This week’s stories from Planet Earth range from the discovery of single-celled organisms the size of basketballs existing in the dark ocean abyss to extraterrestrial space archaeology in the search for advanced life to watching the expansion of the Universe in real time.
Lab-Grown ‘Mini Brains’ Suggest One Mutation Might Have Rewired the Human Mind, reports Singularity Hub –“How did we evolve such advanced cognitive abilities, giving rise to complex language, poetry, and rocket science? In what way is the modern human brain different from those of our closest evolutionary relatives, such as Neanderthals and Denisovans? 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.”
Brazil’s Pandemic Is a ‘Biological Fukushima’ That Threatens the Entire Planet –The largest country in Latin America now has states and cities where deaths are outpacing births, reports Miguel Nicolelis for Scientific American. “This biological foe keeps morphing in a way that seems well adapted to infect everyone within reach, showing mercy neither for pregnant women nor for their newborn babies.”
Big Brains Podcast from University of Chicago –On this episode, they talk with Harvard’s Avi Loeb and why he thinks we need to invest more in the search for alien life by developing a new field of “space archaeology.”
The Largest Cells on Earth –Deep in the ocean abyss, xenophyophores are worlds unto themselves, reports Rebecca Helm for Nautilus. “These single-celled organisms, called xenophyophores, can grow as large as basketballs.
“Antarctica Alert” –Ghostly Supermassive Black Hole Invader –“On Sept. 22, 2017, a ghostly particle ejected from a far distant supermassive black hole zipped down from the sky and through the ice of Antarctica at just below the speed of light, with an energy of some 300 trillion electron volts, nearly 50 times the energy delivered by the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, the biggest particle accelerator on Earth,” reports Avi Shporer for The Daily Galaxy.
What does a COVID-19 outbreak mean for life at Everest’s base camp? –Climber Mark Synnott talks about the COVID-19 outbreak in Nepal and his search for the camera that could change history, reports National Geographic.
The Robot Surgeon Will See You Now –Real scalpels, artificial intelligence — what could go wrong? asks The New York Times.
Cosmic census reveals 540 stars and planets in our neighborhood, reports New Scientist. –Using existing databases of objects alongside data from the European Space Agency’s Gaia telescope, which is mapping billions of stars in our galaxy, Céline Reylé at the UTINAM Institute in France and her colleagues pooled all knowledge of objects within 10 parsecs, or 33 light years, of our sun.”
How Long Can We Live? asks Ferris Jabr for The New York Times Magazine. New research is intensifying the debate — with profound implications for the future of the planet–“As the global population approaches eight billion, and science discovers increasingly promising ways to slow or reverse aging in the lab, the question of human longevity’s potential limits is more urgent than ever. When their work is examined closely, it’s clear that longevity scientists hold a wide range of nuanced perspectives on the future of humanity.”
Scientists Discover Oldest Known Human Grave in Africa –The unearthing of a tiny child suggests Africa’s Stone Age humans sometimes practiced funerary rites and had symbolic thoughts about death, reports The Smithsonian.
China’s “Station of Extreme Light” –‘A New Physics That Can Tear Apart the Fabric of Spacetime’ reports The Daily Galaxy. “China is building a laser that can produce 100 quadrillion watts – about 50,000 times the planet’s total power consumption — a light so intense that it would equal the amount of power our Earth receives from the Sun.”
How the Pentagon Started Taking U.F.O.s Seriously –For decades, flying saucers were a punch line. Then the U.S. government got over the taboo, reports The New Yorker. “Some of the phenomena we’re going to be seeing continues to be unexplained and might, in fact, be some type of phenomenon that is the result of something that we don’t yet understand and that could involve some type of activity that some might say constitutes a different form of life,” said “former C.I.A. director John Brennan.
“The Extraterrestrial Signal”–The Human Species May Not Want to Receive, reports The Daily Galaxy. “Our galaxy may be teeming with technologically active life or populated by a single very long-lived civilization. In either case, we should be incredibly lucky to get a detection one day.” But there might be a scary downside.
First in Flight: NASA Just Proved Flying on Mars Is Possible–Next Up Is the Solar System –With Ingenuity’s five successful flights on the Red Planet, aviation may find unexpected footing in the future of space exploration, reports Scientific American.
How GPS Weakens Memory—and What We Can Do about It –A new app helps you navigate, not with turn-by-turn directions but via audio “beacons,” reports Scientific American.
NASA Mars Helicopter Makes One-Way Flight to New Mission –Ingenuity has flown almost flawlessly through the red planet’s thin air and will now assist the science mission of the Perseverance rover. “The spot where it landed will serve as its base of operations for the next month at least, beginning a new phase of the mission where it will serve as a scout for its larger robotic companion, the Perseverance rover,” reports The New York Times.
Watching the Universe Expand in Real Time –Within a decade or two, we could observe the cosmic expansion, not as a series of snapshots but as a very slow-motion film, reports Scientific American.