Ransomware's Threat, New Planets and More: 5 Things We Learned This Week

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NASA's planet-finding Kepler mission announced the discovery of more than a thousand more exoplanets Tuesday, making it the largest single new planet announcement in history. NASA/W. Stenzel

From the decline of self-identified environmentalists to the drop in honeybee colonies, here are five things we learned in Tech & Science this week. 

05_20_ransomware_01 Ransomware viruses are increasing in frequency, costing hundreds of millions of dollars. Skip Sterling for Newsweek

  • NASA announced the biggest new-planet discovery in history this week. About 550 of the 1,284 "new" planets are close to the size of Earth, and nine of them are close enough to sun stars to allow conditions that could be hospitable for life to exist. The ranks of planets could soon swell, with 1,327 under consideration to be confirmed as a verified planet. 

05_12_planet_02 The histogram shows the number of planet discoveries by year for more than the past two decades of the exoplanet search. The blue bar shows previous non-Kepler planet discoveries, the light blue bar shows previous Kepler planet discoveries, the orange bar displays the 1,284 new validated planets. NASA AMES/W. STENZEL; PRINCETON UNIVERSITY/T. MORTON

  • Environmentalism is in steep decline, at least as it pertains to the actual label. In 1991, the vast majority of people—78 percent—identified as environmentalists, compared to just 42 percent of people in 2016, according to Gallup polls. The statistic seems counterintuitive given the growth of environmental awareness within the past 25 years, but the finding likely has as much to do with the politicization of the term as it does with ecological commitment. 

0510numbers01 In 1991, 78 percent of Americans said that they were environmentalists. But in 2016, only 42 percent identified that way, according to Gallup polls. Maelle Doliveux for Newsweek

  • Mount St. Helens is once again an active volcano. There have been 130 small earthquakes beneath the volcano in recent weeks, evidence that the volcano is "recharging," with magma flowing upward. However, we're unlikely to see a repeat of the 1980 eruption that was triggered by a 5.1-magnitude earthquake. "There is absolutely no sign that it will erupt anytime soon,” the U.S. Geological Survey said in a statement .

05_13-volcano_01 A swarm of earthquakes has been recorded beneath volcanic Mount St Helens, although an eruption is not seen as imminent. Andy Clark/Reuters

  • Beekeepers report a troubling drop in honeybee colonies' numbers. More than a quarter of the U.S.'s colonies were wiped out by the winter; beekeepers consider a 17-percent loss as acceptable. The decline doesn't appear to be an isolated incident, either. Annual death rates have been increasing, and the U.S. lost 44 percent of commercial colonies from April 2015 to March 2016. 

05_13_bee_01 One of thousands of honeybees permanently placed in a courtyard of a German parliament building in Berlin, Germany, April 25. Drops in the U.S. bee population have prompted serious concern. Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters