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Feb 18, 2007

Asteroid shield related: deflection mission and other proposals

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

A giant asteroid named Apophis has a one in 45,000 chance of hitting the Earth in 2036. If it did hit the earth it could destroy a city or a region. A slate of new proposals for addressing the asteroid menace was presented today at a recent meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Francisco.

One of the Lifeboat Foundation projects is an Asteroid Shield and the issues and points discussed are in direct alignment with Lifeboat. The specific detection and deflection projects are in the Lifeboat Asteroid Shield project.

Edward Lu of NASA has proposed “gravitational tractor” is a spacecraft—up to 20 tons (18 metric tons)—that it could divert an asteroid’s path just by thrusting its engines in a specific direction while in the asteroid’s vicinity.

Scientists also described two massive new survey-telescope projects to detect would-be killer asteroids.

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Feb 17, 2007

Open Source Terraforming

Posted by in categories: engineering, open source, sustainability

Whether we like it or not, geoengineering — a process I’ve taken to calling “(re)terraforming the Earth” — is now on the table as a strategy for dealing with onrushing climate disaster. This isn’t because it’s a particularly good idea; as far as we presently know, the potential negative impacts of geoengineering projects seem to significantly outweigh any benefits. Nonetheless, (re)terraforming has drawn an increasing amount of attention over the past few months. One key reason is that, if it could be made to work, it wouldn’t just moderate climate change — i.e., slow it or stop it — it would actually serve as a climate change remediation method, reversing global warming.

The cynical and the insipid apparently believe that pursuing the geoengineering option would allow us to avoid making any changes in technology or behavior intended to reduce greenhouse gas output. This sort of logic is wrong, utterly wrong. For any plausible geoengineering project to succeed, we’d have to have already stabilized the climate. As it turns out, the brilliant and clearly-needed advances in technology and changes in behavior supported by those of us who proudly wear the label “bright green” will do exactly this, reducing, even eventually eliminating, anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases. We need to do this as quickly as possible. As the saying goes, if you want to get out of the hole you’re in, the first thing to do is stop digging.

But none of the bright green solutions — ultra-efficient buildings and vehicles, top-to-bottom urban redesigns, local foods, renewable energy systems, and the like — will do anything to reduce the anthropogenic greenhouse gases that have already been emitted. The best result we get is stabilizing at an already high greenhouse gas level. And because of ocean thermal inertia and other big, slow climate effects, the Earth will continue to warm for a couple of decades even after we stop all greenhouse gas emissions. Transforming our civilization into a bright green wonderland won’t be easy, and under even the most optimistic estimates will take at least a decade; by the time we finally stop putting out additional greenhouse gases, we could well have gone past a point where globally disastrous results are inevitable. In fact, given the complexity of climate feedback systems, we may already have passed such a tipping point, even if we stopped all emissions today.

In other words, while stopping digging is absolutely necessary, it won’t actually refill the hole.

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Feb 12, 2007

Inflatable Habitats for Polar and Space Colonists

Posted by in category: habitats

From Physorg.com:

Humanity has long since established a foothold in the Artic and Antarctic, but extensive colonization of these regions may soon become economically viable. If we can learn to build self-sufficient habitats in these extreme environments, similar technology could be used to live on the Moon or Mars.

The average temperature of the Antarctic coast in winter is about −20 °C. As if this weren’t enough, the region suffers from heavy snowfall, strong winds, and six-month nights. How can humanity possibly survive in such a hostile environment?

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Feb 11, 2007

Iran negotiator: Nuclear program ‘no threat to Israel’

Posted by in categories: counterterrorism, geopolitics, nuclear weapons

From CNN:

MUNICH, Germany (AP) — Iran’s nuclear program is not a threat to Israel and the country is prepared to settle all outstanding issues with the International Atomic Energy Agency within three weeks, its top nuclear negotiator said Sunday.

Ali Larijani, speaking at a forum that gathered the world’s top security officials, said Iran doesn’t have aggressive intentions toward any nation.

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Feb 11, 2007

U.S. to Attack Iran This Year?

Posted by in category: geopolitics

From Guardian Unlimited:

Target Iran: US Able to Strike in Spring
Despite denials, Pentagon plans for possible attack on nuclear sites are well advanced

US preparations for an air strike against Iran are at an advanced stage, in spite of repeated public denials by the Bush administration, according to informed sources in Washington.

The present military build-up in the Gulf would allow the US to mount an attack by the spring. But the sources said that if there was an attack, it was more likely next year, just before Mr Bush leaves office.

Neo-conservatives, particularly at the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute, are urging Mr Bush to open a new front against Iran. So too is the vice-president, Dick Cheney. The state department and the Pentagon are opposed, as are Democratic congressmen and the overwhelming majority of Republicans. The sources said Mr Bush had not yet made a decision. The Bush administration insists the military build-up is not offensive but aimed at containing Iran and forcing it to make diplomatic concessions. The aim is to persuade Tehran to curb its suspect nuclear weapons programme and abandon ambitions for regional expansion.
Robert Gates, the new US defence secretary, said yesterday: “I don’t know how many times the president, secretary [of state Condoleezza] Rice and I have had to repeat that we have no intention of attacking Iran.”

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Feb 9, 2007

‘Doomsday’ vault design unveiled

Posted by in category: defense


The final design for a “doomsday” vault that will house seeds from all known varieties of food crops has been unveiled by the Norwegian government.

“The Svalbard International Seed Vault will be built into a mountainside on a remote island near the North Pole. The vault aims to safeguard the world’s agriculture from future catastrophes, such as nuclear war, asteroid strikes and climate change.”

Source: BBC

“There are, for instance, well over 100,000 distinct varieties of rice, compared to the 400 or so breeds of dog out there,” Cary Fowler, executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, told LiveScience. “These represent all the options that crops have for developing in the future, the raw material for plant evolution.”

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Feb 8, 2007

Nuclear terrorism risk seen growing

Posted by in categories: existential risks, nuclear weapons

Two new reports on global security conclude with a growing risk for nuclear terrorism Reuters report today.

The EastWest Institute and Chatham House, the two think-tanks behind the reports, cite that more states are pursuing their own nuclear ambitions and that the materials and engineering effort for a bomb “have all become commodities, more or less available to those determined enough to acquire them”.

The vulnerability of nuclear power plants are mentioned. This is highly relevant considering all the new power plants under planning or construction. Read about the planned terrorist attack on a nuclear power plant in Australia, “Australia nuclear plant plot trial opens in Paris”, Reuters.

But most suprisingly:

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Feb 6, 2007

US Missile Defense System Aces Test

Posted by in category: defense

From CNN:

KEKAHA, Hawaii (CNN) — The Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency shot down a dummy target missile over the southern Pacific Ocean during a test of the U.S. missile defense shield early Saturday, according to an agency spokeswoman.

First, a dummy ballistic missile was fired from a U.S. mobile launch platform in the Pacific Ocean in a simulated attack.

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Feb 4, 2007

Researchers of the World: Unite to Support European Commission Open Access Policy

Posted by in category: open access

ec flagThe European Commission, the European Research Advisory Board (EURAB) and the European Research Councils have each recently recommended adopting the policy of providing Open Access to research results.

(Very similar recommendations are also being made by governmental research organisations in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Asia.)

There are powerful non-research interests lobbying vigorously against these policy recommendations, so a display of support by the research community is critically important at this time.

A petition in support of the European Commission policy recommendation is now being sponsored by a consortium of European organisations:

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Jan 30, 2007

Enriched Uranium Sale in Georgia Disrupted

Posted by in category: nuclear weapons

From CNN:

TBILISI, Georgia (Reuters) — Georgian special services have foiled an attempt by a Russian citizen to sell weapons-grade uranium for $1 million in the Georgian capital, a senior Interior Ministry official said on Thursday.

The official said Oleg Khintsagov, a resident of Russia’s North Ossetia region, was arrested in early 2006 and a closed court soon after convicted him to 8 1/2 years in prison.

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