Earth Is on the Cusp of the Sixth Mass Extinction. Here’s What Paleontologists Want You to Know

Rhinos, elephants, whales and sharks — the list of endangered species is long and depressing. But it’s not just these big, beautiful, familiar animals at risk. Earth is hemorrhaging species, from mammals to fish and insects. The loss of biodiversity we’re facing right now is staggering, thanks to habitat loss, pollution, climate change and other calamities.

There have been five mass extinctions in the history of planet Earth. We’re on the threshold of a sixth. But extinction events don’t happen overnight. They unfold over millions of years. For humans that live maybe 80 or 90-some years, that’s very hard to wrap our minds around.

To get an idea of how to think about the sixth mass extinction, I spoke to people who’ve intensively studied the first five: paleontologists. I asked them what they’d like the rest of us to know. And I asked them what, in these scary times, gives them hope.

These conversations were difficult. I heard phrases like “dead species walking” and “slow, creeping despair.” But I also heard notes of hope, too.  

It’s Worse Than It Looks

One reason we don’t always appreciate the gravity of the problem is that we can’t really see it happening. We might read alarming numbers in scientific journals, watch heartbreaking documentaries, and catch news coverage of monster hurricanes and dislodged ice sheets linked to climate change. But biodiversity loss happens quietly in the background of our lives.

Precisely because extinction is long and slow, the effects of the harm we’re doing now will be felt for a long time to come. Jill Leonard-Pingel is a paleoecologist at The Ohio State University and the assistant director of the Orton Geological Museum there. She describes something called extinction debt. This refers to the delay between the damage and the eventual extinction of a species. “If we don’t see the total extinction of a group of animals in our lifetimes, or even a couple of generations, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t fated for extinction,” she says. In other words, we’ve already killed some of the species that appear on T-shirts urging people to save them.

However, the damage won’t always be in the background. Nizar Ibrahim is a paleontologist at the University of Detroit Mercy and a National Geographic explorer. “There will be a point in the not too distant future when we suddenly see and feel this mass extinction all around us very clearly,” Ibrahim says. Ellen Currano, a paleobotanist at the University of Wyoming, points out that this extinction is not like the one that occurred when an asteroid hit Earth 35 million years ago, releasing tremendous energy and igniting global wildfires. “This is a lot slower than that, on the scale of human lifetimes,” she says.

Earth will recover, of course — life is tough. “A key point of extinction crises is that life has always recovered and doubtless will recover whatever we do to the planet,” says Michael Benton, a paleontologist at the University of Bristol in the U.K.

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As expected, the college hoops season is off to a rocky start. Here’s what health experts have to say about the upcoming season

We’re a week into the 2020-21 college basketball season, and the 11-time national champion UConn women’s basketball team has been strangely absent from fans’ TV screens. That’s how it’ll stay until at least mid-December.

Five days prior to what would have been the Huskies’ season opener, a member of the program (not a player or coach) tested positive for COVID-19, resulting in a two-week pause of team activities that wiped out the team’s three early nonconference games. The shutdown arose less than a week after the UConn men returned from a shutdown of their own due to a player testing positive.

With COVID-19 cases surging nationwide, UConn is far from the only school that needed to delay the start of its basketball season or pause things a few days in after someone contracted the virus. In the Big East alone, nine of 11 member schools have publicly disclosed temporary shutdowns for either one of their basketball teams this fall. Six teams have paused activities within the last two weeks.

In interviews with The Courant, public health and medical experts offered best practices as the NCAA moves forward with its season. Here’s what those experts had to say about the risks of playing basketball and how programs can mitigate them moving forward.

Basketball is a challenge

Basketball isn’t the first college sport to return to play, but it is one with unique challenges. It’s played indoors, where the virus is believed to spread more easily. Close contact in games, though relatively transient, is unavoidable. Smaller rosters mean fewer people pose a risk in contracting the virus, but also make the quarantining or isolation of even a handful of players more detrimental.

We’ve seen how basketball can be held safely: The NBA and WNBA had zero COVID-19 cases during their three-month “bubble” seasons, which took place at clean sites in Orlando and Bradenton, Fla., and featured daily testing. For financial, logistical and philosophical reasons, adopting that exact model is infeasible for college sports, though variations are being explored. Mohegan Sun is currently hosting 30+ teams at “Bubbleville,” while the Big East’s contingency plans for after the new year include a bubble or series of mini-bubbles involving shorter stays.

Dr. Karl Minges, chair of health administration and policy at the University of New Haven, said that the long-term effects of COVID-19 remain unclear (there’s not enough data yet, for example, to rule out that the virus can cause cardiac issues like myocarditis), and there’s plenty of evidence that it disproportionately affects Black and Latino people. Per the NCAA, 68 percent of Division I women’s basketball players and 77 percent of men’s players are people of color.

Even with schools and jurisdictions like UConn’s prohibiting fans at games, there’s growing evidence that outbreaks on college campuses have negative impacts on the broader community. A study in La Crosse, Wis. showed that COVID-19 clusters from college campuses were responsible for infections, and deaths, in nursing homes.

Travel is risky

Actual gameplay may not be the

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Covid exacerbated chronic inequality in schools. Here’s how it hit some kids more than others.

When the Covid-19 pandemic forced the closure of most U.S. schools in the spring, students were thrown into new and unfamiliar ways of learning. Special education students and children learning English lost support that their schools struggled to provide online. Many students had no access to computers or the internet and were completely cut off from their teachers.



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The true toll these disruptions have taken on student learning won’t be known for months or years, but new reports from national education-testing organizations have begun to offer an early look at that impact.

The latest is a report from NWEA, formerly the Northwest Evaluation Association, which analyzed the results of tests given to nearly 4.4 million U.S. students in grades three through eight this fall and found that most fell short in math, scoring an average of 5 to 10 percentile points behind students who took the same test last year.

New report assesses impact of remote learning on kids

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While a majority of students did better than expected in reading — scoring at levels similar to typical nonpandemic years — this wasn’t true for Black and Hispanic students and those who attend high-poverty schools. Those groups of students saw slight declines, suggesting the pandemic has exacerbated long-standing educational disparities, possibly setting children who were already behind their white and more affluent peers even further behind.

“It’s a reason for concern and it’s a reason to really focus our attention on helping catch kids up,” said Megan Kuhfeld, an NWEA senior research scientist and the lead author of the study.

Kuhfeld and her colleagues analyzed scores from NWEA’s MAP Growth assessments, which thousands of U.S. schools give to students multiple times a year to track their progress in math and reading. They found evidence that pandemic-related school closings have robbed some vulnerable students of important skills that could hamper their progress unless their parents and teachers act quickly to help them catch up.

“They could fall further and further behind if they have holes in their learning,” Kuhfeld said, noting that, for example, it’s hard to learn to multiply fractions if you haven’t mastered adding and subtracting them.

But more worrisome than the findings themselves is the fact that they only capture part of the picture. The study was limited by the fact that a high number of students — 1 in 4 — who typically take the NWEA’s widely used MAP assessment in the fall didn’t take it this year.

Detroit principal knocks on doors to make sure students at home aren’t left behind

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Students might not have been tested because they couldn’t connect with their online classes on test day. They might have been absent from school because of illness or quarantines. They might attend schools that decided not to test at all this year, given the many new challenges schools face because of the pandemic. Or the students missing from NWEA’s data

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Here’s how Earth looked to astronauts aboard the SpaceX capsule

The view from space is just out of this world.



a screen shot of a computer: Victor Glover posted a video of Earth from space.


© Twitter
Victor Glover posted a video of Earth from space.

NASA astronaut Victor Glover, one of the four astronauts aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, posted a video on Twitter of the stunning view from Earth on his first-ever trip to space.

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“My first video from space! Looking at the Earth through the window of Dragon Resilience,” Glover said on Twitter. “The scale of detail and sensory inputs made this a breathtaking perspective!”

The video shows Glover sitting by a window soaking in the view from outer space. The astronaut, who is serving as a pilot and second-in-command on the Dragon, said the view was amazing but the video “doesn’t do it justice.”

NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins and Shannon Walker and Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi are also members of the mission, called Crew-1.

It marks the second-ever crewed flight of a SpaceX spacecraft.

Earlier this week, Glover also tweeted a photo of his “new home,” where he will spend the upcoming months working from the International Space Station.

While more than a dozen Black Americans have traveled to space since Guion Bluford became the first to do so in 1983, Glover is the first Black full-time crew member on the ISS.

The spacecraft soared into outer space from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center — marking the kick off of what NASA hopes will be years of the company helping to keep the International Space Station fully staffed. The Crew Dragon docked with the International Space Station on November 16.

The Crew-1 astronauts are expected to spend about six months on board the ISS, where they’ll work on a variety of science experiments and conduct space walks to continue updates and repairs on the space station’s exterior.

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Here’s why Tom Brady is already impressed with what Patrick Mahomes has accomplished in young career



Tom Brady et al. wearing costumes


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Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes are set to meet for the fourth time Sunday, having already played in three epic duels where the six-time Super Bowl champion has emerged victorious twice. Brady has watched Mahomes evolve into the game’s best quarterback, along with becoming the reigning Super Bowl MVP in leading the Kansas City Chiefs to a fourth-quarter comeback for the ages. 

Mahomes is putting up even better numbers in 2020 than his MVP season, and he’s the fastest player ever to 10,000 passing yards and 100 touchdown passes. Needless to say, the NFL’s all-time passing touchdown leader is impressed. 

“He’s a terrific player, obviously, being league MVP a few years ago. Fifty touchdowns is pretty hard to do – there’s not many guys who have done that,” Brady said. “To continue that last year with the Super Bowl championship and playing at an extremely high level this year – he’s just getting more and more comfortable. So much about playing quarterback is having experience, learning from year-to-year [and] improving your routine. 

“Watching the last time he was out there playing, you give him a chance to win and he takes advantage of it and leads the team down there. He does a tremendous job.”

As Brady prepares set to pass the torch to Mahomes, the Chiefs quarterback doesn’t view himself on the same popularity scale as Brady. Mahomes continues to be himself as he becomes a global icon. 

“I don’t know if I’m on his level. He’s someone that’s a global star and so for me I just try to be myself,” Mahomes said. “I just go out there every single day and put in the work and try to win football games and all that other stuff kind of comes with it. For me, I just try to be a normal guy and live it up with my teammates and have fun doing it.”

Mahomes is the front-runner for MVP honors through 10 games, putting up similar numbers to his first MVP campaign in 2018. Through 10 games this season, Mahomes has completed 67.9% of his passes for 3,035 yards with 27 touchdowns to just two interceptions and a 114.3 passer rating. Through 10 games in 2018, Mahomes has completed 67% of his passes for 3,150 yards with 31 touchdowns to seven interceptions and a 117.4 passer rating. 

Mahomes has the most passing yards (12,447), passing touchdowns (103), and pass completions (978) in NFL history through a player’s first 40 starts. His 110.3 passer rating is the highest in league history and his 20 interceptions are the fewest for any quarterback through 40 starts. 

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Here’s Why Fastly Stock Is Still a Buy — Even Without TikTok

It’s been a tough time to be a Fastly (NYSE:FSLY) investor. Ever since its biggest customer — TikTok parent ByteDance — ran into trouble with the U.S. government, Fastly’s stock has been in freefall, losing as much as half its value. While it might have seemed like the sky was falling, recent comments by management have helped put the matter into perspective.

In this Earnings Review that aired on Fool Live on Oct. 30, Fool.com contributors Danny Vena, Daniel Sparks, and Jason Hall discuss what Fastly’s management said in the quarterly shareholder letter and what all this means to investors.

Danny Vena: I was going to say the reports that came out after Fastly reported its earnings. Essentially, there were a couple of things. First of all, the CEO said that the largest customer, which we know is TikTok parent ByteDance, removed the majority of its US and international traffic from the platform in the back half of the quarter. Now, a lot of people are taking that as Fastly lost TikTok, but that’s not entirely the case.

What the CEO said later on in the shareholder letter is, “We appreciate what has happened. We’re prepared to accept additional traffic from this customer if conditions enable it to return.” But that said, even without TikTok, TikTok only accounted for 11% of Fastly’s revenue, and the stock is down more than 50% over the last three, four weeks. I would say, yeah, I agree with you, Jason, that’s clearly a disconnect and I don’t think investors quite understand. I suspect Fastly is due for a rebound.

Daniel Sparks: I agree.

Jason Hall: It’s also a stock that’s up 221% this year.

Daniel Sparks: Yeah. That’s true.

Jason Hall: That’s true.

Daniel Sparks: I just wanted to say one thing on that is, when you look at the guidance they provided and you back out both the acquisition, which of course makes the year-over-year growth look even worse, but then, you also back out TikTok revenue in the year ago quarter, just an estimate, we don’t know exactly what that is.

But the reality is that this company is probably growing 35% year-over-year organically when you exclude some of that TikTok/ByteDance revenue from the quarter. That’s just incredible growth and that’s before they release edge compute, and I think edge secure is what they’re calling it. There are two next big efforts, so there is an optionality too. Yeah, I think that it’s a good chance to relook at this one.

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College basketball season is back, so here’s to the players, who want and deserve this more than anyone else

UNCASVILLE, Conn. — The longest, rockiest, most dramatic offseason in college basketball history is finally behind us.

It’s over. Forever in our rearview mirror. 

The date now reads Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020. Today is the day college basketball again has a season. No major American sport — team or individual — had a longer halt than college hoops. March 12, the day the NCAA Tournament was canceled and the day all sports in America went on ice, was 258 days ago. 

We finally made it. 

Thank you, college basketball, for being back in our lives. Thank you for finding a way back — even if plenty of us doubted whether it was truly going to happen. Thanks for being here during the week of Thanksgiving, when the sport helps make up the tapestry and adorns the edges of a sports viewing experience dominated by professional and college football. It’s going to look a lot different. There are no games happening in Maui or the Bahamas. Final Four contenders Baylor, Duke and Tennessee had to push off playing on opening day due to COVID-19. No, there will be no normal for the next three, four, five or maybe even six months (if the NCAA Tournament winds up not happening until April or May).

But the season is here now, and damn does that feel good to write. It’s been hard to dodge the negative news that’s pelted college basketball on a near-daily basis for the past month-plus. And that news should be taken seriously. This is a global pandemic. The sport has been struggling to get off the runway, but that bird will fly. Amid all the noise, keep this in mind: more than 80 games between two D-I teams are scheduled for Wednesday, and another 34 vs. non-Division I opponents are slated on top of that. Across the country we will have college basketball. Sure, by the time you read this we might have lost another two, three or five games. 

This will seem like a bigger deal in college basketball because the sport has 357 teams. College football has 130. The NFL has 32. The NHL has 31. The NBA and Major League Baseball have 30. This sport is bursting with 357 teams in 49 states and is going to try and hold a season as winter approaches and the coronavirus situation is worsening in every state in America. College basketball will worry about going to an all-out controlled environment by the time the NCAA Tournament comes. For now, it will be patchwork, it will be messy, but the powers-that-be have determined that there must be games. 

We are having a season. It starts today. 

There will be criticism. Some of it will be justified.

But we will have games.

I had a chance to speak with Virginia coach Tony Bennett, Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley and Rhode Island coach David Cox after their practices here at Mohegan Sun on Tuesday. We hit on a couple different

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Here’s Your Sonic Boom Weather Forecast!

Success for business aircraft maker, Aerion, hinges on the ability of its AS2 bizjet to fly in excess of the speed of sound over land without delivering a sonic boom. To do so, AS2 operators will have to account for, avoid and overcome weather conditions that could allow supersonic shock waves – the boom that humans hear – to reach the ground.

That means that AS2 owners/crews will need a sort of sonic boom weather forecast to be able to plan for boom-less flight over the U.S. or other territories.

Aerion says it has just the thing thanks to an agreement with micro-satellite operator, Spire Global, whose weather data and forecasting capabilities will allow the AS2 to boom along over land without delivering a sonic boom to ground level.

Weather Matters at Mach 1

NASA has done a good bit of research on the impact of weather on sonic boom propagation, both for its Low Boom Flight Demonstration which aims to reduce sonic booms to about 70 decibels at ground level, and on “Mach Cutoff” where the boom doesn’t reach the ground.

Aerion is guaranteeing that its AS2 will achieve Mach Cutoff.

“Our Boomless technology prevents a boom from hitting the ground completely,” Steve Berroth chief operating officer and vice president of Aircraft Development at Aerion claims. In addition to the aerodynamic design, flight control system and operating envelope of the AS2, accurate weather forecasting and flight planning will enable Mach cutoff.

“What plays a role in that are winds – strong headwinds or tailwinds have a big effect,” says Larry Cliatt, NASA’s Sonic Boom Research Tech Lead. Sonic boom propagation is based on the speed of sound but it’s not speed-over-the-ground that matters. It’s airspeed.

A strong headwind effectively increases airspeed, lowering the threshold for going Mach 1 while increasing the speed of boom propagation to the ground. “If you have a headwind, your speed of propagation is going to be faster than if you have a tailwind,” Cliatt affirms.

You can reduce the speed of propagation in such a situation, Cliatt says, by flying higher, increasing the distance to the ground. So faced with a strong headwind, a supersonic AS2 may want to climb to prevent its boom from reaching the ground.

“You can also fly slower. You’re going to sacrifice speed to mitigate the boom,” Cliatt adds, likely to the consternation of speed-loving potential AS2 buyers.

Boomless flight or Mach cutoff also depends on the temperature in the local atmosphere Cliatt says. The speed of sound changes at different temperatures so attention to the thermometer at different altitudes is important.

Humidity plays a more subtle role, affecting how loud a boom is – i.e. how our ears perceive it. NASA has found that higher

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Will Jayson Tatum Spend Career With Celtics? Here’s His Mom’s Best Guess

Win and he’s in for life.

That might sum up Jayson Tatum’s mindset toward spending his entire NBA career with the Boston Celtics. Brandy Cole, Tatum’s mother, revealed Sunday the Celtics star would consider spending his entire career with the team, provided they win the NBA Finals during his tenure in Boston.

“I think he would love the idea of being able to spend his entire career here if that meant putting banners up,”, Cole told The Boston Globe’s Adam Himmelsbach. “He wants to not just say that he played here his whole career, but that he brought the city of Boston a couple of banners and his number is retired. I’m certain he would love that.”

Cole discussed Tatum’s future hours after he and the Celtics reportedly agreed to a five-year, $195 million contract extension. The deal might tie Tatum to Boston through the 2025-26 NBA season, by which time he will be just 27 years old and will have spent the first nine years of his NBA career with the Celtics.

If Boston wins the NBA Finals by then, or appears to be on the cusp of doing so, why wouldn’t Tatum consider signing another big contract with the team, chasing more NBA championships and forging an even-more impressive legacy in Green?

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AstraZeneca and Oxford University’s vaccine is effective at preventing COVID-19, trial results suggest. Here’s everything we know so far.



Screen grab taken from video issued by Britain's Oxford University, showing a person being injected as part of the first human trials in the UK to test a potential coronavirus vaccine, untaken by Oxford University in England, Thursday April 23, 2020 Oxford University Pool via AP


© Oxford University Pool via AP
Screen grab taken from video issued by Britain’s Oxford University, showing a person being injected as part of the first human trials in the UK to test a potential coronavirus vaccine, untaken by Oxford University in England, Thursday April 23, 2020 Oxford University Pool via AP

  • On Monday, AstraZeneca and The University of Oxford released results for their large-scale trial, which showed their COVID-19 vaccine was 70% effective. 
  • The Oxford vaccine is administered in two doses at least one month apart, similar to both Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines. 
  • The vaccine is being sold far cheaper than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, too — in part because AstraZeneca has pledged to make no profit from the vaccine, and to sell it at cost to developing nations on an ongoing basis. 
  • The European Medicines Agency (EMA), the regulatory body for Europe, has already started evaluating lab data produced by AstraZeneca and The University of Oxford vaccine as part of a “rolling review,” which could make approval faster.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

AstraZeneca and The University of Oxford announced Monday that large-scale trial results showed that their COVID-19 vaccine is 70% effective.

The results follow months of trials of more than 20,000 volunteers in the UK, Brazil, and South Africa, and showed that the vaccine stopped people from developing any COVID-19 symptoms in 70% of the cases on average. 

The results come after an “unexplained illness” in one UK trial participant paused the trials in September — but they restarted a few weeks later. 

AstraZeneca stock fell 2% after the announcement. The pharma firm’s stock was the worst-performing healthcare stock in Europe in early trading.

The news follows doses of optimism from vaccine candidates in the past few weeks. Earlier this month, both Pfizer and Moderna announced that trial results suggested their respective vaccines were 95% effective in preventing COVID-19, sending stock markets — and positive sentiments — soaring across the world. 

While the latest set of results from AstraZeneca and Oxford University are positive, further research is required before the vaccine can be approved by regulators around the world.

Here’s everything we know so far:

1. The vaccine is 70% effective, trial results suggest

The COVID-19 vaccine developed by pharma giant AstraZeneca and The University of Oxford is 70% effective, according to the latest trial results.

The vaccine is injected in two doses at least one month apart, similar to both Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines. 

According to the trials, the effectiveness of the vaccine varies depending on the size of the doses. In cases where patients were given two full doses, the vaccine was found to be 62% effective — but when patients had a half-dose in their first shot, followed by a full dose in their second shot, the effectiveness rose to 90%.

Taking both these methods together, the vaccine produced an average effectiveness of 70%, AstraZeneca said. 

“These findings show that we have an effective vaccine that will save many

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