Three Reasons World War III Is Not Going to Happen Anytime Soon

Nine wars have been predicted to erupt since the early 1990s, and all have failed to materialize. That's a result of trade, the interconnectedness of financial markets, and supply chain integration.

Parag Khanna: There have been about nine major wars that have been predicted in the last 25 years.  But interestingly none of them have escalated to the level of a major regional war or a global conflict that we would describe as a World War III.

And I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that we are not just interdependent in terms of trade.  Because as we all know Britain and Germany traded a fair bit with each other prior to World War I breaking out 100 years ago.  But not only do we have trade interdependence today, today we have a large amount of financial integration.  We hold a lot of each other’s debt in terms of treasury bonds, corporate bonds.  We are very invested in each other’s economies.  There is also supply chain dispersal.  We now manufacture goods in even our own rival’s countries.

The United States and the Soviet Union didn’t trade a whole lot with each other.  Today not only do the United States and China trade a great deal with each other but many American goods are of course made in China.  Walmart, America’s largest retailer makes most of its goods in China.  If a war between the U.S. and China were to suddenly break out tomorrow that would probably mean very bad news for the bottom line of America’s largest retailer.

So we are much more careful of course about stumbling into conflict because we not only have nuclear deterrence, of course, and we have the lessons of the past.  Those are all intellectual factors and strategic factors. We also have the trade interdependence.  We also have the financial integration.  We also have the supply chain dispersal.  And we have the allure of the size of the markets of our rivals and competitors.  Most of the American Fortune 500 generates more revenues from abroad than from home.  It doesn’t want to fight wars with the countries on which it depends for its exports and for its revenues.

Leaders are wisely making these cost benefit calculations and saying, “Yes, I have national pride at stake.  Yes I believe that my country has been aggrieved historically by this rival.Yes we want to win in the relationship with them and in the race with them. We want to do all of those things but it’s not worth the price of actually going into all out warfare.”

I wish that our institutions were to embed this kind of integration and wisdom that prevents a World War III from breaking out.  We always have to be afraid that that can happen.  And all of those things that we’re doing correctly – the supply chain dispersal, the financial integration, the trade interdependence.  Even the demographic integration between countries – let’s do a lot more of that.

Nine wars have been predicted to erupt since the early 1990s, and all have failed to materialize. They have neither become the regional-scale conflicts predicted by international affairs experts, nor have any resulted in the much-fabled World War III. And conflicts which have occured, from the civil war in South Sudan to America's occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, were predicted by no one.


As a whole, says Parag Khanna, the world has become a more peaceful place, but not for the reason typically given: trade. Plenty of nations that have traded with each other have gone to war. European nations, for example, consistently traded goods for generations for becoming the wellspring of two major armed conflicts. Today, says Khanna, there are additional reasons we don't go to war.

Financial interdependence is one. More than ever before, countries hold one another's debt in the form of currency reserves, all backed by the American dollar. Acting aggressively has become too financially risky for even the wealthiest countries. Another deterrent against war is "supply chain integration," i.e. the companies of one country making goods in another. Were a (trade) war to break out between the US and China, for example, a corporation like Walmart would have more to lose than the American economy could accept.

Countries that lack trade ties, financial interdependence, and supply chain integration — places like South Sudan and Afghanistan — have become ripe for war in the new millennia. There is perhaps no greater argument for continued economic progress than the protection of marginalized populations in all corners of the globe.

Outer space capitalism: The legal and technical challenges facing the private space industry

The private sector may need the Outer Space Treaty to be updated before it can make any claims to celestial bodies or their resources.

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Is NASA ignoring proof of Martian life from the 1970s?

One of the scientists with the Viking missions says yes.

Image source: David Williams/NASA
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  • A former NASA consultant believe his experiments on the Viking 1 and 2 landers proved the existence of living microorganisms on Mars
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  • Though other subsequent evidence supports their findings, he says NASA has been frustratingly disinterested in following up.

Gilbert V. Levin is clearly aggravated with NASA, frustrated by the agency's apparent unwillingness to acknowledge what he considers a fact: That NASA has had dispositive proof of living microorganisms on Mars since 1976, and a great deal of additional evidence since then. Levin is no conspiracy theorist, either. He's an engineer, a respected inventor, founder of scientific-research company Spherix, and a participant in that 1976 NASA mission. He's written an opinion piece in Scientific American that asks why NASA won't follow up on what he believes they should already know.

In 1976

Image source: NASA/JPL

Sunset at the Viking 1 site

As the developer of methods for rapidly detecting and identifying microorganisms, Levin took part in the Labeled Release (LR) experiment landed on Mars by NASA's Viking 1 and 2.

At both landing sites, the Vikings picked up samples of Mars soil, treating each with a drop of a dilute nutrient solution. This solution was tagged with radioactive carbon-14, and so if there were any microorganisms in the samples, they would metabolize it. This would lead to the production of radioactive carbon or radioactive methane. Sensors were positioned above the soil samples to detect the presence of either as signifiers of life.

At both landing sites, four positive indications of life were recorded, backed up by five controls. As a guarantee, the samples were then heated to 160°, hot enough to kill any living organisms in the soil, and then tested again. No further indicators of life were detected.

According to many, including Levin, had this test been performed on Earth, there would have been no doubt that life had been found. In fact, parallel control tests were performed on Earth on two samples known to be lifeless, one from the Moon and one from Iceland's volcanic Surtsey island, and no life was indicated.

However, on Mars, another experiment, a search for organic molecules, had been performed prior to the LR test and found nothing, leaving NASA in doubt regarding the results of the LR experiment, and concluding, according to Levin, that they'd found something imitating life, but not life itself. From there, notes Levin, "Inexplicably, over the 43 years since Viking, none of NASA's subsequent Mars landers has carried a life detection instrument to follow up on these exciting results."

Subsequent evidence

Image source: NASA

A thin coating of water ice on the rocks and soil photographed by Viking 2

Levin presents in his opinion piece 17 discoveries by subsequent Mars landers that support the results of the LR experiment. Among these:

  • Surface water sufficient to sustain microorganisms has been found on the red planet by Viking, Pathfinder, Phoenix and Curiosity.
  • The excess of carbon-13 over carbon-12 in the Martian atmosphere indicates biological activity since organisms prefer ingesting carbon-12.
  • Mars' CO2should long ago have been converted to CO by the sun's UV light, but CO2 is being regenerated, possibly by microorganisms as happens on Earth.
  • Ghost-like moving lights, resembling Earth's will-O'-the-wisps produced by spontaneous ignition of methane, have been seen and recorded on the Martian surface.
  • "No factor inimical to life has been found on Mars." This is a direct rebuttal of NASA's claim cited above.

Frustration

Image source: NASA

A technician checks the soil sampler of a Viking lander.

By 1997, Levin was convinced that NASA was wrong and set out to publish followup research supporting his conclusion. It took nearly 20 years to find a venue, he believes due to his controversial certainty that the LR experiment did indeed find life on Mars.

Levin tells phys.org, "Since I first concluded that the LR had detected life (in 1997), major juried journals had refused our publications. I and my co-Experimenter, Dr. Patricia Ann Straat, then published mainly in the astrobiology section of the SPIE Proceedings, after presenting the papers at the annual SPIE conventions. Though these were invited papers, they were largely ignored by the bulk of astrobiologists in their publications." (Staat is the author of To Mars with Love, about her experience as co-experimenter with Levin for the LR experiments.)

Finally, he and Straat decided to craft a paper that answers every objection anyone ever had to their earlier versions, finally publishing it in Astrobiology's October 2016 issue. "You may not agree with the conclusion," he says, "but you cannot disparage the steps leading there. You can say only that the steps are insufficient. But, to us, that seems a tenuous defense, since no one would refute these results had they been obtained on Earth."

Nonetheless, NASA's seeming reluctance to address the LR experiment's finding remains an issue for Levin. He and Straat have petitioned NASA to send a new LR test to the red planets, but, alas, Levin reports that "NASA has already announced that its 2020 Mars lander will not contain a life-detection test."

Breast cancer vaccine could be available in 8 years, says Mayo Clinic

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BSIP / Getty
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