The Age of Pandemics to MEGA Thruster Taps into Fabric of the Universe (Planet Earth Report)

Earth from the ISS


“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.

The Universe Might Be Too Thin, Scientists may have found a new crack in our understanding of the universe, reports The Atlantic and Quanta.The cosmos is starting to look a bit weird. For a few years now, cosmologists have been troubled by a discrepancy in how fast the universe is expanding. They know how fast it should be going, based on ancient light from the early universe, but apparently the modern universe has picked up too much speed—a clue that scientists might have overlooked one of the universe’s fundamental ingredients, or some aspect of how those ingredients stir together.

Experts Say Humans Are Living in an ‘Age of Pandemics’—and Covid Won’t Be the Last, reports Vice –“Population growth, crowding, human movement, and other behaviors that either ‘perturb the environment or result in new human-created ecologic niches’ all contribute to the emergence and transmission of infectious diseases—a problem for a species so engaged in globalization and societal growth.”

Ocean Planet Rising. NASA –Emissions Could Add 15 Inches to 2100 Sea Level Rise, An international effort that brought together more than 60 ice, ocean, and atmosphere scientists from three dozen international institutions has generated new estimates of how much of an impact Earth’s melting ice sheets could have on global sea levels by 2100. If greenhouse gas emissions continue apace, Greenland and Antarctica’s ice sheets could together contribute more than 15 inches (38 centimeters) of global sea level rise – and that’s beyond the amount that has already been set in motion by Earth’s warming climate.

The Most Important Number for the West’s Hideous Fire Season –A little-noticed indicator was flashing red before any of the blazes began, reports The Atlantic. –The expansive forests of the West, in other words, spent months boiling off. Now they are burning. In the past few months, one in every 33 acres of California has burned. This year is already the most destructive wildfire season, in terms of acreage affected, in state history. In 2018, during California’s last annus horribilis, I noted that six of the 10 largest wildfires in state history had happened since 2008. That list has since been completely rewritten. Today, six of California’s 10 largest wildfires have happened since 2018—and five of them have happened this year.

Peruvian shamans try to predict U.S. election winner, reports Reuters –With incense smoke, flowers and photos of President Donald Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden, Peruvian shamans performed an ancestral ritual on Wednesday for the U.S. elections, but there was little agreement about who would win the Nov. 3 ballot. Chanting and blowing a traditional Andean shell instrument, the shamans, dressed in multicolored garb, invoked the “Pachamama”, or mother earth, for the U.S. vote to take place in peace, without attacks or any witchcraft between the rivals.

Big Oil Faded. Will Big Tech?  –reports the New York Times,“Today all of Exxon is worth less than Jeff Bezos. Exxon’s star faded because the world changed, and it didn’t. The question is whether what happened to Exxon is a warning about the potential vulnerability of today’s tech superpowers—or if it’s the opposite: a sign of how Big Tech is invincible in ways that Exxon wasn’t.

A New Arctic Is Emerging, Thanks to Climate Change –After years of warning, sea ice coverage and other indicators are beginning to push outside the bounds of the former “normal” climate, reports Scientific American.

Gravity, Gizmos, and a Grand Theory of Interstellar Travel, reports Wired. –“Ask Jim Woodward and he’ll tell you his gizmo has merely tapped into the fabric of the universe and hitched a ride on gravity itself. Sound impossible? A lot of theoretical physicists think so too. …But in June, after two decades of halting progress, Woodward and Fearn made a minor change to the configuration of the thruster. Suddenly, the MEGA drive leapt to life.”

In the Land of the Kush. A dazzling civilization flourished in Sudan nearly 5,000 years ago. Why was it forgotten? reports The Smithsonian.

How Special Relativity Can Help AI Predict the Future, reports MIT Technology Review –“The AI can make guesses about the future without having to learn anything about the progression of time, says Vlontzos. To do this, the team developed an algorithm inspired by light cones, a mathematical description of the boundaries of cause and effect in spacetime, which was first proposed in Einstein’s theory of special relativity and later refined by his former professor Hermann Minkowski.”

North Korean Hackers Steal Billions in Cryptocurrency. How Do They Turn It Into Real Cash? reports MIT Technology Review –“The United Nations says these actions bring in vast sums which the regime uses to develop nuclear weapons that can guarantee its long-term survival. But there is a big difference between hacking a cryptocurrency exchange and actually getting your hands on all the cash. …’I’d say the laundering is more sophisticated than the hacks themselves,’ says Christopher Janczewski, a lead case agent at the IRS who specializes in cryptocurrency cases.”

World’s largest ever DNA sequencing of Viking skeletons reveals they weren’t all Scandinavian, reports University of Cambridge –Invaders, pirates, warriors – the history books taught us that Vikings were brutal predators who travelled by sea from Scandinavia to pillage and raid their way across Europe and beyond. Now cutting-edge DNA sequencing of more than 400 Viking skeletons from archaeological sites scattered across Europe and Greenland will rewrite the history books.

NASA Wants to Buy Moon Rocks From Private Companies, reports The Verge –“$25,000 may seem like a measly amount compared to the millions of dollars it takes to send any kind of spacecraft to the Moon. But the idea behind the offer is to make a small first step toward creating a lunar marketplace, normalizing the concept of buying materials that are excavated from the Moon and other worlds in the Solar System. Such a purchase would also be the first transaction of space resources to take place off-world.”

NASA to film an Estée Lauder ad in space as the ISS opens for business, reports New Scientist. Last year, NASA declared the International Space Station open for business. Although firms could already do research on the ISS under contract with NASA, the agency hoped to stimulate pure commerce, including the manufacture of biotech and the development of on-orbit industries that could support NASA’s deep space exploration goals – not to mention bringing in some cash. Instead, it got beauty product marketing with Estée Lauder, sports shoe design with Adidas and the transport of space tourism trinkets.

Bird Deaths Down 70 Percent After Painting Wind Turbine Blades, reports Ars Technica –“Something as simple as black paint could be the key to reducing the number of birds that are killed each year by wind turbines. According to a study conducted at a wind farm on the Norwegian archipelago of Smøla, changing the color of a single blade on a turbine from white to black resulted in a 70-percent drop in the number of bird deaths.”

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