Wall Street’s reefer madness

Weed is the new bitcoin.

While the world of marijuana-related companies trading on U.S. stock exchanges is not large, one of the premiere examples had a roller coaster ride last week.

Tilray, a Canadian-based medical marijuana company, first started publicly trading in the U.S. in mid-July. It bounced around $25 a share through mid-August, then shot up to a peak of $263 on Wednesday — roughly a ten-fold increase in about a month. Things got so crazy the Nasdaq actually halted trades in the stock multiple times that day.

By Friday afternoon it had settled to around $130 a share. Other marijuana stocks, such as Canopy Growth and GW Pharmaceuticals, also surged recently, but not by nearly the same amount. And the whole ride still leaves Tilray with a market value somewhere in the vicinity of $12 billion — more than Macy’s, for context.

It’s hard to see this as anything other than Wall Street betting that marijuana will soon be fully, or at least mostly, legal in America. And it’s hard to see the specifics of most of these bets as anything other than foolish.

Now, as mentioned, Tilray is based in Canada. The company’s website describes its mission as “cultivating and delivering the benefits of medical cannabis safely and reliably.” And Canada has actually already legalized recreational marijuana use, though the change doesn’t take effect until October. In America, marijuana use is legal to varying degrees in some states, but remains illegal nationally. That means any American company that invests in marijuana runs the risk of bringing down law enforcement’s wrath. Tilray and other Canadian firms (like Canopy Growth) have no such problems.

But trace the saga of Tilray’s rise, and it’s pretty clearly about American enthusiasm.

The big news came last Tuesday, when Tilray announced the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration …read more

Source:: The Week – Science


How Americans came to their senses about climate change

For a long time climate change felt far off to many Americans. Though people saw the pictures of melting ice caps and heard the warnings from Al Gore and 97 percent of climate scientists, they never truly felt this long-term environmental trend would threaten their own lives. Maybe it would affect future generations or people in the global south, where climate change will have especially deleterious effects, but not their own communities, not them.

So not only did countless Americans treat global warming like some minor threat that wouldn’t hurt them in any major way, but many simply denied that it was even happening. This attitude was promoted by fossil fuel companies and special interests that funded propaganda questioning the scientific consensus, as well as the politicians who supported their views. Thus over the past few decades, the Republican Party — the party that once founded the Environmental Protection Agency — became the party of climate change denialism.

In recent years, however, this refusal to face reality has become increasingly hard to sustain, especially as extreme weather events become more and more common and menace more and more Americans. The latest instance of extreme weather, Tropical Storm Florence, is wreaking havoc on the Carolinas, and as many have already pointed out, there is strong evidence to suggest that climate change made it worse, increasing rainfall by up to 50 percent and slowing down the storm’s movement. Florence arrives a little over a year after Hurricane Harvey, which devastated the Houston area, and Hurricane Maria, which went down as the worst natural disaster in Puerto Rico’s recorded history.

There is little doubt in the scientific community about the effect that global warming is …read more

Source:: The Week – Science


How to design human homes for alien planets

The first humans to set foot on Mars will be greeted by an unfamiliar and unfriendly climate: dust storms, freezing temperatures, and intense radiation will bombard their bodies the moment they descend on the planet’s surface. To survive in this hostile landscape, settlers will need man-made habitats that can support human life by mimicking conditions on Earth. But as architects and engineers aim to devise space structures that can stand up to a hazardous external environment, they also face an equally vexing problem: How do they use design to make astronauts feel relaxed and at home in an otherwise alien world?

With SpaceX striving to send a crew to Mars in 2024, and NASA planning to follow suit in the 2030s, the race to design Martian homes is well underway. But no one knows how Mars-bound travelers will cope as the only place they’ve ever called home — Earth — fades from sight. Homesickness and depression could set in quickly, says Nick Kanas, a psychiatrist and professor emeritus at the University of California, San Francisco, who has studied psychological problems in astronauts for NASA. This poses a challenge. After all, crew wellbeing is as critical to a mission’s success as functioning equipment.

So how do you design a home for a human in a non-human world? Kanas suggests space architects start with something very simple: a view of Earth. Simply being able to see home could actually help stave off homesickness, he says. “I think it’s worth installing a telescope so that the crew of a Mars mission can look at the Earth in almost real time,” he says. “The image could even be projected onto a screen that looks like a window. It might also help to have some kind of virtual reality system that allows the crew …read more

Source:: The Week – Science