Good morning. It's Thursday, April 8, and we're covering updated guidance for the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, the cause of a crash involving Tiger Woods, and tantalizing results in the field of particle physics. Have feedback? Let us know at email@example.com.
The European Medicines Agency said yesterday an unusual type of blood clotting should be listed as a possible but very rare side effect of the AstraZeneca-University of Oxford COVID-19 vaccine. The decision is a reversal for the agency, which said last month no causal link with clotting incidents could be established. Britain restricted use of the vaccine in people under 30 yesterday.
The agency's review focused on two types of clotting: cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (clots in the brain's sinus veins) and splanchnic vein thrombosis (clots in the abdomen). Eighty-six cases were identified out of more than 25 million people vaccinated across the European Economic Area and the United Kingdom. Eighteen cases were fatal.
The cases involved have been primarily observed in women under 60 and involve the unusual feature of low levels of platelets—cells that typically help drive blood clotting. The precise cause of the disorders, and the link to the vaccine, remain a mystery; some researchers have compared it to symptoms seen when using certain blood thinners ($$, Science).
Because AstraZeneca's vaccine can be stored at normal refrigeration temperatures and is easily administered, it has been viewed as key to addressing the pandemic in poorer countries and rural areas. Nearly all the near-term doses shipped by COVAX—an international consortium supplying doses to under-resourced countries—are from AstraZeneca.
The vaccine has not yet been approved in the US.
Tiger Woods Crash
Los Angeles officials revealed yesterday a violent single-car crash involving Tiger Woods in February was caused by excessive speeding. Data retrieved from Woods' SUV suggested he was going between 84 and 87 mph on a downhill turn zoned at 45 mph south of Los Angeles, eventually hitting a tree at 75 mph.
Woods suffered broken bones in both legs, needing a rod and screws to stabilize his right leg, ankle, and foot. It was Woods' third high-profile vehicular incident in 11 years (see timeline); officials said they did not obtain a warrant for blood tests because Woods did not seem impaired at the scene.
In related news, the 2021 Masters—one of
four major championships in men's golf—begins today (3 pm ET, ESPN). World No. 1-ranked and reigning Masters champion Dustin Johnson enters as the favorite.
A New Force of Nature
An experiment two decades in the making has provided strong evidence that the current theory describing the universe's fundamental forces is incomplete, suggesting the existence of a fifth force currently unknown to science.
The experiments, carried out at Illinois' Fermilab, focused on subatomic particles known as muons—basically fat but short-lived electrons. Magnetic measurements confirmed, with much higher precision, tantalizing previous 2001 results that the particles' properties deviate slightly from theoretical predictions. Scientists think the anomaly may come from an unknown interaction with the quantum foam—a sea of virtual particles perpetually popping in and out of existence.
The chance of a fluke was calculated at around 0.0025%. If correct, the finding may suggest physics beyond the Standard Model—the theoretical framework that describes all known elementary particles but still faces a number of challenges (like explaining gravity).
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>Honeywell releases details of its trapped ion quantum computer, shows physically shuttling ions around can provide quantum information processing; building technology company made waves with its entrance into the field a year ago (More)
>Problem-solving experiment reveals people are more likely to consider solutions that add features
and components, even when subtracting them is more efficient; research has broad implications for the psychology of decision-making (More)
>Scientists sequence the oldestHomo sapiens DNA on record; analysis reveals common interbreeding with Neanderthals around 45,000 years ago (More)
Business & Markets
>US stock markets mixed (S&P 500 +0.2%, Dow +0.1%, Nasdaq -0.1%) as Federal Reserve meeting notes highlight commitment to support economic recovery (More)
>JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon says consumer savings, infrastructure investment, and vaccine distribution could lead to strong US economic growth in the next few
>Graphic design platform startup Canva raises $71M at a $15B valuation (More) | Plaid, which connects user bank accounts to apps, raises $425M at a $13.4B valuation (More) | Patreon, which allows creators to be supported by their fans, raises $155M at a $4B valuation (More) | Clubhouse, the rapidly growing audio chatroom app, reportedly held talks with Twitter regarding $4B acquisition (More)
Politics & World Affairs
>Day eight of the Derek Chauvin trial focuses on the use of force, drug remnants found in Chauvin's police car linked to George Floyd; see overview here (More)
>President Joe Biden expected to announce executive action on gun control today, including requiring background checks for homemade "ghost" guns that lack
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>South Korean President Moon Jae-in's ruling liberal Democratic Party suffers landslide defeats in mayoral elections in Seoul and Busan, the country's two largest cities(More) | US military warns China is accelerating plans to take control of Taiwan (More)
'An Absolute Monster'
Hollywood Reporter | Tatiana Siegel. Industry insiders say Oscar-winning producer Scott Rudin—the mind behind, among other things, "The Social Network"—has gotten a pass for his explosive temper. Now former staff are speaking out. (Read)
The Myth of America's Roads and Bridges
Slow Boring | Matt Yglesias. (Op-ed) America's infrastructure needs upgrades in many places, but data show it's not in the country's roads and bridges. (Read)
The Internet Never Forgets
Wired | Lauren Goode. The nearly reflexive behavior of uploading personal details to social media sites has slowly but surely allowed the internet to co-opt our memories—even the ones we want to forget. (Read, $$)
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Historybook: HBD actress Robin Wright (1966); RIP Pablo Picasso (1973); Hank Aaron breaks Babe Ruth’s home run record (1974); Frank Robinson becomes first Black manager of a major league baseball team (1975); RIP Margaret Thatcher (2013).
"It's a great thing to be the man who hit the most home runs, but it's a greater thing to be the man who did the most with the home runs he hit."
- Hank Aaron
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