“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.
Ghostly Circles in Space Can’t be Explained by Current Theories –Among them was a picture of a strange circle of radio emission, hanging out in space like a cosmic smoke-ring reports astronomer Ray Norris for The Conversation. None of us had ever seen anything like it before, and we had no idea what it was, report scientists examining new images from pilot observations for the Evolutionary Map of the Universe (EMU) project, made with CSIRO’s revolutionary new Australian Square Kilometer Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) telescope.
How a Software Map of the Entire Planet Could Change the World Forever, reports Aaron Frank for the Oxford Business Review. Why 3D map data is the technology infrastructure for the 21st Century –“3D maps like these are essentially software copies of the real world. They will be crucial to the development of a wide range of emerging technologies including autonomous driving, drone delivery, robotics, and a fast-approaching future filled with augmented reality.”
The Darkest Timeline –“Deep Adaptation” made people confront the end of the world from climate change. Does it matter if it’s not correct? asks Jonah Engel Bromwich for the New York Times.
The Mysterious Link Between COVID-19 and Sleep, reports James Hamblin for The Atlantic. The coronavirus can cause insomnia and long-term changes in our nervous systems. But sleep could also be a key to ending the pandemic.
From Elvis worms to the Milky Way’s edge, these science stories sparked joy in 2020, reports Science News. From Flowers at the South Pole to microbes that had been buried in seafloor sediments for more than 100 million years revived and multiplied.
How scientists plan to protect Earth from extraterrestrial germs, reports Rebecca Renner for National Geographic. As missions return more cosmic material, cautious space agencies are building highly secure biosafety labs to keep the precious cargo contained.
The shadowy spirits that helped advance science —A demon was present at the birth of science.. René Descartes conjured an “evil genius” when devising his “I think, therefore I am” statement about the nature of reality and the self. Other scientific “demons” would follow over the centuries, reports Jess Keiser for The Washington Post. Descartes realized that in order “to establish anything at all in the sciences that was stable and likely to last, he first needed to lash himself to a single point of certainty in a roiling sea of doubt.”
Wild Things Space Invaders Season 2: The Search for Extraterrestrial Life (Best “Space” Podcast of 2020) –““What’s the likelihood that, as we’re looking out into space, something else might be looking back at us? asks Host Laura Krantz. “in recent years, armed with state-of-the-art technology and better information, the search for extraterrestrials overflows with exciting possibilities. Within our own solar system, astrobiologists search for the biochemical building blocks that might sustain microbes. Astronomers discover far-flung stars, orbited by planets that could be teeming with life. And astrophysicists point sophisticated (and expensive) telescopes toward the deep reaches of the universe, looking for anything out of the ordinary.”
Zombie Gas Could Creep Through Arctic Ice, reports Elizabeth Rayne for SyFy Wire. –“Melting permafrost has revealed everything from Scythian graves to unbelievably intact Ice Age megafauna, but something else that has been lurking under frozen ground that was never supposed to melt. New research has now found that ‘zombie’ greenhouse gases could seep through melting Arctic permafrost because of human activity that is causing it to melt and the organic matter in it to decompose. Carbon dioxide and methane had been trapped in undersea permafrost since mammoths and woolly rhinos roamed the Earth—and are now “reanimating”.
The Secret to a Long, Healthy Life Is in the Genes of the Oldest Humans Alive, reports Shelly Fan for Singularity Hub. –“The key to human longevity, [a global team of scientists] say, lies in the genes of centenarians. These individuals not only live over 100 years, they also rarely suffer from common age-related diseases. That is, they’re healthy up to their last minute. If evolution was a scientist, then centenarians, and the rest of us, are two experimental groups in action. Nature has already given us a genetic blueprint for healthy longevity. We just need to decode it.”
Monkey Brain Study Reveals the Engine of Consciousness, reports Grace Browne for Inverse. What exactly ignites consciousness has long been a mystery. But in a study published in February, the search became a bit narrower: to a powerful part of the brain known as the central lateral thalamus, a tiny region found deep in our forebrain.
The World’s Space Agencies Are on a Quest to Deflect a (Harmless) Asteroid, reports Jason Dorrier for Singularity Hub. –“While the last killer space rock dropped out of the sky with no warning, we have a few tools the dinosaurs didn’t. In addition to telescopes to chart potentially hazardous asteroids, we can visit and, theoretically, divert an asteroid’s course before it reaches us. Now, the world’s space agencies are teaming up to take planetary defense beyond theory.”
Extraterrestrial evidence: 10 incredible findings about extraterrestrial life from 2020, reports Adam Mann for Live Science. “Findings on the closest planet to us, in the outer solar system and the far beyond seemed to point to the possibility that other worlds could host organisms ranging from bacteria to technological beings. Perhaps, new results in the coming year will finally reveal who else might be out there.”
2020 in review: The year governments slapped down big tech –This was a year in which governments went head-to-head with big tech firms. US regulators were suing Facebook over its historic acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp, asking the courts to consider breaking up the company, reports New Scientist.
After Coronavirus the World Will Never Be the Same. But Maybe, It Can Be Better, reports Vanessa Bates Ramirez for Singularity Hub. “We’re making plans for what we’ll do when things go back to normal—and banking on that happening. But what if life never fully goes back to how it was pre-coronavirus? What if this epidemic is a turning point, and after it the world is never the same? More importantly—or, at least, more optimistically—what if the world could come out of this crisis better than it was before?”
Rumors of a ‘murder hornet’ apocalypse may have been exaggerated, reports Murder hornets sightings in the Pacific northwest inspired a mix of concern and delight, reports Science News.
The Wildest Animal News From 2020 –These are the stories about birds, bugs, fish and mammals that surprised and delighted readers the most this year, reports Hannah Wise and Lily Benson for The New York Times. “It was a rough year for Homo sapiens. The coronavirus pandemic highlighted our vulnerabilities in a natural world that is constantly changing. Many were pushed to find new levels of resolve and creativity to survive.”