
- Here are some signs that inflation is calming down | Axios
TPN Member originals 🧠
(Who are our Members? Get to know them.)
- Inflation’s emotional scars | Diane Coyle
- The metaverse will enhance—not replace—companies’ physical locations | Richard Florida
- As remote work endures, downtowns are adapting | Richard Florida
- Disagreement can be an act of love | Arthur C. Brooks
- Biden’s historic climate bill needs smart foreign policy | Jason Bordoff
- In today’s hyperpartisan America, political allegiances come first | Robert B. Talisse
- Academic freedom’s proxy wars | Suzanne Nossel
- The herd mentality is all around us. I still see hope for diversity of thought | John McWhorter
- When hell freezes over: Russia’s Arctic ambitions | Diane Francis
- Why thinking hard exhausts you, and what you can do about it | Jason Feifer
- Why freedom of speech is the next abortion fight | Yascha Mounk
- An ominous murder in Moscow | Robert Wright
- Drug pricing reforms can hurt innovation. Here are 3 ways to prevent that | Caleb Watney
- America’s third Reconstruction | Peniel E. Joseph
- Zero sum, zero change: What racism costs everyone | Heather McGhee
- Funding the tax police is very good | Matthew Yglesias
- How local journalism can bring communities together | Deb Roy
A recommendation for our friends at Warp News
Warp News helps balance the negative headlines with fact-based optimistic news about technology, science, and human progress. It was founded by Mathias Sundin, a former Member of Parliament in Sweden who is convinced humanity’s best days are ahead and is fed up with all the pessimism in the news media, which fools people into believing things are getting worse all the time.
- Festival of Dangerous Ideas: American Decadence | Ruth Ben-Ghiat | September 18
Until Next Time
So that’s what waves from a black hole at the center of the Perseus galaxy cluster sound like. (Be sure to also check out the alternative mix.) 🚀👇