“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.
Earth’s Virosphere –In recent years, scientists have discovered that the world of virus diversity — what they sometimes call the virosphere — is unimaginably vast, writes Carl Zimmer for the New York Times. They have uncovered hundreds of thousands of new species that have yet to be named. And they suspect that there are millions, perhaps even trillions, of species waiting to be found.” “Suffice to say that we have only sampled a minuscule fraction of the virosphere,” said Edward Holmes of the University of Sydney in Australia. As recently as January 2020 scientists drilled two ice cores from a glacier on the northwestern Tibetan Plateau of China, revealing the existence of 28 never-before-seen virus groups that had been buried there for the past 15,000 year.
Chloroquine –The Strange Story Behind the “Cure” for COVID-19 –“People are looking for quick solutions of course and this bubbled to the top.” We know how to slow the spread of COVID-19 (social distancing, hand washing, etc). But as more people become infected, scientists are moving quickly in search of a cure. But the internet is moving faster, reports Inverse. On Tuesday, March 17, a small, preliminary study on the anti-malarial drug chloroquine (pronounced klaw· ruh·kwn) as a treatment for COVID-19 published online. While the findings are tentatively promising, the study has been blown into something far bigger, thanks to the power of Elon Musk’s 32 million followers on Twitter and a Google do
“Does the Cosmos Hide its Quantum Secrets?” –The Answer May Confirm Expansion of the Universe: Many physicists consider string theory our best hope for combining quantum physics and gravity into a unified theory of everything, writes Brendan Z. Foster for Scientific American. Physicists have found a way the theory might limit the cosmic inflation that is thought to have expanded the early universe. Yet a contrary opinion is that the concept is practically pseudoscience, because it seems to be nearly impossible to test through experiments. Now some scientists say we may have a way to do exactly that, thanks to a new conjecture that pits string theory against cosmic expansion. What it comes down to is this question: Does the universe show us all of its quantum secrets, or does it somehow hide those details from our classical eyes? Because if the details can be seen, string theory might not be able to explain them.
Found –The edge of the Milky Way –Astronomers have long known that the brightest part of the Milky Way, the pancake-shaped disk of stars that houses the sun, is some 120,000 light-years across (SN: 8/1/19). Beyond this stellar disk is a disk of gas. A vast halo of dark matter, presumably full of invisible particles, engulfs both disks and stretches far beyond them (SN: 10/25/16). But because the dark halo emits no light, its diameter is hard to measure. Now, writes Ken Croswell for Science News, Alis Deason, an astrophysicist at Durham University in England, and her colleagues have used nearby galaxies to locate the Milky Way’s edge. The precise diameter is 1.9 million light-years, give or take 0.4 million light-years, the team reports February 21 in a paper posted at arXiv.org.
Life on Mercury? — a planet with a surface hot enough to melt lead — might once have contained ingredients needed for life. Though that’s a pretty big might, reports Shannon Hall for the New York Times. The new theory, published last week in the journal Scientific Reports, is based on a particularly muddled feature on the planet orbiting closest to the sun, known as “chaotic terrain.” Here, the cracked, uneven and jumbled landscape consists of fractured rock, mismatched peaks and collapsed craters.
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