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The NYT Imagines Life After Earth 271

Posted by Zonk
from the far-fewer-mosquitos dept.
An anonymous reader writes to mention a New York Times article entitled Life After Earth. The article looks at 'bio-vaults,' be they in the frozen north or on the moon, which might allow the human race to continue on after a globally catastrophic event. From the article: "The trouble with doomsday, Dr. Shapiro argues, is that it is almost always rendered in popular culture as grandiose, though in reality, many minor incidents present substantial everyday threats. In 1918, an influenza strain killed some 30 million people; a possible new bird flu strain spurs contemporary panic. In January 2003, a computer virus shut down airlines, banks and governments. That same year, a tree fell on power lines outside Cleveland, resulting in a blackout for much of the Northeast. Doomsday can be understated."
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The NYT Imagines Life After Earth

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  • I've always hated doomsday scenarios because they completely ignore what the market (that's billions of individuals looking to better themselves regardless of what government says is good and evil) has provided us over the years. Everything that doomsdayers say is evil is part of the market giving us better lives -- engines, industrialization replacing human labor, commoditization of common goods and needs, etc.

    They say "CO2 will kill us all" and I say the market may provide us a better life because of a r
    • by wfberg (24378) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @01:43PM (#15826197)
      Everything that doomsdayers say is evil is part of the market giving us better lives -- engines, industrialization replacing human labor, commoditization of common goods and needs, etc.

      Erm, yeah.. If global warming were the only conceivable doomsdayscenario..

      Nuclear weaponry isn't quite enhancing my life, nor are worldwide influenza pandemics, direct meteor hits, global overexposure to radiation as a result of a freakishly excessive sunspot or near-by exploding supernova, or even, in fact, global alien invasion bent on genocide.

      As for wanting to live in a bubble city; no-one's stopping you. You can just move into the basement and hook up the airco. I for one like having some forrest on hand to walk about in, with fresh air too.
      • Ever see the movie Silent Running [imdb.com]? Basically, it was about a mobile bubble platform in space. Inside...a forrest bursting with plant life.

        Personally, I would rather breath air in the wide open. But there's nothing preventing human civilization from creating a bubble enviroment with its air being replenished with plant life.
      • As for wanting to live in a bubble city; no-one's stopping you. You can just move into the basement and hook up the airco. I for one like having some forrest on hand to walk about in, with fresh air too.

        And that's the problem with relying on force to try to keep those trees -- we just don't know what is out there that would provide for your tree-love. I also love trees, in fact I own a few acres of property that is currently heavily forested. I love visiting it (there is NOTHING nearby).

        Why wouldn't a bubble-city have more trees that we currently do? Who is to say that some inventor won't come up with an interesting way to divert CO2 emissions from factories within the bubble city straight into the ground so the trees can use it to create oxygen for the city? We just don't know. We didn't know about plasma TVs a few decades ago, but that invention will greatly cut down on the garbage created from large CRT TVs that get thrown into the dumps (and plasma TVs far outlive the life-span of a CRT). Thank the market for that "pro-environment" creation, and we'll thank the market when they find cleaner ways to create those plasmas or flat panels. Remember, every ounce of waste that is created by industry is WASTE -- it means something goes into the mix that is a loss for the company. Companies would likely try to find ways to cut that waste or find productive uses for it rather than tossing it.

        I'm not sure that the future will look anything like what our lives look like today. I know that my life is significantly better than that of my ancestors, who had to deal with smelly and polluted cities. It wasn't government that cut pollutions, it was industries striving to reduce waste and increase efficiency that did it. I was in communist Russia before the USSR fell, and I was in the DDR before the wall fell, and those "heavily regulated" societies stank and were incredibly dirty.

        All I know is that mankind has always found ways to better themselves, and it is always an individual that does it because of the desire to increase their own wealth. I don't see why we wouldn't at least give a consideration to the future from a market perspective rather than just give the doom-and-gloom people the only opinion. They've been wrong each and every time before it seems.
        • by Hortensia Patel (101296) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @02:16PM (#15826486)
          It wasn't government that cut pollutions, it was industries striving to reduce waste and increase efficiency that did it.

          Untrue, or at least highly selective. Much (most?) pollution is not a consequence of inefficiency, and industry has no inherent incentive to reduce it. This is the standard example given to illustrate negative externalities [wikipedia.org].

          Government is the only instrument I'm aware of by which people can push these externalized costs back onto the polluters. And claiming that it hasn't done so is flat wrong. All the way back to Edward I in 1361 banning the burning of sea-coal to reduce London smog.

          • It wasn't government that cut pollutions

            I beg to differ. Look at the US. Limits are set re: maximum production, based upon size, production, etc., but in the form of how much can be generated. The big companies then purchase the unused chits from the smaller companies as there are many small companies which aren't consuming their quota and it's extra income.

            Now, who is permitting that to occur? It's not Grandma Rose living down the street.
          • I don't know if it's possible to be a history nazi, but here goes... If it was 1361, it would be Edward III
          • I always find it interesting that every single time that Dada21 is shown to be factually incorrect, he is quiet and does not reply. Yet you can find his replies all over posts that either do not challenge his holes or argue something where he is indeed right. To boot, I can guarantee you that he will repeat his statement (in this case, that pollution is only cut by industries trying to reduce waste and increase inefficiencies) the next time an article on that topic rolls around. To me, it shows a man who is
        • There are many situations in which the development of a certain technology is in no single person's best interest, but if developed, would benefit humanity as a whole. "The market" fails in these cases.
        • Why wouldn't a bubble-city have more trees that we currently do? Who is to say that some inventor won't come up with an interesting way to divert CO2 emissions from factories within the bubble city straight into the ground so the trees can use it to create oxygen for the city? We just don't know. We didn't know about plasma TVs a few decades ago, but that invention will greatly cut down on the garbage created from large CRT TVs that get thrown into the dumps (and plasma TVs far outlive the life-span of a CR
      • Erm, yeah.. If global warming were the only conceivable doomsdayscenario..

        Nuclear weaponry isn't quite enhancing my life, nor are worldwide influenza pandemics, direct meteor hits, global overexposure to radiation as a result of a freakishly excessive sunspot or near-by exploding supernova, or even, in fact, global alien invasion bent on genocide.

        Know anyone who has benefitted from radiation cancer treatment? Or do you like the power that comes out of your wall socket (varies % nuke generated by location)?

      • Nuclear weaponry isn't quite enhancing my life

        Chemotherapy? Nuclear power plants? If it wasn't for the Chernobyl and Three Mile Island accidents, we would have been working on kicking our oil addiction DECADES ago.

        nor are worldwide influenza pandemics

        Which have also caused a great deal of improvement in the distribution information and a rise in education. China practically went into a state of quarantine when SARS broke out and is now (relatively) under control. Compared to just a century ago, the 1918

      • "Nuclear weaponry isn't quite enhancing my life"

        Really? Try thinking about that again the next time you flick on a light switch. Nuclear energy, which has been developed thanks in no small part due to nuclear weaponry. As oil shortages continue and prices go up we will soon find the world becoming more reliant on nuclear energy than ever before.

      • Nuclear weaponry isn't quite enhancing my life, nor are worldwide influenza pandemics, direct meteor hits, global overexposure to radiation as a result of a freakishly excessive sunspot or near-by exploding supernova, or even, in fact, global alien invasion bent on genocide.

        And who is trying to develop solutions to those problems, the state or individuals? In fact, isn't some of those problems caused by the state? I haven't seen many individuals building nukes, and if someone needed a nuke, it would be to
      • As for wanting to live in a bubble city; no-one's stopping you. You can just move into the basement and hook up the airco. I for one like having some forrest on hand to walk about in, with fresh air too.

        Actually, it would be more environmental friendly if we removed your brain and put it in a jar and then simulated your experience of breathing clean air and walking in that forest.

        Not that you would be any wiser when we did this... But I doubt you'd notice the fact we moved your body a bunker in venus or an
    • by GuyMannDude (574364) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @01:56PM (#15826314) Journal

      We've seen science fiction talk about living in bubble/dome cities, but why would this be bad? Can you imagine what life would be like if we did have better control over our local environments? Would a bubbled city offer a better life for millions in the upper north, people who deal with more winter than summer? Would we see better air scrubbers providing better air? Would we see better control over irrigation and drought?

      I confess that I'm not 100% sure I understand what the overall point of your post was, so forgive me if I'm taking something out of context. But this was the one paragraph that I did understand enough to reply to.

      You're giving human beings a hell of a lot of credit by assuming that we would be able to construct an environment that is "better" than what nature has provided. There's so tremendously many variables and effects that would need to be considered, I have to believe that anything we would come up with -- however impressive it might appear at first glance -- would eventually be found to be seriously lacking. Maybe it would be something as simple as out domed cities not getting enough water now that we can't rely on rainfall. It could be something as insidious as accidently leaving out some species of animal, insect, or plant in our little bio-dome that turns out to be really damn important. I wouldn't want to trust our future to our ability to engineer an environment.

      Who knows. I know that I trust that out of the billions of humans today we'll find a few who can find the utility and invention needed to create tomorrow's world. I don't like to think of us living in vaults because that "invention" is based on yesterday's technology. Yesterday's technology came out of need created by the time before yesterday. Tomorrow's technology will come out of need we face today. Don't sell the future short, especially considering how far we've come in the past 1000 years, 200 years, 100 years, 50 years and 10 years. Humanity is not going to go away, it will just find ways to make life better no matter what seems to happen to the world around us.

      I think the point (I didn't RTFA due to the registration) is probably that a doomsday catastrophe would cause such a rapid shift in the world that humanity wouldn't be able to adapt in time. Even if I were to agree with your concept that "given enough time, humans will think their way out of any maze" -- which I'm not sure I do -- the timescales of these things need to be considered. A serious reduction in available food supplies would hit the poor first. Since it's largely the rich who are in positions to make policy changes, by the time the problem started affecting them enough to take action, it might be too late for all of us.

      Again, if I'm misunderstanding your post, please accept my apology. But it sounds like you have an awfully optimistic view of the capabilities of humans to adapt.

      GMD

      • You make some good points, for sure, but I think you have to look at human history to realize that we've had hundreds of cases of massive doom situations already -- droughts, wars, plagues and environmentally caused destruction. Why did we make it past these situations? Someone came up with a solution.

        Go back before even biblical times and we see stories (and find proof even) that humans found ways to overcome crises that might have wiped us out. People will die -- rich and poor -- but the next generatio
        • You make some good points, for sure, but I think you have to look at human history to realize that we've had hundreds of cases of massive doom situations already -- droughts, wars, plagues and environmentally caused destruction. Why did we make it past these situations? Someone came up with a solution.

          Of course, often times that solution is just waiting the disaster out, hoping to be one of the lucky survivors, and then replacing the drastic drop in population with a new generation after the smoke has cl
          • Of course, often times that solution is just waiting the disaster out, hoping to be one of the lucky survivors, and then replacing the drastic drop in population with a new generation after the smoke has cleared.

            This is true. It's theorized that at one point several million years ago, humanity was reduced to no more than a thousand or so individuals who then went on to repopulate the planet(explaining our surprising lack of genetic variation).

            Seriously though, what's people's weirdo fetsh with the "EN

    • We've seen science fiction talk about living in bubble/dome cities, but why would this be bad?

      I remember a bubble city in Total Recall... how'd that work out for them?
      • In the end it worked out quite well actually. Once Arnold killed off his adversaries and pressed the button that thawed out the huge frozen oxygen supply, Mars instantly grew a breathable atmosphere(apparently displacing all that toxic gas and without any lethal thermal ramifications) and people were able to walk the terrain freely, without the really annoying effect of toxic asphyxiation(which apparently looks like animatronic eyes bulging out of your head in a comically overdone fashion). It worked even

      • How about bad in the way the June '6 issue of Discover (Are We Trapped On Earth: Why Cosmic Rays Could Prevent Us From Leaving ?

        They cover a lot of cosmic issues in that article.

        Few civ-science materials provide why a craft has to be bigger than Pamella Anderson's breasts to get there (Mars). My solution has always been launching multiple oassis types of craft which would be available to make a swap of resources along the way.

        The primary issue which Discover (et al) has [covered in the [past] is wha
    • I for one (Score:2, Funny)

      by andrewman327 (635952)
      I, for one, welcome our tin foil hat wearing, bubble city dwelling /. subscribing overlords!
  • by gasmonso (929871) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @01:38PM (#15826146) Homepage

    I think a good effort should be made to avoid disaster in the first place. Tracking asteroids, studying diseases, and just getting along so we don't nuke ourselves would be a good start.

    http://religiousfreaks.com/ [religiousfreaks.com]
    • Thank you captain obvious for pointing out that we should continue doing things that nobody proposed we stop doing.

      Just out of curiosity, is anybody PAYING you to spam that stupid link in inane comments like this, or do you just not have anything better to do with your time?
    • And perhaps not planting trees near power lines would give civilization a better chance of another 100 years.
      • > And perhaps not planting trees near power lines would give civilization a better chance of another 100 years.

        Doesn't work that way.

        You know how if you bury any length of network cable, a backhoe will eventually show up? So if you're ever lost in the forest, just bury some fiber, and ask the backhoe driver for directions.

        Well, trees and power lines work the same way. Just string a power line above the ground, and a tree will come along and drop a branch through it.

        You've probably not heard of

  • by krell (896769) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @01:38PM (#15826147) Journal
    Earth imagines life after "The New York Times" and its annoying pointless login.
  • Like... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Stanistani (808333) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @01:38PM (#15826149) Homepage Journal
    There was a paper published detailing how to enhance the smallpox virus by adding a cancer gene - it increased the projected mortality rate of the virus, and made the existing vaccine useless.

    So, yeah. Doomsday is a relatively trivial exercise.

    Eat, drink. Be merry.
    • Re:Like... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ceoyoyo (59147)
      I think you and the article writer are talking about a different kind of doomsday than the biobank-on-the-moon people.

      A blackout in Cleveland is an inconvenience. A few people might die, but in the big picture survial-of-the-species it's not even a blip. Actually, it's probably good for people to be reminded that electricity isn't necessarily always available.

      Computer viruses, ditto. If you die because of a computer virus you've done something VERY wrong.

      As for real viruses, whether it's bird flu, 1918 f
    • That's pretty serious. I mean that. If that's true, that's quite a weapon.

      I did a quick Google search but I can't find anything even close. Do you have a source?

  • by Apocalypse111 (597674) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @01:39PM (#15826154) Journal
    "Doomsday can be understated."
    Of course not! He killed Superman!
  • It's tough to deal with a prediction that results in your own demise. Sure, we can all guess what it would be like, but there's one problem: in all likelyhood, a disaster that kills all but a select few is probably killing YOU too! Boy, that sucks! The trick is, how to remain one of the survivors without knowing in advance which doomsday scenario is gonna be the one to decimate the majority of the population.
    • Don't forget the age-old question about who will be around to take advantage of the seed vaults and stuff, too. If no humans are alive, no amount of DNA stored in a vault is going to bring the human race back unless there is an automated mechanism for doing so built into the vault. The vault would also have to be smart enough to detect every possible reason for delaying deployment---radiation levels, harmful bacteria and viruses, aliens standing around with pulse weapons, etc. If it can do that, with the

  • Hollow Men (Score:5, Insightful)

    by feardiagh (608834) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @01:40PM (#15826166)
    "...This is the way the world ends
    Not with a bang, but a whimper."

    -TS Eliot, The Hollow Men, 1925
    • Some say the world will end in fire,
      Some say in ice.
      From what I've tasted of desire
      I hold with those who favor fire.
      But if it had to perish twice,
      I think I know enough of hate
      To say that for destruction ice
      Is also great
      And would suffice.

        - Robert Frost
  • In January 2003, a computer virus shut down airlines, banks and governments. That same year, a tree fell on power lines outside Cleveland, resulting in a blackout for much of the Northeast. Doomsday can be understated.

    Little did I know that those words in that seemingly ordinary Slashdot article would bring about the end in seven months' time.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    ...except the T-Shirts will be much wittier:

    "I'd be with stupid, but he was drowned in the global catastrophe of 2020."

    "My parents visited the cities of the great plague, but all I got was this shitty fatal infection."
  • by Jtheletter (686279) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @01:50PM (#15826263)
    of the whole "genetic seed bank" concept is that the two most suggested locations are near one of earth's poles or somewhere in space/on the moon. Brilliant! Because as we all know, when a doomsday scenario kills off a huge percentage of the population, the specialized skillsets required to retrieve those samples are possesed by all, right?

    Survivor 1: "Wow, that asteroid destroyed 95% of life here on Earth, but now that the dust has settled we can open the genetic vault and start anew! Now just where did we stick those samples?"
    Survivor 2: "Uh, on the moon I think."
    Survivor 1: "Oh, how convenient." [cries]
  • For example, the moon gets massive exposure to cosmic rays [nasa.gov]. Storing DNA up there on the surface is a joke. Their DNA would turn into useless goo within a few years.

    If you have to shield from meteor impact and radiation, that should take care of two of the disasters mentioned in the article (meteor impact and nuclear war).
  • by Zarjay (891644) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @01:51PM (#15826273) Homepage

    If a catastrophic event occurs that wipes out the human race, how are DNA samples going to restore humanity? It's not like we have the technology to start popping out species with just a sample of old DNA. And if we did, a doomsday disaster most likely wouldn't spare that technology.

    Unless those DNA samples can build themselves, it's not very useful for a post-doomsday world.

  • Don't worry, we'll get to keep our slug-throwers, even centuries after we leave earth. In fact, aside from the spaceships and hovercars [wikipedia.org], it'll seem a lot like the Wild West.

  • by lord_mike (567148) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @01:56PM (#15826319)
    General "Buck" Turgidson: Doctor, you mentioned the ratio of ten women to each man. Now, wouldn't that necessitate the abandonment of the so-called monogamous sexual relationship, I mean, as far as men were concerned?

    Dr. Strangelove: Regrettably, yes. But it is, you know, a sacrifice required for the future of the human race. I hasten to add that since each man will be required to do prodigious... service along these lines, the women will have to be selected for their sexual characteristics which will have to be of a highly stimulating nature.

    Ambassador de Sadesky: I must confess, you have an astonishingly good idea there, Doctor.
  • The moon belongs to America, and anxiously awaits the arrival of our astro-men. Will you be among them?
  • You saw the headline on /. first!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    John McCarthy has posted a list of menaces and why they are relatively unthreatening [stanford.edu].
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The guy lost me when he said doomsday can be understated. He gives examples of non-doomsday scenarios to back up his claim. Unless you consider it personally (in which case falling down the stairs can be doomsday) nothing he mentioned comes close to doomsday. Sure, they were bad, but to me doomsday should at least involve the total breakdown of structure in society. 30 million dead from influenza in 1918?

    By its nature doomsday isn't understated. Look it up on m-w.com. judgement day. Catastophic destruction
  • Doomsday is unpredictable.
    Yes, we can take care of scenarios like - a huge asteriod hitting earth or a doomsday bomb or so on and so forth, by having bio-freezers in earth or moon or something.
    But what about other scenarios, for example a magnetar spewing out gamma-rays in all its glory.
    You can be anywhere in the solar system and you will be fried in a minute or 2.

    Or due to some natural/un-natural process, a virus/bacteria gets created which splits water to its elemental components..
    Even if that species did
    • Our ancestors wouldn't have evolved [alislam.org] if it hadn't been for natural disasters. We're the proof that those guys survived them all - we carry the genes of the winners - so don't underestimate us.

      a huge asteriod hitting earth

      Happens about every million [mit.edu] years

      due to some natural/un-natural process, a virus/bacteria gets created which splits water to its elemental components.

      That would be the ancestor of algae [wikipedia.org]. Wiped out almost everything [astrobio.net] back in the day, but led to green plants and us.

      Those magnatar [nasa.gov]

  • Whether or not this is rational or irrational fear-mongering is unimportant. Let's stop inciting fear in the public in either case. There are thousands of things that could go dreadfully wrong, but most of them cannot be prevented by the general public. Humanity will continue to prosper so long as we are not afraid to leave our homes and extend our long history of creative solutions to daunting problems. Have faith in humanity; we will make our own fate to the extent that we control it. Beyond that is anyon
  • WTF (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SiliconEntity (448450) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @02:11PM (#15826452)
    Yeah, right a tree falls on a power line so we better move to the friggin moon? Live in a bio-vault? What's he smoking?
  • NY Times Doomsday (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Kohath (38547) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @02:12PM (#15826453)
    WORLD TO END
    Women and minorities hardest hit.

  • Thanks to Stanley Kubrick and Terry Southern [filmsite.org], we already know how to deal with Doomsday.

    Underground vaults...ten women to every man [ccmep.org]. Where do I sign up?
  • a possible new bird flu strain spurs contemporary panic

    Only because the media keeps telling us we should be worried. Personally, I'm not worrying, and neither is anybody that I know in meatspace.

    Same old, same old. [blogspot.com]

    • Personally, I'm not worrying, and neither is anybody that I know in meatspace.

      The people wearing masks around major Chinese cities a few years back were almost a direct throwback to the 1918 flu panic -- in which entire populations put on porous, ineffectual masks in order to protect against a pathogen much too small to be hindered by the fabric. There are pictures of streets in Philadelphia on which everyone, everyone, is wearing a mask. Whole towns closed their gates; "Keep on driving, we don't want vi

  • by postbigbang (761081) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @02:22PM (#15826532)
    It seems quite egotistical for the NYT to run the same ground that countless science fiction authors have-- and many of them did a better job, IMHO.

    Forget the Times. Instead, go read Azimov, Niven, Heinlein, or a thousand others that did a better job. Maybe the NYT is getting closer to using that odd "World War III" phrase that the orthodox Christians are trying to sell.

    Ok, I'm likely to get modded as a troll. Please consider before you do that: somebody actually paid good money to put this into print in the Times, and Sci Fi authors at best, got about a nickel a word.

  • Think about this. Picture the technology, world population, education and energy usage levels of 1906. Primitive times, compared to now.

    Consider what another century or two of progress could bring. Allow for the idea that we can duplicate what happens in every one of our 6 billion skulls with electronic circuitry at least 10 million times faster. This is why AI or some other form of enhanced intelligence is so powerful...if we could replicate the processes going on in the heads of the brightest among us
    • Assuming it can be creative, adaptive and evolve... also assuming someone doesn't turn it off.
    • Think about this. Picture the technology, world population, education and energy usage levels of 1906. Primitive times, compared to now.

      Consider what another century or two of progress could bring. Allow for the idea that we can duplicate what happens in every one of our 6 billion skulls with electronic circuitry at least 10 million times faster. This is why AI or some other form of enhanced intelligence is so powerful...if we could replicate the processes going on in the heads of the brightest among us, b

  • Check out the Crypt of Civilization at Oglethorpe University...serious preserveation of civilization in that effort.
  • That same year, a tree fell on power lines outside Cleveland, resulting in a blackout for much of the Northeast. Doomsday can be understated.

    And this year, a car ran over a cat.

    Since when does "doomsday" mean "mild inconvenience"? Don't you need, like, at least one dead person before you can start putting it on the List of Things That Will Destroy the Earth?
  • Oxy Moron (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Phat_Tony (661117) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @02:37PM (#15826655)
    "Doomsday can be understated"

    No it can't.

    None of those things listed are even close to Doomsday. They're barely even little blips on the radar screen of history. Out of 6 billion people, the computer virus and the blackout killed how many? These things were moderate inconveniences for thousands, not inescapable death for billions.

    Even the flu killed 30 million out of almost 2,000 million, or 1.5%. Yeah, sucks to be them, but killing 1.5% of the population didn't exactly move homo sapiens to the endangered species list.

    A modern super-bug could be terrible. No one knows if the worst case scenario is the death of millions or into the billions, but I bet you'll have a hard time finding biologists who think a bug could show up that kills ALL humans. It not only would have to spread like mad, have a long incubation period, be untreatable, and not have any people with any natural immunity, it would also have to be able to get through gas-masks and biohazard suits, infiltrate our best air filters, cross oceans to desert islands people had isolated themselves on (and shoot anyone who tries to get near). And with all that going on, I wouldn't call in understated anymore.

    The real Doomsday fears list is pretty short- Nuclear War, Meteor, other improbable astronomical events like supernova. Global warming is NOT a doomsday scenario. It might be a "things are really going to suck" scenario, and I'm not saying we shouldn't be trying to stop it, but it's not going to KILL everybody, it just might make it unbearably hot, ruin crops, cause flooding, worsen natural disasters, etc. But Earth's spent many millions of years being hotter than our global warming forecasts, and life goes on. The real doomsday scenarios ARE NOT understated things that creep up on us- pretty much by definition, little gradual changes are things we adapt too, anticipate, measure, study, and, if they're really getting serous, do something about before we all die. We aren't going to suddenly switch from a negative feedback cycle to an unstoppable positive feedback cycle that destroys everything. If that were in the cards, it would have happened in the past 5 billion years. Our systems (biological and social) are much more robust and stable than that. Realistic doomsday scenarios are big, colossal, horrific events that are anything but understated.
  • "World Ends Saturday - Read about it in expanded Sunday coverage!"

    After the NY Times spent years pimping every Bush "immediate threat", like Iraq, moving papers and policy on their fearmongering, they finally start to tell people that "it's not the end of the world". Except now they're downplaying the real risks, like climate catastrophes, refugee disasters, Constitutional crises.

    It's impossible to get info exactly right in life, so there's a tightwalk between paranoia and denial. The NY Times pulls off the
  • The concept of "doomsday" is so outmoded, I don't even know where to begin. IIRC, the concept comes from the Book of Revelations, and honestly, how many rational people actually believe in that? Granted, a nuclear war can be over in hours, an asteroid strike could wipe out all life in a few hours, a nearby supernova could fry us all within a day, so yeah, a "Doomsday" could occur, but it has such a low probability. More likely are plagues, famines, wars, a general collapse of civilization due to resource
  • by eno2001 (527078) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @03:45PM (#15827159) Homepage Journal
    Back when I was in college I took both an environmental Biology class and an environmental Geography class. The term unsustainable lifestyle was used frequently in these classes to talk about the wasteful way that the western world lives. Much of what the classes indicated was that this view indicates that for the maximum carrying capacity of the Earth (how many people can be kept simultaneously alive and healthy at a given time) to be reasonable, we would all have to live in grass huts and eat rice. There aren't enough resources to go around and that is not a changeable fact. But these discussions were primarily limited to the domain of ecology.

    It occurred to me the other day just how fragile our lifestyle is. Take, for example, the 2003 blackout mentioned in the blurb. That blackout lasted about two days where I lived and longer in some of the outlying suburbs. Just in those two days, I personally lost food in my fridge/freezer, got an XP (no SPs) laptop infected with a virus while trying to access the internet without my Linux firewall using a UPS to power the DSL modem, and had neighbors "wilding" in the nearby city neiborhoods since they didn't have to work the next day. On a larger scale, my neighborhood grocer lost a lot of their stock and prices went up to account for the loss (and oddly never went back down again), my employer lost a few Cisco routers due to unstable power when the power did come back online in spite of the UPS systems, and I'm certain there were people who had far more serious problems due to the blackout. Just two days and everything was starting to go to hell in hours.

    Then I thought about this... for those of you who use less reliable OSes like Windows, do you remember how much of a pain it was to restore back to the EXACT state you were in before a hard drive crash? It's nearly impossible pre-Windows NT. You can get real close, but you're never back to exactly where you were before. Things that you've built up over time and come to rely on but also taken for granted are gone or don't work right. Or if they were downloads, then you might wind up having to use a newer version that loses functionality compared to the older one which you no longer have. Now apply that to a city. A state. An entire country. The way our societies are built are unsustainable. We are on very shaky ground and there is damn little we can do about it.

    Also consider the "little things" that aren't so little when they regard you personally. Take breast implants. They require periodic checkups to make sure everything is going just right (ie. you're not about to be killed or made deathly ill byt them). If you happen to be coming up on a checkup and the hospitals are full of bomb blast victims, do you think anyone is going to see you anytime soon to check them out? Not likely. At least not until it's life threatening. That's no way to live.

    I propose that people should try to find ways to live that can be easily carried on after most disasters (barring complete catastrophies or nuclear holocusts). For example, hydroponic gardens that are operated by wind up mechanisms with cisterns to collect rain water for the irrigation of the gardens. Or, alternative modes of mass transportation that don't rely on centralized power sources or centrally distributed fuels. Pretty much all of these systems should be self contained and rely on nature. Solar, wind, hydro, bio power sources are all essential.

    At the very least, know how to get yourself out of a sticky situation using bleach, aluminum foil, paper towels or napkins, baking soda, a simple container and lots of copper wire... Those of you who know what I'm talking about will smile.
    • "Also consider the "little things" that aren't so little when they regard you personally. Take breast implants. They require periodic checkups to make sure everything is going just right (ie. you're not about to be killed or made deathly ill byt them)."

      This is Slashdot. All the breasts here are created through natural processes, fueled by Cheetos and Mountain Dew.
  • Power going out to the Northeast US isn't exactly Armageddon, now is it?

    Even if the global economy collapsed due to some mass power outage, life would go on. It's incredibly shortsighted to compare such things to "The End Of The World(tm)". Get some perspective.

  • That picture of a moon habitat is a crayon copy from an image in a National Geografic from 1970. A concept drawing that is like, what, 36 years old?
  • The Ultimate Earth Destruction Guide:

    http://qntm.org/destroy [qntm.org]

    Always good for some yuks!

A modem is a baudy house.

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