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How Much Time Does the Human Race Have Left?

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My advice to young scientists who seek a sense of purpose in their research is to engage in a topic that matters to society, such as moderating climate change, streamlining the development of vaccines, satisfying our energy or food needs, establishing a sustainable base in space or finding technological relics of alien civilizations. Broadly speaking, society funds science, and scientists should reciprocate by attending to the public’s interests. The most vital societal challenge is to extend the longevity of humanity. At a recent lecture to Harvard alumni I was asked how long I expect our technological civilization to survive. My … Read more

What Will Drive Us to Extinction First?


The scene opens on a sparse, gray landscape, a gnarled tree in the foreground, bits of ash slowly drifting down from the sky. On the horizon, a few huddled figures stumble forward and into a bleak future. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s a common visual trope in many post-apocalyptic films. Usually, these films tell the story of a catastrophe — an asteroid strike perhaps, or a nuclear war — that causes humanity’s demise, and then follows the challenges that the remaining humans face as they try to save their species from extinction. Such films grip the public imagination. … Read more

Climate Change Updates

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September ties as the hottest month on record globally CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar reports on newly released data showing that September tied 2016 for the hottest global average temperature in September. Full Story Fall Begins – With Record Snowfall, a Heat Wave, and a Cat 5 Hurricane The first few days of the season haven’t felt much like fall at all for many across the United States. From snow storms to heat waves — hello? Did we miss something? What happened to mild temperatures and colorful leaves? Here’s a look at three wild weather events that marked the start of season. … Read more

SPACE: Where is Everybody? And What Does That Mean for Us?

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It is 1950 and a group of scientists are walking to lunch against the majestic backdrop of the Rocky Mountains. They are about to have a conversation that will become scientific legend. The scientists are at the Los Alamos Ranch School, the site for the Manhattan Project, where each of the group has lately played their part in ushering in the atomic age. They are laughing about a recent cartoon in the New Yorker offering an unlikely explanation for a slew of missing public trash cans across New York City. The cartoon had depicted “little green men” (complete with antenna … Read more

CLIMATE CHANGE: Bill Nye Drops the F-Bomb

During his appearance on HBO’s “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” on Sunday (May 12), Nye used frank language to talk to millennials about the impacts of global warming on Earth. (Nye’s comments are heavily edited here for language; viewer discretion is advised if you watch the video.) “By the end of this century, if temperatures keep rising, the average temperature on Earth could go up another 4 to 8 degrees,” Nye said to Oliver. (Nye was referring to degrees Celsius; the equivalent change in Fahrenheit is roughly 7 to 14 degrees). “What I’m saying is, the planet’s on [expletive] … Read more

SCIENCE: How The World Ends Version Three

A new study published in the journal Biological Conservation described as “a comprehensive review of 73 historical reports of insect declines from across the globe” makes a grim prediction: “dramatic rates of decline that may lead to the extinction of 40% of the world’s insect species over the next few decades.” Insects could completely disappear from the Earth within 100 years if they continue to decline at current rates, The Guardian notes: “More than 40% of insect species are declining and a third are endangered, the analysis found. The rate of extinction is eight times faster than that of mammals, … Read more