“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.
Who Would Kidnap a Space Telescope? –‘‘We hope pirates don’t take it,” one astrophysicist said, reports Marina Koren for The Atlantic. about the $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope.–“NASA’s new space telescope has had a rough go. Name a problem, and this telescope—meant to be the most powerful of its kind, a worthy successor to the famous Hubble—has faced it: poor management, technical errors, budget overruns, schedule delays, and a pandemic. So, naturally, the people responsible for the telescope’s safety are now thinking about pirates.”
“The Last Days of Hubble?” –A Crowning Glory of the Human Species. ““Hubble isn’t just a satellite; it’s about humanity’s quest for knowledge,” said astronaut and former NASA Chief Scientist, John M. Grunsfeld about the iconic space telescope. Looking at Hubble’s ground-breaking “Deep Field” images that show the most distant galaxies that can be observed in visible light leaves us feeling like something else is going about its business out there.” reports The Daily Galaxy.
Evolution on other worlds –“In his entertaining and thought provoking The Zoologist’s Guide to the Galaxy, the Cambridge University zoologist and mathematical biologist Arik Kershenbaum— known principally for his studies of animal vocalizations—turns to astrobiology, a field concerned with the origins and persistence of life in the Universe, and provides readers with a tentative sketch of the nature of potential alien life on other potentially habitable planets,” reports Science.
“Mount Everest Would Have Been Submerged” –Ancient Earth, One of the Milky Way’s Countless Water Worlds. “In 2016, astronomers using data from NASA’s Kepler mission, discovered a planet unlike anything in our solar system –a “water world” planetary system orbiting the star Kepler-62 –a five-planet system with two worlds in the habitable zone — their surfaces completely covered by an endless global ocean with no land or mountains in sight.”
One of the Oldest Black Holes in the Universe is Trying to “Talk” to Us— It’s located 13 billion light years away — when the universe was very young. This could give us key insights into the early universe, reports Inverse.
What Is Life? Its Vast Diversity Defies Easy Definition.–Scientists have struggled to formulate a universal definition of life. Is it possible they don’t need one? reports Carl Zimmer –“People often feel that they can intuitively recognize whether something is alive, but nature is filled with entities that flout easy categorization as life or non-life — and the challenge may intensify as other planets and moons open up to exploration. In this excerpt from his new book, Life’s Edge: The Search for What It Means to Be Alive, published today, Zimmer discusses scientists’ frustrated efforts to develop a universal definition of life.”/
The fight for the Galápagos: race to expand reserve as fishing fleets circle –Ecuador’s president to decide on proposal to expand islands’ marine reserve, seen as vital to protect world heritage site from fishing industry, reports The Guardian.
New Ebola outbreak likely sparked by a person infected 5 years ago, reports Science. –“The virus causing the new outbreak barely differs from the strain seen 5 to 6 years ago, genomic analyses by three independent research groups have shown, suggesting the virus lay dormant in a survivor of the epidemic all that time.
What fueled humans’ big brains? Controversial paper proposes new hypothesis, reports Live Science. –“Over the course of the Pleistocene epoch, between 2.6 million years ago and 11,700 years ago, the brains of humans and their relatives grew. Now, scientists from Tel Aviv University have a new hypothesis as to why: As the largest animals on the landscape disappeared, the scientists propose, human brains had to grow to enable the hunting of smaller, swifter prey.”
Evolution of ‘twilight zone’ ocean creatures linked to climate change –Scientists warn of knock-on ecological impact if populations at bottom of food chain are hurt by warming oceans, reports Sky News.–“New research has revealed how creatures within the so-called twilight zone of the ocean, extending from 200 to 1,000 meters below the surface, have evolved as a result of climate change.”
Newfound meteorite could help unlock secrets of the solar system –The incredibly rare space rock recovered in the U.K. could help scientists answer questions about how Earth got its water and maybe even how life here got started, reports Robin George Andrews for National Geographic. “Could it be a new meteorite type, a new meteorite class, something we’ve never seen before?” asks Luke Daly, a meteorite expert at the University of Glasgow.
No, You Don’t have a Lizard Brain Inside Your Human Brain, reports Mind Matters –” Why does the tale linger that our instincts stem from a part of our brain inherited from reptilian ancestors? Because if bad behavior stems from our inner beasts, then we’re less responsible for some of our actions. The myth of the “triune brain,” is the idea that our brain developed and continues to function in three successive layers.”
“The Pattern Seekers” Is autism the legacy of humans evolving the ability to innovate? –A new book argues that humans evolved innovation, and genes for autism, between 70,000 and 100,000 years ago, when our human ancestors took a cognitive leap forward. reports CBC. “This new capacity enabled them to analyze and understand patterns in the world that would, among other things, facilitate the invention of complex tools from bows to musical instruments.”
Signs that Earth was once almost entirely molten found in ancient rock –“We know very little about what early Earth looked like – but one theory says that at several times it was almost entirely molten, a magma ocean. These oceans were probably caused by a series of massive impacts with other objects in our solar system that each generated enough energy to melt our planet’s interior. One of the last such collisions is thought to have formed the moon, reports New Scientist.
France grossly underestimated radioactive fallout from atom bomb tests, study finds –“From 1966 to 1974, France blew up 41 nuclear weapons in above-ground tests in French Polynesia, the collection of 118 islands and atolls that is part of France. The French government has long contended that the testing was done safely. But a new analysis of hundreds of documents declassified in 2013 suggests the tests exposed 90% of the 125,000 people living in French Polynesia to radioactive fallout—roughly 10 times as many people as the French government has estimated,” reports Science.
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.