What I'm Reading (Aug. 5)​​​​​​

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Viral evolution, school lunch, soil science, and life on Mars.

 

“Like other living creatures, viruses also carry out a Darwinian mission: They aim to increase in number as much as possible, to extend their geographic boundaries, and to survive across time. That is exactly what SARS-CoV-2 is doing now, even as vaccines roll out and new variants are identified.”

With all this talk about variants, it is perhaps worthwhile to pull back and see the bigger picture. From Nautil.us, The Vast Viral World: What We Know (and Don’t Know)

It was the junior high school cafeteria that got me interested in tasting and then eating salads. Well, perhaps that is an exaggeration because I mostly like the taste of that French dressing; the leaves were a pleasant underpinning to that spicy, sugary flavor. Because the feds more and more often subsidize school lunches, they, along with BIG FOOD, have had a big hand in what is served. Vox provides a graphic timeline of how the meals served in school, arguably one of the many ways we learn to eat by doing, have been impacted. From Vox, Why school lunches feel like they’re frozen in time.

While we are speaking about food, the only knowledge I have about soil and tilling comes from the many pleasurable hours I spent in Napa, tasting wine and talking to vintners about growing the grapes that underpin that delightful fermentation product wine. It was here I was introduced to biodynamic farming, which is in many ways an offshoot of the thinking and thinkers behind Montessori education. In any event, tilling the soil releases a great deal of carbon; why not store carbon there?

“The hope was that the soil might save us. With civilization continuing to pump ever-increasing amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, perhaps plants — nature’s carbon scrubbers — might be able to package up some of that excess carbon and bury it underground for centuries or longer.

That hope has fueled increasingly ambitious climate change–mitigation plans. Researchers at the Salk Institute, for example, hope to bioengineer plants whose roots will churn out vast amounts of a carbon-rich, cork-like substance called suberin.” 

From Quanta, A Soil-Science Revolution Upends Plans to Fight Climate Change

How about aliens? The recent reports from the Armed Forces are raising some questions. Here is a series of articles to consider from Ozy’s Daily Dose

Wait, Are They Already Here?

What if we’re the aliens on Earth? While a recently declassified report on alleged UFO sightings by U.S. navy pilots raised more questions than it provided answers, some prominent scientists have been positing a much more interesting theory: that life on Earth could have actually originated on Mars, making us, well, Martians. How? Life forms when planets cool down and liquid water eventually emerges. Evidence is increasingly pointing to the fact that Mars formed and cooled down before Earth, and that it had methane (an ingredient for the birth of life). Add that to the theory that various forms of life travel across the universe through asteroids and other debris, and you have a hypothesis more credible than distant sightings by pilots that could be explained in part by optical illusions.”