“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.
The Strange Link Between Pandemics and Psychosis–Scientists are looking more closely at how viruses and infections could influence our minds, reports Shayla Love for Motherboard Science. By 1919, the Spanish Flu pandemic had spread influenza to a third of the world’s population, or around 500 million people. Psychiatrist Karl Menninger was treating people at Boston Psychopathic Hospital who’d recently been infected. But his patients had symptoms far beyond what’s usually associated with the flu. In a paper on 100 cases he saw over three months, he described seeing extreme mental disturbances—over half of his patients had some sort of psychosis, and almost two-thirds had hallucinations.
A chilling scientific paper helped upend U.S. and U.K. coronavirus strategies –Democracy Dies in Darkness–Immediately after Boris Johnson completed his Monday evening news conference, which saw a somber prime minister encourage his fellow citizens to avoid “all nonessential contact with others,” his aides hustled reporters into a second, off-camera briefing, reports William Booth for the Washington Post.That session presented jaw-dropping numbers from some of Britain’s top modelers of infectious disease, who predicted the deadly course of the coronavirus could quickly kill hundreds of thousands in both the United Kingdom and the United States, as surges of sick and dying patients overwhelmed hospitals and critical care units.
How the Horrific 1918 Flu Spread Across America –-The toll of history’s worst epidemic surpasses all the military deaths in World War I and World War II combined. And it may have begun in the United States, reports Smithsonian.com. We cannot say for certain that that happened in 1918 in Haskell County, but we do know that an influenza outbreak struck in January, an outbreak so severe that, although influenza was not then a “reportable” disease, a local physician named Loring Miner—a large and imposing man, gruff, a player in local politics, who became a doctor before the acceptance of the germ theory of disease but whose intellectual curiosity had kept him abreast of scientific developments—went to the trouble of alerting the U.S. Public Health Service. The report itself no longer exists, but it stands as the first recorded notice anywhere in the world of unusual influenza activity that year.
Axions Would Solve Another Major Problem in Physics –In a new paper, physicists argue that hypothetical particles called axions could explain why the universe isn’t empty. Physicists have long hypothesized the existence of a minuscule particle called the axion that could single-handedly solve two mysteries, writes Natalie Wolchover for Quanta.com. It could account for a puzzling property of quarks, the elementary particles inside protons and neutrons, and it could comprise the dark matter that fills the cosmos. Now, the authors of a paper that will be published this week in Physical Review Letters show that the axion could be the rare stone that kills a third bird as well — the question of why there’s so much more matter than antimatter in the universe.
We’re Better Equipped to Find Extraterrestrial Life Now Than Ever Before –Astronomers have more places to look for signs of intelligent life and more advanced tools to find it, re[ports Smithsonian.com. Estimating the chance of getting a message from life beyond Earth, say within the next decade, isn’t easy. Even the best experts are reluctant to offer precise odds. “Anybody who gave you a figure would be talking about religion, not science,” says Jill Tarter, the astronomer who has spent most of her life pursuing the quest to find signals from alien life. But however small the probability of seeing a signal from E.T. is, those chances are soon going to be a lot better than they have been in the past.
Time Has No Meaning at the North Pole –The utter lack of time zones, daylight and people creates a bizarre world, reports Katie Weeman for Scientific American. At the North Pole, 24 time zones collide at a single point, rendering them meaningless. It’s simultaneously all of Earth’s time zones and none of them. There are no boundaries of any kind in this abyss, in part because there is no land and no people. The sun rises and sets just once per year, so “time of day” is irrelevant as well.
A New Physics Theory of Life –“You start with a random clump of atoms, and if you shine light on it for long enough, it should not be so surprising that you get a plant,” said Jeremy England in 2014. An MIT physicist proposed the provocative idea that life exists because the law of increasing entropy drives matter to acquire lifelike physical properties.
The 2020 vernal equinox will bring the earliest spring to the US in 124 years, report Joe Rao for Space.com. The exact moment of the equinox will occur Thursday night at 11:49 p.m. EDT (0349 GMT on March 20), according to the astronomy reference book “Astronomical Table of the Sun, Moon and Planets” (Willmann-Bell, 2016). At that time, the Earth will reach the point in its orbit where its axis isn’t tilted toward or away from the sun. Thus, the sun will then be directly over a specific point on the Earth’s equator moving northward. On the sky, it’s where the ecliptic and celestial equator cross each other.
Scientists are leading Notre Dame’s restoration—and probing mysteries laid bare by its devastating fire, reports ScienceMag.
The smallest dinosaur ever found was a weird, primitive bird, researchers say –-The fossil skull of the new species, dubbed Oculudentavis, meaning “eye tooth bird,” is just over half an inch long, reports NBC MACH. The smallest dinosaur ever found – a bird-like creature weighing less than a tenth of an ounce – has been discovered inside a drop of amber, where it was preserved for 99 million years. Researchers think the animal was smaller than the bee hummingbird, the smallest known modern bird.
TikTok: How did the video-sharing app get so big so quickly? Its rise has been meteoric. With more than 3 million people a day now downloading the app, its success is down to more than just luck
Why Birds Are the World’s Best Engineers –A nest is “a disordered stick bomb,” resilient in ways that humans have hardly begun to understand, much less emulate, reports Siobhan Roberts for the New York Times. Their tiny brains, dense with neurons, produce marvels that have long captured scientific interest as naturally selected engineering solutions — yet nests are still not well understood. One effort to disentangle the structural dynamics of the nest is underway in the sunny yellow lab — the Mechanical Biomimetics and Open Design Lab — of Hunter King, an experimental soft-matter physicist at the University of Akron in Ohio.
After Closure, the Met Opera Offers Free Streaming of Past Performances –Each night, the institution will post an encore showing of an opera from its “Met Live in HD” series
Freeman Dyson’s Alien Megastructure Idea Will Live Forever--Dyson, a quantum physicist who died at age 96 on Feb. 28, recalled in a 2003 interview just how he first advanced his concept of a “Dyson sphere,” which could betray the existence of an advanced alien civilization. It was via a 1960 article in the journal Science called “Search for Artificial Stellar Sources of Infrared Radiation.” Dyson wrote the article just as scientists were beginning to search for signs of alien intelligence using radio telescopes. The 1960 piece noted, Dyson said, that radio is a great medium for searching — but only if aliens are willing to communicate. If the aliens remained silent, you would need to look for their heat waste from space, using infrared sensors.
Found: Two Bombs From 1935 Stuck in Hawai’i Volcano –After 85 years, officials plan to remove the old, undetonated bombs that were part of a 1935 plan to divert lava flow on Mauna Loa, reports The Smithsonian.
“Post-Apocalyptic” –Whole Foods Workers ‘Are Crying and Having Panic Attacks’ –Whole Foods workers say they’re stressed, overworked, and scared: “It can only be described as post-apocalyptic,” reports Lauren Kaori Gurley for Motherboard Vice. The scene at Whole Foods Markets from Silicon Valley to Texas to Chicago has been one of utter chaos in recent days, employees say. Beginning in the wee hours of the morning, customers have queued up outside stores; most people are spending hundreds of dollars. By midday, at many stores, essentials and staples like toilet paper, bread, and pasta have been depleted.