The atmosphere of Venus contains traces of a chemical that may be linked to microbiotic life, according to a surprise announcement by astronomers yesterday. The chemical, phosphine, was detected in a narrow region of the planet's volatile atmosphere known as the cloud deck, the only place where scientists say organisms could survive. If the signal is biological in origin, researchers speculate bacteria floating through the atmosphere may be the source.
Phosphine—one phosphorus atom, with three hydrogen atoms attached—is believed to be a strong indicator of biological life when detected on rocky planets, which Venus is (planet overview). The researchers say no known chemical or geological processes exist that could explain its abundance, and many examples of phosphorus-producing life exist on Earth in oxygen-averse, anaerobic organisms. The authors note the findings are not a direct confirmation of life, but they have exhausted all
alternate theories (and welcome suggestions).
Read the full paper and watch a video explainer of the breakthrough findings here.
Sally Chugs Toward the Coast
Hurricane Sally strengthened into a Category 2 storm yesterday, with the slow-moving system expected to make landfall near Biloxi, Mississippi, late tonight or early tomorrow morning. Despite reaching the Gulf with winds over 100 mph—and weakening to Category 1 early this morning (track here)—forecasters say the greater threat is prolonged precipitation from the system currently moving forward at just 7 mph. Anywhere
from 8 to 16 inches of rain is expected across the region, with some parts of the central Gulf Coast and western Florida panhandle seeing up to 24 inches. Officials say a steady storm surge (what are those?) of up to 10 feet is possible. Sally is expected to bend eastward, passing over the Carolinas later in the week.
Predictions of an exceptionally busy hurricane season have been fulfilled so far. Sally is the 18th named storm this year, and for just the second time on record, five tropical cyclones were active in the Atlantic Ocean yesterday.
The man whose story was portrayed in the blockbuster movie "Hotel Rwanda" was formally accused yesterday of terrorism, abetting murder, and other charges in a Rwandan court. Paul Rusesabagina, who declined to respond to all charges, has been a fierce critic from abroad of current President Paul Kagame, while Kagame and supporters accuse Rusesabagina of supporting armed opposition groups.
The 66-year-old former hotel manager gained international fame after his efforts in hiding and protecting more than 1,200 Hutu, Tutsi, and other refugees in his facility during the Rwandan genocide of 1994. The devastating bloodshed remains one of the most shocking examples of ethnic violence in recent decades—though the international community infamously failed to intervene—with an estimated 800,000 civilians killed in roughly three months. See an overview of the conflict here.
mystery is how Rusesabagina—now a Belgian citizen—ended up back in Rwanda. Contradicting sources say he was either arrested, tricked, or kidnapped at the Dubai airport in August.
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>New York Mets to be purchased by billionaire hedge fund manager Steve Cohen for $2.4B, a record for a North American sports franchise(More)
>NBA Eastern Conference Finals begin tonight (6:30pm ET, ESPN) as the Boston Celtics take on the Miami Heat (More) | Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers face off in Game 7 tonight (9:00pm ET, ESPN) for right to take on LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals (More)
>The 2020 Creative Arts Emmy Awards kicks off its five-night ceremony with CNN’s “Apollo 11” winning three awards, the most for the evening (More)
Science & Technology
>A 40-square-mile chunk of Greenland's northeastern ice cap breaks off; the country also saw 586 billion tons of ice melt in 2019, double the annual average (More)
>New X-ray imaging technique allows 3D mapping of dense neural circuits in the brain with unprecedented detail; advance is next step in one of neuroscience's holy
grails, building a precise map of the brain (More)
>Gene-edited livestock act as surrogate sires, or males that carry sperm donated by other male livestock; technique may help accelerate the spread of desirable traits through livestock populations (More)
Business & Markets
>BNSF—iconic railroad business owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway—names Kathryn Farmer the first female CEO of major US railroad business (More)
>Amazon to hire100,000employees as e-commerce shopping surges amid pandemic; plans to hold Prime Day in the fall after July
>TikTok-Oracle deal will undergo review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US; Oracle shares traded up 4% yesterday on news of the deal (More)
Politics & World Affairs
>Canada reports zero deaths from COVID-19 in a 24-hour period for the first time since March (More) | See how each US state is doing here (More)
>Yoshihide Suga on
track to become new Japanese prime minister; Suga would take over for longtime leader Shinzo Abe, who stepped down last month due to a medical condition (More) | Israel and the United Arab Emirates to formally sign peace deal today in Washington, DC (More)
>Belarus PresidentAlexander Lukashenko meets with Russian
President Vladimir Putin, gets $1.5B loan; authoritarian leader seeking help in quelling election fraud protests (More) | An estimated 100,000 marched Sunday in Belarus capital of Minsk (More)
Back Into the Fire
Salem Statesman Journal | Capi Lynn. A tragic story of how quickly wildfires can spread—even for those experienced with them. Read how Chris Tofte raced back into Oregon's Beachie Creek Fire in a desperate search for his family. (Read)
The Next Level of Bulls**t
Nautilus | Raphaël Millière. The world is barely treading water amid a flood of fake news and misinformation, and hasn't even begun to grapple with the implications of deepfake videos. Now meet GPT-3, the most powerful AI-fueled language program ever created—and author of complete fabrications that seem entirely believable. (Read)
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Historybook: Mystery writer Agatha Christie born (1890); Alexander Fleming discovers penicillin (1928); Muhammad Ali defeats Leon Spinks to win heavyweight title a record third time (1978); HBD Prince Harry (1984); Google.com registered as domain name (1997).
"The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life."
- Muhammad Ali
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