Our Pale Blue Dot had a busy news week from remnants of a collision with an alien world found deep within Earth to our imagination might be the core of what human brains evolved to do to the untold story of the world’s biggest nuclear bomb.
NASA’s 7-Step plan for how to confirm whether we’ve really found aliens –Anticipating mounting evidence of alien life, and also anticipating that the media might mischaracterize that evidence, NASA’s chief scientist wants to put some guardrails on the story—by placing potential evidence of alien life on a seven-step scale that ranges from interesting to definitive. In a paper published in Nature on October 27, NASA’s James Green proposed a what he described as a “framework for reporting evidence for life beyond Earth”
Astronomers Revise Recipe for Building a Rocky Planet Like Earth, reports Jonathan O’Callaghan for Quanta –Over the past decade, researchers have completely rewritten the story of how gas giants such as Jupiter and Saturn form. They’re now debating whether the same process might hold for Earth.
A New 10-Year Plan for the Cosmos –On astronomers’ wish list for the next decade: two giant telescopes and a space telescope to search for life and habitable worlds beyond Earth, reports Dennis Overbye for the New York Times.
NASA scientist answers: When was the last time an asteroid hit Earth? –According to Marina Brozovic, the answer depends on your definition of being hit by an asteroid, reports The Jerusalem Post.
What if Everything You Learned About Human History Is Wrong? –In “The Dawn of Everything,” the anthropologist David Graeber and the archaeologist David Wengrow aim to rewrite the story of our shared past — and future, reports The New York Times. ““The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity,” out Nov. 9 from Farrar Straus and Giroux, may or may not dislodge the standard narrative popularized in mega-sellers like Yuval Noah Harari’s “Sapiens” and Jared Diamond’s “Guns, Germs and Steel.”
As Earth Warms, Human History Is Melting Away –Climate change is revealing long-frozen artifacts and animals to archaeologists. But the window for study is slender and shrinking, reports The New York Times. “
Vast patches of glassy rock in Chilean desert likely created by ancient exploding comet –Heat from a comet exploding just above the ground fused the sandy soil into patches of glass stretching 75 kilometers, a study led by Brown University researchers found.
Eels are guided by Earth’s magnetic field, reports The Economist –“They can tell its strength as well as its direction. From Aristotle to Sigmund Freud, eels’ reproductive habits have puzzled observers of the natural world. In a life-cycle the opposite of a salmon’s, they grow from youth to maturity in rivers and ponds and then go to sea to spawn. Exactly where they do this spawning, though, was a mystery.”
Seti: why extraterrestrial intelligence is more likely to be artificial than biological, writes Martin Rees, Emeritus Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics, University of Cambridge for The Conversation –“Suppose there are other planets where life began and that it followed something like a Darwinian evolution (which needen’t be the case). Even then, it’s highly unlikely that the progression of intelligence and technology would happen at exactly the same pace as on Earth. But around a star older than the Sun, life could have had a head start of a billion years or more.”
Deep Within Earth — “Remnants of a Collision with an Alien World”, reports Science. “Geologists don’t know much about where these gargantuan, blob-like structures came from or what they are. Although a new study by researchers from Arizona State University (ASU), argues that they may represent ancient fragments of the Mars-sized object known as Theia that struck the early Earth around 4.5 billion years ago, with a huge chunk of Theia and/or possibly Earth fragmenting off, and becoming the Moon we know today.
Could we make a superhuman?--The hero of the new Dune movie Paul Atreides has superhuman powers, a result of genetic engineering across many generations. Could selectively breeding a ‘chosen one’ ever become a reality? asks BBC Science Focus Magazine.
Homo imaginatus –-Imagination isn’t just a spillover from our problem-solving prowess. It might be the core of what human brains evolved to do, reports Aeon. “Perhaps the human mind overproduces possible futures in order to plan in the present.”
Mysteries of the deep sea: 5 burning questions about Earth’s final frontier –Will we ever live in a deep-sea base? And how many unknown creatures lurk in the depths? reports BBC Science Focus Magazine.
Vapor Storms Are Threatening People and Property –More moisture in a warmer atmosphere is fueling intense hurricanes and flooding rains, reports Scientific American
For Harry Houdini, Séances and Spiritualism Were Just an Illusion –The magician spent years campaigning against fraudulent psychics, even lobbying Congress to ban fortune-telling in D.C., reports Bryan Greene for The Smithsonian.
The untold story of the world’s biggest nuclear bomb –In the early hours of Oct. 30, 1961, a bomber took off from Russia with a nuclear bomb the size of a small school bus. While the US condemned the project, they were secretly creating their own version, writes nuclear historian Alex Wellerstein, reports The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.
Why Dragons Dominated the Landscape of Medieval Monsters –The mythical beasts were often cast as agents of the devil or demons in disguise, reports The Smithsonian. ” In the European Middle Ages, monster stories served as religious teaching tools, offering examples of what not to do, manifestations of the threats posed by the supernatural and the diabolical, and metaphors for the evil humans do to one another.”
Lesson of the Day: ‘How Humans Lost Their Tails’ –-In this lesson students will learn why monkeys have tails, while apes and humans don’t — and imagine what life would be like if we had kept ours, reports Carl Zimmer for The New York Times.
Yes, your brain is eating itself all the time. Here’s why–Neuroscientist Dean Burnett explains the brain’s gruesome method for spring cleaning, reports BBC Science Focus Magazine
How science is helping unearth an 80-year-old Holocaust mystery –Out of the ruins of the Warsaw Ghetto, remnants of resistance emerge, thanks to advanced geoscientific tools and a team determined to keep the horrors of history from fading, reports CNET.
On the origin of minds –Cognition did not appear out of nowhere in ‘higher’ animals but goes back millions, perhaps billions, of years, reports Aeon. “Evolution had laid a foundation of capacities considered cognitive well before nervous systems appeared.”
DNA from mysterious Asian mummies reveals their surprising ancestry –“Mystery mummies from Central Asia have a surprising ancestry. These people, who displayed facial characteristics suggesting a European heritage, belonged to a local population with ancient Asian roots, a new study finds. Until now, researchers had pegged the mummified Bronze Age bunch as newcomers and debated about where in West Asia they originally came from,” reports Science News.
You Can Get This Free Crypto—If the ‘Orb’ Scans Your Eye, reports Gian M. Volpicelli for Wired–“Sam Altman wants to give every person on the planet free money—or rather free cryptocurrency. It’s a lofty goal that commands a lofty name: Worldcoin. …The company has now exited stealth mode and released some extremely bold estimates on how many people it thinks will be claiming its Worldcoin: 1 billion in less than two years.”
Deciphering the Philosophers’ Stone: How Scientists Cracked a 400-Year-Old Alchemical Cipher, reports Singularity Hub –What secret alchemical knowledge could be so important it required sophisticated encryption?
Heatwaves like ‘the Blob’ could decrease role of ocean as carbon sink, reports Phys.org –“Researchers have found the two-year heatwave known as ‘the Blob’ may have temporarily dampened the Pacific’s ‘biological pump,’ which shuttles carbon from the surface ocean to the deep sea where it can be stored for millennia.”
Spider Uses its Web Like a Giant Engineered Ear –Bridge spiders “outsource” their hearing by building webs that double as acoustic arrays, allowing them to perceive sounds from great distances, reports The Scientist.
Endangered California Condors Can Reproduce Asexually, Study Finds –The rare discovery came about as a result of efforts to preserve the species, reports New York Times Science.