Say We Find Alien Life. What Do We Do Next?

The ethics of "first contact" was the subject of a panel discussion at last week's Starship Congress, where attendees hashed out the logistics and consequences of becoming an interstellar civilization.

What's the Latest Development?

One of the many discussions held at last week's Icarus Interstellar Starship Congress -- which seeks to promote technologies and efforts that will eventually "move humanity toward becoming an interstellar civilization" -- involved the ethics and procedures future travelers should follow when first encountering life on other worlds. One popular example from science fiction, the "Prime Directive" principle of noninterference, was dismissed by University of Hawaii engineer Joe Ritter, who cited the effects of invasive species on the islands' ecosystems: "[I]f we’re enlightened, we’ll leave it alone…Will humans do that? Probably not." Icarus Interstellar co-founder Richard Obousy was more blunt in his view that the existence of simple life forms shouldn't prevent humans from accessing a planet's resources.

What's the Big Idea?

Naturally, the big assumption behind the discussion was that technology would eventually allow humans to have to deal with these questions at some point in the future, and that the vastness of the universe likely contained some form of life, sentient or otherwise. Financial economist Armen Papazian pointed out that explorers will need to decide the primary purpose of their mission. "Are we going to embrace or are we going to utilize? Are we trying to export our scarcity economics? Or are we trying to enjoy an abundant cosmos?"

Photo Credit:

Read it at Discovery News

China’s artificial sun reaches fusion temperature: 100 million degrees

In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.

Credit: EAST Team
Surprising Science
  • The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
  • Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
  • Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
Keep reading Show less

Project 100,000: The Vietnam War's cruel and deadly experiment

Military recruits are supposed to be assessed to see whether they're fit for service. What happens when they're not?

Flickr user Tommy Truong79
Politics & Current Affairs
  • During the Vietnam War, Robert McNamara began a program called Project 100,000.
  • The program brought over 300,000 men to Vietnam who failed to meet minimum criteria for military service, both physically and mentally.
  • Project 100,000 recruits were killed in disproportionate numbers and fared worse after their military service than their civilian peers, making the program one of the biggest—and possibly cruelest—mistakes of the Vietnam War.
Keep reading Show less

Here's how diverse the 116th Congress is set to become

The 116th Congress is set to break records in term of diversity among its lawmakers, though those changes are coming almost entirely from Democrats.

(Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Women and nonwhite candidates made record gains in the 2018 midterms.
  • In total, almost half of the newly elected Congressional representatives are not white men.
  • Those changes come almost entirely from Democrats; Republican members-elect are all white men except for one woman.
Keep reading Show less