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The news is actually sort of encouraging today, so I am going to include a post with more somewhat encouraging news (albeit news with a slower timeframe than human politics).  International news about forests is usually bad news concerning the forests of Africa, Southeast Asia, and tropical South America.  These forests are shrinking due to human activities and such deforestation really is exceedingly BAD.  Not only is the planet losing biodiversity, but the resulting desertification, soil loss, and the carbon freed from burned trees causes even more grotesque feedback in the chaotic Anthropocene climate.  Yet, although forests in the tropics are in desperate need of greater esteem and protection, forests in the western world (particularly northern Europe) have actually been growing.  Apparently as farming becomes less urgent, difficult-to-farm places like mountains, scrublands, and arid places just naturally become forests again.  Additionally, the shrinking populations of France, Italy, Spain, Ireland etc. means less forest lost to development.  I wonder if this is a peak at the world of the future where a more coherent economic model (and less dunderheaded religion) means there is not as much reason for overpopulation…or alternately does this just mean the Spanish are outsourcing their deforestation to the Congo?  I guess only time will tell, but it is good to see parts of the world become more green even as everything seems so fragile and broken.

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Oumuamua is an asteroid which came from beyond the solar system.  Perhaps it was ejected from a star system in the Carina–Columba association (which is not an Italian fraternal organization but rather a vast nebula by Eta Carinae about 100 parsecs) around 50 to 100 million years ago, but its age and point of origin are unknown.   It is whipping past the sun and then back into the vast darkness between the stars at a prodigious velocity (apparently it was traveling through interstellar space at something like 26 kilometers per second (58,000 miles per hour).  The object, which measures between 100 and 800 meters (300 to 2500 feet), was initially classified as a comet, but its speed, its orbital eccentricity, and its bizarre shape–which is like an icicle or a shard–caused astronomers to realize it was deeply strange interloper from beyond.

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The object has been closely observed by many of the Earth’s great observatories and it is apparently a dark red—which is caused by cosmic radiation striking it for 100s of millions of years (Kuiper belt objects have similar coloration).  It is traveling far too fast for any existing human craft too reach (although we may be able to build such crafts in the near future), however scientists are assessing it for traces of life or civilization by means of radio telescopy.  It will be out by Jupiter next year and far beyond are kin soon after that, but scientists have learned a great deal from the visit.  Additionally they speculate that other such objects come through the solar system at the rate of one or two per year (which does not seem like a lot considering how large the solar system is).  We are lucky to have spotted this shard, but its catastrophic shape makes one speculate that there is a lot about planetary formation (and destruction) which we don’t know yet.

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