Smart Ideas: Not So Fast, Elon Musk

An artist's rendering of NASA's Mars 2020 rover.
NASA
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Aug. 23, 2017, 12:20 p.m.

The case against "terraforming" Mars

Robert Sparrow, writing for Nautilus

In a page ripped from science fiction, “scientists believe that terraforming Mars is theoretically possible,” enabling humans to live and breathe on the red planet. To the extent that it’s possible, however, we must ask: “Is there anything wrong with humanity reshaping Mars for its own ends? … Terraforming Mars would exhibit two major vicious character traits. One is insensitivity to beauty.” Terraforming the planet to our own ends would alter or even destroy its unique beauty in the solar system. There’s also a hubris inherent in terraforming, as we “exult in a possible future where humans have god-like powers and can transform entire planets. … Because our character is a function of how we’ve behaved in the past, the way we treat our own planet is relevant to the ethics of our exploration of others. Before we set out to induce a greenhouse effect on Mars, we should do something about the one we have created here on Earth.”

White-supremacist terror: The enemy within

Kim Ghattas, writing for Foreign Policy

Recent foiled terrorism plots instigated by white would-be attackers aren’t receiving the same media attention as attacks carried out by Islamic jihadis and Muslim lone wolves. However, the FBI says white-supremacist groups have carried out more attacks since 9/11 than any other domestic extremist group. It’s easier to believe real threats come from people outside of America “than to ask hard questions about one’s own society and its unresolved issues.” The focus in the U.S. needs to be on “why the discourse of white supremacy resonates with some and leads them to violence. … It’s time to realize that no society is without darkness—and the direst threat facing the United States today may well be from within, not without.”

Korean conflagration could quickly spread

Brendan Scott and Adrian Leung, writing for Bloomberg

If fire is exchanged on the Korean Peninsula, a second Korean War would quickly spread across Asia, threatening U.S. allies, bases, and the homeland. North Korea has hundreds of artillery batteries that could wreak havoc in Seoul. Should a round be fired, “the danger could quickly engulf the rest of South Korea and neighboring Japan, countries that have been American allies since World War II.” North Koreans could begin fleeing to China, fearing allied retaliation. China would be “hard-pressed to remain on the sidelines.” Then there’s Russia, “which shares borders with China, Japan and North Korea,” and where Vladimir Putin “is already challenging the U.S.” In order to prevent superpower escalation, North Korea analyst Joseph Bermudez says, “Communication is the key here.”

South Korean police officers conduct an anti-terror drill at a subway station in Seoul, South Korea on Tuesday. AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon
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