“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.
Abigail Allwood’s Hunt for Alien Fossils on Mars Has Begun, reports Isaac Schultz for Gizmodo –When the NASA Mars rover Perseverance was dramatically airlifted through the Red Planet’s atmosphere and touched down on the iron-rich soil, geologist and astrobiologist Abigail Allwood was at home on Earth, watching the events unfold via livestream like the rest of us. Speaking over the phone the next day, her thought process was probably similar to yours: “Amazing—talk about incredible,” she said. “Excitement yesterday about landing and today about the landing site.” But in the months to come, Allwood will have a unique charge, one that years of terrestrial study have prepared her for: seeking out life on Mars.
The Secret Life of a Coronavirus –An oily, 100-nanometer-wide bubble of genes has killed more than two million people and reshaped the world. Scientists don’t quite know what to make of it, reports Carl Zimmer for the New York Times. ”
Nature was expanding as billions of people were retreating from the Covid-19 pandemic. The change was so swift, so striking that scientists needed a new name for it: the anthropause.”
The six numbers that define the entire Universe, reports BBC Science Focus –In this edited extract from The Little Book of Cosmology, physicist Prof Lyman Page explains how our model of the Universe relies on just six parameters.”The first three parameters tell us about the contents of the Universe. We describe them as fractions of a total matter and energy budget, like the components of a pie chart. The first parameter describes the amount of normal matter, or atoms, in the Universe, and it says that atoms account for just 5 per cent of the Universe. The second parameter describes dark matter, some type of new fundamental particle that we do not yet understand, which accounts for 25 per cent of the Universe.”
‘Space hurricane’ observed above the North Pole –The space hurricane was detected in the Earth’s upper atmosphere and ‘rained electrons’ over the North Pole for nearly eight hours, reports Science Focus.
Earth’s Hidden ‘Innermost-Inner’ Core –“May Reveal an Unknown, Dramatic Event in the Planet’s History”, reports The Daily Galaxy. “We found evidence that may indicate a change in the structure of iron, which suggests perhaps two separate cooling events in Earth’s history,” said Joanne Stephenson, a researcher from The Australian National University (ANU), about the confirmation of the existence of the Earth’s “innermost inner core” that may point to an unknown, dramatic event in the Earth’s history.
“The Methuselah Dilemma” — Atacama Cosmology Telescope Resolves True Age of Our Universe, reports The Daily Galaxy. In 2013, the Hubble Space Telescope found the birth certificate of oldest known star in the universe, cataloged as HD 140283, aptly named “methuselah”. The star, located in the constellation Libra, which is at the very first stages of expanding into a red giant, could be as old as 14.5 billion years (plus or minus 0.8 billion years), which at first glance would make it older than the universe’s calculated age of about 13.8 billion years, creating what we commonly call a dilemma.
The Moon Has a Comet-Like Tail. Every Month It Shoots a Beam Around Earth, reports Robin George Andrews for The New York Times –“It almost seems like a magical thing,” said one of the astronomers involved in studying the lunar phenomenon.
Surface Bubbles Could Have Evolved into Earth’s First Cells –Artificial “protocells” suggest the complex biochemical mechanisms used by living cells could have originated in simple bubbles, reports Inside Science.
How our abuse of nature makes pandemics like covid-19 more likely –From habitat degradation to squalid animal treatment, our part in allowing “zoonotic” diseases like covid-19 to leap into humans is becoming ever clearer, reports New Scientist.
Neanderthals Listened to the World Much Like Us –A reconstructed Neanderthal ear adds a new piece to the puzzle of whether the early humans could speak, reports The New York Times.
Butterflies are vanishing out West. Scientists say climate change is to blame. –The rate of decline is “calamitous,” one scientist said, and has implications for crops and the environment, reports The Washington Post.
India’s revolutionary sustainable roads –From lower carbon emissions to fewer potholes, there are a number of benefits to building a layer of plastic into roads, reports Chermaine Lee for BBC Future
Did Woolly Mammoths Overlap With First Humans in New England? asks Amy Olson for Dartmouth News/
Researchers trace the age of a Mount Holly mammoth rib fragment from Mount Holly, Vt. –“It has long been thought that megafauna and humans in New England did not overlap in time and space and that it was probably ultimately environmental change that led to the extinction of these animals in the region, but our research provides some of the first evidence that they may have actually co-existed,” says co-author Nathaniel Kitchel.
Strange Earthquakes in Utah Reveal Volcanic Activity Hidden Below The Desert, reports ScienceAlert –It might not look like it, but the arid expanses of Utah conceal an ancient volcanic complex, and this hidden underground system is still active far below the desert’s surface, scientists say.
Largest Glowing Shark Species Discovered Near New Zealand –It’s the biggest bioluminescent vertebrate found on land or sea, so far, reports The New York Times.
The Galaxy Report newsletter brings you twice-weekly news of space and science that has the capacity to provide clues to the mystery of our existence and add a much needed cosmic perspective in our current Anthropocene Epoch.
New species of crested dinosaur identified in Mexico
A team of palaeontologists in Mexico have identified a new species of dinosaur after finding its 72 million-year-old fossilized remains almost a decade ago, Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) said on Thursday.
The new species, named Tlatolophus galorum, was identified as a crested dinosaur after 80% of its skull was recovered, allowing experts to compare it to other dinosaurs of that type, INAH said.
The investigation, which also included specialists from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, began in 2013 with the discovery of an articulated tail in the north-central Mexican state of Coahuila, where other discoveries have been made.
“Once we recovered the tail, we continued digging below where it was located. The surprise was that we began to find bones such as the femur, the scapula and other elements,” said Alejandro Ramírez, a scientist involved in the discovery.
Later, the scientists were able to collect, clean and analyze other bone fragments from the front part of the dinosaur’s body.
The palaeontologists had in their possession the crest of the dinosaur, which was 1.32 meters long, as well as other parts of the skull: lower and upper jaws, palate and even a part known as the neurocranium, where the brain was housed, INAH said.
The Mexican anthropology body also explained the meaning of the name – Tlatolophus galorum – for the new species of dinosaur.
Tlatolophus is a mixture of two words, putting together a term from the indigenous Mexican language of Nahuatl that means “word” with the Greek term meaning “crest”. Galorum refers to the people linked to the research, INAH said.
(Reporting by Abraham Gonzalez; Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa)
Alberta family searches for answers in teen's sudden death after COVID exposure, negative tests – CBC.ca
A southern Alberta mother and father are grappling with the sudden, unexplained death of their 17-year-old daughter, and with few answers, they’re left wondering if she could be the province’s youngest victim of COVID-19.
Sarah Strate — a healthy, active Grade 12 student at Magrath High School who loved singing, dancing and being outdoors — died on Monday, less than a week after being notified she’d been exposed to COVID-19.
While two tests came back negative, her parents say other signs point to the coronavirus, and they’re waiting for more answers.
“It was so fast. It’s all still such a shock,” said Sarah’s mother, Kristine Strate. “She never even coughed. She had a sore throat and her ears were sore for a while, and [she had] swollen neck glands.”
Kristine said Sarah developed mild symptoms shortly after her older sister — who later tested positive for COVID-19 — visited from Lethbridge, one of Alberta’s current hot spots for the virus.
The family went into isolation at their home in Magrath on Tuesday, April 20. They were swabbed the next day and the results were negative.
‘Everything went south, super-fast’
By Friday night, Sarah had developed fever and chills. On Saturday, she started vomiting and Kristine, a public health nurse, tried to keep her hydrated.
“She woke up feeling a bit more off on Monday morning,” Kristine said. “And everything went south, super-fast.”
Sarah had grown very weak and her parents decided to call 911 when she appeared to become delirious.
“She had her blanket on and I was talking to her and, in an instant, she was unresponsive,” said Kristine, who immediately started performing CPR on her daughter.
When paramedics arrived 20 minutes later, they were able to restore a heartbeat and rushed Sarah to hospital in Lethbridge, where she died.
“I thought there was hope once we got her heart rate back. I really did,” recalled Sarah’s father, Ron.
“He was praying for a miracle, and sometimes miracles don’t come,” said Kristine.
Searching for answers
At the hospital, the family was told Sarah’s lungs were severely infected and that she may have ended up with blood clots in both her heart and lungs, a condition that can be a complication of COVID-19.
But a second test at the hospital came back negative for COVID-19.
“There really is no other answer,” Ron said. “When a healthy 17-year-old girl, who was sitting up in her bed and was able to talk, and within 10 minutes is unconscious on our floor — there was no reason [for it].”
The province currently has no record of any Albertans under the age of 20 who have died of COVID-19.
According to the Strate family, the medical examiner is running additional blood and tissue tests, in an effort to uncover the cause of Sarah’s death.
‘Unusual but not impossible’
University of Alberta infectious disease specialist Dr. Lynora Saxinger, who was not involved in Sarah’s treatment, says it is conceivable that further testing could uncover evidence of a COVID-19 infection, despite two negative test results.
However, she hasn’t seen a similar case in Alberta.
“It would be unusual but not impossible because no test is perfect. We have had cases where an initial test is negative and then if you keep on thinking it’s COVID and you re-test, you then can find COVID,” she said.
According to Saxinger, the rate of false negatives is believed to be very low. But it can happen if there are problems with the testing or specimen collection.
She says people are more likely to test positive after symptoms develop.
“The best sensitivity of the test is around day four or five of having symptoms,” she said. “So you can miss things if you test very, very early. And with new development of symptoms, it’s always a good time to re-test because then the likelihood of getting a positive test is a little higher. But again, no test is perfect.”
Sarah deteriorated so quickly — dying five days after she first developed symptoms — she didn’t live long enough to make it to her follow-up COVID-19 test. Instead, it was done at the hospital.
‘An amazing kid’
The Strate family now faces an agonizing wait for answers — one that will likely take months — about what caused Sarah’s death.
But Ron, who teaches at the school where Sarah attended Grade 12, wants his daughter to be remembered for the life she lived, not her death.
Sarah was one of five children. Ron says she was strong, active and vibrant and had plans to become a massage therapist after graduating from high school.
She played several sports and loved to sing and dance as part of a show choir. She was a leader in the school’s suicide prevention group and would stand up for other students who were facing bullying.
“She’s one of the leaders in our Hope Squad … which goes out and helps kids to not be scared,” he father said.
“She’s an amazing kid.”
Sarah would often spend hours helping struggling classmates, and her parents hope her kindness is not forgotten.
“She’d done so many good things. Honestly, I’ve got so many messages from parents saying, ‘You have no idea how much your daughter helped our kid,'” said Ron.
“This 17-year-old girl probably lived more of a life in 17 years than most adults will live in their whole lives. She was so special. I love her so much.”
China launches key module of space station planned for 2022
BEIJING (Reuters) -China launched an unmanned module on Thursday containing what will become living quarters for three crew on a permanent space station that it plans to complete by the end of 2022, state media reported.
The module, named “Tianhe”, or “Harmony of the Heavens”, was launched on the Long March 5B, China’s largest carrier rocket, at 11:23 a.m. (0323 GMT) from the Wenchang Space Launch Centre on the southern island of Hainan.
Tianhe is one of three main components of what would be China’s first self-developed space station, rivalling the only other station in service – the International Space Station (ISS).
The ISS is backed by the United States, Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada. China was barred from participating by the United States.
“(Tianhe) is an important pilot project in the building of a powerful nation in both technology and in space,” state media quoted President Xi Jinping as saying in a congratulatory speech.
Tianhe forms the main living quarters for three crew members in the Chinese space station, which will have a life span of at least 10 years.
The Tianhe launch was the first of 11 missions needed to complete the space station, which will orbit Earth at an altitude of 340 to 450 km (211-280 miles).
In the later missions, China will launch the two other core modules, four manned spacecraft and four cargo spacecraft.
Work on the space station programme began a decade ago with the launch of a space lab Tiangong-1 in 2011, and later, Tiangong-2 in 2016.
Both helped China test the programme’s space rendezvous and docking capabilities.
China aims to become a major space power by 2030. It has ramped up its space programme with visits to the moon, the launch of an uncrewed probe to Mars and the construction of its own space station.
In contrast, the fate of the ageing ISS – in orbit for more than two decades – remains uncertain.
The project is set to expire in 2024, barring funding from its partners. Russia said this month that it would quit the project from 2025.
Russia is deepening ties with China in space as tensions with Washington rise.
Moscow has slammed the U.S.-led Artemis moon exploration programme and instead chosen to join Beijing in setting up a lunar research outpost in the coming years.
(Reporting by Ryan Woo and Liangping Gao; Editing by Christian Schmollinger, Simon Cameron-Moore and Lincoln Feast.)
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