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'It's a first': Oldest human footprints in Arabian peninsula point to route out of Africa

'It's a first': Oldest human footprints in Arabian peninsula point to route out of Africa The discovery gives strength to the idea that the Arabian Peninsula was a key route from Africa for early migrations of Homo sapiens.

Sometimes Food Fights Back

Sometimes Food Fights Back Peering through a microscope in 2016, Dania Albini gazed at an algae-eating water flea. Its gut appeared full and green with all the ingested teeny-tiny Chlorella vulgaris algae. But she also observed bright green blobs of this phytoplankton in an unexpected place: the herbivore's brood pouch."I was really surprised to see them there," said Albini, an aquatic ecologist then at Swansea University in Wales.As the colonization continued, the algae enveloped the tiny creature's eggs, killing some eggs and resulting in fewer newborns, according to a study led by Albini and published Wednesday in Royal Society Open Science. With the algae still alive, the researchers suspect that Chlorella deploy an offense strategy as opposed to a typical defense to protect themselves from herbivory."You don't expect a food to attack a predator in this way," Albini said. "You expect it from a parasite, but not food. It's fascinating."Phytoplankton are typically single-celled photosynthetic organisms that form the foundation of aquatic food chains. Among them are microalgae like Chlorella vulgaris that float on surfaces of ponds and lakes, making them easy meals for widespread zooplankton like Daphnia magna. To keep grazers at bay, some microalgae form spines, release toxins or aggregate to a size that's larger than a predator can swallow.But sometimes Chlorella make their way inside a grazer's body -- not in the belly as food, but into the chamber housing the zooplankton's offspring. Water circulates through this brood chamber and supplies oxygen and nutrients to the young, and seems to pull in some algal cells. While in this chamber, the researchers found during lab experiments mimicking some natural conditions, the algae were alive and able to double in abundance.When algae managed to colonize a brood chamber, the zooplankton barely produced any viable eggs. Kam Tang, a plankton ecologist also at Swansea and co-author of the study, reckons that the "biological glue" that Chlorella cells produce helped them stick to each other and possibly to the brood chamber and the eggs, smothering most of the zooplankton's next generation.This unexpected occurrence of Chlorella cells inside its herbivores' reproductive chambers was surprising to Thomas Kiørboe, a marine ecologist at the Technical University of Denmark, who wasn't involved in the study. "But maybe no one really looked for it previously," he said.Why do Chlorella engage in this harmful intrusion? The researchers suggest that this offense strategy might protect algae cells from being grazed upon and trigger a reduction in zooplankton populations in lakes in the long run.But what remains unknown is whether the live Chlorella inside Daphnia brood chambers actually make their way out into the water or remain trapped."There is no reason to assume that this is beneficial for the algae," said Dieter Ebert, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Basel in Switzerland, who wasn't involved in the study. "They have no chance to get out."Kiørboe is also skeptical that this is a Chlorella survival strategy. Unless it's known that the individual Chlorella cells inside brood chambers themselves reap the benefits, "their interpretation can be challenged," he said.The researchers plan to do a long-term experiment to see if the algal cells escape when Daphnia die, for instance."It's tricky to study a phenomenon which is out of the ordinary," Tang said, "especially when it goes against what a lot of people think."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company

Climate Point: What will a map of America look like in 2050?

Climate Point: What will a map of America look like in 2050? And another thing: Oil companies are profiting from California spills

Jupiter, enticing moon Europa star in new Hubble photo

Jupiter, enticing moon Europa star in new Hubble photo

NASA mulls possible mission to Venus after recent discovery of possible life

NASA mulls possible mission to Venus after recent discovery of possible life NASA is considering approving by next April up to two planetary science missions from four proposals under review, including one to Venus that scientists involved in the project said could help determine whether or not that planet harbors life. The U.S. space agency in February shortlisted four proposed missions that are now being reviewed by a NASA panel, two of which would involve robotic probes to Venus. One of those, called DAVINCI+, would send a probe into the Venusian atmosphere.

The Hubble telescope captured a stunning photo of the distant spiral galaxy named 'Eye of the Serpent'

The Hubble telescope captured a stunning photo of the distant spiral galaxy named 'Eye of the Serpent' The world's most powerful space telescope captured an image of the NGC 2835 galaxy, known as "Eye of the Serpent." It's 35 million light-years away.

Why we need to get back to Venus

Why we need to get back to Venus Just next door, cosmologically speaking, is a planet almost exactly like Earth. It's about the same size, is made of about the same stuff and formed around the same star. To an alien astronomer light years away, observing the solar system through a telescope, it would be virtually indistinguishable from our own planet. But to know the surface conditions of Venus - the temperature of a self-cleaning oven, and an atmosphere saturated with carbon dioxide with sulfuric acid clouds - is to know that it's anything but Earth-like.So how is it that two planets so similar in position, formation and composition can end up so different? That's a question that preoccupies an ever-growing number of planetary scientists, and motivates numerous proposed Venus exploration efforts. If scientists can understand why Venus turned out the way it did, we'll have a better understanding of whether an Earth-like planet is the rule - or the exception.I'm a planetary scientist, and I'm fascinated by how other worlds came to be. I'm particularly interested in Venus, because it offers us a glimpse of a world that once might not have been so different from our own. A once-blue Venus?The current scientific view of Venus holds that, at some point in the past, the planet had much more water than its bone-dry atmosphere suggests today - perhaps even oceans. But as the Sun grew hotter and brighter (a natural consequence of aging), surface temperatures rose on Venus, eventually vaporizing any oceans and seas. With ever more water vapor in the atmosphere, the planet entered a runaway greenhouse condition from which it couldn't recover. Whether Earth-style plate tectonics (where the outer layer of the planet is broken into large, mobile pieces) ever operated on Venus is unknown. Water is critical for plate tectonics to operate, and a runaway greenhouse effect would effectively shut down that process had it operated there.But the ending of plate tectonics wouldn't have spelled the end of geological activity: The planet's considerable internal heat continued to produce magma, which poured out as voluminous lava flows and resurfaced most of the planet. Indeed, the average surface age of Venus is around 700 million years - very old, certainly, but much younger than the multi-billion-year-old surfaces of Mars, Mercury or the Moon. The exploration of Planet 2The Venus-as-a-wet-world view is just a hypothesis: Planetary scientists don't know what caused Venus to differ so much from Earth, nor even if the two planets really did start off with the same conditions. Humans know less about Venus than we do about the other inner solar system planets, largely because the planet poses several unique challenges to its exploration.For example, radar is needed to pierce the opaque, sulfuric acid clouds and see the surface. That's a lot trickier than the readily visible surfaces of the Moon or Mercury. And the high surface temperature - 470 degrees Celsius (880 degrees Fahrenheit) - means that conventional electronics don't last more than a few hours. That's a far cry from Mars, where rovers can operate for more than a decade. In part because of the heat, acidity and obscured surface, then, Venus hasn't enjoyed a sustained program of exploration over the past couple of decades.That said, there have been two dedicated Venus missions in the 21st century: the European Space Agency's Venus Express, which operated from 2006 to 2014, and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Akatsuki spacecraft currently in orbit .Humans haven't always ignored Venus. It was once the darling of planetary exploration: between the 1960s and 1980s, some 35 missions were dispatched to the second planet. The NASA Mariner 2 mission was the first spacecraft to successfully carry out a planetary encounter when it flew past Venus in 1962. The first images returned from the surface of another world were sent from the Soviet Venera 9 lander after it touched down in 1975. And the Venera 13 lander was the first spacecraft to return sounds from the surface of another world. But the last mission NASA launched to Venus was Magellan in 1989. That spacecraft imaged almost the entire surface with radar before its planned demise in the planet's atmosphere in 1994. Back to Venus?In the last few years, several NASA Venus missions have been proposed. The most recent planetary mission that NASA chose is a nuclear-powered craft called Dragonfly, destined for Saturn's moon Titan. However, one proposal to measure the composition of the Venus surface was selected for further technology development.Other missions being considered include one by the ESA to map the surface at high resolution, and a Russian plan to build on its legacy as the only country to successfully put a lander on Venus' surface.Some 30 years after NASA set course for our hellish neighbor, the future of Venus exploration looks promising. But a single mission - a radar orbiter or even a long-lived lander - won't solve all the outstanding mysteries. Rather, a sustained program of exploration is needed to bring our knowledge of Venus to where we understand it as well as Mars or the Moon. That will take time and money, but I believe it's worth it. If we can understand why and when Venus came to be the way it is, we'll have a better grasp of how an Earth-size world can evolve when it's close to its star. And, under an ever-brightening Sun, Venus may even help us understand the fate of Earth itself.[ You're smart and curious about the world. So are The Conversation's authors and editors. You can read us daily by subscribing to our newsletter. ]This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts.Read more: * Mining the Moon * Jupiter's Great Red Spot: A 300-year-old cyclone persists but is shrinking * Accelerating exoplanet discovery using chemical signatures of starsPaul K. Byrne does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Astronomers found a gas in Venus' clouds that could signal alien life

Astronomers found a gas in Venus' clouds that could signal alien life Scientists discovered trace amounts of phosphine gas in clouds on Venus. On Earth, this gas is typically produced by microbes.

Yosemite National Park Closes Due to Poor Air Quality as Wildfires Continue to Ravage West Coast

Yosemite National Park Closes Due to Poor Air Quality as Wildfires Continue to Ravage West Coast At least 25 people have died due to the wildfires in California since Aug. 15, officials said

Bristol Myers' Opdivo with Exelixis drug cuts kidney cancer death risk: study

Bristol Myers' Opdivo with Exelixis drug cuts kidney cancer death risk: study Bristol Myers Squibb Co's cancer immunotherapy Opdivo in combination with Exelixis Inc's Cabometyx reduced the risk of death by 40% in previously untreated patients with advanced kidney cancer, according to data from a late-stage study to be presented on Saturday. The drug combination also doubled patients' median length of time before their cancer began to worsen to 16.6 months compared to progression-free survival of 8.3 months for patients treated with the chemotherapy sunitinib, an older Pfizer Inc drug sold under the brand name Sutent. "There is no doubt in my mind that this will be a major player" as an initial treatment for advanced kidney cancer, said lead researcher Dr. Toni Choueiri from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

Thousands of people say they are suffering from lingering symptoms of COVID-19 months after testing positive

Thousands of people say they are suffering from lingering symptoms of COVID-19 months after testing positive Coronavirus "long-haulers" are still experiencing symptoms like fevers, brain fog, memory loss, nosebleeds, shortness of breath, and blurry vision.

NASA touts lunar landing tech, and Blue Origin says there'll be a flight test 'soon'

NASA touts lunar landing tech, and Blue Origin says there'll be a flight test 'soon' Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong famously had to dodge a boulder-strewn crater just seconds before the first moon landing in 1969 - but for future lunar touchdowns, NASA expects robotic eyes to see such missions to safe landings. And Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin space venture is helping to make it so. Today NASA talked up a precision landing system known as SPLICE (which stands for Safe and Precise Landing - Integrated Capabilities Evolution). The system makes use of an onboard camera, laser sensors and computerized firepower to identify and avoid hazards such as craters and boulders. NASA says... Read More

T cell shortage linked to severe COVID-19 in elderly; antiseptic spray may limit virus spread

T cell shortage linked to severe COVID-19 in elderly; antiseptic spray may limit virus spread A lower supply of a certain type of immune cell in older people that is critical to fighting foreign invaders may help explain their vulnerability to severe COVID-19, scientists say. When germs enter the body, the initial "innate" immune response generates inflammation not specifically targeted at the bacteria or virus. Within days, the more precise "adaptive" immune response starts generating antibodies against the invader along with T cells that either assist in antibody production or seek out and attack infected cells.

Flooding affects more than 1 million across East Africa

Flooding affects more than 1 million across East Africa Flooding has affected well over a million people across East Africa, another calamity threatening food security on top of a historic locust outbreak and the coronavirus pandemic. The Nile River has hit its highest levels in a half-century under heavy seasonal rainfall, and large parts of Sudan, Ethiopia and South Sudan have been swamped amid worries about climate change. As warnings of a new famine grow in South Sudan, the United Nations says flooding there has affected at least a half-million people, many in areas of Jonglei state that saw eruptions of deadly intercommunal violence this year.

Alligator on gas snaps up Ig Nobel prize

Alligator on gas snaps up Ig Nobel prize The 2020 Ig Nobel prizes honour crocodilian vocalisations, narcissistic eyebrows and vibrating worms.

90-minute British DnaNudge COVID-19 test is accurate, Lancet study finds

90-minute British DnaNudge COVID-19 test is accurate, Lancet study finds A British COVID-19 test known as DnaNudge that gives results in just over an hour and which requires no laboratory was accurate in almost all cases, an academic review in the Lancet has found. Faster testing could allow more people to return to work or permit testing on entry to hospital, thus slowing a second spike in coronavirus infections. The new test, based on the design of a DNA test developed by a professor at Imperial College London, received approval for clinical use by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) at the end of April after successful trials.

90-minute British DnaNudge COVID-19 test is accurate, Lancet study finds

90-minute British DnaNudge COVID-19 test is accurate, Lancet study finds A British COVID-19 test known as DnaNudge that gives results in just over an hour and which requires no laboratory was accurate in almost all cases, an academic review in the Lancet has found. Faster testing could allow more people to return to work or permit testing on entry to hospital, thus slowing a second spike in coronavirus infections. The new test, based on the design of a DNA test developed by a professor at Imperial College London, received approval for clinical use by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) at the end of April after successful trials.

'Total failure' on English river water quality

'Total failure' on English river water quality Pollutants still blight all of England's rivers, lakes and streams, the Environment Agency says.

Forget vitamins: Fauci says the 3 best things 'to keep your immune system working optimally' cost nothing

Forget vitamins: Fauci says the 3 best things 'to keep your immune system working optimally' cost nothing "If you really want to keep your immune system working optimally, there are things that you do that are normal things," Fauci said.

Hurricane Sally's Fierce Rain Shows How Climate Change Raises Storm Risks

Hurricane Sally's Fierce Rain Shows How Climate Change Raises Storm Risks As hurricanes go, Sally was not especially powerful. Rated a Category 2 storm when it struck the Gulf Coast on Wednesday, it was soon downgraded. But climate change likely made it more dangerous by slowing it down and feeding it more moisture, setting it up to pummel the region with wind and catastrophic rainfall.Sally was crawling at about 3 mph when its eye made landfall early Wednesday near Gulf Shores, Alabama, and was "inching its way inland" later in the day, the National Hurricane Center said. The slow movement, or stalling, of the storm led to staggering rain totals, with more than two feet in some areas by midmorning Wednesday and widespread flooding."When a storm moves slower, it lingers longer over the same location," said Kimberly Wood, a geoscientist at Mississippi State University. "A rain rate of, say, an inch an hour -- that's not so bad if the rain only lasts 30 minutes. But if it lasts for half a day, that adds up quickly."Sally was not an isolated example of a stalling hurricane. "There is increasing evidence that storms are slowing down," Wood said.That evidence comes in part from a 2018 study that showed that hurricanes near the Gulf and Atlantic coasts were increasingly likely to stall. The study also found a clear signal of more local rainfall, said one of the authors, James P. Kossin, a researcher with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "And it was associated with increasing frequency of stalled systems," he said.Climate change has also led to wetter storms, Wood said, because warmer air holds more moisture. Between the slowing speeds and increasing moisture, with storms like Sally "there's a combination effect," she said.Researchers increasingly see a link between stalling of hurricanes and climate change. Rapid warming in the Arctic has reduced the difference in temperature between that region and the tropics, leading to a weakening and slowing of the jet stream and related winds that drive hurricanes' forward movement.Hurricanes also sometimes meander, Kossin said. Hurricane Harvey, which inundated Houston in 2017, moved back and forth over the area, increasing the deluge. Sally was heading due west, parallel to the coast, on Monday when it made a sudden right-angle turn to the north early Tuesday.Such movements may also be linked to slowing atmospheric circulation, Kossin said. "You won't really get meandering until you get a slow storm," he said. "They don't go zipping around like go-karts."While Sally's winds were not as intense as the strongest hurricanes -- maximum sustained speeds early Wednesday were about 105 mph, about half the speed of a Category 5 storm's -- by lingering for longer, the storm may also have increased storm surge, the wind-driven buildup of water that can quickly flood coastal areas, often with devastating results.But storm surge can be influenced by many other factors, including the timing of tides and the shallowness of a bay or another body of water. In this case, Sally's slow speed "contributed more to the extreme rainfall flooding than to the surge flooding," said Rick Luettich, a professor at the University of North Carolina and a principal developer of the leading surge model used by forecasters.Luettich said the storm's surge was close to projections of about five feet. But another characteristic of some hurricanes that is linked to warmer oceans, the rapid strengthening of a storm before landfall, "gave the water a bigger push" than earlier forecasts called for, he said.Hurricanes are not the only kind of storms affected by climate change, and not the only kind that can bring catastrophic flooding to the Gulf Coast or other regions. Record rain from a low-pressure system in August 2016, a large storm but one that did not rotate like a hurricane, led to floods in Baton Rouge. A gauge east of the city received 26.5 inches of rain in three days.That storm prompted an attribution study, research that tries to determine the extent, if any, of climate change's influence on an extreme weather event. It found that climate change had increased the likelihood of such a storm along the Gulf Coast in any given year by 40% since 1900. In the current climate, there is a 3% chance in any given year of a similar storm."The risk of extreme precipitation events in this region has gone up," said Sarah Kapnick, a researcher at NOAA's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, New Jersey, who worked on the study."There's a basic theoretical understanding underlying all of this," Kapnick said. With warming "you get more water vapor in the sky.""So when you get these storms, be they hurricanes or summer storms, they have the potential to hold more water in them," she added. "And that water has to go somewhere."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company

The universe likely has trillions of planets made primarily of diamonds, scientists confirmed

The universe likely has trillions of planets made primarily of diamonds, scientists confirmed Researchers have found that under extreme heat and pressure, materials on carbon-rich planets would become diamonds.

Poop knives, arachnophobic entomologists win 2020 Ig Nobels

Poop knives, arachnophobic entomologists win 2020 Ig Nobels Maybe this year's Ig Nobels, the spoof prizes for dubious but humorous scientific achievement, should have been renamed the Ick Nobels. An anthropologist who tested an urban legend by fashioning a knife out of frozen human feces, and a man who found that spiders oddly give scientists who study insects the heebie-jeebies, are among the 2020 winners. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Thursday's 30th annual Ig Nobel ceremony was a 75-minute prerecorded virtual affair instead of the usual live event at Harvard University.

Climate change: Earthquake 'hack' reveals scale of ocean warming

Climate change: Earthquake 'hack' reveals scale of ocean warming Using sound waves from underwater earthquakes, researchers can more accurately measure sea temperatures.

Fauci says planning weddings and parties for 2022 is 'a pretty good bet'

Fauci says planning weddings and parties for 2022 is 'a pretty good bet' If you're delaying a wedding, a birthday gathering, or a big vacation until the spring or summer of 2022, Dr. Anthony Fauci is on your side.

Lightning storm, easterly wind: How the wildfires got so bad

Lightning storm, easterly wind: How the wildfires got so bad It began as a stunning light show on a mid-August weekend - lightning bolts crackling in the skies over Northern and Central California, touching down in grasslands and vineyards. The National Weather Service warned that the dry lightning striking a parched landscape "could lead to new wildfire." Thousands of bolts ignited hundreds of fires in California and at least one in Oregon, setting the stage for some of the most destructive wildfires the West Coast states have seen in modern times.

The Fauci interview: How to 'keep your immune system working optimally,' gather safely, and get by until summer 2022

The Fauci interview: How to 'keep your immune system working optimally,' gather safely, and get by until summer 2022 "We may not completely eliminate it," Fauci said of the coronavirus. "But 2022 I think is a pretty good bet" for getting back to a nearly normal life.

EU details energy savings and renewables push to reach tougher climate target

EU details energy savings and renewables push to reach tougher climate target The European Union needs to hike its renewable energy and energy saving targets, according to its analysis published on Thursday of how the bloc could make deeper emissions cuts this decade. The European Commission wants the EU to slash its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, against 1990 levels, which experts say is the minimum needed to reach net zero emissions by 2050. The EU's current 2030 emissions target is for a 40% cut, though the bloc is on track for a deeper 45% cut.

Bolivians are drinking a toxic bleach, wrongly believing it will ward off COVID-19. Many end up in the hospital.

Bolivians are drinking a toxic bleach, wrongly believing it will ward off COVID-19. Many end up in the hospital. A Business Insider investigation has identified a network of controversial medics promoting toxic bleach as a miracle cure in Bolivia.

Plastic pollution: Washed clothing's synthetic mountain of 'fluff'

Plastic pollution: Washed clothing's synthetic mountain of 'fluff' Scientists calculate how many tiny fibres our polyester and nylon garments lose in the wash.

Uganda reverses forest destruction by inviting in ... loggers

Uganda reverses forest destruction by inviting in ... loggers For decades, farmers hungry for land and families needing firewood whittled away at Uganda's forests, home to endangered gorillas, elephants and chimpanzees. Private companies are developing timber plantations as buffers next to protected forests. "Private planting is helping raise trees ... to absorb carbon and lock it there, but they are also stopping people from demanding timber in protected reserves, so it's a win-win situation," Tom Okello, head of the state-run National Forestry Authority (NFA), told Reuters.

Uganda reverses forest destruction by inviting in ... loggers

Uganda reverses forest destruction by inviting in ... loggers For decades, farmers hungry for land and families needing firewood whittled away at Uganda's forests, home to endangered gorillas, elephants and chimpanzees. Private companies are developing timber plantations as buffers next to protected forests. "Private planting is helping raise trees ... to absorb carbon and lock it there, but they are also stopping people from demanding timber in protected reserves, so it's a win-win situation," Tom Okello, head of the state-run National Forestry Authority (NFA), told Reuters.

Western wildfire smoke causes East Coast haze, vivid sunsets

Western wildfire smoke causes East Coast haze, vivid sunsets The smoke from dozens of wildfires in the western United States is stretching clear across the country - and even pushing into Mexico, Canada and Europe. The wildfires racing across tinder-dry landscape in California, Idaho, Oregon and Washington are extraordinary, but the long reach of their smoke isn't unprecedented. The sun was transformed into a perfect orange orb as it set over New York City on Tuesday.

Slow-moving hurricanes that deluge coasts may be latest hazard of climate change

Slow-moving hurricanes that deluge coasts may be latest hazard of climate change For Grant Saltz, who runs a barbecue restaurant in Mobile, Alabama, what struck him about Hurricane Sally was its steady, deliberate pace, after the storm rumbled into the U.S. Gulf Coast on Wednesday as a powerful Category 2 hurricane. "It's so slow, this one," said Saltz, 38, while clearing away tree branches during a pause in the rains. Sally is not the most powerful storm to batter the U.S. Gulf Coast in recent memory, but its glacial pace is becoming a regular feature of the deadly storms, which many scientists attribute to climate change.

Mercury released by permafrost thaw puts Yukon River fish at risk - study

Mercury released by permafrost thaw puts Yukon River fish at risk - study If carbon emissions continue at current rates, so much mercury will leach from thawing permafrost that fish in the Yukon River could become dangerous to eat within a few decades, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature Communications. Current emissions rates threaten to trigger enough thaw release to drive mercury levels in Yukon River fish above federal safety guidelines by 2050, according to the study. Mercury concentration in the Yukon is expected to double by the end of the century if carbon emissions continue at present rates, according to the study.

Mercury released by permafrost thaw puts Yukon River fish at risk: study

Mercury released by permafrost thaw puts Yukon River fish at risk: study If carbon emissions continue at current rates, so much mercury will leach from thawing permafrost that fish in the Yukon River could become dangerous to eat within a few decades, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature Communications. Current emissions rates threaten to trigger enough thaw release to drive mercury levels in Yukon River fish above federal safety guidelines by 2050, according to the study. Mercury concentration in the Yukon is expected to double by the end of the century if carbon emissions continue at present rates, according to the study.

In a lucky coincidence, a spacecraft is scheduled to fly by Venus just weeks after researchers announced finding potential signs of life

In a lucky coincidence, a spacecraft is scheduled to fly by Venus just weeks after researchers announced finding potential signs of life The BepiColumbo spacecraft consists of two satellites launched together. It will fly by Venus twice: once in October, and once next August.

Wildfire smoke brings haze, vivid sunsets to East Coast

Wildfire smoke brings haze, vivid sunsets to East Coast The smoke from dozens of wildfires in the western United States is stretching clear across the country - and even pushing into Mexico, Canada and Europe. The wildfires racing across tinder-dry landscape in California, Idaho, Oregon and Washington are extraordinary, but the long reach of their smoke isn't unprecedented. The sun was transformed into a perfect orange orb as it set over New York City on Tuesday.

NASA mulls possible mission to Venus after recent discovery of possible life

NASA mulls possible mission to Venus after recent discovery of possible life NASA is considering approving by next April up to two planetary science missions from four proposals under review, including one to Venus that scientists involved in the project said could help determine whether or not that planet harbors life. The U.S. space agency in February shortlisted four proposed missions that are now being reviewed by a NASA panel, two of which would involve robotic probes to Venus. One of those, called DAVINCI+, would send a probe into the Venusian atmosphere.

Common public screening methods unreliable; student athletes may need heart test after COVID-19

Common public screening methods unreliable; student athletes may need heart test after COVID-19 COVID-19 screening tests used at airports, schools, and other public places are not particularly effective, a large analysis shows. Researchers synthesized the evidence from 22 studies of various screening methods, including taking people's temperature, asking about symptoms, travel history and exposure to infected or possibly infected people, and combinations of those and other approaches. With these popular screening methods, "a high proportion of infected individuals may be missed and go on to infect others, and some healthy individuals may be falsely identified as positive, requiring confirmatory testing and potentially leading to the unnecessary isolation of these individuals," the researchers wrote on Tuesday in a review for The Cochrane Library.

It's Not Just the West. These Places Are Also on Fire.

It's Not Just the West. These Places Are Also on Fire. Wildfires are devastating the American West, but the United States isn't the only place on Earth that's burning. This year, other countries have also experienced their worst wildfires in decades, if not all of recorded history.In each case, the contributing factors are different, but an underlying theme runs through the story: Hotter, drier seasons, driven by the burning of fossil fuels, have made the world more prone to erupt in flames."We don't have a fire problem; we have many fire problems," said Stephen J. Pyne, an emeritus professor at Arizona State University who studies wildfires and their history. "One, obviously, is a deep one. It has to do with fossil fuels and climate."Here's a look at some of the worst recent blazes and how humans played a role in them.-- The Arctic and SiberiaThe Arctic as a whole is experiencing warming at more than twice the pace of the rest of the world. Record-low snow cover, high temperatures and dry soils, almost certainly a result of human-caused climate change, have all contributed to the fires.This summer, portions of the Arctic shattered wildfire records set just last year, which at the time was the worst fire season in 60 years. The Russian town of Verkhoyansk became the first place above the Arctic Circle to experience temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, or about 38 Celsius, in June. Record heat also thawed combustible, but usually frozen, peatland, which fed wildfires that burned an area roughly the size of Belgium.While no lives were lost, smoke smothered the Russian countryside, and the burned land emitted a surge of planet-warming carbon dioxide -- about as much as Norway emits annually.-- IndonesiaIn the humid tropics, climatic conditions play a smaller role in wildfires. There, clearing and burning land for agriculture is the primary cause of fires.In July, Central Kalimantan province on Borneo declared a state of emergency as fires burned out of control. That followed severe fires in Indonesia last year and in 2015, the year of a drought in the country that was linked to El Niño, the periodic warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean that can affect weather worldwide.Even without dry conditions, though, agricultural practices played a crucial role in the fires."It's very, very rare to see fires naturally," said Ruth DeFries, a professor of sustainable development at Columbia University in New York. "When we see fires in the humid tropics, there is a human ignition source behind it."Without the land use, you could have dry conditions associated with El Niño and not have fires," DeFries said.-- BrazilThe worst fires on record are burning now in the Pantanal wetlands in the country's south. Farther north, in the Amazon rainforest, tens of thousands of fires are still burning after a summer of blazes. In June, Brazilian officials called the Amazon fires the worst in 13 years.As in Indonesia, deforestation for agriculture is a primary culprit. Farmers and ranchers cut down trees on the edge of the rainforest and set them on fire to clear the land for crops or grazing. But climate change is a force multiplier: During droughts like the current one in the country, those fires penetrate farther into forests, burning more trees and causing more damageUnlike the wildfires in California, which burn tree canopies, fires in the Amazon often creep along the forest floor "essentially no higher than my knee," said Jennifer Balch, an associate professor of geography at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and director of the university's Earth Lab. "And they can go for a very long period of time."-- ArgentinaFires are raging now across grasslands in the Parana Delta and around farmland in central Argentina, where farmers and ranchers have been burning fields for a century to improve their soil. This year, the fires got out of control."It's easy for fires to leave the perimeters of someone's property and just burn huge areas," said Virginia Iglesias, a research scientist at the Earth Lab at the University of Colorado who lived in Argentina most of her life."It's the end of winter, and it's been a really, really dry winter," Iglesias said. "These exceptionally dry conditions in central Argentina, and in many other areas of the country, create conditions that are perfect for fires once you have fuel."-- AustraliaAt the beginning of this year, Australia was just emerging from its worst wildfire season on record. Thousands of homes were lost, and millions of acres burned. At least 30 people died. Estimates of the number of animals killed range between a few hundred million and 1 billion.Researchers found that human-caused climate change played a significant role in the fires, making the high-risk conditions that led to widespread burning at least 30% more likely than in a world without global warming.Now, as the Southern Hemisphere heads into spring, Australians are bracing themselves for a new season of blazes. Officials say they doubt this year's fires will be as severe because there is simply not much left to burn, but homeowners are still hastening to clear shrubs and weeds, and complete prescribed burns.In the short term, Pyne said, we can mitigate fire risks by designing more fire-safe communities, creating better evacuation plans and improving fire management on wild lands."Prescribed fire is clearly going to be a part of that," he said. "If you think of fire as a contagion, which in many ways it is, prescribed burning is part of herd immunity."When it comes to human causes of climate change, "We need to take action, but that will take a long time," Pyne said. "We are going to be living with an enhanced fire world for decades, at least."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company

Slow-moving hurricanes that deluge coasts may be latest hazard of climate change

Slow-moving hurricanes that deluge coasts may be latest hazard of climate change For Grant Saltz, who runs a barbecue restaurant in Mobile, Alabama, what struck him about Hurricane Sally was its steady, deliberate pace, after the storm rumbled into the U.S. Gulf Coast on Wednesday as a powerful Category 2 hurricane. "It's so slow, this one," said Saltz, 38, while clearing away tree branches during a pause in the rains. Sally is not the most powerful storm to batter the U.S. Gulf Coast in recent memory, but its glacial pace is becoming a regular feature of the deadly storms, which many scientists attribute to climate change.

Judge rules for DNA testing in Tennessee death penalty case

Judge rules for DNA testing in Tennessee death penalty case DNA tests on a knife and other evidence must be performed in the case of a Tennessee death row inmate facing execution in December for the stabbing deaths of a woman and her daughter 33 years ago, a judge ruled Wednesday. Shelby County Judge Paula Skahan ruled in favor of attorneys for Pervis Payne, who had filed a petition in July requesting DNA testing in the long-running case. The judge decided the evidence should be sent to a California laboratory hired by defense attorneys to perform expedited testing at no cost to the state.

Girl power in the deep blue sea: World's largest fish are female

Girl power in the deep blue sea: World's largest fish are female Male and female whale sharks - filter-feeding marine behemoths - grow at different rates, with females doing so more slowly but getting much larger than the guys, according to research that offers deeper insight into the biology of Earth's largest fish. Researchers said on Wednesday they had tracked the growth of 54 whale sharks over a 10-year period in the vast Ningaloo Reef off Australia's west coast, where hundreds of these slow-swimming endangered fish migrate annually. Whale sharks of both sexes were found to have their fastest growth as juveniles, about 8-12 inches (20-30 cm) annually.

Girl power in the deep blue sea: World's largest fish are female

Girl power in the deep blue sea: World's largest fish are female Male and female whale sharks - filter-feeding marine behemoths - grow at different rates, with females doing so more slowly but getting much larger than the guys, according to research that offers deeper insight into the biology of Earth's largest fish. Researchers said on Wednesday they had tracked the growth of 54 whale sharks over a 10-year period in the vast Ningaloo Reef off Australia's west coast, where hundreds of these slow-swimming endangered fish migrate annually. Whale sharks of both sexes were found to have their fastest growth as juveniles, about 8-12 inches (20-30 cm) annually.

Antarctica's Thwaites glacier is in peril, images reveal. The so-called 'doomsday glacier' could trigger 10 feet of sea-level rise if it melts.

Antarctica's Thwaites glacier is in peril, images reveal. The so-called 'doomsday glacier' could trigger 10 feet of sea-level rise if it melts. The Thwaites Glacier is receding by half a mile per year. Scientists recently discovered that warm undercurrents could be eating away its underbelly.

Plug-in hybrids are a 'wolf in sheep's clothing'

Plug-in hybrids are a 'wolf in sheep's clothing' Although marketed as a green option, the cars cause more polluting than is claimed, campaigners say.

One of largest known T. rex skeletons up for auction at Christie's

One of largest known T. rex skeletons up for auction at Christie's The dinosaur known as "STAN,", approximately 67 million years old, was discovered in 1987 in South Dakota by amateur paleontologist Stan Sacrison. "He showed it to scientists at the time who unfortunately misidentified it as a triceratops," James Hyslop, Christie's head of Science and Natural History, told Reuters.

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