Amidst panic over planets that don't exist and conspiracy theories about the moon landing on Google News this morning, one headline announced a more down-to-Earth sort of doom. “Deadly earthquakes could hit a BILLION people next year because of Earth's slowing rotation,” warned The Daily Mail.
One of the layers of atmosphere that protects all life on our planet is the width of two pennies, and hangs out six to ten miles above the Earth's in an environment that human activity made extremely hostile. Every year when winter ends and warmer weather returns to Antarctica, chemicals that we put into the air rip a hole in the layer. But this year, that hole is smaller than usual.
Not every announcement of a newly discovered species feels like a huge deal. Thousands of new critters get their names in print every year as they are catalogued and confirmed by scientists. But most of those are insects, or tiny frogs, or blobby, mysterious creatures from deep below the sea. Most of the organisms that have eluded scientific detection are, well, elusive, so most of them are small or incredibly alien in their habitat.
In the upper reaches of Earth's atmosphere, a rain of high-energy radiation slams into the thin air. The impact creates a second shower of charged subatomic particles, like muons, which fall towards Earth, and then fall into it. They drift down through clouds and then through stone, with most halting in the sculpted, lithified skeletons of long-dead sea creatures. Others press on, passing again through air, through rock once more, and then through a photographic film.
Hacking the human body is all the rage these days. A few years back, scientists made waves by developing a technique (dubbed CRISPR) that literally cuts DNA at specific locations to edit out the genes that lead to disease. The implications for this are as enormous as they are diverse. However, the approach is far from perfect. And you'd really rather not have any errors when messing with something as permanent as the human genome.
When someone loses a loved one or endures a terrible loss, people might say they have a broken heart. But that's a figure of speech, of course, typically meant to describe the mental pain associated with losing someone extremely close to you. But a proverbial broken heart can cause physical symptoms, too. And sometimes, in rare cases, those physiological changes—often accompanied by other underlying conditions—can be life threatening.