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  • Cold diggers? UN finds a record low in Greenland ice in 1991

    Cold diggers? UN finds a record low in Greenland ice in 1991For all the recent talk of global warming, climate historians hunting for past temperature extremes have unearthed what the U.N. weather agency calls a new record low in the Northern Hemisphere — nearly -70 degrees Celsius (-93 F) was recorded almost three decades ago in Greenland. The World Meteorological Organizations publicly confirmed Wednesday the all-time cold reading for the hemisphere: -69.6 Celsius recorded on Dec. 22, 1991 at an automatic weather station in a remote site called Klinck, not far from the highest point on the Greenland Ice Sheet. “In the era of climate change, much attention focuses on new heat records," said WMO Secretary-General Professor Petteri Taalas in a statement.


  • Whale beaching: An enduring mystery

    Whale beaching: An enduring mysteryRescuers are trying to free a pod of long-finned pilot whales stranded off the Australian island of Tasmania. Mass whale strandings have occurred throughout recorded modern history, and likely earlier. "Strandings around the world are complete mysteries," said Vanessa Pirotta, a Sydney-based wildlife scientist.


  • Six African heritage sites under threat from climate change

    Six African heritage sites under threat from climate changeA recent study warns that without intervention many of the continent's ancient sites could be lost.


  • Kenya harnesses fly larvae's appetite to process food waste

    Kenya harnesses fly larvae's appetite to process food wasteTalash Huijbers wants them all. The 25-year-old is the founder of Insectipro, a Kenyan farm rearing black soldier fly larvae for animal feed. In the 10 days it takes for them to grow, the larvae need to be fed too - and fruit waste from factories and food markets in the capital Nairobi is just the thing.


  • NASA is developing a new space toilet for moon-bound astronauts — but the agency's 'certified sniffers' say the system is far too stinky

    NASA is developing a new space toilet for moon-bound astronauts — but the agency's 'certified sniffers' say the system is far too stinkyBefore it can fly astronauts to the moon, NASA's Orion spaceship will have to fix an important problem: Its toilet is too stinky.


  • Young People More Likely to Believe Virus Misinformation, Study Says

    Young People More Likely to Believe Virus Misinformation, Study SaysAs public health officials raise alarms about surging coronavirus cases among young people, new research suggests that Americans under 25 are most likely to believe virus-related misinformation about the severity of the disease and how it originated.In a survey of 21,196 people in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, researchers identified a clear generational divide. Respondents 18 to 24 had an 18% probability of believing a false claim, compared with 9% for those over 65, according to the study, conducted by researchers from Harvard University, Rutgers University, Northeastern University and Northwestern University.The results diverge from past research that said older people were more likely to share false news articles on social media. Last year, a paper published in Science found that people over the age of 65 were seven times as likely as those ages 30 to 44, the youngest group included in that survey, to share articles from websites that spread false information during the 2016 presidential campaign.In the virus study, people were questioned to gauge their acceptance of 11 false claims. Those included false claims that the virus originated in people who ate bats, that taking antibiotics protects against the disease and that only people 60 or older are at risk of being infected."Across the 11 false claims," the report said, "we find a clear pattern: The older the age group, the lower the average level of belief in false claims."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company


  • People across the US have relied on KN95 face masks for protection. But the majority imported from China have failed safety standards.

    People across the US have relied on KN95 face masks for protection. But the majority imported from China have failed safety standards.A majority of masks tested did not filter 95% or more particles, per requirements, according to a nonprofit that tests the respirators.


  • Why insulin is so expensive

    Why insulin is so expensiveThe price of insulin has increased dramatically in the past 15 years. Many Type 1 diabetics have struggled to pay for this lifesaving drug.


  • China's carbon neutral pledge could curb global warming by 0.3°C: researchers

    China's carbon neutral pledge could curb global warming by 0.3°C: researchersPresident Xi Jinping's pledge that China will achieve carbon neutrality before 2060 is the most significant climate policy move for years and, if achieved, could curb likely global warming by 0.2-0.3 Celsius this century, researchers said. Xi's surprise announcement at the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday is the first time the world's biggest emitter of carbon dioxide has committed to ending its net contribution to climate change. If delivered, the pledge would bring about the biggest reduction in projected global warming of any climate commitment made to date, according to research consortium Climate Action Tracker (CAT).


  • Reptile dubbed 'Jaws of Death' terrorized Cretaceous seas

    Reptile dubbed 'Jaws of Death' terrorized Cretaceous seasRoughly 80 million years ago in the shallow inland sea that once split North America into eastern and western land masses, a fearsome 33-foot-long (10-meter-long) marine reptile with powerful jaws and tremendous bite-force was one of the apex predators. A type of seagoing lizard called a mosasaur that ruled the oceans at the same time dinosaurs dominated the land, it has now been given a name meaning "Jaws of Death." A new analysis published on Wednesday of fossils of the creature unearthed in 1975 has determined that it deserves to be recognized as a new genus of mosasaur based on skeletal traits including a unique combination of features in the tooth-bearing bones and the shape of an important bone in the jaw joint.


  • Reptile dubbed 'Jaws of Death' terrorized Cretaceous seas

    Reptile dubbed 'Jaws of Death' terrorized Cretaceous seasRoughly 80 million years ago in the shallow inland sea that once split North America into eastern and western land masses, a fearsome 33-foot-long (10-meter-long) marine reptile with powerful jaws and tremendous bite-force was one of the apex predators. A type of seagoing lizard called a mosasaur that ruled the oceans at the same time dinosaurs dominated the land, it has now been given a name meaning "Jaws of Death." A new analysis published on Wednesday of fossils of the creature unearthed in 1975 has determined that it deserves to be recognized as a new genus of mosasaur based on skeletal traits including a unique combination of features in the tooth-bearing bones and the shape of an important bone in the jaw joint.


  • M87*: History-making supermassive black hole seen to do a shimmy

    M87*: History-making supermassive black hole seen to do a shimmyScientists trace a wobble in the brightness around M87* - the first black hole ever to be imaged.


  • Read the letter one of Belgium's top virologists sent his children on how they can safely get on with their lives

    Read the letter one of Belgium's top virologists sent his children on how they can safely get on with their livesCalling it a 'dangerously stable' situation, Guido Vanham details how to resume normal activities and why he's optimistic about a vaccine.


  • Bus-size asteroid to zoom by Earth, ducking below satellites

    Bus-size asteroid to zoom by Earth, ducking below satellitesAn asteroid the size of a school bus is headed our way, but NASA says the space rock will zoom safely past Earth on Thursday. The newly discovered asteroid will come within 13,000 miles (22,000 kilometers) of Earth, well below many of the communications satellites orbiting the planet, scientists said this week. Once it’s gone, the asteroid won’t be back to Earth's neighborhood until 2041.


  • J&J kicks off study of single-shot COVID-19 vaccine in 60,000 volunteers

    J&J kicks off study of single-shot COVID-19 vaccine in 60,000 volunteersJohnson & Johnson on Wednesday began a 60,000-person trial of an experimental single-shot COVID-19 vaccine that, if proven effective, could simplify distribution of millions of doses compared with leading rivals requiring two doses. The company expects results of the Phase III trial by year end or early next year, Dr. Paul Stoffels, J&J's chief scientific officer, said in a joint news conference with officials from the National Institutes of Health and the Trump administration. J&J plans to manufacture as many as 1 billion doses in 2021, and more after that, Stoffels said.


  • J&J kicks off study of single-shot COVID-19 vaccine in 60,000 volunteers

    J&J kicks off study of single-shot COVID-19 vaccine in 60,000 volunteersJohnson & Johnson on Wednesday began a 60,000-person trial of an experimental single-shot COVID-19 vaccine that, if proven effective, could simplify distribution of millions of doses compared with leading rivals requiring two doses. The company expects results of the Phase III trial by year end or early next year, Dr. Paul Stoffels, J&J's chief scientific officer, said in a joint news conference with officials from the National Institutes of Health and the Trump administration. J&J plans to manufacture as many as 1 billion doses in 2021, and more after that, Stoffels said.


  • Green plans diluted as government protects farmers

    Green plans diluted as government protects farmersA "green" fund to protect wildlife on England’s farms may be under threat, BBC News has learned.


  • Fauci says no one in the administration has seen vaccine data despite Trump's boasts that the US will have one 'very soon'

    Fauci says no one in the administration has seen vaccine data despite Trump's boasts that the US will have one 'very soon'Fauci told The Daily Beast only one person has access to the vaccine data, so far, to assess whether it is ready for production or needs more testing.


  • Supply shortages are forcing restrictions on who can get a COVID-19 test, and it's happening at the worst possible time

    Supply shortages are forcing restrictions on who can get a COVID-19 test, and it's happening at the worst possible time"This is a big country, and we still haven't been able to settle the testing issue. It doesn't make any sense," Michael Dacey told The Wall Street Journal.


  • Nearly 500 pilot whales stranded in Australia; 380 dead

    Nearly 500 pilot whales stranded in Australia; 380 deadMore pilot whales were found stranded in Australia on Wednesday, raising the estimated total to nearly 500, including 380 that have died, in the largest mass stranding ever recorded in the country. Authorities had already been working to rescue survivors among an estimated 270 whales found Monday on a beach and two sand bars near the remote coastal town of Strahan on the southern island state of Tasmania. Another 200 stranded whales were spotted from a helicopter on Wednesday less than 10 kilometers (6 miles) to the south, Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service Manager Nic Deka said.


  • 'Unknown' space debris almost flew within 1 mile of the International Space Station. As junk builds up in orbit, the danger of collisions is growing.

    'Unknown' space debris almost flew within 1 mile of the International Space Station. As junk builds up in orbit, the danger of collisions is growing.An astronaut and two cosmonauts had to hunker down in a Russian spaceship attached to the ISS while NASA moved the orbiting laboratory out of the way.


  • Fossils found in New Zealand suggest the ancestor of all penguins lived on Earth's lost 8th continent, Zealandia

    Fossils found in New Zealand suggest the ancestor of all penguins lived on Earth's lost 8th continent, ZealandiaResearchers identified a new, extinct species of penguin that lived 3 million years ago. It's evidence that all penguins came from Zealandia.


  • Colleges reopenings in-person likely added 3,000 U.S. COVID-19 cases per day: study

    Colleges reopenings in-person likely added 3,000 U.S. COVID-19 cases per day: studyThe findings call into question the practicality of face-to-face classes during the COVID-19 pandemic, and are important as colleges and universities plan their spring 2020 semesters, said researchers from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Indiana University, the University of Washington and Davidson College. To track COVID-19 cases and study their association with students attending classes at college campuses, the team used location data from a database of cellphone users who agreed to share information. The researchers noted significant increases in counties where colleges had reopened for face-to-face instruction, especially in and around campuses with students who came from areas with higher incidences of COVID-19.


  • Climate Disruption Is Now Locked In. The Next Moves Will Be Crucial.

    Climate Disruption Is Now Locked In. The Next Moves Will Be Crucial.America is now under siege by climate change in ways that scientists have warned about for years. But there is a second part to their admonition: Decades of growing crisis are already locked into the global ecosystem and cannot be reversed.This means the kinds of cascading disasters occurring today -- drought in the West fueling historic wildfires that send smoke all the way to the East Coast, or parades of tropical storms lining up across the Atlantic to march destructively toward North America -- are no longer features of some dystopian future. They are the here and now, worsening for the next generation and perhaps longer, depending on humanity's willingness to take action."I've been labeled an alarmist," said Peter Kalmus, a climate scientist in Los Angeles, where he and millions of others have inhaled dangerously high levels of smoke for weeks. "And I think it's a lot harder for people to say that I'm being alarmist now."Last month, before the skies over San Francisco turned a surreal orange, Death Valley reached 130 degrees Fahrenheit, the highest temperature ever measured on the planet. Dozens of people have perished from the heat in Phoenix, which in July suffered its hottest month on record, only to surpass that milestone in August.Conversations about climate change have broken into everyday life, to the top of the headlines and to center stage in the presidential campaign. The questions are profound and urgent. Can this be reversed? What can be done to minimize the looming dangers for the decades ahead? Will the destruction of recent weeks become a moment of reckoning or just a blip in the news cycle?The Times spoke with two dozen climate experts, including scientists, economists, sociologists and policymakers, and their answers were by turns alarming, cynical and hopeful."It's as if we've been smoking a pack of cigarettes a day for decades," and the world is now feeling the effects, said Katherine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University. But, she said, "we're not dead yet."Their most sobering message was that the world still hasn't seen the worst of it. Gone is the climate of yesteryear, and there's no going back.The effects of climate change evident today are the results of choices that countries made decades ago to keep pumping heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at ever-increasing rates despite warnings from scientists about the price to be paid.That price -- more vicious heat waves, longer wildfire seasons, rising sea levels -- is now irretrievably baked in. Nations, including the United States, have dithered so long in cutting emissions that progressively more global warming is assured for decades to come, even if efforts to shift away from fossil fuels were accelerated tomorrow.'Twice as Bad'"What we're seeing today, this year, is just a small harbinger of what we are likely to get," said Jonathan Overpeck, a climate scientist at the University of Michigan. Things are on track to get "twice as bad" as they are now, he said, "if not worse."Earth has already warmed roughly 1 degree Celsius, or 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, since the 19th century. The most optimistic proposals made by world governments to zero out emissions envision holding warming to below 2 degrees Celsius. Nations remain far from achieving those goals.Usually, each passing year's records are framed by the past -- the hottest temperatures ever observed, the biggest wildfires in decades. However, as Cristian Proistosescu, an assistant professor at the University of Illinois, noted on Twitter, it may be time to flip that chronological framing and consider today the new starting point."Don't think of it as the warmest month of August in California in the last century," he wrote. "Think of it as one of the coolest months of August in California in the next century."Climate change is more a slope than a cliff, experts agreed. We're still far from any sort of "game over" moment where it's too late to act. There remains much that can be done to limit the damage to come, to brace against the coming megafires and superstorms and save lives and hold onto a thriving civilization."We can certainly move in a direction that serves us a lot better," said Stephen Pyne, an environmental historian and professor emeritus at Arizona State University. "It's not that it's out of our control. The whole thing is in our control."It won't be easy, particularly if past is prologue.Managing climate change, experts said, will require rethinking virtually every aspect of daily life: how and where homes are built, how power grids are designed, how people plan for the future with the collective good in mind. It will require an epochal shift in politics in a country that has, on the whole, ignored climate change.One hope raised by some experts is that the current onslaught of fires and storms -- the death, the destruction, the apocalyptic skies -- might motivate people to unite behind calls for action. "Those orange skies -- I mean, that was scary," said Kris May, a climate scientist and coastal engineer in San Francisco, referring to the midday tangerine glow over Northern California this month, a consequence of smoke from wildfires.Yet she wondered if they would have been even more powerful had they had struck places like Washington, D.C. Perhaps there, she said, "they'd bring about more change."When Lightning StrikesThe issue of climate change might have been back of mind for most Americans when a dramatic, rain-free lightning storm swept across Northern California in August. In a region that gets little rain in summer or early fall, the most destructive fires, like those that swept through wine country in 2017 and the town of Paradise in 2018, have come in October and November.But one August night's spectacular lightning show became the next day's emerging disaster, as hundreds of fires were sparked, mostly in hard-to-reach terrain. Three of those blazes now rank among the four biggest California fires since record-keeping began in 1932 -- part of the 3.6 million acres that have burned in the state so far.And the traditional fire season is just beginning.The fires, along with others in places including Colorado, Oregon and Washington, destroyed entire towns and sent smoke tens of thousands of feet high. San Francisco, Portland, Oregon, and Seattle have suffered some of the unhealthiest air quality on the planet, beating cities such as Beijing and New Delhi for the title. Smoke spread all the way across the continent, with particles coloring sunsets on the East Coast.There was no place to escape. Evidence of global warming -- which, scientists said, helps drive a rise in wildfire activity by creating hotter and drier conditions -- was hanging visibly in the air.For a long time, "there was so much focus on how climate change would affect the most vulnerable, like low-lying island nations or coral reefs -- things that don't dramatically affect the economic powerhouses of the world," said Katharine Mach, an associate professor at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. "There's often been this arrogant assumption that wealth provides protection."Recent events, she said, are a vivid reminder that "we're all in this together."That notion raises a counterintuitive bit of hope: The more people who are affected, particularly the affluent and influential, the more seriously the issue gets addressed.First, experts broadly agreed, if we want to stop the planet from relentlessly heating up forever, humanity will quickly need to eliminate its emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases. That means cleaning up every coal plant in China, every steel mill in Europe, every car and truck in the United States.It's a staggering task. It means reorienting a global economy that depends on fossil fuels. So far, the world has made only halting progress.But experts also made a point they say is often underappreciated: Even if we start radically slashing emissions today, it could be decades before those changes start to appreciably slow the rate at which Earth is warming. In the meantime, we'll have to deal with effects that continue to worsen."In terms of being reversible, I can only think of things in sci-fi films -- Superman trying to spin the Earth in the other direction so Lois Lane doesn't die," said Juan Declet-Barreto, a social scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists. "Seriously, it is not reversible."Again and again, climate scientists have shown that our choices now range from merely awful to incomprehensibly horrible.If we cut emissions rapidly, about one-seventh of the world's population will suffer severe heat waves every few years. Failure to do so doubles or triples that number. If we act now, sea levels could rise another 1 to 2 feet this century. If we don't, Antarctica's ice sheets could destabilize irreversibly, and ocean levels could keep rising at an inexorable pace for centuries, making coastal civilization all but unmanageable.The best hope is to slow the pace of warming enough to maintain some control for humanity."In our research, we've found that most systems can cope with a 1.5-degree or 2-degree world, although it will be very costly and extremely difficult to adapt," said Hayhoe of Texas Tech University. "But in a 4-degree world, in many cases, the system just doesn't work anymore."So, even as nations cut emissions, they will need to accelerate efforts to adapt to the climate change they can no longer avoid. "We need to figure out how to put ourselves less in harm's way," said Gernot Wagner, a climate economist at New York University.Humans are remarkably resilient. Civilizations thrive in climates as different as Saudi Arabia and Alaska.When disaster strikes, we've demonstrated an ability to unite and respond. In 1970 and 1991, two major tropical cyclones hit Bangladesh, killing a half-million people. The country then built an extensive network of early-warning systems and shelters, and strengthened building codes. When another major cyclone struck in 2019, just five people died."The human capacity for adaptation is extraordinary -- not unlimited, but extraordinary," said Greg Garrard, professor of environmental humanities at the University of British Columbia. He added, "I'm much more concerned for the future of the nonhuman than I am for the future of humans, precisely because we're just very, very good at adaptation."But as the case in Bangladesh illustrates, adaptation is usually a reactive measure, not a preventive one. Adapting to climate change means envisioning bigger disasters to come -- again, flipping the framing away from history and into the future.If You Can't See It, Is It Real?"Humans have difficulty imagining things that we haven't experienced yet," said Alice Hill, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who oversaw resilience planning on the National Security Council during the Obama administration."After every major catastrophe, whether it's Pearl Harbor or 9/11, people always look back and say it was a failure of imagination. That also applies to climate change," she said. "It's hard to visualize the entire West Coast aflame until you actually see it. And if we can't see it, we tend to discount the risk."There are concrete steps that can be taken today. Consider wildfires. After a deadly spate of Western blazes in 1910, the U.S. government scaled up its firefighting force, committing to extinguish wildfires wherever they occurred. For decades, that worked, giving Americans confidence that they could move into forested areas and remain safe.But that policy led to a buildup of dense vegetation in the nation's forests, which, when combined with a warmer and drier climate, means that those forests are increasingly primed to burn bigger and hotter, overwhelming the nation's firefighting capacity.Going forward, experts said, the country will have to shift its mentality and learn to live with fire. States and communities will need to impose tougher regulations on homes built in fire-prone areas. Federal agencies will have to focus on managing forests better, selectively thinning some areas and even preventively setting controlled fires in others to burn off excess vegetation that can fuel runaway blazes."There's a lot we can do," said Jennifer Balch, a wildfire expert at the University of Colorado at Boulder. "We've just been stuck in an emergency response rather than thinking and looking ahead."Whether Americans can adopt that mentality remains an open question."We've often heard the argument that it will be too expensive to cut emissions, and it will just be easier to adapt," said Noah Diffenbaugh, a climate scientist at Stanford University. But we've now had decades of warnings, he said, "and we're not even adapted to the present climate."Cascading DisastersAdaptation can quickly become bogged down in a tangle of competing motivations and unintended consequences. Proposals for stricter building codes or higher insurance premiums face opposition from builders and voters alike.And there's the moral hazard problem, which is when people are shielded from the costs of their decisions and thus make bad ones. For instance, local communities reap increased property taxes from allowing buildings to rise in disaster-prone areas, but they don't pick up most of the tab for disaster recovery -- the federal government does.Another challenge to adaptation is that, as climate change intensifies, it increases the risk of "compound hazards," when numerous disasters strike simultaneously, as well as the risk that one disaster cascades into another.In late 2017, large wildfires scorched Santa Barbara, California, burning away vegetation that stabilized hillside soils. Heavy rainfall followed a month later. The result: devastating mudflows that killed 23 and injured 163.In Houston in 2017, Hurricane Harvey shut down gasoline refineries, strained hospitals, and spread toxic substances and pathogens as floodwaters swamped the city. And when the Camp Fire destroyed Paradise, California, in 2018, nearly 20,000 displaced people arrived in nearby Chico, which suddenly found its sewage system pushed to the limits."It's really challenging to predict exactly where and how all of those cascading risks will unfold," said Amir Aghakouchak, a climate scientist at the University of California, Irvine, who studies compound hazards.Experts also noted that climate change is an accelerant of inequality. Those most affected, globally and in the United States, tend to be the most vulnerable populations. Many are also among the people at highest risk for COVID-19.As thousands have fled fires in recent weeks, farmworkers have continued to pick ripe crops, sometimes in evacuation zones. "They already live in a state of crisis that has been magnified, compounded by the pandemic," said Declet-Barreto of the Union of Concerned Scientists.One concern is that adaptability will not be a collective effort. Wealthier people may find ways to protect themselves, while others are left fending for themselves. Even after American disasters, for example, relief is often off-limits to residents in the country illegally, experts said."Here in South Florida, people are building these amazing homes that float on the water. They can withstand Category 4 hurricanes, but they cost $6 million," said Mach of the University of Miami. "So how do we manage these risks so that it's not just people with resources who stay safe?"A Lifetime of CluesFor well over a century, science has provided us with powerful clues that this was coming.As early as the 1850s, researchers realized that greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide could trap heat on Earth. This came at the dawn of the Industrial Age, which brought fossil-fuel-burning factories that ultimately not only filled people's lives with modern conveniences, but also filled the sky with the carbon dioxide now warming the world.By the 1990s, scientists had a deep understanding of the future risks of a warming world. By the 2010s, researchers could show how the extreme heat waves, droughts and floods now unfolding were influenced by climate change.Technology offered solutions as well, whether solar power or electric cars. Yet governments have been slow to rein in reliance on fossil fuels."I feel like the climate scientists have kind of done our job," said Kalmus, the Los Angeles-based scientist. "We've laid it out pretty clearly, but nobody's doing anything. So now it's kind of up to the social scientists."Will the recent spate of disasters be enough to shock voters and politicians into action?"We have a lot of evidence that that doesn't happen," said Garrard of the University of British Columbia.One 2017 study found that people who experience extreme weather are more likely to support climate adaptation measures than before. But the effect diminished over time. It may be that people mentally adjust to unusual weather patterns, updating their perception of what they consider normal.All of it can feel overwhelming, particularly for people wanting to make a difference. Susan Cutter, who directs the Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute at the University of South Carolina, noted that climate change's biggest problem may be the sense that it is beyond our control. The planet is burning, so does it really matter if I turn off the light?"There's too much complexity and, frankly, too much that needs to be changed, that we're flitting from one concern to another," she said.Even so, some important steps are being taken. Cities like Montecito, California, and Austin, Texas, have pursued difficult measures to protect against future wildfires. Britain, the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, now goes coal-free for months at a time, having rapidly shifted to cleaner forms of electricity.And if optimism springs from knowledge, the good news is that scientific research lays out what to do. It's not a mystery nor is it beyond the bounds of human ability."What's beautiful about the human species is that we have the free will to decide our own fate," said Ilona Otto, a climate scientist at the Wegener Center for Climate and Global Change. "We have the agency to take courageous decisions and do what's needed," she said. "If we choose."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company


  • Blue Origin gets ready to test its suborbital spaceship with COVID-19 safety in mind

    Blue Origin gets ready to test its suborbital spaceship with COVID-19 safety in mindAfter a nine-month gap, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin space venture is planning to send its New Shepard suborbital spaceship on an uncrewed flight to space and back on Thursday, to test a precision landing system for NASA. And that's not the only new experiment for Blue Origin's five-year-old New Shepard flight test program: This 13th test flight will be the first to be flown since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, and the first to include extra COVID-19 safety measures. "Safety is our highest priority," Blue Origin said in an emailed statement. "We always take the time to… Read More


  • Nasa outlines plan for first woman on Moon by 2024

    Nasa outlines plan for first woman on Moon by 2024The US space agency (Nasa) formally outlines its $28bn plan to return astronauts to the Moon by 2024.


  • Buzzworthy AI: Microsoft expands its Premonition mosquito-tracking outbreak prediction system

    Buzzworthy AI: Microsoft expands its Premonition mosquito-tracking outbreak prediction systemFive years after starting out as an experimental project to see if advanced sensors and artificial intelligence could spot the signs of a disease outbreak before it happens, Microsoft Premonition is turning into an honest-to-goodness biothreat protection network. Premonition's researchers aim to set up about 100 sensor stations in Texas' Harris County, to track swarms of mosquitoes that could transmit diseases ranging from malaria and dengue fever to Zika and West Nile viruses. AI algorithms will analyze that tracking data for the telltale signs of an epidemic in the making, just as weather forecasting programs look for the signs of… Read More


  • Dutch 'living coffin' aims to provide source for life after death

    Dutch 'living coffin' aims to provide source for life after deathA Dutch start-up has created a biodegradable "living coffin" made of a fungus, instead of wood, which it says can convert a decomposing human body into key nutrients for plants. The company, Loop, says its casket is made of mycelium, the underground root structure of mushrooms, and filled with a bed of moss to stimulate decomposition. "Mycelium is nature's biggest recycler", Bob Hendrikx, the creator of the living coffin told Reuters.


  • The CDC retracted its virus guidance

    The CDC retracted its virus guidanceThese are Business Insider's biggest healthcare stories for September 22.


  • In the World's Hottest Desert, Shrimp

    In the World's Hottest Desert, ShrimpIn springtime, when the rain gathers into pools in the Dasht-e Lut, a desert in Iran, the sand comes alive.Tiny, desiccated eggs, buried among the ginger-colored granules, drink in the water and begin to hatch. Some may have been laid in the dunes decades ago. But when rains come, the eggs unfurl into small, feathery crustaceans called fairy shrimp, the freshwater cousins of brine shrimp. For a month or two, the fairy shrimp frolic, swimming upside-down in their ephemeral lakes and laying their eggs before they die or the pool dries up, whichever comes first.Fairy shrimp live in brief spurts in seasonal ponds throughout the world, from steppes in Mongolia to woodlands on Long Island, New York. But the Lut Desert, often called the hottest spot in the world, may be the last place one would think to find water, even seasonally. In 2005, NASA's Aqua satellite recorded a ground temperature of 159.3 degrees Fahrenheit. So the presence of shrimp in the Lut, while striking, was not entirely out of character."I am not surprised by the presence of Phallocryptus anywhere," said Miguel Alonso, a biologist at the University of Barcelona who was not involved with the research. "Fairy shrimps can appear in any place."The researchers described the new species, Phallocryptus fahimii, this summer in the journal Zoology in the Middle East.Hossein Rajaei, an entomologist at the Stuttgart State Museum of Natural History in Germany and an author on the study, was the first to spy the shrimp. He had come to the Lut in March 2017, his second visit, on an expedition of 17 people -- drivers, medics and researchers -- to observe the insects that lived there.In Farsi, Dasht-e Lut translates to "desert of emptiness." "I suppose they gave it this name because many people believed there was no life in this desert," Rajaei said. Recent expeditions have uncovered an unexpected diversity of spiders, lizards and other fauna, but the life that has been described in seasonal ponds was limited to single-celled archaea.One day, a little before noon, with the sun high and blazing, the expedition found a lake glimmering in the middle of the desert like an oasis. Rajaei had never seen a lake so big in the Lut, but the desert had experienced its first heavy rainfall after a decade of drought. The 87-degree Fahrenheit water -- the temperature of a warm, creamy soup -- felt refreshing in the immense heat, and as Rajaei waded in the shallow pool, he saw milky white creatures swimming around his legs, leaving trails of tiny bubbles. Hadi Fahimi, a herpetologist, and Alexander V. Rudov, another author on the paper, joined Rajaei in the water, and together they scooped up the animals with an insect net.As Rajaei showed the specimens to members of the expedition, many exclaimed and took photos. "We were all very happy to find this tiny shrimp here," he said. Some female specimens he collected had iridescent, emerald-color eggs shining through their bellies as they swam upside-down. The researchers only collected the shrimp in one lake, as the others were closer to drying up, more mud than lake, making them dangerous to explore, Rajaei said. "Not so dangerous that you will die," he added. "But you will get stuck."Unsure if the shrimp was a new species, Rajaei asked Martin Schwentner, the paper's lead author and a researcher at the Natural History Museum of Vienna who studies similar crustaceans in Australia, to take a look. When Schwentner compared the genetics and morphology of the shrimp with the four known species in the genus Phallocryptus, he determined that the shrimp was a new, fifth species. The morphological differences between the new shrimp and a Mongolian fairy shrimp, Phallocryptus tserensodnomi, were slight: a longer frontal organ, and curvier antennae.According to Alonso, the researchers did not make an unequivocal distinction between the morphology of the new species and that of P. tserensodnomi, which is found in Mongolia, and P. spinosa, which is found elsewhere in Iran. Alireza Sari, a crustacean biologist at the University of Tehran, said he suspected that several of his past discoveries of P. spinosa may have been P. fahimii."The morphology is tricky," Schwentner said, "but the genetic difference made it obvious that it was a different species."Although the shrimp survive just fine in the desert, lasting 10 days in the Lut is a feat for any human. Temperatures range from 122 degrees Fahrenheit during the day to 35 degrees Fahrenheit at night. The team had enough water to drink and wash their hands only once or twice a day. Swirling dust storms frequently cocooned them in their cars for hours at a time and even broke several cameras as tiny grains of dust scratched the lenses. "The first five days, the Lut is beautiful and exciting," Rajaei said. "Then it is annoying."One night, a dust storm concluded, unexpectedly, in fat droplets of rain. "We could not help it, we started dancing," he said. "I felt like I lost a part of my soul in the desert."The researchers named the new fairy shrimp after Fahimi, the herpetologist on the expedition, who died in a plane crash in Iran a year after the trip to the Lut. As researchers have begun to publish their findings from the expedition, they have also memorialized Fahimi in the name of a spider, Oecobius fahimii, as well as a snake.The lake where P. fahimii swam, once the size of two swimming pools, has since evaporated, and no one can be sure when it will fill again. Until then, the eggs in the sand lie in wait.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company


  • Beyond public view, scholars unravel mystery of writing in ancient Mexican city

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  • The Search for Life on Venus Could Start With This Private Company

    The Search for Life on Venus Could Start With This Private CompanyElon Musk wants to settle humans on Mars with his rocket company SpaceX. Amazon's founder, Jeff Bezos, wants a trillion people living in space. But the chief executive of one private space company is approaching space exploration differently, and now aims to play a part in the search for life on Venus.Last week, scientists announced the astonishing discovery of phosphine in the atmosphere of Venus. This chemical could have been produced by a biological source, but scientists won't know for sure without sending a spacecraft to the planet.As luck would have it, Rocket Lab, the private small rocket company founded in New Zealand, has been working on such a mission. The company has developed a small satellite, called Photon, that it plans to launch on its own Electron rocket as soon as 2023."This mission is to go and see if we can find life," said Peter Beck, Rocket Lab's founder and chief executive. "Obviously, this discovery of phosphine really adds strength to that possibility. So I think we need to go and have a look there."Rocket Lab has launched a dozen rockets to space, putting small satellites into orbit for private companies, NASA and the U.S. military. It also has a mission to the moon in the works with NASA, called CAPSTONE, scheduled to launch in early 2021.The company began looking into the possibility of a mission to Venus last year, before it knew about the phosphine discovery. Although its Electron rocket is much smaller than the ones used by SpaceX and other competitors, it could send a space probe to Venus.The company's plan is to develop the mission in-house and mostly self-fund it, at a cost in the tens of millions of dollars. It is seeking other partners to defray the cost. The Photon spacecraft, a small, 660-pound satellite that had its first test flight to orbit this month, would launch when Earth and Venus align for the shortest journey, and arrive there in several months.The spacecraft will be designed to fly past Venus and take measurements and pictures, rather than enter orbit. But it will be able to release a small probe weighing 82 pounds into the planet's atmosphere, taking readings and looking for further evidence of life.The probe would enter the atmosphere at about 6 miles per second, Beck said, falling through the skies of Venus with no parachute. As it travels through the region in the atmosphere where phosphine was discovered and airborne microbial life could be present, it would take readings and beam them back to Earth via the Photon spacecraft before being destroyed.Rocket Lab is working with scientists on which scientific instruments the probe and spacecraft might carry, including Sara Seager from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of the researchers involved in the discovery of phosphine. Although the probe could likely only carry a single instrument, there is a lot it could accomplish.Seager said they could likely put an infrared spectrometer or "some kind of gas analyzer" on board to confirm the presence of phosphine and measure other gases."Looking for other gases that aren't expected could also be a sign of life," she said.Seager is also part of a team working with Breakthrough Initiatives, which is funded by Yuri Milner, the Russian investor. Over the next six months, her team will study what sort of small, medium and large missions could be sent to Venus in the near future to look for life.Rocket Lab's modest mission is limited in what it can achieve. The probe will not survive long and it will likely not have a camera, meaning its scientific return will be brief even if meaningful.NASA is considering a pair of larger missions to Venus, one called DAVINCI+, the other VERITAS, and each would have many more capabilities."When you spend 100 times more on a payload, then you will get more science out of it," said Colin Wilson of the University of Oxford, who is part of a proposed European Venus orbiter called EnVision that aims to launch in 2032.The trade-off, however, is speed. Rocket Lab could rapidly develop their mission, and be ready to launch years before government space agencies. And although its small mission may lack sophisticated capabilities, it would become the first mission designed to enter the Venusian atmosphere since the Soviet Union's Vega 2 in 1985, yielding important new data."There's just so much good science to do that we can't do it all," said Mark McCaughrean, senior science and exploration adviser at ESA. "So if other players come in and say we can go and do this, I don't see any problem with that whatsoever."With the phosphine announcement, Rocket Lab's mission now has the exciting prospect of contributing to a major scientific discovery, and changing how researchers conduct planetary exploration. NASA sent astronauts to the Moon. SpaceX wants to land humans on Mars. Is Rocket Lab staking a claim for Venus?"No," Beck said, with a laugh. "Venus is hugely alluring. But as far as claiming planets, that's not what I'm interested in."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company