Giant sinkhole has a forest at the bottom

A team of Chinese scientists has discovered a giant new sinkhole with a forest at its bottom…The sinkhole is 630 feet (192 meters) deep, according to the Xinhua news agency, deep enough to just swallow St. Louis’ Gateway Arch. A team of speleologists and spelunkers rappelled into the sinkhole on Friday (May 6), discovering that there are three cave entrances in the chasm, as well as ancient trees 131 feet (40 m) tall, stretching their branches toward the sunlight that filters through the sinkhole entrance.

George Veni (executive director of the National Cave and Karst Research Institute (NCKRI) in the U.S) said…The discovery is no surprise…because southern China is home to karst topography, a landscape prone to dramatic sinkholes and otherworldly caves. Karst landscapes are formed primarily by the dissolution of bedrock, Veni said. Rainwater, which is slightly acidic, picks up carbon dioxide as it runs through the soil, becoming more acidic. It then trickles, rushes and flows through cracks in the bedrock, slowly widening them into tunnels and voids. Over time, if a cave chamber gets large enough, the ceiling can gradually collapse, opening up huge sinkholes.

Fascinating article. I’m familiar with sinkholes here in the States; but, some of the examples found in southern China are seriously unique.

Omicron’s Anatomy Explains Why It Is So Contagious

Falconieri Visuals

The Omicron coronavirus variant was likely the fastest-spreading virus in human history. One person with the measles virus—a standout among infectious microbes—might infect 15 others within 12 days. But when Omicron suddenly arrived this past winter, it jumped from person to person so quickly that a single case could give rise to six cases after four days, 36 cases after eight days, and 216 cases after 12 days. By the end of February the variant accounted for almost all new COVID infections in the U.S.

Back when the Alpha variant was spotted in November 2020, scientists knew little about how its few mutations would affect its behavior. Now, with a year’s worth of knowledge and data, researchers have been able to link some of Omicron’s 50 or so mutations to mechanisms that have helped it spread so quickly and effectively…

Omicron hosts twice as many mutations as other variants of concern, and its BA.2 sublineage may have even more. There are 13 mutations on Omicron’s spike protein that are rarely seen among other variants. Those changes to its anatomy gave it new and surprising abilities. If Delta is the brute-force Hulk variant, think of Omicron as the Flash—masked and wicked fast.

RTFA. It helps to understand what we’re facing. So far.

The article tracks four ways this variant has physically changed. Three of those alterations helped enable the virus to evade our immune systems. Making it more infectious. Fortunately. the fourth appears to have made it produce a milder disease.

US Ends Anti-Satellite Missile Tests — Asks Everyone Else to Join In

The United States will no longer conduct anti-satellite tests, Vice President Kamala Harris announced Monday. With this declaration, the country seeks to establish a new norm for responsible behavior in space.

“We have consistently condemned these tests and called them reckless, but that is not enough,” Harris said. “Today we are going further. I am pleased to announce that as of today, the United States commits not to conduct destructive direct-ascent anti-satellite missile testing. Simply put: These tests are dangerous, and we will not conduct them. We are the first nation to make such a commitment. And I call on all nations to join us.”

Harris made her comments on Monday evening during a visit to Vandenberg Space Force Base, the preeminent launch site on the West Coast of the United States. During her speech, Harris said the US government will work with other nations to establish this as a new international norm for responsible behavior in space, noting that ending such tests would benefit all nations and help to preserve the environment of low Earth orbit.

Surely, no one will be cynical enough to gainsay that Uncle Sugar must have figured out some other, more efficient means of accomplishing the same goal. Incapacitating other nations’ satellites at will. Eh?

Where is everyone?

That bottom bar in each infographic is children up to 4 years old. That portion will diminish ~38%. The infographic below these (switchable) two is interesting in how the researchers foresee response to modern alternatives – by country. They expect the GOUSA to continue to grow, albeit minimally. They expect the population of China to drop ~48%, Brazil ~28%, Japan ~58%. Consider what that means to per capita income, the overall stress on infrastructure, many other parameters.

And it’s only a beginning.

Key commercial border crossing in Texas ready to double in size


Since it opened in 1994, the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge has been one of the busiest commercial ports of entry on the U.S.-Mexico border. The city of Pharr, which operates the bridge, has reshaped itself over the decades from a small, dusty agricultural community into a booming border trade hub.

Trade at the South Texas border port totaled a record $42 billion in 2021 — a number that could skyrocket in the near future, as the city has been working on a project to build a second commercial bridge alongside the existing one.

“We are expanding because it’s a need, the demand is there,” Luis Bazán, director of the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge, told FreightWaves. “Even through the pandemic, crossings skyrocketed in Pharr. We’re at 26% trade growth year-over-year [from 2020 to 2021], combined imports and exports — that is a telltale sign that good things are coming, production is booming.”

The bridge expansion project is a joint U.S.-Mexico venture. The cost of the U.S. side of the second span, which is being funded by the city, will be around $45 million and is 1.5 miles long. It will connect with another 1.5-mile portion of the bridge that Mexico is building at roughly the same cost south of the border.

In conjunction with the existing bridge at Pharr, the second bridge will create the Rio Grande Valley’s largest international cargo crossing with Mexico once completed. Land has already been cleared and Pharr officials are ready to begin construction once all hurdles have been cleared. No timetable has been set yet.The bridge expansion project is a joint U.S.-Mexico venture. The cost of the U.S. side of the second span, which is being funded by the city, will be around $45 million and is 1.5 miles long. It will connect with another 1.5-mile portion of the bridge that Mexico is building at roughly the same cost south of the border.

I have to smile when I bump into a tale like this. Traffic management, logistics, is how I earned my living for a few decades and more. I really enjoyed the work. A core component in the economics of a region, an industry, a critical category within commerce.

The problems of rapid economic growth that turn a small town like Pharr into a boomtown – are good problems. Doesn’t always make them easy to resolve.

How cockroaches survived the asteroid impact that killed off dinosaurs

When the rock now known as the Chicxulub impactor plummeted from outer space and slammed into the Earth 66 million years ago, cockroaches were there. The impact caused a massive earthquake, and scientists think it also triggered volcanic eruptions thousands of miles from the impact site. Three-quarters of plants and animals on Earth died, including all dinosaurs, except for some species that were ancestors of today’s birds.

How could roaches a couple of inches long survive when so many powerful animals went extinct? It turns out that they were nicely equipped to live through a meteoric catastrophe.

If you’ve ever seen a cockroach, you’ve probably noticed that their bodies are very flat. This is not an accident. Flatter insects can squeeze themselves into tighter places. This enables them to hide practically anywhere – and it may have helped them survive the Chicxulub impact.

When the meteor struck, temperatures on Earth’s surface skyrocketed. Many animals had nowhere to flee, but roaches could take shelter in tiny soil crevices, which provide excellent protection from heat.

The meteor’s impact triggered a cascade of effects. It kicked up so much dust that the sky darkened. As the sun dimmed, temperatures plunged and conditions became wintry around the globe. With little sunlight, surviving plants struggled to grow, and many other organisms that relied on those plants went hungry.

Not cockroaches, though. Unlike some insects that prefer to eat one specific plant, cockroaches are omnivorous scavengers. This means they will eat most foods that come from animals or plants as well as cardboard, some kinds of clothing and even poop. Having appetites that aren’t picky has allowed cockroaches to survive lean times since the Chicxulub extinction and other natural disasters.

My native cynicism isn’t the only reason why I agree these critters will probably outlast our species. They have a better track record.