“Planet Earth Report” provides descriptive links to headline news by leading science journalists about the extraordinary discoveries, technology, people, and events changing our knowledge of Planet Earth and the future of the human species. Our caffeine-inspired curation team scours the world, doing your work for you –all in one place.
The iron ocean hypothesis of ice ages--In July 1988, during at a lecture at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, oceanographer John Martin stood up and said in his best Dr. Strangelove accent, “Give me a half tanker of iron, and I will give you an ice age.” These inflammatory words centered around a theory known as the iron hypothesis. Martin professed that by sprinkling a relatively small amount of iron into certain areas of the ocean, known as high-nutrient, low-chlorophyll zones (HNLCs), one could create large blooms of those unicellular aquatic plants commonly known as algae. If enough of these HNLC zones were fertilized with iron, he believed the growth in algae could take in so much carbon from the atmosphere that they could reverse the greenhouse effect and cool the Earth. Martin, reports Nature.com proposed a solution to one of the biggest mysteries of Earth’s climate system: how was nearly one-third of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (about 200 gigatonnes of carbon) drawn into the ocean as the planet entered the most recent ice age, then stored for tens of thousands of years, and released again as the ice sheets melted?
About 7,000 years ago, a vast lake spread hundreds of square kilometers across the Sahara. Known to scientists as Lake Mega Chad, it covered more than 400,000 square kilometers (150,000 square miles) at its peak, making it slightly larger than the Caspian Sea, the biggest lake on Earth today. Modern Lake Chad has shrunk to just a fraction of its former size, but evidence of the lake’s ancient shorelines is still etched into desert landscapes — hundreds of kilometers from the shores of the modern lake.
The Warming Oceans Will Get Louder –Every 10 minutes, reports Mashable, the relentlessly warming oceans absorb 50 megatons of energy, the amount of energy released when detonating the largest-ever atomic bomb. These warming seas — which soak up over 90 percent of the heat humanity traps on Earth — harbor a particularly loud critter found all over the world: the snapping shrimp. The shrimp make an omnipresent background noise similar to static, or frying bacon, or crinkled paper. And new evidence points to a future where snapping shrimp may get significantly louder as the oceans continue to warm — a big environmental change for the many creatures inhabiting bustling reefs.
Scientists Discover Giant Viruses With Features Only Seen Before in Living Cells–Sifting through a soup of genes sampled from many environments, including human saliva, animal poop, lakes, hospitals, soils and more, researchers have found hundreds of giant viruses – some with abilities only seen before in cellular life. The international team, led by scientists from University of California, Berkeley, has discovered entire new groups of giant phages (viruses that infect bacteria) and pieced together 351 gene sequences. Within these they found genes that code for unexpected things, including bits of the cellular machinery that reads and executes DNA instructions to build proteins, also known as translation.
Why climate change is creating more female sea turtles and crocodiles –As the world gets warmer, animals whose sex is determined by temperature are finding cool ways to control their own fate. But can they adapt in time, reports New Scientist. The threat from climate change to animals whose sex is determined by temperature seems obvious. Higher temperatures cause them to produce offspring primarily of one sex, a skew that would appear to put them on the road to extinction. But the curious fact is, this group contains some of the most ancient lineages in the animal kingdom – from crocodiles and turtles to fish and even a reptile-like “living fossil” called the tuatara – and they have survived repeated bouts of global warming in the past.
Scientists Found Breathable Oxygen in Another Galaxy for the First Time –Astronomers have spotted molecular oxygen in a galaxy far far away, reports Becky Ferreira for Motherboad/Vice, marking the first time that this important element has ever been detected outside of the Milky Way. This momentous “first detection of extragalactic molecular oxygen,” as it is described in a recent study in The Astrophysical Journal, has big implications for understanding the crucial role of oxygen in the evolution of planets, stars, galaxies, and life.
Sweden is now testing its digital version of cash, the e-krona, reports MIT Technology Review. The Riksbank, Sweden’s central bank, has announced the launch of a year-long pilot project of its proposed e-krona. The project will use distributed ledger technology inspired by the blockchains that run cryptocurrencies.