“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 New History of the Milky Way –-Over the past two years, astronomers have rewritten the story of our galaxy, reports Charlie Wood for Quanta. On April 25, 2018, a European spacecraft by the name of Gaia released a staggering quantity of information about the sky. Critically, Gaia’s years-long data set described the detailed motions of roughly 1 billion stars. Previous surveys had mapped the movement of just thousands. The data brought a previously static swath of the galaxy to life. “Gaia started a new revolution,” said Federico Sestito, an astronomer at the Strasbourg Astronomical Observatory in France.
Archaeologists find vast network of Amazon villages laid out like the cosmos, reports Laura Geggel for Live Science.
Laser and satellite technology revealed more than 35 villages.
A Cosmic Crisis Gets Worse –We don’t know why the universe appears to be expanding faster than it should. New ultra-precise distance measurements have only intensified the problem, reports Natalie Wolchover for Quanta. Best of all for cosmologists, Gaia’s new catalogue includes the special stars whose distances serve as yardsticks for measuring all farther cosmological distances. Because of this, the new data has swiftly sharpened the biggest conundrum in modern cosmology: the unexpectedly fast expansion of the universe, known as the Hubble tension.
China Brings Moon Rocks to Earth, and a New Era of Competition to Space–The Chang’e-5 mission’s success highlights the progress of China’s space program, and growing rivalry with the United States, reports The New York Times.“Dinosaur Dust to
Future Apocalypse” –Earth’s Mass Extinction Cycles, reports Jake Burba for The Daily Galaxy.
Scientists are rethinking where life originated on Earth, reports Science –Rather than springing up from the sea, the first biological cells may have formed on land, Nature reports. Water is essential to life, but it also breaks apart molecules like DNA and proteins, a paradox that has long puzzled scientists. Now, researchers propose, life may have formed on bodies of water on land—perhaps formed by craters, like Canada’s Manicouagan Reservoir—where there was intermittent availability of water as well as enough UV radiation from sunlight.
Algorithms for Love: Japan Will Soon Launch an AI Dating Service, reports Singularity Hub –Every year for the last 13 years, Japan’s population has shrunk. The country has one of the lowest birth rates in the world, and not enough babies are being born to replace an aging population; Japan also has the highest proportion of people over 65 of any country in the world. The Japanese gov’t has a hopeful solution.
Discoveries That Really, Really Seemed Like Aliens, reports Gizmodo –From the moment the first members of our species took the time to look up and ponder existence, we’ve been misinterpreting the stars. Someone once told me that ancient peoples probably mistook the tiny twinkling dots above for distant campfires, in what was probably the first example of humans “seeing” aliens that aren’t actually there. We’re still doing this, as these historical examples demonstrate.
AI Just Controlled a Military Plane for the First Time Ever, reports Dr Will Roper for Popular Mechanics.
Fossilized lightning bolts reveal when ancient storms struck, reports Science, –When a lightning bolt strikes a mountaintop, it can melt rocks in a flash, leaving a narrow glassy scar called a fulgurite. Now, researchers have shown that these fossilized thunderbolts are geological clocks that record the passage of time. The technique offers geologists a way to date thunderstorms from tens of thousands of years ago, and could give them a window into ancient climate patterns.
Hayabusa-2: Pieces of an asteroid found inside space capsule –Scientists have been greeted by the sight of jet black chunks of rock and soil from an asteroid after opening a capsule that returned from deep space a week ago, reports the BBC.
Watch a swarm of drones fly through heavy forest—while staying in formation–Weaving through dense woods is a challenge for even the smartest drone. Trying to do it as part of a swarm is orders of magnitude harder. But researchers have now cracked the code, reports Science.
European rivers are fragmented by many more barriers than had been recorded –An atlas of European river barriers has been made, by curating and correcting existing records, and by surveying 2,700 kilometres of waterways. It reveals that rivers are fragmented by an amazing number of obstructions, reports Nature.