Robots

Every day, another story hits the wire detailing some newfound robotic ability. Today, scientists at Brown University happily reported that they trained a robot to obey nonverbal commands in environments previously thought to be difficult for our exceedingly competent robotic friends. Whether they're tending our tomatoes, as a bunch of MIT students turned farmers programmed them to do, zooming around your floor and picking up idle crumbs -- yes, I really want a Roomba! -- or patrolling borders in South Korea or Israel, robots are developing freakishly fast. And that scares philosopher A.C. Grayling, who's calling for robot regulation in New Scientist. Grayling isn't stressing so much about the domestically inclined robots so much as the surveillance, military or police robots. He's arguing for regulation that covers all robotic devices before it's too late. Maybe, as my fellow science blogger Robert pointed out, he recently rented "Runaway" or "The Terminator?"

In writing a recent article about nuclear winter, I ran across this outrageous statement quite a bit: "Couldn't we just cancel out global warming with nuclear winter?" The short answer? Yes. And you can also cure a hangnail with a meat cleaver, though it's probably not quite the fix you're looking for. To be fair, no one is seriously advocating the use of thermonuclear weapons to save the environment. Most of the time, the suggestion is either a thoughtless joke or a shot at the theoretic (and therefore fallible) aspects of both global warming and nuclear winter. When it comes to understanding our atmosphere, there's a whole lot of room to wind up getting it wrong.