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(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) — Mini Mercury skipped across the vast, glaring face of the sun Monday in a rare celestial transit. Stargazers used solar-filtered binoculars and telescopes to spot Mercury — a tiny black dot — as it passed directly between Earth and the sun on Monday.

The eastern U.S. and Canada got the whole 5 ½-hour show, weather permitting, along with Central and South America. The rest of the world, except for Asia and Australia, got just a sampling.

Mercury is the solar system’s smallest, innermost planet. The next transit isn’t until 2032, and North America won’t get another shot until 2049.

Read more: Why You Should Care About Mercury’s Transit of the Sun

In Maryland, clouds prevented NASA solar astrophysicist Alex Young from getting a clear peek. Live coverage was provided by observatories including NASA’s orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory.

“It’s a bummer, but the whole event was still great,” Young wrote in an email. “Both getting to see it from space and sharing it with people all over the country and world.”

At Cape Canaveral, space buffs got a two-for-one. As Mercury’s silhouette graced the morning sun, SpaceX launched 60 small satellites for global internet service, part of the company’s growing Starlink constellation in orbit.

(Bloomberg) — Space Exploration Technologies Corp. launched its second batch of 60 Starlink satellites on Monday, taking another step toward Elon Musk’s vision to create a network for space-based broadband internet service around the world.

One of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets rumbled aloft at 9:56 a.m. local time from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The satellites deployed a little over an hour after the launch.

Liftoff! pic.twitter.com/Rz6Y4EnEnM

— SpaceX (@SpaceX) November 11, 2019

A space-based internet service will be an important source of funding for the closely held company, according to Musk, who founded SpaceX in 2002 with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets. SpaceX launched its first batch of satellites in May and has tinkered with the design to increase spectrum capacity.

The first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket, which flew in three previous missions, landed back on a drone ship about 8 1/2 minutes after the launch.

Falcon 9 first stage has landed on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship – the fourth launch and landing of this booster pic.twitter.com/qQvH7pwMDO

— SpaceX (@SpaceX) November 11, 2019

SpaceX called off an attempt to use two vessels to catch the fairing — the nose cone that protects the payload — out of concern about sea conditions. The company still plans to retrieve the fairing, which was used in one mission earlier this year, once its two halves splash down.

Read more: SpaceX Is One of TIME’s 50 Genius Companies of 2018

SpaceX plans to continue launching Starlink satellites in batches and aims to provide service to parts of the northern U.S. and Canada next year, according to Starlink’s website. The company isn’t alone in wanting to start a constellation: Jeff Bezos’s Amazon.com Inc. has a rival effort called Project Kuiper, and SoftBank Group Corp.-backed OneWeb aims to have a network available by 2021.

“We see this as a way for SpaceX to generate revenue that can be used to develop more advanced rockets and spaceships,” Musk told journalists during a conference call in May. “This is a key stepping stone on the way toward establishing a self-sustaining city on Mars and a base on the moon.”


THURSDAY 7. NOVEMBER 2019


BERLIN (AP) — The remains of an ancient ape found in a Bavarian clay pit suggest that humans’ ancestors began standing upright millions of years earlier than previously thought, scientists said Wednesday.

An international team of researchers says the fossilized partial skeleton of a male ape that lived almost 12 million years ago in the humid forests of what is now southern Germany bears a striking resemblance to modern human bones. In a paper published by the journal Nature, they concluded that the previously unknown species — named Danuvius guggenmosi — could walk on two legs but also climb like an ape.

The findings “raise fundamental questions about our previous understanding of the evolution of the great apes and humans,” said Madelaine Boehme of the University of Tuebingen, Germany, who led the research.

The question of when apes evolved bipedal motion has fascinated scientists since Charles Darwin first argued that they were the ancestors of humans. Previous fossil records of apes with an upright gait — found in Crete and Kenya — dated only as far back as 6 million years ago.

Boehme, along with researchers from Bulgaria, Germany, Canada and the United States, examined more than 15,000 bones recovered from a trove of archaeological remains known as the Hammerschmiede, or Hammer Smithy, about 70 kilometers (44 miles) west of the Germany city of Munich.

Among the remains they were able to piece together were primate fossils belonging to four individuals that lived 11.62 million years ago. The most complete, an adult male, likely stood about 1 meter (3 feet, 4 inches) tall, weighed 31 kilograms (68 pounds) and looked similar to modern-day bonobos, a species of chimpanzee.

“It was astonishing for us to realize how similar certain bones are to humans, as opposed to great apes,” Boehme said.

Thanks to several well-preserved vertebra, limb, finger and toe bones, the scientists were able to reconstruct how Danuvius moved, concluding that while it would have been able to hang from branches by his arms, it could also straighten its legs to walk upright.

“This changes our view of early human evolution, which is that it all happened in Africa,” Boehme told The Associated Press in an interview.

Like humans, Danuvius had an S-shaped spine to hold its body upright while standing. Unlike humans, though, it had a powerful, opposable big toe that would have allowed it to grab branches with its foot and safely walk through the treetops.

Fred Spoor, a paleontologist at the Natural History Museum in London, called the fossil finds “fantastic” but said they would likely be the subject of much debate, not least because they could challenge many existing ideas about evolution.

“I can see that there will be a lot of agonizing and re-analysis of what these fossils mean,” said Spoor, who wasn’t involved in the study.


TUESDAY 5. NOVEMBER 2019


If there is any field of science that understands the doctrine of unintended consequences, it’s medicine. We rely on antibiotics to wipe out infections, and in the process breed a class of superbugs resistant to the drugs. We develop powerful medications that can control chronic pain, and in the U.S., have a nationwide addiction crisis to show for that breakthrough.

Now, it appears, we can add asthma control to the list pharmaceutical blowbacks we didn’t see coming. According to a new study published in BMJ Open, the familiar lightweight, pocket-sized aerosolized inhalers that make breathing easier for so many of the 235 million people worldwide who suffer from asthma may be choking the planet on a powerful greenhouse gas they release in the process.

The study, led by Dr. Alexander JK Wilkinson, a respiratory specialist with Britain’s National Health Service, focused on the 4.67 million people diagnosed with asthma in the United Kingdom, but it has implications for treatment worldwide, including in the U.S., where 22.6 million people (6.1 million of them children) are afflicted with the condition. The researcher compared the greenhouse gas emissions of aerosol pumps—known as metered dose inhalers (MDI)—with dry powder inhalers (DPI), which are shaped something like a hockey puck and are activated simply by inhaling. The two weren’t even close.

The problem with MDIs is not carbon dioxide (the most common greenhouse gas), but rather two types of hydrofluoroalkane (HFA) gas, which represents a far smaller share of greenhouse emissions, but a much more powerful one. Even the least polluting inhaler was found to emit HFAs at levels equal to up to 10 kg (22 lbs.) of carbon dioxide into the air over the course of its 200-puff lifetime. The worst emitted the equivalent of more than 36 kg (79 lbs) of CO2.

Dry powder inhalers, by comparison, use no HFA propellants at all. To the extent that they have any carbon footprint, it’s mostly from their manufacture and disposal, and the numbers are comparatively small—from 1.5 kg to 6 kg (3.3 lbs to 13 lbs) CO2 equivalent depending on brand.

In the U.K., MDIs represent about 70% of all inhaler prescriptions and the researchers estimate they are responsible for releasing the equivalent of 635,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide each year. If just 10% of those patients switched to DPIs, the equivalent of 58,000 metric tons of CO2 could be kept out of the atmosphere. That, Britain’s Sky News pointed out, is the same carbon footprint as 180,000 gas-powered cars driving making the round-trip journey between London and Edinburgh—about 1,300 km (or approximately 800 miles) each.

What makes such a switchover especially important, the study argues, is that many of the people who are hurt most by all this MDI outgassing are the very people the inhalers are designed to help. “Climate change is a huge and present threat to health which will disproportionately impact the poorest and most vulnerable people on the planet,” the researchers wrote, “including people with pre-existing lung disease.”

Across the rest of Europe, less than 50% of inhalers prescribed are MDIs and in Scandinavia it’s barely 10%. The difference, in most cases, is less about pharmaceutical efficacy than simply local medical custom and practice.

The authors are not calling for a blanket elimination of MDIs. Dry powder inhalers require patients to have at least enough lung strength to draw in the medication, and many do not. For them, the forced puff of an MDI is the only way to administer the drug.

“We recognize the need to protect the environment,” said Jesica Kirby, head of health advice for the advocacy group Asthma UK, in a statement responding to the study, “but it’s critically important that people with asthma receive the medicines they need to stay well and avoid a life-threatening asthma attack.”

As with so many things medical, the right solution is all about finding the proper balance between cost and benefits. In the case of asthma, the benefit of dialing back the aerosols and turning to alternatives whenever possible can accrue to not just individual patients, but the planet at large.

Editor’s note, Nov. 7:

The original headline on this story has been updated to clarify that it is one commonly used type of inhaler—not all inhalers—that emits significant greenhouse gases.

Correction, Nov. 9:

An earlier version of this story misstated the greenhouse gas in the inhalers; it is hydrofluoroalkane, not methane.


MONDAY 4. NOVEMBER 2019


WASHINGTON (AP) — For more than two years President Donald Trump has talked about pulling the United States out of the landmark Paris climate agreement. Starting Monday he finally can do something about it.

Even then, though, the withdrawal process takes a year and wouldn’t become official until at least the day after the 2020 presidential election.

In the Paris agreement, nearly 200 countries set their own national targets for reducing or controlling pollution of heat-trapping gases. It was negotiated in 2015 with lots of prodding by the United States and China and went into effect Nov. 4, 2016.

The terms of the deal say no country can withdraw in the first three years. So Monday is the first time the U.S. could actually start the withdrawal process, which begins with a letter to the United Nations. And it doesn’t become official for a year after that, which leads to the day after the election.

If someone other than Trump wins in 2020, the next president could get back in the deal in just 30 days and plan to cut carbon pollution, said Andrew Light, a former Obama State Department climate negotiator now at the nonprofit World Resources Institute.

Light and other experts say the withdrawal by the United States, the second biggest climate polluter and world’s largest economy, will hurt efforts to fight global warming.

“Global objectives can’t be met unless everybody does their part and the U.S. has to play the game,” said Appalachian State University environmental sciences professor Gregg Marland, who is part of a global effort to track carbon dioxide emissions. “We’re the second biggest player. What happens to the game if we take our ball and go home?”

Someone else, probably the biggest polluter China, will take over leadership in the global fight, said MIT economist Jake Jacoby, who co-founded the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change.

The penalty for the U.S. “is not in economic loss. The penalty is in shame, in discrediting U.S. leadership,” Jacoby said.

Asked what the U.S. plans next, State Department spokesman James Dewey on Friday emailed only this: “The U.S. position with respect to the Paris Agreement has not changed. The United States intends to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.”

The agreement set goals of preventing another 0.9 degrees (0.5 degrees Celsius) to 1.8 degrees (1 degree Celsius) of warming from current levels. Even the pledges made in 2015 weren’t enough to prevent those levels of warming.

The deal calls for nations to come up with more ambitious pollution cuts every five years, starting in November 2020 in at a meeting in Scotland. Because of the expected withdrawal, the U.S. role in 2020 negotiations will be reduced, Light said.

Climate change, caused by the burning of coal, oil and gas, has already warmed the world by 1.8 degrees (1 degree Celsius) since the late 1800s, caused massive melting of ice globally, triggered weather extremes and changed ocean chemistry. And scientists say, depending on how much carbon dioxide is emitted, it will only get worse by the end of the century with temperatures jumping by several degrees and oceans rising by close to three feet (1 meter).

Trump has been promising to pull out of the Paris deal since 2017, often mischaracterizing the terms of the agreement, which are voluntary. In October, he called it a massive wealth transfer from America to other nations and said it was one-sided

That’s not the case, experts said.

For example, the U.S. goal — set by Barack Obama’s administration — had been to reduce carbon dioxide emission in 2025 by 26% to 28% compared to 2005 levels. This translates to about 15% compared to 1990 levels.

The European Union’s goal was to cut carbon pollution in 2030 by 40% compared to 1990 levels, which is greater than America’s pledge, said Stanford University’s Rob Jackson, who chairs the Global Carbon Project, a group of scientists that track carbon emissions worldwide. The United Kingdom has already exceeded that goal, he said.

“The U.S. agreement is not a tax on the American people. There is no massive wealth transfer,” said Climate Advisers CEO Nigel Purvis, who was a lead State Department climate negotiator in the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. “In fact, the agreement obligates no country to make any financial payments.”

Formally getting out of the Paris agreement is bad, but at this point after years of rhetoric is more symbolic than anything, said Georgia Tech climate scientist Kim Cobb. She said she is more worried about other Trump carbon pollution actions, such as fighting California’s tougher emissions and mileage standards and rollbacks of coal fired power plant regulations.

The U.S. was not on track to reach its Paris pledge, according to the federal Energy Information Administration’s latest projections.

The EIA projects that in 2025 emissions will be at 4959 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, 17% below 2005 levels, about 500 million tons short of the goal. Emissions in 2018 were nearly 2% higher than in 2016, the agency’s latest energy outlook says. That spike likely was from extreme weather and economic growth, Marland and Jacoby said.


SATURDAY 2. NOVEMBER 2019


A supply ship rocketed toward the International Space Station on Saturday with sports car parts, an oven for baking cookies and a vest to protect against radiation.

Northrop Grumman launched its Cygnus capsule for NASA from Wallops Island, Virginia. The 8,200-pound shipment (3,700 kilograms) should reach the orbiting lab Monday.

“Good launch all the way around,” a ground controller observed.

The space station’s astronauts will test the oven by baking chocolate chip cookies from scratch and try out the new safety vest to gauge its comfort. Both experiments are seen as precursors to moon and Mars journeys.

Other newly arriving equipment will be used in a series of NASA spacewalks later this month to fix a key particle physics detector. Parked outside the space station since 2011, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer needs new cooling pumps to continue its search for elusive dark matter and antimatter.

Italy’s Lamborghini is also along for the ride. It’s sending up samples of carbon fiber used in its sports cars for six months of direct space exposure. Researchers are considering the materials for medical implants.

Like space, the insides of a person’s body are an extreme environment, explained Houston Methodist’s Alessandro Grattoni, who is collaborating with Lamborghini on the experiment. As a nanomedicine specialist, he said Friday he’s continuously on the lookout for new materials for devices that are inserted beneath the skin. These minuscule implants release therapeutic drugs to treat cancer, hormone deficiencies and other illnesses.

Northrop Grumman is now controlling two Cygnus capsules in orbit, a first for the Virginia-based company. Named for the swan constellation, the Cygnus launched last spring is flying free of the 250-mile-high (400-kilometer-high) space station, after completing its grocery run. It will be directed to a fiery re-entry sometime in the near future, taking station trash down with it, according to company officials.

The newest Cygnus is officially called the S.S. Alan Bean after the Apollo 12 astronaut who became the fourth man to walk on the moon 50 years ago this month. He later commanded NASA’s first space station, Skylab, and became known for his cosmic-themed paintings. He died last year.

NASA has contracted with Northrop Grumman and SpaceX to keep the space station stocked. This is Northrop Grumman’s 12th successful Cygnus flight since 2013. The company has upgraded both its Cygnus and Antares rocket to haul more cargo from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on the eastern Virginia shore.

The space station is currently home to three Americans, two Russians and one Italian.


FRIDAY 1. NOVEMBER 2019


In the late ’90s, wildlife conservationists Zoe Jewell and Sky Alibhai were grappling with a troubling realization. The pair had been studying black rhino populations in Zimbabwe, and they spent a good deal of their time shooting the animals with tranquilizer darts and affixing radio collars around their necks. But after years of work, the researchers realized there was a major problem: Their technique, commonly used by all manner of wildlife scientists, seemed to be causing female rhinos to have fewer offspring.

The researchers published their findings in 2001, igniting a controversy in the conservation world. The problem, says Duke University professor of conservation ecology Stuart Pimm, is that being “collared” is extremely stressful for animals. “If you were walking through your neighborhood and suddenly a bunch of strange people came charging after you … and you got shot in the ass with a dart and woke up with something around your neck, I think you’d be in pretty bad shape too,” he says.

But Jewell and Alibhai had an idea. While working alongside the Shona tribe in Zimbabwe, they saw how the indigenous trackers were able to deduce an enormous amount of information about wildlife from animals’ footprints, including weight, sex, and species, all without getting anywhere close to the animals themselves. “We would go out with local game scouts, who were often expert trackers, and they would often laugh at us as we were listening to these signals coming from the collars,” Jewell says. “They would say to us, ‘all you need to do is look on the ground.”

Might it be possible, they wondered, to apply those time-tested techniques to conservation efforts?

Yes, it turns out. In 2004, the pair founded WildTrack, a nonprofit organization that developed a footprint identification technique (FIT) and specialized software for researchers to track wildlife populations. WildTrack can identify individual animals with 95% accuracy, it says, all without getting up close or using camera traps. Furthermore, Jewell says WildTrack’s technique can help solve one of the core challenges in any conservation effort: figuring out how many animals are in the wild, and where exactly they are.

While the process was inspired by indigenous trackers, Jewell says WildTrack’s technology is still limited compared to their capabilities. “It’s humbling in a way to look at what these expert [trackers] can do in the field,” she says. “We can only still emulate a tiny bit of that.”

WildtrackA rhino footprint in Namibia. Researchers can use software to track rare animals without getting up close

WildTrack’s method is being used in dozens of conservation efforts around the world, from monitoring rhinos in Namibia, to eurasian otters in Portugal, to tigers in Nepal. In China, where panda researchers formerly had little option but to measure the lengths of undigested bamboo pieces in feces to identify and track individuals, the FIT protocol, which is faster and more accurate, has been a breakthrough. “This is extraordinary, exciting work,” says Pimm. “It’s technologically very clever, and it feeds directly into good natural history.”

With hundreds of footprint images now coming in every week from monitoring efforts across the world, the researchers at WildTrack are looking to new advances in computing, especially artificial intelligence (AI), to speed up their work. Jewell and Alibhai have been working with software provider SAS since the late nineties. In 2018, they collaborated to create a machine learning algorithm that can automatically identify footprints or find marker points in footprint images, a task researchers used to carry out by hand. The team soon trained an AI system to recognize different species of big cats just from looking at paw prints. “After a while, you get it to tell the difference between a cougar and a snow leopard, or any of the big cats really,” says Craig Mann, a software developer on the WildTrack project at SAS. Although the AI software doesn’t yet do all the work of human researchers, it has made the time-consuming FIT process about five times faster.

AI advancements aren’t just being used to help conservation efforts in the lab — WildTrack’s researchers are also using AI to improve their footprint-gathering technique. Together with European drone company SenseFly, they’re developing an AI-powered drone to track footprints and collect information about animals from the air. In August, the researchers tested a drone typically used for mining, surveying and agriculture to scan a large area and locate human, dog and horse tracks. Their hope is to develop a drone that can scan footprints in higher resolution, as well as follow animal tracks across grasslands or deep snow.

WildtrackA black rhino in Namibia, as seen from a specially designed drone. Technology like this could help researchers and authorities keep track of threatened species

Some of WildTrack’s work has attracted interest from outside the conservation community. The group has received financial support from the U.S. Army, which often funds projects in which it sees a possible long-term benefit. Some of that interest came from the Army’s own conservation work, which includes helping park rangers prevent poaching and illicit trafficking of elephant tusks and rhino horns, activities that can fund extremist groups. But it’s also interested in using similar techniques to track humans. “We see this as a long-term investment,” says Stephan Lee, a chief scientist at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory. “The techniques developed can be obviously applied to studying if [we can be] identifying individuals specifically.”

For Jewell, it’s a fortunate coincidence that the U.S. Army’s goals align with those of WildTrack. She says stopping trade in body parts like rhino horns from endangered animals is beneficial both for conservation and regional stability. “We feel very encouraged that the U.S. Army Research Office is working with us to support the conservation of endangered species and glad that we have a common mission,” she says over email.

That military research may eventually pay dividends in the defense sphere, but it’s also a potent reminder of the potential for all technologies, even those developed for as agreeable a purpose as wildlife conservation, to be used in different ways than originally intended. But for conservationists faced with a slew of threats — poaching, habitat loss, climate change — there may be little alternative but to use every technological advancement and financial opportunity at their disposal to prevent the extinction of vital species. And if that means monitoring rhinos from military-funded, AI-powered footprint tracking drones gliding high above the savanna, then so be it. “Non-invasive monitoring, I think it’s very much an idea that’s time has come,” says Pimm. “It’s going to be the wave of the future.”

Perched on the ochre scrub of Argentina’s sunbaked Puna Jujeña plateau, the $400 million Cauchari power station is the world’s highest-altitude solar farm at 13,000 ft (about 4,000 meters) above sea level. In Kenya’s volcano-strewn Rift Valley, a newly green-lit, super-efficient electrical substation will soon funnel clean power from the nearby Olkaria Geothermal Plant about 50 miles (80 km) to downtown Nairobi. Some 14 miles off blustery northeastern Scotland, Moray East is set to become the world’s largest offshore wind farm, helping to heat and light up to a million homes.

Three distinct renewable energy projects utilizing cutting edge technology in far-flung corners of the globe sharing one uniting characteristic: Chinese finance. Over the past five years, Chinese bankrolling of green energy projects overseas has soared as the world’s number two economy and number one polluter rebrands itself as an environmental champion.

Not only is China today the world’s largest producer of solar panels, wind turbines, batteries and electric vehicles, but it has also been the top investor in clean energy for nine out of the last ten years, according to the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management. Since 2014, Chinese equity investment has supported a total of 12,622 megawatts (MW) of wind and solar projects in South and Southeast Asia alone, according to new research by Greenpeace. That’s the equivalent of 21 standard coal plants or enough to power New York City. The shift from simply exporting to bankrolling green tech—driven by both a drying up of domestic subsidies in China and new incentives to invest abroad—is a boon since “it means China really cares about the future profitability of each project,” says Greenpeace campaigner Liu Junyan.

Beijing’s refocus from fossil fuels to renewable energy is a net positive for a myriad of reasons: protecting scarce resources, cutting carbon emissions that spur global warming, and boosting energy security by reducing reliance on costly fuel imports. While only a hatful of nations boast significant oil and gas reserves, nearly all have the potential to develop clean energy themselves, whether via solar, wind, tidal, geothermal or hydroelectric plants, mitigating geopolitical tensions by making the world less dependent on restive regions like the Middle East.


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Chinese export of renewable energy technology around the globe is set to boost Beijing’s clout as the influence of major oil exporters like Russia and Saudi Arabia wanes. China has by far the most renewable energy patents with the U.S., Japan and Europe lagging behind. “No country has put itself in a better position to become the world’s renewable energy superpower than China,” says a recent report by the Global Commission on the Geopolitics of Energy Transformation, chaired by former Iceland President Olafur Grimsson.

The U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accords under President Donald Trump provided China an opening to seize. America’s abandonment of global leadership on the issue was thrown into sharper focus by Trump’s empty chair during a climate change discussion at August’s G7 meeting in France. “The U.S. administration is not particularly interested in renewables at home let alone overseas,” says Simon Nicholas, an analyst for the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. Now, China has firmly established its leading position in renewable energy output, as well as in related technologies such as electric vehicles, transmission lines and battery storage, and Beijing is managing to weaponize green technology in a way that strategic rivals like the U.S. may struggle to counter.

For many Chinese investors, a combination of rising domestic competition and rolling back of subsidies at home has widened their gaze. In solar firm Sungrow’s six-story, steel-and-glass headquarters in China’s eastern province of Anhui, CEO Cao Renxian explains how “struggles with the U.S. trade war” forced him to relocate production to India in order to dodge the 25% tariffs the Trump Administration slapped on imported made-in-China panels last year.

After overcoming the significant cultural, legal and linguistic barriers to secure a foothold abroad, Cao now has designs on growing his foreign portfolio. Sungrow currently has stakes in two solar farms of a combined 90 MW in Vietnam, and is constructing a new 60 MW solar farm to soak up the cerulean skies 100 miles north of Melbourne, Australia. Cao explains his global efforts as something of a rapturous calling “to boost environmental protection for our nation and the whole world,” while adding that his firm now sees annual revenues of 10 billion RMB ($1.4 billion).

The geostrategic corollaries are vast. These green investments chime with Chinese President Xi Jinping’s signature Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a metaphorical repaving of the ancient Silk Road though a $1 trillion transcontinental trade-and-infrastructure network largely bankrolled by Beijing. It has the potential to be the world’s greatest building project since the Marshall Plan, which rebuilt Europe in the aftermath of World War II. The BRI will extend China’s presence across the globe while reorienting nations away from the U.S.-and-Eurocentricism of the last half century.

Since the BRI was enshrined in the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) constitution in 2017, the nation’s biggest banks are obliged to offer preferential loans towards its projects. There are also tens of billions of dollars set aside in dedicated cash pools like the Silk Road Fund. The Import-Export Bank of China, for one, loaned enough money to fund 85% of the Cauchari solar farm in Argentina at just 3% annual interest over 15 years, according to Reuters. (That compares favorably to the more typical 4.5%-7% interest bank loans for such projects.) The proviso is that three quarters of materials used on the project are sourced from Chinese firms such as Huawei.

Apart from the obvious headache of having allies and partners in hock to Beijing, national security concerns loom large. The Trump Administration has accused Huawei—the world’s biggest supplier of telecoms equipment as well as solar inverters, which turn the energy produced by solar panels into a grid-ready electrical current—of installing illicit “backdoors” in equipment that could be used to spy on or cripple users’ networks, and has threatened to cut off intelligence sharing with nations that embed it. (Huawei vehemently denies this, and hard evidence is scant.)

Suspicions regarding Chinese firms persist, however, with the E.U. in March even branding Beijing a “systemic rival.” Last year, Germany blocked a deal in which China’s state-owned State Grid, the world’s largest utility company, would have purchased a $1.2 billion stake in Germany’s national high-voltage energy network, on apparent “national security” grounds.

However, since State Grid’s cutting-edge high-voltage transmission lines, which are far more efficient than existing technology for long-distance transmission, are seen as vital for linking remote and underutilized renewable energy plants into the national grid, many nations believe the benefits outweigh any risk.

Few have embraced Chinese renewable technology and investment as warmly as Brazil, where State Grid is the largest power generation and distribution company. Another Chinese behemoth, China Three Gorges (CTG), the world’s largest hydropower provider with operations across 47 countries, controlling 14 out of a total of 48 hydro-plants in Brazil, amounting to 8% of the nation’s total hydropower capacity, as well as 11 wind farms. CTG Brazil CEO Li Yinsheng tells TIME that Brazil is attractive for investment because it has the resources, demand and necessary regulatory framework. “And by combining [Chinese and Brazilian] equities we are in a unique position to be more competitive in the market,” he says.

It’s not all blue skies ahead for China. The country still generates 70% of its power from coal, and will continue to consume about half the world’s coal until 2023, according to the International Energy Agency. It also approved 141 million tons of new annual coal mining capacity in the first half of this year; in the whole of 2018, Beijing approved just 25 million tons of new coal mining capacity.

The vast majority of the more than $244 billion that China has spent on energy projects worldwide since 2000 have been on fossil fuels, according to data from the Global Development Policy Center, a policy-oriented research body affiliated with Boston University. Despite Xi telling journalists at April’s second Belt and Road Forum in Beijing that he embraces “open, clean and green development,” China has financed more than 300 foreign coal plants from Egypt to the Philippines.

According to Nicholas, the analyst at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, Beijing’s vociferous championing of renewables is “partly an attempt to position itself globally regarding climate issues, but also to distract from the fact that it’s also heavily pushing coal-fired technology to developing countries.” For as long as the Chinese Communist Party’s legitimacy relies on the prosperity of the Chinese people, green intentions will always be sacrificed on the altar of economic expediency, both at home and abroad.


THURSDAY 31. OCTOBER 2019


Of all the sounds humans produce, nothing captures our attention quite like a good scream.

They’re a regular feature of horror films, whether it’s Marion Crane’s infamous shower scream in “Psycho” or Chrissie Watkins’ blood-curdling scream at the beginning of “Jaws.”

Screams might seem simple, but they can actually convey a complex set of emotions. The arsenal of human screams has been honed over millions of years of evolution, with subtle nuances in volume, timing and inflection that can signal different things.

Ancestral cues

Screaming can be traced to the prehistoric ancestors we share with other primates, who use screams as a key component of their social repertoire.

Screams are especially important in monkey societies.

Emory University psychologist Harold Gouzoules is one of the world’s leading screaming experts. He’s been able to show how monkey screams convey a wealth of information. Different screams at different pitches and volumes can communicate different levels of urgency, such as whether a fight is simply about to take place or whether a predator is in the area.

The grammar of monkey screams can be surprisingly sophisticated.

African vervet monkeys, for example, have three main predators: leopards, snakes and eagles. Each type of predator requires different escape routes. To elude an eagle, the monkey must abandon wide-open spaces and seek shelter in dense shrubbery. But this would be exactly the wrong response if a snake were lurking in bushes.

For this reason, vervets have evolved a pattern of distinct screams that not only act as a warning but also reveal the type of predator in their midst.

Monkeys can even identify other individual monkeys from their screams.

This is highly adaptive, because it enables the listener to assess the importance of the screamer to the listener, facilitating the protection of children and other relatives.

Why screams of terror stand out

Like monkeys, humans have the ability to identify people they know by the sound of their screams.

Humans produce a range of screams as well: There are screams that reflect more positive emotions, such as surprise and happiness. And then there are screams of anguish, screams of pain and, of course, screams of terror.

Screams can be described according to their place along an acoustic dimension known as “roughness.”

Roughness is a quality that reflects the rate at which a scream changes or varies in loudness. The more rapidly the loudness fluctuates, the “rougher” the scream. And the rougher a scream is, the more terrifying it’s perceived to be.

Psychologist David Poeppel looked at brain images of people listening to recordings of human screams and found that, unlike other human vocalizations, screams get routed directly to the amygdala, which is the part of the brain that processes fear, anger and other intense emotions.

And among the variety of human screams, it is screams of terror that stand out most vividly. Other unpleasant sounds, such as a baby’s cry and fingernails on a chalkboard, share some of the same features that make screams unpleasant and terrifying.

The best screamers survived

It makes good evolutionary sense for screams of terror to be the most attention-grabbing; these are the ones that most clearly warn of an imminent danger.

Humans who couldn’t readily distinguish among different types of screams may not have responded with appropriate urgency in life-or-death situations. Over time, this would have diminished the frequency of their genes in the population.

So we’re probably the descendants of individuals who were good screamers and were also good at reading the screams of their fellow humans. This may help explain the perverse joy we get by intentionally subjecting ourselves to scream-inducing experiences like horror movies and roller coasters.

How better to celebrate the screaming success of our prehistoric ancestors?

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


WEDNESDAY 30. OCTOBER 2019


25-year-old Jenna Schardt underwent brain surgery — while awake — in Texas on Tuesday, and the procedure was livestreamed on Facebook.

Doctors with the Methodist Dallas Medical Center performed the surgery to remove a mass of tangled blood vessels in Schardt’s brain that had impaired her speech and caused seizures. At the beginning of the operation, Schardt was put under anesthesia so doctors could cut into her skull. Once they reached her brain, Schardt was woken up so she could speak and answer questions, helping doctors map her brain.

During the surgery, Schardt was shown an iPad on which she identified a series of numbers, colors, animals and other objects. Patel explained that if Schardt was able to identify what was on the iPad, surgeons would know which areas of her brain were OK to touch; if she made a mistake, they knew which areas to avoid.

“Basically we have a GPS tracking system for the brain already, and we need to find out where are the places that we want to avoid and where are the places that are safe to go,” Dr. Nimesh Patel, who helped to narrate the procedure, explained in the video. “Any small movements, a millimeter to the left, a millimeter to the right, can affect her speech.”

“Twenty. Bananas. Two. Orange,” Schardt could be heard saying. Doctors repeated some sequences, and had Schardt say the same words over to make sure they had all the information they needed, Patel said.

Tens of thousands of people tuned in to the live broadcast. As of Wednesday morning, the video has about 93,000 views. Schardt, who is studying to be an occupational therapist, said she wanted to have the surgery livestreamed to help others who might have to have a similar procedure. A few hours after the surgery was performed, the hospital said on Facebook that Schardt was doing well and with her parents.

“I’m so impressed by her,” Patel said in the video.

Awake brain surgery has become a more commonplace procedure for doctors in recent years; a patient undergoing brain surgery at the University of Rochester played the saxophone while doctors performed the procedure.

And live videos from the operating room are not unheard of either. A Texan woman had her breast cancer surgery livestreamed on Facebook in 2018 to raise awareness of the disease.


TUESDAY 29. OCTOBER 2019


(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) — The Air Force’s mystery space plane is back on Earth, following a record-breaking two-year mission.

The X-37B landed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida early Sunday. The Air Force is mum about what the plane did in orbit after launching aboard a SpaceX rocket in 2017. The 780-day mission sets a new endurance record for the reusable test vehicle.

It looks like a space shuttle but is one-fourth the size at 29 feet.

Officials say this latest mission successfully completed its objectives. Experiments from the Air Force Research Laboratory were aboard.

This was the fifth spaceflight by a vehicle of this sort. No. 6 is planned next year with another launch from Cape Canaveral. The solar-powered plane is flown by remote control without a crew.

Fall is here, and the mercury is falling in thermostats across the northern hemisphere. The good news: Not only will your body acclimate to the cooler weather, but you can also hurry this process along.

Beginning in the 1960s, U.S. Army researchers found that nude men who spent eight hours a day in a 50°F (10°C) chamber became habituated to the cold and had mostly stopped shivering after two weeks. Later research from Scandinavian and U.K. teams likewise concluded that people can get used to cool environments. And a recent research review from Army researchers concluded that all humans seem to have at least some ability to acclimatize to the cold.

A small 2014 study published in the journal PLOS One, a group of healthy men spent up to three hours a day sitting in baths filled with 57°F (about 14°C) water. (That’s roughly the temperature of the Atlantic Ocean along the New Jersey and New York coastlines in late October, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.)

At the start of the 20-day study, the men did a lot of shivering, which is the human body’s initial response to cold. Their heart rates and metabolisms sped up, generating heat. At the same time, their blood vessels narrowed and drew back from the surface of the skin, causing skin temperature to drop. Basically, the men’s vascular systems clenched—pulling blood toward their warmer interiors in an effort to escape the exterior cold.

But by Day 20, much had changed. The men’s shivering had more or less stopped. While their metabolisms and heart rates still sped up in response to the cold-water bath, their blood vessels no longer constricted and their skin temperature didn’t drop the way it had before. The men reported less discomfort during their chilly baths. At the same time, their blood samples contained fewer markers of cold-induced stress and immune-system activity. It appeared their bodies had gotten used to the chill.

The changes your body goes through in cold weather

“Everyone has an ability, to some extent, to acclimatize to cold,” says Marius Brazaitis, first author of the study and a senior researcher at Lithuanian Sports University. He says the human body seems to achieve acclimatization through a mix of different internal adjustments, which people can either encourage or suppress depending on their behaviors.

What sorts of internal adjustments? There’s evidence that a particular type of fatty tissue, known as “brown fat,” may help the body generate heat in response to persistently cold conditions. “Chronic cold exposure somehow activates brown fat, which we know undergoes dramatic seasonal changes,” says Shingo Kajimura, a professor in the Department of Cell and Tissue Biology at the University of California, San Francisco.

Kajimura says newborns have a lot of brown fat, which helps them stay warm because they lack sufficient muscle to shiver. While it was once thought that people lost their stores of brown fat as they grew out of infancy, research has found that parts of the adult body—specifically, the area around the upper spine and neck—either retain brown fat or generate new brown-fat tissues in response to cold.

The placement of this brown fat is important. Kajimura says that temperature perception is monitored by the brain, which detects the cold in part by noting the temperature of blood flowing into it through the neck. “That’s why putting a scarf on makes you feel warm,” he says. By warming the neck and the blood flowing through it, a scarf “tricks” the brain into believing it’s warm—just as a cold cloth on the neck can help the brain cool off in summer. It’s possible that, in response to regular cold exposure, brown fat in the neck area both forms and becomes more active, keeping us more comfortable at colder temperatures.

Brazaitis says the human body seems to possess a number of different mechanisms that help it adjust to the cold. But most people in the developed world suppress these adaptive mechanisms, at least to an extent, by shielding their bodies from “thermal distress.”

“Putting on more clothes, drinking more hot drinks, increasing room temperature, consuming more food, which increases inner metabolic rate—this behavior does not allow [the body] to become more resistant to cold,” he says.

While they may impede the body’s ability to adjust to colder temps, pulling on a sweater or sipping some hot tea does little long-term harm. But cranking up the thermostat in your car or home costs money. Home and vehicle heating is also a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. By encouraging your body to adapt to the cold, you can feel comfortable during the fall and winter without needing to entirely rely on heating system.

Adjusting your thermostat down by a few degrees, shedding layers, and spending more time outside in cold conditions—basically, anything that causes you to shiver—will help your body acclimate to the cold, Brazaitis says. If you can induce shivering a few times a day, you’ll begin to feel more comfortable in colder temps after just one week, he says.

The quickest way to adapt to the cold

If you really want to accelerate your body’s habituation to the cold, frigid showers will get the job done. “Cold showers are no fun, but they cause the body to adapt pretty quickly,” says John Castellani, a research physiologist for the U.S. Army who has studied how people respond and adapt to the cold. He suggests starting off with just a quick cold-shower exposure—say 15 seconds—and adding 10 seconds every day. (You can turn up the water temp once you’ve endured your measure of icy water.)

Spending time in a cold shower or in other cold environments is safe for most—and may even confer some health benefits. But people at risk for heart trouble need to be cautious. “The first thing that happens when you’re exposed to cold is your blood vessels constrict and blood pressure goes up,” Castellani says. And so exposure to the cold—especially extreme cold, like jumping in an icy lake—can trigger a heart attack or other problem in people who have heart disease, he says.

But if your heart’s healthy and you’re looking to harness your body’s natural ability to adapt to the cold, a week of shivering—and maybe a few cold showers—should do the trick.


MONDAY 28. OCTOBER 2019


Northern California’s Kincade wildfire has grown so large that a satellite was able to record the plumes from 22,300 miles away in space.

The fire that began on Oct. 23 has grown to burn more than 66,200 acres of Sonoma county and is so far only 5% contained. As of Monday, three people have died, at least two first responders have been injured, 96 structures like homes and businesses have been destroyed and an additional 16 structures have been damaged. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) predicts the wildfire will not be fully contained until Nov. 7. Thousands have had to evacuate their homes throughout the state, and thousands more have been left without power as a result of precautionary outages.

In order to better visualize the Kincade wildfire, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) compiled images taken 5 minutes apart by the GOES-17 satellite and combined them into a short clip.

“It’s kind of a striking animation,” says Dan Lindsey, an atmospheric scientist and satellite expert at NOAA who provided the images. “This is just a way for people who are not there to visualize what it looks like from space, and it gives us a good idea of the spatial extent of the smoke.” (The Bay Area Air Quality Management District issued an air quality advisory on Friday as a result of heavy smoke that is expected to continue through Monday.)

TODAY: NOAA's #GOES17, from 22,300 miles in space, captures the thick smoke plumes streaming from the massive #KincadeFire. @NWS: "Potentially historic fire weather conditions expected in the northern Bay Area."
#CaliforniaFires #CaWx #CAFireWX pic.twitter.com/u4Aqxwhr3k

— NOAA Satellites – Public Affairs (@NOAASatellitePA) October 27, 2019

AFTERNOON UPDATE: NOAA's #GOES17 satellite is tracking the #smoke from both the #KincadeFire in #SonomaCounty and the #GrizzlyFire in #SolanoCounty. A #critical #fire risk continues for parts of #NorthernCalifornia this afternoon. #CaliforniaFires #CaWx #CAFireWX pic.twitter.com/lC8VTiy7qD

— NOAA Satellites – Public Affairs (@NOAASatellitePA) October 28, 2019

Similar satellite imagery captured the 46,000 wildfires that burned the Amazon rainforest in Brazil this summer, and wildfires that engulfed parts of the arctic in Siberia and Alaska in August. “At any given time you could probably look around the earth and find fires that are on the order of this big,” Lindsey says. “But these are in California and relatively close to population centers… these are quite intense.”

This year’s California wildfires, which have totaled more than 5,800, have already engulfed more than 162,000 acres and killed three people. Although wildfires are a natural part of California’s ecosystem, fire season has begun to start earlier and end later each year. “Climate change is considered a key driver of this trend. Warmer spring and summer temperatures, reduced snowpack, and earlier spring snowmelt create longer and more intense dry seasons that increase moisture stress on vegetation and make forests more susceptible to severe wildfire,” Cal Fire’s website explains.

More satellite imagery can be seen on NOAA’s website.

Time lapse of the #KincadeFire Very active fire behavior fueled by strong and gusty winds. Notice the cam is shaking too. View is from Mt St Helena #cawx #cafire pic.twitter.com/gwqXG9CzYM

— NWS Bay Area (@NWSBayArea) October 27, 2019

ROTTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) — Dutch inventor Boyan Slat is widening his effort to clean up floating plastic from the Pacific Ocean by moving into rivers, too, using a new floating device to catch garbage before it reaches the seas.

The 25-year-old university dropout founded The Ocean Cleanup to develop and deploy a system he invented when he was 18 that catches plastic waste floating in the ocean.

On Saturday he unveiled the next step in his fight: A floating solar-powered device that he calls the “Interceptor” that scoops plastic out of rivers as it drifts past.

“We need to close the tap, which means preventing more plastic from reaching the ocean in the first place,” he said, calling rivers “the arteries that carry the trash from land to sea.”

Slat’s organization has in the past drawn criticism for focusing only on the plastic trash already floating in the world’s oceans.

Experts say that some 9 million tons (8 million metric tons) of plastic waste, including plastic bottles, bags, toys and other items, flow annually into the ocean from beaches, rivers and creeks.

Three of the machines already are deployed to Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam — and a fourth is heading to the Dominican Republic, he said.

Izham Hashim from the government of Selangor state in Malaysia was present at the launch and said he was happy with the machine.

“It has been used for one and a half months in the river and it’s doing very well, collecting the plastic bottles and all the rubbish,” he said.

Slat said he believes 1,000 rivers are responsible for some 80% of plastic pouring into the world’s oceans and he wants to tackle them all in the coming five years.

“This is not going to be easy, but imagine if we do get this done,” he told his audience of enthusiastic supporters, who whooped, clapped and cheered his announcements. “We could truly make our oceans clean again.”

The vessel is designed to be moored in rivers and has a nose shaped to deflect away larger floating debris like tree trunks.

He used his live-streamed unveiling to appeal for support from countries committing to clean up their rivers and businesses prepared to inject funding and help with the operation of the devices.

The interceptors work by guiding plastic waste into an opening in its bow, a conveyor belt then carries the trash into the guts of the machine where it is dropped into dumpsters. The interceptor sends a text message to local operators that can come and empty it when it’s full.

Slat showed off how it worked by dumping hundreds of yellow rubber ducks into the water at the launch event in Rotterdam’s port. The interceptor caught nearly all of them.

The machines currently cost about 700,000 euros ($775,600), but Slat said the cost will likely drop as production increases.

Jan van Franeker of the Wageningen Marine Research institute has been critical of The Ocean Cleanup in the past, but said the new device looks promising.

“I am really happy they finally moved toward the source of the litter,” he said in a telephone interview. “The design, from what I can see, looks pretty good.”

Slat argued that the economic impact of not picking plastic out of rivers is higher than the cost of buying and using the machines.

“Deploying interceptors is even cheaper than deploying nothing at all,” he said.


FRIDAY 25. OCTOBER 2019


One irony of history is that while Thomas Edison invented the first practical and affordable light bulb, he didn’t invent a practical and affordable system for keeping those lights on nationwide. The distinction for developing the system for transporting electricity that way goes jointly to George Westinghouse, the inventor of the railroad air brake, and to Nikola Tesla, a visionary engineer from the Austrian empire.

In the 1880s, the three went to battle over who had the superior technology for electrical transmission. The three-way rivalry between the inventors is the premise of The Current War (a movie that has its own dramatic back story), starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Edison, Nicholas Hoult as Tesla and Michael Shannon as Westinghouse. Edison was promoting direct current (DC), while Westinghouse was promoting alternating current (AC). As the U.S. Department of Energy explains, direct current “runs continually in a single direction, like in a battery or a fuel cell,” while “alternating current reverses direction a certain number of times per second — 60 in the U.S. — and can be converted to different voltages relatively easily using a transformer.”

But the differences between the two went beyond their definitions.

“If we were living in Edison’s world, we’d have a large coal-operated generating plant every mile or two, because DC couldn’t travel any distance,” says Jill Jonnes, author of Empires of Light: Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse, and the Race to Electrify the World. (Jonnes was not involved in the film.) “The brilliance of AC was that you could send it long distances, bring the voltage down via another transformer station, and distribute it as needed out into the surroundings.”

On the other hand, DC systems were ahead of AC systems in terms of developing a motor. There was huge business potential for nailing the design of electric motors, in terms of the future of powering machines, factories and appliances. Tesla wanted to develop an AC-power motor, and had tried to get Edison on board when he worked for Edison in New York City in 1884; Tesla left after six months when it was clear that Edison wasn’t interested in that idea.

Edison wanted to keep proving his DC system was better, despite its drawbacks, so he zeroed in on the fact that alternating current operated at much higher voltages than direct current. Therefore, he reasoned, it must be more dangerous. As he wrote in 1886, “Westinghouse will kill a customer within six months after he puts in a system of any size.”

The following year, an opportunity was presented to show just how dangerous it was.

In 1887, Alfred Southwick, a member of a commission established by the New York State legislature to explore capital-punishment alternatives after a series of hangings gone awry, wrote to Edison asking if he had any thoughts. Edison was initially reluctant to respond because he had always opposed the death penalty, but saw an opportunity to discredit Westinghouse. He recommended alternating currents “manufactured principally” by Westinghouse as the “best appliance” for killing someone “instantaneously” with “the least amount of suffering.”

As TIME reported in a 2010 special issue about Edison’s work, Edison teamed up with fellow Westinghouse opponent Harold Brown, whose experiments at Edison’s laboratory in West Orange, N.J., determined that a dog could survive 1,000 volts of DC but would be killed by just under 300 volts of AC. During a press conference, Brown electrocuted a 76-lb. dog named Dash. Brown designed the first electric chair, and Edison helped him secure AC generators through a secondhand dealer.

At 6:40 a.m. on Aug. 6, 1890, in the Auburn State Prison in upstate New York, William Kemmler, who was convicted of murdering his common-law wife, was zapped with a 17-second jolt of 1,300 volts of electricity via AC, but didn’t die. Kemmler, visibly struggling to breathe, was given a charge of 2,000 volts. Four minutes later, the body caught on fire, and he was declared dead.

Despite Edison’s efforts, the incident was not enough to keep his opponent down.

After Tesla demonstrated his AC motor in 1888, Westinghouse bought up Tesla’s AC patents and hired him so he could commercialize the motor.

“Once Tesla solved the problem of creating a motor that could operate using AC, then it was clearly the superior tech,” says Jonnes.

Westinghouse’s company won the bid to electrify the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. That dazzling spectacle ended the “War of the Currents.” That same year, Westinghouse’s company signed a contract to install AC generators at Niagara Falls, and in 1895, the first hydro-electric power plant launched there.

But Edison’s career as an inventor was far from over. His moving-picture camera and Kinetoscope viewer helped establish him as one of the inventors of movies.

And Edison did win out in terms of being the most remembered of the three in terms of household name recognition — at least until recently, when the introduction of Elon Musk’s Tesla electric cars gave him some competition. The cars, Jonnes adds, would be right up the real Tesla’s alley, as he loved the finer things in life. But ultimately, inventing things that are used every day proved key to Edison’s fame.

“The thing I always say about Edison, about why he is the most famous inventor,” she says, “is we all understand his inventions and we all get enormous pleasure out of them.”


THURSDAY 24. OCTOBER 2019


Our world has never witnessed a time of greater promise for improving human health. Many of today’s health advances have stemmed from a long arc of discovery that begins with strong, steady support for basic science. In large part because of fundamental research funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which traces its roots to 1887, Americans are living longer, healthier lives. Life expectancy for a baby born in the U.S. has risen from 47 years in 1900 to more than 78 years today. Among the advances that have helped to make this possible are a 70% decline in the U.S. death rate from cardiovascular disease over the past 50 years, and a drop of more than 1% annually in the cancer death rate over the past couple of decades. As one more dramatic example, thanks to remarkable advances in antiretroviral drugs, most Americans with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) can now look forward to an almost normal life span.

Yet, despite this astounding progress, much more remains to be done. Among the many efforts now poised to change the future of health are those to harness the power of gene editing, expand the reach of cancer immunotherapy, map the human brain and build a solid foundation for a more individualized approach to health care, often called precision medicine. And along with the bright promise of preventing, treating and curing some of humankind’s most feared diseases come some crucial questions about how to ensure such breakthroughs are applied both ethically and equitably.

Health Innovation Issue Time Magazine cover
Photo-composite, photographs by Greg Kahn for TIME

One of the great things about basic science is that it is impossible to predict where it might lead. For example, no one could have imagined that relatively routine efforts to sequence bacterial genomes and to improve yogurt production would lead to development of a revolutionary new gene-editing tool. But it did! In the late 1980s, scientists found strange repetitive DNA sequences called Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) in bacteria, and a couple of decades later, other researchers discovered that the CRISPR system helped yogurt’s beneficial bacteria fend off viral invaders, by detecting and snipping their DNA. After CRISPR’s exact mechanism was figured out, this exquisitely precise gene-editing technology was quickly put to work in a wide range of biomedical settings.

Researchers think CRISPR and related gene-editing technologies hold tremendous potential for treating or even curing the thousands of diseases for which we understand the molecular mechanism but treatments are limited or unavailable, such as sickle-cell disease, muscular dystrophy, Huntington’s disease and a long list of others. All of these exciting treatment opportunities involve editing the DNA of specific cells that can help the intended patient but are not passed on to future generations. Here is where gene-editing technology encounters a critically important ethical boundary. NIH and virtually all credible international bodies remain opposed to clinical applications of heritable gene editing, which involve using gene editing on human embryos, sperm or eggs. These interventions are difficult to justify medically and would irreversibly alter the DNA blueprint of future generations of humankind.

Another rapidly emerging field, cancer immunotherapy, is also the fruit of decades of basic research. In fact, one fascinating study showed that a successful immunotherapy approach, called checkpoint inhibitors, arose from a century of cumulative work by more than 7,000 researchers, including 2018 Nobel laureates James Allison and Dr. Tasuku Honjo. Other pioneers in the effort to enlist a patient’s own immune system in the fight against cancer include Dr. Carl June and Dr. Steven Rosenberg, who are now looking to extend and fine-tune their cell-based strategies so they benefit more people with many more types of cancer.

While cancer immunotherapy is still in its infancy, some impressive reports of its ability to save lives are beginning to roll in. For example, new survival data from one of the longest-running immunotherapy trials—a combination approach using checkpoint inhibitors for metastatic melanoma—showed that 52% of patients were still alive after five years. Before the advent of immunotherapy, the five-year survival rate for this deadly form of skin cancer was only about 5%.

Perhaps no basic science endeavor has a more ambitious goal than the NIH-led Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative: developing the tools needed to understand how the human brain’s roughly 100 billion cells, each with about 1,000 connections, interact in real time. As a result, we will have a much better grasp of how the brain works to produce our motor activities, memory deposition and retrieval, cognition, emotions and behaviors.

Brain diseases still pose some of the greatest mysteries in modern medicine. So the aim of the upwards of 500 investigators at more than 100 institutions supported by the BRAIN Initiative is to spur progress in neuroscience, much as the international Human Genome Project did for genetic research. Such understanding will open new avenues to treat Alzheimer’s disease, autism, depression, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, stroke, traumatic brain injury and many other neurological disorders.

Basic science also plays an important role in prevention. Currently, most recommendations about how to prevent disease are based on the expected response of the average person. Precision medicine is an innovative approach to the diagnosis, management and prevention of disease that takes into account individual differences in genes, environments and lifestyles.

To realize the full potential of precision medicine, the NIH launched the All of Us Research Program in May 2018 to build a diverse research cohort of 1 million or more volunteers from across the U.S. Among other things, All of Us will aim to do for all diseases what the Framingham Heart Study has done for the prevention of cardiovascular disease. Begun in 1948, the Framingham study initially enrolled more than 5,000 residents of this small Massachusetts town and, over time, their children and grandchildren, eventually reaching 15,000 volunteers. Because of them, we now know much more about high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking and other modifiable risk factors for cardiovascular disease—-knowledge that has helped to save millions of lives.

Until recently, most studies and clinical trials have been conducted with participants largely of ancestral European origin. As a result, there are many new drugs being developed to treat cancers and other serious diseases—but often their effectiveness has not been established in African Americans or other racial and ethnic groups because they were not included in research studies. That needs to change.

To make sure that people of all backgrounds benefit from advances in precision medicine, All of Us has made it a priority to enroll volunteers from groups that are traditionally under-represented in medical research, including African-American, Hispanic and Latino, American Indian, lower-income and rural communities. So far the results have been encouraging. More than half of the nearly 210,000 people fully enrolled to date are racial or ethnic minorities, and nearly 80% are from groups under-represented in medical research.

We will apply the latest methods and approaches in data science to merge, integrate and analyze information from a wide variety of sources—biological, environmental, socio-economic and geospatial. By combining data into one large resource, with proper security and privacy safeguards, the process of conducting research will become easier, faster and ultimately less expensive.

All of Us is just one of many innovative steps that biomedical research is taking to build the next generation of resources that will help to tackle many of the complex and difficult issues facing health care today. What we learn using these transformative tools and technologies may help reduce costs by shortening the translational timeline from scientific discovery to real-world therapies, as well as provide valuable new insights into how to set about addressing socioeconomic disparities in health status both here and abroad.

Such insights can then be used to ensure that people from all walks of life, all around the world, will be healthier than ever. And is that not the aim of all biomedical research, be it basic, translational or clinical? We look forward to the time when the long arc of scientific discovery finally makes it possible to vanquish many of the chronic diseases that devastate far too many lives today. □

$300 billion. That’s the money needed to stop the rise in greenhouse gases and buy up to 20 years of time to fix global warming, according to United Nations climate scientists. It’s the gross domestic product of Chile, or the world’s military spending every 60 days.

The sum is not to fund green technologies or finance a moonshot solution to emissions, but to use simple, age-old practices to lock millions of tons of carbon back into an overlooked and over-exploited resource: the soil.

“We have lost the biological function of soils. We have got to reverse that,” said Barron J. Orr, lead scientist for the UN Convention to Combat Desertification. “If we do it, we are turning the land into the big part of the solution for climate change.”

Rene Castro Salazar, an assistant director general at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, said that of the 2 billion hectares (almost 5 billion acres) of land around the world that has been degraded by misuse, overgrazing, deforestation and other largely human factors, 900 million hectares could be restored.

Returning that land to pasture, food crops or trees would convert enough carbon into biomass to stabilize emissions of CO2, the biggest greenhouse gas, for 15-20 years, giving the world time to adopt carbon-neutral technologies.

“With political will and investment of about $300 billion, it is doable,” Castro Salazar said. We would be “using the least-cost options we have, while waiting for the technologies in energy and transportation to mature and be fully available in the market. It will stabilize the atmospheric changes, the fight against climate change, for 15-20 years. We very much need that.”

The heart of the idea is to tackle the growing problem of desertification — the degradation of dry land to the point where it can support little life. At least a third of the world’s land has been degraded to some extent, directly affecting the lives of 2 billion people, said Eduardo Mansur, director of the land and water division at the FAO.

Marginal lands are being stressed around the globe by the twin phenomena of accelerated climate change and a rate of population growth that could lift the global tally to almost 10 billion people by 2050, he said. Much of that growth is in areas such as Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia where land is already highly stressed.

“The idea is to put more carbon into the soil,” said Orr. “That’s not going to be a simple thing because of the natural conditions. But keeping the carbon in the soil and getting that natural vegetation, grazing land etc. thriving again — that’s the key.”

Last month, at a UN conference on desertification in New Delhi, 196 countries plus the European Union agreed to a declaration that each country would adopt measures needed to restore unproductive land by 2030. The UN team has used satellite imaging and other data to identify the 900 million hectares of degraded land that could be realistically restored. In many cases, the revitalized areas could benefit the local community and host country through increased food supply, tourism and other commercial uses.

Key to returning dry lands to vegetation is the use of fertilizer, said Mansur. “Fertilizers are essential for increasing productivity. Good fertilizer in the right quantity is very good for the soil.”

But decades of poor agricultural practices in both rich and poor nations have resulted in misuse, either from using the wrong products, using too much fertilizer, or in some areas using too little so that the soil loses its nutrients.

“The problem unfortunately is big and it is growing,” said Mansur. “The main cause of emissions from agriculture is poor land management. But the solutions are known: Sustainable land management, sustainable water management, sustainable soil management.”

Mansur stresses that the problem isn’t about reclaiming desert, but restoring wasteland that was productive before human intervention.

“Don’t mix desertification with desert,” he said. “A desert is an ecosystem. There are deserts on the planet that have to be preserved.”

Nor is it merely a matter of planting trees, since each area has to be considered in terms of the people who live there and how they can live on the land sustainably.

Kenya, for example plans to plant 2 billion trees on 500,000 hectares to restore 10% of its forest cover, but it is also working on ways to adapt to the changes in climate.

We have to improve our livestock and crops to be drought resistant or drought tolerant,” said Kennedy Ondimu, director of environmental planning and research at the country’s Environment Ministry. “We have to look at developing our indigenous vegetables and indigenous livestock gene bank apart from embracing hybrid crop varieties and livestock varieties. We need to prioritize animal breeding.”

In Costa Rica, farmers are using deforested land to produce CO2 neutral coffee, which commands premium prices among consumers. The nation is also replanting rainforest to encourage eco-tourism, which has become the country’s second-biggest earner.

Still, the tide of desertification won’t be easy to turn. In India, more than 20% of the country is considered wasteland and scant water resources are making the situation worse. In Chile, home to the world’s driest desert, the Atacama, the government is spending $138 million improving irrigation as the region’s driest decade on record forces fruit farmers to migrate south to escape the advancing desert. Further north in Brazil, the worst fires in years ravaged the world’s largest rainforest.

Yet, Castro Salazar says dozens of countries are fighting back with programs designed to reverse the loss of farmland and at least 20 nations have major efforts underway to replant lost forests.

“All these countries were able to keep producing the food they needed and growing the forest cover,” he said. “The myth was that in order to increase your productivity and your food sovereignty and security you needed to slash or burn the forest. We documented that it’s not true.”


WEDNESDAY 23. OCTOBER 2019


Here’s a quick bit of topical multiple choice: What is “quantum supremacy?” a) The next blockbuster film in the James Bond series, coming to theaters in the summer of 2020. b) The greatest name for an expansion sports team in all of history. c) Something just achieved by a computer built by one of the world’s biggest and post powerful companies (Hint: it starts with a G and ends with an oogle) and you should be very afraid.

If you answered c, you’re correct — except for the very afraid part. The fact is, quantum supremacy — a term that is burning down the Internet today — is really just an exceedingly fancy way of saying a super-duper kind of computer, one that not only operates on quantum principles, but masters them so deftly that it actually outperforms a traditional computer. (That’s where the “supremacy” part comes from.)

Traditional silicon computers like the one you might be using to read this rely on chips that encode data in one of two states: 1 or 0. Gathered up and organized by the millions, billions and trillions, all those 1’s and 0’s take on meaning in the same way that the 8.3 million pixels in a 4K TV screen, or the who-know-how-many dots in a pointillist painting like George Seraut’s masterpiece Sunday on La Grande Jatte, create a picture.

But 1’s and 0’s are, by definition, binary things — they are one or the other, but they can’t be both. The quantum world exists on a different plane entirely. It is quantum science that allows the question “Is Schrödinger’s cat dead or alive?” to be answered, “Yes.” Ask a quantum scientist if an electron fired at a screen with two slits in it passed through the left slit or the right one, and the answer is likely to be “You bet!” That’s because in the land of the quantum, all things can exist in multiple states at the same time. (The exception: once you observe them, they may flip to one state or the other—which is why if you go to Schrödinger’s house you should not look at his cat because you may kill it in the process and then he’ll get mad.)

A computer built with quantum chips encodes information not in bits, but in qubits — which, as with traditional computers, can exist in the 1 or 0 position, but also the superposition of 1 and zero. To look at a qubit chip is not to see anything special — it looks like an ordinary computer chip, except it relies on particles like ions, photons or electrons, as opposed to simple silicon, interacting in a superconducting, super-cooled state.

The Google computer, known as Sycamore, made the headlines it’s making today by doing nothing terribly important on its own: analyzing a random number generator and confirming that it was indeed working randomly. Nothing to see here, really. But the achievement was deemed worthy of publication in the esteemed journal Nature, as well as in a more readable, less technical Nature explainer titled, with uncharacteristic giddiness, “Hello, Quantum World!”

What makes Google’s accomplishment worthy of the hoopla was, for starters, speed: The Sycamore computer solved the random-number problem in just 200 seconds. Even the most powerful traditional supercomputer would require a somewhat pokier 10,000 years — give or take a century — to achieve the same feat.

More important was the way Google’s quantum computer did its work. When a traditional binary computer tells you that the answer to an equation is, say, 4, that means it is 4. If a quantum computer tells you the same thing, that means the answer is 4 — unless it is 73 or 126 or all of them at once. The quantum computer solves that problem by running the calculation millions of times simultaneously, looking for a so-called probability distribution, which analyzes all of the answers and ultimately discerns the right one. The Nature paper (the fun one) helpfully compares the process to rolling a pair of loaded dice. At first you can’t tell that they’re rigged, but roll them a few thousand or million or billion times and you recognize that 7 or 11 come up far more often than they should. In that discovery lies your answer.

Google does not pretend that Sycamore is remotely ready for prime time. There is far more refinement to come before it has truly practical applications—though even this first random-number result can have value in cryptography. And competitor IBM, in a skeptical blog post, argued that a conventional computer with enough storage space could solve the same problem Sycamore did in just 2.5 days, which is a lot more than 300 seconds, though admittedly a lot less than 10,000 years.

Either way, there’s no denying that a hinge-point in computer history has been turned. Despite the Nature story’s “Hello!” headline, the fact is, the quantum world has always existed. The news — the huge news — is that now we’ve arrived there, too.


MONDAY 21. OCTOBER 2019



SATURDAY 19. OCTOBER 2019


After the biggest earthquake to hit Southern California in 20 years struck in July, a powerful fault line that could cause a magnitude 8 earthquake began moving, scientists say.

In a study published Thursday in the journal Science, researchers from the California Institute of Technology along with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said a part of the Garlock fault slipped after being triggered by the series of earthquakes in the Ridgecrest area. The fault runs 185 miles east to west from the San Andreas Fault to Death Valley. Scientists found that it has slipped 0.8 inch (or about 2 centimeters) near its surface since July.

Researchers were able to record the movement for the first time through satellite imagery and seismometer data. The discovery marks the first observation, through modern recording tools, of the fault’s “creep,” which is the slow movement of a fault.

“It’s surprising because we haven’t seen [the Garlock fault] do that before,” Zachary Ross, an assistant professor of geophysics at Caltech and one of the study’s co-authors, tells TIME. “We haven’t seen it really do anything.”

Ross describes the movement as the slow detaching of land on the fault’s two sides, which typically stay locked through friction. The Ridgecrest earthquakes, the strongest of which was a 7.1 magnitude, caused the two sides to slide away from each other, Ross says. Ruptures in the Ridgecrest earthquake sequence ended just a few miles from the Garlock fault. “The fact that the Ridgecrest rupture terminated right next to the Garlock is what caused this behavior,” Ross explains.

Courtesy of the California Institute of Technology

Still, the researchers’ findings prompt more questions than clear conclusions or implications about future earthquakes. As Ross cautions, “We don’t really know what this observation means.”

Lucy Jones, a longtime seismologist who is not affiliated with the study, tells TIME it’s not unusual for faults to move after earthquakes, especially in their shallow parts. This movement does not indicate that an earthquake is about to happen on the Garlock fault, however. Earthquakes usually occur in the deeper parts of faults; while the recorded movement likely happened a few hundred feet below the surface of the fault, a major earthquake is likely to occur about 10 to 15 kilometers deep, according to Jones.

“The fact that we have a trigger slip accompanying a 7 [magnitude earthquake] is really common,” Jones says. “It’s like a passive response from the fault to the energy being released by the big earthquake.”

Prior earthquakes have been recorded to cause movement in faults, Jones adds. The Los Angeles Times reports the southern part of the San Andreas fault moved, for example, after a magnitude 8.2 earthquake occurred off the coast of southern Mexico in 2017. While such creeps following major earthquakes have been previously observed on the famed fault, they have not triggered further earthquakes, likely because they also occurred in shallow parts, according to Jones.

While it’s unclear whether the destabilization brought by the Ridgecrest earthquakes to the surrounding area will cause further big earthquakes, the Times notes that an earthquake along the Garlock fault could shake the region’s nearby oil and agriculture hubs, along with military bases. A magnitude 8 earthquake has the potential for grave disaster.

“The whole state of California would feel this one,” Ross says, noting the effects would be worse than the Ridgecrest quakes. “The direction of the shake will be more intense and felt over a larger area.”


FRIDAY 18. OCTOBER 2019


The first ever spacewalk by an all-women crew is happening today.

Coverage began at 6:30 a.m. ET, and the astronauts are scheduled to enter the vacuum of space at 7:50 a.m.

Astronaut Christina Koch, who is experienced in extravehicular activity (EVA), will lead the operation. She will be accompanied by astronaut Jessica Meir, who is making her first spacewalk on Friday. Both are American citizens. They will be in the vacuum of space for five and a half hours.

You can watch the spacewalk live on TIME, above.

Who are the astronauts?

Christina Koch, 40, completed her NASA astronaut training in 2015, and has conducted four spacewalks. Friday’s will be her fifth. She has been on the International Space Station (ISS) since March 14, and is on track to set a record for the longest spaceflight by a woman, expected to be 328 days in space by the time she leaves.

Jessica Meir, 42, also completed her training in 2015. She joined Koch on the ISS in September, on her first spaceflight. She holds dual U.S.-Swedish citizenship, making her the first Swedish woman in space. Friday will be her first spacewalk, and she is scheduled for two more.

On Friday, Koch and Mier are replacing a battery unit on the outside of the ISS.

Wasn’t this meant to happen earlier this year?

Yes. In March, Koch and fellow astronaut Anne McClain were scheduled to perform a spacewalk. But just days before the two women were scheduled to make history, McClain was replaced by a male astronaut, Nick Hague. NASA blamed its lack of spacesuits in the correct size for both women.

“We made a change in the astronauts to protect the safety of the crew and the timing of the mission,” NASA says in a post on its website. “Anne McClain made the decision to swap places with Nick Hague on the spacewalks planned for March 29 and April 8 so everyone could wear spacesuits that fit them best.”

The u-turn provoked criticism from many, including Hillary Clinton, who urged NASA to “Make another suit.”

NASA has said the milestone wasn’t planned, as the crew for spacewalks are selected based on their ability, but that it was inevitable as women constitute a growing percentage of all astronauts. In Koch and Meir’s 2013 class of NASA astronaut trainees, 50% are women.

“The first all-woman spacewalk is a milestone worth noting and celebrating,” NASA said. “Our achievements provide inspiration to students around the world, proving that hard work can lead you to great heights, and all students should be able to see themselves in those achievements.”


THURSDAY 17. OCTOBER 2019


The women working in the commissary at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on March 27, 2015 barely paid attention as the moment approached when the Soyuz rocket, just visible less than a kilometer away, would lift off. But when the 20 engines at the base of the rocket lit at 12:42 AM local time, turning the deep night to a brilliant white day, they hurried over to the window to watch. Less than 20 seconds later, the rocket disappeared into a low-lying cloud bank.

TIME was there for the launch — and with good reason. One of the three men aboard the rocket that night was veteran astronaut Scott Kelly, who was on his way to spending a near-complete year in space. Like all crew members on the International Space Station (ISS), Kelly would be conducting observations and scientific experiments. Unlike other space station crew members, Kelly also was the experiment — a test of how the human body adapts, or doesn’t, to extended periods in zero-g. The results would be compared to identical tests conducted on his twin brother Mark, who was also an astronaut, but who was staying on Earth for the duration of the mission. Start with two identical genomes, put the subjects in decidedly non-identical environments, and any meaningful differences in their physical and mental states at the end of the year would provide a pretty good sense of the wages of space.

Over the course of that year, TIME’s video team continued to chronicle the mission, with footage shot around the world — in Moscow, Houston and Kazakhstan — as well as aboard the space station itself. With the help of Kelly, NASA and Roscosmos (the Russian space agency), roughly 52 terabytes of video were streamed down from orbit from the start of the mission to the end — about a terabyte each week.

The 12-episode series that was the result of all of that work was nominated for an Emmy Award in 2016 in the category of Outstanding Short Form Nonfiction or Reality Series. The following year, TIME and PBS won an Emmy in the Outstanding Science and Technology Documentary category, for the broadcast TV version of the series.

Now, all 12 episodes of the original production are available on Netflix for streaming and binge-watching. It’s been 1,665 days since Kelly went to space, and 1,325 since he came home. NASA is still analyzing the impact of his near-year aloft, and will continue to study both brothers in the years to come. What the space agency learns from its research will go a long way toward making future long-duration missions to the moon and beyond safe and survivable. TIME’s Year in Space series tells the tale of the adventure behind the science.

If the Amazon rainforest are the lungs of the planet, then the Andes are its lifeblood.

The world’s last remaining hotspot for agrobiodiversity, the region is the origin of many nutritionally important crop species and superfoods—grains like amaranth and quinoa; lupine pulses and maca roots—that underpin ecosystems, economies and diets.

At the same time, agriculture at the highest altitudes in the world is acutely threatened by climate change, with increasingly extreme droughts, hailstorms and frosts. Home to more than 85 of the planet’s 110 climate zones, the Andes is a living laboratory—for advances in both climate science and the understanding of its environmental impact on food systems.

For scientists, this offers an enormous opportunity. By better understanding the extremes experienced in the Andes and how the environment, agrobiodiversity and people adapt to them, we can be better prepared for what might happen elsewhere as a result of extreme and unpredictable weather patterns.

For example, temperature rises are affecting the size and spread of the thousands of kilometers of glaciers that stretch the Andes. This would impact not only the ecosystems of coastal mountains and valleys, but also the Amazon’s multiple river basins. In rivers close to the Andes, such as the Vilcanota in Peru and the La Paz in Bolivia, glacial melt provides as much as 50% or more of the water. Reduced glacial melt could cause some rivers to dry up in the dry season, leaving riverside communities without a vital source of irrigation unless investments are made into water harvesting. Studying the impact of rising temperatures on glaciers and meltwater in the Andes could lead to valuable insights not only for the future of the Andes-Amazon region, but also for other tropical mountain regions, where climate change is likely to impact downstream water supplies.

There are also untold benefits of better understanding the contribution of the Andes region as a dual carbon sink, with its upland peat soils and tropical forest. High altitude carbon sequestration is currently poorly understood or studied, yet the volume of carbon stocks in peatlands in the Andes are comparable to those in the Amazon, and offer a key opportunity to mitigate climate change.

Meanwhile, extreme weather in the Andes is already contributing to migration, playing a role in the decision of many highland farmers to move to lowlands in search of more productive farmland, or alternative work. Evidence indicates that new settlers contribute to deforestation in the Amazon region as they try to grow their crops because of limited understanding of land management in different environments. Perhaps worse is the fact that most domestic migrants end up in urban slums lacking the public infrastructure and services needed for the influx.

On the other hand, growing awareness of the region’s cultural and culinary diversity is generating new options for rural entrepreneurship. Projects promoting traditional food in niche markets and bringing value back to the land through rural tourism have untapped previously untouched wells of resilience, and shown that there remain viable ways to live sustainably and comfortably in the Andes.

In fact, there is enormous investment potential in the unique biome and bio-economy of the Andes, and the huge number of crop varieties available there and nowhere else. Growing interest in native species like quinoa and lupines can support high-value markets and enterprises that prioritize sustainability and diversity. Successful examples include the Mater Iniciativa of Michelin-starred chef Virgilio Martinez, and the private-public partnerships that tripled the export value of Peru’s native potato varieties between 2010 and 2015.

By studying the effects of extreme conditions on key crops grown in the Andes, we can safeguard and improve on these gains, in order to meet a growing demand for sustainable diets, particularly in emerging markets, while also preserving rural incomes and livelihoods and reducing the need for Andean people to move elsewhere. It won’t be easy. It might mean training Andean potato farmers in climate-smart practices, or getting farmers to switch to new crop varieties that are better able to survive new weather conditions. But by protecting the agricultural diversity found in the Andes, and harnessing its resilience to the climate extremes happening faster there than anywhere else, we can learn vital lessons to help the rest of the world survive the climate emergency.


FRIDAY 11. OCTOBER 2019


MOSCOW — Russia’s space agency says Alexei Leonov, the first human to walk in space 54 years ago, has died in Moscow. He was 85.

Roscosmos says in a statement on its website that Leonov died on Friday. It did not provide details.

Leonov performed his spacewalk on March 18, 1965, when he exited his Voskhod 2 capsule, secured by a tether.

Read more: The other giant leap: What happened to the first man to walk in space

On his second trip to space ten years later, Leonov commanded the Soviet half of the Apollo-Soyuz 19 mission. It was the first joint space mission between the Soviet Union and the United States, carried out at the height of the Cold War.

The cosmonaut turned 85 in May. Several days before that, two Russian crewmembers on the International Space Station ventured into open space on a planned spacewalk with stickers attached on their spacesuits paying tribute to him, and congratulated him from space.

Roscosmos said Leonov would be buried Tuesday at a military memorial cemetery outside Moscow.


THURSDAY 10. OCTOBER 2019


Sanderlings, red-headed woodpeckers and great gray owls are just a few of the North American bird species projected to be threatened by climate change in the coming decades, according to the latest assessment depicting an increasingly dire situation for the continent’s avian wildlife.

“Two thirds of birds in North America are at risk from climate change, to large range losses, potentially extinction, and this is especially so if we continue on the current trajectory,” says Brooke Bateman, senior climate scientist for the National Audubon Society, which carried out the report.

The October 10 report, titled “Survival by Degrees: 389 Bird Species on the Brink,” details the projected range losses for more than 600 bird species in North America under climate change scenarios of 1.5, 2 and 3 degrees Celsius of warming. Under the Paris Climate Agreement (which President Trump announced the U.S. would pull out of in 2017) nations around the world agreed to take measures to keep global temperature increases due to climate change under 2 degrees and to try to limit temperature rise to 1.5 C, though there are doubts that many nations will follow through on their commitments.

This newest report comes on the heels of a disturbing study last month, which showed that North America has lost 3 billion birds — nearly a third of its total avian population — over the past half century, findings that illustrated an “imminent disaster,” according to lead author Ken Rosenberg.

And Thursday’s report shows how much worse the situation may get in coming decades, with nearly 400 species of North American birds projected to be threatened by the worsening effects of climate change.

“Birds are the canaries in the coal mine,” says Mike Parr, president of the American Bird Conservancy. “It’s indicative of a broader biodiversity and wildlife issue. We need to pay attention to it now.”

Climate change isn’t the only factor reducing bird populations and squeezing many species toward extinction, but it’s making an ongoing problem worse. Birds facing habitat loss and other human impacts, like predation from domesticated cats and building collisions, are now being hit with added pressures as rising global temperatures push bird ranges northward, or erase them altogether.

There may still be hope in bird conservation, and in the broader climate crisis, but only if urgent, difficult actions are taken to address rising greenhouse gas emissions. For Bateman, successful policies that helped revive bird species like bald eagles provide some solace.

“Once we figured out that the pesticide DDT was affecting our raptor populations … we were able to do something,” says Bateman. “‘It gives us hope, because it shows us that if we do something, and if we know what to do, which we do with the climate change issue … we can make a huge difference.”

The threat posed to birds may also sound the alarm on biodiversity loss and climate change in terms that hit closer to home for average Americans than vaguer-seeming warnings of sea level rise and increasingly powerful storms. “When it comes to birds, I think there’s a greater connection for a lot of people,” says Parr.

And for many, those connections may run deeper than we realize.

“The bird that got me into birding was the common loon, and this was a bird that my grandmother taught me about when I was little and I used to visit her in northern Wisconsin,” says Bateman. “If climate change continues, I could go back to those locations where my grandparents lived, and the loons will no longer be calling there.”