Magnetic reconnection, the existential risks of searching for alien civilizations and carbon emissions in Africa

Here are links to a few recent articles by LML External Fellow Mark Buchanan.

Attempted Connection

Nature Physics 17, 664; 9 June 2021

A decades old challenge in plasma physics is to fathom the nature of magnetic reconnection – the abrupt topological rearrangement of magnetic fields in space plasmas or fusion energy experiments which release copious energy over very short timescales. This essay examines recent theoretical work which has identified a key instability that may offer the seeds of a fundamental understanding.

Contacting aliens could end all life on Earth. Let’s stop trying.

Washington Post, 10 June, 2021

The search for extraterrestrial intelligence through passive gathering of signals – known as S.E.T.I. – is more than 60 years old. It’s found nothing so far. Growing impatient, some scientists suggest we should pursue a more aggressive programme of active search, or M.E.T.I., for Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence. This essay explores the pros and cons of such an approach, including some of the existential risks involved in aiming to contact civilizations we know nothing about.

Climate Crisis Can’t Be Solved Without Africa

Bloomberg Opinion, 3 May, 2021

If you think we’re possibly about to turn the corner on reducing CO2 emissions, ponder the fact that, in just 40 years, economic development in Africa is expected to add emissions to the world total fully equivalent to another China. This essay explores why developed nations must do their part to end the continent’s dependence on fossil fuels and support renewable-energy projects – and why their success will likely require significant help from developed nations.

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