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By Victoria Jaggard, SCIENCE Executive Editor
By now, most of us have probably had our fill of sparkling wine (or nonalcoholic cider) for at least the next couple weeks. According to Food & Wine magazine, we can thank a medieval French king, a British scientist, a Benedictine monk, and some savvy advertisers for the annual ritual of uncorking a bottle of bubbly on New Year’s Eve. And, fundamentally, we can trace all kinds of effervescent goodness, from champagne to Pop Rocks, back to good old-fashioned carbon dioxide gas.
But what happens when CO2 starts bubbling up out of the ocean? We really don’t want to find out, according to a recent Nat Geo report from writer Todd Woody. Around the world, scientists are finding reservoirs of frozen CO2 and methane on the seafloor (pictured above), and as oceans warm, those icy deposits are on the brink of melting. “If that hydrate becomes unstable, in fact melts, that enormous volume of CO2 will be released to the ocean and eventually the atmosphere,” says USC paleoceanographer Lowell Stott. I love bubbles as much as the next person, but we should probably resolve to take climate solutions seriously if we want to stop them from triggering runaway warming.
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Poll: Are peace and protecting the environment linked?
Apparently, you don’t have to be Greta Thunberg to say so. About half of the 2,200 Americans in a National Geographic and Morning Consult poll agree with that statement, while nearly a third do not. Here's the breakdown:
Today in a minute
The fault is in our Mars: Turns out the red planet is not so geologically dead after all. A robot geologist had detected two quakes—known as marsquakes—coming from about 1,000 miles away, pointing toward the existence of an active fault zone, Nat Geo’s Maya Wei-Haas reports. “Mars has just become a bit more alive to us with these data,” says Paul Byrne, a planetary geologist at North Carolina State University.
Parents and kids: Inside a 309-million-year-old tree stump in Nova Scotia, researchers found an adult protectively cradling a juvenile with its tail. That’s the earliest fossil evidence of parental care in the animals that eventually gave rise to mammals, says Hillary Maddin, a paleontologist at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada.
Getting company: Researchers on New Zealand and a local Maori tribe have planted 80 seedlings around one of the rarest trees in the world, hoping to turbocharge the kaikōmako species on a rocky island off New Zealand. Decades of cuttings and failures haven’t worked, but the researchers and Ngāti Kuri tribe are optimistic, Nat Geo reports.
Anti-bacterial pigs: Why not make the food system healthier? Denmark has taken the lead in raising antibiotic-free pigs. U.S. producers have decreased antibiotic use on livestock, but the reduction hasn’t approached Denmark’s level, the New York Times reports. The U.S., meanwhile, has relaxed standards on processing pork, and food inspectors warn that you may see organs, hair, and toenails in the meat.
Moist Alaska: Less sea ice means more water in the air in America’s 49th state—and significantly more rain. Twelve rural villages are hoping to relocate to drier ground, and 14 more are considered “high priority” for relocation, the Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin reports.
Related: Arctic permafrost is thawing fast. That affects us all.
Your Instagram photo of the day
Going, going: The Rhône Glacier in Switzerland is disappearing at an alarming rate. A small shop carves an ice grotto into the glacier for tourists, and has invested in a special thermal blanket that has kept ice from disappearing. However, the blanket is starting to disintegrate—and we cannot do this to all the world’s ice. Says photographer Simon Norfolk: “This glacier, which has existed for millennia, will disappear within the lifetime of children born today.”
On our Instagram pages now: See how our photographers worldwide ushered in the New Year in real time on our @NatGeo, Travel, Adventure, and Your Shot accounts.
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This week in the night sky
New Year's meteor shower: The Quadrantids, the first meteor shower of the new year, will reach its peak late Friday night and early Saturday. Peak rates for this shower usually hover above 60 shooting stars an hour seen from dark locations. North American sky-watchers are particularly favored this year, as the most active part of the shower should occur in the hours before dawn, when the bright moon will be out of the sky. No need for binoculars or telescopes, just make sure you bundle up to catch the show. —Andrew Fazekas
Related: Why is Orion’s giant Betelgeuse dimming? Is it about to explode and die?
The big takeaway
Eating for 10 billion people: How will we feed a growing world? New scientific targets have been released for a nutritionally sound and sustainably produced planetwide diet. What does that mean? Global consumption of foods such as fruits and nuts would double, while the world’s appetite for red meat and sugar would be cut in half. These charts break it down.
Related: The traditional diets that can lead to healthier lives: A tour of the world's 'blue zones' of longevity
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One last glimpse
Too late for midnight kissers: Moist lips are rich in microbes. A woman pressed her mouth on a petri dish to let her microbiome grow, and grow it did. Days later, this colony bloomed. People who often kiss each other will develop similarities in their oral microbiomes, Robin Marantz Henig reports in January's National Geographic magazine.
Read: How trillions of microbes affect every stage of our life.
This newsletter has been curated and edited by David Beard, with photo selections by Eslah Attar. Have an idea, a link, a lunar story? We’d love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org . Thanks for reading, and happy new year!