“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.
If the Earth Isn’t Special, Then the Whole Cosmos Is –Amazing things happen when you realize Earth is just another planet, reports Slate.
A microscopic video shows the coronavirus on the rampage –Inside a bat’s brain, the pathogen destroys cells, but not before it forces them to build more invaders, reports the New York Times. “The intruder stalks its prey with stealth and precision, preparing to puncture its quarry’s armor. Once inside, the aggressor forces its host to produce more intruders, and then causes it to explode, spewing out a multitude of invaders who can continue their rampage on a wider scale.”
The lost fossil meteorites carrying the secrets of Earth’s past, reports New Scientist –Fossil meteorites are one of the hardest geological treasures to discover – but now a spate of finds is revealing surprises about Earth’s ancient atmosphere.
The U.S. Is Getting a Crash Course in Scientific Uncertainty –As the pandemic takes an unexpected direction, Americans again must reckon with twists in scientific understanding of the virus, reports the New York Times.
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 Gideon Lewis-Krau for The New Yorker. In the past three years, high-level officials have publicly conceded their bewilderment about unidentified aerial phenomena.
What will today’s data tell future historians? asks BBC Future– Social media posts, algorithms and conspiracy theories might shape how future generations understand the world today.
“Almost Three Times as Old as Earth”–Oldest Planet in Our Milky Way Galaxy –“In 2003 we derived the properties of a planet that was orbiting a white dwarf star and a neutron star binary near the core of the ancient globular star cluster M4, located 5,600 light-years away in the summer constellation Scorpius using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, precisely measuring the mass of the oldest known planet in our Milky Way galaxy,” astrophysicist Harvey Richer told The Daily Galaxy. At an estimated age of 13 billion years, the planet is more than twice as old as Earth’s 4.5 billion years.
How Big Can the Quantum World Be? Physicists Probe the Limits –By showing that even large objects can exhibit bizarre quantum behaviors, physicists hope to illuminate the mystery of quantum collapse, identify the quantum nature of gravity, and perhaps even make Schrödinger’s cat a reality, reports Philip Ball for Quanta.
Lab-Grown Mini Brains Develop Basic Eyes That Can See, reports Michael Irving for New Atlas–“They contained a diverse range of retinal cell types, which formed neuronal networks that actually responded to light and sent those signals into the brain. Lens and cornea tissue was also formed.”
Tesla is building an AI humanoid robot called Optimus, says Elon Musk,–“The robot, referred to as Optimus by those inside the company, will be 173 centimeters tall and weigh 57 kilograms. Its body will be powered by 40 electromechanical actuators and its face will feature a screen display.”
The Red Queen Phenomenon –“No One Species has an Advantage on a Planet Where 99% Have Gone Extinct” –“The fact that all organisms are nearly equally fit has profound implications for the evolution and persistence of life on Earth,” said James H. Brown, a physiological ecologist at the University of New Mexico, referring to a “New Evolutionary Law” proposed by evolutionary theorist and paleobiology pioneer, Leigh Van Valen.
Radioactivity May Fuel Life Deep Underground and Inside Other Worlds, reports Quanta. New work suggests that the radiolytic splitting of water supports giant subsurface ecosystems of life on Earth — and could do it elsewhere, too.
Rex Was Fearsome but May Have Been a Picky Eater –The jaw of the Tyrannosaurus Rex had sensitive nerves that may have allowed it to differentiate between parts of its prey, a new study found, reports the New York Times.
“Different From All Currently Known Life?” –Darwin’s Extraterrestrials. “By now it has become a common futurist prediction and science fiction plot device that intelligent and sentient life forms can be created which are not biochemical in nature and are thus fundamentally different from all currently known life,” distinguished Princeton astrophysicist Edwin Turner wrote in an email to The Daily Galaxy.
‘Neurograins’ Could Record Brain Activity From Thousands of Locations, reports Singularity Hub –“More speculatively, some think they could soon be implanted in healthy people to help us monitor our brain function and even boost it. Last year, Elon Musk said brain implants being built by his startup Neuralink will one day be like “a Fitbit in your skull.” First, though, they will have to get much more accurate and far less obtrusive.”
As Temperatures Rise, Empires Fall: Heat and Human Behavior –“People really do behave worse in hot weather—and whole nations do too,” reports Time.
Animals Count and Use Zero. How Far Does Their Number Sense Go? reports Jordana Cepelewicz for Wired –“An understanding of numbers is often viewed as a distinctly human faculty—a hallmark of our intelligence that, along with language, sets us apart from all other animals. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. …Practically every animal that scientists have studied—insects and cephalopods, amphibians and reptiles, birds and mammals—can distinguish between different numbers of objects in a set or sounds in a sequence.”
Rain falls on peak of Greenland ice cap for first time on record –Precipitation was so unexpected, scientists had no gauges to measure it, and is stark sign of climate crisis, reports The Guardian.
Vera Rubin’s work on dark matter led to a paradigm shift in cosmology –A new biography shows how the astronomer’s tenacity paid off, reports Science News.
What We Can Learn from Studying UFOs –If they’re really aliens—and they’re benevolent—studying them could potentially transform the prospects for human knowledge and progress, reports Avi Loeb for Scientific American.
Astronomers have just found more than half a million new asteroids, reports New Scientist –“A pair of astronomers have found and categorized half a million new asteroids lurking in old data. Figuring out exactly where these objects came from could be crucial to understanding the early solar system.”
Politicians Need to Pay Attention to Existential Risks, report Toby Ord and Angus Mercer for Wired UK–“With the detonation of the first atomic bomb in 1945, a new age of humanity began. Our rising power finally reached the point where we could destroy ourselves—the first point at which the risks to humanity from within exceeded the risks from the natural world. These extreme risks—high-impact threats with global reach—define our time. They range from global tragedies such as Covid-19, to existential risks which could lead to human extinction.”
The Origin of Technosignatures –Signs of technology might point to life in the universe, but we have to ask what really gives rise to technology in the first place, reports Caleb Scharf for Scientific American.
How extreme heat from climate change distorts human behavior, reports Science News–As temperatures rise, violence and aggression also go up while focus and productivity decline.
How to Outwit Evolution –We can defeat superbugs by staying one step ahead of them. reports Lina Zeldovich for Nautllus.
Missing Antarctic microbes raise thorny questions about the search for aliens –Seemingly lifeless soils highlight the difficulty of discovering nothing, reports Science News.
Plunge into the wild world of extreme watersports –In sports that push the boundaries of human performance, the TAG Heuer Aquaracer offers a sense of security, even in the most challenging situations, reports National Geographic.