It's Thursday, so it's time once again to look back over the news that caught my eye during the past week and say "wow, humanity is so screwed."

China is grappling with an epidemic of African swine fever, and the virus is winning. ASF spreads easily, kills pigs fast, and there's no treatment or vaccine available. So far it's led to the culling of over 1 million pigs in China, and appears to have jumped the borders into adjacent countries that are even less equipped to deal with it.

There is a vaccine for dengue fever now, but as discussed here on the Turbid Plaque, and in more depth by Trudy Rey on Virology Blog, it's got some problems. The underlying issue, which researchers have struggled to solve for decades, is that exposure to one strain of dengue may make someone more susceptible to subsequent infections with other strains. The upshot is that if you've never had dengue, the virus is literally safer than the vaccine, and if you have had dengue, you're probably too old to get the vaccine.

Have you ever noticed some random piece of infrastructure - high-tension wires, cell phone towers, manhole covers - and then for awhile you can't stop noticing it everywhere? That, times a thousand, is probably how it feels for the authors of this new UN report on how the world is mismanaging its supply of sand. We're not running out of it, exactly, just moving it around in ways that aren't sustainable, at mind-boggling scales.

Regardless of the problems the world is facing, though, we can look to science to find the best solutions. We just have to come up with some ideas, then test them side-by-side in randomized controlled trials. Unless, of course, people are fundamentally averse to such trials. When given the choice between having an untested solution imposed on them and letting someone conduct a proper experiment to test it, people from diverse backgrounds consistently took the first option. Way to go, human brain.

If you want to do some science anyway, perhaps you need an autoclave. Too bad they're expensive, heavy, and take up so much space. As these folks demonstrate, though, standard pressure cookers work just as well for most purposes. I was surprised that the ones they tested operate at such low pressures, but they were focusing on the budget models. My own recommendation: get the All American. It's the traditional rattle-top design, reaches a full 15 psi, requires no gaskets, and is built like a tank. Great for cooking, too.

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