Postcards from Europe; Part 1: London

Remember when postcards were a way to keep in touch from the road? In the age of social media, here is the first of three ‘postcards’ from a European speaking tour. This one is from the UK with highlights of lectures and observations from several stops in London.

Nobel economics prize due to be announced

Academics who could be in running for prestigious award include those working on price bubbles, productivity and corporate finance

The former governor of the Reserve Bank of India and a string of American academics are among potential candidates for the Nobel prize for economics, due to be announced on Monday in Stockholm.

The 9m Swedish kronor (£848,091) prize is not among the Nobel Foundation’s official awards for literature, peace, medicine, physics and chemistry but was established separately by Sweden’s central bank, Sveriges Riksbank, in memory of the Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel.

Related: The Nobel prize in economics takes too little account of social democracy | Avner Offer

Related: Don’t let the Nobel prize fool you. Economics is not a science | Joris Luyendijk

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Terraforming 101: How To Make Mars A Habitable Planet

Before we can journey to the stars, we must first go to Mars.

That’s Elon Musk’s philosophy, anyways – and as Visual Capitalist's Jeff Desjardins reports, just days ago he revealed new details on his ambitions to colonize the Red Planet, including sending two cargo rockets by 2022 and four rockets (two manned, two cargo) by 2024.

In 40 to 100 years, Musk suggested that up to a million people could live there.


As Elton John wisely noted, “Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids”.

Indeed, the average temperature on Mars is −55 °C (−67 °F), dust storms are frequent and potentially deadly, and the planet has extremely low atmospheric pressure (about 1% of Earth). Because of the atmosphere and temperature swings, meaningful occurrences of liquid water on the planet’s surface are almost impossible. And while Mars is thought to have plenty of frozen water at its poles and in underground deposits, the logistics of tapping into these resources could be quite difficult.

In other words, for any meaningful and long-lasting human presence on Mars, we would likely want to alter the planet and its atmosphere to make it more habitable for human life. And while the exact mechanisms we would use to accomplish this are still up for debate, the basics behind what’s needed to achieve Earth-like conditions are actually pretty straightforward.


Today’s infographic comes to us from Futurism, and it details what might need to happen on Mars to make it more accommodating to human life.

Courtesy of: Visual Capitalist

Here are two steps we could take to get Mars into the “Goldilocks Zone”, where water is liquid – and harmful ionizing radiation like x-rays, UV rays, and gamma rays are not problematic.

Greenhouse Gases
One way to ward off harmful ionizing radiation is to add a thicker layer of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere of Mars. Such an atmosphere would also allows less heat to escape, meaning warmer temperatures on the planet.


Magnetic Field
A strong magnetic field on Earth is something else that makes life easier. Earth’s solid inner core, composed primarily of iron, creates this field when the planet spins – and it deflects cosmic rays and other harmful types of radiation.

One interesting solution to solve this problem on Mars would to have a magnetic field generator in front of the planet at all times, deflecting any such rays coming from the sun.


While terraforming is still a mixture of theory and science fiction at this point, we do know some of the major problems that have to be solved for attaining a habitable environment – and it will be interesting to see how plans around Mars develop as the prospect of colonization becomes more real.

You need to live in a dome initially but over time you could terraform Mars to look like Earth and eventually walk around outside without anything on.


… So it’s a fixer-upper of a planet.


– Elon Musk