Showing posts with label existential risks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label existential risks. Show all posts

Friday, September 18, 2009

Just ignore it and maybe it will go away.

Human-made Crises 'Outrunning Our Ability To Deal With Them,' Scientists Warn

"Energy, food and water crises, climate disruption, declining fisheries, ocean acidification, emerging diseases and increasing antibiotic resistance are examples of serious, intertwined global-scale challenges spawned by the accelerating scale of human activity," say the researchers, who come from Australia, Sweden, the United States, India, Greece and The Netherlands.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

This should come as no surprise.

NASA Falling Short of Asteroid Detection Goals

Without more funding, NASA will not meet its goal of tracking 90 percent of all deadly asteroids by 2020, according to a report released today by the National Academy of Sciences.

The agency is on track to soon be able to spot 90 percent of the potentially dangerous objects that are at least a kilometer (.6 miles) wide, a goal previously mandated by Congress.

Asteroids of this size are estimated to strike Earth once every 500,000 years on average and could be capable of causing a global catastrophe if they hit Earth. In 2008, NAS's Near Earth Object Program spotted a total of 11,323 objects of all sizes.

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Friday, July 10, 2009

The steam-belching maw of progress

Robot land-steamers to consume all life on Earth as fuel

News has emerged of a milestone reached on the road towards a potentially world-changing piece of technology. We speak, of course, of US military plans to introduce roving steam-powered robots which would fuel themselves by harvesting everything alive and cramming it into their insatiable blazing furnaces.

The scheme is officially referred to as Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot (EATR™) by those behind it. It will come as no surprise to Reg readers that the funding is from DARPA, the famous Pentagon warboffinry bureau. If you're a hammer, all the problems start to look like nails: if you're DARPA, all the solutions start to look like robots.

(Hat tip to @CabinetofWonder.)

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

4 °C

How to survive the coming century

A key factor in how well we deal with a warmer world is how much time we have to adapt. When, and if, we get this hot depends not only on how much greenhouse gas we pump into the atmosphere and how quickly, but how sensitive the world's climate is to these gases. It also depends whether "tipping points" are reached, in which climate feedback mechanisms rapidly speed warming. According to models, we could cook the planet by 4 °C by 2100. Some scientists fear that we may get there as soon as 2050.

If this happens, the ramifications for life on Earth are so terrifying that many scientists contacted for this article preferred not to contemplate them, saying only that we should concentrate on reducing emissions to a level where such a rise is known only in nightmares.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Singularity-mongers, take note.

Still waiting for your metaphorical flying car? Author and disciplined futurist Charles Stross wants a few words with you:

Assuming we avoid a systemic collapse, there'll probably be a moon base, by and by. Whether it's American, Chinese, Indian, or Indonesian is anybody's guess, and probably doesn't matter as far as the 99.999% of the human species who will never get off the planet are concerned. There'll probably be a Mars expedition too. But barring fundamental biomedical breakthroughs, or physics/engineering breakthroughs that play hell with the laws of physics as currently understood, canned monkeys aren't going to Jupiter any time soon, never mind colonizing the universe.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Is the future history?

Lovelock: "We can't save humanity"

James Lovelock was on BBC's Radio 4 this morning, promoting his new book The Vanishing Face of Gaia. It was a great to hear him, even if what he said wasn't the most uplifting of messages.

Lovelock explained his belief that humanity as we know is a goner. Earth cannot feed 6 going on 7 billion people, he said.

Pressed by the interviewer he took a punt and suggested there could be just 1 billion of us left in 100 years time.

Lovelock's point seemed to be that we should give up on trying to save the planet and the entirety of the human species by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and focus instead on equipping "lifeboat nations" with the necessary infrastructure (schools, roads, houses) to support swarms of climate refugees.

(Via Futurismic.)

Friday, February 20, 2009


Doomsday seed vault's stores are growing

"These resources stand between us and catastrophic starvation," Fowler said. "You can't imagine a solution to climate change without crop diversity."

That's because the crops currently being used by farmers will not be able to evolve quickly enough on their own to adjust to predicted drought, rising temperatures and new pests and diseases, he said.

One recent study found that corn yields in Africa will fall by 30 percent by 2030 unless heat-resistant varieties are developed, Fowler noted.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

The burden of agnosticism

Daniel Pinchbeck doesn't know.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Yellowstone Due for Eruption that Could Obliterate North America

Right now, in some dark Hollywood pitch meeting, Jerry Bruckheimer is mud-wrestling with Michael Bay over the rights to a movie about this potential explodey Yellowstone disaster.
If we indeed exist solely to facilitate the dissemination of information, Susan Blackmore would seem to be one of the noosphere's most articulate proponents.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Martin Rees, author of the excellent "Our Cosmic Habitat," on the existential threats facing humanity in the next hundred years:

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Physicist David Deutsch ("The Fabric of Reality") delivers a rousing -- and witty -- lecture on preserving the human legacy in a Cosmos that's at once mercilessly alien and deceptively cozy.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Giant Asteroids and International Security

A panel of international scientists has suggested that the UN start preparing for a global defense against the threat of asteroids on collision courses with Earth. Though a large asteroid collision is extremely unlikely (the panel calculate a likelihood of two or three events every 1,000 years), the consequences of such an occurrence could be catastrophic, with potential to threaten all life on the planet.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Ten Ways the World Could End

Despite what you may think, the universe is not necessarily a friendly place. Sure, things here on Earth have been pretty stable over the past few millennia, allowing human civilization to gain a foothold. But that could change at any time.

Quite honestly, I've never thought the universe was especially "friendly." But carry on!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

A startling video of a meteor over Edmonton, Canada:

Hey, could have been worse:

(Thanks: Centauri Dreams.)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Richard Boylan Warns of Nov. 15 Asteroid Strike

Oh, boy -- party time! I'm going to blow my savings on beer and hookers right now!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Yeah, yeah, so perhaps things are looking up on the political front (although, if absolutely pressed, I'd still argue that the game is up, as far as humanity's continued reign as this planet's dominant land mammal is concerned).

But on a slightly more positive front, even as NASA's manned spaceflight program withers and convulses before our eyes, there's still reason to be excited about space. I'm with Stephen Hawking: if we can make it "off-world" -- and stay there -- there might be something to say for a human legacy.

If not, in 100 years no one's going to give a shit about Obama.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Moving the Earth: a planetary survival guide

The clock is ticking inexorably toward doomsday even if we don't kill ourselves by poisoning the environment or overheating the planet. You see, there's a little problem with the Sun.

The Sun is slowly getting warmer as it burns the hydrogen in its core. In about 5 billion years, the Sun will begin evolving into a bloated red giant. Its outer gas shell will swell up, engulfing the Earth by the time it reaches its peak size and brightness 7 billion years from now.

By far the most ingenious take on this I've encountered in science fiction is Robert Charles Wilson's "Spin."

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Hawking: If we survive the next 200 years, we should be OK

"I believe that the long-term future of the human race must be in space," said Hawking, who is almost completely paralyzed by the illness ALS.

"It will be difficult enough to avoid disaster on planet Earth in the next 100 years, let alone next thousand, or million. The human race shouldn't have all its eggs in one basket, or on one planet. Let's hope we can avoid dropping the basket until we have spread the load."

(Via The Keyhoe Report.)

It's nothing Hawking hasn't said before, but I think it bears repeating.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Nuclear Nightmares: Twenty Years Since Chernobyl