Friday's science stories

May 21, 2020 - Science

The partisan divide of trust in scientists

Overall trust in scientists has grown in the U.S. over the past year, but that is driven by a partisan gap, according to a Pew Research Center survey released today.

By the numbers: 53% of Democrats polled in late April reported a "great deal of confidence in medical scientists to act in the public interests," compared to 37% in 2019.

May 21, 2020 - Science

Bees can force plants to flower by biting them

A bumblebee worker damaging a plant leaf. Photo: Hannier Pulido, De Moraes and Mescher Laboratories

For tens of millions of years, bees and flowers have evolved together. Flowering provides bees with food, and pollination gives plants a means of reproduction.

What's new: Bumblebee workers appear to be able to control that synchronized symbiosis by damaging the leaves of plants, according to a new study in the journal Science.

May 21, 2020 - Science

Pandemic science speeds up — but there are limits

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Scientists are responding to the coronavirus pandemic at breakneck speed, testing vaccines and dozens of treatments, but there are hard limits to how fast science can produce the answers we need.

Why it matters: The full-throttle pace of pandemic science is likely here to stay and could carry over to other fields. That means getting comfortable with the limits and drawbacks of such speed to inform the response to this crisis — and prepare for the next one.

Updated May 21, 2020 - Science

At least 80 dead after Cyclone Amphan lashed India and Bangladesh

A woman stands amidst the debris of her house damaged by cyclone Amphan in Satkhira on May Thursdau. Photo: Munir Uz Zaman/AFP via Getty Images

Cyclone Amphan killed at least 80 people as of Thursday after torrential rains and powerful winds hit eastern India and Bangladesh earlier this week, per New York Times.

Details: Kolkata, one of India's biggest cities, is among the worst-hit areas, with more than 14 million people left without power, the BBC reports. West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee described the situation as "more worrying than the coronavirus pandemic," per AFP. "Almost everything is destroyed in the coastal villages of the state," she said.

May 21, 2020 - Science

How science can prepare us for the next crisis

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Courtesy IBM Research

As a geopolitically fractured world faces a pandemic and imagines crises of a similar scale on the horizon, director of IBM Research Dario Gil says the world in this moment needs a Bretton Woods system for science.

The pitch: Drawing on the military's approach to planning for the unexpected, Gil and Harvard theoretical physicist Avi Loeb envision a volunteer Science Readiness Reserves composed of international researchers who would create an infrastructure in advance for sharing information and coordinating scientific resources when emergencies happen.

Kids are seeking mental health help but hospitals aren't ready

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Emergency departments aren't prepared for the huge increase in children seeking mental health care, according to a recent study.

The big picture: Even before the coronavirus pandemic — which is expected to exacerbate the problem — there was exponential growth from 2007 to 2016 in visits by children to hospitals for mental health emergencies, especially for those who deliberately self-harm or have a substance use disorder.