Today’s stories range from China plans asteroid missions, space telescopes and a Moon base to how to talk to extraterrestrials to how did intelligence emerge in biology to the search for meaning in a mysterious brain signal at death, and much more. The “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.
China Plans Asteroid Missions, Space Telescopes and a Moon Base –The China National Space Administration has released an overview of its plans for the next five years, which include launching a robotic craft to an asteroid, building a space telescope to rival the Hubble and laying the foundations for a space-based gravitational-wave detector, reports Scientific American.
Peptides on Stardust May Have Provided a Shortcut to Life –The discovery that short peptides can form spontaneously on cosmic dust hints at more of a role for them in the earliest stages of life’s origin, on Earth or elsewhere, reports Quanta. “Last month in Nature Astronomy, a group of astrobiologists showed that peptides, the molecular subunits of proteins, can spontaneously form on the solid, frozen particles of cosmic dust drifting through the universe. Those peptides could in theory have traveled inside comets and meteorites to the young Earth — and to other worlds — to become some of the starting materials for life.”
How to Talk to Extraterrestrials –Astrophysicist, psychologist lay out challenges of communicating with beings who may be much smarter, don’t share our conceptual system, reports Harvard Gazette.
Could the James Webb Space Telescope detect civilizations similar to ours? How would we look for them? The best answers come from understanding what humanity’s presence on Earth looks like from outer space, reports SETI Institute.
Does Quantum Mechanics Rule Out Free Will? –Superdeterminism, a radical quantum hypothesis, says our “choices” are illusory, reports John Horgan for Scientific American.
Is Information just another form of matter and energy, a fifth state of matter? Physicist says there’s one way to find out –If true, this could have major implications for physics, reports ZME Science. Physicists have calculated that — at a current 50% annual growth rate in the number of digital bits humans are producing — half of Earth’s mass would be converted to digital information mass within 150 years.
Is Information the Fifth State of Matter in the Universe? “Information,” wrote Arizona State University astrophysicist Paul Davies in an email to The Daily Galaxy, “is a concept that is both abstract and mathematical. It lies at the foundation of both biology and physics,” reports The Daily Galaxy.
Does This Amazon Rock Art Depict Extinct Ice Age Mammals? –The animals painted in ocher in Colombia may include giant ground sloths and other creatures that vanished from the Americas. But some researchers say the art has a more recent origin, reports Becky Ferreira for The New York Times. At the end of the last ice age, South America was home to strange animals that have since vanished into extinction. A new study suggests that we can see these lost creatures in enchanting ocher paintings made by ice age humans on a rocky outcrop in the Colombian Amazon.”
These are the world’s top young universities, reports Big Think. Africa has the most universities in the 2022 rankings with over two thirds of the world’s youngest universities.
Problems with no solution: From math to politics, some things humans cannot solve, reports Big Think. “There are multiple examples but, in this essay, we focus on three: the Riemann hypothesis, the problem of aging and cancer, and willful ignorance. These examples also serve as a metaphor for the greater truth that we control far less than we think we do, and that we must become comfortable with that discomforting fact.”
Endurance: Shackleton’s lost ship is found in Antarctic, reports Insider.com –“Scientists have found and filmed one of the greatest ever undiscovered shipwrecks 107 years after it sank. The Endurance, the lost vessel of Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton, was found at the weekend at the bottom of the Weddell Sea. he ship was crushed by sea-ice and sank in 1915, forcing Shackleton and his men to make an astonishing escape on foot and in small boats.
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The Search for Meaning in a Mysterious Brain Signal at Death –Research on a surge of gamma wave activity at death has been cited as proof your life flashes before your eyes before you die; in truth, no one knows exactly what it means, reports Vice.com
Inside the Last Journey of the ‘Carnegie’ –The groundbreaking ship and its dedicated captain shaped our understanding of the Earth’s magnetic field, reports The Smithsonian. “On a May morning in 1928, a crowd gathered on Washington, D.C.’s 7th Street dock to send off the scientific ship Carnegie on its final voyage in pursuit of mapping the Earth’s magnetic field.”
The mysterious Hiawatha crater in Greenland is 58 million years old –The impact that carved the crater is too old to have caused the Younger Dryas cold snap, reports Science.
How did intelligence emerge in biology? –Modular cognition –Powerful tricks from computer science and cybernetics show how evolution ‘hacked’ its way to intelligence from the bottom up, reports Aeon.com–“How did intelligence emerge in biology? The question has preoccupied scientists since Charles Darwin, but it remains unanswered.”
In 1980, two feuding professors bet on the fate of humanity. Who won? –In 1968, The Population Bomb by the Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich became a bestseller. With its foreboding thesis that humanity’s population growth was outpacing its ability to feed itself, it was a rare book that both caught the attention of the public and became deeply influential in academic circles. But not everyone was a fan. One of the book’s biggest critics was the economist Julian Simon, then a professor at the University of Illinois. Simon thought the thesis of The Population Bomb was little more than poorly drawn speculative fiction, calling Ehrlich a ‘false prophet’.
Twitter Wants to Reinvent Itself, by Merging the Old With the New, reports Kate Conger for The New York Times –“[Twitter] is funding an independent effort to build a so-called open protocol for social media. It is also weaving cryptocurrency into its app, and opening up to developers who want to build custom features for Twitter. …Twitter executives now believe that decentralizing the social media service will radically shift online power, moving it into the hands of users, and pose a fundamental challenge to the walled gardens of companies like Facebook.”
Even Mild Covid-19 Infections May Change the Brain, New Study Finds –Scans taken before and after a case of coronavirus reveal tissue damage and accelerated loss of gray matter, reports The Smithsonian.
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