On Gorillas and the Internet Outrage Machine: You probably caught wind of the death of Harambe the gorilla, shot by Cincinnati Zoo officials after he began dragging around a toddler who fell into his enclosure. You probably also caught wind of the predictable burst of internet outrage at the incident, which makes it a good time to share a recent essay from Aeon that contrasts our quickness to condemn the high-profile deaths of individual animals with our reticence to do anything about the slow-motion catastrophes of extinction that characterize the anthropocene.
A Mechanism for the Link Between Pollution and Heart Disease: The idea that air pollution is harmful for human health is intuitive and has been accepted in the epidemiological literature since the 1990s, when researchers first demonstrated a correlation between particulate matter and increased rates of heart disease. Determining the mechanism behind this relationship has proven more difficult, however, and eluded scientists for years. Now a study led by UW’s Dr. Joel Kaufman and published in the medical journal the Lancet last week finally provides an answer: Chronic exposure to air pollution causes accelerated rates of calcium deposits in arteries, leading to atherosclerosis. (While the Pacific Northwest in general has some of the best air quality in the West, certain regions—like South Seattle, a part of town that contains most of the city's diversity—remain stubborn exceptions to this trend.)
Driving Faster Kills, Quantified: Regular Slog readers are no doubt familiar with the lethal toll car culture takes on American lives each year, and the perennial debate over the role automobiles should play in our changing city. But short of a car-free future, how should we mitigate the inherent risks of driving? Unsurprisingly, the answer appears to be simply by driving slower: Per an AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety report recently visualized by the team at Pacific Standard, a pedestrian hit at 30 mph instead of 25 mph is 70 percent more likely to be killed.
A Follow-Up on Natural History Museum Funding: In a previous column, I highlighted funding cuts at the National Science Foundation that would affect the maintenence of natural history museum collections. Now, in a happy coda to that story, the program in question has been reinstated following extensive feedback from concerned scientists.
Science Event of the Week: How can evolutionary biology provide meaning to our lives? The play Anna and the Sea promises to provide an answer. It’s showing at the Theatre Off Jackson on Saturday, June 4, at 8 p.m. One night only.