“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 End of the Pandemic Is Now in Sight –A year of scientific uncertainty is over. Two vaccines look like they will work, and more should follow. For all that scientists have done to tame the biological world, there are still things that lie outside the realm of human knowledge. The coronavirus was one such alarming reminder, when it emerged with murky origins in late 2019 and found naive, unwitting hosts in the human body. Even as science began to unravel many of the virus’s mysteries—how it spreads, how it tricks its way into cells, how it kills—a fundamental unknown about vaccines hung over the pandemic and our collective human fate: Vaccines can stop many, but not all, viruses. Could they stop this one? asks Sarah Zhang for The Atlantic.
Fever, aches from Pfizer, Moderna jabs aren’t dangerous but may be intense for some, reports Meredith Wadman for Science. This summer, Luke Hutchison, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology–educated computational biologist, volunteered for a trial of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine. After he got the second injection, his arm immediately swelled up to the size of a “goose egg,” Hutchison says. He can’t be sure he got the vaccine and not a placebo, but within a few hours, the healthy then-43-year-old was beset by bone and muscle aches and a 38.9°C fever that felt, he says, “unbearable.” “I started shaking. I had cold and hot rushes,” he says. “I was sitting by the phone all night long thinking: ‘Should I call 911?’” Hutchison’s symptoms resolved after 12 hours. But, he says, “Nobody prepared me for the severity of this.”
“The Anthropocene at 36,000-foot Depths” –Mercury and Carbon-14 from Nuclear Weapons Testing in ‘Pristine’ Marianas Trench. “Deep-sea trenches have been viewed as pristine ecosystems unsullied by human activities, but recent studies have found traces of anthropogenic lead, carbon-14 from nuclear weapons testing, and persistent organic pollutants such as PCBs in organisms living in even the deepest part of the ocean…,” said Jeffrey Drazen, an oceanographer with the University of Hawaii.
Arecibo Observatory, a Great Eye on the Cosmos, Is Going Dark –The radio telescope in Puerto Rico has to come down before it collapses, reports Dennis Overbye for The New York Times. One of the great icons of human curiosity, the Arecibo radio telescope, is going to be torn down, the National Science Foundation, its owner, announced today. From its perch in the mountains of Puerto Rico, the observatory has served for decades as the vanguard of the search for alien civilizations and guarded the planet against killer asteroids.
“Our Original Sun was a Supernova” –Has the Phenomenon Effected Earth’s Evolution and Climate? “Although Earth was originally created from the Sun (as part of the ecliptic plane of debris and dust that circulated around the Sun 4.5 billion years ago), our Sun is barely hot enough to fuse hydrogen to helium, observed physicist Michio Kaku in Parallel Worlds: A Journey through Creation, Higher Dimensions, and the Future of the Cosmos. “This means that our true “mother” sun was actually an unnamed star or collection of stars that died billions of years ago in a supernova, which then seeded nearby nebulae with the higher elements beyond iron that make up our body.
Scientists Uncover the Universal Geometry of Geology –An exercise in pure mathematics has led to a wide-ranging theory of how the world comes together, reports Joshua Sokol for Quanta. “It was geometry with an exact prediction that was borne out in the natural world, with essentially no physics involved,” said Jerolmack, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania. “How in the hell does nature let this happen?”
The Physics of COVID-19 –“People are Like Galaxies”–A a group of world-renowned researchers at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics with expertise from cosmology to quantum gravity are using physics to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
250,000 lives lost: How the pandemic compares to other deadly events in U.S. history, reports The Washington Post. as the country confronts this horrifying death toll, there is little understanding of what a loss of this size represents. Here is some historical perspective about losing a quarter of a million people, looking at major events in our past that have cost American lives.
This Pandemic Must Be Seen, reports Wired, If we could watch what’s really going on in hospitals, there would be no more complacency.
‘It’s not a question of belief’: the film examining government UFO records –“The Phenomenon” studies the history of UFO claims from the 1940s to this summer’s revelation of a Department of Defense investigation into military sightings, reports The Guardian.
Astronomers Detect Millions of Signals From an Intelligent Civilization: US, reports ScienceAlert. We know – we’re proof of it – that intelligent civilizations (yes, civilizations) are possible. Finding signs of other civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy is not such a simple matter, but we do have tools at our disposal. Based on our own technological capabilities, we can extrapolate what signals alien technology might emit, and search for those.
“Galaxies & Neurons” –Scientists Compare the Complexity of the Human Brain to the Cosmos. Scientists compare the complexity of the universe to the human brain with its cerebral cortex, the folded gray matter that covers the first couple of millimeters of the outer brain like wrapping paper, where “matter is transformed into the mystery of consciousness.
Humans have been living on the International Space Station for 20 years, reports Astronomy. For two decades, humans have permanently occupied the International Space Station. And though most residents have been professional astronauts, that could soon change.
Plate tectonics may have begun a billion years earlier than thought, reports New Scientist. –The claim has earned a mixed response from geologists. Many argue that Earth was too hot at the time for plate tectonics in its modern form.
Climate Change Is Making Winter Ice More Dangerous –A new study has found that cold-weather drownings are increasing sharply in warmer parts of the Northern Hemisphere.
Who Should Get a Covid-19 Vaccine First? asks Singularity Hub. If the book of nature is written in the language of mathematics, as Galileo once declared, the Covid-19 pandemic has brought that truth home for the world’s mathematicians, who have been galvanized by the rapid spread of the coronavirus.
An Unexplained Repeating Radio Signal Is Coming From Inside Our Galaxy, Scientists Discover –-It turns out that the first fast radio burst (FRB) ever found in the Milky Way is not a one-off, reports Motherboard Science.
China prepares to launch mission to collect moon rocks –Long March-5 rocket has been rolled into position for ignition expected this month, reports The Guardian
Burning Fossil Fuels Helped Drive Earth’s Most Massive Extinction –Massive volcanic eruptions ignited oil and coal deposits in Siberia in the events that led to the Permian-Triassic “Great Dying” event, reports The New York Times. But volcanism on its own didn’t cause the extinction. The Great Dying was fueled, two separate teams of scientists report in two recent papers, by extensive oil and coal deposits that the Siberian magma blazed through, leading to combustion that released greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane.