Could Earth have a 'shadow' biosphere?

Some scientists think there may be a hidden, second form of life living right under our noses.

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  • All life on Earth shares some basic characteristics, such as being carbon-based; using DNA, RNA, and proteins to function; and so on.
  • Many of these characteristics are simply the only ones that could work in Earth's environment, but there are also a surprising number of seemingly arbitrary features of life.
  • Under the shadow biosphere theory, some scientists argue that alternative forms of life exist right here on Earth, undetected simply because we don't know to look for them.
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Should we blame biology for our biosphere-bashing behavior?

Determining whether human nature is short-sighted when it comes to survival-necessary situations

Illustration by Julia Suits, author of The Extraordinary Catalog of Peculiar Inventions, and The New Yorker cartoonist.
  • Do you know what evidence supposedly supports the claim that "human nature" is short sighted?
  • Can our abstract math help us weigh the "utility," or value, of cupcakes against burning the biosphere?
  • By mixing moral or survival-needed items with trinkets, this math seduces many into calling "rational" what we know will logically lead to collective doom.
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Amazon fires are destructive, but they aren’t depleting Earth’s oxygen supply

Contrary to popular belief, the Amazon rainforest does not produce 20% of our planet's oxygen.

JOAO LAET/AFP/Getty Images

Fires in the Amazon rainforest have captured attention worldwide in recent days. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who took office in 2019, pledged in his campaign to reduce environmental protection and increase agricultural development in the Amazon, and he appears to have followed through on that promise.

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Plants have sensibilities, but are they conscious?

They experience reality differently than we do.

Image source: Jessica Johnston via Unsplash
  • The field of plant neurobiology studies the complex behavior of plants.
  • Plants were found to have 15–20 senses, including many that humans have as well.
  • Some argue that plants may have awareness and intelligence, while detractors persist.
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Why elephant hunting has a 'drastic' impact on our global climate

The loss of elephants accelerates climate change.

Image source: Ondrej Prosicky/Shutterstock
  • Elephants help keep the central African forests they live in healthy.
  • Without elephants, the forests see a striking reduction in their carbon dioxide-storage capacity.
  • Study calls elephants "natural forest managers."
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