Friday's science stories

Nov 19, 2020 - Science

Biden's Day 1 challenges: Trust in science

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The American public's divided trust in science is a foundational crisis that Joe Biden will have to address in order to tackle the other crises awaiting him on Day 1, including a raging pandemic and climate change.

Why it matters: Partisan divides, eroded confidence and an exodus of experts from the federal government could hinder responses to both COVID-19 and climate change.

The tricky ethics of neurotechnologies

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

As the science of brain-computer interfaces (BCI) and other neurotechnologies progresses, researchers are calling for ethical guidelines to be established now — before the technology fully matures.

Why it matters: We’re still far away from technologies that fully access and even read the human brain, but the sheer power of such tools — and the highly personal data they could gather — means society needs to determine what they should do before they actually can do it.

Reach out to beat the pandemic winter blues

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

This season could bring exceptionally bad winter blues — and even worse mental health conditions.

The big picture: The pandemic already is causing stress, anxiety and growing mental health disorders — and it could get worse with COVID fatigue, seasonal affective disorder and holiday-related depression, experts warn. But there are steps you can take to alleviate the dangers.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Nov 19, 2020 - Science

The collapsing Arecibo Observatory is beyond repair

Arecibo Observatory's 305-meter telescope in November of 2020. Photo: University of Central Florida

The famous 350-meter Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico will not be fixed after multiple accidents left the telescope unstable and on the brink of collapse, according to the National Science Foundation.

Why it matters: Arecibo has contributed to myriad space science advancements for decades. The telescope provided data that helped scientists find the first planet confirmed outside of our solar system, and it has been key to the hunt for intelligent life elsewhere in the universe.

Nov 19, 2020 - Health

Coronavirus vaccines' surprising effectiveness

Data: CDC, Moderna and Pfizer; Note: Flu vaccine based on yearly average from 2009-2019. Moderna and Pfizer coronavirus vaccine efficacy based on early clinical trial data. Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

The leading coronavirus vaccines are shaping up to be on par with some of the most effective vaccines in medicine.

Why it matters: Vaccines with efficacy rates of about 95% — which both Pfizer and Moderna say they've achieved — will be more powerful weapons against the coronavirus than many experts had anticipated.