This Week’s “Planet Earth Report” –Lithium is the New Oil to Nuclear-Electromagnetic-Pulse Threat and UFO Mystery




This week's link to headlines around the world on the threats, opportunities, and dangers facing our fragile planet –along with an occasional dash of humor, popular culture, and an intriguing conspiracy theory or two.

“Lithium is the New Oil" –The Future of Electric Vehicles May Lie Below Ancient Supervolcanoes




The massive calderas left by extinct volcanoes hold stores of lithium, which will be in high demand as vehicle makers increasingly turn to hybrid and fully electric technologies. Lithium-ion batteries are the fuel source of the future, already powering nearly every electronic gadget in your house and soon most cars on the road. Volvo recently announced that all of its new models will be either hybrid or fully electric starting in 2019, and Chinese automaker BYD expects to have a completely electrified fleet in the next decade.

While global supplies of lithium are currently high, the expected surge in demand from electric carmakers could create a lithium shortage by as early as 2030. More than 75 percent of the world’s lithium is mined in Chile and Australia, but geologists from Stanford University have discovered that vast stores of the valuable metal may be available at hundreds of sites across North America in the remains of ancient supervolcanoes.
In a paper published in Nature Communications, the researchers explained how these massive volcanoes — 10,000 times more powerful than most active volcanoes today — created the perfect thermodynamic conditions to produce thick deposits of lithium-rich clays.

“Lithium is the new oil,” lead author Thomas Benson, a recent Ph.D. graduate of Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy, and Environmental Sciences, told Seeker.

As the price of lithium goes up, it will become increasingly risky to allow just a handful of countries and companies to control the global lithium supply. By tapping lithium deposits in the calderas of extinct supervolcanoes, many more countries — including the US, Canada, and Mexico — can help diversify lithium production.

Supervolcano isn’t a true scientific term, Benson explained, but generally refers to a volcanic eruption that produces at least 1,000 cubic kilometers of material. For comparison, the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980 produced only 4.2 cubic kilometers of material.

Not all ancient caldera sediments are loaded with lithium. Benson and his colleagues analyzed tiny samples of crystallized magma called melt inclusions taken from supervolcano sites around the world. It turns out that the most lithium-rich magma is formed when a lot of continental crust is melted into the mix. Magma that’s mostly from the deeper mantle, however, doesn’t produce a lot of lithium, neither does magma melted from oceanic crust.

The problem is that mining technology hasn’t caught up with the geology. Lithium Americas Corp. owns large swaths of the McDermitt site and has been conducting feasibility studies since 2012, but according to a June 2016 report, the technology for processing and refining the lithium from the clay deposits was still being tested.

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Colossal Solar Storms Could Disrupt Earth's Magnetic Field



Humanity has begun collectively grappling with the potential dangers of global threats such as climate change. But few authorities are planning for catastrophic solar storms—gigantic eruptions of mass and energy from the sun that disrupt the earth’s magnetic field. In a recent preprint paper, two Harvard University scientists estimate the economic damage from such an event will increase in the future and could equal the current U.S. GDP—about $20 trillion—150 years from now.

There are precedents for this kind of storm. The so-called Carrington Event of 1859 began with a bright solar flare and an ejection of magnetized, high-energy particles that produced the most intense mag­netic storm ever recorded on the earth. It caused brilliant auroras in the atmosphere and even delivered electric shocks to tele­graph operators. But a Carrington-scale storm today would cause far more harm because society now depends so heavily on electrical power grids, communications satellites and GPS.

In an effort to quantify that threat, astro­physicists Abraham Loeb and Manasvi Lingam of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics developed a mathematical model that assumes society’s vulnerability to solar burps will grow in tandem with technological advances.

Under this model, described in the paper, which was sub­mitted to, during the next 50 years the potential for economic damage will depend primarily on the rising odds of a strong solar storm over time. Beyond 50 years our vulnerability will increase expo­nen­tially with technological progress until the latter levels off.

Loeb and Lingam envision a much wilder strategy: a $100-billion magnetic deflector shield, positioned between the earth and the sun. This idea seems “pretty preposterous,” however, given that solar particles arrive at the earth from all directions, says Daniel Baker, director of the Laboratory for Atmo­spheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado Boulder.

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US could face a “Doomsday Scenario” –Nuclear Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack




Two members of the now disbanded congressional Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) commission told a recent House Homeland Security subcommittee hearing that a nuclear EMP attack remained the “biggest threat” facing the US today. They warned the US could face a “doomsday scenario” if Pyongyang gets hold of an EMP capable nuke. The powerful weapon has the potential to shut down America’s power grid and kill millions of people.

North Korea has tested several intercontinental ballistic missiles this year and claimed to have successfully tested a miniaturised hydrogen bomb on September 3. The secretive state claimed such a bomb could be detonated at high altitudes for “super-powerful EMP attack according to strategic goals”.

Chairman of the now defunded EMP commission William Graham and its former chief of staff Peter Vincent Pry told the hearing an EMP attack would be devastating. “The result could be to shut down the US electric power grid for an indefinite period, leading to the death within a year of up to 90 per cent of all Americans,” they said such an attack remains unlikely.

Greg Austin, a professor in cyber security at UNSW told, “The scenario of an EMP attack is highly unlikely, as unlikely as a direct nuclear attack on ground targets in South Korea or Australia.”

“EMP is hardly new — in the 80s, the US (and Russia and China) went to considerable expense to EMP-Harden their communication systems, especially military ones.”

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Trump to Release JFK Assassination Docs Despite Concerns from Federal Agencies


President Trump announced Saturday morning that he planned to release the tens of thousands of never-before-seen documents left in the files related to President John F. Kennedy’s assassination held by the National Archives and Records Administration.

“Subject to the receipt of further information, I will be allowing, as President, the long blocked and classified JFK FILES to be opened,” Trump tweeted early Saturday.



Kennedy assassination experts have been speculating for weeks about whether Trump would disclose the documents. The 1992 Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act required that the millions of pages — many of them contained in CIA and FBI documents — be published in 25 years, by Oct. 26. Over the years, the National Archives has released most of the documents, either in full or partially redacted.

But one final batch remains and only the president has the authority to extend the papers’ secrecy past the October deadline. In his tweet, Trump seemed to strongly imply he was going to release all the remaining documents. But he also hedged, suggesting that if between now and Oct. 26, other government agencies made a strong case not to release the documents, he wouldn’t. Also, Trump was not clear about whether he would publish all of the documents in full, or with some of them redacted.

In the days leading up to Trump’s tweet, a National Security Council official told The Washington Post that government agencies were urging the president not to release some of the documents. But Trump’s longtime confidant Roger Stone told conspiracy theorist Alex Jones of Infowars this week that he personally lobbied Trump to publish all of the documents.

Stone also told Jones that CIA director Mike Pompeo “has been lobbying the president furiously not to release these documents.”

Kennedy assassination experts say they don’t think the last batch of papers contains any major bombshells. They do suspect the papers will shed light on the activities of Lee Harvey Oswald, Kennedy’s assassin, while he was traveling in Mexico City in late September 1963, and courting Cuban and Soviet spies.

Phil Shenon, who wrote a book about the Warren Commission, the congressional body that investigated Kennedy’s killing, said he was pleased with Trump’s decision. But he wonders to what degree the papers will ultimately be released.

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Movement to Regulate Facebook is Attracting Powerful Allies


This week, a bipartisan group of US senators took the first steps toward regulating online political advertising in a manner similar to the way the government already regulates these ads in traditional media. Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar (MN) and Mark Warner (VA), joined by Republican Sen. John McCain (AZ), say their Honest Ads Act will protect against foreign interference in elections by requiring platforms like Facebook to make details about ads’ buyers, pricing, and targeting publicly available.

Advocates cheered the move, which they said represented a long-overdue step to apply the same standards of transparency and fairness to online ads that have long been the norm for print, radio, and television. At the same time, the bill’s passage is far from certain: so far, it has just one Republican supporter in Congress, and the tech companies that would be affected have deployed a phalanx of lobbyists.

“It goes a long way,” said Alex Howard, deputy director of the Sunlight Foundation, which advocates for transparency in political advertising and helped to draft the legislation. “Opacity by design is not an acceptable status quo for the technology giants that shape public knowledge and discourse with limited accountability,” he wrote in a blog post after the bill’s introduction. “We’re excited to see bipartisan support for more transparency and accountability online.”

The Honest Ads Act would require large platform companies like Facebook and Google to retain copies of the political ads they serve and make them available for public inspection. The companies would also have to publish information about who bought the ad, how much it cost, and what rates they were charged. The act would apply to any platform with more than 50 million monthly users, and anyone who spent more than $500 a year on online ads.

Facebook has already committed to making copies of ads publicly available. It also pledged to make more prominent disclosures about who paid for the ads on the advertisements themselves. It’s part of the company’s nine-point plan to reset Facebook’s relationship with democracy, which CEO Mark Zuckerberg laid out last month after mounting pressure to act.

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Elon Musk Proposes City-to-City Travel by Rocket, Right Here on Earth



‘Anywhere on Earth in under an hour,’ Musk says. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk unveiled revised plans to travel to the Moon and Mars at a space industry conference today, but he ended his talk with a pretty incredible promise: using that same interplanetary rocket system for long-distance travel on Earth. Musk showed a demonstration of the idea onstage, claiming that it will allow passengers to take “most long-distance trips” in just 30 minutes, and go “anywhere on Earth in under an hour” for around the same price as an economy airline ticket.

Musk proposed using SpaceX’s forthcoming mega-rocket (codenamed Big Fucking Rocket or BFR for short) to lift a massive spaceship into orbit around the Earth. The ship would then settle down on floating landing pads near major cities. Both the new rocket and spaceship are currently theoretical, though Musk did say that he hopes to begin construction on the rocket in the next six to nine months.

In SpaceX’s video that illustrates the idea, passengers take a large boat from a dock in New York City to a floating launchpad out in the water. There, they board the same rocket that Musk wants to use to send humans to Mars by 2024. But instead of heading off to another planet once they leave the Earth’s atmosphere, the ship separates and breaks off toward another city — Shanghai.

Just 39 minutes and some 7,000 miles later, the ship reenters the atmosphere and touches down on another floating pad, much like the way SpaceX lands its Falcon 9 rockets at sea. Other routes proposed in the video include Hong Kong to Singapore in 22 minutes, London to Dubai or New York in 29 minutes, and Los Angeles to Toronto in 24 minutes.

This proposed method of Earth-city-to-Earth-city travel would be, by far, the fastest ever created by humanity. The ship would reach a speed of about 18,000 miles per hour at its peak, Musk said, which is more than an order of magnitude faster than the Concorde.

Musk presented the idea at the very end of his speech, so he was light on details when it comes to the other logistics surrounding this proposal. (In fact, most of Musk’s speech was about how he wants to use this new rocket system to make all current and forthcoming Falcon rockets obsolete.) Using the numbers he showed earlier in the talk when describing the ship’s capacity with regards to the Moon and Mars, we can estimate it could carry somewhere between 80 and 200 people per trip. But we don’t know other basics like how much of the air travel market Musk sees this occupying, how it would be regulated, or even when SpaceX might attempt such a feat.

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NASA Satellite That Monitors CO2 is Revealing the Inner Workings of Our Planet



NASA is advancing new tools like the supercomputer model that created this simulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to better understand what will happen to Earth’s climate if the land and ocean can no longer absorb nearly half of all climate-warming CO2 emissions.

Thanks to a NASA satellite that’s been mapping the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in unprecedented detail, scientists are learning much more about how plants work, and how the land and oceans suck up and release CO2. This information could help us figure out how our world will respond to global warming.

New research shows that during the 2015–2016 El Niño, for instance, droughts, heat, and fires in tropical areas caused plants and soil on three continents to contribute to the largest growth of carbon dioxide on record. Plants use CO2 to grow, and they suck it out of the atmosphere. But during this event, because of little rain and higher than normal temperatures in South America, Africa, and Asia, some plants didn’t absorb as much CO2; others died and decomposed more quickly, releasing the carbon they’d pulled from the air. The newly observed behavior may provide clues for how the changing climate will create new feedback systems that can accelerate global warming.

These findings, published in one of five studies coming out today in Science, represent just the first batch of discoveries from a mission NASA launched in 2014. The satellite, called Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2, or OCO-2, is designed to monitor carbon dioxide in our planet’s atmosphere. CO2 levels have been increasing since the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s, and because CO2 is a heat-trapping greenhouse gas, our planet is warming up. Today, we keep pumping out huge amounts of carbon by burning fossil fuels, but about 25 percent of those emissions are absorbed by the ocean, and another 25 percent is vacuumed up by plants. Today’s papers are the beginnings of explanations about how this carbon is taken up, and if these processes will last as the world continues to warm.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty on what the world might be like in 100 years, and understanding more of what we’re seeing now can help us predict better what the future holds,” says Annmarie Eldering, the deputy project scientist for the OCO-2 mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), and the co-author of a few of the studies.

The OCO-2 satellite zooms around the Earth over 14 times a day, gathering about 100,000 measurements per day — including in areas that haven’t been observed much before, like the middle of the ocean and the Amazon rainforest. Using that data, researchers put together a map of CO2 concentrations over the planet, to see how the gas is absorbed and emitted, and how it’s dispersed into the atmosphere.

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The World’s Top UFO Experts ‘Are Being Murdered'




The world’s top UFO experts ‘are being murdered, one by one’, conspiracy theorists claim Rob Waugh for 2 Oct 2017 2:49 pm Share this article with Facebook Share this article with Twitter Share this article with Google Plus Share this article through email 370 (Picture: Getty) It’s almost the perfect conspiracy theory – that the government is actually killing off anyone who gets too close to the truth about UFOs. Storm Brian is here and he's brought 70mph winds and huge waves But some people seriously believe it – and point to a grisly catalogues of supposed ‘accidents’ and ‘suicides’ as proof. This week, researchers from MUFON discussed a supposed catalogue of people who had died – with dozens of names mentioned. John Ventre of MUFON (the Mutual UFO Network) says, ‘Is someone killing our UFO investigators?


In a ten year period 137 period in the field died.’ Last years, a paranormal investigator Max Spiers – who claimed to have survived a secret government ‘super soldier’ program – was found dead, and conspiracy fans once again pointed the finger at secretive government agencies.

Believers say that dozens have died – with killings stretching back as far as 1947 – and that the assassination of JFK may have been arranged to stop him revealing the truth about UFOs. U

‘All of us who have grown into prominent positions in this research, the danger from the government or those who want to keep you silent grows monumentally.‘I am starting to honestly believe that those concerns are justified. Nigel Watson, author of the UFO Investigations Manual, says, ‘The idea that UFO researchers are being murdered implies there is some form of conspiracy and organisation behind them.

‘It relates to the concept of Men in Black (MIB),who are either aliens in human disguise or government agents, who stop UFO witnesses from making their sightings public. MIB usually verbally intimidate people, but it seems logical that ‘they’ would stretch to violence and murder when needed.

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Flat Earth theory –Why are Flat Earth Truthers Having Such a Huge Year Online?



If you feel like flat Earth theory has gotten unaccountably popular recently, you’re right. According to Google Trends, search interest in the flat Earth conspiracy theory has already had several distinct peaks in the last year. (“The last year” was 2017, not 1519, just to be clear.) It’s funny, weird, and while it’s certainly not at the top of our list of problems as a society, it’s not entirely innocent either.

Interest surged in February and March, then again in May, then again in August and September. These jumps are mostly tied to a couple of strange outbursts by celebrities, notably 2010’s favorite cheeseball rapper and Gossip Girl backing vocalist B.o.B. and Boston Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving. But interest in the topic has been climbing steadily since late 2014, shortly after a faction of Daniel Shenton’s “Flat Earth Society” broke away to create its own website and forum. The FAQ page for Flat Earth Society is the third Google search result for “flat Earth,” and encourages people to distrust science completely, as the best way to experience reality is “by relying on one’s own senses to discern the true nature of the world around us.”

News outlets contribute, too, because explainers about the flat Earth conspiracy do incredible traffic. They’re capitalizing on a basic human interest in mysteries and the strange behavior of others, and they’re also wading into an online environment where it’s impossible to differentiate a joke from a deeply held belief. That’s a recipe for one viral hit, then another. It’s been a huge, thrilling year for flat Earth truthers.

The Flat Earth Society’s site — which posits that the idea of a round Earth is somehow related to the faking of the Moon landing — is remarkably well-designed and professional-looking, eliminating some of the old hallmarks of disinformation on the internet. The ease of creating a website as clean as this one is a problem that has been well-documented by information scientists. As recently as five years ago, high schools were teaching that you could identify a disreputable source by its cheap-looking site, bad design, and messy URL. That no longer holds.

Not everyone who’s reading or sharing these posts can possibly be believers in flat Earth. I asked Joseph Uscinski, a political science professor at the University of Miami who recently co-authored a history of American conspiracy theories, why people who don’t believe in the flat Earth theory would waste their time reading about it. Reading about a conspiracy theory is “not unlike [watching] an M. Night Shyamalan movie in the theater,” he says. These theories “posit alternative realities full of schemes and skullduggery… Did secret agents plant explosives in the Twin Towers to fake a terror attack? Did the Mafia undertake a hit against President Kennedy? Do interdimensional lizards secretly interbreed with humans while running the planet? Even if one is not convinced, there is plenty of entertainment there.”

As for people who actually believe in flat Earth theory, Fenster says, you can’t really change their minds with photographic evidence or mathematical proof of a round Earth. To believe in a theory like this one, you have to go way, way past the normal threshold for questioning expertise and “hierarchies of intellectual knowledge.” It’s fun for us to have our perceptions pulled apart in fictional thrillers and mysteries, but we consider a narrative satisfying only when it also offers a way to put things back together. People who believe in flat Earth have already decided that the world around them can’t possibly be what it seems, and so a conspiracy theory becomes “a nice way of efficiently explaining what would otherwise be a confounding world,” Fenster says.

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