Daily Dose - 4/7/2020

A rundown of science news from across disciplines

If you love someone, set them free. Yes, even if the someone you love is an axe-murderer hellbent on massacre that you keep locked away in a panic room under your house after his last bloody rampage. Set him free. Do it for him but more importantly, do it for yourself. You deserve to let go, you deserve to LIVE.

Try Tinder, I know that guy Ralphio just messaged you, he looks cute. And he recommended you two go to that wine bar that just opened up. Just do it. Live a little. At the very least, you deserve a nice night out. Let the opportunity for new love be the gift you give yourself. Let the axe-weilding maniac in your basement be the curse you give the world. You know what, no, this isn’t about him or the world, this is about you and your healing. Just open those seven consecutive fingerprint-scanner doors and with that, open the door to your new life. He’s not your problem anymore.

Put on that Reformation dress you just bought and you go to that wine bar girl! Oh you look incredible. Ugh when’s the last time you just let GO and had FUN. Honestly I’m so excited for you. And if you so happen to see news tomorrow morning of tens of locals either missing or found dismembered, you know what, NOT your problem any more. 2020 is the year you do you. That’s right, whatever your serial killer ex does or doesn’t do is NOT. YOUR. PROBLEM. ANY. MORE. He is a problem, to be sure, but not YOUR problem. What he does or doesn’t do with his axe is his business and honestly you can deal without the muffled bangs of him trying to break through the reinforced steel walls at night, not to MENTION all of the lying and intentional misleading of local authorities.

You know what, you should go on that coffee date with that girl from work, she seems cute too. Yeah, that’s the spirit. This is exciting, this is gonna be a great year for you I can feel it. Also, how did you afford that panic room? Hey hey, someone just gotta raise. Go treat yourself. I’m proud of you. Oh by the way, welcome to the Daily Dose.

In today’s news: COVID-19 disparities and old ass whale sharks.

COVID-19 & Black Populations

Emerging statistics are showing that Black populations are being disproportionately infected by COVID-19, and are dying at higher rates in proportion to population. Today Los Angeles County released a partial breakdown of racial demographic data for 93 of the 167 deaths in-county resulting from COVID-19, showing that while African Americans make up 9% of the county’s populations, in the data available they accounted for 17% of the county’s deaths. According to the Illinois Department of Public Health African Americans in Illinois made up 29% of confirmed cases and 41% of deaths as of today, yet are only 15% of the state’s population. In Chicago specifically, African Americans make up 23% of the population yet comprise 58% of deaths. In Michigan, African Americans comprised 33% of cases and 40% of deaths, while only 14% of Michigan’s population.

This pandemic—as in other public health emergencies—has revealed the wide disparities that Black populations face both in America and globally with regard to public health, as well as the ways these systemic inequalities compound upon one another in times of crisis. For example, Black Americans are disproportionately affected by diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, and other chronic conditions, and as I’ve discussed here before, pre-existing conditions are a main contributing factor to increased hospitalization and mortality in those affected by COVID-19. This significance only grows when faced with the fact that African Americans already face an increased mortality rate resulting from respiratory conditions.

As several reports have already noted, a significant lack of demographic breakdowns of those infected with and and those who have died from COVID-19 is also contributing to the disparity. The Center of Disease Control (CDC) notably has hereto released and broken down data based on age, gender and location, but not based on race or ethnicity, even though this data is being collected and reported to them from patients’ medical records. This action that has made it exceedingly difficult for medical professionals, public health experts, and government officials to adequately distribute resources and take adequate response measures. Only 9 states so far have released racial and ethnic breakdowns of COVID-19 infections and mortality rates, including Connecticut, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Old Ass Radioactive Sharks (Syfy Channel, Get On That)

Radioisotopes from thermonuclear tests in the 50s and 60s are helping us determine how old whale sharks are, so, silver lining I guess?

Rhincodon typus aka the whale shark, in addition to being arguably the cutest fish, is also the largest fish, growing up to near 60 feet in length and weighing in at around 40,000 lbs on average. I will take a quick pause here to say that Rhincodon typus is the absolute cutest name I’ve ever heard, and though I’m loathe to make a Harry Potter comparison on any platform or in any situation, it absolutely does sound like the name of a sweet yet dawdling young wizard who probably specializes in like botany magic or something.

Anyways, despite its cuteness, the whale shark is presently an endangered species due to over-fishing in certain key areas, and conservation efforts have been made more difficult due to a previous inability to assess basic demographic information such as age. Especially in sharks, age is an essential piece of information for conservation of endangered species, in part because missing or incorrect information on how long a species lives can throw off breeding, management, and recovery programs entirely. If you don’t know how long a shark lives, it makes it much more difficult to tell how many of the sharks you’re tracking are currently alive or are able to reproduce.

In most sharks, age determination is done by counting growth bands formed by depositions in a deceased shark’s vertebrae, however in whale sharks this has been difficult for experts to determine because of uncertainty around whether their bands are formed annually or biannually. That’s where the bombs come in.

From the 1950s to 1960s, several nations around the ground engaged in above-ground thermonuclear weapons testing around the world. One notable side effect of these tests was the release of massive amounts of the radioactive isotope carbon-14 into the atmosphere, which even now nearly doubles the amount of previously naturally-occurring levels. The excess carbon-14 in the atmosphere then cycled into the oceans and filtered through the food chain into most marine organisms living today. This provided a darkly useful resource for the authors of a study published this week in Frontiers of Marine Science. By comparing the naturally occurring amounts of carbon-14 that naturally accumulates in the bones of marine vertebrates, and given that, the vertebral deposition bands in sharks, vs the spike in carbon-14 in sharks that were alive at the time of these thermonuclear tests, the researchers could establish a reliable baseline of just how quickly these bands were forming, and thus a reliable measure of their age. The team found was able to reliably assess the age of two deceased whale shark specimens to around 50 years of age, however the researchers also noted that if the model they used was applied to other samples collected and reported by other researchers, the maximum age for whale sharks could be anywhere between 100 to 150 years old.

So, while the whale shark is still adorable beyond measure, I will be amending my former romantic portrait of him. I will now think of my sweet Rhincodon Typus (Typy, as I call him) as a dawdling old wizard who probably specializes in like botany magic or something. It’s important to mention that whale sharks mostly filter feed on plankton, so they assuredly do have some interest in botany magic or something, and I’m comfortable saying that here. So next time you see a photo or video of Old Typy just dawdling around the ocean, sippin’ plankton, old as fuck, just think, “He is wiser than I will ever know, show me your plant spells you giant, beautiful, glossy-eyed sage.”

credit: here

In today’s personal news: shit’s rough! End of personal news.

Love ya nerds. Stay safe, be well, FaceTime your friends, have a glass of wine you earned it xoxo