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January 20, 2017

Weekend reads: Space weather edition

Daily Briefing

    The Daily Briefing editorial team highlights several interesting health care stories and studies that didn't quite make this week's Briefing. What are you reading this weekend? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.

    Marcelle Maginnis' reads

    How Iceland drastically cut teen substance abuse: After implementing a national plan designed to prevent teen substance abuse by increasing teens' overall wellbeing, Iceland today "tops the European table for the cleanest living teens," Emma Young writes for Mosaic. The "Youth in Iceland" plan increased teens' access to organized activities like sports and dance, fostered parental involvement in school and at home, and curbed access to alcohol and tobacco. But while the initiative has been correlated with success in Iceland, researchers say it could be hard to implement elsewhere, where residents might not want to allow the government so much involvement in family life.

    James Bond's retirement plan: The fictional spy has yet to leave service, but many real people who work in British intelligence services start looking for jobs in the private sector after a decade or so, Chris Stokel-Walker writes for Bloomberg. While the government work is "thrilling, stressful, and challenging," Stokel-Walker explains, the compensation—£30,490 ($37,500)—is hardly lucrative. But even after former spies have switched jobs, it's difficult for them to leave public service for good: "There will always be a friendly contact maintained, if not a slightly less formal arrangement," says Annie Machon, 48, a former MI5 officer who left the secret service in 1996.

    Sam Bernstein's reads

    The next mega-recession could come from space. The sun is comforting; it makes your tomato plants grow. But it's also essentially a giant, continuous thermonuclear explosion that occasional ejects a stream of electrically charged particles toward earth. That's what scientists call a solar storm, and it can cause a lot of damage. For instance, when one such storm hit Canada in 1989, it knocked out Quebec's power grid. But things could be much worse: According to a new study published in Space Weather, a large solar storm could knock out the nation's power grid and cost the U.S. economy $6.2 billion a day, or about 15 percent of daily output. Meanwhile, essential space infrastructure—such as GPS and communication satellites—could be knocked offline. Yikes.

    A bulletin from the department of untimely studies. A new study in JAMA Dermatology finds that high-SPF sunscreen is better at protecting against sunburn than the "typical shade from a beach umbrella." Now, anyone who has been to the beach lately knows that Americans have moved on from "typical" beach umbrellas like they ditched regular sized soft drinks. (People are practically building small homes surfside these days.) But more importantly, who releases a study about beach umbrellas in January?

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