Prostate Cancer, Menstruation Science, Fool’s Gold

Welcome to Overnight News Digest- Saturday Science. Since 2007 the OND has been a regular community feature on Daily Kos, consisting of science stories from around the world, sometimes coupled with a daily theme, original research or commentary. Editors of OND impart their own presentation styles and content choices, typically publishing each day near 12:00 AM Eastern Time.

Topics in this edition include:

  • Did cloud seeding cause Dubai’s rainfall?
  • Testing urine for prostate cancer
  • “Fool’s Gold” may fuel our future
  • The “new” science of menstruation 
  • Would you donate a kidney?
  • Microplastics and gallstones
  • The sixth Great Lake in prehistoric times 
  • Geothermal, ‘a limitless supply beneath our feet’
  • Strategies for helping the homeless
  • Mud house construction techniques
  • A community challenge for Earth Week
  • Anti-trans advocates cite New York Times as evidence in court cases
  • 4/20 news

BBC News

by Marc Poynting & Marco Silva

What is cloud seeding and did it cause Dubai flooding?

Dubai has been hit by record floods over the past 24 hours, sparking misleading speculation about cloud seeding.

So how unusual was the rainfall and what were the reasons behind the extreme downpours?

Dubai is situated on the coast of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and is usually very dry. But while it receives less than 100mm (3.9in) a year of rainfall on average, it does experience occasional extreme downpours.

In the city of Al-Ain – just over 100km (62 miles) from Dubai – about 256mm (10in) of rain was recorded in just 24 hours.

American Council on Science and Health

by Chuck Dinnerstein

Testing Urine For Prostate Cancer – The Crystal Ball In Your Bladder

Have you ever felt like you’re just waiting for the other shoe to drop, especially regarding medical test results? Francis Collins, former NIH director, found himself in that situation, dancing the delicate tango of active surveillance for prostate cancer. Imagine a urine test that could cut down on those nerve-wracking biopsies while boasting a 99% accuracy rate for spotting the serious stuff.

Popular Mechanics

by Darren Orf 

We Used to Make Fun of Fool’s Gold. Now, It Might Fuel Our Future

Lithium is one of the most important elements on the periodic table. Because it’s lightweight and easily gains and loses ions, the material is central to the batteries that power almost everything in our technological world.

But lithium’s importance doesn’t stop at your iPhone. Lithium-6 (an isotope of the soft metal) is crucial for breeding tritium, which is the hydrogen isotope that lies at the heart of nuclear fusion. It’s for these reasons—as well as the burgeoning EV revolution and the desperate need for green energy battery storage—that the U.S. government considers lithium (also referred to as “White Gold”) a critical mineral.


The world is hungry for more sources of lithium, and a new study from the Isotopic and Biogeochemical Characterization of Geological Materials (IsoBioGeM) laboratory at West Virginia University recently stumbled across another kind of “gold” that could be an “unheard of” source for this precious mineral—pyrite, or known by its more derogatory nickname, “fool’s gold.”


by Anna North

What science is just starting to understand about periods

PMS, food cravings, “period flu”: Anybody who menstruates knows from experience that the monthly cycle can have a profound impact on the body and mind. But researchers are still only beginning to explore exactly how menstruation can affect health — and, in some people, worsen symptoms of illness.

In one recent study, psychologist Jaclyn Ross and a team at the University of Illinois Chicago asked 119 female patients who had experienced suicidal thoughts in the past to track their feelings over the course of a menstrual cycle. They found that for many patients, suicidal thoughts tended to get worse in the days right before and during menstruation. On those days, patients were more likely to progress from thinking about suicide to actually making plans to end their own lives.

These results might seem sadly unsurprising to people living with depression, who have been telling their therapists — and talking among themselves — for years about how their periods affect their symptoms. But thanks to misogyny in science and medicine, these effects haven’t been studied in a systematic way until recently, frequently leaving patients on their own to navigate fluctuations in mood that doctors may not know how to diagnose or treat.


by Dylan Matthews 

Would you donate a kidney for $50,000?

What if I told you there was a way that the US could prevent 60,000 deaths, save American taxpayers $25 billion, and pay a deserving group of people $50,000 each? Would you be interested? Would you wonder why I’m pitching this to you like I’m the host of a late-night basic cable infomercial?

I am not a spokesman. I am simply a fan and supporter of the End Kidney Deaths Act, a bill put together by a group of kidney policy experts and living donors that would represent the single biggest step forward for US policy on kidneys since … well, ever.

The plan is simple: Every nondirected donor (that is, any kidney donor who gives to a stranger rather than a family member) would be eligible under the law for a tax credit of $10,000 per year for the first five years after they donate. That $50,000 in total benefits is fully refundable, meaning even people who don’t owe taxes get the full benefit.

The Cool Down

by Mike Taylor 

Scientists make concerning finding while studying contents inside human gallstones: ‘This underscores the need for greater awareness’

Scientists in a new study said that they “preliminarily verified” that microplastics can spur the formation of gallstones and aggravate the condition.

What happened?

The paper, published in the Journal of Hazardous Materials, showed microplastics were present in the gallstones of all 16 patients and that younger subjects (under 50 years old) featured significantly higher levels of the toxic substances. In mice, microplastics accelerated gallstone formation and altered gut microbiota, the researchers reported.

“Our study revealed the presence of microplastics in human gallstones, showcasing their potential to aggravate chololithiasis by forming large cholesterol-microplastic heteroaggregates and altering the gut microbiota,” the authors wrote.

The Brighter Side

by Joseph Shavit

The unrivaled majesty of North America’s sixth Great Lake

North America boasts five Great Lakes namely Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior. These massive bodies of water are shared borders between several states and Canada. However, long before these Great Lakes existed, there was a massive lake that dwarfed them all in size: Lake Agassiz.

By far, Lake Superior takes the title as the largest of the current Great Lakes with an impressive expanse of 31,699 miles. Lakes Michigan and Huron, which can be considered as one lake since they blend together, cover an area of 45,300 square miles when combined. These massive bodies of water collectively make up the largest freshwater system globally, constituting a staggering 21% of the world’s water resources.

Lake Agassiz no longer exists, however it was one of the largest lakes in North America during the last ice age, with an estimated size of around 170,000 square miles. This prehistoric giant, which existed over 10,000 years ago, played a crucial role in shaping the landscape and climate of the continent.

The Cool Down

by Leo Collins

 America pushes forward with harnessing ‘limitless’ supply of energy beneath our feet: ‘The US can lead the clean-energy future’

Wind and solar power are thankfully becoming an increasingly large part of the United States’ energy mix.

These renewable sources of power are far less damaging than dirty fuels like coal and natural gas, which release planet-warming pollution into the atmosphere that reduces air quality and increases the risk of extreme weather conditions. 

Households across the country are starting to take notice, and with that knowledge comes a higher demand for clean domestic electricity. The grid needs to keep up with consumption, but wind and solar depend on weather conditions for peak production, while solar doesn’t produce power when the sun goes down.

That’s why geothermal is seen as a solution that could generate renewable power all day, every day, helping to support the grid when wind and solar supply is low or consumer demand is high.


by Matthew Rozsa

Climate change is making homelessness worse — but experts say we can help

As climate change worsens, extreme weather events are becoming more common and more intense, from heat waves to floods to freak storms. For the most part, people can escape these events by going inside. But for the unhoused, things are obviously not so easy. For people without housing, they are the most vulnerable to dramatic shifts in climate, as they cannot easily cool off during a heat wave, warm up when it is below freezing or protect themselves from elements like fire, wind, rain and snow.

Additionally, as millions more become climate refugees thanks to their homes being wiped out by fires or floods, the number of unhoused people will significantly increase. A report from UNICEF released last year found that 43 million children have been displaced by climate disasters in just a five year period while another report released in January from the anti-homelessness nonprofit Community Solutions sheds light on how the climate change impact on homelessness is not a looming threat; it is a present crisis, one that continues to get worse.

The Cool Down

by Kristen Lawrence

Architect turns to centuries-old technique to revolutionize how we build houses: ‘This will be a very attractive method’

An architect and his team have pioneered a mud home in the United Kingdom they are calling the first of its kind, and they believe it could revolutionize home construction.

Designed by Norwich-based architect Anthony Hudson, the home’s walls consist of three low-energy building materials: Earth, water, and hemp straw, as reported by the Good News Network. When combined, it’s known as cob, a material used by various cultures throughout history to build structures.

The CobBauge House, as Hudson calls it, was built as part of a European Union research project on how to make modern homes more environmentally friendly, the news network reported. Modern construction methods are notoriously resource- and energy-intensive, but Hudson sees the vast potential of using the materials right beneath our feet.


Amplify your impact this Earth Week

Join Wren’s community challenge to help protect our planet—with educational content, action suggestions, and exclusive events available throughout the week.

From April 22-28 (Pacific Time), we’ll send you daily actions. If you complete every action, you’ll get a limited-edition award

Mother Jones

by Henry Carnell

Anti-Trans Bills Keep Citing the New York Times

New York Times columnist Pamela Paul argued in a 4,500-word op-ed earlier this month that transgender health care procedures amount to “unproven treatments for children,” despite major medical associations’ support for gender-affirming care and the widespread view that it is lifesaving. The piece, which builds upon Paul’s record of espousing anti-trans views in the pages of the country’s most important paper, was roundly condemned by trans journalists over what they alleged was an argument rife with inaccuracies.  

Yet for all the criticism it unleashed, or precisely because of that very criticism, conservative groups seized upon Paul’s piece to pursue anti-trans legal maneuvers. In Idaho, the Alliance Defending Freedom, the powerful conservative legal group known for its critical role behind the strategy that overturned Roe v. Wade, specifically cited Paul’s Feb. 4 column as evidence of the “ostracism, pain, and lifelong regret” young people experience after receiving gender-affirming health care. The legal brief, which aimed to overturn a federal judge’s December ruling that blocked the state from enforcing a ban on gender-affirming health care, was ultimately unsuccessful. But it underscored the right’s enthusiasm for including New York Times pieces that have been accused of cherry-picking data and citing problematic sources in their defenses of anti-trans legislation across the country.


by Kent E Vraina

Unpacking the CBD hype – here’s what science says about its real health benefits

Over the last five years, an often forgotten piece of U.S. federal legislation – the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, also known as the 2018 Farm Bill – has ushered in an explosion of interest in the medical potential of cannabis-derived cannabidiol, or CBD.

After decades of debate, the bill made it legal for farmers to grow industrial hemp, a plant rich in CBD. Hemp itself has tremendous value as a cash crop; it’s used to produce biofuel, textiles and animal feed. But the CBD extracted from the hemp plant also has numerous medicinal properties, with the potential to benefit millions through the treatment of seizure disorders, pain or anxiety.

Prior to the bill’s passage, the resistance to legalizing hemp was due to its association with marijuana, its biological cousin. Though hemp and marijuana belong to the same species of plant, Cannabis sativa, they each have a unique chemistry, with very different characteristics and effects. Marijuana possesses tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the chemical that produces the characteristic high that is associated with cannabis. Hemp, on the other hand, is a strain of the cannabis plant that contains virtually no THC, and neither it nor the CBD derived from it can produce a high sensation.


by Kelly Tyko

Where cannabis and medical marijuana are legal this 4/20

Marijuana’s informal 4/20 holiday is picking up steam with recreational pot legal for nearly half of the nation.

Why it matters: More changes are rolling out and others are under consideration in states across the country as support for legalizing weed grows.

  • Roughly 9 out of 10 Americans said marijuana should be legal for medical or recreational use, according to a January Pew Research Center survey.

The big picture: It’s legal for adults to buy recreational marijuana in 24 states and Washington D.C.

  • For medical purposes, cannabis is legal in 38 states.

By the numbers: A Gallup survey found support for legalization crosses political party lines with 87% of Democrats, 70% of independents and 55% of Republicans backing legal marijuana.

This is an open thread where everyone is welcome, especially night owls and early birds, to share and discuss the science news of the day. Please share your articles and stories in the comments.