10.5.2021

Facebook Goes Offline, Nobel Prizes, and Henrietta Lacks Everything you need to know for today in five minutes.

Good morning. It's Tuesday, Oct. 5, and the world's biggest social media platform took a day off yesterday. Have feedback? Let us know at [email protected].

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NEED TO KNOW

 

Facebook Outage

Facebook and its associated platforms, including Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger, suffered a widespread outage yesterday, affecting users worldwide and lasting six hours. The issues also extended to the company's internal systems, with employees unable to access emails or open office doors with keycards. 

 

By yesterday evening, the company released a statement saying it believed the outage was not a hack and no user data was compromised. Reports suggested it was linked to problems with Facebook's Domain Name System files. Such files effectively act as a phone book for the internet, directing web traffic to the appropriate IP addresses (see 101). The company's stock fell 4.9% yesterday.

 

The outage comes one day after a whistleblower alleging, among other problems,  the company intentionally downplayed internal research showing the negative effect of Instagram on teenage mental health, while also considering developing a separate social media platform for children. The former employee, 37-year-old Francis Haugen, testifies before Congress today.

A Nobel Touch

The 2021 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded Monday to two American scientists whose work into how bodies perceive temperature and touch could help pave the way for novel non-opioid pain treatments. Dr. David Julius used capsaicin—the substance that makes chili peppers hot—to identify the molecular receptors in the skin that convert heat into the sensation of pain. Dr. Ardem Patapoutian discovered the sensors in cells that detect pressure, using a tiny pipette to poke individual cells to find those that responded with an electrical signal.

 

The breakthrough discoveries help describe the mechanics of how our nervous systems perceive heat, pain, touch, and pressure through nerve impulses. The work has already prompted research into new treatments for various conditions, including chronic pain and heart disease. The award comes with a gold medal and more than $1.1M.

 

The Nobel Prize in medicine is the first of six prizes that will be announced this month in the fields of physics, chemistry, literature, peace, and economics. See the schedule here.

MLB Playoffs Begin

Major League Baseball's postseason gets underway tonight as two of the sport's biggest rivals face off, with the Boston Red Sox hosting the New York Yankees in the American League wild-card game (8 pm ET, ESPN). The National League wild-card game follows tomorrow, as the St. Louis Cardinals visit the Los Angeles Dodgers (8:10 pm ET, TBS).

 

The Dodgers enter as the reigning World Series champions and have notched 106 wins this season, but find themselves in the play-in game after being edged out by divisional rival San Francisco Giants, who ended with 107 wins. The clubs have the two best records this season and will meet should the Dodgers win tomorrow. 

 

Vegas still favors the Dodgers to repeat as champs, followed by the Houston Astros, Tampa Bay Rays, and the Giants. See the full playoff bracket here.

 

Editor's note: Yesterday, we incorrectly implied the Giants were in the wild-card game. As mentioned, they won the National League West division.

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IN THE KNOW

 

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

> "Star Trek" star William Shatner, 90, will be on board for the second crewed flight to suborbital space by Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin (More)

 

> Hollywood behind-the-scenes workers union votes to authorize industrywide strike, calling for higher wages and better working conditions (More) | Marc Pilcher, Emmy-winning "Bridgerton" hair and makeup designer, dies at 53 of COVID-19 (More)

 

Bubba Wallace becomes first Black driver to win a NASCAR Cup race since 1963; marks Wallace's first Cup victory in 143 races (More)

Science & Technology

> Researchers demonstrate on-demand electrical stimulation of the brain is capable of treating severe depression; implantable device targets a specific neural circuit linked to the condition, activating in response to certain brain patterns (More)

 

> National Institutes for Health Director Francis Collins to announce resignation today, reports say; Collins has led the NIH for 12 years, says move was preplanned (More)

 

> Henrietta Lacks estate sues Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc., alleging illegal use of her cells; cancer cells taken from Lacks without consent, who died in 1951, were the first human cells to be cloned (More) | The scientific legacy of the HeLa cell line (More)

Business & Markets

> Tech stocks lead US stock markets lower: S&P 500 -1.3%, Dow -0.9%, Nasdaq -2.1% (More) | Federal Reserve to launch review of a potential US digital currency (More)

 

> Trading of shares of Chinese real estate conglomerate Evergrande halted, as company plans to sell stake in its property management business for over $5B (More)

 

> Amazon launches Black Friday deals in effort to encourage early holiday shopping (More)

Politics & World Affairs

> Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) sets end of week deadline to pass an increase in the debt ceiling; Democrats would likely need to use the budget reconciliation process absent GOP support (More)

 

> US Supreme Court opens new term, returns to in-person oral arguments for the first time since the pandemic; Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend, calls in (More)

 

> Oil begins arriving along a 25-mile stretch of California coastline south of Los Angeles, forcing Orange County beach closures; weekend oil leak from an underwater pipe released an estimated 126,000 gallons (More) | See aerial footage (More)

IN-DEPTH

 

Searching for Mr. X

The Atavist | Laura Todd Carns. For almost a decade, an unknown man whose memory had disappeared lived in the care of a Mississippi hospital. But was the recovery of his memory ultimately a gift or a curse? (Read)

The Ship That Became a Bomb

New Yorker | Ed Caesar. Off the coast of Yemen, a massive oil tanker sits stranded in the Red Sea. Experts say the question is when, not if, the ship will sink and break apart, releasing more than a million gallons of oil. (Read, paywall)

ETCETERA

 

Five ways to improve your work relationships.

 

Watch two hot air balloons crash into New Mexico power lines.

 

The OZY Media saga continues.

 

A "space jellyfish" tops September's best science images.

 

The people who say they can hear the Northern Lights.

 

Brain-cleaning skull cap gets US Army funding.

 

... plus, read about how cerebrospinal fluid cleans the brain during sleep.

 

Meet the hell herons of the Cretaceous period.

 

Barbie goes on a zero-gravity flight.

 

Clickbait: The Taliban fall behind on their electricity bills.

 

Historybook: Harry Truman makes first US presidential television address from the White House (1947); HBD astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson (1958); Public Broadcasting Service launches (1970); HBD actress Kate Winslet (1975); RIP Steve Jobs (2011).

 

"Sometimes life is going to hit you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith."

- Steve Jobs

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