scenic view of night sky

DAILY DOSE: Deer test positive for Omicron; Black Holes are marching through the Milky Way.


The first cases of Omicron infections among wildlife were identified in New York. Per the Associated Press, “When New York City’s COVID-19 rates spiked last December due to the emerging omicron variant, humans weren’t the only mammals affected. The highly infectious variant also hit the white-tailed deer population on Staten Island, the most suburban of the city’s five boroughs, according to a study led by Penn State University scientists The omicron variant was detected in nasal swabs from seven of 68 Staten Island deer tested between Dec. 13 and Jan. 31, according to the study, which was funded by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.” The study is the first to find evidence of the omicron variant in deer or any wild animal population.


There have been some odd alliances lately. Many vegans have gone full anti-vaxx during the Covid-19 pandemic. Another head-scratching tag-team consists of far-right extremists and anti-abortion activists. According to Vice News, “The Venn diagram between far-right extremists and anti-abortion activists has been partly driven by Christian nationalism, which believes that God intended the U.S. to be a fundamentally Christian nation and that immigration, vaccines, and abortion threaten American values. This fusion of hard-line Christianity with patriotic fervor enjoyed a renaissance during Donald Trump’s presidency; his years in the White House, experts told VICE News, fueled a rise in Christian nationalism. That ideology functions as a gateway drug to draw mainstream abortion opponents into the far-right.” The hypocrisy blows the mind.

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There’s a new nuclear fusion sheriff in town. Per Science, “In experiments culminating the 40-year run of the Joint European Torus (JET), the world’s largest fusion reactor, researchers announced today they have smashed the record for producing controlled fusion energy. On 21 December 2021, the U.K.-based JET heated a gas of hydrogen isotopes to 150 million degrees Celsius and held it steady for 5 seconds while nuclei fused together, releasing 59 megajoules (MJ) of energy—roughly twice the kinetic energy of a fully laden semitrailer truck traveling at 160 kilometers per hour. The energy in the pulse is more than 2.5 times the previous record of 22 MJ, set by JET 25 years earlier. ‘To see shots in which it sustains high power for a full 5 seconds is amazing,’ says Steven Cowley, director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL).” Harnessing the powers of the sun, aka nuclear fusion, has been a sustainable energy holy grail for a long time. There’s still a long way left.


Black holes are one of those things that transcends science. Everyone knows what it is, whether they know the granular nitty-gritty is a different story. They’re a fascinating blend of mystery and mythology. Is there another universe on the other side? Is there nothingness? Unfortunately, it’s impossible to peer into a black hole to see what’s on the other side since nothing escapes it’s pull, not even light. Interestingly, astronomers believe there are solo black holes marching through the Milky Way. A recent study took a look at the phenomenon. Per Nature, “Lone black holes probably litter the Galaxy, but they’re extremely hard to spot. Now astronomers have, for the first time, seen an isolated black hole, wandering unattached across the Milky Way. Black holes are typically glimpsed as they interact with other objects, such as companion stars. Studying solo black holes — a separate class of cosmic object — should help scientists to understand how they form, and how abundant they are.” 

Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.

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