Re: Who are we?

Amy Gutmann: So the forces that have shaped where we are today as humans go way beyond us and our intelligence. Anyone who sees the forces today at work in the world – whether they be global warming, or the tsunami, or Hurricane Katrina – has to recognize that we are but specks in the universe. That said, anyone who looks at global warming or tsunami or Hurricane Katrina has to realize that those weren’t purely natural disasters. Take Hurricane Katrina. We could have prevented that. We human beings, as small as we are in the universe . . . in our universe . . . in our part of the universe, we could’ve made a difference. Take global warming. I hope we will make a difference. That’s why as President of the University of Pennsylvania, I’ve committed ourselves to having a plan in a couple of years’ time to become carbon neutral, and that we’re . . . 30% of our energy is wind power. So the forces are enormous in the universe. And scientists as well as humanists are hard at work understanding them. And we should never kid ourselves that we’re more than specks in the universe. But we should never let down ourselves in not doing what we can do to make a difference.

 

 

We should never kid ourselves that we're more than specks in the universe.

How to make a black hole

Here's the science of black holes, from supermassive monsters to ones the size of ping-pong balls.

Videos
  • There's more than one way to make a black hole, says NASA's Michelle Thaller. They're not always formed from dead stars. For example, there are teeny tiny black holes all around us, the result of high-energy cosmic rays slamming into our atmosphere with enough force to cram matter together so densely that no light can escape.
  • CERN is trying to create artificial black holes right now, but don't worry, it's not dangerous. Scientists there are attempting to smash two particles together with such intensity that it creates a black hole that would live for just a millionth of a second.
  • Thaller uses a brilliant analogy involving a rubber sheet, a marble, and an elephant to explain why different black holes have varying densities. Watch and learn!
  • Bonus fact: If the Earth became a black hole, it would be crushed to the size of a ping-pong ball.

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.
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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.
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