Whatever and Ever Today: Thursday, March 21, 2013

Credit: Gawker Media

FROM THE DESK of BLAKE J. GRAHAM // In The Airspace’s mission to expose the most promising and important stories in technology, culture, and scholarship, there is little room to talk about the daily churn of current events known as the news. Well, today we’re trying our hand at news for the first time. “Whatever and Ever Today” is a recap of the day’s noteworthy events. It’s a mix of important stories as well as some curios you might normally find in our Commentary Ticker. Each piece is distilled to its essential parts and explained as simply as possible. Instead of combing through dozens of 1300 word articles, you can devour the news in a matter of minutes. Think of it as a daily briefing hand-picked and produced to keep you informed.


Credit: ESA Planck Collaboration

One Funny Looking Child

The European Space Agency’s Planck mission has uncovered some naked baby photos of the universe. From looking at the wee little cosmos, scientists have determined the universe is 100 million years older than previously thought; expanding slower than anticipated; made out of a different mix of matter, dark matter, and dark energy; and also a little bit fat and lopsided. The light collected by the Planck mission (in the form of radiation) shows the universe when it was only 380,000 years old. Analysis of the image shows that the universe is made of 4.9 percent normal matter, 26.8 percent dark matter, and 68.3 percent dark energy. Which means that the universe is still mostly composed of things we can’t feel, see, or truly understand. The most interesting finding is its fat lopsidedness. The image shows differences in temperature fluctuations. And when the universe was formed, it would make sense for the fluctuations to be perfectly random and evenly distributed. But for some reason, they’re not. This could mean that dark energy changes over time, or even more exiting a theory: the lopsided fluctuations are an imprint of something from before the big bang. Please sit down lest your head explode.

Dubya, The Sensitive Puppy Painter

Gawker media has uncovered even more of President George W. Bush’s paintings. This round includes a watermelon, people on a putting green, landscapes, still life, architecture, a Sheepdog with a ball, a Corgi and a Lab defying physics, and a pensive hound staring into the distance in front of the White House. While the images were acquired in a less-than-legal way (stolen from private email accounts by a hacker), the 43rd President’s brushwork remains inspiring. What’s a war matter anyhow if the man painted this many puppies?

Credit: Michael Nagle for The New York Times

When Cells Fight Back (For Good)

A new highly experimental, but very promising form of cancer treatment that uses a patient’s own immune T cells to fight the disease has had excellent results in eliminating acute leukemia. The treatment “rewires” white blood T cells to attack B cells which are affected in lymphoblastic leukemia. This treatment is similar to one that was successful on a 7-year-old girl in 2012. Improvements in this form of therapy have helped a test group of adults whose cancer was resistant to chemotherapy. For one patient, all traces of leukemia disappeared in only 8 days. “We’re creating living drugs,” said Dr. Michel Sadelain, the senior author of the new study and director of the Center for Cell Engineering and the Gene Transfer and Gene Expression Laboratory at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan. “It’s an exciting story that’s just beginning.”

Credit: The New York Times

Plan B: Cyprus Hopes Russia Can Save Their Ass

The island of Cyprus took a heavy hit economic after being exposed to bad Greek debt. Nine months ago, the country requested a bail out from the “troika,” which consists of the European Union (EU), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Central Bank (ECB). On March 16th, the euro-zone finance ministers, led by the Germans, offered a €10 billion ($13 billion) bail-out. As generous as this seems, it’s still €5.8 billion short of amount needed. In a desperate grab to raise the money, the government proposed a one time tax on bank depositors. Accounts over the €100,000 insurance-guarantee limit would pay 9.9 percent, and those below would pay 6.75 percent on deposits below the cut-off. All hell broke lose and Cypriots and Russian investors who control 25 percent of finances in Cyprus rushed to pull money from their accounts waiting for hours lined up at ATMs. That is until the government closed all the banks. To stack the troubles higher, the ECB threatened to pull all emergency funding unless the the total bail-out was reached. In a desperate move, Cypriot officials have turned to Russia for the missing money. The island has “undeveloped offshore gas fields” that could possibly become a major energy source for Europe. It seems like the only Plan B involves Russia’s state owned gas giant Gazprom taking over the gas fields and bailing Cyprus out. Otherwise it’s looking like total economic collapse for the island.

Commentary Ticker

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