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Archive for the ‘existential risks’ category: Page 5

Mar 30, 2020

North Korea projects fire missile towards Japan as nuclear fears rise

Posted by in categories: existential risks, law

The zone under international law stretches 200 nautical miles from the Japanese coastline.

It was flying into the Sea of Japan according to Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The US and China have called for Pyongyang to re-enter talks to end its nuclear and missile programmes, according to the Daily Star.

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Mar 29, 2020

Planetary defenders validate asteroid deflection code

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, existential risks

Planetary defense researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) continue to validate their ability to accurately simulate how they might deflect an Earth-bound asteroid in a study that will be published in the April issue of the American Geophysical Union journal Earth and Space Science.

The study, led by LLNL physicist Tané Remington, also identified sensitivities in the code parameters that can help researchers working to design a modeling plan for the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission in 2021, which will be the first-ever kinetic impact deflection demonstration on a near-Earth asteroid.

Asteroids have the potential to impact Earth and cause damage at the local to global scale. Humankind is capable of deflecting or disrupting a potentially hazardous object. However, due to the limited ability to perform experiments directly on asteroids, understanding how multiple variables might affect a kinetic deflection attempt relies upon large-scale hydrodynamic simulations thoroughly vetted against relevant laboratory‐scale experiments.

Mar 29, 2020

North Korea fires two missiles as Seoul condemns ‘inappropriate’ timing

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, existential risks

O,.,o.


Latest in flurry of launches draws particular criticism amid coronavirus pandemic.

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Mar 26, 2020

A Rapid End Strikes the Dinosaur Extinction Debate

Posted by in category: existential risks

The paleontologist Pincelli Hull has nailed down the timing and speed of the extinction that killed off the dinosaurs — details that carry ominous warnings for today.

Mar 18, 2020

‘Wonderchicken’ fossil from the age of dinosaurs reveals origin of modern birds

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, existential risks

The oldest fossil of a modern bird yet found, dating from the age of dinosaurs, has been identified by an international team of palaeontologists.

The spectacular fossil, affectionately nicknamed the ‘Wonderchicken’, includes a nearly complete , hidden inside nondescript pieces of rock, and dates from less than one million years before the asteroid impact which eliminated all large dinosaurs.

Writing in the journal Nature, the team, led by the University of Cambridge, believe the new fossil helps clarify why survived the mass extinction event at the end of the Cretaceous period, while the giant dinosaurs did not.

Mar 17, 2020

When a Virus Goes Viral — Life with COVID-19

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, existential risks

Imagine the following scenario. You are a doctor working in a hospital in a very large and relatively polluted city, normally subject to a high level of seasonal respiratory ailments. Moreover, your healthcare system is stretched because of budget cuts and the devolution policies of central government. As a medical doctor you also know that flu viruses routinely mutate and may even be transferred from animals to humans. Exactly how all this happens varies from year to year – as does the exact mortality rate, though the pattern of infection and mortality is relatively well understood. In all these cases, the vast majority of people remain uninfected, asymptomatic or subject to mild symptoms that pass within a week. However, if the number of those requiring intensive hospital-based treatment rises above a certain percentage, the healthcare system can be quickly challenged. At that point, the doctor may panic, and armed with social media, he can now spread his concern around the world. But is the sheer appearance of a new virus strain the overriding cause?

The only part of this story that is really new is the availability of social media to spread news about any outbreak of such flu-like diseases. But one should not underestimate a general background awareness of overstretched public healthcare systems around the world, due partly to an ageing population but mainly due to the neoliberal policy horizon. Actions like the initial Chinese response to suppress the ‘whistleblower’ Li Wenliang have happened at the start of previous outbreaks – but now whistleblowers can communicate directly with the world. It is easy to forget that various new strains of flu are routinely reported in the media each year, with greater or lesser morbidity than earlier ones. Governments around the world normally monitor the situation in their own way, which means that the real figures have probably always been much higher than officially stated – both who catches the flu and who dies from it. Much depends on the motivation of the national health authorities to test specifically for the flu’s presence. After all, flu typically operates as a ‘nudge’ to worsen existing health conditions, and those conditions may be the primary medical focus.

We clearly don’t know everything we need to know about COVID-19. But the same applied to all the previous flu epidemics, which humanity has so far managed to survive. What is different now is the level of scrutiny and accountability of the response, mostly due to the recent information technology revolution, especially social media. This very basic socio-technical point has made it easier for the World Health Organization to designate COVID-19 a pandemic. The WHO’s insistence on mass testing (even if it doesn’t catch those who have recovered) also fits the same logic. What is striking so far about the global response are the efforts that societies have taken to reorganize themselves in order to protect those who are perceived as most vulnerable. It is quite unprecedented, especially in a world that is so otherwise imbued with capitalist values.

In the end, COVID-19 is the first virus to go properly ‘viral’, starting with Li Wenliang. That start has anchored the subsequent response. In particular, it has triggered a chain reaction that has exposed the different cultures of risk management around the world, as well as the varying conditions of national health care systems. Think of it as Nature’s brute audit on humanity’s sustainability. Indeed, that may be the virus’ main direct legacy – which means that public health care is bound to improve all round in the long run. However, if the lockdown continues long enough, the virus may end up questioning the modus operandi of contemporary capitalism in a way that long-standing complaints about inequality have failed to do. I expect that the vast majority of the population will manage to cope reasonably well during our period of ‘species captivity’, while consuming significantly less of the planet’s resources – that is, assuming that the increasing energy demands of online activities don’t first cause a short-circuit!

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Mar 17, 2020

How a small nuclear war would transform the entire planet

Posted by in categories: climatology, existential risks

This grim vision of a possible future comes from the latest studies about how nuclear war could alter world climate. They build on long-standing work about a ‘nuclear winter’ — severe global cooling that researchers predict would follow a major nuclear war, such as thousands of bombs flying between the United States and Russia. But much smaller nuclear conflicts, which are more likely to occur, could also have devastating effects around the world.


As geopolitical tensions rise in nuclear-armed states, scientists are modelling the global impact of nuclear war.

Mar 15, 2020

2017 North Korean nuclear test

Posted by in categories: existential risks, military, nuclear weapons

North Korea conducted its sixth nuclear test on 3 September 2017, stating it had tested a thermonuclear weapon (hydrogen bomb).[6].

Mar 11, 2020

Universal Basic Income: Machine Slavery Or Ultimate Freedom?

Posted by in categories: economics, existential risks, robotics/AI

Universal Basic Income usually creates a confusion and heated debates when people get divided between doomsday and Utopian scenarios. With faster than expected development of AI, we might be faced with no choice. In such case, what will UBI mean for most of us and how will it be implemented?

Mar 11, 2020

Bees: how important are they and what would happen if they became extinct?

Posted by in categories: existential risks, food

40% of the world’s insect species are in decline, and scientists believe that a third are threatened with extinction. From pesticides to invasive species, there are various reasons, but any losses could have a major impact on our food systems.

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