Science: The rise (and fall?) of America
From Abraham Lincoln's founding of the National Academy of Sciences in 1863, to the US currently leading the world in the Nobel Prize count (a third of which we owe to immigrants), America was built on science. What happens when we doubt and defund it?
Neil deGrasse Tyson was born and raised in New York City where he was educated in the public schools clear through his graduation from the Bronx High School of Science. Tyson went on to earn his BA in Physics from Harvard and his PhD in Astrophysics from Columbia. He is the first occupant of the Frederick P. Rose Directorship of the Hayden Planetarium. His professional research interests are broad, but include star formation, exploding stars, dwarf galaxies, and the structure of our Milky Way. Tyson obtains his data from the Hubble Space Telescope, as well as from telescopes in California, New Mexico, Arizona, and in the Andes Mountains of Chile.Tyson is the recipient of nine honorary doctorates and the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal. His contributions to the public appreciation of the cosmos have been recognized by the International Astronomical Union in their official naming of asteroid "13123 Tyson".
Tyson's new book is Letters From an Astrophysicist (2019).
Neil deGrasse Tyson: I have to chuckle a little bit when I'm approached by anybody, but in particular journalists, and say, “Are scientist worried that the public is in denial of science or is cherry-picking it?” And I chuckle not because it's funny but because they're coming to me as a scientist when they should be going to everyone. Everyone should be concerned by this, not just scientists. In fact, scientists will just continue as they're doing. You might withdraw funding, but then there isn't any science done—okay.
You are transforming your civilization if you choose to either stand in denial of science or withdraw science funding from those who are actually doing the research. Everything we care deeply about that defines modern civilization pivots on innovations in science, technology, engineering and the math that is the foundational language for it all. Everything: transportation, your health, your communication through smart phones that talk to GPS satellites to find out where Grandma is. To make a left turn to find her address or the nearest Starbucks. Whatever is your need, whatever is your want, the emergent innovations in science and technology are not only enabling it, they are creating for you solutions to challenges you always lived with but never thought that they could be solved.
The message is clear: if you do not understand what science is and how and why it works—by the way, I'm not even blaming you. I look back as an educator, I look back to K through 12, kindergarten through 12th grade, and I say there's something missing there. If you, as an educated adult, can say, "This is what these scientists agree to, but I don't agree with them." If that sentence even comes out of your mouth it's like: oh my gosh.
Okay, well, we live in a free country, you can say and think what you want. I'm not even going to stop you. But if you rise to power and have influence over legislation and that legislation references what you think science is but is not, that is a recipe for the unraveling of an informed democracy. So I'm not even going to blame you. It's not your fault. I'm an educator. Let's go back to K through 12.
Somewhere in there while you're learning about reading, writing, and arithmetic and while you have a class in earth science and biology and chemistry, maybe physics, somewhere in there there needs to be a class, possibly taught every year, on what it is to analyze knowledge, information, how to process facts, how to turn data into information and information into knowledge and how to turn knowledge into wisdom.
Because it is wisdom that you need to invoke when you're a leader. You need insight into not only what is going on but what will then happen in the future as a consequence of your decisions.
You know who had all of that? Abraham Lincoln. We remember him for the Civil War and slavery, two top categories that he's justifiably remembered for. You know why I also remember him? In 1863, you know what he did? By the way, that year he had plenty of other things, many other priorities in his life. 1863: middle of the Civil War, Gettysburg Address. That same year, he signed into law the National Academy of Sciences who were charged with advising the executive and the legislative branch of all the ways that science needs to be recognized as a fundamental part of what will assure the future health, wealth, and security of the nation.
By the way, Abe Lincoln was a Republican president, greatly valuing what science is going to tell him. This puts into motion a valuation of academic science that would boost the United States from a backwoods country into the world's leading economic force. And he had the wisdom, the insight, the knowledge. He knew how to think about that problem.
Today you have partisanship over what is science? Again, people somehow don't understand what science is and how and why it works. That has to be a course in the curriculum K through 12, right through college, because everyone in Congress went to college. And so if you come out of college and don't know this, we need some of that in college as well.
Now the partisanship: you hear liberals claiming the science high ground, accusing right-leaning people of science denial, generally in reference to climate change data and, as well but less frequently, teaching evolution in the biology classroom. People want to teach biblical creation. So this high ground is not as high a ground as the liberal community would want to claim, because there is a portfolio of things that for you to think that way will require that you reject some mainstream science. And in that portfolio you find people who lean left.
If you are all-in for alternative medicine, and if you're anti-GMO, if you're anti-vax, you are in denial of mainstream science—period.
So we have these two political ends of the spectrum each accusing the other of whatever, and I'm saying science has no political party.
It is true—when you establish an objective truth with the methods and tools of science, it is true no matter what political party you are, what your philosophies are, what religion you belong to, what country you're born in. That's why it's science. It may be unique among human enterprises that it transcends all of this.
Now what we need to do is recognize what science is, how and why it works and what are the objectively established scientific truths, then have the political conversation. Do you put in carbon tax or tariffs on solar panels? Should you invest in this industry? Should you subsidize it? Those have political solutions. My jaw drops open every time I see people having a political conversation, arguing about a scientific truth. We're wasting time, people. Because nature is the ultimate judge, jury, and executioner, and the whole point of science is to find out what nature is, how it works, how we can best use our knowledge of nature in the service of our needs, and the needs of others across the world.
So if this keeps up the United States will just fade, and the rest of the world that understands how to invoke scientific insight and knowledge will rise up, and we will just become irrelevant on the world stage. By the way, when you innovate your jobs don't go overseas because you are innovating here and this is where the intellectual capital for that is located. That's how that works. If you're going to complain about trade imbalances it's because you're doing what everybody else is doing and now you want to protect your jobs by putting tariffs on other people so that we can buy our own products. But if you innovate you are making products that no one else knows how to make yet. So the whole concept of tariffs, that's what you do when you're not leading. You have those conversations when you're the same as everybody and then you go into a protectionist mode.
And one last point, about immigrants: on average since 1900 about one in ten Americans was born in another country, so ten percent immigrants, average. It's fluctuated from like five percent to 14 percent, but since 1900 it averages about one in ten. The Nobel Prizes have been given since 1900. Let's ask the question: what percent of American Nobel Prizes in the sciences were won by immigrants? One third of all Nobel Prizes given to Americans since Nobel Prizes began have gone to immigrants. They are a factor of three more represented in scientific scholarship, as represented by the Nobel Prize, than they are even in the population.
How does this happen? We were leading the world in science, technology, engineering and math, so the most brilliant minds around the world were attracted to us, contributing to who and what America became. As we begin to fade, that all goes away. The brilliant minds are attracted elsewhere and America fades. It's not a cliff face, it's just a slope. Maybe so gradual you're not even thinking about it, and one day we wake up and we start running behind other countries saying, "Can we join in? Tell us how you did it." That's actually not the America I grew up in.
In 2017, science is a political tennis ball being served hard and fast. It's a buffet from which people on the left and right cherry pick their information. It's something to be believed in or doubted. Is Neil deGrasse Tyson worried? "Everyone should be concerned by this, not just a scientist," he says. The reality is, even if science research organizations have their budgets cut, and even if science loses its credibility, scientists will continue to do exactly what they're doing—it just won't be in the US. From jobs and innovation, to immigrants and global clout, Tyson expresses how an America without science will fade away. Science is not a partisan issue; it informs politics, not the other way around. So how can the US hold onto its long tradition as a scientific and economic leader? Tyson's solution is better education, and he pitches one class all schools should teach, but don't yet have. Tyson's new book is Astrophysics for People in a Hurry.
Dominique Crenn, the only female chef in America with three Michelin stars, joins Big Think Live this Thursday at 1pm ET.
Students who think the world is just cheat less, but they need to experience justice to feel that way.
- Students in German and Turkish universities who believed the world is just cheated less than their pessimistic peers.
- The tendency to think the world is just is related to the occurence of experiences of justice.
- The findings may prove useful in helping students adjust to college life.
The world is just? That’s news to a lot of people.<p>The study is the most recent addition to a long line of work focusing on the belief in justice, our behavior, and our reactions to evidence that might suggest injustice occasionally occurs. This study focuses on a personal belief in a just world, (PBJW) rather than a general belief in a just world (GBJW). The difference between them must be highlighted.</p><p>GBJW is the stance that justice prevails all over the world and that people tend to get what they deserve. PBJW is more focused on the individual's social environment and their belief that they tend to be treated justly. While several studies show PBJW correlates with a higher sense of well-being and a variety of other positive effects, a high GBJW is associated with less life satisfaction, negative behavior, and callousness towards the suffering of <a href="https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007%2F978-1-4939-3216-0" target="_blank">others</a>. This study controlled for GBJW, and focused on PBJW as much as possible. </p><p>To assure that culture was not a factor, the study included students at universities in both Germany and Turkey. </p><p>The researchers gave students at the four participating universities a series of questionnaires that asked if they ever cheated in class, if they perceived the world to be just, if they though that justice always prevailed everywhere, their tendencies towards socially appropriate behavior, their life satisfaction, and if they felt like they were treated justly by their teachers and fellow students. </p><p>The answers were statistically analyzed for relationships. While some of the connections seem trivially true, others were surprising. <strong></strong></p><p>PBJW turned out to only be an indirect predictor of if a student was likely to cheat. Both a belief in a just world and a lower likelihood of cheating were mediated by the justice experiences of the students, with more of these positive experiences lowering the rate of cheating and improving their belief in justice. This was also associated with higher levels of life satisfaction. </p><p>These effects existed across all demographics in both countries. </p>
What does this mean? Is a belief in justice a self-fulfilling prophecy?<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/6oMv-azHNCA" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p>In a way, it seems to be. People who have reason to think the world is just to them tend to interpret events in a way to sustain that belief and behave in a just manner. In a larger sense, the take away from this study is that experiences of justice, both from peers and instructors, is vital to student's wellbeing and understanding that the rules that exist about cheating are part of a larger, legitimate, system. </p><p>The researchers, citing previous studies on the perception of justice, note that "justice experiences (1) signal that university students are esteemed members of their social group, which in turn conveys feelings of belonging and social inclusion and (2) motivate them to accept and observe university rules and norms. These cognitive processes may thus strengthen their well-being and decrease the likelihood that they cheat."</p><p>The authors also suggest that if you want people (not only students) to act justly; consider treating them with "civility, respect, and dignity."</p><p>Sometimes, all it can take to help somebody act virtuously is to treat them well. Likewise, people treated harshly can rarely find reason to play by rules that don't protect them. The findings of this study will certainly add to the literature on how we perceive justice in the world around us, but might also help us remember that there are real consequences to our actions which can be much larger than we imagine. <strong></strong></p>
This could change how researchers approach vaccine development.
- The reason children suffer less from the novel coronavirus has remained mysterious.
- Researchers identified a cytokine, IL-17A, which appears to protect children from the ravages of COVID-19.
- This cytokine response could change how researchers approach vaccine development.
A member of staff wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) takes a child's temperature at the Harris Academy's Shortland's school on June 04, 2020 in London, England.
Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images<p>Experts don't want to place kids at the back of the line, regardless of how strong their immune systems appear. At least one company, Moderna, <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/coronavirus-vaccine-for-kids-moderna-plans-pediatric-trial-2020-9" target="_blank">hopes to begin testing</a> vaccines in pediatric volunteers by year's end.</p><p>Innate immune response is especially high during childhood (compared to adaptive immunity). This makes evolutionary sense: nature wants an animal to survive until its ready to procreate. Turns out the children in the study possessed high levels of cytokines that boost their immune response. The biggest impact is made by IL-17A, which appears to protect the youngest cohort from the ravages of the coronavirus. </p><p>While both age groups produced antibodies to fight off the infamous spike protein, adults that produce neutralizing antibodies actually suffer a <em>worse</em> fate. Herold says this "over-vigorous adaptive immune response" might promote inflammation, triggering acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). </p><p>This matters for vaccine development. As Herold says, </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Our adult COVID-19 patients who fared poorly had high levels of neutralizing antibodies, suggesting that convalescent plasma—which is rich in neutralizing antibodies—may not help adults who have already developed signs of ARDS. By contrast, therapies that boost innate immune responses early in the course of the disease may be especially beneficial."</p><p>Herold says current vaccine trials are focused on boosting neutralizing-antibody levels. With this new information, researchers may want to work on vaccines that boost the innate immune response instead. </p><p>With <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/science/coronavirus-vaccine-tracker.html" target="_blank">at least 55 vaccine trials</a> underway, every piece of data matters. </p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
Astronomers spot an object heading into Earth orbit.
Minimoons<p>Scientists have confirmed just two prior minimoons. One was <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2006_RH120" target="_blank">2006 RH120</a>, which orbited us from September 2006 to June 2007. The other was <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020_CD3" target="_blank">2020 CD3</a>, which got stuck in the 2015–2016 timeframe, and is believed to gotten away in May 2020.</p><p>2020 SO, the new kid on the block, is expected to arrive in October 2020 and pop out of orbit in May 2021.</p><div id="37962" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f4c0fc8a2cba6536ea4cd960ebed3e6e"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1307729521869611008" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Asteroid 2020 SO may get captured by Earth from Oct 2020 - May 2021. Current nominal trajectory shows shows capture… https://t.co/F5utxRvN6Z</div> — Tony Dunn (@Tony Dunn)<a href="https://twitter.com/tony873004/statuses/1307729521869611008">1600621989.0</a></blockquote></div>
Identifying 2020 SO<p>The first clue 2020 SO isn't your ordinary asteroid is its exceptionally low velocity. It's traveling much more slowly that a typical asteroid — their <a href="https://www.lpi.usra.edu/exploration/training/illustrations/craterMechanics/" target="_blank">average rate of travel</a> <a href="https://www.lpi.usra.edu/exploration/training/illustrations/craterMechanics/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"></a>is 18 kilometers (58,000 feet) per second. Even <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moon_rock" target="_blank">moon rocks</a> sent careening into Earth orbit by impacts on the lunar surface outpace pokey 2020 SO.</p><p>For another thing, 2020 SO has an orbital path very similar to Earth's, lasting about one Earth year. It's also just slightly less circular than our own orbit, from which it's barely tilted off-axis.</p><p>So, what is it? <a href="https://cneos.jpl.nasa.gov/ca/" target="_blank">NASA estimates</a> that the object has dimensions very reminiscent of a discarded Centaur rocket stage from the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surveyor_2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Surveyor 2 mission</a> that landed an unmanned craft on the moon. Back in the day, rocket stages were jettisoned as craft were aimed toward their desired position. This stuff, if released high enough, remains in space. It appears that this Centaur rocket, launched in September 1966, is now making its way back homeward, at least for a little bit.</p><p>When 2020 SO arrives at its closest point in December, the rocket is expected to be about 50,000 kilometers from Earth. Its next closest approach is much further: 220,000 kilometers, in February 2010.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQzMDk3NC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyODg1MTQ1MX0.HGknDwqp0GmeuczKY_AS7vrPG7KMFUc_XO95tNoI2xo/img.jpg?width=980" id="e5cda" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="85eb1f790d8c3ee5b261f7ba13eaa5e1" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Centaur rocket stage" />
Centaur rocket stage
What we may be able to learn<p>Earthly space programs being as young as they are, scientists would love to know what's happened to our rocket during a half century in space.</p><p>While 2020 SO won't get close enough to drop into our atmosphere, its slow progress has scientists hopeful that they'll still get some kind of a decent look at it.</p><p>Spectroscopy may be able to reveal what the rocket's surface is like now — has any of its paint survived, for example? Of course, being out in space, it's likely to have been hit by lots of dust and micrometeorites, so the current state of its surfaces is also of interest. Experts are curious to know how reflective the rocket is at this point, valuable information that can help planners of future long-term missions anticipate how well a craft out in space for extended periods will remain able to reflect sunlight.</p>
Researchers from the University of Toronto published a new map of cancer cells' genetic defenses against treatment.
A moving target<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQzNjQ2Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MDM3OTA0N30.z4u2eaulqRu8cslqqny8t9G7iaHr_DarbDJSFKLdDwI/img.jpg?width=980" id="21b22" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="aefbbccdf3bb0d25bf14268ab87a821f" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="IV drip" />
Credit: Marcelo Leal/Unsplash<p>Speaking to <a href="https://www.utoronto.ca/news/u-t-researchers-identify-genes-enable-cancer-evade-immune-system" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">U of T News</a>, lead author of the study molecular geneticist <a href="http://www.moleculargenetics.utoronto.ca/faculty/2014/9/30/jason-moffat" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Jason Moffat</a> of the university's <a href="https://ccbr.utoronto.ca/donnelly-centre-cellular-and-biomolecular-research" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research</a> says, "Over the last decade, different forms of immunotherapy have emerged as really potent cancer treatments, but the reality is that they only generate durable responses in a fraction of patients and not for all tumor types."</p><p>There can be a significant degree of heterogeneity between cancer cells from human to human, and even within the same person, making the development of therapies maddeningly difficult. Attempting to address potential cancer-cell vulnerabilities across these variations is a life-or-death game of whack-a-mole.</p><p>"It's an ongoing battle between the immune system and cancer, where the immune system is trying to find and kill the cancer whereas the cancer's job is to evade that killing," says Moffat.</p>
Mapping the mechanisms<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQzNjQ3Ni9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMjQ1OTM0MX0.HNtivrlU9VBYxcG9JaWKvPJ5RrBsgqd8Fw6ohfSpfh0/img.jpg?width=980" id="0faa6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="7687cdc5abe93503764c1c0401b65fd4" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Illustration: genes (red, green, and blue spots within the nuclei of HeLa cells) artificially superimposed on images of multi-well plates.
Credit: National Cancer Institute/Unsplash<p>Moffat and his colleagues decided to investigate and identify genes within cancer cells that help them defeat treatment. Co-lead author Keith Lawson of Moffat's lab explains that "it's important to not just find genes that can regulate immune evasion in one model of cancer, but what you really want are to find those genes that you can manipulate in cancer cells across many models because those are going to make the best therapeutic targets."</p><p>To accomplish this, the researchers, working with scientists at <a href="https://www.agios.com" target="_blank">Agios Pharmaceuticals</a> in Cambridge, Massachusetts, first exposed cells from breast, colon, kidney and skin cancer tumors to T cells in lab dishes. This established a baseline of their responses to treatment. Next, using CRISPR, the scientists went through the cells, exhaustively turning off one gene at a time to determine its role in immunotherapy resistance by comparing the cells' response to the T cells compared to their original baseline response.</p><p>The team identified 182 "core cancer intrinsic immune evasion genes" that affected the cells' response to T cells. The fact that some of the identified genes were already known to be involved in resistance provided the researchers with some confidence that they were on the right track.</p><p>Still, many of the genes they ID'ed had not been previously implicated. "That was really exciting to see because it means that our dataset was very rich in new biological information," says Lawson.</p>