“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.
We Are Nowhere Close to the Limits of Athletic Performance –Genetic engineering will bring us new Bolts and Shaqs. For many years I lived in Eugene, Oregon, writes Stephen Hsu for Nautil.us, also known as “track-town USA” for its long tradition in track and field. Each summer high-profile meets like the United States National Championships or Olympic Trials would bring world-class competitors to the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field. It was exciting to bump into great athletes at the local cafe or ice cream shop, or even find myself lifting weights or running on a track next to them. One morning I was shocked to be passed as if standing still by a woman running 400-meter repeats. Her training pace was as fast as I could run a flat out sprint over a much shorter distance.
Significance of Pangolin Viruses in Human Pandemic Remains Murky –Scientists haven’t found evidence that the new coronavirus jumped from pangolins to people, but they do host very similar viruses, writes James Gorman for the New York Times. Pangolins, once suspected as the missing link from bats to humans in the origin of the coronavirus pandemic, may not have played that role, some scientists say, although the animals do host viruses that are similar to the new human coronavirus.
The Pandemic Has Grounded Humankind –Space missions around the world are on hold—a poignant reminder of how COVID-19 has upended civilization, writes Marina Koren for The Atlantic.
The spread of the coronavirus will be exponential – which is bad. But its inevitable decline will also be exponential, which is good, writes Seth Shostak, Senior Astronomer at SETI.org. In the case of the coronavirus, the growth in the number of infected persons will inevitably be exponential, at least for a while. That’s because the rate of new infections clearly depends on the number of people who are already contagious. The resulting tally of the infected will increase very rapidly – as is typical of exponential growth. Note that it’s not that the number is large, but only the behavior of the growth rate that merits the designation “exponential.”
Scientists Are Stuck on an Ice-Locked Ship in the Arctic Due to Coronavirus –Organizers of the MOSAiC expedition are determining the best way to bring a relief crew to the ship without spreading the virus, which could leave roughly 100 scientists and crew on board for an extra six weeks, reports Maddie Stone for Motherboard Science.
Pablo Escobar’s Hippos Fill a Hole Left Since Ice Age Extinctions –-Invasive herbivore mammals seem to restore functions missing in some food webs and ecosystems since the Pleistocene era, writes Asher Elbein for the New York Times. When Pablo Escobar died in 1993, the Colombian drug kingpin’s four adult African hippopotamuses were forgotten. But the fields and ponds along the Magdalena River suited them. One estimate puts their current population at 50 to 80 animals: By 2050 there may be anywhere from 800 to 5,000 in a landscape that never before knew hippos.
‘Stranded at sea’ –cruise ships around the world are adrift as ports turn them away, reports The Guardian. A Guardian analysis of ship tracking data has found that, as of Thursday, at least ten ships around the world – carrying nearly 10,000 passengers – are still stuck at sea after having been turned away from their destination ports in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. Some of the ships are facing increasingly desperate medical situations, including one carrying hundreds of American, Canadian, Australian and British passengers, currently off the coast of Ecuador and seeking permission to dock in Florida.
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