“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.
“Sent By an Alien World” –Extraterrestrial Object Visited Our Solar System in 2017. Harvard astronomy professor Avi Loeb’s highly anticipated new book, “Extraterrestrial”,: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth,” is being published Jan. 26, detailing his controversial theory that an artificial object may had been sent to Earth in 2017 from an extraterrestrial civilization. New York Times best selling author Alan Lightman called “Extraterrestrial” provocative “and thrilling” and praising Loeb for asking readers to “think big and to expect the unexpected,” reports The Boston Globe.
We Know Almost Nothing About Giant Viruses –An enigmatic group of microbes seems to have an unusual new ability, reports Sarah Zhang for The Atlantic. “Giant viruses, a group discovered only in 2003, are mysteriously large and complex, seemingly between bacteria and the tiny, simple viruses of classical biology. Scientists still don’t know much about what giant viruses do, other than kill amoebas and algae. Leave it to viruses, however, to keep surprising us: Giant viruses don’t just kill their hosts. In some cases, according to a recent study, they can keep their hosts alive and become part of them.”
In the year 774 AD, the Sun Blasted Earth With the Biggest Storm in 10,000 Years –when an enormously powerful blast of matter and energy from space slammed into Earth. Nothing like it had been felt on this planet for 10,000 years. A mix of high-energy light and hugely accelerated subatomic particles, when this wave impacted Earth it changed our atmospheric chemistry enough to be measured centuries later, writes Phil Plait for SyFy Wire.
Missions to Mars, the Moon and Beyond Await Earth in 2021 –Here’s a preview of what to expect in space and astronomy in the year to come, reports Michael Roston for the The New York Times. “About a month after the new year has started on Earth, three spacecraft will pull into the vicinity of Mars. These explorers, which launched in July last year, will be heralds of a busy year of space exploration, launches and astronomical occurrences.”
Galaxy-Size Bubbles Discovered Towering Over the Milky Way –For decades, astronomers debated whether a particular smudge was close-by and small, or distant and huge. A new X-ray map supports the massive option, reports Charlie Wood for Quanta.”hen Peter Predehl, an astrophysicist at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany, first laid eyes on the new map of the universe’s hottest objects, he immediately recognized the aftermath of a galactic catastrophe. A bright yellow cloud billowed tens of thousands of light-years upward from the Milky Way’s flat disk, with a fainter twin reflected below.”
Inside the C.I.A., She Became a Spy for Planet Earth –Linda Zall is disclosing how she toiled anonymously within the intelligence agency to help scientists intensify their studies of a changing planet, reports The New York Times. Dr. Zall’s program, established in 1992, included up to six decades of prime data on planetary shifts in snowfall and blizzards, sea ice and glaciers.
It Spied on Soviet Atomic Bombs. Now It’s Solving Ecological Mysteries--Imagery from the Cold War’s Corona satellites is helping scientists fill in how we have changed our planet in the past half century, reports The New York Times. “Modern ecologists chronicling precious or lost habitats have given second life to the Corona images. Paired with modern computing, the space-based snapshots have helped archaeologists identify ancient sites, demonstrated how craters left by American bombs during the Vietnam War became fish ponds and recounted World War II’s reshaping of Eastern Europe’s tree cover.”
SETI: new signal excites alien hunters – here’s how we could find out if it’s real, reports The Conversation “T’he signal was “narrow-band”, meaning it only occupied a slim range of radio frequencies. And it drifted in frequency in a way that you would expect if it came from a moving planet. These characteristics are exactly the kind of attributes the SETI scientists have been looking for since the astronomer Frank Drake first began the pioneering initiative some 60 years ago.”
Will increasing traffic to the Moon contaminate its precious ice? asks Nature,com –Scientists seek guidance on exploring frozen caches at the lunar poles responsibly.
We Absorb Billions of Viruses Every Day, And that’s a good thing reports Ed Yong for The Atlantic.
“Top Gun: Maverick, Dune and Babylon, as well as TV documentaries about Greta Thunberg and Stephen Hawking” –are the best sci-fi films and science documentaries to watch in 2021, reports New Scientist “Come December, Don’t Look Up is set to be one of the biggest ever Netflix films, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence as astronomers trying to warn the world about a giant meteorite heading towards Earth as a fumbling president downplays the dangers. It is being filmed in socially distanced conditions in Boston, and the cast includes Timothée Chalamet, Cate Blanchett, Meryl Streep and Jonah Hill. Hawking, a new documentary from Sky (release date not yet available) aims to shed new light on the life of the late physicist through previously unseen private family archives.”
Scientists Have Created a New State of Matter: ‘Liquid Glass’ –First predicted 20 years ago, liquid glass has finally been observed under microscopes, reports Becky Ferreira for Motherboard/Vice Science.
New Quantum Algorithms Finally Crack Nonlinear Equations, reports Max G. Levy for Quanta –“in nonlinear systems, interactions can affect themselves: When air streams past a jet’s wings, the air flow alters molecular interactions, which alter the air flow, and so on This feedback loop breeds chaos, where small changes in initial conditions lead to wildly different behavior later, making predictions nearly impossible — no matter how powerful the computer. ‘This is part of why it’s difficult to predict the weather or understand complicated fluid flow,’ said Andrew Childs, a quantum information researcher at the University of Maryland. ‘There are hard computational problems that you could solve, if you could [figure out] these nonlinear dynamics.”
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