💥 Life on Venus? 😮

Quick thread with links to more info. First, the press release from @RoyalAstroSoc: ras.ac.uk/news-and-press…

Short version: a molecule was detected in the atmosphere of Venus that MIGHT have been produced by life. (It's unclear how else to produce it there.)
New York Times coverage by @shannonmstirone, @kchangnyt, & @overbye: nytimes.com/2020/09/14/sci…

"High in the toxic atmosphere of the planet Venus, astronomers on Earth have discovered signs of what might be life."
New Scientist coverage by @DownHereOnEarth: newscientist.com/article/225441…

"There are no known non-biological mechanisms of making the gas on Venus, so it may be being produced by alien microbes." [Paywalled article]
Axios coverage by @mirikramer: axios.com/scientists-fin…

"Why it matters: Scientists have been musing about the possibility that life exists in Venus' temperate clouds for decades. If confirmed as a sign of life, the finding would open up a new era of science."
Scientific American coverage by @adamspacemann: scientificamerican.com/article/venus-…

"Although toxic to many organisms, the molecule has been singled out as a potentially unambiguous signature of life because it is so difficult to make through ordinary geological or atmospheric action."
National Geographic coverage by @nadiamdrake: nationalgeographic.com/science/2020/0…

"the scientists who today announced sightings of this noxious gas in the Venusian atmosphere say it could be tantalizing—if controversial—evidence of life on the planet next door."
Science News coverage by @astrolisa: sciencenews.org/article/phosph…

"If the discovery holds up, and if no other explanations for the gas are found, then the hellish planet next door could be the first to yield signs of extraterrestrial life — though those are very big ifs."
Thread by @chrislintott with context and commentary on today's Venus announcement:
Thread by @aussiastronomer with context and commentary on today's Venus announcement:
A very brief summary of today's Venus announcement from @davecl42, one of the members of the discovery team:
Venus researchers are, as you might imagine, excited about this! Here’s a comment from @ThePlanetaryGuy:
Here’s a link to the press briefing on the possible Venus biosignature announcement from @RoyalAstroSoc featuring comment from several of the scientists involved, including @jgreaves6 and @ProfSaraSeager: #VenusNews
The Verge coverage by @lorengrush: theverge.com/21428796/venus…

"The gas’s presence isn’t enough to say for sure that Venus hosts life forms, but the fact that it exists in the planet’s clouds indicates that something is going on there that we don’t fully understand."
Here's a link to the technical paper in @NatureAstronomy nature.com/articles/s4155… (unpaywalled)

"The presence of PH3 is unexplained...could originate from unknown photochemistry or geochemistry, or, by analogy with biological production of PH3 on Earth, from the presence of life"
Planetary Society coverage by @CaseyDreier: planetary.org/articles/venus…

“This is the first announcement of a difficult detection that required significant modeling and data analysis… Independent scientific teams must now do the work to confirm this signal.”

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More from @AstroKatie

22 Jul
I wanna say a little bit about math. Pandemic math, specifically.

I hear a lot of people saying that the risk of dying from COVID-19, especially when young & healthy, is *tiny*, often to justify opening universities. But a small *percentage* risk is not the only factor. (1/4)
The key thing is the difference between percent and number. When the NUMBER of people infected is low, a low risk of death means *few deaths*. But when the NUMBER of people is high, even a small PERCENTAGE is a lot of deaths. (2/4)
Let's say the disease kills 0.01% of college-age people. (It might be a bit more than that.) If the pandemic is out of control, the spread within colleges means a LOT of the 20 million college students in the US could get the disease.

0.01% of 20 million is 2,000 people. (3/4)
Read 4 tweets
12 Jul
If the last few months in the US had included a coordinated and coherent pandemic response, we would not now be wrestling with the prospect of sending students into classrooms as a nation-wide improvised clinical trial in which no one can realistically give informed consent.
We can’t really know what will happen because no other country has opened schools and universities in the midst of such rampant community spread.

There is, of course, a reason for that.
From NYT: “No nation has tried to send children back to school with the virus raging at levels like America’s, and the scientific research about transmission in classrooms is limited.”
nytimes.com/2020/07/11/hea…
Read 4 tweets
9 Jul
I’m sorry but there is no way to put groups of people in closed indoor spaces for hours every day and have that be safe in the US right now. Not even if you have really good reasons to want schools and universities to reopen. Outbreaks will happen; people will get sick and die.
I don’t think the data is super clear for very young children; I’ve seen conflicting things. But at least for teens on up, I don’t think any experts are really in doubt about the risks.
I would like the people making the decisions about reopenings to be up front about this. How many illnesses do you anticipate? How many deaths? Permanent disabilities? How much community spread will reopening seed? How many deaths among parents, relatives, community members?
Read 4 tweets
4 Jul
Taking COVID-19 risks because you’re “not scared” is like picking up a hitchhiker with a backpack full of live grenades and dropping him off in the center of town. Maybe you’ll be fine; it’s your car, whatever. But you know what he’s planning and you could choose NOT to help.
There are certain risks we just can’t avoid. But there’s no need to volunteer to be a spreader when you don’t have to.
You just really can’t think of a pandemic in terms of personal risk. Anyone who becomes a victim is also, without knowing it for several days, a disease multiplier and spreader. We do our best to stay safe for everyone, not just for ourselves.
Read 6 tweets
3 Jul
“Experts say the outbreak, along with cases among student athletes, is a troubling sign of what may be in store if colleges reopen in the fall.”
cbsnews.com/news/coronavir…
It’s okay though, campus reopenings will be fine as long as 100% of students wear masks properly all the time, sit in their assigned seats, never speak to each other in class, stay 6 feet apart at all times, stay on campus, eat alone, exercise alone, study alone, & never party.
That scenario is totally realistic and definitely going to work and worth bringing everyone back to campus for, right??
Read 4 tweets
30 Jun
Telling people "If you're sick, stay home" is important but if their employers have been told it's okay to be doing business and they don't have sick leave, it's hardly surprising they keep going to work as long as they can.
For context, @kcexec is the Executive for King County Washington, where restaurants are currently allowed to operate at 50% capacity for indoor dining. How many of those restaurant workers get sick leave? How many can afford to lose their jobs right now by staying home?
In principle, Washington State *does* require paid sick leave, and is one of the few places in the country where that's true. But that requirement is very limited (something like 1 hour of leave for every 40 worked) -- not enough to cover much if you get legitimately sick.
Read 5 tweets

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