Climate change. Pandemics. Nuclear war. While these are undoubtedly devastating realities or possibilities, could they wipe out humanity entirely? Highly unlikely, writes Seth Shostak, senior astronomer for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute. From Quartz
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A century ago, the Spanish flu caused a staggering 20-50 million deaths, more than WWI. Still, the toll amounted to less than 3% of the world population. As ghastly as it was, the Spanish flu didn’t even rise to the level of decimation; viruses can slay, but they can’t annihilate. If past mortality is prologue, a millennial has less chance of succumbing to a new pandemic than dying in an auto accident.
OK, well what about climate change, now recognized as a non-hoax by 75% of Americans? It’s not the heat per se that will waste us, but the knock-on effects. Low-lying nations will turn into aquariums and Caribbean countries will be pummeled and pelted by savage storms....
The World Health Organization estimates that between 2030 and 2050, 5 million people will perish due to the consequences of climate change. Nonetheless, if aliens visit Earth in 2050, they’ll still find billions of humans. Indeed, probably more than walk the planet today...
However, there’s at least one lethal bullet we might never be able to dodge: a gamma ray burst. This cosmic phenomenon could sterilize our planet in short order. Such bursts are not frequent—they’re thought to be the final gasps of collapsing, massive stars—but if one were to occur in our own galaxy, the results could be truly catastrophic, resulting in destruction of our protective atmosphere.
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:
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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.
I was attracted to Station Eleven by the short description,it smacked of Commedia dell'arte: a post-apocalyptic tale of new-troubadours desperate to keep music and performance alive in a time of death. I was captivated, however, by the author's format in story telling.
Emily St. John Mandel starts this book off like almost any other book about the apocalypse. People are doing things so high-up on Maslow's hierarchy of needs to demonstrate how far or bad they are about to fall. The book opens in a theater, where stuff happens. Shortly thereafter humanity loses its shit.
Years after the collapse, we meet the Traveling Symphony, a group of musicians and a troupe of Shakespearian actors who merged and travel the north-central former United States and Canada, entertaining folks. Star Trek gave a member of the Symphony the quotation “Because survival is insufficient.” and it has become their guiding light. Life on the road is very hard, but it is their life.
The book temporally jumps all over the place, telling the life story of a famous Hollywood actor who died the night before the world fell apart, and following some key players in his life through their experience of the new world order. The jumps are connected, but disjointed. The story is touching, occasionally heart-rending, and utterly meaningless to the destiny of the folks who survive the actor. The interactions with him helped make them who they are, they may inform some decision-making, and perhaps even scarred one or two for life, but they mostly serve to show how everyone's concerns about everything beyond survival are either immaterial or amazingly important. Read the rest
The second Lego movie includes a memorable scene in Apocalypseburg, an homage to the final scene in Planet of the Apes, complete with a Beyond Thurderdome-style settlement in Lady Liberty's tilted shadow; this is now immortalized as a $300 Lego set. (via Beyond the Beyond)
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Last year, when 45 was elected to office, Amanda Palmer told The Guardian that "frightening political climates make for really good, real, authentic art," and that "Donald Trump is going to make punk rock great again."
Well, she was right.
Blondie's new music video for its song "Doom or Destiny" is a great example. It features Debbie Harry and Joan Jett as cunt mug-carrying anchors for news of the "impending apocalypse:"
Described by Debbie Harry as, “The most openly political video Blondie has ever done,” the cut and paste punk tribute was directed by friend of the band Rob Roth and inspired by the current state of the world. “In trying times we try harder,” adds Blondie co-founder Chris Stein, “politics have become the new pop culture phenomena."...
As well as endless feminist slogans and an appearance from a familiar-looking sock puppet President, a delightful weather report for the rest of December includes soaring temperatures coinciding with an asteroid impact on the 29th, seven plagues on the 30th and thermonuclear war in time for NYE, before things spiral into total nuclear winter with lows of -27 before we steadily move into a state of post history. Oh well. Nasty women unite!
The song is from Blondie's most recent album, Pollinator.
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Numerous residents of a Spokane, Washington suburb reported hearing unsettling trumpet sounds overnight on December 14. Listen to a recording of the noise below. Non-believers suggest that it may have been the sound of many snowplows scraping the concrete roads or train rails creaking in the cold. One news outlet's "science expert" commented that "temperature does affect the speed of sound, which can make certain things sounds different than what we are used to hearing."
Of course, we all know the truth: It is the seven trumpets as described in the Book of Revelation. The apocalypse is nigh, and it's starting in Spokane.
"Strange sound in Spokane Valley has thousands of people talking" (KHQ via Mysterious Universe)
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In this episode, we take on a doomsday future: all the active volcanoes in the world erupt. At the same time. Kaboom. This is not good for us. What happens to humans and our planet? Who survives? How?
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We talk about the basics of a volcanic eruption, what makes something an active volcano, and all the terrible things that would happen if all 1,500 active volcanoes erupted at once.
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British maker and video host Colin Furze dug up his backyard and built a fantastic underground bunker under his lawn to save himself from the apocalypse or at least hide out and play videogames, rock out on his drum kit, and chow down on canned goods.
"There are more things to add such as air filtration and different power source but it's a great space," Furze says.
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Watch Jim Berger's hilarious edit of televangelist Jim Bakker recalling his recent End Times dream. Read the rest
The leader of the Christian organization eBible Fellowship warns that October 7 "will be the day that God has spoken of: in which, the world will pass away. It’ll be gone forever. Annihilated.
"There’s a strong likelihood that this will happen. Which means there’s an unlikely possibility that it will not," says eBible Fellowship founder Chris McCann.
From The Guardian:
The expectation of the world ending this fall stems from an earlier prediction by Harold Camping, a Christian radio host who was based in California. In 2011 Camping used his radio station, Family Radio, to notify people that the world would end on 21 May of that year. When that turned out to be incorrect, Camping revised his prediction to October 2011. That also turned out to be incorrect, and Camping retired from public life soon after. He died in 2013, at age 93.
McCann believes that Camping’s 21 May 2011 prediction did have some truth, however. That day was declared to be “judgment day” because it was actually the day God stopped the process of selecting which churchgoers will survive Wednesday’s massacre, McCann said.
Following 21 May 2011, God turned his attention to deciding which non-churchgoers to save, according to McCann. The eBible Fellowship believes that God said he would devote 1,600 days to this task – bringing us to 7 October 2015.
"Christian group predicts the world will be 'annihilated' on Wednesday" (The Guardian) Read the rest
The ongoing war in Syria has led researchers to make the first withdrawal of seeds from a "doomsday" vault in an Arctic mountainside, to protect global food supplies. Read the rest
I love Cynthia "Thea" Rodgers' fantastic contribution to a 2012 challenge to draw comic characters in post-apocalyptics scenarios. Read the rest
Over the past decade or so, gritty, apocalyptic worlds were the favored setting of popular video games, and machinelike cyber-dystopias were a reliable aesthetic before that. But No Man's Sky, a highly-anticipated upcoming world, is infinite and hopeful. Read the rest
The self-described Crazy Russian Hacker of Youtube demonstrates in eye-watering detail a method for tool-free can opening: just grind down the can's rim on a handy block of concrete, then squeeze. The stunt is repeated several times, just to be sure you've absorbed the technique in all its complexity. It's all framed in post-apocalyptic terms, naturally: a kind of Russo-Survivalist Youtube version of Three Men in a Boat.
How to Open a Can without Can Opener - Zombie Survival Tips #20
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Once again, Earth has not been destroyed in a fiery apocalypse. But, someday, our luck will run out. Be prepared! At The Guardian, Ian Sample and Alok Jha helpfully explain how our universe will one day (finally) be destroyed. The good news: By the time that happens, you'll already be dead. [Watch Ian Sample demonstrate different scenarios for the destruction of Earth] [Watch Alok Jha describe the ultimate fate of the universe] Read the rest