Archive for the ‘existential risks’ category: Page 101

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

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.

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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.

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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.

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Jul 30, 2012

The Cosmic-Rays-versus-White-Dwarfs Safety Argument

Posted by in categories: existential risks, particle physics

Tom Kerwick challenged my warnings by claiming that the observed longevity of white dwarfs, in spite of the constant bombardment by cosmic rays, provides a convincing safety argument regarding the currently running nuclear collisions experiment at CERN. This claim is important but, unfortunately, inconclusive as I shall try to demonstrate.

It is true that the collisions performed at CERN are relatively meager compared to cosmic-ray energies. The current, approximately 10 TeV collisions between equal-momentum particles at CERN correspond to 10.000 TeV cosmic ray protons hitting a stationary proton on earth or a white dwarf. The thousand-fold increase is a consequence of the relativistic energy-momentum law being applicable.

If 10.000 TeV (= 10 to the 16 electron volt) look like much, cosmic ray energies up to 10 to the 22 electron volt (a million times more) have been measured. However, if the latter are translated back into symmetric collisions of the CERN type, they are “only” a thousand times more energetic than CERN’s (owing to the square-root rule implicit in the mentioned law).

The fact that white dwarfs appear to be resilient to this bombardment is living proof that the cross section of CERN-generated miniature black holes (as well as their up to a thousand times more massive cosmic-ray generated analogs) must be minuscule. Specifically, their diameter must lie below that of a lepton (electron or quark). While an electron’s diameter is often supposed to be zero, neutrino absorption in solid matter yields a finite value (about ten to the negative 24 meter). In addition, the Telemach theorem guarantees a non-zero electron diameter.

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Jul 14, 2012

Jesse Bering Wrote an important Article in July’s Scientific American (“The Rat that Laughed”)

Posted by in categories: existential risks, particle physics

In it he reports on a gorilla in a cage who could be brought to phrenetic laughter by his human friend’s pretending to bite him into his toe. Quote: “If you have never seen a gorilla in a fit of laughter, I recommend searching out such a sight before you pass from this world.”

This is absolutely human behavior. If you know about the cross-caring theory, which explains how a young child interacting with his bonding partner is getting “moved” into suspecting benevolence shown towards him, then you realize that the same thing can be accomplished with a caged or non-caged gorilla.

I recently mentioned Margaret Howe, a pupil of my late friend Gregory Bateson’s. There are important insights about the mission of humankind on our planet and beyond (“galactic export”) that would make it a great pity if this “second level of human social evolution on earth and in the solar system” was going to be clipped.

I know I am being impossible, but finding outrageous things that tickle everyone in her or his heart so as to be moved is the real mission of science. I fantasize talking with a gorilla – or orangutan – about the long-stretched “toe” of the visualized Schwarzschild metric of a black hole, both of us laughing.

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Jul 13, 2012

I Thank the Planet for Tolerating my Warnings without Panicking

Posted by in categories: existential risks, particle physics (at minutes 09:00–10:10, 11:00–12:03, 12:35–13:25, 16:08–17:13) gave me a world-wide forum again. The rest of the media and all colleagues of mine keep their mouths shut.

There is logic behind this schizophrenic world-wide attitude: In case the outlaw is right, one can later always claim that not the whole planet was part of the conspiracy of silence since one high-ranking international outlet reported. However, this strategy is not logical. For if I am right and the worst case materializes, the fig leaf will go under as well.

My class yesterday in which this riddle was touched upon in passing helped me see the mechanism: My results on black holes are too much advanced from the planet-wide accepted lore to be understandable to any colleague.

Imagine the “generic 3-pseudosphere.” Its lower-dimensional analog in ordinary 3-space, the 2-pseudosphere (the so-called Newton pseudosphere) looks like two trumpets with infinitely long, infinitely thinned-out mouth pieces, glued together head-on with their bells ( ). This smooth monster has the same volume as a sphere of the same (maximal) diameter, and also the same surface area and the same (if negative) curvature: a kind of miracle. Hence the name “pseudo-sphere.”

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Jul 12, 2012

A Resilient Logic for Hazardous Times

Posted by in categories: complex systems, economics, engineering, ethics, existential risks, nuclear weapons, policy, sustainability
“If the rate of change on the outside
exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near”
- Jack Welch

Complex societies are heavily addicted to expensive, vulnerable and potentially hazardous infrastructure. We rely on a healthy environment for production of food and access to clean water. We depend on technological infrastructure for energy supplies and communications. We are deeply addicted to economic growth to support growing populations and consumption. If one of these pillars of modern society crumbles our existence will collapse like a house of cards.

The interdependencies and complexities of the system we call modern society has become so intertangled that finding a robust and simple solution to our problems has become close to impossible. Historically the cold war gave us the logic of a “balance of terror”. This logic, originally concerned with a balance of U.S. vs. Soviet military capacities, has lead to an increasingly expensive way of reducing risk and ever expanding bureaucracies to keep us “virtually safe”.

With the onset of a global economic recession, drastic climate change, deadly natural disasters, raging civil wars and diminishing natural resources we need a new logic. A set of moral laws for reducing risk and mitigating consequences applicable at a low cost from the bottom up of entire societies.

The concept of resilience is based on the idea that disasters are inevitable and a natural part of existence. Our best defense is preparedness and engineering systems that not only can withstand heavy strains but also absorb damage. The Institute for Resilient Infrastructure at the University of Leeds gives this definition of “Resilience”;

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Jul 8, 2012

Three Manifest Miracles in Physics: Qualia, the Now and the Higgs Field

Posted by in categories: existential risks, particle physics

The whole within which we find ourselves at every conscious moment is a miraculous gift that we take for granted in our culture. Everything can be understood inside the world, so we believe in science – except for the qualia (like color) and also for the Now which both are non-existent in physics (although this is almost never mentioned).

For 4 days now, something that unlike the qualia and the Now exists within rather than outside the scope of science is just as baffling: the Higgs field. As Matt Strassler explained two years ago, the everywhere constant Higgs field is responsible for the masses of all elementary particles – without an exchange of particles being involved — provided it will be discovered experimentally via the signature of a first field-specific particle. Thus an immutable constant influence makes itself felt inside creation for 4 days. The freshly discovered Higgs particle can be called the first unmistakable miracle found in nature, because it reflects the presence of an everywhere constant field of unknown origin.

The discovery comes with a price tag which is none of its own fault. The machine made to find it was designed so as to also generate a second totally new animal in the hope that at least one of the two would be found: miniature black holes. The latter have eluded finding so far we are told, but this is not certain: a double success cannot be excluded.

This is because a trivial new implication of Einstein’s “happiest thought” of 1907 revealed that black holes possess radically new properties. The latter cause black holes to arise much more readily and make them invisible to CERN’s detectors. In addition they grow exponentially inside matter. Therefore if one specimen gets stuck inside earth, the planet will be eaten inside out after an asymptomatic period of a few years, so as to assume the size of a chestnut while retaining its gravitational influence on the moon.

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Jul 4, 2012

CERN Found 2 out of 3 Needed Pieces of Evidence for the Higgs – A Bargain?

Posted by in categories: existential risks, particle physics

I congratulate Peter Higgs. And I ask him to forgive me that I raised the “cost” issue in my Aljazeera interview of to date. Not the financial cost, but the cost incurred by humankind: The fact that the doubling of data planned for the rest of the year (up to the scheduled pause for upgrading) will once more double the risk that the planet will be shrunk into a 2-cm black hole after a few years’ delay.

This risk is presently at about 4 percent already. Doubling it is a nightmare – unless a counterproof can be found. Until this aim has been achieved, I herewith ask Peter Higgs to join me in bequeathing CERN for a brief stop until the “doubling of the danger” has been shown to be inconsequential: because the black holes, to which CERN’s sensors are blind by design according to the published proof, have been shown to be absent since the proof has been punctured. The best scientist of the planet may need only hours if we are all lucky.

So far, CERN refuses to address the 4-year-old issue that only grew in strength – by admitting a safety conference. No citizen of the planet understands this ostrich policy. Dear Peter Higgs: will you help us all? No one else on the planet can.

Jun 30, 2012

CERN Refuses to Update Its Safety Report for 4 Years

Posted by in categories: existential risks, particle physics

I feel that this easy-to-verify fact is worth reporting by the media.

I admit I am biased because I found a so far un-refuted proof of a concrete danger of unimaginable proportions. So if I publicly ask CERN to update, everyone can say: “He writes this to get his will at last.”

Therefore I apologize for this partisanship of mine and ask other, less personally engaged persons to ask the neutral question of whether or not it is desirable to have an update on CERN’s safety report from early 2008.

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