A week of political fireworks in the US (we’re watching the government-shutdown saga) also featured the flares of some coldly ambitious tech.
Humanity might have seen the world’s first five-rocket-launch day – missions both national and private – had a bunch of them not fizzled. There was a fresh run by Uber at autonomous cars, and the temporary shutdown of London’s Gatwick Airport by drones of unknown origin.
Hands-on human innovation today extends even to the natural-sounding realm of islands. Most recently in the news because of the existential threat posed to them by rising seas, they’ve also popped up – in artificial form – as territorial markers (think China’s outposts in the South China Sea).
But it’s not all competitive human calculus.
In the Netherlands, a handful of built islets have emerged in a massive freshwater lake, part of a very Dutch effort that’s now paying environmental dividends according to a report from Agence France-Presse.
Construction involved silt, not just sand, and in only 2-1/2 years the islets have provided a foothold for nearly 130 plant types, their seeds borne in by the wind. Tens of thousands of swallows have also arrived. Most important, an “explosion” of life-sustaining plankton is reviving the once-dead lake.
Says one ranger of the high-tech rewilding effort, “We had to intervene.”
Now to our five stories for today, including a look at the deployment of babies against bullies, and, as we enter the Northern Hemisphere’s longest night, a science writer’s celebration of cosmic darkness.