“Planet Earth Report” provides descriptive links to headline news by leading science journalist about the discoveries, technology, people, and events changing our knowledge of Planet Earth and the future of the human species.
The Myth of Stephen Hawking –He was an important physicist, but the press and the public saw him as a prophet—and he didn’t go out of his way to discourage them, reports Charles Seife for Scientific American. “There was almost a religious reverence in the hush that descended upon the audience at the beginning of a Stephen Hawking lecture. Typically, every seat was taken, and if the fire marshals weren’t a force to be reckoned with, there were large clots of people near the exits and in the aisles, craning their necks to get their first view of the physicist.”
“No Place to Hide” –A ‘Perfect Storm’ 14 Times Earth’s Greatest Biological Catastrophe. ““So they’re kind of like dark matter,” said paleontologist David Jablonski of the University of Chicago about the sanctuaries, the “refugia” that have never been found in the fossil record, but sheltered the shell-shocked and decimated species of Earth’s past mass extinctions until they were able to repopulate the planet in ensuing eons.”
An Extremely Powerful and Unexplained Energy Ray Tore Through Our Galaxy –The highly energetic gamma ray was more powerful than any particle accelerator on Earth, hinting at the existence of cosmic super-accelerators called PeVatrons, reports Becky Ferrreira, for Motherboard Vice.
“Ten One-Billionths of Cosmic History” –Past Homo Species Could Not Survive Intense Climate Change –“The human experience on our pale blue dot “has lasted for less than 10 one-billionths of cosmic history surrounded by a vast lifeless space, yet we humans are congratulating ourselves,” says Peter Brannen author of Ends of the World about the current reign of humans recently named the Anthropocene –the period dating from the Atomic Age of the 1950s during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment– “on an unearned geological legacy before we’ve proved ourselves capable of escaping the next century with our lives.”
These Rocks Made a 1,000-Mile Trek. Did Dinosaurs Carry Them? asks the New York Times. Researchers suggest a collection of prehistoric stones found in Wyoming journeyed from Wisconsin in the bellies of very large beasts.
A Tiny Wobble Shakes the Foundations of Physics –-“Findings from a seminal experiment point to unknown forms of matter and energy vital to the nature and evolution of the Universe.”
Once-rare Arctic lighting is now more frequent—and may reshape the region –Recent studies suggest lightning in the far North could double by 2100 and that the increase may already be underway, reports National Geographic.
Human-like intelligence in animals is far more common than we thought, reports New Scientist. “Stories of clever animals abound, from pigs playing video games to monkeys trading mobile phones – now tests reveal that they don’t merely act on instinct but can think flexibly, like us.”
When Did Life First Emerge in the Universe? –We don’t know, but we could try to find out by searching for it on carbon-rich planets orbiting the very oldest stars, reports Avi Loeb for Scientific American.
“Hubris of the Anthropocene” –COVID-19 Pandemic Delivers a Lost Cosmic Perspective–“Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb and mass-extinction authority Peter Brannen, author of Ends of the World, both ask is Mother Nature and COVID-19 teaching our “Anthropocene Epoch” a powerful lesson?”
‘Last Hope’ Experiment Finds Evidence for Unknown Particles, reports Natalie Wolchover for Quanta. Today’s long-anticipated announcement by Fermilab’s Muon g-2 team appears to solidify a tantalizing conflict between nature and theory. But a separate calculation, published at the same time, has clouded the picture.
“Technological Civilizations in the Cosmos May Collapse from the Climate Change They Trigger” –“Astronomers have inventoried a sizable share of the universe’s stars, galaxies, comets, and black holes. But are planets with sustainable civilizations also something the universe contains? Or does every civilization that may have arisen in the Cosmos last only a few centuries before it falls to the climate change it triggers?”
The Vast Viral World: What We Know (and Don’t Know)–Exploring the minuscule and mysterious world of viruses, reports Lauren Oakes for Nautilus. “Thanks to the invention of the electron microscope, then known as the Übermikroscop, scientists could finally observe—actually see—what was already known to exist: the minuscule and mysterious world of viruses.”
Iceland’s Eruptions Reveal the Hot History of Mars –The new volcanic fissures are more otherworldly than they first appear, reports Robin George Andrews for Nautilus.
More than 5,000 tons of extraterrestrial dust fall to Earth each year–An international program3 conducted for nearly 20 years by scientists from the CNRS, the Université Paris-Saclay and the National museum of natural history4 with the support of the French polar institute, has determined that 5,200 tons per year of these micrometeorites reach the ground, reports CNRS.
Here’s How We’ll Know an AI Is Conscious, reports Joel Frohlich for Nautilus –“Just as ethical tragedies arise when we pull the plug on patients who are aware yet unresponsive, similar tragedies will arise if we pull the plug on artificial consciousness. And just as my lab at UCLA relates theoretical measures of consciousness to the hospital bed behavior of brain-injured patients, future researchers must relate theoretical measures of artificial consciousness to an AI’s performance on something akin to a Turing test.”
Earth’s “Third Pole” –Impending Catastrophic Climate Change –“NASA is keeping a space-based eye on the Himalayas, Karakoram, Hindu Kush –The glaciers and snowpack of Asia’s three high mountain ranges harbor the largest volume of freshwater outside the polar ice sheets, leading hydrologists to dubb this region The Third Pole. One-seventh of the world’s population depends on rivers flowing from these mountains for water to drink and to irrigate crops.”
Nature Can Help Us Prepare for the Next Pandemic, reports Meghan McDonough for Scientific American.
Modern Human Brain Originated in Africa Around 1.7 Million Years Ago–The human brain as we know it today is relatively young. It evolved about 1.7 million years ago when the culture of stone tools in Africa became increasingly complex. A short time later, the new Homo populations spread to Southeast Asia, researchers from the University of Zurich have now shown using computed tomography analyses of fossilized skulls.