Category Archives: Doomsday

MTBF: Life

* Fermi Paradox topic alert

MTBF is a manufacturing term meaning Mean Time Between Failure. On average, what is the amount of time a product operates without failure.

In our analysis of the paucity of life in the universe, this concept — as applied to life — is less frequently addressed. But it’s critical to understanding why humanity is “probably” alone in the universe.

If you were an abiogenesis researcher trying to create life in the lab and one day you astound yourself and world by creating replicating, mutating life in a petri dish. You run out of the lab, shouting to your peers and head to the bar to celebrate. Meanwhile, Billy-the-janitor, runs across your ugly-smear of creation you left on the counter and tosses it in the trash headed to the incinerator. Poof. MTBF of your abiogenetically created life? About 24 hours.

As we investigate the probabilities of life in the universe, we must not only imagine the conditions that we believe are required for life to spawn spontaneously in the strange seas or tide pools of exotic planets, but we must include the MTBF of that life. If a comet smacks such a life-foundational planet every few months, wiping out Darwin’s crucible — over and over — that must be a part of our calculations.

If life gets started but the periods of prosperity are so short lived, despite the initial conditions that engendered such life, it doesn’t matter that such a place is ‘perfect’ to harbor life. A short MTBF will exclude it from our tally.

And it’s not just microbial life that we’re considering. MTBF of a society killing asteroid: 50 million years? MTBF of a super volcanoes: every 100,000 years? And my favorite the MTBF of a technologically advanced society, reliant on electricity coursing through wires, due to coronal mass ejection (CME): About 200 years.

There are dozens of other types of life erasers, each with its MTBF. Pockets of life must not only navigate such continuous disasters, but it must grow large enough so that as these calamities occur, the likelihood that any one catastrophe kills the entire genome of the planet (or the species) is reduced.

We look for the exo-conditions that we think are favorable to life. But we must remember to include the windows of opportunity life has, interstitially inserted between extinction events. What is humanity’s real MTBF?


Obesity: stocking up for the End

What if the current trend of obesity was preparation for the coming apocalypse?

When Anak Krakatoa blows its lid, kicking off another super volcano somewhere (there are a number of them). Or when the CME finally arrives (I’ve been waiting for years). Maybe it will be that elusive rogue asteroid that sneaks past observation (I’d mention alien invasion here, but aliens don’t exist). Whatever it might be, when the world system shuts down and collapses, people with a few extra pounds (or tens of pounds) may be fixed to survive longer than the fit-n-trim bunch.

That is the way humanity’s physiology is built — gorge in the late summer and fall, eat and gain weight for the coming winter and starvation period of spring. This epidemic of obesity spreading around the would, maybe it’s just preparation? A collective subconsciousness aware that the End is nigh. So pass the pizza and beer, I’m loading up for the Apocalypse.

(Of course, there’s the complication of Insulin being a short shelf-life drug that would cease production during the collapse… See: https://anonymole.com/2017/04/06/diabetics-and-the-apocalypse/)


Panem et circenses: 21st century style

Panem et circenses — bread and circuses — that’s what kind of world we live in today.

Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Apple, Amazon, Google, Alibaba, Tencent, and all the rest of the social/consumer apps and companies dedicated to feeding and filling the populace with useless, nutritionally empty, profoundly vacant nonsense — we deserve such inane creations.

We have returned to an era of bread and circuses.

While the planet’s ecosystems literally melt, burn, boil and die, we get fed a constant stream of vapid, utterly empty crap. CRAP! A billion+ humans creating media crap everyday to feed to each other, hoping their crap is better than his crap, than her drivel, than their banal, vomitous effluent.

That is our legacy. That is our heritage. Instead of lifting humanity into the transcendent elevations of kindness, forbearance, forgiveness and understanding we voted in a cadre of capitalistic masters. Today’s “corporations” gorge themselves on the monetary leakage of humanity’s insipid predilection for self-indulgence.

We deserve what we get. Which, in the end, will be destruction.

*** Peanuts, popcorn $15.00 a bag. Bagels $10. There’s an app for that! ***


Fossil fuel volcano

I’m reading Light of the Stars “Alien Worlds and the Fate of the Earth” — Adam Frank.

I’m about halfway through and so far Frank has supplied mostly background in his attempt, I’m assuming, to present various models — based on our solar system’s mechanics and planetary variations — to determine the probability of exo-civilizations, in the galaxy and the cosmos in general.

Humanity’s existence and technological capability is dependent on a host of serendipitous “coin-flips” all landing up heads. Two of the biggest and most impactful are plate tectonics and the availability of a billion years worth of stored solar energy in the form of fossil fuel.

Plate tectonics ensures that CO2 is recycled. (CO2 is fixed from the atmosphere as sediment and rock, calcium carbonate — limestone, taken below the crust, disassociated and then re-released by volcanoes around the planet.) Without this cycle, CO2 would stay fixed, the planet would cool (as it has done in the past) (Nitrogen and Oxygen, 78% and 21%, are not efficient greenhouse gases) and that would be it for Earth.

And we all know what fossil fuels have done for humanity; taken an energy starved species and give it unlimited access to millions of years of nearly-free solar power. Without fossil fuels, humanity would have killed off all the whales (for fuel), burned down all the forests (for fuel), and never seen the explosive population growth that produced copious ideas resulting in constant technological advancement.

WorldPopulationGrowthFossilFuels

Part of his premise (I’m guessing) is to determine the impact and potential mitigation of global warming during the Anthropocene. This unusual release of extra CO2 that is warming the planet is, as far as he’s concerned, a potential solution to the Fermi Paradox: exo-civilizations might kill themselves off by their shear size and impact on their planet.

As I read Adam Frank’s setup I thought about a strange “ready for fiction” story line:

What would happen if a volcano suddenly spawned beneath one (or more) vast crude oil fields? Imagine if a Kilauea sized volcano burst up from the sands of Saudi Arabia. The heat and fire would start the oil burning. Thirty mile-high plumes of smoke would spread out for decades. Nuclear winter would descend. This is much like what a super-volcano would do, but a smaller volcano would suffice to trigger the calamity.

This is typical, don’t you think, this reading of anything and the extrapolation of a fiction story from the material? The “what if”s. I thrive on them.


I give you ONE wish

Here are the rules:

You get one wish.

It will come true the moment you utter the sealing spell “that is my wish.”

It must be specific, that is, enactable by an omnipotent being (me). Meaning, it cannot be vague, “I wish for world peace.” (What would that mean? And how would any omniscient, omnipotent being apply that to the Universe?)

It can apply to any era in the history of the Universe; to any aspect of existence, any land, sea, creature, peoples or culture.

Go.

For thought fodder here are a few that you might consider. If multiple folks pick similar wishes then I’m sure they will eventually come true. (OK, this might not be possible, but, hey, we’re all living in a material, I mean, virtual world, right?)

  1. I wish that the physics of matter made it impossible for life to evolve.
  2. I wish that altruism balanced aggression in the natural order.
  3. I wish all planets that could harbor life, did harbor life.
  4. I wish that humanity was not alone in the universe and that we would discover this tomorrow.
  5. I wish that telekinetic power was possible.
  6. I wish unicorns existed today.
  7. And elves, flying dragons, 2nd law of thermodynamics defying physics existed too.

 

 


Civilization: how thy collapse?

Depending on the mechanism of the apocalypse, the end of civilization would occur in vastly different ways.

Here’s a recent video sponsored by the Royal Institution and conducted by Dr. Lewis Dartnell (of The Knowledge fame).

 

 

It’s of pretty standard apocalyptic fare, but there are a few standout notions posed by the panel and audience.

The first is asked by the astrophysicist: How would society change, today, if we discovered that in thirty years an unavoidable asteroid (of ELE size) was destined for Earth? That delay, thirty years, really made me think. Obviously, everybody 70 and older wouldn’t really care, personally. They would, though, work to save their descendants. But aside from who would care, and for what reason, what, if any change would occur in society — tomorrow? What would you change in your life, right now, knowing in thirty years the end of the world was guaranteed?

Another notion, proposed by the generalist, was that in a catastrophic event, like my favorite topic, a CME (coronal mass ejection – and the end of the electrical grid), that there are billions of food animals (cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, chickens and turkeys) that would be available for months after the “end of food.” His theory, which sounded silly, but he confessed it was considered by those who plan for such things, was that humans would be eating burgers for months, but that the lack of ketchup would be part of the critical path of survival. He quipped that there was a National Strategic Condiment Reserve created to store enough ketchup and mustard to ensure that people could continue to enjoy their quarter-pounders.

The third notion that I thought curious was the topic of what goes first? Do people die out quickly (a pandemic, or nuclear, volcanic or asteroid induced winter) or do people survive and their infrastructure fails them (a CME or a nano bot revolt or AI take over).

Generally speaking, civilizations don’t collapse quickly. Jared Diamond’s Collapse, explored the various failures over the last few millennia and, for the most part, things come apart slowly but determinedly. Politics, food, resources, strife, elitists vs plebes, all contribute, over tens if not hundreds of years, to destroy a civilization.

The apocalypse, however, would tend to speed things up.

Mentioned in the second half of the video, is the book Paradise built in Hell, which explores the altruistic fallout during specific calamitous occurrences. That — we are our brother’s keeper — that people, over all, tend to jump in to save each other in times of catastrophe.

This may be true for localized events; single areas, nations or even regions (Hurricane Katrina, the 2011 Sendai earthquake, or the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004). But where I think this fails us, and this is the base theory for this post, is the following:

When we feel secure in our own lives we feel empowered to help others. Even if we ourselves are inundated by chaos, if we know that the province, country or world remains stable — outside of our ongoing criticality — then extending ourselves to our neighbors can be substantiated; we know others will be there to pickup the slack. That, knowing we do not risk everything, we feel empowered to help those in need.

But what happens when, deep in our souls, we know no one else will be there to help us out of our own disastrous situation? When we know that the entire world is under siege? That we know that help IS-NOT-COMING. How will we react then?

Does civilization fail when the realization that THIS-IS-IT penetrates our thinking? Do we resort then to protecting our own, abandoning our neighbors, our jobs of assistance? What would you do if you knew your family, your loved ones were also under attack — but your job, your duty, was to stay here and fight for and protect these folks? Would you stay? Or would you admit that, “hey, I have to get back to my OWN family who needs me.”?


Humanity’s one shot

[Sometimes I write to myself just so I have the thoughts persisted.
A thought written is a thought not forgotten.
This is one of those posts.]

Blue Across the Sea & Shadow Shoals foundational premise.

Here’s my theory.

First off this happens: Blue Across the Sea Epilogue, https://goo.gl/q6Hkj4 (a pair of massive CMEs destroy the Northern hemisphere’s electrical grid).

Supporting theory…

Coal and oil allowed the 19th and 20th and the first 1/3 of the 21st centuries to become the mega-food and people generating periods that we’ve seen thus far. Without oil, particularly, there would have been no way to produce the food that has produced, to date, 7.4 billion people. And, once sucked from the ground and burned, oil is gone. Humanity got exactly one shot at our technological advancement — and that shot has been expended. If 80-90% of people were to die off today, leaving about one billion, this would approximately represent where the human population would have been without coal and oil. And that would be it. No technological renaissance 2.0. One shot, bang!
[Cite: https://anonymole.wordpress.com/2016/01/21/drake-equation-more-on-the-topic/ ]

WorldPopulationGrowthFossilFuels

Okay, so the primary driver here was energy — in the form of oil — which produced food. Food is the crux, the fulcrum which makes or breaks all civilizations. I go into this theory in the previously linked post, but suffice to say, with out fossil fuels, humanity would never have attained the populations necessary to spawn the technological revolution. No great world wars (which require oil), no space race (which require oil), no massive move to the cities (which required food produced by oil). The tech revolution just wouldn’t have happened. Humanity would have burned whale oil until all the whales were dead. And then maybe hydrolyzed wood to produce methanol as a fuel, and of course ethanol from fermentation — energy is life. Without fossil fuels, we’d literally still be in the 1800’s

Now back to the post CME apocalypse: So, even though the buildings and cities and structures in the stories still exist, many were burned or ransacked after the sunstorm, but, yes the cities are still there, and the roads exist, and there are people who might still live there. But the major problem now is that food is scarce, similar to the 1600’s and 1700’s, but without the prior hundreds of years of people having learned how to leverage the land and live on less. Only the countryside can provide food now. There are villages and towns that exist and thrive, but without electricity – we’re back to the 1800’s at a maximum technological level — but without the possibility of being rescued by fossil fuels.

All the agriculture lore that the people of the 1800’s had available to survive — that has been lost. Horticulture? Animal husbandry? Those were reset to zero. Now, it’s been 230 years since the storm so there are enclaves and substantial areas thriving. But food is still the prime driver for all societal organization.

Recall that the Southern hemisphere avoided the sunstorm. That’s how that catastrophe would work; the Northern hemisphere would get destroyed as, when the CMEs hit during the summer, the Earth’s tilt would have allowed the plasma wave to obliterate the Northern hemisphere’s electrical grid. The Southern hemisphere collapsed due to the influx of 600-700 million people escaping the north. But there would be countries there returning to productivity and that will become evident when a steamship shows up in the Chesapeake Bay with intentions of establishing a colony from New Brazil.

One of the ideas I use to justify the existence of stuff in this future world is by looking backwards about 300 years and thinking “what is here today that was built or made back in the 1700’s?” Books survive, some clothing (especially that made from non-organic materials). Roads, buildings, metal signs even, and metal of many kinds. Guns that were well taken care of, sure, but ammo is gone. Glassware, some plastic, pottery, many tools  but nothing made from rubber. Nothing electrical or electronic. But the wire would still exist and have been reused for other purposes. No engines or motors, as fuel hasn’t been refined for centuries. Although, in remote mountainous areas there are some solar cell systems running at perhaps 5-10% efficiency. And a few hydro generators still work in tucked-away places.

More on this to come.