Thursday, April 29, 2010

tension between technology and environment

An excellent discussion piece last Monday at Yale360 on global scale ethical issues in mining & the environment.    Environmentally aware societies are the same ones that are highly technological, a combination that is inherently contradictory.  Newer, better, faster, and safer technology requires more elements to be harvested from Earth's bounty; yet it is those same societies that decry the necessary mining processes that lead to environmental damage.  The problem pointed out by the authors is that when we don't mine the metals we demand in our own backyards, they inevitably get mined somewhere else - in someone else's backyard, and more than likely in ways that are more damaging to the environment and less sensitive to negative impacts on local people.  It begs the question, what should we do?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Rare Earth even rarer than thought

Earth is a unique place!  New findings from the study of extrasolar planets show that a high percentage of them have orbits that are the opposite of what we would expect.  In order for them to get that way, they probably have had very violent histories.  Those violent histories would very likely wipe out any smaller, rocky planets that might have resembled Earth.  It is usually assumed that most solar systems form like ours did - but if this assumption is not valid, it means that finding planets like Earth is going to be even more difficult than has been thought.