Population: 10 Billion
How much more crowded is our planet going to get? Will we keep on expanding indefinitely, or are we approaching the upper limit? Can the planet sustain ten billion people?
The current consensus is that we'll reach our maximum population by around 2050 and then start to slowly decline, but that might be based on two critically flawed assumptions. The United Nations estimates that the human population will reach nine billion people right around the year 2050. Considering how fast we went from six to seven billion people—and it also took only twelve years to get from five to six billion—it might seem strange that it could take nearly forty years to add another two billion. It's because the birth rate is actually negative in several post-industrial, generally affluent countries in southern and eastern Europe, and this trend is expected to spread outwards.
Here's the science of black holes, from supermassive monsters to ones the size of ping-pong balls.
- There's more than one way to make a black hole, says NASA's Michelle Thaller. They're not always formed from dead stars. For example, there are teeny tiny black holes all around us, the result of high-energy cosmic rays slamming into our atmosphere with enough force to cram matter together so densely that no light can escape.
- CERN is trying to create artificial black holes right now, but don't worry, it's not dangerous. Scientists there are attempting to smash two particles together with such intensity that it creates a black hole that would live for just a millionth of a second.
- Thaller uses a brilliant analogy involving a rubber sheet, a marble, and an elephant to explain why different black holes have varying densities. Watch and learn!
- Bonus fact: If the Earth became a black hole, it would be crushed to the size of a ping-pong ball.
Protected animals are feared to be headed for the black market.
In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.
- The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
- Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
- Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
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