Science journalist Bryan Walsh visited scientists from a variety of disciplines, devoured the scientific literature, and identified the catastrophic events most likely to kill us all. The list is a greatest hits of doom, from climate change and asteroid impact to bioengineered pathogens and supervolcanoes, which he wrote about this week in the New York Times. Failing those, we always have nuclear war to worry about. But fret not (too much, anyway), Walsh's new book End Times: A Brief Guide to the End of the World not only presents “the disasters that could end the human story in midsentence," but also describes how scientists are trying to alleviate the risks. From a review in Science News:
To understand asteroids, he spends a night at Mount Lemmon Observatory in Tucson, Ariz., where astronomers are tracking space rocks that might intersect with Earth’s orbit. In theory, there are ways to deflect an incoming asteroid before it slams into Earth, such as trying to change the asteroid’s speed or approach. Walsh suggests that countries with space programs spend more on planetary defense and start practicing asteroid deflection. NASA and the European Space Agency have plans to do just that: In 2022, they intend to crash a spacecraft into an asteroid to try to alter its trajectory...
He also discusses more theoretical solutions that scientists have thought up, like how to cool magma beneath a supervolcano to prevent an eruption. Drilling nearly 10 kilometers into the belly of a supervolcano to inject cold water may not really be practical and could cost about $3.5 billion. But offering solutions that seem fantastical is still important, Walsh argues, “because doing so demands that we step outside our brief human time frame.” Thinking big about how we could protect the future of our species might lead to more feasible plans of action.
End Times: A Brief Guide to the End of the World by Bryan Walsh (Amazon)
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I've been a fan of cartoonist, novelist and memoirist Lynda Barry for decades, long before she was declared a certified genius; Barry's latest book, Making Comics is an intensely practical, incredibly inspiring curriculum for finding, honing and realizing your creativity through drawing and writing.
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Knowledge is power. It’s a cliché, but sometimes things turn into a cliché because they’re true. If you’re making your way through the world of business and entrepreneurship, it only makes sense to read about the insights of people who have climbed that ladder before you. Trouble is, the modern workday doesn’t leave a lot […]
As much as some of us fear the loss of our jobs to robots, there’s one job we’re pretty sure they are welcome to: vacuuming. There’s nothing quite like kicking back and watching a robot vacuum do one of the most time-consuming tasks on the household chore list. And there are few ‘bots that do […]