The Lungs of the Earth At a Tipping Point?

For decades now, environmentalists have raised concerns over the precarious outcome of global warming, caused mainly by the emission of greenhouse gases, deforestation and increased industrialization as well as commercialized farming of crops and cattle.

A study published recently in the research journal Nature suggests the outcome which most scientists feared – the Amazon Rain Forest is heading to become a part of the global warming problem, not the solution, with its increased Carbon Dioxide emissions adding to the deadly greenhouse gas.

A team of Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research captured 590 air samples using small planes over a nine year period from 2010 to 2018.

The study suggests that the Amazon Rain Forest as a whole is emitting three times more Carbon Dioxide than it’s absorbing. The case is worst for the eastern section of the Rain Forest where there has been excessive deforestation and it is now emitting 10 times more CO2.

“We find that total carbon dioxide emissions are greater in the eastern of the rain forest than in the west, mostly as a result of spatial differences in carbon-monoxide-derived fire emissions. Southeastern Amazonia, in particular, acts as a net carbon source to the atmosphere,” the international team of researchers write in the paper.

Scientists Deeply Concerned About the Collapse of the Rain Forest:

The Amazon is home to the largest tropical rain forest on the planet. The climate within it is warming which will have a knock-on effect around the world.

The study has further raised concerns among environmentalists, encouraging them to raise awareness among global communities before the lungs of the world completely collapse.

John Schmoll, a professor of biology at Queen’s University is utterly disturbed by the findings of the study and says that with climate change, we are sleepwalking to disaster. “We keep getting wakeup calls but we are not waking up”, he remarks.

“We even have to cut out greenhouse gases even more which is a daunting task, because we already have enough trouble meeting any target that we have set for ourselves right now”, he adds.

Kerry Bowman, a researcher for the University of Toronto says that the Amazon is absolutely under siege on many fronts.

“There are a number of complex issues leading to the region moving from a site that captures Carbon Dioxide, to one that produces the greenhouse gas, including burning the rain forest to make room for crops and livestock,” says Bowman.

In addition to the general abuse of the Rain Forest by communities, there is a lack of environmental protection from some of the countries within the Amazon basin as well.

The Amazon was one once the largest CO2 Capture sites on the planet. Experts suggests that if changes aren’t made soon, it could become one of the biggest emitters in the near future, and one of the key causes of global warming.

Scientists transform snails into Cyborgs

Scientists at Michigan University, USA, adopted an unfamiliar strategy to observe the behavior of a single species of snails by transforming them into “cyborgs” so they can keep a track of them and study their survival.

History of invasive snail:

Harnessing power from the living world has always been a dream for humans, and between geothermal, solar, and other sources, we’re getting a step closer every day. Shortly, there might be the availability of more power from the world of tiny shelled creatures.

In the 1970s, wildlife researchers presented an invasive snail, also known as the rosy wolf snail to the Society Island of French Polynesia. As a result the invasive snail has eliminated almost every existing snail species in the surrounding area, representing a destructive loss of biodiversity. However, five species somehow managed to survive, including the Particle hyaline.

Particle hyaline is significant for Polynesians because of its eccentric color, making it exceptionally attractive for use in jewelry. Tree snails are also of pivotal importance for the island forest ecosystems, being a dominant group of native grazers.

Usage of Micro Mote (M3) in solar snails:

With the alliance between the scientists of the University of Michigan and engineers of the world’s smallest computers, scientists acknowledged the reason why Particle hyaline can tolerate more sunlight than its invasive predator. The Particle hyaline crawls at the edges during the daytime while its predator is compelled to hide in the shade.

During the midday sun, the Particle hyaline is able to withstand 10 times more sunlight compared to the rosy wolf snails. The scientists suspect that the predator couldn’t crawl far enough into the forest edge to catch the Particle hyaline because they wouldn’t be able to look for shade if the sunlight became too hot.

In 2014 by the team of researchers at the University of Michigan, developed the world’s smallest complete computer – the Michigan Micro Mote (M3). The tiny computer was attached to the rosy wolf snail’s shell allowing them to wirelessly gather data never before observed, utilizing miniature electronics that could be the start of a new wave of cyborg technology.

Did Einstein make errors?

According to BBC reports, astronomers can map the existence of dark matter by observing the light traveling to Earth from distant galaxies, making the evaluation of the universe more effortless than the previously defined theories.

The research looked at almost a quarter of the southern hemisphere’s sky in the hope of understanding the concepts of Einstein’s theory of general relativity and the cosmos.

The map researcher Niall Jeffery implies that there’s something weird in Einstein theories and says that “if this inequality is true, then Einstein was wrong, unlocking a door to new opportunities and research about the universe”.

The concept of dark matter:

Dark matter makes up 80% of the universe, and its gravitational force is enough to mesh the galaxies together in a mechanism known as the cosmic web.

We are aware that dark matter twists the light emerging from the faraway stars. Where the effect is greater, a higher concentration of dark matter exists. Scientists believe that it is still a great mystery because we can’t see it and barely understand its concepts. However, it shows its existence because of the influence it has on space.

The latest map was created by International researchers at the Dark Energy Survey Collaboration, by utilizing the data of almost 100 million galaxies.

The resulting map has evaluated that galaxies make a huge framework, and areas of dark matter are crafted with superclusters of galaxies. However, they have also spotted the location of diverse cosmic voids where the conventional laws of physics might not apply.

Prediction about the universe:

Jeffery excitedly told BBC about the structures of dark matters as he believes that for the first time gravity might behave distinctively internally. By recognizing their shapes and locations, the map provides an interesting point for further study.

Shortly after the Big Bang, astronomers made predictions using Einstein’s theories about how dark matter had extended over 13.8 million years of the universe. However, these predictions are not consistent with the latest observations made by The Dark Energy Survey.

“We might have revealed some mandatory facts of the universe, but even after years of persevering, we didn’t succeed. But my instincts say that all the measurements were correct and we must shore up to make it succeed”, said Prof. Carlos Frenk to the British broadcaster. 

Carlos Frenk doesn’t want to omit Einstein’s theory. Additionally, he has anticipated some tweaks in the astrophysics of galaxies.

Covid-19 Eliminates two flu strains

During the covid-19 pandemic, some scientists encouraged preventive measures against the coronavirus include wearing a mask, hand sanitizing, and social distancing, which could also have resulted or contributed to the elimination of multiple strains of flu.

According to Gizmodo, the researchers couldn’t discover two former usual strains of flu since March 2020. More precisely, the missing strains include the Yamagata strain of influenza B virus and the strain of influenza A virus H3N2.

Comparison of two viruses:

Amazingly, these two types of viruses haven’t shown up for more than a year anywhere in the world. Researchers are unaware if these viruses are truly eliminated, but at present they’re nowhere to found.

To evaluate which flu strains might have vanished, we have to understand how viruses are classified. Ever since the breakout, covid-19 has been compared to influenza because they similarly cause respiratory disease, yet there are apparent differences between these viruses and how they spread. Fortunately, there’s an availability of vaccines and antivirals for the treatment of influenza.

Eliminations of the flu strains:

The elimination of these flu strains is a beneficial effect during the pandemic. According to Gizmodo, many researchers and doctors are playing their valuable part in encouraging the usage of face-masks, social distancing, and quarantine. However, virologist Florian Krammer suggests that although the strains might not have been detected for over a year, we can’t be sure that they have been eliminated entirely. So, the viruses might be residing anywhere in our surroundings.

Even if the strains haven’t been fully eliminated their disappearance still makes the preparation of vaccines easier. Every year researchers are assigned the responsibility to make ‘high-tech guesses’ about which flu strains are more likely to prevail in the following months so that they can prepare preventive doses beforehand.

But, Krammer believes that less diversity among the flu viruses could be a possibility. Reduced flu virus diversity means a tiny pool of circulating viruses to choose from and a greater chance that the strains in an annual vaccine will be successful.

If the current covid-19 preventive measures are keeping us safe from other viruses as well, we might consider face masks, and social distancing even after the pandemic is over, particularly during the winter months when the flu virus is more prevalent.

Florida’s Genetically Engineered Mosquitoes Released

British biotech firm Oxitec has successfully begun its experiment of releasing genetically hacked mosquitoes in open air to reduce the population of disease spreading mosquitoes in the Florida Keys region. According to Oxitec, these genetically engineered mosquitoes can become an alternative to pesticides, reducing and ultimately eliminating the species of disease carrying mosquitoes. But releasing an artificially engineered mosquito species in the air? Naturally, this controversial action came with lots of backlash and protests. Will it even work?

Oxitec’s Aim: Curbing The Aedes aegypti Mosquitoes

The Florida Keys is a strip of islands off the Southern tip of Florida. The Aedes aegypti mosquito species make up about 4% of all the mosquito species of Florida, and this is the species that is responsible for diseases like Zika and Dengue. What is interesting about these insects is that only the female mosquitoes bite; according to Oxitec, they plan to reduce the population of female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes by releasing male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes with an additional OX5034 gene. When these mosquitoes mate with wild female mosquitoes, this artificial gene will pass on to their offspring.

The special characteristic of this gene is that female mosquitoes cannot survive. Hence, only male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes will survive, dramatically reducing the population of biting and disease transmitting female mosquitoes. While this experiment, if it works, may be a great chemical free way to solve the mosquito related diseases problem in Florida, many experts, activists, and locals are sceptical of it.

Controversies Regarding Oxitec’s Experiment

For starters, people have been highly doubtful of the success of Oxitec’s experiment because of the lack of information and proof regarding the method. In fact, Oxitec has been fighting controversies for the past decade, and has only now proceeded to finally release the mosquitoes. The main issue is that Oxitec has no proof that the experiment will even work! Instead of experimenting in controlled lab conditions, they are releasing the genetically hacked mosquitoes in Florida Keys directly. If their idea doesn’t work, that is if the female mosquitoes born from the gene hacked mosquitoes survive, Florida’s mosquito problem will not be solved and instead a new problem will be created; a new species of mosquitoes flying wild in Florida.

But that’s not all; the locals of Florida Keys have also complained that Oxitec has been invading their privacy during the experiments, which, according to them, are not even for the betterment of the community but for Oxitec to test if their methods work. Some citizens have stated that Oxitec employees tricked and bullied them into participating in the experiment, which they did not even agree with after finding out what it actually was.

Activists and experts also disagree with Oxitec sabotaging nature, especially because there have been no caged trials-the company never proved that the trials are even safe! Oxitec has denied any allegations against its project, and is still confident that the experiment will work. Only time can tell whether Oxitec is right or not.

Fungus Growth Indicates Life on Mars?

The planet Mars has always thought to harbor life because of its physical similarities, as well as its proximity, to Earth. Yet, no solid evidence of any oxygen-breathing existence has been found on Mars, and the search to discover it continues. On 30th July, 2020, NASA launched the Perseverance Rover, which landed on Mars on 18th February, 2021, to look for any signs of pre-existing life by collecting samples of rock and regolith from the Jezero Crater.

The Jezero Crater is believed to have been a lake at some point in the past, but is now dried up. This mission, titled Mars 2020, is meant to look for any signs of ancient microbial life in this crater. However, a team of researchers seem to be far ahead of the Perseverance Rover, because they claim to have discovered signs of life, far advanced than what the Perseverance Rover is expected to look for.

Fungus on Mars!?

The team of researchers, which released its findings in the Advances in Microbiology journal published by Cambridge University Press, boldly claimed that “Fungus-like Martian specimens” are evident in images taken by NASA’s Opportunity and Curiosity rovers, way before the mission of the Perseverance Rover, the whole point of which is to find life on Mars!

Experts and other researchers are highly critical of this claim, displaying concerns regarding the conditions on Mars which “are unfit for any life to barely survive, let alone thrive”, according to Jonathan Clarke, president of Mars Society Australia. Directly finding a growing fungal organism, like the alleged mushrooms, is hence far from possible. Furthermore, nothing in the images proves that the round ball-like objects were ‘growing’ on Mars; Clarke explained that if you find seashells on the beach, it does not mean that they grew there-the situation seems to mimic this seashell expression rather than being evidence of life on Mars.

The Self Proclaimed Scientist

If this whole scenario doesn’t seem dubious enough, one of the authors of the paper is Rhawn Gabriel Joseph, who is infamous in the field of microbiology and astrophysics for promoting unreliable theories regarding life on other planets; he even went as far as starting his own renegade journal to publish his so-called findings.

This time, he did succeed in getting his paper accepted, yet was not safe from critics who shattered his ideas to pieces because of the unconvincing evidence-his reputation does not help either. According to David Flannery, who is part of the NASA Mars 2020 team and a lecturer at the Queensland University of Technology, “We have more than photos, records, instruments that tell us what these materials [in the images] are made of.” There is no evidence at all which even implies that the images captured on Mars display mushrooms or any life forms for that matter.

It is indeed true, and perplexing nonetheless, that a paper stating that Mushrooms have been found to grow on Mars exists; yet, as experts have already stated, it will be difficult for anyone to take these findings seriously because of their dubious nature.