The Upbeat: Science and Extradition
Updated: May 3
This week I have been exposed to a great deal of doom-and-gloom content by my friends. YouTube especially is full of such content. While the analysis aspect of such content is often good and important -- it is especially important that we take red flags seriously and plan ahead for the future -- many writers, film-makers, and other creators today take a highly pessimistic view of the future that serves only to further increase the pressures and burdens on us all. From a young age my generation has been told to fear omnipresent terrorism, the specter of a Third World War, global pandemics (which we have now lived through), the ill effects of the internet, declining birth rates, having all of your personal information on display for the government and other hackers, the imminent destruction of the earth by climate change, mass shootings in school, hostile immigrants, and many other things. We are told that the political system is broken, that all politicians are greedy and corrupt, that all companies are greedy and corrupt, that people are inherently flawed and that governments naturally tend towards dictatorships. We are not the first generation to be immersed in the culture of death, but is it any surprise that Gen Z is the generation least likely to report good mental health?
The internet has allowed those seeking to solve problems a wider audience than ever before, but it also means that we are constantly bombarded by more people seeking help and assistance than ever before. I believe strongly that we must work together as individuals to solve world problems, rather than leaving it up to some abstract entity like the government, but the constant influx of bad news without any display of the good is a drain on our society. The bad must be tempered with the good.
The goal of my writing is to demonstrate the fact that the world continues to turn, and that there is still good in it. The world is made up of many small good things, and few big bad things. I do not have something so good to tell you that it can counterbalance the bad of a foreign war or global pandemic. What I can tell you is that people around the world at this very moment are getting married, raising children, cooking meals, administering aid, repairing machinery, exercising, sleeping, showering, and much more. These everyday things are equally real as the specter of catastrophe that is broadcast on the evening news. Every day you take a step forward, no matter how many times you have taken the step before or how minuscule or unimportant the step may be, it counterbalances the loss of a step somewhere else.
Here are some major steps different people are taking right now to make our world a better place. Enjoy.
NASA prepares for another decade of space exploration. Every ten years, scientists working for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine put out a report recommending different space missions for NASA to pursue. One such report, the planetary science decadal survey, was released just this past week. (You can view the last decadal survey here, with the whole report here.) Several missions were recommended, with the first priority being a mission to orbit Uranus, the gas giant beyond Saturn which has only been visited once, in a 1986 flyby. Another priority would be to visit Enceladus, a moon of Saturn believed to host a watery ocean under its surface. The report also urges NASA to take steps to test out planetary defense capabilities that could protect us from potential asteroid impacts, a la Deep Impact or Armageddon. While these missions are simple proposals and haven't been approved for construction yet, the decadal survey offers us a rare opportunity to see what sort of neat things NASA might start working on over the next decade. Read more: https://spaceflightnow.com/2022/04/19/robotic-mission-to-uranus-receives-top-priority-in-decadal-survey/ (Spaceflight Now), https://www.space.com/planetary-science-decadal-survey-roadmap (Space.com)
Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernández speaks in El Salvador (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Honduran president to be held accountable for drug trafficking. In a world where politicians are frequently accused of corruption, justice might seem rare -- and oftentimes, leaders don't even face charges or trial, let alone conviction. Not so in the case of former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández, however, who was extradited yesterday to the United States to face charges of drug trafficking. It's accused that the president received money from drug cartels in exchange for allowing drugs (especially cocaine) to flow through his country, and then used the money to help him win re-election in 2017. Now that even the highest court in Honduras has refused him protection, justice has the opportunity to be served on plenty of corrupt figures in the country. Hernández will be given a fair trial in the Southern District of New York, where US prosecutors will present the charges. Hernández's party has since lost power in Honduras. Read more: https://apnews.com/article/honduras-united-states-drug-trafficking-tegucigalpa-909a140a41a73126313bd2fff760057c (Associated Press), https://www.foxnews.com/world/honduras-ex-president-extradited-us-drug-trafficking-charges-new-york (FOX News)
Large Hadron Collider seeks to discover a fifth force of nature. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world's largest particle accelerator, embarks today on a new set of experiments hoping to discover the source of anomalies found in previous experiments. Some scientists think that the anomalies could be the result of particles we haven't discovered yet interacting with the particles the LHC studies; these new particles could transmit a "fifth force" of nature in addition to the existing four weak, strong, electromagnetic, and gravitational forces. The research done at the LHC doesn't come cheap: the accelerator cost $4.75 billion to build over a decade, according to Forbes, while its operating budget every year continues to be around $1 billion. While much of its funding comes from European countries where its based, the United States did provide some cash for the project as well. But, this sort of physics research is important, similar to experiments that verified Einstein's theory of general relativity in the 20th century, and gaining a greater understanding of the universe may open the door to new, life-changing technologies in the future. Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2022/apr/21/large-hadron-collider-restart-fifth-force-nature (The Guardian), https://apnews.com/article/science-europe-geneva-85fc0896a89c875794433208e99daf9e (Associated Press)
Weekly laws and elections. Congress passed two minor bills this week, while one foreign country held a presidential election. The first of these two bills transfers control of a historic theater from the federal government to its home city in Louisiana, which hopes to restore the Liberty Theater in time for its upcoming 100th anniversary. The transfer required congressional approval to go ahead. The second bill aims to elevate and expand a force within the Department of Homeland Security that works within Native American reservations along the border with Mexico, called the "Shadow Wolves." Finally, in East Timor the people decided not to re-elect their current president and chose former President José Ramos-Horta to serve a second term instead. While East Timor is a very small country, it's also one of the newest at just twenty years old, and it's heartening to see such a fresh democracy advance with free and fair elections even as people sound the alarm about democracy and elections elsewhere. Read more: https://www.theadvocate.com/acadiana/news/article_2b0a8d42-b124-11ec-9e9a-2b55bfcc8be5.html (The Acadiana Advocate, Liberty Theater), https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/border-issues/2022/03/10/shadow-wolves-terrorism-preparedness-bills-move-to-senate/9446104002/ (The Arizona Republic, Shadow Wolves), https://apnews.com/article/indonesia-biden-cabinet-east-timor-dili-jose-ramos-615dd086f5f1f4353abb955b9fdcae6a (Associated Press, East Timor), https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/ramos-horta-declares-victory-east-timor-presidential-election-2022-04-21/ (Reuters, East Timor)