The Doomsday Clock is an internationally recognized design that conveys how close we are to destroying our civilization with dangerous technologies of our own making. First and foremost among these are nuclear weapons, but the dangers include climate-changing technologies, emerging... Read More
The combatants in Syria are pointing fingers at each other. Syrian officials claim that the rebels used chemical weapons in a March 19th attack against Khan al-Assal, a town near Aleppo; the rebels say the Syrian government was the culprit. Whichever is the case, at least 25 people died and many others were wounded in the assault. The UN has decided to investigate: Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed Swedish scientist Ake Sellstrom, a former weapons monitor for the UN Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM), to lead the investigation.
Humans first emerged from Africa around 60,000 years ago in search of new lands to explore and colonize. Since then, we've spread out across much of the planet and even gone into low Earth orbit in the International Space Station. The need to explore new frontiers appears to be embedded in our DNA.
Now that President Barack Obama has been reelected, his Affordable Care Act, "Obamacare," will move forward, which is good news for the health, safety, and security of the United States. But setting up Obamacare and actually providing it are two different challenges. Both will be hard.
The popular press is finally recognizing the important connections among human, animal, and environmental health. Environmental destruction, global trade and travel, intensive agriculture, and other human activities all lead to the emergence of previously unknown microbes that can infect across species, causing zoonotic disease outbreaks like West Nile virus, avian influenza, hantavirus, HIV/AIDS, and others. No wonder the media is paying attention.
When scientist Ron Fouchier, from Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands, presented his research at a conference in Malta last year, he described how he and his colleagues induced mutations into the H5N1 virus, ultimately giving the deadly virus the ability to become airborne and transmit infection as efficiently as the seasonal flu. Fouchier was ostensibly trying to learn more about the virus in order to protect humanity from its dangers, but his work also meant risking that the virus he created would escape the lab or be mimicked by a rogue scientist with terrorist ties.