Future Tense Newsletter: In Space, No One Can Hear You Sing

From “The Song Between Worlds” by Indrapramit Das.
Lisa Larson-Walker

Last week, we published “The Song Between Worlds,” the latest installment of our Future Tense Fiction series. In it, author Indra Das imagines a family vacation on Mars and one family member’s search for authenticity amid the interplanetary tourist draws: the ushengaan, the silent song sung by generations of once-Earthling Martian shepherds. How would a human actually sing in the environment of Mars, and what might that sound like? In her response essay to the story, astronomer Lucianne Walkowicz explains just how much our physical environment influences how we experience sounds and what we might hear (or not hear) on the red planet.

Elsewhere on Future Tense, we’ve been exploring the latest debates around keeping the internet safe. Aaron Mak looks at a new nonprofit that’s offering free cybersecurity assistance to political campaigns—with a catch. How should we treat the past crimes of reformed hackers? Josephine Wolff examines the case of Marcus Hutchins, the 24-year-old British hacker who helped to slow the spread of the massively destructive WannaCry ransomware but also faces jail time for developing and selling unrelated criminal malware. And Yudhanjaya Wijeratne argues that Sri Lanka’s social media block in the wake of the Easter bombings is doing more harm than good.

Other things we read while watching the skies for those UFOs Navy airmen have been reporting:

Behind digital bars: New “smart” surveillance systems have the potential to make prisons safer for both inmates and guards—or make incarceration even more nightmarish.

Sit less, play more: Jane C. Hu explains why parents don’t need to fret over the World Health Organization’s new guidelines for screen time for young children. (That extra 15 minutes of Paw Patrol is probably fine!)

Human gardens: Washington is set to be the first state in the nation to allow the composting of human bodies. What might that mean for gardens in the Evergreen State?

Citation needed: How the refusal of Wikipedia editors to profile a black female scientist over her lack of “notability” showcases the website’s diversity problem.

Team of rivals: Facebook looks to be preparing to wrangle potential future privacy legislation with two very different new hires: the co-author of the Patriot Act and a policy director who helped fight it.

A raw deal: Throughout the years, Puerto Rico has been neglected by the federal government, had its infrastructure mismanaged, and even had its disaster aid nixed. The Green New Deal could reverse the island’s fortunes.

Posting hate: April Glaser reports on the ways the Poway synagogue shooter’s hate-filled manifesto circulated on social media in the hours before the violence started.


Join Future Tense and New America’s Open Technology Institute on May 7, in D.C., for a lively afternoon discussion on what sci-fi can (and can’t) teach us about A.I. policy. We’ll be joined by a host of policy and tech experts, futurists, and science fiction authors. RSVP here.

Will slaughter-free meat change the American way of eating? Join Future Tense and the New America Fellows Program on May 8 in New York City for a happy hour conversation about the future foods that may dramatically transform the American way of eating. We’ll be joined by food journalists, culinary historians, and experts on lab-grown meat, and we’ll even have some samples of some next-generation plant-based meat offerings. RSVP here.

To being cass-o-wary,

Anthony Nguyen

For Future Tense

Future Tense is a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University.

Future Tense is a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University that examines emerging technologies, public policy, and society.