Daily Archives: October 1, 2019

Elon Musk Unveils SpaceXs Newest Mars-Colonizing Spacecraft – Observer

Posted: October 1, 2019 at 8:45 pm

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk gives an update on the next-generation Starship spacecraft at the companys Texas launch facility on September 28, 2019 in Boca Chica near Brownsville, Texas. Loren Elliott/Getty Images

After weeks of teasing SpaceXs new prototype of its Mars-colonizing spacecraft, dubbed Starship, Elon Musk finally called a press conference on Saturday at a SpaceX launch site in Boca Chica, Texas, to give a thorough update on how his space company is going to take humans to Marswith crewed testing to begin as soon as next year.

Dressed in head-to-toe black against the backdrop of a moonless Texan night, Musk unveiled the 165-feet-tall, all-stainless-steel Starship Mk1, a triple-engine reusable space vessel that will fly humans to the moon and Mars.

SEE ALSO: SpaceX Is Utilizing Ubers Business Strategy to Bring Satellites to Space

This is the most inspiring thing Ive ever seen, Musk said proudly.

SpaceX announced its ambitious plan to land humans on Mars three years ago. But building a launch vehicle and spacecraft that are powerful yet cost-effective enough to send humans beyond the Earths orbit has been a challenging first step.

So far, SpaceX has tested two low-altitude flights with Starhopper, an earlier prototype of Starship powered by a single Raptor engine.

The new prototype, Starship Mk1, is expected to test fly to reach an altitude of 12 miles in about one or two months, Musk said, with two far more aggressive tests to follow shortly.

This is gonna sound totally nuts, but I think we want to try to reach orbit [1,200 miles] in less than six months, Musk said. I think we could potentially see people flying next year, if we get to orbit in about six months.

Another handful of new Starship prototypes will have to be built before the orbit test takes place, though. While the Mk1 was unveiled in Texas, SpaceX was constructing a second Starship prototype, the Mk2, in Florida. A Starship Mk3 is also on the agenda, set to begin construction in Boco Chica as soon as next month and finish within three months. At the projected rate of production, Musk said, the vehicle used in the orbital test will likely be an Mk4 or Mk5 prototype.

The space vessel will then be boosted from the Earths surface by a yet-to-be-tested Super Heavy rocket, which will have 37 Raptor engines to provide twice as much thrust as NASAs Saturn V, the most powerful rocket built to date that was used in crewed moon missions between 1967 and 1973.

And speaking of Saturn, Musk teased a project during his presentation to make the remote planet his next stop after Mars, as if the mission at hand wasnt already wild enough. Showing a conceptual image of Starship heading toward Saturn, Musk reminded his audience that Mars is just a beginning of his interplanetary living dream.

I think we should do our very best to become a multi-planet species, and we should do it now, the space entrepreneur said.

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Elon Musk Unveils SpaceXs Newest Mars-Colonizing Spacecraft - Observer

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Elon Musk says SpaceX’s Mars rocket will be cheaper than he once thought. Here’s why – CNN

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"},{"title":"NASA Chief on why a woman will be on the next moon mission","duration":"01:27","sourceName":"CNN","sourceLink":"","videoCMSUrl":"/video/data/3.0/video/business/2019/06/20/nasa-women-on-moon-jim-bridenstine-orig.cnn/index.xml","videoId":"business/2019/06/20/nasa-women-on-moon-jim-bridenstine-orig.cnn","videoImage":"//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190621104601-female-astronaut-nasa-large-169.jpg","videoUrl":"/videos/business/2019/06/20/nasa-women-on-moon-jim-bridenstine-orig.cnn/video/playlists/business-spacex/","description":"In an exclusive interview with CNN Business' Rachel Crane, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine says sending a woman to the moon could be "transformational" for women and girls around the world.","descriptionText":"In an exclusive interview with CNN Business' Rachel Crane, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine says sending a woman to the moon could be "transformational" for women and girls around the world."},{"title":"Meet the first tourist going to the moon","duration":"07:26","sourceName":"CNN","sourceLink":"http://www.cnn.com","videoCMSUrl":"/video/data/3.0/video/business/2019/07/08/who-gets-to-explore-space-after-the-moon-scn.cnn/index.xml","videoId":"business/2019/07/08/who-gets-to-explore-space-after-the-moon-scn.cnn","videoImage":"//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190708102048-maezawa-after-the-moon-large-169.jpg","videoUrl":"/videos/business/2019/07/08/who-gets-to-explore-space-after-the-moon-scn.cnn/video/playlists/business-spacex/","description":"Diversity and inclusion are essential to modern space research and exploration. Private companies are democratizing the industry, like Elon Musk's SpaceX, which is sending the first-ever paying tourist to space, Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa.","descriptionText":"Diversity and inclusion are essential to modern space research and exploration. Private companies are democratizing the industry, like Elon Musk's SpaceX, which is sending the first-ever paying tourist to space, Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa."},{"title":"These are the challenges of going back to the moon by 2024","duration":"03:15","sourceName":"CNN","sourceLink":"","videoCMSUrl":"/video/data/3.0/video/business/2019/06/21/moon-2024-artemis-mission-scn.cnn/index.xml","videoId":"business/2019/06/21/moon-2024-artemis-mission-scn.cnn","videoImage":"//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190621105728-nasa-astronauts-moon-render-large-169.jpg","videoUrl":"/videos/business/2019/06/21/moon-2024-artemis-mission-scn.cnn/video/playlists/business-spacex/","description":"NASA's "Artemis" mission promises to again send astronauts to the moon. But with a tight new deadline from Trump, can the agency pull off another moonshot? CNN Business' Rachel Crane reports.","descriptionText":"NASA's "Artemis" mission promises to again send astronauts to the moon. But with a tight new deadline from Trump, can the agency pull off another moonshot? CNN Business' Rachel Crane reports."},{"title":"These are the benefits of space exploration","duration":"07:06","sourceName":"CNN","sourceLink":"http://www.cnn.com","videoCMSUrl":"/video/data/3.0/video/business/2019/05/31/space-culture-impact-after-the-moon-scn.cnn/index.xml","videoId":"business/2019/05/31/space-culture-impact-after-the-moon-scn.cnn","videoImage":"//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190606125527-after-the-moon-why-space-large-169.jpg","videoUrl":"/videos/business/2019/05/31/space-culture-impact-after-the-moon-scn.cnn/video/playlists/business-spacex/","description":"Space exploration is expensive and has been a questionable investment at times. We take a look at how space impacts our lives, including advancements in health, climate, science and tech.","descriptionText":"Space exploration is expensive and has been a questionable investment at times. We take a look at how space impacts our lives, including advancements in health, climate, science and tech."},{"title":"See what it's like to fly over Mars","duration":"01:00","sourceName":"CNN","sourceLink":"http://www.cnn.com/","videoCMSUrl":"/video/data/3.0/video/tech/2017/03/24/3d-mars-nasa-frojdman-orig.cnn/index.xml","videoId":"tech/2017/03/24/3d-mars-nasa-frojdman-orig.cnn","videoImage":"//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/170324124744-3d-mars-nasa-frojdman-orig-00000000-large-169.jpg","videoUrl":"/videos/tech/2017/03/24/3d-mars-nasa-frojdman-orig.cnn/video/playlists/business-spacex/","description":"Digital artist Jan Frojdman spent three weeks shifting through 33,000 images obtained from NASA to create this 3D model of Mars.","descriptionText":"Digital artist Jan Frojdman spent three weeks shifting through 33,000 images obtained from NASA to create this 3D model of Mars."},{"title":"Space travel altered Kelly's chromosomes","duration":"00:57","sourceName":"CNN","sourceLink":"http://www.cnn.com/","videoCMSUrl":"/video/data/3.0/video/tech/2017/02/01/nasa-kelly-twins-study-orig-vstop.cnn/index.xml","videoId":"tech/2017/02/01/nasa-kelly-twins-study-orig-vstop.cnn","videoImage":"//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/160302222001-02-soctt-kelly-0302-large-169.jpeg","videoUrl":"/videos/tech/2017/02/01/nasa-kelly-twins-study-orig-vstop.cnn/video/playlists/business-spacex/","description":"NASA has released early findings from its Twins Study, which tracked changes in astronaut Scott Kelly's health during his nearly one-year mission in space.","descriptionText":"NASA has released early findings from its Twins Study, which tracked changes in astronaut Scott Kelly's health during his nearly one-year mission in space."},{"title":"See SpaceX launch 60 internet satellites into orbit","duration":"01:04","sourceName":"CNN Business ","sourceLink":"","videoCMSUrl":"/video/data/3.0/video/business/2019/05/24/spacex-satellite-launch-jba-lon-orig.cnn-business/index.xml","videoId":"business/2019/05/24/spacex-satellite-launch-jba-lon-orig.cnn-business","videoImage":"//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190523230651-0523-spacex-01-large-169.jpg","videoUrl":"/videos/business/2019/05/24/spacex-satellite-launch-jba-lon-orig.cnn-business/video/playlists/business-spacex/","description":"SpaceX deployed 60 satellites into low-earth orbit in what could be the first step toward internet access for the entire planet. ","descriptionText":"SpaceX deployed 60 satellites into low-earth orbit in what could be the first step toward internet access for the entire planet. "},{"title":"Richard Branson doesn't care about the 'billionaire space race'","duration":"01:55","sourceName":"CNN Business","sourceLink":"","videoCMSUrl":"/video/data/3.0/video/business/2019/05/10/richard-branson-virgin-galactic-space-race-bezos-scn-orig.cnn-business/index.xml","videoId":"business/2019/05/10/richard-branson-virgin-galactic-space-race-bezos-scn-orig.cnn-business","videoImage":"//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190510172919-richard-branson-virgin-galactic-large-169.jpg","videoUrl":"/videos/business/2019/05/10/richard-branson-virgin-galactic-space-race-bezos-scn-orig.cnn-business/video/playlists/business-spacex/","description":"Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic and Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin are competing to be the first to send a tourist into space. But Branson says it doesn't matter to him.","descriptionText":"Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic and Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin are competing to be the first to send a tourist into space. But Branson says it doesn't matter to him."},{"title":"Jeff Bezos unveils his big plans for the moon","duration":"00:57","sourceName":"CNN","sourceLink":"","videoCMSUrl":"/video/data/3.0/video/business/2019/05/09/bezos-blue-moon-blue-origin-zw-scn-orig.cnn/index.xml","videoId":"business/2019/05/09/bezos-blue-moon-blue-origin-zw-scn-orig.cnn","videoImage":"//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190509170452-12-blue-origin-0509-large-169.jpg","videoUrl":"/videos/business/2019/05/09/bezos-blue-moon-blue-origin-zw-scn-orig.cnn/video/playlists/business-spacex/","description":"Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos announced his intentions to go back to the moon, this time to stay.","descriptionText":"Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos announced his intentions to go back to the moon, this time to stay."},{"title":"World's largest plane flies for the first time","duration":"01:24","sourceName":"CNN","sourceLink":"","videoCMSUrl":"/video/data/3.0/video/business/2019/04/15/stratolaunch-worlds-largest-plane-flies-sd-orig.cnn/index.xml","videoId":"business/2019/04/15/stratolaunch-worlds-largest-plane-flies-sd-orig.cnn","videoImage":"//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190413142224-01-stratolaunch-0413-large-169.jpg","videoUrl":"/videos/business/2019/04/15/stratolaunch-worlds-largest-plane-flies-sd-orig.cnn/video/playlists/business-spacex/","description":"Stratolaunch Systems launched their 50-foot, six-engined mega-jet. The aircraft has the wingspan of an American football field.","descriptionText":"Stratolaunch Systems launched their 50-foot, six-engined mega-jet. The aircraft has the wingspan of an American football field."},{"title":"See all 3 of Falcon Heavy's boosters land after launch","duration":"01:19","sourceName":"CNN","sourceLink":"","videoCMSUrl":"/video/data/3.0/video/business/2019/04/12/spacex-falcon-heavy-second-lauch-boosters.cnn/index.xml","videoId":"business/2019/04/12/spacex-falcon-heavy-second-lauch-boosters.cnn","videoImage":"//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190411205350-spacex-falcon-heavy-second-launch-large-169.jpg","videoUrl":"/videos/business/2019/04/12/spacex-falcon-heavy-second-lauch-boosters.cnn/video/playlists/business-spacex/","description":"For the first time, SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket launched with a customer's payload on board. It's also the first time Elon Musk's space company landed all three boosters after launch.","descriptionText":"For the first time, SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket launched with a customer's payload on board. It's also the first time Elon Musk's space company landed all three boosters after launch."},{"title":"SpaceX's Crew Dragon returns home with a splash","duration":"02:16","sourceName":"CNN Business","sourceLink":"http://www.cnn.com/business","videoCMSUrl":"/video/data/3.0/video/business/2019/03/02/spacex-crew-dragon-launch-orig.cnn-business/index.xml","videoId":"business/2019/03/02/spacex-crew-dragon-launch-orig.cnn-business","videoImage":"//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190308114749-spacex-crew-dragon-splashdown-large-169.jpg","videoUrl":"/videos/business/2019/03/02/spacex-crew-dragon-launch-orig.cnn-business/video/playlists/business-spacex/","description":"After successfully returning to Earth, SpaceX's Crew Dragon vehicle gets one step closer to carrying astronauts into space.","descriptionText":"After successfully returning to Earth, SpaceX's Crew Dragon vehicle gets one step closer to carrying astronauts into space."},{"title":"OneWeb launches first batch of internet satellites","duration":"01:30","sourceName":"CNN","sourceLink":"","videoCMSUrl":"/video/data/3.0/video/business/2019/02/28/oneweb-internet-satellite-launch.cnn/index.xml","videoId":"business/2019/02/28/oneweb-internet-satellite-launch.cnn","videoImage":"//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190227151817-oneweb-satellite-launch-large-169.jpg","videoUrl":"/videos/business/2019/02/28/oneweb-internet-satellite-launch.cnn/video/playlists/business-spacex/","description":"For decades, companies have wanted to beam cheap, high-speed internet down to consumers from space. Virginia-based startup OneWeb just took a small step toward making it happen.","descriptionText":"For decades, companies have wanted to beam cheap, high-speed internet down to consumers from space. Virginia-based startup OneWeb just took a small step toward making it happen."}],'js-video_headline-featured-6umghd','',"js-video_source-featured-6umghd",true,true,'business-spacex');if (typeof configObj.context !== 'string' || configObj.context.length

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Elon Musk says SpaceX's Mars rocket will be cheaper than he once thought. Here's why - CNN

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Earth Institute teams up with global investment firm to create environmentally conscious investing curriculum – CU Columbia Spectator

Posted: at 8:44 pm

Columbias Earth Institute has begun collaborations with global investment management firm AllianceBernstein to create a new environmentally conscious curriculum for portfolio managers. AllianceBernstein will also be serving as lead sponsor to the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatorys annual open house on Oct. 5.

The curriculum, which is being hailed as a first-of-its-kind, will focus on better understanding the risks and consequences that climate change will have on economics and investing.

Spearheading the project on behalf of the Earth Institute is Arthur Lerner-Lam, deputy director of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and science coordinator for the program in environmental science and policy. According to Lerner-Lam, a prototype curriculum will be finalized in about two weeks, although the Earth Institute will be working alongside AllianceBernstein to further develop it over time.

News of the collaboration comes after University President Lee Bollinger recently announced the formation of a new task force to address climate change, as well as another to expand the impact of the University on a global scale. The climate change task force will be led by Alex Halliday, director of the Earth Institute.

According to Lerner-Lam, a collaboration of this nature with a leading member of the financial sector is key in pursuing the goals of the new task forces by leveraging the resources of the financial sector to the advantage of climate science.

I think its appropriate to link this [collaboration] in the context of these two initiatives that Bollinger just announced, Lerner-Lam said. What were doing, I believe, is completely in sync with these two task forces.

Though not directly involved with the program, Jason Smerdon, Lamont research professor and adjunct professor of ecology, evolution and environmental biology, sees it as an important next step in advocating for climate change action.

Often the way climate change and climate change mitigation is discussed is that it is something that will cost money and represent a downside to business. But the truth is, not doing anything about it probably will cost more money, Smerdon said. Recognizing the risks that it represents, recognizing the need to pursue mitigation measures, as well as thinking about it as a risk factor in the way that people do business [are important]. Theres a business interest in this, even if you dont do anything to address climate change.

As of now, the Climate Science and Portfolio Risk curriculum will be geared toward training and educating portfolio managers at AllianceBernstein, whose investment teams will all be registered for a pilot program in the next year.

Lerner-Lam was open to parts of the curriculum being offered to a broader audience, including students at Columbia, though he noted that the future of the program has not been decided at the moment.

Elements of the curriculum, depending on how this experiment works out, will certainly end up being available, or made available, Lerner-Lam said. Elements of what were teaching [at AllianceBernstein] are already part of the curriculum for our [students]. Whats new in what were doing is the way we are posing elements of those curricula in the context of decisions that portfolio managers have to make.

Staff writer Teddy Ajluni can be contacted at teddy.ajluni@columbiaspectator.com. Follow Spectator on Twitter @ColumbiaSpec.

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3 Ways To Create A Company Culture That Will Attract And Retain Talent – CEOWORLD magazine

Posted: at 8:44 pm

The rise of the Silicon Valley startup and the ensuing battle for tech talent have reverberated throughout the world, contributing at least in part to an increased focus on company culture. The last few decades have seen sweeping changes in the culture of major corporations, from small changes such as relaxed dress codes toinnovations like nap podsthat came straight out of left field.

Weird benefits aside, companies that cultivate a strong sense of culture enjoy a significant competitive advantage. According to Gallup, they attract the most talented job applicants andenjoy 33% higher revenue plus, they need to hire less often. Research from Columbia University found that organizations with high degree of company culture experience a turnover rate of just 13.9%, while those with a toxic culture experience an expensive turnover rate of 48.4%.

Unfortunately, not even $13,000 nap pods can guarantee a rich, mission-driven culture. Instead, culture is something that takes time and leadership to develop. With that in mind, the best time to start is now. Follow these three steps and you can plant the seeds for a company culture that employees will never want to leave.

Take the temperature of your current culture by engaging with employees and seeing whether they know the companys mission. Then ask the same of your customers. If everyone is on the same page, your culture supports your mission and amplifies it. If theres a disparity, its time to go back to the drawing board and connect workers with the why of your company.

All too often, conversations about company culture center around beanbag chairs and ping-pong tables, giving way to the notion that a few office props can transform a company into a workers utopia. Reality, of course, is far different, and it takes considerable effort to create a culture that supports each employee and catapults a company ahead of the competition.

The good news is that you can start small. By adopting these three initiatives, youre signaling to your employees that culture will be an important emphasis at your organization. Set the stage for a mission-driven culture, and the evolution will follow.

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What If We Really Are Alone in the Universe? – Jacobin magazine

Posted: at 8:44 pm

This article contains spoilers.

Two possibilities exist: Either we are alone in the universe or we are not, according to Arthur C. Clarke, the author of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Both are equally terrifying.

Much science fiction of the last century has assumed the first of Clarkes terrifying possibilities, that we are not alone that the cosmos is teeming not just with life, but with intelligent life. The primary questions this literature asked, in hundreds of different ways, were those such as: What would extraterrestrial intelligence be like? How would we recognize it? What would be its response to us? What would be our response to it?

Ostensibly about little green men, these were nevertheless profound questions answered in the pages of cheap paperbacks or by screen actors suited up in wobbly rubber masks. The questions were as serious as any asked by the authors of more respectable literary fiction. They reflected some of the deepest uncertainties that have troubled humanity since our first days on the African savannah, staring up at the great river of stars of the Milky Way: Why are we here? Where do we come from? And, above all: What is it to be a human? For us to ask what an alien soul would be like requires at least an assumption of what a human soul is like.

And yet for all our neuroscience, biochemistry, and philosophy, we still dont have good answers: terms such as intelligence, mind, and sentience stubbornly resist rigorous definition; the hard problem of consciousness how this state of self-awareness arises from (we assume) non-conscious chemicals remains as much of a hard problem as ever.

But the second of Clarkes two terrifying possibilities has, with a handful of exceptions, until recently remained unexplored within popular culture, particularly within cinema.

This is understandable. Writing in 1951 at the dawn of the Space Age in his book of popular astronautics, The Exploration of Space, Clarke said that we stood then at a pivot between two eras brought about by the advent of the rocket. This was the point at which the childhood of our race was over and history as we know it began Earths solar system being relatively young compared to the age of the galaxy (and certainly the universe), and industrial modernity a mere three hundred or so years old.

If an alien civilization had its version of an industrial revolution just a million years before ours or even just a thousand years and the universe appeared to have given billions of years worth of head starts to the presumed myriad of other planets with intelligent life they would be unfathomably advanced in comparison to us. Per Clarke and so many others, our childhoods end was the moment we would take our place among the adults of the cosmos.

It was an era of optimism, even presumption, about humanitys place among the stars. Of course we would have lunar colonies by the end of the twentieth century and Martian outposts somewhere around now. What made this optimism nevertheless terrifying was the unknown of what the adults of the cosmos would be like. Would they be peaceful? Would they be so advanced that they would treat us as we treat a fruit fly or a rat, or a lab mouse, or even Laika the space dog? Would they treat us as food, the way we treat cows and pigs? Would they carry with them genocidal new diseases the way Europeans did to the Americas? Would they be the disease? Would they demolish the Earth to make way for a hyperspace bypass?

James Grays Ad Astra is one of the first films to explicitly consider the terror of Clarkes second possibility. What if there are no aliens? What if, in the end, its just us?

It is the near future, a time of hope and conflict, as the opening title card tells us. Major Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) is in his space suit at work atop the International Space Antenna in low-Earth orbit when a mysterious surge from deep space nearly destroys the structure and knocks Roy off. Roys Felix Baumgartnerstyle opening free fall sequence, beating all HALO jumps of recent cinema for its success in inflicting vertigo, seems to be the point: we start and end with sequences in which the ground has been knocked out from beneath characters.

Earth and its outposts on the moon and Mars have been badly hit by what is termed the surge. Roy, the son of hero-astronaut Clifford McBride the first human to travel to Jupiter, the first to travel to Saturn is told by US Space Command that the source of the surge is the Lima Project in orbit around Neptune.

The Lima Project had been established under the direction of Clifford to extend the up-till-then fruitless search for intelligent life to the farthest reaches of the solar system. Sixteen years earlier, all communication with the project had ceased, and Clifford and his crew were presumed dead. Long since having come to terms with the grief of losing his father, Roy is now informed by USSPACECOM that they believe Clifford is alive and possibly responsible for the surge. We then follow Roy through the solar system, visiting the moon, Mars, a ship in distress, and eventually Neptune, on his mission to reestablish contact with his father.

Roy is dispassionate, level-headed, almost emotionless. Regardless of what threat arises, his heart rate never moves beyond 80 BPM. He passes without incident all but one of the automated psychological evaluations he must regularly take. He has been picked precisely for this, well, inhuman reserve. Confronted with the claustrophobic agoraphobia of a tin can in an infinite vacuum and the thousand other extreme dangers of space travel, Roys heart is unmoved. A perfect astronaut.

The common reading of the film has been that all this is really about a sons attempt to reach out to a distant father, of the inability of us all to understand the other. What greater distance can a son and an absent father travel than that between Earth and Neptune? Only connect! as E. M. Forster insisted.

It is not so much that this is wrong, but that it is too abstract.

It is true that when Roy finally reaches his father, Clifford blankly tells him that he was content to leave his son and wife because the search for intelligent life was so much more fulfilling, so much more important. But Cliffords soliloquy also tells us why communication with Earth was disrupted, what happened to his crew, and why he has in effect gone mad.

We see flashes of Europa, Enceladus, Titan, Ganymede all the sites that in the real world today we reckon are the best hope for discovery of life in the solar system as Clifford recounts how no matter where they looked, they found no life. After years of searching, his crew wanted to concede that there was no life out there and to return home. Clifford insisted that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence and killed his crew when they mutinied, wanting the search to continue.

In a universe where we are the only intelligent life there is, that there has ever been, and the Earth the only place where any life has been, intelligent or otherwise, Forsters command to only connect becomes ever more imperative. If its only us, it makes us even more important, so much more precious than we imagined. It casts us humans not merely as one sentient species among billions, but as the sole way in which the universe became aware of itself. It is the story of the universe becoming conscious through us.

Without such consciousness, there is no point, no purpose to the universe. Nothing matters. There is no ought in physics, only an is. There is no ought in biology either, no progressive direction to evolution (what is termed orthogenesis). Even if life on earth were to continue, but continue without us, still nothing would matter, as it is true that while individual organisms struggle to continue to be, life does not care whether it exists (life on Earth, at least twice before, came close to wiping itself out). An Earth without humans but still with other life would only matter insofar as there would at least remain a chance for intelligent life to reemerge. Only intelligent life can create purpose.

There is a sequence midway through Ad Astra where Roy comes across a ship in distress, the exploration of which reveals that its crew have all been killed by raging baboons, the escaped subjects of a scientific experiment. It is something of a horror-filled series of scenes, appearing at first to be from a different, less meditative film than Ad Astra, perhaps an Event Horizon or even Alien.

Though appearing out of place, the baboon sequence could be read as an allegory for how the inhospitable environment of space will inevitably make us crazy. But a still deeper reading asks, could it not instead be a rhyme for the sheer terror of realizing that we inhabit a lonely cosmos where humans are the only intelligent life? Is such a realization any less vertigo-inducing, any less deranging?

If the film is understood this way, then the sequence where Virgin Galactic takes our hero to the moon (charging $125 for a blanket and pillow) has a more expansive meaning than at first glance. As does the brief sequence on the moon in which we see a base not filled with the scientific equipment of a 70s-era Doctor Who, Lost in Space, or Star Trek, but instead dominated by the likes of Applebees, Subway, DHL, and tourist-trap cringe. If the film were primarily a critique of the banality of a capitalism now spread throughout the solar system, much more time would have been spent by the filmmaker in this space. But these scenes are very brief.

Grays critique is indeed one that laments what capitalism is doing, as we know from his comments to the press. If we were having this conversation in 1960, we could talk about the counterweight of the communist or socialist dictatorship bloc. But today theres not really a counterweight to market capitalism, he told CNET. Its an unstoppable force. In the developed nations, the gap between the richest and the poorest is growing ever larger. And why would we project that space would be any different?

But the films concern with capitalism appears to plunge deeper. If capitalism, unconscious force that it is, would extinguish human existence so long as the commodities that threatened such extinction (such as, for example, fossil fuels) continued to be profitable in the absence of some non-market intervention, then it is not merely the human race that is threatened, but a conscious universe itself. Capitalism would turn a lonely cosmos into a soulless cosmos.

Ad Astra may be among the first films to explicitly place Clarkes lonely cosmos possibility at its heart, but a raft of hard sci-fi films in the last few years, auteur-driven works set in space such as Duncan Joness Moon, Alfonso Cuarns Gravity, Christopher Nolans Interstellar, Ridley Scotts The Martian, and Damien Chazelles First Man, have also begun to consider the same question but posed in a different way: If the rest of space is as incorrigibly inhospitable as it increasingly appears to be, does it make sense to even travel to other worlds? This is just another way of saying that there may as well be no other aliens.

Duncan Joness Moon (2009) strips the moon of all the romance and adventure of NASAs lunar landings. It is a desolate, companionless, (literally) repetitive, deadly, uninviting place. The moon is above all boring. For the solitary lunar miner clone Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell), space has never been about the extension of human freedom beyond the trap of our planets gravity well. Instead, freedom comes via escape to Earth.

Few films have so realistically described so many different threatening ways that the vacuum of space can kill us the different ways that our technological efforts to contain those threats can still kill us as Cuarns Gravity (2015). Unlike many films where the tension at least partially dissipates, the danger is unceasing until our hero, Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), splashes down on Earth and crawls ashore. She is finally safe to breathe without fear of her oxygen ever running out thanks to the marvel of the Earths current ecosystem. As we, the audience, feel at this point as though we can finally take a breath as well, Cuarn is telling us through our own physiology that the Earth is the only home we will ever have. In this way, Gravity is one of the most pessimistic of the recent crop of high-realist space dramas about the possibilities of the extension of human civilization beyond the Earth.

The heroes of Interstellar survey three exoplanets that are candidates for a human exodus from a dying earth, but they turn out to be an inhospitable ocean planet, a desolate ice planet, and a barely survivable desert planet. When all appears lost, the hint of some unfathomably advanced alien race saves humanity, but via a wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey resolution drawing on the work of Nobel Prizewinning theoretical physicist Kip Thorne, we find that the aliens are actually us. While the film does not explicitly investigate the meaning of a lonely cosmos, this appears to be a background assumption.

This shift from the cosmic optimism of a Star Trek or a Doctor Who, and certainly of the days of the Space Race, about humanitys place among the stars, to a much more guarded stance or even pessimism should be no surprise. This new cosmic realism comes at a vertiginous moment for humanitys understanding of our relationship to the planet and to the rest of the cosmos.

As far back as the sixteenth century, Italian philosopher and Dominican friar Giordano Bruno argued that the stars above us were in fact stars surrounded by their own system of planets and they too could be presumed to be inhabited (for why would God go to all the bother to create a world, only to leave it empty?) a theological position known as cosmic pluralism. This extension of the Copernican heliocentric model of the solar system that toppled humanitys place at the center of the universe was of course a heresy.

The science-fiction worlds of television and film often operated according to the same presumption, albeit stripped of its theism, and enjoyed similar gravity to Earth, similar atmospheric pressure and chemistry. This is probably less a willful disinterest in planetary science than the product of it being much cheaper and more convenient to use an abandoned gravel pit as a set than to represent the much more fantastical reality of other worlds. Science-fiction novels, of course, have no such budget restrictions, and thus have always had greater imaginations.

Nevertheless, all this had been speculation until relatively recently. We didnt even know for sure if there were any planets beyond our own solar system before the first confirmed detection of an exoplanet in 1992. As of the time of writing, however, there have been some four thousand exoplanets that have been confirmed.

At first, this seems to buttress historys sequence of Copernican realizations including the recognition that our sun is just one of billions of stars in the Milky Way, the discovery of other galaxies, the development of the theory of evolution by natural selection that have repeatedly toppled humanity from the pedestal we thought we occupied, requiring us to be ever more humble. Once again, having found that stars with planets surrounding them are common, we must be ready to admit we are nothing special. As Stephen Hawking put it: We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star.

The question of how uncommon Earth is, and even how uncommon life is, may be resolved as soon as the next decade, when the next generation of telescopes comes online. The composition of the atmospheres of large exoplanets are already being examined via light from stars as it passes through those atmospheres. When a planet crosses, or transits, the path of light from its parent star, such starlight gets filtered through the atmosphere, allowing us to analyze the emission and absorption spectra of its gases, including biosignature gases those that are produced by life such as molecular oxygen and accumulate to levels that can be detected. Right now, we can only do this for Jupiter-size planets, but with larger observatories such as the James Webb Space Telescope expected to launch in 2021, we should be able to perform such investigations for smaller, rocky worlds in the habitable zone that come closer to Earth analogues (although likely still too big to be true analogues).

This is why MIT planetary scientist Sara Seager believes characterization of exoplanet atmospheres is such a profound endeavor: When and if we find that other Earths are common and see that some of them have signs of life, we will at last complete the Copernican Revolution a final conceptual move of the Earth, and humanity, away from the center of the Universe.

At the other end of the cosmic spectrum, from the vast down to the microscopic, biology appears to give us tremendous hope that Seager is right. Extremophile bacteria and other microbes that flourish under conditions of extreme heat, cold, dryness, acidity, alkalinity, salinity, radioactivity, pressure, and the presence of heavy metals are closely studied by astrobiologists, as their habitats may be similar to the conditions on other worlds. Everywhere we look on Earth, we find life. In the last decade or so, researchers have begun to plunge into the deep biosphere life far below the surface, drilling some 2.5 kilometers into the seafloor and some five kilometers down continental mines and boreholes. This subterranean Galpogos is home to an estimated 70 percent of the worlds bacteria and archaea, a realm where the records describing what were thought to be the absolute limits of life on Earth keep getting broken.

Nevertheless, there are researchers who reckon that perhaps this time there has been an excess of Copernican humility.

The announcement in September of the identification of the first habitable-zone planet we know to contain water outside the solar system prompted a flurry of breathless articles reporting the discovery of a supposedly habitable exoplanet and only 110 light-years away, basically next door by astronomical standards (even if it would take a probe like Voyager some 2 million years to get there). But K2-18b is estimated to be almost three times the size of Earth and have almost nine times the mass. It was almost classified as a mini Neptune rather than a super Earth, and perhaps it should have been in order to avoid media hyperbole.

The size suggests it has an extremely thick atmosphere, much of which is hydrogen gas. At its rocky core (if it has one), the pressure from that vast atmosphere would be thousands of times greater than at Earths surface, with temperatures hitting 2700C (5000F). Under these conditions, as Harvard exoplanet atmospheric specialist Laura Kreidberg has been at pains to stress, complex molecules necessary for life cannot form. Out of all the four thousand, while this is the best candidate for habitability that we know right now, according to the researchers, its still not habitable, and certainly no analogue Earth.

The infamous Fermi paradox formulated by Italian physicist Enrico Fermi asks: If there are billions of suns like ours in the galaxy, many of which are billions of years older than our solar system, and Earth is so unexceptional, then at least some of these ancient worlds must have achieved advanced technology eons before us so then where is everybody? Why, when we look up at the stars, do we not see any evidence of this? Why have we not been visited?

Various answers have been proposed, including, most darkly, that once a civilization reaches a sufficiently advanced level of technology, it inevitably wipes itself out, perhaps via nuclear weapons, perhaps by combustion of fossil fuels.

Director of the Columbia Astrobiology Center Caleb Scharf, in his 2014 book The Copernicus Complex, has another explanation. He counters Hawkings presumption about our mediocrity, noting that, in fact, the sun is not at all very average, and that the architecture of our planetary system in terms of orbits, spacings, and occurrence of types of planets is something of an outlier.

Astrophysicist John Gribbin makes a similar argument in his 2011 book Alone in the Universe, that a chain of improbable coincidences had to occur for intelligent life to exist. Any earlier in the history of the galaxy, and our planetary system would have too few metals to form life. We appear to be not just in the goldilocks zone in our local system but in the galaxy, too: if we were too near the center, itd be too crowded, with near-sterilizing events such as supernovas and gamma-ray bursts from merging neutron stars more common; if we were too far out, again, the lack of metals would sink us.

The presence of the moon and Jupiter may also play a key role in keeping us safe. Here on Earth, while life got started perhaps just a billion years after the earth was formed, it took 2 billion years between the first emergence of bacterial and archaean life and eukaryotic life (cells with true nuclei), and another billion again before eukaryotes got friendly enough to bunch up into multicellular life.

Compared to the universes 13.8-billion-year-old life span so far, 4 billion years for things to kick off hints at how unlikely this may be. And it still took until a bare 550 million years ago during the Cambrian explosion for multicellular life to proliferate into the variety we are familiar with. Gribbin reminds us that we still do not know why this most significant moment in the fossil record happened, and thus how likely it might be anywhere else.

The existence of some organisms with every higher biological complexity does appear to increase over time (in other words, the variance of complexity expands), but the most common type of complexity remains basic: the majority of species are simple prokaryotes. And within our own prehistory and history, there have been a number of unlikely events, including that some seventy thousand years ago, due to some catastrophe, humanity was reduced to just a thousand individuals. Gribbins hunch is that simple life may exist somewhere else in the Milky Way, given how rapidly life first appeared on Earth, but we are the only technological civilization in the galaxy.

Of course, there are lots of other galaxies, one might say. But given the vastness of our own galaxy, even this is still rare and precious enough. The point, in any case, is rather that we live in an interesting time, where recent discoveries push in one direction suggesting that life is utterly common and unexceptional, and other recent discoveries push in the other direction, suggesting how rare and precious life particularly conscious life truly is.

However, these discoveries by astronomers, cosmologists, and planetary scientists that are filtering their way into popular culture, sculpting our notions of what is believable on-screen, are not the only such influence.

Here on Earth, our relatively new understandings of ecosystems new at least since the Space Age and how humanity is endangering the geologically brief, ten-thousand-year window or so of conditions that have allowed us to flourish, and our even newer understanding of how the human body is an ecosystem itself, a microbiome, are surely also prompting the emergence of this new cosmic realist cinema. Certainly, many of these films address directly or indirectly climate change and related ecological challenges. We can see this in the agricultural and extreme weather background of Interstellar, the opening title card of Ad Astra speaking of a time of hope and conflict, and, most explicitly, the ecological catastrophe of the Danish-Swedish low-budget but still high-realist Aniara (2018), a melancholic tale of a Mars-bound space-faring cruise ship gone adrift for years without hope of rescue. In the latter, the passengers become addicted to a holodeck-like room powered by an artificial general intelligence that feeds them dreams of nature on Earth like how it used to be.

And if we are the only self-aware life in the galaxy, then preservation of the ecological conditions that have allowed humanity to flourish suddenly become even more important. We are not merely saving ourselves but saving a universe that is becoming aware of itself. Our series of profound global biocrises immediately have cosmic resonance.

When we think of ecology, we immediately think of external nature, but in recent years, microbiology has shown how each of us is as much an ecosystem, including human cells and microbial cells, a great many of which we cannot survive without, as we are an individual. Ecology and biology increasingly even trouble the notion of individuality, or at least recognize that biological individuality comes in degrees and can be realized at multiple levels, emerging as a product of the coming together of what were previously distinct entities. Our multitudinousness, as science writer Ed Yong puts it, connects us to the wider, global ecosystem not in some abstract or poetic way but directly. In truth, it is hard to make a hard distinction between ourselves and external nature. This, in turn, means that for any extended period of time external to the earth, it is not enough for humans to strap themselves inside one of David Bowies tin cans, but rather that we have to take our ecosystems with us, at least in some significant part.

But then how can we create mini ecosystems separated from the earth that are capable of sustaining themselves and thus us in perpetuity? We dont know yet. Efforts to create complex closed ecological systems have proven extremely difficult.

Kim Stanley Robinsons remarkable ecological novel disguised as space-based hard science fiction, Aurora, is a thought experiment about such an effort on a grand, generation-starship scale. After seven generations and 160 years, the biomes in the ship begin to break down as the rate of evolutionary change of bacteria and macroscopic organisms is hopelessly mismatched. One walks away from the book confronting the possibility that human colonization of other worlds is somewhere between impossible and formidably more difficult than our earlier science fiction ever imagined.

There are a lot of people, even powerful, influential people, who seem to think that the goal of humanity is to spread itself, Robinson says of the ideas behind Aurora. Maybe theres only one planet where humanity can do well, and were already on it.

However, the interrogation of Clarkes dilemma by Ad Astra surely imposes the opposite conclusion to that of Robinson, even if one accepts Robinsons powerful ecological argument about the profound difficulty of taking our ecosystem with us. On a geological scale, life on Earth may be robust. The planet has passed through far worse than what humanity is currently throwing at it. Instead, it is the goldilocks conditions that support humanity that are under threat as a result of the irrational production incentives of the market. But even a geological scale is puny compared to a cosmic scale. And on a cosmic scale, life on Earth is indeed precarious.

In about 600 million years, the suns increase in solar luminosity will set in chain a series of events that will kill off most plants, the support base of much complex life. Unicellular life will then predominate until about 3 billion years from now, and then it too will die out. Thus, the imperative that commands that we preserve and enhance the ecological conditions that have allowed human consciousness to flourish, in other words, to work to prevent climate change and biodiversity loss, also commands us to preserve that consciousness beyond the end of days of the earth, especially if, as Clarke and Ad Astra wonder, we are the sole conscious inhabitants of the galaxy or the cosmos.

Born in the year of the first moon landing, director Gray told CNET that he laments the loss of the tremendous aspirational power of humankinds quest for space. Elsewhere, Gray has said that the character of Clifford McBride, obsessed with finding intelligent life, wasnt just the ogre that there was also something beautiful about his dream. The tragedy of Clifford instead is that He never found beauty in the idea that human beings are what matter. The idea of striving is what matters.

The lunar landing is the greatest achievement in the history of the human race, Gray says of this striving. I think we take it for granted now ...What was lost was the will because the whole vision of space exploration was essentially motivated by the desire to beat the Russians to the moon. And once the United States did that, we stopped caring.

Grays comments are echoed by the protagonist of Interstellar. While that piece of cosmic realism may be despairing about the future of humanity on Earth, it blames this failure not on the hubris of mankind but on our abandonment of audacity. Cooper at one point laments how We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars, now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt. The line appears to be what remained after editing of a longer aspirational monologue that was still used in trailers:

Weve always defined ourselves by the ability to overcome the impossible. And we count these moments. These moments when we dare to aim higher, to break barriers, to reach for the stars, to make the unknown known. We count these moments as our proudest achievements. But we lost all that. Or perhaps weve just forgotten that we are still pioneers. And weve barely begun. And that our greatest accomplishments cannot be behind us, because our destiny lies above us.

And the response of Mark Watney in The Martian to the harsh indifference of Mars is not to curse his lot, but to recognize how important the work of space exploration and colonization is. At that films darkest moment, when Watney becomes all but certain that he is going to die alone on the planet, he transmits a message to his superior asking that she speak to his mom and dad about the role of his work in a vast humanist project: Please tell them I love what I do ...and that Im dying for something big and beautiful, and greater than me. Tell them I said I can live with that.

That is, this trend of cosmic realism is not only a cinematic representation of an emerging, stark realization about our possible uniqueness in the cosmos, about the universes profound inhospitable desolation, and about humanitys inseparability from our ecosystem. It responds to the psychic destabilization this realization causes not with retreat, but with a renewed commitment to humanity and to space.

Of all these films, Ad Astra is perhaps the most aptly named, taken from the Latin phrase ad astra per aspera, through struggle to the stars. Our task in this cosmos, to maintain ourselves and flourish so that the universe will continue to have meaning, will forever be riddled with challenge. The struggle will always continue.

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What If We Really Are Alone in the Universe? - Jacobin magazine

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Busbee, In His Own Words: The Late Producer on Why He Fell in Love With Nashville – Variety

Posted: at 8:44 pm

In Nashville, Busbee was considered one of the good guys. That may go without saying for a lot of writer-producers in a town where being a bad guy isnt really allowed, but there was a special affection for the personability, diversity and sensitivity that Busbee brought to both the records he worked on and the personal relationships he forged alongside them. It was no accident that he was associated with some of the most ground-breaking or important female artists in Nashville Maren Morris, Carly Pearce, Lauren Alaina, Lady Antebellums Hillary Scott or that, when it was a male superstar he worked with, like a Keith Urban or Hunter Hayes, it wasnt the rednecks but the guys with the most sweet-spirited catalogs in modern country.

Variety had a chance to talk with Busbee in 2018 for a series of stories we were reporting on diversity and inclusion in Nashville. At the time, we couldnt include very much of what he had to say, but with musician friends and fans in and out of Nashville mourning his shocking death at age 43, it feels like a good time to bring out into the light the cheerleading he did for his adopted part-time town. Busbee remained an Angeleno (and was certainly known for his pop work as well, with a resume that included tracks with Pink, the Backstreet Boys, Shakira and Adam Lambert), but his discography is ultimately dominated by the dozen or so years he put in as a constant commuter to and from Nashville, whose embrace filled him with warmth and pride.

His single greatest legacy may be the two albums he made as Morris key collaborator, 2016s Hero which, besides star-making hits like My Church, included as great a pop-R&B ballad as this century has seen, Once and this years soon-to-be-Grammy-nominated sophomore album Girl. This just doesnt seem fair, tweeted Morris, posting a picture of herself embracing her enabler-mentor. I will always love you and the songs and albums I was lucky to make with you, Busbee. Rest well, my sweet friend. But if his personal approach had to be summed up in just one song, it might be the comeback single he co-wrote for Garth Brooks: People Loving People.

The father of three passed away Saturday from an only recently diagnosed glioblastoma. Here is a celebration of Busbee celebrating Nashville, in his own words:

Nashville is a very tight community, and Ive been embraced as an outsider. Im from the Bay Area. Ive lived in L.A. since 2000. And Ive been coming to Nashville very regularly since 2006. My dad is from the South, even though I was born and raised in the Bay Area, so I have a point of reference for Southern culture. Not that Nashville is, like, heavily Southern its a bit mixed in that regard but theyve embraced me. There are writers from other countries, whether its Australia or England or Canada, who are also embraced. If youre cool and youre talented, then youre in, as far as the community is concerned.

I tend to work with a lot of women, not as a general rule, but some of the people I have been fortunate enough to have success with have been some amazing female artists. You know there are fewer successful female artists in the genre than there are male artists. I dont know what to attribute that to. Ive never heard a record person say, All the fans want females, but we want males. For me it hasnt been this hyper-conscious thing of Im gonna go find a bunch of female artists. Its just that people have come across my radar that just knocked me out. Initially that was Maren Morris, and then more recently Carly Pearce, and an amazing writer who I have signed to me, Emily Shackleton, and people I have written with historically, whether it was Hillary Lindsey or Melissa Peirce.

Nashville seems to be a way more embracing culture than people would expect historically. Im not trying to pretend like theres never been an issue. I know that (gay) friends of mine even 10 years ago were not necessarily out and felt really nervous about whether they should do that or not. And understandably so, because the culture comes from a more conservative place, traditionally, or stereotypically. But it feels like I dont know what phrase to use that doesnt seem flippant the cats out of the bag.

To give you a point of reference of my upbringing: I grew up fairly conservative Christian, and then started playing jazz music, and then apparently got decently good at it. In my later teens I would play salsa gigs in the city. So on Sunday I would go to church at a fairly conservative Christian church some of whom would not be cool with the next part of what Im going to tell you I would do on Sundays, which was leave church and drive to San Francisco and play with a salsa band at a gay club. And some of the people in my own community would just be like, How can you do that? They just couldnt wrap their heads around it. It wasnt that they necessarily thought those people are horrible, but it was just not their mindset or understanding. And then growing up in the suburbs and going to the city a ton, and then having a point of reference with my dad being from the South, it was just this weird gumbo of complex flavors of experience.

I feel like the genre is continuing to expand. Its wonderful because specifically right now there are a few artists that are leaning more traditional country than there has been in a while. And then there are so many artists that are leaning more progressive or pop or whatever you want to call it. And it seems like the spread is wider than it has been in a long time. That can exacerbate some different tensions, but its super-exciting, and it brings different people to the party.

Historically, it is a really tight-knit actual community. Its obviously not Little House on the Prairie this is a modern city - but if functions in that way. Back in the day, if your neighbors barn had a tree fall on it, youd go help him rebuild it. I was talking to one of my friends who is the top call guitarist in town, asking him, What happens if everybody is in the studio but somebody gets in an accident on the way to the studio or something? He talked about how hes gotten a call at five minutes till 10 a.m. thats when the first session of the day starts that somebody came down with the flu and they need him, and hes like, Absolutely. And theres just a lot more of a true sense of community in that regard than most other places Ive been to. And its especially shocking considering that so much of the town is a transient town. There are obviously a lot of people who are from Nashville, but much like L.A., most people that I run into, at least in the music community, are from somewhere else, and yet theres still this like sense of community. If youre going to be here, youve got to be communal. You cant just be this island.

Im very, very grateful to have been embraced by this world. You know, they didnt have to do that. Theres no guarantee in that regard. But literally, if you have a certain level of exposure here, you know most everybody. I remember bringing my sister to the CMAs last year, when I was honored to be nominated for something, and so we were seated on the floor, and in between during the commercial breaks, you could just walk around, and I was introducing her to everybody. Keith (Urban), whos a friend, and Garth Brooks, who I dont really know, but he cut one of my songs so I said hello to him and introduced him to my sister, and Tim McGraw and Luke Bryan and Thomas Rhett the list goes on and on. You could literally just walk up to these people, a lot of whom thankfully I know, but even the ones I dont, and theyre just approachable and happy to meet you.

I think this community has a built-in accountability - like if youre kind of a dick, everyones going to know, and no ones going to be happy with that. Youre not really allowed to do that. There are a few rare exceptions, but by and large, thats just how it is, because everyone talks. Its not necessarily even that everyones running around gossiping per se. I mean, some of that happens, because thats what people do. But everyone asks. If you get asked to write with someone youve never heard of or you havent written with or work with an artist, you ask your friends. You can make a few phone calls and figure out whats going on with most people: Is this person a good person? Are they really talented? It makes it harder in a good way to get away with not being kind. Which I really appreciate.

It is really, really frowned upon to be difficult. I remember details from when were at the BMI Awards and an artist like a Keith Urban or a Kenny Chesney will be there from time to time, and they still look like the stars they are, but with what they choose to wear and how they carry themselves, they are making it about Its all about all of us tonight, and were all just songwriters here, too. Its quite amazing to see somebody make that kind of shift, when, in most rooms they go into, theyre expected to be the center of attention, and then they go into that environment honoring songwriters and they dont make it about themselves. I dont know, its just really spoken to me.

I could go on and on. Please cut me off at any time! I just love this town. I love L.A., too, man. There are so many great people there too, and its such a great community as well, in a very different way.

Now, man, the Internet is a crazy place. And I say that as somebody who was an early adopter and all of that nonsense. But people just dont feel accountability when theyre posting responses. So if someone like Maren said something I definitely obviously dont want to speak for her, but I know its been a challenge with some of the backlash shes received at times. Just because you feel compelled to speak out doesnt mean you dont deal with repercussions in an emotional sense or otherwise. Weve talked about it and even written a song about it. When Ive been bored occasionally, Ive looked at some of the responses to some of the more outspoken posts shes posted, and peoples inability to communicate in a way thats kind when they disagree with somebody is a bit muted. I feel like, folks Im preaching to the choir - we can disagree and actually potentially have a helpful conversation. It really saddens me. In Nashville, and Im not thinking of anyone specifically, but to use the stereotype of maybe a gay writer and a super-conservative producer, they can be friends, even if they dont necessarily agree with each others value sets in certain ways. And in part they can actually have relationship because theres accountability. Like, you are an actual person who I actually know and have to actually be responsible for my actions and words and everything, where on the Internet, its a whole other ball game. Its definitely something Im grateful that I dont have to navigate like the artists do, when it feels like people just want to be mad about stuff, quite frankly.

The other thing that I think artists sort of have to navigate, that again Im humbly grateful that I dont have to, is that you have a persona. Im not saying theyre not being real, but the persona is what people perceive you to be, and some of it is the fact that an artist on a stage in front of 10,000-15,000 people is basically a caricatured version of himself. It has to be to fill that space. But that persona in part is also what the fans interpret you to be. And its like, well, if I have a certain belief system, and I love your music and I feel connected to you, then we probably agree, right? And then when they find out that we dont necessarily agree on something that seems so incredibly important to them, then that can cause a major rub. And again, with the ability to just hop online and vent, go read some of these posts on some of these artists saying some of these things, its just crazy. Theres no apparent desire to understand or to be understood. Its like, Im gonna just have a go at you. Im a really big fan of hoping and praying that people can live in peace amongst differences more and more.

Im trying to think of an analogy in a different music space. Its hard because this music space is historically more synonymous with a specific culture than most music spaces. Theres potentially a broader cross-section of type of people who might be into pop, because pop is just short for whats popular, and so its all kinds of music and brings all kinds of people to the party from hyperconservatives to hyperliberals to everything in between. So there are types of things that historically the stereotypical listener of this music holds dear that are not necessarily synonymous with where a lot of the artists are in their evolution or process, because were all evolving. Some of the things I believe or the way I express myself are not the same as when I was a kid or a teenager or in my 20s. And thankfully Im not a public figure who people fell in love with for a thing they perceived me to be when I was 22 years old. Im just a normal person in that regard with a community around me of friends who we are evolving together in a more day-to-day way. Those sort of back porch conversations or backyard conversations you have with your friends that can lead to some profound evolutions arent necessarily the same kind of conversations that youre having directly with your fans. Theres just no context for that. Its not necessarily even appropriate. Maybe lyrically you can express things, so they catch those glimpses, but with a lot of fans its I just assumed you thought this because youre part of this community, or you make this music, or you played this show with this other person who thinks this thing.

Hopefully again, we can possibly learn to listen and live in peace. I know it sounds just fruity almost like yeah, of course! but I mean that literally: like, live amongst people you potentially disagree with on whatever it is, and live in peace. Because theyre real people who have real strong beliefs just like you do.

There are some practical realities about Nashville, too, like this citys going to double in size over the next five years, apparently. Traffic is getting crazy, and people cant necessarily justify keeping their little tiny two-story publishing house on Music Row that now is worth eight times what they paid for it or whatever. So people are selling those pieces off. Some people I know sold almost a half-acre plot of basically dirt for four million dollars. And its like you cant justify keeping space if thats the kind of return you can get on a property. Some of the community isa physical thing. Music Row is a thing that you can drive around, and tons of publishers and record labels are there, and sadly, I think over time thats going to at best dissipate, and at worst I dont know if its going to fully go away, but kind of go away.

Its just tricky, man. I hope the communal aspect of this city, musically and otherwise, can survive. I think its ever evolving. Its going to be fascinating to see where its at in 10 years.

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Busbee, In His Own Words: The Late Producer on Why He Fell in Love With Nashville - Variety

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Dick’s Sporting Goods is turning to women to fuel its turnaround – CNBC

Posted: at 8:44 pm

Nike athletic wear is seen on mannequins displayed at a Dick's Sporting Goods store in Daly City, California.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

CORAOPOLIS, Pa. Dick's Sporting Goods might be best known as the place for a Little League Baseball coach to stop in for new gloves, a high-school basketball player to buy sneakers or an amateur golfer to pick up a new putter.

But the sporting goods retailer, now the last national player left standing and so a category killer in its industry, wants more women to shop there, realizing it's always placed a bigger emphasis on men. To do this, it is making sure it has the products women are looking for.

"We've been somewhat maniacal with the brands about a lack of product assortment for girls and women. ... We get a lot of complaints, understandably, from either girls or parents of girls who don't feel like when they go into the store there's enough product at all levels ... and product for them," President Lauren Hobart said at the Goldman Sachs Global Retailing Conference earlier this month.

"We've got our own private brands that we're trying to [use to] address the issue ... and we're doing everything we can to get the [national] brands to meet it," she said.

The effort comes as Dick's Sporting Goods is beginning to pull itself out of a sales slump. Sales at stores open for at least 12 months were up 3.2% in the latest quarter, following seven consecutive quarters of either flat growth or losses. A successful attempt to woo more female customers could help boost the business overall, and keep it growing.

Shares of Dick's Sporting Goods are up more than 30% this year, with more investors betting on a successful turnaround. The company has been strengthening its relationships with top brands such asNike and Adidas and adding more touch-and-feel opportunities in stores. It's also growing its private labels for apparel and accessories, which is where women are becoming a bigger focus.

The company has said it expects its private brands to reach $2 billion in sales "over time." Overall, Dick's Sporting Goods brought in sales of $8.4 billion in 2018, down about 1.8% from the prior year.

A portion of that growth stems from Calia, a women's brand Dick's Sporting Goods launched nearly five years ago. It is now the No. 2 women's apparel brand in stores, based on sales. And then there's DSG, an in-house brand it launched last month, that includes an expanded women's line.

"I think we've always had women in mind ... but within the last two years it has been an overt conversation about women being at the forefront," Carrie Guffey, vice president and general merchandise manager of footwear and women's athletic apparel, said in an interview. "I think the national brands certainly are acknowledging there is a level of sophistication right now trending in the marketplace."

Calia, one of Dick's Sporting Goods top-performing brands for women, is approaching five years in business.

Source: Dick's Sporting Goods

Female customers, and especially female athletes, are more "sophisticated" because they like to shop across a variety of brands, rather than sticking with one favorite, she explained. The landscape is also nothing short of crowded, giving women plenty to choose from.

So as Nike, Under Armour and Adidas are making their own investments to improve their women's products promising better fit and speaking directly to them in marketing campaigns Dick's Sporting Goods is doing more of the same. It's also competing with the likes of Lululemon, Outdoor Voices, Alo Yoga, Bandier and Gap's Athleta all of which are targeting the health-conscious woman who wants something chic to wear to the gym, a workout class with friends or just around town.

Activewear, for both men and women, represents a roughly $57.6 billion market in the U.S., according to NPD Group's Consumer Tracking Service. And activewear has been one of the fastest-growing segments in apparel over the past few years, NPD Group says.

As Dick's Sporting Goods leans more heavily into its in-house brands, customers will start to notice some changes in stores.

After an apparel contract with Reebok came to an end, that portion of each store is being replaced with Dick's Sporting Goods' own DSG products. In addition to options for men and kids, DSG also sells women's athletic wear, such as leggings, tank tops, pullover jackets and sports bras, and in plus sizes.

Following a better-than-expected August launch, the company says it plans to expand upon the brand and potentially devote even more space to it in stores.

Within the DSG line, a pair of women's fleece jogger pants retails for $35 and a printed compression sports bra for $25. The brand is a slightly more affordable option than Calia, where a pair of leggings can go for upwards of $70, putting that brand more in line with Lululemon and Athleta on pricing.

This spring, the Calia brand, designed in part by singer-songwriter Carrie Underwood, will celebrate five years in business. And Guffey explained the company no longer thinks of Calia as a "secondary" brand, but that now it's just as important to each Dick's Sporting Goods store as the Nike and Adidas merchandise sitting on shelves.

"The fitness category is massive," Guffey said. "Calia ... is the umbrella to the story around how we see our fitness business growing. Our confidence heading into the five-year anniversary is growing."

Calia is in all Dick's Sporting Goods stores today. And the company says it's been increasingly devoting more square footage in stores to Calia, which it says is lifting the entire women's athletic apparel business, creating a "halo effect" for even the brands around it.

Dick's Sporting Goods launched its new DSG brand, which includes a women's line, in August.

Source: Dick's Sporting Goods

The success of Calia's rapid growth, and constant evolution, is owed in large part to Nina Barjesteh, who joined Dick's Sporting Goods from Target, where she spent more than two decades, most recently helping the big-box retailer grow its in-house clothing brands for women. And Target's private labels, such as C9 Champion and Xhilaration, have been successful in cementing the company as more of a fashion destination than its peers.

With private brands, "we control our own destiny, we own the supply chain, we are adding newness more often in Calia ... we can do whatever we want," said Barjesteh, senior vice president of product development and global sourcing at Dick's Sporting Goods.

"In women's, you have to be agile," she added. "To be able to say: This is up-trending, this is down-trending."

Analysts are taking notice of Dick's Sporting Goods' bigger private label ambitions, with some applauding these efforts.

"Private-label products give Dick's Sporting Goods an extra degree of control when it comes to pricing decisions," Susquehanna analyst Sam Poser said, adding that margins for private brands are 600 to 800 basis points higher than Dick's Sporting Goods selling branded merchandise.

Part of the push internally has come from Dick's Sporting Goods admittedly filling gaps within its business. Part of it is because some national brands are pivoting to sell more directly to consumers, bypassing wholesale channels.

CEO Ed Stack said Dick's Sporting Goods' private brands as a group outperformed the company average during the latest quarter. And CFO Lee Belitsky said on a call with analysts in August that about 14% of sales came from private labels in 2018, "and it continues to improve a little bit." The company doesn't break out sales of private labels, or its private brands penetration rate, on a quarterly basis.

For Dick's Sporting Goods' ambitions with women, Calia offers a good barometer for what the company can accomplish. It's managed to scale Calia to all of the company's stores in less than five years, and Calia is now one of the retailer's top private brands.

Internally, Guffey said about three months ago Dick's Sporting Goods formed what it calls a "women's attack team," which is dedicated to brainstorming ways to reach more women.

According to Barjesteh, more in-house brands are in the works.

Guffey also said to expect a bigger marketing push, highlighting women, in 2020. The company hasn't broken out how much it plans to spend on these efforts.

"The plan is to next year really focus on her lead with her," Guffey said. "It's about us staying with her throughout her life. ... That really kicks off next year."

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Wine labels on the brain – Packaging Europe

Posted: at 8:44 pm

A recent study rooted in neuromarketing shows that designers and consumers may have different ideas about good design writes Ralph Olthoff, global marketing director for wine and spirits at Avery Dennison.

Few things excite marketing professionals more than a brand refresh: when best practices, consumer insights, and creativity are marshalled in the service of retaining loyal consumers, winning new ones, and better conveying a brands essence.

Recently, label designers at Chiles Santa Rita Wine decided to bring an extra level of rigor to their process for updating the winerys Wave Series by Carmen brand. Partnering with Avery Dennison and Mind Insights, a neuromarketing scientific organisation, the winery used brain science to probe consumers unconscious responses to a proposed new label design. What the designers learned was both counterintuitive and immensely useful in helping them better connect with people perusing the wine aisle.

Two designs, four facestocks, three countries

To get beyond surface-level focus-group responses, researchers used a cutting-edge scientific approach, thanks to their ability to apply the most advanced scientific methods including neurological, physiological, non-conscious psychological, and behavioural research methods. Their study tested consumer responses in three target markets: the US, France, and China. Each study sample consisted of 80 participants, male and female, aged 30 to 70people who liked wine, but didnt have professional experience in the industry. Research sessions took place in a lab set up like a wine bar, where consumers could relax and handle the bottles and labels.

The study examined participants automatic reactions to both the Wave Series original label design and the proposed new design, including four possible label facestocks. The original label featured a lighter, more elegant design with handwritten typeface and a pointillist blue ocean wave reminiscent of a Japanese etching. The new design was bolder, with strong sans serif fonts, a heavy dark blue bar beneath the new logo, and subtle, embossed whorls connoting ocean in place of the crashing blue wave.

Researchers examined consumers perceptions with regards to three basic dimensions: What emotional impacts did the labels generate? To what extent did the labels convey fundamental values? And to what extent did the labels to attract consumers attention?

The results: five quick takeaways

The most surprising outcome of the study? Participants perceptions were generally more positive towards elements of the original design. The original label aroused more positive emotions. It read as more premium and authentic, and was slightly better at capturing consumers attention.

The study also yielded these insights:

The upshot: An evolution instead of a redesign

Based on what they learned from the study, Santa Rita Estates designers decided to evolve the brand with a minor refresh instead of a complete overhaul, since many elements of their existing design label better triggered the desired consumer response. Designers did change the labels facestock after noting they could better achieve their desired perception with an uncoated, tactile material rather than the glossy, non-tactile material theyd been using. And while the design team was a little surprised by the outcome, they were able to move forward with the confidence that their label design would be based on scientifically gleaned insight from actual wine drinkers.

This article draws on research conducted by Avery Dennison, Santa Rita Estates and Mind Insights neuromarketing organisation. The full report is available for download on my-muse.com, a digital platform intended to inspire innovative solutions for designers and converters.

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Three Great Things: Saul Williams – Talkhouse

Posted: at 8:44 pm

Three Great Things is our series in which artists tell us about three things they absolutely love. In this installment, Saul Williams the rapper, poet, writer, and actor whose new album Encrypted & Vulnerable is out now took a slightly different approach. Instead of highlighting three things he loves, he talked to us about three concepts he finds amazing right now. Check out his thoughts on technology, human nature, and escapism below. Annie Fell, Talkhouse Associate Editor

1. The Human Relationship to Technology

One thing thats amazing to me is the relationship that exists between technology, people, human awareness, evolution the way in which all of the things that we know about history are embedded in the machine, and how that affects us.

One of the things that Ive been paying close attention to and studying is the fact that the word robot comes from the Czech language [and means] slave or free labor. When you add up the idea that the colonial era is followed by the industrial era, and you think of stuff like the plantation as machine and what free labor brought to the modern world the privileged of modern society are still benefiting from what free labor brought. But if you open up a machine whether its a camera, recording device, car engine and you have an engineer explain the machine to you, they will explain and characterize parts of the machine as master and slave. It goes all the way into modern day coding, which is to say that the mentality of the colonial era was used and placed inside of the description of how machines function.

The fear of the colonial age where it was forbidden for slaves to learn how to read was that the slaves would learn enough to take over. The irony of the times is that now, with all the talk about AI and robots, with Elon Musk and [Mark] Zuckerberg, the fear is that machines will learn too much and take over. Ive always thought of technology as essentially an expression of human awareness and consciousness, and a reflection of that, but it seems to carry over the negative aspects as well just in terms of fears, even the breaking down of how we systematized ideas in relation to other ideas. Im amazed by the insights that have come from thinking of those realities.

We in the West dont give much thought to how or where the machines and devices that we use come from, where the rare metals that make them function come from. If we did have some insight on where or how certain things were mined and how they ended up in our pockets, we perhaps would be a little more apprehensive about purchasing them. It connects on all levels. At the end of the day, all of these things add up to migration theres an essay by Toni Morrison where she talks about migration as the only technology, and of course thats the sort of technology that led to the building of America.

2. The Human Ability to Turn Shit Around

On one hand, you can think of something like hip-hop: a lack of instruments in the community, but music is prevalent, turntables are prevalent, and we use what we got. Whether its our mouths, talking over beats all the stuff that comes out of a supposed lack of something. Its seldom about that lack and more so about the abundance of creativity and the human resources to think outside the box.

I think of the relationship that the entire world has to the Gregorian calendar. Regardless of your religion, you are operating on the calendar that counts the days since the death and birth of Christ. Its 2019, thats 2,019 years since. [Laughs.] It does so much to formulate how we look at things. We would look at things much differently if we operated on a lunar calendar, and so many cultures do because the lunar calendar correlates with everything from biodynamic farming to the seasons, and it aligns people more to the happenings in nature. Women are on a 28 day cycle, but its not just women its every specimen on this planet. If you pay attention to the waves in the ocean, thats on the same cycle; surfers know it, and farmers know it in another way, and hunters know it in another way. But its still the same 28-day grid, which is separate and distinct from the 30, 31-day grid that is the Gregorian calendar.

Society and humanity have evolved in lots of ways, yet at the same time, if you look at everything from the xenophobia and the ways in which poor people are manipulated into thinking or acting certain ways, the roles that religion has played, the role that government has played, the role that white supremacy has played, the role that men in power and control have played all in relation to this idea of thinking within boxes. And so when we think about the role that humans play in turning shit around, in many ways its almost always a miracle. Its inevitable that bullshit will need to be confronted. Its also amazing how long it takes, and how often it resurfaces through each generation, and how quickly we forget. Its also amazing what the idea of belonging does to the psyche wanting to belong to a particular group. Its extraordinary that in the face of all of that, you can still find moments where people take to the streets.

3. The Proximity that Exists Between Entertainment and Escape

Im also amazed by the proximity that exists between entertainment and escape. Particularly, when I think of the work coming out of the US its been, what, three years since this dude has been in office? Its strange that we continue to wear the T-shirts of people who used music to make huge statements, but if you look at the top ten songs Well, we know that number one is Old Town Road theres a huge statement in that song. I feel the politics of that song. Beyond that, I dont know numbers two through 10 are; Id be interested in knowing what relationship they have to the shit thats going on, whether those songs are to escape and party so you dont have to think about it.

I think about this partially because I think that our relationship to entertainment is what led us to this dude being in office in the first place. I feel like I can go directly back to the moment MTV stopped showing music videos and started showing reality television, to the popularity of reality television, leading up to this dudes reality nonsense the sound bites, laughter, Wouldnt that be funny if Its not funny at all. I feel very strongly that our relationship to entertainment played a huge role in leading us in this direction unquestioned entertainment.

Simultaneously its a very exciting time with artists like Ava Duvernay and Barry Jenkins who are making conscious decisions to push beyond the norm and challenge peoples sensibilities. I feel like were entering a moment in film with auteurs who are attempting to effect change in society through their work.

I had a goal with my last album of wanting consciously to do invisible work wanting to transport feelings. Im also amazed by our ability to communicate feelings and emotions and the role that emotions play in how we experience something. But also, how we can manipulate those emotions Im a horror film buff, but its not just horror films that use music to let you know somethings about to happen. You can feel the tension in your stomach sometimes before you even realize theres a violin playing thats making you feel the tension because we associate that mounting sound with, Holy shit, whats about to happen? People who do scores of films know how to connect music to emotions, and that was one of the main things I was playing with on this album: how to convey, transport, with and through emotion.

Theres a song on my new album called Fight Everything, which I recorded on November 9, 2016. The elections were November 8. I didnt want to get out of bed, and the only reason I did is because I had this studio visit scheduled with this French producer who Id been trying to cross paths with for a minute. I thought, Maybe thatll help me get my mind off of how fucked up and disappointed I feel. I didnt write anything down that day, and I ended up freestyling the songs. When I hear it, its not the words Im struck by, but the emotion in my voice. Some songs I would have gone back and fixed worked on, but theres no way I can recreate the sound of my voice on November 9, 2016. I dont know if Ill ever feel that way again. I think its better to chronicle the emotional landscape of where I was then and just keep it and work with.

So my work is very much about trying to provide something to people like me people who are angry, rebellious, confused, jaded, focused, or on the path to making small changes in their lives to affect the little picture. Music can be like an alternative energy that feeds and nourishes and gives you something more than an escape. Ive started referring to this album as a power bank, because I want you to listen and charge up its a long fucking fight and a hard fucking day.

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Deceptively beautiful hell in Smith’s final novel of ‘The 13th Apostle’ trilogy – Warwick Beacon

Posted: at 8:43 pm

Author Raina C. Smith has released Thy Kingdom Come, the third and final installment of her trilogy, The 13th Apostle. This is Smiths fourth novel.

It is with great pride that I publicly release my latest novel, Thy Kingdom Come, concluding The 13th Apostle trilogy about the inherent nature of mankind and the forces of good and evil within the human soul. I hope this epic story inspires readers of all ages in new and profound ways. To me, this trilogy is far more than a set of books, its a labor of love, Smith said.

In the trilogy, Fallon, who intentionally condemned her soul to the netherworld is on a noble mission to try to save the soul of her twin brother, Roarke. Knowing full well there is no record of any life force ever successfully freeing itself from the Place of the Cursed, Fallon has no idea what to expect as she is deposited in the afterlife location the living consider a place of torment and shame.

An astonished Fallon comes to realize that hell is one of the most strikingly beautiful places she could ever imagine. While seemingly born from the minds of the greatest artists ever to live, she has yet to comprehend the sinister reason behind its captivating design. It is here, during her lonely travels through the Abode of the Damned, that Fallon crosses paths with those throughout history whose sins were so grave, even they could never forgive their transgressions against divine law. It is through what she learns from meeting and talking with these regretful souls that she feels she may have discovered a way to save her brother. Thats if the Evil One hasnt anticipated her every move.

Smith is a native Rhode Islander and writer of The 13th Apostle trilogy series, as well as The Vampire.Smith draws creative inspiration from personal experiences, an innate curiosity of the universal energy force that connects all life, and from a source that she considers from another realm but cannot explain or identify to create dramatic and intense storylines for her books. Smith feels that she must be spiritually moved and riveted by every scene and chapter she writes, before ever considering it worthy of sharing with her readers. Writing novels highlighting mankinds struggle between good and evil, touching on the supernatural, is Smiths passion. Readers will always find deep human emotion, brutal conflict, unbridled love, interesting world history, and unique characters wildly driven by their own sense of purpose within the pages of her books. A lover of nature and all animals, Smiths writing illustrates her inborn quest to understand why human beings born to a breathtaking earth, blessed to share it with the most fascinating creatures meant to inspire and teach, take it for granted, depleting themselves and each other along their journey. While Smith knows she will never fully uncover the secrets of the universe, she feels with certainty that to begin to understand who we are and why were truly here, as well as start to heal the planet, we must all embrace the conscious intelligence of the natural environment surrounding us, and look into the eyes and feel the hearts of sentient beings who already have the answer. Smith intends to spend the rest of her life observing and writing about the evolution of the human soul.

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Deceptively beautiful hell in Smith's final novel of 'The 13th Apostle' trilogy - Warwick Beacon

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