Today’s “Planet Earth Report” –Humans May Outlive the Universe, Space X’s Super Secret Mission, CDC Prepping for Nuclear War

 

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January 6, 2018. Links to today's headline stories from 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. Today's coverage includes Twitter Says Trump Is Here to Stay, Voracious Starfish Is Destroying the Great Barrier Reef, Podcaster Joe Rogan Talks About Existence of  Alien Life with Caltech SuperStar Physicist, and more.

 

 

Humans Might Outlive Earth, the Sun…and Even the Universe

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Nuclear war. Runaway climate change. A global pandemic. Today our world faces all manner of existential threats. But scary possibilities like these are nothing compared to what astronomers say lies in store for Earth. Our planet’s ultimate destiny is to be baked, blasted, and eventually disintegrated.

There’s nothing we can do to prevent this cataclysm. Yet according to scientists who study the far future, including Yale University astronomer Gregory Laughlin, the prospect for life is, oddly, rather bright. Given technological advances and the continuing evolution of our species, humans should be able to survive — in some form — long after Earth has ceased to exist.

But our distant descendants are going to have to do some planet-hopping.

The first major cosmic crisis will strike in about 1.5 billion years. At that point, according to projections by environmental scientist Andrew J. Rushby at the University of East Anglia in England, the brightening sun will set off what might be termed “super-global” warming. Earth will be heated until the oceans boil.

By then, though, will we care? We already have the technology to establish bases on the moon and Mars. So a billion and a half years from now, we’ll likely have colonized the whole solar system — and perhaps other star systems in our Milky Way galaxy.

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SpaceX's Super Secret Mission Just Got Delayed for a Surprising Reason

 
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SpaceX has delayed its most secretive mission yet — codenamed Zuma — yet again. This time, the delay is as unusual as the mission itself. The aerospace company has been trying to launch Zuma on behalf of the U.S. government since mid-November, but a string of setbacks have kept the mission from taking off. On Thursday, SpaceX announced on Twitter that it would not be launching Zuma on Friday as planned due to “extreme weather” in Florida. SpaceX is now eyeing Sunday for launch.

“Team at the Cape completed additional propellant loading tests today,” SpaceX writes on Twitter. “Extreme weather slowed operations but Falcon 9 and the Zuma spacecraft are healthy and go for launch.”

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Twitter Says Trump Is Here to Stay

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On Friday, Twitter finally responded to calls to ban President Donald Trump from Twitter for violating its own rules. In a blog post, the company explained that blocking a world leader or removing their controversial tweets from Twitter would “hide information people should be able to see and debate.” They also add that such an action “would also not silence that leader, but it would certainly hamper necessary discussion around their words and actions.”

The blog post also responds to a common criticism of the platform: that Twitter profits off of Trump’s bombastic tweets: “No one person’s account drives Twitter’s growth, or influences these decisions. We work hard to remain unbiased with the public interest in mind.”

A group called "Resistance SF' projected a strong message onto Twitter's San Francisco office.
The rules that Trump is most commonly accused of breaking are harassment and incitement to violence. Earlier this year, an online petition to ban Trump from Twitter reached over 72,000 signatures.

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A Voracious Starfish Is Destroying the Great Barrier Reef

 

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Byron Bay, Australia — The Great Barrier Reef is literally being eaten alive. Deadly starfish are feasting on parts of the world’s largest reef system, which is already threatened by rising ocean temperatures, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority said on Friday.

Crown-of-thorns starfish, a native species whose numbers occasionally grow so out of control they endanger the reef, have been detected on 37 sections of the southerly Swain Reef, more than 60 miles offshore, according to the park authority.

“Whenever coral in any location in the Great Barrier Reef is threatened or stressed, it is of concern,” said Fred Nucifora, a spokesman for the authority.

 

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The reef is one of the planet’s largest living structures — big enough to be seen from space — and is home to thousands of species, including sharks, turtles and whales. Australia relies on it for about 70,000 jobs and billions of dollars annually in tourism revenue.

Normally, the starfish contribute to the reef’s diversity by eating faster-growing coral species, which allow for slower-growing species to thrive. But at outbreak levels, the starfish are able to eat coral — a polyp that builds the limestone reefs on which they communally live — faster than the coral can reproduce.

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Watch a New Sci-Fi Short That Offers a Terrifying Depiction of the Future

 

Podcaster Joe Rogan Talks About Existence of  Aliens with Caltech SuperStar Physicist

 

 

 

 

Alcohol Has an Irreversible Effect on Stem Cell DNA, Say Scientists

 

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A new study clarifies the link between drinking and some cancers. It’s no secret that heavy drinking is linked to an increased risk of developing cancer, but it’s never really been clear how boozing really does its damage. In a groundbreaking new study published Wednesday, however, scientists report that some cancers occur because alcohol can inflict damage on the DNA of stem cells, which in turn may initiate the development of cancerous tumor

In the Nature paper, researchers from the University of Cambridge, the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, and the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology explain that the damage comes down to the effects of acetaldehyde, a chemical compound and toxin that’s released when the body breaks down alcohol.

Acetaldehyde, the researchers discovered, causes permanent damage to DNA because it can delete and break strands and rearrange chromosomes when the cell lacks a protective enzyme called aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 (ALDH2). Approximately eight percent of the world’s population has an inherited deficiency in this enzyme.

“Our study highlights that not being able to process alcohol effectively can lead to an even higher risk of alcohol-related DNA damage and therefore certain cancers,” co-author Ketan Patel, Ph.D., of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, told the Guardian.

“But it’s important to remember that alcohol clearance and DNA repair systems are not perfect and alcohol can still cause cancer in different ways, even when people whose defence mechanisms are intact.”

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The Ocean Is Losing Its Breath

 

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In the past 50 years, the amount of water in the open ocean with zero oxygen has gone up more than fourfold. In coastal water bodies, including estuaries and seas, low-oxygen sites have increased more than 10-fold since 1950. Scientists expect oxygen to continue dropping even outside these zones as Earth warms.

To halt the decline, the world needs to rein in both climate change and nutrient pollution, an international team of scientists including Lisa Levin, a biological oceanographer at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, asserted in a new paper published Jan. 4 in Science.

“Oxygen is fundamental to life in the oceans,” said Denise Breitburg, lead author and marine ecologist with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. “The decline in ocean oxygen ranks among the most serious effects of human activities on the Earth’s environment.”

“It’s a tremendous loss to all the support services that rely on recreation and tourism, hotels and restaurants and taxi drivers and everything else,” said Levin. “The reverberations of unhealthy ecosystems in the ocean can be extensive.”

The study came from a team of scientists from GO2NE (Global Ocean Oxygen Network), a new working group created in 2016 by the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission. The review paper is the first to take such a sweeping look at the causes, consequences and solutions to low oxygen worldwide, in both the open ocean and coastal waters. The article highlights the biggest dangers to the ocean and society, and what it will take to keep Earth’s waters healthy and productive.

“Approximately half of the oxygen on Earth comes from the ocean,” said Vladimir Ryabinin, executive secretary of the International Oceanographic Commission that formed the GO2NE group. “However, combined effects of nutrient loading and climate change are greatly increasing the number and size of ‘dead zones’ in the open ocean and coastal waters, where oxygen is too low to support most marine life.”

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Scary! CDC Plans Session on ‘Preparing  for the Unthinkable’: a Nuclear Detonation

 

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With this week’s bellicose boasting about who has the bigger red button on his desk, an alert Thursday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention felt like one more WTF thing to worry about. With the prospect of actual nuclear war breaking out between North Korea and the United States seeming ever more real, the CDC is moving to prepare health professionals and others on what the public health response would be to a nuclear detonation.

The CDC announced it is staging a grand rounds — a teaching session — on the topic. The target audience: doctors, nurses, epidemiologists, pharmacists, veterinarians, certified health education specialists, laboratory scientists, and others. The event will be held Jan. 16.

 

 

A spokesperson for the agency said planning for the event has been underway for months — in fact, since CDC officials took part in a “radiation/nuclear incident exercise” led by the Federal Emergency Management Agency last April, Kathy Harben said in an email.

“CDC participants felt it would be a good way to discuss public health preparedness and share resources with states and other partners. State and local partners also have expressed interest in this topic over time,” she said.

Still, the timing of the announcement was eerie, coming on the heels of back-to-back threats exchanged between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump.

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[Image credit top of page: With thanks to Redice TV]

 

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