“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.
Why Do So Many Astronomy Discoveries Fail To Live up To the Hype? asks Wired. The hype around the possible discovery of life on Venus offers a case study.
A Prodigy Who Cracked Open the Cosmos, reports Claudia Dreifus for Quanta. –Frank Wilczek, who discovered the basic theory of the strong force — the final pillar of the Standard Model of particle physics, has been at the forefront of theoretical physics for the past 50 years. He talks about winning the Nobel Prize for work he did as a student, his solution to the dark matter problem, and the God of a scientist.
Harvard’s top astronomer says our solar system may be teeming with alien technology, reports Will Dunn for New Statesman. “If you could fly two billion miles in the direction of the Pegasus constellation, and knew where to look, you would find a thin, flat object, about the size of a football field and up to ten times more reflective than the average comet. If you watched it for a while, you would notice that it is tumbling as it moves away from the sun, turning end over end roughly every seven hours.”
The Coronavirus Kills Mink, So They Too May Get a Vaccine –The pandemic has been a powerful reminder that there is no clear barrier between viruses affecting animals and people, reports James Gorman for The New York Times.
Scientists get closer to understanding Mars’ ice ages by looking to Antarctica–Mars had multiple ice ages during the past 800 million years. Here’s how scientists figured it out, reports Nicole Karlis for Salon.
Climate change will cause a shift in Earth’s tropical rain belt — threatening water and food supply for billions, reports CBS News. “By 2100, billions of people are at risk of facing more flooding, higher temperatures and less food and water. A new study published in “Nature Climate Change” found that the climate change will cause the Earth’s tropical rain belt to unevenly shift in areas that cover almost two-thirds of the world, potentially threatening environmental safety and food security for billions of people.”
Why Do We Assume Extraterrestrials Might Want to Visit Us? –The idea presumes we’re inherently fascinating, but that’s not necessarily the case, reports Avi Loeb for Scientific American. “It is presumptuous to assume that we are worthy of special attention from advanced species in the Milky Way. We may be a phenomenon as uninteresting to them as ants are to us; after all, when we’re walking down the sidewalk we rarely if ever examine every ant along our path.”
An Australia With No Google? The Bitter Fight Behind a Drastic Threat –The big tech platforms are facing a challenge unlike any other as Australia moves to make them pay for news, reports Damien Cave for The New York Times. “In a major escalation, Google threatened on Friday to make its search engine unavailable in Australia if the government approved legislation that would force tech companies to pay for journalism shared on their platforms.”
China’s Surging Private Space Industry Is Out to Challenge the US, reports Neel V. Patel for MIT Technology Review –“[The Ceres-1] was a commercial rocket—only the second from a Chinese company ever to go into space. And the launch happened less than three years after the company was founded. The achievement is a milestone for China’s fledgling—but rapidly growing—private space industry, an increasingly critical part of the country’s quest to dethrone the US as the world’s preeminent space power.”
Can a Brash Executive in Kansas Save Movie Theaters? –-For Adam Aron, who runs AMC Entertainment, the world’s largest movie theater chain, the past year has been filled with twists and turns. And no one knows the ending.
This Chinese Lab Is Aiming for Big AI Breakthroughs, reports Will Knight for Wired –“China produces as many artificial intelligence researchers as the US, but it lags in key fields like machine learning. The government hopes to make up ground. …It set AI researchers the goal of making ‘fundamental breakthroughs by 2025’ and called for the country to be ‘the world’s primary innovation center by 2030.’ BAAI opened a year later, in Zhongguancun, a neighborhood of Beijing designed to replicate US innovation hubs such as Boston and Silicon Valley.”
A Bitter Archaeological Feud Over an Ancient Vision of the Cosmos –The Nebra sky disk, which has been called the oldest known depiction of astronomical phenomena, is a “very emotional object,” reports Becky Ferreira for The New York Times. “The disk is small — just 12 inches in diameter — but it has loomed large in the minds of people across millenniums. Made of bronze, the artifact was inlaid in gold with an ancient vision of the cosmos by its crafters. Over generations, it was updated with new astronomical insights, until it was buried beneath land that would become the Federal Republic of Germany thousands of years later.”
Secret Ingredient Found to Power Supernovas, reports Thomas Lewton for Quanta –“…Only in the last few years, with the growth of supercomputers, have theorists had enough computing power to model massive stars with the complexity needed to achieve explosions. These new simulations are giving researchers a better understanding of exactly how supernovas have shaped the universe we see today.”
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