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A failure of governmental candor: The fire at the contaminated Santa Susana Field Laboratory

Nearly six weeks after the Woolsey Fire—and after numerous requests from the community, news media, and legislators—California regulators finally issued an “interim summary” report about the measurements that formed the basis for the claims that no contamination was released from the Santa Susana Field Laboratory site. But that report includes few actual measurements of smoke emitted by the fire, and the data that are in the report raise more concerns than they allay.

Trump orders some sort of vague action in the AI arms race

Through an executive order, President Donald Trump launched the American AI Initiative, further underscoring the importance of a group of technologies that are reshaping everything from medical diagnoses to war-fighting. The administration didn’t give many specifics in the order published Monday evening or details about funding for its various elements such as efforts to increase … Continued
Credit: Matt Field. Based in part on photo by Morio CC SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

China is rapidly developing its military AI capabilities

China may lag behind the US military on metrics like the number of aircraft carriers it has, but it may be able to seize a “leapfrog opportunity” and invest in newer, cheaper weapons that could make carriers obsolete. That’s one conclusion in a new report about China’s well-funded, ambitious goal of becoming a world leader … Continued
Credit: Matt Field. Based in part on photo by vergreen CC BY-SA 3.0.

The rise and demise of the Clinch River Breeder Reactor

This year marks the 36th anniversary of the termination of the Clinch River Breeder Reactor Project, a federally funded commercial demonstration effort. In the very early 1980s, it was the largest public-works project in the United States. Japan, South Korea, China, France, Russia, and the United States are now all again considering building similar plants. … Continued

Home After launch test

Read the 2019 Clock statement By Bulletin Science and Security Board | Doomsday Clock Overview of Doomsday Clock By Bulletin Staff | Doomsday Clock FAQs about the Clock By Kennette Benedict | Doomsday Clock Missed it? The 2019 Clock announcement, on video By Bulletin Staff | Doomsday Clock CNN OpEd, by Jerry Brown and William … Continued
During a visit to the Kennedy Space Center last month, Vice President Mike Pence said the administration is working with Congress to turn the US Space Command into a Space Force—the nation’s sixth branch of the armed forces. Credit: NASA/Twitter

Trump’s Space Force is a strategic mistake

In remarks last week announcing his vision for American missile defense, President Trump said “we will recognize that space is a new warfighting domain, with the Space Force leading the way.” Any strategic decision should be evaluated both by the ends it seeks to accomplish, and by the means by which it intends to accomplish them. The president’s … Continued
Biological researcher He Jiankui (right) attends the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing at the University of Hong Kong on November 28, 2018 in Hong Kong, China. Photo by Zhang Wei/China News Service/VCG via Getty Images.

Brave new world with Chinese characteristics

The story of the scientist He Jiankui and the world’s first genetically edited humans, born from fertilized eggs modified with CRISPR-cas9 technology, is one in which high-tech ambition meets capitalism with Chinese characteristics. And the poor village boy pursued both his ambition and the capital required to reach it with shrewdness and zest, apparently trampling ethical boundaries along the way in a system that allowed him to trample away.
Melting ice, BW

With climate change comes loss and “ecological grief”

A growing body of evidence demonstrates that climate change and its effects are linked to elevated rates of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, ideas of suicde, and a host of negative emotions. Researchers have dubbed these feelings “ecological grief.”
Tiananmen Square.

Censorship 101: China’s young censors first have to learn about forbidden topics 

Li Chengzhi, a young college graduate in Chengdu, China, shows up to each of his work shifts at a bright new office in “the heart of a high-tech” part of town. But Li’s job isn’t to harness the power of new technology to change the world–it’s to maintain the status quo. Li is one of … Continued
autonomous driverless vehicles road rage Tiananmen Square

Road rage against the self-driving machine

More and more self-driving cars are hitting American streets, disrupting life as we know it. Some people are getting angry and disrupting them right back.

Six words that defined 2018

A brief guide to some of the key terms found in the Bulletin's coverage of events this year, with a few suggestions for deeper dives.
Russian President Vladimir Putin meeting with US President Donald Trump on the sidelines of a G20 meeting in Hamburg on July 7, 2017. Credit: Kremlin Presidential Executive Office

A “media mirage”: Russia deployed sophisticated marketing tactics to help Trump win

In a squat, low-slung building in St. Petersburg, Russia, the staff of the Internet Research Agency, a Russian-government associated organization, crafted a doozy of a marketing campaign, one replete with a complex ecosystem of fake social media accounts, links to legitimate websites, and perhaps even a “think tank-style” publication. The goal was much grander than … Continued
Nuka cola ad

Pop Music and the Bomb

What does the music we choose to listen to while playing video games (and contemplating nuclear armageddon) say about our society?

Facing nuclear reality, 35 years after The Day After

FACING NUCLEAR REALITY 35 years after The Day After A Bulletin special report by Dawn Stover A Bulletin special report by Dawn Stover In 1982, a 40-year-old insurance salesman who sold policies to professional athletes traveled from his home in Lawrence, Kansas, to New York City on a business trip. Shortly before he left, Bob … Continued

Artificial intelligence: a detailed explainer, with a human point of view

Is artificial intelligence, AI, a threat to our way of life, or a blessing? AI seeks to replicate and maybe replace what human intelligence does best: make complex decisions. Currently, human decision-making processes may include some means of AI as support or backup. But AI could also be “let out of the box” to act … Continued

How to save the planet from your couch

Researchers are studying how video games can teach people about climate change. It would help if playing them didn't cause climate change too.
French President Emmanuel Macron. Credit: © World Economic Forum / Sikarin Thanachaiary CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

US may not join Macron cyber pact

French President Emmanuel Macron, himself the target of a pre-election hack, went on the offensive this week against the thieves, hackers, and foreign agents who use the internet to attack infrastructure, steal trade secrets, and tip elections. He got representatives of dozens of countries, companies, and nongovernmental organizations to sign onto efforts designed to make … Continued

Learning from South Korea: How artificial intelligence can transform US export controls

Modern export-control systems are streaked with a brush of irony: The very civilian agencies that determine governmental approaches to exporting emerging technologies do not leverage these same technologies to perform key tasks. Rightfully, experts raise alarm at states and non-state actors that weaponize artificial intelligence (AI), yet they pay relatively little attention to how the … Continued
Postage Stamp, Apsara Research Atomic Reactor in Trombay, Mumbai, circa 1965

Estimating India’s nuclear weapons-producing capacity

If India were to dip into its stockpile of reactor-grade plutonium, then instead of dozens of nuclear weapons, it might be able to make hundreds or even thousands. How can we estimate its maximum capacity? By knowing how big India's stockpile is—and we do that by using this algorithm to plug in some unclassified data publicly available online.

Arms control on the brink

Trump’s move to withdraw from the INF is an unnecessary and self-defeating own-goal (to use the soccer term) that together with the uncertain future of the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) has brought the US-Russia arms control framework to the brink of collapse.