Can Billionaire Technologists Save Us From the Dark Ages?

"Not only can small groups of people change the world, it's the only thing that ever has."

Sam Stein argues that due to $1.7 billion in looming sequestration cuts, NIH funding is drying up for human health research projects across the country. 


Stein points to the particularly compelling case of Dr. Anindya Dutta. The University of Virginia School of Medicine researcher

has identified the specific strands of microRNA, the molecule that plays a large role in gene expression, that are responsible for promoting the formation and fusion of muscular tissue. The implications for such a discovery are tantalizing. People who suffer from diseases like muscular dystrophy would have easier treatments, and the elderly would fall less often and recover faster when they did.

Due to cuts, however, Dr. Dutta says he is "living off fumes." In the broader context, we might be headed to a "dark age of science." 

Read more here.

Contrasted with the state of publicly-funded research, however, is the steady stream of news out of Silicon Valley. Elon Musk has devised a plan for a solar-powered high-speed transport system. Jeff Bezos buys The Washington Post. Sergey Brin funds lab-grown meat. James Cameron and others plan to mine asteroids for precious metals. 

Can these expensive and ambitious projects fill the void in a culture that many worry is losing its edge on innovation?

“The kind of people who are taking on the global grand challenges are interested in thinking big,” Peter Diamandis, co-founder of the asteroid mining company Planetary Resources tells The Financial Times. Indeed, Diamandis believes that this trend is part of a shift in which we will see individuals and small groups tackling challenges that once were the domain of governments and large corporations. 

In fact, when Diamandis launched Planetary Resources in April, 2012, he said:

"Not only can small groups of people change the world, it's the only thing that ever has."

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

SpaceX catches Falcon Heavy nosecone with net-outfitted boat

It marks another milestone in SpaceX's long-standing effort to make spaceflight cheaper.

Technology & Innovation
  • SpaceX launched Falcon Heavy into space early Tuesday morning.
  • A part of its nosecone – known as a fairing – descended back to Earth using special parachutes.
  • A net-outfitted boat in the Atlantic Ocean successfully caught the reusable fairing, likely saving the company millions of dollars.
Keep reading Show less

Are these 100 people killing the planet?

Controversial map names CEOs of 100 companies producing 71 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.

Image: Jordan Engel, reused via Decolonial Media License 0.1
Strange Maps
  • Just 100 companies produce 71 percent of the world's greenhouse gases.
  • This map lists their names and locations, and their CEOs.
  • The climate crisis may be too complex for these 100 people to solve, but naming and shaming them is a good start.
Keep reading Show less

‘Climate apartheid’: Report says the rich could buy out of climate change disaster

The world's richest people could breeze through a climate disaster – for a price.

(Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • A new report from a United Nation expert warns that an over-reliance on the private sector to mitigate climate change could cause a "climate apartheid."
  • The report criticizes several countries, including the U.S., for taking "short-sighted steps in the wrong direction."
  • The world's poorest populations are most vulnerable to climate change even though they generally contribute the least to global emissions.
Keep reading Show less