Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego. An amateur astronomer in high school, physics major at Georgia Tech, and PhD student in physics at Caltech, Murphy has spent decades reveling in the study of astrophysics. He currently leads a project to test General Relativity by bouncing laser pulses off of the reflectors left on the Moon by the Apollo astronauts, achieving one-millimeter range precision. Murphy’s keen interest in energy topics began with his teaching a course on energy and the environment for non-science majors at UCSD. Motivated by the unprecedented challenges we face, he has applied his instrumentation skills to exploring alternative energy and associated measurement schemes. Following his natural instincts to educate, Murphy is eager to get people thinking about the quantitatively convincing case that our pursuit of an ever-bigger scale of life faces gigantic challenges and carries significant risks.

Note from Tom: To learn more about my personal perspective and whether you should dismiss some of my views as alarmist, read my Chicken Little page.

deflated balloon

Population “What If” Games

Near-term population decline via falling fertility may be the most humane way to gift an intact world to countless lives of the future. Ideally, the 8 billion humans around today live full lives and spare future generations (not just humans) of a dismal fate by dialing things down.

June 12, 2024

Baseball whiff

Whiff after Whiff

In the end, something is making these trends go down beyond the model’s awareness, and that something is more likely to still be with us than to suddenly vanish.  Perhaps the youth of the world are reacting in a “mature” fashion to the uncertainties of the future, and the justifiable sense that things are broken.

June 10, 2024


Peak Population Projections

The recent rapid decline in population growth—even pre-COVID—suggests that a population peak prior to 2050 is not outlandish, provided that current drivers continue to apply.  Recent declines in fertility rates, together with a flattening age distribution of young folks, combine to set the stage for population peak and decline.

June 5, 2024

Population pyramid of the world in continent groupings

Watching Population Bomb

As population bombs, perhaps there’s no explosion, but a whimper of modernity as the larger living world finds its voice again, accented by human song.

May 30, 2024

Scale demons

Growth or Scale?

The obvious question, then, is what scale of human activity is Earth capable of supporting? Nobody knows. The best we can do is accept the ride down, in a spirit of humility, finding joy in something other than technology and modernity. Since we were able to do just that for 95% of Homo sapiens’ time on the planet, I think we’ve got the constitution to do so again.

May 22, 2024

house on cliff edge

What’s the Point?

If the meaning in your life is contingent on modernity, then maybe you’ve come to the wrong shop, and ought to look for new forms of meaning that are built to last.

May 15, 2024

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