#58: I signed on this ship to practice medicine!

I'm not going to lay all of the blame for #climatechange on the feet of my peers; we're still relatively young, even if we (I) feel 70. However, we're barreling towards an era of responsibility and accountability and there's no one more deserving of our best efforts than our children (on most days. Some days I hide in the pantry and eat their Annie's snack mix because a) It's a nightmare out there at dinner time and b) it's delicious). 

So anyways. We owe it to those little whippersnappers to accept the current status (not great, Bob) and how much we've fucked up, be honest about "the situation" in discussions about the weather/ocean/how we get our energy, so they're educated early and incentivized to personally and collectively do something about it, and finally, to get to goddamn work fixing what we can and preparing for what we can't.

Because there's a lot coming down the pipe, and ignorance isn't a virtue the universe shines kindly on. 💫

On to the news!



Some of you may question the idea of describing a planetary apocalypse to a four year old. That's fair. You might have also got caught up in the recent New York Magazine huffle-puff, with a bunch of folks citing the original article and being like "we're toast" and others going "dude, why you gotta be so down, it makes people sad and inert". 

There's healthy arguments on both sides, and it's great we're having the discussion at all. You might even say it's #important! Here's a Vox piece that's kind of like a TLDR of the original article and all of the responses and, finally, and most vitally, not matter how you frame it, why it's important to not underestimate what's happening, especially if you're a journalist and you live on planet Earth:

"It’s just weird for journalists and analysts to worry about overly alarming people regarding the biggest, scariest problem humanity has ever faced. By any sane accounting, the ranks the under-alarmed outnumber the over-alarmed by many multiples. The vast majority of people do not have an accurate understanding of how bad climate change has already gotten or how bad it is likely to get, much less how bad it could get if we keep electing crazy people. 

When there are important things that people don’t understand, journalists should explain those things. Attempts at dime-store social psychology are unlikely to lead to better journalism."

Regardless, we've got work to do.

So here's one list of things you can do.

And here's another.

Moving on - there's lots we can do to stop making climate change worse than it already is, and will be (don't forget about that fun 30ish year delay). But will we ever develop technology efficient and affordable enough to remove existing emissions from the atmosphere? Great question.

"This new paper argues that it's not enough to stop adding to the problem—we have to actively chip away at it, too. For the sake of future generations, the study suggests, we should take steps to reduce the level of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere from its present level of 400 parts per million, to 350 parts per million. The researchers estimate that if we began reducing CO2 emissions in 2021 at a rate of six percent per year, we would also need to remove 150 gigatonnes—the equivalent of one and a half-times the mass of all of the oil produced since 1850—out of the atmosphere by 2100. Two-thirds of the carbon, they estimate, could be removed through better agricultural and forestry practices.

Hansen and his colleagues drew conclusions in part based on geological data related to the Eemian era. The Eemian was a warm period sandwiched between two ice agesthat ended roughly 115,000 years ago. Our era (the Holocene) began about 11,700 years ago, and is cooler than the Eemian. The issue, say the researchers, is that the targets set by the Paris Climate Agreement—which would have us keep warming at less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temps—still leads to an altered climate. At 2C above pre-industrial levels, we're left with a climate that looks more Eemian than Holocene." (Popular Science)

IS THIS BAD? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The next logical question, then, is whether such tinkering is a good idea. A good idea, you say? Aren't we going to melt/drown? Is anything that prevents or at least lessens the impact of either scenario a "good idea"?


"Too many unknowns. Suddenly cooling the planet could cause freaky weather all over the world. It could interrupt India's annual monsoon. The globe's wind patterns could change completely. Plus, you'd have to keep doing them for a very long time—remember, all that carbon dioxide is still in the atmosphere, releasing trapped heat. Also, poisoning the ocean.

But the technical challenges of geo-engineering are minimal compared to the challenges governments face in deciding when, if, and how to deploy these technologies. The biggest worry of all is that some desperate country, or group of countries, might decide to do some geoengineering all on their own. "Imagine if somebody starts flying planes in the atmosphere full of sulfur dust, and then India's monsoons are late. This would be a geopolitical crisis," says Janos Pasztor, the executive director of the Carnegie Climate Geoengineering Governance Initiative, and co-author of yet another Science paper, this one specifically addressing the policy implications raised by the former two." (WIRED)

Still doubtful?


Actually, yes, it's an issue in your back yard, too. And by your backyard, I mean AMERICA.

The Republican-led House just signed a bill that calls climate change a national security threat and oh look it's raining cats and dogs

Why? Well, because it was tied to a bill increasing military spending, and also because most military people believe climate change is what's called a "threat multiplier".


Mathematical physicist, mathematician and philosopher of science Sir Roger Penrose thinks we're in like version 34 of the universe, and it don't stop.

"Penrose’s cyclic cosmology works by gluing the big bang together with what we usually think of as the end of the universe – an infinite accelerated expansion into nothingness. Penrose conjectures that both phases – the beginning and the end – are conformally invariant, which means they possess a symmetry under a stretching of distance scales. Then he identifies the end of the universe with the beginning of a new one, creating a cycle that repeats indefinitely. In his theory, what we think of as inflation – the accelerated expansion in the early universe – becomes the final phase of acceleration in the cycle preceding our own."

Confused? Basically he's arguing our universe happens over and over again. 

Less on-the-nose but still feels like variation on "time is a flat circle" is us, gently inserting ourselves into an era of reusable rocketry, which you could think of as a baby step towards the survival of the human race, because see above. 

"Even if the traditional players in the rocket industry continue to ignore RLVs, SpaceX will not remain alone in its quest for reusability. 

Other billionaires aren’t letting Musk have the industry to himself. Jeff Bezos, the world’s second-richest man, owns Blue Origin, a rival rocket company. The company is finishing testing New Shepherd, a small suborbital rocket, and plans to start sending passengers into space in 2018. 

Blue Origin is also working on New Glenn, a much larger reusable rocket that will be able to compete with SpaceX directly. 

Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, also wants to send tourists on suborbital flights. Branson has founded Virgin Galactic, which will fly passengers on SpaceShipTwo, a reusable spaceplane. Hundreds of people have paid US$250,000 deposits for Virgin Galactic flights, which are slated to start in 2018.

At the same time, other groups from all over the world are setting out to prove that you don’t need to be a billionaire to play the RLV game. In the UK, Reaction Engines are designing the Skylon reusable spaceplane with with its innovative SABRE hybrid engine. 

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is researching a reusable sounding rocket. And the Indian Space Research Organization is testing a reusable Space Shuttle-like spaceplane. 

In Australia, the University of Queensland is developing SPARTAN, a small RLV that uses cutting-edge scramjet engines.

Time will tell which of these efforts are successful but it’s clear that momentum for RLVs is building. RLVs bring with them the promise of low-cost space transportation, which could open up new worlds of opportunity in space.

The age of reusability has begun."


India must act soon to keep Delhi from gasping - The Conversation

"Visibility was virtually nil – 100 metres at best – and, devastatingly, winds were calm. Schools were closed for three days. 

Experts said that crop burning in neighbouring Haryana and Punjab states, car emissions, construction and the use of fireworks during the traditional Hindu festival of Diwali had caused the pollution, which, in my observation, ranks as one of India’s worst ever. 

To get the situation under control, the Indian government announced it would temporarily shut down construction sites and a coal-fired power station. 

As a former Delhi resident and forestry researcher, I felt a personal obligation to better understand this crisis – ideally so India can avoid a repeat this coming November.

My research confirms, in great detail, that the main elements of Delhi’s record-breaking pollution levels in November 2016 were lower wind speeds, the use of fireworks during Diwali, residue crop-burning and wind direction.

These factors may well coincide once again in November, the month of lowest average wind speeds in Delhi according to meteorological data. 

That gives Indian policy-makers and Delhi residents just under four months to take action. Strictly limiting residue crop-burning, celebratory firecrackers and major construction in November may safeguard the city against another air-quality disaster."


Researchers Refute Study That Claims CRISPR Causes Unexpected Mutations, which is basically the plot of I AM LEGEND, so great - Futurism

Astronomers don't know what's causing these weird radio waves from a nearby star - The Verge


Researchers teleport first object from Earth to orbit - Technology Review

+ Think: photons, then entire atoms, then real, substantial matter, then probably a chimp, then a horse (?), then maybe some spaceship parts, and before you know it we're outta here. 
++ Am I entirely misreading this in hopes of putting a teleporter in my bathroom? Possibly. You be the judge. Or don't. 

Inside Breakthrough Starshot: the batshit crazy plan to shoot huge lasers at tiny spaceships to take pictures of another solar system all while going about a billion miles an hour - Popular Mechanics

You might be asking yourself, why would we do such a thing? And I would answer: curiosity. (Great read)


Stop overselling universal basic income and it just might work - Vox