Mass Extinction Caused by Exploding Star

Growing up, we have all heard at least once that hundreds of millions of years ago, the Earth bloomed with simple unicellular life, evolving gradually and slowly into ferocious dinosaurs and one day a big explosion happened and life on Earth vanished.

Much research has been carried out throughout history to get a hint of what life was like on Earth before humans. In fact, the research still goes on and every now and then, archeologists and scientists dig up something fascinating that satisfies our curiosity to understand about the past.

Research has helped scientists gain a perspective on exactly what might have happened all those millions of years ago. According to the University of Illinois, a supernova 65 light years away might have something to do with the mass extinction that happened nearly 339 million years ago; one of the worst in the planet’s lifetime. Nobody knows for sure how or what events led to the mass extinction, but of all the limited knowledge of the event that the researchers have, they gathered information by studying ancient plants. The spore of most of the plants in the study had been sunburnt by UV radiation caused by lower ozone in the Earth’s atmosphere. And since, the ozone levels in the Earth’s atmosphere are severely damaged by natural events it is extremely likely that the supernova may have been behind the extinction that happened all those years ago.

Another fact that strengthens the claim is that any supernova explosion within 25 light years of distance, otherwise referred to as the kill zone, can prove fatal to the Earth. So it is quite possible that a cosmic explosion some 65 light years away may have caused some trouble on Earth. Apart from the extinction on such a massive scale, it was the Earth’s ecosystem that took the most damage to the point that the effects lasted for well over one hundred thousand years.

Scientists researching the event also looked at other possible explanations such as a meteorite shower or other cosmic events. However, none of these explanations can be correct when comparing the amount of damage that had been dealt to the Earth’s ozone layer and the time it took to recover – more than a century. In the end, scientists came to a possible conclusion that it is highly likely that a supernova explosion may have caused a massive shower of cosmic radiations onto the Earth’s atmosphere, hence severely damaging the Ozone layer.

Whether the event happened the way the scientists concluded or not depends greatly on the presence of plutonium isotopes from the Devonian period. If they can be found, the presence of these isotopes on Earth will confirm the event of a supernova explosion since these can only come to Earth via an explosion.

Black Hole Collision

It is quite rare to spot a black hole in space, let alone spot a black hole collision which in itself is an epic spectacle of the universe. But before we look into the details of a black hole collision, it’s useful to understand what black holes are.

Owing to a strong gravitational force, a black hole is a region in space that sucks matter in its vicinity. In fact, the gravitational force is so strong that even light cannot escape from it. Hence the title black hole. As far as the birth of black holes are concerned. They are usually formed when two or more gigantic stars approaching the end of their life cycles collide. Upon collision, a black hole is born that grows exponentially by absorbing the particles and other matter around it. Such is the complexity and beauty of the universe of which we form a tiny part of.

To imagine a merger containing two black holes, with one black hole at least the size of approximately 85 suns is, as Simon Portegies Zwart; computational astrophysicist at Leiden University, put it “mind boggling”. The merger that left the astronomers in awe also presented the astronomers with a revelation that the collision of black holes produces yet again another black hole, but only bigger and stronger. The black hole produced due to the merger in discussion is said to be as large as 150 solar masses.

Thanks to the cutting edge technology used by the US and an Italian observatory, the detection of this colossal merger was possible from almost 7 billion light years away. The discovery was made by recording the sudden spike in gravitational waves which are indicative of any activity occurring in space. In a collision of cosmic matter, energy is released in the form of gravitational waves which are then recorded by astronomers to detect the event taking place far away in the galaxy. But when it comes to this merger, the spike in gravitational waves awed the astronomers and for every right reason. Just spotting a black hole is rare enough, now imagine a collision between two.

What makes this merger mind boggling for the astronomers is the sheer size of the black holes involved in the collision. Since theoretically speaking, it is highly unlikely for stars of such giant sizes to exist. Therefore, a black hole which is a product of two or more stars colliding, existing with such a heavy mass is also unlikely-but not impossible as the merger shows.

Astronomers are putting forward all sorts of theories to explain the gigantic size of the black holes involved in the merger, some suspects the black holes to be a product of multiple smaller black holes.

How a black hole so huge came into existence is still puzzling and unknown to the astronomers but this merger nonetheless puts in perspective just how spectacular our universe is.

Hydrogen-Powered Car

When the kid from Back to the Future went to the future, he saw flying cars and floating transportation. Even though we have not quite achieved this, we still are moving towards it. Recently, the concept of hydrogen cars has been introduced.

Image: https://www.hyperion.inc/xp1

In California, a company called Hyperion has unveiled the XP-1 which is a car powered by Hydrogen with a 1000 mile range as well as a top speed of 221 mph and can launch from 0-60 in just a few seconds.

Many would assume that this firm is a competitor of Tesla, the car company created by Elon Musk, however, they intend to produce more interest in hydrogen power for the masses, rather than electric. Hence, they believe that they are not a car company rather they are an energy company that is building a car to let the world know more about hydrogen power.

Usually, cars that we use tend to have heavy lithium-ion batteries that are extremely bad for the environment. However, the Hyperion XP-1 does not have such a battery pack. It generates power through the help of two hydrogen tanks that feed its motor. This then results in lower curb weight and a much larger range.

The company generates hydrogen mostly from steam reforming of natural gas. Hence, making hydrogen is extremely environmentally friendly because the byproduct that is left behind is just water, with no harmful greenhouse gases.

However, the main issue with this car is that there are not enough hydrogen refueling stations across the country. This then makes it difficult for users to refuel their car and discourages many buyers. In the US in 2018, there were only 39 hydrogen refueling stations across the country, something that would need to change if this technology were truly to become mainstream and commercial.

Fortunately, Hyperion wants to change that and believes that there needs to be many more refueling stations. To counter this problem, they have decided to create their hydrogen fueling stations all across the country, similar to Tesla’s supercharger network.

Pandemic Murder Rates

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the whole world upside down, affecting everyone. Now if that was not enough, recent investigations show that the current pandemic has resulted in a substantial increase in the crime rate in major US cities. Among others, crimes like murder, theft, burglary and gun violence have been the top trending. Even though the murder rates when compared to the same time last year are more this year, experts are still unsure on how to connect the increase in these rates with the global pandemic.

According to studies, New York is witnessing the highest rate of gun violence during the last 25 years and the murder rate has risen by 4.1% compared to last year. This a serious matter for concern and experts are still drawing lines of comparison with the pandemic. If it isn’t controlled immediately, it might increase. Starting from June, homicides saw an increase of 250 percent in Los Angeles alone over Independence Day weekend, while Chicago witnessed 14 murders with 106 people being shot. These same cities are witnessing a rise in burglary and theft as well.

Mass shootings were reported between 3rd and 5th July that resulted in 160 people murdered and around 500 wounded. With the rise in murder, other crimes are growing as well as if the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t enough for governments to focus on.

Whether the increase in murder rates can be connected to the global pandemic or not, the rise still poses a major concern for the government. Apart from taking care and making sure that the danger posed by corona virus doesn’t increase further, the government now has to take preventive measures to control these murders as well. The entire world is facing a crisis situation where everyone is affected, the rise in murder rates increases the stress to those who are trying to remain unaffected by the global pandemic.

However, contrary to the increase in crime rates in the major US cities, the overall crime has decreased in other parts of the world. The logic behind this being that all around the world, governments imposed lockdown and stay at home orders. This affected commutes, day to day routine and leisure activities, and this meant that as people were not leaving the safety of their homes, the crime rates in those areas decreased, which is just a little ray of sunshine in these testing times.

 

Population Decline

Contrary to the widespread perception of overpopulation that will in turn lead to the exhaustion of the earth’s already scarce resources, the recent statistics show otherwise. In recent years, there has been a shift in the number of babies people are having and the rate is only decreasing. With education and awareness and also the transition of more women now entering the workforce prolonging their career paths paired with the increase use of contraception and a drop in fertility rates, the natural population is witnessing a steady decline. By 2040, some major nations like Italy and Japan are expected to witness a decline in population by half.

A population decline might seem like good news as it will reduce the negative impact on the environment and improve the division of the scarce resources among the available population, but there are several aspects that are a downside to it as well. For instance, with fewer younger people and a large number of older, the economic policies will have to be rethought. With fewer working age people, it will likely cause a negative impact on the overall GDP. This could result in a major concern for many nations as they will have to come up with well devised policies to counter these rising issues and changes in the population. The major challenge will be the huge burden of the increased need for healthcare and social support systems for the aging population.

The decline is nearer than we think, so it is vital for nations to start preparing now, before the situation actually proves to be a major problem. With the increase in aged people, it will be essential for nations to focus on increasing and improving healthcare facilities and hospitals as well as social support. The demographic change that will occur requires a lot of consideration. Will people be expected to work past their retirement age? Who will take care of all the old people? Will people just keep on working until they die? All these questions and more will have to be answered to ensure that this shift in the population structure is countered intelligently.

However, it is still unclear how the world will adapt to this major change. Overpopulation and increasing growth has always been a major problem but a shrinking population will also have an extremely harsh impact on humanity and whether or not we will prosper.

Alien Civilizations

Since childhood, most of us have been watching movies and TV shows which tell of the possible existence of alien lifeforms, a concept that is very popular throughout the world, but until now we’ve never truly known whether alien civilizations actually exist or not.

However, as technology has improved, we have been able to probe deeper into whether the concept of aliens is valid or not. Scientists have recently found some compelling evidence. According to an article in The Astrophysical Journal, it has been said that there could be dozens of intelligent lifeforms hidden around the universe communicating with one another.

This may seem like a confusing thought and many might find it very odd because we’ve always been told there is no proof of aliens. The assumption that aliens exist has been made through the fact that it takes around 5 billion years for intelligent life to form on a planet like Earth. If this is the case, then it is likely that other planets like Earth must have life on them.

The lead researcher believes that the idea is similar to evolution, but one needs to view it from a cosmic point of view. From their observations and findings, they predict that there must be 36 such civilizations in the universe which could have intelligent life on them.

Previously, all the research that had been conducted was based loosely on numbers that varied and were unpredictable. They believe that their new study has simplified such assumptions with new data and helped them research this specific number of alien civilizations.

Wrapped alongside the good news is bad news too. Even though such assumptions have been made with new data collected, the closest intelligent alien civilization must be at least 17,000 light-years away. Also, it could be possible that that civilization went extinct a long time ago.

Nonetheless, finding out more about such civilizations may give us more information about the future of humanity and reveal secrets and information we may not yet be aware of.

If we were to find out more about such civilizations, then this could help reveal the lifespan of the human race and how far we as humans can live until become extinct. However, if for example, we find that no such life exists, it predicts a grave future for our existence in this universe.

To consider that alien life could exist and might be just as technologically advanced, is very exciting, and the possibility that someone might be doing the same thing as me or you right now 17,000 light-years away is a weird thought.