“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 other virus that worries Asia, reports BBC Future–The death rate for Nipah virus is up to 75% and it has no vaccine. While the world focuses on Covid-19, scientists are working hard to ensure it doesn’t cause the next pandemic. Scientists found that – as well as being a novel virus that didn’t originate in humans – it was most closely linked to coronaviruses they had already found in bats. Thanks to the early information, the government of Thailand was able to act quickly to quarantine patients and advise citizens. Despite being a country of nearly 70 million people, as of 3 January 2021 Thailand had recorded 8,955 cases and 65 deaths.
It’s really there! Kepler space telescope’s 2nd-ever exoplanet candidate finally confirmed, reports Mike Wall for Space.com –The Neptune-size KOI-5Ab does indeed exist. “The elusive alien world was the second “candidate” ever identified by Kepler, which hunted for planets on two different missions from 2009 through 2018.”
The polar vortex is coming—and raising the odds for intense winter weather, reports Sarah Gibbens for National Geographic. –In the stratosphere over Siberia, temperatures recently jumped nearly 100 degrees Fahrenheit, shoving the polar vortex off its North Pole perch. The mass of extremely warm air threw the freezing polar vortex out of balance, shoving it off its North Pole axis so forcefully that it in effect split in two, as if growing a pair of legs: one over North America and one over Europe.”
The Capitol Breach Could Be a Cybersecurity Nightmare, reports Popular Mechanics–Stolen laptops. Bugged printers. The possibilities are endless—and terrifying, reports Popular Mechanics.
The World’s Oldest Story? Astronomers Say Global Myths About ‘Seven Sisters’ Stars May Reach Back 100,000 Years, reports Singularity Hub –“In the northern sky in December is a beautiful cluster of stars known as the Pleiades, or the “seven sisters.” Look carefully and you will probably count six stars. So why do we say there are seven of them? Many cultures around the world refer to the Pleiades as “seven sisters,” and also tell quite similar stories about them. After studying the motion of the stars very closely, we believe these stories may date back 100,000 years to a time when the constellation looked quite different.”
Earth’s Lifeforms Spawned from the Non-Living— New research from the Scripps Institute has shown that a compound which was already on prebiotic Earth might have actually put together the first strands of DNA and RNA, which carries out the directions encoded in DNA. Then things multiplied and spread and evolved culminating (so far) in homo sapiens.
The World’s Cryptocurrency Market Is Now Worth More Than $1 Trillion, reports Timothy B. Lee for Ars Technica –“The price of [Bitcoin] the oldest virtual currency has risen to almost $40,000, pushing the value of all bitcoins in circulation up to more than $700 billion. Ether, the cryptocurrency of the Ethereum network, is now worth more than $140 billion. Then there’s a long list of less valuable cryptocurrencies, including Tether at $22 billion, Litecoin at $11 billion, and Bitcoin Cash at $8 billion.”
The Mutated Virus Is a Ticking Time Bomb, reports The Atlantic. There is much we don’t know about the new COVID-19 variant—but everything we know so far suggests a huge danger.
A 25-Year-Old Bet Comes Due: Has Tech Destroyed Society? asks Steven Levy for Wired –“Much more than a thousand bucks was at stake: The bet was a showdown between two fiercely opposed views on the nature of progress. In a time of climate crisis, a pandemic, and predatory capitalism, is optimism about humanity’s future still justified? [Kevin] Kelly and [Kirkpatrick] Sale each represent an extreme side of the divide. For the men involved, the bet’s outcome would be a personal validation—or repudiation—of their lifelong quests.”
Robots Made of Ice Could Build and Repair Themselves on Other Planets, reports Evan Ackerman for IEEE Spectrum–“…even if (say) the Mars rovers did have the ability to swap their own wheels when they got worn out, where are you going to get new robot wheels on Mars, anyway? And this is the bigger problem—finding the necessary resources to keep robots running in extreme environments. …You can’t make wheels out of solar power, but you can make wheels, and other structural components, out of another material that can be found just lying around all over the place: ice.”
The Curious Strength of a Sea Sponge’s Glass Skeleton, reports Elena Renken for Quanta –A glass sponge found deep in the Pacific shows a remarkable ability to withstand compression and bending, on top of the sponge’s other unusual properties.
Caligula’s Garden of Delights, Unearthed and Restored, reports the New York Times –Relics from the favorite hideaway of ancient Rome’s most infamous tyrant have been recovered and put on display by archaeologists.
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