Love Hormone Oxytocin May Increase Life Satisfaction, Empathy

A recent study links neurochemical oxytocin with empathy and life satisfaction in older people. INA FASSBENDER/AFP via Getty Images

A new study published in the journal Frontier in Behavioral Neuroscience shows that older individuals tend to release more oxytocin in response to social situations that arouse empathy. A larger oxytocin response was also associated with greater levels of helping behaviors and increased satisfaction with life.

These findings may explain why older individuals donate more to charity and perform more social work.“People who released the most oxytocin in the experiment were not only more generous to charity but also performed many other helping behaviors. This is the first time a distinct change in oxytocin has been related to past prosocial behaviors,” said Dr. Paul Zak, the study author and a professor at Claremont Graduate University.

Oxytocin and social behaviors

Oxytocin is a hormone responsible for uterus contractions during childbirth, lactation, and reproductive behaviors. Oxytocin also modulates the transmission of signals between brain cells and is involved in modulating social behaviors. Experiments in humans suggest that brain oxytocin reduces anxiety and promotes trust, cooperation, empathy, generosityTrusted Source, and social bonding.

Studies have shown that older individuals tend to donate more money to charity and are more likely to engage in volunteer work than younger people. A potential explanation for this increase in prosocial behaviors could be greater empathy in response to social situations in older people than in younger people.

Given the association between oxytocin and empathy, the study’s authors wanted to understand whether oxytocin mediated increased prosocial behaviors in old age.

Oxytocin and age

The present study’s authors recruited 103 individuals between 18 and 99 years old. Researchers divided the participants into three groups: young (18 to 35 years), middle-aged (36 to 65 years ), or older (over 65 years) adults.

They asked the participants to watch a short emotional video of a father narrating his feelings about coping with the imminent demise of his two-year-old son with terminal brain cancer.

The researchers collected blood samples from the participants before and after watching the video to measure oxytocin levels. Previous studies have shown that changes in blood and brain oxytocin levels tend to be correlated, allowing the researchers to estimate changes in brain oxytocin levels using blood samples.

The researchers found that older individuals showed a larger increase in oxytocin levels after viewing the video than younger individuals.

Oxytocin and kindness

After viewing the video, the participants were given a monetary reward for participating in an unrelated study and the option to donate part of the reward to a medical charity.The researchers found that individuals with a larger increase in blood oxytocin levels were likely to donate a greater fraction of the reward money.

Furthermore, older individuals donated a larger fraction of the reward money to the charity. Surveys conducted during the study revealed that older individuals also spent greater time volunteering and donated more to charity in the previous year.

Notably, a small increase in oxytocin levels in older individuals was associated with a similar donation amount as younger individuals with a larger oxytocin response.

The study also found that aging resulted in a more profound increase in donations to charity in older individuals with a smaller oxytocin response than a larger one. The findings suggest that aging and oxytocin response levels together influence the amounts donated to charity.

Satisfaction with life and religiosity  

Consistent with other studies, the researchers found that older individuals were more likely to participate in religious activities and had a greater sense of satisfaction with life. Studies have shown that older, more religious adults engage more in charity and volunteer work and express greater life satisfaction.

The researchers found that a larger oxytocin response to the video stimulus was associated with a greater sense of satisfaction with life, participation in religious activities, and increased levels of empathy and gratitude.

Study limitations

The authors cautioned that the study only correlates oxytocin release and prosocial behaviors and other traits. The findings are especially relevant since there is a bidirectional relationship between oxytocin release and prosocial behaviors, with engagement in prosocial behaviors associated with a subsequent increase in oxytocin levels.

The authors also noted that the study involved a small number of participants residing in California. Hence, more research involving a larger number of participants representing the broader demographic needs to be conducted.

Intranasal oxytocin

Other studies also suggest that using intranasal sprays to deliver oxytocin can improve mood and cognitive function, especially in older men. Although there is an interest in the therapeutic use of intranasal oxytocin, the effects of oxytocin vary by context and among individuals.

Dr. Natalie Ebner, a neuroscientist at the University of Florida, noted in a lecture, “There is a lot of evidence that oxytocin doesn’t always work the same way. It depends a little bit on what kind of situation you are in, if it’s a positive social situation it does one thing, if it’s a hostile situation suddenly it increases aggressivity. So there are a lot of interesting manipulations we can do by looking closer at contextual factors and we’re starting to see a lot is that not everyone responds in the same way.”

Source: ‘Love hormone’ oxytocin may increase life satisfaction, empathy

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Nanotechnology Is the Future of Renewable Energy

Nanotechnology is advancing so rapidly these days that it seems there is a new nanotech breakthrough being reported on a daily basis.  Top researchers from around the world are using nanotechnology to solve problems once considered impossible, and are even discovering new and interesting properties in our material reality along the way.

2011 alone has seen some major advances in nanotechnology applied to the energy sector, and the promise nanotech holds for renewable energy is exactly what the budding market needs to eventually overtake fossil fuels as the energy generation mode of choice.

Super Efficient Solar Nantennas

University of Missouri researcher Patrick Pinhero and collaborators have developed microscopic antennas called, “nantennas,” that capture sunlight in both the visible and near-infrared spectrum as well as heat energy to create a thin-film solar sheet capable of 90 percent efficiency—far better than the 20 percent efficiency offered by current solar panels.

Energy Generation from Sound

Researchers at Sungkyunkwan University have created microscopic strings of zinc oxide that when exposed to sound vibrate between two electrodes, thus creating a charge. “Sound power can be used for various novel applications including cellular phones that can be charged during conversations and sound-insulating walls near highways that generate electricity from the sound of passing vehicles,” says lead researcher Dr. Sang-Woo Kim.

Energy Transmission Via Nanotubes

A never-before witnessed energy effect has been observed by MIT scientists working with carbon “nanotubes.”  Apparently, heat waves travel through these microscopic tubes up to 10,000 times faster than normal while picking up ambient charged particles along the way, thus creating and electric charge.  This offers untold potential in energy transmission.

Focusing Energy with Nanocones 

Oak Ridge National Laboratory has created microscopic zinc oxide cones, dubbed “nanocones,” that exhibit the unique property of focusing and intensifying energy at the cones’ tips.  The nanocones have been applied to solar cells to boost efficiency.

Storing Energy with Nanosponges

University of Texas researchers have created carbon nano-supercapacitors called “nanosponges” which are capable of storing static-electric energy in their sponge-like pores.  Like traditional supercapacitors, nansponges can deliver energy faster and more efficiently than chemical-based batteries, but at a far higher capacity.  Currently, the nanosponges can store the energy equivalent of a lead-acid battery, but material improvements could put them on par with lithium-ion very soon.

Source: Nanotechnology Is the Future of Renewable Energy | Energy Digital

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Related contents:

Ludwig Chicago Nanotechnology Induces Therapeutic Immune Responses Against Multiple Types of Tumors Newswise (Press Release)

Thursday
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19:04 Fri, 21 Oct
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Nanotechnology’s spring Works in Progress
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Blockchain Technology Could Make SWIFT Data Flow Faster

The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) company logo displayed on a ... [+] © 2022 Bloomberg Finance LP

SWIFT, the global system that banks use to manage cross-border payments, is giving blockchain technology a new appraisal, five years after it took its first look. This time around, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications, is seeking to speed the transmission for data on corporate actions, events such as dividend payments, exchange offers and mergers that affect investors and money flows around the world.

The current method involves data passing through an assortment of intermediaries before it reaches users such as asset managers, brokers and investment custodians, and the data can be contradictory or erroneous. End users must manually sort, compare and reconcile the data.

Blockchain might well be able to do it better. A hallmark of the technology is that blockchains are immutable ledgers, and a key advantage in this case is that they operate via consensus mechanisms that require agreement on the definition of each data item by a network of participants. In essence, this means a blockchain validates the data before registering it.

Leading financial institutions including Citigroup C -0.7%, Vanguard and Northern Trust NTRS -2.4% are participating in the trial.“Innovation and emerging technologies, including blockchain and distributed ledger technology, are really interesting to us,” said Tom Zschach, chief innovation officer at SWIFT. “We’re constantly looking for ways to validate the technology and to deliver the promise.”

The pilot will use enterprise technology company Symbiont’s Assembly platform. Corporate action data will be communicated using the SWIFT network, translated into a single format by SWIFT, then uploaded to Symbiont’s blockchain. Once there, Symbiont’s blockchain will compare the information and create a single record to be shared. In using blockchain to create a singular record, the aim is to reduce manual review of the data, saving time and money.

“What the solution allows us to do is to take in all that data, to use smart contracts to normalize that data and internally compare it, instead of forcing the user to reconcile. You get one golden record,” says Mark Smith, CEO of Symbiont. “One of the big values of blockchain technologies is you have an immutable ledger and you have a provenance of that information.”

Founded in 1973, SWIFT is a non-profit with 11,000 financial-institution members around the globe. The organization provides the infrastructure for interbank communications and facilitates $1.5 trillion worth of payments daily. The network is particularly important for facilitating cross-border payments: it transmits messages between banks in different countries telling them to either credit or debit accounts.

While providing critical payments and messaging infrastructure, SWIFT has been criticized for being slow and costly due to the correspondent banking network it connects. SWIFT’s faults have drawn challengers from the crypto world: Ripple markets a faster and cheaper cross-border payments system through its token XRP; Meta tried to break in with its stablecoin Libra; and central banks around the world are looking into their own digital currencies as a potential solution to inefficient cross-border payments.

SWIFT itself has turned to blockchain before as a potential solution to the inefficiencies of the interbank communications world. In 2017, SWIFT worked with the Hyperledger Fabric blockchain to see if its technology could help banks free up cash stored in overfunded reserve accounts around the world, which are maintained to ensure cross-border payments can be executed. The hope was that blockchain could increase visibility into these overseas accounts so that banks could keep less in them without risking payment delays.

Wells Fargo WFC -0.5%, Deutsche Bank and JPMorgan Chase JPM -0.7% were among participants in the project. The pilot concluded that blockchain could improve liquidity management, but that each of the member banks would need to upgrade its systems before such an approach could work.

The pilot announced this week will be tested with a small group of participants and additional feedback will be provided by the end of the month. “We do view these as R&D projects at this point and the nice thing about innovation is that it doesn’t always have to work,” Zschach said. “It’s really about our ability to solve a real problem that’s out there — in this case it’s pretty specific for custodians and asset managers.”

I cover fintech for the money team at Forbes. I am an NYU graduate with bylines at AMNewYork, Gotham Gazette, and Prague Daily Monitor.

Source: Blockchain Technology Could Make SWIFT Data Flow Faster

Critics by

SWIFT, the messaging system used by financial institutions globally to convey instructions on tens of millions of transactions each day, is testing out blockchain. The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, or SWIFT for short, is piloting a project with fintech company Symbiont Inc., according to a post seen by Bloomberg.

The collaboration, which includes Citigroup Inc., Vanguard and Northern Trust, is aimed at driving “efficiencies in communicating significant corporate events,” like dividend payments and mergers, SWIFT said in its post. As a global financial artery, SWIFT delivers secure messages among 11,000 companies in over 200 countries and territories, directing trillions of dollars in transactions.

The operation gained much attention earlier this year as war broke out in Ukraine following Russia’s invasion. The US and Europe cut a number of Russian banks from SWIFT, hurting their efforts to move money and operate globally. With the latest pilot project, SWIFT will automate corporate action workflow using Symbiont’s technology platform called Assembly, it said in the post.

SWIFT will use the platform’s smart contracts and blockchain capabilities to “create a network effect that leverages our 11,000 plus institutions connected to SWIFT globally,” it said. Under the effort, corporate action data from SWIFT messages will be translated by SWIFT’s translator tool and uploaded in Symbiont’s blockchain.

Symbiont’s smart contract technology will then compare information shared between participants, flagging “discrepancies, contradictions or inconsistencies across custodians,” Tom Zschach, chief innovation officer at SWIFT, said in the post.

SWIFT’s work with Symbiont, a US financial technology company, follows other efforts to innovate in the payment space. SWIFT has already partnered with the Bank of International Settlements to explore the benefits of using a common language for cross-border payments. 

SWIFT was set up to make it easier for banks in various countries to communicate with one another. The private network was designed to be more secure, and its messages followed a protocol so they could be quickly understood by banks anywhere in the world. But it hasn’t been immune to hacks: It’s been used by cybercriminals to commit heists, showing any system can be vulnerable. 

Symbiont offers its blockchain technology to solve inefficiencies in the financial marketplace. “By bringing Symbiont’s Assembly and smart contracts together with SWIFT’s extensive network, we’re able to automatically harmonize data from multiple sources of a corporate action event,” Zschach said in the post. “This can lead to significant efficiencies.”

The pilot is in development and with a select group of participants that will test it and provide feedback in September. If it’s successful, SWIFT will extend it to cover more corporate events and assess bringing it to the wider SWIFT community. 

“Via our smart contract technology, we are enabling market participants to automate the reconciliation process,” Mark Smith, co-founder and chief executive officer at Symbiont, said. “We look forward to taking the next steps in exploring what can be built on top of this high-quality- data source.”

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What To Know About How Monkeypox Spreads—And Whether You Should Wear A Mask

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sparked confusion over monkeypox this week after deleting a recommendation for travelers to wear face masks to protect against the disease, a u-turn that shed light on the different ways the virus spreads amid escalating outbreaks across Europe and North America—here’s what to know about how the disease is transmitted.

Monkeypox does not spread easily between people and is transmitted through prolonged close contact with an infected animal or person or objects contaminated by someone with an infection like towels, clothes or bedding.The virus mainly spreads via direct contact with infectious monkeypox sores, scabs or bodily fluids, though it can also be transmitted via respiratory droplets, the kind of large particles produced when people breathe, talk, cough or sneeze.

These respiratory droplets do not travel very far and drop to the ground quickly, Dr. Jake Dunning, an infectious disease researcher at the University of Oxford, told Forbes. It’s not clear whether or not monkeypox can also spread via aerosol—tiny liquid particles that can linger in the air—a mode of transmission often used to designate a disease “airborne.”

Dunning called the term “unhelpful” as many people use it to describe different things, though said it is possible that short-range aerosols could be involved in transmitting monkeypox. More research will be needed to know for sure, he said, adding that he would be “surprised” if research showed long-range aerosol transmission, given current evidence suggesting long-range transmission is unlikely.

If monkeypox can be transmitted sexually. A significant portion of the monkeypox cases identified in Europe and the U.K. have been among men who identify as gay or bisexual or have sex with other men with no history of travel to parts of Africa where monkeypox is endemic. While the virus is not known to be sexually transmitted—though a degree of close physical contact can be assumed—the pattern had scientists wondering if other modes of transmission were involved and experts have cautioned against stigmatizing members of the community.

Experts stress the risk from monkeypox is not limited to men who have sex with men and note the pattern could be explained by other factors. These could include health officials searching for, and thus finding, more cases within this group, members of the community being more proactive about their sexual health and more likely to visit clinics or the disease spreading thorugh sexual and social networks.

Researchers in Europe recently detected monkeypox virus in the semen of several patients, however, suggesting direct sexual transmission may be possible. Further research will be needed to determine whether this is the case, Dunning said. It’s not clear how the virus came to be in the seminal fluid or whether it was “added” at some point after ejaculation, he explained.

On Monday, the CDC raised its alert on monkeypox to Level 2—the level below advising against non-essential travel—updating its guidance and encouraging travelers to “practice enhanced precautions.” The guidance, which stressed the risk to the general public is “low,” advised those traveling to areas where there’s a monkeypox outbreak to avoid contact with sick people, contaminated materials and wild animals.

It also suggested travelers wear masks to help protect against monkeypox, though the agency quietly removed this recommendation, stating it had “caused confusion.” The agency does still recommend face masks, alongside other protective gear, for those who may be in close contact with a confirmed monkeypox patient and health workers caring for monkeypox patients. Dr. Hugh Adler from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and Oxford’s Dunning both told Forbes masks are worn in clinical settings as part of a standard set of protective equipment for dealing with diseases like monkeypox.

On their own, masks may not be that useful in protecting against monkeypox given the multiple ways the disease can spread, they added. Given the very low risk of the general public coming into contact with someone with monkeypox, Adler said wearing masks doesn’t make a lot of sense. Dunning said the debate over masks is similar to discussions going on around the world with several other emerging infections and is “heavily influenced” by the Covid-19 pandemic.

45. That’s how many cases of monkeypox have been confirmed in the U.S. as of Thursday, according to the CDC. More than 1,300 cases have been confirmed in nearly 30 countries outside of Africa, according to public health data compiled by Global.Health, a team of researchers and technologists tracking the outbreak. The majority of these are in Europe—the U.K. has identified 321 cases, Spain 198, Portugal 191 and Germany 113—with a notable cluster of 110 cases in Canada. More cases are suspected but not confirmed.

Orthopoxviruses like monkeypox are “hardy and stable” and can survive for weeks or months in shed skin flakes and dust if the conditions are right, Oxford’s Dunning told Forbes. This means items like contaminated bedding or towels used by monkeypox patients could theoretically pose an infection risk for a long time. “Clouds” of skin flakes or dust that might form when changing the bed of an infected person could, for example, pose a risk of infection, Dunning added, though more research will be needed to examine the possibility.

Monkeypox gaining a foothold. Monkeypox is not a new virus and is a well-known entity that has been circulating in parts of Central and Western Africa for decades. It’s typically mild and goes away on its own in a month or so—though it can be lethal and is more dangerous for children and pregnant people—and there are several useful vaccines and treatments available designed to tackle smallpox, a similar virus that has been eradicated.

Experts, including WHO chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, say the sudden and unexpected appearance of monkeypox in multiple countries at once suggests the virus may have been circulating undetected in non-endemic countries for some time, though it’s unclear for how long. While Tedros said it’s not too late to contain the outbreaks at the moment, he warned there is a “real” risk of the virus “becoming established in non-endemic countries.”

It’s possible the virus could spread to wild animal populations and gain a foothold outside of Africa that way, several researchers studying how viruses spread from animals to humans told Forbes. Rodents—which are suspected of harboring the virus in Africa—and squirrels are the most likely animal reservoirs in the U.S., University of Minnesota virologist Matthew Aliota said, and Georgetown University’s Ellen Carlin said the animals should be an “important planning consideration” for officials tackling the outbreak.

I am a London-based reporter for Forbes covering breaking news. Previously, I have worked as a reporter for a specialist legal publication covering big data and as a freelance

Source: What To Know About How Monkeypox Spreads—And Whether You Should Wear A Mask

Related News:

Monkeypox Can Be Airborne, Too

Here Are The Companies That Could Profit As Governments Scramble To Secure Monkeypox Treatments And Vaccines

Monkeypox: Here’s What You Need To Know About The Rare Virus Found In The U.S., U.K. And Europe

Monkeypox is a new global threat. African scientists know what the world is up against

Monkeypox vaccination begins — can the global outbreaks be contained?

“Signs and Symptoms Monkeypox”.

Transmission Monkeypox”

“2003 U.S. Outbreak Monkeypox”

Human monkeypox”

“Treatment | Monkeypox | Poxvirus | CDC”.

Smallpox Vaccine Supply & Strength”. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

“FDA approves first live, non-replicating vaccine to prevent smallpox and monkeypox”.

Treatment | Monkeypox | Poxvirus

Multi-country monkeypox outbreak in non-endemic countries”. World Health Organization.

Monkeypox cases reported in these countries so far. Check full list here”.

“Monkeypox cases investigated in Europe, the United States, Canada and Australia”

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There Could Be 42,777 Intelligent Alien Civilizations In Our Galaxy Say Scientists

How many extraterrestrial intelligent civilizations are out there and when will one of them send us a message?

The answers, according to a paper published in The Astrophysical Journal are 42,777 and sometime in the next 2,000 years. It’s a decent explanation for the Fermi Paradox, which asks why we still haven’t received any messages from other civilizations despite there being a high probability of them existing.

It estimates the number of possible CETIs—communicating extraterrestrial intelligent civilizations—within our Milky Way galaxy. It also looks at how probable it is that one of them could contact us and when.There are, of course, some huge unknowns behind these seemingly very precise estimates that if known would make a massive difference to the results:

  • The probability of life appearing on rocky planets and eventually evolving into a civilization advanced enough to contact another.
  • At what stage of their host star’s evolution such advanced civilizations would be born.

So the figure of 42,777—which has an error rate of a few hundred each side—is on the optimistic side. It’s based on an estimate that only 0.1% of civilizations could become advanced enough to contact another. This is where the Great Filter comes in.

It also takes into account the idea that any civilization would need to survive for about three million years, give or take, to reach that point.

Even if a message is ever sent to us from an advanced civilization elsewhere in the Milky Way the question remains as to whether humans can survive long enough to receive it. The authors suggest that we will need to wait as little as 2,000 years to receive one alien signal.

That’s the optimistic calculations. The authors’ pessimistic estimates are for just 0.001% of civilizations–about 111—to become advanced enough to contact another. The upshot of that would be that humans would need to wait for 400,000 years to receive a message.

“The minimum value (0.001%) we take may also be overestimated,” write the authors, Wenjie Song and He Gao at Beijing Normal University’s Department of Astronomy. “If so, the number of CETIs would become even lower, and the opportunities for communication between CETIs would become extremely small.”

The only message ever received on Earth that could have come from an extraterrestrial intelligence is the Wow! Signal, which was received in 1977 at the Big Ear radio telescope, Ohio. It was heard for 72 seconds—the maximum possible at the time—and was never repeated.

The source of that signal remains unknown though a recent paper found only one Sun-like star (called 2MASS 19281982- 2640123) in a sample of 66 in the region of the night sky that Wow! came from. It’s 18,000 light-years away.

In 2012 a paper estimated that the closest civilization to the solar system could be 1,933 light years away. So let’s send a reply? Sure—and why not, considering the chances of an advanced alien civilization being malicious are really low—though there is one problem. Any radio or laser transmission will travel at the speed of light, so would take 1,800 years to get there.

The authors note that astronomers did send the “Arecibo message” to the Great Hercules Globular Cluster (M13) in 1974 using the now collapse Arecibo radio telescope. However, it wasn’t much good. “If there are indeed CETIs in M13, their detection ability needs to be 21 orders of magnitude higher than ours to detect our signal,” write the authors. “Conversely, if they transmit a similar signal, we need to improve the detection ability by 21 orders of magnitude to detect it.”

Space is big—really big—and even in-galaxy messaging is completely impractical. Even if we’re not alone it’s doubtful we’ll ever find out.But that doesn’t stop us looking for Earth-like exoplanets around 2MASS 19281982- 2640123.Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.

Source: There Could Be 42,777 Intelligent Alien Civilizations In Our Galaxy Say Scientists

Critics

Here’s a good sign for alien hunters: More than 300 million worlds with similar conditions to Earth are scattered throughout the Milky Way galaxy. A new analysis concludes that roughly half of the galaxy’s sunlike stars host rocky worlds in habitable zones where liquid water could pool or flow over the planets’ surfaces.

“This is the science result we’ve all been waiting for,” says Natalie Batalha, an astronomer with the University of California, Santa Cruz, who worked on the new study.

The finding, which has been accepted for publication in the Astronomical Journal, pins down a crucial number in the Drake Equation. Devised by my father Frank Drake in 1961, the equation sets up a framework for calculating the number of detectable civilizations in the Milky Way. Now the first few variables in the formula—including the rate of sunlike star formation, the fraction of those stars with planets, and the number of habitable worlds per stellar system—are known.

The number of sunlike stars with worlds similar to Earth “could have been one in a thousand, or one in a million—nobody really knew,” says Seth Shostak, an astronomer at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute who was not involved with the new study.

Astronomers estimated the number of these planets using data from NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft. For nine years, Kepler stared at the stars and watched for the brief twinkles produced when orbiting planets blot out a portion of their star’s light. By the end of its mission in 2018, Kepler had spotted some 2,800 exoplanets—many of them nothing like the worlds orbiting our sun.

But Kepler’s primary goal was always to determine how common planets like Earth are. The calculation required help from the European Space Agency’s Gaia spacecraft, which monitors stars across the galaxy. With Gaia’s observations in hand, scientists were finally able to determine that the Milky Way is populated by hundreds of millions of Earth-size planets orbiting sunlike stars—and that the nearest one is probably within 20 light-years of the solar system…..

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