Yesterday we announced six new Think Inc. Academy courses for 2022:
- Logic, Fallacies & Biases: The Art of Critical Thinking
- Sex, Genes, & Rock 'n' Roll: How Evolution Shaped the Modern World
- Philosophical Ethics: An Introduction to Moral Philosophy
- Politics as the New Religion: Understanding The Far Left and Right
- How to Be a Stoic: Ancient Wisdom for a Happier Life
- Doing Good: An Introduction to Effective Altruism
We're also running a Cosmology course taught by Professor Alan Duffy, which we announced last week – you can sign up for these courses at thinkinc.org/academy
This week we’ve got news of a blood test for depression, a new ultra hot planet, the tech prodigy Audrey Tang tells us how to combat misinformation, Australia gets tough on online trolls, and the UK expands its definition of sentience.
As always, let us know if you come across any interesting news – we love hearing from you.
Have a great week,
Researchers have discovered an exoplanet that’s five times bigger than Jupiter, and orbits so close to its sun that its daytime heat shreds molecules into atoms.
Scientists in The Astronomical Journal labelled it as an Ultrahot Jupiter, but its technical name is TOI-2109b.
During the daytime its surface can reach over 3,000 degrees Celsius, making it so hot that its molecules rip apart, only to come back together when night falls. It’s also got one of the shortest orbits, taking just 16 hours to go around its star.
Researchers hope that the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope will allow them to study the planet as it gets even closer to its sun. They say this will offer them an incredible opportunity to study the “nature of planets at their most extreme.”
BLOOD TEST FOR DEPRESSION
One of the most challenging things about mental health conditions is getting a diagnosis. Without the right diagnosis people can spend years doing trial and error with different medications and treatments, but we may now have the solution!
The Indiana University School of Medicine has worked out that testing for certain RNA markers in the blood can distinguish between depression and bipolar disorder.
When we’re stressed or depressed, it shows up in our blood and immune system in the form of hormones and inflammation levels, and these biomarkers can help doctors decide what medication is the right fit.
While it's still early days, these blood tests could be part of a doctor’s diagnostic toolkit, to bring clarity to diagnoses.
While it’s exciting news, other experts believe that finding one algorithm to apply to all mood disorders is unlikely, because these conditions are so individual.
AUDREY TANG'S WISDOM
Have you heard of Audrey Tang? She’s a pretty big deal.
She’s the Digital Minister of Taiwan, and one of the most influential figures in the Asian tech scene. Regularly referred to by the Taiwanese press as having been a child prodigy with a reputed IQ of 180, and she started learning to program at just 8 years old.
She recently gave a fascinating interview with Al Jazeera about Taiwan’s unique and successful response to COVID. Tang says that while the virus of the body has been challenging, tackling the virus of the mind has been even worse.
She says that fighting misinformation as Digital Minister was integral to stop it from progressing into hatred, vengefulness and discrimination.
She says that Taiwan used to see public discourse on social media as something like a town hall discussion. But then they noticed that these town halls were more like local nightclubs, filled with smoke, loud music, addictive drinks and private bouncers; and therefore no place to hold healthy discussions.
So they invested in their own social media, the Taiwanese PTT Bulletin Board, which has a similar structure to Reddit, and allows for more content moderation.
AUSTRALIA GETS TOUGH ON TROLLS
The Australian government is drafting laws that would require social media companies to collect the details of all users and give courts the power to force companies to hand over the identities of users to aid defamation cases.
While we don’t know exactly what details would be collected, it’s assumed they’ll be your name, email address and contact number.
Social media companies would also be legally responsible for the content they publish from users, removing liability from individuals and companies that manage pages.
Companies will also be required to create a complaints process for people who feel they have been defamed online, and this process will allow people to ask for material to be taken down.
Lobsters, crabs, octopi and squid will now be included in the U.K.'s Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill.
When passed into law, the bill will establish an Animal Sentience Committee and ensure that the wellbeing of these invertebrates is considered in new laws.
Research shows that decapod crustaceans such as crabs and prawns have opioid receptors and respond to opioid painkillers in a similar way to vertebrates like humans, and birds.
Their reaction to pain, such as trying to escape from boiling water, is further evidence of their capacity to suffer. There is a large body of research showing that cephalopods such as squid have complex brains and nervous systems, and are able to learn and avoid unpleasant experiences and to solve problems and use tools.
In the future, boiling lobsters or cutting off octopus heads, both common practices in food preparation, could be illegal.
Obviously, this is a massive step for the animal welfare movement, and if you want to see the philosopher who put animal welfare on the map, Peter Singer, click here!
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
Here's a pre-Roman falcata, a double-edged, curved sword used by the Iberians between the fifth and first centuries BC, which was seized along with 202 other archaeological pieces after it appeared on “a well known social media site”.
The sword and the other artefacts have been confiscated and the prepetrator, a Spanish citizen in the Andalucian province of Jaén, was arrested on suspicion of misappropriation and a historical heritage offence.