DAILY DOSE: The “Gateway to Hell” in Siberia is expanding and destroying the world as a result; Grab your popcorn, the Homo naledi controversy is heating up.

Stunning drone footage has uncovered the world’s largest permafrost crater, the Batagaika crater in Russia’s Far East. The kilometer-long depression, also known as a mega-slump, began to form in the 1960s after deforestation led to permafrost thawing and land sinking. The crater has been expanding ever since, leading locals to dub it ‘the cave-in’ or ‘the gateway to the underworld’. Scientists warn that Russia, which is warming at least 2.5 times faster than the rest of the world, will see more of these craters as temperatures rise, posing significant dangers. About 65% of Russia’s landmass is covered by tundra, which, as it thaws, releases stored greenhouse gases, exacerbating global warming. This permafrost thawing is already causing infrastructural damage in northern and northeastern Russia, disrupting roads, homes, and pipelines, while also contributing to the increasing intensity of wildfires. The Batagaika crater, which is up to 100 meters deep in places, contains a large quantity of organic carbon, expected to be released into the atmosphere as the permafrost continues to melt, intensifying climate warming further. (Reuters)

The summer of 2023 is smashing numerous heat records, indicating a rapidly warming planet due to climate change. Almost every major climate-tracking organization declared June as the hottest month ever. The situation worsened as July 4th, 5th, and 6th broke the record for the globe’s hottest day, leading to the hottest week on record. These extreme weather patterns have caused over 100 deaths in the US and India due to heatwaves. In the last 30 days, the US has broken or tied almost 5,000 heat and rainfall records, with a global count of over 10,000. This issue is not just about numbers and maps but the real impact on human life. Even though records may not worsen each year, the long-term pattern will intensify. It underscores the urgency for mitigation and adaptation strategies in a world dealing with hotter and more extreme weather conditions. (Associated Press)

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The House Subcommittee’s investigation into the origins of COVID-19 recently suggested that key researchers misled Congress regarding a multimillion-dollar grant. The researchers, who testified last year, had been in conference with Drs. Francis Collins and Anthony Fauci in early 2020, discussing the virus’s origin. Initially, they favored the possibility of a lab escape, but this changed when drafting a paper, which was later published, dismissing the lab escape idea. The grant, pending at that time, became a contentious issue, with Republicans implying financial influence from Collins and Fauci. Despite the researchers’ denials, it was revealed that the grant was pending final approval from Fauci during their conference. New evidence also showed that the researchers were aware that their stance on the virus’s origin could affect their funding. These revelations are fueling further debates on the integrity and independence of scientific research amid political pressures and funding interests. (The Intercept)

Scientists led by anthropologist Lee Berger have found themselves at the center of a scientific dispute after claiming they discovered burials, carved symbols, and tools made by an ancient species of small-brained humans, Homo naledi, in South Africa’s Rising Star cave system. The team suggested H. naledi displayed advanced behavior 250,000 years before modern humans, despite having brains about the size of chimpanzees. These revelations, hailed by the authors as a paradigm shift in understanding human evolution, were met with skepticism by peer reviewers who criticized the study as imprudent, incomplete, and assumption-based. Critics fear the researchers’ claims, which were heavily publicized in a Netflix documentary, could hurt future study credibility and funding. Berger, however, remains unrepentant, insisting the research is solid and promising more evidence is forthcoming. (The Guardian)

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

WORDS: The Biology Guy.


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