Another amazing week on the Blue Dot from escaped coronavirus has grave implications for the world to the microscopic creature that survived for 24,000 years in the Siberian permafrost to NASA joins the search for UFOs to does a relic of the Big Bang exist in our Solar System?
Contacting Aliens Could End All Life on Earth. Let’s stop trying. –Whatever the UFO report says, it’s time to set some rules for talking to extraterrestrials, reports The Washington Post. “Some scientific circles have already been debating questions around whether to try to contact other civilizations. It’s a topic of profound importance for the entire planet.”
Moore’s Law for Everything“ –“The technological progress we make in the next 100 years will be far larger than all we’ve made since we first controlled fire and invented the wheel,” writes Sam Altman in his essay “Moore’s Law for Everything.” “This revolution will generate enough wealth for everyone to have what they need, if we as a society manage it responsibly.”
Do You Want AI to Be Conscious? –Consciousness is an important function for us. Why not for our machines? asks Ryota Kanai for Nautil.us. “If we can’t figure out why AIs do what they do, why don’t we ask them? We can endow them with metacognition.”
China’s Covid cover-up? –The theory that coronavirus escaped from a Wuhan lab is now considered credible. If true, it has grave implications for the world, reports John Gray for New Statesman. “The virus could have escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology after being altered by “gain-of-function” experiments that increased its virulence and transmissibility. In that event, a virologist working at the Pasteur Institute in Paris was quoted as saying, “Nobody could predict the trajectory.”
“They Think It’s Real” –NASA Joins Investigation of UFOs , reports The Daily Galaxy. ““UFOs seemed to move in ways that exceed current technology”
Contacting aliens could end all life on earth. Let’s stop trying. –Whatever the UFO report says, it’s time to set some rules for talking to extraterrestrials, reports The Washington Post. “any aliens we ultimately encounter will likely be far more technologically advanced than we are, for a simple reason: Most stars in our galaxy are much older than the sun.”
DNA Jumps Between Animal Species. No One Knows How Often. –The discovery of a gene shared by two unrelated species of fish is the latest evidence that horizontal gene transfers occur surprisingly often in vertebrates, reports Christie Wilcox for Quanta. “Herrings and smelts, two groups of fish that commonly roam the northernmost reaches of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, both make antifreezing proteins (AFPs). But it is very surprising, even weird, that both fish do so with the same AFP gene — particularly since their ancestors diverged more than 250 million years ago and the gene is absent from all the other fish species related to them.”
The Largest Lake in the History of the Planet –When continental plates smashed together about 12 million years ago, they didn’t just raise new mountains in central Europe—they created the largest lake the world has ever known. This vast body of water—the Paratethys Sea—came to host species found nowhere else, including the world’s smallest whales. Two new studies reveal how the ancient body of water took shape and how surrounding changes helped give rise to elephants, giraffes, and other large mammals that wander the planet today.
Neuroscientists Have Discovered a Phenomenon That They Can’t Explain –reports Ed Yong for The Atlantic. “Scientists are meant to know what’s going on, but in this particular case, we are deeply confused.”
This Tiny Creature Survived 24,000 Years Frozen in Siberian Permafrost, reports The New York Times–The microscopic animals were frozen when woolly mammoths still roamed the planet, but were restored as though no time had passed. “They’re the world’s most resistant animal to just about any form of torture,” said Matthew Meselson, a molecular biologist at Harvard University.
Primordial Black Holes — “Does a Relic of the Big Bang Exist in Our Solar System?” asks The Daily Galaxy. -“These “Ancient black holes would give us access to physics we would never otherwise be able to do, says Dan Hooper, head of the theoretical astrophysics group at FermiLab.
Pupil Size Is a Marker of Intelligence –There is a surprising correlation between baseline pupil size and several measures of cognitive ability, “It has been said that “the eyes are the window to the soul,” but new research suggests that they may be a window to the brain as well.” reports Scientific American.
NASA Is Returning to Venus, Where It’s 470°C. Will We Find Life When We Get There? asks Singularity Hub. –“NASA has selected two missions, dubbed DAVINCI+ and VERITAS, to study the “lost habitable” world of Venus. Each mission will receive approximately $500 million for development and both are expected to launch between 2028 and 2030.”
Have Autonomous Robots Started Killing in War? asks James Vincent for The Verge — “…over the past week, a number of publications tentatively declared, based on a UN report from the Libyan civil war, that killer robots may have hunted down humans autonomously for the first time. As one headline put it: ‘The Age of Autonomous Killer Robots May Already Be Here.’ But is it? As you might guess, it’s a hard question to answer.”
Google and Harvard Unveil the Largest High-Resolution Map of the Brain Yet, reports Singularity Hub.–“The mapped region encompasses the various layers and cell types of the cerebral cortex, a region of brain tissue associated with higher-level cognition, such as thinking, planning, and language. According to Google, it’s the largest brain map at this level of detail to date, and it’s freely available to scientists (and the rest of us) online. (Really. Go here. Take a stroll.)”
The COVID Lab-Leak Hypothesis: What Scientists Do and Do Not know –An examination of the arguments that the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 escaped from a lab in China, and the science behind them, reports Scientific American.
Why We Don’t Know the Animal Origins of the Coronavirus –Viruses that “spill over” to people do not stick around in animals, so finding true sources takes years of careful work, an expert says, reports Scientific American. “Confirming the circumstances and key participants involved in the early emergence of an infectious disease is a holy grail of this type of scientific inquiry: difficult to track and even more difficult to prove.”
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.