“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.
Have We Already Been Visited by Aliens? –An eminent astrophysicist argues that signs of intelligent extraterrestrial life have appeared in our skies. What’s the evidence for his extraordinary claim? reports Elizabeth Kolbert for The New Yorker.
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. –“Nothing else like it has been found in European archaeology. Many archaeologists have declared it the oldest known representation of the heavens, and to Germans it is a beloved emblem of heritage that connects them with ancient sky watchers. “The sky disk is a window to look into the minds of these people,” said Ernst Pernicka, a senior professor at Tübingen University and a director of the Curt-Engelhorn Center for Archaeometry in Mannheim.
After Alarmism The war on climate denial has been won. And that’s not the only good news, reports David Wallace-Wells for New York Magazine. “In the American Southwest, birds fell dead from the sky by the tens of thousands, succumbing mid-flight to starvation, emaciated by climate change. Across the horn of Africa swarmed 200 billion locusts, 25 for every human on earth, darkening the sky in clouds as big as whole cities, descending on cropland and chewing through as much food as tens of millions of people eat in a day, eventually dying in such agglomerating mounds they stopped trains in their tracks — all told, 8,000 times as many locusts as could be expected in the absence of warming.”
A Language AI Is Accurately Predicting Covid-19 “Escape” Mutations, reports Singularity Hub. ““Viral escape” is a nightmare scenario, in which the virus mutates just enough so that existing antibodies no longer recognize it. The consequences are dire: it means that even if you’ve already had the infection, or produced antibodies from a vaccine, those protections are now kneecapped or useless.
Dreaming Is Like Taking LSD –A new theory explains that dreaming opens our minds to unexplored possibilities.
Reports Antonio Zadra and Robert Stickgold for Nauti.us. “Dreaming is a form of sleep-dependent memory processing that extracts new knowledge from existing information through the discovery and strengthening of previously unexplored associations. In doing so, dreams rarely replay active concerns directly or offer concrete solutions to them. Rather, they identify and strengthen associations that in some way embody these concerns and that the brain calculates may be of use in resolving them or similar concerns, either now or in the future.”
The Cosmological Constant Is Physics’ Most Embarrassing Problem –Physicists have new ideas about why the energy of empty space is so much weaker than it is predicted to be, reports Scientific American.
Missing: One Black Hole With 10 Billion Solar Masses –One of the biggest galaxies in the universe seems to lack its dark centerpiece, “Astronomers are searching the cosmic lost-and-found for one of the biggest, baddest black holes thought to exist. So far they haven’t found it,” reports Dennis Overbye for the New York Times.
The Timeless Journey of the Möbius Strip –-After the disaster of 2020, let’s hope we’re not on a figurative one, reports Scientific American. “The figurative and narrative implications of the Möbius strip are rich: when you try to go forward, you ring sideways, when you try to circle in, you find yourself outside. It’s an apt allegory for losing control. We might ask ourselves after 2020, where are we? Have we spun around after so much chaos, and found our position stagnated, back where we started? Or are we at a new beginning?”
Story of Mammoth Survival Is in the Soil –-Ancient DNA preserved in soil may rewrite what we thought about the Ice Age, reports Riley Black for Scientific American. “Based on bone and tooth records, the Yukon’s last mammoths were thought to have gone extinct about 12,000 years ago. But a new genetic sampling technique suggests the great beasts may have stuck around a lot longer, plodding through the Arctic tundra with bison and elk for thousands of years more.”
Swarms of robotic fish can synchronize their swimming, for the first time, reports Meagan Cantwell for Science. –“Swimming in sync is one of the most important lessons a school of fish can learn: The coordination helps them find food—and evade predators. But when scientists try to train robots to match this stunning natural feat, most fall short. Now, researchers have developed a fleet of seven underwater “fishbots” that can swim in circles—without crashing into one another.”
Covid cases recorded in Antarctica for first– reports The Guardian Isolated continent reportedly registers first infections after 36 Chileans fall ill at research base
New coronavirus variants could cause more reinfections, require updated vaccines, reports Kai Kupferschmidt for Science. “When the number of COVID-19 cases began to rise again in Manaus, Brazil, in December 2020, Nuno Faria was stunned. The virologist at Imperial College London and associate professor at the University of Oxford had just co-authored a paper in Science estimating that three-quarters of the city’s inhabitants had already been infected with SARS-CoV-2, the pandemic coronavirus—more than enough, it seemed, for herd immunity to develop.
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