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There are 15 scientists running for Congress. Here's what's at stake.
Now is a good time to brush up on who's on the ballot.
- The Midterm Elections are on November 6th. 1,200 candidates are running for 500 seats that will have an impact on every bit of your life.
- Scientists and Doctors are running for office. Innumerable environmental issues will be decided.
- Read up on the candidates, the issues, and then: vote.
The midterm elections are fast approaching. Early voting is underway and setting records for turnout across much of the country. Electionland is publishing reports, and you can get a sense of how voters are googling here. (A short, quick sample: voters in Massachusetts and Virginia have been googling about health care more often than not whereas voters in California and Texas have been googling more about immigration.)
And 2018 may be the year environmental voters begin to wake up. Only 21% of environmentalists voted in 2014, per The Environmental Voters Project, but the 2017 elections in Virginia saw an increase in two demographics particularly concerned about climate change. Pro-environment candidates did well in elections in Washington state and Florida.
And now there are more pro-environment candidates for voters to consider. There are 15 scientists running for office across the country, and there are a host of measures related to science on the ballot across the country as well. Here's a short guide to both.
Above: The Mississippi River
1. Randy Wadkins
Randy Watkins is a biochemistry professor at the University of Mississippi in Oxford running in the 1st district against Trent Kelley. He's spent 30 years developing anti-tumor drugs. He has an interest in repairing "the damage done to the Affordable Care Act" and making the bill better.
Voters looking at Wadkins will also have to consider how measures to repair bridges can get traction amongst local representatives, especially how — after a plan aiming at repairing bridges failed to pass the state legislature in the spring — more bridges closed.
2. Rob Davidson
Rob Davidson is an emergency room physician running in Michigan's 2nd Congressional District, running because the current representative — in Davidson's telling — does not believe healthcare is a right.
Voters taking a look at Davidson might also want to consider — if they aren't already, and even though the 2nd District isn't the 5th District — the state of the water system in the state and what can be done to alleviate the burden that has been placed upon the residents of Flint since 2014.
Above: Houston during Hurricane Harvey
3. Joseph Kopser
Joseph Kopser is a retired U.S. Army captain with an aerospace engineering degree and a career in clean-energy running to represent Texas's 21st Congressional District. He's a centrist Texas democrat, more or less — which you can see in his support for someone like the departing Texas Speaker of the House, Joe Straus — and he has claimed — that, per Ballotpedia — "Only two things will evolve my public positions: your input and verified scientific data."
Voters looking at Kopser should also keep in mind flood preparedness, as evinced by Hurricane Harvey and recent flooding across Texas that led to a temporary boil water notice in Austin and which could spell the imminent failure of a dam in Arlington, Texas.
4. Mell Hall
Mel Hall is a minister-turned-data scientist who's spent a career in the healthcare industry seeking to represent Indiana's 2nd congressional district. Voters looking at Hall should also the matter of consider coal ash deposits contaminating the water in the state. The current iteration of the EPA has announced changes to coal ash regulations, including — as the Hoosier Environmental Council notes —"Allowing operators of coal ash ponds and landfills to write their own standards for groundwater protection" and "Making cleanup of contamination optional."
5. Kim Schrier
Kim Schrier is a pediatrician running to represent Washington's 8th congressional district. She wants to stabilize the health insurance markets, amongst other priorities. Voters looking at Schrier might also want to consider Initiative 1631, a carbon tax that's expected to raise over $1 billion for the state in order to fund clean-energy programs and clean-energy development. It's also worth noting that the current estimated price of what a carbon tax could be is $220 per tonne of carbon, as was noted in 2015, and that the proposed Initiative 1631 baseline tax of $15 per tonne of carbon is a relative bargain for those who might be concerned about an impact on an industry under transition.
6. Sean Casten
Voters looking at Casten might have heard Casten talk about an environmental issue that will have an impact on the voters as well: the current occupant of the White House signed an executive order in June revoking a previous executive signed by Obama that had laid down environmental protections for the Great Lakes ecosystems.
Above: Charleston, South Carolina
7. Joe Cunningham
Joe Cunningham is an ocean engineer who became an environmental lawyer who is running to represent South Carolina's 1st Congressional District. He is campaigning to push for a ban on offshore drilling, as newspaper endorsement notes, amongst many other issues. Voters taking a look at Joe Cunningham should also take a look at any and all programs related to climate change, as the 1st Congressional District contains Charleston and a decent chunk of the state's shore.
8. Hiral Tipirneni
Hiral Tipirneni is an emergency room physician and cancer research advocate running to represent Arizona's 8th District who wishes to expand Medicare, fight off any age-related health care tax that might be levied on older adults, and more. Voters taking a looking at Tipirneni might also want to take a look at Proposition 127, a measure requiring energy companies to get a certain percentage of their energy sources from renewable sources, and — if the measure fails, as it might — think about how best to implement similar measures in the future.
Above: a red wolf hiding in grass.
9. Martin Olsen
Marty Olsen is an Ob/Gyn physician running to represent Tennessee's 1st Congressional District because the current representative voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, amongst other reasons. Voters taking a look at Olsen might also want to take a look at issues related to water pollution as well, as the lowering of runoff standards for construction projects — along with other issues — has had an impact on the state's water quality.
10. Kyle Horton
Dr. Kyle Horton is a Doctor of internal medicine running to represent North Carolina's 7th Congressional District with an interest in protecting health care and the quality of water in the state, amongst other concerns. Voters taking a look at Horton should also consider arsenic and lead seeping into waterways, the legacy of coal ash, and what it might take to protect red wolves from extinction.
It's also worth noting that if either Horton, Tipirneni, or Schrier are elected, they will represent the first female doctor ever elected to Congress.
Above: a sunset in Michigan.
11. Lauren Underwood
Lauren Underwood is a registered nurse and health policy expert running to represent Illinois's 14th Congressional District. She's interested in tackling mental health care and — per Ballotpedia — is interested in pursuing "a fully funded and appropriately staffed Environmental Protection Agency with authority to regulate, monitor and enforce standards associated with the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and other safeguards to promote health, safety and our environment."
Voters taking a look at Underwood might also want to take a look at how 'green' something like the Illinois Research and Development Corridor happens to be.
12. Matt Longjohn
Matt Longjohn — a physician — is running to represent Michigan's 6th District after someone told him at an event to avoid telling folks that physical exercise was good for your health. He believes that — per WMUK — "health should be part of policies such transportation, infrastructure and taxes, in order to bend the cost curve on health care." This is a position someone might have if you take the time to take a holistic account of the health of a region, as the city of Boston did a few years ago (a topic which was mentioned passingly here.)
In addition to considering the state of Michigan's water, voters looking at Longjohn also might want to take into consideration the fact that his opponent is a climate change denier.
Above: a Montana landscape
13. Jeff van Drew
Jeff van Drew is a dentist running to represent New Jersey's 2nd Congressional District. He is interested in pursuing common ground and making college more affordable, amongst other items of interest.
Voters taking a look at van Drew might also be interested in taking a look at climate change, given that the 2nd Congressional District has a shoreline, and it might want to take a look at storm runoff, given the fact that there is more concrete in New Jersey than anywhere else in the country.
14. Kathleen Williams
Kathleen Williams — who has worked previously for the Environmental Quality Council (you can get a sense of some of their work here, courtesy of MTPR) and Montana's Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks — is running to represent Montana's At-Large Congressional District. She gives an impression of being particularly amenable to details, telling Buzzfeed in a lengthy profile, "When you've helped someone with their water rights, it's like you've helped raise their children."
Voters taking a look at Williams might also want to take a look at land use, where Williams's opponent has introduced a bill that would open up 690,000 acres to logging and mining.
15. Steve Ferrara
Steve Ferrara is lone Republican on this list. He's running in Arizona's 9th district. He has a background as an endovascular surgeon and is the former Chief Medical Officer of the U.S. Navy. He's mindful of the gap between the importance of healthcare in someone's life and the fact that there are only ten physicians currently in the House of Representatives.
Arizona voters looking at Ferrara will also have to consider how their representatives will vote on a drought contingency plan that could come up in January.
How would the ability to genetically customize children change society? Sci-fi author Eugene Clark explores the future on our horizon in Volume I of the "Genetic Pressure" series.
- A new sci-fi book series called "Genetic Pressure" explores the scientific and moral implications of a world with a burgeoning designer baby industry.
- It's currently illegal to implant genetically edited human embryos in most nations, but designer babies may someday become widespread.
- While gene-editing technology could help humans eliminate genetic diseases, some in the scientific community fear it may also usher in a new era of eugenics.
Tribalism and discrimination<p>One question the "Genetic Pressure" series explores: What would tribalism and discrimination look like in a world with designer babies? As designer babies grow up, they could be noticeably different from other people, potentially being smarter, more attractive and healthier. This could breed resentment between the groups—as it does in the series.</p><p>"[Designer babies] slowly find that 'everyone else,' and even their own parents, becomes less and less tolerable," author Eugene Clark told Big Think. "Meanwhile, everyone else slowly feels threatened by the designer babies."</p><p>For example, one character in the series who was born a designer baby faces discrimination and harassment from "normal people"—they call her "soulless" and say she was "made in a factory," a "consumer product." </p><p>Would such divisions emerge in the real world? The answer may depend on who's able to afford designer baby services. If it's only the ultra-wealthy, then it's easy to imagine how being a designer baby could be seen by society as a kind of hyper-privilege, which designer babies would have to reckon with. </p><p>Even if people from all socioeconomic backgrounds can someday afford designer babies, people born designer babies may struggle with tough existential questions: Can they ever take full credit for things they achieve, or were they born with an unfair advantage? To what extent should they spend their lives helping the less fortunate? </p>
Sexuality dilemmas<p>Sexuality presents another set of thorny questions. If a designer baby industry someday allows people to optimize humans for attractiveness, designer babies could grow up to find themselves surrounded by ultra-attractive people. That may not sound like a big problem.</p><p>But consider that, if designer babies someday become the standard way to have children, there'd necessarily be a years-long gap in which only some people are having designer babies. Meanwhile, the rest of society would be having children the old-fashioned way. So, in terms of attractiveness, society could see increasingly apparent disparities in physical appearances between the two groups. "Normal people" could begin to seem increasingly ugly.</p><p>But ultra-attractive people who were born designer babies could face problems, too. One could be the loss of body image. </p><p>When designer babies grow up in the "Genetic Pressure" series, men look like all the other men, and women look like all the other women. This homogeneity of physical appearance occurs because parents of designer babies start following trends, all choosing similar traits for their children: tall, athletic build, olive skin, etc. </p><p>Sure, facial traits remain relatively unique, but everyone's more or less equally attractive. And this causes strange changes to sexual preferences.</p><p>"In a society of sexual equals, they start looking for other differentiators," he said, noting that violet-colored eyes become a rare trait that genetically engineered humans find especially attractive in the series.</p><p>But what about sexual relationships between genetically engineered humans and "normal" people? In the "Genetic Pressure" series, many "normal" people want to have kids with (or at least have sex with) genetically engineered humans. But a minority of engineered humans oppose breeding with "normal" people, and this leads to an ideology that considers engineered humans to be racially supreme. </p>
Regulating designer babies<p>On a policy level, there are many open questions about how governments might legislate a world with designer babies. But it's not totally new territory, considering the West's dark history of eugenics experiments.</p><p>In the 20th century, the U.S. conducted multiple eugenics programs, including immigration restrictions based on genetic inferiority and forced sterilizations. In 1927, for example, the Supreme Court ruled that forcibly sterilizing the mentally handicapped didn't violate the Constitution. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes wrote, "… three generations of imbeciles are enough." </p><p>After the Holocaust, eugenics programs became increasingly taboo and regulated in the U.S. (though some states continued forced sterilizations <a href="https://www.uvm.edu/~lkaelber/eugenics/" target="_blank">into the 1970s</a>). In recent years, some policymakers and scientists have expressed concerns about how gene-editing technologies could reanimate the eugenics nightmares of the 20th century. </p><p>Currently, the U.S. doesn't explicitly ban human germline genetic editing on the federal level, but a combination of laws effectively render it <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jlb/advance-article/doi/10.1093/jlb/lsaa006/5841599#204481018" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">illegal to implant a genetically modified embryo</a>. Part of the reason is that scientists still aren't sure of the unintended consequences of new gene-editing technologies. </p><p>But there are also concerns that these technologies could usher in a new era of eugenics. After all, the function of a designer baby industry, like the one in the "Genetic Pressure" series, wouldn't necessarily be limited to eliminating genetic diseases; it could also work to increase the occurrence of "desirable" traits. </p><p>If the industry did that, it'd effectively signal that the <em>opposites of those traits are undesirable. </em>As the International Bioethics Committee <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jlb/advance-article/doi/10.1093/jlb/lsaa006/5841599#204481018" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">wrote</a>, this would "jeopardize the inherent and therefore equal dignity of all human beings and renew eugenics, disguised as the fulfillment of the wish for a better, improved life."</p><p><em>"Genetic Pressure Volume I: Baby Steps"</em><em> by Eugene Clark is <a href="http://bigth.ink/38VhJn3" target="_blank">available now.</a></em></p>
The father of all giant sea bugs was recently discovered off the coast of Java.
- A new species of isopod with a resemblance to a certain Sith lord was just discovered.
- It is the first known giant isopod from the Indian Ocean.
- The finding extends the list of giant isopods even further.
The ocean depths are home to many creatures that some consider to be unnatural.<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzU2NzY4My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNTUwMzg0NX0.BTK3zVeXxoduyvXfsvp4QH40_9POsrgca_W5CQpjVtw/img.png?width=980" id="b6fb0" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2739ec50d9f9a3bd0058f937b6d447ac" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1512" data-height="2224" />
What benefit does this find have for science? And is it as evil as it looks?<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="7XqcvwWp" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="8506fcd195866131efb93525ae42dec4"> <div id="botr_7XqcvwWp_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7XqcvwWp-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/7XqcvwWp-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7XqcvwWp-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>The discovery of a new species is always a cause for celebration in zoology. That this is the discovery of an animal that inhabits the deeps of the sea, one of the least explored areas humans can get to, is the icing on the cake.</p><p>Helen Wong of the National University of Singapore, who co-authored the species' description, explained the importance of the discovery:</p><p>"The identification of this new species is an indication of just how little we know about the oceans. There is certainly more for us to explore in terms of biodiversity in the deep sea of our region." </p><p>The animal's visual similarity to Darth Vader is a result of its compound eyes and the curious shape of its <a href="https://lkcnhm.nus.edu.sg/research/sjades2018/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer dofollow" style="">head</a>. However, given the location of its discovery, the bottom of the remote seas, it may be associated with all manner of horrifically evil Elder Things and <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cthulhu" target="_blank" rel="dofollow">Great Old Ones</a>. <em></em></p>
We look back at a year ravaged by a global pandemic, economic downturn, political turmoil and the ever-worsening climate crisis.
Billions are at risk of missing out on the digital leap forward, as growing disparities challenge the social fabric.
Image: Global Risks Report 2021<h3>Widespread effects</h3><p>"The immediate human and economic costs of COVID-19 are severe," the report says. "They threaten to scale back years of progress on reducing global poverty and inequality and further damage social cohesion and global cooperation."</p><p>For those reasons, the pandemic demonstrates why infectious diseases hits the top of the impact list. Not only has COVID-19 led to widespread loss of life, it is holding back economic development in some of the poorest parts of the world, while amplifying wealth inequalities across the globe.</p><p>At the same time, there are concerns the fight against the pandemic is taking resources away from other critical health challenges - including a <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/09/charts-covid19-malnutrition-educaion-mental-health-children-world/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">disruption to measles vaccination programmes</a>.</p>
A new study explains how a chaotic region just outside a black hole's event horizon might provide a virtually endless supply of energy.
- In 1969, the physicist Roger Penrose first proposed a way in which it might be possible to extract energy from a black hole.
- A new study builds upon similar ideas to describe how chaotic magnetic activity in the ergosphere of a black hole may produce vast amounts of energy, which could potentially be harvested.
- The findings suggest that, in the very distant future, it may be possible for a civilization to survive by harnessing the energy of a black hole rather than a star.
The ergosphere<p>The ergosphere is a region just outside a black hole's event horizon, the boundary of a black hole beyond which nothing, not even light, can escape. But light and matter just outside the event horizon, in the ergosphere, would also be affected by the immense gravity of the black hole. Objects in this zone would spin in the same direction as the black hole at incredibly fast speeds, similar to objects floating around the center of a whirlpool.</p><p>The Penrose process states, in simple terms, that an object could enter the ergosphere and break into two pieces. One piece would head toward the event horizon, swallowed by the black hole. But if the other piece managed to escape the ergosphere, it could emerge with more energy than it entered with.</p><p>The movie "Interstellar" provides an example of the Penrose process. Facing a fuel shortage on a deep-space mission, the crew makes a last-ditch effort to return home by entering the ergosphere of a blackhole, ditching part of their spacecraft, and "slingshotting" away from the black hole with vast amounts of energy.</p><p>In a recent study published in the American Physical Society's <a href="https://journals.aps.org/prd/abstract/10.1103/PhysRevD.103.023014" target="_blank" style="">Physical Review D</a><em>, </em>physicists Luca Comisso and Felipe A. Asenjo used similar ideas to describe another way energy could be extracted from a black hole. The idea centers on the magnetic fields of black holes.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Black holes are commonly surrounded by a hot 'soup' of plasma particles that carry a magnetic field," Comisso, a research scientist at Columbia University and lead study author, told <a href="https://news.columbia.edu/energy-particles-magnetic-fields-black-holes" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Columbia News</a>.</p>
Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration<p>While there might not be immediate applications for the theory, it could help scientists better understand and observe black holes. On an abstract level, the findings may expand the limits of what scientists imagine is possible in deep space.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Thousands or millions of years from now, humanity might be able to survive around a black hole without harnessing energy from stars," Comisso said. "It is essentially a technological problem. If we look at the physics, there is nothing that prevents it."</p>
A popular and longstanding wave of thought in psychology and psychotherapy is that diagnosis is not relevant for practitioners in those fields.