“The Galaxy Report” provides paragraph-length summaries of headline news by leading science journalists about the amazing discoveries, technology, people, and events changing our knowledge of Planet Earth and the Cosmos beyond. Our caffine-inspired curation team scours the world, doing your work for you –all in one place.
Giant Blobs Nestled Deep in the Earth may influence everything from the structure of island chains to mass-extinction events, writes Joshua Sokol for Quanta. “It would be like having an object in the sky, and asking, ‘Is that the moon?’ And people are like, no. ‘Is that the sun?’ No. ‘What is it?’ We don’t know!” said Vedran Lekić, a seismologist at the University of Maryland. “And whatever it is, it is intimately tied to the evolution of the Earth.” Over the years, better maps kept showing the same bloblike features. One huddles under Africa; the other is beneath the Pacific. They lurk where the planet’s molten iron core meets its rocky mantle, floating like mega-continents in the underworld. Their highest points may measure over 100 times the height of Everest. And if you somehow brought them to the surface, God forbid, they contain enough material to cover the entire globe in a lava lake roughly 100 kilometers deep.
Dark Matter Particles the Size of Planets? –“Yes” Say ‘Cold-Model’ Physicists. At first, we thought it was absurd. How else could you respond to the idea that black holes generate swirling clouds of planet-sized particles that could be the dark matter thought to hold galaxies together? We tend to think about particles as being tiny but, theoretically, there is no reason they can’t be as big as a galaxy,” said theoretical physicist Asimina Arvanitaki, at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics referring to the heated debate about the standard model for dark matter that proposes that it is ‘cold,’ meaning that the particles move slowly compared to the speed of light which is tied to the mass of dark matter particles. The lower the mass of the particle, the ‘warmer’ it is and the faster it will move.
A Wild Discovery About Fungi Just Changed Earth’s Evolutionary Timeline –The finding deepens our understanding of how modern life originated on Earth and shows there’s a lot we still don’t know about our planet’s history, writes Becky Ferreira for Motherboard.. Scientists have discovered fossils of a fungal lifeform that lived between 715 and 810 million years ago, long before the dawn of complex life. The specimens, which are from the Democratic Republic of Congo, are more than 250 million years older than the next oldest evidence of fungi. The discovery has big implications for reconstructing the timeline of evolution on Earth, which was significantly shaped by fungi, a kingdom of life that includes mushrooms, yeasts, and moulds.
Death on Mars –The martian radiation environment is a problem for human explorers that cannot be overstated. A few years ago, writes Caleb Scharf for Scientific American, this idea was in the spotlight because of now-defunct efforts like Mars One, which somehow got 200,000 people to express interest in what would have been a lifelong trip to the red planet. We’ve also seen Elon Musk’s vision of how SpaceX would eventually provide a human “backup plan” by permanently settling Mars. One of the big hurdles to Musk’s vision is radiation. For reasons unclear to me, continues Scharf, this tends to get pushed aside compared to other questions to do with Mars’s atmosphere (akin to sitting 30km above Earth with no oxygen), temperatures, natural resources (water), nasty surface chemistry (perchlorates), and lower surface gravitational acceleration (1/3rd that on Earth).
Weird dust balls seen impossibly close to our galaxy’s huge black hole –At the center of our galaxy, less than 0.2 light years from Sagittarius A*, the Milky Way’s supermassive black hole, six strange objects are defying gravity, writes Leah Crane for New Scientist. They look like clouds of gas and dust, but behave like stars, and astronomers don’t know what they are. The first two of these objects, called G1 and G2, were discovered nearly a decade ago. At the time, astronomers thought they were simply gas clouds soon to be gobbled up. But instead of being stretched out and swallowed by the black hole, the clouds continued to orbit it. Anna Ciurlo at the University of California, Los Angeles, and her colleagues have spotted four more of these weird clouds, which have been called simply G objects. Each of them is on the order of 15 billion kilometers across, and from afar they simply look like huge clouds that have signatures of hydrogen atoms and don’t emit very much heat.
Beings That Are Smarter Than Humans Inhabit the Galaxy —Originally published by Scientific American, July 1943 “If, as appears to be probable, vegetation exists on Mars, life has developed on two out of the three planets in our system where it has any chance to do so. With this as a guide, it appears now to be probable that the whole number of inhabited worlds within the Galaxy is considerable. To think of thousands, or even more, now appears far more reasonable than to suppose that our planet alone is the abode of life and reason. What the forms of life might be on these many worlds is a question before which even the most speculative mind may quail.”
Scientists Think We’re Closer to the End of the World Than Ever –The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the Doomsday Clock 100 seconds to midnight, the closest it’s ever been. “Humanity continues to face two simultaneous existential dangers—nuclear war and climate change—that are compounded by a threat multiplier, cyber-enabled information warfare, that undercuts society’s ability to respond,” the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists said in a statement. “The international security situation is dire, not just because these threats exist, but because world leaders have allowed the international political infrastructure for managing them to erode.”