Our Weekly Science Picks: From Space to Spiders

By Marian Shivji

Image credit: wallpaperzzz.com

Top Story: New York Disinvests then Sues Five of the World’s Largest Oil Companies


Good morning – it’s Marian Shivji here with the first of many weekly digests from us here at Crowd.Science. We will be using this opportunity to round-up the hottest topics circulating the world of science and crowdfunding so that we can deliver it all to you in one handy blog.

Bill de Blasio is done paying for climate change. The NYC mayor made an official announcement early last week that the city will be the first to divest the entirety of its pension funds – a total of $191 billion – from fossil fuels. This funneling away of $5 billion worth of investment from fossil fuel is reportedly the largest of any municipality to date. This stride brings the overall disinvestment movement’s value to exceed a whopping $6 trillion, making it, arguably, the fastest growing campaign of its kind in history. In conjunction with withdrawing funds, the city triggered full-blown legal action against ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, and ConocoPhillips. The city is asking that they pay for the defensive measures the metropolis is having to put in place to stave off climate-associated damage, claiming each was involved in harming the environment by continuing to burn fuel despite knowing its harmful effects and “intentionally misled the public to protect their profits.”

Speaking of climate change decimating our current living situation…

More Water on Mars!

We already knew of water’s existence on Mars, but recent research highlights just how close a significant amount of water ice is to the surface in mid-latitude regions on Mars. This discovery could be paramount for future exploration missions to Mars, allowing astronauts to use such ice for water and fuel. A lack of craters in the ice also hints that they are extremely young – relatively speaking – being less than a million years old. Further, the ice appears to be layered, much like the sedimentary layers on Earth, which could therefore elucidate different geological periods in the history of the planet. The findings were led by Colin Dundas from the US Geological Survey in Arizona. The team writes, “this ice… is expected to preserve a record of climate history, influences the planet’s habitability, and may be a potential resource for future exploration”.

Bill Gates Thinks Cancer Therapies Could Serve a Much Wider Purpose


In 2016, an estimated 445,000 people died from malaria, 1 million from HIV-related illness, and 1.7 million from TB (including 0.4 million with HIV). If the immunotherapy used to treat cancer patients in the world’s more prosperous nations could eventually be used to control infectious diseases in its poorest, whilst helping to treat those already infected, we could see a significant decline in these figures. But cancer research is just the start when it comes to using the solutions of “rich-world markets” to address the ailments of the poorest. For example, research into neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s could be useful for treating the hundreds of millions of children with cognitive development issues due to growing up in poverty, while researchers in Africa and South Asia attempting to address mal​nutrition may glean valuable insights from obesity research. This was the message of Bill Gates’ keynote address at J.P. Morgan’s Annual Healthcare Conference in San Francisco. As Gates concluded, reaching this goal of health equity in our lifetime by building bridges between the private sector and global health isn’t just a possibility — it’s an imperative.

Lastly, we go to a group of Brazilian biologists with a penchant for literary fantasies…

Seven New Species of Spider Discovered – Seven Opportunities to Nail the Name

Seven new species of cave spiders were discovered by a team of Brazilian arachnid biologists in a system of caves formed of iron-rich sediment deposits in the state of Pará. All seven spiders are of edaphic trogophile decent​, meaning that they live in dirt and have adapted to spending all their time in caves. The group’s paper, represents five years of work studying the spiders in the field and the collection of approximately 2,000 specimens. These biologists may also have a flare for literature and popular culture, given the names of these new creatures. The first two were “namely” inspired from J.R.R. Tolkien, being Ochyrocera laracna and Ochyrocera ungoliant. The first monstrous arachnid is named for Laracna, the Portuguese translation of Shelob, a giant cave spider and immortal ancient creature that guards one of the passages into Mordor. The second is named for Shelob’s mother, Ungoliant, the primordial spider who “desir[ed] only to be a mistress of her own insatiable craving to devour all light, to feed her everlasting emptiness.” A third spider, Ochyrocera varys was named after Lord Varys from the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin. Varys, a master of espionage, who is called the Spider because of his skill at cultivating a web of informants.

2 Comments

  1. Jean Paul yirka

    Alas we continue to blame big corporations for climate change when one flight from London to New York takes up a persons entire allowable footprint and there are more than one million people lined up in airports at any one time.”. I have seen the enemy and it s us”

    • Natalie Jonk

      Thank you for your comment, totally agree we are all contributing to the problem. However big corporations can do more to help.

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