“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.
New ideas on what makes a planet habitable could reshape the search for life –New definitions of “habitable worlds” could include planets with global oceans under a steamy hydrogen atmosphere or exclude ones that started out habitable but lost all their water, reports Science News.
Extraterrestrial Life –“Is Earth the ‘Standard Model’ for the Universe?” –-“By the end of this century, says astrophysicist Martin Rees, we should be able to ask whether or not we live in a multiverse, and how much variety of the laws of physics its constituent ‘universes’ display. The answer to this question, says Rees, “will determine how we should interpret the ‘biofriendly’ universe in which we live (sharing it with any aliens with whom we might one day make contact).”
Brian Keating’s Quest for the Origin of the Universe –The astrophysicist Brian Keating talks to host Quanta Steven Strogatz about chasing the universe’s greatest mysteries — and what it’s like to have a major discovery slip through his fingers.
‘Our fascination is rooted in hope’: why we’re so obsessed with UFOs –In a JJ Abrams-produced docuseries, the possible existence of alien life is given a serious and exhaustive examination, reports The Guardian.
What We Know About Climate Change and Hurricanes –“Hurricane Ida intensified overnight, becoming a Category 4 storm over the course of just a few hours. The rapid increase in strength raises questions about how much climate change is affecting hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean. While researchers can’t say for sure whether human-caused climate change will mean longer or more active hurricane seasons in the future, there is broad agreement on one thing: Global warming is changing storms,” reports the New York Times.
What the Hugo and Nebula award-winners of 2020 are telling us about science-fiction and ourselves –What writers and readers consider the best sci-fi of the year.
Alzheimer’s, Inc.: When a Hypothesis Becomes Too Big to Fail –This summer’s controversy surrounding the FDA’s shocking approval of the drug aducanumab provides a window into a scientific field in crisis
Climate change lurks behind Hurricane Ida’s unnerving intensification rate, reports Axios –“: The explosive intensification of Hurricane Ida shortly before landfall was a nightmare situation. Social media was inundated with expressions of anxiety and dread, as it was too late for anyone in harm’s way to flee from what they may have thought was going to be a weaker storm.”
Deflecting an Asteroid Before It Hits Earth May Take Multiple Bumps –After years of shooting meteorites with a special gun owned by NASA, researchers highlighted challenges for a preferred method of planetary defense, reports The New York Times.
Politicians Need to Pay Attention to Existential Risks, reports 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 consciousness –Identifying the evolutionary markers of when consciousness exploded. “The origin of consciousness was a world-defining event, comparable only with the origin of life itself. Buried deep in the evolutionary record, the transition to minimal consciousness has far-reaching biological and philosophical implications,” reports IaI.
The ‘window is rapidly closing’ to gather crucial evidence on the virus’s origins, scientists say. –Further delays could make it impossible to recover crucial evidence about the beginning of the pandemic, say experts studying the origins of the coronavirus for the World Health Organization, reports The New York Times. ““The window is rapidly closing on the biological feasibility of conducting the critical trace-back of people and animals inside and outside China,” the experts wrote in an editorial in the journal Nature. Several studies of blood samples and wildlife farms in China were urgently needed to understand how Covid-19 emerged, they said.”
A space laser is tracking subglacial lakes hidden in Antarctica –ICESat-2 has discovered more subglacial lakes, reports NASA. –“From above, the Antarctic Ice Sheet might look like a calm, perpetual ice blanket that has covered Antarctica for millions of years. But the ice sheet can be thousands of meters deep at its thickest, and it hides hundreds of meltwater lakes where its base meets the continent’s bedrock. Deep below the surface, some of these lakes fill and drain continuously through a system of waterways that eventually drain into the ocean.
Unraveling the Mystery of Why Children Are Better Protected from COVID Than Adults –Their immune system is more primed to fight off the novel coronavirus, reports Scientific American.
Newly Classified Hycean Exoplanets Could Accelerate the Search for Alien Life, reports Jason Dorrier for Singularity Hub –“These planets, classified as Hycean worlds (a mashup of hydrogen and ocean), are bigger than Earth and smaller than Neptune. Typically this class of exoplanets is divided into rocky planets like Earth, dubbed super-Earths, and ice giants like Neptune, called mini-Neptunes. Hycean worlds sit in between the two.”
Satellites Spot Oceans Aglow With Trillions of Organisms –A new generation of detectors let scientists identify a dozen large episodes of bioluminescence, one a hundred times larger than Manhattan — and that’s the smallest, reports The New York Times. “Last month in the journal Scientific Reports, eight investigators told of finding a luminous patch south of Java in 2019 that grew to be larger than the combined areas of Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut.”
Mountains of data: An unprecedented climate observatory to understand the future of water. reports the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory–“First-ever “bedrock-to-atmosphere” observation system could allow scientists to predict the future of water availability in the West.”
The physics behind a water bear’s lumbering gait, reports The Rockefeller University –“the water bear, a micro-animal so distinct that scientists were forced to assign it to its own phylum, uses eight stubby legs to improbably propel itself through marine and freshwater sediment, across desert dunes, and beneath the soil.”
A bad solar storm could cause an “Internet apocalypse” –Undersea cables would be hit especially hard by a coronal mass ejection, reports Ars Technica .” Less examined until now, though, is the impact such a solar emission could have on Internet infrastructure specifically. New research shows that the failures could be catastrophic, particularly for the undersea cables that underpin the global Internet.”
Hurricane Ida Reversed the Course of the Mississippi River –-The river temporarily flowed from south to north on Sunday afternoon after Ida made landfall as a Category 4 storm, reports Gizmodo.
Ancient monument linked to King Arthur is older than Stonehenge, research finds, reports Live Science –“A mysterious stone tomb in western England — known as Arthur’s Stone because of its links to the mythical King Arthur — originated almost 6,000 years ago as part of an elaborate “ceremonial landscape” across the whole area, according to archaeologists.”
Your free daily email 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.