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We’ve all thought of building a world from scratch. University of Chicago’s ExoTerra Imagination Lab is doing it

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CHICAGO — Picture this scenario: Lifespans are now approximately 115 years. And you have slept for 70 years on a starship with 1,999 travelers to get to a new world — a terraformed planet that will become humanity’s new home.

Welcome to the role-playing game that is ExoTerra Imagination Lab. The idea of Ada Palmer, a University of Chicago associate professor of history, ExoTerra is a way for students, faculty, alumni, gamers and sci-fi/fantasy fans around the globe to connect in pandemic times, Palmer said.

The year is 2412 and you’ve reached a new star system called Abaia, 64 1/2 light years from Earth, and you and other colony colleagues must design the new world from top to bottom — cities, laws and which animals to release into the new ecosystem. As the first wave of explorers, you and your fellow travelers must design a civilization that will welcome the 80,000 future colony members who left Earth 30 years ago and are in suspended animation.

The Earth you left behind in 2301 was still thriving, but its people were hard-pressed to fix the global flaws from humanity’s past. The ExoTerra mission’s goal is to build a better world for colonists.

“UChicago is creating this for the pandemic — to give students something that is exciting and community building,” Palmer said.

Another goal of the project: to be a space for exploring the important problems of our world and propose solutions to them in a way that’s not connected to current politics — from schools to incarceration. The project is in the tradition of “speculative resistance,” Palmer said, a kind of science fiction that focuses on other ways the world could be by using imagined places.

According to Ben Indeglia, Palmer’s lead lab assistant, 500 students and 100 volunteers signed up

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NASA expert identifies mystery object once thought an asteroid

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The jig may be up for an “asteroid” that’s expected to get nabbed by Earth’s gravity and become a mini moon next month. Instead of a cosmic rock, the newly discovered object appears to be an old rocket from a failed moon-landing mission 54 years ago that’s finally making its way back home, according to NASA’s leading asteroid expert. Observations should help nail its identity.

“I’m pretty jazzed about this,” Paul Chodas told The Associated Press. “It’s been a hobby of mine to find one of these and draw such a link, and I’ve been doing it for decades now.”

Chodas speculates that asteroid 2020 SO, as it is formally known, is actually the Centaur upper rocket stage that successfully propelled NASA’s Surveyor 2 lander to the moon in 1966 before it was discarded. The lander ended up crashing into the moon after one of its thrusters failed to ignite on the way there. The rocket, meanwhile, swept past the moon and into orbit around the sun as intended junk, never to be seen again — until perhaps now.

atlas-centaur-7.jpg
This September 20, 1966, photo provided by the San Diego Air and Space Museum shows an Atlas Centaur 7 rocket on the launchpad at Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Convair/General Dynamics Astronautics Atlas Negative Collection/San Diego Air and Space Museum via AP


A telescope in Hawaii last month discovered the mystery object heading our way while doing a search intended to protect our planet from doomsday rocks. The object promptly was added to the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center’s tally of asteroids and comets found in our solar system, just 5,000 shy of the 1 million mark.

The object is estimated to be roughly 26 feet based on its brightness. That’s in the ballpark of the old Centaur, which would be less

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How Andrea Ghez Won the Nobel for an Experiment Nobody Thought Would Work

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Standing in my office 25 years ago was an unknown, newly minted astronomer with a half-smile on her face. She had come with an outrageous request—really a demand—that my team modify our exhaustively tested software to make one of our most important and in-demand scientific instruments do something it had never been designed for, and risk breaking it. All to carry out an experiment that was basically a waste of time and couldn’t be done—to prove that a massive black hole lurked at the center of our Milky Way.

My initial “no way” (perhaps I used a stronger expression) gradually gave way in the face of her cheerful but unwavering determination. It was my first encounter with a force of nature, Andrea Ghez, one of three winners of this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics, for her work on providing the conclusive experimental evidence of a supermassive black hole with the mass of four million suns residing at the center of the Milky Way galaxy.

That determination and the willingness to take calculated risks has always characterized Andrea. For 25 years she has focused almost exclusively on Sagittarius A*—the name of our own local supermassive black hole. It is remarkable that an entire field of study has grown up in the intervening quarter century, of searching for and finding evidence of these monsters thought to lie at the heart of every large galaxy. And Andrea is without question one of the great pioneers in this search.

Andrea’s co-prizewinner Reinhard Genzel has been involved in the same research from the outset—and it is the work of these two teams, each led by a formidable intellect and using two different observatories in two different hemispheres that has brought astronomy to this remarkable result—the confirmation of another of the predictions of Einstein’s more than

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Lidar study suggests carbon storage losses greater than thought in Amazon due to losses at edge of forests

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LiDAR study suggests carbon storage losses greater than thought in Amazon due to losses at edge of forests
Graphic summary of the main results found in the work. Credit: Celso H. L. Silva Junior

An international team of researchers has found that carbon sequestering losses in the Amazon basin have been undermeasured due to omission of data representing losses at the edges of forests. In their paper published in the journal Science Advances, the group describes using lidar to estimate the carbon sequestering abilities of trees along the edges of Amazon forests.


Prior research has shown that when part of a forest in the Amazon basin is cut down, the trees that remain at the edges of the forest are not as robust as those that are situated farther in. This is because they are more exposed to pollution, pesticides, herbicides, etc. In this new effort, the researchers noticed that the reduced sequestering abilities of such trees are not included in studies of carbon sequestering losses in the Amazon basin when deforestation occurs. They suspected such losses are greater than previously thought, as evidenced by large amounts of fragmenting in the Amazon—where forest patches are surrounded by farmlands, much edging occurs.

To find out how much carbon sequestering loss has been occurring in the Amazon, the researchers flew multiple missions above the canopy edges in airplanes with lidar guns aimed downward. The technology is able to determine how healthy trees are by measuring their greenness, and thus how much carbon they are able to absorb. Back on the ground, they fed the data from the lidar guns to software applications with data describing the amount of edge forest in the Amazon basin. The software used the data from the lidar to calculate the degree of the area’s sequestering loss in total over the years 2000 to 2015—947 million tons of carbon. The researchers note that this amount

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I ‘Thought Money Was an Object’

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Bryce Hall/ Instagram Bryce Hall

Tiktok star Bryce Hall has his sights set on a new virtual platform.

After rising to fame on YouTube and TikTok, Hall has launched a new podcast, titled Capital University and co-hosted by investor Anthony “Pomp” Pompliano, to help him learn how to manage his growing bank account.

After going ″completely broke″ and getting hit with taxes, Hall says his eyes were opened to the importance of proper money management. And realizing that many of his fans might find themselves in similar positions, he decided to start Capital University.

″I always thought money was an object,″ Hall tells PEOPLE of his past financial habits. ″I was spending money before I even had it.″

On the podcast, the two co-hosts will break down the basics of investing, talk steps to ensure future financial security and discuss the challenges that arise from being young, rich and famous.

″Save your money! It can go,″ Hall, 21, says of one of the biggest lesson he’s learned. ″Don’t spend it all.″

Albert L. Ortega/Getty; JP Yim/Getty

RELATED: TikTok Star Charli D’Amelio Reveals Her Struggles with Eating Disorder: ‘Some Days Are Worse Than Others’

Hall is among TikTok’s top stars, with nearly 14 million followers. He resides in the Sway House in Los Angeles, where several social media stars who live together while producing viral moments on TikTok and YouTube.

″I spend most of my money on my YouTube videos, it goes into my content,” he says.

Earlier this summer, Hall founded Ani Energy Drink alongside fellow social media star Josh Richards. He also has his own apparel line.

Listen to Capital University on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and more.

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