Planet Earth Report –“Magic Number That Shapes the Cosmos to 1,004 Star Systems Can Directly See Earth”

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.

 

It’s the End of the World … Somewhere, reports astrophysicist Caleb Scharf for Scientific American. –Extraterrestrials in existential trouble might be easiest to find—and also the most informative.

1,004 Star Systems Can Directly See Earth—and So Can Their Aliens, reports Popular Mechanics. –If extraterrestrials live on these distant worlds, they might be watching us.

Physicists Nail Down the ‘Magic Number’ That Shapes the Universe –A team in Paris has made the most precise measurement yet of the fine-structure constant, killing hopes for a new force of nature, reports Natalie Wolchover for Quanta. The fine-structure constant, by contrast, has no dimensions or units. It’s a pure number that shapes the universe to an astonishing degree — “a magic number that comes to us with no understanding,” as Richard Feynman described it. Paul Dirac considered the origin of the number “the most fundamental unsolved problem of physics.”

The Sun Is Experiencing a Second Fusion –It’s just going through some changes, reports Popular Mechanics.Scientists say there’s new evidence that our sun is experiencing a second entire mode of fusion, indicated by the presence of neutrinos in a very hard-to-find energy range. That means the sun is doubling its output by harmonizing on different wavelengths.

Could We Force the Universe to Crash?, asks Caleb Scharf for Scientific American, –If we’re all living in a simulation, as some have suggested, it would be a good, albeit risky, way to find out for sure.

Science Fiction Explores the Interconnectedness Revealed by the Coronavirus Pandemic, reports Singularity Hub. –In the early days of the coronavirus outbreak, a theory widely shared on social media suggested that a science fiction text, Dean Koontz’s 1981 science fiction novel, The Eyes of Darkness, had predicted the coronavirus pandemic with uncanny precision. Covid-19 has held the entire world hostage, producing a resemblance to the post-apocalyptic world depicted in many science fiction texts. However, the connection between science fiction and pandemics runs deeper. They are linked by a perception of globality, what sociologist Roland Robertson defines as “the consciousness of the world as a whole.”

It’s here! The 100 best innovations of the year, reports Popular Science. –Only the greatest feats in engineering, design, and critical thinking earn the title Best of What’s New.

‘It will change everything’: DeepMind’s AI makes gigantic leap in solving protein structures, reports Nature. –Google’s deep-learning program for determining the 3D shapes of proteins stands to transform biology, say scientists.

The mystery of Siberia’s exploding craters, reports BBC Future. –On a remote peninsular in the Arctic circle, enormous wounds are appearing in the permafrost – as something that is worrying scientists bursts out from underground.

Australian telescope maps new atlas of the universe in record speed, reports The Guardian. Scientists use powerful new instrument in outback WA to map three million galaxies in 300 hours, unlocking deepest secrets of the universe.

The Galaxy Brain Is Real, reports Marina Koren for The Atlantic. –Looking at the long views from the Hubble space telescope might be good for you.,At a time when the coronavirus has shrunk down so many people’s worlds, Hubble can still provide a long view—a glimpse of places that exist beyond ourselves.

Larry Brilliant Says We’ll Beat Covid—After We Go Through Hell, reports Wired. –“The epidemiologist calls it ‘the best of times and the worst of times,’ as good news on vaccines and testing coincides with a terrifying rise in cases. …This is the third interview I’ve done with the California expert on pandemics, who is CEO of Pandefense Advisory and was a consultant on the movie Contagion. Brilliant once helped eradicate smallpox, and also did a stint as the house doctor for the Grateful Dead.”

China’s Chang’e 5 mission has successfully landed on the moon, reports MIT Technology Review. The lander is expected to begin drilling operations very soon for lunar material that it will bring back to Earth.

The Arecibo Radio Telescope’s Massive Platform Has Collapsed –The hanging structure crashed through Arecibo’s dish after major cable failures, reports Scientific American.

Breakthrough NASA Study Discovers Surprising Key to Astronauts’ Health in Space, reports Singularity Hub. –This month, a collaboration between NASA and various research institutions pinpointed a “central biological hub” that controls health during space travel. The culprit is the cell’s energy factory, the mitochondria, which breaks down in function in a way eerily similar to aging. Like shutting down power and water in a city, disruptions to the mitochondria reverberate throughout the cells and organs, potentially leading to problems with sleeping, the immune system, and more in space.

The Role-Playing Game That Predicted the Future, reports The Atlantic. “About 30 years ago, in Santa Cruz, California, a man named Mike Pondsmith laid out a prophecy for the then-distant future—the year 2020. It was a future teeming with tech. …Now filling 50 books comprising more than 5,000 pages crammed with minutiae, it’s surely one of the most extensively and fastidiously imagined worlds in fiction. And in its themes and particulars, it can feel startlingly like nonfiction today.”

How a Mysterious Monolith Vanished Overnight (It Wasn’t Aliens), reports The New York Times. A photographer said four men dismantled the mysterious shiny object that has captivated the country. Two Utah residents said they took part in the removal.

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