SciFri Book Club Returns, Upcoming Winter Illnesses. Oct 28, 2022, Part 1

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Don’t Trust What You See On TikTok This Election Season

Midterm elections in the United States are just under two weeks away. And new research suggests a significant risk of misinformation for American social media users—particularly from the video-sharing platform TikTok. Cybersecurity researchers at NYU published their findings after submitting misleading advertisements to YouTube, Facebook, and TikTok.

The ads contained either the wrong dates or voter requirements for upcoming elections, or perpetuated narratives about the validity of past elections. And while TikTok prohibits all political advertising, 90% of those test ads were approved. Meanwhile, YouTube performed the best in rejecting all of the ads, and Facebook accepted about 30% of English-language ads.

New Scientist’s Tim Revell joins co-host Kathleen Davis to talk about the misinformation implications of social media advertisements. Plus, the dramatic electrical charge of swarming honeybees, the good news about declining monkeypox cases, and other stories.

When Studying Ecology Means Celebrating Its Gifts

Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer’s book Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants was first published nearly a decade ago—but in 2020, the book made the New York Times best-seller lists, propelled mainly by word of mouth. The book explores the lessons and gifts that the natural world, especially plants, have to offer to people. Kimmerer writes that improving our relationship with nature requires the acknowledgment and celebration of a reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world. “I think we can care better for one another, for the land, and in fact we can do better science when we consider all of these streams of evidence, and assumptions, about the living world,” says Kimmerer.

Kimmerer is a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, and the founder and director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. In this SciFri Book Club discussion, recorded before a live Zoom audience, she discusses the book, the role of ceremony in our lives, and the challenge of addressing ecological issues such as exotic species within a reciprocal framework.

Looking Ahead To Our Third Pandemic Winter

As winter approaches in the northern hemisphere, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are monitoring the rise of new COVID-19 variants—all, so far, descendants of 2021’s highly transmissible Omicron variant, whose emergence kicked off a deadly winter wave. Will any new variants emerge with the same potential?

Guest host Katherine Wu talks to viral evolution researcher Dr. Verity Hill about the forces that may encourage the emergence of another concerning variant, and why new variants are more likely to evade our immune system’s defenses.

Meanwhile, pediatric departments around the country are seeing more children with influenza and RSV than usual, heralding an early and potentially more severe start to the winter respiratory virus season. Duke University’s Dr. Ibukun Kalu joins to share about how multiple viruses may add to the risks COVID poses, as well as the toll the pandemic has already taken on healthcare’s capacity.

Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com.

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