Another busy week of news for our Pale Blue Dot from the detection of a second trojan asteroid sharing Earth’s orbit to searches for molecular complexity could uncover convincing evidence of extraterrestrial life to tiny black holes impacting the Moon could solve the enduring enigma of dark matter.
Incident’ delays launch of James Webb Space Telescope, reports Jonathan Amos for the BBC –the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope has been put back by at least four days to allow for more checks. It was to have been sent into orbit on 18 December and will now go up no earlier than the 22nd of the month.
Could mRNA make us superhuman? asks BBC Future –Until recently most people had never even heard of mRNA vaccines. Now scientists believe they may be the key to solving a wealth of health problems.
Astronomers have found a second trojan asteroid sharing Earth’s orbit –An Earth trojan is an asteroid that shares our planet’s orbit around the sun, moving just ahead of or behind our planet – and astronomers have now discovered that we have two, reports New Scientist.
Life Is Complicated—Literally, Astrobiologists Say –A new theory suggests that searches for molecular complexity could uncover convincing evidence of extraterrestrial life—and do so soon, reports Natalie Elliot for Scientific American.
Why Was This Ancient Tusk 150 Miles From Land, 10,000 Feet Deep? –A discovery in the Pacific Ocean off California leads to “an ‘Indiana Jones’ mixed with ‘Jurassic Park’ moment,” reports Annie Roth for The New York Times. “A young female mammoth was wandering long ago near what would become the Central Coast of California, when her life came to an untimely end. There she sat for millennia, her existence known to no one.”
When the Earth Had Two Moons –A new model—“The Big Splat”—explains the strange asymmetry of the moon, reports Corey S. Powell for Nautilus.
Black Holes Slamming Into the Moon Could End the Dark Matter Debate, reports Monisha Ravisetti for CNET “[Mini black holes] are, scientists believe, our newest lead on dark matter—perhaps the greatest mystery of the universe. …[And physicist Matt] Caplan contends that if dark matter can indeed be explained by these tiny black holes, then at some point, they would have punctured the moon. …Taking it a step further, the wounds they inflicted should still be up there; if these mini-abysses are proven to exist, dark matter may no longer be an everlasting enigma.”
What Did the Past Smell Like? –Get a whiff of a new sensory experience in history, reports Nautilus.
Why is there a cosmic speed limit? It could even be why we’re here –Nothing in the cosmos can travel faster than light speed. By distinguishing cause and effect and stopping everything happening in a jumbled mess, our existence depends on it, reports New Scientist.
At the Dawn of Life, Heat May Have Driven Cell Division –A mathematical model shows how a thermodynamic mechanism could have made protocells split in two, reports Quanta.
How Facebook and Google fund global misinformation –The tech giants are paying millions of dollars to the operators of clickbait pages, bankrolling the deterioration of information ecosystems around the world, reports MIT Technology Review.
How wild animals eaten at the first Thanksgiving are faring today –Four hundred years later, some species, such as wild turkeys and white-tailed deer, abound. Yet others, such as Atlantic cod, are far less numerous, reports National Geographic.
The Moon’s Surface Has Enough Oxygen to Sustain 8 Billion People for 100,000 Years, reports Singularity Hub.
‘Weird, hot, black ice’: Scientists discover new phase of water, reports The Washington Post–“In recent years, researchers have discovered so many funky forms of ice — over 18 in all — that it’s hard to keep track. Now, they’ve hit on a new phase of water that could explain how icy planets form.”
The Belgian City Where the Big Bang Theory was Born, reports National Geographic.
AI Can Now Model the Molecular Machines That Govern All Life, reports Singularity Hub. Thanks to deep learning, the central mysteries of structural biology are falling like dominos.
The Posthuman Dog –If humans were to disappear from the face of the Earth, what might dogs become? And would they be better off without us? asks Aeon.
The man who taught humans to breathe like fish –Jacques Cousteau’s invention of the aqualung opened the undersea realm to scientists and the public, reports National Geographic.
Octopuses, Crabs, and Lobsters are Sentient Beings, says Updated UK Law .It’s an important step forward for animal welfare, but the degree to which these creatures will be protected remains in doubt, reports George Dvorsky for Gizmodo. Marine invertebrates like octopuses, squids, shrimp, and crayfish are capable of feeling pain, hunger, joy, and excitement, among other expressions of sentience. The U.K. government will now update its new animal welfare bill accordingly.
NASA Reveals Bold Plan to Put a Nuclear Reactor on The Moon Within 10 Years, reports ScienceAlert.
Exploring mysterious worlds in ‘The Hunt for Planet B’ reports CNN. “Astronomers have yet to find a solar system quite like ours. And of the thousands of known exoplanets, none quite match up with the planets in our cosmic backyard. But scientists have only just begun to scratch the surface of these planets outside the solar system. The next step is looking inside of them.”
First Known Covid Case Was Vendor at Wuhan Market, Scientist Says –A new review of early Covid-19 cases in the journal Science will revive, though certainly not settle, the debate over how the pandemic began, reports Carl Zimmer, Benjamin Mueller and Chris Buckley for The New York Times.
New Mission to Scour Our Interstellar Neighborhood for Planets That Could Sustain Life, reports Donna Lu for The Guardian. “The Toliman mission, named after the ancient Arabic-derived name for the star system, will search for potential planets orbiting Alpha Centauri A and B. The Toliman telescope, which is under construction, is set to be launched into low-earth orbit in 2023. It seeks to discover new planets in the ‘Goldilocks orbit’—at the right distance, so the planet is neither too hot nor too cold to sustain life.”
The Seven Lawmakers Who Will Decide the Climate’s Fate –Negotiations in Washington, D.C., are far more important than those in Glasgow, Scotland, reports The Atlantic.
The long history of vaccine mandates, reports Christine Ro for BBC Future –Mandatory vaccinations have been with us for centuries, quietly saving lives – and they’re often largely unopposed until something changes.