“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.
Evolution: Lab-Grown ‘Mini Brains’ Suggest One Mutation Might Have Rewired the Human Mind, reports Singularity Hub –“By reintroducing ancient genes from such extinct species into human “mini brains”—clusters of stem cells grown in a lab that organize themselves into tiny versions of human brains—scientists have started to find new clues to how we evolved such advanced cognitive abilities, giving rise to complex language, poetry, and rocket science?
Was the Golden Rule Born in the Mind of a Monkey? asks Julie Sedivy for Nautilus. “As economic inequality increased in many wealthy nations in recent years, a debate has developed around the question of whether inequality is bad for national economies—and bad for their citizens. A captivating video clip of monkey behavior, taken from a 2011 TED talk by primatologist Frans de Waal, has become a surprising piece of ammunition in this discussion.”
Can Alien Smog Lead Us to Extraterrestrial Civilizations? asks Meghan Herbst for Wired –“Kopparapu is at the forefront of an emerging field in astronomy that is aiming to identify technosignatures, or technological markers we can search for in the cosmos. No longer conceptually limited to radio signals, astronomers are looking for ways we could identify planets or other spacefaring objects by looking for things like atmospheric gases, lasers, and even hypothetical sun-encircling structures called Dyson spheres.”
What do near-death experiences mean, and why do they fascinate us?, asks Alex Moshakis for The Guardian. Psychiatrist Bruce Greyson has spent decades talking to people about near-death experiences. His work raises questions about what happens when we die, and how we ought to choose to live.
The New History of the Milky Way –Over the past two years, astronomers have rewritten the story of our galaxy reports Charlie Wood for Quanta. He begins lyrically: “When the Khoisan hunter-gatherers of sub-Saharan Africa gazed upon the meandering trail of stars and dust that split the night sky, they saw the embers of a campfire. Polynesian sailors perceived a cloud-eating shark. The ancient Greeks saw a stream of milk, gala, which would eventually give rise to the modern term ‘galaxy’.”
Some of Earth’s tiniest living things could survive on Mars –Bacteria and fungi were hurled into Earth’s middle stratosphere, which resembles many of Mars’ harsh conditions, reports Caleb Scharf for Popular Science.
Coronavirus Reinfection Will Soon Become Our Reality, reports Katherine J. Wu for The Atlantic –“The virus can take many paths to reinvading a person’s body. Most of them shouldn’t scare us. Newly saddled with the baggage of COVID-19, reinfection has taken on a more terrifying aspect, raising the specter of never-ending cycles of disease. It has sat at the center of debates over testing, immunity, and vaccines; its meaning muddled by ominous headlines, it has become wildly misunderstood.”
New Technique Reveals Centuries of Secrets in Locked Letters, reports The New York Times –M.I.T. researchers have devised a virtual-reality technique that lets them read old letters that were mailed not in envelopes but in the writing paper itself after being folded into elaborate enclosures.
Antarctica Is Crammed With Abandoned ‘Ghost’ Stations, reports The Atlantic –“As wild and empty as the continent might seem, human ambition is changing it permanently. In almost every sense of the word, the Palmer Archipelago in Antarctica is wild. Humpback whales, elephant seals, and the wandering albatross, a seabird with a wingspan as long as a male great white shark, all call this area home. Towering glaciers and blue-tinged icebergs dot the landscape, and sunsets last for hours. This empty, untamed place also has a gift shop.”
The Mystery of the Missing Sockeye –A disease detective hopes to discover why British Columbia’s wild salmon continue to decline, reports Ann Thomas MD for Nautilus.
Rocket Lab Could Be SpaceX’s Biggest Rival, reports Neel V. Patel for MIT Technology Review –“At 40 meters tall and able to carry 20 times the weight that Electron can, [the new] Neutron [rocket] is being touted by Rocket Lab as its entry into markets for large satellite and mega-constellation launches, as well as future robotics missions to the moon and Mars. Even more tantalizing, Rocket Lab says Neutron will be designed for human spaceflight as well.”
The rise and fall of the mysterious culture that invented civilization –reports New Scientist –Proto-cities built from 6200 years ago in eastern Europe upend our ideas about when civilization began and why people made the move from rural to urban living
Triangulating Math, Mozart and ‘Moby-Dick’, reports Siobhan Roberts for the The New York Times –“Sarah Hart, the first woman to hold England’s distinguished Gresham professorship of geometry, explores the intersections of music, literature and mathematics.”
Earth’s Hidden ‘Innermost-Inner’ Core –“May Reveal an Unknown, Dramatic Event in the Planet’s History”, reports The Daily Galaxy. –“We found evidence that may indicate a change in the structure of iron, which suggests perhaps two separate cooling events in Earth’s history,” said Joanne Stephenson, a researcher from The Australian National University (ANU), about the confirmation of the existence of the Earth’s “innermost inner core” that may point to an unknown, dramatic event in the Earth’s history.”
China Charges Ahead With a National Digital Currency, reports Nathaniel Popper and Cao Li for the The New York Times –“China has charged ahead with a bold effort to remake the way that government-backed money works, rolling out its own digital currency with different qualities than cash or digital deposits. The country’s central bank, which began testing eCNY last year in four cities, recently expanded those trials to bigger cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, according to government presentations.”
Your free twice-weekly fix of stories of space and science –a random journey from Planet Earth through the Cosmos– that has the capacity to provide clues to our existence and add a much needed cosmic perspective in our Anthropocene epoch.