Scientists confirm (again) that vaccines are safe. A look at how the devastation at Puerto Rico connects to global warming. And a talk with a public speaker on science about how fiction and fantasy can fuel a love for the pursuit of knowledge. It's Earthy Thursday, our segment on science and Earth-related news. All this and more for the Pagan News Beagle!

Despite repeated reassurances, some people still believe vaccines are harmful. Most recently, there were fears that vaccines (specifically the annual influenza vaccine most people are encouraged to get) could cause harmful birth defects. But there's really no evidence to support that claim, as Popular Science details.

Last month the hardworking Cassini probe came to its end as it made one last maneuver and dived into the atmosphere of Saturn. Looking back on all that Cassini shared with us, Carolyn Porco explains why the space probe was important.

We may be the only surviving branch of the human family tree but that wasn't always the case. Just tens of millennia ago many other branches of humanity flourished on planet Earth. At National Geographic, Michael Greshko covers interest in a new and recently discovered ancestral kin: Homo naledi.

As bad as Texas was hit by hurricane season this year, Puerto Rico had it far, far worse. Even as the federal government fails to restore basic utilities in the United States territory, Puerto Ricans struggle to make do. Unfortunately for them (and many more people), weather like this might become a lot more normal.

People often talk about the distinction between science fiction and science fact as if there is no overlap. And while certain science fiction borders on whimsical fantasy, much of it is rooted in hypothetical science. And even when it isn't, it can help to inspire people to pursue a career in science, technology, or engineering. Erin MacDonald talks with Syfy Wire about how science fiction inspires her and how she uses it to encourage interest in science.

Top image by Chris Stringer