Chicken little forecast

Still Chugging Along

Volcanoes are erupting in The Philippines, but on-fire Australia received some welcome rain. The Iran war cries have been called off and The Donald’s military powers are about to be hamstrung by the Senate. Meanwhile, his impeachment trial is starting, and we’re all on Twitter for a front-row seat.


What Could Go Right? Move over, Hubble

Mind-blowing space images from NASA’s bigger, better telescope

Emma Varvaloucas

Emma Varvaloucas

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Move over, Hubble

We promised a break from the United States this week, and you know who delivered for us? NASA. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration dropped the first photos from the James Webb Telescope—the Hubble Telescope’s bigger, badder brother—and they are incredible. 

The Webb Telescope lets us see farther into space and thus, farther back in time, close to the beginning of it. It has already found a galaxy that existed only 400 million years after the Big Bang. That’s old, considering that the Big Bang was almost 14 billion years ago. And that’s young, as The Progress Network (TPN) Member Gregg Easterbrook reminded us yesterday:

The first image NASA released, on Monday, shows thousands of galaxies that we’re able to see for the very first time. “This slice of the vast universe,” says the NASA website, referring to the photo below, “covers a patch of sky approximately the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length by someone on the ground.”

Galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 | Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

The spiky shapes are stars. Everything else you see in the image is an entire galaxy. Remember the end of the movie Men in Black, when the camera starts zooming out from Earth, farther and farther away? We’re not quite at the giant universe creatures bowling, but this is the same idea. Harvard astronomy professor Alyssa A. Goodman puts the image in context in a one-minute video here. Heed the caption. The last ten seconds really are unmissable.

The Webb Telescope can also tell which molecules are which in the atmospheres of planets outside of our solar system. While the Hubble Telescope (and the lesser-known Spitzer Telescope, launched in 2003) only “sense” water and sodium, Webb can find carbon monoxide and dioxide, methane, and many substances, “some of which can hint,” says Science magazine, “at a planet’s potential habitability.” With Webb, astronomers will “be able to probe the atmospheres of every kind of planet,” the article goes on, “from hot Jupiters, through mini-Neptunes, to rocky planets like Earth.”

You can see all of the released images on NASA’s website. We also liked this slider from Vox that shows the difference in quality between the Hubble Telescope and Webb. And TPN Member James Pethokoukis explains the downwind benefits, including economic and cultural ones, that megaprojects like Webb have in his newsletter.

Briefly back down to Earth

Three things stalking the US—the baby formula shortage, gas prices, and the specter of a recession—are easing, at least for now.

The Abbott formula plant in Sturgis, Michigan, first closed after a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspection and then closed a second time due to flooding, has resumed production. That, plus the decision to let overseas manufacturers sell their baby formula in the US beyond the current shortage, means that life should get a bit easier for families in the short and long term. Hey, FDA, can we allow European sunscreen next?

Our non-city-dwelling readers might have noticed that gas prices have reached their peak (on June 14, specifically) and are expected to keep falling in the coming days and into August, barring any unexpected events. (By the way, we just discovered @GasBuddyGuy, who does nonpartisan tracking of gas prices, and he’s awesome. It’s his graph linked to above.)

“Did the growing chorus of doomsayers predicting an imminent economic recession jump the gun?” asks The Dispatch newsletter in their coverage of June’s better-than-expected jobs report. The labor market is still expanding, in almost every sector. It doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods for a future recession, but it does mean it’s still a good time for job hunters.

And in one more piece of FDA news, pharmaceutical company HRA Pharma is the first to apply to sell its birth control pill over the counter in the US.

Before we go

Scientists think that T-rexes’ tiny arms may have helped with sexy times. And that’s all we have to say about that.

Below in the links section, dolphins in New York, whales in Antarctica, fewer deaths in disasters, and more.

A star is born—literally. NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope shows emerging stellar nurseries and individual stars in the Carina Nebula, an area in the Milky Way galaxy around 8,500 light-years from Earth. “The cavernous area,” says NASA, “has been carved from the nebula by the intense ultraviolet radiation and stellar winds from extremely massive, hot, young stars located . . . above the area shown in this image.” | Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

🎧 The New Space Race (Reprise)

Last month on the What Could Go Right? podcast, we spoke with Executive Director of the Inter Astra group and 26-year Marine Corps veteran Ché Bolden about the future of space. With all the big space talk this week, we’re revisiting that conversation. | Listen to the episode

Read the full transcript here.

Progress, Please

(Found good news? Tweet at us @progressntwrk or email.)

Other good stuff in the news 🐬


Science & Tech:

Politics & Policy:

Covid & Public Health:

Society & Culture:

TPN Member originals 🧠

(Who are our Members? Get to know them.)

Department of Ideas 💡
(A staff recommendation guaranteed to give your brain some food for thought.)

What a reckoning at the Supreme Court could look like | The New York Times
What might the court look like if it were designed for this era? What reforms would make the court’s judgment more, rather than less, trustworthy?

Why we picked it: The United States has reformed the Supreme Court in the past. Why not do it again now? These ideas, that go beyond court packing, are worth chewing on. —Emma Varvaloucas

New Member Alert

Jennifer Doleac is an associate professor of economics at Texas A&M University and the president of Doleac Initiatives, which encompasses several ventures related to criminal justice research and policy. She is the director of the Justice Tech Lab, codirector of the Criminal Justice Expert Panel, and host of the Probable Causation podcast. She is also a research fellow at IZA and a senior fellow at the Niskanen Center.

Read an interview with Jennifer on how to prevent gun deaths without gun control.

Until Next Time

Are we living in a simulation bird?👇

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Emma Varvaloucas

Emma Varvaloucas is the Executive Director of The Progress Network. An editor and writer specializing in nonprofit media, she was formerly Executive Editor of Tricycle: The Buddhist Review and is the editor of two books from Wisdom Publications.