PICKS are stories from many sources, selected by our editors or recommended by our readers because they are important, surprising, troubling, enlightening, inspiring, or amusing. They appear on our site and in our daily newsletter. Please send suggested articles, videos, podcasts, etc. to picks@whowhatwhy.org.

Hot Poles: Antarctica, Arctic 70 and 50 Degrees Above Normal (Maria)

The author writes, “Earth’s poles are undergoing simultaneous freakish extreme heat, with parts of Antarctica more than 70 degrees (40 degrees Celsius) warmer than average and areas of the Arctic more than 50 degrees (30 degrees Celsius) warmer than average. Weather stations in Antarctica shattered records Friday as the region neared autumn. … Both [University of Wisconsin meteorologist Matthew] Lazzara and [National Snow and Ice Data Center scientist Walt] Meier said what happened in Antarctica is probably just a random weather event and not a sign of climate change. But if it happens again or repeatedly, then it might be … part of global warming, they said.”

The Weakness of the Despot (Sean)

The author writes, “Stephen Kotkin is one of our most profound and prodigious scholars of Russian history. His masterwork is a biography of Joseph Stalin. … Both principled and pragmatic, he is also more plugged in than any reporter or analyst I know. Ever since we met in Moscow, many years ago — Kotkin was doing research on the Stalinist industrial city of Magnitogorsk — I’ve found his guidance on everything from the structure of the Putin regime to its roots in Russian history to be invaluable. Earlier this week, I spoke with Kotkin about Putin, the invasion of Ukraine, the American and European response, and what comes next, including the possibility of a palace coup in Moscow.”

A Russian Lawmaker Wants Alaska Back. ‘Good Luck With That!’ (Reader Steve)

From the Anchorage Daily News: “A Russian parliament member has called for the return of Alaska to Russia, prompting a quick dismissal from Alaska politicians and others. The statement came as Russian President Vladimir Putin has attempted to rewrite history in an effort to explain away his war in Ukraine. But Russia has not seriously considered reclaiming Alaska since the territory was sold to the U.S. for $7.2 million in 1867, and Putin himself indicated in 2014 that he had no interest in retaking Alaska. Still, on a … news program in Russia, parliament member Oleg Matveychev included Alaska in a list of demands in response to the war in Ukraine and the economic harm caused to the country by U.S. sanctions.”

Five People Charged With Acting as Chinese Government Agents to Spy on and Harass US Residents Critical of Beijing (DonkeyHotey)

The authors write, “Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn have charged five people with acting on behalf of the Chinese secret police to stalk, spy on and harass U.S. residents critical of Beijing, officials announced Wednesday. The defendants were charged in three separate cases brought by the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York as part of the Justice Department’s new strategy to counter nation-state threats.A major focus of the strategy is fighting transnational repression by authoritarian governments.”

Antigenic Evolution Will Lead to New SARS-CoV-2 Variants With Unpredictable Severity (Doug)

From Nature: “The comparatively milder infections with the Omicron variant and higher levels of population immunity have raised hopes for a weakening of the pandemic. We argue that the lower severity of Omicron is a coincidence and that ongoing rapid antigenic evolution is likely to produce new variants that may escape immunity and be more severe.”

In an Effort to Rid the World of Fossil Fuels, an MIT Spinoff Plans to Dig the Deepest Holes on Earth (Reader Jim)

From The Boston Globe: “Miles below ground, where pressures are intense and temperatures far exceed the boiling point, dense layers of super-hot rocks offer the promise of a natural, inexhaustible supply of clean energy. Environmentalists have long dreamed of a way to reach those depths to tap the potential geothermal energy in those rocks, but the technological and financial barriers have been too great. Now, officials at an MIT spinoff say they’ve figured out how to drill as deep as 12 miles into the Earth’s crust, using a special laser that they say is powerful enough to blast through granite and basalt like a knife through soft butter.”

Biotech Company Offers Money for Poop in Arizona (Dana)

The author writes, “Seres Therapeutics, a biotech company, has opened a donor collection facility to collect poop for cash in Arizona. The company operates GoodNature, which has set up shop in Tempe and is asking for donations of poop that can earn donors at least $25 and up to $75 per sample. ‘Everyone has to do their business. Make sure yours does some good,’ the GoodNature website states.”

Comments are closed.