Fighting Back Against Climate Denialism and Fake News… and a Pink Pineapple | Vol. 4 / No. 8

Despite The Donald’s use of the word “unpresidented,” this week’s top quote goes to California Governor Jerry Brown who says that if NASA isn’t allowed to collect climate data, California will launch its “own damn satellites.” This and more, in the news roundup for Sunday, December 18, 2016.

Fighting Back

The coming Trump presidency is likely to be an anti-scientific one, to say the least. Take transition team member Anthony Scaramucci, who recently informed all of us that Climate Change will be debunked like the flat Earth theory, and that scientists have been wrong many times in the Earth’s 5500 years of existence. See also Trump’s pick to run the EPA, Scott Pruitt, who does not seem to believe that the scientific community is in consensus about the fact that global warming is human-caused. See also the plan to defund the Earth sciences portion of NASA’s budget. No matter how you look at it, any federal commitments to study climate change are going up in smoke. But there’s hope.

In Toronto this week, the first in a series of Internet Archive-sponsored “guerilla archiving” programs took place, with volunteers downloading and archiving any climate data they could get their hands on. The thought is that during a Trump presidency, that data may become much harder to access, if at all, so it’ll need to be preserved and posted accessibly elsewhere for the science to continue. There will be other events like it in the coming weeks. Meanwhile in California, Governor Jerry Brown gave a speech this week to the American Geophysical Union that if the federal government were to discontinue the collection of climate data from orbit, California would “launch its own damn satellite” to collect the data itself. The Atlantic has the whole video and a blow-by-blow of the highlights that’s worth checking out. All is not lost, even if things are going to get harder.

 

Now if only they'd add an "it's snake oil" reporting option for ads... | Photo: Facebook
Now if only they’d add an “it’s snake oil” reporting option for ads… | Photo: Facebook

Fighting Fake News

In other heartening news, the fight against lies masquerading as news took a couple of positive steps this week as well.

In the above video, Facebook reveals the new features it’s activating to try to fight the spread of lies on their site. Among other things, it creates a system for reporting fakes that sends them to third-party fact-checkers. Plus, rather than deleting the links, it flags them as “disputed by third parties” and gives you warnings before you try to share them. It may not work against the most die-hard partisans, who may see the flagging as “just another liberal media conspiracy” (you know, those people who keep trying to use “facts” to disagree with what they “already know”), but for the well-meaning but lacking in source-criticism skills, it should come as a useful tool. You can read more about the new features here.

And in a small-but-pithy move against another purveyor of lies on the internet, the Washington Post has created a chrome extension called RealDonaldContext that fact-checks The Donald’s tweets right then and there.

 

Like this, but pink | Photo: Kyle McDonald, CC BY 2.0
Like this, but pink | Photo: Kyle McDonald, CC BY 2.0

Pink Pineapples

And finally, in news that is sure to bother the anti-GMO crowd (and make no difference to anyone else), this week the FDA approved the sale of a pineapple genetically engineered to be, well, pink. The new variety of pineapple, dubbed “Rosé” by Del Monte, has pink flesh as a result of knocking out a few genes dedicated to the production of an enzyme that targets lycopene. Lycopene, the stuff that makes your tomatoes red, is present in pineapples, but in much smaller amounts because the majority of it is turned into beta-carotene by those enzymes I mentioned. By turning down the action of those enzymes, you get a pineapple that’s got more lycopene and less beta-carotene — making it pinker — as well as a sweeter pineapple (an effect rather less related to its colour than you might suppose). Beta-carotene is something your body can use to make vitamin A, so these new pineapples are less nutritious in that sense, but there are studies (which I’m a little skeptical of at present) suggesting a possible positive health effect of lycopene regarding strokes. But don’t just eat high-sugar fruits and expect not to get strokes, that’s not how the world works (sorry). Anyway, we should start seeing them in stores soon, I suppose.

 

ICYMI

You might’ve noticed that there were fewer stories on here in the past few weeks. It’s not because I don’t love you all — I do, actually — but because I’ve been pouring all my time and effort into one of my day jobs, being the Deputy Managing Editor of Ledger, the world’s first peer-reviewed journal dedicated entirely to cryptocurrency and blockchain technology research. The first volume should be out this week, so watch this space and I’ll get you more information when it hits the interwebs. In the meantime, here’s the stories we got to this week.

If you missed them, go give them a look.

 

Best of the Rest

And of course there’s always more we couldn’t get to, so here it is, your weekly linkspam:

 

And lastly, just in case you want to watch a video of almost crystalline loneliness, here’s a commercial for a little anime AI “wife” for what must be the saddest, most lonely human being on the planet. Yes it’s real.

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That’s all for today folks, thanks for reading! Except for the very *very* occasional tip (we take Venmo now!), I only get paid in my own (and your) enthusiasm, so please like This Week In Tomorrow on Facebook, follow me on Twitter @TWITomorrow, and tell your friends about the site!

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Richard Ford Burley is a human, writer, and doctoral candidate at Boston College, as well as Deputy Managing Editor at Ledger, the first academic journal devoted to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. In his spare time he writes about science, skepticism, feminism, and futurism here at This Week In Tomorrow.

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