The 2013 Edge Question: What *Should* We Be Worried About? Xeni's essay: "Cancer."

Photo: "Clematis 2013" Copyright © 2013 by Katinka Matson. View larger size.

Each year, literary über-agent and big idea wrangler John Brockman of poses a new question to an assortment of scientists, writers, and creative minds, and publishes a selection of the responding essays. This year's question, which came from George Dyson, is "What *Should* We Be Worried About?"

We worry because we are built to anticipate the future. Nothing can stop us from worrying, but science can teach us how to worry better, and when to stop worrying.
Many people more interesting than me responded—here are the 2013 contributors, and the list includes some amazing minds: Brian Eno, Daniel Dennett, Esther Dyson, George Dyson, David Gelernter, Danny Hillis, Arianna Huffington, Kevin Kelly, Tim O'Reilly, Martin Rees, Bruce Schneier, Bruce Sterling, Sherry Turkle, and Craig Venter, to name just some. And here's an index of all the essays this year.

Following is the full text of my contribution, "Science Has Not Brought Us Closer To Understanding Cancer." Read the rest

The physics of time travel

The majority of physicists say time travel probably won't work (at least in the Hollywood-go-anytime-you-wanna sense). Several time traveler parties have gone famously unattended by time travelers (at least, any willing to fess up about it). In general, science is kind of a buzz-kill on this one.

But if you want some justification for your daydreams, the person to talk to is Ronald Mallett, a theoretical physicists at the University of Connecticut who is most well-known for being the guy who thinks time travel is totally possible. (Mark wrote about him here back in 2007.) In fact, in 2006, Mallett predicted that time travel would be figured out within a decade.

I honestly have not researched this enough to give you my opinion on Mallett's ideas. His fellow physicists have addressed it, though. You can read one response to Mallett at arXiv. All of that is a long, context-relevant introduction to the video above, where Mallett explains his theories. I wanted to post the video because it's interesting and I thought you all would dig it. I'm also interested in the new video series this comes from—EPIPHANY, a daily video about big ideas taken from interviews with journalists, tech thinkers, scientists, and more. Mallett makes an interesting kick off for a series like this.

My hope, though, is that EPIPHANY doesn't only focus on scientific ideas that are kind of on the fringe. There's so many amazing discoveries that have the bulk of evidence behind them, it seems like a waste of a good platform to not cover the stuff that's more likely to be true. Read the rest

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Russian space caves on the Moon

Some Russian scientists want to build a space colony inside a network of caves on the Moon. No, really. It's hard to tell, from the Reuters story, how much support this plan actually has from the people who hold the purse strings. Read the rest