Hope Beel - @hopebeel
June 2nd, 2017
Hope Beel - @hopebeel
Some of the first spacecraft that humanity sends to other solar systems may carry microscopic ambassadors from Earth. The $100 million Breakthrough Starshot initiative is working to develop the technology required to accelerate tiny, sail-equipped probes to 20 percent the speed of light, using powerful lasers. If everything goes well, large fleets of these 1-gram spacecraft could begin launching toward Proxima b and other nearby alien worlds within 20 years or so, project representatives have said. The probes would characterize these planets in detail and search for signs of life, but some could perform other work as well. The project offers a great opportunity to investigate the feasibility of interstellar panspermia.
The panspermia hypothesis posits that Earth life might have arrived, rather than originated, here. This idea is not as fringe as you may think. For example, some scientists argue that, in the ancient past, the Martian environment was more conducive to life's emergence than that of Earth. And it's not terribly uncommon for the two planets to exchange material, in the form of rocks and dirt blasted into space by asteroid strikes. Orbital dynamics dictates that it's much easier for Martian stuff to reach Earth than the other way around, so we may all be Martians, according to this line of thinking. It may even be possible for life-forms to move from one star system to another, some panspermia adherents say.
Intelligent aliens could set panspermia in motion, either unintentionally (via contaminated spacecraft) or intentionally (in an effort to seed other worlds). Breakthrough Starshot, and projects like it, could give humanity this ability as well.
Kemo D. 7
President Donald Trump's decision to pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement could deal a staggering blow to the nascent international cooperation on climate change. "It's really hard to move forward on climate without the cooperation of the United States," said Michael Wara, a professor of law at Stanford University. Perhaps most alarming, Wara said, is how Trump's decision on climate policy will affect national security. The withdrawal of the U.S. from Paris does enormous damage to our international credibility, in general, Wara said. Other issues requiring international cooperation, like corralling North Korea or coping with the Syrian crisis, are going to be harder to negotiate without trust from other nations, Wara said.
"The U.S. desperately needs that kind of trust in order to get the kind of outcomes we need internationally," he said. The withdrawal from international negotiations is becoming a pattern. The United States withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal under Trump's first executive order. Trump is also hostile to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), in which members pledge military cooperation with one another. With the United States stepping back from cooperation, nations like China and Russia are freer to pursue their interests — and that is true for climate, as well.
"Withdrawal from Paris Climate Agreement hands leadership in this realm and others to China," said Robert Stavins, director of the Harvard Environmental Economics Program.
Kemo D. 7