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Submission + - Climate science, nuclear war, and the humanitarian impacts debate (

Dan Drollette writes: What would happen to the rest of the planet if "just" 50 to 100 Hiroshima-size weapons were used in a limited nuclear war — like, say, between India and Pakistan? A team of atmospheric and environmental scientists walk us through it, and find that the resulting nuclear winter would be far more disastrous than previously thought.

Submission + - Your exotic pet is actually a bioweapon (

Lasrick writes: Laura Kahn at Princeton's Program on Science and Global Security writes about how security experts, including some in the US military, are becoming concerned about the potential for adversaries to deliberately introduce non-native species as biological weapons. But, as Kahn points out: 'The United States already endures biological attacks from non-native species every year, which arrive in large numbers via the exotic pet trade.'

Kahn goes on to look at both the legal and illegal wildlife trade in the US, and efforts to curb wildlife trafficking. Great read.

Submission + - John Cook's experiment with online science trolls

Lasrick writes: John Cook is a researcher who writes about climate change denial at SkepticalScience, and he writes here about dealing with online trolls. Not only has he turned online trolling into a source of data collection, but has also come up with a very effective way to deal with trolling. Great read: 'When I turn the spotlight around to expose the techniques of science denial, the reaction can be intense.'

Submission + - Undersea cables and the future of submarine competition (

An anonymous reader writes: "The ocean floor also hosts an even more valuable resource than oil and gas: At least 95% of voice and Internet traffic travels through about 300 transoceanic fiber-optic cables along the seabed, including military transmissions and more than $4 trillion per year in financial transactions, all of which could be vulnerable to disruption if nations do not take the right precautions."

Submission + - Ban killer robots? How about defining them first? (

Lasrick writes: Global science and technology leaders like Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking have expressed concern about the existential risk to human society that could come from highly advanced artificial intelligence. But a key sticking point in the debate over banning autonomous weapons is the uncertainty about what exactly an autonomous weapon system is. Michael Horowitz of Perry World House at UPenn writes about how that need to first define the weapon system renders the discussion very different from arms control dialogues of the last few decades, and how effective policy will be difficult to come up with if we can’t even agree on what they are.

Submission + - China's security agenda (

Dan Drollette writes: Internal Chinese documents show that Beijing's recent moves are part of a plan to push the US out of the South China Sea and create protected sea lanes in Chinese "territory" — sort of a maritime Silk Road, surrounded by fortified islands that will become China's forward bases.

Submission + - It's time for transparency in the US lethal drone program (

Dan Drollette writes: Before he leaves office, Obama should come clean about the transparency, accountability, and intelligence problems with our lethal drone program. There's all kinds of potential problems: on the effectiveness of targeting key terrorist leaders, the use of primarily lethal force to combat terrorism, the propensity for blowback and anti-American sentiment, the erosion of sovereignty, and the potential for lowering the threshold for entering conflict—which could lead toward endless warfare and instability.

Submission + - From Flint to Yucca Mountain, politicized regulators are doing harm (

Lasrick writes: Using examples that range from the Yucca Mountain radioactive waste repository and the Flint, Michigan water crisis to lesser-known regulatory failures, Jeff Terry looks at the long-term harm that occurs when regulators let politics influence policy decisions. Terry offers a number of solutions that he believes 'would go a long way towards restoring confidence in regulators,' which in turn would restore public trust not only in a number of institutions, but in science itself. As Terry puts it: 'To maintain—or regain—public trust in our regulators, they must not behave like political entities, and the science they conduct must be beyond reproach.'

Submission + - The neuroweapons threat (

Lasrick writes: Like most powerful scientific breakthroughs, neurotechnologies that allow brains to control machines—or machines to read or control brains—inevitably bring with them the threat of weaponization and misuse. This article by James Giordano, a senior science advisory fellow to the Joint Staff at the Pentagon and member of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) panel on neuroethics, describes a threat that existing UN conventions designed to limit biological and chemical weapons do not yet cover. Fascinating read.

Submission + - Floating nuclear power plants: China is far from first (

Lasrick writes: China is planning to build as many as 20 floating nuclear power plants, the power from which would likely be used to accelerate construction of oil rigs and artificial islands in the South China Sea—already a source of border disputes and escalating tension between China and its neighbors. But China isn't the first to use this technology--the US launched the first such plant 50 years ago. Russia started its own project in 2000,and although development has been on-again, off-again, Russia is currently building two floating nuclear power plants at a shipyard in St. Petersburg. Dawn Stover describes here the history of floating nuclear power plants as well as the risks and rewards. An interesting read about an energy technology that we are about to see much more of.

Submission + - The tower in the woods: preparing for nuclear war (

Lasrick writes: Journalist Dawn Stover writes about GWEN, the communications tower in her sparsely populated hometown that was built as part of the Ground Wave Emergency Network, a US Air Force communication system intended to survive the effects of a nuclear bomb detonated high above the United States.This communications system was highly controversial: 'Neighbors worried that having a tower nearby would make them military targets. Some people even feared that the towers would be used for mind control.'

Stover goes on to describe how GWEN is only one of several 'survivable' command-and-control systems developed by the Pentagon, and the modernization efforts currently underway.

Submission + - Germany's Energiewende: The problems remain (

Dan Drollette writes: Wanna know why certain American fossil fuel tycoons (who shall remain nameless) are so hostile to fighting climate change? Just look at what happened to the big utility companies and the large, energy-intensive heavy industries of Germany after its "Energiewende" kicked in—they are "on the brink of dissolution" from that country's embrace of renewable energy, says the author of this piece, who used to work for German utilities as their renewables go-to person.

Submission + - Nuclear film does not bomb on Broadway (

Dan Drollette writes: If the creators of the performance piece The Bomb sought to make an impact on their audience at their Broadway debut last weekend, they succeeded: At least three people fainted at the first show.

Submission + - How genetic editing became a national security threat ( 2

Lasrick writes: In February, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper gave his Worldwide Threat Assessment testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee. Among the threats he included in the weapons-of-mass-destruction section (North Korea, China's nuclear weapons modernization, chemical weapons in the Middle East) was a stunner: Genetic editing.

What is the big deal? Well, besides the usual fear of accidents, there is also the realization that genetic editing can be weaponized. In this article, Daniel Gerstein of the RAND Corporation elaborates on the scary aspects to genetic engineering, particularly since the genie is out of the bottle and can't be put back.

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