July 22: UF in the News, 7/19/21 - 7/22/21

Hungry wild pigs are worsening climate change — Wired, 7/19/21

When invasive swine root through soils around the world, they release as much carbon dioxide as a million cars. Scientists already knew, to some extent, that this releases the carbon that’s locked in the soil. But researchers in Australia, New Zealand and the US have now calculated how much soil wild pigs may be disturbing worldwide.

“What this paper brings to the fore is something that soil scientists have known for a while—that bioturbation can play this really key role in soil emissions and soil respiration,” said UF computational biogeochemist Kathe Todd-Brown. 

Why are fully vaccinated people testing positive for COVID? Should I start wearing a mask again? — The Palm Beach Post, 7/19/21

As COVID-19 cases increase around the country, medical experts are urging those who can to get a vaccine. Nicole Iovine, an infectious disease expert and hospital chief epidemiologist at UF Health, was interviewed by the Post in their explainer on how the vaccine works. She said it takes the average person 10 to 14 days to build up a protective number of antibodies, but each person is different. 

How could a crocodile spend years cinched by a tire? — Atlas Obscura, 7/19/21 

A crocodile has been trapped in a tire for around five years. In the 21st century, it’s not especially unusual for an animal to get ensnared in human trash, with sometimes lethal consequences. But, according to Kent Vliet, a UF biologist who specializes in alligators and crocodiles, as long as the croc can continue to eat, it should hang in there. Based on the animal’s appearance, Vliet doesn’t think it’s going hungry. “It’s not the fattest crocodile I’ve ever seen,” he says, “but it’s got a good body weight on it.”

Politifact Fact Check: U.S. sanctions mean “Cuba can’t trade with any country or any company whatsoever.” — Politifact, 7/19/21

Experts and evidence shows that Cuba can and has traded with other countries. While the nuances in the U.S. embargo can make it difficult for foreign companies to trade with Cuba, there is no evidence that they can’t. Lillian Guerra, professor in Cuban and Caribbean history at UF, called the claim "patently false." She said that things began to change for Cuba when the Soviet Union collapsed.

With little headway in Congress, states take action to rein in Big Tech — ABC, 7/19/21

While Congress slowly works toward taking measures to combat misinformation and other issues with social media and tech, states have enacted their own laws. In March, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed a law allowing Virginians to opt out of having their data collected and sold, and a similar law took effect in California last year. In May, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill to allow Floridians to sue tech platforms for moderating content. 

Andrew Selepak, a social media professor at UF, said the patchwork approach to legislating will make the online space very confusing to navigate, especially without federal guidance.

Don’t call them ‘shark attacks,’ scientists say — The New York Times, 7/20/21

Shark scientists have long called for less sensational language, because they want to change the public’s perception about animals whose population has plummeted by 71% since 1970, largely from overfishing. Gavin Naylor, the director of the International Shark Attack File at UF, said what we call the encounters might not matter, but far more important than language was a focus on regulation and stopping overfishing.

It’s time to talk about survivor’s guilt — The New York Times, 7/20/21

For many, the pandemic has unleashed feelings of shame or guilt, regret for actions taken or not taken, a nagging voice that wonders ‘why me?’ when others didn’t make it.

“People will frequently come to my office and say, I know I shouldn’t be this depressed, other people have it worse,” said David Chesire, an associate professor of psychology at UF. That’s the survivor’s guilt talking. “People are really bad at judging their own brand of misery. If you’re in pain and suffering, that’s valid and that’s real. You need to be a little bit egocentric on this one, and focus on your own suffering.”

Men would rather shock themselves than be alone with their thoughts — Fatherly, 7/20/21 

It turns out that men are terrible at making it through uninterrupted thinking time. So much so that, one study shows, they’d rather shock themselves than stare boredom in the face. Men pressed the button more often, probably not because they’re more easily bored than women or because they’re somehow worse thinkers, said Erin Westgate, a UF social psychologist and co-author on the study. “It seems to be more about men’s and women’s reaction to boredom.” 

How 'Patria y Vida' became the anthem of Cuban anti-government protests — CNN, 7/21/21

"Patria o muerte" -- "homeland or death," was a phrase frequently invoked by former longtime leader Fidel Castro during the dawn of the country's communist revolution. Now, the familiar saying has been repurposed for the protest anthem "Patria y Vida," or "homeland and life," a subversive song by some of Cuba's most popular musicians that rails against social repression and a severe economic crisis in their home country.

The phrase defines a period of Cuban history that many residents remember as marked by suffering and economic hardship, both of which anti-government protesters continue to demonstrate against today, said Lillian Guerra, a UF professor who studies Cuban history.

By alluding to "patria o muerte" in their song, Guerra said, the artists behind "Patria y Vida" "gave form and passion to what Cubans want: their country's sovereignty and their ability to prosper, to grow, to live."

COVID causes largest decline in U.S. life expectancy since World War II — The Tampa Bay Times, 7/21/21

Data released by the National Center for Health Statistics this week show the average life expectancy in the U.S. fell by 1.5 years. Public health experts expected the coronavirus pandemic would significantly alter life expectancy, but they were surprised at the impact on a metric that normally shifts in small increments over many years. The sudden 1.5 year drop is the largest since World War II.

COVID-19 deaths contributed to 74% of the 2020 decline, the report states. The numbers are a sobering reminder of the devastating effect of the pandemic, said Cindy Prins, an associate professor of epidemiology at UF.