Monday, March 2, 2015

[tt] (RAS 2015-02) Does dark matter cause mass extinctions and geologic upheavals?

[

http://www.ras.org.uk/news-and-press/2591-does-dark-matter-cause-mass-extinctions-and-geologic-upheavals

]

(... links deleted ...)

[19]Does dark matter cause mass extinctions and geologic upheavals?


Last Updated on Thursday, 19 February 2015 11:23
Published on Thursday, 19 February 2015 06:00

Research by New York University Biology Professor Michael Rampino
concludes that Earth's infrequent but predictable path around and
through our Galaxy's disc may have a direct and significant effect on
geological and biological phenomena occurring on Earth. In a new paper
in [20]Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, he concludes
that movement through dark matter may perturb the orbits of comets and
lead to additional heating in the Earth's core, both of which could be
connected with mass extinction events.

The Galactic disc is the region of the Milky Way galaxy where our solar
system resides. It is crowded with stars and clouds of gas and dust,
and also a concentration of elusive dark matter – small subatomic
particles that can be detected only by their gravitational effects.

[21]NGC 4565 NGC 4565, an edge-on spiral galaxy. The stars, dust and
gas are concentrated into a thin disc, much like the one in our Milky
Way galaxy. Credit: Jschulman555Previous studies have shown that Earth
rotates around the disc-shaped Galaxy once every 250 million years. But
the Earth's path around the Galaxy is wavy, with the Sun and planets
weaving through the crowded disc approximately every 30 million years.
Analysing the pattern of the Earth's passes through the Galactic disc,
Rampino notes that these disc passages seem to correlate with times of
comet impacts and mass extinctions of life. The famous comet strike 66
million ago that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs is just one
example.

What causes this correlation between Earth's passes through the
Galactic disc, and the impacts and extinctions that seem to follow?

While travelling through the disc, the dark matter concentrated there
disturbs the pathways of comets typically orbiting far from the Earth
in the outer Solar System, Rampino points out. This means that comets
that would normally travel at great distances from the Earth instead
take unusual paths, causing some of them to collide with the planet.

But even more remarkably, with each dip through the disc, the dark
matter can apparently accumulate within the Earth's core. Eventually,
the dark matter particles annihilate each other, producing considerable
heat. The heat created by the annihilation of dark matter in Earth's
core could trigger events such as volcanic eruptions, mountain
building, magnetic field reversals, and changes in sea level, which
also show peaks every 30 million years. Rampino therefore suggests that
astrophysical phenomena derived from the Earth's winding path through
the Galactic disc, and the consequent accumulation of dark matter in
the planet's interior, can result in dramatic changes in Earth's
geological and biological activity.

His model of dark matter interactions with the Earth as it cycles
through the Galaxy could have a broad impact on our understanding of
the geological and biological development of Earth, as well as other
planets within the Galaxy.

Rampino said: "We are fortunate enough to live on a planet that is
ideal for the development of complex life. But the history of the Earth
is punctuated by large scale extinction events, some of which we
struggle to explain. It may be that dark matter – the nature of which
is still unclear but which makes up around a quarter of the universe –
holds the answer. As well as being important on the largest scales,
dark matter may have a direct influence on life on Earth."

In the future, he suggests, geologists might incorporate these
astrophysical findings in order to better understand events that are
now thought to result purely from causes inherent to the Earth. This
model, Rampino adds, likewise provides new knowledge of the possible
distribution and behaviour of dark matter within the Galaxy.


Media contacts

James Devitt
Deputy Director for Media Relations
New York University
United States
Tel: +1 (212) 998 6808
Mob: +1 (914) 522 3774
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need
JavaScript enabled to view it.

Robert Massey
Royal Astronomical Society
Tel: +44 (0)20 7734 3307 x214
Mob: +44 (0)794 124 8035
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need
JavaScript enabled to view it.


Science contact

Prof Michael Rampino
New York University
United States
Tel: +1 (718) 578 1442
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need
JavaScript enabled to view it.


Image

[22]www.ras.org.uk/images/stories/press/galaxies/ngc4565.jpg
NGC 4565, an edge-on spiral galaxy. The stars, dust and gas are
concentrated into a thin disc, much like the one in our Milky Way
galaxy. Credit: Jschulman555


Further information

The new work appears in M. Rampino, "[23]Disc dark matter in the Galaxy
and potential cycles of extraterrestrial impacts, mass extinctions and
geological events", Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society,
vol. 448, pp. 1816-1820, 2015, published by Oxford University Press.


Notes for editors

The Royal Astronomical Society (RAS, [24]www.ras.org.uk), founded in
1820, encourages and promotes the study of astronomy, solar-system
science, geophysics and closely related branches of science. The RAS
organizes scientific meetings, publishes international research and
review journals, recognizes outstanding achievements by the award of
medals and prizes, maintains an extensive library, supports education
through grants and outreach activities and represents UK astronomy
nationally and internationally. Its more than 3800 members (Fellows), a
third based overseas, include scientific researchers in universities,
observatories and laboratories as well as historians of astronomy and
others.

(... links deleted ...)

© RAS 1996-2015

References

20. http://www.ras.org.uk/publications/journals
21. http://www.ras.org.uk/images/stories/press/galaxies/ngc4565.jpg
22. http://www.ras.org.uk/images/stories/press/galaxies/ngc4565.jpg
23. http://mnras.oxfordjournals.org/lookup/doi/10.1093/mnras/stu2708
24. http://www.ras.org.uk/
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[tt] (RAS 2015-02) Astronomers find newborn stars at the edge of the Galaxy

[

http://www.ras.org.uk/news-and-press/2592-astronomers-find-newborn-stars-at-the-edge-of-the-galaxy

]

(... links deleted ...)

[19]Astronomers find newborn stars at the edge of the Galaxy


Last Updated on Friday, 27 February 2015 12:17
Published on Friday, 27 February 2015 06:01

Brazilian astronomers have made a remarkable discovery: a cluster of
stars forming on the very edge of the Galaxy. The team, led by Denilso
Camargo of the [20]Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul in Porto
Alegre, Brazil, publish their results in the journal [21]Monthly
Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The [22]Milky Way, the Galaxy we live in, has a barred spiral shape,
with arms of stars, gas and dust winding out from a central bar. Viewed
from the side, the Galaxy would appear relatively flat, with most of
the material in a disc and the central regions.

Stars form inside massive and dense clumps of gas in so-called giant
[23]molecular clouds (GMCs) that are mainly located in the inner part
of the galactic disc. With many clumps in a single GMC, most (if not
all) stars are born together in clusters.

Denilso's team looked at data from NASA's orbiting [24]Wide-Field
Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) observatory. They not only found GMCs
thousands of light years above and below the galactic disc, but that
one of them unexpectedly contained two clusters of stars. This is the
first time astronomers have found stars being born in such a remote
location.

[25]f2a Negative WISE W1 image of the newly found cluster Camargo 438.
The cluster is about 16,000 light years away, so the image is about 24
light years across. The black dots in the image are individual stars.
Credit: D. Camargo/NASA/WISEThe new clusters, named Camargo 438 and
439, are within the molecular cloud HRK 81.4-77.8. This cloud is
thought to be about 2 million years old and is around 16000 light years
beneath the galactic disk, an enormous distance away from the usual
regions of star formation, in the direction of the constellation of
Cetus.

Denilso believes there are two possible explanations. In the first
case, the 'chimney model', violent events such as supernova explosions
eject dust and gas out of the galactic disk. The material then falls
back, in the process merging to form GMCs.

The other idea is that the interaction between our Galaxy and its
satellites, the [26]Magellanic Clouds, may have disturbed gas that
falls into the Galaxy, again leading to the creation of GMCs and stars.

Denilso commented: "Our work shows that the space around the Galaxy is
a lot less empty that we thought. The new clusters of stars are truly
exotic. In a few million years, any inhabitants of planets around the
stars will have a grand view of the outside of the Milky Way, something
no human being will probably ever experience.

"Now we want to understand how the ingredients for making stars made it
to such a distant spot. We need more data and some serious work on
computer models to try to answer this question."

The chimney model would need several hundred massive stars to have
exploded as supernovae over several generations, creating a 'superwind'
that threw HRK 81.4-77.8 into its present position. Over millions of
years, the bubbles created by the explosions may then themselves
compress material, forming more stars and fuelling the ejection of
material in a 'galactic fountain', where the dust and gas eventually
rains back on to the disk.


Media contact

Robert Massey
Royal Astronomical Society
Tel: +44 (0)20 7734 3307 x214
Mob: +44 (0)794 124 8035
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need
JavaScript enabled to view it.


Science contact

Denilso Camargo
Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul
Porto Alegre
Brazil
Tel: +55 51 3308-6513
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need
JavaScript enabled to view it.


Images and captions

* Negative WISE W1 [27]image of the newly found cluster Camargo 438.
The cluster is about 16,000 light years away, so the image is about
24 light years across. The black dots in the image are individual
stars. Credit: D. Camargo/NASA/WISE
* Another negative WISE W1 [28]image of the newly found cluster
Camargo 439. The clusters is about 16,000 light years away, so the
image is about 24 light years across. The black dots in the image
are individual stars. Credit: D. Camargo/NASA/WISE
* A negative WISE W3 [29]image of dust emission centred on Camargo
438. Some of the stars in these clusters may be hidden by dust.
Credit: D. Camargo/NASA/WISE
* An [30]artist's impression of the Milky Way that shows how it might
appear from a planet orbiting a star in one of the newly discovered
clusters. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESO/R. Hurt


Further information

The research was carried out by Dr Denilso Camargo, Dr Eduardo Bica, Dr
Charles Bonatto and Gustavo Bonatto (MSc Gustavo SALERNO), of the
Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul and Colégio Militar de Porto
Alegre - Exército Brasileiro.

It appears in the paper D. Camargo et al., "[31]Discovery of two
embedded clusters with WISE in the high Galactic latitude cloud HRK
81.4-77.8", Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, vol.
448, pp. 1930-1936, 2015, published by Oxford University Press.


Notes for editors

The Royal Astronomical Society (RAS), founded in 1820, encourages and
promotes the study of astronomy, solar-system science, geophysics and
closely related branches of science. The RAS organizes scientific
meetings, publishes international research and review journals,
recognizes outstanding achievements by the award of medals and prizes,
maintains an extensive library, supports education through grants and
outreach activities and represents UK astronomy nationally and
internationally. Its more than 3800 members (Fellows), a third based
overseas, include scientific researchers in universities, observatories
and laboratories as well as historians of astronomy and others.

(... links deleted ...)

© RAS 1996-2015

References

20. http://www.ufrgs.br/english/home
21. http://www.ras.org.uk/publications/journals
22. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milky_Way
23. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molecular_cloud
24. http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/WISE/main/
25. http://www.ras.org.uk/images/stories/press/f2a.jpg
26. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magellanic_Clouds
27. http://www.ras.org.uk/images/stories/press/f2a.jpg
28. http://www.ras.org.uk/images/stories/press/f2b.jpg
29. http://www.ras.org.uk/images/stories/press/f5.jpg
30. http://www.ras.org.uk/images/stories/press/Artists_impression_of_the_Milky_Way.jpg
31. http://mnras.oxfordjournals.org/lookup/doi/10.1093/mnras/stv092
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Saturday, February 28, 2015

[tt] (cctalk) Passing of L. Nimoy (fwd)

----- Forwarded message from Murray McCullough <c.murray.mccullough@gmail.com> -----

Date: Fri, 27 Feb 2015 13:21:04 -0500
From: Murray McCullough <c.murray.mccullough@gmail.com>
To: cctalk@classiccmp.org
Subject: Passing of L. Nimoy

How can one not be impressed by L. Nimoy's portrayal of Mr. Spock?
His character was logical, almost computer-like, but was far more a
portrait of humanity than most care to admit to. Ancient/classic
computing was a hall-mark of Star Trek and Spock personified that
relationship.

Murray :)

----- End forwarded message -----
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Friday, February 27, 2015

[tt] (cctalk) Re: Replacement for Google's broken Usenet group search (fwd)

----- Forwarded message from John Foust <jfoust@threedee.com> -----

Date: Thu, 19 Feb 2015 10:22:22 -0600
From: John Foust <jfoust@threedee.com>
To: cctalk@classiccmp.org
Subject: Re: Replacement for Google's broken Usenet group search

At 07:03 PM 11/19/2013, Al Kossow wrote:

>They seem to have broken it sufficiently now that nothing is returned
>after the end of October. Is there anyone indexing Usenet that has a
>clue? It seems like all that is left is for-pay services for
>searching alt.binaries.

Is there some definitive web statement that explains the fate of all
the historical Usenet archives (once of Dejanews) that were once
available under Google Groups? Where did their archive go?

This is as close as I found:

http://motherboard.vice.com/read/google-a-search-company-has-made-its-internet-archive-impossible-to-search

I think it's worse than that... Never mind the complex searches...
A search for words that I know were once there now returns nothing.

- John

----- End forwarded message -----
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[tt] (Coke@CMUA YYYY-MM) The "Only" Coke Machine on the Internet

(Thanks, Paul Gilmartin. So, here's a coke dispenser who has its own
homepage, apparently a long time member of academia too. Near future
candidates for similar position include sensitive egg box (thanks, Tom
Brennan)

http://www.amazon.com/Minder-Wink-App-Enabled-Smart-Tray/dp/B00GN92KQ4

and, from the same department, maybe even more sensitive wireless
capable smart bulb (sorry, no link given as one link to the shop is
quite a lot, but it should be linked from the above mentioned page).

So this is how internet of sinks started. Too bad one cannot finger
an egg box, this feature will be missed. Fingering a light bulb, too.

-TR)

[

https://www.cs.cmu.edu/~coke/history_long.txt

]

The "Only" Coke Machine on the Internet

Hi, I'm the CMU CS Department Coke Machine. A lot of folks have
written a quite a bit about me in the last couple of years, and most
of them can tell you more about the history of me and my family than I
can. Before I worked here, my Mom, and I think her Pop (heh heh :-)
used to sell sodas to the folks in the Computer Science Department.
In fact, my family has been here longer than most of the students, and
even a lot of the faculty. We moved to the third floor of the
computer science building (Wean Hall) in the 70's. I still sell Coke
in bottles, but they're big 20 oz plastic things these days. They go
for 50 cents each, which I guess isn't too bad considering inflation.
And at least they don't break inside me any more like the glass ones
used to. What a mess...

Tom Lane had the following to say about us:

> Since time immemorial (well, maybe 1970) the Carnegie-Mellon CS
> department has maintained a departmental Coke machine which sells
> bottles of Coke for a dime or so less than other vending machines
> around campus. As no Real Programmer can function without caffeine,
> the machine is very popular. (I recall hearing that it had the highest
> sales volume of any Coke machine in the Pittsburgh area.) The machine
> is loaded on a rather erratic schedule by grad student volunteers.
>
> In the mid-seventies expansion of the department caused people's
> offices to be located ever further away from the main terminal room
> where the Coke machine stood. It got rather annoying to traipse down
> to the third floor only to find the machine empty - or worse, to shell
> out hard-earned cash to receive a recently loaded, still-warm Coke.
> One day a couple of people got together to devise a solution.
>
> They installed micro-switches in the Coke machine to sense how many
> bottles were present in each of its six columns of bottles. The
> switches were hooked up to CMUA, the PDP-10 that was then the main
> departmental computer. A server program was written to keep tabs on
> the Coke machine's state, including how long each bottle had been in
> the machine. When you ran the companion status inquiry program, you'd
> get a display that might look like this:
>
> EMPTY EMPTY 1h 3m
> COLD COLD 1h 4m
>
> This let you know that cold Coke could be had by pressing the
> lower-left or lower-center button, while the bottom bottles in the two
> right-hand columns had been loaded an hour or so beforehand, so were
> still warm. (I think the display changed to just "COLD" after the
> bottle had been there 3 hours.)
>
> The final piece of the puzzle was needed to let people check Coke
> status when they were logged in on some other machine than CMUA. CMUA's
> Finger server was modified to run the Coke status program whenever
> someone fingered the nonexistent user "coke". (For the uninitiated,
> Finger normally reports whether a specified user is logged in, and if
> so where.) Since Finger requests are part of standard ARPANET (now
> Internet) protocols, people could check the Coke machine from any CMU
> computer by saying "finger coke@cmua". In fact, you could discover the
> Coke machine's status from any machine anywhere on the Internet! Not
> that it would do you much good if you were a few thousand miles away...

(Which is not to say that I haven't had a lot of electronic visits and
kind email from folks all over the country and all over the world.)

Tom continues:
> The Coke machine programs were used for over a decade and were even
> rewritten for Unix Vaxen when CMUA was retired in the early eighties.
> The end came just a couple years ago when the local Coke bottler
> discontinued the returnable, coke-bottle-shaped bottles. The old
> machine couldn't handle the non-returnable, totally-uninspired-shape
> bottles, so it was replaced by a new vending machine. This was not long
> after the New Coke fiasco (undoubtedly the century's greatest example
> of fixing what wasn't broken). The combination of these events left CMU
> Coke lovers sufficiently disgruntled that no one has bothered to wire
> up the new machine.
>
> I'm a little fuzzy about the dates, but I believe all the other
> details are accurate. The man page for the second-generation (Unix)
> Coke programs credits the hardware work to John Zsarnay, the software
> to David Nichols and Ivor Durham. I don't recall who did the original
> PDP-10 programs.

Steve Berman then chimed in:

> In 1992, a second year graduate student and a full time staff member
> of the CMU CS department decided to re-connect the coke machine to the
> internet. The new Coke Machine Interface passively senses the
> presence of bottles in the machine by the state of the "empty" light
> for each column. The status of the nearby M&M machine is also
> monitored. The new Coke Machine Interface is based on home-brew
> optical isolators designed by John Zsarnay before he left CMU in 1991.
> The new Coke Machine Interface resides on a PC-XT class machine whose
> host name is COKE.ELAB.CS.CMU.EDU at IP address 128.2.209.43.
>
> The Coke Machine Interface hardware was constructed by Steve Berman who
> also integrated the network interface software. Greg Nelson architected
> the machine status software and installed the interface.

For the "CMU SCS 25th Anniversary Symposium," Craig Everhart, Eddie
Caplan, and Robert Frederking described things this way:

> The only problem with the Coke machine was that after trekking down to
> buy something it was found to be either empty or newly-filled (and
> there are few more revolting substances that warm Coke; ideally it is
> served just slightly above freezing). John Zsarnay created an
> interface between the six little "empty" lights and a serial port.
> These lights would flash when a bottle was dispensed and would stay
> lit when a column was empty. Mike Kazar programmed a server machine
> to track the time of the last transition for each column. Mike and
> Dave Nichols put together a simple network protocol by which any
> machine on the local Ethernet (and eventually on the Internet) could
> probe the current status of the Coke machine. Dave wrote the program
> that printed out the length of time since each column had been totally
> empty. Ivor Durham wrote the "Finger" server so that if you fingered
> the user "coke" you would get the status of the columns. One of the
> most-used Perq/Canvas applications displayed the coldness as an array
> of bar graphs in the same layout as the selector buttons on the
> machine itself.

Glenn Meter made the following comments:

> The first coke machine information that could be gotten over the net
> was on the old CS coke machine. It used the old-style coke bottles,
> the tall ones which curved in and out. The machine was near the old
> CS terminal room, just off the elevators of the third floor. They
> used to have an Alto or two (early grahical workstations) showing the
> coke status through the glass walls of the terminal room. So, when a
> guest was shown the facilities, one of the first things they saw was
> the status of the coke machine.
>
> When the local coke supplier no longer could supply the old-style
> bottles, a new machine with the current squat and cylindrical bottles
> was installed. It took a while for people to reconfigure the new
> machine so that it's status could be fingered over the net.
>
> Around 1990, the new machine was finally connected to the net, along
> with the M&M machine next to it (actually, the M&M machine was
> connected first). At first, you had to run a program called 'jf' (for
> Junk Food) to get the information.

(However, my interface has changed again and at the moment much of the
old software to access me is out of date. Some day, some kind soul
will put that back on line, and will give my little friend the M&M
machine a proper sensor so that his status is meaningful.)

Glenn continues:

> Later on, someone added the interface so you could finger the machine from
> anywhere on the internet.

In fact there are now a number of machines available on the net, so
it's not at all fair to call me the *only* Coke machine on the
Internet.

>From Bennet Yee:

>This is a list of various coke or other vending machines that are accessible
>via the Internet.
>* Carnegie Mellon University coke and M&M machine (Fixed!)
>* Cocacola and Pepsi at Columbia University
>* University of Wisconsin (appears to be just a maintennance account, not a
> real coke-machine-on-the-net)
>* UC Berkeley
>* Rochester Institute of Technology, Computer Science House
> * Soda machine status
> * stock details
> * graphical display and coke temperatures
>* University of Western Australia
>* Coffee machine (Cambridge)

So, that's a bit of my history, captured by the words of those who
have love me and and used me.

The Carnegie Mellon University Computer Science Department Coke Machine
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[tt] [NASA HQ News] NASA Administrator Remembers Leonard Nimoy

 
February 27, 2015
NASA Administrator Remembers Leonard Nimoy

The following is a statement from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on the passing of Leonard Nimoy:

"Leonard Nimoy was an inspiration to multiple generations of engineers, scientists, astronauts, and other space explorers. As Mr. Spock, he made science and technology important to the story, while never failing to show, by example, that it is the people around us who matter most.

"NASA was fortunate to have him as a friend and a colleague. He was much more than the Science Officer for the USS Enterprise. Leonard was a talented actor, director, philanthropist, and a gracious man dedicated to art in many forms.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends, and the legions of Star Trek fans around the world."

-end-

Statement from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on the passing of Leonard Nimoy.


NASA news releases and other information are available automatically by sending an e-mail message with the subject line subscribe to hqnews-request@newsletters.nasa.gov.
To unsubscribe from the list, send an e-mail message with the subject line unsubscribe to hqnews-request@newsletters.nasa.gov.

 


 

[tt] [x-risk] Seth Baum: Stopping killer robots and other future threats

http://thebulletin.org/stopping-killer-robots-and-other-future-threats8012

 

02/22/2015 - 16:49

Stopping killer robots and other future threats

Seth Baum

Seth Baum is executive director of the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute, a nonprofit think tank that Baum co-founded in...

Only twice in history have nations come together to ban a weapon before it was ever used. In 1868, the Great Powers agreed under the Saint Petersburg Declaration to ban exploding bullets, which by spreading metal fragments inside a victim’s body could cause more suffering than the regular kind. And the 1995 Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons now has 104 signatories, who have agreed to ban the weapons on the grounds that they could cause excessive suffering to soldiers in the form of permanent blindness.

Today a group of non-governmental organizations is working to outlaw another yet-to-be used device, the fully autonomous weapon or killer robot. In 2012 the group formed the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots to push for a ban. Different from the remotely piloted unmanned aerial vehicles in common use today, fully autonomous weapons are military robots designed to make strike decisions for themselves. Once deployed, they identify targets and attack them without any human permission. None currently exist, but China, Israel, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States are actively developing precursor technology, according to the campaign.

It’s important that the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots succeed, either at achieving an outright ban or at sparking debate resulting in some other sensible and effective regulation. This is vital not just to prevent fully autonomous weapons from causing harm; an effective movement will also show us how to proactively ban other future military technology.

Fully autonomous weapons are not unambiguously bad. They can reduce burdens on soldiers. Already, military robots are saving many service members’ lives, for example by neutralizing improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan and Iraq. The more capabilities military robots have, the more they can keep soldiers from harm. They may also be able to complete missions that soldiers and non-autonomous weapons cannot.

But the potential downsides are significant. Militaries might kill more if no individual has to bear the emotional burden of strike decisions. Governments might wage more wars if the cost to their soldiers were lower. Oppressive tyrants could turn fully autonomous weapons on their own people when human soldiers refused to obey. And the machines could malfunction—as all machines sometimes do—killing friend and foe alike.

Robots, moreover, could struggle to recognize unacceptable targets such as civilians and wounded combatants. The sort of advanced pattern recognition required to distinguish one person from another is relatively easy for humans, but difficult to program in a machine. Computers have outperformed humans in things like multiplication for a very long time, but despite great effort, their capacity for face and voice recognition remains crude. Technology would have to overcome this problem in order for robots to avoid killing the wrong people.

A government that deployed a weapon that struck civilians would violate international humanitarian law. This serves as a basis for the anti-killer robot campaign. The global humanitarian disarmament movement used similar arguments to achieve international bans on landmines and cluster munitions, and is making progress towards a ban on nuclear weapons.

If the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots succeeds, it will achieve a rare feat. It is no surprise that weapons are rarely banned before they are ever used, because doing so requires proactive effort, whereas people tend to be reactive. When a vivid, visceral event occurs, people are especially motivated to act. Hence concern about global warming spiked after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, and concern about nuclear power plant safety spiked after the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

The successful humanitarian campaigns against landmines and cluster munitions made very effective use of the many victims maimed by these weapons. The current humanitarian campaign against nuclear weapons similarly relies on the hibakusha—the victims of the 1945 Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings—and victims of nuclear test detonations. The victims’ presence and their stories bring the issue to life in a way that abstract statistics and legal arguments cannot. Today there are no victims of fully autonomous weapons, so the campaign must be proactive rather than reactive, relying on expectations of future harm.

Protection from the dangers that could be caused by killer robots is a worthy end in its own right. However, the most important aspect of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots is the precedent it sets as a forward-looking effort to protect humanity from emerging technologies that could permanently end civilization or cause human extinction. Developments in biotechnology, geoengineering, and artificial intelligence, among other areas, could be so harmful that responding may not be an option. The campaign against fully autonomous weapons is a test-case, a warm-up. Humanity must get good at proactively protecting itself from new weapon technologies, because we react to them at our own peril.