“The 4 A.M. Report” (ET Signals, Pentagon’s ‘Space Corps’, Power of Algorithms)




Starting today, The Galaxy will post a new feature once a week culled from cable-news video broadcasts, radio, and print about current and future threats to planet Earth and our fragile, infant technological civilization –politics, AI and robotics, climate change, war, cosmic dangers, and an occasional dash of much needed humor.

We're publishing these posts with knowledge of the possibility that some 4 light-years away there may exist a planet orbiting a red dwarf star that might be a million to a billion years older than earth. If they harbor advanced intelligent species, they survived the political and technological and cosmic hurdles they might have encountered. What lessons could we learn from them?

Greetings, E.T.  (Please Don’t Murder Us.)


A new initiative to beam messages into space may be our best shot yet at learning whether we’re alone in the universe. There’s just one problem: What if we’re not?




Pentagon's Space Corps Leaves Earth Science the Dust 



Scientists and the  military have often tussled over who calls the shots in space. The first astronauts were military test pilots. NASA made the space shuttle extra big to accommodate the spy satellites Pentagon planners wanted to launch. And it took 15 years for the Defense Department to release topographical maps gleaned during a classified shuttle mission so scientists could use them. Now, two budget fights in Washington reveal how this uneasy relationship is tilting, once again, toward the needs of the military. Last week, a House Armed Services subcommittee approved legislation calling for the creation of a “Space Corps” within the Air Force. This branch within a branch would operate independently of NASA, the nation’s civilian space agency. 

A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing & the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution


Not since the atomic bomb has a technology so alarmed its inventors that they warned the world about its use. Not, that is, until the spring of 2015, when biologist Jennifer Doudna called for a worldwide moratorium on the use of the new gene-editing tool CRISPR — a revolutionary new technology that she helped create — to make heritable changes in human embryos. The cheapest, simplest, most effective way of manipulating DNA ever known, CRISPR may well give us the cure to HIV, genetic diseases, and some cancers, and will help address the world’s hunger crisis. Yet even the tiniest changes to DNA could have myriad unforeseeable consequences — to say nothing of the ethical and societal repercussions of intentionally mutating embryos to create “better” humans. Doudna joins Walter Isaacson in conversation about gene editing and the unthinkable power to control evolution.

Paris Agreement: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

Donald Trump plans to withdraw the United States from the Paris agreement on climate change. That's bad news for anyone who happens to live on this planet.



The Influence of Algorithms 



Algorithms play a big part in our day-to-day lives. From search engines to architecture, explore how these formulas affect the way we view and interact with the world around us.



"The Galaxy" in Your Inbox, Free, Daily