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Archive for the ‘asteroid/comet impacts’ category: Page 10

Aug 14, 2012

Hellalujah, the cannibal apocalypse is coming!

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, biological, biotech/medical, counterterrorism, defense, events, existential risks, military, policy, sustainability, transparency

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120814100302.htm

A couple months ago I was in the Seattle public library and overheard a pierced, tatooed, and quite smelly young man telling someone he was waiting for this F-d up civilization to collapse and hoping it would happen soon. The two most likely causes of such a collapse would be an asteroid or comet impact that would throw debris into the atmosphere and stop food production for several years, or a plague. A big impact or an engineered pathogen would be the extreme in this scenario and would not simply take us back to the stone age- it would render the human race extinct.

All the disenchanted Americans who look forward to surviving the collapse of the present world order might want to consider the less fortunate areas of this planet where there is no such rule of law or any agricultural or industrial infrastructure. North Korea has gone through the classic collapse cycle during recent bad winters and the government had to repeatedly deal with widespread cannibalism. It is one of those most perfect warnings where nothing could be more crystal clear to a race of intelligent and technologically advanced beings. And we ignore it.

Turn the sunlight off for a couple years in a row and everything we know would end because everything we eat would end. Think about it the next time you watch an episode of the Walking Dead or watch a movie like The Road. Not world war Z; world war C.

Aug 12, 2012

One Hundred and Eighty Impact Craters

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, counterterrorism, defense, economics, education, engineering, ethics, events, existential risks, futurism, geopolitics, military, nuclear weapons, space, transparency, treaties

http://phys.org/news/2012-08-impact-crater-arctic.html

They found yet another reason to build nuclear interceptors to deflect asteroids and comet impact threats.

Sooner or later something is going to hit us. It could be like Tunguska in 1908 and destroy a city instead of a forest in Siberia- or it could be like what hit the Yucatan 65 million years ago.

Except just a little bigger and nothing larger than bacteria will survive. There is nothing written anywhere that says it will not happen tomorrow.

Continue reading “One Hundred and Eighty Impact Craters” »

Aug 11, 2012

Water and Bombs again

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, business, counterterrorism, defense, education, engineering, ethics, events, existential risks, futurism, geopolitics, habitats, human trajectories, lifeboat, media & arts, military, nuclear weapons, physics, policy, space, sustainability, transparency

This essay was posted previously last year and removed and has appeared in abridged form in the European Space Safety online Magazine and can also be found on Yahoo voices.

Several dates are cited as marking the beginning of the space age. Sputnik, October 4th, 1957, Yuri’s day April 12th, 1961, and the first successful V-2 launch by the Nazis on October 3rd, 1942, to name a few. Some prefer December 21st, 1968, when human beings first escaped the Earth’s gravitational field on Apollo 8. When studying the events that allowed man to leave Earth, future historians may agree on a date not generally associated with space flight. July 16th, 1945 was Trinity, the first nuclear weapon test. Stanislaw Ulam, a 36-year-old Polish mathematician who helped build “the gadget”, visited ground zero after the test. Ulam later conceived the idea of propelling a spaceship with atomic bombs. Near the end of his life the eccentric genius stated the idea was his greatest work.

When considering nuclear propulsion, it must be understood that space is not an ocean, though often characterized as one. The distances and conditions are not comparable. While chemical energy has allowed humankind to travel across and above the surface of Earth, the energy required to travel in space is of a different order. Water, in the form of steam, was the agent of change that brought about the industrial revolution. Fossil fuel, burned and transformed by steam into mechanical work, would radically change the world in the span of a century. What is difficult for moderns to understand is not only how limited human capabilities were before steam, but how limited they are in the present in terms of space travel. The psychological limits of human beings limit space journeys to a few years. Chemical propulsion is not capable of taking human beings to the outer solar system and back within those crew limits. The solution is a reaction one million times more powerful. Nuclear energy is to the space age as steam was to the industrial age.

Continue reading “Water and Bombs again” »

Aug 7, 2012

Party Like It’s 1912…

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, complex systems, economics, ethics, existential risks, fun, lifeboat, media & arts, rants

It’s the centennial year of the Titanic disaster, and that tragedy remains a touchstone.

The lifeboat angle is obvious. So is the ice hazard: then it was icebergs, now it’s comets.

But 100 years of expanding awareness has revealed the other threats we’re now aware of. We have to think about asteroids, nano- and genotech accidents, ill-considered high-energy experiments, economic and social collapse into oligarchy and debt peonage, and all the many others.

What a great subject for a Movie Night! Here are some great old movies about lifeboats and their discontents.

Continue reading “Party Like It's 1912...” »

May 14, 2012

From Global Crisis — A Planetary Defense?

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, defense, economics, ethics, events, existential risks, futurism, geopolitics, lifeboat, military, nuclear weapons, policy, rants, space, treaties

Russia’s hastily convened international conference in St. Petersburg next month is being billed as a last-ditch effort at superpower cooperation in defense of Earth against dangers from space.

But it cannot be overlooked that this conference comes in response to the highly controversial NATO anti-ballistic missile deployments in Eastern Europe. These seriously destabilizing, nuclear defenses are pretexted as a defense against a non-nuclear Iran. In reality, the western moves of anti-missile systems into Poland and Romania create a de facto nuclear first-strike capability for NATO, and they vacate a series of Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaties with the Russians that go back forty years.

Deeply distrustful of these new US and NATO nuclear first-strike capabilities, the Russians announced they will not attend NATO’s planned deterrence summit in Chicago this month. Instead, they are testing Western intentions with a proposal for cooperative project for near-space mapping, surveillance, and defense against Earth-crossing asteroids and other dangerous space objects.

The Russians have invited NATO members as well as forward-thinking space powers to a conference in June in Petrograd. The agenda: Planetary defense against incursions by objects from space. It would be a way of making cooperative plowshares from the space technologies of hair-trigger nuclear terror (2 minutes warning, or less, in the case of the Eastern European ABMs).

It’s an offer the US and other space powers should accept.

Apr 14, 2012

Earth’s Titanic Challenges

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, complex systems, economics, ethics, existential risks, finance, fun, geopolitics, homo sapiens, human trajectories, lifeboat, media & arts, rants
RMS <em>Titanic</em> Sails

What’s to worry? RMS Titanic departs Southampton.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster in 1912. What better time to think about lifeboats?

One way to start a discussion is with some vintage entertainment. On the centenary weekend of the wreck of the mega-liner, our local movie palace near the Hudson River waterfront ran a triple bill of classic films about maritime disasters: A Night to Remember, Lifeboat, and The Poseidon Adventure. Each one highlights an aspect of the lifeboat problem. They’re useful analogies for thinking about the existential risks of booking a passage on spaceship Earth.

Can’t happen…

Continue reading “Earth's Titanic Challenges” »

Jan 13, 2012

Verne, Wells, and the Obvious Future Part 2

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, biotech/medical, business, defense, economics, education, engineering, ethics, events, evolution, existential risks, futurism, life extension, lifeboat, media & arts, military, nuclear weapons, philosophy, physics, policy, space

I am taking the advice of a reader of this blog and devoting part 2 to examples of old school and modern movies and the visionary science they portray.

Things to Come 1936 — Event Horizon 1997
Things to Come was a disappointment to Wells and Event Horizon was no less a disappointment to audiences. I found them both very interesting as a showcase for some technology and social challenges.… to come- but a little off the mark in regards to the exact technology and explicit social issues. In the final scene of Things to Come, Raymond Massey asks if mankind will choose the stars. What will we choose? I find this moment very powerful- perhaps the example; the most eloguent expression of the whole genre of science fiction. Event Horizon was a complete counterpoint; a horror movie set in space with a starship modeled after a gothic cathedral. Event Horizon had a rescue crew put in stasis for a high G several month journey to Neptune on a fusion powered spaceship. High accelleration and fusion brings H-bombs to mind, and though not portrayed, this propulsion system is in fact a most probable future. Fusion “engines” are old hat in sci-fi despite the near certainty the only places fusion will ever work as advertised are in a bomb or a star. The Event Horizon, haunted and consigned to hell, used a “gravity drive” to achieve star travel by “folding space.” Interestingly, a recent concept for a black hole powered starship is probably the most accurate forecast of the technology that will be used for interstellar travel in the next century. While ripping a hole in the fabric of space time may be strictly science fantasy, for the next thousand years at least, small singularity propulsion using Hawking radiation to achieve a high fraction of the speed of light is mathematically sound and the most obvious future.

https://lifeboat.com/blog/2012/09/only-one-star-drive-can-work-so-far

That is, if humanity avoids an outbreak of engineered pathogens or any one of several other threats to our existence in that time frame.

Continue reading “Verne, Wells, and the Obvious Future Part 2” »

Jan 10, 2012

Verne, Wells, and the Obvious Future Part 1

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, business, education, engineering, ethics, events, existential risks, finance, fun, futurism, media & arts, military, nuclear weapons, philosophy, physics, policy, robotics/AI, space, transparency

Steamships, locomotives, electricity; these marvels of the industrial age sparked the imagination of futurists such as Jules Verne. Perhaps no other writer or work inspired so many to reach the stars as did this Frenchman’s famous tale of space travel. Later developments in microbiology, chemistry, and astronomy would inspire H.G. Wells and the notable science fiction authors of the early 20th century.

The submarine, aircraft, the spaceship, time travel, nuclear weapons, and even stealth technology were all predicted in some form by science fiction writers many decades before they were realized. The writers were not simply making up such wonders from fanciful thought or childrens ryhmes. As science advanced in the mid 19th and early 20th century, the probable future developments this new knowledge would bring about were in some cases quite obvious. Though powered flight seems a recent miracle, it was long expected as hydrogen balloons and parachutes had been around for over a century and steam propulsion went through a long gestation before ships and trains were driven by the new engines. Solid rockets were ancient and even multiple stages to increase altitude had been in use by fireworks makers for a very long time before the space age.

Some predictions were seen to come about in ways far removed yet still connected to their fictional counterparts. The U.S. Navy flagged steam driven Nautilus swam the ocean blue under nuclear power not long before rockets took men to the moon. While Verne predicted an electric submarine, his notional Florida space gun never did take three men into space. However there was a Canadian weapons designer named Gerald Bull who met his end while trying to build such a gun for Saddam Hussien. The insane Invisible Man of Wells took the form of invisible aircraft playing a less than human role in the insane game of mutually assured destruction. And a true time machine was found easily enough in the mathematics of Einstein. Simply going fast enough through space will take a human being millions of years into the future. However, traveling back in time is still as much an impossibillity as the anti-gravity Cavorite from the First Men in the Moon. Wells missed on occasion but was not far off with his story of alien invaders defeated by germs- except we are the aliens invading the natural world’s ecosystem with our genetically modified creations and could very well soon meet our end as a result.

While Verne’s Captain Nemo made war on the death merchants of his world with a submarine ram, our own more modern anti-war device was found in the hydrogen bomb. So destructive an agent that no new world war has been possible since nuclear weapons were stockpiled in the second half of the last century. Neither Verne or Wells imagined the destructive power of a single missile submarine able to incinerate all the major cities of earth. The dozens of such superdreadnoughts even now cruising in the icy darkness of the deep ocean proves that truth is more often stranger than fiction. It may seem the golden age of predictive fiction has passed as exceptions to the laws of physics prove impossible despite advertisments to the contrary. Science fiction has given way to science fantasy and the suspension of disbelief possible in the last century has turned to disappointment and the distractions of whimsical technological fairy tales. “Beam me up” was simply a way to cut production costs for special effects and warp drive the only trick that would make a one hour episode work. Unobtainium and wishalloy, handwavium and technobabble- it has watered down what our future could be into childish wish fulfillment and escapism.

Continue reading “Verne, Wells, and the Obvious Future Part 1” »

Oct 25, 2011

Don Quijote — the podcast

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, space

The Don Quijote mission — so we don’t go the same way as the dinosaurs.

With some help from colleagues, I recently produced a report on the planned European Space Agency Don Quijote mission to divert an asteroid’s trajectory (kind of a test-run for the real thing that may happen some time in the future) as a 365 Days of Astronomy podcast.

It is reassuring to see humanity beginning to deal with this genuine risk to Earth’s survival — just in case we don’t all get swallowed up in a 2cm black hole in the next five years wink

The transcript is also available for reading on the 365 Days site if you are not a podcast fan.

Continue reading “Don Quijote — the podcast” »

Aug 15, 2011

Actually saving the Earth for a change

Posted by in category: asteroid/comet impacts

If the conspiracy theory content of this blog is getting you down — here’s a write up of a real science project to test a technique to divert an asteroid that might be on a collision course with Earth. All going well the Don Quijote mission will launch by 2015.

Steve Nerlich
Member of the Board

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