Signs & Portents

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Pagan News Beagle: Earthy Thursday, October 1

Glaciers melt at a worrying rate in Greenland. A new (and extinct) species of humanoid is discovered in Africa. And National Geographic is acquired by a new (and controversial) owner. It's Earthy Thursday, our weekly take on science and Earth-related news! All this and more for the Pagan News Beagle!

A million's a big number. A billion's even bigger. But 5 trillion? That's more than most of us can even comprehend. That's also how many tons of ice Antarctica and Greenland have together lost since 2002. Phil Plait covers the details at his blog for Slate.

We've known for some time that we're not the first human (Homo) species to walk the Earth. But the number of new species discovered in recent years continues to amaze. Discover details the find of a new human species in southern Africa that lived between 2.5 and 2.8 million years ago.

English rivers are about to experience the return of an old inhabitant: lampreys, blood-sucking vertebrates related to the ancestors of modern fish, are returning to England after two centuries' absence. Lampreys were driven from England 200 years ago by declining water quality but as this article reports English rivers are clean enough again to support their reintroduction.

How many trees are there on Earth? Recent estimates suggest the number may be as large as 3 trillion, though it's currently dwindling at a rate of about 15 billion a year. Scientific American has more details as well as how estimates such as these help scientists postulate about the search for life in the universe.

National Geographic is easily one of the oldest and most reputable scientific journals on the planet. But earlier last month the magazine was acquired by 21st Century Fox, itself led by controversial business magnate Rupert Murdoch. Gizmodo's writer Jennifer Ouellette is concerned that Murdoch, who has in the past pushed outlets like Fox News to question the validity of global warming, may send the magazine down an unsettling anti-scientific road.

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Aryós Héngwis (or the more modest Héngwis for short) is a native of the Pontic-Caspian steppe, born some 5000 years ago, near the village of Dereivka. In his youth he stood out from the other snakes for his love of learning and culture, eventually coming into the service of the local reǵs before moving westward toward Europe. Most recently, Aryós Héngwis left his home to pursue a new life in America, where he has come under the employ of BBI Media as an internet watchdog (or watchsnake, if you will), ever poised to strike the unwary troll.


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