Thursday's science stories

Sep 23, 2021 - Science

Fossil footprints show humans existed in Americas 23,000 years ago

Photo: Christian Ender/Getty Images

Scientists reported Thursday that human footprints found in White Sand National Park in New Mexico appear to date back about 23,000 years – making them the oldest known footprints in the Americas.

Why it matters: The finding renews the debate on when humans first spread across the Western Hemisphere.

Sep 23, 2021 - Science

Top science advisers: Prepare now for next pandemic

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

Now is a crucial time to lay the groundwork to quash future threats from pathogens, top science advisers in the U.S. and U.K. said this week.

Why it matters: Governments, industries and organizations are trying to bolster early warning systems, improve manufacturing supply chains for vaccines and treatments, and build infrastructure to be able to better contain future outbreaks — all while the current pandemic is still raging.

Some unknowns killed in Latin American conflicts identified

Over 600 crosses rise over Darwin Cemetery, in the Malvinas or Falkland Islands. Most belong to unidentified soldiers. Photo: Martín Bernetti/AFP via Getty Images

Latin Americans lying beneath unmarked tombstones and in mass graves across the region are recovering their names, decades after the conflicts that took their lives.

Driving the news: Last week six Argentine soldiers who died during the 1982 Falklands War were ID'd through forensic anthropology and genetic testing, as part of an international project supported by the Red Cross.

Air quality alerts issued as California fires threaten more sequoias

The Windy Fire blazes through the Long Meadow Grove of giant sequoia trees near the Trail of 100 Giants in Sequoia National Forest, near California Hot Springs, on Tuesday. Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

Two wildfires were threatening California's sequoia trees overnight — hours after authorities issued fresh evacuation orders and warnings, along with air quality alerts.

The big picture: Air quality alerts were issued Wednesday for the Bay Area and the San Joaquin Valley as smoke from the Windy and KNP Complex fires resulted in hazy, "ash-filled" skies from Fresno to Tulare, the Los Angeles Times notes.

Sep 22, 2021 - Science

Rare magnitude 5.9 earthquake shakes buildings across Australia

People gather near a building damaged by a 5.9 magnitude earthquake in central Melbourne, Australia, on Wednesday. Photo: William West/AFP via Getty Images

A magnitude 5.9 earthquake struck northeast of Melbourne, Australia, on Wednesday, causing buildings to shake over 300 miles away in the national capital, Canberra, per the Canberra Times.

Why it matters: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison noted at a briefing that earthquakes are "very rare events in Australia." It was one of seven quakes to strike the state of Victoria Wednesday, with tremors felt across four states, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation notes.