This Week’s “Planet Earth” Report –How a Hydrogen Bomb Would Affect the Pacific to Supernova 30-Light Years Away to Our Non-SciFi Cities of the Future

 

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Betelgeuse Supernova And Its Impact On Earth – Science Documentary

 

Were a supernova to go off within about 30 light-years of us, that would lead to major effects on the Earth, possibly mass extinctions. X-rays and more energetic gamma-rays from the supernova could destroy the ozone layer that protects us from solar ultraviolet rays.

 

What Would a Hydrogen Bomb Do to the Pacific Ocean? 

 

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The latest fiery exchange between the United States and North Korea has produced a new kind of threat. On Tuesday, during his speech at the United Nations, President Trump said his government would “totally destroy North Korea” if necessary to defend the United States or its allies. On Friday, Kim Jong Un responded, saying North Korea “will consider with seriousness exercising of a corresponding, highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history.”

The North Korean leader didn’t elaborate on the nature of this countermeasure, but his foreign minister provided a hint: North Korea might test a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean.

“It could be the most powerful detonation of an H-bomb in the Pacific,” Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho told reporters at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. “We have no idea about what actions could be taken as it will be ordered by leader Kim Jong Un.”

North Korea has so far conducted nuclear tests in underground chambers and ballistic-missile tests in the sky. Conducting a hydrogen-bomb test in the ocean could mean putting a nuclear warhead on top of a ballistic missile and launching them together toward the sea. If North Korea followed through, the test would be the first detonation of a nuclear weapon in the atmosphere in nearly 40 years. It would lead to—aside from untold geopolitical consequences—severe environmental impacts.

Hydrogen bombs are far more powerful than atomic bombs, capable of producing many times more explosive energy. If an H-bomb hits the Pacific, it will detonate with a blinding flash and produce the signature mushroom cloud. The immediate effects likely would depend on the height of the detonation above the water. The initial blast could kill most of the life in the strike zone—scores of fish and other marine life—instantly. When the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945, the entire population located within a radius of 1,600 feet (500 meters) perished.

The explosion would send radioactive dust and ash flying through the air and into the water. Wind could carry the dangerous particles over hundreds of miles.

The smoke from the blast site could block out sunlight and hinder life forms at sea that depend on photosynthesis to survive. The exposure to radiation could cause severe health problems for nearby marine life. Radioactivity is known to damage cells in humans, animals, and plants by causing changes in their genes. The changes could lead to crippling mutations in future generations. The eggs and larvae of marine organisms are especially sensitive to radiation, according to experts. Affected animals could pass the exposure up the food chain. 

Image credit: Top of Page with thanks to Jen Hill Photo

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How Humans Evolved To Cause A New Mass Extinction

 

 

 

 

 

How Facebook Is Changing Your Internet 

 

 

Behind the scenes, Facebook is involved in high-stakes diplomatic battles across the globe that have begun fragmenting the internet itself.

 

The Evolutionary Reason Why The Ebola Virus Is So Deadly

What is the origin of the Ebola virus? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Virus evolution dates back to the dawn of life. Ebola incorporates two evolutionary survival traits: lipid envelope and selenium sequestration.

Lipid enveloped viruses have an evolutionary advantage because their lipid (fatty) coating shields underlying structural proteins from immune surveillance by antibodies. It’s an invisibility cloak; the virus looks mostly like a tiny blob of fat. Some of the more troublesome viruses for human health are lipid enveloped: herpesviruses (all strains), cytomegalovirus (CMV), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), hepatitis B and C, influenza viruses (all strains, including swine flus and bird flus), Newcastle disease virus, HIV, rubella (German measles), varicella virus (chicken pox), smallpox, swine fever, SARS, West Nile virus and all hemorrhagic viruses (including Ebola). The lipid envelope seriously challenges efforts to make vaccines.

 Ebola virus and the other hemorrhagic viruses have an added evolutionary advantage: they sequester selenium. The Ebola genome has a repeating sequence of codons that specify selenomethionine incorporation into protein, despite that the virus does not use the resulting selenoprotein directly. It just sits there. The codon sequence is there to deplete the host of selenium reserves so that it cannot mount an effective defense. As it turns out, the oxygen family of elements (oxygen, sulfur and selenium) have antiviral effects against most if not all lipid-enveloped viruses.

The reason that all viruses do not use this hemorrhagic trick is that it has a survival disadvantage, too. It kills the host too rapidly to have the best chance of spreading on a perpetual basis. Viruses need live hosts to survive. This evolutionary imperative is seen in the chronic nature of most lipid-enveloped viral diseases.

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“The future looks very non-sci-fi" –Future Cities, Built for People and Not Cars, Could Look Like This

 

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If you looked at an aerial view of Chicago, Toronto, or Los Angeles, you’d see three grids. But this linear aesthetic won’t be so common as new cities are built in the coming decades. In fact, they’re more likely to resemble a medieval hill town in Italy than the soaring skyscrapers of Blade Runner, according to David Galbraith.

A former architect who trained with Norman Foster (the mind responsible for the Apple’s “spaceship” headquarters), Galbraith is now an entrepreneur who’s been instrumental in the user experience of the web. He co-authored RSS code, co-founded Yelp, and developed the one-line bios that have been used by Twitter and Facebook. Although Galbraith says his focus these days is in the world of business, he’s kept his foothold in the world of design, via his Medium account, and he tells Inverse that he’s sure the future is not going to look like the inside of the Enterprise.

“There is an alternative future where the future looks very non-sci-fi. Where built environments start to look very natural,” he says. “Technology’s end-goal is to be invisible. Computers used to fill up a room and now they sit in our pocket.”
“When people think of smart cities, they immediately think of technology, and they immediately think it will be really in your face,” he says.

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Viruses Would Rather Jump to New Hosts Than Evolve With Them

The discovery that viruses move between species unexpectedly often is rewriting ideas about their evolutionary history — and may have troubling implications for the threat from emerging diseases.

 

When new species evolve, where do their viruses come from? As little more than free-ranging bundles of genetic material, viruses desperately need to hijack their hosts’ cellular machinery and resources to replicate, over and over again. Without its host, a virus is nothing.

Because of that dependence, some viruses have stuck with their hosts throughout evolution, mutating to make minor adjustments every time the host branched into a new species — a process called co-divergence. Humans and chimpanzees, for instance, have slightly different versions of the hepatitis B virus, both of which likely mutated from a version that infected their shared ancestor more than four million years ago.

The other option — cross-species transmission — occurs when a virus jumps into a completely new type of host largely unrelated to its former one. That kind of viral evolution is notoriously linked to severe emerging diseases like bird flu, HIV, Ebola fever and SARS. Given the extreme virulence of those diseases, the apparent rarity of cross-species transmission seemed fortunate.

But recently, when researchers in Australia conducted the first study of the long-term evolution of thousands of diverse viruses, they reached a startling conclusion: cross-species transmission has been more important and more frequent than anyone realized. Jumps between species have driven most major evolutionary innovations in the viruses. Meanwhile, co-divergence has been less common than was assumed and has mostly caused incremental changes.

“They showed rather convincingly that co-divergence is the exception rather than the rule,” said Pleuni Pennings, an evolutionary biologist and assistant professor at San Francisco State University who was not involved with the study.

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